Disclaimer: I'm not Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gaston Leroux, or Edgar Allen Poe. SURPRISE!

A Pestilence

Red Death fled through the collapsed arteries of his opera house. He was laughing, and his laughter echoed back like premeditated murder. His dominion stood before him as a kingdom of blood, the promised blood flowing with blood and blood in the valley of the blood. Blood was his avatar and his seal. It coated his hands, his body, and even his face. Red Death's smile was sticky with it, embittered by salt while melting mask and rotten flesh together. It flowed free from his mouth, his eyes, and the pores of his skin. The blood kept moving long after he had stopped. Red Death wondered where it all went.

His hand hurt. He was surprised to see it shut so tightly, but didn't want to open it. Very strange. Red Death looked left and saw stone. Dank, damp stone that festered and stank like a wound gone foul. It was cold. He didn't like the cold. Clouds of steam formed beneath his mask. He no longer wanted to wear it, and therefore threw it to the ground. His heel went down with a vicious crack. The skull broke and each piece grinned up at him a mirror. His hand hurt. He didn't want to open it. He did not know why.

Where was he now? The footprints were his, the torches were his, and the boat waiting on the lake was also his. He could not remember how he'd gotten them. Red Death frowned, and something warm slid down his cheek into the empty cavern of his nose. Scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face. It was getting hot now and he needed more blood. A holy man could change water with a touch, but his entire arm had gone numb—so stiff he could scarcely move it. One minute more. He would wait.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The gondolier swayed like a pendulum, ticked like a clock against the tide. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The waves moved. He moved. The cavern rocked from side to side. Red Death was thirsty. His head ached. There was a boat, waiting for him. Where had it come from? He'd left it there. He always did. Always had.

Red Death was burning. Fire kissed him, caressed him, disfigured him beyond repair. He hated her. She was painful and his head ached and his arm was ablaze and he could not, would not stand it. Not anymore. Red Death screamed. She sang. The boat nodded in reply. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

He began to tear away his glove. The leather was tough—it would not yield. Fingers were proving impossible but his face was practically oozing now. At last he bit the fabric and pulled, bracing himself with a muffled cry. It was gone; his hand was free. A sudden flash through the air and something sank below Averne's nearer waters. He collapsed, lungs heaving ice. The heat began to dissipate. A ring was imprinted into his palm. A diamond ring. Ah yes, he mused, she will be alright. She will survive and be married and have countless lovely little children. Damn her. DAMN HER!

Erik eventually retrieved the wedding band. Red Death eventually retrieved Christine.

Author's Notes: All of my Phantom work is from...at least six months ago now. This might be my favorite of the lot, and I worked on it for an obscenely long time. Because Erik really should be a little psychotic. ;-P