twisted_satyr: Photo of Lamb of God's frontman, Randy Blythe, screaming into a microphone like the metal god he is. (Phantom)
[personal profile] twisted_satyr
Title: Lips of An Angel - Act One: I Wish I Had An Angel, Scene 2
Fandom: The Phantom of the Opera
Rating: R overall for violence, abuse, language, and sensuality.
Summary: The beginning of Erik's story.
Author's Note: Phantom of the Opera and all of its official canon characters belong to Gaston Leroux and ALW. This version is different from Susan Kay's - please keep that in mind....this is my creative input here. Also, I believe that "obscen catea" means "dirty bitch" and "alb gunoi" means "white trash" in Romanian. R&R, my lovelies, as always!!!! ♥

Peace is what they tell me
Love am I unholy
Lies are what they tell me
Despise you that control me

The peace is dead in my soul
I have blamed the reasons for
My intentions poor
Yes I'm the one who
The only one who
Would carry on this far

Torn, I'm filthy
Born in my own misery
Stole all that you gave me
Control you claim you save me

~ Creed's "Torn"

Life has a funny way of taking things instead of giving them. It takes and takes and takes, never giving anything in return, unless life seems to like you. Life has taken a liking to me, but in an entirely different way. Its mates Fate and Destiny loathe me with a passion, and only give me the worst treatment. But for some odd reason, Life refuses to leave me. I have tried to commit suicide numerous times, but either someone or something interferes, something goes wrong, or I lose the strength to do it. How I can possibly lose the will to kill myself is beyond me, but it is an intricate, embedded instinct that is extremely hard to overcome.

I have been denied love since I was born. I do not know what possessed my mother to keep me alive, but I suspect that the village priest must have had something to do with it, as well as my mother’s own piety. Religion was everything to her, and I suppose I must be grateful, because if she hadn’t been so insistent in her love and devotion to God, I would never have discovered the beauty of music. Needless to say, Kyrie’s and Ave Maria’s do not fascinate me or fill me with peace like Operas and music performed by the great composers do, but it gave me a good start.

My childhood was anything but. My mother regarded me with unspoken hatred and revulsion, hidden by her proud self-righteousness. She fed me, clothed me, and protected me from the village outside for a time. My first article of clothing was a crude mask which she had constructed for me, and when I was six years old, I had snuck into her room, which contained the only mirror in the entire household. I removed my mask and stared at the horror before me for long moments. I was not a fool, she had taught me what mirrors were and their purpose, and I knew that the monster before me was my own reflection. My dark eyes stared out at me without emotion, the distorted contours of the right side of my face there for me to see. I had wondered for years what lay behind the mask, touching my face every night before going to bed, imagining what lay there.

I never spoke to my mother that I had seen my face, and kept that secret to myself. I understood at last why she treated me with such indifference, teaching me how to read and write, mathematics, and religion just because she had to. Every Sunday she went to church, and although I longed to see the world outside, I took this opportunity to sit and play at the piano, and write music. I studied the hymns that my mother would play, and came to a quick understanding as to how music worked, writing my own requiems and praises to the Lord above.

One of these Sundays, I sat at the piano, playing one of my mother’s hymns, singing softly to the music, relishing in that I could only hear music, nothing else. I was so absorbed in the music that I did not hear my mother enter the house and come up behind me. I felt her presence rather than heard it, and stopped, my voice drifting into silence. We stared at each other for a few moments, and then I felt the sharp sting of my mother’s slap across the left bare side of my face. I sat there, stunned, slowly turning back to face her. Her cheeks were flushed, and a peculiar gleam had come into her eyes. Her shoulders were heaving, and her lips trembled. There was silence between us, until I gathered the courage to speak. ‘Mother…’

She slapped me again, harder. I did not turn to face her again, but I was confused as to why she was treating me so. Yes, she hated me, thought I was ugly, and only cared for me out of the pure charity of Christ, but she had never hit me before. ‘Mother, what did I do?’ I asked.

