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Here is the complete intro to chapter one. From here on out I'll be posting digital comics until chapter 2, which I will introduce with another flash comic.
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Erik says a dirty word. Nothing bad enough for mature content.
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Chapter 1 - intro
“How long has it been?”
The thought echoed out, greeted by the calls of night birds and the soft hush of the spring evening. Only the shadows witnessed my passing as I dodged the halos of light cast by the lamps lining the street. I preferred it this way. The night has always enveloped me in its arms like a friend, a partner in crime, a veil to conceal my ugliness, my longing.
“Since I saw you last?”
The second thought remained unspoken as I scanned the addresses posted on the mailboxes lining the street, searching for the right one.
“Ten years, ten years I should have been dead.”
I stopped beside a mailbox, the mailbox. White paint stood in place of where the small, plastic address plaque should have been, the sloppily drawn numbers totaling to 1881. I turned to the house, it was small, and the siding painted a shade of off white mingled with green that was neither attractive nor unattractive. It differed little from the other houses in the neighborhood.
A flash of doubt crossed my mind as I stared at the unassuming structure. Why on earth would the boy, a count, have chosen to live in such a place as this? With that old money of his he could have taken her anywhere, to Europe, the Caribbean, to any hidden mansion or sun kissed beach. Was my information incorrect? Had Jules mislead me? No, he couldn’t have, his mind is broken beyond repair, nothing but a puppet inhabits that man’s body now.
I moved slowly through the deepest shadows, pulling the rim of my black felt fedora down and letting the shrubbery growing along the wall of the house partially conceal me as I made my way towards one of front windows. A warm light filled the room behind the glass and my eyes, attuned to the shade at that point, strung briefly as I gazed within. My sight adjusted and my doubts were wiped away.
She stood alone, her golden hair tied back in a long tail as she worked away at the few remaining dishes from what had perhaps been that evening’s supper. Her expression was serene, her eyes distant as she worked mechanically at the repetitive task. She was humming softly and I caught the string of sound through the thin glass like a ribbon carried away on the wind. Her voice . . . that siren’s call.
“Your love should have killed me.” My throat grew dry as I listened to her. My fingertips tingled with the remembered sensation of brushing against her hair and her soft, warm skin. The cool evening breeze carried the sensation away and I was suddenly aware of the glass, the wood, and plaster that separated us. She thought me dead, how would she react to spotting me outside her window? No, we were separated by far more than the wall and the few feet between us, a promise created an invisible barrier, unbreakable, undeniable. She had gained her freedom from me in that one night of ecstasy. But I couldn’t be bothered to hold up my end of the bargain, could I? My body refused to keep the promise, clinging to life wretchedly as it has done for so long. So there I was, staring at her across a border that I could not breach, not without hurting her.
“Why do I carry on?”
What had I hoped to accomplish in coming here? The act was equivalent to reopening a fresh wound, pouring lemon juice on it, and then throwing in some salt on top of that. It was painful and stupid. Painfully stupid.
“What am I hoping for? I cannot have you, I cannot hold you. So why?”
I forced my dry eyes shut, gritting my teeth as her image flashed against my eyelids. I could not escape the thought of her or forget her, she was forever burned into my soul, and her love was a scar that would never fade. And why would I want it to fade?
“Why did I return?”
The air left my lungs in a long hollow sigh as I bowed my head in defeat. In my brooding state, as images and memories of Christine and I together swam through my mind, I did not notice the soft rustling of leaves beside me. Nor did I spot the two gleaming eyes gazing up at me from behind the wavering branches of the bush. So distracted was I that I did not see the small figure rise from the foliage. I felt my entire body go rigid as she cried out for the whole neighborhood to hear-
“Mom! There’s a weird guy in a mask standing outside the house!” that said, the girl darted away with startling speed as I stood there stunned. Conflict raged between my urge to lasso the offender and have Christine see me. The word ‘mom’ rang through my skull as I stupidly waited with baited breath for Christine’s reaction.
“Niki what-!?” Christine spun around with a look of concern that turned to surprise and then to shock in the blink of an eye. She stared and so did I, rather brazenly I think. As I if I had every right to be standing in her shrubbery.
“Erik?” The name came out in almost inaudible whisper that my keen ears caught easily, but I took the most pleasure in watching her lips sound it out. With every syllable the distance between us was breached, the barrier broken. Damn my promise to hell! I do not care!
