Eternal Beauty

📅 Published on October 26, 2023

“Eternal Beauty”

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.75/10. From 4 votes.
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Claire awakens from the dream, sheets and nightgown soaked. Yanking the covers off, she rushes into the bathroom and throws cold water onto her face to help stem the hot flash, but it doesn’t work. She fumbles down the dark hallway and into the kitchen, opens the freezer door, and shoves her head inside, sucking in the frigid air, relishing the cold against her damp, clammy skin.

The refrigerator beeps an annoying warning the door’s been open too long. She snatches a handful of ice cubes and shuts it just as Barbara steps into the kitchen and flicks on the light. Claire frowns. A wave of jealousy slams into her chest, embarrassed by her appearance, shorter stature, disheveled hair, unpainted face, and cellulite. Both women are knocking hard on sixty’s door, and Claire looks it, but Barbara doesn’t look a day over thirty. The silk, long floral robe in vibrant crimson caresses the highly sought after influencer’s impeccable body. She’s worked for the woman for a decade and knows Barbara’s never used injectables or felt the slice of a surgeon’s knife. It’s two-thirty in the morning, yet Barbara looks like she just stepped out of a salon. Not one auburn hair out of place, makeup flawless, as always, and no creases on her skin from a pillowcase or rolling around, which means her boss was recording another video for Claire to edit.

Even without a connection to the outside world and all the millions of adoring fans around the globe, she’s so addicted to seeing herself on camera she cannot put the phone down. How pathetic, and considering Claire’s plans, a waste of time.

Ah, yes, unmarried, childless, and now menopausal, Claire Renee Foster, is nothing more to the than the frumpy lackey of social media icon, Barbara O’Malley. The stunning beauty is a worldwide phenomenon known for showing the sisterhood of women over forty to embrace the changes naturally with grace and dignity—and her $99.95 per month homeopathic hormonal replacement therapy elixir subscription, a cash cow that allows her to live a lavish lifestyle that Claire runs.

Good times.


Barbara flashes a dazzling white smile while floating past her and retrieves a mug from the cabinet. “Here. You’re dripping all over the hardwood. I’d hate for you to slip and fall since we’re out in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles from civilization, and you know I don’t drive. One mishap could turn into a disaster, and I cannot function or run this empire without my tech guru and BFF.”

A wave of heat flushes up from her chest to cheeks while grabbing a dishtowel and wiping up the water. “Sorry. These freaking hot flashes will be the death of me. It feels like I’ll spontaneously combust any second, plus the hormonal changes have caused hair loss, weight gain, mood swings, dry skin, and terrifying nightmares. I’m so over them all! I’d hoped being here in the mountains during the cold winter would have at least slowed them down, but they are relentless. I just ruined our vacation to rest and regroup after a stressful year.”

“No, you didn’t. We both needed a break and this cabin, and the remote location you chose, are perfect. No cell service and no distractions from a phone constantly dinging. A time for inner reflection and reconnection with the Earth and Universe, and that is exactly what we are doing. You know I preach women cannot run from menopausal symptoms; they must outsmart them. Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry. This is what…the sixth one in three days?”

Claire nods.

Barabara’s jade green gaze sweeps over her and she feels violated by the probing stare. “My career spawned when I stopped those things in their tracks after the first one dared to rear its ugly head. My elixir created this face and body which pays the bills and allows me to live my truth. Are you ready to try it now? It is high time you did so your true inner beauty shines through and regenerates the outer degeneration, then you can get in front of the camera with me, rather than behind it. Can you imagine how my followers will react when they see the changes in someone like them? Say the magic word and I’ll prepare us a fresh batch, and then you can kiss the symptoms of aging goodbye.”

Claire hides the irritation from her face and laughs nervously while crunching on an ice cube. She’s helped prepare the “magic elixir” for years and knows it doesn’t work, which is why she takes real medication prescribed by a doctor. Of course, that isn’t working either and is the reason she sought out another avenue. “Yes, because at this point, I’d drink deer urine if it would help.”

“Sit. I’ll be done in a flash. Oops, bad word choice.” Barbara chuckles while motioning toward the living room, her cherry-red nails shimmering underneath the lights as she flicks her wrist. “You know, I’ve learned over the years our dreams are merely repressed, unconscious longings driven by what we desire but are too afraid to embrace. If you trust me enough to share the details, perhaps we can figure out what you need to be fulfilled and live your best life, like me.”

If she hears that inane expression one more time, her brain will explode. “Uh, I don’t know. It was quite scary.”

