I do not own Phantom of the Opera. The opening section (in italics) belongs to Susan Kay, author of Phantom- a prequel/retelling of Leroux's novel.
"What a magnificent building!" he says with awe, as we step out into the cool evening air. "I wonder if the men who built it are still alive to marvel at their great achievement."
"Erik has been dead for seventeen years," I hear myself murmur softly.
"Erik? Was he a friend of yours, Dad?"
The flicker of eager interest in his voice makes the corners of my mouth lift up in a sad, ironic smile.
"Your mother knew him rather better than I."
"Was he an architect?"
"Architect, musician, magician, composer- a genius in very many fields…so I was once told."
The interest becomes a faintly puzzled frown.
"I wonder why mother never spoke of him. It's a pity he died, isn't it? I'd have liked to know him."
I pause, looking at the face that bears no resemblance to mine or hers. I wonder if he's even thought of that…
"Yes. I think you would have." I dismount from the steps of the carriage we were to take back to our temporary residence here in Paris. The faintly puzzled frown returns.
"Walk with me, Charles," I say and set off in the general direction of the Rue Scribe, thinking of the small, bronze key tucked safely in my pocket. For the first five years of our marriage, the key never left my person. I suppose I harbored a fear that he might not be dead, that she would return to him as she so often did before. Or perhaps it was to remind myself of what we went through that Godforsaken night. God knows why…
"Where are we going, Dad?" he asks, falling into step with me after only a moment's hesitation and letting the driver know we wouldn't be needing his services.
"If my memory serves us correctly, somewhere I never thought I would return to. Not in my right mind, at least."
He looks at me strangely. "And are you? In your right mind, I mean."
I chuckle. "Who knows?" I certainly don't. How will Charles react? He's been brought up to believe he is the only continuation of the de Changy line, not the product of…well, you know.
Soon enough the iron gate enters my vision. I stop so abruptly that Charles walks a few more steps before realizing that I have stopped.
"Dad, are you feeling alright?" he asks with concern on his face.
"Fine," I say and lay a hand on the cool, iron bars.
"It's sure to be locked."
"Not to those who have a key," I say and draw it from my pocket. I show it to him, insert it in the key hole, and turn it. We are rewarded by the creak of a gate that hasn't had occasion to be used in many years. Stepping through that portal, I motion for he who I falsely call my son to follow me. God knows why I've chosen to do this, but I've past the point of no return. Not turning back now from the truth. I can only hope that Charles will not start referring to himself in the third person.
"Dad, what is this place?" he asks as I remove the key and close the gate. The light from the street lamps filters between the bars.
"The shore of the lake under the Opera House," I reply, facing him.
"There is a lake under the Opera?"
"Yes. And if memory serves me again, upon the lake there is a boat. Help me find it, Charles." I turn from him and the light of the street lamps and carefully make my way over the slightly uneven terrain that I've traveled over only twice. There is another pause before I hear Charles start to follow me.
"Dad, are you sure we should be down here?"
"No," is the only reply I have for him.
"Should we leave, then?"
"Don't worry, Charles. The man who would have stopped us has been dead for seventeen years."
"You forget the other, monsieur," a voice says to our left in heavily accented French. Charles jumps at the sound, but I remain still. If it wasn't for the accent, I would have thought Erik had truly become a ghost and came back to haunt the Opera. "I am still very much alive."
"Bonsoir Persian," I say and turn to face him as he emerges from the shadows and lifts the shutter from his lantern, bathing our little party in the glow of a single candle. "How are you this evening?"
"Dad, who is this?" Charles asks me, in English. "Or rather, who are you sir?" he asks him, reverting to French.
The Persian's head jerks at the sound of Charles voice. "Allah…" he says, looking the boy over before turning his gaze back to me. "Is he…?"
I give him a small, sad smile and a quick nod of my head.
"Young monsieur," he says, looking once again at Charles. "I am known as the Persian and Dagora. But you may call me Nadir, if you so wish."
"Are you a friend of my father's, Nadir?"
