All Alone in the Night
By Kryss LaBryn
A/N: Hello, my dearies! Come and gather round, and listen to the tale that your dear Auntie Kryss will weave for you.
When Christine was kidnapped by the Phantom, after the terrible unmasking, he vowed to keep her there with him forever. But Christine, little minx that she is, played the charming coquette so well that eventually she managed to earn both Erik's trust, and her freedom.
According to Leroux, at least. For you, for this fine Hallow's eve, I craft a different tale, of a different choice. So draw near, and never mind that chill breeze around the backs of your darling little necks. Are you quite comfortable? Then let's begin, my darling, lovely little dears…
It feels so strange to write that, after all these years. 'Dear Diary.' I haven't kept a journal since I was a child. But I truly fear now, that if I do not have someone to whom I may confess my most secret thoughts, even if it is only this paper, I may truly go mad.
He has promised to never, ever try to read my thoughts here. I do not know if I can trust him to keep his word. I would have kept this journal a secret from him entirely, but alas, I needed him to obtain you for me. It is absolutely wretched to be so utterly dependant on someone else for every single little thing! Had I my freedom, I would think nothing whatsoever of popping round to the stationers to purchase some small book such as this for myself. Having to ask him to do me the favour of finding some little blank book in which I might record my thoughts was quite bad enough; having to ask him to provide clean rags was utterly, utterly humiliating. Really, if one is going to kidnap a young woman and hold her hostage indefinitely then there are certain provisions that it would have been only polite to make! I would have thought a good supply of clean rags to have only been common sense; but he is utterly without sense in these matters. He has no experience of them, you see, even vicariously through a mother or a sister. I almost said "through a lover," but of course the idea of his taking a willing lover is completely ridiculous, poor man. I do not suppose that any woman was ever hungry enough to lie with such a creature as he; there could be no compensation high enough.
I suppose I shall find out soon enough if he has broken his promise to read these words, for I cannot imagine any man reading such thoughts as these about himself with equanimity. So be it. If he loses his temper and kills me at least it will most likely be quick and over in a matter of minutes, rather than the slow death I am experiencing now. What horror, to be so entombed beneath so very many tonnes of stone, so very far from the light and air! It is a living death indeed, and I cannot imagine that I will be here for very much longer before I will start to resemble a living corpse myself, for all that he does not treat me badly.
Oh no, he does not treat me badly at all! He has stolen me away by force, and shut me up away from all those I love, denies me sunlight and air, and has ruined the career he sought to establish for me, and has vowed—and I believe him!—to keep me here with him for the rest of my natural days. He treats me most kindly indeed!
He sees that I am fed, when he remembers to eat himself, and has provided a bed with some privacy, and has not forced any attentions beyond his company upon me, at least. Still, it does not make up for the loss of my freedom, not to mention the worry he must be causing to poor Mamma Valerius, and poor dear Raoul! I have no doubt that he would rescue me if he had the slightest inkling as to where to look. But I suspect that, if I am to obtain my freedom, I must act to secure it myself, and not rely upon my good friend, nor the whims of a madman.
In any case, doubtless his ship has sailed by now, and he, brave man, is already mounting another rescue mission of quite a different kind, in the far Arctic. I do wish him well—even if I would have liked for him to have rescued me first!
The clock tolls three—it is time for our lesson. I must go before he seeks me out.
I wish I knew what day it was. I refuse to ask him; I will not admit to him that I haven't the slightest idea how long I have been imprisoned. The only means of tracking time available to me are the clocks he keeps. However, I am not at all sure that he is not resetting the time to play with me. More than once I have gone to bed, only to find, upon rising, that the clocks all state that it is much later than it is my wont to arise. And the lessons are absolutely endless; I am sure that he has fiddled with the clockwork to slow it down. I dare not make any direct accusation, for I dare not brave his temper again, but I watch him carefully, you may be sure! I am glad that I have taken the precaution of writing these entries in my most obscure hand, and of hiding this journal well underneath my mattress, for I am sure that he slips in at night—or rather, when I sleep, for it is always night down here—to reset my watch. Tonight I shall fool him; for rather than leaving it on my bedside table as usual, I shall slip it beneath my pillow.
I shudder to think of waking to see his yellow eyes glaring down at me in the Stygian blackness, but really, it is too much! He has already done quite enough to me; it really is too bad of him to seek to drive me mad by means of switching around the clocks! It is a puerile joke, and one that has quickly palled.
