And we're back with chapter 2! Thank you for reading this far, and to those who reviewed my chapter one, I love you so much right now! Hopefully the story moves smoothly. I like writing a lot of description, don't I? I noticed that in the last chapter… but I thought it went along with the atmosphere, so I kept it the way it was. More lyrics in this chapter! That may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you like them.
Disclaimer: No, I don't own the Phantom! If I owned it do you think I'd be sitting here writing fanfictions for it?!
I didn't like the mask I wore. It felt wrong. It felt like a lie. Too long had my life centered around lies, and this mask covering a decent portion of my face felt like a horrible sin.
Erik was a master. A master at everything. His voice sent chills up my spine, his music haunted me long after he had struck the final chords, his drawings enchanted me, and the delicate craftsmanship he used to create wax figurines and stage different scenes from the opera house's upcoming production of Hannibal was nothing short of incredible. Everything he did, I paid the closest attention to and was utterly amazed by.
I learned that the room I had woken up in was part of Erik's home, located in the recesses of the Opera Populaire, and that in order to leave and to reach it one had to navigate a small boat through the damp tunnels of the catacombs. His home consisted, I discovered, of several smaller rooms; the organ, a piano I hadn't noticed upon my first examination of the room, and his miniature stage, as well as a majority of the candelabras, were located in the central segment; hidden behind curtains were smaller alcoves. One was his bedroom – the room I had awoken in – another a very little used kitchen of sorts, and others were filled with various projects he was apparently in the midst of; drawings and designs and other artistic creations. There were very few unfilled alcoves, and one of them I took for my own; the smallest one, which was closest in proximity to Erik's own room.
He called himself the phantom of the opera.
He would disappear for hours at a time and return looking smug, almost content, before seating himself at the organ and slaving away before it, only occasionally placing his hands to the keys and playing a few lines of chilling melody before he would take a quill to paper and map out complex scores of music. He was writing an opera, he told me when I asked, and refused to play me any piece from his score in its completed form. If he was in a good mood he would placate me with pieces by Mozart or some other famous composer, and if he wasn't he would chase me away, yelling at me about leaving him to let him work in peace.
I took the opportunities presented by his absence to satisfy my very human needs; food and bathing, primarily, and sometimes sleep. I preferred to be awake when he was here and working on his music, so I could listen for the sounds of the organ. I very dearly wanted to see where he went every day, sometimes twice a day, but Erik had not yet allowed me to venture out.
My third day in this place, when my muscles had begun to feel normal again, my cuts had scabbed over, and the bruises all over my body had begun to heal, Erik returned from one of his outings with clothes for me. I hadn't given any thought to clothing before that – not given much thought to anything, really. I could barely move the second day without groaning, and the things my mind was occupied with were not so mundane as things like clothing.
The clothes were not my usual black; one was a green dress, with a button missing – though I could easily fix that. Another was an ornate pink dress I would have never dreamed of wearing before. Another was red, and the last was white. They all had a flair to and something slightly wrong with them – a button missing, a small tear, stitching unraveled – that gave me the impression he had taken them from the opera house's costume supplies, most likely from a long-forgotten mending pile.
I made a bed out of two pillows, several layers of cloth, and blankets for the first few nights and slept quite comfortably cocooned in them, and Erik amazed me further by arriving back at the lair one day pulling another boat, a simple wooden basin, behind him. I helped him pull it out of the water and place it in the alcove I had claimed for myself, arranging the blankets I had been sleeping with inside of it in an attempt to recreate the setup he had in his bedroom. It wasn't nearly as impressive, but very comfortable.
Today he bestowed upon me a mask, similar to his, but which would cover a larger expanse of my face. It ran slantways from the right side of my chin, across my nose, and past the corner of my left eye in a way that would cover the scars on my cheek and over my eyebrow, which had healed in the last week and a half to the puckered white lines I had anticipated. While they looked much better than the angry red cuts they once had been, I could still barely stand to look at my reflection.
I could not fathom why he had made a mask for me. Either he pitied me and thought it would do my soul some good to cover the marks etched forever into my skin, or he couldn't stand to look at the scars on my face himself. I found myself praying more and more that it was the former of my suspicions. I assumed the mask he wore was to hide some disfigurement of his own, based purely on the fact that, since the half of his face not covered was so beautiful, he must have wanted to conceal that the other side was not so enchanting. I couldn't know for sure, though, as he never let me see him unmasked.
