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for A Game of Make-Believe

12/1/2018 c1 45Igenlode Wordsmith
I'm amused by Erik's comments on the necessity for paperwork in 19th century France (although I'd got the impression that the various Oriental empires were fairly notorious for their sclerotic official bureaucracy - I don't know if that applied to Persia). In the East, of course, begging is not seen as a problem (or not one to be solved other than by physically removing the beggars in the short term, anyway...)

It's an interesting idea that the man you are trying to impersonate might himself be a criminal, though I do wonder just how rigorous people were in spelling names at that period (1860s/70s?) I note he takes care to change the birth date as well, though (and to steal papers with a date that can be easily altered!)

Of course in the days before photographs all identity documents had to contain at least an outline description of the owner along with any birthmarks etc - and a major deformity would definitely be expected to appear on the list of 'distinguishing features'!
And if you're trying to conduct a life of crime, having prominent distinguishing features is obviously a major disadvantage... so I love the idea that as a criminal making himself out to be *more* deformed than he really is, Erik contrives to leave the impression that the entire deformity business is simply an act designed to allow him to conceal a perfectly normal face :-)

The suggestion that Erik actively tried to avoid casually hurting or killing people doesn't seem based on canon (unless the idea is that he had had *too much* of hurting people in Persia and is now sick of it)? I mean, I'm sure it makes sense as a good cold-blooded practical policy, but Leroux Erik doesn't seem that safe and logical.
(Perhaps the phrasing "did not *want* to hurt or kill" rather than, say "did not see the need to hurt or kill" is misleading?)

"A man jumped out of the woods" - but not Erik! Ooops, we have rival robbers; clearly Erik wasn't the only one to see the potential of the pastor's short-cut...
Does the man jump across the road holding one end of his piece of rope in order to cause the ponies to stop suddenly, or does he have the rope set up across the road beforehand and simply jump out in front of the carriage once the ponies have already seen it and stopped?
NB I've never heard of a 'caratella', but it's evidently some sort of small horse-drawn vehicle...

Certainly if Erik rescues the pastor and the money, nobody will suspect him of being the one who subsequently stole it!

So the prison has its own courtroom for the ease of sentencing men who are brought there to be imprisoned ;-p

It is very lucky for Erik that when he manages to kill a man he is praised as a hero for doing it ;-)

I like the logic that prisoners are forbidden to communicate with one another with the idea of preventing them from learning more criminal arts in prison, rather than just as an additional punishment; it's the sort of harsh logic I can see people coming up with. (I don't know if that is what was actually stated at this era, but it sounds convincing!)

Those prisoners really don't know what they are getting into by starting a "who's scarier" contest with Erik :-P

What I like about the way you write Erik is that you make him convincingly ruthless and amoral; he is quite happy to torture the prisoners in order to get them to obey him, and in order to win plaudits from the prison staff (in which respect it's very much like being back in Persia, I suspect...) He also seems to be actively enjoying wielding power over 'normal' men, and especially in demonstrating his superiority over those who think themselves dangerous.

(Presumably all these details of the organization of the prison colony are from your usual research?)

Surely not every man who is employed as a prison guard is married? Perhaps all the single ones are normally lodged within the prison establishment, and Erik's allocated house is part of his special mark of favour for his heroic rescue of the money :-p

I like Erik's joke about Martha not being one of the 'bad *boys*'!

She certainly solves part of his domestic problem - and it's realistic that she turns out not to be a particularly good housekeeper (after all, she is infirm and she has never been trained to this sort of work).

"I invented a way to tie them up with very thin wires" - this passage seems to be a close duplication of Erik's earlier description ("the thin piano strings were hidden under the prisoner's clothing")

"But women? How could I find the weak spots in a female body? I knew absolutely nothing about that" - ouch! when I saw this I thought he was going to suggest experimenting on Martha :-(

So in order to restrain the women, he simply puts them in fashionable hobble skirts :-p
(Though I believe the hobble skirt was actually a 20th-century fashion trend.)

So despite her eyesight problems, Martha does eventually learn to check for dust on the shelves and wrinkles in the shirts...

"I would be invited to sit with them at the inn and have a beer" - does Erik take his mask off to drink beer? He originally refused the prison governor's drinks because he didn't want to have to lift the mask and reveal his face.
(On the other hand, that was an improvised night-time mask; presumably he now has a mask that allows him to eat and drink with Martha around.)

I like Erik's suspicion that the purpose of Catholic confessions is to generate blackmail material :-p

Would people *really* consider it improper for a single man to hire an old woman as his housekeeper? The fact that elderly widowers did cause scandal (and disgruntled heirs) by remarrying to their housekeepers suggests that there were plenty of female servants running male households - and I get the impression that women past the age of reproduction were regarded as effectively unsexed anyway.

"I of all people should not despise someone because of her looks" - ouch! But he doesn't despise her just for her looks; he also despises her incompetence and lack of education :-p
I'm not entirely sure why he does marry her, given that she isn't exactly eager either: a desire to fit in, plus apparently concerns about seeming selfish.

Martha is enjoying her newfoound right to nag her 'husband' :-P

Goats and chickens should sort the overgrown garden out, even if the pastor's ponies don't ;-)

Oh Erik, stealing from the donations plate just for the fun of it :-D
(But again you seem to have duplicated this material a little later.)

I'd forgotten about the Daroga! Yes, it's very ironic that Erik has effectively ended up doing the Daroga's job - certainly something neither of them would ever have anticipated from him in Persia :-D

"I do not know why, but the more I insisted that my face was too horribly deformed, the more she wanted to see it" - 'you women are always so curious' :-(

But Erik is probably right; if they are going to spend the rest of their lives (or her life) together, then she is quite likely to catch sight of his face accidentally at some point, and it might be better for her to see it deliberately first...

Only the shock causes her to tip over her chair backwards and break her skull on the edge of the iron stove :-(
Hence, presumably, Erik's astonishment when he actually goes so far as to kiss Christine and she 'doesn't die'?

Presumably it did sometimes happen that when a man hit his wife she fell awkwardly and suffered serious injuries; it would be an obvious excuse for murder, though. (Like "She walked into the door" or "She stood on the rake" for facial damage.)

And the irony is that this unappealing job and this elderly 'aunt' with whom he has absolutely nothing in common now seem to him in retrospect like a golden age of security and normality. (Erik seems to have spent his life alternately craving 'normality' and seeking out the exotic.)
11/1/2018 c1 MyNina
I was very happy when I saw your new story, good to see you back in writing!
As usual, your detailled historical descriptions give us a good impression how the real life worked back then for the poor mass, and Erik always was an outcast too. I like your idea very much and of course your staying true to the Leroux character... this might exactly be the reason why he did not simply tell Christine the truth about his face oO. And of course the paradox situation of him being in prison out of his free will - but it definitely fits Erik ' s interests as he worked in the same business in Persia.
The end was very sad, especially because the couple really had a content life in a way, but it perfectly fits in to Erik ' tragic life. That was a great and uncommon Halloween story, and I would be glad to read more of your stories soon!
11/1/2018 c1 41AmadErik
Do you know why I love your stories? Because they are so realistic and you are the clisest to a Leroux prequel I think. The way you explain the need of ID papers in Europe is just so accurate and heartbreaking. Because of his face, Erik can't even find a job without committing the crume of forging identity despite his skills. Society makes him commit even more crimes than necessary.
10/31/2018 c1 28Not A Ghost3
Poor, poor, Erik!
10/31/2018 c1 10angelofnight
Very unexpected.

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