Continuing Tales

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 3 of 64

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Binary

With an angry flourish, Erik closed the chat window. After months of talking to the woman, he had truly come to believe that she was different, that she was more interested in music than appearances. Why did she have to prove herself just as shallow as the rest? It had been a perfect friendship; he had almost begun to feel safe.

With a sigh, Erik crossed the room and lifted his violin to his chin. The violinís finish was originally polished and bright, but he had scuffed and dulled it. He wanted nothing near him that would reflect his face. His face: the bane of his existence. At birth, there had only been some minor deformity in the frontal and maxillary sinus cavities that had caused him to have difficulty breathing. A perfectly well meaning surgeon had gone in to repair the problem.

Erik snorted. That problem had been repaired, but his undereducated parents had not understood the post-operative instructions and their insufficient insurance sent them home with the delicate infant far too soon. A drug-resistant staph infection set in just days after the operation, destroying nearly all the flesh around his eyes and cheeks. It had demolished his nose. The doctors proclaimed it a miracle that the infection did not touch his eyes. Afterwards, his health had been so fragile that the plastic surgeons dared not attempt to repair the damage for over a year. Meanwhile, his distraught parents sued for medical malpractice and won. They loved their little son, and wanted the best for him. The settlement paid for decent insurance and the many surgeries to come.

When he was two, heíd gone into the operating theatre for his first restorative surgery. The newly grafted skin looked wonderful, but then his body rejected it. From that moment on, his childhood had been nothing but an agonizing series of operations, each meant to undo the damage from the last. The strain proved too much for his mother, who kissed him one day and never came back home. His father did the best he could to rear the boy, but there was only so much parenting that could be done with a child whose life revolved around the hospital and aftercare.

The one bright spot had been his lessons. By law, the local school systems had to send specialized teachers to keep him from falling behind in his education. These tutors soon found they had a genius to work with. By his twelfth birthday, they no longer tried to teach him from the curriculum. He named a subject, and they brought him books. The boy was beyond them. It was a relief to his teachers when he finally tried for, and received, his GED. The child was a genius, true, but he was as cold as ice and as distant as the sun.

Only one person saw the fiery passion Erik hid from everyone else. There was a man, Nadir Khan, who was willing to go to whatever hospital was working on him at the time and teach the child to play violin, cello, guitar - anything with strings. A friend of Nadirís gave the boy two voice lessons before admitting that he could not bear the sight of that ruined face. Two lessons were enough. Erik found that singing was a wonderful way to recondition the brutalized muscles and skin after a surgery. He sang and played through pain and loneliness. Music reached him when nothing else could.

Erik woke in a hospital bed on his sixteenth birthday to see a very nervous crowd of doctors and nurses accompanied by his father and Mr. Khan. A world-renowned surgeon had come to evaluate the effects the endless surgeries had had on the skin, bone and musculature. Heíd made a decision that he passed down as a decree. Erik would never forget the simultaneous relief and despair that paralyzed him when the great doctor said,

"There will be no more surgeries. What can be done, has been done." The great doctorís eyes had softened with pity when they met Erikís cold, questioning stare. "Iím sorry Erik. Thereís nothing more we can do. Your body has rejected even the prostheses. You have to live with the face you have."

When Erik said nothing in return, the great doctor shook his head and left the room. One by one, all the doctors and nurses who had worked with him over the years apologized and left - some with tears in their eyes, some with sighs of relief. Finally, only his father and Mr. Khan remained. The latter was hiding something behind his back.

"Erik. Iím sorry..." his father began.

"No, Dad. Itís fine. Thereís nothing they can do. I understand." Erikís voice was strained and quiet; his black eyes looked like dead coals.

"We...Nadir and I...we brought you something. Itís your birthday, and we thought you should have something to make up for everything else..."

Mr. Khan stepped forward and whipped the black box out from behind his back. He was the only adult in the room able to summon a smile. The boyís face meant nothing to him - he recognized the blazing spirit behind the ravaged flesh.

"Open it, Erik! Hurry, or Iíll take it back and open it myself."

His enthusiasm was infectious. Erik snatched the box and tore it open, revealing an ornate black leather violin case. With trembling hands, he flipped the sliver latches open and slowly raised the lid. When he saw what was inside, his jaw dropped and he lost his breath. It was the most magnificent instrument he had ever seen. This was no cheap, mass produced childís violin. It had obviously been custom made just for him. From the perfect scroll to the ebony points, it was a work of art. He turned the beautiful thing over in his hands, to see the makerís mark - it was a Leonhardt.

Reverently, he lifted the instrument and set it under his chin. There was hot pain when the chin-rest pushed the freshly cut skin of his face into little wrinkles under the fresh bandages; he ignored it. He set bow to string and played the Moonlight Sonata. The sound was deep, dark and full. He remembered both grown men turning away to study the walls, the curtains, anything to keep from showing the tears that coursed down their faces.

Now, the violin rested painlessly beneath his chin, and he slowly drew the well-rosined bow across the strings, smiling peacefully as the music flowed out to soothe him once again. The music calmed him and restored his rational thought. With annoyance, he realized he wished minorchord could hear this. Sheíd love the sound - he knew she would appreciate it, camwhore or not. Erik set the violin down on the rack he had made especially for it, and logged back in.

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 3 of 64

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