The Ecstasian Phantom

16.16.16. Coloratura

Coloratura – elaborate ornamentation in vocal music

I have always wondered why she was the White Rose.

Legends say that the first rose to bloom on the face of the earth was white – chaste and pristine, a symbol of innocence. Girls received white rosebuds as a symbol of girlhood and young love; brides threw bouquets of white roses meant to represent unity and virtue. The white rose stood for purity, for the moment before a girl's innocence blushed pink from a kiss or stained red from the blood of passion.

All the meanings behind Aurora's flower seem to point towards purity and innocence, but I have never understood why a pale, lifeless face looms in my mind instead.


By Monday, the legend of the mysterious phantom had already taken root in the halls of Rosecrans High, as talk of the mysterious singer raged for days in the circles of gossip. The haunting voice, coupled with the recent mishaps at Ecstasia, caused many to wonder if a certain ghost had risen from the dead.

The ever-nosy entertainment editor of the Rosecrans Reporter was no exception.

"I mean, the facts all point in the same direction," Nicolette said with the air of a CEO unveiling her company's latest product. Cassie and I, however, paid little attention to the latest radical idea that had infested Nicolette's brain. Cassie was too anxious about her upcoming debut as the lead singer of a new band; I was too preoccupied with trying to complete our English assignment to waste time with Nicolette. Mrs. Macgregor, having fallen ill with the flu, had assigned a packet of study guide questions on Fahrenheit 451 for the class to complete in her absence – in other words, junk work to keep us from bothering the substitute teacher; but that hadn't stopped the majority of the class from rearranging their desks and chatting with one another about their weekends – Nicolette included.

"Think about it," the blonde continued persistently. "A girl's voice was singing one of Her Highness' songs the other day. Then, there was that time Jessie Diamond performed at Ecstasia. Somehow the ghost snatched the tiara right from Jessie Diamond's head – and replaced it with roses, no less! I mean, wasn't the Queen famous for being obsessed with roses? And how else would you explain why the ghost always appears wearing clothes that are uncannily similar to ones that the Queen used to wear?"

"That still doesn't explain why Aurora Maciel's ghost would dump garbage on my head," Cassie said sourly before placing one of her headphone's earbuds back into her ear. Unfortunately, her relief from Nicolette's prattle was short-lived, as her best friend yanked the buds right back out of her ears.

"Oh, stop listening to music and obsessing over your band," Nicolette said, miffed by her best friend's lack of enthusiasm. "Besides, why are you so worried? All you've got to do is go up and sing, like you always do!"

"Not this time," Cassie grumbled. "Can you believe it? They're telling me to go write lyrics for their new song, since they got pissed off when I commented on how lame the original lyrics were." Cassie threw her hands up in the air. "I mean, really? Who the hell in their right mind would write such a corny line like 'One sees clearly only with the heart / Anything essential is invisible to the eyes'?"

"Antoine de Saint-Exupéry would." I couldn't resist muttering under my breath. Nicolette, who had unfortunately caught my off-handed remark, directed her attention at me with a look of feigned surprise. Flashing a smile, she turned to address me for the first time.

"Oh, was that you, Charlotte? I thought I heard a mouse squeaking in the corner of the room." Cassie snickered as Nicolette leaned onto my desk, revealing the artificial smile plastered across her face. I couldn't help but imagine her as a mistress of Mr. Potato Head, complete with removable plastic facial features. "So you do speak after all. Care to explain?"

"Um…" Why the hell do I never learn? "Well," I swallowed, "it's a pretty famous line from A Little Prince, which was written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…"

"No, no, no, my little Charlotte," Nicolette said, shaking her head. "What I'm curious to know is why you choose to speak up when nobody cares?"

"Or why you're as dumb as a rock when we actually talk to you?" Cassie added with a laugh. When I did not respond, Nicolette waved her hand in the air, as if swatting a bothersome fly away.

"Oh, never mind. Get back to work, Charlotte. Cassie and I need to copy your work later anyway."

Reddening, I quietly turned my attention back to the stack of papers on my desk. As Nicolette and Cassie continued to chatter, I flipped open my copy of Fahrenheit 451 and tried to read, but my mind was muddled in a mixture of fury and bitterness.

