"raise our voices, heavenward"
Genre: Angst, Romance
Characters: Ensemble Cast
Summary: It was a wish, a half hoped for thing – to become something beautiful from the notes he wrote, the monuments he built, the silent devotion he had, an always would, hold . . .
Notes: This year I am playing around with the 50 sentence challenge over at another site - which prompts one to write four stories a month based on a set of fifty prompts. The fifty prompts result in one sentence each, and then a whole story is formed from the snapshots provided in those sentences. Obviously, this challenge will slaughter grammar, and bring out the seldom seen fandom from the muse - but is a fun and curious thing that has already been incredibly interesting. If you wish to, you can track my progress in my profile.
For tables III and IV of May, I chose to go the Phantom route, and doing so resulted in rather lengthy sentences (apparently I had lots to say), but they were a fun mashing of words to string together. This first set deals entirely with Erik's backstory (a great deal of which is taken from Susan Kay's novel), and the second set deals with the more familiar events at the Palais Garnier. As always, that is a melting pot of every version, and then some.
I hope you enjoy my humble contribution to so lovely a tale.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
Madeleine de Vere spent the last month of her pregnancy unable to move from her bed, grieving for the loss of her husband even as she sang lullaby's to the swell of her stomach, her siren's song seemingly reflected and completed by the quivering of her womb as the child within her responded to her voice.
She looked down at her child's face, searching for similarities between the little countenance and her own – repulsed as she took in the warped features her body had born – the boy had not her husband's nose (for he had none at all), or her own blue eyes (his were mismatched, unearthly green and gold), he had not even a babe's cry as he watched her calmly, as still as the corpse which he so resembled.
"Who is that?" the frightened child cried as he looked into the mirror, seeing the monster in the reflection (and not yet understanding that the monster was him), and Madeleine felt her violent rage dissipate, her bruising grip on the boy's arm falling – she no longer needed to force her son to look, for now he couldn't look away.
"Wear the mask, and the monster can never hurt you," Madeleine's hands trembled as she pressed the black cloth against her Erik's face, his eyes trusting and so inhumanly bright in night's approaching light as he let her hide him away once more.
It was a static in his head, a pounding in his veins that made him tap his fingers and hum under his breath - the music in him always building and buildinglike something possessed, and he had no choice but to let it out before it escaped through his pores, tearing him asunder in its wake.
"I believe that we have had a visitor in the church at night," the priest said carefully, "at first, I thought we were blessed by an angel – for I have never heard the song's equal; but then I saw your son darting across the graveyard when I gave chase . . ."
"You see – the mirror is stronger than the monster," Madeleine looked down in horror to see the broken glass that Erik had arranged until the reflections broke the light, returning an image free of scar and deformity – her child's hands were bloody as they pointed, glass embedded deep where the need to banish the monster had dulled his perception of pain.
"Don't you see that he is no ordinary child!" Madeleine hissed, her voice a mad crackle as she held up fistfuls of papers - music notes and architectural plans written in a juvenile scrawl, but past the knowledge that grown men could ever hope to possess.
Madeleine could hear the whispers as she passed through the streets – people spitting on her as she passed, and crosses raised in an empty defense; and she held her head high as only a haughty child of the upper class could, clinging to her lost strands of glory as she felt herself unraveling from the Hell God saw fit to grace her with.
"If God," and here the child's voice broke, a bony hand stroking the sorrel fur of the felled dog (who had died protecting one she considered her own from the ignorant of the village), "doesn't save the soul of an animal . . . then why did he create me?"
At nine years of age, he understood that he was the sorrow in his mother's eyes, and the impediment to her living happily; and so with a child's last strand of innocence he took off into the night, leaving as if he were a ghost to her life, half realized and never truly acknowledged.
He felt the blood rush to his face as his mask was drawn away, gasps and exclamations greeting him from the men who held him (for he was starving - and as an animal fully expecting to be struck, but too hungry to care, he had entered the Gypsy camp); each and every word growing like a crescendo until it burst into an unbearable discordance in his mind.
In the end, it was his voice that won him his life (for a thief was not to be tolerated), if not his freedom – the lure of such a face one too perfect to pass up; and over the years he spent on display for the masses, he learned how to twine his voice with feeling, with hypnotism – making the notes dance with light and liquid gold until he could leave any audience entranced before him.
"The Devil's Child!" Erik tensed as the announcement drew the curtain open, covering himself with the rhythms in his mind as he buried himself away from the jeers and the horrified screams; numb to the point where he could not feel the stones the other children his age cast, or the tip of the lash when his keeper 'coaxed' him to perform.
"Even here, you can learn control over your cards," the patrinyengrimuttered, her ancient eyes dark as she showed the insightful child the properties of her healing herbs - and the seemingly mystical harnessing of the laws of nature – giving him an intangible knowledge that could never be taken from him, no matter what his form of captivity.
