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Story [The Phantom of the Opera] "My Spirit Longs With Thee to Rest" | Angst Challenge #1

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Oct 30, 2022.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “My Spirit Longs With Thee to Rest”
    Fandom (Phandom? :p): The Phantom of the Opera
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Drama, Angst (phangst? [face_mischief])
    Time Frame: 1885 (five years post-canon)
    Characters: Christine Daaé; various OCs and ECs (eventually)

    Summary: After her divorce, Christine Daaé embarks upon a journey of discovery to reclaim her missing sense of self, following the music across Europe to where, perhaps, her spirit has always longed to be.

    Author’s Notes: I should perhaps start these notes by saying that I've been working on this story in bits and pieces over the past few years. Mostly, it's been my excuse to research a bunch of places I would someday love to visit and listen to lots of music that I wouldn't know otherwise. :p Alas, I have too many irons in the fire with my writing right now, so I'm not ready to commit to posting this piece in full. Even so, the Angstmongers Anonymous' Gothic Quote Roulette gave me the perfect opportunity to write this vignette, which will also serve as the prologue for that longer story I hope to someday tell. I mean, I just couldn't resist when my quote, quite fittingly, was:

    #8. “He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.” (Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera)

    Yeah, my reply all but wrote itself. [face_mischief]

    That said, this story continues the themes I developed in I May Be Dreaming Awake. I consider this to be both the sequel of my heart to those vignettes and canon as a whole. Towards that end, as always, my writing is a mash-up of Leroux's original novel, Susan Kay's Phantom retelling, and of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Broadway musical, all with a few tweaks and additions and remissions of my own.

    For anyone who may be interested in even more of my rambling, I have further notes under the spoiler tag! Then, all that's left for me to say is that I thank you all for reading and hope that you enjoy! [:D]

    A Note on Faust: My title is a tribute to the final act of the opera Faust, and Gaston Leroux's translation of Gounod's lyrics in his novel. In Leroux’s story, Marguerite’s entreaty of “holy angel in heaven blessed, my spirit longs with thee to rest!” was the exact lyric upon which Erik absconded with Christine from the stage. Because theater nerds and authors can’t resist such dramatic irony, it would seem. [face_mischief]

    Further in mind for me was the 1990 PotO miniseries, where Erik and Christine actually sang the finale of Faust together. This miniseries isn't necessarily my go-to rendition of Phantom, but it still holds a special place in my heart as its own story. I particularly appreciate how its final stage scene is a happy medium between Leroux's novel and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. There's such a wonderful sense of euphoria between this version of Erik and Christine for singing together that really captures a vital part of their dynamic - perhaps even more so than the not-so-subtle manner of ALW's Point of No Return. :p These performers have absolutely lovely voices, too, even if nothing can quite compare to the novel's description of both characters' virtuosic talents. Isn't it interesting when a written medium can actually trump an audial and visual one in an instance such as this, at least in some respects? [face_thinking]

    Anyway, all that to say that this scene is fantastic, and I highly recommend giving it a watch! I also have to give a special nod to Philipe/Raoul's acting (his hurt and anger is on par with Patrick Wilson's honest to goodness tears in the 2004 ALW movie, which gets me every time =(() and the comedic brilliance of the actor playing Méphistophélès. The way he just rolls with the Phantom crashing the opera and carries on with his lines is just the best. :p

    (For those who are keeping track, I'm pretty sure that the lyric for my title is at 3:07, if I'm following along with the libretto correctly. It's more than possible that someone with more than my passing knowledge on the subject or understanding of the language may be able to tell me if I'm wrong. ;))

    A Note on Aida: The opera I quote from in this story is the finale of Verdi's Aida. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who may not know the plot - and for those of you who do, why yes, isn't it fitting? [face_mischief] In Susan Kay's Phantom, Erik and Christine sing this duet together and it's quite a . . . well, it's an intense scene, suffice to say. If you're curious, now or after reading this piece, here's an absolutely lovely rendition that I listened to on repeat while I was writing! [face_love]

    A Note on Elements Borrowed From Kay: The spider scene, Christine's complete inability to brew tea on a samovar, along with mentions of Erik's time in Rome and Tehran are also borrowed from Susan Kay's Phantom with respect and admiration. [face_love] Kay's novel tells Erik's story from birth to death, with only a portion of the chapters dedicated to the events we better know with Christine. It's definitely a hard, uncomfortable read at times, but it's worth getting your hands on if only for the section from Giovanni's POV. Giovanni was a master stonemason in Rome who took Erik on as an apprentice for a time. Reading about an awkward 14/15-year-old Erik - who's already a runaway and a killer (to escape from the carnival that imprisoned him), who understandably mistrusted all the world but wasn't quite wholly bitter and jaded yet - bonding with this kindly old man and finding a sort of father figure in him before tragedy struck is probably my favorite part of the novel. Well, that and Nadir's subsequent POV, because obviously. The Daroga is just the best in any version. :p

    But that's enough rambling from me. Now, on with the show, as they say! I thank you all for reading, and hope that you enjoy! [face_love] [:D]

    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. :)

    “My Spirit Longs With Thee to Rest”
    by Mira_Jade

    The wrought iron gate on the Rue de Scribe hadn’t changed since the last time she crossed its barrier, now more than five years ago.

    It was something of a struggle to turn the key in the lock, with the tired old gears having long since given themselves over to rust and wear in the absence of use. For a heart stopping moment, she even doubted that her key would work entirely. (Though why wouldn’t it, when there were no more secrets left for this door to protect?) The hinges groaned, protesting to be disturbed from their rest, and the heavy door drooped from its axis and scraped against the wet cobblestones with a petulant wail. A sodden pile of autumn leaves, fragrant with rot and the scent of gutter runoff, squelched to be swept up by the gate and sloshed at the hem of her skirts. Yet she was resilient, and the weary barrier at last gave way when she pushed.

