Hamlet and Ophelia 1883 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is 2:40 in the morning and I am typing. I know I should be sleeping. I woke up absolutely wide awake at 1:15 am. I was asleep and then I wasn’t. No noises woke me up. No weird dreams. I was suddenly and absolutely awake. I tossed and turned and really, really tried to get back to sleep. One reason could be because of how it’s too quiet. The silence is so full there’s that kind of ringing quiet. Usually when this happens I plug in my music, set in my mellow tunes and drift back into dreamland.
Instead, I am hauling out my laptop and I’m going to focus on actually getting my NaNo novel going. With only a week to go it would be ridiculous to have spent a month writing and have nothing to show except my babblings.
Six days left. I can’t possibly give up now. This is the closest I have gotten to completing something significant. Maybe that’s what woke me up: the threat of failure.
Failure doesn’t ever sleep. It doesn’t nap or even hibernate. It lurks. Did I write lurks? That’s ridiculous. I can tell it’s way too early in the morning. Lurks. What a word. I envision a green Frankenstein thing lumbering around giving me a slow chase. Lurks. I’m not going to write anymore if that’s what’s coming out.
I did it. I actually got inspired to start my novel. I was about to shut down my computer and do my “good night room” routine from the Margaret Wise book of my childhood. “Good night door. Good night poster. Good night dirty sock upon the floor…” I get to the stuff around my bed and I see the Lost in Austen DVD I need to return to the library, and the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next book I want to start reading, and my battered copy of Hamlet, next to a stack of classic children’s books I picked up on a whim from the library. ABrainwaveHits. A major, bonfide, in-depth, variably exciting, inspirational brainwave. Here’s what I got so far:
Alas in Wonderland:
A retold tale of wonder and delight
with Shakespearean tone and word of flight
“Prithee, I marvel much at thy appearance. How didst thou come to my chamber?”
‘Umm, actually you’re in my room. I was just reading about you. I must be in one of those strange book-induced dream sequences. It’s a popular means of time travel in literature.”
“What hath thee wrought! Thou hast pulled me from my chambers into thy own. I marvel much!”
“No kidding. I didn’t think I had what it takes to do something like that. I have practically zero in the imagination department. Well, come on in, while you are here.”
Ophelia. Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet emerges from my clothes closet. She looks just like I thought she would. Her long chestnut-brown hair pulled into a simple braid, her dress is a plain linen frock, flowing down to her feet. No makeup, yet her pale face radiates a quiet beauty no Seventeen or Vogue magazine model would be able to copy. Her eyes widen upon taking in my room.
“Madam, I am full of wonder. All this is yours?”
“It’s a little messy right now. And it’s miss, or would that be mistress?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m wondering something, if you came into my room through my closet, do you think we could go into your room the same way? I would love to see your place. We don’t have too many castles around my neighborhood.”
Ophelia glances around my room, and I can see she wants to explore it. She nods, though I notice somewhat reluctantly, and turns round, gently pushing through my clothes, until she comes to a wooden door where the back of my closet should be. The door opens upon lifting the latch, revealing a sparse chamber, lit only by the daylight coming from the slit in the alcove. I tentatively step in. Instead of her bedroom we enter a small workroom. A large wooden table stands near the window accompanied by a stool. Bobbins of thread lay scattered on the table next to material and a dress. She must have been sewing.
“You are welcome to enter my sewing closet. Nay, be not afraid. No one is about,” she encourages when I hesitate.
Facing her, I ask, “What part of the book are we in?”
“I know not your meaning? We share a book?”
I shake my head, “Play, I mean. Umm, has Hamlet come and talked to you yet? Doesn’t he come and talk about you going to a nunnery and all that? I have always wanted to give him a piece of my mind about that. He really ripped you off. He had no right to say all that stuff to you.”
Ophelia’s face clouds in confusion. “You speak not plain. The prince has not confided in me of late. Much is on his mind. You know of his father’s death and how his mother’s recent marriage troubles him?”
“Oh, absolutely. But I don’t think it’s any reason to act so crazy. He didn’t have to involve you like he did.”
Approaching voices distract us. Ophelia turns towards my closet and I turn towards the hallway. When she steps back into my closet the door shuts between us and I cannot open the latch. As the voices near I panic and frantically look for a hiding place. I do not want to be the something rotten found in Denmark. Not seeing any options I lift up the wall tapestry and then remembering Polonius, I think better of my hiding spot. Inching along the wall I sense fresh air and detect a bit of daylight.
“Secret passage,“ I reason, since I knew this to be a dream, I thought nothing of going to explore. The wall turns into a hallway and I cautiously walk down it, drawn towards the daylight coming through the window at the far end. The hallway seemingly shrinks in proportion the further I walk down.
“Poor design or they were all midgets back in Elsinore,“ I grumble. The hallway continues narrowing until I have to bow my head to avoid the ceiling. Not liking the claustrophobic feeling I turn around. The hallway has disappeared leaving me facing a wall with a small table. On a wooden tray lays a loaf of bread, what looks like wine in a cup and a note beside the food and drink: “Refresh Thyself.”
I have second thoughts about drinking any kind of wine found about the castle, and turn away from the tray. Now instead of a narrowing hallway and a window I face the back side of another tapestry. I pull back a corner which reveals a door. Hidden doorways, shrinking hallways which disappear and concealed doors. Either the castle designers had been bored with the usual plans and decided to spice things up or were lunatics. Since I have no way back I pull aside the tapestry and try the door. Fortunately, it opens upon lifting the latch and I enter into a garden. I don’t remember Shakespeare mentioning any garden in Hamlet, but I do remember the graveyard scene and hope I won’t be headed in that direction.
