Note: This is the second part of Chapter 11. It will be put altogether after everyone's read and stuff. :)
The orchestra began to play. The first song that was performed was "A Person Can Develop a Cold." Ashley sang with the usual ditzy gusto that was expected of her. She actually had a pretty good voice. She only really belted, but she was good at it, at least. Amy snorted at the conclusion of the song.
"Common," she said very seriously. "She has a very common voice."
"What does that even mean?" I laughed.
"Shut up. It's your scene, in case you care," she pointed out unhelpfully.
"Whatever." I pulled the curtain back (it was surprisingly heavy, I found) to watch Jessica Klein march onstage with her group of missionaries. The scene was, as usual, deathly boring and unworthy of watching. I was positive that I could see audience members dozing off during Sarah Brown's big speech. An upwards flick of the eyes informed me that the chandelier had calmed itself for now, rocking back and forth only gently. It certainly didn't seem as if Jessica's singing was going to cause a "disaster beyond your imagination." Then again, knowing my Erik, he would never deliberately sabotage a high school show. He wasn't violent or malicious. He was a little… excitable, perhaps, but not malicious.
The next scene was the first between Sky and Sarah. The dialogue was stilted, as it always is in a high school show, as it led into the song's first few chords. Amy moaned as Jessica made her vocal entrance.
"For the love of God!" She smacked her hands over her ears. "Who gave that girl vocal chords!"
I laughed appreciatively. The song continued.
When my love comes along
I won't take a chance
I know he'll be just what I need
Not some fly-by-night Broadway romance…
By that strong co-ACK!
"What the heck was that?" I exclaimed, jumping at the strange noise. The orchestra had squeaked and squealed into silence, and an excited murmur ran over the audience like a ocean wave of sound.
"Was that Jessica?" Amy cried, looking just as astonished as I. "What happened?"
We risked poking our heads out from behind the curtain to fully see what was going on onstage. Jessica was gasping and touching her throat with her manicured fingers, while (Name?) was staring at her blankly. Fitz was conducting the orchestra, but at the sounding of the "Co-ACK" he had put his baton down in distress.
"Okay," whispered Jessica. "It's okay. I don't know what that was. Sorry."
The song started up again from the beginning. This time, Jessica only got through the first few lines before meeting with trouble again.
When my love comes along
I won't co-ACK
Co-ACK! Co-ACK! Co-ACK!
Again and again her voice sounded, "Co-ACK! Co-ACK!" Tears were streaming down her face. The orchestra began to die down as the audience erupted with exclamations over the strangeness of the sounds from Jessica's throat. Nick Breyers began to whisper to her and grab her by the shoulders, but Jessica went on trying to sing, making that horrible noise, "Co-ACK! Co-ACK! Co-ACK!"
A cackling came over the sound system—A cold, calculating cackle that I realized I recognized all too well. The cackling continued, only to be interrupted by a voice crying, "Behold! She is singing to bring down the chandelier!"
"Oh my God!" screamed Amy, grabbing my arm for dear life. "Look at it! Look! It's going to fall!"
The chandelier was swaying back and forth even more than it had been earlier. It began to creak in its hinge, when all of a sudden it snapped from its hook in the ceiling and crashed down upon the heads of students seated in the middle section of the auditorium. It erupted in flame before settling back into a quiet sizzling. Screams echoed in the auditorium and chaos ensued. I saw the principal stand up in Box Five and stare down at the mess of students and smoldering metal in disbelief.
"I'm going to be… Oh my God," I moaned.
"Elizabeth? Are you okay? Elizabeth?" Amy whimpered, clutching her little body to mine.
I pushed her off out of pure necessity and ran, my eyes darting in twenty directions in search for something that could give me relief. I found it—the garbage can. I shoved several chorus girls out of the way so I could fall to my knees in front of the plastic container, where I vomited until even things I had eaten in the third grade were expelled. By the time I had finished retching, my face was wet with tears.
He had done it. He had done it. I knew his voice better than my own; he had laughed at the sight of Jessica Klein making a fool of herself, he had laughed at the idea of a chandelier falling and killing innocent students! He had laughed in that horrible icy way, the way he had laughed when Mr. Kellog had died. He had probably even killed Mr. Kellog. He would kill Sean, too, and anyone else who stood in his way. Maybe, if I displeased him someday, he would kill me, too.
"Elizabeth… You need to get out of here."
