Short Story: Animortis Part III

zombie2Charlie turned his head and spotted the shotgun, rattling unattended in the farthest corner of the carriage floor. He still had one more shot. Gathering his strength, he twisted his shoulders, released his right hand on the girl’s throat and reached for the gun. It wobbled inches from his extended fingertips. He stretched further. The rear of the carriage lurched downward, the broken axel moments from failing. Feeling his left hold falter, Charlie abandoned his efforts and pushed back on her throat again. Desperation mounting, his eyes cut to Baumgart. The Earl remained incapacitated.

The girl wrapped her cold, palms around the back of Charlie’s neck, pulling him closer to her salivating mouth. Glassy, green eyes roved in their sockets. She screeched like a wild animal and snapped her broken, jagged teeth inches from his face. There was nothing human left in this shell of a girl. With a strike of dread in his heart, Charlie realized they were an even match of strength.

“Charles?”

Charlie looked down to his feet as Baumgart blinked back to life.
“My lord!” he strained against the girl.
Distracted, the girl whipped her head back to the Earl.

Charlie bent a leg between him and the girl and kicked her away. She fell back onto her minced knees. With all his force, Charlie brought up his right leg and delivered a smart boot to her face. Blood squirted out in all directions from under the sole of his shoe, accompanied by a chilling crack. The girl’s head recoiled and she grunted from the impact, arms spinning into wild wind-mills as she teetered backward. She fell, her spine bowed backward over carriage side, hands scratching for a hold. Charlie scooped up the shotgun just as the girl’s fingers caught the door latch release. The door flung open behind Baumgart and he tilted, wild-eyed, out of the landau.

“Charles!” Baumgart shouted. His arms sprang wide to either side of the opening, saving himself from a fatal tumble out the doorway.
“Hold fast!” Charlie doubled over and snagged Baumgart’s wrist. Bracing a foot on the side of the carriage, Charlie hauled him up and onto his feet.
“Are you hurt?” he breathed, steadying the Earl’s footing.
“I…” Baumgart’s pallid lips quivered. “I am alive.”

Beside him the maiden regained her balance. She blinked a moment in confusion, dark black blood gushing from her broken nose. Charlie maneuvered in front of the Earl and took aim a final time. The rear of the carriage shifted downward again and the bullet missed and ricocheted with a loud ‘ping’ on the iron carriage frame.

“Damn! C’mon!” he shouted, grabbing Baumgart by his vest lapels and forcing him up toward the coachman’s bench. “We haven’t much time.”

Baumgart scrambled up to the platform and swung over the guardrail. As Charlie pulled his torso up onto the railing, a final fierce shudder up the chassis signaled that the cracked axel had split completely. The back end lurched down with a heavy crash upon the road causing the rear wheels to tilt and spin free of the wood frame. Charlie’s footing slid off the railing and his body whiplashed against the front bench, cracking one of his ribs. He cried out at the sharp pain and hung from the guardrail by his underarms. Behind him, wood paneling scraped and splintered under the friction like a wooden sword put to a stone grinder.

“Take my hand, Charles!” Baumgart extended his arm. Charlie winced and clenched his teeth against the pain.

“Please,” he found a firm foothold, “Rein in the horses, if you can.”
Baumgart turned to the whip socket as Charlie struggled atop the coachman’s bench and planted his seat on the back of the guardrails.

“Oh no.” Baumgart’s mouth fell open and the last bit of color bled from his cheeks. His voice barely broke over the rumble of the pounding hooves. Charlie followed his line of sight up the road as the team cleared a bend in the forest path. His stomach dropped.

“Oh bloody hell.”

At the railway crossing in the distance ahead, a small horse-cart and its driver waited patiently behind the lowered level bar for an approaching train to pass. Charlie glanced to the whip socket. The leather straps were gone. Below, they lashed and slapped under the terrified horse hooves.

A horn blared off in the distance.

Baumgart shook his head and grabbed Charlie by the arm. “The team is lost, Charles,” he shouted over the roar. “We must jump carriage!”
The horses were inconsolable and the flesh-hungry girl was…Charlie felt a hand lock around his ankle. He looked down to see the maiden grinning back. With one hand on the guardrail and the other holding tight at his riding boot, she swayed like a drunk dancer in the disintegrating coach.

“Go, sir!” Charles unhanded himself from Baumgart.

“But—.”

Another loud crack split the air and the rear bench seat dislodged from the carriage, rolling away with a smash that left the maiden’s feet dangling above the speeding road. Charlie braced against the bench at the added weight of the girl. The horses would be dragging their tack in a few minutes more.
“Please, sir!” Charles begged. “Go now!”

His face tight with terror, Baumgart turned and steadied himself at the edge of the platform. He glanced back, “God bless you, Charles,” and threw himself out into the forest, disappearing behind the dark curtain of night before Charlie even saw him strike the ground. Charlie swiveled his head in search of another weapon but there was nothing left to defend himself. The whip was gone, the gun was lost. He had nothing.

