Part 1: By Heather Lawson.
"Oh my god I am so pissed off" a voice cried melodramatically bouncing merrily across abandoned walls. The voice was far more impressive then its surroundings a chipped and neglected theater which still bore the signs of its previous engagement. Elegant shoes made of sky blue velvet and silver stepped over the chip packets that had been left abandoned in the aisles. They made a faint squelching sound as they moved and muddy water oozed from the seams before they stopped right in front of a half melted ice cream.
"People have no respect what so ever for the story! chips being munched away during my demise and iced sweets being left to melt like a lackluster corpse in the melancholy light of a dying night" the voice continued this time ending in a self pitying wail.
"Desist with the angst darling Ophelia it was a high school performance what do you expect?" another voice this time some what coy and seductive flirted from the stage. A young woman was sitting on the edge her legs swinging to and throw and she was smiling down at Ophelia with the air of someone who could never be called a maiden again. Her hair fell in messy brown almost black curls to her torso and she was wearing nothing more the the simple shift of a white night gown already slipping down on one side revealing the hint of a bare shoulder and the promise of full adult breasts.
This was a woman who knew things Ophelia reflected, this was a woman who had actually been married.
Only the welting bruises around her throat ruined the affect Ophelia noted they were a hideous shade of black and yellow and if you were clever you could see the finger marks.
"Come to see me triumph Desdemona? after all hardly anyone watches you die these days" Ophelia snapped irritably and Desdemona merely crossed her ankles cocking her head to one side.
There was something almost feline in the way she moved and the way her eyes crinkled.
Then again felines were well known for being adulterous Ophelia reflected.
"My death was added to the end of a recent period movie actually, Claire Danes played me" she said airily then she coughed once before taking in a deep gasping breath.
"I prefer the immortality of the screen its far more relaxing, poor Ophelia you must be so exhausted having to attend so many performances of Hamlet" she sighed with sympathy and Ophelia shrugged her shoulders making a non committal noise.
Ophelia had seen them all ranging from grand performances in London to dramatic readings that tended to get a little carried away in high school English classes. No one ever noticed the young woman skulking about in the back her white blond hair wer and straggling down the back with the damp patches on what had once been a beautiful silver wedding dress.
"I'm the one that should be exhausted" a third voice this time in a strong Italian accent screeched dramatically as another dead girl emerged from behind the wings.
"Oh not her again, I wish you wouldn't encourage her" snorted Ophelia.
"Encourage me? I am forced to spend all of eternity without my darling Cara mio and listen to one drowned fish and one slut every single day" the voice screeched dramatically again.
And then there was Juliet.
Most people when they thought of Juliet tended to conjure up images of a wispy nymph like girl with pale skin and long limbs. They tended to forget that Romeo was a seventeenth century Italian and his idea of an angelic woman would verge on pornography. Juliet was no older then thirteen but she was one of those thirteen year olds who well developed early. Her figure exploded from the top of her restoration period gold and orange satin gown and her hair pinned to her skull in a series of ringlets and pearls was a deep midnight black with an extra shine of gloss.
It was her face however that was unusual, it was painted powdered white and her lips were stained faintly green black with the poison from Romeo's lips.
Along one side under her left breast a wound would always seep drops of blood leaving an old brownish trail down her bodice.
"Slut? at least I wasn't so stupid I killed myself over a boy who was in love with another girl two hours before he met me" Desdemona snorted.
"And I didn't drown on purpose! I slipped!" Ophelia shot back and Juliet merely smirked.
"I really did!" she insisted and the two other merry dead women shared amused glances before Juliet chortled with mirth.
"At least when I killed myself I was a married woman and my husband loved me" she finally sighed putting a hand over her wound for dramatic effect.
"That is true dear, our husbands loved us and what were you?" Desdemona asked innocently and Ophelia glanced at her feet.
"We were engaged" she protested.
"For political reasons" laughed Juliet cruelly.
