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 8: Son
For the first time in Prince Hamlet’s life he felt lost. Truly lost. This was not the garden maze of his youth. The well-worn turns and dead ends were now covered with dark leaves and thorns.
These thorns dripped black blood and stank of time and neglect.
Hamlet remembered chasing after the vision of his father, racing down the stairs of the parapet walls, and into the royal garden maze. Then everything changed. Not just in the environment but in his mind. The fog was everywhere, more than covering the ground, sticking to the very air around him, entering him, becoming part of him.
What time was it? How long had he been in the maze?
“Mark me,” a dead voice echoed around him in the air; like a wind, passing by and then racing away.
Hamlet stopped, he felt out of breath. Was he out of breath or was the air so dead that there was little for the living? “I will.”
A path opened up in the maze in front of him; the thorns turning aside, granting passage, with breaks and splinters in the wood and vine. The leaves on this new path were a dark green but eerie bright. The green reminded the prince of the glow of the kingly specter. A nightmare was in front of Hamlet, welcoming him, and he entered.
The ground was sloping downwards. The fog did not follow him.
The voice spoke again, but it was more than speaking to the prince, it reverberated through his very frame now. “My hour is almost come, which I to sulphurous and tormenting flames must render up myself.”
Some might’ve called the voice demonic, but for Hamlet under the darkness and death, he could still hear his father there. Knowing that this is what his father had become, this tortured soul, destroyed him. His father was lost like him in the maze… but unlike Hamlet, he knew his father would forever be there. The prince would find his way out in time, but the king never would. Hamlet shook under that dark thought and almost collapsed. “Alas, poor ghost.”
Another passage appeared, and like before the thorns bent under a hidden will, granting another trail. Hamlet wiped his eyes and moved on. It was even steeper now. Down. Down. A secret passage, but to where? The ghost spoke as the prince hesitantly went deeper and deeper down and in. “Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold.”
Hamlet replied in only a whisper. “Speak. I am bound to hear.”
Two steps, three… He did not have the courage to run. The branches that were once green, were turning the darkest red with each step. The ghost of his father spoke again around him, but this time his voice was slower, more terrible. “So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.”
The word echoed, but unlike an echo it never lost its power.
Hamlet stopped. The word never felt so great, so heavy.
Hamlet felt dizzy. “What?”
A third path, even darker, even steeper, opened before him. He walked faster.
Was it leading him to Hell?
The voice of his father was speaking faster now. “I am thy father’s spirit, doomed for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fire, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away.”
The father he loved above all else, whose smile meant the most, was in Hell with the killers and the rapists and the cursed. Hamlet felt sick but he did not stop walking down… and down… and down… The vines of the garden were disappearing now. It was as if he was in a tunnel. Yes, that was it. A tunnel, surrounded by dirt with no light, leading him to his father.
The voice spoke again around him, but this time clearer; clearer with each quick step the prince took. “But that I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prisonhouse, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine. But this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood. List, list, o, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love…”
Hamlet gasped, “O God!”
“…Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
The prince stopped and the world seemed to stop with him. “Murder?”
Revenge…. Murder… Hell….
Hamlet was running. He didn’t remembering starting to run. Time was all madly askew. The ghost was speaking again. “Murder most foul, as in the best it is; but this most foul, strange and unnatural.”
Hamlet was sprinting down the cave tunnel faster. There was a light up ahead. He had to reach it! He shouted. “Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.”
The light was escaping from the door, shining from the cracks in the frame, the bottom, from the lock. Hamlet didn’t hesitate. The knob was warm, and it opened easily and…
This was the garden maze Hamlet knew. How many days did he lose as a child chasing around it, playing with his father? It only looked this pristine and perfect in memory.
This was the heart of the maze with the apple trees that were a gift from the American ambassador. They laughingly called it their orchard, even though there was really not that much of a harvest a year. It must have been midday. The air was fresh. Birds, he could hear birds. He looked around and the cave and the door were gone. He looked to the sun, until his eyes began to tear. He could breathe in this air again. Deep breath.
A serene voice he knew too well spoke, “Now Hamlet, hear.”
Hamlet turned and there was his father.
This was not the ghost, the great specter. There was nothing unhuman about him.
This was just his dad.
He was sitting on a garden bench, dressed in his daily attire, the great armor lost. He looked sad. Hamlet wanted to rush at him, embrace him, hold him tight. But the King held up his hand and Hamlet stopped, fighting back the urges and the tears.
The king continued. His voice was soft and calm. “’Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process of my death rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.”
Hamlet dared to take a step. “O my prophetic soul… My uncle!”
His father nodded. His fist was clenched. “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, with witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,- O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power so to seduce!- won to his shameful lust the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.”
His mother. Married to the murderer of his father. Hamlet bit his lip, not daring to interrupt his father.
The King relaxed his clenched fist and sadly looked around at the trees. His expression was much like that of a person going through an old photobook, remembering those lost. The scene around him was all lost. Everything lost. “Sleeping within my orchard, my custom always of the afternoon, upon my secure hour thy uncle stole, with juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, and in the porches of my ears did pour the leperous distilment- whose effect holds such an enmity with blood of man that swift as quicksilver it courses through the natural gates and alleys of the body, and with a sudden vigor doth posset and curd, like eager droppings into milk, the thin and wholesome blood- so did it mine.”
Some blood trickled down from the King’s ear. He didn’t bother to wipe it. It dripped down his cheek, staining his shoulder. “And a most instant tetter bark’d about, most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust, all my smooth body.”
The prince wanted to wipe the blood away from his father’s cheek, clean him. Maybe in doing it, he could save his father, bring him back. He wanted to run towards him, but did not dare… The most he dared was another step, but it was hard not to take his eyes off of the drip-drip of blood.
The king looked back up at his son, and in his face it was etched that he knew everything his son was feeling. “Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatched. Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin, unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled no reckoning made, but sent to my account with all my imperfections on my head. O, horrible!”
Then the king rose from his seat. He slowly walked to his son and… and… and lightly and delicately brushed the tears off Hamlet’s face. The touch was so soft, light like a feather brushed against skin. Hamlet’s tears did not stop. The father spoke as softly as his touch. “If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest. But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge, to prick and sting her.”
His touch and voice were like velvet, but his words were hard and strict.
It was then that Hamlet could hold himself back no longer. He grabbed his father, embracing him so tight. Tight. They hugged each other, both crying now. The father ran his hands through his son’s hair as he held him. He whispered to his son again and again. “Adieu, adieu! Hamlet” and “Remember me.”
END OF ACT I
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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.