"Through a Mirror, Darkly"
by Kryss LaBryn
Author's Note: This was influenced by the concept behind Fred Saberhagen's excellent "The Dracula Tapes": he took the basic events of the story, and retold them with different motivations behind the actions. It put a completely different spin on the story. I highly recommend it.
Of course, I own nothing! But after hanging out with these characters for, oh, about seventeen years, I'm finally ready to write my first fic about them. Please, if you read, review! Reviews make me dance and encourage me to type faster…
Chapter One: The Voice
I am not an idiot. Whatever else I may be, as naïve as I was, as much of a dreamer, I was not so stupid as to believe that a real angel from Heaven was descending every morning at eight o'clock to tutor me in voice.
But oh, I wanted to!
I was so lonely! And I missed my poor dear dead father so much. Mama Valerius was very good to me, and very sweet and kind, but I could not really talk to her about my life at the Opera Garnier; she would have worried.
But the Voice was kind, and gentle, and understood. The Voice was there, at the Opera with me. The Voice saw.
Of course I realized almost instantly that the Voice, whatever else it might be, was no angel sent from my father. I had asked the Voice, at Mama Valerius's prompting, if it were the Angel of Music, sent by Papa, and the Voice answered that indeed it was, and seemed quite pleased, but I, innocent though I was, realized almost instantly that if it had indeed been an angel, it would have known all about Papa, and I would not have had to ask. It was rather like the gypsy fortune-tellers that came to town with the fairs, peering into crystal balls, and foretelling exactly what you wanted to hear.
Much later, I discovered that he had indeed lived with gypsies for a time, so that may not have been a coincidence. But oh! I wanted to believe!
And I was so lonely. If I had told Mama Valerius the truth, no only would she have been terribly disappointed, she would have insisted upon finding a way to remove the Voice from my life. Proper young women do not hang about alone in their dressing rooms with strange Voices! But if the Voice was an angel, why, there could be no sin attached, by definition. And I desperately needed a friend.
I told no one, not even the Voice, in whom I confided everything else, that I knew of any deception. For the longest time, I was quite happy in my strange new life, arriving every morning in my dressing room at eight o'clock on the dot (the Voice insisted upon punctuality, and had no patience for "diva airs", that ignored schedules, and kept the rest of the cast waiting at rehearsals), and receiving my instruction for the day. After my lessons, we would often simply sit and talk, the Voice seeming to hover near one end of my little sofa, where a man's head would be, were one sitting there, and I sitting quite comfortably at the other end, talking, apparently, to thin air, about "everything and nothing", for what seemed like hours.
It is those conversations that I miss the most. The Voice was intelligent, well-read and lively; and both compassionate and at the same time possessed of the most wicked sense of humour I have ever encountered. I would be reduced to helpless tears of laughter at the Voice's frighteningly mocking (and accurate) impression of La Carlotta, our Prima Donna, and her fawning lead, an over-large, over-aged, over-acting Italian named Piangi.
In truth, it was not hard to allow myself to believe that there was something other-worldly about the Voice; he (for it was a distinctly male Voice) seemed to know everything that happened at the Opera, even things that occurred behind closed doors, and the Voice itself, the sound of the Voice, was almost unearthly in its beauty. I do not have the words to describe it. Suffice it to say, a command from it would bypass the brain entirely; were it to order me to march off a cliff, I wouldn't have even begun to wonder why until I was at least half-way down. It was primal in its effect.
In fact, that may be what first led me to realize that I loved the Voice. Oh, I was already very fond of the Voice; as I have said, I regarded it as my dearest friend. And I knew I loved the Voice as a friend. But when I awoke one night, with my sheets in most shameful disarray, flushed and aching, and with the sound of the Voice echoing through my head, I realized that what I felt might be something more. Quite a bit more.
I was quite distracted the next morning at my lessons, as you may imagine, and the Voice chided me quite strongly for not concentrating. However, once the lesson was over, it inquired quite gently if anything was the matter. I made haste to assure the Voice that I was only tired after a restless night, and after extracting a promise to drink certain teas before bed if it happened again, the Voice left me. "Go home and get some rest," it said, and bid me adieu.
As much as I cherished our after-lessons talks, I was grateful for the early dismissal, I can tell you! The mention of bed had me blushing furiously; fortunately, I do not think the Voice noticed. In any case, it was not mentioned, for which I was quite grateful.
But I did not leave immediately. Mama Valerius would have been concerned had I arrived home so much earlier that was my wont, and I did not want to have to soothe her concerns that anything might be amiss. I wanted privacy, to think.
Was the Voice truly an angel? I dismissed that possibility out of hand, as I had before. Besides, if it truly were an angel (which was against all logic), then what I was feeling towards it would have been a most terrible sin. Therefore, I would entertain no possibility that the Voice had any supernatural origins.
But what then? Think, Christine, I told myself, and tried to follow the matter through step by logical step, as would a detective puzzling out a crime.
