“To what end, my lord?”

“To what end, my lord?” you ask.

Hamlet looks from one of you to the other. His gaze holds yours for a long moment, as though he is plumbing the depths of your soul.

Perhaps he is. You wonder if, when he casts his line into the dark waters of your absent memories, he ever finds the bottom.

At length, he sighs. “That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love–” He takes your hand in his. He looks as lost as you feel. You close your hand over his and hold it tightly. “Be even and direct with me: whether you were sent for, or no?”

“What say you?” your companion whispers.

You remember nothing before the road to Elsinore, and so you remember no time in your life when you have not been seeking after truth. You remember no time when you have not hungered for answers that the indifferent world could not give. You have no other answer to offer him but, “My lord, we were sent for.”

“I have of late–but wherefore, I know not–lost all my mirth,” he tells you. His voice is hushed, as though he is a penitent and you a confessor.

Perhaps what you feel is the close camaraderie of a childhood friend after a long absence; perhaps it’s only the fellow-feeling that any two strangers might share, when they recognize in one another the same sadness. You want to cheer him up–not because the king and queen asked you to, but because his sadness moves you. “What Lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you, if you’ve lost all mirth,” you answer.

Something shifts in him at that. You feel it where your palms are pressed together, some shiver like the birth of inspiration. “He that plays the king shall be welcome,” Hamlet says.

He lets you go then. You wonder what idea you’ve given him.

You’re almost certain it won’t bring him peace.

You have been here before.