I have caught him at it! Oh, he claims that he was simply winding the clocks before he himself retired for the night, but I clearly saw him check the time against his own pocket watch, and make an adjustment to the clock on the mantle. I must lay hands to his pocket watch if I am to ever know what the time truly is! Oh, for a breath of fresh air and the sight of the sun! I always knew exactly what time it was in Sweden, even in the endless summer days. Even the nights, those never-ending winter nights, were not so black as these; even then, I always knew what time it was!
He is a very monster. I must remember that in my future treatings with him. I have not expected the milk of human kindness to flow from him; but it really is too bad of him to deny me fresh air and sunlight!
He offered me a walk today and, poor fool that I am, I eagerly accepted at once. Even if still a captive, what joy, what freedom to breathe the fresh air, to feel the cool and playful breezes ruffling my hair, to feel the warmth of the sun's rays against my face! Oh, eagerly I said yes, you may be sure!!
But what a walk. He simply showed me out the door, and left me to wander alone on the ledge that runs along this side of the lake, in the cold and dark, quite alone, shivering with the chill of that dank place, and fearing lest, at any moment, I slip on the wet stone and fall headfirst into that inky water! It would be a fast death, I suppose, but a dreadful one, to drown in the dark, feeling that cold water pour down my throat as my skirts entangled my legs, the weight of the wet wool dragging me down, down, down to the bottom. How deep is the lake beneath the opera, I wonder? I do not recall hearing, for all that I know they do regular inspections of the footings from a little boat.
I still tremble with cold and fear so that I can scarce hold the pen, even now. He brought me hot tea, and suggested a warm bath—as if I would warm myself from the fear of that terrible black water by submerging myself in it! Oh, I know very well where that water comes from. He may claim to have tapped into the lines of the rooftop cisterns, but I know better. There is a mossy, corrupt smell that he cannot hide away with his honeyed words.
I am surrounded by death; the very chill of it has crept into my bones so that I fear I will never be warm again. I shall carry this chill to my grave, and only warm myself again in the fires of Hell, whence I am surely destined, dying unshriven as I must. He robs me of my very life, this monster, and taunts me with the thought of fresh air and sunlight, and he will rob me of the reunion with my father in Heaven that is all that has held me and kept me whole and sane since his death. And to think that I once thought him an angel! No angel this; he is a fiend from the very pits of hell.
I have thought long and hard, and I have come to an inescapable conclusion. I must have his pocket watch, and I must have my freedom. There is only one thing that will grant me both, and that is his death. I have no choice now but to kill the fiend. He has left me no choice. And why should I not? Can he threaten me with the fires of Hell? I shall burn regardless; I am burning already. If I fail his temper will be furious; therefore, I dare not fail. He has already murdered me; it is only fitting and just that he die as well. I must be circumspect, though; he must not suspect a thing, or I am lost. I die regardless; I will not be robbed of my revenge. Well shall he regret bringing the wrath of a woman descended of Vikings upon his head!
My plan begins. I have begged and pleaded most prettily for fresh apples, if I cannot have fresh air. Indeed, the scent of them almost replaces that of the world above—almost. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so they say, and so, in this unhealthy miasma from the lake, I shall eat at least three. Three apples a day. That will gain me quite fifteen seeds a day, if I am not mistaken. It will take a long time, but save them I shall. I may also see if I can persuade him to bring me the tools I will need to make apple sauce, and pies. Most assuredly pies. I shall make the fiend sauces and pies until he has no hesitation whatsoever about eating them, and I shall save up the seeds and dry them until I have quite enough. I shall need only a few handfuls of the seeds, dried and crushed to powder. Mixed in with the cinnamon and other spices of the pie, he will never taste their bitterness.
Mamma always said that I should never eat the seeds…
It has been long since I have written in you, I know. I have been too busy to write; every spare moment has seen me canning apples, drying apples, slicing apples, baking apples… I am quite heartily sick of apples, but I have almost enough seeds. Almost enough! Perhaps even quite enough, since he is so slight, but I must make sure. I have waited this long; I can bear to wait a little longer. Freedom is almost within my grasp; I shall not throw it away in impatience!
I have quite the collection of seeds, tied up in a stocking hanging at the back of my wardrobe. He caught me washing the seeds once, and inquired as to the use I had for them; I informed him quite loftily that there was nothing like apple seeds for keeping a lady's wardrobe smelling fresh, and that, down here, I must have all the help I can acquire. He quite accepted my statement at face value; and how should he say me nay, he who has never been in any woman's drawing room but mine? Indeed, I wonder if he has a sense of smell? Surely he must know of the stench of corruption that lingers upon his own skin, for he begged my forgiveness when I snatched my hands from his, although that may have been simply because of the chill. Or the boniness. I imagine he is not insensate to either.
