By: Shannon K. O'Brien
Love Never Dies
"Beneath A Moonless Sky"
I gazed up at the decaying giant before me; the charred, skeletal remains of the once opulent Opera Populaire. It was no longer opulent in any way. It resembled a mere shell of its former self. A visual replica of my soul.
The last two weeks of my life were surreal. I was floating around in a world so far from the one that I had known, trying madly to come to grips with the choice I had made, and all that it entailed. Ultimately, no matter how I attempted to deceive myself, my heart, mind, and soul always gravitated towards the same thing.
Without my mentor, my guardian, I floundered helplessly in a sea of misdirection. Just when I believed things could never have turned darker, there was the announcement in the paper earlier this morning, the one he said would appear upon his death; notifying me that it was time to keep my parting promise and return to bury his body.
My angel was dead. It was my fault; it was I who had killed him.
I had known all along what would become of him when left with nothing and no one, and yet I had not done a thing to prevent it. I was a coward who lacked the courage to follow her heart, an idealistic child who had been unprepared for the gray. Love is not always black and white. What is black to one person is white to another, and then there are the many finer shades of gray. What I felt, what I feel for him has no rhyme or reason. It's as stormy and turbulent as the emotional sea I was caught in; but it was real. Of that I was certain.
Now, it was too late. What I felt no longer mattered.
I could never tell him now . . . tell him how frightened I was of him, of the emotions that overwhelmed me and held me captive while in his arms. Nothing could have prepared me for the chemical reaction I felt as his lips melded perfectly with mine.
It had petrified me.
All that was left was to uphold my promise. No matter how long it took, I would find him and I would complete his last request. It was the very least that I can do for the man who had done so very much for me.
Tonight, in the cold moldering earth, beneath the place of my childhood, I would bury half of my heart, and with it the youth which crippled me. Tomorrow I would marry Raoul and give to him what was left of my heart, and pray that god would forgive me my weakness.
It took me over an hour to navigate my way through the burnt innards of the building to the hidden subterranean tunnels accessed through my old dressing room. I was determined, nothing would hinder me. When I came upon what was left of my room, once pink, gold and glittering, I saw that it was now, black, disintegrated, and decaying. The mirror still remained amazingly unharmed, save for the ash and soot which covered its tarnished glass. It was no ordinary mirror; it was a doorway to the underworld. A doorway to him, to whatever was left of his domain. . . .
A tear escaped my burning eyes, as I grieved for the man I had selfishly abandoned.
I pushed my way through the rubble strewn floor to the mirror. It was shockingly much easier to slide open than I had ever thought. It was as though it had been prepped for my arrival. Once inside the stone tunnel beyond, I reached for the torch which was always positioned upon the wall to the right. I had known I would need its light, and though to bring along matches. With illumination now in hand I slowly and tediously descended into the dark. I cannot say for how long I wandered down into the abysmal depths, but after what seemed an eternity, I made it to the ethereal lake which ran below.
Rocking in the gentle ebb of the tide was the gondola Raoul and I had used in our escape; the same vessel Erik had used to bring me across its distance not so long ago. It was loose on the lake, blatantly abandoned and left to drift aimlessly in the emerald waters. I lifted my skirts in an attempt to save them from being soaked but sank thigh high into the icy water as soon as I stepped off the bank. It didn't take much effort to heave myself up and into the swaying craft; the adrenaline that coursed through me fueled my strength exponentially.
Only moments before, time had seemed to lag on indefinitely but now it ran implausibly fast. I paddled across Lake Averne and docked the boat on her granite shores in what felt mere moments. I knew that I was getting closer. Wherever he had hidden himself I knew the spot lay beyond this point of no return. I believed the entrance to the remaining tunnels could be accessed from somewhere inside his house, at least that was what I had hoped. However, the house was in nearly as bad of shape as the opera above. Though the fire had not reached it, the mob had virtually demolished it in their blind hatred. The front door lay on the banks of the lake, the windows had been shattered and as I passed through the front foyer I saw the exquisite furniture that had filled its rooms smashed, completely and utterly vandalized.
