I've spent about a month mulling this over (and writing it!) for the Writers Anonymous Alternate Format challenge; unlike with the Halloween Challenge, I did actually put some effort into fulfilling the challenge requirements this time (and a lot less, i.e. none, into dutifully reviewing the other entrants, I'm afraid!)
I originally had ideas about taking up the 'epic poem' option and writing a ballad about the Daroga's rediscovery of Erik in Paris (which must have come as something of a shock) with a refrain about the bulls of Mazendaran. However, this foundered on my inability to come up with a plot idea for how on earth the Daroga did discover where Erik was living (EMK81 suggested that the obvious way was for Erik himself boastfully to let it slip, but I didn't really like that one) -- never mind the strain of actually writing a poem to a minimum of a thousand words!
In the middle of this I finally got round to rewatching the 2004 filmed version of "Phantom of the Opera" so that I could get a clear idea of what the 'canon' for a movie-based fan-fiction that I was reviewing was, and was rather surprised to find that, despite the fact that fan-fiction inspired by this film depicts the stage-hand Joseph Buquet as a villain purged from the world by the righteous hand of the Phantom, the film actually shows a man trying to do his duty and being hunted down in a horror-filled sequence. And when I was thinking as a result about doing a Buquet-centred fan-fiction to go with my Piangi-centred story, it occurred to me in a blinding flash that the unexpected narrator challenge would very nicely solve the problem of writing a man's death from his own point of view!
(I had the same issue in "Blue Remembered Hills" when trying to write a passage where the only person in the room throughout the whole scene from start to finish is the dead man -- in the end I had to write it from the point of view of two characters watching on CCTV.)
I still don't have a decent summary on this one for fanfiction.net purposes, though I've got four or five discarded attempts, but I did have a brainwave over the title on Wednesday. And at the last minute it occurred to me that the 'sun-allergy' theory (which I thought was rather neat) didn't explain why the Phantom only feels the need to wear a protective mask on one side of his face, so I decided I'd better remove the 'protective' element, though it was a pity :-P
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Joseph Buquet was no saint, that’s for sure. But for all his curses he took good care in his work, and I think he was fond of me. I trusted him. One has no choice, of course, but I’d have trusted him anyway.
And I never forgot the way he ended.
Who was Joseph Buquet, you ask? And well you might, for he was no-one. No-one who mattered at all to Paris beyond these walls; no-one they ever saw, save for those indelible jerking moments on that one night. He died a long time ago, when I showed a bright new face to the world, gilded and full of hope... but he was with me from the first. It’s something one doesn’t forget.
For I was young then, still fresh and raw beneath my elegant trappings and the paint so artfully applied, and he took me in hand: those calloused big hands of his, strapped in worn leather and hardened by rope. He learnt my ways, and I came to know his. And we went through our intricate dance of cues and curtain calls and backdrops night after night, until the last tremors of the roar at the climax had ebbed away at the last, and he was grouchy and sleepy and wanted only to slip away home. Sometimes, if he’d taken enough drink to be sentimental, he’d leave with a parting pat or a passing caress as he went. He’d learned his trade elsewhere — mastered it before ever he came to me — but I counted him as mine all the same. And no man set a hand out of place when he was around, not where I was concerned. Not where it mattered.
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