A/N: A warm welcome to anyone who might be reading this. I would like to start off by saying that this is the first piece of fanfiction I have ever written. I would also like to say that, unfortunately, it has been quite a while since I've written anything that wasn't an essay. I might be a tad rusty in some areas as a result; I know that's hardly an excuse for poor word choice or lackluster descriptions, but I figured I should at least put it out there. It is for those reasons that I would appreciate any reviews you might give me. As a novice writer, constructive criticism is the only way I can grow.
One more thing: I'm not sure how often I'll be able to upload new chapters. I don't often leave free time in my schedule for writing stories like this, so I truly apologize if a long span of time goes by between uploads!
Now, enough delay on my part! I hope you enjoy the first chapter.
The Théâtre Garnier was one of the largest and most successful in the bustling city of Lumiose, and rose amongst the neighboring skyscrapers with all the pride that was expected of it. It was a pale stone building with a domed roof, it's outer skeleton adding a vaguely 18-century vibe to an otherwise contemporary cityscape. No less than fifteen steps led up to the grand pillars that guarded its entrance. The great oak and glass double doors were spread wide, inviting in any customers who'd pre-ordered their tickets for the evening's show. A strange mix of electric and candle light poured from this wide mouth, twinkled through the arched windows that served as eyes to the outside world.
Inside was almost nothing short of controlled chaos, for hundreds of people milled about the expansive foyer. The heat of their packed bodies combined with that radiated by the numerous chandeliers and wall sconces; though spring air filtered in through the doors and the central cooling system was running, neither could quite combat the stuffiness. Be that as it may, the thick atmosphere was charged with excitement so tangible it all but bore a taste.
Adults and teenagers alike clutched their white ticket stubs as though they were gold doubloons. Eager chatter bounced tumultuously off the peach-colored walls and high ceilings. Tossed back and forth in the jumbled mess of conversations were words including "magic" and "music". However, one central word seemed to glue everything together. It was whispered into anticipating ears behind the veil of a hand, as though it were some dark secret that should never be overheard. A forbidding word though it was, it evoked powerful mystique in the minds of those who heard it: "Phantom".
The chime of a grandfather clock tolled faintly from somewhere within; the mass of people began to move in one great migratory herd. Individual groups were forced to lock hands for fear of being swept away by the flow of bodies. Across the black-and-white tiled floors they went, up the sweeping staircase and down the hallway to the right. Eventually the crowd was cut in thirds as the hallway split into three separate corridors, small and dim in comparison to the rest of the building's grandeur. It was only a short walk, however, before the tunnel-like passages opened into a giant cavern.
If the façade and the lavish entrance hall were any indication of the theatre's decadence, the auditorium was it's crowning jewel. Plush crimson carpet muffled the steps of the audience as they searched for their seats. Row upon row of chairs appeared to stretch as far as the eye could see, their dark-stained frames peeking out beneath a vast sea of red velvetine cushions. Along three walls were boxes reserved for anyone who could afford a handsome fee. Those lucky few would be granted a magnificent birds-eye view of the sprawling chestnut stage, whose polished floorboards nearly reflected the the folds of the red curtain that served as its backdrop. Far above the center aisle hung the theatre's pride and joy: a monstrous chandelier whose gilded branches held hundreds of dangling crystals.
Down in the orchestra pit, a lone musician faced the stage. Upon a quick glance at her formal attire, one might estimate her to be far older than her modest twenty years. Her shoulder length hair was pulled tightly back into a dark braid, which painted her narrow face with uncharacteristic intensity. A deep sapphire gown hugged her slim figure and brought out the passion in her chocolate brown eyes. Pale fingers flipped through the pages of sheet music organized on the metal stand before her.
Though she'd practiced for hours over the past week, her mind whirled and black specks swam in her vision. The complexity of each tune alone was daunting, but the speed with which she was expected to transition between songs even more so. She closed her eyes as the usual pre-performance nausea caused her stomach to turn like a cement mixer. It was a terrible and unfortunate habit of hers, one that she'd tried to shake since starting these performances over two years ago. Of course, she was always unsuccessful; no amount of breathing exercises or meditation seemed ample enough suppress her jitters.