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind. I remember reading that in a book, although it was so long ago, I cannot recall which one, but the phrase became my personal mantra and changed my life. Gave me the courage to overcome every single stumbling block I’ve encountered, which have been many, including aging. I’m so tired of watching you suffer when I’m able to help you because your issues affect your work performance, and my followers expect nothing but perfection from their idol. Spill. I’m all ears.”

While Barbara piddles around the remote rental cabin’s kitchen preparing what Claire secretly named witches brew concoction of herbs and various teas, Claire settles into the cool leather couch, carefully holding her hand in front of her lips to hide a smile. It’s showtime. The book said it will work if all steps are followed in the correct order, just like the dream. Please let it work. I cannot stand living another day trapped inside this failing body.

“I’m in the forest at night. A thick tangle of pine, maple and oak trees are overhead, creating a living canopy. The moon’s silvery rays filter through, guiding me while I walk on a twisted path, unsure of where I’m going yet unable to ignore the urge to continue forward. I’m dressed in a long, red robe dragging across the damp ground and sense someone is beside me yet cannot see anyone. The weirdest thing is there’s no sound. Not one insect, animal, or even my footsteps.”

“Oh, that is interesting. No sound or voice in a dream means you feel powerless, misunderstood, or insecure. Go on.”

Yes, powerless and insecure, that’s certainly me, but not for much longer. The book showed me a way out, I just need to get you to say the words. Claire muses silently before continuing. “I find myself in a clearing, inches away from a large slab of stone shaped like a dinner table in the middle. Rhythmic chanting fills the forest, like Mother Earth is leading the sisterhood of the forest in an orchestra just for me.”

“Loud music or sounds are indicators you should increase your awareness level and pay attention to what is going on around you in life. Got it. Continue, please.”

“I’m swaying in harmony with the sound, compelled by this intense energy exuding from what I suspect is a blood-stained altar. The clouds above part and the full moon’s tendrils illuminate the glen, and the presence I felt earlier glides across the ground until in front of the stone, robe-clad arms outstretched toward the vibrant moon. A melodic, female voice speaks in a language I don’t understand but immediately sense, consists of incantations or prayers of supplication. The thick stone turns this weird crimson color and pulsates, like a heartbeat.”

“Red! The color of aggressive forces or great passion and emotional power—or maybe blood, the source of all life. You desire to overcome your insecurities and the Universe is guiding you toward finding your inner passion and power. Now where getting somewhere!” Barbara gushes.

Oh, yes we are. Almost there. Damn, this is so exciting! All the lost sleep learning Latin will finally pay off. “I’m frightened, yet mesmerized, by the ethereal pull of the throbbing stone. The robe flitters to the ground and the body partially turns toward me and sure enough, a woman with long auburn hair, like yours, looks at me, but she’s pregnant, and the most beautiful human being I’ve ever seen.”

“Sounds just like me, except the pregnant part! Our bodies are temples, but sadly, the Universe never afforded us the opportunity to experience motherhood. Yet another bond we share.” Barbara sighs.

You’ve never had a child because the men drawn to your beauty end up recoiling in horror when they realize you are the most self-absorbed narcissist on the planet. The eggs inside me refused to create offspring with any of the few ugly men I let touch me. I cannot wait to seek out hunks and ride them until spent without the fear of pregnancy! Her pulse quickens—she’s reached the point of no return in the story and must steer Barbara in the right direction. “The woman mounts the stone and stretches out, body covering the glowing rock. An ancient, silver dagger appears in her hand, slender fingers clasped around the bone-encrusted handle.”

“Oh, now we’re cooking. I’m getting a killing-off-the-old-so-the-new can emerge vibe here. Anything else?”

“Yes, that’s what I thought, too, and it scared me. She looks at me and speaks before plunging the knife into her heart, but that’s where it ends. The worst part is I don’t understand what she said.”

Barbara is pouring steaming water into two mugs and immediately pauses. “Do you recognize what language it is?”

“No, but it is very beautiful. Lyrical.”

“Think, Claire. This might be the key to unlocking the dream. Do you recall enough to repeat it?”

Claire’s mouth is dry as excitement floods her body. She nods, forcing herself to enunciate properly what she’s rehearsed ever since finding the spell book at an obscure occult shop in Los Angeles. “Hanc oblationem spontanea voluntate facio et apertis oculs in hunc sanguinem ineo.”

Barbara’s eyes widen. “That’s Latin!”

Even from across the room, Claire can see Barbara’s face and arms turn ghostly pale. She forces herself to sound shocked. “Really? Do you know what it means?”

“I’m a little rusty, but yes, I think so. She said, ‘I make this offering of my own free will, and with open eyes I enter into this blood pact.’”

