This was written for makesmewannadie in the Yuletide 2005 Challenge.

There is light, but little else. It is a location without name or note, forgettable in every respect.

Two ELIZABETHANS enter, dressed well enough, if somewhat nondescriptly. The first of the two men pauses and looks around him, his expression full of innocent curiosity. He spins in a slow circle, taking in the lack of detail that surrounds him. His forehead furrows in confusion as he fails to recognize anything, but after a moment of intense scrutiny, he shrugs and seems to accept the fact that he is, quite obviously, lost without too much fuss. His companion, however, is somewhat less calm about the situation, his apprehension clearly written across his features.

ROSENCRANTZ (hereafter "ROS") looks down and catches sight of his feet, which seem to hold his attention for a moment or two, almost as if he'd forgotten ever having them in the first place. He lifts one foot and turns it from side to side before carefully setting it back down and moving to the other foot in much the same fashion.

ROS: I say, feet are funny things, aren't they?

GUILDENSTERN (hereafter "GUIL") glances over at him, one eyebrow arching in disbelief. He can't stop himself from glancing down at the appendages in question, however, which causes ROS to smile at him brightly.

ROS: They are quite unusual looking, when you stop to really ponder them. I guess it never occurred to me before now because, honestly, how often does one stop to ponder their feet? As a matter of fact, I don't think I can recall a single time that I've--

GUIL: (interrupts him, irritated) Is that it? Is that all you have to say?

ROS: What?

GUIL: Everything that has come before, everything that has led us to this singularly bizarre moment, and all you have to say for yourself is that you have odd feet?

ROS: (slightly affronted) I never said my feet were odd; I said feet in general are. So that would make my feet quite normal when compared to everyone else's, I should think.

GUIL sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, obviously exasperated and fighting not to show it.

GUIL: I think, dear friend, you are missing my point.

ROS: (innocently) I didn't realize you had one.

GUIL: (ignores the unintentional barb) Where are we? Do you have any recollection of ever having been here before?

ROS: (looks around once more) No, I can't say that I have.

GUIL: And doesn't that concern you at all?

ROS: (tentatively) Well... we're not dead.

GUIL: (sarcastically) I had noticed.

ROS: And we're not in England or on a boat.

GUIL: Your keen observational skills never cease to amaze me.

ROS: (brightens) And we're together!

GUIL can't help but smile a bit at that.

GUIL: So we are.

ROS: All in all, I think it could be much worse.

GUIL: But that fails to answer the question at hand, which is, where are we? And why? How did we get here? And what is to become of us?

ROS looks unsure of himself. Sighing, he sits down on the ground and lets his feet stretch out in front of him.

ROS: I don't know. I hadn't given it much thought.

GUIL: So you just accepted our current situation without any thought as to how or why it happened?

ROS: (starting to get upset now) I didn't... I don't remember!

GUIL: What's the last thing you do remember?

ROS: (visibly pondering it) Well, we were helping the king.

GUIL: Why?

ROS: We...

ROS thinks about it for a moment, absently twisting his fingers together as he works it out in his head.

ROS: We were...

GUIL waits patiently for him to come to the answer on his own.

ROS: (triumphantly) We were sent for!

GUIL: Yes, good. We can agree on that much, at least.

GUIL begins to pace back and forth in front of ROS, casually stepping over his outstretched feet on each pass. As he walks, details slowly begin to appear around them, and it becomes clear that they are inside a small room. Walls become visible, and a cot now lies nearby. A thick, wooden door appears to the left. However, the companions are too involved in their own thoughts to notice this phenomenon.

GUIL: But what happened to us? Why are we here? Where is here? These are the questions that are burning a path through my brain.

Footsteps can be heard outside. GUIL and ROS both freeze, ROS on the floor and GUIL paused in mid-step above him.

Suddenly, there is a loud bang, as if someone is pounding on the window shutters.

GUIL: (whispers) Who is that?