In any case, if his sense of smell has been lost along with his nose, then I have the perfect excuse for adding in extra spices. I think that I will double them for tonight's pie. If he cannot smell then his sense of taste may also be deadened, which not only will allow me the perfect excuse to increase the amount of spices in an attempt to please his palate (which will serve me well by masking the bitter taste of the seeds); it also will give me the perfect excuse to leave the entire pie to him. And he must eat up every bite, oh yes, or my poor delicate feelings will be hurt, for am I not simply attempting to please he who is my only companion? And surely he need not fear gaining weight by doing so! Indeed, it would be all to the good if he did gain some meat on his bones.
I wonder, do I have quite enough seeds?
Success! He has eaten the pie, every last bite of it, while I smiled at him and fluttered my eyelashes with every bite. It was not too long before he took to his room, pleading headache. But it was not only his head that the fiend clasped as he made his way to bed. I can hear him gasping in there now. I do hope he doesn't vomit it all back up; he might not take enough of the poison to properly kill him then. I wonder if I dare take him a glass of milk? It might soothe his stomach enough for the poison to stay down; but then, it might also mitigate its effects. And if he suspects that his illness is due to anything but a surfeit of cinnamon, his rage will be terrible indeed. –He calls for me, but I will not go. I dare not face his wrath, and I have no wish to watch him die. –He begs for me most piteously, but I cannot bear to go—aah! Will he not stop that infernal noise! I cannot stand it any longer. I shall play to myself on his piano to drown him out. I am not a good player, but even banging on the keys would be more melodious and pleasing to my ear than this. I go.
There has been no sound from his room for quite some time. I cannot measure days in this place; when I fall asleep at three o'clock and wake up at half-past five, rested, then who is to say how long I have slept? All is quiet, but he may simply be resting—there! Was that a moan? I cannot say. He gasped and wept for so long that my ears are full of it now; I cannot say if I hear true anymore. I shall not eat until I am quite hungry, and then again, and again, and if, after I have not eaten until I was quite hungry, and not slept until I was quite tired, for several times, without hearing anything for absolutely sure from his room, then I may dare to check and see if he really is quite, quite dead.
My stomach grumbles at me. I have eaten quite a large meal. Now I rest.
Again, a large meal upon an empty stomach. I do not feel well.
Again, a large meal. This time I waited until I was quite hungry, and then ate a piece of bread to settle my stomach. When I began to feel hungry again, I ate. This seems to work much better; stomach not upset this time. I retire.
Bread and a meal again. Rest.
Same again. Have not heard anything. Was going to go and check on him but decided to wait a bit. Might not be pleasant on a full stomach.
I go now to check his room, and see if he lives. If he does, I shall bash his skull in with the poker. He will be too weak to stop me; even if my seeds have not killed him, he shall be weakened from hunger and thirst. I will swear that he has not emerged from his room, even if he is still alive, since he first entered it. I carefully balanced a tea tray with several spoons upon it on top of a tall, narrow vase, just outside his door. It has not been disturbed; but I do not think, in any case, that he could see it before he stumbled into it, and such a clatter would most assuredly have woken me up. It is a frightening idea, to go and find out, but I must do it. The clocks are still not keeping time properly, for all that they always agree with each other; he must have changed their clockwork. I must get his pocket watch.
I hope I never again must face such a face! 'Rictus' is, I believe, the term for the horrid grimace some people die with; on a face such as his the effect was hellish. His eyes no longer glowed; they were open, a bit, but had gone quite dull, for which I am quite, quite grateful.
He was dead, of that I am quite sure. There was no breath in his body that I could see, and when I heaved him into his accursed coffin he was already quite stiff. It made searching his pockets a dreadful unpleasant business, for he had quite curled up, like a horrid dead spider, but at last I found his pocket watch, in his waistcoat pocket. I searched it last, even though I was certain that that was where I would find it. It was so close to his arms, and I could not help but fear that he would suddenly spring to life and grab me! I am sure that he is dead, but he looked dead already, you see. So I kept the poker very tight in my grasp, which made searching him one-handed a ticklish business indeed.
I should have liked to be able to close the lid of the coffin, but I could find none. And I could not straighten him out, so he is placed rather sideways, rather than flat on his back, as that is the only way I could make him fit. But at least he is dressed for the occasion!
