A/N: Yes, I'm at it again. With all the wonderful reviews pouring in from "Thunder and Roses", I couldn't resist writing another POTO Phanfic. This one's going to be different from the last one, though. As usual, I encourage you to send reviews. If you don't care for the story, please don't flame. I'll try to update more often since this is summer and I don't have such a wild schedule.
Erik: (plays organ menacingly) I told you I'd be back!
Me: (hugs) of course. I told you, I'll always have the couch made up! On with the story!
Erik: (Sighs) Here we go again. What have I gotten myself into?
Heart pounding, eyes burning. Skin beginning to feel the scorch from the air above. Skin that was still begging for her touch. His resolve had crumbled along with his heart. Raoul had said he was nothing but a man. Erik knew he was wrong; he wasn't a man. He was a ghost of a man, the remains of a shattered spirit. His spirit was shattered just as badly as the mirrors he'd destroyed. Christine's ring was pressed into the palm of his hand, feeling strangely hot against his cold, clammy palms. His body was shaking violently and he suddenly felt very weak.
The mob was getting closer, he could feel them. They would be here any second. Maybe he should just give himself up and get it over with. Despite the logic in his situation, some primitive instinct forced him to step into the tunnel that one of the mirrors had been hiding. It was pitch black in there. Normally, he embraced darkness, but what awaited him in that tunnel? For all he knew, he would emerge into flames or a storm of bullets. But something drove him onward just as he heard sounds of splashing in the nearby lake. Erik's stomach soured although he hadn't eaten in days. He wasn't sure where he was walking, he just walked. Then, a growing sensation of dread began to build. He would have shaken his head and laughed if this had been any other time. Why on earth was he so afraid?
He sensed that he was not alone. It was impossibly dark, even for him. The faint glow of candles at the end he'd just come from was getting fainter. Tears still running down his cheeks, he was startled when he bumped into a wall. Oh, no! Was this a dead end? The will to survive was overpowering his deep depression for the time being. He paced along the wall, feeling for a door. There was no door, but to his right was another passageway. The tunnel was T-shaped. Erik inhaled. To his left, the smell of smoke was coming in heavily and he was starting to cough. To the right, there was a smell of rain. He turned right and began to stumble more and more. His weakness was finally taking over.
When Erik could move no more, he slid down against the damp stone wall. It was cooler here, but it was very humid and condensation began to collect on his paled skin. His tears were beginning to dry because he was very thirsty and had no more moisture left in his body. He drew his knees up closer and buried his face in his hands, shaking with exhaustion.
"Erik," a misty voice said. Erik's head snapped up. Surely to God, he was hallucinating!
A pair of glowing green eyes was staring into his. He pulled away, but the creature followed him. It seemed to be floating because Erik could hear no footsteps.
"Who are you? What are you? Why can't you just leave me alone?!" Erik demanded.
The eyes blinked.
"I, Erik, am the one you impersonated. I am the Angel of Music."
Erik stared cynically at the emerald-colored glows. He heard a sound like someone snapping their fingers and the far end of the hallway closed off. Then, a blinding white light appeared in front of him. A strange figure that was both masculine and feminine stood in front of him at the same time. Its robes were long and flowing and Erik couldn't tell whether this being was male or female. It had flowing white hair, but appeared very young. He shielded his eyes for a moment until they'd adjusted. Two wings spread themselves ever so gently, giving the appearance that the being was breathing through them.
Erik couldn't believe it. A trembling hand reached towards one of the wings. They were made of soft feathers, but they were also a glistening silver that seemed to be made more of moonlight than feathers.
"You are in a great deal of trouble," the Angel told him, "you've got a lot of blood staining your hands."
Erik's gaze dropped to the floor.
"Do you wish me to save you?" the Angel asked.
Erik gave a barely perceptible nod.
"I will, but on one condition."
He knew there had to be a catch.
"You must go wherever I send you and do what I ask of you."
Erik was not used to being given commands, but someone had discovered the secret passageway and they were now trying to break apart the blocked entrance.
