The Glittering crystals of the magnificent chandelier radiated a million individual sparkles, that graced the expectant faces of the Opera cast. Many had auditioned many times to take part in the latest Italian opera to make its way to London. All manner of crew and cast, understudy’s with dreams, and the main stars whose voices brought a swell to the hearts of many a romantic. There were two worlds that lived within and under the Opera house, and through the grates, one can hear the latest jewel in the Opera’s crown, singing like she were a bird that had been freed from her cage. The strains of orchestral music filtered down into the sewers, and the mystical river that ran beneath the very foundations of the building. Few aside from the original architect knew of its existence.
This is where the legend of the Phantom of the Opera was born. Many suspect he is the ghost of a love struck foreign Prince, who fell madly in love with the star of the show, only to find she forsaken him for another. Weakened from this, he planned for the ultimate show, where it would be his love, that killed him in front of a packed house, taking on the role of the tragic lover, and the knife that was to be fake…was real. Plunged into his heart by the very woman that had broken his. They whisper this tale in the halls to this day…..but the truth, is far more diabolical. They say you cannot touch a ghost, but our Phantom….you can.
Having taken Johan down the lanes that run along the back of the Opera house, there is a small grate….like a man hole, but large enough for the likes of the Mask and the young dancer to go down. Following behind the Mask silently, he entered the sewer trap and down a tunnel with foot holdings cut into the stone blocks. At the bottom, a small boat, that leads you into the mystical river….passed iron grates, and masses of candelabras that line the water’s edge. Like something from a mid summer’s nights dream gone wrong. It was beautiful as it was macabre. For on the foreshore, there was a large glass case, that had within it the body of a woman, frozen in fear. An Opera singer…her dress covered in the blood of the man she killed….or did she? One thing was for sure….she was dead now.
Welcome to the Opera House, where your musical fantasies…turn into nightmares.
Stepping off the small boat, Johan climbed the stairs to where he saw row upon row of lit candelabras, and within the middle of it, a large oak writing desk, covered in many sheets of yellow parchment, that had lyrics and music written all by hand. So this was the Mask’s home. He had a corner that was dedicated to his sleeping chamber, but there was little else, aside from statues, masks, costume racks, and of course a great organ, that looked like it belonged in a cathedral.
The Mask rowed the boat to the edge and tied it securely before exiting it and walking up the stairs to see that Johan was interested in the sheets of music.
“You write music for the Operas?” Johan asked, picking up one piece of music, and then seeing a well known song, but this had been written years before. The Mask kept his silence, as Johan looked back at him, wondering if he heard him or not. Perhaps the Mask did not wish to speak of his work, though he was more than happy to speak back at the circus.
The Mask then pointed to a opening in the wall, to the right of the large chamber, and he said simply.
“That leads to the Opera house above, but be warned, the way back is harder than you think.” In other words, the building was not so simple that everything was carved or set in stone. The Mask had managed to survive down here practically undetected for so long, it was proof he knew of his worth.
“Go up there, and see the director..Franz Munchhausen. Give him this..” At which the Mask handed over a small broach with a red flower in the center. “Tell him, the Mask wishes you to audition for the new Opera. He will accept, as soon as he sees the broach.” Johan wondered why a piece of jewelry would sway the Director. But it was not the jewelry that was the issue, it was who it was taken from.
That mystery would need to be discovered on it’s own. Johan took the broach, then headed up the stairwell, as the Mask sat down at his desk, to continue to write his music.
She was a slim woman, fair skin, regal in her bearing with long and dark flowing hair. Her eyes saw everything and held no emotions as she kept her cards pretty close to her chest. Dressed from head to toe in black leather and lace, if any of the elder ladies of society had seen her on the street, they would have been scandalized.
She stepped lightly behind The Mask, not to scare him, for he seemed to always have the uncanny ability to know she was there, and placed a comforting hand upon his shoulder.
“Another lost soul, Gerard?” she asked in a quiet voice, so as not to break his concentration from working on his music.
Scribbling madly, his shoulders are hunched forward, with his once greased back hair now falling forward in a haphazard manner. A genius, a musical legend, who spends his hours toiling over songs, and lyrics. Music his primary passion and also his curse. Of course, the shadows of his lair do offer up some rather unusual creatures, and none more so than Jacqueline. Her voice soft but a whisper, as she does not wish to break his concentration. Naturally, it is the scent of her perfume that is mixed with her own feminine musk, that brings the quill’s tremor to a stop. Pausing, still. The Mask does not move his head, nor his body. Then from behind the mask, behind the wisps of hair, he speaks.
“Forsaken and damaged. Lost? I know not. Found him I did. Those circus carnies would have eaten him alive. I felt he deserved a chance, so yes, I brought him home.” His head ticked, like a jerking movement, and then the quill started to scribble again frantically, building up as the song in his head…his heart poured from his fingertips and flowed onto the page. Soft mutterings, in time with the piece he wrote would give Jacqueline a clue to his latest masterpiece. Coming to the end, he lets out an enormous sigh, as though he is spent from the Ecstasy of getting the music on paper. Then he sets down the quill gently and asks without looking back at Jacqueline, for he feels her comforting hand upon his shoulder:
“A rose does not belong in the shadows. Why have you come back?”
“Pah! Carnies!” she spat. “Turning so quickly on one so different. They forget they were once so lost!” she scowled. She held no love for the Circus Troupe. “But you are a grand old soul for bringing him here, giving him a home once more.” she mused, stepping away from him to walk around. There were sheets of music everywhere she looked, but she did not touch them. She admired his creativity and his passion for his music. Only one who experienced great pain could create such beauty.