And so shall I be, shortly. I shall have a rest, and then eat a good meal to keep my strength up, dress in my warmest clothes (for there is a chill in the cellars beyond his house that never abates, except near the large furnaces), gather as many candles as I can carry (for he seems to have few lanterns beyond the little dark lantern, which I cannot find; all the light here is from gas fixtures as elsewhere in the building)—and then, dear Diary, I shall be free! I do not know the exact route back to the hidden passage behind my room (for I was quite insensate for much of that journey), but I remember the furnaces, like glowing mouths; I feel sure that once I have crossed the lake I will need only to always seek passages that climb upward, and soon I shall meet someone, a door-closer, or a scene shifter or properties man. I shall be free, dear Diary, and see the sun again! Oh, I never want to be in a windowless room again! I am sure that my career is quite, quite finished, for I have been gone far too long—but that is all to the good anyways, as I never want to sing another note again! It was my voice that brought me to his attention; I feel quite sure that I could never sing again without seeing his hideous face before my eyes.
But that is for later, dear Diary. To bed—and then—freedom awaits!!
Freedom has not been so easy to obtain as I had hoped, but I do believe I will succeed at any moment. The door to the lake and the cellars beyond, the very one he thrust me through to "go for a walk," is eluding me. I am certain it exists, but as he himself said, he lives like a mountebank, and not all the doors are as straightforward and honest as one might wish them to be.
I am sure that there is simply a hidden catch of which I am not aware. No matter; the house is not large, and I will find a way out soon enough. I am certain of it.
What kind of a madman hides the inside of his door, anyhow? I can understand his disguising the exterior of his door, to hide it from prying eyes, but for goodness's sake, what need had he to hide it from the inside? If he didn't want me to be able to escape, surely a simple lock would have sufficed! I am almost tempted to go and give him a smack, except that I do not want to see that grinning face staring up at me again. It haunts my dreams with its horrid leer as it is. I can almost hear him laughing at me. 'Foolish Christine!' he mocks me. 'Did you really think to be free of me so very easily?' Well, I will show him; I am made of sterner stuff than he believes! I know that there is indeed a way out, for I took it myself, and came in by it. And did he not go, and come, and bring me apples, and you as well, dear Diary? He left many times, and returned, on what nefarious business I cannot imagine, but it does not matter. There is a way, and I will find it.
I believe that I have managed to locate the section of wall in which his ridiculous door is hidden; there is a slight breeze from somewhere in that area. Tomorrow (or rather, when I arise again, for how shall I say which day this is? His pocket watch was tampered with as well, so I smashed it to bits with the poker, and all the other clocks as well. No more will I be deceived by them!) I shall look as closely as I may, but first I must rest; my eyes are quite worn out from peering so closely at so much wall, and I have torn several nails from tugging in vain at various protrusions. I have soaked them in his brandy, which was very painful, but which has at least assuaged that uncomfortable swollen feeling one has which lets one know that one has bitten one's fingernails too close to the quick again, and is risking infection.
I have spent an uncomfortable time trying to pry open a crack I found in the wall. It is small; the butter knives do not quite fit, no matter how I force them (and who knew that they could pierce flesh? Suffice it to say that when trying with all one's might and main to drive one into a crack in stone, one should be careful how one grips them, in the event that they skip off suddenly). His bread knife was thin enough to fit, but too weak; it snapped right off in the most infuriating way. Dash it all, it is a door, not solid wall that I am attempting to move! One would think that the stone façade of it was quite real, for all the effect I have had. I have even tried to smash through it with the poker, but all I have managed to accomplish is the development of some rather impressive blisters, and I suspect the straining of my wrists.
Perhaps there is another way.
Thank God for small blessings: the lights are fed by gas. They sizzle, they hiss; but they do not go out. I may be running wretchedly low on food, I may need to boil the water from the spigot in the kitchen before I trust it to drink, and I may be getting low on ink, but at least I may leave every light ablaze without fear of waking up in the dark, or that he will creep up on me in the shadows. There! He is laughing again. He knows that I write about him, the fiend, but I will not give him the satisfaction of giving him the slightest indication that I hear.
I have searched the walls, I have searched the floors; God help me, I have searched as much of the ceiling as I can reach, standing upon a stool. Why can I not find the door? It should be the simplest thing in the world. It should be a large rectangle, a little over the height of a man, depending from good, honest hinges, and with a good, honest knob to fasten it. It is absolutely infuriating. I must take it up with him. It is simply a ridiculous and childish prank to hide it from me like this, and I will not countenance it! I know he has hidden it somewhere. I have looked everywhere but his room. Perhaps he has propped it up behind the great black curtains that cover his walls? Oh, he may laugh, but I shall take the poker to him if he doesn't tell me where it is, see if I don't!
