So, I just need to make a clarification, first and foremost. A couple out there may recognize this story: that is because I previously published it a while ago. It was a chapter story upon its first submission. However, I have resubmistted it for a couple of reasons: I wished to publish it as a Oneshot rather than chapter story, and I wanted to make an necessary revisions that I saw were needed. I found the idea for the chapter story to be a pleasant one, but realized quickly that I had not thought the idea through, and the way I wanted to finish the chapters was either unrealistic or completely and totally out of character.
Plus, I had always thought this could have just made I nice little Oneshot story.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, scoundrels and lords, alike!" the gypsy shouted to the crowd. "Some of you have no doubt crossed all seven seas, been to lands near and far, journeyed far beyond the boundaries of what you call home! Some of you have never left this town. Regardless, I can guarantee that you have never set your eyes on something so unique...so terrifying...so disturbing...as what you are about to see. It is something that will play with your mind. It looks like a demon from the deepest depths of hell...yet makes a sound so angelic that it makes you want to cry out."
It was completely dark, and by now all the ladies in the crowd were wide-eyed in anticipation, while the boys were smiling and looking at each other in equal anticipation. The men stitched their eyebrows, trying to piece together exactly what it was they were about to see. The rather large tent they were in was simply abuzz with anxiety. The dirt ground was nearly bare of grass, as hundreds of other people, who had also come here to experience the thrill of the show, had kicked it up, moving around in either fear or excitement. The only light was coming from a couple of lit candles behind a curtain toward the back of the tent, to which every eye was set upon.
The gypsy, standing in front of the curtain, and finding enjoyment in the fact that he was causing so much curiosity and interest in the crowd, smiled and put his arms up. "Everyone, please stand back. We don't want anyone too close. The strongest man in here may faint at the sight of it."
The front row obeyed. The tent was now completely silent as the gypsy took hold of the curtain and pulled it back, revealing what was behind it. The women screamed. The boys and men grimaced. Murmurs were heard everywhere as people stepped backwards a few inches or turned their faces away in disgust. The gypsy grinned gleefully at their reactions. For, standing behind the curtain, was a man, standing on a large wooden platform, six feet long and six feet wide, raised about two inches above the ground. It was a man without a nose. With eyes as sunken as they were mismatched. With yellow blotches covering his skin. With lips that were painfully swollen on one side. With a frame so tall and thin, one could swear that he had never eaten a meal in his entire life.
This man's name was Erik, but here, he was known as...
"The Singing Corpse, I give you!" the gypsy roared.
Erik stared in utter hatred out to the crowd, which only increased the amount of horror people saw in his face. It darkened his features, made them all the more terrifying. But Erik was past caring. He had done this routine too many times to feel pain. To feel anguish. He had moved on to dull anger and utter loathing for those who looked upon him and saw nothing but a monster.
He was chained there, right to the spot, just as he always was. Two small wooden stands stood at both sides of the platform, each one holding a lit candle, which now cast a dull glow upon the crowd. His bed was a mere animal skin with hay underneath to mimic a mattress on the wooden platform. His toilet was a pot, something which had been taken outside for tonight's performance, as it always was. His food was brought to him daily. His only form of recreation was to imagine up songs to sing, to remember them, and to prepare them for what he was about to do.
He watched as people gawked at him, this living skeleton, this demon, as he took a deep breath, and opened his mouth to sing.
If women were screaming, if men were murmuring, if boys were gagging, they stopped immediately. If they were moving, they ceased. If they were looking away, every eye was now throughly trained on The Singing Corpse. And sing he did. In fact, they were possibly the loveliest notes that they had ever heard. Such a marvelous tenor voice! The gypsy had been quite correct in saying it was a voice of angels. How could something that beautiful come out of something that hideous?
Their ears continued in this utter bliss, a bliss that they had never known before, as Erik sung to the very last syllable of the song. Some had tears in their eyes. Some had left the tent, those of whom the beauty and contradiction of it all had been too much. Some were entirely untouched, still only seeing the monster behind the voice.
"And I give you," the gypsy bellowed, "the Singing Corpse!"
