A/N: I've always found it somewhat amusing that nobody seems to write original characters for the Phandom. They are out there, it's not that – but for the most part, the PotO universe OC is a rare beast. Perhaps it is that we, as phans, cannot abandon our beloved Erik, Christine, and Raoul – or don't want to betray them by making our own characters. Perhaps we don't know how an outside character would react to the goings on at the Opéra Populaire, or perhaps we fear that they'll try to woo Erik or Raoul and become that bane of all writers, the Mary Sue. Whatever the reason, there's not a lot of PotO OCs out there, and it's a bit of a shame because a lot of writers out there are missing a great opportunity to explore what those outside the trifecta of Raoul, Christine, and Erik think of the Phantom – especially those who attend the opera. Does the audience believe in the Phantom? If so, do they think he's really a ghost or just a rogue prankster? Do they dismiss the various 'accidents' he causes as just another freak incident? What of those who don't believe, those who think him a myth?
What if one of the non-believers were to have a close encounter of the Phantom kind?
I wrote this story to illustrate that. We know how Erik feels about having others in his box, and we know how much he enjoys messing with people's heads. What I am curious to discover is how an outside character would react to his seemingly pervasive presence, and how they would feel having their prior disbelief in the supernatural twisted about, inverted, and entirely reversed. This is not a story of an OC replacing Christine, nor is it a story of an OC replacing poor, unhappy Erik in this Phan's heart. It is merely a tale of how the unassuming opera-goers view Erik – and how those who do not believe are quickly set straight. I hope you enjoy, and remember – Erik does control all the chandeliers above your heads… :)
Disclaimer: I own none of this, though it doesn't really matter since this is a novel-based PotO story and Gaston Leroux's original tale is in the public domain, much like the work of H. P. Lovecraft is. Speaking of, who else thinks that a Cthulhu Mythos/PotO crossover would be unintentionally awesome? I do, however, own Mmlle. Anabelle Leblanc. And yes, I did name her after the Edgar Allen Poe poem Annabel Lee. Please do not take Anabelle, she would rather not be taken anywhere against her will, thanks.
I have never been a superstitious woman, despite what some may say about my name. I have never believed in the unknown, nor the undead, nor the malevolent. I, Anabelle Leblanc, daughter of the sensible and very wealthy entrepreneur Bertrand Leblanc, was raised with a sensible, sturdy upbringing by a sensible, sturdy tutor – and so I by all rights I should be, and am, a sensible, sturdy young woman.
Or I would be, were it not for one silly, nagging belief that I had thought forgotten years ago. One belief that has assuredly risen again from the depths of my childhood to haunt me anew. You see, I hold the belief that the dead may, and do, return to follow the living. In simpler terms, I believe – no, I know – that ghosts exist. I know it to be true, for I experienced a haunting myself not so very long ago!
It was a clear night, I recall; a cool night, the kind of beautiful night that made even the loneliest hermit wish to go out. I was to witness a most spectacular show, courtesy of the creative minds of the Opéra Populaire. I have always enjoyed opera since I was a very little girl, and my father's prodigious wealth put me in the fortunate position of being able to indulge in this treat almost whenever I wished. And tonight, I was fortunate enough to hold a ticket to a box with a wonderful view of the stage, specifically to Box Five, a box normally left unsold, though the reason for this was unknown to me at the time.
I remember clearly how it began. I had no sooner given my ticket to the ticket-taker when I noticed an… odd look about him, almost a nervous look, as if he somehow feared for me.
"You do not… honestly desire that box, do you, Mlle.?" He sounded both fearful and incredulous.
"Why… yes, I do," I responded, slightly confused. "I paid good money for this ticket, and I really would rather not have to change my seat if at all possible…"
The man sighed wearily and slowly shook his head as he took the ticket.
