Hah, now here is a question I can answer with ease. Let me tell you, there is a single thing that could have made a world of difference in my life, that would rectify all of my botherations and quandaries. I would have chosen not to be born, at all.
Think of the miracles that would now be apparent were I simply not to exist. Think of the happiness my mother would have undergone if her child, instead, were some other. Some child with a vibrant smile, indeed, with a face at all! Can you only imagine how many more women would still have their husbands, if I had not been there with my lasso? And a young Italian girl...why, would she not still be alive? What of a young slave girl who still would be living if not for me? What father would not have had his companion betray him by taking the life of his only son if I had not had the audacity to live past my birthnight?
Oh, Erik, I hear you say. Surely your life cannot be as macabre as you say! Oh, to be certain, there are boons I have granted. Perhaps somewhere a callous gypsy girl would still have a broken ankle, would be suffering the punishment for mating outside her kind. Perhaps there would be a few less buildings in this world. Some animals may have died earlier than they had.
But there is little doubt about it...I would sooner undo my own birth than I would breathe or sleep.
This question could likely be answered in conjunction with "What is the one thing about yourself that you don't want anyone ever to know?" However, as this seems to be the time and the place for answering embarrassing questions honestly and without reserve, I suppose I shall indulge the audience.
Honestly, there are many people with whom I would trade places. The washer-women who work at the Opera Garnier, with their ruddy cheeks and calloused hands. The chimney sweeps who whistle as they meander down the crowded streets, their faces blacker than a Moor's. Les petits rats de ballet, with their twittering and their half-crazed imaginations. Anyone with a normal life, a normal face...anyone who can call themselves human without having this statement challenged. I would dearly love to trade places with the managers of the Opera...feeble and dimwitted though they may be, I would prefer their life to mine without question. And, at the risk of being utterly predictable, at the risk of exposing a weakness, at the risk of being thought of as a soppy and sentimental old fool, I think that ultimately, I would choose that damned Raoul to trade lives with. Better to be a spoiled and talentless hack with a chance at happiness than to excel at everything and live alone and miserable in a goddamned cave.
The best present I've given someone else? Oh, I could argue that I've given many things to other people that could be considered wonderful presents, for how happy they made the recipients. However, it might merit mentioning that I've regretted most of these things even as I granted them...
For example, the Khanum's little amusements? The mirrored room, that damned torture chamber which pleased her so much that she slathered me with rewards, with praise, with statements so heated and flattering that my arrogance translated them as advances. It satisfied her better than any lover she had ever had, she assured me, and yet even as she squealed in delight to look it over and test it immediately, my heart fell with the heaviness of the knowledge that seized me...knowledge of what use she would put it to.
And to Nadir, the promise of celibacy from murder, just after having learned to fully appreciate the art of it; the sweet ecstasy derived of killing for pleasure. I gave my word, knowing that I would be unable to break it...knowing that for the rest of my life, I would be at that much of a disadvantage of those who would see me dead. Killing in self-defense was the exception to the rule...but to do such a thing, one had to wait to be attacked first. And if an aggressor never truly made an attempt on my life, there was naught I could do except to live with whatever inconveniences he might choose to place on me.
And to little Reza, sweet and dear little boy...I gave him the gift of release; from blindness, from lameness, from agony. The gift of a painless death, the end of a lonely and crippled life. But what sort of present is that for a child, for an innocent babe barely out of the womb? Who no sooner learned to walk before he lost that ability. Who no sooner began to take in all of the world visually, before that, too, faltered and failed. Who no sooner learned to live, before he died. No...I may have ended long months of painful suffering, for both father and child, but I could not consider this such a great gift...never truly.
There are other, lesser gifts that I have given, to my regret. To a gypsy harlot, I granted medical help in regards to her ankle, only to be conveniently blamed for a rape which never happened. To Javert, a profitable business deal which saw me exposed in the worst way to unforgiving crowds. To Paris, a beautiful Opera House which would be raped of her glory before she was even finished, who would never truly be appreciated by the uncultured eyes of passers-by. To the Vicomte de Chagny, a gorgeous angel whose sweet personality and enchanting beauty would certainly please him in every manner...but at whose loss?
