of the past
Erik watched from the shadows as the bones from a long forgotten era were picked clean by the few indifferent people that had bothered to turn up for the auction. Box 5 was much smaller than he remembered it. It was strange how the passing of almost forty years could diminish things. Gone were the smells of beeswax and the gleam of gold and red.
Everything was faded and tired much like him. In its place was ruin and the decay of a building that had long since given up the ghost. He smiled as he rarely did…it had been a ghost that had destroyed it. He brushed the leaves from the chair before he sat down to watch the auction. He felt so very weary and old as his mind drifted back to the days of past glories.
He was jolted out of his reverie as he saw a white dressed figure on the stage…Christine as she was all those years ago. She looked up at the box he sat in, and the same chills ran through him. She looked lovely, alive and inviting, but he knew it to be a lie. She was always with him now. He was quite used to seeing her…at times he still questioned his reason…did the dead really walk?
He was so haunted by the past that he had begun to forget what was real and what was not. Was it Christine he saw or just a figment of his imagination? The Opera ghost had become the haunted in a strange reversal of roles. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, opening them again to find the stage empty once more, except for the auctioneer and his assistant.
He heard a girlish giggle come from behind him. Erik felt a sharp pain in his chest as he turned to see her smiling at him, her brown eyes dancing with mischief before she vanished. He almost got up to follow, but knew it would be fruitless. She was only ether and mist.
"Christine," he whispered.
For two years, she had tormented him. For two years, she had lain in the ground. The cold hard earth in which all men must one day rest. Erik sighed. Now she sang to him, in his sleep and in his dreams and sometimes in his waking hours. Every time she visited him, she would always end with the same words…"Angel of music how long must I wait for you"… If there was a man that wished for death, then it was he. He had lived too long and alone.
There was a small commotion as a late comer arrived, wheeled in by his nurse. Erik sucked in a breath. Although the years had not been kind to him, he would know the man in the wheelchair anywhere. A flood of hatred came back to him and ebbed as quickly as it arrived. There was no point in lamenting what was not meant to be.
She may have been Raoul's in life, but she had chosen him in death. She was his now, and no one else's. He sighed maybe these long years of solitude had not been for naught after all. His love for Christine burned as brightly as the day he had discovered that the child had grown into a young woman.
He settled back in the chair and watched the proceedings, smiling to himself as La Carlotta's picture was sold for a measly few francs. The woman would turn in her grave if she knew. He stiffened as the auctioneer's assistant brought out the monkey. He wound it up and it played a tune that had long since faded into the recesses of his mind. It sent fresh chills down his spine as the music echoed through the theatre.
Erik watched with interest, resting his hands on his silver topped cane as Madame Giry and the Vicomte fought a half hearted battle for the music box. He grew bored of the proceedings and got up to leave. Suddenly Madame Giry looked up towards box five. He stiffened, sure, that she had seen him, but was content that her attention had been caught by a pigeon that had been nesting in the rafters and had suddenly took flight. Or, so he had thought until he had seen the almost imperceptible nod of her head as he turned to leave.
He could have waited for the auction to finish and speak with her, but too much time had passed. There were no words left that needed to be said between them. So Erik shrugged on his black coat and left the box just barely catching the words of the auctioneer "Lot 666 then…a chandelier in pieces. Some of you may recall the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera…a mystery never fully explained.
Erik closed his ears off to the rest as he slowly made his way down the marble steps, chipped, tarnished, and dull. The air was crisp and sharp and the watery winter sun had not managed to melt away the frost that still lingered. His car awaited, the chauffeur held open the door for him as he struggled into the interior of the car. His driver knew better than to attempt to assist him as he closed the door behind him.
There was just one more place he had left to visit today and his work would be complete. It had seemed a strange quirk of fate that the auction had been held on the anniversary of Christine's death. He remembered with clarity the day he had read of her passing in the society pages of Le Monde. Although he cared nothing for French society, it had become his only way of gleaning any information about Christine. Little was better than nothing.
He had wept silent tears for almost a month before locking away his empty grief. Ever since that day, life had become a meaningless blur of hours and days and weeks and months. That very night the dreams had started. She would sing to him softly, songs they had learned together. He had thought it nothing more than the grief manifesting its self to his weary mind.
It was only when he begun to see her in his waking hours, that he questioned his sanity. Sometimes he would just smell her perfume…or hear a sigh. She always looked so sad when she saw him. He knew never to beg her to stay, as she would always fade away after that. Erik sighed and looked out of the window at the wintry landscape…
The journey to the cemetery was short in the car, but he still missed the elegance of a horse drawn carriage. Change was not always a good thing. He picked up the rose from the glass vial, in which he had placed it, to keep it fresh. The driver opened the door and he got out. His breath making clouds in the air as he ascended from the automobile. Dusk was starting to settle already. He hated winter; it had taken so many things from him. As he entered the gates, he saw her again. She had an almost mocking smile on her face as she beckoned him inside.
He felt his heart beat pick up and race as he followed her like some mystical siren, luring him to his doom. His old body protested at the strain, but he was past caring. He stood beside the grave, looking down at the picture of her in her later years. He took something from his waistcoat and looked at it. Her ring, the final token she had returned to him so long ago. He kissed it and glanced up as he heard a girlish giggle.
Erik hastily threaded the ring through the black ribbon and placed it by the headstone, as he turned he saw Christine standing on the steps to her father's tomb. The ache in his chest grew sharper in its intensity. He clutched a hand to his breast as he struggled for breath. A chill wind blew through the cemetery and he looked in wonder as the iron gates to the Daae crypt slowly swung inward. Christine motioned for him to follow her. He was powerless to resist and he did not want to.
He finally reached the top step and walked into the silent grave of her father. The doors swung shut behind him. He did not care as a pain so terrible gripped him that he cried out and sank to the floor.
"Christine…don't leave me!" he cried out
Erik felt a feather light touch on his cheek. He strained to see her in the darkness.
"Come to me Angel of music," she said on a sigh, which sounded like the wind that had begun to blow in earnest outside the walls of the tomb.
Erik looked around him. The room seemed not so dark any more as it filled with light. Christine was there, she had not forsaken him. She smiled at him, her eyes brimming with tears. Her arms were outstretched towards him. Erik reached out to touch her, but encountered nothing but the cold air. He groaned again.
"Christine… it is finished," he muttered as the last breath left his body and he turned sightless eyes to where she had stood. His mask had fallen to the floor unheeded.
"No my love it is just beginning…" came the ghostly whisper.
Christine smiled and held out her arms once more. She did not have long to wait as his hand reached out to her, no longer withered by age and time, but young and firm and beautiful as it had once been. Erik could have wept as he held on to her hand and she drew him into her arms. Christine looked at him, touching his face, her eyes full of love, like the day she had kissed him. Erik's hand instinctively went to his cheek. It felt as unblemished as his other did.
Christine nodded to him silently at the unspoken question in his eyes. "Come with me my angel,"
"Home, there is a place in heaven even for fallen angels,"
"Will you stay with me...by my side?"
"Always," she whispered.
They melted through the gates and walked the cemetery, neither of them aware of the solitary figure at her grave…Raoul looked down at the rose. His rheumy eyes scanned the churchyard. He caught a glimpse of two people from the corner of his eye, which looked strangely familiar…when he turned his head they were gone.
He turned his attention back to the rose…the diamonds sparkled, against the red rose…telling of a love that never died and never would.