Ophelia knew she was friends with Desdemona because of a technicality when it came to the rules of the living and the dead. They had all met during the restoration period when the theaters were finally reopened and after years of nothing they finally had something to do.
"I'm rather relieved about this women on the stage thing" Desdemona said when they finally met during a duel performance in the court of King Charles the Second. Before then during the early days of sweat and blood Ophelia had always been alone . She was dead after all and those were the words written across parchment in home made ink. The living could not see the dead and the same went for theatrical characters, well unless it was written into the plot. After the first performance and the first time she drowned Hamlet stopped seeing her. At first after the play he'd look for her his face faintly puzzled but soon he forgot. Ophelia trailed behind the others from performance to performance, from actor to actor always in the form of a speckled skinny boy.
Never heard from.
It was quite a shock when Desdemona spoke to her, a slutty common woman amongst all the nobles wearing her night dress.
"You're the Ophelia aren't you?"she asked snatching a drink from a serving boys tray, the serving boy didn't seem to notice the practically naked woman and continued on his way.
Ophelia just made a faint spluttering sound.
"Oh don't look so surprised, we've just seen a duel performance of Othello and Hamlet and in the middle of the room I find a dripping wet girl dressed like a princess of course you're the Ophelia" Desdemona said gulping down a heavy mouthful of wine.
"I'm Desdemona, the Desdemona" she said with a regal wave of her hand and that was the first time Ophelia noticed the bruises.
"The Desdemona? ..I'm sorry that your husband well" she began and Desdemona gulped the wine again.
"His sorry as well I'm sure, when was the last time you ate princess?" Desdemona asked and Ophelia shrugged.
"I've never eaten" she admitted and Desdemona clucked her tongue.
"You are a dead character not a dead person princess you can eat whenever you wish! let us enjoy the banquet and then there is some one you really must meet!" Desdemona smiled.
"It wasn't for political reasons" Ophelia continued her voice completely devoid of any real emotion, that had burned away centuries ago. Juliet just walked across the stage in a shimmy of hips and fabric before standing next to Desdemona.
"For she is the east and Juliet is the sun" Juliet finally said and Desdemona almost smiled.
"Tell me darling Ophelia, beautiful tragic Ophelia has any man ever called you the sun?" Juliet asked and Ophelia trembled.
"Has any man ever touched your bare skin while he shuddered inside you spilling his seed? did your Hamlet ever cling onto you knowing fully well that soon oh so very soon he would have to tear himself away? did you wish for him to hold you so very tight that you would stop breathing? because to be dead would be better then having him let go?" Juliet asked placing a hand on Desdemona's shoulder. Desdemona's normally playful expression hardened and she shrugged off the hand her skin growing ash gray.
"Stop it" she whispered but Juliet just wrapped her arms around Desdemona's rigid neck her cheek pressed against the top of that messy hair.
"Poor sad little Ophelia, tell me did Hamlet ever love you at all? even for the tiniest fraction of moments?" she asked and a tear trickled down Ophelia's cheek betraying herself.
Ophelia irritably wiped it away and Juliet smiled.
"No I didn't think so" she said simply.
Desdemona pushed her aside and fled the stage her form disappearing before it even reached the wings.
Ophelia met Princess Cordelia during her first meal which was a rather enjoyable experience until she discovered the entire toilet thing a few hours later. Cordelia was sickly sweet despite the fact she was dressed in a leather jerkin and battle armor.
"Put the salt on the meat it ain't nothing without its salt" Cordelia advised her and Ophelia sprinkled a tiny amount on like dust before eating a suspicious mouth full of lamb stew.
"This meat tastes rotten" she finally said diplomatically and she wasn't quite sure how she knew what rotten things tasted like.
Actually she knew what many things tasted like although she knew perfectly well she'd never eaten a mouthful of anything.
Must have been because it had been written or something similar she reflected...
"Course its bloody well rotten this is the seventeenth century girl everything here rots! we've got poor old sods outside rotting from the black death"Cordelia said shoving a piece of black bread into her mouth.
