Once Upon a Moonless Night

Chapter 1: Darius

Coney Island stood in its glory off the shore of Manhattan, enticing every on looking to come inside. And everyone did come inside. Within it's gilded gates they found smoke and mirrors mixed with flesh and bone: unsure of who or what to trust.

Crowds were waiting outside at dawn that morning, the pinkish smoggy skyline of the industrial city acting as the backdrop to the wonderland. Kids were pressing their faces in between the spiral shaped fencing, longing for the park to open. Parents were just as anxious as the school boys and girls. Many of them had never been into the park before and the ones who had still were behaving as if they hadn't. It was like the entire park was built like a doll house: able to be switched around and changed but look like it had always looked and functioned like it did.

Suddenly, a little ways behind the gate and where everyone could see, a puff of smoke and fire appeared. The collective crowd jumped at the sudden display. Within the fire and smoke was a lanky man. While the island behind him was more colorful than a kaleidoscope, the man was wearing only white. From his top hat to his boots: everything was white save for a few silver fastenings adorning it's edges. Even his face was covered by a white half mask that was adorned with silver and white studded diamonds.

The now silent crowd looked at the ringmaster in fascination.

"Welcome," The man said, his voice oozing charm, his words sticking to the crowd like sap on fruit flies, "my dear ladies and gentlemen, to my world of mystery and illusions. Within this park, reality fades away to make room for the extraordinary. Nothing is what it seems though I can't tell you if it's darker or lighter than what you imagine it to be. But be weary, my dear friends, because as soon as you enter these gates, you leave behind the world you once knew and you will never get it back."

He tossed his hand up, a white and silver cane in his hand, and on his command another burst of smoke and fire engulfed him. His cape fanned out behind him, revealing the detailed blue, purple and pink galaxy with silver stars embroidered within the lining.

"I, my friends," He continued his performance, the crowd clinging to his words, "am Mr. Y. and this is my world. Welcome, my guests, to Phantasma."

He pointed his cane at the gates and the threw themselves open. At the same time, the entire island lit up. Rides began to operate. Everything came alive. While looking almost desert a few moments ago, the island was now bustling. The crowd rushed in, surrounding the performer but he vanished in a puff of smoke right before their eyes.

The members of the crowd looked around, desperate to find the showman. Then came a voice from the roof of one of the fun houses.

"Don't worry, my dear guests." The white clad Mr. Y. said, "I have no intention of leaving you. I will always be nearby. But don't wait for me: go enjoy yourselves while I make the magic happen. You'll see me if you look hard enough. Think of it as a game."

And once more he was gone.

But he didn't stay gone for long.

Throughout the entire day, he kept popping up to startle guest though they all enjoyed his presence.

"Are you enjoying yourself miss?" The white clad man asked a woman from behind.

She jumped and squealed, her friends following suit though they had seen him appear long before his target did.

"Oh yes." The girl said blushing and fanning herself with her hand. "It's so fascinating here. So odd."

"I'm glad to hear that, young lady."

He made an extravagant gesture with his hand and a white rose appeared in his hand.

"For you," He said, handing the flower to her.

The girl smiled broadly and her blush deepened, her friends squealing like pigs at the gesture.

"Enjoy your day, young lady." He said, a charming smile on his lips, his brown eyes peeking out from behind his dazzling mask.

The girls giddily flounced off, not noticing that their earrings and bracelets were now missing nor really caring when they did notice. It was such a magical place and Mr. Y was quite the marvel.

"And it's only for you!" Meg and the chorus finished off the last note of the ditty that would be stuck in everyone's head's for the remainder of the day.

She did a twirl as she left the stage, letting the young men in the audience get another peek under her already scandalously short skirt.

"Isn't she lovely, ladies and gentlemen?" Mr. Y. told the crowd as they cheered louder than a baseball stadium. "Unfortunately that's the end of our show."

The crowd gave a collective disappointed moan.

"Now now my friends," Mr. Y. calmed the crowd, "the funs not done yet. There's an entire park to explore and more shows throughout the rest of the day and a special performance for you adults once the sun goes down."

He gave a suggestive wink to the crowd, several young men catching the drift.

"But for now," He tossed his cape dramatically over his shoulder, the detailed galaxy lining in view though still mostly covered by the white fabric, "go explore the wonders my world has to offer."

With a puff of smoke and a flash of lightning, he was gone.

Meg fanned her hand to clear the smoke collected from the effect and the countless lit cigarettes within the room.

"You only get ten minutes before your next show," Giry reminded the backstage crew and performers, "And girls, you were off on some of your beats. Mr. Brown, if I see that again you'll be out of a job."

Six years hadn't changed much.

"Once again, Miss Giry," a man she knew all too well said behind her, "he blew them all away."