I already knew what would happen. They'd goof off an entire period without doing any of the work, and then they'd expect to copy my paper at the end of class. Worst of all, I would let them because, as they had rubbed into me so often, they were the only "friends" I had. There were no other groups who would take me in when our class divided into teams for group projects.

More than anything, I fear being alone.

I only had four questions left when I finally glanced up at the clock. Twenty minutes left until the dismissal bell. Deciding I could finish the last few questions at home, I tucked the papers into my folder and carefully pulled out a sheet of unused paper from the sleeve of the folder.

I couldn't believe how it had happened. Once the three were forced to confront the truth before them, none of the former members of Her Highness could deny how badly they ached to return. It was evident from the way they were able to play in absolute unison, without giving each other visual cues or signals, without having practiced together for two years. Singing with the three of them was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. The chills I had experienced that night still wouldn't go away.

They knew I was not Rory. That came as no surprise, for those three, more than anyone else, should have been familiar enough with her voice to recognize that she and the one who sang at Ecstasia was not the same. But for some unknown reason, they did not question my identity. Nor did they press for my motives. They accepted my instructions with quiet solemnity – no anger, no indignation, save a hint of curiosity. They knew I was not the Queen, and yet they treated me with the same reverence one would reserve for royalty.

I clicked my mechanical pencil, watching the lead slide from the tip. Rory's notebook had contained a number of Her Highness' compositions, some of which desperately needed revision. If Her Highness wanted to climb back to the top, not only would they have to compete with Cassie's generation of wannabe rockers, so to speak – they would have to compete with their own legacy. And the only way to do so, I deduced, would be to rearrange their old songs.

I hadn't brought Rory's notebook to school with me, but it didn't matter, for I had already memorized the song that had caught my eye. Though the music was nearly impeccable, the lyrics were a different story. A title as open-ended as "Meeting Cute Ends Ugly" offered so many possibilities, and yet whoever had penned the lyrics had settled for an incoherent string of uninspiring lines.

I closed my eyes, listening to the tune that had been playing on repeat in my mind since morning. Without much thought, I jotted down the first few lines that came to mind.

If I am paper, then you're the match lit aflame

They warned, 'Don't play with fire,'

But I forgot just the same

I could already picture the music video in my head. Artist Girl locks eyes with Rocker Boy on the stage; Rocker Boy looks only at Artist Girl for the rest of the night; Rocker Boy and Artist Girl hook-up; Artist Girl paints portraits of Rocker Boy; Rocker Boy sings for Artist Girl, all the while toying with a silver chain on which a glass heart hangs. Time passes. Rocker Boy eyes other girls; Artist Girl tries to win him back by changing her clothes, dying her hair, going under the knife; Rocker Boy falls for Someone Else; Artist Girl paints a portrait of Rocker Boy with the blood from her wrists; Rocker Boy sings for Someone Else, all the while toying with a silver chain on which a glass heart hangs – until it falls and shatters into a million pieces.

Perfect. They wouldn't even need to hire an actor to play Rocker Boy, since Rhys fit the bill for lady killer like none other.

Inspired, I roughly scribbled down the words as they came to me naturally. It was moments like this – when the words flowed from my brain to the paper with the viscosity of fine wine – that I knew whatever I was working on was going to be extraordinary.

By the time five minutes were left in the period, I awoke from my spell to discover that I had filled the front and back sides of my paper with a completed set of lyrics. But before I could read the words over, Cassie plunked her empty water bottle onto my desk.

"Hey. Take care of this for me, will you?"

"And make sure you stick it in the recycling and not in the trash!" Nicolette called out in a sing-song voice.

I imagined throwing the bottle back into Cassie's face, spitting out all sorts of eloquent names. I imagined yanking Nicolette's mass of golden hair, threatening to throw her in the recycling.

Instead, I stood up wordlessly, water bottle in hand, and stalked across the classroom towards the recycling bin.

The dismissal bell rang as I was returning to my desk; without even sparing another word or glance, Nicolette and Cassie swept past me towards the door. As I packed my things, it occurred to me to check my folder to see if Nicolette or Cassie's grubby hands had rummaged around for my homework.

To my surprise, the study guide questions remained at the top of the stack of papers. I was about to celebrate the fortunate turn of events when I suddenly realized with a sinking feeling that the lyrics I had just written were gone.


