The darkness of the place was tangible and pervading; Raoul could feel it seeping through the pores of his skin as he stood plastered against the iron bars of the porticullis, knee-deep in icy waters. The lasso around his neck rubbed against his skin abrasively, and a red miasma floated before his eyes whenever a harsh tug was administered to the coarse rope. Despite his physical anguish, Raoul willed himself to focus his gaze upon his deformed adversary, his normally docile hazel eyes enflamed with fury and hatred for the madman who stood before him. He glanced at Christine and saw that she too was watching the Phantom, her beautiful dark eyes limpid with tears. My Christine...please forgive me...Raoul heard his own voice echo through the cavernous chamber, pleading with Christine to sacrifice him for her own salvation. But Christine hardly seemed to notice his words; she continued to stare at the Phantom unblinkingly, her appearance perfectly suited to her role as tragic heroine. This is the end....he has won.

A sudden and excruciatingly loud noise rang through the cellar, and Raoul felt his face contort with pain as a sharp, burning sting assaulted his cheek. When he opened his eyes once again, he saw that his spectral opponent had collapsed upon the platform where he stood with Christine, his marred face flooded with blood. The Vicomte's eyes widened in shock at this sight, his mind racing as he desperately attempted to understand what had just occurred. He strained against his bindings and turned his head to look past the porticullis in the hopes of identifying the assailant......this cannot be---it is impossible....

Meg stood behind the heavy gate, her blue eyes glazed with an expression of horror and bewilderment. Her tiny hand trembled under the weight of an ancient revolver, which was pointed directly at the fallen figure of the Opera Ghost. Bile rose in her throat at the sight of his bleeding visage....I couldn't have done that. This isn't real.....her heart pounded violently in her chest as she glanced towards the immobile Vicomte. His eyes were wide with disbelief, and his face stained with gunpowder....Good God in Heaven....Meg felt her skin grow cold, and she began to shiver uncontrollably as she forced herself to look at Christine.

The young soprano stood as still as a mannequin for a moment, her face motionless and her eyes glassy as she stared silently at the bleeding creature at her feet. Meg watched with bated breath as Christine slowly lowered herself to the ground, placing her porcelain hand upon the Phantom's chest. Jesus Christ...is he dead? He is.....oh, what have I done? The silence of the chamber was soon broken by a high-pitched, heartrending cry, a noise that hardly seemed human....Meg felt her legs grow weak and her head spin with dizziness as she realized the origin of the sounds. Christine now had the Phantom's head pressed against her breast, seemingly unaware of the crimson stains quickly spreading upon her white gown as she moaned with an anguish that exceeded Meg's wildest imaginings. Unable to watch Christine any longer, Meg returned her gaze to Raoul, who continued to stare at her with incredulousness. Her voice was hoarse and highly unstable as she murmured, "The others will be along soon, and they will free you....."

Meg heard the gun fall from her hand into the water with a heavy splash as she turned on her heel and ran as fast as she could, trying desperately to escape Christine's animal-like keenings. She ran like a woman blind, hardly knowing where she was heading, only wishing to get as far from the cellar as possible. When she passed the mob with which she had descended into the Underground, she stammered vague directions regarding Christine's and Raoul's location and rushed back up the stairs into the largely-destroyed Opera House. Her fragile body collided painfully with the wooden door of the dormitory as she burst into the darkened room and sank into the most remote corner. Meg drew her knees close to her chest in a fetal position and shook her head fiercely...but her cry is still there, still ringing in my ears and my mind and my soul...she stared down at her ivory hands and found them stained with ugly grey splotches of gunpowder and rust...what, will these hands ne'er be clean? When she recalled the ear-splitting sound of the shot, the surprised gasp of the Opera Ghost, the vibrant blood spilling upon Christine's lily-white gown.....Meg felt her stomach clench violently as it emptied itself of its contents. The younger Giry buried her face into her hands---those tiny hands, now soiiled with vomit and death----as an unrelenting and bitter cold flooded her entire body. She could see faint ribbons of smoke seeping into the darkened room from under the doorway, but she made no effort to move. Fitting that I should burn here, for I shall surely do so in hell later....

Meg's angelic blue eyes fluttered shut as she lowered her head to the hardwood floor, now warm from the nearing flames. Lying motionless on the ground, she inhaled deeply and felt her lungs fill with heavy smoke. As she began to drift away from consciousness, Meg tried to recall the prayers of absolution learned during her childhood, but her mind refused to provide images of anything but Christine's stricken expression, and her ears continued to ring with the other girl's heartbroken screams. I have taken more than one life tonight.....I have been spattered with innocent blood.

Author's Note: Cheery, huh? To avoid being sued for plagarism or the like, I borrowed a quote from 'Macbeth' ("what, will these hands ne'er be clean?"), and my closing line comes from another Lloyd Webber musical (first person to guess which one wins a big cookie!).