I should have kept my mouth shut, because my mother began to hit me repeatedly as hard as she could. ‘Don’t you ever play that again! Don’t you ever, ever, EVER sing in my presence!’ she screamed. I could feel her tear at the good side of my face, and I raised my arm to try and fend her off, but she pushed it away almost effortlessly.

‘If you ever play or sing again, so help me God…! Your voice is of the devil!’ She grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the piano stool, dragging me across the sitting room and up the stairs to the small room that I called my own. She shoved me to my knees in front of the crucifix on the wall and demand that I seek penance for my sins. I did as she asked, numbed with confusion and shock at this sudden outburst, never knowing what it was I had done wrong.

Oh, it was so obvious back then, but I was still a naïve, innocent boy. The art of seduction had not come to me yet, and lust was a foreign concept to me, something that I read in the Bible that was apparently evil and of the devil. It never occurred to me, not once that my voice would have such power over another. Never, in all of my wildest dreams would I have imagined that just the faintest strains of a childhood nursery rhyme sung from my lips could draw any woman willingly into my arms.

As I think back on it, I understand why she reacted the way she did. I was foolish, and mistook her trembling lips, heaving breaths, and glazed eyes as signs of anger. I did not know that my voice had called upon hidden desires that she had confessed to no one, not even her beloved God, for fear of the shame and revulsion it would give her. She refused to believe that she, such a pious and righteous woman, could ever desire a man – or a woman, for that matter – in such a crude manner, or that such thoughts and scenarios should even enter her mind. My voice conjured such thoughts and desires into her head, and she attacked the source before I could do any true lasting damage to her reputation.

What relationship we had was destroyed that day. I do not think that my mother knew how much music brightened my life or that by burning what music I had written and what sheet music she had only increased the hatred I had for her. I felt as if a part of myself was being torn out as I watched her toss the beloved notes which I had taken such solace in my days of solitude into the flames of the fireplace.

I continued writing music in secret, saving paper from my studies for later use. I saved all of the music I had written in a loose floorboard in my closet, and during my childhood, I do not think she ever discovered what I had done. By burning the music, not only had she killed a part of my spirit, she also made music that more appealing. It was my forbidden fruit, and each note tasted better than the last. It was delicious, and if I were able to, I would have spent my days devouring music, throwing myself into my gluttonous desires.

My childhood was not to last forever. When I was ten, things took a complete and utter life-changing turn. Gypsies have always been viewed as outcasts to the general public, looked down upon for their heathen and pagan ways, traveling from village to village earning what living that they could. Parents tried to protect their children from the temptation of the fortune-teller or the seductive notes of the gypsies’ violin, but it was to no avail. Young women went to the fortune-teller in hopes that they would predict great love in their future, and men watched the gypsy women dance sensually to the exotic tones of the fiddler with nothing but lust. The elders of the community murmured their disapproval, and my mother was no exception. She was in a very foul mood when the gypsies came to our small French village in the countryside, and she made it clear to me every moment that she was able to.

‘Filthy heathens,’ she would mutter when returning from the market or from church in those summer months. ‘They’re nothing but trouble, Erik. They are sinners, and hell is the only place for them. Praying for their souls won’t even save them from the fate that awaits them.’

I listened to her murmurings in silence, smart enough to not ask too many questions about the mysterious gypsies. In truth, they fascinated me. Their lifestyle, so different from my own, was very appealing to me, and I spent hours sitting in front of the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of them. I daydreamed about what life would be like if I joined the gypsies. They would let me sing to earn money, and they, outcasts themselves, would accept me. I was sure of it; there was no doubt in my mind. If there was only a way for me to venture into the world outside, to join their caravans and learn their mysterious secrets…

There was a man standing on the path that led to our house. My eyes narrowed as I took the strange man in. His skin was tan, and a long, matted mane of dark hair fell past his shoulders. The clothing he wore was tatted, and there were several crudely sewn patches on a long coat that covered his filthy trousers and soiled shirt. His boots were coated in mud and hay, and his skin was smudged with dirt. His hands were shoved into his pockets, and he stared at our home in contemplation.

