WIP Wednesdays | The Phantom of the Opera Retelling Excerpt | 6/29/2022

The Phantom of the Opera is in the public domain so a couple of years ago I took a stab at writing glorified fanfiction in the form of a retelling. The twist on it is that Erik, the titular phantom, is a literal ghost.

I was surprised that in my intense trawling of a lot of different retellings at the time I didn’t see one that made the opera ghost more ghostly. I know it probably has to do with the way we as the audience are meant to understand that underneath it all he’s just a human man, but… hey, I’m weak for the supernatural, what can I say?

Raoul led the way to the roof this time ’round. He had grown more confident with ascending the opera house, it seemed. Christine smiled.
Something worried her, however. His hand was as cold and unyielding as a block of ice. It clamped around hers with a strange intensity. When they reached the roof, Raoul showed none of his previous signs of nervousness at the great height. In fact, he seemed more at ease than she could have expected overnight. Just the day before he’d gone green in the face standing in the rafters over the stage with her.

“I thought you were scared of heights,” she said. “Why this sudden change?”

Raoul huffed a terse laugh. “Scared? Me? Not at all.”

A strange glassiness had overtaken Raoul’s eyes. He stared straight at her with an expression too serene, too much like a statue’s. The moonlight marbling half of his face only heightened this effect.

“Are you all right, Raoul?” She touched his cold hand again.

“Of course I am, darling,” he said, turning his hand over to squeeze hers back.

That felt too familiar for him to say, especially with the touch. Even at their closest, Raoul maintained a bit of distance as his station dictated.

“If you’re sure.” She put her other hand over his and leaned closer to him.

His breath caught.

“Christine,” he said piteously.

His mannerisms and way of speaking were all off. They didn’t read as la Vicomte Raoul de Chagny at all. In fact, they were much more reminiscent of another person.

She leaned close to him and tilted her head. Raoul’s breath caught and he mimicked her pose.

When they were a hair’s breadth from kissing, with Raoul’s mustache tickling her face, she whispered against his mouth, “I know it’s you, Erik.”

Impossibly, Raoul—or, rather, Raoul’s body—stiffened even more.

“Ah.” He drew back and looked away, biting his lip and confirming his guilt. “You’re too clever for me.”

“It is you.” Christine put a shaking hand to her own face. “Good God. I didn’t want to believe it.”

“So what if it is?” Erik asked, pouting. “That didn’t seem to stop you from snuggling up to Erik. All he needed was a pretty enough vessel, eh?’

He pulled away from her, crossed his arms, and hunched over, every bit a grumpy little boy. It didn’t suit Raoul’s face at all to have it spoilt by the expression.

Now that she knew for certain that it was the opera ghost puppeteering Raoul, she could appreciate just how bizarre it was to hear him speak in Raoul’s voice. Both men had cultivated manners, but Erik lapsed in them when he got upset where Raoul was more likely to lay them on even thicker than before. She suspected he had learned them from observing opera patrons rather than being raised with them. She knew what that was like. Her Swiss accent slipped out in times of stress.

“I can’t believe you would do this to my friend. Let him go.”

He snatched up her hand in two of his frigid ones. “Not just yet. Think about it, Christine: this boy is a good body for me. He’s young and strong and you’re attracted to him, yes?”

“Yes, him, not just his body.”

Erik pressed on as if he hadn’t heard. “I care not about his family name nor his fortune. I can take advantage of both for as long as need be in order to support us, but we can run away together. We don’t need the rest of this world, only each other and music to sustain us.”

“What about Raoul? Are you suppressing him from controlling his own flesh, even now?”

Erik turned his cold gaze on her and his lips twitched in a sinister smile. “I could let him out. Once in a while. If he’s good. Would you rather I find some other handsome dandy to use?”

“I’d rather you not control anyone at all.”

“But I must. You don’t know what it’s like, Christine. To not feel things properly. To not sleep. God, what I wouldn’t give for a night’s rest.” Raoul’s blue eyes filmed over with sudden tears. “I would even relish pain.”

He took one of her hands and forced her to wrench her nails down Raoul’s face.

“Hurt me, please, make me believe I’m still here, I’m still real,” he said, beginning to sob.

“Erik, stop it,” she said, alarmed, trying to pull her hand free.

“It’s so beautiful, isn’t it, Christine? This face. You could love me with this face.”

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