Author´s note: I submitted this story for the Third Morbidity Writing Contest on PFN. It got rank 13 of 24.
Dedication: I dedicate the story to Val, who is not only my beta. Thank you so much for your constant support andencouragement! They mean a lot to me.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from "The Phantom of the Opera". They belong to Gaston Leroux / Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Their little world
They had both completely lots track of time. They didn´t even know if it was day or night. They slept when they were tired and woke up some time later. Actually it didn´t matter down here, where neither sun nor moon could be seen. Besides, they couldn´t leave the crammed and stuffy room anyway, not as long as the girl was so very stubborn.
Having gone through worse phases in his long life Erik wasn´t affected very much by the situation. When he had created this room he had made sure it was equipped with everything Christine and he would need. Apart from two beds, a table with two chair and a wardrobe there was enough food and drink for months, and they hadn´t eaten a quarter of it yet. They also had a separate bathroom. Their little world was perfect, as Erik kept telling Christine. She didn´t seem to appreciate it.
Admittedly their life as a couple had had an unfortunate start. He had known about the ridiculous trap the Vicomte had set for him at the first night of "Don Juan Triumphant" and he had accepted the challenge, meeting the plan with one of his own. The passageway leading from the stage directly into this room had been an idea he was still quite proud of. It had sealed itself automatically after they had gone through and was impossible to find. But after that the problems had begun.
Though he had bought so many things, he hadn´t seriously expected to stay here for more than one or two days before either returning to his lair or leaving the opera for good. He would have let the decision to Christine. If she had come to her senses and realised they were meant for each other, that is.
Surely it was all the Vicomte´s fault. He had filled the girl´s head with childish ideas of how love had to be, as sweet and pointless as in a romance novel. That stupid boy! Love wasn´t like that. Love was passionate and painful, ripping one´s heart open and leaving cuts which never healed. Erik was the only one who knew how to truly love and he intended to show Christine. Till she had understood it they would stay here.
But he had no idea how long it could go on like this. She was changing more and more every day, and sometimes he hardly recognised her anymore. At first she had been rebellious, asking him to let her go countless times. She had punched him with her tiny fists and kicked him with her little feet. Once she had even tried to open the door herself. Of course she hadn´t managed to do it. This phase had been quite amusing for him.
After this attempt had failed she had talked about bargains for a while. She had told him all kinds of pretty lies. Oh yes, everything about Christine was pretty, even her lies. She had said that she´d come back to him to take singing lessons, that she´d perform all the roles he wanted her to and make him a famous composer. A few times she had even offered physical affection in return for her freedom. Erik had refused. If he had been interested in this kind of women, he´d have easily found one in the many brothels in Paris. His angel would remain pure till their wedding night.
Realising that no amount of talking could save her neck she had fallen back to the trick of doing nothing at all. She had stopped eating, drinking and washing herself. Dealing with that hadn´t been too difficult. Erik had only had to tie her to the chair or the bathtub and perform the tasks himself. He had had the softest strings one could imagine, made of velvet, so that they couldn´t hurt her wrists and ankles. And of course he had avoided looking at places he wasn´t supposed to see yet. Every time after carefully washing her he had dressed her in the most beautiful clothes. Yet none of the skirts, blouses and dresses seemed to have been quite her taste. He had been a little disappointed about her lack of enthusiasm. Would it have been so terrible to say "Thank you!"?
After a while something strange had happened: She had ceased speaking to him, just like that. Instead, she had kept muttering to herself. Well, actually not to herself, as Erik soon had discovered. Once he had inched closer while she had been distracted by her own sing-sang voice. "Raoul, please… save me… I cannot… cannot stand it… Raoul… Raoul…"
He had realised that she had been putting herself in an almost trance-like state to make her feel better, and he hadn´t liked it at all. Christine wasn´t supposed to draw comfort from the name of his enemy. If anything was troubling her, she could always come to Erik! He had hit her, hard, once, twice, maybe more often till she had finally ended her mumbling because she hadn´t been able to get out a word anymore. Her face had been bloody and swollen from the force of his blows, and for a moment he had been anxious he had gone too far, breaking her pretty little nose. But after he had washed away the blood it had turned out to be not quite as bad, and Christine had understood it had only been for her own good. At least Erik assumed it. The girl had not said a single word since that day.
Comparing it to some of her previous phases Erik couldn´t help thinking that Christine was quite well now. She ate and drank whatever he gave her. She slept every now and then, though she stubbornly preferred the stone floor to her bed. She used the bathroom herself again. It weren´t these superficialities that he was worried about as he watched her crouched in a corner of the room. She had her arms wrapped around her own chest and was rocking back and forth, staring into space. A while ago he had noticed that her eyes had lost their usual sparkle. If he tried to brush her pretty curls, she pushed him away. Her hair was hanging down her back in a filthy mass and also covered most of her face.
How was he supposed to get her to love him when she didn´t even allow him such simply pleasures? He missed her smile and her voice, her eagerness to learn and her readiness to believe whatever he told her. Where had the old Christine gone? Which cruel fate had turned her into this creature on the floor? He had pondered about these questions many times till he had been unable to bear it anymore and had begun to use vast amounts of alcohol to stifle his own thoughts.
