The Music of the NightBy: Amanda Ashley
They were sitting side by side on the bench in front of the organ. At Christie’s request, Erik had played The Phantom’s score for her; played it with such fervour that she had seen it all clearly on the stage of her mind.
Such a beautiful, bittersweet story. With a sigh, she glanced at Erik. “How did you come to be here?” She lifted her had to his smooth cheek. “What happened to you?”
“Three hundred years ago, when I was a young man. I ran into a burning building to save a child. A wall fell on me. It burned the right side of my face and most of that side of my body. They took me to the hospital where the physician said there was nothing they could do. I was dying. Late that night, a woman came into my room. She said she could save me, if I was willing, and when I agreed, she carried me out of the hospital and made me what she was. Years later, I came to this place while it was in the last stages of construction. It has been my home ever since.
“But the Phantom. He’s not real.”
“Men were more willing to believe in ghosts a hundred or so years ago. It was easy to convince the owners of the theatre that the Opera Ghost lived, easy to convince them to do my bidding.”
“But the play –”
“– is based in part on my life.”
“And Christine? Was she real?”
“What happened to her?”
“She married Raoul, lived to a good old age and passed away.”
“You loved her.”
“Yes.” He lifted a hand to his mask. “But after this, I never saw her again.”
“So she never had to choose between you and Raoul?”
“No. I made the choice for her.”
“And you’ve lived alone ever since?”
“But –” A rush of heat warmed her cheeks. She wanted to ask if there had been other women, but couldn’t quite summon the nerve, any more than she could ask how and when he fed, and what became of those he preyed upon.
“I am not a monk,” he said, surmising the cause of her flushed cheeks. “The managers pay me quite well. On occasion I have entertained courtesans. As for those I prey upon, I pay them handsomely.”
“I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Ask me what you will. I will hide nothing from you.”
“Do I look very much like her?”
He smiled wistfully. “Yes. And no.”
Later that night as she lay in his bed, she thought of all he had told her. Only then, as sleep crept up on her, did she stop to wonder where he took his rest.
It was the first thing she asked him the following night.
“I have another lair, deeper underground,” he replied. “And while it is not quite so elegant as this one, it serves its purpose.”
“I’ve put you out of your bed,” she murmured.
“I will find comfort in your scent when you are gone.”
“Erik –” Why did his voice have such power over her? Why did she long to take him in her arms and comfort him? She scarcely knew him, yet waking or sleeping, he was in her thoughts. There was much she still wanted to see of Paris but she was content to stay down here, in this twilight world, to bask in the love that shone in the depths of his dark eyes, to lose herself in the music he played for her each night, to listen to his voice as he sang the hauntingly beautiful songs of the Phantom.
As the days went by, Christie found herself yearning for his touch and with that yearning came a growing curiosity to see what lay beneath the mask. But each time she started to ask, her courage deserted her.
One night, he took her up through the tunnels to watch the play. Close to his side, Christie saw it all through his eyes. She felt the Phantom’s hurt, the pain of Christine’s betrayal, the loneliness that lived inside him, the anger that resided deep within him. She cringed when the Phantom killed Piangi and wondered if his death was based on the truth, as were some other parts of the story.
But, fearing the answer, it was a question she did not ask.
She quickly accustomed her waking hours to his. In his underground lair, time lost all meaning since there was no way to tell if it was morning or night. She didn’t know where he obtained her meals and, reluctant to heat the answer, she never asked how or where he found those he preyed upon.
He was an intelligent and interesting companion. He spoke several languages and entertained her for hours with tales of his travels around the world. He had seen it all: the wonders of the Old World and the New. He read to her from the classics, his beautiful voice bringing the stories to life. They spent hours discussing the works of Bronte and Shakespeare, as well as the horror novels of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
The days and weeks went by swiftly and with each passing day her affection for Erik grew deeper as she came to know him better. How sad that he was forced to live in this horrible place, shunned by humanity because of his appearance, when he had so much to offer.
One day, while she was wandering around his lair, she discovered a small door at the far end of the room. Driven by boredom and curiosity, she plucked a candle from one of the sconces. When she opened the door, she found herself in a large cavernous room filled with a veritable treasure trove of paintings and works of art. Scattered her and there were weapons – a rusty sword, an old pistol, several knives and daggers. A jewellery box held a number of exquisite pieces – a diamond necklace, a ruby pendant, a bracelet set with emeralds.