I notice movement towards my right and discover several animals gathered by the entrance of a hedge maze. No way–rabbits, mice, ducks, and some odd creatures dancing on two legs? Dreams can be so weird sometimes. I decide to gamely go along with this new turn in events. Stepping over to the gathering I address them.
“Alas, what party of creatures be gathered here?
Forsooth, tis a menagerie of gaiety that draweth near.”
That’s me? Now what? I’ve gone Bard all of a sudden?
“Alice? You’re late, so terribly late. The duchess will be ever so vexed. Don’t dawdle any longer and hurry along,” a white rabbit scolds me.
Alice? Rabbit? No, no, no. Have I somehow gotten myself into a Lewis Carroll hybrid?
When I protest that my name is not Alice, out comes,
“Stranger than curiosity grows this tale.
Did I down a hole did take a fell?”
I mutter an apology to William S. for that bad approximation.
The animals all scamper through the hedge opening and I try to follow. I stick my head and shoulders through the hole and spy a dirt road, with a small cottage on the right side. Fairly rude to not wait for me I complain to myself as I wiggle and squeeze through the opening and follow them. Hurrying up to the cottage I knock on the door. No answer. Maybe the party is around the back. Taking the path I turn the corner, practically bumping into a ladder. Looking up I notice a lizard clad in overalls clambering halfway up. We both startle at one another’s appearance. “Oh, so sorry,” I exclaim, jumping back. The lizard squeaks and scuttles up the ladder, disappearing into the chimney.
“Bill?” I vaguely recall a lizard called Bill and ladders. I hope he doesn’t hurt himself going down. But then maybe he meant to go down the chimney. Walking past the ladder, I turn the corner of the house and find myself facing the backyard garden, which is empty of person, fin, or fowl. I push open the gate and enter.
It’s such a pretty garden with an abundance of all my favorite flowers. I breathe in all the scents of narcissus, lilacs, lavender, and roses, not even noticing that it’s spring instead of what should be late fall. I do wonder how all the flowers are blooming catawampus out of their usual time. Bird song melodies weave through the trees and butterflies and dragonflies cavort among the flowers. It would be so easy to sit down on the bench next to the gate and simply relax and rest. I don’t though. I feel absolutely drawn towards an unexplainable something.
My feet pull me up and along the path which leads into a wooded grove of mainly oak and birch trees. Oddly, I reflect: Do they even grow together? I then wonder how Ophelia is faring in my room. I hope she doesn’t mind how messy it is. I so rarely have people over that I don’t pick up like I should. Oh dear, speaking of picking up things, what if she picks up Hamlet and reads about herself? That wouldn’t be good at all. Maybe I should turn back. Yet, my feet keep moving forward. I’m a bit distressed in that I really cannot turn back.
The path meanders through the woods and I do so want to stop and rest except my feet keep walking. My brain kicks in and yells, “STOP!” Aah, the feet listen. I veer off the path and sit down, leaning against a smooth white tree trunk. Closing my eyes, tempted to rest I sniff. Cherry-tainted smoke?
“Whom might you be?”
Standing, I look about until I see a man situated on top of my tree, which is no tree at all. It’s a mushroom I‘m under. A very large mushroom. Rather a pretty one I think, with its white spots splashed across the vermillion coloring. The sun shines behind him making it difficult to see him clearly. Swathed in a large blue satin robe, wearing Ray Bans and smoking a pipe, he looks rather smug and comfortable as he reclines on some sort of couch supported by mounds of soft plumpy pillows.
“I said, ‘Whom might you be?’”
“Alas, I once might have known,
That name has from memory flown,” I answer.
Dratted iambic. I never could get the meter straight.
“Alice, is it? I once knew a Alice. I doubt you are she. But you’ll do.”
“Anon, t’would be folly to be one I am not meant to be
I fear I must run this dream’s course, my purpose to see”
“Aah, the old to be or not to see question. Well, good luck with that one.”
“Aye, luck would I need, for on my mission I must speed.”
“Then have some mushroom before you go,” the blue man suggests.
What is this, a foodie’s convention? I’m pretty sure eating strange food in a strange land is not to the best of my health.
“Forsooth, nor food nor drink will I have a taste,
for on my journey I must make haste.”
Upon those words my feet fairly fly me down the path leading ever deeper into the woods, which becomes thicker with trees until it appears much more like that of a dense forest.
“Oh fie, I cannot go another step
I’ll now weep until I’ve wept.“
“Had a hard day of it then, dearie? Tsk, you do look all done in then. Have a wipe then, ducks.” A white cloth handkerchief floats towards me.
I grab it, dabbing at my eyes and nose. Why does it not surprise me to see a cat perched on the tree limb above me?
“Alas, from the top this day has beheld many a shock:
Closets gone awry, a merry menagerie of fur, fin, foul did fly.
No princes found, only this path I am bound.
Blue-robed men of pillowed comfort left, and now a chatty cat,
I am quite bereft.”
“And your rhyming could definitely use some polish. Rather stuck in the meter thing, eh? Been seeing rabbits and such? Don’t know about princes, but I’d say it’s been a full one. But no mind, love. More adventures I dare say are to visit you. Or you will visit them.”
With that the cat winks out. Before I can protest its disappearance he returns, or at least his smile reappears. “Oh, you might be in a bit of a mix up. Me names not Alice, by the by. Most call me Chessy. Bye then and cheerio, love.” And the smile pops out like the click of light switch.
Back on the path or can I possibly wake myself up? It’s my dream, shouldn’t it be easy to choose? I pinch myself. Yes, that does the trick.
I am somewhat stuck as to what happens from “Alice’s” encounter with the Chessy Cat. At least I’ve got a start, though I doubt I’ll get 49,000 more words typed out before the 31st to make it novel. Writing is tough. Then again would it be as satisfying if it weren’t?