Someone's hands were on my shoulders; they were hands I knew. They could never just touch a girl; they had to dig deep into her skin so that she would be branded with his mark. For the first time in a long time, I wanted that touch. I wanted it to surround me so that the Phantom's wouldn't. God, how could I have been so stupid? I had let Erik touch me with those cold, murderous hands! No wonder he smelt of death—he created it!
"Sean, what happened?" I whispered, turning and wiping my mouth across the back of my hand.
"C'mon. Get up. You're not well." He held me by the waist and tried to hoist me upwards, but I resisted.
"Did anyone die?" I asked, still whispering weakly.
"I don't know," he answered. "They're evacuating the whole stage and auditorium. You can't stay here. I'll take you to the nurse."
I laughed at the idea that Sean wanted me to take me to the nurse for something as silly as vomiting when out in the auditorium, other students had just had pounds upon pounds of metal dropped on their heads. I felt oddly out of my head, and I couldn't stop laughing even as Sean urged me to get up.
"Please… Elizabeth… Please," he pleaded, his hands still on my waist.
"Won't you be a little romantic and hold me? You have to comfort the heroine of the story," I said, feeling lightheaded.
"What is wrong with you?" he exclaimed.
But he stopped trying to pull me to my feet and instead pulled me close to his chest. He was so muscular for someone who probably hadn't lifted a weight in his life. I began to cry weakly as I leaned my head into his sternum. He was wearing a white collared shirt, like Erik always wore. Even in my haze I recognized how comforting the fabric felt against my face, and how my makeup left a pinkish mark on the white collar. I was close enough that I could smell his shampoo. He probably used Head and Shoulders, from what I could tell. He smelt soapy and clean.
I had just begun to close my eyes when Sean was abruptly jerked from my body. I almost lost my balance and fell on top of him, but I regained control long enough to realize that Sean was lying sprawled on the stage floor. Standing over him was a figure dressed in a hooded black cloak. I could see just enough inside the hood to see that the figure was wearing a white mask.
"What the hell?" snarled Sean. "Who do you think you are?" He jumped to his feet, practically shaking with fury.
"Touch her again, and you die," the figure said in that familiar high-pitched voice. "Let us go, my ingénue."
Without pausing to ask for my content, Erik grabbed me roughly by the arm and began to drag me across the stage. I resisted, but for all my athleticism, I could not defend myself. I began to scream nothing in particular: words like "help" and "no!", mixed with the occasional "please, please don't," and the cry for Sean's help.
But Erik was too quick. He dragged me into the very alcove in which Amy and I had been sitting. He held me by the arm as he flipped open a trapdoor that was so well-blended with the floor that I had not even realized that such a door existed. It was large enough to fit two people through it, and Erik wasted no time in shoving me into the hole in the stage.
"Stop!" I screamed desperately. "Stop! Let me go!"
I could hear Sean's voice above me. I tried to respond, but Erik slammed the door shut behind him and slapped a cold hand over my mouth.
"Stop it!" he hissed. "Are you mad? He will hear you." He reached up with his free hand to put turn a key in a lock at the base of the door.
"Am I mad?" I yelled, shoving his arm away from my mouth. "You—you're—you're a murderer—You're a killer—" I reached up and tried to hit him, but he had the reflexes of a cat. In a moment, he was holding me by the neck against the floor.
"You will calm down before we go any further," Erik said quietly. "This behavior distresses me."
"Your behavior distresses me!" I spat, wriggling under his grip. "Let go of me, you murderer! You freak!"
Erik sighed as if I were no greater a nuisance than a fly. He picked me up and swung me over his shoulder as if I were a rag doll. I beat wildly against his back with my fists, but he seemed not to care. For a man so thin, he was awfully strong. It frightened me. I had always thought that if worse came to worse and he tried to hurt me, all it would take is one display of my muscle and I'd have him in a headlock. However, apparently his long limbs were hiding more strength than I realized.
When my fists didn't work, I tried kicking at him. After all, kicking was my strong suit. I noticed that it was having some effect on him; he made an occasional grunt of displeasure as my feet came sailing down upon his abdomen, but unfortunately, he was holding me by the thighs, so I couldn't swing my leg enough to build up momentum. When this strategy didn't work either, I moved into a full body spasm. I flailed every limb I had wildly, hoping it would disorient him into dropping me.
The only person it was going to disorient that day was me. As we crept along the wall, my violent jerking caused me to slam my head hard into the stonewall. The last thing I heard was, "My ingénue, if you would not struggle so, this would be easier," before slipping into an impenetrable darkness.