As long as the day is light, the sun shines in the sky, a dazzling, gleaming gold. It gives off such a brightness that a man cannot even gaze at it for a moment for fear of being damaged by its awesome power. Its brilliance is so overwhelming and vast that mere eyes alone can never comprehend the magnitude of its supremacy. Yet a man's eyes are still afforded some small glimpse of its capabilities…Its abilities to be both harsh and cruel in heat and destruction as well as soft and gentle, nurturing growth. Yes, we can see this sometimes…But for the most part, the sun moves past us, relatively unnoticed and unacknowledged as we go about our lives, generally ignoring it…Taking its presence for granted. Man has learned to fear the consequences of staring into its incomprehensible magnificence, for if he does, he will only be blinded by a genius which will forever be beyond his understanding. Yes, the sun has many defenses, for it will allow no man to ever see past its dazzling surface, coated with illusion—Not during the height of day, at least. It is only as this blinding sphere begins to sink into its fall that man can finally catch a clear glimpse of the sun's true colors—No longer clear and white, but seeped with burning red and vermilion as it falls into darkness. Throughout the entire day, we are deceived by one perception, and by the time the truth is revealed, it is too late as the blackness of night has already come upon us.
As I now watched the crimson sun slip below the skyline of Paris through the windows of the Vicomte de Chagny's hospital room, a shudder chilled my flesh. The sun was the color of blood. There was absolutely no way to redeem it into its purity of white light. Not in this day. And the smothering twilight was already enveloping in an unremitting embrace.
But had Erik ever been pure? There must have been a time, for no man is born evil…And I had trusted in his morality…I had known there to be goodness in him. I had seen him turn his eyes away in hidden repulsion when my vulgar Persian ruler had giggled in glee as each of his victims fell in the sickeningly grotesque displays of death that made up her summer afternoons' amusement. Yes, there was good in him then. So when had he set? When was it that he fell below the horizon into the lightless void? Was it she? Christine Daaé…He had fallen in love and, at the same time, fallen off the deep end of the Earth. How was it that something so wholesome and good as love was what finally drove him into blackness! Only Erik…
But that is not right…It was not his love for her that did it. It was her love for him. In a way, she did love him, yes; I know that she did. But it was not what he wanted. He wanted her and she wanted someone else. That young man who lay in restless sleep behind me on the hospital bed. Not only had Erik tried to murder him, but he had made a point of creating the matter into a sickening display of dramatic effect. Why? He had no audience to impress! Why? To satisfy his own fancy for the spectacular? It made me ill to think of it and I lay my hand against the cool glass of the window as the lamps began to flicker to life in the street below me.
Raoul make a sound in his sleep, but I did not look back at him. It was far from the first he had made. Last night, under the heavy influence of drugs, he had slept in fits of anguished moaning. I had not stayed here all day, but had been out a few times, trying to gather what I could about how to deal with this situation. So far I had come up with nothing. Nothing that did not require the involvement of professional officials…He would want to be involved too, of course. But that could not be allowed. How would I manage to get him to stay here, hot-blooded youth that he was? I might have to resort to having the doctors strap him to the bed. The entire mission would be useless, after all, if he went and got himself killed before we could rescue his poor, imprisoned fiancée.
In his brief periods of wakefulness today he had already begun to insist upon taking action. I, as well as the doctors had insisted that he needed his rest, but I knew that deterrent would not keep him here much longer. When he awoke again, he would want to leave. He needed to stay where he would be safe…Though as my eyes now surveyed the streets below and the surrounding buildings, I began to wonder just how safe we actually were here…Just how safe we would be anywhere…
"I've rested all day. Are you satisfied yet?"
Raoul's sudden question alerted me that he had finally emerged from his restive state of sleep. I was beginning to see how this young man managed to get on Erik's nerves so easily. After being told numerous times the importance of staying in a safe location, he had only just awoken and already resumed his persistence to leave.
There was a pause as he waited for my answer, and then he demanded, impatiently, "Well?"
Sighing, edgily, I turned to look at him.
"Oh! You're awake!"
He frowned at me in irritation and I scrutinized him from across the small room. There was obviously greater strength in his seated stature, and he seemed less crippled by the pain of his injuries. The treatment at the hospital had done wonders for his condition compared to the limited care he had received at the Opera.
"How do you feel?"
"Fabulous," he answered, his voice soaked in sarcasm.
I nodded understandingly. Not only must the physical ache be terrible for him, but I was also well aware of his state of emotional affliction. Observing him as he had slept, it was obvious that his slumber had not been peaceful.
"They replaced your bandages while you were asleep. But we cannot keep you here much longer. Do you have any other place to stay? A country estate? Family in another province?"
"I am not leaving the country," he practically shouted. "I am not running! I am staying right here! In Paris! And I am saving my fiancée!"
His stubborn perseverance was grating on my already tattered nerves.
"If you stay here, he will kill you."
"He hasn't yet! He doesn't even know we're here! We have to get Christine from him."
"He hasn't yet because we are in a public hospital. But as soon as you leave, he will."
"I can't stay here forever! I have to face him sometime! He must free Christine!"
"He will not free her willingly as long as she is willing to stay with him."
My fist pounded against the windowsill in frustration, and I paced across the room, his two pale blue eyes following my movement between the wraps of gauze.
"If only I could speak with her! But he would not let me near her. She might as well be dead to us."
"My God!" He was appalled at the idea. "You have to get to her somehow! There has to be a way…"
I shook my head, thinking aloud the course of plans I had been trying to string together.
"If we could get to them by force…But who knows where that could lead…"
"Force! That's the key!…But how?"
