Prologue

Erik lay in his coffin, staring upwards at the ceiling, waiting. He had already sent the things to Daroga; soon, Christine would be coming to him, to bury him, to put him to rest. But first, he'd have to die.

And so, he reflected on death, as he had so often in the past. He'd finally be able to achieve the peace he'd been longing for his whole, tortured life.

You almost had her, you fool. You almost had her, but you let her go. And now the only time she'll see you again is when you're too dead to appreciate it.

He shook his head, trying to make the bitter thoughts leave, but to no avail. Rather, they just cumulated, more manifesting themselves by the second.

How perfectly ironic, to die in a coffin…

You could have had her, but you let her run off with that stupid boy. Fool! Coward! You did this to yourself.

The world did this to you; you almost had peace so many times, but the world wrenched it from you.

To die…

And what are you doing, just lying there, waiting for death to overtake you when it already has!

To lie like the corpse you are.

Angered beyond belief, Erik sat up like a shot, tearing at his perfectly manicured evening clothes, sobbing and raging. He stood, flinging himself at the furniture that so neatly graced the room, seeking to maul, crush, destroy, anything to take his vengeance out on the world before he passed into silence.

Stop that, you look like a toddler in a tantrum, said a voice from within, and he obeyed. He looked over to the other side of the dark room; there stood a tall, hooded figure, one he recognized immediately as the speaker from inside him.

He quaked with fear then, and his anger completely evaporated. "No…" he whispered, his mouth dry.

Don't tell me you weren't expecting me, boomed the voice in his mind, laughing coldly.

"No, please…I need more time."

I thought you were through with living.

Erik nodded feverishly. "With living, yes, but I'm not ready to…yield to my part of our agreement."

About to die and still the business-man, remarked the voice. Why not state it plainly? You're not ready to give me your soul.

He clutched at his chest. "No, I am not."

And for what purpose would a corpse have need of a soul?

Looking at the figure intently with his golden, glowing eyes, he whispered: "Christine."

Very well. One month, Erik. But then, you're mine, said the voice, and then the figure disappeared.

Erik felt violated, the vaults of his mind breeched they way they had been so easily. Taking a deep breath, he faced the coffin again.

He walked towards it slowly, a requiem mass sounding in his head; the same he'd played that night mere weeks ago…

Tears started up at the thought of that blasted night. If I can't have her, no one can, he thought resolutely, and he lay down, never to rise again.