Indeed, all my life, I have regretted any such great gifts that I may have chosen to bestow to people, but there is one which gives me no twinges of unhappiness, not a single rueful thought. I once, when living in a rather dreary hole beneath one of my more permanent contributions, met a young girl, seeking an angel. And perhaps I did regret giving her angel to her, only because I eventually found it necessary to revoke this beautiful delusion...but during this time, this tragic but charmed liaison, I managed to give to her a voice. Her own voice, as clear and as provocative as the autumn sunset. To coax from that satin-lined throat, that golden throat, the redolent arias that rested within, begging to be brought to the surface. If ever I have done something good in my life; given a present worth considering worthy of the recipient, it was this, most precious of gifts. I gave Christine herself.
Oh, God's belly, what sort of a question is that? Does anyone wonder what I may think when faced with a mirror? Perhaps I marvel at how handsome I am, yes, indeed...what a catch! Such vibrant and beautiful yellowed eyes, so deep set into a face barely more than a skull! Such a distinctly shaped nose, how aquiline, how...how completely...absent. Those cheekbones! So high, so gaunt, so complimentary to this cadaverous fashion! What a coordinated man, so tasteful, so desirable!
And what of that body, no, no, that frame! That skeleton with tanned hide wrapped tightly 'round it! Such creamy yellowish skin, I hear jaundice is all the rage in England! Those frighteningly prominent ribs, those jutting hip-bones and elbows, knobbly knees, and abnormally long fingers...Yes, indeed, that Erik fellow is by far the most attractive man I have ever heard of.
God's sake, can you cease to taunt me for even half a moment?
Losing control? God, when was the last time I truly let myself go? Though the little sultana encouraged me to do so on a nearly daily basis, filling me to the brim with poisonous hashish fumes and letting my monster loose on her various slaves, it's not something I can afford to do, often. I can lose my temper, certainly, and scream devilish things at sweet little angels, but lose control? Never. What good would come of letting my hands wrap uncaringly about that pretty little de Chagny throat and breaking the life in him, other than a moment of intense satisfaction? What good could be born of letting go my sense of decency and luring a little butterfly into my web of song, wooing and beguiling, and availing myself of her tender facilities, when she was not in full control of them?
No, I do not lose control, not any more. I have come close, true enough, on a number of occasions, but some little thread of sanity, of goodness, holds me back. Some little niggling thing in the back of my mind, saying to me - in Persian, no less - to keep my temper, Erik. Don't do this, Erik. Remember your promise, Erik.
My damned promise! Yes, I've kept it...at the risk of my own life, wealth, and happiness, I have kept to that damn promise, which holds me not unlike a commandment to the only friend I've ever known. And for that, I keep my cool, keep my rage and my hurt underneath an icy exterior...as always, hiding my ugliness beneath a mask. So...losing control is not an option.
My sincerest apologies, lately, for my lack of sufficient updates. I'm afraid I've been recently claimed by a spell of depression which raped me of all my creativities...my drawing, writing, composing, singing...I could not even read without feeling frustrated and upset. My throat is beginning to seize up in the most unpleasant manner, and because of this, I am on a strict regime of silence...My diet has now turned entirely to soups, so as not to aggravate my throat in the slightest. I drink only herbed tea, of my own concoction...primarily echinacea and goldenseal, though with a bit of mint as well, for flavour. And, on top of that, I've begun taking it sweet - honey, though, not sugar, because honey dissolves harmlessly, whereas the grainy sugar...you see what I mean, certainly - due to the acidity of the lemon, and...Oh, for God's sake, as if anyone cares about these useless ramblings. Good-night.
Need? I daresay I've little need for forgive anyone, and they little need to forgive me. Forgiveness is not a concept I'm particularly used to, in my life. It's been quite alien, from the immalleable stare of my mother when I shattered her favourite teacup, apparently by magic, to Nadir's cold and unforgiving silence as he accepted the lifeless body of his only child from my arms.
For that matter, have I ever known anyone worth forgiving? Each wailing face, male, female, and child, that appeared before my hideous visage...did they deserve forgiveness, for doing what must only come naturally to them? Even if it eventually cost me what little sanity I began my life with? No...in my way, I've forgiven their trespasses long ago, though I cannot say I do not hate them and their pitiful screaming, their twisted faces as they shriek my life away. Does Giovanni deserve forgiveness? For giving me the hope of a family, of a father...then omitting mention of the beautiful little demoness he had for a daughter? For shattering all my faith in the goodness of men, which had been so slow to cultivate, against the pavement below the rooftop garden? Does the Khanum deserve forgiveness for being a twisted and psychopathic sadist from birth, unable to help the imbalances in her mind which made her revel in the tortures she inflicted upon all those about her? And what of my mother? Can I forgive her even for birthing me, much less for whatever horrendous crimes she committed against me, afterwards?
