Author's rants and notes: This is an alternate ending for Erik and Meg Giry, told from Meg's POV. Poor Meg deserves a little more than the poor shoddy treatment that she got on ALW's sequel. The first part of this chapter begins from Don Juan Triumphant but later the storyline branches out to AU. There will be references to Susan Kay's Phantom, ALW's musical and (gasp!) the sequel too, well, some parts that I liked. No, there are no mechanical gorillas here...
Erik and Meg are very much musical based. The characters and names of the people in this story are purely fictional.
Reviews and comments appreciated. Happy reading!
I must have woken up from a long dream.
Track down this murderer…
He must be found!
My heart throbbed painfully in my chest as I feared the worst had happened to my dear friend, Christine and my evening, a few hours earlier, the atmosphere at the Opera Populaire was tense with the presence of police and armed men. The dissonant chords of the Phantom's opera, Don Juan Triumphant added to the intensity of the situation. Everyone was waiting for something to happen after he had put all of us on the edge with the staging of his opera. Suddenly, in full view of the audience and the police, the elusive Phantom, appeared on stage in the role of Don Juan!
Maman never discussed her work with me but she often told me stories about the Opera Ghost in secret, alternating between his generosity - he was the one who got Monsieur Poligny to notice me to his terrible retribution if something was not done his way. I had thought Maman was very clever in manipulating the management into believing that a ghost lived amongst us and there was always a reasonable explanation to the accidents and the "mysterious" disappearances of the cast and crew. To me, the Opera Ghost had always been a spiritual being, a ghost, a fodder for horror stories to frighten little children and was not of flesh and blood. I even laughed and scoffed at Christine when she told me that an angel had visited her."You must be dreaming!" I had said to her.
The very idea that he was real had shaken me to the core when he had appeared in the flesh on Masquerade Night. He had lived with us for so many years, unseen yet why show himself and risk capture now?
I was standing backstage, preparing for my dance routine when he began to sing. Suddenly, I was struck by his voice, I could not speak. That voice, like a poisonous mist, seeped into my skin and gripped me as I watched him perform the role to perfection. There was such beauty and power in his every gesture, he was indeed a compelling actor.
Past the point of no return,
No going back now,
Our passion play has now at last begun…
As the music drifted through me, strangely irresistible and seductive, I was lulled into a dreamlike trance where only my senses prevailed. The rhythm of my heart was rapidly gathering pace, escalating as the voices of the Phantom and Christine's rose to a dizzying crescendo.
Anywhere you go, let me go too…
That's all I ask of you…
The lull was broken when I heard a loud explosion and frantic screams from the audience. I saw a first glimpse of his horrific face. How was it possible for anything to look like that – a half man, half beast? Suddenly, the spectacular chandelier that hung on the gilded ceiling began to sway violently and without warning, it crashed unto the stage in a fantastic shatter of glass and metalwork. Multiple explosions followed and the entire stage plunged into darkness as everyone jostled and shoved in their attempt to get out of there. The police tried to restore order as they promptly forgot about trapping the perpetrator. No one had seen where the Phantom had gone and no one had seen Christine either.
"He has taken her! The Phantom has taken Christine!" someone shouted.
"The opera house is on fire!"
Poor Christine! My first thoughts were for her safety. Why? Why has he taken her? There were only questions without answers. Nothing was certain anymore. I saw Maman with Christine's fiance, Raoul as they were preparing to leave.
"Where has he taken her?" Raoul asked Maman frantically.
"Come with me, M'sieur. I'll take you to him… but remember, keep your hand at the level of your eyes!"
"I'll come with you!" I blurted out but Maman turned to me and said, "No, Meg… You must stay here!"
I tried to stop the rampaging mob from following Raoul but my efforts were in vain. The tidal wave of anger and retribution could not be stopped as they pushed me out of the way and hustled me out. I stumbled out of the backstage door and saw billowing black smoke rising from the first floor.
I looked frantically at the chaos around me – the sobbing ballerinas, singers and dead bodies lined in a neat row, covered in white sheets. Where was my mother? Wasn't she with us?
Staring at the flames that engulfed my home, I knew instinctively that she was still inside. "Maman!" I called out in fear as I tried to break free from the barricade that the police had erected around the burning building.
"No, Meg! You mustn't go back in there. It's too dangerous!" a fellow ballerina, Little Jammes cried as she held my hand.
"My mother is still in there!" I muttered helplessly. "I have to go back!"
But Little Jammes hugged me even tighter. "Meg, stay with me… They will find her. The police will find her and Christine."
My life, as I knew it was disappearing – my mother, my home and my friend. All that I had, had been snatched away from me. What had I done to deserve such a terrible fate? Anger welled up within me as I threw away the blanket – I would not allow it! I refused to wallow in self pity! Wiping away my tears and summoning every ounce of courage I had left within my weary body, I told my friend, "I have to go…"
Ignoring Little Jammes' pleas, I ran off to join a group of men who had just lit up torches and carried firearms into the opera house.
The mob was everywhere, destroying everything of value and taking a piece of souvenir each as they went through the opera house in search of the murderer. I barely remembered the secret entrance behind a mirror in Christine's dressing room –Maman had caught me sneaking there last year. She must have known that it was the way into the Phantom's lair. Had Maman gone there herself?
The labyrinthine passages to the underground lake were filled with angry voices. They had found found the Phantom's secret place beyond the lake. It was not what I had expected – the lavish candelabra, broken gilded mirrors, red velvet draperies torn to shreds and upturned furniture. It looked as though a terrible fight had taken place here. I waded through the shallow waters and examined this curious place. There was nothing that indicated that this Phantom was a ghost, except for an empty coffin in another room. Music manuscripts lay scattered on a broken pipe organ, detailed sketches of buildings around Paris, a library full of leather bound volumes of different languages, a laboratory with curious inventions and a wardrobe of extravagant clothing. How could anyone live down here? I wondered.