“Yes it is I, Erik, back from the dead! Will you call to your boy to save you from this horrid ghost who loves you so?” I wanted to bellow, but my tongue was caught just in time by my teeth, and I held it until I tasted blood.
Christine moved out of my sight but I tracked her movement by the sound of her rapid footfalls. She was headed for the front of the house and turning in that direction I saw the little girl from before peeking at me from beside the front door. She held the doorknob in her right hand, her head tilted to the side in curiosity as she gazed at me. I noted her purple hoody, her height, her black hair, age, and every other unimportant detail before I came to the only important one. Her glowing eyes. Her glowing, yellow eyes.
The door opened and Christine stuck her head out, ushering the girl inside before moving onto the doorstep. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed between us as I registered what I had just seen and what was happening at the moment. I did not expect what happened next.
. . . . .
A little later I found myself sitting at the kitchen table in Christine’s home, fully welcome, as if I was an expected guest rather than a snooping voyeur she caught looking in through her window. Christine had taken my coat and hat, hung them up, and offered me a chair while she hurried about the business of preparing a pot of coffee. The girl sat across from me at the table, picking at a spot in the painted wood and glancing up at me on occasion. I could hardly believe that this was all happening. Part of me expected to wake up cold and shivering any moment now, suffering from the after-effects of a high dose of morphine. But it was neither a hallucination nor a dream; I could tell by the throbbing pain in my tongue. Even in my most terrifying nightmares there is no pain…at least not any physical pain.
The girl sitting across from me folded her arms on the table and rested her head upon them, gazing up at me with purpose. I returned the stare with silence and a cold sidelong glance. Someone needs to teach this child that it is rude to stare.
“Hi, I’m Niki, who are you?” She asked, swinging her legs under the table. She always seemed to be fidgeting or moving about in some way.
“Erik.” I answered curtly, turning my gaze back to where Christine was watching the coffee brew while she cleaned two mugs. She set them gently on the white Formica counter top before spooning a bit of sugar into each.
“Are you mom’s friend?” Niki asked. I was unsure how to answer that and rather disliked being interrogated by a child.
“I . . .”
“A salesman?” she piped before I could answer.
“. . . .”
“A wizard?” she persisted.
“Something like that.” I through with a small smile. When I didn’t answer, the girl’s questions ceased. After a moment of silence she tilted her head, narrowed her eyes, and a mischievous smile spread across her lips.
“A serial killer?” My brows shot up at this and I turned towards her fully. Her smile only broadened.
“Was I right?” she whispered.
“Alright Niki, that’s enough. Time for bed.” Christine said as she approached the table, a steaming cup of coffee in each hand.
“What? No way!” the girl whined, lifting her head from her arms to stare up at Christine incredulously as if I were too great a spectacle to miss over something as trivial as sleep.
“You heard me, scoot.” Christine said firmly, the girl frowned but obeyed, reluctantly getting up from the chair.
“Fine, whatever.” She said as she trudged off toward the kitchen door.
“Goodnight.” Christine called after her, setting her cup of coffee down on the table.
“Goodnight.” Niki grumbled as she slipped through the door.
When the girl was gone Christine sat in the chair across from me with a soft laugh.
“Sorry about that. Niki’s curiosity knows no end, or bounds. Here.” Christine said with an apologetic smile as she handed me the second cup of coffee. I stared at it dumbly for a few seconds before quickly accepting it. I don’t much like the taste of the beverage but I found the gesture touching. I was being treated like a true guest.
“I have to admit, I’m rather surprised to see you. I thought you were dead.” She said after taking a tentative sip of her coffee.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you.” I said, instantly regretting my biting tone.
“I don’t think I would have let you into the house If I was ‘disappointed’.” Christine said with a small smile. I felt the corners of my mouth twitch upwards as well, the conversation so far was far more pleasant than the ones we had held ten years ago. Christine’s entire manner seemed to have changed, she was relaxed in my presence, and there was something different about her. The years hadn’t robbed her of her youthful beauty but she did seem . . . older, perhaps more experienced. Her expression became distant as she lifted her mug and spoke.
“It’s just strange . . . seeing you again. So much has changed.” She took a sip of the coffee.
“I’m definitely not where I thought I’d be at this stage of my life.” She said wistfully. I frowned, why did she sound so pensive? She had her freedom from me didn’t she? What else did she want?
“I’m not the same frightened little girl I was ten years ago either. That’s for sure.” She continued.