Laurel glanced at the clock, wondering why Chris had suddenly called all the Ecstasia board members together for a meeting. After all, it wasn't as if the six founders of Ecstasia spent their days lazing around at home, waiting for trouble from Ecstasia to arise. They were all sons and daughters of wealthy entrepreneurs and businessmen, expected to graduate from business school and eventually inherit their respective family corporations. Ecstasia was simply a pet project that had first taught them the ropes on how to run a business.

She had a sneaking suspicion as to why a meeting had suddenly been called, but if the cause for concern was what she suspected, then Laurel would hardly raise her hand to offer any solutions. Besides being the accomplice of the notorious phantom (though that fact still remained unearthed and hidden from the public – for now), she was a businesswoman at heart. The attention brought by the Phantom was a form of free publicity none of them could ignore. Even if her fellow co-founders discovered that she had played a hand in the recent events at Ecstasia, Laurel calculated, they would hardly stop her from allowing the Phantom to generate so much publicity for Ecstasia – and without demanding pay, no less.

She and the other founders of Ecstasia had decided long ago that they would divide control over Ecstasia into six equal powers; therefore, nobody would ever sit at the head of the table. Thus, the very first thing the six – Laurel, Chris, Francesca, Blake, Tess, and Gabriel – had purchased upon acquiring the rundown opera house was the round table around which they regularly conducted their meetings.

"So, Chris. What's the deal?" said Blake, leaning back into his seat. "You might want to make it quick, because I've got to make sure I get to Odessa's before tonight."

"Why Odessa's?" Tess asked, popping her gum. Though she was the eldest of the group, Tess had retained a strange childlike fondness for Bubble Yum. "There's a perfectly good florist two blocks down from here. You don't need to drive all the way to Odessa's to get flowers."

"I already tried there. Can you believe it? They completely ran out of red roses! The last time I checked, Valentine's Day is not until February, and as far as I know, there's not a single holiday coming up that causes the demand for red roses to suddenly spike like this."

"It's a little known fact that during the month of November, males begin to feel the need to settle down and nest, therefore becoming much more attentive to their mates," Gabriel replied matter-of-factly.


"No, you gullible little playboy. The day you feel the need to settle down is the day I name my first grandchild."

"Why, you…"

"Enough," Laurel said sternly. She waited for Blake and Gabriel to settle down before directing her attention at Chris. "So what is this meeting for?"

Without a word, Chris opened his briefcase and pulled out an unaddressed envelope, sliding it to Francesca, who sat directly to his right. As she opened the envelope, he explained to the others, "I found this in the mail earlier today. There was no name or identification attached to it. The request falls under my jurisdiction, but I want to know what you guys think about this."

Francesca read the letter wordlessly, her face betraying only a hint of surprise and amusement before she handed the letter to her right to Laurel. As Laurel glanced over the handwriting, her suspicions were confirmed.

"Ladies and Gentlemen,

My purpose in taking the time to compose this fine letter

Is not to question your tastes as of late. (Though I do confess,

Rather than Jessie Diamond, could you not have found someone better?)

It has come to my attention that the band Rushmore

Will perform in this very concert hall in two nights' time.

As the founders of a respectable center of the arts,

I am sure you will agree that plagiarism is a crime.

As your ever-obedient servant, I candidly urge you

To heed my fair warning as follows:

Permitting the new singer of Rushmore to step foot onstage -

This act, you must never allow.

Should you fail to follow my instructions

A disaster beyond your imagination will occur.

I remain, ladies and gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,"

"The Ecstasian Phantom?" Laurel scoffed as she finished reading aloud. "Is that what it calls itself now?" Though she was careful not to react in a way that would betray her connection with the Phantom, Laurel could barely contain her surprise. Writing a letter? Charlotte, what in the blazes are you up to?

"Weve got a talented phantom on our hands," Gabriel noted with faint amusement. "When was the last time you wrote a letter that rhymed every other line?"

"Talented or not, what are we going to do about this?" said Chris. "More than likely, this 'Ecstasian Phantom' is the same culprit behind the disruptions during Mourning Glory and Jessie Diamond's gigs."

