I want to give a tremendous thank you to all of you who have read, reviewed, favourited, and alerted this story over the past two years. It is because of you that I found the courage to do this.
As of 10/18/2013 I have pulled this story to be published. The first chapter shall remain as well as the Appendixes and I hope those of you who desire to continue reading this story will look into owning it for yourselves. I know some may be disappointed that it is no longer available in this format in its entirety, and I respect that, but I felt that now was the time to take this step. Thank you all again so much for your support. You have truly helped me grow and develop both as a writer and as a person.
10/21/2013: Destruction of Obsession is now available in both physical and digital formats through Amazon! These are published under my real name of Catherine Miller, but the title has remained the same so it should be easy to locate. Both versions should be available internationally (goodness knows I filled out enough forms for that!) but if ever you hit a roadblock in acquiring a copy, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Thank you again!
She had done it. The Scorpion felt warm between her hands even as the cool underground air chilled her to the bone. Erik's seemingly disinterested manner did nothing to quell the horrified realization of her choice.
What had she done?
He had said she had a choice, that if she truly wished to remain unattached to a monster she had simply turn the Grasshopper and she would be free. In her childish selfishness she wanted nothing more than to be free of all choice and decision. All those people, blown to bits because this angel, this man, this monster wanted his living wife. She had cried out for guidance, for any sign to guide her to the right path which would grant hope for her future. A mere wisp of a voice echoed in her ear as the final moments of the clock ran out, signally the end of Erik's dreadful ultimatum.
Such a good girl, Christine.
So she had made her choice, had turned the Scorpion until the sounds of water could be heard above her shuddering sobs. When her name frantically being called met her ears her sobs turned into pleadings for the life of her beloved Raoul and the foolish man who had tried to help her. If only they could understand she was beyond saving. This fallen angel had claimed her for his own, and no power available to their mortal hands could stay his long, dead fingers from ensnaring her once again.
Even her own feeble madness had been nothing compared to his. Left to her own devices, she had attempted to create a third choice, one which would allow the innocents to go free, while she, with her tainted soul and rendered heart, would be the only victim.
But he had denied her that also, filling her head with that unbearable voice as he told her over and over of her naughtiness for behaving thusly. Finally he had bound her to a chair, securing her so surely the tips of her delicate fingers had begun to go numb within minutes. Choices. These were not choices. These were the decisions made based upon the evaluation of consequences, ones she had weighed and enacted.
His eyes were on her as she knelt, grasping at his finely crafted trousers, begging for the life of the two men about to drown. "Why should his Christine need her lover when she has such a loving husband?"
Was he? Was he her husband? Did the simple touch of a metal figurine truly bind her to this… man, forever? But if it would arouse his compassion enough to turn the spigot of the water away from the demise of the man she loved, she could sacrifice the last vestige of her freedom.
"Erik, Erik please. Don't you trust your wife? I chose the Scorpion! I chose you!"
He abruptly pulled away from her clutching hands and stalked around the room muttering obscenities before again coming before her defeated form. "Erik's wife has given him no reason to trust her! Even now, when she should be giving him some means of affection to commemorate their happy union—convince him that she could be a happy little wife—all she does is look at him with tears for her lover!"
Christine did not think her sobs could become any more wretched, but as this man who had meant so much to her thundered out his anger and frustrations, she felt the loss of sanity creep over her once more. She was naught but sixteen. He wanted a wife, and all she knew was to be his student, nothing more. There were few marriages in the Opera house, most simply illicit gropings in darkened corners. Her mother had died so very long ago and she had no memories of how she behaved to her father.
And so she did nothing, and cried like the child she was until his polished leather shoes came to rest under her gaze.
"Erik's poor little wife must be tired after her wedding, and it is her husband's duty to ensure her health." Christine could not tell from whence it came, but a vial was pushed to her lips and she did not care to struggle. She had tried to die once this night, a second time would make no great difference.
She could not tell the effect of the drugs at first, she felt entirely herself aside from her still leaking eyes and head which pounded from both abuse and tears. But one moment she was lucid and the next she could only vaguely see Erik's shadow as she was enveloped by his darkness and taken to where she could only surmise was her bedroom. Were they to consummate their marriage now? She was too tired to care. Better he do it now while she was floating outside herself then when she could feel every bone and cold ounce of flesh pressed against her pallid skin.
Oh God, what have I done?
Just as soon as her body reclined on the bed coverings he had provided her, he rose and departed, leaving her to the emptiness of her darkened room and befuddled thoughts.
She could not tell how long she had slept. Her head still hurt and her eyes had a continual squint as she tried to assess the shadowed room around her. When she had stayed with Erik before, she had asked him with full expectation of his refusal if he would be kind enough to open her door a crack as to let in light from the exterior rooms. She had never been fond of the dark. The darkened state of her room spoke volumes of his continued displeasure.
