A/N: This phic came in 1st place in the 2nd PFN Morbidity Writing Contest, winning the Creepy Award and the Morbidity Award. I am honestly surprised it did so well.
I dedicate this to The Scorpion and her marvelously morbid stories "Curses of the Siren" and "Darkness Purged To Light,"both of which provided quite a bit of inspiration for this entry.
Remember to let me know what you thought of this by pressing the review button at the bottom of the page! ;)
Approximately three weeks after the terrifying ordeal involving the Phantom of the Opera, after which Raoul de Chagny ran away to the North with Christine Daaé, who subsequently became Christine de Chagny, Raoul was called by the Royal Navy to return to the North Pole. Prior to his departure from his home for the docks to board the ship, Raoul embraced Christine tightly, resting his head atop her hair.
"Must you go?" Christine murmured in his grasp, though she knew the answer already.
"It is my duty, Christine…" Raoul regretted now more than ever that he had enlisted in the Royal Navy as a sailor. "As soon as I can, I shall return. They may even send me back home today, if they have enough men to serve. But for now…" He kissed the top of her head lightly.
Christine sighed, and held on a little tighter. "I'll miss you." Her voice was subdued.
Raoul held Christine back slightly to study her. "You will?"
"Of course! Why wouldn't I?" And Christine laughed, and Raoul felt his heart quicken. "Oh, Raoul, you must know that I love you."
A surge of hope rushed through Raoul. For the longest amount of time, ever since Paris, ever since Erik, he had wondered, had doubted her love… Yet hadn't Erik spoken those words to her? He thought of the gold ring on her hand.
"Are you honest, Christine?"
So Christine dared to kiss her husband upon his lips. "Yes, Raoul…" She pulled back to smile gently at him, and he, so entranced by his fair angel, smiled back. She lifted her hand to brush her husband's face tenderly.
Raoul felt the cold shock of the gold ring upon his cheek. "Only me?" Raoul could not help his accusatory tone. "What of Erik's ring, Christine? Will you never remove it?"
Christine's eyes widened, and she withdrew her hand hastily. "Yes, Raoul… I will, very soon."
Raoul quickly grabbed her hand with the gold ring, enfolding it within his own fingers. "Soon... That is the answer you always give me…" His tone was colder now, betrayed.
Christine trembled... She loved Raoul, and she hated to see that look of hurt in his eyes each time they mentioned Erik… She felt like a traitor to her husband, who had sacrificed everything for her… What was it that made her so abhorrently disloyal?
The time had come to tell him. Slowly, from a pocket in her coat, she produced a small clipping from a newspaper. It held only three words of interest:
Erik is dead.
Raoul felt his heart stop, then pound faster.
"What do you mean by this?" But Raoul already knew the answer.
Christine would not quite meet his eyes. She stared off in the distance, at the carriage Raoul was to ride in to the docks. The ring burned cold in Raoul's palm. "Before he… Before Erik let me go, he told me that he would send me this note in the Epoque… And that when I saw it, I was to return him his ring and bury him…"
"No, Christine." Raoul's words came out harsher than he had meant, and he regretted his tone instantly when he saw the pain on her face. Still, like the headlong youth he was, he plunged ahead. "You must not do this."
"I am tired of fighting this battle," Raoul interrupted resentfully. "You told me, promised me at our wedding that it would be only us, that no one would stand between us. 'Until death do us part,' Christine… Must it be Erik's death? How can I trust you to stand by me, when at a moment's notice you would run back to Paris? You say that you love me…"
Christine stepped back completely from his grasp, surprised by his outburst. "But I do, Raoul…"
The carriage driver shouted at the Vicomte to hurry up.
"Then promise me one thing," Raoul said suddenly, anxious for an affirmation of her faith. He stepped forward to hold her shoulders. She did not move away. "Promise that you will not return to Paris. Not unless I am with you. Please…"
"Raoul, I…" Christine began hesitantly. "Raoul, I will…" Raoul's hopes perked slightly, but then Christine continued. "…I will do what my conscience bids me to do."
And with that, Christine wrenched herself away and ran inside the de Chagny house.
With a heavy heart, Raoul turned to leave for the docks. Moments later, Christine left for Paris… and then to Perros.
The winds were howling when Christine and the coffin with its contents arrived at Perros-Guirec cemetary. They wailed murderously in her ear so that she could not hear, and tossed Christine aside, a simple pawn in the game of fate. Invisible arms flung the little fishing town's litter, a ghost roaring in its wake. It scattered the earth and the dust all across the graveyard… the eroding dust from the skulls left above the ground in the ossuary… The deteriorating headstones that were far too small and decrepit to hide even the slightest ghost seemed to quiver in the wind.
Christine stopped at the space beside her father's tomb.
"Right here," Christine shouted above the roaring wind to the gravedigger. The gravedigger she had hired from a mortuary in Paris to assist her in this final act… because her husband would not…
The gravedigger shook his head, a bewildered look upon his face. He could not hear the girl over the wind.
"Right here!" Christine repeated louder, indicating the empty space beside her father's tomb.
The gravedigger nodded his head, and steadfastly began to dig. When the gravedigger had done, he shouted to Christine that he would be leaving for a few moments to clean up at the church. But moments are to be used wisely, and Christine knew that she was to use these few moments of privacy to confess a few last words.