"Decide your fate, Monsieur, your time grows short."
It extended its ghostly white hand to Erik. The sound of clattering stones could be heard. In a panicked desperation, he grasped the hand, which seemed somehow too small. A white light filled his vision as he and the Angel disappeared.
They emerged into a shadowy gray realm. There seemed to be no beginning and no end.
"Now, in about ten seconds, you will wake up where you are supposed to be. Further instructions will be given upon arrival. I must warn you that I am sending you nearly two hundred years into the future, therefore things will be done much differently than they are today. Don't panic, however, because you will be doing what you do best. Here it comes!"
Erik had the sudden stomach-wrenching sensation of falling. He flailed his arms and legs, trying to get a grip of anything solid, but he didn't. Then, everything went black again.
When he woke again, he felt a strange sensation. He was laying on something soft. Cautiously, Erik sat up.
He was in the middle of a full-size bed adorned in black and red covers. The room's walls were painted gold and red. Black curtains decorated the windows.
As soon as he'd slid out of bed, he paused to look down. He had red plaid pajama pants and a white tank top on. On his bedside table, his white mask and a note were sitting. He put his mask on and read the note:
This house is yours as long as you follow my instructions. In your closet, you will find the appropriate clothing to fit in. The outfits to the right are for days you stay at home, the outfits on the left are for when you go to work. You have a teaching job at Roan's Academy as the new choir director and music teacher. You start at eight on Monday morning. Today is Saturday, which means that you have a couple of days to get used to your surroundings. This house is filled with everything you could possibly need. The school is within walking distance since you do not yet know how to drive a car. Your last name (since you originally did not have one to my knowledge) is Beaumont. I have left instructions on how to use everything in the house since you are not familiar with most of the items. I will only appear when you need me the most.
Erik had to reread the note several times. A teaching job?! He couldn't teach! They would all stare at his mask! Sighing, he began to fold the note, noticing a post-script that he'd missed on the back of the paper.
P.S. Do not worry about your mask. The staff at Roan's Academy understands your reason for wearing it. They do not care so long as you can teach the students.
Erik's first instinct was to fall back onto the bed with a discontented sigh. He wished he could have slept longer, but curiosity was getting the better of him. He got up and went to the closet.
Button-down shirts and dress-pants in various shades of black, navy blue, and khaki filled the "work" side of the closet. Two pairs of dress shoes were on the floor beneath them. On the right side, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans were hung. Under those were a pair of tennis shoes. He left all the clothes there for the time being and headed for the bathroom.
The bathroom wasn't small, but it wasn't big either. A tub and a shower put together dominated one wall. The curtain was a deep red. Inspection of the cabinets revealed modern-day toiletries such as deodorant, shaving cream, and soap. A simple black comb lay on the counter. Erik supposed that the best thing to do first was to get cleaned up.
When he'd done that, he combed his wet dark hair back in his signature style. Then, his stomach rumbled and he went down a small corridor and down the stairs.
The house was bright and cheerful unlike his underground lair. The floors and cabinets were oak wood and finished so that they were very glossy. The places that had carpet had either a muted gold or deep red color. At least whoever designed this place picked colors he liked.
The kitchen was huge compared to what he was used to. He opened up the various cabinet doors to see dishes and colorful packages of food. Finally, his eyes landed on a large bowl of fresh fruit on the table. Grabbing a handful of grapes, he continued exploring the house. The living room was a very grand-looking room with a nice fireplace. The porch had a couple of chairs and a hanging bench that swung back and forth. The backyard had a very nice rose garden with several different colors of rose and a fence up around it to keep trespassers out. Erik was duly impressed.
The feeling of the sun on his skin was almost alien. He'd gone out on the roof at the Opera House many times, but was almost always at night. He felt nearly naked with his arms and shoulders exposed. He went back into the house and got dressed in the more casual clothes. The T-shirt was a little more comfortable. He managed to figure out the toaster and was biting into slice when he came back outside. He sat down on the swinging bench to eat.