"I don't understand this," Tess frowned, inspecting the letter closely. "The Ecstasian Phantom writes, 'I am sure you will agree that plagiarism is a crime.' What is that supposed to mean? Rushmore plagiarized somebody's work?" Laurel opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was drowned out by others. The noise level escalated as the others began interjecting their own interpretations of the Phantom's words, until suddenly, a certain voice spoke.

"Does it really matter at this point?"

The room immediately quieted down, for Francesca only spoke up when she had something crucial to say. Glancing at each of their faces, she continued with a grave severity, "There are only two days left until Rushmore is scheduled to perform. We already arranged Rushmore's performance weeks in advance. This isn't something we can cancel just because we received a threat from someone who wants to play 'music vigilante.'"

Laurel tilted her head, wondering what to do. There had to be a reason Charlotte would go through the trouble of donning the Phantom's mask in order to prevent Rushmore from performing at Ecstasia. Then again, Charlotte was not the type to arbitrarily set a plan into motion without considering all possible outcomes – which would mean that she already had something in mind for the "disaster beyond your imagination." That possibility itself was all too tempting for Laurel the prankster, for she was far too curious and eager about witnessing the Phantom's next trick to take the cautionary road and advise Chris to pull Rushmore off of the set list.

Minutes later, the meeting was adjourned, with each of the six founders voting to allow Rushmore's gig to proceed as planned.


A choice is never made based only on a single line of reasoning.

Take your time to absorb this wonderful piece of knowledge. It's quite profound once you think about it.

Do you still doubt me? Then let's use myself as an example. Why have I made the choice to spend nearly five years' worth of allowances and birthday money all in a single day? Is it because I love the thrill of splurging? Although money has never been an issue in my family, I am the complete opposite of butterfingers when it comes to spending. And so, the answer is no.

Well then, why?

Perhaps it's because I am tired. Perhaps it's because I need to do something to make myself heard, before I find myself drowned out by the selfishness and cold-heartedness of the world. Perhaps it's because I need vengeance to make myself satisfied.

But peel the layers aside. There's always a seed at the core.

It's because I have something to prove.


It was a sick game of Spin the Bottle. A red rose in a glass bottle lay on the center of the coffee table in the center of the green room. The bud, crimson and curled like a bloodied fist, peered out of the neck of the bottle and leered accusingly at Cassie.

For the first time in her life, Cassie Richmond found herself shivering and shaking moments before taking the stage. She had only left her seat for an instant to examine herself in the mirror, only to return moments later and find the bottle on the table, pointed directly at where she had been sitting. She didn't believe in ghosts, but she didn't know why she was being targeted. She racked her brain for names and faces, but try as she might, she could not recall a single person with a reason to bear a grudge against her. After all, as far as she knew, she was friendly enough to everyone she met. It wasn't as if she talked shit about others outright. What in the world had she done to deserve this?

It was then that she noticed a folded sheet of paper stuffed inside the glass bottle. Almost fearfully, Cassie pried the rose from the bottle and used the stem of the rose to fish the paper out. With shaking fingers, she unfolded the note and read:

Mademoiselle, I've warned you one, I'll warn you twice.

With luck this final reminder shall suffice.

If you ever set foot and defile the sacred stage of Ecstasia again

Let your imagination decide what disaster this bloodied rose shall portend.

She read the four lines. She reread them again. And again. She felt her insides become consumed by a cold, overpowering dread. Without a word, she let the paper drift from her fingers, like an idle leaf sailing down and down in a countdown to the bareness of winter. Her silence misleadingly presented an aura of calm ease, but deep within, her mind was tormented by a conflict of emotions.

Cassie had always built her image of being the "tough girl," the one who wore her sass and attitude the way a beauty queen flaunted her pageant sash. Sure, she could be a prideful bitch at times, but there was nothing she hated more than when people assumed they were any better than her. Some would call her self-assured, or even self-absorbed. She didn't care. There was nothing wrong with being self-confident, as far as she was concerned.

That was what she hated so much whenever she was in the presence of Charlotte de Chagny. The meekness of that girl irritated her to no end. She had no respect for spineless girls who, in fear of being alone, would mutely cling to a vague concept of "friendship." In that respect, Charlotte was literally asking to be walked on and abused, and Cassie had no qualms about her less-than-loving treatment of her "friend."