The rest was usually a blur. The ending of every performance always was. This was most likely due to the fact that he had been so involved in his sweet music that he couldn't focus on anything else. Or maybe it was because he didn't wish to hear what people said of him as they shuffled out of his sorry little home.
"Thank you, my good people, thank you for viewing!" The gypsy said cordially as he held the tent flap open for the masses. Erik watched as they went out one by one, the gypsy smiling in a sickly sweet kind of way, until the very last patron had been let out. As soon as there was no one left in the tent but himself and his master, that master turned to him with a look of pure rage upon his face.
Erik could always anticipate what was to happen next. He braced himself and closed his eyes. After only seconds, he let out a loud yell as the sharp pain of a whip hit hard upon his back. He opened his eyes and stared in hatred upon the gypsy.
"Don't you look at me with those unnatural eyes, you demon," he said, and whipped Erik once more, which caused him to let out a second scream. He dropped the whip and smirked at the poor, deformed man, chained helplessly to the spot. "That was one of the worst performances this week. Not powerful! No feeling in your singing. None whatsoever!"
Erik wanted desperately to remark that the gypsy had absolutely no idea about anything to do with music, and so he should shut his fat mouth about feeling and power in singing. But, of course, he knew much better than that. He did not exactly enjoy feeling the whip upon his back. All that he could do was stand, frozen to the spot, seething and staring at the ground.
The gypsy gave him one last disgusted glance as he said, "I am going to bed. I expect much better next time. Or else." And with that, he was gone.
Erik could still feel the sting of the whip upon his back as he made his way to his sad little mattress, the sound of his chains clinking as he moved. He found his crudely made black mask and fastened it upon his face, sighing in relief that his face was at last covered. Erik pulled on the curtains that seperated the viewing area from his "room", shutting himself off officially from the rest of the cruel world. He laid back upon the bed, and closed his eyes at last, still seeing the dull glow of the candles through his closed eyelids. He wasn't going to touch them; he would let them burn out on their own.
Mere munutes had passed, half an hour, at most, when he was disturbed by the sound of a shuffling near the curtain. He kept his eyes closed. It was probably only a rat. They were not uncommon here. He took a deep breath and attempted to ignore it.
His rat theory, however, was proved quite wrong.
"Excuse me," said a voice weakly.
Erik's eyes shot open and stared to where the voice had come from. A girl, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, was staring at him through wide, uncertain blue eyes, as she stood in front of the curtain. She was holding her small hands tightly within one another. A strip of her brown, curly hair fell onto her face, and she moved quickly to brush it away with one of those hands. Still, her eyes never left Erik.
Erik sat up quickly, the sounds of the chains rattling filling the tent once more. The girl looked at the chains briefly, her eyes widening impossibly even more, before looking back at the now sitting Erik.
Erik stared incredulously and angrily at the girl, now wishing that he didn't look such a sorry mess, dirty and in chains, sitting upon the floor on a bed of skins and hay. He remembered that the gypsy had forgotten to take in the chamberpot, and was suddenly quite thankful for that.
"What are you doing back here?" Erik hissed."You are not to be here! It is after hours. The show is over. Go away!"
The girl flinched slightly at his words but made no move to leave. Despite her look of uncertainty, Erik noticed that there was something that seemed quite strong in her gaze. A sort of fearlessness, even within her hesitation.
She took a few moments, still staring, before she took a deep breath. "Are you all right?"
Erik stared at her, unblinking. "I'm sorry?"
She looked down. "I know that the show is over, but the carnival is still going on, and my father is probably looking for me before it closes in about half an hour, but I lost my hat. I told him that I would be right back and came back here to find it...this is where I lost it." She glanced up at him and then looked back down. "It's still lost, someone must have taken it. But..." she looked up at Erik again and kept her eyes there. "I was one of the last people out and I had heard something that sounded like whips. And it wasn't just the sound of the whips that I came back here for. You didn't seem all right during the show either. Which is, of course, understandable, given the circumstances."
Erik could only stare at her in disbelief as he listened to her words. Had he fallen asleep? He must have. No one had ever taken an interest in his state of well being like this before.