Much louder now, the locomotive hailed its coming again. With the fire of pain searing his left rib, Charlie twisted and jerked his leg until he felt his muscles cramp but she would not let go. He never thought his life would end like this, killed on a mundane carriage ride to Coburg by a mad-girl cannibal. No one would believe the tale if he survived to tell it.

Beside him, hot oil from the swinging lanterns splashed onto the bench, setting the wood alight. Charlie’s eyes widened. His brain surged, jolting one last bit of hope into his heart.

Charlie fumbled for the oil lamp behind him.
“Burn in Hell, wretched devil!”

Charlie smashed the hot lamp down upon the girl. Glass shattered and burning oil splashed down over the maiden’s head, anointing her with bright orange fire. An unearthly shriek burst from her throat and her grip loosened. Charlie wormed free, swung his legs over the side of the platform and, with a quick prayer to the Almighty, jumped free of the carriage.

The ground hit him with a breath-stealing impact. Charlie rolled his shoulders with the bruising momentum until he slowed and flopped to a halt under a large tree, dizzy and gasping like a netted fish. He lay there a moment in disbelief until panic struck his gut. He jerked upright to see if he had truly escaped and watched, incredulous, as the disaster unfolded.

The train rounded a wide curve and barreled toward the crossing. Setting dry branches and brush alight as she passed, the maiden thrashed and screamed on the carriage, oblivious to her own fate. Hearing the commotion behind him, the old peddler scrambled down off his cart to rescue his pony. Realizing his goods could not be saved, he unhitched his mare and gave her a hearty slap on the hind quarter. The animal bolted to safety across the tracks and the poor man limped away as fast as he skinny legs would take him. The Greys were just meters from the intersection.

Up the tracks, a shout pierced through the cacophony. Sounds of metal on metal screeched through the forest as the train slammed down on its emergency brakes. The train blared the horn at its inevitable arrival.

Charlie’s beloved Greys, having seen the cart too late, squealed and skittered, their hooves gouging deep into the cold, soft earth as they struggled to veer left, away from the cart. Rigging clanged and wood creaked in protest but the impact was imminent. The wooden draft poles finally snapped under the strain, sending the carriage skidding sideways into the cart. The impact of the royal coach smashing into the back of the peddler’s cart sent it airborne, careening into a wild roll. Three of the horses broke free, galloping madly on toward Coburg. With a horrible crunching sound, the wheeler screamed and stumbled into the back of the cart creating a mass of broken slats. His neck whipped across a jagged board silencing him into instant death.

Forward momentum flung the blazing girl and landau side over side, directly into the path of the oncoming train. The locomotive engine wailed a final warning before crashing through the carriage, exploding it in mid-air with the speed and force of a giant bullet. Fiery splinters flew high into the tree canopies like a firework, the last oil lamp scattering flames up and over the sides of the railcars. The glissando of the train horn suddenly died. Metal squealed and scraped together under the protesting brakes accompanied by the solid, earthy rumble of heavy, iron wheels upon the tracks.

It was only when a small bit of wood struck Charlie’s leg that he remembered to breathe. He shook his head clear and clutched his chest, taking in large draws of air. Debris tumbled and bounced across the ground hundreds of meters in every direction. Bits of the carriage and carnage rained down all around him. Nearby, a delicate, dismembered hand flopped motionless onto the grass. Streams of dark blood oozed from the ends of the curled, claw-like fingers. From the depths of the forest, his name echoed down the road.

“Charles! Charles!”

The train continued to slow, chugging to a stop with labored effort. Surprised shouts from the crew could be heard in the distance. The peddler hobbled to meet him. Charlie tried to stand but his knees wavered like sheets in the wind. A throbbing pain swallowed his torso and seeped up his chest. Bewildered and numb, his mind faded into the cold, grey fog of shock. It was only when his knees gave out and Charlie plopped back down against the oak tree that he realized one of his legs was broken. He wheezed in disbelief at the fiery wreckage waiting for the flood of pain from his fractured femur to reach his brain. There was no movement near the horrific aftermath that lay scattered over the crossroad. Charlie was struck by the absurdity that the girl might have survived the crash. After all, she had survived everything else.

“Mein Gott, Charles!” Earl Baumgart reached his side, giving his cheek a few hearty slaps. “Keep awake now. We’ll have the doctors here, straightaway!” Charlie felt the familiar tide of nausea ebb up his stomach. It was an odd and uncomfortable reassurance that he was indeed still alive.

“God have mercy!” Earl Baumgart’s cry evaporated into the hollow shell of Charlie’s head. “God have mercy!”

THE END

READ PART I HERE

READ PART II HERE

By: Erica Ruhe

 

Review: L’Oreal Voluminous Superstar X Fiber Mascara

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It’s no secret that one of my longest standing go-to mascara favourites is L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara, so when I noticed that L’Oreal came out with a new and improved version of it, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

What It Is: Super-Volumized, Super-Extended, X-Treme Superstar Lashes

What It Does: The Black Primer portion of the mascara delivers extreme volume and depth, whilst the Fiber Infused Mascara portion create extreme length.

Distinguishing Factors: Primer and mascara. Primer creates a black lash base whilst the fiber mascara helps with extending the length of your lashes.

