Truly Mine (2005)
by Jon Wrights
from Phantom Phantasies, 2007
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clean sweep. An entire anthology and not one story that actually had a recognizable plot.
At lightning speed, we here learn that Erik never repented at the end of Leroux's novel at all! It was all a clever trick! Instead, he faked his death, hoodwinked the Persian, kidnapped and murdered Raoul, and forged a letter to Christine informing her that her fiancé had fled the city without her (lest she not be maximally miserable for leaving him).
He also says a lot of things like "It was all too easy!" or "What fools!", prompting me to think that the part of Erik may in fact be being played by Scenery-Chewing Villain #7 in this particular short story event.
Guess what? There is no Part Two. But Part One is here by its forlorn lonesome anyway.
Considering that Wrights' writing style is not all that bad, aside from a certain tendency toward galloping melodrama, I was really willing to give things my extremely bruised benefit of the doubt. I mean, obviously all the metaphors about redemption and salvation and transcendence are gone, and the Phantom isn't getting to do anything even remotely like growing, but we could be going somewhere interesting, right?
No. Wrong. The only place we're going is through an annoying side trip in which Erik discusses how he doesn't like a bunch of things about Christine's personality but wants her anyway, and we debark as he's sitting in the next hotel room from her, clipping gossip columns he could use to convince her Raoul has dumped her and run off, and, I can only assume, giggling maniacally, waxing his moustache, and steepling his fingers in fiendish glee.
And that's the end. Just like the three stories before it, Wrights' has no idea what a plot looks like and is attempting to sneak by with just a few hundred words on some paper in vaguely story-like format. This isn’t a story. It’s revenge porn against a woman who escaped her captor, and she’s not even a REAL PERSON.
The only really good thing worth noticing here is that Erik, in the midst of his whining about how awful and boring lots of Christine's personality is, nevertheless acknowledges her strength of character, surprised that she so steadfastly defied him. It's an idea so often ignored or reversed that it heartened me to see it, even if it was ignored by the story itself:
She had, however it infuriated me to acknowledge it, had a strong enough will to bestow her love upon that pretty boy. She had, however inadequately, resisted; she had not passively fallen in with my romantic tale, but had stubbornly woven her own, composed of childhood love and remembered happiness.
Thank you for that, Wrights. So often people seem to miss the fact that Christine is the most dynamic and powerful character in that story. And that excerpt is clearly great at establishing the Phantom as a potential unreliable narrator for a larger story, one in which we slowly watch his ego and delusions peel away as he continues to harass Christine, until the reader sees him clearly for what he is.
But we don’t get that. We don’t get anything. And that’s all there is left to say about it.