Heaven Torn Asunder
Someday you'll understand why it had to be this way. Though my methods were…unorthodox, you'll know their motivations and you'll see that all I did was for you. Someday, Christine…someday…
Thus I mused as I contemplated the tableau before me. She lay asleep on the sofa in the room I had prepared for her, the evidence of her tears still on her face and her curls in disarray. I extended my hand to her, granting the air next to her bare cheek a caress yet not daring to actually touch her. I was unworthy to lick her shoes, let alone watch her like this in her sleep. She was perfection, the image of innocence, a true angel. I was a liar, a cheat, and a demon, to abuse her trust as I had.
But hadn't I done it all for her benefit?
She had wanted an angel; I gave her one. She had needed something to believe in; I gave her that too. She deserved the world on a string, and with my guidance and friendship she would have had it. I never wanted it to get so out of hand, but I couldn't help but be stern when things didn't go as I'd planned and before I knew it, the rules to the game had changed, driving me to newer and greater extremes.
Carlotta had been a nuisance, but no real trouble. Her insufferable arrogance was her undoing. I had done my best to dissuade her from singing Marguerite, if indeed one could call her soulless wailing "singing," but she'd defied my warning and sealed her own fate. Let her humiliation follow her for the rest of her days, so long as it kept her from assaulting the public with her unholy shrieking and from taking the place of one far superior to her in every way.
Richard and Moncharmin had been more of a problem. I could overlook their negligence when it came to my allowance, but I would not tolerate their willfulness in regards to my Christine. There could have been no misunderstanding my instructions—let Christine sing Marguerite as was her right, or reap the consequences. They had chosen to put innocent people in harm's way, and when the chains keeping such a massive chandelier in place are so worn to start with…accidents will happen.
That boy was the biggest trouble of all, more trouble than I'd foreseen. Christine was fond of him, I could tell, and he distracted her from our lessons and our purpose. And though I hated to admit it and despised confessing to my vulnerability, the worst of it was that he diverted her affections from me, her faithful Angel of Music.
He would ruin everything. He would destroy all we'd worked for and he would steal her away from me. She belonged with me; she was mine! No man could have her heart, for it was already taken! It didn't take much to sway her. She was so far under the power of her Angel she would do anything to please him. All I had to do was hint that if she so enjoyed the attentions of the Vicomte de Chagny, she had no further need of my own. She took the bait, infatuated as she was, and it had proved to be a bitter pill for the both of us.
I turned my eyes away from her and left her room, brooding miserably over the irony. She had given her heart to an angel that didn't exist and it was the worst kind of beast who'd perpetrated the illusion, an illusion I had shattered for good the moment I'd taken her from her dressing room.
After the chandelier fell I knew she'd flee there, so I met her and watched from behind the mirror as she hurried inside. She'd looked so frightened I'd longed to go to her side and calm her terror.
"Angel?" she called, her voice trembling. "Are you there? Please, speak to me!"
"I'm here, Christine," I replied, sending my voice to her and using the gentle, affectionate tones the Angel adopted.
Her relief was such she collapsed onto her chaise and sighed heavily. "I was so afraid I'd lost you, Angel," she said. "Carlotta lost her voice and then the chandelier fell from the ceiling and I just knew that you were in the audience and had been killed!"
"Never fear, child," I soothed, caressing the glass as I traced her form through it and wishing for the thousandth time that I could actually touch her. "I'm safe, and all is well. I was never in the audience."
"You weren't?" she asked with innocent puzzlement.
"Of course not. I was beside you on stage as you sang. You must have heard me."
Her eyes grew wide with realization. "I thought that was you!" she exclaimed. "You told me that I had been cheated of my rightful place, but that you were watching over me and that I would outshine Carlotta!"
I chuckled softly. I had watched her from the rafters during the first act and whispered encouragement into her ear before departing for Box Five. It was tiresome, having to divide my time between my roles of Angel and Opera Ghost, but it was necessary. "And you did outshine her, my dear," I assured her. "Pride goeth before a fall. Her arrogance in usurping you has not gone unpunished."