‘…Mother,’ I called, and she came into the room.

‘What is it, Erik?’ She asked, exasperated. She had been working in the kitchen, and she hated interruptions during cooking.

‘There is a man outside of our house,’ I told her solemnly.

‘A man? Where?’

‘There, at the end of the path,’ I answered, pointing. She came to my side and her brows furrowed at the sight of the man.

‘…Who is he?’ I asked her, turning to face her. Her complexion had quickly turned pale, much to my amazement. She looked utterly terrified, a state that I had never seen in her. I revolted her, but she had always shown self-control. Never had I seen her lose composure before. It lasted for only a moment, and then she was back to her usual self.

‘A gyspy,’ she answered, her frown deepening. We watched and waited for the man to make a move. As soon as I was wondering if he would be standing there all night, he turned on his heel and walked down the road back towards his caravan.

‘Thank God,’ my mother breathed, straightening and returning to the kitchen. I remained where I was, thoughts running through my head. Why would a gypsy be staring at our house for such a long period of time? We lived in a modest home and didn’t have anything of real value, or so I thought. I was not aware of the desperate needs of the poor, and believed that every person who ever lived on the earth lived in a house similar to ours. The house was the only world I knew, and I didn’t understand why a gypsy would want our home when he had such sweet, exhilarating freedom. It didn’t make sense to me.

My mother called me to dinner, and we ate our meal in silence, spending the evening reading from the Bible. My mother explained that she feared for my immortal soul since I had glimpsed upon sin, although I suspect she was much more concerned about how it would affect her in the afterlife, when she came face to face with her precious God.

When I went to bed that night, my mind was filled with dreams. Images of sitting around the fire with gypsies, telling stories, sharing dreams and desires while watching the fire flicker and the kindle snap and curl up into wisps of smoke that reached up to caress the moon filled my head. Scenarios of learning the forbidden magic of this cast off people from old women who knew every plant imaginable, and knew how to cure everything enchanted all of my thoughts.

The thought of disobeying my mother and her strict rules had never crossed my mind. Never. The time I saw my face was the only exception. I had been raised to obey my elders without question. To disobey my mother was a sin against God, and she had raised me to respect God. She wished me to fear Him, but respect, and eventually resentment and hate, were the only things I felt towards Him. I did all that she asked, other than writing music in secret, and it did not bother me. I was quite mature for my age, and I suppose the two of us should be thankful for it. If I were a little beast who threw tantrums and talked back to my mother at every opportunity, I’m quite sure I would not even be alive today. I would have driven her mad to the point where she could not handle me even being in the same room with her, and I daresay the murder would have been most unpleasant for the both of us. My reasons are obvious, but I believe she would have been most displeased at having her hands stained in such a vulgar color.

Regardless, the house which had always been my sanctuary suddenly felt like a prison. My mother had filled my head with stories of how cruel the sinners, like the gypsies, in the outside world could be. She had hoped to instill a phobia of leaving the house in me, I suppose, but the outside world never really appealed to me that much. Church sounded quite boring, other than the music, but I could – or used to, I should say – play said hymns at home while she was at church. The outside world was something I could watch just fine from the windows. But now…now I felt the urge to get out, to see the moon and to feel the breeze across my face as I ran down the path to the village of my birth. To see the steeple of the church and to touch its stone walls and get close to other people, even if they were in their houses sleeping…Change was in the air, the gypsies had brought it with them, and I wanted to be in the heart of it.

I had made up my mind. I would venture to the outside world for the first time in my entire life. I had the whole night; my mother was asleep, and I had a good three or four hours before I would need to be back. I would take advantage of it, and savor every moment that I could. Maybe, if I was lucky enough, I could even see the gypsies.