Or did she? She fingered the worn, folded paper in the pocket of her jeans. She could destroy the tangible evidence of her crime, but the words were already safely locked in her mind. Was this what her tormentor was after?

Was Charlotte the one who had been targeting her?

In an instance, the nervous bubble of tension was burst. Cassie erupted into a fit of laughter, stupefied and amused by her idle thought. Charlotte? How in the world would meek and mousy Charlotte have been able to rig the stage with trash bags or plant the bottled rose in the green room right behind her back?

It took nearly two good minutes before Cassie could contain her laughter without chuckling to herself again. The laugh had done her good, however, for she was no longer unnerved in the slightest bit. With renewed enthusiasm, Cassie smiled to herself as she ran her fingers through her fuchsia waves.

"Ghost or not, I don't give a fuck. Baby, it's showtime."


For the past two years, he had purposely avoided ever returning to Ecstasia. Now, it was as if he couldn't stay away.

Rhys came alone tonight. He hadn't asked Leo or Patrick to accompany him this time. In the past, he had always surrounded himself with people – girls with their love-drunk gazes, boys with their laser stares, shooting a concoction of envy and wonder that prickled his skin. When he finally learned what it was like to be alone, he relished it. Only then, when the penetrating chatter had been walled away from him, could he hear his thoughts most clearly.

That was especially true now, for he couldn't make heads or tails of what was happening anymore.

Rhys rested his arms on the balcony railing, peering down at the sea of partiers and rockers streaming into the concert hall. He tried to remember what it had felt like to leap from the stage and dive into the sea of smoke and sweat, carried along the surface by serpentine hands and arms. All he could recall was something like drowning.

Why did he come tonight? Logically, there was no reasoning behind it. A stack of homework remained untouched on his desk, and the looming menace of college applications stalked him relentlessly. Only a novice band was performing, and the fact that Cassie Richmond was manning its helm offered even fewer incentives to stick around. Rhys had no real reason to begrudge the girl – it was none of his concern that the girl and her friend took pleasure in dragging the ever-exacerbating Charlotte de Chagny on a leash – but even the very thought of her triggered a rush of disgust.

(Admittedly, he had an inkling of his motivation for coming to Ecstasia this night, but it was shamefully too idiotic and unfounded for him to acknowledge.)

It is a dangerous thing to be like this, he thought with a grimace, when all you become is a pair of eyes, watching and waiting thirstily for something you don't even fully comprehend.

As he watched the curtain rise, revealing the fuschia-haired figure at the center of the stage, he could not shake off the feeling of twisted anticipation. It fluttered in his stomach the same way he felt at the first peak of a roller coaster, the excited dread of knowing what would happen next. There was no grounds, no basis for it – but in his gut, he already knew.

The harmony of the electric guitars cut through the air like a blade, escalating in intricacy as the drums pulsed in the background. Cassie's face was cast downward, her hand gripped around the microphone as her foot tapped to the rhythm of the drums. The frantic nature of the music began to exacerbate, moving faster and faster until it reached a sudden standstill, the cue for Cassie's vocal entrance.

What was expected to be a pregnant pause resulted in a strained silence; Rhys rubbed his ears, wondering if he had suddenly lost the capacity to hear. Cassie's lips seemed to be moving, but whatever words were coming from her mouth were stillborn. It took her a moment before she stopped, frowning with the realization that something was wrong.

"What the fuck are the techies here getting paid for when the damn microphones don't even work?" Rhys heard her cuss with utmost clarity. With a gasp, Cassie clapped her hand over her mouth, realizing that her last words, intended to be private, had been amplified all through the concert hall of Ecstasia.

The crowd buzzed noisily as Cassie stood helplessly under the spotlight, her confidence wilting with each passing second. Finally, her sympathetic bandmates resumed playing, buying time for their vocalist to recover. Rhys almost felt sorry for the girl as she closed her eyes, trying her hardest to hide the way her body shook involuntarily. She was gripping the microphone stand so tightly that he would have hardly been surprised if the stand suddenly snapped under the crushing choke of her hand.