    With the gate unlocked, she returned her key to the pocket of her cloak. There, her gloved hand found its familiar shape and grasped it tight. To think that she once hardly understood why she kept the key in the first place. Her higher reason and every good sense said that she should have tossed it into the black waters of the Seine and let it sink years ago. Instead, she’d let sentimental foolishness reign (with her sentiments being foolish and her foolishness in indulging such sentimentality . . . well, that was a flawed part of her imperfect heart that she ever prayed for God to forgive) and kept the key – not to use again, of course, but as a talisman, of sorts (a reminder).

    In the earliest days of her marriage, she'd hid the key in the back of her jewelry box – which quickly filled to overflowing, with Raoul trying to inspire her smile with sparkling gifts and indulgent baubles, each one more impressive and extravagant than the last. She'd told her heart that she’d quite forgotten about its presence entirely, and yet lately – and all the more so as the summer turned towards autumn and she sensed the change in the air like Persephone herself knowing her time was near, her foolish (flawed) head full of songs couldn’t help but reflect and compare – she’d taken to carrying the key on her person again. She couldn’t tell herself why she did (couldn’t she?), just as she could hardly explain her decision to return and face the past now that she’d finally slipped its bonds entirely. She only knew that this was something she needed to do to convince herself that she was at last well and truly free.

    Now, she looked into the awaiting dark and shivered as the wind bit through her cloak. Glancing up at the overcast sky one last time, Christine de Chagny – or Daaé, now, once more and perhaps as she’d always remained at heart – took a fortifying breath of the crisp midmorning air, and began her descent.

    She’d brought her own lantern, knowing that she’d have no faithful guardian waiting on the other side to welcome her with a light to illuminate the way. Had the tunnels always been this dark? She couldn’t remember. Now, all she knew was that the shadows daring her forward were nearly overwhelming in their tenebrious gloom. Even the impending storms in the world above shone as a beacon compared to these sunless paths. That cheerless feeling only turned all the more oppressive as she turned her back on the day, with even the overcast sunlight failing her as she willingly set foot in the waiting world below.

    This passageway was dry and in relatively good repair, at least. It was no different than any other service corridor, connecting the cellars beneath the Palais Garnier. Indeed, that had been this tunnel's purpose during the initial construction of the Opera House. Erik once explained that the existence of the underground lake – a reservoir that fed the river Seine – had been quite the surprise to Garnier’s architects, who’d had to alter their design for the foundation and subbasements accordingly. Erik had worn Charles Garnier’s name as yet another mask to see his vision come to life as the Opera House entered its final stage of construction, but it wasn’t until he stood on the shore of that stygian waterway that he knew he’d found a place to call his own, just the same as any other human being would enter a house and feel the draw of a home.

    He’d felt a kinship with the buried lagoon and the obfuscating darkness, he'd tried to explain an abstract concept so far beyond her ability to comprehend, where music would eternally play in his ear from the company rehearsing and performing above – his domain as he thenceforth declared it to be.

    “Like the ancient pharaohs building their pyramids, wouldn’t you say?” he’d remarked, completely unable to understand her unease with his outlook in every way.

    But a pyramid, no matter how grandly constructed, Christine hadn’t had the courage to voice then, is still a tomb, is it not? She’d held her silence out of fear for his answer. For she knew that he too would expect her to succumb to his living interment, far beneath the living world she ever longed to return to.

    Once, that thought would have had her jumping at shadows as she demurely followed behind her masked maestro, imagining spiders and rats and creatures even more fearsome at every turn. Now, she calmly placed one foot in front of the other and paid the darkness no heed.

    Before long, she came to a point where three paths intersected. Two were redundant corridors, leading back to the surface, and the third, which she chose, ended in a chamber that housed one of the original water pumps that hadn’t been in use since the initial plans for the foundation were first altered. Only she knew of the mechanism that opened the secret door in that chamber, leading even further into the world below. At first, she doubted whether or not the trick would still work. Perhaps she even remembered it incorrectly, but at long last the secret door opened with a tired sigh and allowed her through.

    As she started down the next long spiral of stone steps, she could hear running water and smell the thick scent of stagnation and mildew. Here, the air was cold and clammy against the exposed skin of her face and neck, filling her lungs with every sodden breath she took. After what felt an eternity, the staircase ended in the yawning void of a massive cavern, one which was naturally formed just as much as it was also part of the vast network of catacombs that laced beneath the city of Paris as a whole. Erik said that the catacombs had existed since the Roman times. From there, they'd grown and expanded to combine both an endless ossuary and labyrinth of depleted limestone quarries – many of which were illicit in their time and, as such, were left uncharted to subsequent generations who ventured to find their own way underground.

    “Yet you needn't worry, petite, we are far from the bone repositories,” Erik had assured her – soothing an anxiety that she hadn’t even known to fear until he breathed life into the thought with his words. Her vivid imagination balked at the idea of disturbing the final resting place of the dead, no matter that their mortal remains had since been moved elsewhere. She’d fancied that she could still feel the lingering spirits of those poor wretches who’d been abandoned to the mass cemeteries before the reformations of the previous century. She was certain that she could feel spectral hands whispering across her skirts and teasing at her hair. Once, she’d even shrieked aloud in fright when her cloak caught on a snag, and when she’d haltingly explained her childish reaction, Erik had laughed one of his rare laughs (with that golden voice turning radiant with joy in a way she’d told her racing heart to ignore then and still struggled to do so now for merely the memory) and promised, “The only ghost who haunts this place is I, and as you are the only light in my darkness, you may rest assured that I will fight even true phantoms for you should such ever become necessary. No shade shall do you harm for so long as I draw breath – and even then, I will become a revenant to match if it should mean remaining by your side for all my immortal days.”

    How was she supposed to respond to the enormity of such devotion? Words had failed her, and instead she’d only nodded, hoping that her eyes didn’t betray the uncertainty and unease she more truly felt. Now, however, she couldn’t help but wonder what spirits had returned to resume their haunting in the absence of the Opera Ghost. Yet she couldn’t feel their presence, no matter how she tried – not even that single presence she knew she would indubitably recognize if he had passed the veil as the rest of the world yet believed.

    Instead, she felt only an abject sense of soul-deep loneliness, and in solitary silence she continued her journey.