Christine furrowed her brow thoughtfully. "Did—did you make that happen?" she asked slowly. "Was that you who made her croak on stage?"
What was that I heard in her question? There was a trace of her usual curiosity, but also some uncertainty. "She brought it upon herself, Christine," I told her, not answering her properly.
"But that was a horrible trick!" she burst out. "She was so upset and embarrassed! They all laughed at her, Angel; they laughed her right off the stage!"
"She needed to be taught a lesson," I said firmly. "One doesn't meddle in the affairs of angels, and you were born to sing Marguerite."
She bowed her head meekly and asked, "If I ever displeased you, would you take away my voice and leave me?"
I pressed my palms to the mirror that separated us, my face so close to the glass that my breath left a fog upon it that obscured my view of her. Always so close to me yet beyond my reach! "You could never displease me, my dearest," I assured her. "There is nothing you could do that would make me leave you. I'm always with you; you know that."
She nodded silently. Then she raised her head and went on, "But the chandelier! It just came crashing down! There were people hurt, maybe even killed! And I heard them talking backstage on my way here; they say it was the Phantom of the Opera who did it!"
Innocent, naïve, credible child, so easily deceived and trusting where she shouldn't. My lies and what I yearned to be my reality had converged and I no longer knew the truth from the deception anymore myself. I was her Angel and she adored me…her angel…her Erik. As she spoke my other name a sort of insane yet unyielding purpose settled upon me and I said, "Come to me, Christine."
She looked at first as though she thought she'd misheard me. "What?"
"Come to me."
Her eyes were wide again, but with confusion. "I don't understand," she said. "I don't know what you…"
I began to sing to her, softly and coaxingly at first to reassure her, then even more compellingly…seductively…
I had never exercised the full power of my voice over her before; consequently, I had never seen her respond to my voice in such a manner before. She shivered and her eyes fell shut of their own accord as I cast my web around her, sending my voice to her as though I sang right in her ear. I watched her turn to the sound, opening her eyes as if expecting to see her Angel made manifest to her at last, and I pulled it back towards the mirror. She rose and followed. Still hidden in the passageway and still luring her to me, I operated the mechanism that lifted the glass onto its pivot and she stepped from the dressing room directly into my arms.
I sighed at the recollection, dropping onto the bench before the organ. It was the first time I had ever touched her, after watching and dreaming for so long. My heart had raced madly, but I continued to sing as I took her by the hand and led her through the passages down to my home. She offered no resistance, and whenever I glanced back at her I could see in her eyes the same wild bliss that I'd witnessed in the Perros graveyard when I played for her there at her father's tomb. She was completely under my spell.
I rested my head in my hands as the memories continued to assault me. So long as I could maintain the ensorcellment of my voice she was mine to control, but the moment I brought her into my home and stopped singing, rationality returned to both of us. She knew at last that I was no angel, and I realized what I had done by destroying the fantasy.
She cried. My angel, my Christine, cried like a broken-hearted child and I couldn't help but shed my own tears of regret and sorrow. The dream was over and we faced the harsh light of reality.
"You're—you're not—" she stammered, "you're just a—"
"Yes, it's true, Christine," I told her. "I'm not an angel, a genius, or a ghost. I am Erik."
She hid her face and sobbed heavily. I threw myself on my knees at her feet, imploring her to understand. "I did it for you," I said, "all for you. You were so lonely, and you needed me. I tried to help you. You wanted an Angel of Music, but you got me instead."
"You lied to me," she wept. "How could you?"
"It was the only way!" I insisted. "You couldn't have understood, but it was the only way I could give you what you wanted. Please forgive me, Christine, I beg of you."
Her sorrow dissolved and a flash of anger burned in her blue eyes. "Take me back!" she demanded. "Let me go! I won't stay here any longer!"
"I can't take you back yet," I told her. "I'm sorry."