"Cordelia and I met when the same actress Mrs Sedley played both of us during one night, I followed Mrs Medley because I had no other performances to keep up and I ran into Cordelia" Desdemona smiled drinking this time ale.
"Brilliant that was, course I'm better off then you two because nearly every one dies in my play you see" Cordelia explained before crossing herself.
"Everyone?" Ophelia cried with disbelief.
"Almost everyone" Cordelia corrected her.
"Of course that means my family can still see me which means putting up with my darling sisters Gonerill and Reagan, you got any sisters?" Cordelia asked and Ophelia shook her head.
"Only Hamlets family died and well his friends, I used to talk a bit with Rosencratz but then well he fell in love with me and went all pathetic" Ophelia reflected and Cordelia shot her a sympathetic look.
"I'm sorry to hear your separated from your family dear heart, course I only stick around for my dad he couldn't cope without me the old bugger" Cordelia explained using the rest of her bread to mop up the gravy.
"Stick around?" Ophelia asked doubtfully and the two older married women exchanged knowing looks.
"You don't have to trail around London with the other characters anymore Ophelia dear, our stories are being performed in new countries in new languages! why just last week I traveled to France" Cordelia explained an excited smile on her face.
"Ophelia isn't Hamlet love, she doesn't have to be in every performance just the right ones" Desdemona continued to explain.
"She seems kind" Ophelia said when they left the inn stepping out in the busy night time streets of London.
"I could be nice if I was penned that way " Desdemona said wryly and then she took Ophelia's hand.
"Still it was a nice lesson wasn't it? You don't have to go where the hero goes, you can chose your own performances to inspire" Desdemona grinned spinning Ophelia about. Ophelia giggled as water shook off her dress splashing onto the cobblestones.
"How did she die?" she asked breathlessly and Desdemona shook her head.
"Not like us, she didn't die violently for love she just well stopped living for well no actual reason" Desdemona explained and Ophelia wasn't quite sure what to make of that. It seemed like a bit of an easy way out.
"I cant imagine some one like her giving up on life" Ophelia finally said her voice quiet in the cold night air. Desdemona just squeezed her hand.
" I would have said the same about you" Desdemona replied.
The next morning Ophelia returned to the theater this time dressed in a gown made of deep rose pink velvet her hair dried and brushed but her face still pale. Outside the theater sat the cast, not the cast of actors but the real cast the living moving amongst the dead.
Rosencratz just stared at her with his thick almost featureless face practically blending into his pale washed out doublet.
"Thats not your death dress" he finally said and Ophelia quickly glanced down at the pink velvet that was already gathering wet patches.
"I was getting tired of wearing white and silver Rosencratz" she merely said flipping her wet rats tails over one shoulder. Her hair splattered droplets of water across the coble stones and the living members of Hamlet looked about briefly wondering where the sudden shower of water came from.
"I'm leaving Rosencratz, Othello is being performed as an Opera across the continent and Desdemona has asked me to be her traveling companion" she said a little too firmly and his lips puckered his eyes almost verging on something not unlike annoyance.
"And what of you? you haunt Hamlet" he pointed out.
"There will always be performances of Hamlet with traveling troupes or in taverns I'll find a place to haunt" she said trying to sound brave and she reached into the front of her bodice fishing about for the letter she'd written with Desdemona's assistance. It would have helped if she actually had a proper sort of bodice, the sort that were made to hide notes in the cleavage. Instead she had almost next to nothing and the note had wriggled half way down nestling in the strings of her corset.
Rosencratz was watching her fishing about with intense fascination and when she finally retrieved the note he licked his lips.
"This is for Hamlet" she said thrusting the piece of paper towards Rosencratz who just eyed it warily.
"I'm dead how exactly am I supposed to give him that" he pointed out and Ophelia rolled her eyes, one dimensional characters were so unimaginative.
