Denmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.
Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.
Chapter 7: Father
The night air was stale and cold. It lingered not on the skin, but on the tongue, on the breath and in the lungs.
“The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold,” Hamlet said, a little louder than a whisper. Yet, his voice traveled easily among the group waiting on the parapet walls that dark night.
Horatio replied before the two soldiers. “It is a nipping and an eager air.”
Was that sarcasm? Even here? Hamlet couldn’t help but be impressed by his American friend. Yet, the more he studied Horatio in the shadows of the torches, he was not like his old self. The smiles were forced, the face more pale and wrinkled; like the blood was dripping from him, but to where?
The previous nights of the specter were marked by a fog, an eeriness, as if the world enjoyed taking part in some foreboding. Now, there was nothing. Just nothing. Like the dry air in a tomb.
“What hour now?” Hamlet asked.
“I think it lacks of twelve.”
Hamlet shook his head. “No, it’s struck.”
“Indeed? I heard it not.”
Hamlet took off his red scarf and wrapped it once more around his neck. It was the only color he had on, everything else from his thick coat to gloves being black. He was dressed for a funeral, he mockingly thought. This time he tied the red scarf so tight it made him think of a noose. He clapped his gloved hands together loudly, striking the noose and funeral thoughts from his mind, and began to pace back and forth in front of his three companions.
Horatio watched his friend and began to speak merely because silence felt too difficult. “Then it draws near the season wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.”
That made Hamlet stop walking.
Did his father walk in this very place? Like this?
It was an odd feeling, like the eerie expression of someone walking on one’s grave. There was only a short pause, nothing more than a second…
A gust of wind!
An ancient groan from the Earth!
“Look, my lord, it comes!”
So many that have lost a loved one pray for a return.
They hear an old voice from a lost memory in a dream and wake in tears. They wonder what the departed might say at any given moment. Sometimes they might wonder what they are doing as if they were breathing, not dead. A brief respite from grief, before the stunning fact returns again. Our deceased loves remain there, hidden in the back of the mind, not in the dirt.
Hamlet shared a loss with Ophelia, Horatio, and Bernardo, the soldier. Each had lost a parent (or both), felt the pain in each day, but reacted differently. Bernardo held his mother in the stolen necklace around his neck, Ophelia in the desperation for someone, anyone to understand her. That dream person would be her mother, and she would give the kind reassurances her father never could (nor wanted to). Horatio lost as well, but unlike the others he ran, and could afford to make the new start. He left the grief across the ocean, as if it could so easily be abandoned.
The fact that is true for all of them, and everyone else, is that if given the chance they would wish for more time with the absent one.
Another embrace, another conversation, another smile.
The great difference though between Hamlet and every other lost boy and girl in the entire world and scope of time is his departed father did return…
…and it was not something anyone would want.
Hamlet was on his knees. He had no strength.
It was his father, but more so. As if the inner power he had as king was now on the out, pouring out of him. He floated in front of the group, those unsympathetic and unblinking eyes staring at each and then resting finally on his son.
“Angels and ministers of grace defend us,” The prince said, sounding almost like he was praying. A hand of support on his shoulder. It was Horatio. Than another, this time it was Marcellus. Marcellus looked back at Bernardo, but the young soldier had shrunk back, his courage lost, clutching a chain around his neck.
Hamlet rose to his feet, the hands still there. “Be thou, a spirit of health or goblin damned, bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, by thy intents wicked or charitable, thou comest in such a questionable shape that I will speak to thee.”
With a courage that Horatio could only marvel at, Hamlet took a step forward to the ghost. Marcellus’s hand slipped from his shoulder. “I’ll call thee Hamlet.”
Another step. Now Horatio’s hand dropped. “King.”
One more, alone. “Father. Royal Dane.”
The ghost still floated in front of them, it’s clothes moving under a wind only it could feel.
“O, answer me!” Hamlet screamed. His voice echoed off the walls of the castle.
The ghost… blinked.
Hamlet gasped, and staggered under it. It was as if something returned to the ghost’s frame. A pain only the living can know. “Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death, have burst their cerements. Say, why is this?”
The ghost looked like it wanted to speak. Its feet slowly lowered to the ground, first one and then the other.
Hamlet walked forward. “Wherefore?”
The two Hamlets, father and son, stared at each other. A pause and then Hamlet pleaded once more, “What should we do?”