At the moment he was sober, more sober than he had been in a long time. This was not because he had come to the conclusion that his worries wouldn´t vanish by suppressing them; it was just no alcohol left for him to drink. So he had to look into the face of truth, which usually was even more dreadful than his own. He stared at the girl when the realisation hit him like a bolt of lightning. It was as if someone had lifted a veil from his eyes, allowing him to examine the situation as it really was. The time for excuses, all leading to her as the cause of her own misery, was over.
He had made her what she was now: his puppet. She didn´t live, but merely exist. And she would never love him, her creator. He had destroyed her, her beauty, her free will. But maybe it was not too late for her soul yet. All he had to do was set her free. There was just one problem: He loved her. He hadn´t stopped loving her for a single moment, not as she had cursed him, not as she had repeated the Vicomte´s name over and over and not as she was nothing but the picture of misery. He had made her the centre of his existence, trying so hard to become the right man for her. It was unnecessary to say that he had failed. Yet he couldn´t go on living with the knowledge that she was someplace up there, happy without him. The conclusion was simple.
It was amazing how clear his mind was. One thing led inevitably to the next, and he didn´t have the slightest doubt about what to do. He went over to the girl and knelt down next to her. As she no longer reacted to normal touches – Erik could vaguely remember having hit her a couple of times while being drunk because he had been annoyed by her stupor – he shook her shoulder roughly to make sure she was listening.
"Christine, I´ve decided to let you go. I´ve realised that I can´t force you to love me.", he said, noticing with complete indifference how his heart broke. "I´ll take you to your world in a few minutes." She didn´t even look at him.
Then he made his way to the bathroom. It took him a little while to locate the hole in the wall, which was hidden under the washbasin. After some rummaging he pulled out a tiny bottle with a pale green substance in it. As already stated, Erik had prepared himself for everything. This bottle had been in his possession for many years. He had bought it in a most obscure shop in Persia. The owner had claimed that whoever took it would be without any signs of illness until he or she died after precisely one hour. Erik had purchased it out of curiosity and brought it here in case they´d one day hear the police approach and have no other way of escaping than through death.
Now the poison´s main disadvantage, the long time till it took an effect, would become his advantage. It´d give him enough time to bring Christine to the surface, pay a coachman to take her to the de Chagny estate and come back to this room, the place where their love had been supposed to blossom, to die in peace. This was the only way how he could still hope to achieve his goal and make her happy. Even if it was not with him. His grip around the bottle tightened as he opened it. He took a deep breath and drank the contents quickly, amused that he shuddered about the bitter taste. He had been certain his taste buds were permanently numbed by the alcohol he had consumed.
Entering the room it was almost as if he could actually hear a clock ticking in his head, mercilessly counting down his remaining time. Tick, tick, tick…He called: "Christine, we can-".
She wasn´t there. This was rather unusual. As far as Erik knew she hadn´t left her place on the floor since the last time she had been to the bathroom. A soft moaning drew his attention to one of the beds. At last the girl had been sensible and lay down. But why was she doing this now, when they wanted to go?
He walked over to the bed, willing to carry her all the way to the surface if he had to. They didn´t have that much time. Tick, tick, tick… He nearly stumbled over a metal object on the floor. Picking it up he saw that it was a thin, sharp knife he had used to prepare their meals, mainly for fruit. A dark red liquid was dripping down the blade. Frantically Erik grabbed the girl´s arm. To his relief the slender wrist was unharmed except for some old bruises the strings had left. Perhaps they hadn´t been quite as soft as he had thought. But… Christine moaned again and turned her head around to him. His heart stopped beating for a long moment as he looked at her. Every inch of her formerly flawless skin was covered in big ugly cuts. Her pale face resembled a Venetian mask someone had worked on with a chisel, making it burst. However, none of the injuries was deep enough to kill her. The smells of sweaty, dirty hair and fresh blood were a sickening mixture.
As Erik bent over her Christine opened her eyes. She smiled faintly, the first real smile since he had abducted her. And then… she spoke, in a hoarse and terribly slow whisper, as if she had to recall how the act of forming words worked.
"Erik" Hearing these two syllables, his own name, which he had nearly forgotten because no one ever used it, almost made him cry. How he had longed for her to say his name! But he couldn´t revel in the feeling.
"Why have you done this?", he asked, his voice hoarse as well as he fought against tears.
"You wanted to send me away. I cannot go there again. I remember everything: the large buildings, the garish sunlight… and the people. Oh, there are so many people! All they do is yelling and lying and hurting each other. I couldn´t bear being among them anymore." Her muttering had grown more feverish with every word.
Suddenly her smile became wider, spreading from one side of her face to the other till it was more like a grimace.
"I like it here.", she remarked. "It´s so quiet, and there are just the two of us. We don´t yell and we don´t lie and we don´t hurt each other." Her voice was far too serious for irony, and Erik wondered how many events of the last time she had simply wiped away from her mind.
"Now you cannot send me away.", she went on triumphantly. He noticed that her cheeks were getting a bit rosier at this statement and that the cuts had stopped bleeding. "I´m just like you, Erik. See?" She gestured vaguely at her face. "Now we can hide from the world together. We can stay here in out little world and loathe the other people, just like they loathe us. And we won´t ever be alone, will we?"
With surprising energy she seized his shoulders with bruising force and pulled him closer. Erik saw that the sparkle had returned to her eyes, but it was a manic glittering that made her look almost dangerous. "Will we?", she repeated urgently.
Tick, tick, tick…
Erik started laughing.