Verdict: What I love about this mascara is that you have both primer and mascara in one handy wand! The primer that comes with mascara is black, rather than white, which helps cut down on the waiting time (cause I usually wait for the white primers to dry up a little before adding the mascara). This black primer is created so that there is no wait time, and it helps prepare the lashes for the fiber mascara. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the fiber mascara formula. Fiber mascara means that there are little tiny fibers in the mascara that attach to the lashes and thus helps with creating a lengthening look to each individual lash. This mascara DOES deliver in helping with length if that’s your concern but it also helps with volume if that’s what you seek. I also love that this mascara was neither clumpy nor did it ever feel heavy. Bonus, there’s no flaking, smudging, or fall-out all day! Instead, what you do get is defined, extra-voluminous, and long lashes without the hassle of falsies or extensions! A definite win/win in my book.

Price: $10.99

Where To Buy It: https://www.lorealparisusa.com

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By: Azzurra Nox

 

SHORT STORY: ANIMORTIS Part II

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Like a hunter who had flushed its prey from hiding, the gory maiden let out a horrid screech and burst into a run towards the carriage. The terrified Greys screamed and tossed their heads, bolting forward into the darkness. Charlie’s top hat took flight as the cold breeze turned to a freezing gust under the burst of horsepower.
“What in God’s sacred Creation was that creature?” Earl Baumgart shouted above the deafening rumble of the carriage as it bumped and rattled away at full speed down the rugged road. The spooked horses were at a full sprint now.
“I don’t know, sir,” Charlie replied, fighting to regain control of the petrified team. “But we’re safe away!”
Charlie twisted his head and looked down the path, seeking reassurance that the wild girl straggled far behind them in the growing distance. Earl Baumgart also turned round in his bench seat but the road behind them was nothing more than a gaping black void in the night.
“Yield, my lads!” Charlie pulled firm on the lines.
But the horses did not give.
Charlie arched his back and threw his whole body behind the reins once more. “Yield, boys! Yield, I say!” The team ignored his order and, instead, returned his efforts with a fresh burst of speed. A second flash of panic sparked in his gut.
“Verdammt!” Baumgart shouted.
Charlie’s head whipped around. The breath whooshed from his lungs. There was the girl, clinging one-handed to the wheel’s mudguard, scratching and clawing her way up the side. Her legs dragged limply over the speeding ground under her, shredding the skirts and skin into bloody, tattered swags of flesh. To his surprise, pain was not the expression on her face. It was hatred and hunger that burned from her gnashing teeth and mad eyes. She possessed a strength and voraciousness that he had never witnessed before. The true harm she might be capable of struck down on Charlie like a bell hammer. The Earl’s life was in jeopardy.
The girl’s slender, pale arm grappled over the back of the folded canvas cover, inches from Earl Baumgart’s head. Wrapping the reins around one hand, Charlie unhitched the shotgun from under his bench.
“My lord!” Charlie shouted, struggling to keep steady against the bucking carriage. “Move away!”
Baumgart caught sight of the weapon. “Charles! No! You can’t kill this girl!”
The maiden’s other hand slapped over the edge, her flayed fingers catching a firm hold of the Earl’s arm.
“Back!” Charlie ordered as he cocked the hammer.
“Miss, please!” The Earl struggled to free himself. The girl rose over the side, blood-streaked strands of blonde locks lashing and whipping about her lacerated face.
“I’m warning you!” Charlie narrowed his aim.
She opened her mouth wide and snapped her teeth inches from Baumgart’s forearm.
“Mein Gott!” Baumgart exclaimed. Then to Charlie, “Shoot her! Shoot her!”
Charlie sucked in a breath and pulled the trigger. The shot exploded the ridge of trapezius muscle between her throat and collarbone. Blood sprayed through the air, her shoulder bucking backward, arm flinging out behind her. Baumgart shouted in horror. The Greys screamed again.
But still she remained. Dumbfounded, Charlie paused, his aim wavering. That wound would have stopped even a battle-hardened soldier. The girl slopped her limp arm back over the seat and this time, grabbed Baumgart’s shoulder. Her shattered clavicle bristled bright white above the wash of fresh blood that poured down her chest. Charlie gritted against the violent rattle of the carriage. Tucking the butt of the gun under his tethered arm he ejected the spent cartridge.
Baumgart wriggled and squirmed, trying to slide out of his coat. “Let go, you demon!”
Returning the shotgun up to aim, Charlie braced himself for the kickback but paused and eased his finger off the trigger. The girl had slithered closer, her mouth agape and eyes flared. Red drool poured over her chin and onto Baumgart’s shoulder. A clean shot without harm to the Earl was impossible.
“Charles!”
Earl Baumgart struggled out of his overcoat, peeling his arm and shoulder free of her grasp. He dove to the front quarter seat behind the coachman’s bench at the same instant the front wheel struck a large rock, sending a violent impact crashing through the landau chassis. His footing slipped and he struck his temple on the edge of the carriage door. Baumgart crumpled into a heap. Charlie’s hand smashed against the cold guardrails. The gun clattered to the coach floor as the maiden pitched backward off the side of the landau.
“My lord!” Charlie called again. “Are you all right?”
Baumgart held his bleeding head and brought his back to rest against the carriage door, too dazed to reply. His eyes rolled back and his body melted under the weight of unconsciousness.
Charlie cradled his throbbing fist under his arm. Assured that such a sudden shock through the vehicle would have sent the girl tumbling onto the ground, he glanced back to the rear canvas cover. Instead, he saw a single bloodied hand firmly anchored over the same door that Earl Baumgart now lay slumped upon.
Then, with a lurch and snapping of wood, the rear axle cracked.
Calculating the risks, Charlie whirled back to the wild, squealing Greys. Frightened into a mindless lather, they dragged the coach without concern, bashing it over every pit and rock, like careless boys running with a toy wagon. Loosened, broken spokes flew from the wooden wheels like spears. In a last desperate attempt, Charlie wound his hands down the leather reins, braced his feet on the iron front-board and pulled with all the might he could muster.
“For the love of Mother Mary, yield, you bloody beasts!” he screamed. “Yield!”
The panic in his voice was all the team heard. Their alarm confirmed the horses thundered blindly onward. Shaking, Charlie’s arms drooped with exhaustion. His eyes darted back to the unconscious Earl sprawled on the floor of the carriage. Above him, the maiden had pulled her torso back onto the ledge side. She was nearly inside the coach.
Leaping to his feet, Charlie pulled in the reins, knotted them tight around the whip socket and snatched them up the long, leather switch. He swung a leg over and straddled the coachman’s seatback, one hand on the iron railings the other poised to deliver a firm lash of the whip.
“Oy!” Charlie shouted to avert her attention.
The girl’s head jostled violently but her eyes snapped up at his voice.
Charlie secured his balance and released a nasty crack of the whip against the girl’s arm. “Back, you devil!”
She flinched from the noise but was undaunted by the new wound on her purple skin.
Charlie raised the whip and gave her another swift, discouraging snap across the side of her neck. The thin flesh burst apart with a mist of blood but still, she continued. Charlie released a few more cracks across her arms and chest but the girl had now gained a leg over the side. He tried a final time, across her head. The whip slapped at the soft, fleshy cut on her cheek, enlarging the wound into a flap of skin that hung limply from her face. At this, she inhaled and let out an ear-splitting scream.
“C’mon then!” he challenged.
Charlie straightened, stepping down into the carriage when something hard struck his back, tossing him onto the back of the rear bench. In a blur, a low-hanging branch swept over the open carriage, just missing the maiden’s head. Charlie lolled low and dangerous over the ground. Dust and small pebbles kicked up from the broken rear wheels pelted his face. He yelped in pain, squeezed his eyes tight and forced his body back into the carriage.
Winded and blinded, Charlie realized the whip was no longer in his hand. Tears flooded his gritty, burning eyes. He swiped a coat sleeve over his face and rolled over just in time to catch the maiden as she launched herself onto him. They landed flat on the seat and she opened her mouth wide for a large bite of the soft pulsing flesh near Charlie’s jugular.
Charlie caught a handful of her blood-stiffened hair and yanked her head backward. With his other hand, he caught her shinning, red jaw at the throat, pinning her arm’s-length above him. The girl wriggled and thrashed with rage, nails raking at his hands. He blinked back his blurred sight as she gurgled, frustrated, her teeth working the air behind the exposed tendons in her jaw. Fatigue burned down his arms, the muscles yearning for release. Adrenaline flooded his brain as he deliberated.