I pushed aside a curtain draped over one of the several mirrors hidden on one side of the vast central room of his – our – home, and examined the way I looked wearing the mask. I was like a phantom myself, and while I loved all the symbolic resonances that could be associated with it, the mask still felt like a lie. It would have looked much more haunting if I had been clad in black like I usually preferred, but today I wore the green dress, which did admittedly make my emerald eyes strangely piercing.
I let the curtain fall back over the mirror and turned away from it, fingering the mask as I stepped down from one of the many platforms Erik's lair consisted of, several of them located before his wall of covered mirrors. I felt Erik's eyes on me and shivered. He had been sitting at his table with the miniature stage, absorbed in writing some sort of note. He stood and crossed the floor in a few strides. "What do you think?" he asked.
I froze when he came towards me and began to shift my weight from one leg to the other uncomfortably. I didn't dislike the mask, per say, but I wasn't particularly fond of it, either. "It's… it's different," I finally replied. The difficulty of responding was irritating.
He closed the distance between us. He was wearing his black cape, black jacket, and black gloves. Why I noticed that at this moment is beyond my comprehension. I was highly cognizant of everything he wore, said, did, played…
He reached for my face and began to turn it to the side, examining the way it fitted on me. "How does it feel?" he inquired. "I was forced to estimate the dimensions."
"It's fine," I mumbled, shrinking away from him and telling my heart to stop pounding, for god's sake! All he'd done was touch me and I was having a near heart attack.
I was not sure if he was dejected or amused or what by my very obvious embarrassment – I was blushing from ear to ear, though only one of my cheeks was visible when I was wearing the mask – but he went back to the table and removed the bronze spoon of wax from its place suspended over a candle and dripped it over the seal of an envelope inside of which I could see a note with his slanting script. He replaced the spoon and grasped a heavy seal stamp, pressing it over the circle of wax on the envelope. When he lifted it, the wax had molded into a nightmarish skull with a sneering face. I was both intrigued and somewhat repulsed.
Erik turned back to me. "Come," he said. "It seems two fools have just taken over management of my theater. We must welcome them in proper fashion."
He said we. He was placing us together. Why was my heart beating so hard, so fast?
He went down to the edge of the water, next to the place he had tied the boat last time he returned from one of his mysterious errands. He turned and looked back at me. I had remained where I was, frozen as I understood that he was allowing me out. He was going to take me to the surface with him. I was frightened by the very prospect. There were people on the surface. People were awful; I couldn't trust them.
Erik extended a hand and beckoned to me. "Quickly," he instructed. "There are plans that must be put into motion before the afternoon draws to a close."
I took a deep, centering breath and scolded myself for being such a wimp. Gathering up my courage, I went up to the water's edge beside him. He offered me his hand when I was clambering into the boat, which I was glad for; my clumsiness would surely have sent me toppling into the water without his steadying grasp. I lowered myself down onto the wooden seat, shuddering as I caught sight of my reflection; the white mask made me look like half a skeleton. Erik untied and gracefully climbed into the boat before he took hold of the pole I had watched him use countless times as he departed on his unknown outings to propel the watercraft. Silently, he dipped it into the water and we began to glide.
After a few minutes without conversation, the only sound that of the water lapping against the side of the boat and the stone walls, Erik began to sing under his breath as though chanting,
"I am your Angel of music.
Come to me, Angel of music…"
He seemed to be in another place, thinking about something far outside the catacombs. But even so, I believed the words he sang. He was an Angel of Music. That I had no doubt of.
The journey on the boat lasted only a few minutes more, and we came to a stop when the water ended in stone. I scrambled out of the boat, grateful to be able to plant my feet on solid ground. I've never much enjoyed traveling by water. Erik snatched a torch out of its holder on the wall and held it out before him, beckoning to me as an indicator that I should follow him.
The corridor was dark and our footsteps echoed. I was too nervous to speak.
A black figure rose before us as we continued down the hall and I recognized a horse's form. I grinned and rushed past Erik for the creature. I've always been fond of horses; my mother would tease me all the time that I could go into the wild and live with them. He was a gorgeous black Friesian, and when I reached my hand out he pressed his muzzle into my palm.
Erik came up beside me. "Do you ride?" he asked, watching as I pressed my cheek against the horse's jowl.