Oh, just relax, Anna. You'll do fine, she silently ordered, allowing herself another second to quell the nerves that simmered in her blood. You've never missed a beat, and you're definitely not going to tonight! Just pretend he's your only audience and play your heart out like always.
The latter may have seemed reasonably soothing advice in theory, but those words were always risky in practice; her partner could be unbelievably critical of mistakes if he was in the wrong mood.
Noting the time on her silver wristwatch—7:55 pm—the young woman leaned down and unlatched the black case at her feet. An antique violin and bow rested on a bed of purple satin. She picked up the instrument with careful hands and hastily began to tune it. Notes wept from the strings, a simple melody floating through the air and combining with the clamor. As the haunting music reached their ears, the crowd's volume dropped to a murmur whilst they listened. Once the sound quality was to her satisfaction, the young musician steadied her bow, the violin still positioned at her left collarbone.
Similar to the audience, all she could do now was wait.
Eight o' clock rolled around at last. The shift in hour brought a sudden hush over the auditorium. The newer, untrained eyes in the audience remained fixed on the stage; with the lack of knowledge concerning tonight's magician came the pre-conceived notion that he would sporadically appear center stage in a ball of fire or plume of smoke, little did they know of his aversion to such flashy and ubiquitous entrances. Those who were more well versed in his illusions allowed their gazes to flit about like agitated butterflies. They scanned the stage's gloomy wings, the catwalks above, and even some of the unrented boxes in the hopes of catching the first glimpse of their elusive specter.
It was with painful sluggishness that seconds slipped into minutes. The heavy silence began to crack as hissed complaints wove through the crowd.
"What the hell's going on?" a man mumbled to the woman who sat beside him. "It's not like him to keep us waiting."
"Maybe he arrived late tonight, hon," the woman reasoned. "Or maybe he got sick at the last minute and can't go on."
"Sick, huh? If that's the case, I demand a refund!"
As the volume began to escalate, the two men who sat in the front-most box grew increasingly uneasy. The shorter of the pair ran a sweaty hand through his curly silver hair, while the taller man beside him unconsciously fiddled with the buttons of his burgundy sport coat.
"He was here today, Andre," the latter said as he forced his fidgeting hands to grip the armrests of his chair. His voice was weak, as though he was trying to convince himself as well as his fellow manager. "Just this afternoon. I saw him practicing with Anna. My eyes aren't what they used to be, but I know they weren't playing tricks on me."
"Well, that's all fine and dandy, Firmin, but it's nearly 8:05 and people are getting restless!" his cohort snapped.
Meanwhile, the violinist remained poised, seemingly impervious to the crackling tension in the atmosphere. The roar of the audience was but a dull buzzing in her ears, though it became harder to block out with every passing moment. Give it a few more minutes and her managers would likely have a full blown riot on their hands. She rolled her eyes in spite of this, a faint smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
Oh, he'll show up. No need to worry about that. It's only a matter of when.
No sooner had the smug thought entered her mind than the lights went out.
Screams erupted as the auditorium was plunged into total darkness, save for the green Exit signs that glowed in the back. People rose as panic and confusion flared in their chests. Friends called to one another in terror, strangled "What happened?"s and "Are you okay?"s. Strangers clutched each other, seeking the sensation of something warm and solid to ground them in the disorienting blackness. Amid the mounting distress an eerie melody ghosted from the strings of a violin, wordlessly urging everyone to stay in their seats and remain calm.
Accompanied by this chilling tune came a sight that left many in the audience rubbing their eyes, for surely they must be deceiving them. Two tiny points of light had appeared over center stage. They were bright gold, a pair of embers burning through the impenetrable shadows. The entire crowd stared at these strange orbs with equal parts fear and awe; the theatre itself seemed to be holding its breath.
There was the slightest whisper of fabric on fabric as the crowd collectively jumped in their chairs. A disembodied chuckle bounced around the cavernous room, a rumbling so quiet and darkly amused that it made the hair on the back of one's neck stand on end. Words immediately followed this terrifying laughter, spoken by a voice could only be described as hypnotic. It was low to the point of growling, yet smooth as the petals of a rose; threatening and commanding, while undeniably soothing.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I truly apologize for my inexcusable delay. I fully intend to make it up to you with a show you shall not soon forget. Now, without further adieu, I bid you all welcome."