Fumbling about her night table, she located the small matchbook and lit a candle with trembling fingers. Her room had remained untouched. A small smattering of blood decorated one wall, and other disturbances were evidence of her madness of yesterday. The other side of the bed was cold and the bedclothes smooth, so her… husband had not slept with her.
She was a coward. It was obvious she would have to leave her room at some point, but Erik had always promised this would be her sanctuary, a place for her to do as she wished.
Such morbid thoughts were not Christian, she knew, and her father would have been horrified if he knew.
Whenever possible, her father had taken her to Sunday Mass, both for the service and also for the music. When the pipe organ filled the stone walls of whatever church, cathedral, or chapel they happened upon, her soul had risen to meet the notes as they echoed in the hallowed halls.
Erik could not possibly be her husband. There had been no vows, no sacraments, and most certainly no priest. He claimed to love her, to desire her, and yet when faced with her own wishes and desire he continually spurned her in fits of rage. That was not love. Love was the simple touches and conversations with her Raoul, whose smile set butterflies aflutter within her, and promises to love and cherish her were obvious to behold.
As such, she would preserve her modesty. In his mind she was his wife, but they were not married by the church and therefore she could not possibly allow any untoward attentions. If only she fully understood what such attentions were. There was desperation in Erik as he clutched at her, which could not possibly be how love was intended. Though love him she did not, she did not hate him. Could not hate him.
When he was not in one of his rages—was her Maestro and companion—she could lose herself to whatever magical art he bestowed upon her. His sadness was the worst of all. How could one be cruel enough to hate that which lies at ones feet, begging and pleading for affection and forgiveness?
She did not know which Erik she would face when she left her bedroom, nor could she immediately tell as she looked upon his seated form, seemingly calm, as he read a book. As soon as his piercing yellow eyes rose to meet her arrival she wanted to retreat back to her room.
"Ah, she awakens! Is Erik's little wife hungry?" Erik's continued use of his detached mode of speech was enough to warn her of the dangerous ground she was treading. She had wanted to inform him of her continued status as mademoiselle, but at the cautionary glare she received at her lack of response, her timidity overcame her.
"I would very much like breakfast… Erik." The humorless laugh which burst from his malformed lips startled her into retreating slightly away from him, which earned her yet another glare.
"If you had cared for breakfast, my dear, Erik suggests you awaken much earlier than this. Dinner time is a more apt description." For a moment as he continued to stare at her from his motionless pose, she was afraid he would starve her in his anger. With one more calculating perusal of her from head to toe, he practically glided from the room into the small area which served as a kitchen.
Christine cautiously followed him, partially for she was afraid to upset him further by retreating to her room, but more pressing was the morose voice in her mind reminding her of his inhibitions in drugging her the night before. Nothing suggested he would be more reticent in the future.
Before she had even made it into kitchen, Erik was already pouring a deep Merlot into the glass by a place setting full of bread and cheeses. He poured himself a glass as well before sitting down in the chair across from the one she sank into. Suddenly ravenous from lack of nourishment the past days, Christine devoured most of her sustenance before slowing when she met Erik's look.
"I… thank you for the food." Christine was rather proud that her voice only slightly wavered at the beginning, not nearly as uncertain and afraid as she felt.
"Did Erik's wife truly believe he would deny her proper nourishment?" Though Erik had replaced his mask at some point while she slept, Christine could clearly see the horror and disgust shining in his eyes. "I will always care for you, my Christine."
Slightly ashamed of her presumption, Christine began fiddling with the remaining morsels which littered her plate. Refusing to meet his eye, hoping to never have to bear witness to such conflicting emotions again, she wondered how long she was expected to remain at the table before she could escape to her room where she could wallow in peace. How could he make her feel so guilty? He had bound her, the testament being the bruises which encircled her wrists, and to Raoul he had…
Horror. Hot, angry tears blurred her vision as self reproach consumed her. She had taken food from this… monster and had not even dared consider what had befallen her beloved…
She could not bear the sound of her name in such a questioning manner, not when Raoul could have perished on the other side of the stone wall, already fading into similar disintegrating flesh as her father.
She gasped as Erik slid her chair so that he knelt before her. She had not heard his approach, nor was she prepared for the slender fingers to slowly advance to her cheek. Her name was no louder than a breeze as he breathed each syllable with such reverence it left her frightened.
"So beautiful…" He stiffened slightly and withdrew his hand. "Are you no longer hungry?"
"I… I am afraid I have lost my appetite." She could not look at him as she warred within herself. Did she dare ask him of the happenings of last night?