I nodded. "Oh, yes. It's been quite a while, of course… a few years. Not since my mother died—" I stopped at once as a wave of grief ripped through me. I bit my lip and stepped away from the horse. "He is beautiful," I whispered, wiping tears out of my eyes.
"His name is Caesar," Erik informed me, guiding me past the horse as we continued up the corridor. "He's a mild-tempered creature."
I had noticed. Caesar had a sweet disposition. I recovered from the small episode of anguish that had struck me back at the horse over my mother's death, scolding myself for still crying over something that had happened three, almost four, years ago.
We turned a sharp corner, down a narrow hallway that I would have overlooked had he not suddenly seemed to disappear into the wall. A minute more of walking in silence and we reached a door. He pushed it open and slipped through it, and I followed.
I cringed at once from the noise. A female voice, very loud and so high I thought that somewhere glass must be shattering from the sheer vibration the voice caused, was singing a capella into the empty theater auditorium. The voice was not exactly unpleasant to listen to, but it was certainly no picnic. I clasped my hands over my ears and still heard every word.
"This trophy from our saviors
From our saviors
From the enslaving force of Rome!"
I cringed when she hit the last note. It sounded like it would hurt to even attempt to sing. A chorus followed the voice, much easier to listen to.
"With feasting and dancing and song
Tonight in celebration…"
I was pulled out of my trance when I felt a gloved hand grip my wrist. I let out an involuntary gasp and looked up at Erik, who pressed a finger to his lips by way of telling me to be quiet. I nodded, blushing, and glanced around. We were standing on a precariously arranged walkway in the rafters, which was above even the intricate system of bridges over the stage with levers and pulleys that controlled the curtains and other elaborate stage props. Standing next to one of the pulleys, taking a swig from a bottle of alcohol, was a rather gruff, scruffy-looking man with scraggly hair.
Erik pulled me along the walkway in the rafters until he swung down onto a part of the bridge over the stage that was outside of the man's line of sight. I swung down after him and we stood there, looking down upon the rehearsal. My chest began to hurt from the envy I was experiencing, watching every person on and offstage – we were in a place that could easily see both. Onstage was a wild array of people in costumes of blue and red and gold that flashed and glistened, blinding me when the light caught their metal armor and bangles just right. They were all silent, save for one man in the center of them all, an unattractive man with wild blue face paint and rather overweight. His voice was nasally.
"Sad to return to find the land we love
Threatened once more by Roma's far-reaching grasp!"
All at once the music stopped and three men, not in costume but dressed professionally, crossed the stage, halting the rehearsal. The conductor was none too pleased. "Monsieur Lefevre, I am rehearsing!" he protested, moving from his place at the head of the orchestra pit and clambering onto the stage to make his complaint better heard.
I glanced at Erik and saw he was entirely focused on something below us, his gaze towards the chorus standing offstage. I tried to find who it was he was staring so fervently at, but it was impossible to tell. My mind half-occupied with that, I attempted to listen to the conversation taking place below. One of the men who had interrupted announced his retirement and introduced the new owners of the Opera Populaire, the two men beside him, Monsieurs Firmin and Andre. Monsieur Firmin introduced the opera house's new patron, and a young man with a mop of sandy hair and wearing the clothes of a nobleman came from offstage, introduced as the Vicomte de Chagny.
Next to me, Erik made a sound highly akin to a low, throaty growl.
Two of the chorus girls, a blonde with doe eyes and a brunette with curly hair, seemed rather taken aback by the sight of the Vicomte. My eyes widened as I realized the brunette was the girl Erik had so many drawings of back at our lair.
So then, she was what had his undivided attention.
Pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made. I caught the name Carlotta, which I remembered seeing on the poster advertising Hannibal that I had ripped off the side of my chapel.
Rehearsals began again, and I watched the brunette girl as Erik was. I glanced at his expression every few moments; each time I saw in his face longing that was almost painful to look at. The new owners followed behind a woman called Madame Giry, who was apparently the head of the ballet, watching the chorus girls dance. Monsieur Firmin took interest in both the blonde and the brunette. The blonde was Meg Giry, the Madame's own daughter, and the brunette Erik watched with such yearning Christine Daae, the daughter of, evidently, a famous and deceased Swedish violinist.
She was beautiful. I could see how Erik would be so infatuated with her. Her face was perfect. Not like mine, I noted with a pang of sorrow.