The ghost turned from Hamlet and walked to the edge of the wall and off. It floated there, the eyes once more unemotional. It then rose its right arm, straight, and pointed to the end of the walls. The parapet walls end at the cliff, with stairs that lead down to the grounds. A dangerous location, a warning to all citizens of Denmark since there were tales for hundreds of years of traitors and tyrants being thrown to their death from the location. When Hamlet was a boy he would sneak off to study the edge, lay down and then inch and inch and inch as forward as he dared. And he would wonder at the possibility of death, so very close.
Hamlet didn’t hear his friend approach him. He was surprised to hear his voice so near. “It beckons you to go away with it.” Horatio’s voice cracked. “As if it some impartment did desire to you alone.”
The old soldier was near him as well, a voice in his other ear. “Look, with what courteous action it waves you to a more removed ground.” The soldier hesitated and then placed his firm hand on Hamlet’s shoulder again. “But do not go with it.”
Horatio replied as if it was stupidest suggestion he had heard that day. “No, by no means.”
But the idea wasn’t stupid to the prince, not at all. He turned back to the others. “It will not speak, then I will follow it.”
Horatio almost laughed at the idea and then shook his head. “Do not, my lord.” He could not believe what he was hearing.
Hamlet looked to his father’s ghost and then back at his friend, a blaze of anger streaking across his face. “Why, what should be the fear? I do not set my life in a pin’s fee; And for my soul, what can it do to that, being a thing immortal as itself?”
Horatio had no idea how to respond to that at first. Soul? Horatio used to laugh at the idea. He was the atheist of Hamlet’s friends. The one who laughed at priests and would declare out loud at bars that nuns just needed a fun date to throw off their coif… and possibly more. He carried the books of Marx and others, stating that the poor could be helped more with money than a pray of something after death. And, yet, here was a ghost, testing everything Horatio’s logic once followed.
Horatio found his argument: “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff that beetles o’er his base into the sea, and there assume some other horrible form, which might deprive your sovereignty of reason and draw you into madness?”
Hamlet turned from Horatio to look at the ghost again. Horatio would have none of that. He grabbed the prince forcing his attention back to him, and what he considered sanity. “Think of it! The very place puts toys of desperation, without more motive, into every brain that looks so many fathoms to the sea and hears it roar beneath!” He was shouting now, as if the distant waves were fighting his words.
The ghost moved forward, its arm now waving as if drawing the prince to him.
“It waves me still.” Hamlet took three quick and deep breaths and then made a decision, one that would change everything.
A decision that would not just change him, but would shift Denmark and all of Europe.
To the ghost he said, “Go on. I’ll follow thee.”
The ghost nodded and disappeared. An agreement made, like blood on a cursed contract.
Marcellus moved quickly, surprising both Hamlet and Horatio. He grabbed the prince, holding him tight. “You shall not go, my lord!” Marcellus waved to Bernardo, who finally breaking from his shock and fear, joined the older soldier. Horatio watched as the two soldiers almost pulled Hamlet to the ground.
“Hold off your hands!” Hamlet screamed. He swung his arms, trying to get the soldiers off of him.
Marcellus looked up to Horatio, who joined in, grabbing one of the prince’s flaying fists. “Be ruled; you shall not go!”
“My fate cries out!” Hamlet pleaded. He looked to his friend, and Horatio’s grip loosened for a second.
It was enough!
Hamlet pushed himself free, and grabbed Marcellus’s sword from its sheath in the swift action. “Unhand me, gentlemen!” He swung, and the others moved away. He fell backwards against the wall, the sword out in front him. His breath was quick now. “By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!”
The soldiers and Horatio did not move, only staring at the threatening prince in a kind of awe. When interviewed many years later, Horatio compared it to an angry beast in a new cage, only needing an excuse to try and break down the bars and draw blood. A form of possessed madness.
Hamlet did not take his eyes off the three as he struggled to get up. He gripped the side of the wall, pulling himself to his feet with his free hand. The sword was raised again, first at one and then the other two. A quick glare, a threat behind the eyes, and then he was off. Running after the specter.
Horatio ogled after him. “He waxes desperate with imagination.”
The older soldier could not hide the frustration and anxiety in his voice. “Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.”
Horatio looked to the two, and agreed. “Have after. To what issue will this come?”
Marcellus looked to the silent young soldier, again so unlike the one who Marcellus used to call the Talker. His voice was lost and he looked like he was about to vomit, sick with it all. Sick. Marcellus turned back to Horatio. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
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Permanent Spring Showers was published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.