A stone bowl had sat before a small boy, blue eyes glued onto a golden flutter. The orange and yellow glow flickered against the ground, wafting the scent of burned leaves up to him. The smell tickled his nose and he giggled until he heard the front door open. Through the house it was muffled but he was on high enough alert to notice anyways.
In a quick panic he splashed a cup of water into the bowl and rinsed it out into the rocks. He quickly hid the bowl and cup and the matches he’d used to light his little fire under the porch. He ran to the swing and jumped on, quickly looking like could have been there for hours instead of the truth.
“He really loves that swing you built him honey” his mother would say sometimes, and it was true. He loved using it as a scapegoat, the best one he’d ever had. It was so easy to do and it fit so well. The mark on his rear from the porch step looked just like the mark from sitting on the wooden swing seat too long. The red on his face from the head looked like he could be wind whipped instead. Red fingers from the hot underside of the bowl could be chaffed on the rope.
“Hamlet?” his mother calls from within, she sounded worried. The strain that laced her voice made it obvious that he was supposed to hear that, wasn’t supposed to hear that she was feeling weak. He would wait.
“Hamlet!” She sounded worse this time. He supposed it wouldn’t get much better a third time and he hopped off the swing. His eyes closed with glee and his heart fluttered as he soared through the air. It felt like he may have been falling for a few minutes and then reality shocked his feet and shins and he knew it had been merely seconds.
It stung as he walked inside to meet his mother's agitated calls. Perhaps the neighbor cat had drug in another dead thing, thinking they weren’t well fel. When he entered the lobby and swa his uncle, then his mother's tears he quickly knew otherwise. They didn’t need to tell him and his mother at least knew this. His uncle played along as though he cared enough to know what to say, but he was only saying what his mother said.
Now something else stung. A pant of sorrow in the back of his mind, and a headache in the front of his brain. He went to bed early.
It was filthy. Disgusting. Like watching one turn slide from an animal to meet another already on the floor while yet a third was picked at by flies. At least within the rancid ceremony something smelled sweet. His neighbor Ophelia sat beside him at the wedding ceremony, at least when they weren’t bearing rings or flowers to appease a cooing crowd.
When it came time to dance though, he didn’t kiss her to make the crowd awe. He wanted to rinse from his mouth the foul taste the whole thing had left behind with her taste, like the sweets she so loved eating. He washed his eyes of the sight of his mother sealing vows by kissing his uncle with Ophelia blushing before him, fulling with her pick frills. He washed his ears of their music and chatter with her giggling and telling him to behave or they’d get in trouble.
They were betrothed. Their neighboring estates should have been combined as they married, after his father passed peacefully in his bed. But no, a shot to the head was his end, a death supposedly meant for a buck.
They had kissed before, in private, that’s why she blushed so hard, she remembered. And she also remembered the paper he had slipped her earlier, asking her to sneak out to where they would meet when they desired a lack of adult supervision. He would distract himself with her until he could calm down, there wasn’t much he could do without a clear mind.
They would kiss, and hold each other, share cadies and stories. He would bury his face against her chest and breath her in and maybe even let himself cry and she would stroke his hair to sooth his aching head. It seemed he just couldn’t get rid of this headache. He’d even knuck into the liquor cabinet to no avail. His headache had a name, Claudius.
The next day Hamlet was forced to remember that he had younger brothers. With how loud and annoying they were he wondered how they were never smothered in their sleep to be rid of them. Surely one of the maids had thought of it at some point, a pity they didn’t follow through.
Hamlet was babysitting them, they could barely walk to talk so he didn’t have to do much
It was odd though, they did mention something about a piece of paper their new daddy was worried about. They said it had to do with money.
She brushed her hair as he brother spoke. He kept insisting that he knew she was seeing Hamlet at night but he said nothing about the night before so she knew he had no proof. Her cat in her lap glared at him and he quieted, apologizing for making so much noise and leaving.
She giggled and petting the cat, “Oh Polonius you old prude” the cat was named for their late father, the only reason Laertes cared at all for it. The black and grey speckled feline jumped from her lap and to the floor where he walked off, offended. She quickly replaced him with a teddy bear she called Laertes after her brother. While the last knots came loose she stages a fake conversation with the toy.
He had snuck the spare key from his mother’s underwear drawer, and with it he got into the study. He did this often enough. Now he had a reason other than touching the knives. He wanted to see that paper. They had the same dumb face, two dumb names, and less than one dumb person’s brain between them yet they had seen it, he couldn’t allow such stupidity to know even one thing he didn’t.
He very carefully dug through the drawers until he found it. He knew which one it was because it looked important, more important than the rest of it at least. He took the paper to the window and sat, reading. The more he read, the stronger that damned headache got. He didn’t fully understand money just yet but he knew that six numbers and a comma meant a lot, his father had shown him how anything with a comma and more than four numbers was impressive and the higher the first number, the better.
It started with a three, pretty mediocre, but then again it was six numbers so it was pretty good even at mediocre. But where did this money come from? He didn’t know but his name was right next to it, was it meant for him? This was so confusing, both to read and think about it. It had so many words he didn’t know and if his mother knew, she’d tell him. That meant that rat of a man was hiding it.
He looked over at the chair, the memory of his father in it stained by the thought of he who was lesser than a human sitting and ruining where his father once say.
He saw a few other papers, something about a swarm of locusts that wouldn’t die. He scoffed, they had only had locusts once in Hamlet’s whole life and they didn’t do much.