Christine laid her bouquet of red roses down beside the black coffin. All the while, she could not stop thinking of Raoul. He had been so angry… And she did not blame him for it. She loved him for his faith in her, that no matter how many times she betrayed him, he always forgave her and came back… Yet this time he had truly been furious. Would he forgive her again? What if the Navy did not need him, and he came home? What if he came to the graveyard? He would certainly stop her…
"Erik…" Christine's words were carried away by the wind so that she could scarcely hear herself. She stared at the smooth, polished wood of the coffin that revealed nothing. "Erik…" she began again. The black coffin door stared back indifferently.
The words would not come. What words were there left to say in the end? What can one say to a corpse? Especially to one covered by an impenetrable coffin door?
Christine knelt down beside Erik's bed. Speaking to a corpse was bad enough, but speaking to a door was even worse… She had to see his face to know him and to know what to say…
Struggling, with the wailing wind pummeling her hair and her dress, Christine heaved the coffin open to reveal the desecrated corpse of her beloved. Instantly, the furious wind carried the rotting stench – like dead roses – to Christine's nose. The foul mix of dead roses and living ones caused Christine to gag.
"Erik," Christine choked out. "Erik… I'm sorry… Please… Tell me it is all right…"
She stared at the broken corpse, which laid there, immobile. As still as the roses by the coffin. What had she expected? That Erik would reply? That he would rise again, like Lazarus, as his violin had promised only months ago?
She broke off abruptly when she heard a distant voice floating upon the wind.
Christine snapped her head up. Erik's corpse remained as still as ever.
This was not Erik's voice that the wind carried to her ears. No, it was the voice of someone she loved, but someone who could not understand. Someone who loved her so much, he would die to save her. If he had not loved her so much, he would choose for her, if he could…
In the distance, far across the graveyard, she saw his tall frame, shrouded in a black frock coat, moving irresolutely through the graveyard. He wandered to and fro, and entered the church.
What was he doing here?
He'd returned! The Navy must not have needed him!
So little time! He would find the gravedigger there, and the gravedigger would lead Raoul to Erik's appointed grave, and Raoul would find her. He must not find her here! He would take her away… And she must finish her duty… She would die before she parted with Erik…
Christine glanced wildly about the graveyard. Crumbling headstones, sunken tombs, all far too tiny to hide even a small, slight ghost like her…
She looked down at Erik's rotted corpse… half-hidden… within a coffin.
No… no… It was mad. It was foolish. Every single sense within her screamed to run the other way. But she could not abandon Erik…
Christine heaved a deep breath. Quickly, careful not to touch Erik, she lifted one leg… then the other… into the coffin… She reached down to grab the lid, and pulled it over her…
Christine waited in the darkness, crouched over, breath withheld. She knew what smell awaited her…
But Christine could not hold her breath forever.
Rotting! Horrible, horrible! Not just dead roses anymore, but death itself! A foul stench rising, soaking into her hair, clogging her throat, seeping into her nose, her clothes, stinging her eyes… She could not breathe!
Christine scrambled to the side of the end of the coffin. Away, away from Erik!
And now, the coffin was lifting… lifting into the air…
"Stop!" she shouted, and pounded on the coffin wall. "Stop!" She tried to raise the lid, but it was immobile! The clicking! Someone had locked her in! She was locked!
Suddenly the coffin stopped. They had heard her. They knew she was in there… It was only an accident… She would come tumbling out… Never again…
Too soon. Christine felt the coffin begin to lower… It continued lowering… It was lowering too long now… past the level of the ground…
"No!" It was impossible! Someone was burying her! Alive! "Stop! Please, stop! I'm in here! It's Christine! Please, stop!"
The coffin continued lowering, deaf to her pleas… and then, abruptly, fell. It landed hard, and Christine bumped roughly against the coffin walls.
For a long moment, Christine could feel nothing. She could hear nothing…
She reeked of death… It was all around her… emanating throughout the coffin… emanating throughout her… It was all she knew…
Christine felt, rather than heard, a curious sound coming from above her… A strange thump… It was a drum, and every few seconds, another THUMP! resounded above her…
Buried! She was being buried alive! Alive!
No! No! She could not be buried! No, not alive! Not with this corpse, not with this smell! No! Not like this!
With each desperate breath and each frantic scream, Christine hastened her own death. She clawed wildly at the satin inside, her fingernails shredding the velvet into pieces. Her fists pounded frantically at the thick, heavy walls, and her body recoiled from the decaying skeleton resting beside her. In the darkness, Erik's bone-white death's head seemed to grin mockingly at Christine: My living wife, even in death! You promised you would not return to lock yourself in a tomb with a corpse that loves you… And look what you've done now!
When the final shovelful of dirt had fallen upon the freshly dug grave, Raoul sighed, and sat down beside the grave. He was, quite frankly, exhausted – physically and emotionally. He was glad he was not a professional gravedigger – it was truly a depressing job.
Foolish man! He deserted the Navy before he even stepped onto the ship, for he had been so remorseful, so repentant of the harsh words he'd said to Christine that he had to return home. He was her husband, and he must support her in her duties… When he found out that she'd already gone to Perros to bury Erik, he came crawling back to Perros… only to find that she had deceived him… again.
Raoul realized his mistake. He thought she would be there. But it was she who had given up the battle… She had left him… She'd slipped the ring onto Erik's finger and left before Raoul would ever, ever find her again…
He wanted to break down. He wanted to weep, to bewail the pain he'd caused her. She must have been convinced he no longer loved her… so she ran… And it was because of him! Him!
Instead, Raoul buried Erik's coffin for Christine. Even if she were gone… Even if she would not do it… he would. Because he loved her. He would follow through with his support…
The winds shrieked in his ears. Raoul even fancied that the wind sounded like Christine… like his young, beloved wife, screaming in fear…
But it was only the wind. He must not let his imagination run away with him.