Author's Note: Okay, this one is going to be considered 'weird' by many of you phans. I do not own Erik, but I do own the visitor and the entire situation described by this piece. For explanations, please look to my notes below.
It has been a long time since I accepted my fate in life and in death. Watching over my opera house, I have seen millions of people walk through its doors to admire my greatest achievement. For nearly a century, the people who visited came to see operas, many of which were the same as they had been when I was still alive. Then, the Opera Bastille was built and the operas played here became few and far between. Even so, it still attracts thousands to watch the ballets and symphonies.
The first tourists who flocked to Paris usually were attracted by the sights of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and so many other attractions that my home was usually overlooked and fell into disrepair. It would most likely have continued to be ignored if it had not been for a certain composer and his hit Broadway musical that brought the British and Americans in great swarms. I considered it very fortunate that a renovation was funded and restored my palace into the grand feat of architecture that it had once been.
However, I would be damned if I would be grateful to Sir Andrew and his hordes of 'phans'. They came each day now, asking staff and crew about nothing other than the opera ghost. None of them cared for the architecture, none of them cared for my art at all! They only cared for the love story which had been mangled so many times that the only part that remained true was the issue of my face...
It made me so angry to watch them stroll through my domain and talk amongst themselves about me. How many times had I heard them say "I would have loved you, Erik!"? How many times did they profess their love, their complete adoration? There were girls and grown women who sang some of the show tunes under their breath as they walked from room to room in my domain. Others tried to get past the guards to peek at Box Five or perhaps continue further down than just the Grand Rotunda. There were ones who came and actually cried at the foot of my great staircase, supposedly mourning my fate. When I was younger, perhaps I would have cared. But I am older than I ever thought possible and am wise enough to know that even if I had lived today, these same star-struck girls would never have considered me a potential suitor.
At one time, I would have played the pranks on them as any good opera ghost would have done. But time had made me more indifferent to individuals and although I was often infuriated by the unguarded comments, I had long since decided to let well enough alone. I rarely noticed anything anymore and was content to stay in the shadows and rest.
It was on a day in early July that I first noticed her. It was past visiting hours and the patrons coming to the evening performance of La Sylphide were arriving and being seated. I occupied my usual space in the shadows although tonight, I was situated near one of the windows watching the people who came to sit at the steps of the opera. She came out from the metro station and crossed the street to the Populaire. She took one photograph of the facade and then began to walk the perimeter of the building. I had dismissed her almost entirely but then she walked back to the front, stopped again, and looked straight at me. I knew that she could not see me, but I had the most uncomfortable feeling of being watched. She then joined the others on the steps and brought out a novel which she read for nearly an hour as the people around her laughed and talked amongst themselves.
I confess that I've always been preoccupied with faces ever since I was a small boy. I was often envious of the ability to communicate through facial expressions and as a result, studied those of people much closer than most others ever did. Although I was viewing the woman from a distance, I could see the concentration of her expression on whatever novel she was reading. For the first time in many years, I wondered about a human being; who was she, where was she from? Her hair was a mass of golden curls which she let fall over her shoulders and I felt distinct longings to reach out and touch the curls to see if they were truly as soft as they appeared. Her face was beautiful in the dimming lights of the city; her cheeks were rosy and healthy, her lips pink and shining. I did not suspect that she wore the cosmetics that most other women wore today, or at least she did not apply them in great abundance. For the first time in years, I was moved by this natural beauty.
As night began to fall, the woman put her book away and, with one last glance towards the opera, slipped away into the night. Once she was out of sight, I resolved to put her out of mind and to go on with the rest of my existence.
I was exploring the corners of the Grand Escalier when she arrived the next day. I had looked down from my vantage point only to see the familiar mass of golden curls walk to the ticketing counter and arrange for a tour in English. She went into the boutique at the side of the staircase and examined the books and paraphenilia that was for sale. I saw her make some purchases, a book on the architecture of the building and sadly, the Phantom of the Opera by Leroux was among them. It was at that point that I became disillusioned with my fantasy of this unknown woman and went back to my hiding place at the foot of the Grand Escalier.
