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The Doll and the Phantom

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1 The Doll and the Phantom on Fri Mar 07, 2014 3:13 am

Nilly

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So I participate in a writing group on Reddit and there was a prompt, "A famous literary character meets an old character of yours." No more, no less. Enjoy and feel free to ask questions or critique!

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Erik reclined in his rooms, eyes closed as he listened to the wondrous notes drifting through the air. One hand raised aloft, as though conducting the symphony, his mouth formed the syllables of the aria, pure bliss filling his heart. Ah, but it had been two weeks since his beloved had left, and he felt an emptiness within the pleasure music always brought.

Time passed, and the opera soon ended before a crescendo of applause. In the lesser noise of the basement, he sat up, rubbing the mask over his face as he stood to prepare a meal - perhaps a last one, he pondered. He considered his body's weakness, the slight shaking of his hands, the minor numbness in his joints, and decided that he would survive a few days more.

As he put his hands to the stove, a giggle caught his attention - from through the adjoining wall. He lifted his head, eyes watching the shadows, before he lowered it again to eye the level of wood.

"Is it really you?"

Bang! sang the stove as his skull collided with the mercifully cold metal, stunning him to the floor. A gasp of fright preceded hurried footsteps, and he lifted his head to see another mask staring down at him. White as porcelain, painted with caked layers of powder and luster, and a smeared Glasgow grin across the pretty lips of its visage with a single, painted teardrop in the brightest shade of the beautiful sky underneath its left eye.

"I'm so sorry! I didn't want to startle you, I just, I heard someone walking and- Oh no, are you a guard?" She shot backward, hands over the mask's mouth. "Please don't kick me out! I just, I was hiding in the back, listening to the-the play and-"

"Hush your mouth. They may hear." He rubbed his aching skull, relieved that his mask remained affixed, and he observed her inching closer again. "I live here, girl."

"So..." She seemed to take in his appearance, the mask over his face, the luxurious costume pieces he still wore. "... So you're really the ghost of the house?" She tilted her head, and he noticed a pair of braided, blond pigtails slide from her shoulders. She wore no accouterments, nothing to show her status, just a simple, dark cloak of warm-looking wool. "You look awfully solid to be someone dead."

"I am, and I am not, and I was, but I am no longer." He grasped the unused stove, standing again and leaning against the iron. "May I ask what one such as yourself is doing in my homestead?"

"I slid down the stairs. Maybe fell through a trap door, it shut behind me and I can't get it open again." She twisted her hands, sighing. "I didn't mean to intrude. It was so dark, and I lost my footing, too."

"I won't hold it against you. But tell me, why do you wear a mask?" He gestured to his own face. "I've yet to meet one disfigured such as myself." She froze on the spot and clamped both hands over the sides of the mask, and the vision struck him as something between the masques Comedy and Tragedy.

"I-I ran afoul of some bad folk. Messed me up good, they did, but I'm fine." A slight sniff after said otherwise, and he raised a hand, a finger just going under the chin of the mask. "I'll take it off! Just, let me do it on my own terms, please. I don't mind sharing. Shows what happens when your betrothed gambles away his life and has debts still owed." He retracted his hand, resting his shoulder to the wall. She took a breath and held it, fingers fiddling with some unseen clasp. Pieces of light ribbon untied and slid from underneath her neatly-smoothed hair, and slowly, she let the mask down into her palms and rested it against her chest. If she'd been able to, her lips would have been a grim line - an expression he was familiar with - but this was a new kind of horror.

A scar branched from her right ear to the middle of her cheek, little cracks in her skin reminiscent of tree roots. Metal poked in and out of her lips, holding them in a grimace that could scarce be called a grin, and the left corner of her mouth had disappeared into the scars of a long grin. Her eyes, a pale blue with a steely tint, teared up as he stared longer than he intended.

"What monsters would do such a thing to a lady so fair?" He raised a hand, brushing a fingertip to the wires, and she flinched with such violence that he brought it back hastily.

"A... a sect of a religion of violence. My beloved failed them, did not pay his tithes, and this is the price I shall pay til my dying day." She crossed her arms, mask cradled like an infant in her grasp. Tears ran down her cheeks and she winced as they pooled near the holes in her skin. "I live with it well, and use my pain to tell the foolish who join them to stay well away. It is the folly of the rich to dive into the well of immortality," her eyes dropped to the floor before coming back up, "but it is my gift to be the net to catch them."

Silence fell, pierced by a few crackles of the furnaces around his home. The Phantom cleared his throat at length. "I suppose equivalent exchange is in order," he said, voice of one beaten by time. "But I must ask you to remove my shade. Allow you to discover the horror of the Triumphant yourself."

"If I must." She rested her mask on the table, raising both hands to his cover and tilting her head when she realized there were no clasps holding it. "My... my god, your skin is holding it?" No fear penetrated her eyes, and he found himself dreading her reaction further as she gently, gently pulled it away.

A grotesque, grim mutation of a face greeted the stranger, face rotten by unknown means and flesh sunken and dark. Instead of fear, or repulsion, she instead placed his mask with hers and gently put her fingers to his cheeks. With a small twitch of her mouth and a smile in her eyes, she cried a bit with him. "You lovely creature. No small mercies have ever waited you in life, have they?"

"Not until some time ago. An angel gave me a one and only blessing, and I accept my coming death eagerly. Nothing in life can save me now except the sweet embrace of the shadows." He pulled her hands from his face, eager to hide once more, but she didn't move from his path.

"Silly man." Her grin widened and the wounds where the wires wove through her skin began bleeding a little, and she was visibly in pain. "If one's visage told their story, what would mine say of me?"

Under the roar of fire and the roar of rising heat, his screams went unheard.

When Christine returned to bury the Opera Ghost, his demise told to her was that of a broken heart. What the Persian failed to tell her - and what the clothing hid - was thus:

His heart was never found.

http://tworedheadsonekitchen.blogspot.com/

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