    As she ventured deeper into the catacombs, strange sights that boggled the mind and strained believability began to appear. Limestone stalagmites jutted up from the floor while stalactites hung from the ceiling – a ceiling which, in some places, soared far, far overhead in an imitation of the sky they were buried beneath. Flowstone and draperies of rock made fantastical formations, even in the scant light of her lantern, one moment illuminated and then returned to darkness the next. This path had mesmerized and confused her from the beginning, even in the presence of her supposed angel. Surely, this was a place that no mortal foot was ever meant to tread, she'd instinctively known, even if she should have dubbed these subterranean ways a demon’s haunt rather than an angel’s divine abode from the first.

    Yet, she pushed that thought aside as she carefully made her way down the natural path running through the center of the cavern, carved where some ancient waterway had once flowed. As much as the floor beneath her was intrinsically treacherous for any unwary foot, there were further traps set for trespassers, and she had no desire to test how well they'd withstood the passing of the years.

    When she finally came to the shore of the lagoon, she spied the gondola, left where she and Raoul had abandoned it that horrible night all those years ago. It had never been moved, she noticed, unsure what to make of the pang of regret (of grief) that pierced through her then. Instead, ignoring her heart, she hooked the lantern on its waiting post with methodical fingers. Then, looking out across the black waters awaiting her, she only hesitated for a moment before scoffing for her apprehension.

    You are no longer a child, Christine Daaé, she rebuked her timid spirit, so cease acting like one.

    After all, years had passed since she was last afraid of the dark.

    Summoning her courage, she climbed into the boat, with her legs shaking to find balance for a single, terrifying moment when she thought she would pitch overboard. She recovered, however, and grasped the pole to steer the gondola with a determined hand. With a heave of effort, she pushed away from the shore, and set out across the lake.

    It was ever a strange feeling, existing in that small pool of light, glimpsing strange sights in the waterways as chthonic wonders were revealed to her eyes in vague, fleeting glimpses. Her first time crossing the lake had been like this; in hindsight, she understood that Erik had only revealed himself to her in a moment of desperation when another suitor had appeared for her hand. Erik was always careful to light the way each subsequent time she ventured down to his home, keeping torches and lanterns lit to mimic the sunlight far above. That initial journey, Erik sang a wordless melody to ease her fears – and oh, how she’d sank into the glory of his song and allowed its haunting, legato lines to sooth her! She thought of doing the same now, herself, and yet . . . no. She couldn’t. Not here.

    Not yet.

    She came to the opposite shore and managed to step somewhat gracelessly out of the boat. The heels of her boots sank into the sand, and she ignored the wet hem of her dress as she pulled the boat up further from the water. She had no desire to be stuck down here indefinitely, and made sure that no mischievous current could carry the gondola away.

    For a long moment, she looked out across the water, delaying the moment when she turned to seek out the door of Erik’s home as long as she could. She was used to this grotto revealing a cheerful facade, with light streaming out from the windows in warm, albeit surreal, welcome. Now, the sight that greeted her was only cold and dreary and dark.

    Her initial worries about getting through the door were for naught, at least – it was hanging at an awkward angle on its hinges, clearly broken from its jamb. Glass still littered the sand and glittered under her lanternlight, shattered from the windows above. The mob that stormed the cellars that horrific night of the Phantom's opera, she at last understood with a sickening sense of trepidation, had done their job and done it well.

    As such, she feared what she would see even before she saw it. In the absence of any light from the hearth, she lifted her lantern to take stock of the foyer. All sorts of detritus littered the ground before her, her heart ached to discover. She looked to the right and saw the sitting room where she and Erik had spent the majority of their time together outside of her lessons in ruins. Erik’s wingback chair – which she had ever dubbed a throne – was overturned from its spot by the now long-cold fireplace. The fine brocade cushions had been shredded as if by the teeth and claws of a pack of wild animals, and the beautifully carved legs were splintered and gashed from the edge of a blade. The Rococo sofa opposite the chair, where it had been her custom to sit, had received an equal such treatment. The beautiful Persian rug that had once covered the cold stone floor was gone – stolen, as were so many of the strange, wondrous mementos Erik had kept from his travels. The set of Russian nesting dolls on the mantle was gone, as was the landscape painting that had depicted a glorious sunrise over a pastoral scene in absence of any true window to share such light. The mantle clock – which had once been such a necessity to keep track of day and night so far underground – was smashed, with its broken hands left to perpetually declare the witching hour in what should have been the dead of night.

    From there, the tilt tables and candle pedestals and beautiful cut glass lamps with their dripping crystals and lithophane shades – many of which had been carved by Erik’s own hand – had met the same fate. Glass and shards of broken ceramic and splintered wood littered the floor, with the varied possessions that made a house a home all wrecked beyond the hope of repair.

    “Good riddance,” had been Raoul’s final say on the matter, the one time she'd ventured to speak of the mob with her new husband. “That monster reaped the pains he sewed on others tenfold. I only hope he lived long enough to see his life in ruins before they put him out of his misery. Remember, anything that happened to him is only just – you cannot blame yourself, Christine. He does not deserve the kindness of your tears.”

    Yes, the mob’s vengeance had been just – of a sort, in a way – and yet . . . Christine felt her eyes burn, even as she yet refused to let her tears fall.

    She passed from the sitting room to the dining room, where the mahogany table and chair – and the mismatched second chair that had been added for her only later – too had been splintered into pieces. The looters had absconded with the china, she noticed, but the samovar was still there – its ornate silver belly dented and its delicate spout twisted beyond recognition, yes, but still intact.

    Raoul had never understood her fondness for strong Russian tea, but once she had a taste for it . . .

    “It’s . . . bracing,”
    Erik had neutrally met her first attempt to brew using the foreign set-up with a scuttled twist of his mouth that even his mask couldn't wholly disguise. He hadn’t wanted to upset her, she'd known, but she strangely felt the stirrings of frustrated disappointment, regardless, when she attempted to drink from her own cup.

    “Bracing? It’s intolerable,” she’d huffed – a rare moment of voiced disagreement when she dared to speak her own mind. “How can you drink this?”

