This story was written in response to a challenge to write something with the first line: “The room is dimly lit, one bare bulb swaying slightly in an invisible draught.”
The room is dimly lit, one bare bulb swaying slightly in an invisible draught. In a corner, on the floor, sits a man who gives every impression of having just woken up from a disturbed night’s sleep.
He looks just like the sort of man who might suddenly start talking to himself, for no apparent reason.
Which he does.
“Good Heavens”, he says to nobody, “why is there a glass thing swinging on the ceiling, giving a dim light to the room? Considering that this is the 16th century, I haven’t got the faintest idea what could possibly be causing it to glow like that. On the other hand, there are very few things about which I have got the faintest idea, so there’s nothing new there.”
“I have”, he continues, “got lots of questions to which there may or may not be answers. For example, here I am in a room that seems to have a door that is almost certainly locked. I ask myself whether it might, or might not, be worth my while to find out if it is locked, and if so, whether there is a key that I can use to unlock it and get out of this room.
“In other words, should I see, or not see, if there is a key, or not a key, and – if there is – whether I can be free, or not be free. That, quite clearly, is the question. Or is it?
“I really do need to make a decision here, and the best way to decide something is to debate all the pros and cons with someone else. But there’s only me here. So I have to talk with me, or not with me. I could do that to a degree and then agree, or I might disagree – to a degree. And that’s another question.
“If there is a key, and I set myself free, would I then become an escapee? To flee or not to flee?
“And what then? I could climb a tree, despite my bad knee, and maybe see the sea, or not the sea. I could go to the port and take a boat from the quay, but where would I go then? To Capri or Dundee, that is the …
“I’ll then tell my story as I sit in a marquee, as an interviewee, to a reporter from ITV, or should it be the BBC?
“He – or it could be she – might offer me a hot drink, and then I’d forced to say: ‘tea or coffee, coffee or tea?’
“Oh dearie me. My poor brain can’t cope with all this repartee. And I’m almost sure that I need to take a leak. To pee or not to pee?
“I seem to be in a cell – an internee. If someone comes to me, should I make a plea or should I not make a plea? They might set me free, but there’s no guarantee.”
The imprisoned Prince will sit there all day, doing nothing but talk to himself. Invisible draughts of rhyming thought will continue to wend their questionable way though the bare bulb of Hamlet’s brain, which is always dimly lit.