This is my first Phantom of the Opera fanfiction. Be kind to me… please!

Disclaimer: This is Andrew Lloyd Weber's sandbox. I just play in it.

Darkness. What does this word mean to you? Is it frightening? Does it send a shudder down your spine, cause goose bumps to erupt over your arms? Do you balk at the very idea? Could you spend an eternity cloaked in unending blackness?

I could. Without a second's hesitation, I would agree to it. Once upon a time, when I was a different person, the idea would have repulsed me, but no longer. I am a creature of shadows, transformed by unfortunate circumstances and crushed by the weight of the world's brutality.

I was orphaned at fourteen when my mother at last succumbed to the tuberculosis that had been ever lurking in her lungs, making her perpetually ill for most of her life. It was a miracle she even held out as long as she did. My father had vanished six years earlier without a trace, when I was eight years old, and there was never a word whispered of him since. He was far from an affectionate man, a drunk who swore and beat me when he came home and even struck my mother, who was too weak, too afraid, to take me and leave him. His disappearance was somewhat of a relief to both of us.

And I found myself on my own in Paris, unsure of myself and my future, distraught by my mother's death and constantly hoping for a miracle. An elderly couple who lived down the street from my mother and me took me in. I began to recover from my grief. They were good people, but very old, and by my seventeenth year both had died. I was devastated, falling into another despair similar to but not as potent as the anguish that accompanied my mother's death.

They left all their worldly possessions to their three grandchildren, a greedy trio of rude and uncompassionate people who took what they could for themselves, each trying to best the other in spoils, and threw me back onto the street with no remorse or second thought.

I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. How could I trust people any longer? Anyone I became emotionally attached to died, people showed me no compassion, showed no one any compassion. They were all wicked and unfeeling, and I had no desire to associate with them any further. I took refuge in an abandoned chapel dedicated to a saint whose name was so worn beneath her statue at the church's front that I could not read it. I found work for an unpleasant man at a textile factory as a seamstress, which was miserable work and paid little, but I could do no better than that. It was in that church I took to shadows, something I had once feared, submerging myself in what some might call the less favorable arts. It was sacrilegious and irreverent to do inside what had once been a church, but I immersed myself in dark magic with little thought to be had over the blasphemy I was committing.

It began in the dead of night that winter, which was particularly cold; it was difficult enough to get sleep in the frigid air as it was. I was awoken in the dead of night by a band of traveling gypsies and their infernal chanting, who had set up camp not twenty yards from my dilapidated chapel. Exhausted from my miserable work and furious with them for disturbing me, I embarked outside, crept into one of their carts, and stole a spell book out of vengeance.

I attempted black magic and forms of Wicca, casting spells of luck and fortune in a desperate attempt to change my circumstances, cursing my superiors and those who worked alongside me that I did not like, trying to build up my skill and my soul's energy to attempt necromancy in order to return my mother to the living. But none of my spells worked, no matter how hard or how often I tried. But the hope of success was all I had, so I persisted. Working my miserable job in the daytime, spell casting by candlelight, and getting not nearly enough sleep. I lived a pitiful, repetitive existence. Not truly a life at all, entirely alone.

I was everything I had once scorned; a beggar, a thief, a witch of sorts. I pleaded to strangers for pocket change, a franc here, a sous there, to help pay for meager pittances of food, though I stole my rations more often than I bought them. My thievery extended to my place of work, where I would smuggle out rolls of black cloth to make my clothes out of, entertaining spiteful thoughts of how I worked so hard and was not paid nearly enough for my labor, and they at the very least owed me the cloth. I stole artifacts to sell and picked the pockets of strangers and travelers and raided gypsy carriages at nighttime, which was only too easy. I only had to wait for them to fall unconscious after the alcohol they gorged themselves upon had taken its toll.

I wore nothing but black; black gloves, black stockings, black shoes, black dresses (made from my stolen cloth) and, what I was most proud of, a wonderful black cloak, which I had bought after three months of saving my wages and tucking away the money I made selling stolen objects. It was thick and warm and lined with red satin, and it saved my life more than once in the winter, when I would surely have frozen to death without it.

