That night I dreamt of darkness and dungeons, of whispering shadows and cries in the night. I dreamt of intoxicating melodies and haunting hymns. I felt the horrible emptiness of being alone in the world, the poisonous effect of love and the sweet madness which comes after losing the one thing which makes life worth living.
Suddenly, the music stopped and everything grew dark. Candles went out, the night grew colder and I found myself enclosed in my own tomb. I knew this feeling would kill me, sooner or later, and I found I didn't care. The world could end tonight for all I cared, as long as it would take me down with it. Sounds and voices could be made out in the distance. Ugly, angry voices, screaming and chanting for a justice that they would never find. Not down here at least. All that was left here were broken memories and haunting images.
I was ready to die. I felt it in my bones, I felt it in the air I breathed in. I wanted nothing more than to escape from the world that had always hated me. However, as their steps grew closer, their voices louder, I knew that if I didn't move that instant, they would find me and the curtains would fall. Forever. And although that was what I wanted, it felt wrong. Not today, I decided. Not like this. If I'd die, I'd die from my own broken heart, from the pain she has caused me, not by the hand of an angry mob. The little dignity I have still left after a life of humiliation, I would keep, and I would not let myself be exposed once again to the world that had ridiculed and tormented me for the many long years of my life.
I sighed and gave my once beloved house – now only a shadow of what it once was – a last look. Grabbing one of the chandeliers by the base, I smashed the mirror closest to me with force, then the next one and the next, until at last I stopped before one of the many curtains adorning my house. Moving it aside, I found another mirror, which, after it shattered under the force of the chandelier, revealed one of the many secret passageways throughout the Opera. I dropped the chandelier and stepped into the narrow passage, allowing the curtain to fall back into its original place, effectively blocking the secret corridor from view.
It was at that moment, I woke up. Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes and ran a hand through my hair. The moon still stood high in the sky and I wondered what could have woken me at such an early hour. I lay down again and pulled the covers up to my chin. Whatever it had been, it was gone now and I might as well try to get some sleep now I could. It was no use pondering about things I could not remember. Turning on my side, I let out a sigh. All questions would have to wait until the morning, when bright daylight would perhaps shed some new light on the situation.
'Do you ever think of her?' I asked suddenly, putting down the book I had been trying to focus on. The question had been plaguing my consciousness for several weeks, but I had never dared to voice it. Seeing now was no worse than any other time, I had finally decided to take my chances.
The Phantom sighed and stared into the fire for a good long time, until at last I concluded that he wouldn't answer anymore at all. It was at that moment he spoke, sounding both bitter and sad. 'Every single day.. Not one goes by when I do not think of what could have been, of how my life could have turned out, if only..' He sighed once more. 'I thought I was so close to salvation, that she would be the redemption of my soul.. Well, let us just say I couldn't possibly have been more wrong.'
'I am truly sorry for you,' I said softly, noticing how his mood had visibly dropped. 'I apologize, I shouldn't have asked.' Then, in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere 'Do you want me to show you how the song goes? I have heard you play it several times – don't even try to deny it, I am not a crazy woman, you know! Anyways, you never had them quite right with the melody.'
'I did not play..' He sighed, then smiled sadly in defeat. 'Very well, I would very much like to, mademoiselle.'
'Call me Angèlique.'
He looked aghast for a moment, but then nodded. It was at that moment I noticed my mistake. Or was it? Thinking about it, I couldn't understand why I had asked him to. I mean, I had been acquainted with monsieur Rousseau, too, but still I refused to call him anything but 'monsieur'. Why was it then that I had asked The Phantom, also an acquaintance – no, we hadn't even been on friendly terms for most of the time that I had known him – to call me by my first name?
This was different, a part of my brain argued, the Phantom is a friend!
And monsieur Rousseau isn't, another, more rational part argued. Hasn't he been nothing but kind to you? Hasn't he invited you over at Christmas? Hasn't he taken you out for lunch multiple times? How does that not count as being a friend?
Fine, fine, I sighed, knowing the sensible part of my mind was right, yet not being able to explain my feelings.
I shook my head and pushed the mental battle aside, deciding it would do me no good to ponder over the matter for the remainder of the night. For now it would do to just rejoice over the progress we had made since the beginning. He hadn't tried to kill me, which was an absolute plus, I liked to think. To think of it, he hadn't lost his temper with me at all when I inquired after Christine. Oh he had disliked my asking, for sure, but he hadn't lunged at me like I had actually expected him to. Yes, it was indeed a rather nice progress we were making and, although I still couldn't quite grasp why I did, I wanted it very much to continue. Suddenly, another problem presented itself to me, this one a much more practical one. 'Eh monsieur?'
'It's Angèlique,' I smiled, then continuing with a frown 'I have never been mastered the art of writing music, so I am afraid I cannot write the melody down in musical notes.'
'Can you sing it yourself?'
I nodded, hesitantly.
'Then I don't see a problem.'
'Very well, just.. just don't expect much of it. I am a dancer, remember, not a singer.'
He nodded and gestured with his hand for me to begin.
Clearing my throat, I quickly searched for the familiar tune and then, when I had the first words remembered, I opened my mouth. 'Histoire éternelle. Qu'on ne croit jamais, de deux inconnus qu'un geste imprévu, rapproche en secret…' My voice sounded far from perfect. It was shaking, the pitch was far from desirable and worst of all, I found myself several times crossing the border of my vocal range, making it not only sound bad, but also out of tune. When I finished, I opened my eyes – not remembering when I closed them – and fixed my glare on the floor. I decided I did not want to see his face after what must have been the worst performance he had ever had to witness.
An uncomfortable silence followed, until at last he spoke. 'You were right, you are a dancer. However, you have a pleasant voice which, although not suited for the opera, is not a punishment to hear.'
Although that first remark stung, I was glad he had had the decency – or at the very least the pity – not to chastise me any further about it. 'I well.. thank you, I suppose.. So, did you write that down? I mean, I don't think either of us would survive, were I to sing it again.' I laughed nervously.
He smiled, too. 'Oh there will be no need for that, I assure you. I have locked it inside my brain, which is the only real place I have to write it down into.'
'But surely you must have some sheet music you use when you play?'
'I have it, yes, but I use them mainly when I am still working on a new piece. I find humans these days are too dependent of their things. So much even, that they forget they could achieve the very same goal on their own, without any assistance of a device. I could find my way through the entire Opera House in the dark, you know, without ever having to think twice, simply because I had to learn how. But people.. people use maps, they use torches, they use whatever they find what will make it easier. But when they're alone, when their support fails, they are nothing.' He stared off into the fire again, seeming as if he had simply forgotten I was there. 'Then they are nothing.'