The entire cast began to sing and an elephant was rolled out onto center stage. I deducted that what I was witnessing was the climax of the opera. Carlotta's voice overpowered the others, painfully high. She seemed to be screaming the words at the new owners.
"Hear the drums!
The minute the music ended, she threw an absolute fit. "All day! All they want is the dancing!"
I could sense a tempest coming from her, but the new theater owners, evidently, did not. They discussed something I could not hear, and Carlotta stormed up to them and proceeded to inform them that she would not be singing during the night's performance.
They ran after her across the stage, begging her to come back. I rolled my eyes. Carlotta was making it very apparent that it was she who was running the theater, not them. Erik, for some reason, though, seemed pleased to see her making her leave, and even smirked when one of the new owners mentioned something about an aria for her character in act three.
I almost jumped out of my skin when Erik whispered into my ear, "I have something I need you to do for me."
My heart was racing and blood was roaring in my ears. Oh, god, my entire face must have been red. Certainly he could see me blushing, even with the mask I wore. "What is it?" I breathed back, rather disconnectedly. Not only had he scared the hell out of me, his breath on my ear had sent a shudder down my spine that I could not say I didn't enjoy.
"That man at the pulley for the backdrop is in my way at present. Joseph Buquet. A troubling man indeed. Lure him away from his post. A minute or two will do, but only when I tell you to."
I got the most peculiar, almost sick sensation in my stomach when I thought about doing as he asked me, as if an unseen force were trying to warn me that something dreadful was about to occur, but I nodded in assent. Trying to ignore the feeling, I turned my attention back to Carlotta. "I have not my costume for act three because somebody not finish it! And, I hate my hat!" It took a considerable amount of concentration to understand her; she had a very thick Italian accent. She said something else, a little softer, and then smiled. "If my managers command."
What a spoiled brat, I thought fleetingly.
Erik's lips very close to my ear again, sending another shiver down my spine. "Go now," he ordered, his voice eager, almost excited.
I had no idea what exactly I was to do, but I set off anyway, messing with my hair so it covered a good portion of the masked side of my face. Oh, god, what was I doing?
Taking a deep breath, I stepped out into the man's – Buquet's – line of sight. "Monsieur," I called softly.
The moment he turned to me, I jolted and made a run for it, away from the direction I had come. He followed me, which I was glad for at first, since I was supposed to lure him away, keep him distracted. Now I'd gotten his attention; but what was I to do if he caught up to me?
I swallowed hard and turned at a corner of the wooden walkway over the stage. Buquet was calling after me, even laughing a little, as though he thought he was pursuing a seductive young woman. I tried to drown him out by listening to Carlotta sing. Her voice irritated me somewhat, but it was better than hearing Buquet's playful taunts.
"Remember me once in a while;
Please promise me you'll try!
When you find that once again you long
To take your heart back and be free—!"
I almost stopped short when I heard the sound of grinding wooden wheels and a horrible crash, followed immediately by Carlotta's high pitched scream of anger and pain. I glanced over my shoulder and downward to see that a large piece of the scenery had collapsed on top of her, and she was screeching at anyone who could hear. "I hate you! Lift it up!"
Buquet swore colorfully and turned around, racing back for his post. I almost collapsed on the spot, breathing heavily. I was shaking something terrible now, which I couldn't quite understand; when I had been in the middle of luring him away, I had been fine. Why was I panicking now?
"Selim," Erik's sharp voice came from my left, and I let out a little squeal of shock. Luckily, the sound was lost by Carlotta's continued, furious screams. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me along the walkway until we had reached a different corner of it, and he hoisted himself up onto the wooden platform balancing precariously on the rafters above us. Trying not to think about my imminent death should I fall, I jumped for the platform and got a hold on it with my arms, clawing my way onto it so I could pull myself up entirely. Erik grabbed my left arm and yanked me up, not very gently. I grimaced and bit my lip to keep from making a sound of pain.
I decided that I would have to work on getting less clumsy.
I couldn't see the stage at the moment; I could only listen.
"Buquet! For God's sake, man, what is going on up there?!"
I heard Buquet yell back, "Please, Monsieur, don't look at me! As God's my judge, I wasn't at my post! Please, Monsieur, there's no one there! Or if there is, well then... it must be a ghost!" I could hear the glee in his voice when he spoke the last part.