“You don’t sound particularly pleased, I thought you and your boy would be living the perfect life by now.” I asked. Christine blinked at me in confusion for a second before she realized my meaning. Her eyes narrowed a little, her expression becoming more serious.
“My boy? Do you mean Raoul? Erik we never got married.” She said and I felt my eyes widen in surprise.
“What?” I asked, stunned by this revelation and perhaps partially elated that the boy didn’t have the satisfaction of her love.
“After all that happened between us I just couldn’t go through with it.” She began, setting her cup down as she started her explanation.
“I was stressed and confused. I blamed myself for your death and for the hardships Raoul endured to . . . ‘save’ me from you. The guilt ate at me.” Christine looked down at the table, clutching at her cup.
“I was pregnant and jobless, marring Raoul seemed like the logical next step, but I couldn’t. I left him standing at the altar while I cried in a waiting room like a child. He came in and found me and he was so understanding!” she continued and I felt my frown deepen.
“Ugh.” I couldn’t contain the disdainful groan. Her sweet words and the fondness in her voice when she talked of the boy made my stomach roil with anger.
“Hey! Don’t give me that attitude mister!” she snapped at me, her tone matronly and stern. I blinked at her, shocked by the outburst, and she blushed suddenly.
“ . . . Sorry, it’s a mom thing.”
“Anyway, we broke off the marriage but Raoul stood by me regardless. He helped pay for daycare so I could go back to school and got me my job at the hospital. He did this all so I could stand on my own two feet . . . I owe him so much but I just couldn’t go all the way with him.” She finished and then smiled, her face taking on a lighter aspect.
“Despite all the hardship I can’t say I regret anything. I feel like a real person now, like I’m finally beginning to understand myself. As for being a mother, sometimes I want to tear my hair out but I love it. I love Nicole and Charles and I wouldn’t give them up for the world, or to stand on any stage.” She said with finality that made me grit my teeth.
“You should be on a stage Christine.” I said darkly. Christine’s smile grew thin and she sighed.
“Erik I’m thirty years old and I have two children. A career in opera is a little out of the question.” She said with a small laugh. My hands curled into fists as she spoke.
“So achieving your childhood dream and realizing your true potential is out of the question . . . but spreading your legs and fucking the boy was not?!” I demanded in outrage. I spent years preparing her for a life on the stage, cultivating the glory of her voice, and she simply threw it all away. For what? To procreate with that sniveling boy, that idiotic aristocrat!
Christine’s face went blank with shock, her mouth opening slightly to release a small sound of disbelief. Then just as I was about to speak again her expression turned fierce and she responded to my insult with just as much fury.
“ . . . You did not just . . . ! Erik you’re the father!” she shouted and my body went rigid, a coldness spread through my chest.
“That-that’s impossible! Don’t speak such lies!” I demanded, my mind spinning. It just wasn’t possible. . . . The image of the girl, Niki, her eyes glowing in the dark, rose in my mind. My already balled fists tightened until my knuckles cracked and I felt my fingernails dig into the flesh of my palms.
“It’s not a lie and it’s not impossible. You are the father Erik!” Christine persisted.
“Oh my god!” both Christine and I turned as we heard the cry usher from behind the kitchen door. It swung open and standing in the doorway was Niki, her hands curled into fists and her eyes bright.
“I knew it!” she shouted and smiled broadly as another figure emerged from the hallway beyond, a young boy who very closely resembled Niki. Twins perhaps? The thought made my stomach churn. They didn’t look like De Chagny. No, I could see some of Christine’s features in them, the girl’s face resembled hers, and the boy’s eyes were the same shade of sky blue as his mother’s. But Niki, no she had my eyes, my eyes.
“Niki. I told you to go to bed!” Christine snapped at the girl but Niki wasn’t listening. She smiled at me with a determined and triumphant look in her eye, like she had just solved a difficult puzzle.
“You’re not a wizard and you’re not mom’s friend! So the only logical reason she’d let you into the house is that you’re our father!” she deduced with a sense of absolute certainty.
“And we have the same crazy eyes too!” she said delightedly. I just stared at her and the boy speechlessly. Christine sighed and rubbed her temples.
“I knew Mr. Chagny wasn’t our real dad! I totally called it!” Niki said, pumping her fist. The boy stared at his sister for a moment before turning to me and raising a hand to give me a halfhearted wave.