My brown hair was wild and ever tangled and my green eyes always dull and bitter. Bruises frequently blossomed on my skin, marks I earned from beatings endured at the hands of those who caught me in the midst of thievery. They would swing at me, kick me, throw me to the ground, and I would do nothing to fight them off. I deserved what I got if I was not quick enough, and they deserved to beat me if they were clever enough to catch me. I was so numb that I barely felt the blows. If they were particularly brutal I would sometimes snatch at their clothes or faces, trying to obtain strands of hair or scraps of cloth to use in spells to cast curses upon them. Needless to say, my attempts were in vain.

I was called a witch and a demoness, the devil's wife, sorceress, and a slew of other names of that nature, by those who knew my place of residence and the craft I practiced inside. I frightened away small children, whose mothers warned them against me. I preferred it that way, anyway. I didn't want to be bothered. I didn't care what they chose to call me so long as they left me alone.

The older children, however, were not as intimidated by me. If they were bored or looking to impress their friends, they would throw stones at me as I passed and scream and curse at me, telling me I should return to Hell where I belonged. I entertained thoughts of my curses working at last against them, imagined taking their fates into my own hands and killing them myself, but I never acted upon my fantasies. Somehow, killing seemed too far outside my realm, and if I had learned anything from my useless spell casting, it was this; human life, no matter who it is or what sort of vermin they are, is always valuable.

My story begins on a night in midwinter, when I was too brave and too stupid. I ventured out across the city in pursuit of new pockets to pick and stumbled across a group of men outside a bar, their speech slurred and their gaits staggering. They smelled of strong liquor. I watched them for a while to ensure they really were drunk, and took my chance when I witnessed one of the men pull out his coin purse and replace it in his left jacket pocket. That was all I needed, was a location.

I crossed the street like I was in a hurry, looking down at the hem of my dress and hunching over as though I were very cold and eager to return home – I was in a finer part of Paris, and I could very well have been the daughter of a rich man with my cloak. I always try to put myself together before I go out on raids (I call them raids, even though they are only short excursions for pocket change) so I don't look like a street urchin. People are much more likely to trust a put-together young woman than a disheveled ragamuffin.

I pretended to accidentally run into him. I let out a yelp, one I had practiced countless times to find the perfect tone that would elicit pity, and staggered backwards a couple of steps as though I had been startled by the blow and fell backwards to the ground. As I expected, he began to immediately apologize and offered me a hand to help me up, which I took. He pulled me to my feet and I took the opportunity of his distraction as he tried to brush off my cloak for me to reach into his pocket and slide the coin purse from it and into a pouch strapped to my belt.

"I'm so sorry, Monsieur," I said as many times as I felt was necessary. "I wasn't watching where I was going! I'm so sorry!"

Unfortunately, the man was not as drunk as I had previously thought, and more than clever enough to take note that his pocket, which had once been heavy with coins, was considerably lighter. As I turned to leave, he snatched my wrist furiously, and the apologetic man who had helped me to my feet and brushed snow off my cloak turned into a frightening man indeed, reminding me of my father. It made me shudder.

"You damned filthy thief!" he snarled, yanking my arm so I stumbled backwards closer to him. He slapped me so hard the world spun. "Who the hell do you think you're messing with?! Insolent girl!" Another blow to the head. The world flickered for a moment.

I've always taken beatings without resisting, but this man was different. Others will hit me a few times, kick me once or twice, to get their point across, but this man; he didn't stop. He threw me down and didn't cease brutalizing me, kicking and punching, slapping and thrusting me against the side of the pub. I knew I was in serious trouble. A couple of kicks, a few hits, I could handle, but not this ruthless beating.

I ran for it. He yanked me back up to my feet and instead of staying still and waiting for his next punch, I wrenched myself from his grasp and took my chance to run. I felt victorious for an instant; I had escaped and his money was still on my belt, pounding against my thigh with every step as I ran, but I heard heavy footfalls behind me and realized he was pursuing me.

I panicked and did what I've never done; I sought out a crowd. I hate being around countless other people, but I was blindly, wildly, throwing myself into a scenario in which my pursuer would have to work very hard if he wished to find me, and slinking through alleys was not going to do that for me.