His hard won fortress of solitude was decimated. The sight, I knew, would have torn his soul. I hoped that he had fled into the recesses of the earth before ever witnessing such a disgusting display of human destruction. I inhaled the cool air deeply, steadying the rage which boiled my blood, and carefully began to step over the precious broken fragments of his life. I stifled a sob as I passed his music room and saw, to my complete horror, the ripped shards of his compositions scattered on the ground like ordinary trash. A life's work of unrivaled genius destroyed; lost to the ignorance of man. I walked into the room, only able to reach his mangled piano before being halted by the debris. I ran my hands along the snow-white keys, broken into pieces, and as I did, I could so clearly see him in my memory. It was a childish gesture, but even still, I reached down and took hold of a splinter of ivory, and placed the material memory next to my heart, safely secure in the bodice of my gown. I decided I would keep it always.
I moved on.
It was in the Louis-Philippe room, designed so painstakingly to cater to my every fancy, that I found the secret entrance to the rest of the tunnels. The enormous armoire that was once filled with glorious gowns, still stood, but the beautiful garments no longer adorned its racks. The dresses had been torn to shreds, the doors wrenched from the hinges. I had always considered the armoire quite large; big enough for a man to easily stand in. . . .
I felt around the inside walls for one of his trademark levers, perhaps a button of some kind, something that would open either a hatch in the floor, or the still intact back wall. I knew unwaveringly that the armoire was the key. I felt it. Now all I had to figure out was where a mad genius would place the device that unlocked the entry to his grave - not an easy task.
Exasperated and beginning to become extremely agitated, I sighed heavily, crossing my arms and heftily leaned my back, and all its weight, against the rear wooden wall of the armoire.
That's when I heard the slight clicking sound from behind me. And as I eased away from the wall, turning to look, I watched as the wall hinged outward, towards me. It was indeed the secret entrance I was searching for. He was beyond it, I could feel him near. I could always sense his presence; I should not have been surprised that same held true even in death.
The tunnel I stepped into was much cruder than the meticulously carved ones I had known. For one thing, the ceilings were shorter, far shorter. and to make matters even worse, the torch I held was nearing its end. Without its illumination I would be blind in the dark. I hadn't thought it would take so long to reach him. There was nothing to be done now but continue on or retreat, and going back wasn't an option.
After a while the tunnel widened and grew in height. Before I knew it I was in a vast chamber. I held my dying torch outward, trying in vain to see the room in its entirety. It was huge, an immense cavern of rock. He had not carved it, of that I was positive. No, the great cavity I now stood in was forged by nature. I stepped forward, and felt something beneath my right foot. I moved back, bent down to shine my light and saw a crisp white letter. Scrawled in his perfect hand was my name. . . .
I couldn't move, couldn't breathe. I stood motionless as I held the envelope in my trembling hands. With a great intake of air, I opened the letter. . . .
If you are reading this then you have come back to finish what I could not. It would be quite hard for one to bury one's self, would it not? I am sorry to entrust this responsibility to you, my dear but there is no one else I desire to do so. What a selfish creature I am, I know. Then again, perhaps it is not even you that has come for me, or is reading this now. Perhaps it is that boy you have chosen. If so, I ask that he please pass these last words on to you.
I am sorry. I can only hope that in time you shall at last forgive me.
If you travel on just a few hundred meters, it is there that you will find me. There is nothing to be done but to complete my grave. It was dug long ago, long before you ever came into my life. All that you must do is place me in it and seal it.
Thank you . . . For this . . . For you.
A warm current of tears cascaded down my cheeks to fall upon the snowy paper held in my hands, staining it with grief. I folded the letter and placed it in its envelope, which I then tucked into my bodice next to the shattered shard of the ivory piano key.
Well, that was that.
There was nothing I could do but travel onward, which I did; slowly. I was scared, so scared of what I would find. My mind didn't wander for long, however. For crumpled up in a stony corner of the massive chamber was the writer of the letter. I could make out his long frame dimly in the gloom. I began to run, but then halted. Once again afraid of what I would find.
