Scotty and Maria

Scotty is always drunk. He’s used to waking up in strange places, not quite remembering where he’s been, how much he’s had or who he’s been with. But that’s normal for a university student.

What isn’t normal is waking up with a strange wound that only probably came from a broken bottle. What isn’t normal is having vivid nightmares, visions of a woman he doesn’t know and yet feels irreversibly devoted to. What isn’t normal is being unable to sleep, breathe, cry, or feel his heartbeat. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t stem his awful sickness, nor quench his rabid hunger. This isn’t a hangover. This is something else. Something that’s turned him into an animal.

The woman at the other end of his quest wants to be caught, but she’s no mentor. She’s a monster. But Scotty’s too lost in her eyes to notice.

He’d die for Maria. He’d kill for Maria.

And if he wants to stay with her, that’s exactly what he’ll have to do.

WARNING: EXTREME VIOLENCE, GORE AND DISTURBING SCENES.

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8. Like Wild Animals

It wasn’t until fifteen minutes later, when Frank arrived on the scene, that Scotty started to question the decision he’d made to save his own life. Or, rather, to come back from the dead.

“Hey, Maria.” A ridiculously deep voice, one that was so guttural it sounded fake, jerked Scotty out of his skin as he turned to face the path he and Maria had taken to get here.

Maria got up and smiled, but her squeak didn’t sound quite as enthusiastic as the one she used on Scotty. “Hey, Frank.”

A pale guy with the face of a cartoon character and the build of an army tank was walking through the clearing towards them, kicking leaves up into the air like he had a personal vendetta against all plant life. Frank’s hair was practically white, slicked back like wet grass, and he was so tall that Scotty made a snap decision to sit back down on the log rather than attempt to eyeball him. Frank’s eyes were diluted blue glass, his nose and jawline looked like they’d been crudely cut from stone by the world’s worst sculptor and his lips were swollen and chapped, with two thin red lines dragged through the flesh on the upper half of his chin. The waxy skin of his throat was webbed with a thick net of raised white scars which criss-crossed his collarbones and trailed all the way up to his left ear. What a fucking mess of a bite mark THAT is, Scotty thought, looking at Maria. Frank raised one eyebrow at Scotty as he came into the middle of the clearing, looking him up and down, but Scotty wasn’t looking at him anymore.

He was looking at the dark-haired, bambi-eyed girl clinging to Frank’s arm.

“Who’s this?” Maria asked, dragging her question through the air like she was trying to speak underwater. Scotty turned to face her in mild surprise. Maria’s voice had changed; laughter was still yanking at the corner of every word, but the airy lilt had vanished and she sounded like she was holding back a cackle instead of a giggle.

“This,” Frank said, lifting his hand from his companion’s shoulder to run his fingers through her hair, “is Izzy. My, uh… my new girlfriend.”

The girl- Izzy- widened her eyes and snuggled into Frank’s chest.

“Right.” Maria robotically planted her hands on her hips, shooting a glance at Frank that was so obviously exaggerated it was almost slapstick. Scotty looked at her questioningly as she visibly bit back laughter. “And what the hell is the love of your life doing here? We agreed, Frank, never to bring humans to our vampire lair. It’s just too…” she waved her hands around as she failed to find the right word and snorted when she caught Frank’s eye. “vampirey.”

Seemingly oblivious to Maria and Frank’s ridiculously obvious acting, Izzy shot a glance at Scotty and smiled. “Hi! I’m Izzy. You?”

Scotty choked back what might actually have been a scream before managing to shove his own name out of his mouth.

“Scotty. Hi.”

He didn’t get up.

Izzy turned her attention to Maria, looking at her like she thought she was in the presence of some kind of celebrity. Maria’s smile had twisted sideways into a smirk, but not the mischevious smirk Scotty had struggled not to love. A mysterious one. A smug one. A pretty damned evil one.

As soon as Izzy turned her back to Frank, Frank’s expression changed too, melting from painfully sugary affection to, well… Something else. His eyes were hungry and he’d clenched his jaw like he was struggling to hold back some sort of instinctual action. Then, all of a sudden, Scotty remembered why Frank was here.

He’s bringing something for us.

Scotty looked at Izzy, realising as he did so that Frank had nothing else on him at all.

This is where we come when we need to eat.

Suddenly anxious, Scotty looked over at Maria, who was daintily picking her fingernails with her features set in boredom. Before continuing the act, she sighed impatiently like it was a chore.

