THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT
Cristie Matthews couldn’t believe it, she was actually inside the famed Paris Opera House. It was everything she had ever imagined, and more. Try as she might, she couldn’t find words to describe it. Beautiful seemed woefully inadequate. Totally awesome came close, but still fell short.
She owed her fascination with the Paris Opera House solely to the brilliance of Andrew Lloyd Webber, or, to be more exact, to her fascination with his amazing production, The Phantom of the Opera. She had seen the movie, of course, but it didn’t hold a candle to the stage play. She had seen the play once, and once had not been enough. The music had enthralled her; the plight of the Phantom had plucked every emotion from joy to sorrow to despair. She had eagerly joined the ranks of the thousands of people who flocked to see the play again and again, never tiring of it, always finding something new, always feeling emotionally drained by the time the Phantom’s last anguished cry faded away.
She quickly became obsessed with all things Phantom. She collected everything she could find with that world-famous logo: music boxes and posters, ads in the paper, books, and magazine articles. If it related to the Phantom, she simply had to have it. Dolls and figurines crowded her book shelves, along with snow globes, collector plates, and picture frames. She wore Phantom-related jewelry; decorated her Christmas tree with Phantom ornaments. She bought every tape and CD of the music she could find, including several in languages she didn’t understand, but the language didn't matter. The music was everything.
Before coming to Paris, she researched the Opera House online and found a wealth of information. The Opera House had been built by Charles Garnier who, at that time, had been a young, unknown architect. Completed in 1876, the Palais Garnier was considered by many to be one of the most beautiful buildings on earth. The theater boasted two thousand seats; the building’s seventeen stories covered three acres of land. Seven levels were located underground, among them chorus rooms and ball rooms, cellars for old props, closets and dressing rooms, as well as numerous gruesome objects from the various other operas that had been produced there. It was rumored that these grisly effects had sparked the idea behind Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera.
And now, after scrimping and saving for three years, she was there, in the midst of the Phantom’s domain.
Shortly after the final curtain, she hid in one of the bathrooms. Had she been caught wandering around, she would simply have said she lost her way. Which would not be a lie, because she really was lost. There were so many hallways, so many doors; she no longer knew where to find the exit. Her footsteps echoed eerily in the darkness as she climbed a winding staircase and then, to her relief, she found herself inside the theater.
She sank into a seat near the back of the house and gazed around, wondering if this had been such a good idea, after all. It was dark and quiet, and a little bit spooky sitting there, all alone.
Resting her head on the back of the seat, she closed her eyes, and music filled her mind…the haunting lyrics of “The Music of the Night”, the Phantom’s tortured cry when he spied Christine and Raoul pledging their love on the roof top. Even more heartbreaking was the Phantom’s plea when he begged Christine to let him go wherever she went, his anguished cry as he took her down to his lair one last time. And who could forget his rage and anger—and the faint glimmer of hope—when he demanded she
make her choice, or the last haunting notes that always moved Cristie to tears when he declared it was over.
There was a never-ending discussion on any number of websites about whether Christine should have stayed with the Phantom, and polls asking whether the listers themselves would have stayed with Erik or gone with Raoul. Poor Raoul, he seemed to be disliked by one and all. There had never been any doubt in Cristie’s mind that she would have stayed with the Phantom. She knew what it felt like to be left for another, knew the pain and the heartache of unrequited love, knew there was more to life than sweet words and a pretty face.
Sitting there, with her eyes closed, she seemed to hear Christine’s voice. Of course, it was only the echo of her imagination. Still, it seemed so real. Opening her eyes, Cristie stared at the stage, blinked, and looked again. Was there a figure standing there? A slender figure wearing a hooded cloak, and a bright red scarf?
Cristie rubbed her eyes. Not one figure, but two. A dark shape wearing a black hat with a long curling black feather stood beside the cross atop the cemetery wall. A long black cloak covered him from neck to heels. Was that a staff in his hand? Canting her head to one side, Cristie heard him sing ever so softly and sweetly to his wandering child.