I slid out of bed as quietly as I could manage, putting my mask on my face and pulling trousers and day clothes on. I avoided the creaky floorboards and steps, moving as silent as a cat down the stairs to the kitchen. This window you could open and close, and my mother had placed many a baked pie on the windowsill to let it cool. I unlocked the catch quite easily, and it slid open with a slight squeaking, much to my horror. I stood stock still for a few moments, waiting with bated breath for my mother’s running footsteps down the stairs, her fist upon my back, screaming at me to go back to bed, and what did I think I was doing? My vision began to go slightly spotted, and I let out the breath I was holding. The house remained silent, every inch of it caught in a deep, deep sleep. Moving as quietly as I could, I pulled myself up to the windowsill, landing on the grass outside feet first.

It was my first time in the outside world. Nothing could have prepared me for it. It is one thing to see the moonlight caress Gaia through a window, but another entirely to see it with your own two eyes while the feel of the soft grass is beneath your bare feet. I stood there, in front of the open window for ages it felt like. I was certain my legs were going to become one with the earth and I was going to grow into a tree, and I would spend the rest of my days just watching that moon hang in the sky, and the stars twinkle and shine with unabashed friendliness. If I could, I would have stayed in that one spot all night, too afraid to blink for fear I would miss some revealing secret of the universe.

I can’t remember what snapped me out of that intricate spell the sight of the moon had cast on me. I think it might have been the thought that this would be the only night I would have to wander around my village – because, like the good son I was, I would never do such a thing ever again – and I needed to take advantage of the time given to me. I closed the window, remembering the gypsy man who had stood outside our house hours before, but left it unlocked so that I would be able to get back inside undeterred. I walked down our yard to the path that led to the village. I walked it like a Christian on a religious pilgrimage, my heart set completely on its destination, never wavering, as much as I would like to. There were trees, bushes, flowers, a river, and a horse stable that I passed on my way to the main village. I longed to stop and see them, but I promised myself that I would say hello to the horses on my way back home.

The streets in the village were cobblestone, and every house was dark and silent with the souls of the sleeping. A few birds made feeble chirps in the hopes that someone, anyone, would be listening, and I felt privileged to be the only one in the village to hear their song. I walked through my hometown, examining the signs in front of shops, looking at items set out for display in the windows of stores with wonder, peering into people’s houses, marveling at the things each different person had. I spent a good hour doing this, I believe, and it all fascinated me like no other. Nothing my mother had taught me in the lessons she gave me each day could compare to this.

At last, I forced myself to continue on my way, to the place I most longed to set eyes upon…the church. It was a small, quaint stone building, modest, inconspicuous. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life at that point in time. It invoked a sense of awe in me…just the sight of the cross high on the steeple, the stained glass windows depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, and angels was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I approached it slowly, touching it finally in reverence. I ran my hands over the stone in wonder, not being able to help but feel that everyone else in the village should consider themselves lucky to be in such a beautiful building every Sunday. I admit, I thought the subject of church itself quite boring, but the building itself was glorious.

Thinking back on that night now, it feels more like a dream than anything else. The doors to the church were locked, but I must have gone around the exterior more than a dozen times. At last, I felt that it was time to head back. I had seen my entire village, except for…the gypsies. I felt an almost overpowering urge to go and see their caravan, to have just one glimpse of their forbidden lifestyle, but my rational mind would not allow me. I knew that only one look would make me want to abandon the life I lead here with my mother, and somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew I would be better off with her, although I cannot say why for sure. I listened to my rational mind that day, and set off back down the road towards my home, the moon, stars, and my shadow my only companions.