By: Erica Ruhe

Check in next Thursday for the final installment!

READ PART ONE HERE.

Book Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

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Growing up, I always wanted to be an actress. Movies have always been a form of media that I love. Going to the theatre as a child was always one of my favourite things to do, becoming immersed in the stories that were being told, and admiring the actresses who looked so glamorous. But despite my love for cinema, I was always deviated to pursue my acting dreams, being told that Hollywood wasn’t a safe haven for women (by people in the industry) and the whole cliché of all that glitters isn’t gold.

I always thought those stories were just stories. Until I read Rose McGowan’s autobiography.

And boy is this book one wild ride.

For years what we knew of Rose McGowan was of the characters she portrayed in movies (often the sex-bomb snarky femme fatale type as can be seen in Doom Generation, Scream, Jawbreaker, and Planet Terror to name a few) the men she’s dated (Marilyn Manson and Robert Rodriguez), and the image the media sold of her as a “bad girl.”

There’s never a dull moment in Brave, where McGowan begins the book from her early days of growing up in a cult, Children of God, and living in northern Italy, to experiencing culture shock once her dad brings her back to America where she kept being sent back and forth between her parents and living in different states. How she didn’t actually pursue acting as a career, but it was more something that happened to her by accident, and that the fear of becoming homeless and living on the streets as she had done for awhile as a teen, haunted her into continuing her career in an industry she didn’t feel truly understood her or regarded her as a capable human being.