"Very well… your seat is upstairs and to your left… Poor, poor misguided young soul…"
I vaguely wondered why as I wandered up the stairs toward my box. A slight pit of nervousness sat in my stomach, but I dismissed it merely as anxiety caused by the extravagant atmosphere as I settled into my seat and watched the curtains begin to open. The view of the stage was indeed marvelous; from my position in the seat I could see the entirety of the stage and all of its magnificent scenery, every detail splayed before me like a parade from some child's dreams. Confident and comfortable in my enjoyment, I relaxed and leaned back in my seat slightly, enjoying the music for the sake of itself.
It was then that the strangest of things happened. I heard a whisper in my left ear, barely audible over the sounds of the opera yet more enticing than even the most compelling of baritone voices or angelic of sopranos:
"And are we enjoying ourselves, my dear?"
The voice sent a vague thrill down my spine to set my heartbeat fluttering like a nervous schoolgirls', and I jumped slightly at the sudden sound. Could it be that I shared this box with another patron? I turned to look, but saw nothing in the shadows beyond; no one sat in the seat next to me. Indeed, not a soul save myself existed inside the box.
It is your imagination, Anabelle, running away with you again, I thought as I once more began to relax.
"Music casts a wonderful spell… does it not?"
I felt the strange tingle shoot down my spine again. That voice… That haunting voice…
I turned to look again, this time certain that I had heard a man speak.
"Hello?" I called quietly.
A barrage of dark whispers answered me, echoing about me and coming at me from all sides.
I shuddered. What sort of trick was this? Was it some immature patron's idea of a practical joke?
The realization came to me almost instantaneously. Of course! It had to be the ticket-taker, who had been absolutely adamant on trying to move me to another seat! No wonder he had acted so strangely.
The Leblancs are notorious for their quick temper and even more so for their stubbornness, and as I thought more on the situation, I felt my blood boil. How absolutely childish of the man! I refuse to allow someone to laugh at me at my expense!
"You will leave me alone, please," I replied firmly. No prank was about to move Anabelle Leblanc from her seat!
The whispers continued, sounding ever more furious with each passing moment. I could not help but shudder. It was almost as if the box itself were angry at my presence…
But that, of course, was ridiculous.
Was it not?
"I…" I trailed off slightly, unsure of my words and more than a little unnerved. Slowly the words began to form themselves, resting on my tongue.
"… If you do not leave," I finally said, my voice shaking ever so slightly from nervousness, "I shall contact my father and he shall ruin you!"
A dark chuckle rumbled through the box like an ominous current, and the sound of it was both compelling and chilling. It was an all-encompassing sound, devouring even the sounds of the opera and filling the box like black ink as it sent chills down my spine…
And from behind me, I heard it again – that smooth, almost hypnotic voice; that voice that inspired both trust and fear…
"What does reputation matter," it asked, seeming mere inches from my ear, "To one who is already dead?"
Ice shot through my veins briefly, but I refused to look. I would not let my mind run away with me all because of some idiotic prank. Summoning up as firm a voice as I could muster, I stood and turned to address the blackness behind me.
"There are no such things as ghosts."
All was silent a moment, and for that brief moment I believed I had won. Satisfied at myself, I went to sit down…
But I did not, for what I saw and heard next was so entirely terrifying and horrific that it haunts me still to this day. No sooner than I had uttered those words, a deathly chill seemed to come over both the room and I, the chill of watching eyes. I felt my very heart shudder under the scrutiny of that hidden gaze of those eyes, for they seemed to be everywhere and nowhere all at once… Where were they? Who watched me from the shadows?
"So," said the voice, its tone darker than ever before. "You do not believe that I exist… do you?"
At that very instant, every light both onstage and off burnt out entirely, and audience and actor alike was plunged into sudden darkness. All I could hear was the chaotic sound of screaming from below, and I myself gave into the urge as I felt fear well inside of me, only to burst forth in a frightened shriek. But no! Over that, a horrific cackle as only madmen make! The sound sent a paralyzing bolt of terror straight down my spine – I could neither scream nor move for the fear! What a horrifying trap in which to find myself ensnared!