"You might say that," he says. "Why have you brought him here, Raoul?"
"I'm not sure myself," I reply. "Perhaps some part of me just wants him to know. I don't know."
"Do you think it wise, monsieur?" he asks.
I shrug my shoulders helplessly. "I really don't have a clue, but it is something I've got to do."
"What are you two talking about?" Charles asks, looking at both of us with his hazel eyes. I look away, but the Persian- Nadir meets Charles' gaze and holds it.
"Do you play any musical instruments?"
"The piano. And a little violin," he replies. "Why do you ask, sir?"
"So it should be. Come," he says, "I'll show you where the boat is. You have nothing to fear from me." Nadir starts to walk away from us and towards the shore where the light of his lantern reveals the same small boat that I remember from nearly two decades ago.
"Dad…?" Charles says, turning to me uncertainly.
"Charles," I say and take his hand in mine, "there is something that I need to show you, but only if you are sure you can forgive your mother and me." I think back on the time that Christine told me the same thing. The meaning had quite escaped me at the time.
"Of…of course, Dad. Whatever it is, I won't blame you or Maman."
"I hope so," I say, patting his hand. Together, we walk to the shore, our path lit by the Persian's lantern. After Charles and I are seated, he joins us in the boat and hands up the lantern to be hung from the front of the boat in order for it to light our path over the lake. Nadir takes up the long pole lying in the bottom of the small vessel. "Do you want me to row?"
"No, I'll manage. I've just come from there, you know."
I turn in my seat to face him, a million thoughts rushing through my head. "Why?" is all I can manage to get out.
"I've been keeping the place in order. It seemed a shame to let all his work just waste away to nothing. He had such genius. If only it had been used for good…"
"I wouldn't think there would be much to preserve," I observe. The last time I was in Erik's house, it had looked as if a hurricane had touched down in the heart of his secret residence. A hurricane of madness and grief…
"I do what I can," Nadir replies.
The only audible noise is the slap of water against the side of the little boat and the pole being drawn in and out of the lake. In just a few minutes, we reach the other side of the lake and look upon the house that holds so many memories and horrors for me.
"Who lives here?" Charles asks in awe. I suppose it isn't everyday one sees a perfectly normal looking house built into the foundation of a Parisian opera house by the shore of an underground lake.
"Erik lived here," Nadir answers for me.
"Was he the same Erik as your friend, Dad?"
Behind me, the Persian gives a short snort of laughter before he can control himself. "Yes, Charles," I answer.
The boat finally hits the shore and Charles hops out and extends his left hand to help me out of the boat like the young gentleman he is. He offers help to the Dagora, but he refuses saying that he's been getting in and out of this boat long enough without anyone's help.
"You have the key?" the Persian asks. I nod. "Good. I'll wait here. Good luck."
"Thank you," I say and then turn to my son only by rearing and motion for him to follow me. Using the same key that opened the gate at Rue Scribe, I open the very usual looking front door to a very unusual house and lead Charles inside. Using the flame from the lantern, I light a few lamps and candles- enough for Charles to get a good look at his surroundings. It looks nearly the same as when I first saw this room. The scraps of sheet music have been cleaned up, the organ restored… the only thing missing is the coffin-bed.
"Dad… what is this place?"
I draw a deep breath for courage before answering him.
"This is Erik's home that he built for himself long ago when the Opera was still under construction. This, Charles, is the home of…of," I swallow. Is it really necessary to tell him this? But if I don't, then he'll always wonder what I never told him deep in the cellars of the Opera Garnier.
"This is the home of your father. Your true father," I say with a gasp. There it's done. Finished. We can't go back now.
He turns, eyes wide in disbelief. We stand facing each other for just a few moments. Then, he faints.
Damn. He must have gotten that from Christine.
A/N- Just a little idea I came up with while re-reading Susan Kay's Phantom the other night. Like it says in the summary, this story is NOT done yet. This is part one of two, so keep an eye out for the conclusion to this alternate ending to Phantom!
I would love to hear what you thought of this story. Please drop me a review!
Thanks for reading!