But what really had me reeling the most whilst reading the book was the moment when McGowan has her meeting with whom she refers to “the Monster” (Harvey Weinstein) and how she (and other young actresses throughout the years) was the sacrifitional lamb to a man who abused his power and knew that he could get away with it because as it turns out no one tried to be of help to her when she told various people of the incident, from her manager who said that maybe her career could only get better because of the assault, to a female attorney stating that she wouldn’t win the case since she had done a nude scene in a movie, to her then-co-star Ben Affleck who offered no true help (which is no surprise seeing that he’s Hollywood’s equivalent of Frat-Boy Bro-hood mentality and was besties with said Monster).

Other interesting tidbits was finding out that Marilyn Manson was the kindest boyfriend she had (and that the song Coma White was about her). How Robert Rodriguez was a “charming prince” soon to be revealed to be a manipulative, sadistic, power-hungry, unhinged individual. That her years spent filming Charmed were her worst gig, not because of her character, Paige, but because of the grueling schedule and male-dominated crew. That the only Prom she experienced was that in Jawbreaker, where she portrayed mean girl Courtney Alice Shayne, who wins Prom Queen, but then gets shamed and pelted by corsages when it’s revealed that she killed the much adored popular girl Elizabeth Purr. And believe it or not, it was Ashton Kutcher who inspired McGowan to join Twitter.

Brave is a tale of a woman who had her spirit crushed by the machine that is Hollywood, and how, much like a Phoenix, she has soared from her ashes, and reclaimed her identity, her true self, not the one that was pinned to her by the men in the movie industry. The day she shaved off her hair, was the day she broke up with the world and reclaimed her person for herself. From that moment on, she has ventured into directing (watch her moving short film Dawn), singing, photography, and became an active voice for those who either were too scared to speak up or didn’t know how to, and has long since been an advocate and activist for female empowerment.

This is a moving book that will stick with you long after you’ve read it.

And if you’re going to take anything from this book it’s this: Be brave. Be bold. Don’t be afraid of being yourself.

By: Azzurra Nox

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Short Story: ANIMORTIS

a scary undead zombie girl

Germany, 1861

“Easy! Easy, I say!” Charlie commanded and cajoled the four Windsor Greys to an amble with a firm pull on the reins. The bridles clanged and rigging groaned as the team clambered over each other in confused panic. “Steady, boys.”

The open-top landau creaked and slowed, halting in the middle of the dark forest road. Dusk had slipped away to a heavy indigo of evening, the small oil lanterns on either side of the carriage offering little beyond their stunted diameters of golden light. Charlie squinted into the surrounding shadows, searching for the source of the team’s unease.

“Is there a problem, Charles?”
Charlie turned to the passenger behind him with a respectful tip of his top hat. “No, sir.”
“Then why have we stopped?” the Earl asked the tone in his German accent as weary as his blue eyes.
The bitter October breeze carried an unusual quiet through the trees. Charlie shivered.

“I’ll get them back on their way.” Eager to dismiss the anxiety growing in his gut, Charlie snapped a smart nod of his head and turned back to the Greys. Assured all was under control, Earl Baumgart angled his book back to the lamplight and returned to his reading.

Charlie’s leader horses pawed at the spongy earth, grousing and chewing at their bits. Behind them, the soft, pointed ears of the wheelers twitched, straining to hear beyond their clinking tack. Charlie gripped the thick leather reins, digging frigid fingers into his palms to fight off the numbing fatigue.
“Alright, boys.” He clicked his tongue. “Be on, now.”

Defiant, the horses tossed their heads and snorted, refusing to move.
“Stroll on,” he gave a good snap on the straps, his patience waning. A few hours travel still lay ahead before they reached the Earl’s brother in Coburg. Every moment standing here in the autumn cold was another moment of delay from a full belly and a warm bed.

“Oy!” Charlie slapped the reins now. “I said get!” He gritted his teeth, pulling the riding whip from the socket.

The sudden snap of a twig and crunch of dry leaves halted Charlie, whip held above his head. On their guard, the horses remained rigid, listening. Charlie stuffed the whip back into the socket, unlatched a lamp from its post and stood, peering as far into the darkness as he could manage. Only emaciated shadows of barren trees swayed in the wind.

“Charles,” the Earl whispered and thumped his book closed, “is someone lurking about?”

Charlie wrapped the reins in a loose knot around the whip socket and disembarked from the coach bench. With the lamp in hand and caution in his feet, he stepped to the front of the team.

“Perhaps it’s only a small animal, sir.” He hunched his shoulders against the night chill and exhaled, cold vapor billowing over his unshaven face. A long moment passed. Nothing stirred.

“What is it, Titan?” Charlie muttered, patting down the wheeler’s broad neck and shoulder, breathing in the familiar, earthy scent of cold, damp horse. Titan blew a heavy gust from his large nostrils and tossed his head away, annoyed and distracted. His wide eyes roved toward a dark corner in the forest ahead.
Then, on the soft breeze, came a deep, guttural sigh.

Again, velvet ears snapped forward, this time with unnerving precision. Charlie eased further into the darkness, certain his mind wasn’t playing tricks.
“Hallo?” the word scratched in his throat as he raised the lamp. Pierced with the pungent odor of kerosene, the night air smelled sharp and inauspicious. Charlie swallowed. Crisp, naked branches creaked in the wind. “I say, is anyone there?”