No...no, at this moment I don't feel a single soul needs, much less deserves my forgiveness.
I've no doubt what Nadir is going to write about when he sees this question. However, for myself, my answer has mostly to do with my time in Italy.
When I was fourteen, I was taken in by a man named Giovanni, an elderly master-mason who had found me out in the embryo of what was, one day, going to be a great building. Though I was trustless and shifty, and even brandished a knife at him, he spoke softly and coaxed me into coming home with him. He treated me kindly, more kindly than even my own mother had, and eventually even took me on as an apprentice. I learned later that he had sworn never to do so again, and I was flattered without bounds. He was the closest thing to a father I had ever known, and he was a sparkling specimen, as such. Giovanni was a beautiful man, who respected me intrinsically...there was nary a breach of my privacy, under the man's watchful eye. Even after his bratty daughter, Luciana, had returned from her oppressive boarding school, he did his absolute best to keep the little vixen out of my hair.
Which was why, when Luciana chased me out onto the balcony garden, demanding to see my true face, I was horrified when her father blocked my exit and ordered me to remove my mask. Surely not Giovanni, the only man in my life who I could have trusted not to remove my modesty! But the look in his eye was stern, a look I knew quite pointedly that he never gave Luciana. He was not my father; he was nothing more than an old man who coddled his daughter into spoiling, incapable of denying her a thing.
Did I remove my mask, you wonder? Yes, I rather fear that I did. Luciana did not take it well, perhaps she thought I hid a handsome face? I went to grasp her screaming form, to make her look at what she had desired to see for so terribly long, but she fled from me. Into the stone railing, through it, and over the edge of the balcony. The screaming stopped immediately, and I did not have the heart to look. Because of one simple command, Giovanni lost both his son, and his daughter. I left that night, deserting my apprenticeship and the only man I had ever loved as a father.
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
1. With whom did you last get angry?: Myself, most likely.
2. What is your weapon of choice?: Is it really necessary to answer this? Very well, if you desire me to be repetitive: the punjab lasso.
3. Would you hit a member of the opposite sex?: I deplore violence against women, but I have done it in the past. And I suppose, if necessary, I would do it again.
4. How about of the same sex?: Yes.
5. Who was the last person who got really angry at you?: At me? Oh, I'm not sure. Mssrs. Moncharmin and Firmin, perhaps. Perhaps it was M. le Vicomte de Changy. Perhaps it was darling Nadir. Perhaps it was myself. I'm not really certain.
6. What is your pet peeve?: Being forced to show my face...or, for that matter, being forced to do anything, at all.
7. Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?: It depends on the offence, and the offender.
1. What is one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't done in a long time?: I have been meaning to work more on Don Juan...
2. What is the latest you've ever woken up?: Daytime has little meaning for me, any more. At the risk of sounding funereal, my whole life is lived in unbroken nighttime.
3. Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't: I'm certain I owe Nadir a letter or two.
4. What is the last lame excuse you made?: I seem to recall something about terming a coffin a "persian cat box," to explain my morbid bedroom decor to an impressionable Christine.
5. Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through (one of the long ones)?: A what?
6. When was the last time you got a good workout in?: Honestly...probably not since the completion of the Opera House. Or perhaps my organ. Goodness, but did that take a long time.
7. How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today?: The what button on my what?
1. What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice?: I'm sorry, I didn't understand much of that...If you're asking me my favourite drink, however, I prefer dark wines and light champagnes.
2. Meat eaters: white meat or dark meat?: I care little for food.
3. What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event?: Oh, honestly. Well, I suppose, if this journal isn't for dredging up the past, what else is it for? Most likely, the time in which I imbibed the most alcohol was ages ago, in Italy, in the living room of my mentor and foster father, Giovanni. I believe he was trying to get me to open up. What a fiasco. Euch, I cannot finish this train of thought. On to the next question.
4. Have you ever used a professional diet company?: I am looking down at myself right now. I think this may be the most ridiculous question I have ever been asked.