"Hide it and then tell Hamlet's father where it's hidden and ask him to tell Hamlet, Hamlet is allowed to see his father" she said and Rosencratz snatched the note before bowing his head.
"Consider it done your highness" he replied with a small weary sigh.
But Hamlet never read the letter, at least thats what Ophelia told herself.
"His not coming" she whispered to Desdemona as they watched tiny boats cross the river Thames.
"It's not as if he can see you dearest" Desdemona pointed out placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I bet Rosencratz tore the letter up its the sort of spiteful thing he'd do" Ophelia hissed furiously and Desdemona squeezed her shoulder.
"Come sweet girl the curtain will be opening in Brussels within minutes" Desdemona said meaningfully and Ophelia stepped into the river the trail of her pretty new dress instantly sinking in the water and mud.
"I didn't drown on purpose you know" she said quietly and Desdemona knew better then to say anything.
The two figures slowly disappeared in the dying sun as they walked into the river.
Some where else Rosencratz would hide the scrunched up piece of parchment under a loose stone outside the theater and during the next performance Hamlet's father would whisper to him of a letter written to him by his one true love.
Hamlet would just snort and eventually the hidden letter would just rot away eventually returning to the earth.
Ophelia liked to pretend that she'd never penned the letter. It was all maudlin rubbish really although it did have perfect rhyming scheme stolen from the mind of her creator. Juliet was still standing on the stage a positively delighted expression her face, Juliet was the inspiration of one of the worlds greatest love stories but she was also at heart a twelve year old girl which meant she was a well brat. One of her hobbies tended to involve finding new ways to make Ophelia or Desdemona cry and after almost two hundred years she was getting very good.
"Silly Desdemona always taking things far to seriously" she cackled gleefully and Ophelia just snorted.
"She'll be sulking for weeks Juliet I hope your happy" Ophelia pointed out and Juliet merely fanned her expansive bosom.
"I'm ecstatic my darling dear sad little Ophelia now have you finished here? you must come and see me being played two towns over the girls as ugly as sin but she gets my sigh just right" Juliet said and then sighed placing a hand to her forehead demonstrating her obvious sighing talents.
"I'm not in the mood to watch you giggle over your suicide pact" Ophelia replied shaking the water from her skirts. It had been a long and exhausting run at the Newtown performing arts high schools theater. There Ophelia had been brilliant but the rest of the cast was cringe worthy and Ophelia had to stop herself from storming out when Hamlet starting humming the South Park theme when he forgot his lines.
"You're always in the mood for suicide" Juliet screeched with annoyance as Ophelia stormed out of the theater leaving streaking marks all over the carpet.
Outside the air was warm and dry with a hidden dusty smell almost like smoke, so very different from England Ophelia reflected.
Ophelia had been there the first time the play had been performed in this brave new world by criminals rather then actors.
The entire cast of Hamlet had come for the occasion and it had been the last time she'd seen Hamlet, well Rosencratz wasn't there she remembered but she was still furious with him and besides he was hardly important.
There was no such thing as an actor needing to be an inspired Rosencratz.
There was a faint gurgling sound behind the theaters giant metallic bins but Ophelia ignored it the way she ignored most things that didn't concern her. In fact she would have cheerfully walked on into her next performance if a hand didn't reach out from the darkness latching onto her ankle.
No one touched her accept for Desdemona, even Juliet knew better. The hand was bony and pale and its cracked nails dug straight through the velvet of her shoe almost assaulting her fragile skin.
"You can see me" Ophelia whispered and a face emerged from the darkness, eyes wide and dancing blood trailing down from the corner of its mouth.
"Ophelia" a voice harsh and unforgiving whispered before the hand released her falling slack onto the Ophelia stooped down anxiously and saw what appeared to be a dead body.
"Goddammit this is really pissing me off" she muttered.
End Part 1.
(This was written by Heather Lawson, check her out at: http://www.myspace.com/hezzabeth) (also, if anyone has any idea why we can't add her as a contributor let me know, the blog is being a bastard)