"My dear, Comtesse, do not be frightened for you are early and I am not yet dead."
Shocked, horrified and ashamed all at once, I ran towards him and as I did the last flickering flame of the torch extinguished. Blind in the dark, I all but trampled him as I stumbled over him.
"I said that I was not yet dead Comtesse, are you truly so eager to complete the task?"
My eyes struggled to adjust in the dark, and could I have seen his face, I was sure I would have slapped him for his ill-timed derision. But as it were, I was far too stunned to do anything but lie still on the cold stone floor beside him.
"Comtesse, why are you not far away on some exotic isle with your gallant Comte, enjoying your honeymoon?"
"Stop calling me, Comtesse, for I will not be one until tomorrow!"
"Well, then. I suppose I should be quite flattered that you came on the eve of such a blessed occasion. But I believed the holy Union was to take place on the 20th, was it not? Why have you postponed? Getting cold feet, my dear?"
I ignored his cold feet remarked and said, "Today is the 19th." I wondered if he was that disoriented.
"The 19th, did you say?" I quickly picked up on the hushed surprise which colored his tone.
"Damn Daroga! Damn that man! I told him not to place the announcement until after your. . . ." He could not, or would not finish the sentence which he had started so vehemently.
"I'm sorry." Such a stupid, inconsequential thing to say, and yet I could think of nothing else to utter.
"Sorry that that damn man placed the add far too early, or sorry that I am as of yet, still alive?"
"Shall I even dignify that with a response?"
He laughed wryly. "Well, I can see that it must be the latter then."
"Dammit, Erik! Stop it! I know you are not stupid, and I know that you know the last thing I would ever wish for is your death. How could you even think such a thing?" I broke down. Tears of relief, frustration, and anger began to stream down my face.
I felt, very acutely, the moment his body shifted beside mine, drawing nearer.
"I am sorry, my angel. I have once again made you cry. I feel that is sadly all I ever have done."
"How can you say that, when you must know you have also brought me much happiness?" Unthinkingly, I reached forward and grasped his arm. The moment I made contact, a jolt of unsurpassed delight ran through me. I sighed from the sensation, and something foreign and unknown stirred deep within me when I heard him mimic my pleasure. He felt it too.
"You should go now, Christine. I was a selfish, foolish cretin to force you to make such a promise to me. I do thank you for keeping it, however I think, especially due to his incompetence, that Nadir should be the one to finish the job. I am sorry, for wasting your time but you do not have to worry yourself on me any longer. Soon enough, I shall be gone and out of your mind forever."
"As though you could ever truly leave me? Leave my heart or my mind?" I raged. I was angry, so angry that he still did not comprehend what he meant to me. "You plaque my every moment! You are with me when I know you are not and there is nothing I can do to change it. You are part of me. You have made yourself one with me, and I hate you for it, because even in death I shall never be free!"
I sobbed as he held me, neither of us uttering a word. The ever present singing in my veins beginning to gain crescendo the longer his lithe hands caressed my back. Even now I was still virtually sightless in the subterranean darkness. All that I could make out was the outline of our bodies. My tears eased in time. I laid my head upon his chest and it was then that I heard the racing of his pulse, beating in perfect time with mine. I clutched at him tighter, harder then. Something in me screaming for more contact, even though our bodies were pressed against one another, it was not enough to satisfy the dominant urge within.
What made the calling worse was his response. His sighs of happiness, of want, rang in my ears as beautiful as any of his other compositions, causing my mind to detach and become one with the potent yearnings of my body, giving it full reign.
I wanted him. I wanted him more than I had ever wanted anything before; I wanted him to hold me tighter, caress me longer and kiss me deeper. . . .
And so I touched him.
First his cheek and then, in the dark, I traced the outline of his lips, and in return I heard a sigh so aching in nature it tore apart what little self control remained.
I gave into him, fully and completely as his lips met mine beneath a moonless sky.
(End of Christine's narrative. Next part will be Erik's.)
*Author's Note: Really looking for some feedback on this one since it's my first fan-fiction. Tell me what you guys think in the comments! More to come from Erik's pov in the next section ;)*