Cristie sat up straighter, leaning forward. It wasn’t possible. She had to be dreaming. She rubbed her eyes again. The figure of Christine seemed transparent, ghost-like, but the Phantom… Cristie felt certain he was real. Fear sat like a lump of ice in her belly, and then she realized that what she was seeing was probably just some star-struck member of the cleaning crew, or a night watchman wearing one of the Phantom’s costumes. Or …of course, it was an understudy who had stayed late to rehearse. It was the only logical answer, except it didn’t explain the ghostly Christine.
And then, echoing through the empty building, came the Phantom’s cry
of rage as Christine turned her back on him and left with Raoul. Fireballs spit from the Phantom’s staff to light the stage and the image of Christine faded away like smoke. But the figure of the Phantom remained standing near the cross, his shoulders slumped in defeat, his head bowed. It had always been one of her favorite scenes, one that never failed to move her to tears. This performance, by some unknown actor, was no
different. With a sniff, she wiped the dampness from her cheeks. And found herself pinned by the gaze of the man on stage. Even through the darkness, she could feel those black eyes burning into her own.
Her mind screamed at her to leave, to run from the theater as quickly as
possible, but try as she might, she couldn’t move, couldn’t tear her gaze from his.
It took her a moment to realize he had left the stage and was walking rapidly toward her. He moved with effortless grace, the long black cape billowing behind him. His feet made no sound; indeed, he seemed to be floating over the floor. He covered the distance between them more quickly than she would have thought possible.
She cowered back in her chair when he loomed over her. The half-mask gleamed a ghostly white in the darkness.
His voice, filled with hope, tugged at her heart.
She shook her head, her gaze fixed on the mask covering the right side of his face. No, it couldn’t be. He wasn’t real. He didn’t exist.
He took a step closer, then frowned. “Forgive me, you are not she.”
Cristie tried to speak, but fear trapped the words in her throat.
“You are very like her,” he remarked, a note of wonder in his voice.
His voice was mesmerizing, a deep, rich baritone laced with pain and
sorrow, and a soul-deep loneliness.
Caught in the web of his gaze, she could only stare up at him, her heart
pounding a staccato beat as he reached toward her, his knuckles sliding lightly over her cheek.
“Who—?” Her voice emerged as no more than a whisper. “Who are you?”
“Forgive me,” he said with a courtly bow. “I am Erik.”
She swallowed hard. “Erik?”
A slight nod, filled with arrogance. One dark brow arched in wry amusement. “Some people know me as The Phantom of the Opera.”
Cristie shook her head. No, it was impossible. She must be dreaming. He couldn’t be real. Soon, her alarm clock would go off and she would wake up in her room at the hotel. And she would laugh…
She looked up into his eyes, dark haunted eyes, and wondered if he had
ever laughed. Wondered if, after sensing his pain, she would ever laugh again.
“And your name?” he asked.
“Cristie,” she replied, and fainted dead away.
He caught her before she slid out of her chair.
She was quite lovely, light as a feather in his arms. Her hair was a rich
auburn, soft beneath his hand. What was she doing here, in the Opera House, long after everyone else had gone?
A soft sigh escaped his lips as he carried her down the aisle. He didn’t
really care what she was doing here. She was here, and that was all that mattered. He turned left when the aisle ended and disappeared through one of the building’s many secret doors.
Down, down, down he went, until he reached the boat moored alongside the underground lake. He placed her gently in the stern, stepped in, and poled across to the other side.
Cristie.” He spoke her name softly, reverently, certain it was short for
Christine. Wondering if, this time, he might be blessed with a happy ending.
Just read "The Music of the Night" in The Mammoth Book of Vampire and all I can say is WOW!!! You did something with this book that no one has ever done before and as a reader I have been wanting this very much!! Don't want to say what and give the book away but you know what I mean. I read it in the car on the way home from the bookstore!!! I only wish it could have been longer and more in depth! Do you think maybe someday you might make it into a full-length novel Hint Hint :) Thanks for such a great story and for making me scream and yell in the car as I read it, hubby just smiled and said you must me be reading Amanda's story!! He knows you are my fav!!!
Amazon Review – 5 stars
I enjoyed the Phantom of the Opera. It is on of my favorites. I downloaded this book not knowing it was a part of a Vampire romance collection. I could not put my Kindle down. I had to finish! I truly enjoyed this short story. Best .99 cents I have spent! JoAnna Liming