Oh, but still the terror was not over. Within that darkness in which I sat paralyzed, I saw… a light. No, two lights, as small and exact as two candle flames glowing in a pitch black room. This was, in fact, what I believed their origin to be until I saw them… blink.
Yes, I saw them blink! I saw them wink out and reappear at the same time like the solemn eyes of a cat… only, they were at a human height! These eyes belonged to a man… and yet they glowed; they glowed a horrible, bright golden-yellow; they glowed and flickered with a light of their very own! And they watched me; they saw my silent terror…
… And then, just like that, they disappeared, vanishing into the shadows as if extinguished.
Suddenly, an icy, pale hand grasped my shoulder. I shrieked and flailed, but everything I tried failed to pry the dead fingers from their intense grasp! And at that instant, at that dark, mad hour, there reappeared the eyes. So close to my own face were they that I might have reached out to touch them were I a far braver soul. Instead, I merely sat and trembled like a frightened mouse before a hungry snake, hypnotized by the darkness in those unearthly eyes and frozen in fear…
Slowly my eyes began to adjust to the darkness, and I began to see the definite outline of a person, but still I could not see the face of the one who held me in a fearful trance. He remained to me nothing more than a shadow with hellish, haunting eyes.
Until it spoke, and I felt the mysterious voice send that strange, pleasurable chill down my spine once more.
"… Now do you believe that I exist, Mlle. Leblanc?"
It was then that I felt all color leave my face in a fearful pallor. How did this man know my name? How did he know who I was without… without the aid of…?
"I know much about you, dear Anabelle Leblanc. I know quite a bit about your family line. I know that you attend the opera every three weeks, if you are able, and that you are always seated in a box with an odd number. And I know that you are quite fond of a certain young soprano whom has recently risen to stardom; a certain Mlle. Daae, am I correct?"
"P-please…" The words came out as murmurs, fearful mumblings of what else he may know. "Please, leave me alone…"
The shadow leaned in close to rest mere inches from my ear, and I whimpered, quite sure that some horrific fate was to befall me. Instead, it merely whispered to me in that angelically haunting voice.
"Do you believe in me, Mlle. Leblanc?"
"Y-yes…" I croaked in terror. "Yes, yes, I believe in you!"
"Then you shall never seek to enter my box again, lest our next meeting be even more unpleasant…"
The shadow released his iron grasp, but his eyes still held me.
"Know this, Anabelle Leblanc: I've the eyes and ears of a wolf, the wit and guile of a serpent, and the subtlety of a prowling jaguar. I hear, see, and know all that occurs in my halls – and you I shall keep in my sights always. You would do very well to stay in my good favor, Mlle. Leblanc. You may start by removing yourself from my box."
The shadow melted back into the darkness, and the next thing I recall is running, sprinting from out the box as a bolt of lighting from God's Heaven. And yet I still remember feeling those lamplight eyes upon me – not from around or behind me, no, but from beyond the very walls! The Opera Ghost is truly a spectre of his word…
I am a sensible, sane woman of twenty-three, and yet for as young as I am, I am already a haunted woman. I surely do believe now that the dead may follow and observe the living – a ridiculous belief, you would say! – but I've no shame in the thing, not a wit.
I implore you, dear reader, to believe me: there does exist a ghost within the walls of the Opéra Populaire, and he watches all your wanderings within his haunting grounds. I am not a madwoman, nor a conspiracy theorist – merely a woman who has seen the unknown with her own two eyes! If ever you decide, for whatever ill-fated reason, to attend a show there, I pray that you heed my warning and watch yourself, even if you do foolishly believe the Opera Ghost a myth. Be ever wary of what you do and say, for he is always amongst you – and never, for the sake of your own health and sanity, dare enter Box Five…
Here ends the strange account of Mlle. Anabelle Leblanc, first daughter of businessman and entrepreneur Bertrand Leblanc, dated the eighteenth Friday of October, 1887. All information contained within was presumed truthful until proven otherwise false. No evidence to its falsehood or veracity has since been found, therefore it has been left to the reader to decide.