Why did you bring her here? We agreed humans can’t be allowed to see the darkness we possess.”

This time, it was Frank’s turn to snort.

“It’s okay, uh… Maria?” Izzy said, looking up at Frank for confirmation before he sobered up enough to nod. Maria looked over at Scotty and twisted her features into a goofy wide-eyed grin before turning back. Scotty couldn’t stop himself from smiing back.

“Look,” Izzy said. “Frank’s told me all about vampires. He’s told me you suffer all this pain, all this persecution, just because of what they fear you are, and I know what you really are.”

“Oh yeah?” Maria said, smirking slightly. “And what are we really?”

“Well,” Izzy replied. “You’re beautiful creatures. You’re misunderstood, and if society would only allow you to step back into the light, they’d see that the media’s disgusting portrayals of your kind as feral creatures capable of nothing more than bloodlust are prejudiced. What you need…” Izzy smiled nervously. “Is, I guess, a sort of image change.”

Scotty rolled his eyes as far back as he could manage, wondering if it was possible to feel a swell of pitiful exasperation so huge it could actually cause you to go blind.  Jesus Christ, what a moron. She’s a media studies student for sure. Not even a good one at that.

“I know I’m a frightening presence in your world,” Izzy said, “but I just want to be with Frank. He’s dark, but in a weird way, it’s sort of beautiful, don’t you think?”

She turned around to face Frank, who put his arms round her waist and looked blankly sideways like he was holding a pole on a bus.

“Fine, I give up!” Maria declared, spinning on her heel. “Have her if you must, Frank, but she will never truly understand…” she started to shake with laughter, choking on her own words. “The- darkness- within you.”

Maria dumped herself down next to Scotty, who was watching the mismatched couple with apprehension thumping through his head.

“Watch this,” Maria whispered in his ear, her voice wobbling with laughter.

“Izzy,” Frank said, his voice as deadpan as ever, “are you sure you want to stay? You know, deep down, I’m a monster.”

Maria snorted loudly and Scotty resisted the urge to bury his head in his hands.

 “It’s okay,” Izzy said. “I trust you. I know you’re not like that. I know you can fight the darkness.”

“Right,” Frank said, the husky grate pouring out of his voice and vanishing. “But what if I don’t fucking want to? What if I want to hurt you one day?” He prodded her in the back of the neck, clamping his lips together. Maria snorted next to Scotty, who turned to look at her with confused fear in his eyes.

Izzy faltered, caught off-guard. It’s the first time she’s heard his real voice. “I- I know you’re not really like that.”

“Nah, babe,” Frank said, and Scotty gripped the log tighter as his blood ran cold. “You’re wrong there.”

And then, so quickly he was a blur, he grabbed Izzy’s hair from behind, jerked her head backwards and sank his newly-sprouted fangs into the flesh of her throat. Scotty jumped up onto his feet, covering his mouth with his hands and making a noise that fell between a gasp and a retch. Izzy didn’t even whimper; her eyes rolled up and closed and she went limp as Frank kept his head buried in her neck. For a second, there was silence, and Scotty stared at Maria as she struggled to hold back a giggle. Then, Frank detached himself, scooped Izzy up into his arms like she was a pile of laundry, and grinned viciously at Maria and Scotty with blood-soaked lips. His fangs were still sticking out of his mouth.

“Fuck,” he said, laughing some nasty scratch of a laugh. “I’ve waited so bloody long to do that again.”

Behind Scotty, Maria got up as well, and she was clutching her stomach and doubling over with jerks of laughter, black-tinted tears running down her face. Finally, she calmed down enough to make a sound, but when she did, she was still laughing.

“Oh- my- god,” Maria said, walking up to Frank. “Oh my god! That was so fucking great.”

“I know.” Frank’s voice got shriller. “She was so fucking dumb! I can’t believe she fell for it so quickly! Normally it takes bloody months! Bloody months! She fell for it in a week, Maria. I think I’m getting better.”

“We ain’t winning no drama awards here yet, mate,” Maria said. “Put those away for Scotty’s sake, would you? He’s sort of on the fence about the whole eating-people thing.”

“Then we probably shouldn’t have done that in front of him, eh, Maria?” Frank bit down on his lower lip, with both fangs still out, and sneered in Scotty’s direction.

“I did tell you not to do it in front of him. At least, not that quickly. Put them away, Frank.”