“A rose does not belong in the shadows. Why have you come back?”
Ah…a loaded question if there ever was, and one she didn’t know how to answer.
“Do I need a reason to return?” she answered his question with one of her own.
“Do I need a reason to return?”
“No…I felt it was polite to ask. However, you have your reasons for discretion, and I will respect your wishes.” The Mask inhaled the scent of the rose bud, then set it down gently. Was our Mask a hopeless romantic, doomed to a life hidden from view, due to his hideous appearance behind his fractured mask? The part of his face you can see, was so incredibly handsome, it was as though he had his likeness chiseled in granite by the great masters. But behind the mask….
“Do not worry yourself over those carnies, they will be dealt with in time. But, Jacqueline…tell me of your time amongst the day walkers?” he asked with a gentle tone to his voice.
Jacqueline sighed and took a seat on the chaise lounge, the only piece of furniture not covered in sheet music.
“Disgusting creatures. They smell, have no sense of propriety and are nosey to the extreme. Did you know I was accosted by one old woman who demanded to know why my ‘father’ allowed me to walk around in decent society wearing leather pants like a man? I wanted to set her hair on fire. Nosey old goat.” she scowled. “I told her to bugger off and she made like she’d found her daughter fornicating with the devil in her front parlour, squealing like a stuck pig and running about screaming “Well I never!” My reply to her was “I bet you never either, smelling like a pair of dirty knickers!”. Oh the look on her face was simply priceless.” she chuckled.
“But this place, Gerard…so full of darkness…death…destruction…it is ripe for the picking. I think we’ll do fine here.”
Malise climbed out of their carriage carefully, her blue eyes focused on the old building before them. Something was so mystical and haunting about the opera house that she couldn’t help but stare in awe at the architecture. She spoke very little to Josephine on the way there, but there was no point in trying to make conversation. Josephine had been silent the whole time and it seemed she was so focused on Johan that she didn’t care for company. But that was how Malise liked it. She never liked to speak unless she had to, and some believed it had to do because of her alluring voice that had killed many a man.
As she heard Josephine step out behind her, she turned to bow her head politely “This is where The Mask is rumored to be. I will take you inside.”
The angelic blonde nodded once but had to pick up her skirts and hurry to keep up with the siren as she walked into the opera house.
Stepping inside, the women looked around as they took in their beautifully ornate surroundings. As Josephine’s eyes flit around the room, Malise kept her eyes on the stage. Walking down the aisles, the black-haired beauty seemed mesmerized by how enticing the stage was. Climbing up the stairs to it, Malise began to walk towards center stage.
Josephine looked around sadly with tears in her eyes as she murmured “Why would he be here…” But she soon stopped when she saw Malise “What are you doing?”
Malise did not answer Josephine, but parted her dark lips. Soon a hauntingly voice that was so alluring it could rattle your bones escaped her lips. It was both horrifying and stunning beautiful, and it filled the entire opera house.
The Director was having a right fit, over the latest castings and their antics. Some of the show’s stars were right prima donas, and others well, their egos were bigger than their talent. The setting for a new opera, required dancers with the strength to lift up the females, and though they had cast girls to play the roles, they lacked someone that was both good at dancing, but in particular ballet. It helped with the choreography, while out front the opera singers sang the songs.
At this point, Johan had made it up from the Phantom’s lair, and had opened a trap door, under one of the back stages. Thankfully there were prop boxes blocking the view from some of the crew, and he was able to climb out unseen. With the broach the Mask had given him, clutched tightly in his hand, he searched for the Director, Franz Munchhausen. Turns out, it was not that hard to find him. A short and red faced man standing in the middle of a sea of dancers, that were shaking their heads, as he flailed about there not being a man strong enough to lift Emma Stone, one of the leading ladies, who was…generous in size. Johan’s ears pricked, and he then held up his hand and said.
“I could do that.”
The Director heard this statement, and pushed his way through the crush of bodies, to stand before Johan and look him up and down. “YOU…you think you could do it? What credentials do you have?” the Director eyed him warily, as Johan did exactly what the Mask said, and handed him the broach. As it was passed over, the Director’s face went white as a sheet. He started to stutter and mutter, his eyes bulging, as though the piece of jewelry he was handed was cursed. He knew what it was…and who it belonged too. With a shaking hand, he gave it back to Johan, and then gestured with his hand to the stage.
“You…are welcome to try and audition….err..what is your name, boy?” The Director asked, now being as nice as pie. The question remained…why? Johan said quietly “Johan Belzer, I was lead dancer at Bizarre Circus Troupe.’ There was a collective gasp and whispering from many of the other dancers that knew of that place…and its shadowy history. The Director clapped his hands for quiet, and then he called for Emma Stone, one of the opera singers to come out, and Johan would try out for the role, and do the lift.
Dressed as a fairy…she was the plumpest fairy you ever did see. It’s not to say she wasn’t pretty, but…she wasn’t Mona Lisa. The music was cued and started to play, as Emma sang and then Johan automatically went into dance mode, letting the music guide him as he worked with Emma without fault, even doing the lift, which blew the other cast members away. He was a natural, and the Director was tearful at the end of the number.
“Johan…you are in the show. Your fees and all will be covered by the Opera house, and you will be required for fitting. Right…you lot..get back to practice!…Time’s money.”
It was then…the haunting sound of a Siren’s voice was heard, and all the opera company stopped to hear this angel sing….or was she an angel? Far below the stage, the Mask could hear her song, and set down his quill.
“Do you hear that?” The Mask asked of Jacqueline, obviously enchanted by the Siren’s voice as well.