The Heart Bleeds

One shot for a contest

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1. The Heart Bleeds

 

      I don't take blood.

      I take souls.

      My breath curls out as smoke in front of my eyes, the essence of hell slipping out from my lips. I am the world, and the world is me. Cold. Dead. Unforgiving. I cannot feel the chill crushing my body, or the snow on my skin, only the raging rush of blood blood blood in my ears.

      People say drowning is both painless and easy. But the night they pushed me into the lake - the night I crashed through the ice and never came back up - that wasn't drowning. This is drowning. Not breathing. Not thinking. Not feeling.

      I did not drown in water. I am drowning in me.

      My boots click-clack as I make my way up his driveway. One step onto the porch. Then another. The wood of the patio creaks and groans, but I have long since learned to ignore the cries of the dying and the pained. I have taken many souls in my short life span - I have torn through more sinew, driven my hand into more chests and pulled out more still beating hearts than I can count - but I am still not full. Still not satisfied. After tonight, though, I will be full enough to last me a lifetime. Or several.

      After tonight, I will be able to walk out of his house, curl up in the snow and finally - completely - drown. I will stop fighting for a gasp or a whisper of breath of the life I once knew. I will die like I was supposed to.

      Like they wanted me to.

      Inside his house, it is warm. I can feel it - no, I mean sense it, for I no longer feel - from here outside, wrapped in the cold blanket of the shadows belonging to a wintery night. No stars are out tonight. Just darkness. One hand reaches out, that's it, nice and carefully. Quietly. Silently. Fingertips grasp at the door handle, shaking with eagerness...

      But then she is there. An impossibility. A collision of time.

      Her face is whiter than snow, her hair darker than night, wet and bedraggled. Droplets fall onto the porch, unbelievably big, splashing onto my boots. Tears or lake water?

      This is me. The night I died. How I died.

      When I went out of this world, I looked like this...but not like this. I was dead the moment I smashed through the ice, the smell of beer still lingering in my nostrils, their chants and jeers and screams echoing in my ears. And his face, more than anything, his face. Staring. Still staring, even as I went down, scrabbling against the looking-glass underside of the ice, Alice trapped in the wrong side of Wonderland. He watched, but didn't laugh, didn't smile, as I went down down down. I could still feel his hands shoving against my shoulders as I blacked out for the third and final time, the dark water less like water and more like tar, Hades opening his arms and welcoming me into the Underworld.

      But this girl not the same me who died that night, although she bears the marks.

      She is me at ten years old, happy and content, not ordinary or unextraordinary - simply stuck in that quiet, blissful place in between. She didn't know about death, or boys who would push you into a lake after a drunken night out, or second lives where you have to drain someone of their blood to survive.

      "Do you really want to do this?" she asks, the words dropping like heavy stones from her youthful, plump, rosy lips. She looks alive, so very alive.

      Everytime, it is always the same question. Just one question - the eternal question - the forever question which can never honestly be answered.

      This time, though, it is different. She reaches out a hand and grazes my bare arm, allowing the memories to come flooding in.

      Him holding me close, pressing his hand against the small of my back, laughing in my ear, our bodies wrapped around each other like two question marks, his promises, his kisses, his lies, his laughter, his friends, his hands on my shoulder pushing pushing pushingpushingpushingpushing...

      I yank my arm back, face flaring with hunger. Unintentionally, a red blood teardrop escapes from my eye, chasing my sorrow down my cheek and eventually plopping onto the porch. I watch it fall, watch as it mingles and merges with the young girl's water droplet, the two lives of the same girl existing side by side. The two substances curl around each other like Ying and Yang, touching but never mixing. Human and monster. The me that was then, and the me that is now.

      Suddenly, her voice is in my head.

      He loved you once.

      And the wave crashes over me again. His floppy brown hair. Dopey dark eyes. The tribal band he used to draw around his thumb with biro pen. The way he once said: "I've been watching you." And how I wanted to reply: I've been watching you two. The first night you spent together, when he said: "I've always liked you." The night by the lake, when I met up with his friends at midnight - not a minute before or a minute later, just like he had said - how he slipped his arm around my waist and guided me down to the lakeside, before jumping away as if I had scolded him. "You're a freak," he hissed. "Everybody know you are. As I would ever love a freak." And I told him that I didn't understand, tears - real tears, not blood tears - streaming down my face as he replied: "It was a joke. A real joke. People like you don't deserve to live in this world."

      And then came the push that ended and began everything.

      The night I clawed my way out of the lake, the night somebody broke through the ice, pulled me out and offered me an impossible choice, I was forced to take the only option that meant I would be able to see him again. The option which would allow me to make him pay.

      He loved you once.

      Ignoring the young girl, I reach out for the door handle again, this time firmly closing my fingers around it.

      He loved you to death.

      "Yes, I'm sure," I say, baring my fangs.

      For she is no longer me, and I am no longer her. Sometimes in life, there are not good or bad choices, choices which define whether you are a monster or human. Sometimes, there are just choices. Choices which have to be made.

      Pulling back the door, blood tears kissing my cheeks for reassurance, my boots step over the threshold.

*

      I find him in the living room. Watching TV. Lounging on the couch. Re-runs of old hockey games play on the screen, the vivid pictures and colours dancing on the plasma.

      This was the kind of thing we used to do.

      "Em-" He opens his mouth to say my name - or beg, or plead, for sometimes they do that right before the end - but I cut him off.

      "Do you remember when you said that people like me don't deserve to live in this world?" I ask, my voice steady and even, despite the blood tears running down my face, turning me into something out of an ancient tragedy. He nods. "Well, I'm no longer living."

      He doesn't even have time to scream as I lunge across the room, fangs bared and ready for his throat. The crunch that follows is more satisfying and heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined.

      Because this is the truth. When faced with the choice - monster or human? - it doesn't really matter if you make the wrong choice.

      The moment you choose monster, you know you're already dead.

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