I stopped by the horse’s stable, and was surprised at the rank smell. I had never been near farm animals before, and the stench of their waste and the invading odor of hay assaulted my senses. I had to spend a few moments outside before actually venturing in, making sure to be careful where I stepped for fear of accidentally getting a foot covered in horse dung. Some of the horses were sleeping, but a pretty gray speckled mare whinnied in a friendly greeting when I approached her stall. I examined her carefully, and was startled to see intelligence in her eyes. I reached out slowly, frightened and yet excited at the prospect of touching such a magnificent creature. She smelt my hand for a moment, and allowed me to stroke her muzzle. I pet her for quite some time, enjoying the feel of her face and neck underneath my hands. It was my first time touching an animal, and I will never forget how soft and sleek she felt to me.

The sound of approaching voices startled me; I had half a mind to leave the stable, but I could see shadowed figures coming near the open door. I thought it must have been the owners of the stable; they were going to find me, and whip me, and take me to my mother and I would be in so much trouble…

I heaved myself up over the door of the mare’s stall and dropped into the hay beside her, burying myself in it so that the approaching strangers would not be able to see me. I willed myself to remain calm, to keep my breathing slow and even. They would be able to hear someone who had panicked breaths.

Finally, the strangers stopped near my stall, and I listened, waiting for the ‘who goes there? Come out now before we tan your sorry hide!’ that I was sure would come. Instead, the voices that reached my ears had a thick accent, and I knew them for what they were immediately: gypsies.

‘…And we’ll take some of these horses before we depart,’ one of them said, apparently finishing whatever sentence he had begun when walking in.

‘They’ll know we took them,’ came a reply. ‘They hate us, you know that…surely this isn’t worth it.’

‘Oh, it is, trust me,’ the first speaker reassured his comrade. ‘I spent a good five minutes or so staring at the bloody thing, so I think I would know.’

‘It was just a house,’ came a third voice.

A house. They were talking about my home!

‘You could tell there’s riches in it. Trust me, I know. My gut was telling me, and I never ignore my instincts, you know that.’ The first man was trying to persuade his comrades to do something regarding my house.

‘Was anyone home?’ The second man asked.

‘I saw some boy sitting at the window, and some woman who must’ve been his mother came to the window too. That child looked awfully strange for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on it…I couldn’t see him very well,’ the instigator said, puzzled. He was talking about my mask; he was too far away to see it.

‘Well, if there’s people living in there, you can forget it,’ the third man said. ‘I am not in the mood to have an angry mob come after us tonight. Our wives would kill us! The others don’t want trouble, after all. What would we tell them?’

‘You mean the women don’t want trouble,’ the second man said. ‘We’re poor travelers…stealing a little something from the rich won’t hurt anyone. So what’s the plan?’

The first man clapped his hands together. ‘All right; we’ll sneak in, look around a bit and be as quiet as possible. Steal silverware, china, clothes…anything we can get our hands on. Take what we can carry and leave. No one should have to know we had even been there.’

‘What if that woman and her son wake up and come to see what’s wrong?’ The third man asked, obviously not wanting to go along with his friend’s crazy scheme.

‘We kill them,’ the first man said matter-of-factly. ‘After all…if there’s no one alive, no one can gather up a mob, can they?’

It took every ounce of self-control I had in my body not to cry out or leap from the hay in rage at the man’s words. If I had revealed myself at that moment, they would have cut my throat without a second thought. I knew from the tone of their voices that they meant business, and any outsider that interfered with them would be met with death. I could not understand; why would they do such a thing? Why would they, who had such freedom and mystery, desire trivial items that my mother and myself possessed? More importantly, what would happen to my mother if she awoke and approached them? I knew my mother; she would bark at them and quote from the Bible, believing that God would save her from a terrible fate. But I knew better. I knew she would be killed.

I had to warn her. It wouldn’t be fair if she were defenseless against these three men who were going to destroy our home. She needed to be told what was going to happen. I needed to get her to safety.

Somehow I managed to stay still as the men went over the plan once more, and retreated out of the barn. When I was absolutely sure that they would not return, I picked myself from off of the floor slowly. A part of me still couldn’t believe what I had heard, but some sort of instinct had awoken in me, and I felt an urgency tugging at my legs, demanding that I run back home, run as fast as I possibly could.

