There are some things in life I will never understand. Like how I could walk by a gun, or a knife, and not pick it up before. I never wanted to die, but it was just too easy. The gun, the knife, the rope. They were all right there in front of me, begging to be used.

Please don’t misunderstand; I never meant to hurt anyone! The tools, they weren’t meant to be used on human flesh. Or any flesh, for that matter. They were props, stage tools! But a knife can still cut, and a rope can still hang.

And a gun? Oh, that’s where the lines blur. It wasn’t supposed to be real. I didn’t load it.

But who did?

We were friends, once. Not just in the show. Christine and the Phantom were never meant to be; Everyone knows she leaves me for Raoul.

Stupid, air-headed, piggish Raoul.

But I loved her. Well and truly. And she knew it. I left her flowers, chocolates, trinkets after every show. I showered her with attention. Adoration. Praise. And she returned my affection with coquettish smiles and laughter.

She made me think that she loved me, too.

Oh, the wiles of women! They caress your face with one hand while crushing your heart with the other. It wasn’t until opening night that I suspected anything at all. She hung on Raoul’s arm as she walked off the stage. My death was tragic, the audience clapped, and the curtain fell.

But she wasn’t waiting for me backstage. She wasn’t waiting for me at all. I later heard from Mme. Giry, whose tongue wagged freely, that Christine had gone to a bar with that horrid, pig-headed Raoul.

Perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Perhaps I was mistaken. I felt bad for doubting her, so I left her roses. The bright, red ones. The Phantom’s trademark.

But she disregarded them. She disregarded me.

A few days later, I saw the ring.

That’s when I knew that the story had to change.

——————————————————————

It was the last song of the night. Christine and Raoul were floating away in their little rowboat. The new stagehand had added too much liquid into the fog machine, and the mist was particularly thick.

All the better for me. It was time to spice things up.

I jumped off my platform, reassessing the three items in the Phantom’s arsenal. A knife, a gun, and a long piece of rope.

I grabbed the gun first, and fired. It struck Raoul in the shoulder, and he went down. Over the boat, and onto the ground.

Christine screamed, but the audience was silent. They must have thought this a new twist on the old classic. I laughed in spite of myself. The booming sound was magnified by my microphone.

Christine climbed out of the boat towards Raoul. Before she could reach him, however, I fired two more shots. One missed them, but the other grazed Christine’s shoulder. She cried out in pain. Oh, if only she knew the number of times she had made me cry out like that! I advanced towards her, brandishing the knife. “You love me,” I said, my voice echoing through the theatre. “But you chose to go with him!”

The double meaning was not lost on her. Her lips moved in empty pleas even as I slit her throat.

“I will listen to your lies no more,” I said, as her body dropped to the floor. “The devil take your cheating soul.” Raoul groaned, and I realised he was still alive. I reached for the gun, then paused.

I was the Phantom of the Opera. I did not kill with guns. Smiling to myself, I shot out the two spotlights shining closest to the stage, shrouding nearly half the theatre in total darkness.

———————————————————–

When they finally found light again, there were two bodies hanging from the set. One was Raoul, his face blue, his eyes unseeing. And then there was me. I wasn’t quite dead yet. But I was dead enough not to be able to make sense of the mad screams and wails coming all around me.

The gun lay by my feet. In my last conscious moment, I wondered wildly who had loaded it. I hadn’t realised it was loaded. I’d never even thought about it. I’d just picked it up.

If it hadn’t been loaded, no one would have died. Who left a loaded gun in the presence of a madman? Everyone knew that I was mad for Christine.

As my eyelids flickered, I saw a figure approach me, and pick up the gun. It was Mme. Giry.

“Thank you, Phantom,” she said. “I knew you would not fail me. I should have been the lead role, not that stupid Christine! My, how easy it was to fool that girl. I told her you sent the ring as an apology for missing dinner with her all those nights in a row. Quite a peculiar way you show your affection, Phantom!”

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