Charlie held his breath. Fear seeped its way down his taut back. His heart thrummed in his ears. The whooshing of his blood blurred his senses. The miserable chill settled deeper into his bones.

A ragged moan flowed down the path in answer, low, monotonous.
“Sh-show yourself!” Charlie demanded through numb lips. Shielding his sight from the glare of the lamp, he tromped a few feet ahead of his team. His eyes snagged upon a curious shadow wading through the shrubbery.

“You there!” Charlie’s voice broke in a most unflattering manner.
The figure inched forward. She was an odd girl. Seventeen, perhaps, but her footing was awkward and unsure like a babe’s first step. Her head hung low, the lower half of her face shrouded in the shadows. Her eyes were sunken; merely two, dark pools reflecting the lamplight. Jagged branches teased and pulled at her disheveled blonde braids as she neared. She was the frail silhouette of a beggar girl. His courage restored, Charlie lowered the lamp and planted an authoritative fist on his hip.

“Do you get a jolly out of spooking travelers and their horses?”
The girl did not answer.

“You should get a good wallop on the backside for a prank like this! And what, in God’s name, are you doing out here in the forest at this late hour? What kind of a father would allow his daughter to wander about unescorted? And have you a coat? You haven’t—.” Charlie trailed off at the observation, appalled. “You haven’t even a coat,” he muttered to himself, strangely and suddenly compassionate. “You poor creature.”

He took notice of her red dress, the thin fabric torn and muddy. She remained silent as she shuffled forward into the outer reaches of the lamplight. It cast faint upon her visage, revealing her pitiful state. Her face was soiled, a cut stretching across her forehead. She inhaled and exhaled with effort, the raspy sound suggesting fluid in her lungs. Charlie’s tone softened as he realized she was hurt.

“I say, are you alright, miss? You must be freezing in this cold.”
She sucked in a laborious breath and dragged another foot forward, emerging from the brush and onto the edge of the road. Her head twitched to the side, revealing a large tuft of hair that had been ripped out of her scalp. The horses groused again. Her wide, glossy eyes stared, emotionless yet transfixed. Charlie’s compassion melted back into unease.

A smell hit him.

It was illness, and yet, something grotesquely viler. He swallowed down a gag and reached for a handkerchief to cover his nose. She stank of death.
“Gott in Himmel!” Earl Baumgart exclaimed, opening his carriage door and kicking down the metal folding step. “Come! I have a warm blanket. We’ll give you a ride to town! Where is your family?”

“Sir?” Charlie tried to control the rising alarm in his voice as he stepped back toward the coach. “I think we should be on our way.”
“And leave this unfortunate soul to freeze to death out here alone?” Earl Baumgart continued down the carriage step, flabbergasted. “Have you gone mad, Charles?”
The young girl raised her head with a renewed strength and sniffed the air. Charlie’s heartbeat broke into a gallop. He dropped the handkerchief from his face. An eerie, tight breath gurgled past her blood-covered lips. Thin, delicate fingers curled into trembling, stiffened claws.
Charlie squelched the rising urge to turn and run for fear of startling the horses. Instead, he continued his slow retreat back to the landau, choking down a gasp of terror. A splash of bright red cascaded down the girl’s chin and throat. It was as though she had bit her tongue right out of her mouth. The Greys blew strong gusts of air from their flared nostrils, catching wind of the horrid stench. They shuffled their heavy hooves, jostling the carriage. Charlie felt for the lantern hook and slipped the lamp back on to its rung.
“Sir,” Charlie urged, anchoring a foot onto the coachman’s step. “She appears to be,” he faltered, not knowing how best to describe her condition, “ill.”
Baumgart paused, a peculiar expression creeping across his face.
Charlie glanced back once more. Rivulets of blood stained the girl’s bruise-dappled arms. A shred of white ribbon hung tangled in the end of a loosened braid. Rouge smudged her cheek. The glint of a golden locket flashed bright around her neck. Charlie noticed her tattered, red dress once more.
He felt his breath catch in his chest.
Halfway down the skirt, it shone of fine white silk. The top was completely dyed red with blood. This was not a common beggar girl. She did not seem to be in pain. She did not seem to be coherent at all.
“We’ll…send someone back for you,” Earl Baumgart managed in a whisper, back-peddling to the landau.
The girl turned her head toward the sound. Her jaw went slack, arms reaching out as if to embrace him. Blood bubbled into froth around her mouth.
Charlie looked back and the two men nodded in unspoken, wide-eyed agreement. They scurried aboard, Charlie nearly missing a step and Earl Baumgart clapping the superfluous carriage door closed with a loud clack of the latch. Snatching up the reins and snapping a hard crack against the team’s backsides, Charlie cried out a desperate plea, “Run on!”

To be continued. Look for part two, next Thursday!

By: Erica Ruhe

 

Skincare: DIY Cucumber Mask!

cucumber

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good face mask! Not only are they luxurious in feel, but they always make me feel as though they are truly combating my skin concerns (oiliness/acne) whenever I’m using skin masks that target those concerns. But with so many companies coming out with face masks, not all face masks are created equal, and many of them are loaded with chemicals or unnecessary colouring agents and added scents.

