Bloodsuckers

Something happened to him last night, and he’s desperate to figure out what. What are his nightmares trying to show him, with their formless colours and half-remembered faces? Where did this sickness come from? Why can nothing quench his rabid hunger? And, most urgently of all, why does he suddenly feel so… inhuman?
He doesn’t remember much about that night, but one thing's for sure: this is no ordinary hangover.

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3. Colourful Thoughts

He ran to the mirror as soon as he woke up the next morning, and his first thought after seeing his reflection was, Oh. Maybe I’m not a vampire after all.

Even though it’d been clammier and stickier than ever after the nightmare, the dry winter air had evaporated all the sweat from his skin, and now, it just looked, well… normal. No paler than normal, no weird sheen of moisture, nothing. Try as he might to squint his green eyes paler, Scotty couldn’t see any difference between how they were now and how they always had been. The gutted, corpselike appearance of his face he could’ve sworn had haunted his thoughts for the last twelve hours must’ve just been a trick of the light, because now, the shadows had been sucked from under his eyes and that thin sliver of protruding cheekbone was all but gone. Basically, aside from the vague sting in his spine every time he moved his head, there was absolutely nothing wrong with him anymore. Whatever the fuck had happened to him last night, it must’ve just been delirium from the hangover, but then again, what the fuck else had he been expecting? Of course it was all in his head, the stupid idiot. All a dream? No, not quite. That nightmare had just been a little too solid at the edges to feel like a figment of his imagination. All a dizzy hallucination, oversaturated by alcohol and a lack of sleep? Yeah, that was starting to seem awfully likely.

Scotty raised his arm and fingered the scab on the back of his neck, finding that it was still there, but that it had crusted over and shrivelled into a tiny pair of puckers in his flesh. Tiny black crumbs were sprinkled onto his fingers when he pulled them away, but that was it. He would have laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of the memory of stumbling around in the darkness like a maniac, convinced he’d had a run-in with some sort of crazed she-devil, but he couldn’t quite shake the pang of unease from his mind, nor could he swallow the damp frozen lull that crusted in his throat every time he tried to suck in a breath of air.

Vampires don’t have reflections, you fucking imbecile, was the thought that fluttered lazily through his mind as he finished brushing his teeth and stumbled back into his bedroom to find a clean shirt. Preferably one that wasn’t coated in blood.

How had he lost that much blood anyway?

Well, he definitely wasn’t a vampire.

Nope.

 “Morning, Scotty!” someone yelled, practically screamed, from the kitchen. Scotty jumped out of his skin, wringing his hands close to his chest and whimpering slightly as he spun to see Keith fiddling with the mugs in the cupboard. Of course it was Keith. Who the fuck else would it have been? Shit, what was wrong with his head this morning?

“Morning,” Scotty mumbled, his voice smothered into a damp drone by the lump in his throat. Every clank of china against china jolted his senses and made him want to screw his eyes shut.

“You alright, mate?” Keith said, raising one eyebrow. “You didn’t come home after that party. I was-”

“Fine.”

Scotty suppressed the urge to turn and leave. Maybe he should’ve shouted the word instead of whispering it like he didn’t believe it.

Keith had always been the chatty type, but it had never annoyed Scotty before in the entire time they’d been sharing a flat. In fact, he knew he was insanely lucky that he’d managed to land a roommate who not only tidied up after himself, but who also chatted cheerfully and didn’t have any weird habits like playing death-metal music so loudly it shook the building, rocking back and forth whilst muttering to himself, or replying to every query by reciting a Bible verse, all of which had been habits of Scotty’s former roommates. Scotty might even have gone so far as to call Keith his friend, even though they shared no classes or interests and barely spent any time together. That was why it was especially weird that this morning, he was finding him so ridiculously irritating that his hand was clenching into a fist and his stomach was twisting. In fact, the more noise Keith made, the more shrieking clanks that burrowed into Scotty’s skull, the more patronisingly doltish grins that were shot in his direction, the more Scotty just wanted to… Well, he just felt like…

Never mind.

Fuck, he was hungry.

“Alright,” Keith said as Scotty turned away.