Erik rose so swiftly she cringed into the mahogany dining chair, wishing it could swallow her whole so she would not have to face whatever new emotion he chose to throw at her.
"Is it because Erik touched you? Does he repulse you so? Or is this some new way for Christine to leave Erik, she will starve herself. Well Erik will not allow it! He will provide for his Christine, his wife, and she shall never, never leave him!"
Where the sudden burst of courage originated, Christine could not imagine, but she found herself standing a scant few inches away from Erik's heaving chest as she met his gaze with a furious one of her own.
"It is because I cannot bear the thought of consuming food prepared by the hands that murdered Raoul!"
Erik was quiet. Too quiet. When her ill advised outburst ended, the realization of just how far she had erred left her reeling back.
Erik hissed. Erik grabbed. Her already tender wrists protested his touch even more so than her conscience dictated. What were once tears begotten by anger, they now flowed freely from fear—fear of his ire, and fear that he would hurt her further.
"You shall never mention that boy's name again." This sentiment was punctuated by him shaking her by her oh so painful wrists—not enough to jar her irrevocably, but enough for her tears to escalate to helpless sobs.
"It would appear I have not given you sufficient evidence of our marriage. Is that what you want? A wedding, a priest to ordain our vows before God?" He practically sneered the words. "Christine would not treat her husband this way. So perhaps she does not think of him as her husband. For Christine would be a good wife!"
And she would. If it meant he would release her, stop hurting her, stop scaring her. She did need a wedding. She needed the concrete evidence of her hopelessness, that a priest himself had given her to this man, for she would not, could not, believe that her choices last night constituted a marriage.
Seemingly unsatisfied with Christine's lack of response, Erik tightened his grip to unbearable measures.
"Please Erik, please, I will be a good wife, just please stop hurting me!"
Though there was little force behind the motion, when he released her she still fell to the floor, clutching her freshly throbbing wrists protectively.
"Erik would never hurt his Christine," he informed her rather petulantly. "Christine must be mistaken." He looked thoughtful for a moment, and she worried what new accusation he would throw at her. "Erik understands this must be a confusing time for you." His expression smoothed slightly as he took in her crumpled position on the floor. "I forgive your insinuation."
Her continued sobs were obviously not the apology he was expecting from her. When he crouched down in front of her she recoiled, earning her another quelling look, and then he was reaching for her again and she cried out and…
But his grasp was gentle as he cradled her abused wrist in his palm, slowly lifting her sleeve so he could study the flesh itself. She had never heard such a lament. A mix between a sob and a wail, he brought her sensitive skin to his dead lips and kissed it. How she hated it—hated that the cool lips eased some of the persistent pain and made her wish he would hold them longer.
All too soon—or was it not soon enough?—Erik's cries became nothing more than the slight shuddering of his shoulders, and she found herself being lifted. Memories of dark, looming tunnels pervaded her mind, and she was half prepared to be lifted onto Caesar. But no, Erik had taken her back into her little room, with the rumpled bedclothes she had not smoothed before departing, and was placing her carefully against the pillows.
She thought he was leaving her there, but as quickly as he had left, he returned with a small bowl filled with what appeared to be water and a soft white cloth. Ever so tenderly, he rolled up her lace sleeves until they reached her elbow, and began laving her reddened and bruised flesh with more apology than he could voice.
Christine did not know what to think. Although he had been the one to hurt her, hurt Raoul, there was a gentle side to him. That was the side she had grown to love throughout her childhood, and what she dearly missed even now. But he had scared her too much, lied to her too many times for her to trust him now. He had proven that her will did not matter, nor did the will of others stronger than her. It was his will that mattered.
"My dearest Christine. Such a good girl." Erik had apparently washed her skin sufficiently as he placed them on her night table but took up her hands once again before she had time to move away. She wanted to pull away, honestly she did. But he looked at her so beseechingly, so piteously she remained frozen.
"Erik he did not…. I did not intend to hurt you." Oh his eyes, how they burned her very soul! "I will give you a wedding Christine. We shall be bound by a priest, and you shall wear your pretty white dress, and Erik swears—I swear, this shall never happen again. Not to my good little wife."
She could not say no. Though she knew nothing of Raoul's fate, nothing of her own, when he was being to gentle, and his eyes pled so, and his apology was so sincere…
Her head bowed, and with tears in her eyes, she could only nod as Erik kissed her hands so very fervently, and with tears glimmering in his nearly colorless eyes, he all but ran from her room with only a quick word of resting her blessed head while he made his preparations. And then he was gone. Alone with naught but freshly bathed wrists, and the quiet of Erik's home pressing around her like a vice, she was left with only one errant thought…
What had she done?