Disclaimer:The first and last paragraphs of this text belong to Susan Kay. Everything in between is mine. And yes, the change in verb tense is intentional.


The Mirror


I punished myself without mercy for the wickedness of wanting. I set up a mirror and forced myself to look into it, without the mask; I withheld my morphine until I was a shaking wreck...

There was a time, of course, when I was curious about this loathsome thing I must call a face. A time when I wondered just why it looked as it did; why the sight of it was inevitably met with gasps of horror; why I must cover it to retain any sense of dignity.

As a boy, I studied myself with all the passion of the insatiably curious. I would manage to go for days, even weeks, at a time without giving a second thought to the presence of the mask – and then I would remove it and attempt to look at the face beneath as though for the first time. I would examine it with clinical intensity, but inevitably the time would come, a few minutes or perhaps an hour later, when I could no longer stand to look at it. The mask would resume its usual function and again I would try to erase its presence from my mind.

But it would only be a short amount of time before my ravenous curiosity would arise anew, and I'd find myself asking the same question: Can it really be as bad as I remember it? And the cycle would begin yet again, only to lead to the same conclusion.

Those days have long since passed.

Perhaps it was the countless years of studying the reactions of those who had seen; perhaps it was the slow evaporation of whatever youthful optimism I once had; but whatever the reason, I no longer feel the desire to study myself and wonder.

But tonight, for her sake,I must.

Tonight, I must remind myself of all the people who have seen. The weak-minded fools who came to my tent at the fairs: astonished by illusions, moved by music, and traumatized by ugliness. The curious thrill-seekers who ventured onto the Romany camp grounds: leering into the bars of the cage, then backing away in fright at the spectacle. The mother who came before them: content to pretend that I was a normal child, but terrified at the prospect of my wanting the sort of affection that a normal child might.

Tonight, I must remember the faces I've seen, staring at my own. Some were decent enough to avert their eyes and move away. Some wept. Some screamed. A few moved closer in attempt to see if it was an illusion. But most just stared blankly, the grotesque expressions of horror upon their faces seeming almost like distorted mirror-images of my own countenance.

Almost.

The mirror now sits right in front of me. I can feel its presence as though it were a living thing, but I dare not open my eyes to it. How long has it been since I have dared to look? Twenty years? Thirty? I can hardly imagine that this is a face that could improve with age.

My hands, normally under my absolute control, have begun to shake. I try to tell myself that it is the morphine. I have not allowed the drug to shade my world for several days now, and nervous shaking is a common side effect of withdrawal. I tell myself this, but I am lying. I force myself to admit that I am afraid. I berate myself for feeling fear. But I keep my eyes closed.

And then, I open them.

To scream at the sight of one's own visage would be to engage in needless melodramatics. I know this, and so I do not do it. And I do not need to, for as soon as my eyes rest upon the death's-head before me, my head fills with echoes of screams from the past. From the fairs, from the cage, from the harem women… from Madame Bernard… from Luciana… from even myself, on that night so many years ago when I first saw the monster in my mother's mirror.

I try to imagine how Christine will sound when she screams at her first sight of my face.

The ungraceful sound echoes through my brain, and I shut my eyes against it. It is too painful, far too painful. This is why I cannot have her. I could not bear to hear her beautiful voice produce such a hateful noise.

I force myself to open my eyes again, and I lean forward, as close to the offending glass as I possibly can without touching it. I look at each feature, trying to see it as Christine would. The yellowing, translucent skin. The thin blue veins that pulse beneath the surface. The disgusting hole where I should have a nose. Mismatched eyes that should not be allowed to look upon a woman with lust. Irregular lips that should not be allowed…

I do not permit my mind to finish this thought.

Instead I look away, letting out a long, hissing breath.

When I look back and see the reflection again, I let out a wordless shriek of rage and smash the mirror to the ground. Later, I will care where the shards land. Right now, I do not.

Even without the mirror before me, I am disgusted by the image that lingers in my mind. And I am disgusted with my own disgust. How can I, who have never been able to look upon my own face without feeling revulsion, ever expect anyone to react differently?

How can I expect an innocent young girl like Christine to accept it and act as though I look like anyone else?

I can't.

And I mustn't.

I will remain where I am. I will never show myself above ground again, save to collect my salary and frighten the easily frightened. I will rid my house of this broken mirror, and I will not make another.

I will lose myself in my composition.

I will forget about Christine Daaé.

But I still wanted her...