5. Do you have an issue with your weight?: ...Except for this one.
6. Do you prefer sweets, salty foods, or spicy foods?: I prefer none at all, thank you.
7. Have you ever looked at a small housepet or child and thought, LUNCH?: That is a most disturbing question, and I shall now keep Ayesha far, far away from you.
1. How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies/family)?: Fully naked? As in, absolutely bare? None. The closest I believe I have ever gotten to seeing anyone naked was with the young odalisque, in Persia...another sensitive memory you've managed to evoke. Thank you ever-so-much. Oh, wait. Unless, of course, you would count Javert, in my youth. One more unpleasant recollection to add to the list.
2. How many people have seen YOU naked (not counting physicians/family)?: You are really beginning to irritate me. If you must know: no one, not since Father Mansart wrapped me in swaddling clothes.
3. Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation?: I beg your pardon! I would implore you not to insult my integrity in this fashion. For the record, I believe I have done so, once. To a gypsy woman, whose ankle I mended. I, being barely pubescent, noticed the pleasant curve of her breast, but instantly quelled any feelings that may have derived from it. And then she accused me of raping her. Is there no end to the happy stories Erik has to tell.
4. Have you done it?: Done what? I have done many things? But, judging by the recent trend in these questions, I will assume that you mean have I had sex. I shall offer you a distinct and resounding "No." Thank you, yet again. I don't believe I've ever been so thoroughly insulted in one sitting.
5. What is your favorite body part on a person of your gender of choice?: That depends, is a singing voice considered a body part?
6. Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?: I was once offered an odalisque, but since she denied me, I doubt that qualifies. No.
7. Have you ever had to get tested for an STD or pregnancy?: There has been no need for the former, and even less for the latter. I am relatively confident in my inability to conceive a child.
1. How many credit cards do you own?: None. I do not need to have credit extended to me. I am capable of paying for my purchases at the time I make them.
2. What's your guilty pleasure store?: I might indulge a little too heavily in my tailor...((OOC: wtf? he wears a suit ONCE and then gives it away?!))
3. If you had $1 million, what would you do with it?: Do you mean, again? Honestly, I'd probably spend it all on clothing, wine, morphine, and the schooling of Jules' seven ridiculous children.
4. Would you rather be rich, or famous?: I am all ready rich. But I would not object to it if my music - not I, for God's sake! - was famous.
5. Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks?: I believe I've had enough of jobs, in general. Contracting took away any love I had for constant work, and, as I have stated, I am all ready financially stable.
6. Have you ever stolen anything?: I will answer this with a laugh.
7. How many MP3s are on your hard drive?: ...This question sounds as if it should be in the previous section. What on earth is an MP3?
1. What one thing have you done that you're most proud of?: I must admit...I am, and always will be, massively proud of my little Christine, who took the wings of my teachings and soared with them. Her triumph is my own.
2. What one thing have you done that your parents are most proud of?: I think my mother would be most proud to hear of my death.
3. What thing would you like to accomplish in your life?: If we are talking about goals that stand a chance of being completed, then...I really would like to finish my opera...
4. Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?: Absolutely. But it rarely, if ever, happens.
5. Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?: I once wished to enter a competition of that sort...but my hopes were dashed before I was nine years old.
6. Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score?: I have never needed to, thank you.
7. What did you do today that you're proud of?: Today? Today was rather uneventful. I managed, perhaps, to avoid my reflection all day.
1. What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own?: There is a certain Vicomte I know who has something of mine...
2. Who would you want to go on Trading Spaces with?: There are many people whose place I long to take. The managers of the Opera Garnier. Raoul de Changy. The stagehands, the violinists in the orchestra...Hell, the old man who sweeps the stage at night, and clears away the garbage! Anyone with a face they could call 'normal'.
3. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be?: How is this different from the previous question?
4. Have you ever been cheated on?: No. In order to be adulterated from, I would have to have a relationship, at all, to begin with.
5. Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?: I think this question may safely go unanswered.
6. What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?: Let me think...perhaps a nose!
7. Finally, what is your favorite deadly sin?: I've had enough of this test! I am tired, let me be!
*stalks off angrily*
((Up next, the seven heavenly virtues!
((OOC. This, I think, would do much better as a ficlet than a written answer from Erik himself. It's a little fucked-up...but what can you expect from an Alice in Wonderland/Phantom of the Opera crossover? Enjoy.))