Working against a crowd is very similar to swimming against a monstrous current; it does not work. I was swept away, forced to move with them, unable to resist and terrified to get out should the man hunting me see my fleeing figure. I allowed myself to be led to the Opera Populaire, the massive opera house which has been advertising a new production of Hannibal for a good month and a half. They even tacked a poster to the side of my chapel, which I took care of in due fashion. I did not need some painting of a prima donna in extravagant costume on the side of my sanctuary.

Once I was within twenty feet of the opera house's ornate front doors, I felt safe to finally throw myself out of the current of people, certain I had lost the man I had stolen from. How very wrong I was. I had not been free of the crowd for thirty seconds when that same brutal hand had grasped my wrist, covered my mouth so I could not scream, and yanked me into an alley behind the opera house. He threw me to the ground and kept me pinned there, wrestling something out of his pocket and showing it to me.

I watched in mute horror as the blade of the knife glistened in the hazy light cast from the one visible streetlamp at the alley's entrance.

"You think you can steal from me and not pay for it?" the man snarled. His breath was thick with the scent of alcohol. I very nearly vomited. He spat in my face and growled some of the worst profanities at me, and once I was shaking with both anger and terror, he pressed the blade against my right cheek. "And now," he breathed with obvious, sick delight. "You pay for your crimes."

I do not scream. I never whimper. I am too used to the physical pain of beatings, too numb. But I knew he was about to mutilate me, knew he was about to murder me, and the smallest of cries escaped my lips, a pitiable sound of fear.

The knife bit into my cheek, digging into my skin with nauseating, wet, fleshy noises as he drug it in a line, long and deep. I opened my mouth and screamed.

And screamed.

And screamed.

All I could see was red and black and blood and agony and pain and fear swirling in a chaotic array before my eyes, a thin curtain for me to look upon as the knife bit into my left eyebrow. I begged for him to stop, please stop, stop or kill me, kill me, kill me, to end it, for surely this was considerably greater pain than death. He only laughed.

Crimson anguish, black despair, scarlet terror, and then nothing.

I did not wake up in that alley. I did not even wake up outside. My face felt like it had taken a hit straight from Hell and my body was so sore I was half sure if I moved I would fall apart. I opened my eyes and groaned softly, unable to suppress the sound.

I was lying awkwardly in a bed, or something that resembled a bed. It was more similar to a golden, elliptical basin, maybe even once a flamboyant boat. A swan's graceful neck and head extended out of the front end, and this bed was lined with black and red blankets of velvet and satin.

It was still very dark to my eyes, and I thought I must have been in some dimly lit place at first, but I slowly began to make out flickering candles through a black drape and realized I was surrounded by a curtain. Oh, god, it hurt to move, but I did. My muscles screamed at me in protest as I shoved myself into a sitting position and caught sight of a thick golden rope and tassel. I reached up and pulled on it. The curtain lifted.

Once I had wiped blood dribbling into my eyes, from the cut above my left eyebrow, away, my breath was very literally taken away by the room I was inside. An elaborate setup lit entirely by candlelight; countless candelabras everywhere, even extending out of the water of a glassy lake which the room dissolved into, covered by a layer of swirling mists. There were strange items and artifacts everywhere; curtained oblong shapes rested against the walls and I saw mirrors glistening inside the spaces where the cloths briefly disconnected.

Beautiful drawings papered the walls, most of them appearing to be of the same person, a girl who could have been my age or younger with a mane of wildly thick, curly brown hair. It seemed that a different technique had been used to create each picture. I was amazed by the detail. A table with a single chair before it, upon which a red cloak was draped, sat some ten feet to my left, and I crept over to examine it. Upon the table was a setup that displayed a miniature stage, depicting a grassy wonderland bathed in twilight as a backdrop. At center stage was a small wax figure with long brown hair and a beautiful snowy white dress. I pursed my lips while examining it and gasped at the pain that accompanied even that small motion.

Slowly my awe melted into alarm. Where was this wonderland I had found myself inside? For what purpose had I been brought here? And, most importantly, who was it who had transported me to this dark, candlelit room? And how was I to fight them off when agony shot through my body every time I tried to move?

"So you've awoken."