The locusts weren’t the issue. The issues was that his mother obviously didn’t know about this money. He took the paper in his hand and locked the study door behind him as he went to his mother’s room. It was early in the day, she’d still be in there combing her hair, putting on that filthy makeup or getting dressed. He didn’t much care which one he would be walking in on.
She was brushing when he stormed in. she seemed surprised as he growled at her about the dirty tricks of his uncle. When he was finished she made his headache burn up to a searing pain in his head.
“He’s not hiding anything from me Hamlet, I know all about the money. He plans to invest it” she said it calmly, as if the words farm and Hamlet on the page meant nothing at all.
The headache came to a peak when something brushed against his leg. He kicked, harder than he had meant to. Much harder. A grey and black cat hit the wall with a crack and somehow the harsh movement and the aftermath calmed that hot burning down to a dull ache. His eyes turned to his frightened mother and she recoiled in fear. He reminded her what his father had wanted, she nodded, so scared. He grinned at her obedience, he would always get his way. He had to. He left Polonius to bleed there, to remind her, while he left to tell poor Ophelia that her cat had gotten trampled by a horse.
She cried a lot and he happily comforted her. She asked to see him the next night but he had to refuse. He had to go to a school thing and would be gone a few days. He reminded her to be careful and kissed her before he left, like his father did to his mother before leaving on trips. She missed him a lot. There was a river between their estates and their hiding place. She wanted to go there and think about him so she wouldn’t think about her cat. He had always helped her across, she’d never done it along and she never would. She fell in. she couldn’t get out. She died thinking about him. She died where she would wash up right near her house. Her brother found her. They would wait on the funeral. Hamlet needed to be there, this mother said, terrified of what would happen if he wasn’t.
He heard about the locusts again while he was out. His classmate’s voice made his headache worse but he was curious anyways. They really were persistent little bugs weren’t they? He had to respect that. They got their way, like he did.
When he got home his eyes were quickly burning like the inside of his head. No one. No one seemed like they were anywhere close to how much he did. Not even Laertes cried. Not even Ophelia's mother shed a tear. She was buried with that damned teddy bear she named for her brother but all they’d let him give her grave was a lock of hair tied to a flower. No, that’s not all they’d let him give, he couldn’t speak to ask for more. He’d have rathered been buried with her than live without her calming effect, the way she helped him stop thinking.
By the time they were in his house his head was splitting. The rat was making jokes, laughing like thre wasn’t a girl dead. No one was reacting right. Laertes was the only one who wasn’t smiling and talking but he was just staring at the wall. At least he had been until he fell asleep. How could he sleep at a time like this? His sister was dead and all he could do was sleep. He slept while a raging pain tried to burn in Hamlet’s skull. He wouldn’t stand for it.
He went outside, it was starting to get cold out as the sun went down. He didn’t worry about it. If he had no choice but to burn inside, they would have no choice either. They needed to know what he was feeling and needed to feeling something proper for a funeral.
He took his matches from his hidden bowl. He had thought about it before. One fire on each side of the house and a strong one under the house and there would be no escape. They had a lifted house since there were floods but lots of plants and such lived down there for the flame to catch on.
Four matches were tossed into the grass and coaxed until there were flames licking the side of the house. He thien used a stick to push the last lit match under the house. The dry leaves and mouse houses quickly caught and soon the whole underside was alight. He sat on the swing his father had made him.
The swing was a comfort now that it had never been before. His eyes were glued to the growing flame. Soon the walls took and he guessed the floor had too because he heard a loud crack, or maybe it was quiet and he had been focusing too hard.
They were drunk, they had to be or he’d have heard screaming by now as someone noticed the flame. It took another few minutes… or maybe it took a few hours before he heard anything. A shrill scream, one of those dumb twins, maybe both had screamed in terror.
Then Laertes, perhaps sent to check on an impertinent child’s scream? After a while he finally heard an adult and Hamlet knew it was too far gone to escape. Trying to get out would only result in burning to a crisp faster. Now two females and three kids were screaming and their distraught voice until it was rough and coarse.
Finally, finally he heard it, a deep, masculine screech of pain and horror. As that voice bellowed he felt his headache wash away. With each new scream he laughed in relief, harder and harder until a quiet finally housed within the flames. They’d passed out, they’d died, or they just couldn’t scream anymore.
His eyes had closed when he laughed and when they opened he saw something in that flame. He lost his smile and jumped from the swing. He didn’t fly through the air today, his legs never felt the ground. No, he floated all the way over to the collapsed back door, looking deep into the flame that made his eyes water.
A flash of a smile, her beautiful eyes, he saw her in the flame, waiting for him. No, she wasn’t just waiting, she was calling and crying for him. The crackle of flames was her voice and he floated in. He needed to see her. He had to tell her he loved her. He had to let her know that he was sorry about crushing her chapstick that one day but her lips were just so perfect without it. She needed to know that he didn’t meant to kill her cat. She needed to hear that he loved her.
As he stood there in the flame she smiled and kissed his cheek and told him she knew. He fell to his knees, tears in his eyes. He couldn’t hug her fiery body but he could feel her all around him. She ate his skin, burned it, but it didn’t hurt him. It was sweet, her tender touch comforting and kind. He couldn’t stay awake long, she was so sweet and comforting and relaxing that he fell asleep.
The fire wasn’t strong enough to burn dirt. The tree and swing on it, surrounded by dirt rather than grass, were safe. The swing watched the crops wilt without their humans to water them. The swing watched that big swarm of bugs eat those dry cops away. Only the swing was around to see the police come and go and then the swing say the world forget, as it always does.ns 220.127.116.11da2