May I have the honor of presenting a tale of Le Phantôme de l'Opéra , based upon the works of Messieurs Andrew Lloyd Weber and Joel Schumacher. The original tale was compiled by Monsieur Gaston Leroux in the early twentieth century, and only recently has this information been recovered and transposed into a narrative.
"Please! Please, let me go! Stop it!" She dragged her feet, trying her best to make herself into dead weight, the term sending an involuntary shudder through her. Dead was definitely not a good thought at the moment. Her sobs wracked her entire body, gasps and breathing convulsions making her even more difficult to move forcefully, but her abductor didn't seem to notice. He just kept pulling her deeper into the vaults of L'Opera Populaire. She screamed as loudly as she could, but her tight throat would barely let the sound escape. It seemed the weak little effort was enough for him, for suddenly he turned and slapped her. His gloved hand moved to her chin, which he gripped roughly, forcing her to face him.
"Shut up, wench. No one can hear you down here, anyway. Save your energy." He grabbed her wrist again, pulling her deeper still. She was silent now, except for the dry sobs that she couldn't stop. She knew he was right. There was no one to hear her. The bright, loud world of the chorus wouldn't miss her for days, and the screams would be lost amidst their merriment. She turned back toward the way they had come, her life fading before her as quickly as the last of the lights.
Her breath caught in her throat when she saw it. Something had moved in front of the light, as covered in shadow as the caverns were. It was no rat; the cloak that trailed behind it told her that. What, who was down here? Was it an accomplice of the wretch that had her now? Was it someone who could help? Before she could answer the thought, her captor had spun her around again.
"Now, wench, let's have a little fun, eh?" He never let go of her wrist, but trailed his other hand down her throat to the neckline of her dress. She fell to her knees, her arm suspended awkwardly above her.
"No!" She protested weakly, all her strength having seemingly deserted her. He yanked her back up, and she looked away, hoping to find some solace in the darkness, something to distract her in the very least. The torch the man had lit on the wall illuminated only a small circle; the rest was shadow and stone. Except… She saw them then: eyes that burned her to look at, but she could not turn away. These eyes belonged to a man as surely as the hands on her body did. This second man was her only hope. She said nothing, hope deserting her as he turned back to the darkness. She let out a small cry, which her attacker took as a sign of fear of him.
"You're going to have a little pleasure before the pain, you little whore. You've been taunting me for weeks, so I'll sate you before I punish you. See how generous I am, you little slut!" His hand pulled violently on the fabric at her breast, ripping it from her. She let out a half scream, half groan as her shame and dread overcame her. She felt so heavy. She fell to the ground for lack of strength, and felt vaguely surprised when his hands didn't follow her down.
She turned her face upward into the brightness of the torch, and had to shield her eyes. She looked down again and saw the black fabric of a cloak next to the now trembling legs of her captor. Against the protestations of her eyes, she looked upward. She saw the passion in his eyes, though it was smoldering anger now. In one swift motion, he wrapped a rope around the man's neck and tightened it. She turned away, knowing full well what was happening. She heard the thud a few feet away and shuddered at the thought.
She spit into the darkness, trying to clear her mind of the horror and her mouth of the wretched taste of his boorish kisses. Her hands were wrapped tightly around her chest to hold the remains of the fabric in place. She was very much aware of the man still standing over her, unwavering in his compelling gaze.
She flinched when his laughter filled the small grotto. "Mademoiselle, this is certainly not the normal place to find a man and his fille de joie." His laugh was as cold as his look was fiery. "It is a more vulgar occupation that you would have guessed, judging by your reaction."
Her eyes met his fire as she turned on him. "I am a chorus girl," she shot back, her voice a quiet warning.
"Does L'Opera pay so little that chorus girls must become demimondaines to earn enough? Or is your lifestyle more than your wages can sustain?"
"I don't go to an opium den, if that's what you mean."
"Is that what I mean?" He was unused to being disputed, and it had thrown him momentarily off balance. Her vehemence was unwonted, and it disturbed him.