The voice was deep and soulful, vastly different from that of the man who had brutalized me outside the pub and mutilated my face in the alley. It accompanied the shifting shadows in the corner of my eye, and I turned to face the unknown man who had taken me. How I had not noticed the organ upon my sweeping glances across the room, I will never know, but it was the man, the figure who stood up from the seat before the magnificent instrument, who struck me breathless for the second time in three minutes.

He was so very unlike the man from the alley that I wanted to cry with relief. As a matter of fact, he was very unlike any man I had ever seen. He was tall and slender. His legs were long, a fact accentuated by his black trousers, and his form lithe. He wore a white shirt, ruffled on the edges that crossed beneath his chest. The sleeves were loose. I had never seen someone on the street wearing an outfit quite like that before.

And I caught sight of his face. With that, my defenses melted for a brief moment. He had raven-black hair slicked back out and away from his face, green eyes that were deep and yearning, almost mournful. His lips – oh, lord, his lips – were full, the top of his mouth shaped like a perfectly arched arrow's bow. And most noticeable, most haunting, was the white mask covering the right half of his face.

I was at once intrigued, infatuated, but my suspicious nature did not allow me to keep my guard down for longer than a few moments. I recoiled instinctually, toppling backwards and losing my balance. I knocked into a candelabra and a few white candles went toppling into the lake. The impact I felt when I hit the ground sent jolts of agony erupting throughout my entire right side, a supernova of pain exploding in my every muscle. "Who are you?!" I demanded as I tried to hold back tears of suffering. My right cheek burned with every word, with each slightest movement of my jaw. Yet more blood dripped down into my eyes. "Why have you brought me here?!"

He approached me slowly; his each footstep echoed. I was powerless to do anything but curl in on myself, wiping blood out of my eyes and praying to a God I had abandoned the moment my mother's life ended, begging him silently to take me back, to protect me from whatever was coming, and if I died to accept me into Heaven, to let me see my mother because if You exist she is surely there with You, that I was sorry, so sorry, for everything: the black magic, the theft, the lies, the deceit…

I squeezed my eyes shut, as though that would make my terror dissolve, even make my reality vanish, but I could still hear the footsteps growing closer and I could still feel the pain everywhere. Dear God, will I still even be alive in an hour?

A gentle hand cupped my chin. I flinched and braced myself. I don't know what I was expecting. Another horrendous beating? Unbearable and unwanted advances? A blow to the head, a superfluous kiss, anything that would cause me pain or yet more internal torment that could ruin me before my death?

Something cold and damp that smelled of crisp alcohol was pressed against my cheek, stinging it as though my face had erupted into fire, and I whimpered and shrunk away from the pain. A tear finally escaped from my eye, falling to the floor. Another followed, dotting the back of my hand. I looked up unto the eyes of the man from the shadows, the white mask pale and ghostly against his face. He had knelt on one knee next to me, the hand that had cupped my chin still outstretched. His expression was one of pity as he looked at me, his gaze on my cheek and my eyebrow. In his other hand was the cloth that had stung me so fiercely. Next to his knee was a bowl with a thin pool from which the same scent as the cloth wafted.

I stared at him in shock. He was helping me. There was no ill will in his expression. He was not looking to harm me; he was even cleaning out the incisions bestowed upon by the man in the alley.

He reached for my face again and took my chin. "Stay still," he ordered softly. I shuddered. His voice was so hollow, so empty. This man didn't even seem human to me. I gritted my teeth to keep from whimpering again as he pressed the cloth once more to my cheek. I saw the corner of his lips twitching as though he was amused.

"Pitiful child,

You need not fear me.

Look upon your savior."

I listened to his voice, a haunting and mellow tremor to his lyrics, and shuddered.

The alcohol seeping into the open flesh on my cheek burned at first, but slowly the pain softened and dissolved and the cloth against my cheek, which had once smarted something fierce, became more like a cold compress. He pulled it away from my cheek and I sighed in relief to have one part of me that was no longer in pain, at least.

The man repositioned the cloth in his hand and dipped it into the bowl to douse it anew and pressed it to my eyebrow. I could not restrain myself from letting out a slight moan that time. The cut there was doubtlessly very deep. I tried to ignore the pain and ran my tongue along the inside of my cheek on the right side of my mouth, confirming, thankfully, that the man had not cut so deep into my cheek that he had shoved the blade straight through it. The flesh on the inside of my mouth was unharmed.