    “It’s a novelty to be served a cup of tea by anyone, let alone the only person I adore in all the world – as such, this is the best I’ve ever tasted,”
    Erik had answered – such a horrible statement given so blithely and without a second thought from his mouth, even as she flinched on his behalf. “However, perhaps you may permit me to show you where you went wrong, so that you are not wholly dependent upon me in the future.”

    He’d instructed her then as easily as he molded her voice, and by the time she left his underground world behind, she’d quite mastered the trick of the samovar.

    Now, she traced her fingers over the floral motifs on the silverplate, and then turned away.

    The kitchen had suffered a similar fate. The stove was dented, its irons overturned, and the cabinets and cupboards were left open and bereft of their once orderly contents. Utensils and storage containers and the remnants of foodstuffs – what little the rats had left behind, at least – were strewn across the floor in chaotic disarray. Carefully, she stepped through the wreckage, her heart twisting with each glimpsed cruelty.

    “Ghosts need not concern themselves with such mortal concerns as sustenance, is that it?” Erik had responded to her surprise, the first time she’d found him preparing a meal for supper.

    Nor angels, she thought, but had not said aloud. Instead, she'd ducked her head to admit, “I must confess, I've never imagined you eating before.”

    Even when she knew that he was as human as she herself was, Erik had always seemed something more to her – transcendent in a way that allowed him to don the guise of a spirit, whether as a denizen of heaven or hell, so easily. The idea of him seeking out nourishment hardly fit the larger-than-life persona he wore just as vividly as his mask, so much so that she’d almost been surprised when she’d glimpsed a flicker of hurt in his eyes.

    “Every one of God’s creatures requires – and should be entitled to – bread and water,” he’d snapped, finding judgment where she’d intended none. “I am no different than the rest of my fellow mankind in that regard.”

    She’d flinched to be on the cutting end of his mercurial temper then as she ever did, but she’d been brave enough in that moment to step further into the kitchen. “What are you preparing?” she’d asked instead of attempting to amend her words with an apology, extending her offer like an olive branch. “May I help?”

    “Do as you wish,”
    had been Erik's cold reply, and yet she’d somehow known that he hadn't truly wanted her to go. Instead, he kept on glancing at her as if he could not understand her as she reached for the waiting bowl to begin. He looked at her as if she was the sun or moon or stars, and he'd never known the light of any before. It was a look that he often fixed her with, one that she hardly knew how to answer in return for how overwhelming it was in its every unstated nuance.

    Now, she tried to imagine Raoul in the kitchen – his tailcoat discarded and his shirtsleeves rolled up as he listened to her suggestions for pannkakor the way her father used to make them. That had been the most at ease she’d ever felt with her strange host (quasi-captor, mentor, and friend), and the memory filled her with an odd combination of emotions, just as conflicting then as they were at their inception. Even her vivid imagination struggled to put Raoul in Erik’s place where such mundane domesticities were concerned. She did not even like asking for ästsoppa to be prepared for her – the dish was far too plain a fare to be served at a vicomte’s table, and Raoul had never understood her craving for the combination of pea soup and pancakes the way Erik had.

    “Try this,” instead, Raoul was ever eager to show off his chef’s culinary artistry. Then, mindful of how much she owed him and wanting nothing more than to match the boyish earnestness in the sky blue of his eyes, she’d indulged him. “Once you've had the best, you’ll find it impossible to return to the rustic dishes you had to settle with before.”

    Christine breathed out slowly for the memory, feeling an ache in her lungs. She trailed her hand over the countertop as she passed, feeling years' worth of grime under the fingers of her gloves, and closed her eyes to imagine the happy simplicity of butter and flour instead.

    Even so, she remembered, Erik had never eaten with her, as he refused to remove the mask to dine in her presence. Instead, he only ever sat with her, awkwardly nursing a cup of tea around the mask’s impediment. I am not hungry, my dear, he’d always say, and she never had enough courage to force the issue. Now, she rather suspected that he’d been waiting for her to extend such a simple invitation – to share a meal with another human being. There had always been something so untouchably sad in his eyes, she understood now, as if he’d known – he knew – that she’d maintain her silence, no matter how fervently he may have hoped otherwise.

    To think that, at the time, she could think of nothing worse than watching an unfortunately ugly man eat, freely without a mask in the privacy of his own home . . .

    She had many crimes to lay at Erik’s feet – which she had, and she yet still did, but that one . . . that imperfect failing was all her own.

    Troubled as she was by the honesty of her reflections, she turned from the kitchen and ventured down the hallway of dark paneled walls. She didn’t light the gas lamps as she went – those sconces that had not been torn down and destroyed, at least – content in the darkness with only her own lantern to see by. She passed several doors, most of which led nowhere except in twisting paths to horrific ends for any unfortunate intruders, until she reached the hidden panel that served as the entrance to her own quarters. She hardly expected that the mob would have figured out the secret latch that opened the door to her room, and, sure enough . . .

    She pressed against the mechanism, and it obediently opened. Her room, unlike every other in this house, locked from the inside – something that she once took comfort in, the few times she’d spent the night belowground after a long day of rehearsals and then continued lessons with her teacher. Though she knew that there were few locks that could keep Erik away if he truly set his mind to bypassing their guard, she’d clung to the illusion of safety more so than she had his soft assurance of her privacy. After the deception of an angel, he vowed to never lie to her again. She hadn’t known whether or not to trust that promise, no matter that her intuition whispered that he’d spoken his words true. Even so, she always slept easily in this bed – far easier than she had in her tiny attic apartment that was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, with her scratchy sheets and threadbare blankets and always far too empty pantry. She'd been used to hunger, in more ways than one – something that, she knew in her heart, Erik understood as well.

    Though she hadn’t stayed in Erik’s home for months by the night of the Phantom's opera – not since clinging to Raoul’s promises of deliverance and freedom, content in the simplicity of his love compared to the maelstrom of conflicting emotions her fallen angel inspired, her room still looked ready to receive her, as if she'd never been away. After the simplicity of her early life and the poverty she’d known immediately following her father’s death – before the musical conservatory mercifully accepted her as a student, where'd she kept a humble existence and then an equally such one as one of many amongst the chorus of the Paris Opera – the splendor of this room had seemed something out of a fairytale.