I gave the mare a farewell pat, and scrambled over her door, running out into the night. I gave a quick look around; the gypsy men were nowhere to be seen. I kept to the side of the road, no longer relishing in the night or its beauties. I was on a mission, and nothing, not even the way the moonlight hit the river just right could make me stop. My legs had a mind of their own, running as fast as my small body could manage. I was exhausted by the time I saw my house looming up in the distance, but I forced myself to keep going forward. My mother may have thought me ugly and feared me, but she did not deserve the fate that those men were to bestow upon her.

Panting, my breath coming out in sharp gasps, I flung the window open, and crawled back inside my home with shaking hands. I closed the window behind me, locking it tightly, praying that the men had not gotten here before me. I scampered through the kitchen, down the hall, and back up the stairs, not bothering to be silent. I heard my mother stirring from her sleep as I rushed into her room, making for her bedside. ‘Mother, mother, wake up!’ I whispered frantically.

‘Erik? What are you doing out of bed?’ My mother asked sleepily. She sat up in bed as I tugged on her arm desperately.

‘Mother, we have to get out of here!’ I could see her brows knit in the darkness as she took the sight of me in. I was terrified; those men would be arriving at any moment. ‘We’re in danger!’

‘What are you talking about?’ She asked, clearly puzzled. I opened my mouth to explain, then stopped. She reached out and pulled a strand of hay from my dark hair. ‘Erik, what’s this? Why is there hay in your hair?’

‘That isn’t important,’ I began. ‘We have to-‘

‘Erik.’ Her tone was firm and sharp. She was angry, very much so. ‘Did you go outside?’

I stopped. I was going to be in trouble, I knew that much. It wouldn’t do me any good to lie to her. ‘Yes, I was. But mother, you have to listen to me-‘

‘Why did you leave the house? Have I not told you what lies waiting in the outside world?’ My mother’s eyes narrowed. ‘You have disobeyed me.’

‘Yes, I did, but I have to tell you something! It’s very important! Please listen to me!’ I cried.

‘You will go straight back to bed this instant, and shall stay in your room for the next week. Meals will be given to you,’ she said with finality. ‘Now go do as I say, or else I shall make you copy the whole book of Genesis by hand!’

‘Mother, gypsies are coming to our house!’ I practically shouted. There was a long moment of silence as we surveyed one another. My mother’s dark hair was disheveled from sleep, and the knuckles on her hands that were folded in her lap began to turn white as she gripped the sheets tightly. My shoulders were heaving, hay was on my clothes and feet, in my hair; I smelt like horse and dung and the night, and my eyes were desperate, pleading.

‘…What?’ My mother asked, finally. ‘You did not go to them, did you? You did not lead them here, did you? Tell me, Erik. Tell me now!’

‘I did not see the gypsies, I swear to you! I only went to the village, to look around, and to see the church and, and the horses,’ I stammered. ‘I did not go near their caravan at all!’

‘Do not lie to me, Erik. Now would be a good time to start telling the truth,’ her voice was low and deadly.

‘It’s true!’ I protested. ‘I was…I was petting a horse, and I heard these men coming, so I hid in her stall, and I heard them, and they said that they were going to come to our house and steal things and they said that if we were awake and tried to stop them they would kill us!’

‘…Are you certain that is what you heard?’ She demanded, half-rising from the bed. ‘You are certain that that is the truth?’

‘I swear to God! I, I swear to Christ and the Holy Virgin Mary, too!’ I exclaimed, nodding vehemently.

‘…Very well.’ She rubbed her temples, obviously trying to decide what course of action would be best to take. ‘We need to go someplace safe. I think-‘

Her words were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass from downstairs. My mother’s face paled, and I felt a cold sense of dread creep up my spine. ‘They’re here,’ I whispered. I looked around desperately for something that could be used as a weapon, but fear had numbed me from thinking quickly. We were quiet then, listening to the men’s murmurings as they shifted through our things downstairs, knocking things over, taking what belonged to us.