Erik pulled the envelope he had finished preparing before we'd departed out of his pocket and dropped it over the edge of our platform. I craned my neck so I could look over the platform, watching the letter flutter to the ground. Madame Giry caught sight of it and picked it up from its spot on the floor.
"Signora, these things do happen," one of the new owners pleaded with the prima donna.
She would have none of it. "For the past three years, these things do happen. And did you stop them from happening? No! And you two! You are as bad as him! These things do happen. UGH! Until you stop these things from happening, this thing does not happen! Ubaldo! Andiamo!" she yelled as she stormed away. "Bring my doggy and my boxy!"
A spoiled brat indeed.
The overweight man with the nasally voice added dissatisfiedly, "Amateurs!"
"Now you see, bye-bye! I'm really leaving!" Carlotta's voice grew fainter.
I glanced up at Erik. He was smiling.
I knew he had dropped the set. Who else? I wondered what on earth his goal could be. Sabotage? Some grudge against the spoiled Italian soprano? What?
The former owner departed forthwith, leaving the two new owners to panic. "Signora Giudecceli… she will be coming back, won't she?" one of them asked nervously.
"You think so, Monsieur?" Madame Giry asked, stepping forward. The letter, opened, was in her hand. "I have a message, Sir, from the Opera Ghost."
Oh, this I simply had to hear.
"God in Heaven, you're all obsessed!" the more assertive of the new owners complained.
Madame Giry paid him no mind. "He welcomes you to his opera house—"
"His opera house?!"
Next to me, Erik chuckled softly, deeply amused. I got the impression that this truly was his opera house. Somehow, he seemed to have everything running according to his agenda.
"—And he commands that you continue to leave box five empty for his use," Madame Giry continued, pointing her cane at the theater box closest to the stage on the left side of the auditorium. "And reminds you that his salary is due."
"His salary?!" the new owner exclaimed.
"Well, Monsieur Lafevre used to give him twenty thousand francs a month," Madame Giry informed him casually, swinging her long braid over her shoulder.
My mouth dropped open. That was more money than I had seen in three years. Erik made more in a month than I had over the course of three years – and he wasn't even really doing anything for them. Maybe it was merely a bribe to keep him from bringing calamity upon the Opera Populaire.
"Twenty thousand francs?!" the owner asked, snatching the letter away from Madame Giry.
She cast him a condescending glance, almost mischievous. "Perhaps you can afford more… with the Vicomte as your patron?" she inquired, stepping away from the two men.
I kind of liked her sass.
The man tore the letter in half as he complained about a number of things; the fact that he was supposed to announce the Vicomte as their patron that evening, that they would have to cancel the performance, that they had no star as La Carlotta had no understudy, that a full house would have to be refunded – and then Madame Giry spoke again. "Christine Daae could sing it, Sir," she suggested, indicating the girl with the wild mane of curly brown hair.
"What, a chorus girl? Don't be silly!" the man scoffed.
"She has been taking lessons from a great teacher," Madame Giry pressed. I knew from her tone that she was not going to let this matter drop. Erik's entire demeanor swelled with pride.
Christine lowered her gaze and said, almost too softly for me to hear, "I don't know his name, Sir."
It all became very clear to me in that moment. Erik was obsessed with this girl, Christine Daae. I felt like such an idiot for not realizing that the instant I recognized her as the girl in all his drawings. He had been teaching her to sing and this entire setup had been all for this – ensuring her a place in the performance at the opera house tonight. He truly was a genius.
And he had used me.
Christine Daae began to sing, and I was almost floored by the purity, the innocence, the beauty and raw emotion, of her voice. Erik seemed to be in a state of extreme serenity. Finding myself unable to bear it, I navigated the walkway above the rafters until I came to the small door we had come from and slipped inside of it with Christine Daae's voice chasing after me.
"If you ever find a moment,
Spare a thought for me."
I shut the door, let out a ragged sigh, and slid to the ground, holding my head. Why did I feel so sick? Why was my chest aching?
I allowed myself a single sob and one tear to slide down my cheek, right over my scar.
This was another really long chapter. I think Selim is going to sing in the next one, yay! I'm really excited for that. Anyway, what did you guys think? It's kind of obvious that Selim likes Erik, but what are your opinions on him? I'd really like to know if he's in character or not. Those 14 lines he spoke in the movie aren't giving me a whole lot to work with and I'm struggling a little with him.
Anyway, thanks very much for reading, I love you all, please review, and I'll see you in chapter 3!