“Hey, wait a second. Hold still.”

Scotty froze in the doorway and stood still for a couple of seconds of irritating silence.

“Jesus, dude.” Keith said.

Scotty turned back towards the kitchen. “What?”

“Just… sorry. Turn back a minute, would you?”

Scotty sighed as he turned, shrugging. “I know.”

“What the fuck’s that on your neck?”

Out of Keith’s sight, Scotty gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. “I don’t know.”

“Are you sure you’re alright? Man, that’s pretty bad. You been to the medical centre for it or anything?”

Scotty turned back, irritation grating through his voice. “No. I’m fine.”

“Right, right.” Keith paused, and Scotty swore inwardly as he heard him intaking breath again. “It’s, like, a frickin’ bite mark or someth-”

“Yes, I know, I KNOW!” Scotty burst out, wondering where the delirious anger soaking through his body had come from. “It looks like a bite mark, but it isn’t, honestly!”

Keith grinned. “Someone give you that at the party?”

Scotty blew air through his fringe, shuddering as the sickly purple glow from his dream pulsed through his head. “No.”

“You sure?”

“Yes!”

“Alright, alright.” Keith held up his hands, still smiling that suddenly irritating smile of his. “Just asking.”

“I fell asleep on a broken bottle, okay?” Scotty said. “Happy now?”

Keith’s smile dropped, and his expression suddenly became so serious the mockery was obvious. “Golden.”

“I’m serious, Keith.”

“Yeah, no,” Keith said absently, a smile tugging at his words and pissing Scotty off. “It’s just there’s lipstick around the edge.”

Scotty spun, his eyes wide. “W-what?”

“Nothing. It’s probably nothing.” Keith giggled. “Sparkly purple blood, right?”

“Right. No fucking idea what it is, but it ain’t fucking lipstick, alright?

“Sure.”

He doesn’t believe me.

Well, that makes two of us.

“See you later,” Scotty said, scrubbing at the bumps on his spine with his hand and wiping whatever dregs came off onto his jeans.

“See you, mate.” Keith started. “Oh, wait a second. Scotty?”

Scotty turned back, trying not to scowl. “Yeah?”

“Olivia came here looking for you last night.”

He sighed. “Oh. Great.”

“For, like, the hundredth time.”

“Great,” Scotty repeated.

“She said to meet her at eleven on the steps. Mean anything to you?”

Scotty sighed as he said, “Yeah.”

“That girl’s crazy about you, you know,” Keith said, grinning.

“Huh,” Scotty replied. “I’m not sure she’s not just plain crazy.”

“Anyway, see you later,” Keith said. “Take care.”

“Yep.”

He left the room without another word, the rucksack on his shoulders dragging more dull pain from the mark on his neck which was definitely from a broken bottle, not a bite. Definitely. He rubbed the edge of the scab again, in what had become a bit of an absent-minded habit in the last couple of days, and took his fingers away to look at them. Was that lipstick on his hand? It was glimmering slightly in the broken light of the hallway, but it was probably just sweat. He clung onto the hope that it was sweat.

He turned his hand towards the light, his heart sinking like a stone as he saw the faint purple tinge on the tips of his fingers. Nope, that was definitely lipstick.

Right, so some crazy bitch had bitten him last night.

Scotty stopped once he was outside the front door, the vague thought that he was already ten minutes late for his lecture loosening its grip on his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to grab hold of that nightmare, but yet again, it scampered out of reach every time he tried to pull a shred of it loose. So… what did he remember? He’d met a chick with bright yellow hair, indigo lips and huge violet eyes. Hadn’t he? He thought he had. Maybe not, but whatever; he was clinging to it, because it was all he remembered. The problem was that in his dream, the darkness had been bright blue and the moonlight had been electric green. Who was to say the colours were telling him the truth? How did he know she didn’t actually have blonde hair, pink lipstick and blue eyes? That sounded more normal. Who the fuck wore purple lipstick, anyway? More to the point, what human being had purple eyes? None of them. Then again, she had been surrounded on all sides by a general aura of weirdness.

Who gave a shit whether she was real or not? He was late to class.

