The other side of the mirror was a mirror, just sitting there in the middle of a field. I looked around quickly, just to be certain that I hadn't fallen into a worse mess than the one I'd left. I was quite alone, which nothing but grass nearby and a rather imposing looking stone ruin of some kind in the distance, which strongly suggested that I had not fallen into The Happy Adventures of Spot the Lovable Puppy, but I would worry about that later. The mirror was of more immediate interest because rather than showing my reflection, it was a window back into The Phantom of the Opera, at least for the time being. It was, however, a magic mirror, so it didn't have any sort of sound, so I rather had to imagine what people were saying.
The Shade and Erik were fighting again, this time with candelabras instead of swords, and from time to time they seemed to be saying things along the lines of "Have at you, foul villain!" and "Take that, you great git!" It was probably even less eloquent, but what can you expect from a pair of men trying to pound each other to death with the décor?
Meanwhile, Leroux had begun reading the first pages of the manuscript, "It was the evening on which MM. Debienne and Poligny…" Well, I couldn't actually hear him, but that's how the book begins, so that must be what he was saying. As he spoke, I noticed that the canon characters seemed to be swept away, one at a time. When the words of the manuscript were read, they immediately came true, which meant that very soon, the scenery itself would have to change. After all, the gigantic magical fairytale lair did not fit in with Joseph Buquet's tragic death in Erik's domain.
Raoul was heroically protecting MegSue from the hordes of other Sues, who had begun to panic and were running aimlessly through the lair. I pounded on the glass, shouting, "Send them out through the Convenient Entrance to Erik's lair!!" but you can imagine how effective that was, which is to say not effective in the least. I'm sure that I'd have looked like a complete fool had anyone been watching, which they weren't, or so I hoped. Since the mirror was broken, they couldn't possibly have seen me, but maybe they did hear me, because at last Raoul seemed to collect his wits and he gestured the Sues towards the exit. Then he tried to clear a path for MegSue, but she was shaking her head and dragging him in the other direction, towards the mirror. I think she must have decided that anything was better than being synched into her corset by a typographical error. Reluctantly, Raoul helped her towards the exit.
The Daroga had drawn his pistol and I think he was protecting Leroux. He certainly had his hand at the level of his eyes, so that was something. Erik did seem a little too busy to be punjabbing anyone but better safe than sorry, I suppose. The real ballet girls had all disappeared, including Meg Giry and the insolent little Jammes, so I think Leroux must have been reading about the incident in Sorelli's dressing room, when the corps de ballet arrived in a body, afraid that the ghost, who had several heads and could interchange them at will, was lurking in the corridor. It occurred to me that all of the opera's ghosts were actually gathered together in the lair, and not stalking abroad at all. There was the Shade, who lurks in the cellars and is barely spoken of, the ratcatcher with his flaming head, the mysterious Persian and Erik himself. Too many ghosts for one opera house, it's no wonder the place was always pure chaos.
I wondered why the Shade didn't leap through the mirror. He had plenty of chances. Every few swipes or so, he and Erik would pivot around, so that one or the other could make his escape but they were too involved in their fight to care. It disturbed me. Once again, I was pounding on the glass and crying, "You idiot!! " at the top of my lungs.
The ice on the lake had begun to crack. Well, there's nothing about ice in The Phantom of the Opera, now is there? It must have been melting from the bottom up because as the pieces broke apart, they began to bob precariously. The Daroga caught Leroux by the arm and began to steer him towards the shore, still with his hand at the level of his eyes, but struggling to keep his balance. Leroux read on. He must have reached chapter two because the Comte de Chagny had disappeared. I wondered if Christine Daaé had already returned to life.
MegSue and Raoul had just reached the shore and I jumped back as I realized that MegSue was about to come through the mirror- and she did come through, collapsing in a heap, because Raoul had apparently been tossed through right after her.
"Damn that monster!" Raoul cried. "He pushed me through just as I was about to be sent back to my box at the opera to watch Christine's triumph!" He turned and pounded on the mirror, but not for very long before the Shade crashed into him.
"What is wrong with you??" the Shade snapped, ever the charming one. "Get out of my way!" Then he looked around and said, "Dammit, I was really hoping we'd end up somewhere in the series about that lovable puppy."