Claire fights the urge to leap from the couch and jump for joy. She said it! Hallelujah! It has begun. Soon, I’ll have what’s rightfully mine and my worries about looks, men, money, and aging, will be over.

“Whew! There’s a lot going on inside your head, sweetie. It might take some time to fully comprehend it all. Oh, dang! This bottle of black cohosh doesn’t have enough for us both. Hang on and I’ll get some from my purse, and then we can start the process of figuring out the best plan of action to address your worries.”

Barbara struts down the hallway, just exactly like Claire envisioned when planning this moment. On silent feet, she pads into the kitchen, snatches the Jimsonweed she picked and dried earlier from her purse, and deposits the exact amount of dollops into Barbara’s vibrant red mug plastered with her logo.

She’s sweating profusely with nervous energy by the time she makes it back to the couch seconds before Barbara returns.

“There we go. The final piece de resistance needed to vanquish the effects of aging!” Barbara stirs a tablespoonful into each mug before entering the living room. She hands the black one to Claire. “To the sisterhood of women, and the inner strength and determination to face, and conquer, what frightens us, including the sands of time.”

“Amen!” Claire cheers, followed by several sips of the fragrant brew, watching eagerly over the rim as Barbara downs the entire contents of the mug in one, large gulp.

The book said to wait fifteen minutes for it to take effect. Keep talking; keep her occupied until she’s pliable before leading her out into the woods to begin the blood ritual. Soon, we will switch bodies and trade lives. Well, hers will end in this wretched flesh after having a tragic accident, but mine will be glorious in hers. It’s happening. It’s really happening!

“Huh. Interesting. This batch tasted different. I wonder why? Maybe the black cohosh was old. Oh, my. Something’s wrong.”

The mug slips from Barbara’s hand, shattering upon impact with the hardwood.

Claire body shudders with excitement even though she’s shocked it’s happening so fast.

Barbara smiles and Claire’s hair stands on end. “No, that’s not it. I detect something familiar. Ah, yes—belladonna, also known as Jimsonweed. Right, sweetie?”

Claire is dumbfounded. How in the world does she know? Why does her voice sound so different? So ominous, and with a hint of a southern accent? A wave of heat flushes her skin, surging up from her neck all the way to her ears. Her entire body trembles and vision blurs. She tries to move her legs, but they remain frozen in place.

“You studied hard, bestie, though I must admit, taking the bait hurt me. Out of all the women who’ve worked for me over the centuries whom I’ve introduced to the book, you were the only one I considered a friend and true sister. Claire, we had so much in common! I wanted us to find a suitable sacrifice together, and believe it or not, planned on allowing you to partake of the benefits once we did, but unfortunately for you, that is not to be. I had high hopes you’d be strong and fight the temptation to covet all that I am, but I was wrong.”

It takes great effort for Claire to form words. Her tongue is thick. “Centuries…I…don’t…understand.”

“No, I’m sure you do not as the poison courses through your veins that I slipped in rather than black cohosh. Here’s a quick and simple explanation. I’m a lot older than I look, and I’m quite tech savvy, have access to all your internet search history, discovered your friendship and loyalty were just façades after reading countless private messages and discovering your interest in the occult. So, I sent you to pick up herbs and spices at the store instead of ordering them online. Lirio’s Occult Shop was right next door and sure enough, you entered and bought the spell book and went right to the section created for me.”

Claire’s palms are clammy and her heart thunders inside her sweaty chest. “Your…spell?”

“Yes, created by me, and my mother, a long time ago, about three miles from this cabin. In my day, women who were beautiful, intelligent, and had strong intuition were burned alive. I watched in horror as it happened to several innocent young ladies, each one wrongfully accused by jealous women or lustful men, and my mother told me as I moved closer and closer to adulthood, my time would come. She was right, so we prepared accordingly at night when everyone else slept.”

Claire’s throat feels like she’s swallowed bleach.

“It is so confusing to me, and I will never understand why women don’t support their sisters. Tragic. I’ve only encountered a few who overcame their own insecurities. Most secretly hate anyone they feel poses a threat, whether it is physical beauty, financial stability, or a gaggle of offspring with the man they had their sights set on. I’ve waited for a long time to experience a change, but women are still backstabbing harpies with no redeemable qualities. Trust me, I know from years of interactions. Superstition, fear, and jealousy. Those three combined were my downfall on a cold winter’s evening when the men came with torches to my father’s home, all because two hussies told their parents I put a hex on them when they were caught, naked, with their legs in the air and young men grinding on top of them, in a barn. The tale was a lie, but I did possess the ability to do such magic until the moment the pyre was ignited, so my fate was sealed even though I had done no wrong.”

