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I was finishing Act IV when the idea hit me. So I put down the tablet, wrote it, gave it a quick once-over, and here it is. Be kind, I pray, and suit your expectation of the dish to the haste with which an unprepared cook was compelled to make it.

Title: On the papers found in Hamlet's rooms in Elsinore
Fandom: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Rating: PG13

It is said that of all the tasks loyal Horace performed after the death of Hamlet and so many others, it was both the bitterest and the sweetest to collect and order the papers the Prince had last written. Bitter, for the undoing, as it were, of this mark of activity wiped out another footprint of Hamlet's life. Hard as it was to imagine, one day the Prince's name would be forgotten to man, and Horace's task was a hastening and prologue of this final death. Yet a sweet task it was, too, as Hamlet's mind had not been his meanest part, and his papers not the muddiest reflection of it.

It was then with care that Horace put the folios in order, not as a clerk ordering his records or a shopkeeper his wares, but as abandoned lovers often gaze for hours at a single lock of hair trying to recover from such a minute part the whole not only of once-joined bodies, but also of once-joined time. In his care it was many a paper that he passed his eyes over like fingers idly touching the water as a boat moves through it, picking up stray lines and paragraphs without attempting to seize sense.

That he would find that particular paper was a certainty, but it was Chance's decree that he would read the lines that would steer his mind, and once that single decree was fulfilled, everything else followed Necessity's sterner law.

For Horace had found the play the Prince had written. And such a play it was. It had ghosts with drawings of cunning machines and explanations how willing accomplices would create the illusion of spectral returns, insanity both feigned and real, murder most foul and revenge most holy. It was a play, Horace saw, they had all been following without knowing it, improvising lines but keeping the main of the action close to the unheard orders they had been given by the author with his own words and acts.

He had known them so well, that Prince at the center of all thoughts and eyes. Horace read himself saying things he could've said and doing things he had done, and others acting things he could see in his mind's eye and know for true, or true enough. All in papers dated so far in the past that Horace wondered how divine wisdom would judge the portion of guilt deserved by the late Claudius's soul. Only the Queen's death had Hamlet failed to predict, and in his sudden pain and rage the writer had disobeyed the written for the first and last occasion.

Yet his last words had been as he had prefigured them in the pages Horace had read without, he felt, even pausing for breath, only adding to them his instruction to Horace to tell his story. Now he, who had thought understood the request and the need behind it, understood.

It would take very few changes to make play match reality and actors acts. And then Horace would find a way for it to be published, far away, where it could be judged a fiction, and thus a triumph, instead of reality, and thence tragedy. Fiction it would have to be judged, but Horace would not make any changes to the story beyond the few details, and the only death, life itself had failed in following the artist's call. Honor, friendship, and something of the nature of the sacred in the words themselves demanded it.

Only one extraneous change did Horace allow himself to make. The Mousetrap was, he warranted, a fine name for a play, but the Prince had, in his madness and genius, had a moment of unwarranted discretion not naming his creature after himself.


cass, can you not

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