I awaken groggily, though I do not remember falling to sleep in the first place. I roll over, and lie on something thin and solid. Of course, I think to myself, the opium pipe...I didn't remove it from my cushion, did I? My eyes flutter open, and I reach down to remove it, but before I can manage to do so, I notice my surroundings with a sudden, terrifying clarity.
Everything seems huge. Roses and daffodils tower over me like fragrant gargoyles, stark silhouettes against the lurid blue sky. The grass, in huge blades that put me firmly in mind of green monoliths, brushes up against my seat intimately, and for the first time, I notice that the cushion beneath me is cushion no longer. My eyes are greeted with a burning red with vivid yellow spots, and as my fingers quest across the surface wonderingly, I realise that I am, in fact, sitting on a huge toadstool. I glance down at the hookah pipe with horror and cast it away from myself.
There's a weight on my head, and I realise with some trepidation that I have an oversized turban balancing precariously atop me. Is this some sort of cruel joke? Did Nadir decide to wrap my head in my sleep? It would be horrendously out of character for him to do such a thing. I move to stand, but to my increased worry and absolute frustration, I cannot. I do not have control over the lower half of my body, and in my concern, I look down for the first time. I expect to see the usual slack-clad legs, skeletal as the rest of me, but instead my frightened eyes are greeted with round, fat, green sections, each with two stubby appendages extending from either side. I find, unpleasantly, that I can control each and every one of these little appendages, though they do not reach far enough down that I can stand.
Why, in God's name, am I a caterpillar?
And what is that noise? I turn my upper torso to face the sound; and I see, to my wonder, a white creature...it looks as if it once were a rabbit, but now was mostly human. It is white, yes, and covered with short fur, and seems to be the victim of Persian haberdashery. Two long, white ears spring up from either side of the ridiculous little hat, and one of them has rings in it. As the creature approaches, I am stunned.
Nadir looks up at me. "Erik, yes...I see. I really am in quite a rush. I would love to speak a while with you, share your pipe, but I'm afraid I'm quite late for an appointment with the shah. I can't risk punishment, can't risk losing my head over a friendly chat. Good-bye, Erik, Good-bye!" And with that, he scampers off through the underbrush, leaving me alone again.
Any words that had lined up in my mouth to be ejected at my friend, missiles of confusion begging for a clarifying explanation, die now upon my tongue, leaving their bitter aftertaste to linger in my lingual senses. What on Earth?
"You, caterpillar!" a voice from the base of my toadstool shouts. More company? I glance down, answering to a name that I knew did not belong to me. Beneath me, far beneath, was a woman dressed in blue, with white stockings. A sapphire ribbon held her ebony hair from her dark face, as her gimlet-eyes stared at me with intensity. Suddenly I am aroused, without any provocation, without any warning. I can feel my excitement stand on end as this woman's eyes ensnare and bind me. "Caterpillar," she repeats, "I am bored. I wish for you to entertain me."
I wish to entertain her, as well, but I cannot move. I want to climb down from my perch, want to peel her demure white apron, tinged with the deep red of blood, from her smooth Persian skin and fuck her, fuck her until this dream dispels...but I cannot.
Instead, I can weave for her a picture. I take up my hookah pipe and brandish it as a conductor would, composing and directing a symphony of lust, to be played out between the smoke and the air; swirling, diffusing sex. It's like music, and is second-nature to me, and though I have never known a woman, I suddenly feel confident that I could, if only I could get down my toadstool; get down to the woman on the ground. I glance at her, distracted from my aerial ministrations, and I see that she is naked, and gloriously so, lying on the peat moss with her legs spread invitingly. She welcomes me with her willing sex, her stroking hands and heaving chest, but still I am trapped atop my hated prison, and can do nothing but watch as she gives up on me and makes to satisfy herself. With every run of her fingers, I can feel my own release building; though naught is touching me but the smoke that I myself created. I grapple with long fingers at the toadstool, determinedly dragging myself to her...I will get down! With every self-satisfying grope of her own breasts, I inch ever closer to the edge; both of orgasm and of the overgrown fungi.
After a moment, I topple over the edge of both.
My quarters are dark, and I am alone. I gingerly remove the pipe from beneath my errant torso, and sit up. I am slightly uncomfortable, and I sigh in distress as I reach for a spare cloth, that I might clean my emissions from myself.