Claire’s mind is spinning at a frantic pace.

“I never screamed, not one time, because I refused to give the inhumane creatures surrounding me the satisfaction of hearing my pain. Instead, just like Momma and I planned, I reached out inside my mind to the Universe and spoke the exact same words you did earlier in Latin. Eternal life and exquisite beauty was granted to me—for a price—which must be paid by sacrifice every ten years. During the final seconds of my life, everything went black, and then I found myself watching my body burn from my place in the trees. Each decade when the sacrifice is offered, the hands of time are reversed thirty years for me, and I may remain in my original form or take over the one of the sacrifice, but in nearly four hundred years, haven’t found one who compares to my beauty. I need your life force to regenerate. Such a tragic choice on my end. I let my guard down with you and thought I might enjoy the companionship of a good friend, but your actions proved, once again, that friendship is overrated and impossible in this self-centered generation.”

Claire’s stomach rolls as the liquid burns her insides.

Barbara removes the red silk robe, and another is underneath. She places the first, which is still warm, onto Claire’s body. Her jade green eyes glow with hatred yet she’s still smiling. “Belladonna is a strong hallucinogenic drug used in various pagan religious ceremonies for centuries, but of course, you already knew that, just like you knew it grows wild here in the Kentucky hills, even during winter. You begged me to vacation here, but only after noticing me looking at cabins online, which I did on purpose. I must come here because it is where I’ve held the ceremony for centuries. I don’t make the rules of the Universe; I just follow them. I’m immune to belladonna; you are not. All I needed was for you to speak the oath in Latin, so it’s all good!”

“You…tricked…me.” Terror wells up inside Claire’s throat. She tries forcing her muscles to obey the command to run but nothing happens. Don’t panic. This is just a hallucination or a dream. It isn’t happening.

Barbara’s sinister laughter fills the cabin as her cold fingers grasp Claire’s arms, steering her toward the door. “And you planned on killing me, so let’s call the evening a draw. Don’t look so scared, sweetie. It’ll be over soon. I promise. You know, I’m surprised you didn’t notice the odor of the belladonna in your elixir. Some humans believe belladonna expands the mind, opening it up to new possibilities and avenues to connect to the Universe with, which is possible. In your case, as well as all the others, I use it as a form of mind control. Dealing with irrational females drives me crazy.”

The pressure from Barbara’s strong grip around Claire’s arms intensifies. A strange whooshing sound thrums inside her head and she sees Barbara’s lips move but cannot hear anything. Her head suddenly feels heavy, and she’s desperate to run yet still unable to move, and suddenly, ebony darkness descends.

* * * * * *

Claire’s eyes flutter open and soul-crushing panic seizes her chest. She immediately realizes she’s in the glen from her dreams, the stone slab glowing brightly, bathing the entire area in blood-red. Barbara stands over her, sheds her robe, and uses the dagger to slice off the one covering Claire’s trembling body. Red glints off the tips of her nails and her face contorts, elongating the once beautiful jade green orbs into thin, red slits, cheeks and forehead morphing into an unrecognizable mass of flesh with thin, translucent skin pulsating with each heartbeat. The silvery blade sparkles in the reddish glow seeping from the rock underneath her body.

Her fingers tingle and burn when Barbara places the dagger into her right hand. She wants to stab her nemesis or throw it away but cannot stop herself from raising it high above her breasts. “Please, don’t make me do this. I’m begging you! I’m sorry for what I thought about doing, I swear. You’re right, I was jealous of you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways and I’ll change. I promise! We’ll find you someone else, I’ll stay by your side, worship you, anything you want, but please, don’t make me kill myself. I don’t want to die!”

“It’s too late for false apologies.” Barbara’s lips curl into a feral snarl. “And trust me, I didn’t want to be burned alive centuries ago, nor did I want to die tonight, so I promise to live out my best life with the years your death grants me.”

Unable to force herself to stop, the dagger plunges into her chest.

Claire’s piercing wail reverberates throughout the quiet holler. A shimmering gray mist bursts from her mouth and nose, writhing in strange arcs above her head. The pain is overshadowed by bone-crushing cold.

Barbara picks up the dagger and licks the sharp edge while inhaling what she now realizes is her life force. “Too bad you learned such important lessons about being careful what you put out into the Universe, and whose life you covet. One just never knows who is really behind a media juggernaut, right? Mmmm, many thanks for the years, sweetie. I’ll make sure to tag you in an amazing tribute to my BFF online, whose eternal beauty will never fade.

Rating: 7.75/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ashley Fontainne

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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