Suddenly, I noticed a something on the floor lying next to a papier mache musical box. I picked it up – it was a white half-mask, the mask of the Phantom! The leather was soft, smooth and light between my fingers. I had never seen such luxurious and exquisite craftsmanship. Then I turned my attention to the music box with a figure of a monkey on top - when I wound it with the key, it began to play a familiar tune. I could not remember where I had heard it.
"Put that down!" one of the policemen shouted to me. "Everything here is to be sent to the police headquarters for further examination!"
I nodded with a weak smile and put the box down but I kept the mask. I felt inexplicably drawn to the life of this person. Who was this Phantom? What kind of life did he lead? I found myself wondering and chided myself for being distracted from my true purpose – I was looking for Maman and Christine.
My boots crunched glass as I saw the shards on the floor. The mirrors were broken and a brass candlestick lay on the ground. There was something there beyond the velvet drapes as I felt a cold draft caressing my face. Pushing aside the drapes, I found another secret tunnel. The steps must lead somewhere, I thought and the others have not discovered it yet. Taking a torch, I descended the stone stairs into the inky blackness. My footsteps echoed in the darkness as I called out uncertainly, "Is anyone there? Maman? Christine? Hello?"
There was no reply and I could hear my heart pounding loudly in my chest. I must be somewhere underneath the streets of Paris but in this darkness, I could not be certain where I was. My eyes were getting accustomed to the dark when without warning something fastened around my neck and jerked me sideways, choking my ability to scream. Pain knifed through my body as I was pushed against the wall.
Oh God! I was going to die!
My hands automatically clawed for the thing that held me in its murderous grip as I choked a groan. I could not speak. My lips begged for release but no sound emerged. The grip loosened a little.
"What are you doing here?" a voice hissed threateningly in the darkness.
With a panting breath, I pleaded, "Please, please don't kill me..."
There was an eerie silence for a long time as if this voice contemplated whether it truly meant to harm me. I heard a sigh of defeat as it released me and I staggered back a step. I slid down the wall, gulping air into my suffering lungs. Forcing back the tears that stung my eyes, I muttered my gratitude.
"Answer the question!" came the ominous response.
I squinted my eyes, trying to make out a figure in the dark and a pair of golden eyes gleamed, watching my every move. Fingering my tender neck, I stammered fearfully, "I'm… I'm looking for my mother and Christine."
A loud demented laugh followed turning my blood cold. "Ah, such admirable courage and devotion!" he said. "But sorely misplaced - they are not here, Meg Giry."
I let out a small gasp - He knew my name!
"You know my name," I said before I could stop myself.
"I know everyone in my opera house," he muttered sarcastically.
The Phantom! Of course, how could he not know my name! He was the 'ghost' that haunted my home since we moved here.
"Please release me, Monsieur," I said to my unseen captor. "I want to go home."
"If I let you go, what guarantee can you give me that you will not lead the mob to my hideout?" hard and cold as hail, his voice boomed as he turned on the gaslight which illuminated the entire room filled with barrels of gunpowder!
Standing in front of me was the Phantom, still dressed in his Don Juan costume.
Up close, one side was corpse-like with no nose, a sunken cheek, deformed lips and several red spots that appeared to be scabs on his right cheek and balding head but the other was a normal face, contorted into a cruel grimace. The horror of his face did not frighten me as compared to what he intended to do. He intended to blow up the opera house, burying himself in this tomb and he did not care if he took innocent lives with him!
"It does not matter anymore. I'm ready for them!" he said with a demented laugh when he saw the fear in me, the mottled skin and disfigurement on his face turned even more hideous. "All it takes is a tiny spark and the walls of this place will come crashing down."
I could still hear the angry voices of men still searching for him, a cruel reminder of what would happen if they did find him. My situation was hopeless – there was nothing I could do to stop him.
"Innocent people will be killed!" I said, aghast. Was I hoping for some kind of compassion in his heart?
"Why should I bother? The world showed no compassion to me!" he said, his voice utterly devoid of pity. "They have destroyed everything I hold dear, taken away my whole life, my love…"
He turned away from me in contempt and I barely heard him utter the name "Christine" with a strangled sob. Was he in love with her? Christine Daae, my best friend?
He turned around, his eyes boring into me. I was shocked by the intensity of his gaze, the way he stared at me that his disfigured face could not disguise. It was the look of hatred.
"I don't need your pity, girl!" he muttered angrily. "I only wish to be alone." Then taking a key that was hanging from his neck, he tossed it to me. "Take this key. Follow this path and you will find the gate that leads out to the Rue Scribe. You were never here and don't come back again."
I looked at him with wide confused eyes. One moment he was intent on taking everyone to hell with him by igniting the fuse to the powder kegs and the next, he was setting me free?
"I don't want a sacrificial lamb to die with me. I don't want you, Marguerite Giry! Tell your mother our deal is over. She does not owe me any more favors," he said harshly, answering my silent question.
I stumbled to my feet, holding the precious key to my chest. "Thank you, M'sieur."
As I turned to leave with the last source of light in the room, he suddenly said, "You have something that belongs to me…"
My body froze mid-step as I felt him approach from behind - his hand slid gently around my waist and unhooked the leather half-mask from my belt. My imagination was running riot by this singular sensuous gesture. I turned back just in time to see him put on the mask and hurried down the path as he had instructed with my sanity barely intact.
Fresh air and moonlight greeted me as I opened the gate and stepped out into the outside world once more. I found myself standing by the river Seine, about a half a mile away from the opera house. My first thoughts were to find Maman and my relief was so great that I collapsed into her arms when I saw her unharmed.