You Caught Me, I'm Shakespeare
Since I got word last night of TMZ being ready to break this story, I decided my only real option here was to try and get ahead of it. Now some of the more plugged in among you probably already saw the early leaks, but for those of you I managed to catch before the story broke let me get you up to speed:
Drew Hayes doesn’t exist (well, there are lots of others that do, just not this one). He’s a pseudonym I’ve been using for the past few years, one of countless I came up with over the centuries. My real name, given at birth, is William Shakespeare. Yes, that one. The famous one you had to study in school, born in 1564, blah blah blah you know who I’m talking about. Now, I’m sure you all have lots of questions, and I’m going to do my best to answer them one by one. Let’s start with the most obvious category that needs addressing:
Immortal (for now, at least) playwright popping up in the modern age is a bit of a mind-screw, I’ll give you, but it’s actually quite the simple explanation: I pissed off a witch.
Wait, hang on, forgot to tell you that magic, monsters, and witches are all real. Sorry, not just for doing this out of order, but also for taking away your ability to rationalize that the sound you heard in the dark of your room at midnight was just the house settling. If it’s any comfort, after the first hundred years or so you make a certain peace with it. Though I suppose that won’t actually come into play for most of you.
Where was I… Right! I pissed off a witch. Without going into the whole of it, I dated a woman with a talent for the mystical arts and when it ended neither of us took it well. I threw the witches into MacBeth as a jab at her, and her people in turn cursed the play (congrats theatre people, you were right all along) but it really came to a head one night when we ran into each other drunk at a tavern. Words were said, swears hurled, accusations of sexual inadequacy tossed about too freely on both sides, and when the dust cleared she’d gone and cursed me. I hear you already, wondering how immortality is a curse.
That’s the rub of it, though. She didn’t give me eternal life; she just cursed me to live long enough to see my plays fall from grace. The witch was not my biggest fan after we broke up, and she was sure in a few decades people would see my works for the “low-brow peasant trash they were”. Her words, obviously. Of course, lifespans being what they were, there was a good chance I’d die thinking myself a success, so she decided to try and rob that from me.
As it turned out, she was a far better spell-caster than predictor of artistic trends, as my works are now taught in classrooms all over the world and I’ve therefore racked up around half a millennium this side of the void. I’m sure you have more questions on the how, many of you no doubt grabbing checkbooks to search for witches of your own, but bear in mind I’m a victim of magic, not a practitioner of it, and witches have only grown rarer with each passing year. If you want your own immortality, might be best to search elsewhere. Though with that out of the way, let’s turn to:
The more unenlightened of you might be wondering why I’ve turned to superheroes and dick jokes for my new craft, while the well-read know that I’ve always been about the dick jokes, it’s just the superhero part that’s new. To both I say simply this: Have you ever tried to survive for 400+ years? I still get hungry, you know. Still need clothes, and shelter, and lord knows I need enough alcohol to drown out the vast accumulation of memories I’ve accrued. And one can only cash in on their work for so long before people start wondering how I’m still alive. It might be a common trope in fiction that immortals are always rich, but that presupposes a talent for amassing wealth and investing it. How many of you lot reach your deathbed with a massive collection of riches? Oh? Mostly just debt or perhaps a meager savings to pass on? That’s what I thought.
I’ll own that some of this was my doing, I perhaps invested a little too freely in dirigibles, which I was assured would be safe money, and the stock market crash of the twenties did me no favors. So I have, time and time again, taken to falling back on my one true talent to get by. I’ve had many false names over the years, many you wouldn’t recognize, though some you might. I have the knack for being consistently successful enough to get by, though the glory of my first career has always eluded me. Perhaps it was a touch of beginner’s luck, or I haven’t kept pace with the times as well as I should have. Regardless, bartenders don’t work for limericks, so the job had to proceed forward, and you all have crafted a marvelous system to allow just that. Though I’m not sure how things will be now that my secret is officially out. Which brings us to the last inevitable topic:
Though the exact day caught me by surprise, I’ve been preparing for this for some time. Ever since I saw the internet first begin to bloom, giving so many access to so much, I understood that eventually there would be no more secrets. True, it came sooner than expected, but I’ve been braced for this reveal for a very long time. As to the topic at hand, what comes next for old Willy S. (thinking of trying out a new moniker) I can’t rightly say for certain. My original works have long since slipped into the public domain, so there’s no coin to be made there, but perhaps I’ll do a bit of a touring circuit. Give speeches, hit up conventions, shake hands and take pictures for a few dollars a pop. Heck, if I play my cards right, they might even make a movie about me. There’s bound to be enough cash in that to get through another fifty years or so.
As for the writing, well, I see no cause to fix what isn’t broken. Perhaps there’s a reason I keep coming back to it even five hundred years later. It and I are bound together as much as I am bound to the living plane. Therefore I will continue writing on, using the Drew Hayes name for continuity. I might bust out my original as well though, perhaps use it to pen a few sequels I’d always meant to get around to. Not to give any spoilers, but in Hamlet 2: Hamlet 2 The Extreme there are battles in the ghost realm, dead witches (who’s getting the last laugh now?), and a dragon-tank hybrid. Your culture may have influenced me a bit over the years, but I think once it hits the stage we’ll all agree it was for the best.
The one thing I do know I’m going to do before any of that, however, is to wish you all a Happy April Fool’s Day!