I stopped pacing, folding my arms stiffly, thinking over the many possible scenarios I had conceived in these past hours.
"Through the torture chamber…With many men and heavy mallets…You are in no condition to try it…But if I spoke with the Opera's managers…And the police…"
But that would mean the death of Erik…It could be done. It was possible. But was it worth such a price? Would depriving the world of such a man as Erik truly be a blessing or a curse? He had tried to kill Raoul. It was not a half-hearted attempt. Erik seriously believed he had murdered the Vicomte, and that was just as bad as having actually done it. He had promised to me long ago never to again cause the death of any other human being. Obviously, promises meant nothing anymore. And what of his other crimes? How many murders did I witness in Persia? How many victims fell to his lasso and fried in his torture chamber? And how many before I had ever known him? Far, far too many. They had been forgiven by the promise, but the pledge was now broken. If he had betrayed his vow to me, then I had no choice but to betray the secrecy he trusted me to keep.
"Yes!" The Vicomte seemed to find the idea a much more enjoyable prospect than I had. "Let's go. As quickly as possible. Come on! Get me out of this place…"
He struggled to stand and I quickly pushed him back down to rest on the hospital bed.
"You must stay here."
He was irate enough to match his perplexity.
"There is no way!—I have to go!"
"You are in no condition to go anywhere."
"I do not care! I am going! I need to see her; don't you understand?"
"I will not allow it." My determination was as set as stone and he could see there was no pushing past it.
He cried out in frustration, falling back against the pillows. "Then you go! But you come back!"
Why do I have to do this! Why have you made me resort to this, Erik? It could be handled so easily! Why this? Why make it this difficult? Why make me do this to you? You have pushed me to the point where I cannot turn back again, Erik. This is your doing. Whatever I must do to you now, you have brought all upon yourself. I wash my hands of your stains! There could be so many simpler, less tragic ways…Why is it you so relish the complications? Why make a game of these peoples' misery? It could have all been resolved so easily…
"Perhaps I could talk to him again…" I began, but ended that thought as Erik's chilling voice swept through my mind once more. He would kill me if I came back. That was one truth I knew for certain.
"No, no…" Raoul knew how useless those efforts were as well as I did. "If we've learned anything from this, it's that talking does not work."
He was right. I knew that. I sank into my chair again, leaning forward, tearing the cap from my head and running my hands through my hair in aggravation.
"All right," he continued after a moment of silent thought. "Just…We will use force. Please. We have to get to Christine."
"He will be killed."
"And your point?"
I looked up at him, exasperated at such a void of compassion.
"What?" he snapped, pushing himself up again. "I'm sorry if I do not have much respect for the life of a man who has attempted more than once to murder me and is lying to my fiancée to keep her with him!"
"And if men die trying to get to him?"
He adverted his eyes. I had managed to finally impress upon him the severity of the rash actions we were devising against this all-powerful fiend. This would be no frolic at a masked ball, but a perilous mission where men's lives would be at stake. Not only had we Erik himself to fear, but I also knew his entire underground domain was rigged with deathtraps and full of hellish hidden secrets.
"Maybe only we should try. Just you and I." His offer was weak and half-hearted, and it was then that I first understood that this man actually cared nothing for who else would be hurt in the attempt so long as he accomplished his goal. But the notion was ridiculous. Just we? Such an endeavor would amount to nothing more than a suicide mission. If he did not realize this, perhaps his brain had suffered more in the fire than his skin.
"You would not last a minute…And I am no match for him."
I stood again, sighing and he echoed the sound in hopelessness, the bandages of his hand meeting those on his forehead as he sat in agitated thought. Evidently it did him no good as he suddenly cried out again in exasperation:
"We have to do something!"
I moved past the bed, explaining the plan I had begun to devise.
"I will talk to the police…Perhaps they will believe me. With any luck…"
"Get him when he's vulnerable…" he added, picking up on my theme.
I turned to look back at him incredulously.
"You think he is vulnerable?"
"No," he agreed with the utmost reluctance. "I mean…He has to let Christine leave the cellars at some time. And maybe…We can wait. And try to catch them when he does…"
"Does he? What makes you think he will not simply keep her locked down there?"
I knew Erik's ways. He did not have to do anything he did not wish to do. He possessed endless means to attain his desired results.
"Good God…" Raoul actually seemed shocked to hear me ask such a question. "He would do that? Even if she asked?"
It was not a matter of asking! As far as Christine Daaé might know, there could not be any reason for ever even wanting to leave. Erik's ways of bending reality to his whim were incomprehensible, and there was no way I could deduct which he had used in this case! Not without more information. Not without hearing from Christine myself.
"I do not know what he has told her to make her want to stay."
He sighed heavily, but thankfully, he agreed. I took up my coat and hat from the chair and turned to the door. My thoughts were too grave with possibilities and conjectures to offer a goodbye, but his misery-filled voice called me back just before I left.
"Will they believe you?"
I did not even look at him. There was a very good chance they would simply not believe me at all. A rumored ghost living under a theatre having kidnapped a young woman who had willingly returned to him? There was a high possibility I would only be laughed at and turned away. How could such a fantastic case be made to appear true? How would I explain all the leading circumstances?
"I don't know."
The pitiable boy! There was such little hope…No solid assurance to help ease his despair. Not only was he at risk of losing the woman he loved, the person he hoped to spend the rest of his life with, but also I knew that he blamed himself. Could he have prevented this from happening? I was not sure, but he was so certain he could have that he had even been crying it out in his wretched sleep.
"Alright…Go," he consented, noticing my hesitance to leave him in such a state. "But hurry back!"
"If I don't come back, assume they've locked me up in the asylum."
With that, I placed the hat on my head and left.