    Like to the opulence she’d since known as a vicomtetess, but not, she looked at the fourposter bed with its intricately carved rosewood pillars. The floral bedspread was soft and pleasing to the eye without being overly embellished, and the simplicity of the gauzy white crinoline curtains complimented the richness of the wood. There was plush carpet underfoot, and a white marbled hearth to fight against the ever-constant chill of a house that never knew the warmth of the sun. A matching rosewood wardrobe and chest kept her belongings, while a dressing table held a variety of indulgent cosmetics and various items for her use. A bathing chamber all her own waited through the attached door, where the marvel of a bathtub with endless hot running water had quite entranced her from the first. Every possible need was anticipated and cared for to a luxurious degree. She certainly hadn’t known how to interpret such a grand gesture then, and she hardly knew now.

    She was only herself, after all – meek little Christine Daaé, who'd only ever been special to her father. Who was she, to have earned such admiration to be provided for so devotedly? It had felt like idolatry in a way – a sin, even if she could never quite exactly say what that sin was.

    There were flowers in the vases, she noticed next, long since wilted and withered into nothingness, but their sad testament to the hope of her return was met with a somber stare on her part. Gingerly, she touched one of the long-dead roses and felt as its petals crumbled between her fingertips, no matter how gently she intended her touch.

    Turning towards her bed, she distantly remembered the one and only time Erik shared this space with her – when she had screamed about the spider and begged him to dispose of the horrifying little creature before it could accost her again. She hadn’t been soothed by his intention merely to turn the spider outside, certain that it would find its way back into her bed and dreading even the thought of its return.

    “You wish for me to kill the spider?” Erik’s voice was thin once he understood her meaning.

    “Please,” she’d cried, knowing that her terror was irrational and childish but unable to help herself. “The thought of it crawling on me – oh, I can’t bear it. I should just die if it were to touch me!”

    “Forgive me, I should have known that the crime of being hideous and unwanted is deserving of death from the first.”
    With a cold look, Erik had crushed the spider in his gloved hand before letting the mangled little carcass fall to the floor. She’d shrieked and took a hasty step back, fearing its survival and focused only on her terror before his words registered and a different sort of mortification drained the blood from her face. “I understand you perfectly.”

    “No, Erik, it’s not the same!”
    just that once, she boldly tried to fix the hurt she’d unwittingly caused before having the door slammed shut between them. Her bravery spent on those paltry words, she hadn’t had the courage to cross its barrier and follow – not when, her own temper had been stoked to insist, he was being quite unfair in the first place! Was it truly her fault that he was behaving so unreasonably? After all, it was just a spider, and not . . .

    . . . now, she turned and softly closed the door behind her.

    Across the hall, a similar such mechanism opened the door to Erik’s chambers. She’d never set foot in this room before; she only knew of its existence from when he’d awkwardly informed her of its presence in case she ever had need of him in the night. Now, she only hesitated with an old, remembered uncertainty before she reached out and bravely unlocked the door.

    What had she been expecting? That he slept in a coffin and lit the room with funeral candles? Wryly, she chastised herself for her surprise. Instead, she saw a bed as normal as any other. She would have guessed black for Erik, all black. Instead, the bedspread bore an oriental pattern and plush pillows in jewel tones of red and green and blue. The wood in the room was all dark mahogany, richly and beautifully crafted – and most of it, she knew, by his own hand.

    “How else would I get furniture down here?” his mismatched eyes had twinkled in answer to her puzzlement, she remembered. She had smiled for his words, grudgingly amused for the thought of the Opera Ghost doing something so . . . mundanely domestic as fretting over a home's dècor. For the way he’d stared at her mouth, as if unable to believe that he – he and not the angel – had been able to coax such a reaction from her . . .

    She accepted the flush of warmth that filled her for the memory as yet another flaw for God to forgive, and bowed her head to accept that part of herself that would never wholly be her own again.

    From there, she opened the armoire, little surprised to see untouched rows of dark tailcoats and beautifully patterned waistcoats and linen shirts within. Erik could control little about his appearance but for how he dressed, and he always did so richly and elegantly. She’d never seen him in anything less than the very best, so much so that she rather assumed that he even wore his evening dress and opera cloak to sleep in! She could hardly imagine him attired in any other way.

    Still, she brushed her hands along the dusty material, and felt a pang. The opera ghost was dead, the papers had boasted – and Raoul had confirmed their headlines. Yet there was a part of her that suspected (hoped?) they were wrong. She felt as if she would know – she would know, in her heart – that her erstwhile teacher was no longer among the living. While he could hardly be welcomed as an angel in heaven, she thought that, at the very least, he would spurn any waiting sphere of rest to watch over her (haunt her?) as a ghost, just as he had once promised.

    Instead, for the last five years, she had felt so very much alone – even here, where his spirit should have lingered all the more vividly than anywhere else.

    Yet, if he was still alive, why had he not taken any of his earthly belongings with him to wherever he'd gone? She frowned, stopping by the dressing table to spy the various odds and ends – cuff links and discarded silk cravats and a pair of leather gloves. There was one more thing that Erik was never without, but she failed to see the pocket-watch which he always kept on his person. That watch had been a gift from a master stonemason in Rome, who’d adopted him as something of an apprentice for a time in his youth. Giovanni was one of the few names she’d ever heard Erik speak of with anything close to fondness. Fondness, and yet also that ever present sense of pain and regret.

    Erik had never told her why he’d sundered ties with the kindly old man, after all, and she'd never asked.

    Yet, if the watch was gone . . . Christine sucked in a breath, and wondered if that was a truly telling detail or just her foolish heart building castles in the sky once more.

    When her boot crunched on that first shard of glass underfoot, she was almost confused. The mob hadn’t breached the sanctuary of this chamber, she knew, so how . . .

    But her furrowed brow instead turned to a pained expression when she turned and saw the broken mirror awaiting her on the opposite side of the room. Slowly, feeling strangely entranced, she approached the mirror. Its pane had clearly been smashed by a fisted hand, over and over again. Haltingly, hardly feeling in control of herself, she reached out to touch one prominent jagged edge, a shiver racing down her spine to know that she touched the exact same place where he had once touched. For the first time since entering the Phantom's lair, she felt as if she could feel her angel’s presence, and the wave of pain that rushed over her was so great that she bowed her head, carried away by a myriad conflicting feelings as they pummeled her heart in their intensity.