When the searing pain over my eye had turned into no more than a dull throbbing, compliments of the alcohol's cleansing properties, the man removed the cloth from my face and set it inside the bowl. I watched the blood blossom over the cloth and bit my lip.

The man stood and picked up the bowl, turning away from me. "That should do for now."

"Thank you," I whispered. It was all I could choke out of my lungs. I shivered and looked around, trying to ease some of the uncomfortable tension hanging in the air around us and my gaze fell upon the lake. I remembered the candles as they toppled into it, disappearing beneath the glassy surface of the water. "Do you want me to get the candles?" I asked quietly.

He chuckled as he set the bowl down on the table next to his miniature stage. "No. I have many others."

I shifted into a position more comfortable than the one I was in and slowly stood up. I was shocked that my knees didn't buckle. "Why… why did you rescue me from that man?" I finally asked.

He threw me a glance. "A man like that does not deserve to live," he replied easily. "Brutalizing a girl the way he was. I regret that I did not arrive before he ruined your face with his knife."

I breathed in sharply. "You mean you killed him?" I whispered, somewhat horrified, but more ecstatic than anything. A part of me believed what this ghostly man said; the man from the alley did not deserve to live.

"Of course."

I shut my eyes and let out a breath I had only been vaguely aware of holding. I dwelled upon his words; he had said the man had ruined my face. I knew, of course, there were cuts on my face, but ruined was a very strong word.

Suddenly sick to my stomach, I staggered over to one of the curtained mirrors and pulled the drape off of it, beholding my face. At first I saw nothing unordinary. My eyes remained green and my wavy brown hair was mussed but not quite tangled, as it had not gotten the chance to weave itself into knots yet. But my mind acknowledged in my reflection the two ugly red gashes on my face; a hideous line on my cheek beginning below my eye and ending about half an inch away from the corner of my lips. A thick and jagged gash ran slantways through my eyebrow, extending from my forehead to the corner of my eye.

I clasped a hand to my mouth to muffle the sound of my horrified cry and dropped to the floor, breaking down. I had once been beautiful. That sounds so very horrible, but I knew it was true. I had been pretty, but now my face had been marred by these horrible cuts, lines that would turn into ugly puckered white scars. Who could ever love me, accept me, when my face was just as the man had said? Ruined.

I watched the mirror, watched as the reflection of the man in the mask crossed the room, until he crossed out of the mirror's line of sight and passed by my side, gathering the curtain and throwing it back over the mirror, cutting off my view of my face. He turned and looked down at me as I shook and cried. I just wasn't able to hold it in. My face, my sorry excuse for a life, was all ruined. Where could I go now? How could I make a living? Could I even continue to live when I knew there was no life for me?

"What is your name?"

The question he asked seemed so simple, but I had a difficult time replying. I don't particularly like my name. It is an old Turkish name, even though my family was primarily British and German, the name of a sultan in the 1500s. Primarily a male name, which I have always resented. I have never met, never even heard of, another female with my name. "Selim," I replied thickly.

"Selim," he repeated once. I shuddered. "The world has been cruel to you also. If you wish it, you may remain here. Here is safe from others."

I imagined it. Staying in this candlelit room. Examining the drawings plastering the walls more closely. Living here, in this place that ended in a lake and showed no connection to the world outside. What other option did I have left? It was this or return to the world and all its scorn.

My decision was obvious in my voice when I next spoke, strong and clear. "And your name?" I asked, looking up at this man, this savior of mine.

He smirked and looked down into my eyes. "Erik."

And so the story begins! This is a really long first chapter and it's weird writing the Phantom. I wasn't nearly as cognizant of the fact that he barely speaks in the movie watching it as I am now, trying to write lines for him. In character, I hope? And what are your thoughts on Selim? Oh, and the lyric thing I did – that was to the tune of "Wandering Child," the song the Phantom beckons Christine with inside the cemetery at her father's shrine. Did you like it? I'll be doing more of those, trying to create my own lyrics to match my story and altering others for my purposes.

So, drop me a line if you want to see this continued! I'm pretty dang excited about it!

Thanks for reading!

Phantom, out!