Like usual, I found sleeping something difficult to succumb to. Sleep had never been my best friend, nor had I gotten a good night's rest in years. No, the last time I slept was the night I stumbled upon Christine for the very first time. Happiness had slipped through my very core, if only for a few hours. Now I find myself lying awake most nights, restless and struck to the core with insomnia. After dressing in a pair of trousers, I slipped my black, hooded cloak over my shoulders and headed downstairs.
"Erik, would you like some breakfast this morning?"
I spun around and came face to face with Madame Giry. Oh, the sun hadn't even come up yet, and Madame Giry was up and bugging me about breakfast.
"No thank you, Madame," I replied, flipping the hood of my cloak up over my hideous face.
"You should eat," the old woman beckoned. "The heat out there is enough to kill an elephant."
"Once again, Madame," I growled, reaching out for the door knob. "I'm not hungry."
"At least promise me that you will drink plenty of liquids today, Erik. The last thing I need is you keeling over from a heatstroke."
I just rolled my eyes and left the flat, heading towards Luna Park. Like usual, I left early to avoid any contact with people. The hood of my cloak always stayed up, keeping my malformed face hidden from the world. Sometimes I still used my mask, but only in the comfort of my own room. Besides leaving early like I usually did, I also had a routine route that I always took. Instead of staying on the sidewalk, I ventured off and climbed numerous fire escapes on the sides of brick buildings, climbing them all until I reached the roof of the manager's office of Luna Park. I always arrived, just as the sun was rising over the ocean. It brought me some sort of happiness, if only for a few seconds. Those sunrises gave me hope and strength, strength that I would need come the time for my shift. I would stand there for fifteen minutes or so, before climbing down the fire escape and planting my feet on Luna Park soil. Today was Friday, which was also my pay day. Already, all of the Luna Park employees from my part of the park were lined up and waiting for their pay to be handed to them by the owner, Mr. Tilyou.
Like the loyal servant that I was, I stood in line, waiting for the despicable man to get to me. If there was one thing that was for certain, it was that Mr. Tilyou and I were not friends. He and I never saw eye to eye, which always led to numerous arguments.
"Ah, my main attraction," he replied, his smile disappearing from beneath his long mustache. "Here we are, my friend."
The man placed a few coins into my hand, a few coins and nothing more! What was this? I looked down at my measly pay and grabbed the man by the collar of his shirt.
"If you like your job, monsieur, I suggest you get your hands off of me."
"What is this?" I growled. "This is not my pay. I always receive ten dollars a week!"
"Employee percentage has gone down, dear man. It's now five…"
"This is not even that!" I spat. "It's a dollar!"
"You're right!" he sarcastically exclaimed. "You lost me customers last week when the stench coming from your side of the tent became too much to bear."
"That's not my fault!" I growled. "People throw things at me…The heat makes everything unbearable."
Mr. Tilyou pushed me away and straightened his shirt.
"Don't you ever touch me again, monster. There are plenty more freaks out there that would love to be in your position. Play by my rules and maybe next week you can have your five dollars."
If I wasn't in need of this job, I would have killed the man, but I couldn't afford to be out on the streets. This was the only job available to someone such as myself. Therefore, I swallowed my anger and stuck my measly pay into my pocket. Afterwards, I stripped off my cloak and wallowed to my side of the tent to prepare myself for the day. Madame Giry had been right about the heat; it was so unbearable, that my entire body began to sweat from beneath that big topped tent. If there was one thing I loathed, it was sitting on my podium, half naked and staring at the world as they stared at me. I hated being pointed at and laughed upon by others, I hated having food and things thrown at me. During my first day, I had wanted to cry, but five years had hardened me to the core. I no longer felt any pain from laughter, I no longer felt sorrow when other snickered and ran away. I was a body with no emotion. Children passed me all afternoon, some pointed, and others threw cotton candy and apple cores at my body. The heat made everything ten times worse, especially because the pink substance from the cotton candy had melted onto my flesh, causing a sticky residue to form across every inch of my back and chest. Oh, damn the world! But, it wasn't until the late afternoon when chaos started.
I had been working in Luna Park for nearly five years now, and never once had I ever had a problem with any of the customers. Today changed everything… Around three o clock, a young man, a few of his friends and girl friends appeared at the front of my podium, their faces already filled with laughter and evil smiles. Around each of the podiums, Mr. Tilyou had ropes that no one could cross in order to keep us safe. The man stood there impressing his lady friends by insulting me and calling me horrible things. Yes, perhaps five years ago the names would have hurt me, but I had given up on words and listening to them. Instead, I sat there with my eyes focusing on my feet.
"Hey, ugly," the man was calling for me, but I kept my eyes focused on my feet.
"Ugly, I'm talking to you…"
From behind him, his other friends and lady friends laughed. Finally, I rose my eyes to meet his own.
"Let me snap a picture with you?"
One of his friends was holding a camera of some sort, but I wasn't about to let this go on. Mr. Tilyou's policy was that no photography was allowed, and frankly, I was glad. The last thing I wanted was my face to be plastered all over Coney Island. When I didn't answer, the man flashed a dollar bill towards me.
"How about a nice, new dollar bill?" he sneered. "One picture…"
"No," I mewed, moving my eyes down towards my feet again.
There was silence, and then, from out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man's feet slipping beneath the rope that was around my podium.
"No!" I moved my eyes towards him and backed away.
"Oh, come now, ugly…A dollar could do you some good…"
The man came closer to me, so close, that he reached out his hand to touch me. That's when I snapped…I wrapped my arms around his neck, causing his lady friends to scream. Chaos ensured, customers scrambling to get help. A few seconds later, my boss came running through the tent and grabbed a hold of my arm to release the man.