    Then, when she opened her eyes from her supplicant pose, she saw there, waiting on the floor . . .

    - a mask, wrenched off and tossed aside, she could vividly imagine, as Erik stared down his reflection in the mirror before it met its untimely end in a fit of temper and despair.

    If touching the glass had felt overwhelming, soldering a connection between her questing fingers and an absent soul, then that was nothing as compared to what she felt when she reached down to pick up the fallen mask. It was like touching lightning. Her fingertips tingled and her pulse raced as she knelt and then stood again, tracing its familiar diagonal cut with her eyes. She held the mask in trembling hands, hardly unable to understand her impulse as she lifted it to her own face.

    What would it be like, she couldn’t help a surge of morbid curiosity, seeing the world through these eyes . . .

    The inside of the mask was soft and worn, and yet cold, oh so cold. It sat uncomfortably against her skin, and within moments she found herself disliking its unnatural weight with a surge of almost virulent loathing. She looked in the broken remnants of the mirror and caught a grotesque, distorted view of her own face. Even so, she couldn’t look away. Instead, she stared, transfixed, at the stark white glare that obscured everything but for her lower left cheek, jaw, and bottom lip. It was hard for her to breathe through the slots for the nose – with the mask giving the illusion of a nose when she remembered that Erik had no such feature himself. She fared little better breathing through her mouth with the weight on her upper lip and down across the right side of her jaw. How had Erik managed to drink tea with her, she wondered, let alone sing, and sing so gloriously, when she, she couldn’t even breathe.

    God, but she couldn’t breathe – she couldn’t breathe! Overwrought near to panic, she snatched the inhuman shell from her face and scuttled the urge she had to throw it. No . . . no – she was here to face her fears, not indulge them. Instead, she lifted the mask before her and stared into the empty black sockets where his eyes had once gazed back at her. She touched her forehead to the cold brow of the mask, and, for a moment, she breathed enough for both herself and a ghost.

    Finally, she gently placed the mask down amongst the broken shards of glass, and left it there to stay.

    From there, there was no such trick to enter Erik’s workshop. As such, the mob had wrecked their vengeance here, too, and little had gone unscathed. Amongst the dozens of projects Erik liked to tinker with, there were mechanisms that locked and tricked and trapped, along with power sources and engines, drawing from steam and combustion and playing with the concept of electricity, all. There were so many things she hardly understood – but she’d always known a sort of odd delight for whenever he tried to teach her the inner workings of whatever held his attention at the moment.

    “This will ever be beyond my understanding,” she'd once sighed when she failed to comprehend how he was able to coax the gears in a music box to make a ballerina dance – with her movements so gracefully lifelike that it was as if he had captured a tiny fairy spirit upon the pedestal rather than anything so commonly artificial as a mechanic's sleight of hand.

    “Why should it be? You are no simpleton, Christine Daaé, and you have a mind capable of more than you give it credit for. Indeed, you possess a surplus of both curiosity and imagination, which are the true cornerstones of invention. Without those, there would be no innovation or advancement in all the world.”

    Yet, no matter his fine words, how often had he refused to allow her to decide her own mind? Instead, he had demanded her heart and then told her of its beat, all until the very end when she’d finally resigned herself (surrendered to the inevitable) to her fate with him before he’d so unexpectedly granted her freedom. That Erik – vulnerably unmasked and stripped of every pretense, awed and overwhelmed for something as simple as a kiss – was one she wished he'd allowed her to know in the time they'd had together. Perhaps, if he had . . .

    The delicate ballerina was in pieces now, she finally saw, her gears strewn across the ground in a grotesque twist of metal, never to dance again. Christine left her there to rest in peace and continued onward.

    She next saw the studio where Erik painted – wondrous works on par with any of the masters of their time, from portraits to landscapes and one massive seascape that depicted a roiling ocean at daybreak that had always mesmerized her, reminding her of crossing from Sweden as a child. Sanguine sketches had been torn and canvases shredded with the edge of a blade. She winced to see her own face, depicted with an unerring, lifelike precision, hanging in strips from its frame upon the easel, with the slashed edges having turned brittle with time.

    Next to the easel was the draft board, where dozens upon dozens of architectural sketches had been born from a fertile mind that ever needed to find an outlet in creation – more of which were now ripped apart and scattered across the ground in forgotten piles of refuse. Even in mere sketches – and then the models he built from there – he was able to conjure palaces with the simplicity of plotted lines. There was so much grandeur in the overflowing well of his imagination, so much so that she’d ever marveled for the scope of his genius. She could see his touch in the Opera House above now, and to hear him tell it, he had once built a palace for the Shah of Persia – which she at first hardly believed, but now . . .

    . . . now, she believed him capable of any feat, no matter how grand.

    Grand . . . or humble.

    She looked down at one of the drawings her boot had disturbed and was puzzled to see a small design – a house, even to her amateur eye. It was not as large or ostentatious as the de Chagny estate in Avignon, which she ever preferred over their townhouse in Paris, but equally as lush in beauty on a smaller, more personable scale. When she looked up to the destroyed models, she spied its corresponding shape, and felt drawn to it – from the wrap-around porch matching the gibbeted roof to the scrollwork on the turret peaks and the myriad windows that would let in the sunlight from every angle – so much light.

    It was a home she would have picked for herself, if she could put her ideal dwelling into words, and somehow, she knew . . .

    “I haven’t always lived hidden away in the dark, you know – I have tried, more than once, to coexist alongside my fellow man. Yet I’ve only ever been met with failure for my efforts.”

    “Would you ever want to try again?”

    A heartbeat had passed, and then there was a strange hesitance in his voice to reply, “There is only one way I would ever consider risking myself again . . . but, with you, I find myself brave enough to face the world and its cruelties in every way.”