I rested there for quite some time as the tourists passed by me without a glance. Some time later after watching the crowd, a shadow passed by me and turning, I found myself inches from the golden haired woman. However, she did not appear nearly as beautiful today as she had last evening. The color had fallen from her cheeks and her curls were limp with perspiration around her face. She leaned against the marble railing as the tour guide rambled on with his scripted discussion of the intricacies of the building. For a brief moment, I felt a pang of concern for her. That was quickly quenched as she moved away with the tour and walked out of my range of sight. Again, I resolved to put her out of my mind.
I spent the night watching one of the few operas to be performed at the Garnier and returned to my favorite hiding space in the great auditorium. Really, the entire theater was exquisite and to look around it still brought a sense of pride to me even after all of these years. The only thing that I disliked was the ceiling thanks to the bloody ministry and their bloody Chagall! Of all the vulgarities that they could do to a theater - they were quite fortunate that I was no longer the Ghost that I once was! However, it seemed that the French government could be even more barbaric with each passing year; I've seen pictures of the glass pyramid outside the Louvre, postcards featuring the Centre Pompidou, and the complete gutting and restructuring of the opera house in Lyon was enough to turn my blood cold. At least my home was spared this fate even if they felt the need to mutilate my ceiling.
The hours passed by in their endless dance and I was completely lost in my thoughts when I looked down and saw that the theater was again filling for a performance. Was it already the next day? Well, not much happens when you're ancient and it's far too easy to lose track of the time. Tonight would be La Sylphide again, if I recalled correctly. I absently watched from my corner when I looked down and saw a familiar mass of gold sitting directly below me. Just as soon as I resolved to forget her, she reappeared! Studying her it appeared that tonight, she looked to be much better than the day before; her cheeks had some color, her eyes were not nearly as fever bright. I was slightly heartened by this turn of events even though I did not understand the reason why. The lights dimmed, the curtain rose, and she was soon lost in the performance.
I watched her until the lights rose during intermission and she left her seat in the fourth tier. At this level there were no boxes, just rows of seats for those who could not afford a better location. However, I found these seats more appealing than most for those who traveled alone and were not bothered by sitting in close proximity with other patrons; one could easily examine the entire amphitheater from this viewpoint and it was not necessary to crane one's neck to see the stage. She reentered and took her seat, not taking any of the photos that the other tourists were taking and took a drink of water. She had opened her handbag to reach for something which I recognized as medication. I moved closer to her to see the label on the bottle and saw that it had been prescribed only the day before by the Hopital St. Antoine. Heavens, she must have been to the hospital right after her visit the prior day - no wonder she had looked so ill!
Taking the capsule with a drink of her water, she replaced the bag under her seat, and stood to accommodate the seating of the husband and wife sitting next to her. They spoke briefly in French, her language being heavily accented with British undertones. The couple asked briefly where she was from and when she replied that she was from the United States, I was more than shocked by this occurrence. When questioned about her ability to converse in their language, she simply stated that she had spent time studying in Lyon at a grand ecole where they taught her French as well as quantum mechanics. In order to satisfy my curiosity, I moved closer to her and studied her closely as the lights dimmed and the second act started. Her expression was one of thoughtfulness and I noticed several times that she lifted her gaze from the dancers to rest on various points around my theater. She seemed to smile with appreciation and relaxed in her seat. I sat next to her and watched her emotions flicker across her eyes; it seemed as though she was intent on remembering every part of this performance.
I could not believe how lovely she looked in the dim lights of the theater. After all of this time, I was still attracted by beauty in all forms and this woman with her golden hair was no exception. She was truly pleasing to the eye but also seemed to possess a high degree of intelligence from what I had observed. Without realizing what I was doing, I reached out and touched her shoulder.
She did not pull away like every other woman I had ever reached out to. Instead, she did not respond at all, but kept her attention on the stage. Emboldened by this, I then reached out and touched her hair only to be met with no response. It was as soft as it appeared and for a few moments, I relished the feeling.
I then continued to move down her side, brushing over her arm gently and finally stopped at her hand. She remained oblivious to my progress and continued to smile at parts of the ballet and looking at her serene expression, I was overcome with desire. Taking a risk larger than any I had taken during my lifetime, I reached out and kissed this unknown woman on her left hand.
