Here 'tis, Chapter Three. Just in case: I do not claim ownership of the singular quote from Gaston Leroux's wonderful novel. Tee hee. Enjoy!
Your last letter was so short! Dear sister, do inform me of any and all troubles you are encountering at the Opera. Unfortunately, the family will not be able to visit you as soon as we had hoped, as Mother is ill. She is bedridden, and I pray to God that it is not a serious illness. You, too, would do well to ask the Lord to grant her swift recovery. Just yesterday, Gabrielle…
Geneviève's head jerked up as her delicate ears caught a noise. She strained to hear what it was, to no avail. There was nothing. I wonder, she mused. Is my hearing more acute or am I just worried? No matter. Her eyes blurred as she attempted to read Adèle's nattering, but again, to no avail. Eyes unfocused, she stared blankly at the mirror, watching the little gold lights that ran along the dark filaments of her hair. She turned her head away when her slack-faced reflection began to look unlike her own. It was her mind, again, playing tricks on her. She turned around.
Strange. There was no one there. She drew a hand across her smooth forehead, drawing in a deep breath. Feeling more resolute, she reached for her pen, thought for a moment, began to write:
Her head jerked up again. What was that sound? A distant singing, menacing and terrible, toweringly angry but at the same time far away. It sent gooseflesh rippling up her arms. Sitting there, as still as a hunted animal, she waited. The only movement was the slight rise-and-fall of her bosom as she took shallow, noiseless breaths.
Tonight, Geneviève thought, she would not pray for Mother, but herself.
The room was silent. The great weight of silence pressed down on her head, crept into her mouth and down her throat and pressed in her ears, a low incessant ringing. She felt the familiar fear creeping up her abdomen like a thousand hairy spiders. Her arm twitched heavily, involuntarily. A shiver wracked her whole body, drawing cold fingers down her shoulders. Her scalp tingled. Pulling in a loud breath to break the ringing silence, she turned back to her letter.
There it was again! What was that sound? She heard that voice, seeming to emanate from the walls themselves. It sang a song she had never heard, a song that she was sure could make skeletons rise from their graves, a sepulchral wailing that was surely the music of Hell. Her arms suddenly pebbled with gooseflesh; the ends of her fingers were cold as ice. She crossed herself with a stumbling hand. An involuntary shudder made her shoulders hunch up, but she relaxed them and set down her pen and stood up.
The singing stopped. Geneviève stood gripping the back of her chair for an awful, entirely silent moment. Then the singing began again, soft and chilling. With cautious movements – as though every step, every breath, every heartbeat could bring disastrous results – she padded towards the door. Her hands were frozen at her sides like claws, as if stiffened by rigor mortis.
She put her hand on the doorknob warily, turned it, and opened the door as silently as she could. It opened with a harrowing creak, she winced, pale face twisting and her white teeth pulling a strip of skin from her lip.
Was the music coming from the other dressing-rooms? No. She walked as quietly as she could back to her dressing-room, quickly checking behind her shoulder, as customary, to make sure no one was there.
I am encountering no troubles at the Opera that I cannot deal with. Please do not worry, and do not inquire again, as it is tiresome. Give mother my love, dear sister. I will indeed pray for her tonight, and
Geneviève cast down her pen, looking about the room with a mixture of rage and terror. The music did not cease, and it had not for as long as she had sat there at her desk. She glanced down at the meager amount she had managed to write, and sighed heavily. Writing to Adèle was a chore now, and Geneviève could no longer remember a time when it was not so. The music, meanwhile, continued to pour out of the walls, endless and mysterious and terrible.
"Who are you?" She shouted, louder than she had meant to. The lamp flickered. She jumped, her every movement paroxysmal and infinitely alert, like a hunted animal. The mirror reflected the light from the lamp brightly, and she glanced at it sharply, glaring at her reflection. The music flowed on. Was the music behind her? She wondered. Looked-over-shoulder.
There was a loud crack. She started again, but it was only a door slamming. Perhaps one of the door-shutters, she thought absently. She looked over her shoulder again. She could not stand this anymore. She had to go home, even if there was no solace there. Looked-over-shoulder.
The pen slipping in her sweaty hands, she reached for the sheet of paper on which she wrote the days. Two days ago had been Day Eight. That would make today Day Ten. I'm almost getting used to this, she thought. She giggled humorlessly, a shrill sound like a fork dragged across a porcelain plate. Looking down at the paper, she saw that her careful notations had been overlaid with red, scrawling writing: the same hand which had written her the threatening notes. She did not bother to read it, but simply ripped it to pieces with trembling hands, picked up a new piece of paper, and began to write, looked-over-shoulder.
I am encountering no troubles at the Opera that I cannot deal with. Please do not worry, and do not inquire again, as it is tiresome. Give mother my love, dear sister. I will indeed pray for her tonight. Please do not visit me in Paris at this time, as it would be disruptive to my career.
All my love,
She finished the letter without satisfaction, wishing she could break off correspondence altogether. Didn't Adèle know she had enough to worry about? She swung her foot idly beneath the table, gnawing her lip as always. She glanced nervously at the forbidding mirror, and averted her eyes quickly.
Fright! She hunched closer in on herself as her swinging foot hit something beneath the desk. Drawing back, she stared straight ahead and listened to the deafening thump-thump of her heart. When her breath had calmed and the monster of fear in her stomach had gone back to sleep, she pulled that last scrap of courage from its hiding place and mustered the daring to glance beneath the table.
There were only papers, a small stack of papers that shone an eerie white in the shadows beneath her desk. Upon closer, hesitant examination, Geneviève found that they were letters, or perhaps pages from a journal, written in a neat round hand. With cautious fingers, Geneviève pulled the stack out into the light.
The very first piece of paper was a letter of some sort; Geneviève's eye was drawn to a dire pronouncement in the letter: I do not know myself when I sing. She rifled through the letters, the paper rustling like the wings of a bird. It was an eerie sound, and the only sound in the room apart from the blood rushing in Geneviève's ears. Dear Raoul, said a letter. And another was signed with a name, the neat round handwriting now trembling and indecisive: CHRISTINE DAAÉ.
She knew that she had taken the place of one Christine Daaé at the Opera. She knew that she was in Daaé's dressing-room. Christine Daaé was a singer. But who was she? What haunted the dressing-room of this Christine?
Who was Christine Daaé?
I apologise for my late correspondence, but I may tell you happily now that Mother is on the mend! We were very worried for a spell, but her illness seems to be passing now. Regarding your latest letter, I must restate that I am your sister! I do hope that you will still remember your family now that you have a blossoming 'career!' But truly, dear sister, I love you – we love you – and I miss you deeply. Please write soon, and tell us what is happening in your exciting life in the city.