I am famished. I know it has been a while since I wrote in you, but I didn't want to waste the ink. Also, I wanted to surprise you with the news that I had found the way out! Unfortunately, the door continues to elude me. I have tried to make other doors serve, but I cannot make even the doors of the cupboards let me out. It is sheer wilfulness on their part; they are doubtless amused by my frustration. The fiend finds it all hilarious as well. He hardly ever shuts up now. I tried to smother him with a pillow, but he just laughed louder than ever. I wish he would shut up, or have the decency to stop smelling. His odour when he was alive was quite bad enough; but he simply reeks now of rotting meat, a scent to which I have never been partial. I have tried both beseeching him most prettily and ordering him most sternly to have the decency to take a bath, but he has done no such thing. I believe he is taunting me with the stench on purpose. I poured all the perfumes he had left me all over him, though, and while it does not abate his own smell, it displeases him greatly, so at least I have that small satisfaction. But I am getting heartily sick of applesauce!!
I heard voices today. Not the fiend's, but other men's voices, speaking with the uncultured accents of the common man. I believe it was workers come to inspect the footings. I shouted myself hoarse, and banged with the poker upon the walls, but they took no notice of me at all. Perhaps they thought I was simply a large rat. I have seen them about, once or twice, but I cannot fit more than a finger through the hole they are using. I have tried, though, I have tried!
How long can a person live on just water? I feel I shall gnaw my very arm off from hunger! Perhaps I may catch a rat, if I am not too weak, or slow…
It is possible to kill a cornered rat by first stunning it with a broom, and then treading heavily on its head until the skull crushes, if one wears sensible shoes. However, I could not find a single recipe to cook it! In the end I was forced to improvise, and simply grilled it over the fire. As soon as I heard the juices of it hissing in the flames I realized my mistake; the next time I shall boil it and not waste the fat. I boiled the bones of it, in any case, to make a sort of a broth, but it was very thin, and it did not taste at all nice. Really, the fiend has done very poorly by me indeed, to not even keep his larder stocked for his guest! He stays awake all night, laughing and playing his silly organ, and completely neglects his duties as host. It really is very bad of him.
I wonder if the men I heard talking will tell anyone of the 'giant rat' in the cellars? Perhaps the rat catcher will seek me out. I have not met him, but I know that he is in the employ of the opera. The place would be quite overrun without one; they like the taste of the pressboard properties so. Really, he might come by and bring me the bodies of some of his rats. I don't imagine he has any other use for them, unless he saves their skins to make himself a fine ratskin coat! It would be almost like moleskin, I imagine, but not so dark or soft. I wonder how many skins he would need? The skin from the one rat I caught would stretch out to almost cover my face; so I wonder how many he would need for a coat? I suppose it would depend on whether he was tall or short or skinny or stocky. Erik is very tall but also very thin. I wonder how many it would take to make him a coat? Perhaps I shall simply dry the one skin and fashion him a new mask. Perhaps that will shut him up and I will be able to have a decent night's sleep for a change.
It is so pleasant to hear the sound of birds in the morning! I am so glad to be able to hear that sound again. I wish I could open a window to hear them better, but there are no more windows than doors. I have looked in all the dressers, every drawer, and under all the beds, but I have still not found where Erik has hidden the door. He says it will not matter so very much for much longer, and perhaps he is right. It has been ages since I caught that rat! It is odd how much the birds sound like squeaking rats; I had not noticed before, but I suppose it is the English robins that I hear. It must be almost Spring by now. Erik says he is sorry that there are no more rats to eat, which is very nice of him, but to be truthful, I rather think he needs them more than I, for he is quite skin and bones these days, for all that he never had much meat on him to begin with. He sings to me sometimes, which is pleasant. Perhaps I shall make my bed in his room tonight, if I have the strength to drag the quilt so far—it has grown quite abominably heavy for something that is doing such a poor job of keeping me warm!—and he can sing me to sleep. He says that he is sorry that he stole me away, and I have forgiven him; we have become quite good friends now, even if his humour is tending a bit towards the morbid these days. Still, he has promised to sing me to sleep, and that in the morning we may go on a real walk, up in the fresh air, with the sunshine on our faces! He looks like anybody else now that the rats have quite gnawed his skin away; he has very good bone structure, and I am quite sure that no one will notice anything odd about him at all.
So I shan't be needing to talk to you anymore, dear Diary, because in the morning, Erik will set me free himself.