Though the girl frozen on the stage had never won his full admiration, Rhys realized for the first time at that moment that Cassie Richmond possessed something not even he could boast of having. This girl, humiliated time and again on the grandest stage of Eden, kept coming back. Garbage had been dumped on her, the crowds had laughed and ridiculed her, but here she was again, standing under the spotlight where hundreds of eyes would judge her every move. And where was he? Paralyzed by an intangible fear, guilt, regret that not even he could define.

When Cassie opened her mouth again, nothing could be heard from her lips. She tried again, fiddling with the base of the microphone as she continued to sing mutedly, until finally she threw up her hands.


The audience howled, covering their ears as Cassie's screeching outburst clawed through Ecstasia at a deafening volume. Horrified, Cassie's legs gave way as she sank to the floor, her face white with fear. It was then that a familiarly haunting voice began to speak.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen." The crowd twittered noisily, looking to see who had spoken. "I suppose the next thing I'm supposed to say is, 'This is Her Highness.' But that would be wishful thinking, wouldn't it?"

The spotlight, which had been straying wildly through the hall looking for the source of the voice, finally locked onto a petite figure seated on a ledge on the right side of the stage. The Phantom mocked a royal wave at the audience before speaking in its usual melodic manner.

"Now, there is something that has recently been brought to my attention, of which I would like to settle once and for all. But first, Cassandra Richmond, why so silent? Or, were you intending to bring down the chandelier?"

All eyes turned to the unlit crystal chandelier, which swayed dangerously in the dark. As the spotlight shone onto the chandelier, a splatter of rainbows revolved through the room like a disco ball. The chandelier swung more and more violently, and the crowd below began to scurry in a panic like a herd of spooked animals, not knowing which way to turn.

But as the chandelier began to creak more and more dangerously, something strange began to happen. Slowly but surely, a small shadowy flutter drifted down from the darkness above. It started with one, two, then four, then eight - until one after the other, a flurry of shadows rained gently down from the chandelier to the panicked audience below. The scent of roses slowly filled the hall with the sweetness of a lingering dream, lulling the anxious crowd into a cloud of intoxicated wonder.

"Now that tonight's spectacle has surely exceeded the bounds of your wildest imaginations, allow me to introduce myself," sang the voice of the Phantom. "Some of you have taken to calling me the 'Ecstasian Phantom'. Perhaps some of you have mistaken me for a certain legend who once graced the stage of Ecstasia with her crown of white roses. If you are one of those who believe in the ghosts of the dead, I shall enlighten you with a little secret."

In an instant, the lights shuddered before going black, hurling the room into darkness. When the lights flickered back on, the Phantom had vanished from the ledge.

"The dead will remain the dead," the voice whispered ominously. "It's the living who carry out the agenda of the dead."

Rhys reached his hand out from the balcony railing and let one of the fluttering shadows fall into his open palm. In his hand lay a rose petal in the deepest shade of crimson he had ever seen.

A/N: So it's been eleven months since the last update. A lot of things have changed since my last appearance - the mass exodus of brilliant writers from the onslaught of plagiariasm, for example. It really is quite sad. I can still fondly recall the high school days when I would neglect all homework and stay up all night trying to read Myrika's Against All Odds in one sitting. Fortunately for me, this story is so dormant and consequently so little-known that plagiarism is the least of my worries.

It's funny looking at this story now that it's been three years since I first came up with the idea as I was slaving away in high school. So much of it was revolved around idealized romances and fantastical elements. I suppose I've grown up now, and I can see all the revisions I would love to make. But the reality of time is very real indeed. And I realize that my former readers may all have outgrown fictionpress like I also have, in a way. But for some reason, it doesn't really bother me at all.

A thousand thank-you's to Frenchyesca, Lets Play Russian Roulette, Kookynkrazy, CiaoMonAmi, Faith Adeline, queenB mackenzie, V.V, codyismypup, XxAmberRomancexX, longypk, storm-cloud, lilylovely, Sabreal, and White and Blue. As you have all learned, setting deadlines for myself is utterly meaningless. With luck, 11 months will be the longest update record for a long while, though I cannot guarantee anything. My freshman year in college has been enjoyable - but utterly time-consuming. For those of you bombarded with college applications, you have my best wishes. And for the rest of you, I hope you've had a wonderful year.

Love, Sophelia