"And where would you go if you escaped, boy – who would take you in, tolerate that devil's mark on your face – there's no place for you on this earth, and so you'd best be grateful for all we do for you, and work at earning your keep in return."
His first samplings with the art of death came in a moment of self defense – feeling the breath of his handler (captor) turn to greasy groans while beetle eyes turned wide and desperate; and even in his youth he could feel the sick thrill of satisfaction – of power, as he returned the pain that had been inflicted on him in a fatal hundredfold.
He could feel the change ripple through him as he traveled this time – no longer was he a child barefoot on the streets, but a young man restlessly moving from country to country in the way of those who felt for a place instead of looked, eyes open to the prospect of rest, if not truly believing in such refuges anymore.
Eventually he came to Rome, the eternal city beating in time to the music in his veins, bidding him to stay as he took in the grandeur of art and beauty around him – and when the city's own Master Mason took an interest to him, a small part of him thought that he may have found a place to settle into at long last.
"The stone is so ugly when you start," Erik whispered, his voice delighted as he trailed a bare hand over the porous limestone – amazed that such wonders started from something so humbly unappealing and unassuming – like rough diamonds before they were sharpened, hidden gems revealing beauties untold.
Giovanni chuckled as Erik once more coaxed the simplest of scales from the spinet, trying to get him to repeat the movements – which were awkward and coarse next to the grand tones that his apprentice was able to draw from the instrument with the easiest of melodies.
"He came at me out of nowhere – I just tapped him on the shoulder, honest," the worker said moodily, rubbing at his bruised neck, causing Giovanni to frown in worry once more as he understood just how deeply scared the boy was . . . in more ways than one.
"It's unearthly, Father," Giovanni watched as his daughter hugged her arms around herself (she had grown so thin in the last few weeks – pale and worn as all her efforts proved fruitless), her eyes closed as if in rapture at the heavenly tones that were floating up from the cellar as Erik exorcised his demons in the only way he knew how.
"The mask, Erik – I want you to take off the mask," Luciana bid, this time her voice a quiet insistence, her eyes faintly mad as she walked across the roof towards him, hands outstretched like a penitent in prayer, fingers greedy and questing for salvation . . .
Death was the silence that could never spill forth a melody, the end of the crescendo, and the haunt of a faded note; it was death that had led him to Rome, and death that once more chased him away from his briefly found happiness – perhaps, it was a stigma he bore on his soul, one never meant to sooth.
He now carried haughtiness upon him like one born to it, his tongue sharped and barbed where once he had held silence for the fear of a cross word returned – but it was the aura of mystery (the unconscious stain of lives taken and magicks untold) he wore like the moon wore her tide that drew the crowds to him time and time again.
For Nadir al Khan, Russia was as miserable as the task he had been sent on (away from his native sands of Persia to fetch a magician for the whim of the spoiled monarch who reigned there), and his opinion only lifted when the masked performer started to unleash his wonders – stretching every law of nature and her mysteries until he was no longer sure what before him was clever illusion or spell.
"Your Shah thinks that riches can sway me?" the impertinent young magician hissed as he tossed a bag of gold coins carelessly onto the bench – where it knocked into a small dragon's horde of treasures, emeralds and rubies falling carelessly to the ground.
"Only the women of my country hide their face – now, remove the mask," the khanum leaned forward on her pile of silken cushions, her black as sin eyes alight with a strange sort of fascination as Erik revealed himself to her, completely silent as her ladies shrieked in terror.
"Something tells me that the Shadow of God, the Most Reverend of the Universe won't notice anything amiss," Erik smirked, his eyes grinning as he pried the precious jewels from the throne, only to replace them with colored glass – his theft clearly for the rise he produced as Nadir gaped at the other man's audacity.
"Maybe if I could create something beautiful enough, then this," and here the magician thrust a vague hand before his mask, "wouldn't matter . . . perhaps there would be some meaning . . . some peace found for me - already the floors of my mind are stained in red . . . there's so much more of it here as of late, and I fear . . . I fear . . ."
The Court of Mazendaran was old and tired looking, with large ancient buildings yellowing in the harsh dessert sun with the beauty that all decaying things held – and yet, the tired stone seemingly sang under Erik's contemplative touch as he pondered his plans for the new palace the Shah had commissioned.
Blueprints fell from his hands one after another with obsessive deliriousness; white chalk dusting his black gloves, and ink staining his shirtsleeves (and the rather pricey rug beneath his workstation) – the scale of the vision in his mind the sort that imprinted dreamscapes into mortal mater, a work of art worthy of the masters themselves.
"You can do better," the khanum hissed into Erik's ear, her carefully chosen words unleashing a deep loathing and a deep pain . . . and an outlet for the violence which Erik normally would have poured into his music or arts beforehand - now, in time to the music that had always been his constant companion, there was only silence, harsh and discordant.
