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

 

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.

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

 

Poetry: For You Always

I suppose I had hoped that my memory would’ve crippled you

Not to move on.

Instead, I see you smiling with your wife.

Your children remind me so much of you, with those

crooked smiles and messy curls.

I guess I just wished you had wanted those things with me,

Instead of her.

I break my phone’s screen so that I don’t have to witness your happiness

Without me.

By: Azzurra Nox

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Unboxing Medusa’s Makeup August Beauty Box!

I’ve only recently subscribed to this beauty box (two months to be exact) and it’s become my favourite! What makes this box different from the others? Well first of all all the products in it are cruelty-free AND vegan. And secondly, all the products in the box are FULL-SIZE products, not dinky tester/sample sizes, and each month you receive 3-5 full size products. How amazing is that? And last but not least, what sets this beauty box apart from all the others is the fact that it’s got some seriously edgy products and colours. If you’re one who wishes to play it safe, then this may not be the best beauty box for you, but if you love glitter and makeup with some serious attitude, then this is the brand for you!

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What I got this month:

  • Metal AF Lipgloss in Cherry Pie (retails for $11)
  • False Eyelashes in Heavy (retails for $9)
  • Totally Baked Eyeshadow in Whatever (retails for $9)
  • Eye Dust in Ultra Violence (retails for $8)

Total value of the box: $37

Actual price of the beauty box: $15.95

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Metal AF Lipgloss in Cherry Pie

I was really hoping to get this lipgloss (which is odd since I’m usually NOT a fan of lipgloss), but the colour is absolutely GORGEOUS (it kind of reminds me of Urban Decay’s Gash lipstick), but unlike other lipglosses, this one isn’t tacky, sticky, nor does it fade. Oh, and did I mention that it’s highly pigmented, cause IT IS.

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False Eyelashes in Heavy

I’m not a fan of fake lashes because I often find little use for them in my everyday life, but I do like to use them on occasion if I’m doing a photoshoot. These look absolutely pretty without looking trashy.

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Totally Baked Eyeshadow in Whatever

This eyeshadow is truly pigmented and very blendable. I also love this shade cause it’s good to use as liner or in the crease for a smoky eye-look.

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Eye Dust in Ultra Violence

This shade is so pretty and the sparkle is subtle, not too heavy. This is the lavender shade that Wednesday Addams would reach for if she was trying to feel girly but still wanted stick to her edgy goth roots.

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Which of these products would you love to try out? I’m very pleased with this month’s selections and can’t wait to see what Medusa’s Makeup has in store for September!

Check out Medusa’s Makeup here: https://medusasmakeup.com/

By: Azzurra Nox

A GIRL AGHAST IN AUGUST

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Writer’s know all about comfort zones…we live to destroy them. We chop up our protagonists’ lives and scatter their pitiful feelings to the wind just to sweep up the pieces and solder them back together into hell-fired heroes and heroines. It’s a very messy, emotional process, and yet, it has a simple equation:

Character – Something Valuable = Fear

Fear = Conflict

Conflict = A Helluva Good Story

In today’s ego-based economy, where what we possess determines our worth on the class scale, people break into a cold sweat at the possibility that ‘Something Valuable’ might be taken away from them and diminish their social status. Especially, if that ‘Something’ is fleeting and intangible, like their comfort zones. Americans have seen a lot of change over the past sixty years. The abolition of racial segregation; equal rights for women and minorities; the legalization of same-sex marriage. All of these movements have brought about great strides to empower the oppressed. It’s hard to imagine that some view these victories as defeats. After all, when power is given to one person, it must have been taken from someone else, right?

Imagine Bobo has two bananas and Lulu has one. Bobo has the most banana power. So when Kiki comes in, holds up the newly passed Equal Rights Amendment and gives Lulu a banana raise, there’s much rejoicing. Now we’re all equal! However, despite losing nothing, Bobo feels less powerful, even threatened, because Lulu has ‘moved up to his level.’ His financial situation now improved, Lulu has inadvertently affected Bobo’s comfort zone. This might cause Bobo distress, even anger him. Lulu now becomes the unwitting target of Bobo’s misguided fear, leading to a display chest-pounding and poo-throwing. Great friction for fiction. Bad for Human Resources.

So what is this ‘Something Valuable’ that has the country at odds right now? For a self-riotous few, it is as narrow-sighted as their outdated beliefs and comfort zones of intolerance. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend are a painfully accurate example. Ultra-conservatives are exhibiting the same messy, emotional symptoms of a character in conflict:

Entitled Americans (Alt-Right) – Freedoms & Rights (Power) = Displaced Fear (Discrimination)

So how do we tame the volatile stray that’s barking inside these terrified Alt-Right ideologists? How do we get them to understand the unshakable truth that nothing is being taken away from them? Their precious freedoms are as intact as they’ve ever been. The only difference is, back in the ‘good old days’ they could unethically enthrone themselves on top of the social hierarchy without raising eyebrows. It’s 2017. Now people are raising their eyebrows, their voices and their protest signs and ultra-conservatives don’t know how to handle the pushback.