So what does one do when you’re aiming for an all-natural face mask? Simple, do it yourself!

This face mask is aimed at soaking up oil and calming inflammation, and better suited for those with oily or combination skin type. Those of you with dry skin might find this mask a bit more drying and thus not as helpful to your skin type.

There’s a load of DIY face masks on the internet, but this one is truly easy peasy! I’m not one to try to get too fancy with crazy ingredients, so this is one you can whip up in less than three minutes tops!

Ingredients:
Half a cucumber (blended to make one tablespoon juice)
One teaspoon lemon juice
One teaspoon turmeric

Directions:
Blend all the ingredients in a blender till they’re all mixed together, or you can place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix the ingredients together manually.
Then once you have the mixture, spread it all over your face (keep away from the eye area and eyebrows and lips) using a cotton ball or foundation brush.

Time: Keep this on for 15-30 mins. Don’t exceed 30-mins. though otherwise the lemon can be too drying to your skin!

Final step: Once the time has elapsed, rinse the mask off using lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel.

Bonus: Use this mask 2-3 times a week (to save time you can apply this before taking a bath! I love being able to multitask since I hate waiting!).

Benefits of the mask: Cucumber promotes healthy skin, while the lemon juice targets the oiliness and acts like a natural astringent, while the turmeric penetrates into the pores and soothes any inflammation there may be (and oily and acne-prone skin is ALWAYS harboring some kind of inflammation).

By: Azzurra Nox

Skincare: How Vitamin A Can Make You Have Gorgeous Skin!

red lips

*Foundation-free skin in the photo.

Vitamin A can easily be described as the holy grail of vitamins for skin. If you’re an acne sufferer, this vitamin is your cure. Many dermatologists prescribe Accutane (which is pretty much a medication that makes you overdose on Vitamin A), and while that could temporarily solve your problem, I don’t think that it’s the best approach. Instead, I recommend finding the perfect supplement dose for you (you can have your doctor decide what amounts if safe for you since everyone is different). Although, typically speaking, 25,000 IU taken about 4 times a week shouldn’t cause any harm AND keep the acne or any other skin ailment at bay.

Why 4 times a week and not every day?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it stays stored in your body for awhile, and unlike water-soluble vitamins, it won’t flush out of your system if you have high amounts. Meaning, that it’s easy (and could be potentially hazardous) to overdose on Vitamin A or any other fat-soluble vitamin.

So why choose Vitamin A?

It encourages healthy skin cell production, and it also stimulates fibroblasts (the cells responsible for developing tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy). What this means is that it can help prevent wrinkles, whilst also getting rid of any acne, or acne scars you may have.

When choosing a Vitamin A supplement, I suggest going for the cod liver oil, as that has the best sort of Vitamin A (meaning the most potent and non-chemical).

If supplements aren’t your thing, then try to include more of these foods in your diet:

Chicken Liver, Beef Liver, Butter, or Eggs. For a less aggressive Vitamin A you can choose to eat foods that have beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor) which can be food in colorful vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

Most importantly: In order for the skin to benefit from Vitamin A, the body converts it to retinoic acid, which can also be found in topical serums (my favorite is from Isabis Formulae).

How has it changed my skin?

Ever since I’ve been using Vitamin A supplements for the past year, I’ve seen a vast improvement in my skin. Not only do I rarely get blemishes, but when I do, they last for a less amount of time and leave fewer scars behind. Of course, the supplements or topical serums won’t be as effective if not followed by a healthy diet with low doses of sugar (as much as I love it, anything with sugar is basically poison for your skin).

So it’s a no-brainer that if you’re suffering from acne or wish to have a better complexion, then Vitamin A will be your new best friend.

By: Azzurra Nox

 

Review: Honest The Younger Eye Cream

It seems like every celebrity out there lately has a beauty brand (think Drew Barrymore, Salma Hayek, and Rihanna just to name a few), so of course, Jessica Alba decided to expand her Honest brand to include a makeup line. The unique aspect of her brand is that she prides on using natural ingredients and that it celebrates diverse beauties. Plus, since many of the products were Best of Beauty winners by Allure since their launch, I decided to check it out.

honest

Packaging: I love that it’s both simple, yet sleek and sophisticated.

What It Is: Hydrating eye cream

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Chamomile, and Calendula

Verdict: Now you know that I have a certain love/obsession for eye creams (you can check out some of my faves here). The skin around the eye area is the thinnest, meaning that it’s one of the first places to show any signs of aging. Plus, it feels rather refreshing whenever I keep my eyes hydrated. One of the things that set this cream apart from others, is that not only does it have hyaluronic acid (which zaps wrinkles!) but it also features barbary fig and baobab fruit, which are both rich in essential fatty acids. I know a lot of eye creams out there claim to work, but the difference between all those others and this one is that THIS ONE WORKS! Not only does it work, it works FAST. I love how it leaves my eye feeling both hydrated and soothed. Plus, I love how rich the cream feels but at the same time it is lightweight. I’ve actually used this on my forehead as well and noticed that it has tightened up the skin there and the faint expression line I had basically VANISHED. This cream will have you looking younger and rested in no time. So do yourself a favor, and treat yourself to this luxurious cream that won’t break the bank, but will leave you looking like a million bucks!