*********

Most of the way through a long, boring list of the basic elements of storytelling, or… something like that, Scotty was jerked out of a half-awake, half-asleep purgatory as the clock’s minute hand started slowly crawling towards eleven o’ clock. Keeping an eye on the white squiggles of lettering on the blackboard he couldn’t actually read without his glasses, which he’d lost along with his watch and his phone at the party, he started fumbling with his books and pencil case, cursing as his notebook fell through the hole in the lining and tearing it wider to yank it free again. Jesus Christ, he needed a new bag, but he’d spent all his money on pens he kept losing and books he kept finding better things to do than read. He cursed under his breath as his one remaining biro fell off the desk and slowly started to roll down the stairs out of reach, then clenched his fist as someone at the back of the lecture theatre started giggling. Shut up, he thought. Shut the FUCK up! Suddenly, his back prickled with the feeling of a million pairs of eyes watching him, and God, he just wanted to… Just wanted to get up, march over there and…

Scotty clenched his fist tighter as the colours in his mind flashed red.

What the hell was wrong with him? He’d always been so bloody quiet and passive. Now, he was imagining all the different ways he could shut that giggling asshole up for good. Slap him. No, punch him. No, snap his neck. No, tear his head off his shoulders. Blood everywhere. Scotty shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut, but the more colourful and tangible he let his thoughts get, the more the shards of hunger jabbed at his ribs. How long had it been since he’d eaten? He’d had breakfast that morning. He’d bought a cereal bar from the snack stall, but the more he remembered eating it, the more those shards of hunger turned to shards of sickness. How the fuck could he be hungry again?

Scotty licked his lips and swallowed a wave of nausea as he squinted at the clock, so focused on getting out of the lecture as soon as he could that he didn’t even notice the professor dismissing his students and everyone starting to leave before him. He got up, trying to wipe the scowl from his face as he thought about what’d happen when he met up with Olivia. She’d come to his flat looking for him, for Christ’s sake, and if he ever got his phone back from wherever it’d disappeared to after the party, he reckoned it’d be groaning under the weight of half a million missed calls. All from her.

He shouldn’t have been annoyed about that, should he? She was his girlfriend. She loved him; she cared about him. She cared about him so much, in fact, that she felt the need to ring him every two hours just to reaffirm her love. She needed to know where he was every waking moment, who he was with, and why. She was crazy. Fucking crazy.

He knew she was crazy, and he reckoned she knew it too, but with a boyfriend as limp and quiet as Scotty, there was no reason for her to regret it. It worked.

As Scotty packed up his books and hurried out of the lecture theatre, he wondered whether she wanted to see him to break up with him, or to make up with him. He honestly couldn’t remember which one it had been the last time she’d dragged him out of class, but he vaguely remembered that she’d been too busy sulking to come to the party with him. If she’d been there, she’d probably have ripped the head off any girl who dared to go near him, purple eyes or none. Then rip his head off for flirting. Just like he wanted to rip her head off the more he thought about it.

As he reached the corner, Scotty stopped; a single needle of nausea was still hissing in the middle of his skull, and he put a hand on the wall to steady himself as his focus was thrown sky-high and his thoughts started spinning and blurring. He was going to faint. Wait; no, he wasn’t. He looked around, his eyes growing wild and desperate as he made sure he was out of sight, and felt a boiling wave of sickness rising through his chest. He doubled over, clutching his stomach, and vomited neatly into the gutter.

Standing up, wiping his mouth and swallowing what he could of the taste, Scotty waited for his cheeks to burn and the tears to wring themselves from his eyelids. When nothing happened, he closed his eyes and tried to comprehend the hunger still insisting its presence in his stomach. He straightened his shirt, checked the coast was clear, and then carried on walking as if nothing had just happened. And why shouldn’t he? Nothing had happened, right?

