It isn't his first memory, if he can remember it at all, but it was a very long time ago -- before England, before the boat, before the bang at the shutters, the shout in the dawn. Before even Elsinore or Hamlet.

A field in Denmark, of no particular or visible character, except for a patch of strawberries -- or perhaps it was blackberries -- or at any rate, a quiet congregation of leaves spread out like sun-seeking hands, catching and cradling the light, on itself and through itself and fruit threaded in-between for soft, delicate jewels, a pair of eyes wide and wary gazing up into them with all the solemn dignity of a six-year-old, give or take. It seemed odd that any sort of berry patch should have eyes, nonetheless wide and wary ones, and to a boy used to finding berries and leaves the occasional chrysalis, and the occasional caterpillar, it seemed very curious.

So with all the reckless curiosity of a six-year-old, give or take, he leaned over and peered in on them, nose to nose -- or rather eye to eye.

They blinked.

The boy blinked back. "What a manner of thing art thou ...?" he asked, trying to push the leaves aside.

The leaves shook with indignity, and a small voice tumbled out. "What?"

"Are you a butterfly?" the boy asked, tilting his little head and its mop of messy brown hair to a side, the sun at his back like a spotlight.

"Do I look like a butterfly?"

"Well, I don't know," the boy admitted. "I can't see very much of you, can I? Though the bits I can see don't look very butterfly-ish. I don't think."

"You thought right. Do I sound like a butterfly?"

"A bit."

"A bit?" The voice was astonished, the boy matter-of-fact.

"Well, you might. I've never talked to a butterfly before. Or I have, but it didn't talk back, quite as well. You talk all right, I mean, for a butterfly."

The small voice gave a good pause. "On reflection," it said, with a certain interest in reflections, like a child picking up trinkets -- which it might have been. "I s'pose I could be a butterfly, dreaming I was something else. Or I could be something else, dreaming I was a butterfly. Or I could just always be dreaming. That's called 'skepticism.'"

"Can you be something else dreaming you're a butterfly dreaming you're something else?"

"... I don't think so ..."

"You're not sure?"

"I don't think so. But it's called skepticism."

"What are you, then?"

The eyes blinked, a few more times, peering up at the sunlight around the boy. "If I'm not wrong," the voice said. "I'm a person. Except, people are often wrong. So maybe it's the opposite. I wish it wasn't. I don't see the point, if people can't ever be right at anything. P'raps the flaw is in the premises ... "

The boy considered poking said person, to be sure, but wasn't sure where to poke. Not the eyes, certainly. "What are you doing down there?"

"I fell."

Puzzled and innocent, the boy looked up. "From where?"

"I fell through the sky."

He reached up, as if to touch it. "You fell from the sky?"

"No, I fell through it."

"What's the difference?"

"Semantic." There was pride in the little voice to use such a large word, but the only one to hear it was intent on something else.

"Have you ever noticed," he asked, rapt, "that the sky is very dark when you look straight up at it, but when you start to look down, it gets lighter and lighter, and at the end it's almost white?"

What might have been a person whispered, "Yes."

The boy looked down again. "Did it hurt, when you fell?"

"A little."

He frowned concern. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," came the voice in soft insistence. "The sky at all sides, white on every horizon, surronded by space, held in by infinity ... I felt trapped."

"That's probably 'cos you're still lying there. Here." He held out a hand, the voice began to protest, a weak, "I don't think ..." but small fingers caught small fingers amongst the leaves and were tugged both up into the sunlight.

What sat up wasn't a butterfly, or very like a butterfly, but very like another boy, more curious than a caterpillar but close enough to study -- the first boy kept their hands together clasped together. "There!" he declared, with a wide, sun-filled smile. "That's better, isn't it?"

The not-a-butterfly frowned and tried not to blush. "What's your name?" he asked.

"I don't know, what's yours?"


"I'm Rosencrantz, then," the boy said. "Or I was, last I checked. Would you like to be my friend?"

In bemusement, the boy named Guildenstern asked, "Do you often make friends with people who fall out of the sky?"

"Well, only the ones I like, I expect. And I've only met the one."

Guildenstern smiled, bewildered, as one not used to and startled into it, and Rosencrantz at once liked the look of it, so he laughed and hugged his new friend, tumbling them back into the leaves. Before anything, it was simple, they were happy -- the summer sky was blue, like smoke.