    But she’d turned quiet and could not bring herself to meet his eyes for fear of succumbing to the hope she knew she’d find within. Now, she placed the abandoned model down, and tried her best to forget the sense of home she’d felt when she’d held it.

    Lastly, in the furthest corner of the room, there was a small couch where Erik slept even more so than he did in his own chambers. She remembered finding him asleep there, once. He’d been muttering, finding no peace even in dreams, with the mask cutting into his face from an awkward angle where he rested his head on his folded arms. He’d been cold, she thought, with the hearth having long since burned down to embers, but she’d scuttled her first instinct to cover him with the waiting blanket, folded over the opposite arm of the couch.

    She hadn’t wanted him to wake and misconstrue her kindness – after all, she was a coerced visitor who only ventured into the Phantom’s lair because she feared what would happen to Raoul if she refused Erik’s claim on her company and her voice (and her heart) . . .

    . . . wasn’t she?

    Why then, was she here now when she had no Erik to please or Raoul to protect?

    When she could settle on no answer that she liked, she turned from both the room and her thoughts, and the retreat of her lantern returned the workshop and its abandoned dreams to darkness.

    From there, only one room remained in the house on the lake – a grand room that opened up to a natural cavern with an awesome ceiling of glittering crystals that mimicked the beauty of a star strewn sky in the world up above. Sparite, Erik had called the mineral – a natural byproduct from the limestone that formed the bedrock of Paris – giving a scientific name to such a wondrous spectacle that her eyes still gazed upon and could only describe as magic.

    The flame from her lantern flickered over the crystalline canopy up above, and this time, she paused to light the gas lamp that waited right by the threshold. Thankfully, the lamp still worked, and as the light grew to illuminate the rest of the space, her eyes widened to see -

    - a catastrophe of ruin, where once only beauty had reigned and held sway in a cathedral built to worship music itself. Of course, the music room too had been a casualty of the mob’s fury; why had she expected anything else? To the contrary, the mob had concentrated their hate and anger here all the more so, meting out their vengeance where each rend and blow would be felt by the Phantom who'd haunted them as physical wounds upon his own body. She looked, seeing where every instrument upon the wall had been torn from their hooks and mutilated beyond recognition in the rubble littering the floor. She could only glimpse the twisted neck of a viola here, the ravaged bell of a horn there. The piano legs had been broken, its housing and lid smashed, its hammers and strings torn from its heart and its ivory keys ripped from its mouth and leaving the keyboard behind as a gaping wound of a smile. Even worse, she looked and saw that the organ – with its hundreds of pipes reaching impossibly high on the cavern walls as a true altar before sweet music’s throne – had been desecrated in the mob's mad rush for retribution. Its manuals had been pummeled and its pedal boards crushed. The intricate scrollwork and gilt upon the wooden casing still bore cuts from dozens of knives and swords, with only the pipes and housings that the mob couldn't reach up on the cavern wall escaping their frenzied destruction.

    Erik built this instrument himself, she remembered him proudly boasting. He'd hung each pipe and placed each key, carving each motif with a reverent hand until the finished result was as much a work of art to rival the majesty of resonance the organ could produce – enough so that it could be heard in the Opera House above when he played at night and gave fuel to the whispers that the cellars were truly haunted by a ghost for the ethereal quality of his song, and not a man.

    Her spirit cried out for such abject cruelty, and she fell to knees that suddenly failed to support her in order to bow her head before the ruined organ. Here, only the splendor of music had mattered as she’d attended her maestro in song like penitents engrossed in the sublimation of devotion. Anywhere else, the roles they played defined them: angel and ghost and murderer and extorter and maestro and ingénue and pupil and diva and daughter and fiancée – nothing mattered, not when they were just Erik and Christine, lost to the music together.

    Though she'd maintained her silence since opening the gate on the Rue de Scribe, she knew then what she had to do. Drowsily rousing like the spring at the end of a long winter, she found herself humming in the back of her throat. She hadn’t sung – truly sang – in years, now. It pained Raoul to hear her sing – to be reminded of that part of her that would ever be bound to the specter that perpetually shadowed their marriage. Her voice and her need for music as if it were air or water or bread instead was something that Raoul could never begin to understand, let along touch and share in his own turn. She'd honored his unspoken request for silence – how could she not, when he had risked so much for her and loved her so very dearly? – and allowed part of her soul to turn parched and withering as it languished without succor for the past five long years.

    As a result, the initial sound she produced was whispered and thin. She started simply, exercising forgotten muscles with one scale and then another, gaining confidence and strength as she went. In her heart’s ear, she could hear the ghostly timbres of the piano accompanying her, with Erik critiquing pitches and technique until her voice bloomed and soared beyond the bounds of what she’d initially thought possible of a human propensity for sound.

    . . . just like his voice was like nothing that existed outside of heaven. On that point alone, she’d truly believed in an angel and held that belief as a certainty still. Then, to hear their voices, together . . .

    A memory teased her as she continued with her scales, and she could hear her own voice as if she spoke again in that moment:

    “This duet?” she remembered being surprised by his request – for it was rare that Erik ventured to sing with her. In a way, she suspected that he was hesitant to use how his voice could so easily entrance and snare her, just as she was leery of his power in her own way, for her own reasons. He wanted her heart, beating and alive, and she . . . she yearned for nothing more than to give him that same heart whenever she was blessed with the grandeur of his voice. Instead, he typically accompanied her with pitches on the piano during her lessons, sparing (depriving) them both. “I did not know that Aida was planned for this season.”

    “My managers will soon be persuaded to prepare it for the next,”
    Erik had waved a hand, dismissing her concerns. “I would not suffer the likes of La Carlotta butchering Verdi’s genius in the lead, though perhaps she would make an entertaining Amneris."

    For that, his eyes had glittered with mischief – mischief which she encouraged, however unwittingly, by the slight, amused expression that escaped her in reply.

    Yet her amusement did not hold when he continued, "But you, petite – this role is meant for you . . . I have long imagined you giving life to Aida, particularly with this song.”

    Still, she’d hesitated, looking down at the libretto in her hands. Aida was a tale of forbidden love between an Egyptian general and an Ethiopian princess, and it ended, as far too many of the great romances of the stage did, in tragedy. She read through the lyrics, her performer’s grasp on Italian well knowing the significance of these lines, in particular.

