Re-reading never ends... thanks to my beta reader, you know I love you, don't you?

Enjoy:)

Chapter One – Creeping Life

"Now, where've you been?" Carla asks when Leah enters the small flat and throws her jacket on the floor right under the coat rack.

Leah smiles innocently.

"I've arranged our tour for tomorrow."

"Another tour?" Carla groans "We live here now, Leah, we go to university here! We don't have to hurry through the city like we had only a week to see it."

"Oh, but Carla, this is Paris! Paris!" Leah stretches the 'a' like a chewing gum. "I can't wait to see it all!"

"But I don't want to hurry around all the time. Give me some time to start feeling at home here! We haven't even packed out all our stuff. Can't we first really arrive here?"

"You mean, sit here." Leah grins. "No, trust me, it'll be fun. And relaxing."

"I don't believe you."

"It will be a guided tour. I have no influence on how much will be told and shown and how far you'll have to walk, but as there will be a group of schoolkids with us, it's not all gonna be so exerting."

"Schoolkids?" Carla coughs. "It'll be chaos, dear, chaos."

"Yeees, and we can do what we want and cross barriers and touch statues and stuff and no one will notice."

"Freak."

"Thanks. Now, aren't you curious where the tour will be?"

Carla gives a deep sigh.

"I don't know. Will I be able to sleep when I know what awaits me tomorrow?"

"Don't be so negative. And now guess."

"It will be a building."

"That's good." Leah grins. "Go on."

"A building... it's a huge one, right?"

"Yes."

"It's on the Axis."

"Nope."

Carla sighs again.

"You get all horny when you think of it."

"You bet I do!"

"I should have known you wouldn't spare me."

"We'll see the cellars! The underground lake! Waaah!" Leah screams and begins to run around in a circle. "Dundundundundunduuuun..."

"Someone give her some drugs." Carla comments sarcastically.

"No, don't." Leah lets herself fall onto her bed. "I swear I'll be silent and I won't be annoying, I won't be phan-y, I swear it!"

"You can't help being phan-y, darling. You'll be an utter shame and correct the guide because you know more about the Opera then him. You'll be all nerdy. And I can't stop wondering what's wrong with me that I still count you as my best friend in the world."

"Perhaps it's the lack of alternatives." Leah sticks out her tongue. "Now, the tour will last approximately four hours, but I will carry all the chocolate you'll need."

"Yeah. Be my Samweis Gamdschie. Carry it and purchase it." Carla gives a threatening look. "Bribe me, c'mon, bribeme with chocolate so that I don't kill you while you sleep in order to spare me having to climb thousands of stairs with school gnomes all around."

"A bribe. With hazelnuts."

"Ok. You'll live and I'll come with you. But if you ask to see Christine's mirror I will punjab you."

"Anti phan using phan phrases. Sweet."

"You intoxicated me. Swear you won't sing."

Leah bangs her fist on her sternum.

"Cross my heart and hope to die."

"And now for something completely different. I am hungry and our cooker isn't installed yet. What about some pizza?"

"No. French ice cream good, french pizza evil. I want some decent baguette."

"Good." Carla pats her stomach and twists her face into what she calls her Feed-weird-Lord-Nero-look. "You go and fetch. Me has ideal weight, you could lose a kilo or two to body motion."

"Because all the chocolate you eat ist beamed directly from your guts onto my hips."

"Yeah. I love it. I eat, you grow fat. How do they say? You complete me, Leah dear."

"Huh." Leah turns her face to an imaginative audience "And this thing calls me a freak."

Leah and Carla arrive at the Opera House half an hour before the tour is about to start.

"Man, I didn't think it would be that huge!"

"I told you. Susan Kay wasn't lying."

"Indeed."

"And all the statues are half naked, just like in the movie."

"Had a taste for sexy things this Garnier guy, didn't he?" Carla grins.

"Yeah, Erik was too much a decent guy to display naked women..."

"Mixing fact and fiction again, dearest."

"No, I'm not!" Leah touches the handrail of the Grand Escalier as if it were a holy relic. "You know what Leroux wrote." she whispers. "It all really happened."

"Leroux lied. Some things really happened."

"And how did they come to happen if not because of Erik?"

"Phreak." is all Carla chooses to answer.

"Thanks." Leah makes an ironical little bow "Now let's go to the mirrored chamber under the stairs..."

"Now, I want you to stay close together. The catacombs are a real labyrinth and I don't want anyone to get lost here." The guard - a tiny woman - tries in vain to make herself heard over the shouting and giggling of the schoolchildren. These have turned out to be not much younger than Leah and Carla, but still as loud as a kindergarten; and as soon as her command is spoken, Leah continues her endless questions about the catacombs.

In the meantime, Carla, leaving some meters of silent space between herself and the group, lets her eyes wander over old walls, through shadows, breathing the damp air of the underground. She suddenly understands how Leroux got the idea of a ghost, a genius, a disfigured, tortured man living down here. If she would ever have the misfortune to get depressed, she would wish herself back here, of that she is certain.

Endless stairs, corridors, shadows. She tries to lose herself to the atmosphere and listens to Beethoven's "Monlight Sonata", played by her memory, until she doesn't hear the guide and the kids anymore.

'Is that why some people experiment with drugs?' Carla silently asks herself. 'To open up to something from the outside and let it change you deeply for some time?'

Her hand caresses the stonewall on her left. She'll have to thank Leah for this - she smiles - trip and excuse for her rudeness yesterday, although she knows that Leah understood her bad mood and isn't hurt.

Suddenly, behind a metal railing, the lake lies before her. The air is cold and the smell of moss and mud seems to permeate everything. The surface is absolutely black, but where small neon lamps light the passage, silvery circles and ellipses lie on it like moonlight, lovely, rippled and torn and cut as the kids start to throw little stones into the water - wherever they found these...

"And other people need diamonds to impress them." Carla mumbles softly.

After a while the group moves on, attempting to leave the lake area through a corridor around the corner. A draft starts when the guide opens the door, and when Carla passes through it, her neckerchief is sent flying into the lake.

"Darn!" She growls angrily "I'll be right back, ok, tell the guide to wait for me at the next turn-off." she calls after a random kid who gives no sign that he has heard her.

"Darn stupid draft, that was my favourite neckerchief and it was expensive and all!" she scolds while climbing over the railing to fish the cloth out of the water.

Suddenly the lights are turned off.

Shocked, Carla stiffens. That causes her to lose her footing and tumble with a big splash into the lake. Immediately, she struggles upwards through the cold, absolute blackness, back to where the surface must be, but her clothes are already soaked with water and pull her deeper.

Then there are arms, getting a hold on her, pulling her through the water. For a moment, Carla relaxes, groping for her rescuer's body to help him carry her, but then she realizes that her journey still goes downward.

It's panic then.

The last thing she knows before she loses consciousness is that her helpless struggling hands strike something that feels like a face with no nose.