Frank sighed as his fangs sank back into his gums. He smiled and nodded at Scotty, looking about as normal as a bloke with someone else’s blood smeared round his mouth could look. “Nice to meet you, Scotty. You all booted up now?”

“Uh…” Scotty looked down at himself. “Um, yeah, I guess so.”

“She’s pretty good, in’t she?” Frank said, looking at Maria again. It was at this point Scotty realised that Frank looked at everyone like they were food, not just the ones he was actually planning to eat. “Sweet-talked you right into selling your life to her. Took me a couple minutes. I hear you took three days.”

“Frank!” Maria laughed, nudging him. Her eyes had started flicking between the conversation and the corpse like a pair of pinballs, growing wild and hungry as she ran her pointed tongue over the gaps in her teeth. “Stop scaring the shit out of him! Scotty, you might want to leave.”

Scotty looked up at her, wondering why he didn’t want to leave any more. Why the fuck did he understand every single thought going through Maria’s and Frank’s heads as they looked down at that poor girl in Frank’s arms? Why was his chin jerking down every time a new scarlet bead of blood spattered the leaf-strewn ground, and why did he want to stem the flow before it went to waste? Why was it that, as soon as he’d first seen traces of red around that messy gouge in her throat, his head had started fizzing like it was full of molten lava and his gut had wrenched to try and drag him closer?

Well, because he, just like Frank said, had sold his soul to Maria. He’d drunk a litre of blood, and he’d soared, and then he’d crashed, and he knew that he’d never be able to stop himself from wanting more. He was an animal now. The voice of the new Scotty was dying to taste that rainbow delirium again, just one drop, just one more time, whilst the voice of the old Scotty was begging him to leave before he fell into deeper shit.

“Uh, yeah,” Scotty said. “I’ll go. You guys have fun.”

“Alrighty!” Maria shouted as he turned his back. “You’re our designated driver!” She laughed like a maniac as she helped Frank lay Izzy down in the old firepit.

He turned back, but it was too late, because Maria’s eyes had already darkened with hunger and her fangs were already sliding out of her gums.

For the next twenty minutes, Scotty leant against a tree, letting the darkness of the forest bleed darker around him as he fiddled with a loose piece of skin on his thumb. He listened to the sounds of shouts and giggles and muffled chatter from the clearing behind him, biting back his bloodlust as he forced himself to think about something else instead. Anything. He had a writing assignment due tomorrow, for example; a monologue on the human condition. Which was sodding pointless. Not only because he was now a secondary source on the very state of being human, but because now he was immortal, there was no real point in attempting to graduate. Homework was for degrees, and degrees were for jobs, and jobs were for money, and money was for any poor mortal sod who still needed stuff like food and water and central heating to survive. Scotty Pruitt was immortal, but that didn’t mean he knew what he was meant to do with it.

Right after he’d turned fully, he’d felt strong and unbreakable and smart, but he’d been high then. Now, as he snuck a glance behind him and immediately regretted his decision, he was starting to realise just what he’d signed up for. These creatures weren’t misunderstood, or tragic, or victimised. They were soulless, bloodthirsty, maniacal predators, with all the remorse of a starving animal buried under a thin layer of human courtesy. They were monsters, and Scotty could’ve been all arsey and noble about it, was it not for that little wrinkle in the plan; the fact that now, he was a monster too.

What the fuck was he going to tell his parents?

Scotty poked his tongue into the gap in his teeth as the smell of all that blood prickled the inside of his nose. That gruesomely slow, sickening thread of pain started crawling through his gums again, but this time, he knew exactly what it was, and he couldn’t bring himself to fight it. Grabbing the tree to steady himself, he took hold of his remaining canine between two fingers and pulled as the bloodlust pushed; then, in a tear and a flash and a sickening ripping sound, the tooth came away in his hand. He tossed it aside like it was nothing. That was because it was nothing. To smother all those sensible thoughts, he forced all those feral thoughts of blood and anger and not much else back into his head, gripping the tree not to support him this time, but to keep him grounded, keep him restrained, keep him human. It was too late for that, but he didn’t give a fuck. After three more minutes that could have been thirty, two shards of blinding agony stabbed through his gums and he poked his tongue back into the gaps to find they weren’t gaps anymore. He could feel that blood leaking onto his tongue again, but this time, with every mouthful he swallowed, his head fizzed and started to dance with excitement. He was used to the feeling of being drunk, but this was different. Maybe it was because he knew how disgustingly wrong it was to feel like this; because he knew it was supposed to sicken him, but still couldn’t stop it from making his heart sing. When he ran the tip of his tongue, then the tip of one finger, across each of his two new fangs, he knew his heart should have been thumping with guilt and his blood should have been freezing with terror, but he didn’t have a heartbeat and he didn’t have a pulse and he wasn’t afraid anymore.

