Title: The Mask
Fandom: The Phantom of the Opera
Character(s): Erik (Susan Kay's, as a young adult)
Story type: one-shot
Genre: general fiction, 'renewing vital energy'
Summary: Erik crafts his first solid mask - what does he think and how does he feel?
Length: 726 words
It was a monotonous task, dreadfully so.
Again and again Erik's skillful palms stroke the clay before him, his long, skeletal fingers tenderly smoothing every flaw in the accurately sculpted surface.
The extent of his eagerness for perfection was nearly ridiculous, even inhumane given the conditions he forced himself to work under. Dark wood of a deep umber surrounded his small working place, a single candle on the table illuminating the chamber with a flickering, yellowish light. Its dim shimmer hurt his weary eyes, yet he had pushed himself to continue for hours.
Acknowledging the advantages of the dark had been easy, but embracing it with every fibre of his body, becoming a creature of the shadows proved to be a long and painful way to go. If he built this mental prison to hide from the world himself, no one else would. It was for his own best, Erik used to tell himself. Only the pitiful remains of what once resembled his sane and rational thinking, a tiny voice in his mind which was slowly but surely fading away with each passing day, knew that it was impossible for him to live this way.
Every breath of the oppressively hot and oxygen-deficient air seemed to be a laborious necessity. Presently, a single drop of sweat ran down his chin and left a tickling, almost burning sensation on his parchment-like, unhealthily pale skin. Interrupted in his concentration, he involuntarily reached for that spot with his sinewy hand to wipe the liquid away when his fingertips accidentally touched the damp fabric of his mask.
Immediately his arm jerked back and hit the tabletop with a muffled noise, causing his other hand to slip and leave a small carving of a fingernail on the otherwise perfectly even surface of his sculpting. As soon as he had noticed his mistake, he cursed and furiously tried to correct it as he had already done for the umpteenth time during the day or days. Time passed slowly, but in this mere closet of a room the course of the sun did hardly matter.
Eventually, the increasing nagging of frustration was taking its toll. Erik leaned back in his creaking frame of a chair not because his vision was blurring but rather because he considered his work to be finished. The moist cloth clung uncomfortably to his face, and
with a final gesture containing all of his repressed aggression, he tore it off and tossed the white bundle against the wall. A bitter, humourless laugh escaped his lips. As if the dark would mind his accursed ugliness!
Sighing heavily, he blinked several times to regain a clear sight until his gazed rested on the crafted shape. It was a face, or rather to thirds of such, the eye holes, as empty and hollow as a skull's, staring up at him. A soft air draft made the candle's tiny flame flare in defiance, projecting the silhouette of the face onto the opposite wall as an eerie, angrily looming shadow.
Carefully he lifted the object, and although he knew that the special composition of the clay, which the old stonemason had once taught him, would make its structure much more flexible and resistant, he treated it like a fragile piece of crystal glass.
After turning it over in his hands, Erik only very slowly brought it closer to his face until he felt its cool contact. Holding it in place with four of his slender fingers, he eventually dared to turn towards the cracked mirror to his right he had yet shunned so stubbornly.
The sight of his reflection took his breath away.
An awesome stranger stared back at him, one with lean, angular features and the nose he lacked so badly. The only indicators of the presence of a pair of fiery eyes were two tiny spots of light shimmering within the two dark pits.
A yet unknown sensation of power rose in his heart, and, excited by this impression, Erik squinted his eyes to imagine the face's final look. As black as pitch it would be, he would paint and varnish it himself. Frightening it would look, protect him and scare the rabble away.
Never again would he live as a the pathetic, hapless creature with the white sack over his head.
All would be better with his new mask.