It was already a week passed when Erik received the news that no Parisian was allowed out of their homes.
Erik lived underground. He was already isolated from society, never mind that the Daroga and Madame Giry visited regularly. He rarely went back up to the Opera Populaire— all desire of that ended after Christine left with the Vicomte a year ago. The sun did not touch where he lived, so day and night shifted ever so often without him knowing, too focused in repairing the damages in his house, now too immersed in operas he was writing, the numerous tomes he collected from his travels (or should he say, liberated…), or too lost in a morphine haze, or, too lost in grief with what happened in his home with Christine…..
Needless to say, Erik was preoccupied.
It eventually occurred to him on day three that there was something missing, aside from the loss he had with Christine. He couldn’t put a finger to it, but there was something. He felt like he had a clearer head, that there was curiously less vermin that appeared…
It wasn’t until day seven that he realized that neither the Daroga nor Mme. Giry has visited in a week.
He started to worry. Of course, the world would not leave an old man in peace, of course, they would take away the two people that tolerated him on a regular basis, because of associating with a criminal, no, a monster, that terrified all of Paris.
If they were arrested, then they must have proof, yes? The police must have gotten a witness to their visits… Perhaps they saw one of them go through one of the entrances.
But if they knew the entrance, how come the gendarmes have not arrived at his doorstep? He has blocked some paths, and yes, it was necessary after the mob wrecked his house. Still, the others still remained, full of traps. Surely there’s at least one competent soldier that could have entered.
Well, perhaps Erik was being too generous to the police’s capabilities.
Still, it would not hurt to check on them.
He went upstairs to the opera.
No one was there.
Erik popped open the mirror in Christine’s old dressing room. Everything was as it was, costumes hanging in the wardrobe, makeup items strewn over the table. Yet it was quite eerie that he did not hear anything. Of course, as an old man, it could be that he lost his hearing, yet he could hear the click of the doorknob he opened, and the creak of the door he pushed.
There were no ballerinas rushing by, no stagehands gossiping on the affairs of the opera singers, not even caretakers cleaning the area.
He had the strong urge to shout, but of course, no Opera Ghost is worth its legend if they could not enter into different places undetected.
He slinked back into the shadows.
After the dressing room, he decided to go to the manager’s office. After all, surely Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre would still be in the Opera? Even if there was no production?
Well, he would not be surprised if they were not there, he thought, as he curled his lip thinking of what Piangi has called them. Amateurs…
He winced at remembering the feel of Piangi’s neck, snapping with the Punjab lasso.
But it was too late to show remorse towards his death, too late to realize, in his drunk-mad haze, that he murdered a man, not because he was doing any wrong, but because he was in the way…
He shook the thoughts out of his head.
The manager’s office was just like the dressing room— lived in, but not for a few days. Silently, Erik looked at the contents of the table. There were a few notes, letters from patrons, including from the de Chagnys, but what drew his eye was the newspaper.
Paris on lockdown, it reads, due to Spanish Influenza.
Please stay home, it pleaded.
There truly is no one in the opera, Erik realized. He was, mercifully, left alone.
And the grisly, mangled skin of his left cheek moved into a grin.
He has not dared to be here. Not in a while, of course, due to the disastrous Point of No Return, but even before he dared to take the role, Erik never thought of being onstage, of performing. He only thought of the delicious opportunity to take her in his arms, to show the world she was his.
He did not think about performing, but he remembered… Yes, he remembered the rush, the heady feeling of being heard.
As a young boy, he already knew his chances of being an opera singer was null, but he still hoped to share his music, perhaps hidden away in the orchestra pit, becoming first violin, or the organist, or maybe, when he was in an indulgent mood, the conductor of his own compositions.
Yet, despite experiencing the cruelty of the world that stopped him taking stage, his heart ached when he came back to Paris, when he heard other singers stand on the stage, and butcher the opera with their crowing. He lived here for a while, after Mme. Giry saved him from the gypsy carnival, and in those early years, he listened to the masters sing gloriously of angels, of demons, of human redemption.
When he left in the wanderlust of his youth, he still kept his dreams, hidden under lock and key. It broke his heart to hear the Opera overrun with soulless instruments.
It was why there was something rewarding in tutoring Christine, yes, not just because of finding a child as lonely as he was, but through her, the world heard him. They heard her voice, the voice of lilting perfection, the voice he nurtured into life, into being… There was no one prouder than he was when they finally heard her sing in Hannibal.
Without her, there was no music.
But now, no one was around. From the stage flies, he took a rope and gently, gently, lowered himself down. He stood on the Opera stage.
And he sang.
He sang opera after opera after opera. He sung the songs best suited to his voice, though he tried to sing one of the soprano arias— he’s partially convinced he still did a better job than Carlotta. He sang the songs old Piangi sung. He even sung the songs from his own Don Juan Triumphant.
He enjoyed the sensation of just hearing his voice, angelic to Christine’s ears, demonic to others, thrown to all corners of the auditorium, hearing it bounce back to his own ears. It was like practicing with the Punjab lasso, throwing his voice, then pulling it close, back and forth from the different boxes. How curious it was to hear, just for the sake of hearing, not to threaten anyone, not to ensnare anyone to do his bidding, but for a whimsical moment.
He enjoyed the feel of the wooden stage beneath his shoes, as he strode on loud feet. He enjoyed dancing on the stage, recalling the dancer he saw when he spied upon the stage long ago. The strong, male dancer, leaping with every note. He pretended he was him, the young dancer, rather than the sunlight deprived, skeletal man— and it was easy to pretend, because despite looking like death, despite all the years life has pulled from him, he too still had that strong, yet graceful movements of youth.
He couldn’t help but enjoy pretending to dance with another dancer, a lady with stars in her long dark curls, with the skin that glowed under the light, a lady with dreamlike blue eyes, who didn’t shy away from the touch of his arms.
Erik snarled as he chopped that thought and tossed it away. No more thinking about Christine.
He enjoyed the sight of all the seats, front of the orchestra, and the boxes. It was a sea of red velvet, and he looked directly to his box. The best view in the house, in his opinion, that did not sacrifice its acoustics, and its privacy.
Was this what Christine seen when she was performing? Look into his box to see if he was there? He was there before, though shrouded in shadow, and in a jolt, he dreamed of Christine sitting there, there to see her Erik showing himself to the world.
He imagined an auditorium filled with people, all lining up to see him, poor, unfortunate Erik, whose deformity meant nothing when they heard the curiously masterful voice, when they saw the expressive movements of his body, when they saw the magnetic chemistry between him and their newfound ingenue…
How wonderful it was to taste what he forgot he yearned for.
He looked up to the painted goddesses hiding behind the newly repaired chandelier, and gazed at them as he sung, and from far away, their blurred faces looked like Christine from different times of the day. Hair that seemed to shine golden when he could not touch in the morning, that darkened when he drew nearer, at night. Eyes that looked back in delight.
Christine, was this what you felt when you had your dream realized? Erik thought. The dreams that I made realized, those childhood dreams that I took and made real in the world, the dreams that took my music, my soul, the dreams that you forgot when you found that boy?
But as he turned his back to the audience, he saw those black curtains hiding that small alcove and remembered that that was the last curtains Piangi saw.
Of course, Christine would not have him. What Erik did to try to win her love was the very same reason that pushed her away.
He was a monster.
Erik’s knees fell to the floor. He sobbed alone onstage.