I heard my mother whispering a quick prayer to God for protection and guidance. If I ever needed to hear one of my mother’s prayers answered, now was the time. ‘Listen to me, Erik,’ she whispered. ‘It is too high for us to climb out of my window. We need to go through the front door. Stay close behind me, and if anything happens, I want you to run back into the village, all right? Knock on doors, scream, yell, and tell them what has happened. Tell them my name, that you are my son, and I have sent you. The men will be rallied and a mob will be set upon these heathens.’

She paused for a moment, and reached out to me, her fingertips lingering for only a few moments over the mask that covered my face. Just as quickly as she had reached out, she pulled back, rising from the bed. ‘…Whatever comments or insults they throw at you…ignore them. Pay no attention to any cruel words they may say to you. They are all lies. Do you understand?’

I knew she was talking about my face. My ugly, deformed face that would never be looked upon in love. I nodded, letting her know I understood perfectly well. ‘Yes, mother.’

‘Remember what I said. Follow me,’ she murmured, leading the way out of her room. We traversed down the hall in silence, and although I was very afraid, I had confidence in my mother and her God. It was a child’s instinct…to believe that one’s mother would protect you from all harm is something that every child has in common. I followed her with perfect trust that she would get us out of our home and to safety without any trouble.

We descended the stairs slowly, the sounds of the men overturning chairs in the living room reaching our ears. I could hear them whispering to one another and chuckling softly at what luck it was for them to find such a giving household. I was afraid to breathe, every muscle in my body tight with nervousness. I resisted the urge to bolt to the door, and clung to my mother’s nightgown instead for dear life, as we neared the door.

It was right there, the doorway to our escape, to our freedom. My mother was like a strong giant wading through the waters occupied by the kraken; she was fearless, immovable, invincible. I ignored the fact that she was trembling as she reached out for the doorknob; and it seemed to take forever for her hand to reach out, everything was slow motion, even the sound of the gypsy man’s footsteps as he approached us.

‘Now, where do you think you’re going?’ His gruff voice was like the trumpeting of the angel on judgment day. We whirled around, my mother keeping me behind her, hidden from sight as I clung to her. I did not say anything, only watched. It was the same man who had been watching our house earlier, and he looked frightening as he leered at my mother, his grin like a Cheshire cat’s. ‘We can’t just let something as precious and valuable as this, get away…’

My mother straightened herself up, her head held high, dignity seeping from her like a poison. ‘You will contain yourself, monsieur, and control where your eyes may wander.’ I could feel her tension, and yet could see that she would not go down without keeping her virtue.

‘Ah, you’re one of those girls, aren’t you…? All prim and proper…’ The man took several steps forward, approaching my mother and I, a menacing figure crawling out of the shadows. His companions were still causing quite a racket, oblivious to where their comrade was, until I heard them call out. ‘Amarant! Where are you?’

I could hear the footsteps of the other two approaching. I turned, frozen, unable to do anything as they joined their companion. ‘…I knew it,’ one of them muttered. He was tan, muscular, and hair seemed to cover him like the plague. ‘I knew we’d have a run in with one of these alb gunoi.’ The man next to him looked as if he were the first man’s brother; the angles of his face were sharper, and he had a scar running across his forehead in a horizontal slash. His eyes had fallen upon my mother as well, and a peculiar gleam had entered them. He reached out towards my mother’s bosom, and she slapped his hand.

‘You will keep your hands to yourself, monsieur!’ She spat out, anger getting the better of her. ‘You will permit me to leave my home, like the gentlemen I’m sure you are, you filthy heathens.’ I wanted to tell her that we should just go, and not stand here like this, that we should just run for the door and keep running, never looking back, but my tongue felt swollen and large in my throat.