She cringed, sensing his anger, knowing that he could kill her as easily as he had her assailant. Fear was a sensation he was much more familiar with, and he smiled coldly again, giving her a peculiar solace.
A dank wind carried through the passage, chilling the air and reminding her of her state of undress. She shivered, and he felt a pang of remorse for provoking her, but it passed with the wind. Still, he could not leave her sit here half-naked now that she had seen him kill and heard his voice. Besides, she intrigued him, and she owed him a life-debt, something that the French townspeople took very seriously. Yes, she could be useful if the opportunity was cultivated properly.
He leaned over her, and she hung her head in resignation to the death she was sure was coming. Instead of a blow, his cloak descended upon her. "Cover yourself and follow me."
She thought of fleeing when he turned his back, but something in his voice wouldn't let her. Beyond that, her inquisitive nature prompted her to find out more about her mysterious savior. As she descended after his torch, the old adage that "the over curious are not over wise" echoed through her mind, but it was too late to turn back. She would be lost in the labyrinth passages that the sublevels of L'Opera Populaire consisted of. She looked at the fading light of the torch he carried and hastened after him. She may still be lost in the labyrinth.
She had followed him for several minutes when they entered a larger chamber than all the others. It was sparsely decorated, except for one corner where an organ was placed. That corner was as lavish as she had heard Versailles was. Fine materials were draped over the most precious of woods, and intricate ornaments lined the surfaces. Three golden candelabras sat nearest the organ, and a small lantern sat on the other. Clearly that was where most of his time was spent.
Beyond the corner was a small walkway that led to three other rooms. The first was curtained and dark, but she made out the faint outline of a half-formed table, indicating an ongoing project. The second room was small, but had drains, pumps and storage, probably a kitchen of sorts. The final room was obvious. A large, curtained bed dominated the space, but the shelves of books lining the walls caught her attention as well.
The room was horseshoe shaped around an outcropping of the underground lake, and a portcullis separated it from the water-filled passageways beyond. The man had stopped in front of her and was peering at her curiously. "What?"
"You're white. It's as if…" His eyes traveled down her body until they rested upon a crimson patch on her ruined dress that had bled through onto his cloak. The hole torn through the middle indicated a shallow but dangerous knife wound. She followed his gaze and remembered the cause of her weakness. That was why she had been unable to fight off her attacker. She blinked solidly and looked back up at him. He put the torch in a wall sconce and took her hand. "Come." He led her into the third room, placing her gently on the bed.
He stared at her now covered form and licked his lips in nervousness. He could help her, but she was a woman, and women were not exactly fond of men, particularly strange men whom they had just seen murder, seeing them in any state of undress. She needed his help, but he needed her permission for some reason he couldn't quite identify. "You are wounded," he said lamely, the obviousness of the statement painfully apparent to him. "I can help you, if you will let me."
Her eyes were becoming glassy, and he was not sure if it was to his question or simply the sound of his voice that she nodded. It would have to be enough. He poured some whiskey down her throat and arranged her near the edge of the bed. It wasn't long before she was insensible to the world around her, and the knowledge that she was insentient calmed him some. Cautiously, he removed the cloak she had gathered around herself. Her shredded bodice loomed before him like a challenge. He had to remove it to help her, but he had not touched anyone in a long time, and a woman was almost forgotten to him, but not so forgotten as to not recall the desirous sensations they stirred within him. He put it out of his mind for the moment, for both their sakes.
He set to work bathing the cut in water he had heated, then pouring the whiskey into it to cleanse it. She shifted when he did, and a half-conscious moan escaped her lips. He sewed the gash shut as quickly as he could, covering her with a blanket as soon as he was done.
He left the room and sat at his organ. He had been given a harem once, a dozen or more women at his beck and call. He had not had to wear the mask with them; they were commanded not to look upon his face. He had been loved by a woman in every way physically possible, he believed. But never more than physically and how could he blame them? How could any of those beautiful concubines truly love someone whose face was so horribly distorted? He played a loud, dissonant chord that filled the room with a noise as painful as the memories that were coming back to him. Music would not bring solace this night, and he poured himself his first glass of whiskey, waiting for sleep or death to claim him.