Price: $28

Where To Buy It: Target or https://www.honestbeauty.com

By: Azzurra Nox

Remembering Dolores and the Summer of 1999

dolores o riordan-4

While the majority of the world became a Cranberries fan with the iconic song Zombie, I didn’t become a fan till 1999, when their fourth album Bury the Hatchet was released, preceded by their single, Promises. Something about that angry revenge anthem spoke to me (I was an angsty, angry teen) and I also loved the music video cause the wicked witch of the west resembled Fairuza Balk a little. Someone else who was equally a fan of that album was my cousin Melody.

I remember how she and I would listen to the album and daydream about living in London or Los Angeles. That we felt that maybe, in cities like that, our mutual weirdness would be better understood or at least not scoffed or poked fun at, as opposed to where we lived.

My cousin was a bigger fan than I was, to the point that she said, “I wish my name could be Dolores at least it would be better suited for me than Melody. Do-lo-res…just saying it sounds darkly poetic.”

We’d sing along to Animal Instinct whilst applying makeup and drinking conspicuous amounts of coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Clouds of smoke would circle above our heads as we shared lipsticks and secrets, all the while Dolores O’Riordan’s voice at times aggressive, other times ethereal playing in the background. We’d stroll the cobblestone streets of our small Sicilian town, humming Just My Imagination, and dreaming big dreams. This was before selfies were a thing, so I don’t have photos documenting those moments of us together, but they’ve remained engrained in my mind, milk fresh as though they’ve only happened several months ago, and not years ago. How we’d lie both in bed, our long hair meshing together, her’s bleached blonde, mine strawberry blonde, and how it created the perfect sunset hue, and the notes from the songs would transport us elsewhere, somewhere we were convinced that we’d be better versions of ourselves.

On Christmas Eve of 2013, Melody committed suicide—and although I hadn’t seen her in years since 1999 (I had moved to America and she had moved to Turin), I couldn’t stop thinking of the last summer days we spent together. Of how everything seemed possible—when we were young and fearless. And we didn’t know it then, but maybe, we already were the better versions of ourselves but we were just too blind to see it.

Now, with the recent and unexpected death of Dolores O’Riordan, I can’t help but think about how Bury the Hatchet had been the soundtrack of my last days spent with Melody. And how often, these last five years, I’ve found myself listening to the familiar songs as a way to feel closer to my cousin, as a way to be transported back to those careless summer days.

And now, I’m merely left with the songs and the memories of a summer that’s gone and with it its dreams.

By: Azzurra Nox

Peels: Why does your skin need them?

 

IMG_0882With so many skincare products floating around nowadays (masks, serums, moisturizers, etc.) it’s no wonder that a gal (or even guy!) may feel stumped as to where to begin and why they even need a certain product in the first place. But have no fear! My aim is to make this journey easier for you, and today the focus is on one of my favourite skincare products: PEELS.

What are Peels?

It’s another form of mask (usually one you can leave for up to 30-minutes to overnight) that allows for deep exfoliation of the skin. Facial peels will remove the top layer of skin, meaning that it’ll get rid of any dullness or imperfections by exposing the newer skin to the surface.

Chemical peels are the most potent, and depending on the strength of the acid is how deep your skin will be exfoliated. The higher dose of acid, the greater chances of getting fantastic results.

What are Peels best for?

If your skin concerns are: aging, acne scars, melasma, and hyperpigmentation, then chemical peels are the best thing that could happen to your skin. The only downside? Do NOT sunbathe up to a week before or after a peel, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Which Chemical Peels are best for you?

Oily skin – Salicylic acid based peel

Aging skin – Glycolic acid based peel

Dry skin – Mandelic acid based peel

Recommended Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula

This peel visibly transforms your skin in just THREE days!

Benefits of this peel are:

  • firmer, smoother skin
  • smaller, tighter pores
  • a radiant, more even complexion

Key Ingredients: Glyconic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Retinol, Resveratrol, Genistein, Chamomile, Green Tea, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, and Vitamins A, C, E

Verdict: Dr. Dennis Gross’ peels come in two steps. The first step is a surface refiner, meaning that you apply this one to prepare your skin. You leave the product on for two minutes before applying step two, which is the deeper treatment. The deeper treatment is targeted to penetrate deeper into the pores, exfoliating and removing the top layer of skin. I usually use peels at night, so I can keep them on overnight, and wake up the following morning to brighter, smoother, and supple skin. If you’re in search of having the softest skin ever without blemishes, then I truly recommend a peel! And this one, in particular, is one of my favourites because it targets the majority of skin concerns: aging, dullness, and acne! So do your skin a favour, and treat yourself to a peel!

Price: $27.98 (5-count on amazon.com)

Frequency of Use: It’s usually recommended to do a peel at least once a week if you have problematic skin, but if you don’t, then even twice a month or once a month is enough to reveal brighter softer skin.

By: Azzurra Nox