"Maybe this is Spot the Lovable Puppy Visits the Picturesque Gothic Ruin," I suggested.
"Only if the author is really really short on ideas," said the Shade, "but wherever we are, I'm glad that you're here. You do love me, right?"
"Of course, I do," I said, "but we'd better not dwell on it or we'll end up in a different genre."
"No, I think this is very clearly a comic adventure of some sort," said the Persian, who had only just popped through the mirror. "Leroux pushed me through right at the end," he explained, "he said that someone need to fill in the last of the plot exposition."
"So, The Phantom of the Opera is saved and Erik is back where he belongs and everything is as it was?" I asked.
"Mostly," said the Persian, "They'll have new versions of those of us who left, who are pretty much the same versions as before only without all the character development. So you're a prissy diva, Raoul is heroic but a bit of a wuss and the Shade had no personality at all that we know of. As for the others, hopefully they don't even remember what happened."
"And Erik?" I asked.
"Well," said the Persian, "He was running around his lair giggling like a madman and speaking in third person when I left, but now that the mirror had closed," the mirror had indeed closed, and nothing could be seen in it but our reflections, "he couldn't possibly come through now and he'd have to have been exceptionally sneaky to slip out behind me and then to hide in this large open field with a mirror standing in the middle of it for no reason whatsoever."
If you ask me, Erik is indeed, exceptionally sneaky, but I decided to reserve that point for now. I didn't see him lurking around anywhere and I decided not to go looking for him. If he happened to be hiding behind the mirror, I wasn't going to peek around for him. I guess, I sort of hoped that he had escaped because I felt a little sorry for him. He really had seemed to want a happy ending for himself even if the way he went about it in the wrong way. However, I should point out that I didn't feel sorry enough to want to have anything to do with him, so I was happy enough when we set off in the opposite direction, leaving the mirror behind.
"So what happens now?" Raoul wanted to know. He was looking a little pale, like he'd just suffered a great shock. I was probably wasting my pity on Erik, because Raoul deserved it more. Of all of us, he was the one who wanted to stay in The Phantom of the Opera. After all, he was the hero and he would get the girl. MegSue was comforting him and it occurred to me that Erik simply couldn't resist that one last vindictive act against him. There was no reason to separate Raoul from his story, but Erik had done it nonetheless. What a complete jerk he was. I was a little angry at myself for pitying him.
"You know," maybe we should take a quick look behind the mirror, "just in case."
"If I know Erik," said the Shade, "even if he was there, he's long gone now."
"Erik had the potential to be the greatest of men," the Daroga said, "perhaps he'll find a new adventure where he can realize that potential. As for us, we can create whatever future we choose, within the confines of this author's literary conventions of course, so onwards!"
We all looked out at the forests and villages and scary gothic ruins in this wonderful new world and MegSue turned to me and said, "I still think Erik's a giant pile of crazy fail smothered in psycho sauce." I've always liked her.
Good lord, I don't want this thing to be over.
My deepest gratitude and heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who has read or reviewed. You support, impressions and constructive critique made it possible for me to finish this project- despite numerous delays due to my performing schedule. I have never completed a novel, even one as rough as this and I could never have done it without all of you. Every time I was ready to abandon the story, I'd think about the people who were reading along and that kept me going. This is a rough draft, which needs some considerable revision that I may or may not post here. I haven't really decided what I mean to do with this work, and I'm wondering if I could clean it up into something that could be published.
I did leave the door open for a sequel where Erik creates more mayhem in another famous novel in the public domain, which has a gothic-looking ruin in it. I haven't thought about it very deeply just yet, but I do have one or two ideas about it.
You can find my non-fandom writing projects, including fiction at my livejournal under the handle tytaniastrange. Finished projects are published under a friendslock but summaries, blurbs and outlines have been public lately. My current projects include a YA urban fantasy with a very cranky heroine, the over-involved saga of a bunch of vampires and my other phantom phanfic, Stars and the Moon, which probably won't be at all funny.
I think that's everything. I'll miss writing this story, but at least I have the fun of revising and polishing it!