It was nice being outside. No one was trying to hunt him down, no one wanted to kill him (yet) and he wasn't hiding like a rabbit underground.
"Hello, son, you must be Erik," an elderly female voice said. Erik swallowed the last of his toast and looked up.
A pudgy old lady with tightly curled white hair had come up the small decorative path. She wore a pale blue dress and smelled like cookies. In fact, she was carrying a large plateful of them.
"Yes," Erik said cautiously.
"I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. I make it a point to know my neighbors," she said, coming closer, "I live in that house right there."
She gestured to a small white house with neatly pruned shrubs in the front.
"Would you like a cookie?"
Despite his usual paranoia, Erik plucked one off the plate and bit into it. It was still warm from the oven; a luxury that he'd never had before. His eyes closed for a second, taking in the melting sweetness.
"My name is Margie."
He took her old, wrinkled hand in his. She had a very old, very wise, and very caring air about her. Despite his instincts not to trust anyone, Erik felt as though he could trust her.
"I hear you're the new music teacher at my granddaughter's school," Margie commented, "her name is Samantha. I think you'll find her quite a pleasure to work with. Hopefully, you can teach them all something. Kids these days don't know what real music is."
Right on cue, a car drove by with the windows down. A pounding bass beat rattled the air and the rapper's bellows made Erik clamp his hands over his ears.
"Please tell me that wasn't considered music," Erik begged her.
"I'm afraid so. That's why they need you so much," Margie laughed, "though I must wonder why you left several years of college education and music training to teach a bunch of bored teenagers."
There it was. That sinking feeling.
"Don't worry, son," Marge said, sliding another cookie into his hand, "if anyone can do it, you can. With your white mask, you look just like the Phantom of the Opera."
She took Erik's surprised expression out of context and he was grateful for it.
"Don't worry dear, from what I've heard, the girls very much like that old story. They might actually listen to you."
Old story? He wondered just how old... but Margie, fortunately, didn't catch the realization on his face.
"In my day, we learned good music and read good books if we got bored. We stayed outside and played all the time until it got dark. Kids these days won't read unless it's a text message on their blasted cellular phones and they spend all their time in front of televisions and computers. You'd be helping them in more ways than one, I assure you."
She looked into his hazel-green eyes with her blue ones.
"You have an old soul for being so young," she commented.
He wondered what she meant.
"Do you like iced-tea, Erik?"
He wasn't sure, but he was willing to try it.
"Why don't you come over for a little bit?"
He followed her.
For the next two hours, Margie entertained him with stories of her granddaughter and showed him what seemed like hundreds of photographs. The granddaughter, Samantha, had curly dark hair and the same bright blue eyes as her grandmother. Her potential beauty, however, was hidden behind thick glasses and baggy clothes. He found a lot of information out from Margie, such as the name of the town (Roan Hills), where the school was, where the stores were, and where the church was. He also learned a little about people's dispositions, which were a good idea to speak to and which to avoid. He also learned that this community was very tightly knit and everyone treated everyone else like family. It was late afternoon when Erik finally left Margie's house, head spinning with new information.
When he got back to his own house, another note was laying on the table.
Congratulations for making your first friend in Roan Hills. I must say I was very impressed. Treat Margie well; she is your most valuable source of information. She will also be your friend for life if you let her.
In case you didn't pick up on the hint, Samantha will be one of the girls that you are supposed to help. She has a very unique and special voice, but you must unlock her beauty. She has no confidence, only a few friends, and very bad stage fright. Keep that in mind and keep your temper in check and you can't go wrong.
P.S. There is something special for you behind the door under the staircase. Your home wouldn't be home without one.
Erik walked over to said door. It was nearly hidden, for the shadows almost blotted out the detail. He opened it and couldn't suppress a small smile. A pipe organ, very much like the one he'd had in the opera house's basement, was there. A single window let the light in so that it shone on the music stand. He pressed a key down and a lovely sound emitted from the instrument. He stood there admiring it for a long time.
His heart still grieved for Christine, but at the same time, he was a little excited. This could be an adventure.