Was the Voice supernatural? It certainly had a great deal of information about the secret goings-on at the Opera! And yet, it could certainly not read minds (for which I was increasingly grateful that morning!), or it would have mentioned Papa before I had asked; it would have known of my doubts. Perhaps the Voice, whatever else it may be, was simply a remarkably adept eavesdropper.
Wherever possible, choose the way of the earthly, the explainable, I told myself. If there was no logical, earthly way to explain the Voice… Well, if there were not, I would have to rethink many things. But if there were, then what would it be?
So, we had something, someone, who was a remarkably adept eavesdropper, giving me lessons in my dressing room…. I paused a moment. Why here? I thought. I had never heard the Voice anywhere else. Indeed, when the Voice first came to me, I had rushed out into the corridor, and checked the (empty) rooms on either side of mine, to find the source of the beautiful, unearthly singing I was hearing. But I could not hear the Voice from anywhere but in my room.
So, the disembodied Voice spoke to me only within the confines of these four walls. But why disembodied? Did having a voice of any sort not indicate a throat to produce it, a tongue to shape the words? Or rather, to turn it about, did the fact that the Voice apparently spoke and sang with no visible body attached necessarily mean that there was no body involved? Hidden away somewhere, perhaps… within these very walls? Think earthly, think explainable, I told myself again. Could these facts not be explained away by—
Ventriloquism? Was my Voice simply an unknown ventriloquist?
It did fit. There must have been some property within these walls, but only within these walls, that would allow a talented ventriloquist to manifest his voice within my room. What that property might be I had no idea, but I did not need to be able to explain the how of it in order to accept that it could indeed be so. The wind blows, rain falls; the fact that I was unable to explain why did not prevent rain nor wind.
So. There was someone –a man, apparently—who for some unknown reason hid himself within my walls, and via the arts of the ventriloquist, taught me to sing. Absurd, but earthly. Possible. And if he could hide within my walls, there was no reason why he could not hide within other walls at the Opera too, and overhear all sorts of secret things.
The picture I was painting of the Voice was beginning to become somewhat uncomplimentary, I thought, but I could not forget how kind the strange man had been to me.
But why had he taken such drastic steps to become part of my life? Why had he not simply walked up to me after a rehearsal and introduced himself? Surely, if it was at all possible, he would have taken such a route, unless he thought that for some reason I would not be willing to listen to him.
Or… perhaps it was simply not possible for him to approach me directly. That felt more correct, somehow, but how, or why, would the direct approach have been impossible? I quickly dismissed thoughts of a jealous wife, or a position in society that would not have permitted my tutoring; the Voice already had been so scornfully dismissive of "society" that I had no doubt that the restrictions of position would have meant nothing to him. And I was quite sure that he was not married, although I was at a loss to explain why I felt so.
…Already I was thinking less of him as "the Voice", and more of him as a man. It left a slight ache that I couldn't quite identify, like a distant loss, but I pressed on. It was too late to turn back. I had to puzzle this out.
So, no jealous wife (I smiled faintly of the thought of my Voice as a hen-pecked husband); no position in society to concern him. What then? Why did he insist upon hiding his face behind such a charade?
Hiding his face…
What if… I paused, pressed on… What if he had to literally hide his face? Even from one who I would like to think was a friend to him? He was no escaped convict, hiding out to escape the police, of that I was sure; we would have heard something, were the police searching the area for such a man (there are no secrets in the world of the theatre), and I could not reconcile the depth of his knowledge of music in general, and of the Opera Garnier itself, with the idea of someone on the run from the law. No, to have acquired such intimate knowledge of the Opera, he would have had to have been here for many years, long enough for the trail to have "cooled". He was not on the run from the law.
There must therefore be a more intimate reason why he had never showed himself to me. The only conclusion that I could draw was that he must be very ugly. Very ugly. Ugly enough that he had no doubt what my reaction would have been, had he approached me in a normal manner. I sighed.
Did it matter? I had never been able to picture a face for the Voice. So did it really matter what that face was? I knew his heart, or a portion of it at least: he was kind, friendly, compassionate… Was that not enough?
Involuntarily I remembered my dreams of the night before, imagined kissing the Voice…
Ah, but I'd have to look upon him then, would I not? How could I kiss him without seeing his face? Would I turn away in disgust, friend or no, were I to see it?
"Ah, but all cats are grey at night," quoted a sly traitorous voice in my mind.
Hmmm… That bore further thinking about. But not here, I thought, rising from the sofa and gathering my few effects together. Indeed, I had not lied when I had said that I was tired, even if I had not mentioned why, and I had dallied long enough that Mama Valerius would find nothing amiss in my return. I decided to return to our small flat and get some more rest before the rehearsal that afternoon, as the Voice had suggested.
But, I vowed silently, this is not the end. Wrapping my cloak snugly against the chill of the corridors, I turned out the gas and left.