"You liar!" she cried. "You cheating fraud! How could you dare to show yourself to me after what you did? Take off that mask and be honest with me for once!"
I paused, raising a hand to the mask that hid my face. I was so accustomed to wearing it I had forgotten it, but of course she would have seen it. "I will not," I replied calmly. "You will never see my face, Christine, and someday you won't be troubled by my mask."
"You make it sound as though you intend to keep me here!"
"Only for a few days," I confessed. "I only want you to stay with me and come to know me as a human being, not as an angel. I'll still be your teacher and we'll continue your lessons, but I—"
"I will not be your prisoner!" she declared. "If you don't release me now, I could only ever hate you!"
Her harsh, angry words stung, but I wouldn't let her see how much. I took a breath to steady myself and said, "Whether you can believe it or not yet, you have no greater friend in all the world than I. I know in time you can come to see it."
She was so pale and her lips trembled as she continued to shed silent tears. To calm her, I began to sing to her again, and before long she had fallen back into the innocent dream of heavenly angels watching over her. I guided her to a chair so she could sit and I knelt at her feet as I continued to sing. She fell asleep soon enough, and I carried her to the bedroom I'd kept ready for her.
It was such a foolish notion to ever think of bringing her here. She believed in angels, perfect beings incapable of deceit and trickery. I had played upon her child-like fancy in the cruelest way possible.
But I did it for her, I told myself stubbornly. I only did what was best for her.
I sighed again and went to the harp, plucking at the strings without giving any thought to the melodies I was producing. They flowed from one to the next as I searched for the one that felt right, then I settled into the piece with only half a mind for it while my thoughts continued to wander.
How could I have been so heartless? There was so much I could say in my defense: I had wanted to be a friend to her, I was in love with her and it made a fool of me, there was no other way I could be a part of her life. But what business did I have in her life to start with? She was good and pure and innocent, and I—I was the murdering sneak thief that had stolen her fantasy and used it to my own ends.
I stayed in my trance for several hours before I finally abandoned the instrument and went to Christine's room to look in on her. I knocked gently on the door and, hearing no response, went inside.
She still lay on the sofa, fast asleep but beginning to stir. I stood over her and gazed down at her beautiful face, feeling my heart ache deep within my chest. No matter what she must think of me now, it was so good to be this close to her, to know that I could just reach out and touch her at last. I had watched her for so long, only a voice to her and she only an image in my mind and before my eyes. Still, that time I had spent as her Angel of Music had been as close to Heaven as I'd ever been.
But it wasn't enough. I'd sought to take a little more and thus brought it all crashing down upon our heads. It took the sight of her here in my home for my true motives to admit themselves. What purpose could I have served in bringing her here other than my own? For who had I really spent all those hours behind the mirror teaching her and developing her voice? I had been alone in the dark for so long I'd leaped at the chance to share in someone's light. I'd seen ages ago that I had come to love my pupil with a fierce, burning passion, and now I saw that it was an inescapably selfish one at its core.
I looked away from her, disgusted with myself. I heard her stir again and turned back to her to see her open her eyes. It took a moment for the sleepiness still clouding her mind to pass, but when she saw me standing there she was instantly alert.
"I beg your pardon for intruding," I said, making to leave.
"No, wait," she said, and I stopped. She looked terribly confused, and I couldn't blame her. "I don't know what to say to you," she told me. "I've only ever known you as someone that doesn't even exist. I thought you were the angel my father promised to send me."
"I know, Christine," I replied. "I'm so sorry to have deceived you, but it was the only way I could teach you."
She ignored my words and looked long and hard at my mask. "You're the Phantom, aren't you?" she asked. "I didn't think you were real."
"I'm very real, but you need not be afraid of me. I would never harm you."
"This is all so—strange," she said dazedly. "I believed in an angel that was never real, and I didn't believe in a ghost that was, and it turns out both angel and ghost are really just a man."
"I know it's a lot to take in at once," I replied.
