“Who sent for us?”

“Who sent for us?” you ask. If you can answer that, you might at least be able to take a stab at where the two of you are going.

You probe your memory as the two of you ride. The warmth of the bed in the early morning; your companion’s slow, steady breathing in the blue light. Then a pounding at the shutters and an unfamiliar voice: Rosencrantz! Guildenstern!

You remember the man’s accent, as though he has swallowed the soft vowels of Wittenberg. (You remember Wittenberg with a keen ache that surprises you, the musty vellum smell of the libraries and the hollow toll of church bells in the evenings.)

“To Denmark,” says your companion.

“To speak to Prince Hamlet, and lift his melancholy,” you say. You don’t remember the messenger saying it, but he must have, because you know to say those words. They feel right; they feel true.

“Do we know Prince Hamlet?”

“We must, or why would they send for us to lift his melancholy?”

“Perhaps we’re something else. Perhaps we’re jugglers, or minstrels—”

“If we were, we’d have juggling balls or lutes or pipes—”

“—or perhaps we’re players,” your companion concludes smugly. “You hadn’t considered that, had you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” you snap. “If we were players, we’d have …”

The two of you have crested a hill, and at the top of that hill is a clearing nestled amid the brazen trees. In the clearing, the evening light slants down upon a platform of weathered boards. You cannot mistake what this is.

“… a stage,” you finish, sheepishly.

Move on. You have business elsewhere.
Pause to watch the play.