Erik's obsession with building the palace was paralleled only by his loathing for his other employer - the khanum was a woman of dark tastes, and Nadir had lost track of the number of men who had fallen to Erik's hand for the twisted woman's amusement, easily seeing where Erik's well founded hatred of humanity struggled with the bloodlust that he indulged in daily (arena sports . . . brutal tortures . . . a room full of mirrors . . . so many felled for a mind more twisted than Erik's face could ever be).
Erik could no longer count of the number of times he had changed the designs for the palace on the whim of the Shah – the glorious monument to his mentor's patience was slowly becoming an elaborate toy for a spoiled child as he installed double mirrors and trick corridors, twists and turns and passages that would render their guests bloody in the most horrendous of ways – until even he was aware of how deeply he was in, and unsure of how to remove himself from his predicament.
"He is gloriously hideous, is he not?" the khanum purred sweetly, her tone dark with fascination as she took in the oddly elegant young man before her, seeing the beauty in the unconscious grace Erik held along with the grotesque turn of scars – and twining both together to form an obsession that Nadir feared to see the end of.
It was as if Allah had started to entwine his most glorious of gifts to man all inside one body, and then had promptly forgotten about his work – leaving rough, unsoothed matter to twist and warp over the outer shell, forsaking the brilliant mind within to spoil and decay under the weight of the stigma pressing down on him.
"Daroga – it's bloody hotter than normal in this fine part of Hell, and I've dealt with enough spoiled children for the day – I just need ten minutes of peace and silence and not another damn word from you either."
He was no Hades to claim a Persephone – he knew this, had always knew this, and still the horror in the harem girl's eyes (the gift of a wife, and the most cruelest mark of 'favor') struck him harder than he would have expected, his normally elegant movements harsh and stilted as he demanded that the girl be taken away – any excuse developed to make sure that she did not come to harm for refusing to become the corpse's bride . . .
"Perhaps Allah led me to you for a reason, my friend," Nadir's almost fond smile only grew as Erik snorted derisively at the statement – and the Daroga felt an almost vicious satisfaction as Erik leaned over the wash basin once more – while he hated to say 'I told you so', he had told the other man not to drink anything he hadn't had tasted first, no matter how high his tolerances for poison truly were.
"I have heard of the tradition of gutting the eyes of a palace architect – tell me, Daroga, but won't that corpse's head be a trophy more fitting to the glory he has built for me?" the Shah chuckled, and Nadir felt his blood run cold as too many secrets spoken and harsh words struck made it impossible for Erik to back away quietly without a score being settled.
"I am not a simpleton, I know that there are times in your life where violence will be demanded of you – but Erik, should you take a life when it is not yours to take, I swear by Allah that I will finish the work that the Shah started, and end your existence myself."
There had been such an awkward look in Erik's eyes as he heard the ultimatum put before him – his mouth opening and closing as he wondered how to answer (gratitude and a grudging respect, a child not needing of a guardian's hand, but yearning for the straight path nonetheless), and in that moment, Nadir knew that while joining the other man in exile, he had embarked on the hardest of his tasks yet.
"Erik, for the love of my sanity and everything good on this earth, get down from there!" Nadir hissed upon seeing the way his friend hung off the side of the belltower, high on the Notre Dame, his great cape billowing as if he were one of Hugo's own gargoyles, and his golden eyes alight with the view of Paris at night – the whisper of such magnificencefalling from his lips in awe.
Years ago, he had traveled quickly – eyes greedy to drink in the world, and restless like the roma people he had grown up with – now, he was weary as he and Nadir made their way back into Europe, and eventually France, bewitched as Erik was at hearing his native tongue spoken once more – something almost like homeplanting its insidious idea in his mind, and staying there.
"My name is Charles Garnier, and I am here to propose a deal to you," the curly haired man appeared before Erik holding a very familiar stack of blueprints – the only one of the entries to Napoleon III's call for an architect that had stood out amidst the common of the building minds in Europe; the only entry that seemed to capture the soulof music within gilded stone and mortar.
"You are building your tomb," Nadir said softly, his voice troubled as he took in the epic sweeping of lines on the blueprints before him, no sound coming from the increasingly ghost like man next to him to either sooth his fears or prove them true.
At night he would walk through the building site, passing gloved hands over gilded sculptures in a lover's caress, and looking critically at the beams who would support the acoustics of his vision - and then below, to where the pumps were meticulously draining water from the lake; his was shadow long and ethereal all the while, a specter to anyone unfortunate enough to see.
He had tried living as a man amongst men; he had even for a time lived as a God amongst mortals, but now, he felt an ancient weariness encroach on him (like the designers who slept within the pyramids), content to dwell as a spirit within the depths of his magnum opus, desperate to feel nothing – or want anything – ever again.