When he didn't respond, she said again in an audible whisper, "Are you all right?"
In nearly a monotone, Erik responded, "What do you care?"
The girl seemed slightly taken aback. "What do you mean, what do I care?"
"I mean, what do you care if I am all right?"
The girl's eyes were wide again. "I care because..." she faltered slightly. "I just do."
There was a moment of silence before Erik broke it, his voice no longer a monotone. "Were you not there, in the crowd during the show?
"Of course I was," the girl responded. She raised her head and stitched her eyebrows.
"Were you not there when that curtain was pulled back?"
"Of course I was."
"Did you not see my face?"
By now the girl now looked slightly confused as she continued to stare, "Of course I did!"
Erik breathed deeply, his confusion now as great as hers. He whispered, "And you are not horrified?"
The girl was taken aback once more. She looked at him, her eyebrows now so close together, that if they had come any closer they would have fused and merged. She opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again. Part of Erik expected her to say yes, to realize that she didn't actually want to speak with a beast like him, and to leave.
She spoke. "Surprised? Yes. Horrified? No." She shook her head. "I mean, it's just a face, isn't it? It doesn't matter, does it?" She waited for a response from him, but none came. Softly, she answered her own question, "It doesn't to me."
Erik also shook his head. "Perhaps not to you, but to the rest of humanity, it certainly does."
"Well, they are all ignorant."
He let out a bark of a laugh and smiled, something he hadn't done in a very long time. He agreed, of course, but it sounded so ridiculous. "The entirety of humanity is ignorant?"
She smiled slightly, almost shyly. She looked down, and that strip of hair fell back upon her face. Again she brushed it away. "Well...I have always thought so, anyways."
There was a second pause as both of their smiles slowly disappeared. "My face truly doesn't matter to you?" Erik asked.
She looked up at him again, and said, very sternly, "No."
He snorted and shook his head, looking down at his chains. How he wished that other people would see what this girl sees. If they did, he wouldn't be locked up here with no way out. "You are unique, then," he stated softly, and looked back up into her eyes through the holes in his mask.
She was the one now to let out a bark of a laugh, as she cast her eyes up. "Yes, well, that is what everyone says. And that could be the reason why I don't have friends. People don't exactly appreciate uniqueness."
His smile returned. "Well, people are ignorant, aren't they?"
She then stared at him for a few moments before her face broke out into a large, bright smile. They stayed like that a while before they heard a yell in the distance. It sounded very much like a man calling out a name.
Christine was suddenly alert, as her eyes went wide and her body went stiff. "That was my father. I need to go. Goodnight."
But before she could leave the small area to go outside, he raised his eyebrows and made to pull forward onto his knees, ignoring the sound of the chains. "Wait! What is your name?"
"Christine," she said, looking at him again. "And yours?"
"Erik." It felt strange, really, exchanging names like this. He hadn't done so in years.
She smiled again. "Goodbye, Erik."
"Goodbye, Christine," he said softly, and she was gone. He relaxed against the bed once more, getting ready to lay back down. Moments later, however, her head popped back in through the curtain, much to Erik's surprise.
"And by the way," she said, "your voice was lovely. Absolutely beautiful. I am taking lessons now, but it has always been my dream to sing like that. Thank you for letting me hear it. Goodbye again."
He stared at her as she left through the curtains again, this time for good. Outside, he could hear a man's voice yelling, and then hers, pleading with the man. That must have been her father, worried. Well, if he had a daughter, he would have been worried also. Especially if his daughter had gone to take a visit to The Singing Corpse.
Erik went on his back and turned over, closing his eyes. It was a miracle, really. Someone as good and beautiful as that girl had actually cared about his well being. He suddenly hoped that she would have the best life anyone could have, a life completely opposite of the one that he led. He wanted the goodness that she gave off to be recipricated back onto her, but ten times greater. He wanted her utter kindness to be seen by others, and for them to thank her for it with gifts and love like she had never known.
His master need not worry about him singing with feeling and power tomorrow, for he would most certainly be doing so. He would be singing of light. Of kindness. Of sweetness. Of goodness.
He would be singing for Christine.
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