Her gaze sharpened and she fixed me with an accusatory stare. "You're responsible for all the unusual things happening in the theater. You're the one who causes all the terrible accidents."
"I hardly think so," I told her. "Theaters are full of dangers in and of themselves without my interference. I'm not to blame every time a stagehand falls off a ladder."
She didn't reply, she was so deeply in thought. Finally, she looked back at me and said, "That was you who made the chandelier fall! You did it! You hurt so many people, and who knows how many died!"
"Christine, please understand," I pleaded. "I only wanted you to sing, but Richard and Moncharmin ignored my wishes. They kept you from your rightful place as prima donna. I had to teach them a lesson."
She sat there staring dumbfounded. Why was it so hard to see that it was for her sake that I had taken such drastic steps? Couldn't she understand?
I knelt before her again, imploring her. "Please forgive me, Christine," I asked. "Forgive my lies and my actions. I only did it because I—" I paused before continuing sadly, "because I love you."
She rose and took several steps away from me. "You're a murderer!" she said. "You've killed innocent people and terrorized the Opera House for years!"
"You only say these things because you don't understand me," I told her, crawling toward her and feeling my hopes die as she retreated again. "If you only knew the life I've been forced to lead, then you would take pity on me and forgive me. I love you, Christine, and I only want you to know me for who I am."
"I don't even know who you are," she replied sharply. "Angel, phantom, man…you've lied to me from the beginning and I just can't trust a word you say."
"You can," I insisted, groveling before her and clutching the hem of her dress in my hands. "The Angel itself was a lie, but the person you came to know was not. The person was real, he was Erik, and now you can see Erik for who he really is."
Her eyes narrowed. "Surely you don't mean literally," she said. "I see a charlatan hiding behind a legend and a mask."
"Oh, Christine," I sighed, kissing her hem, "please forgive me."
"No!" she burst out. "How can I forgive you after all you've done? You lied to me, and Heaven only knows what crimes you've committed as the Phantom, and now you're keeping me prisoner!"
"Not a prisoner, Christine, I—"
"I hate you! I wish I'd never met you! Just go away and leave me alone!"
I remained on the floor for a few moments, then slowly got to my feet and did my best to walk away with a shred of dignity though my head was bowed in humility. I left her room and went back to the organ, laying my hands on the keys and beginning to play.
A dream had existed in the most secret corners of my heart, built upon a fantasy that had meant everything to both of us. I had hoped that Christine could let go of the Angel that wasn't and grow to love the man that was, to love me as much as I loved her. She was to be my guiding light out of my present darkness. She would be for me all that I had tried to be for her, a rescue from the most maddening despair conceivable to man. I had gorged upon such hopes until I honestly believed they were built upon solid foundations. Too late I found they had never been more than castles in the air. I didn't know which was worse: the lies I'd fed her or the reputation I'd given myself in the theater. Both were sufficient enough to invoke her fear and mistrust and, worst of all, her hatred. Angels cannot bear to look upon such devils. She could do nothing but despise me.
But even Satan was an angel once, I reasoned. I realized where my musings had led me and had to shake my head. Lucifer, the most beautiful of God's angels, fallen from grace and banished forever to the fires of damnation. It was a perfect analogy.
She came to me where I sat playing for a time, as drawn to the music as she ever was. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, then began the duet from Otello. I poured forth my own pain and agony at my folly and the wall that had gone up between us, yet when she began to sing Desdemona I felt the stirrings of hope once more. Perhaps there was a chance to retrieve what had been lost and reclaim the dream again…
She reached out and snatched off my mask.
I couldn't hold back a cry of rage and anguish. I finally saw the truth that had been hidden from me for so long. There are no angels on earth; the woman I had so worshiped was merely a demon in disguise; there was no chance in Hell that I would ever know the touch of Heaven. I had spent so long in the dark the light would have blinded me, and I had already been so consumed by the eternal flames that only ashes remained of the angel that had fallen.