"Cut it out with the smoke and mirrors, Darius." Meg rolled her eyes and let out a yawn.

"Long night last night?" Darius said, removing his dazzling white mask. "Gash this thing is irritating."

"Yeah long night." Meg said, letting loose another wide yawn. "It's only the third week of being open and it feels like I've been doing this for years."

"Well I have something that might cheer you up."

Darius handed her his flask and that morning's newspaper. Meg went for the drink first, gulping the thing down, knowing Darius wouldn't mind too much: most likely he had stolen the booze to begin with. The paper was forgotten until Darius pointed to the headline.

"That's your old friend right?" He asked, his cocky smile plastered on his sweaty face.

Meg read the headline. Though she had lived there for the past 6 years, she still didn't fully understand English. But she understood enough.

"Christine is coming to Manhattan?" Meg said, her face brightening up.

"At the end of summer." Darius confirmed. "She's performing for the opening of Hammerstein's opera house."

"Is she staying long?"

"I wouldn't know, though I'd imagine she would."

"It would be so nice to see her again. I'd love to show her the island."

"I'd sooner have the USDA here than Christine Daae." Giry said, cutting into the conversation. "If we're lucky and if she knows what's good for her, she'll stay away."

"Mother, you couldn't really not want to see Christine." Meg argued, a bit shocked at the cruelty in her mother's voice.

"Of course I would like to see Christine again." Giry assured, feeling a touch of sentiment towards the girl. "But if she comes anywhere near this island, He will unravel."

"I'm not saying you're wrong," Meg said, knowing full well that the boss was about as stable as a house of cards. "But I still want to see Christine when she comes."

"No doubt he will too."

"Does he know?"

"I can assure you he doesn't." Nadir said approaching the group of the ones that actually knew the boss in the flesh. "And I personally do not want to be the one to tell him. I just can from up there and I am not going back up until I have to."

"What's wrong this time?" Giry asked, wondering just how much of a mess they might be in.

"He just finished a song," Nadir said, rubbing his temple with his fore fingers, "something that he's calling his magnum opus but the only person he wishes for it to be song by is…"

"Christine." They all said with a collective moan.

"She must've been somethin' for him to still pine for her." Darius said, having never met the girl but knowing exactly what she looked like at every stage of her life.

"She's a good girl." Giry said, pitying and envying Darius at the same time. "But she has a tendency to not realize the things going on around her. Especially if it's dangerous."

"So…" Meg timidly chimed in, "who's gonna tell him?"

"I'll do it." Darius said instantly, snatching the paper. "Maybe it'll finally get him to cheer up a bit. You would think making 10,000 on opening week would get the man to flash a smile."

"Actually, it was 15,000." Nadir corrected. "I redid the numbers yesterday. Some of the employees had tried to make off with some of the funds."

Darius, white cape still trailing behind him, headed to the top of the theater to the office that overlooked the entire island. Despite having several ways to reach it, the office never had people coming up to it. Every entrance was hidden, closed off or both. But Darius wove his way through the tunnels and up the stairs as he had done numerous times before. Once he reached the top where the staircase just seemed to end for no rhyme or reason, He leaned against a wall. He heard the grinding of gears and the hiss of machines before the wall opened revealing a dimly lit but extravagant office.

His desk sat empty: nothing on top of it and no one sitting in it's chair.

But he heard music. Loud, chaotic but extravagant and breathtaking. And angry. Darius couldn't pinpoint what made it so, but the music reeked of dangerous rage.

Knowing better than to interrupt him while he was playing, Darius placed the newspaper on the desk where it sat for the remainder of the day.

Erik wasn't sure how long he had been in his music room in his furious rage of emotionally driven genius nor did he particularly care to figure out. There was no reason to care what day it was. If those pests that were using his brain for money wanted something from him, they would come and find him.

His rage had finally given it's last whimper and he gave a long and deep sigh.

He looked up at the painting above his organ. Though painful, she was his muse and couldn't play or create without at least a piece of her by his side. Despite feeling a rush of joy and pride looking at the painting of the beautiful goddess of a woman with the small bundle in her arms, he did not smile.

He turned away from the painting and walked away, deciding to waste his time on the business that he had created.

There was a newspaper on his desk. He almost threw it away, not particularly caring about gossip even when it centered around him, but then he saw the headline.

He snatched up the paper and read and reread the article until he could recite it by heart. She was coming. Christine...Christine was coming to Manhattan. Her entire family. The beautiful goddess of music and her young progeny were coming.

"Christine...Christine…" He whispered her name, the name sounding like a love song how he uttered it. "Christine…"

Come what may, he thought darkly to himself, he would hear her sing.

When the summer died, they would belong to him.