"What is wrong with you?" he growled, pulling me away from the man.
"He was going to flash a picture of me…"
This got Mr. Tilyou's attention, for he grabbed the man, who was gasping for air and hauled him away. But this ordeal was far from being over. When the man was removed, I was brought before Mr. Tilyou in his personal office.
"You're lucky I don't fire you right on the spot," he snapped. "You nearly killed a man today!"
"And he nearly snapped a picture of me!" I cried. "Your policy is no photos. Isn't that the truth?"
"Perhaps, Erik," he scowled. "But that still doesn't give you the right to go around choking people. Anyway, until everything calms down, I want you to go home."
"I'm supposed to work until eight," I replied.
"And because of what happened today, you're working until six… Now, go home."
Agitated, I rose to my feet and grabbed my cloak, slipping it over my filthy shoulders and pulling the hood up over my face. Luna Park was in darkness now, darkness and lit up by thousands of beautiful lights. The crowds were still ramped, making escaping the crowded park nearly impossible. Usually, at night, I would ignore everyone in the park…I would ignore their excited screams and cries of laughter, for it made me sick. If I couldn't be happy, then I didn't want the world to be happy either. But for some odd reason, tonight, my ears caught the sound of sobbing. I stopped in place from where I was walking and spun around, glancing in all directions, but I couldn't see anything. Deciding to continue my walk home, I moved forward, the gates of Luna Park getting closer and closer now. I was nearly there, when I heard the sound once again. This was strange, for I never heard the sound of sobbing within this very park. All the sounds that emerged from here were happy and filled with laughter. Why would someone be crying? Once again, I turned around, but in doing so, I spotted a small child hurrying past the crowds of people, his head turning in all directions.
"Mama?" he cried, looking around. "Mama, where are you?"
It was apparent that the child had lost his mother, but this wasn't my problem. Children lost their parents all the time in Luna Park, but never had I ever seen one so upset over it. He was a small boy, no older than five with pale skin and chocolate hair. I stood there watching this child push through the crowds for nearly five minutes…But why was I watching him? Sometimes, it fasanated me to watch other children react to certain situations, especially this one, for I too, was once a lost child with no mother. But who needed mother's anyway? If one wants to truly make their way in the world, they cannot do it with a mother pushing them around and treating them like dirt. Finally, after having my fill of watching the boy, I turned around and headed towards the gates of Luna Park…Or at least I had been until I felt someone tugging onto my cloak.
"I lost my mama…"
Great…I should have just continued walking while I had the chance.
"Scram kid," I growled, lightly pushing him away. "You bother me."
"Please help me find my mama…" the child sobbed. "Please…"
Once more, I continued walking, but the child had iron jaws for hands. All I wanted to do was go home and wash up, but this annoying boy would not let go of my leg. I most certainly knew what would get the child away from me. I reached up for the hood of my cloak and was ready to pull it off, when the boy dropped down to the ground and buried his teary face into his hands. My grip instantly loosened around my hood, for seeing him sobbing reminded me so much of myself when I was a boy and alone. Oh, why me!
"All right, all right," I growled, lifting the boy to his feet by his arm. "Where did you lose your mother?"
"She was in the bathroom," he cried. "On the other end of the park. She told me to wait, but I wandered off to the arcade, but only for a moment. When I turned around, I couldn't find her."
"Come along then," I growled. "I'll help you find her."
As the small boy and I walked side by side, I still heard him sniffling with tears. I could have been home at this very second, but instead, I was helping this annoying child find his mother.
"Would you cease your crying," I snapped. "Enough with that. It's driving me mad, boy…"
"My name isn't boy…" he cried.
"I don't care what your name is. Now, what does your mother look like?"
"She's very pretty," he sniffled.
"Well that really helps."
The crowds were getting terrible now, so terrible that the child latched onto my hand through my cloak. This caused me to flinch and back away, for no one had ever latched onto my hand before. I was a stranger! Oh, but this boy did not seem to understand! I could kill him with one flick of my finger, and yet, he was latching onto my hand as if I were his papa.
"Don't touch me!" I growled. "Now, do me a favor and look for your mother."
We were to the bathrooms now, the same bathrooms where this child supposedly lost his mother. The child stood there beside me and called out for his mother several times, tears streaming down his cheeks as his voice was drowned out by the rattling of the passing roller coaster from overhead. And as his voice was drowned, each call for his mother became softer and choked off by tears. But what was I to say to this boy? I had no comforting words for him, for I never had any comforting words bestowed upon me.
"If you continue to cry, you'll never find your mother," I scoffed. "I'm sure she's here somewhere."
The boy quickly spun around when the woman's voice began calling out someone named Gustave. That must have been his name.
The boy ran, and my eyes followed him, all the way up until I saw the woman. And that's when my heart stopped within my chest. Christine! It was her, my angel of music! I'd know her anywhere! Brown, chocolate curls, slender body, round face, gorgeous, blue eyes…Christine! She scooped the boy up into her arms and scolded him after pressing hundreds of tiny kisses to his cheek. I couldn't be seen. No…I hated this woman for what she had done to me five years ago! I wouldn't allow her to see me. I turned around, my back now facing her. I was ready to take my first steps, when I felt her hand upon my shoulder.
"Thank you, sir, for helping my son…"
My body froze in place…But I couldn't face her.
"You're welcome," I stammered. And with that, I took off without another word.
"Wait, monsieur! Please…"
I heard her calls for me, but I never stopped. Why was she here? Why was Christine in Coney Island? It all didn't matter, for I would stay out of her sight…she was dead to me, just as I was dead to myself.
So, I was going to wait two weeks to upload another chapter, but I couldn't resist...Please review! Thanks again!