‘A bit of fire in this one, eh, Amarant?’ The man said, a grin appearing on his face.

‘Whatever you two plan on doing, count me out,’ the large man with the hair said, walking away. ‘I came here to steal, not to rape.’

Rape. They’re going to rape my mother, I thought, a feeling acute to nausea filling up my stomach. ‘Mother,’ I whimpered. She stood stock still, the man’s words registering in her ears as the other two grabbed her arms. She screamed, and thrashed about, trying to claw at them, bite them, kick them, do whatever she could to stop them. I could only look on in horror as her nightgown slipped from my grip and the men paid no attention to me.

‘Run, Erik, run!’ She screamed in my direction, thrashing in their grip. The man with the scar looked over and spotted me. I was like a deer in headlights; I could not run, I could not just leave my mother at the sick and perverse desires of these gypsies! I had never felt prejudice towards them before, but now…Now when my mother was in such danger, I could feel hatred towards them starting to build up in my head.

The scarred man let go of my mother, who had not shed tears, panic written on her face. He loomed ever closer, and I could not move. My legs were frozen, my mother’s plan from earlier forgotten. ‘Looks like the wench has a little brat,’ he said, a cruel smile on his face. ‘What a peculiar ensemble for a child to wear, too…I wonder what lies behind the mask?’

‘DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HIM! LEAVE MY SON ALONE, YOU HOUND OF HELL!’ My mother screamed at him at the top of her lungs, struggling once more, determined to break free. She slammed her foot into the man called Amarant’s groin, and rushed at the man in front of me, clawing at the back of his head in a wild frenzy. The man turned and backhanded her, and the force of his slap sent her reeling.

Obscen catea,’ the man cursed, rounding on his brother. ‘Shut her up, will you? She’ll wake the entire town!’ The other man grabbed my mother by the neck, his hands closing in around her throat.

‘N-no,’ I managed to croak out as I watched her struggles growing slower and sluggish, finally ceasing with a twitch here and there. A strange glaze had entered her eyes, one I had never seen before, but I knew it for what it was. Death had come upon her. She had entered the presence of her beloved God at last. She had died; she had died trying to protect me.

‘…You…’ I could feel the tears start to well up in my eyes as the man released his grip on her now bruised throat, letting her fall to the ground with a deafening thump. The blood in my veins was pumping way too fast, and I could feel something close to delirium taking over my head. ‘YOU KILLED HER! YOU BASTARD!’

I leaped at him, trying to hurt him in whatever way I possibly could. I was only a ten year old boy, frail, weak, but I was possessed by anger and rage. The gypsy man only laughed, and held me away quite easily and my arms protested in anger, wanting to tear at his flesh. ‘Foolish boy…Amarant, get over here.’

His brother moved to his side, looking down on me in amusement. ‘Let’s take his mask off and see what it is the Obscen catea was trying to hide,’ Amarant said. Panic flooded my brain, overriding the anger. Not the mask, not that, never that, I thought. They would surely kill me if they saw my monstrous face, wouldn’t they? But what was the point in living now that my mother was dead? Wouldn’t it be better to let them kill me?

I had no choice in the matter, anyway, as Amarant’s brother held my arms, pressing my back against his chest, ensuring that I could not get away. Amarant tore my mask from my face in one rough flourish, and I refused to close my eyes in weakness. I met his gaze steadily, daring him to say anything, one thing, about my deformed face. His face paled slightly, but then a slow laugh burst from his cruel lips.

‘Brother! You must take a look at this yourself!’ He cried, grabbing my shoulder and whirling me around to face my captor. Amarant’s brother recoiled back slightly in revulsion, and then quickly recovered, laughing heartily. ‘We’ve got ourselves a profit in our hands!’

One quick glance between the two brothers was all it took. I was not prepared when they hit my head with their fists as hard as they could. I fell to my knees, clutching my head, my gaze falling on my dead mother. ‘Mother…’ I whispered, and then my world went black.

August 2011

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