Disclaimer: I do not own Phantom of the Opera

My very first first person story...please review!

If there was hell then surely I was in it. I stumbled away from the burning theater with the smell of damp earth and failure obliterating my senses. Tears fell heedlessly from my eyes as I crawled away from my home like a whipped dog. In truth I was. A pitiful wreck without a heart, and as Christine believed, without a soul. In that moment I began to hate her. She was a beautiful, innocent child, and I was jealous of her for having what I would never have. The world lay at her feet, but I had been her doormat, eager to sacrifice myself for whatever she was willing to share with me. A simple kiss had undone me. One small thing, beget to so many men in their lives, yet it was my first. I felt the truth deep inside that it would be my last.

The tunnels leading away from the center of my home led to The Madeleine, and from there I planned on taking a carriage as far away from Paris as I could manage. I held several estates throughout Europe, but felt an odd reluctance to leave France altogether. I had left before, and no longer felt the desire to do so. Before I left though, I knew that I must find Nadir. I must fulfill my promise to Christine, that I would let her know when I died, but that her promise to me was to be forgiven. I would not make her return to give me the ring. My heart felt as if it had been tromped on, and I knew that for as long as I lived my pride would not return to me. The one thing I had prided myself on for so long was being able to distance myself from the emotions that plagued the people who hated me, and I had crossed that boundary by pursuing Christine. In the end I was a worthless begging fool, undeserving of mercy and forgiveness. My entire life I had felt unworthy of love, and she had shown me how pathetically weak I was with a simple kiss. I hated myself for needing that affection, for being a monster on the outside and a man on the inside. I hated myself for breathing, for being born. I wished again for the countless time that my mother had smothered me at birth. She should have ended my misery early, instead of letting me live out the last three and a half decades alone.

I climbed up from the familiar tunnels of my now former home, staggering slightly up the steps as a drunk would, and wished fervently for my mask or something to cover my face with. Nadir would help me, he must, after all that I had done for him in Persia. Still, he had repaid me there as well, but surely he had one small favor left for me after all this time.

As I walked along the Rue de Capucines I tried to keep to the shadows. There were hardly any people out at this time of night, but the fire from the Opera Populaire could be seen blazing behind me as I walked hurriedly toward Nadir's flat on the Rue de Rivoli. I cut across onto the Rue St. Florentin then found myself at the back entrance of his small flat, knocking hesitantly on a scarred oak door. The faint smell of cat urine was evident in the air, as if a tom had been around the small courtyard marking every available bush with his noxious scent.

Nadir opened the door cautiously, his dark eyes widening as he saw me. I kept the left side of my face in profile, unwilling to have him see me in the state I was in.

"You are a very foolish man, Erik."

I tried my best to glare at him, but found that I didn't have the heart. He was right. I was a fool. He sighed heavily, and opened the door to let me inside. I immediately sought out the single lamp in the room and dimmed it to almost nothing. I maneuvered him around so that he stood by the lamp, and I slunk off into the shadows.

"Did you lead that boy down there?" I whispered, avoiding his eyes even in the dark.

"No," he returned instantly, "I believe that I saw him with Madame Giry."

Strangely I felt betrayed. During some of my loneliest times I pretended that she was my mother, even though she was only a few years older than me. I knew at once when she found out about my meetings with Christine. I had been reprimanded harshly, as she did her dancers, and in a fit of rage let her know what I thought of her interference. Since that day she had barely spoken to me, merely carrying out my wishes with reluctance and obedience.

"Were you there?"

"Yes," he narrowed his eyes at me, "the fate of the young couple?"

"They are together," I closed my eyes and imagined them laughing about me. Poor unhappy Erik.

"Are they alive?" Nadir asked, leaning forward, trying to make out my features in the darkness.

"Yes!" I shouted suddenly, angry that he thought I would hurt her. How could I hurt her? She carried my heart. She was what I lived for. I could never hurt her, yet I knew that I had, in a deep and profound way. I had tried to steal her freedom, her hand, and threatened to kill the man she loved. She was no doubt glad to be rid of me, and I was certain she would forget me in no time at all.

I started to cry as I thought of her wedding day, looking at de Chagny with love and interest, things that I knew that I would never see, from her, or any other woman. Nadir was silent, and I noticed that he was turning up the lamp beside him. I fell into a chair, shielding myself from his curious eyes as I sobbed. He left the room and returned with something, which I thought at first with horror was a tissue, but realized through the hazy tears in my eyes that it was a cloak. I looked at him nervously for a moment, before taking the black garment and wrapping it around myself like an old friend. I covered my transparent scalp and scarred right face, grateful that he had given it to me, thankful that he did not comment. I sat there for several moments, trying to compose myself, then giving up and pinching myself viciously on the arm, distracting the pain in my heart with what I knew would be a lasting bruise.

"I need a favor, Nadir," I said quietly, waiting for a reaction from him.

He said nothing, and put his hands behind his back, rolling his shoulders inside the folds of his tunic.

"I'm dying."

The words hung in the air again, yet Nadir still did not seem eager to comment. I had felt like an intruder from the moment I stepped across his threshold, and knew that I was unwelcome in his home. I did not tell him what I was dying from. It would seem ridiculous coming from a man, and I knew that someone with his sensibilities would laugh if he knew that a broken heart was what would take this hideous beast to its grave.

"When my time comes, I would like you to place an ad in the Epoque, telling them of my demise. Tell them Erik is dead."

Nadir turned to face me then, and I knew why he had been silent. He didn't believe that I had freed them alive. He studied what he could see of my face, which was the left side of my nose and chin, and thought for a moment.

"That is all?"

I shook my head, then told him that I did not want Christine to return and bury me, or to leave me the ring. Somehow watching them leave together had changed everything for me. I would love her until I died, which I felt would not be long, but I was going to die as far from Paris as I could.

"She is free, you understand?"

He nodded, looking at me askance. No doubt he was trying to see if this was another trick of mine, but I must confess, I am all tricked out. No more ploys, no more schemes. The only thing that I am uncertain if I can abandon was music, yet I knew that it would be hard for me to play a single note. I stood abruptly, pulling the cloak around me tightly.

"Goodbye, Nadir."

He did not stop me as I walked back into the courtyard, pulling the door shut behind me. The streets of Paris were almost dead at this time of night, yet miraculously I was able to hail a carriage, requesting only that it begin a journey south. I was nodding off as the sun broke over the horizon, careless of the world around me, and of where I was heading. I awoke late into the afternoon when the driver stopped at an inn for a fresh horse and a hot meal. He asked through the door whether I would be coming out, and I declined, waiting impatiently for him to regroup. He sighed tiredly, as if he longed for the comforts of home, and I told him if he would carry me another day I would pay him handsomely, then he could be on his way.

I settled back against the carriage, pushing away all thoughts of Christine and the Opera Populaire. I hoped to never hear that name again, and gripped the velvet cushions of the carriage as I struggled to firmly close those doors. I wanted no reminders of my past, nothing to make me remember what I had lost, what I never really had.

When the carriage stopped again, I asked the driver where we were located.

"Bourgogne, I believe sir," his voice was muffled through the valance of the carriage, "near Dijon."

I processed this rapidly in my mind. Beyond Dijon was the town of Lyon. North of it was the village of Charpennes. I have a small chateau there, although I have never seen it. My accountant purchased it on behalf of me, as he did for so many things. I would have to see what it would take to get him to move to Lyon, but I believe that I have found the perfect place to die.

"Find me a driver who will take me all the way to Charpennes."