You love her. You love her. You love her, some part of his head or another was insisting as he rounded the corner and saw Olivia waiting for him at the top of the steps. She was a meticulously calculated mannequin of a girl, with every last strand of red hair roped into her elaborate braid and a perfectly painted face to set off every scowl. Her black eyebrows and dark freckles were just as fake as her bright blue eyeshadow and pink lipgloss, and come to think of it, Scotty didn’t think he’d ever seen her without those enormous silver hoops in her ears. Even though she looked exactly the same every day, how beautiful he found her depended largely on how she’d decided to treat him. Scotty and Olivia had been together since they were fourteen, and she treated him more like a pet than a boyfriend, but he couldn’t pretend he hated the attention, or that he wished they weren’t together. He didn’t. He might not have wanted her, but he reckoned he needed her more than she needed him.

He was knocked backwards as she flung her arms around his neck, then knocked further backwards as she deliberately glanced the sharp edge of her false fingernail against his cheek. He was used to it, but this time, he hissed a little through his teeth; was it pain? There was a little bit of anger in there too.

“Where the fuck have you been?” was the first thing she said to him. He opened his mouth, but her words smothered his again. “Why haven’t you answered my calls? What’s going on?”

“N- nothing,” Scotty said quietly, taking hold of her hand. “I’m sorry, Livvy. I’ve just been, uh… busy.”

“Busy?” she said, rolling the word around in her mouth like she was tasting it for the first time. “Busy doing what?”

Scotty decided to tell her the truth. “I was, uh… sleeping.”

“Sleeping? Fucking sleeping?” Olivia said, her heavy accent grating on Scotty’s mind a hundred times more than normal and making his ears whine. “You expect me to believe that? Jesus Christ, when’ll you learn?” She grazed his cheek with her nail again and he winced, trying to suppress the boiling anger rising into his chest. What the hell was wrong with him this morning?

“What’s wrong with you?” Olivia echoed his thoughts after what must have been a long pause. “Hey. Hey! What the fuck happened at that goddamn party you went to on Thursday? Did you get shitfaced again?”

He sighed. She knew him too well. “Yeah, a little. But-”

“Do you have any idea how worried I was when I called round on Friday and Keith said you hadn’t come home? I thought you were dead, Scotty! I thought you’d been fucking killed and dumped in a skip somewere!”

“Livvy, I’m fine,” he said, trying not to sigh.

“There’s clearly something wrong with you, Scotty.” Her voice turned softer and sweeter. “Tell me what’s wrong, won’t you? I want to help you. Did you get hurt?”

Scotty shrugged and swallowed the livid retort poised at the tip of his tongue. “Uh, yeah. Kind of.”

Olivia’s eyes darkened. “How?”

“I, uh… fell on a broken bottle.”

He’d repeated the lie- assuming it was a lie- so many times now, to himself more than anyone else, that the words had brittled and dampened in his head, sucked dry of any meaning they used to have. Then again, if there was one thing that’d set Olivia off like a firework, it’d be the idea of Scotty getting chatted up, kissed and then bitten on the neck by some purple-eyed vixen.

“You fell on a broken bottle?” she repeated.

God, I swear to Christ, his mind muttered in his ear before he could stop the thought. If she doesn’t shut the fuck up I’m going to grab her hair and-

His thoughts flashed scarlet.

“No.” Scotty said out loud, shaking his head. Another jab of hunger twisted his stomach. “I mean, yes. Yeah, I did. But I’m fine now, okay?” He managed to force a smile onto his face. “Look. I’m okay.”

“Right.” Olivia said, putting her hands on her hips. “But-”

“I have to go,” Scotty interrupted. She opened her mouth, but for the first time in a long while, he interrupted her. “Like, now. Sorry. Love you.”

He kissed her on the cheek and then bolted. He tried not to slow down his stride as Olivia shouted after him, but then, he thought for a second. Where the fuck was he going?

Scotty pawed at his ribcage as the stomachache reached a feverish pitch and started stabbing his chest and throat. He could feel Olivia’s eyes on his back, searing through his mind and making the anger hiss and fizz in his head, and knew he needed to keep walking in a straight line so she wouldn’t suspect what was going on.

And what was going on?

Well, he was going somewhere where there’d be no people. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t know how, but today, every time he saw someone, every time someone talked to him, walked past him, even glanced at him, every inch of his mind bled red as he imagined grabbing them, slashing at their throat like an animal, and spilling their blood all over the ground.

And fucking hell, he was hungry.

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