    “Please,” Erik had whispered – and for the unexpected plea inherent in that single word, taken along by the strange sort of urgency in his eyes like a tide obeying the call of the moon, she’d finally nodded her acquiescence.

    Oh, but to hear him sing Rademès’ recitative, opening the scene! The molten beauty of his voice gave life to Rademès’ final words after he was sealed in the crypt, lamenting, not the imminent loss of his own life, but his grief for never being able to see his beloved Aida again. Yet he prayed for Aida to heal and live out the rest of her days in happiness, even if she should find that happiness without him, all before . . .

    . . . had any tenor on the stage ever captured Rademès’ horrific wail of despair, understanding that Aida had hid herself away in the crypt to join his execution, refusing any empty semblance of life without her true love by her side? Erik's delivery, she could imagine, was well beyond the splendor even Verdi himself had first envisioned when he committed those notes to staves upon the page. For even the distant echo of that anguished, resplendent sound, she felt tears touch her eyes, and in time with her memory she opened her mouth to sing Aida’s answering lines.

    “My heart foreseeing your condemnation, into this tomb I have made my way by stealth,” she let the lyrics take wing from her mouth. “Now, here, far from every human eye, it is in your arms that I wish to die.”

    Her voice echoed throughout the cavern, returning life through song to that forgotten house on the lake. She breathed, feeling herself fill on the sound, a long slumbering part of her spirit reviving even as she sang of death. With a shaky inhale she remembered Erik singing Rademès’ continued lament, a shiver tracing across her skin as if he was there by her side, watching her – devouring her – with those reverent, pleading eyes all the while.

    “Heaven created you for love.” She'd been unable to hold his gaze then, but his voice had surrounded her and held her as a willing captive in its thrall instead. “Yet I am killing you through loving you!”

    She sang Aida’s answer, assuring Rademès that she was certain that they would find peace and eternal joy in heaven together, where the shadow of every human sorrow would pale before the radiance of an immortal love. She continued, firm in her conviction, even as Rademès fruitlessly tried to remove the stone which sealed them in the crypt, desperate for her freedom. Though they were scripted lines, how she had felt them take root in the hollow of her chest and the marrow of her bones, then!

    She gorged on them now again, letting the exquisite despair in every dulcet note fill the wanting void and lonely hollow of her soul until she felt fill to burst from the music bubbling up from deep within her innermost self. Oh, but how very much like herself she felt then, with her heart stretching its wounded, fragile wings to fly again. She wanted nothing less than to soar in that moment and felt as if she could!

    “Farewell, vale of tears,” she let her voice ring out, powerful in its full majesty as she imagined his voice meeting and harmonizing with hers, lost to the music together once more, "Farewell, dream of joy in which sorrow faded.”

    “For us heaven opens,” she trilled with crystal clarity, feeling tears burn at her eyes and then break away to run freely down her cheeks. This time, she welcomed their presence and made no attempt to stem their flow. “Heaven opens and our wandering souls fly to the light of an eternal day."

    All the while, she closed her eyes to better imagine her voice cradled with his in an embrace that went far beyond the physical for a true melding of souls. How transcendent, how utterly rapturous it had always felt to sing with him, as if his voice was made for her and hers for him and him alone. She ached just for the memory of the beauty they'd been able to create together. How she yearned then, and wanted . . .

    “Heaven . . .”
    she breathed, letting her voice trail off in a lilting pianissimo that was no less powerful for its softness as the note rounded and blossomed on an exquisite exhalation of sound. "Heaven . . ."

    But then, it was not Aida’s dying whisper, but Amneris’ haunting plea for peace that she found herself whispering as the doomed lovers both succumbed to their final breaths in the tomb below . . .

    “Peace,” she trilled, letting the last measures of the score linger on her lips before giving the verses over the silence.


    In that moment, the absence of sound was deafening, yet the silence no longer seemed heavy enough to crush her. Instead, Christine cast a last look around the forgotten world below – hoping that, if Erik had indeed left this mortal coil behind, that he'd somehow sensed her in that moment and knew . . . and, if he had not . . .

    "Wherever you are," she finally whispered to the shadows, "I hope you've finally found the peace that you deserve."

    She could only pray that, as she started her own journey over again, she too could find a matching such peace for herself in the time to come.

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2023
  2. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    [face_hypnotized] =(( =D=

    (obviously I'll be back with more, but until then: stunning work, my friend! [:D])
    Kahara, Findswoman and Mira_Jade like this.
  3. Findswoman

    Findswoman The Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Ooh, niiiice! :cool: I read the Leroux novel a long, very long time ago and don’t remember tons of details, but this story brought me right back, just as it did for Christine on her journey through all these old loved/feared/missed haunts. The flashbacks are fantastic; they really give the whole thing a “psychometry” feel, as though the scenes really are coming alive again for Christine. The details of the destruction wrought by the angry mobs are amazing and arresting; on one hand, one kind of sees where they were coming from, and on the other, it’s heartbreaking to see how thoughtlessly they annihilated so many priceless and irreplaceable artifacts. Erik might have been stuck in a cellar, but it was a cellar that he made into his own empire, and that really comes across here in spades.

    And of yours you know what a sucker I am for climactic story points that involve music! :D All throughout I was waiting on tenterhooks to see what had happened to Erik’s famous music room (organ and all—that really makes me want to smack all those looters with a rolled up newspaper :p ), and it was such a pleasant thrill that that, of course, ended up being the climactic scene! Wonderful job bringing in that climactic Aida duet; it’s really is like she’s singing it with him again, and I hope that really will be the beginning of peace for both these souls that are longing for rest. @};-

    Bravissima on a real angst triumph—I enjoyed this from start and am eager to check out the rest of your Phantomverse now! (And thanks so much for your extensive notes and videos; those were not only helpful but also a pleasure to have!) =D=
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Your writing is as always emotively immersive and poignant. The reader gets totally engrossed in the feelings and reflections of the characters. =D= Magnificent. @};-
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
    Kahara, Mira_Jade and Findswoman like this.