The Alt-Right’s refusal to acknowledge these changes is what’s led to their own paranoid schizophrenia. Building a pillow fort with Confederate flags in their living room while chanting ‘blood and soil’ does not change the fact that the South lost the Civil War. No doubt we still have a long road ahead, but most Americans have come far enough to declare that people are not property or punching-bags or ladder rungs. The Alt-Right have padded their egos using this superiority complex to punch and fluff the minority ‘cushions’ under their derrieres. But now they are the ones under the sharp focus of (gasp) discrimination. Discrimination against inequality and violent rhetoric.

This bad behavior is being strung up as an intolerable example on social media. And the Alt-Right is feeling the acute discomfort of that mass public rejection. Evolution hard-wired humans to ‘think like the flock’. If you didn’t, you died. That’s led to rationalizations like, ‘slavery is acceptable’; ‘sexism is scientifically proven’; ‘desecration of your neighbor’s faith is honorable.’ This brain-washing machine was, unfortunately, left on the spin cycle for most of humankind’s development. And, it seems, our current POTUS’ development as well. But that’s a rant for another day.

Although intolerance is still gnashing its teeth, the ugly beast is slowly backing itself into a dead end alley. People are talking. People are coming together – just sometimes with too much force. In dealing with every aspect of this divide, the lives sacrificed are unnecessary. It is a loss felt deeper because of the senseless violence. But I hope the country will remain optimistic. The fiery conflicts we see on our television screens at night are proof that we’re squeezing in on the Alt-Right’s comfort zone.

There will be more heated exchanges, more blood, more tears, and this is why the pending years of America’s next big ‘growth spurt’ are going to take all the patience and compassion we can muster. We must continue to lead by example and breathe through those dark, infuriating moments to come; to look to the core of the problem before we become a part of it too. Because the biggest challenge is not the danger of taming a cornered, belligerent mongrel – it’s convincing the damn thing to turn around and see that there were never any walls to begin with.

By: Erica Ruhe

Photo Credit: https://jerkmag.wordpress.com/

 

 

Coming Soon! My American Nightmare: Women in Horror Anthology

As a reader, I’ve always been an avid fan of horror anthologies and short story collections, because it has always allowed me to discover new authors without committing to a full-length novel. As a writer, I’ve always wanted to put together an anthology and seeing that I prefer the darker side of life I thought that going with horror short stories would be my best option.

Female representation in the horror genre is still very scarce. The horror literary market is filled with male authors. So with my anthology I decided to showcase the talent of female authors. This is how the concept for MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE: Women in Horror Anthology was conceived.

The anthology will be available TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2017.

Fans of Joe Hill, American Horror Story, and Stephen King will love these dark and twisted stories!

Excerpt from “The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper”

The faces in the flowers were more pronounced than usual that night. Big eyes, gaping and expectant, seemed to blink back at her. Lizzie dismissed the idea immediately. Paper did not blink. Nothing could move in the room, except her. But the yellow faces had a more human quality the more she looked. They were women’s faces. Lizzie found something feminine in the shape, warped as it may be. The heads in the wallpaper appeared to tilt to the side, violently, like their necks had been snapped.

*

Excerpt from “Perle”

A muscle flickered in that clean-shaven jaw. “Step out of the vehicle.”

I hesitated. Another bang.

I said step out of the vehicle.” Singer popped the snap on his holster. “I’m not gonna ask you again.” Dog whimpers urged me to comply.

My shoulders slumped. I released the latch and fought open the stiff door. It protested with a loud, long squeal.

Now what is in the back of this truck?”

Still I hesitated, puckering my lips in a coy attempt at innocence.

My stepdad.”

*

Excerpt from “Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?”

Jesus,” she whispered, not sure if anyone could hear her. The dolls made her feel unsettled as they stared back at her with vacant eyes. Peering down, a scream escaped her throat when she realized that their plucked eyes were scattered on the bed. She pushed the comforter off of her. The eyes fell down, making a sound similar to marbles crashing to the floor as she ran for the door.

Frantic, she opened the door and stood upon the landing. She looked to and fro, not knowing what direction to run to next.

Don’t panic! She told herself. And yet, her hands were shaking.

*

My American Nightmare 2

The author lineup is the following:

Angela Sylvaine – “Ballad of Sorrow and Lily”
Amelia Kibbie – “We Kill The Skull Man”
Roberta Goli – “Mr. Buttons’ Tea Party”
Jamie Kahn – “The Poison & The Ivy”
Rachel Bolton – “The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper”
Hillary Lyon – “Boys’ Night Out”
Nicky Peacock – “She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle”
Spinster Eskie- “Angie’s Change”
Sheri Kreitner – “The Pickman Sisters of Salem”
Sierra Ryan – “Volunteer”
Kara Nelson – “The Eye”
E.F. Schraeder – “Night Moves”
Andrea Teare – “39 Days”
Heather Miller – “The Stars”
Marnie Azzarelli – “When Evacuating Pennsylvania”
Erica Ruhe – “Perle”
Phoebe Jane Johnson – “Ruby”
Azzurra Nox – “Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?”
Kara Dennison – “Billson”

If anyone would be interested in receiving an ARC of the anthology for review purposes, please get in touch with me at: azzurranox[@]yahoo.com or leave a comment below!