ROS: (slightly panicked) I don't know!

A VOICE can be heard from outside. It bellows loudly enough to wake the dead.


ROS is startled and jumps, causing GUIL to trip over his feet. GUIL loses his balance and falls. After the confusion of tangled limbs calms itself somewhat, GUIL finds himself sprawled across his companion's legs. All is quiet, both outside and in. The man outside presumably waiting for a response, and the men inside trying to be as still and quiet as possible. After a long moment of silence, ROS and GUIL begin to speak in hushed whispers.

ROS: Perhaps he will assume we are not at home?

GUIL: (to himself) This is impossible. It simply cannot be happening. And yet, it obviously is happening...

ROS: (hopeful) Any moment now, we shall hear him turning back.

GUIL: (still muttering to himself) A syllogism. One: Time is a nonspatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession, starting with the past and ending in the future. Two: I clearly remember this very event happening in the past, thus making it impossible for it to be happening concurrently in the present. Three: The fabric of time is beginning to unravel. Or perhaps time itself no longer exists.

There is a brief pause as ROS stares at GUIL in confusion.

GUIL: Of course, there is also the possibility that I have just gone insane.

ROS: (cheerfully) There is always that.

GUIL: Or perhaps time as we know it no longer exists for us because we are no longer a part of time? Barring any un-, sub- or supernatural phenomena, the only other solution is that we are somehow dreaming this. Perhaps we are sharing a mass hallucination. Perhaps none of this is real, but is, in fact, an illusion created by our minds in the moment before our deaths.

ROS: I thought we agreed that we're not dead.

Before GUIL can respond, the VOICE shouts again.


ROS: (sadly) He hasn't left.

GUIL: (bitingly) Whatever would I do without you here to point these things out to me?

ROS: No need to get snippy.

GUIL: If we're not dead, and this is happening... then what does it all mean? Must we relive the same period of time; must we make the same choices over and over again, ad nauseam?

ROS: Maybe this time we can choose to do things differently.

GUIL: Maybe we never had a choice to begin with.

A pause, as both men digest that idea. ROS looks appalled, GUIL merely resigned.

GUIL: In the end, I suppose, it all comes back to the same thing. Free will. That is to say, the ability or discretion to make choices unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will. Does such a thing even exist? Or is life a series of events shaped in advance, with the outcome predetermined, and our choices nothing but the illusion of freedom to keep us from giving up entirely?

GUIL (cont.): If we walked out that door and told the messenger who surely awaits us that we had other plans... could it really be that simple? Or would fate intervene, her ghostly hands carefully guiding us back to the path she has picked out for us?

He pulls himself to his feet and takes a step toward the door, falters, and finally stands, still and silent, in the middle of the room, unable to go forward, but unwilling to go back.

GUIL: (dejected) Useless. It's all useless.

Silence. GUIL stands statue-like in the middle of the room; ROS stares up at him from his position on the floor. After a time, ROS rises and moves to stand in front of his friend, taking him by the shoulders and shaking him once, hard.

ROS: (fiercely) There are choices. I know there are.

GUIL says nothing. It is unclear whether he even hears what ROS is saying.

ROS: I'll prove it to you, then.

A heartbeat, and then he pulls GUIL forward roughly and kisses him. Hard and fast, it is over almost before it even began, but it is enough to shock GUIL out of his daze. He looks at ROS with wide eyes.

ROS: That was my choice, you see. No one else could have made it for me.

GUIL seems dazed again, but for an entirely different reason than before. ROS smiles softly and touches his cheek with gentle fingers.

ROS: And now everything is different, isn't it?

A beat. Both men stand in the middle of the room, eyes locked on each other, unable to look away. After a moment, the sound of receding footsteps can be heard, and then outside all is silent.

ROS: (smiling) He left.

GUIL: (returning the smile fondly) Maybe you're right.

Light fades to black, until only the two companions remain.

GUIL: Maybe this time things will go differently.