And she did not pull away.
The performance came to an end and the lights in the auditorium shone brightly. Everyone made to leave quickly for the exits or stayed and took photographs of the theater. A young American woman in the fourth tier bent over to her bag and took her camera out of it. Taking two shots of the theater she turned to leave but was startled by a tall, dark shape behind her.
"You are alone, Madame?" the shape asked in faultless French. She nodded and the shape moved into the light; it was just another concierge. "Would you care for a photograph of yourself, Madame?" she asked and the American answered and handed the camera over.
A quick flash captured the image of the golden haired woman with the famed chandelier in the background and soon the American was on her way down the stairs of the theater. She stopped and took some aerial shots of the patrons leaving the theater and again looked around the great foyer of the opera. She still had time and intended to savor the last few moments in this palace of art and beauty and so she sat on a bench in the third tier and watched as the people passed her by. Lifting her hand to wipe away a stray hair, she was shocked to find that there was a small, red mark on her left hand. It lacked the stinging and itchiness that usually came with such things, but by all accounts it was a small spider bite. She sat there alone in the third tier examining her hand as the laughter and camera flashes sounded from the levels below.
The sound of talking and laughter died down and she moved to leave the theater, walking down the darkened staircases until she walked past the famed Box Five. A cold air washed over her and she stopped dead in her tracks. Looking around, she saw nothing but shadows and continued on her way to down the great staircase. Stopping at the bottom, she took a final look at the beautiful room. She walked past the last step and examined the statue at the foot of the staircase. In between the candles was a small, unnoticable spider web and sitting in it was a small, black spider. Looking to her hand again, she smirked and shook her head as if to dismiss whatever thoughts were in her head. She turned away and walked toward the exit of the theater, never seeing that the spider had lifted its one leg and seemed to wave goodbye...
A/N: Okay, if you've read this far you'll be certain to tell me how weird this was. Many phans will most likely be angered by Erik's feelings toward phandom and I know that if I hadn't written this, I'd be incensed too. His feelings toward the situation were inspired by a less than friendly email I received regarding my work on 'Patron' and 'Hungry' and so I'm sorry if I took it out on the phans in this piece. Don't worry though, there's a good chance that when I'm coherent and rethink this, I'll pull the story from the site so if it troubles you, it is likely that it won't be here for long.
Again, I attribute this to ideas rolling around in my head and needed to be removed so that they'd stop giving me headaches! This story was inspired mainly by those written by other phans about their 'dream visit' to the Paris Opera House. This past summer, I got to experience my first visit to those hallowed walls and this story is basically an embellished retelling of what had happened. However, I doubt that Erik would've found me beautiful in any way, but it's nice to embellish oneself, non?
Many of the occurrences in this piece are 100 percent true and I can easily prove it. Yes, my first night in Paris I went and sat at the steps along with the other Parisians and read a novel for an hour at sunset. I did return the next day and went on a tour even though the pain in my ear was steadily increasing throughout the entire tour and an hour after leaving the opera found me sitting in a French hospital awaiting treatment (I was completely alone in my travels, and so I was very fortunate to have bought the French version of PotO at the Palais Garnier to read for the four hours I spent alone in a French emergency ward). The next night I did return to see a performance of La Sylphide and I was every bit the student described to the French couple above. And apparently, I sound like a Brit when I speak French so the French were much nicer to me when they did not know that I was an American!
And finally, it is true that I got a spider bite during the performance at the Paris Opera. I could've sworn I felt something touching my hair, arm, and hand but I dismissed it as being silly and it was only later on the bench of the third tier that I found that I did have a bite. However, it was not irritating in the slightest even if it was a bit unsightly and perhaps you could consider it a romantic notion on my part that it may have been Erik's way of making his presence known. Heaven knows he compared himself to a spider enough times in Susan Kay's novel and it would be a fitting end to have him haunt the Opera House in a form he would've preferred.
Regardless of what you think, hopefully some of you will enjoy this story. For any planning a pilgrimage to the Paris Opera, don't hesitate to drop an email if you've any questions. By far, the best and possibly only way to see the theater in its illuminated glory is to go for a performance so if possible, get your tickets in advance.