"If, in two minutes, mademoiselle, you have not turned the scorpion, I shall turn the grasshopper…and the grasshopper, I tell you, hops jolly high!" – The Phantom of the Opera, Chapter 25
Two minutes! Two minutes to choose between life and death! But will it be worth it, will it? Could I stand living, knowing I would rather be dead? Could I stand it, being his living bride? It all seems so easy; I reach my hand out for the grasshopper, the bronze gleaming in the light of the lamps. I know he is staring at me, watching me madly; I can feel his eyes burning right through me, awaiting my choice. I feel the metal now, biting cold and hard against the skin of my fingertips…
I pull my hand away suddenly. What time is it? How much longer do I have? I cannot possibly condemn not only myself, but all those unsuspecting people five stories above us, can I? And what of Raoul, and the other man with him in Erik's torture chamber?
What…what of Erik?
I glance at him, my Angel, my Demon; he stares at me hungrily, his yellow eyes flashing, awaiting my decision. Surely the two minutes must be up by now! Surely Erik has already turned the grasshopper, and we are now condemned to death!
The screaming and the pounding of Raoul and the other man on the wall has not ceased, I know, but I am deaf to their cries as I stare at the two chests of ebony before me. Scorpion, or Grasshopper? Grasshopper, or Scorpion? Life and death, death and life… the two choices whirl endlessly before me, and I stagger back, unable, unwilling to choose. Then, as Erik's quiet footsteps come from behind me, I let my hands fall to my sides, finally realizing my third and final option:
The choice not to choose.
The two fools in the torture chamber are finally quiet, allowing me and Christine the illusion of peace, of silence. I watch her carefully, my cursed heart beating madly, growing frantic as she reaches—first for the grasshopper, then for the scorpion. She glances back at me, though I pretend not to see; in a flash, her beautiful face with those bright blue eyes is gone, returned to grace the two metal idols on their beds of ebony before her. I glance at my watch; the two minutes are up, and as I approach her, her hands fall to her sides—a gesture of hopelessness, of defeat. She has resigned herself to that cruel mistress Fate, thrown her life and the lives of hundreds of those above us into my hands, no doubt hoping, praying for mercy.
But there is no mercy to be found in the two figurines of bronze before us, no mercy left within me.
"You've made your choice?" I ask her quietly, seeking confirmation, acceptance, hatred—anything.
She nods slightly, her spine stiff and straight, her carriage proud and erect. "Yes," she says clearly, though her voice trembles. A single tear escapes her eye, trailing down her porcelain cheek and neck; a lover's caress, intimately familiar with her, whilst I never will be.
"Very well," I reply coldly, age-old bitterness steeling my crumbling resolve. "Very well! Goodbye, mademoiselle! Hop, grasshopper!"
She closes her eyes, and another tear steals down her cheek, catching the last light of the lamps as I reach out and grasp the bronze.
"Goodbye, my Angel," I say, and turn the knob, sealing our fates.
…To think of the requiem they shall play tomorrow!!