For the first time in his life, Scotty felt powerful.

“Hey, Scotty,” Maria said softly, placing one hand on his shoulder and making him jerk around like he’d been given an electric shock. Luckily, those fangs jumped back up into hiding at the sound of her voice.

“Uh, hi.” Scotty said, rubbing his hand across his mouth to get rid of the blood. There was no real point in doing that, unless Maria was a hypocrite, because the lipstick was completely gone from her mouth and her lips were thinly coated with drying crimson threads of blood that obviously weren’t hers. She was doing her best to smile sadly, but her eyes were glittering and fizzing like the ocean in a storm and she was shifting anxiously from one foot to the other. If he was tipsy, she was drunk out of her goddamn mind.

“You okay?” Maria asked him. He tried not to open his mouth too wide, but she saw anyway. “Your other tooth?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry. Don’t worry, you’ll get some new ones.” She giggled almost to herself, grinning widely to show him that her fangs were still out. “I guess, uh, you can go home now if you want? We’re all done with this.”

“Yeah.” Scotty looked behind him as the sound of twigs crackling got louder and louder. “What’s Frank doing?”

No, wait; those weren’t twigs crackling. The trees were flashing into black stripes as an orange glow grew wider behind them. Scotty looked back at Maria.

“Oh, he, um…” Maria looked down to fiddle with her fingernails again. “Disposing of the evidence.”

Scotty widened his eyes, looking back as the fire climbed up through the clearing. “You mean-”

“She’d come back as a vampire if we didn’t.”

“So you’re burning her body?” Scotty shuddered as a huge plume of sparks exploded into the air and Frank’s laughter snagged on the hot wind.

“Well, yeah.”

“Won’t somebody see?”

“Nah. We’re really far away from the city now, actually. About six or seven miles?” Maria touched his arm again. “We’ve never been even close to getting busted before. Don’t worry about it.”

Scotty blinked back tears before realising he had none to cry. Of course- he was a walking corpse now. Nothing worked but his brain.

“Before? How many times have you done it?”

Maria looked up like she was thinking. “Uh, quite a lot. I’ve been here for fifty years, remember?”

“I mean with girls from the campus.”

“Oh, only three times before.” Maria glanced back at the clearing. “Four now.”

Those three girls who went missing.

They all ended up here.

“One of them was Emma?” Scotty asked.

“Um, yeah.” Maria smiled guiltily. “Look, don’t worry. We won’t get caught, I promise.”

“You actually think I’m worried about getting caught.” His voice was thick in his throat.

“No,” Maria said, leaning against the tree next to him. “I get it. I was the same. Just remember, we don’t have a choice.”

“We could…” Scotty looked up at the stars through the gaps in the canopy of leaves. “We could just die, you know?”

Maria laughed. “Why in God’s name would we want to do that? Hell, Scotty, you’re such a purist. I love it.” She raised her voice. “Frank, hurry up, would you? We wanna go home.”

“Just a second!” That boisterously grating voice yelled from the clearing. “Tell Angel Boy I’m just trying to get rid of her shoes!”

Laughter echoed through the woods. Maria rolled her eyes.

“Man, he’s…” Scotty trailed off.

“A fucking psychopath? Yeah, I noticed,” Maria said, smiling at Scotty. “That’s why I picked him. Wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole as a friend, but he’s good as a lackey. Oh, I almost forgot something!”

She rummaged in her backpack, knocking the empty water bottle out of the way, then used both hands to dig out Scotty’s glasses, his watch and his phone. She held them out to him, and he hesitated.

“Go on. They’re yours, aren’t they?”

“Well, yeah.” Scotty took his glasses and put them on. The soft edges of the tree-trunks hardened slightly. He slid his watch back onto his wrist and tightened the strap, then reached for his phone.

“Be warned,” Maria said. “You’ve got a bit of a fangirl.”

He looked at her as he flipped the lid open. “What?”

“Some chick named Olivia Rice.”

The screen lit up, and he swore. A hundred and six missed calls and thirty-two voicemails. All from her.

“Bloody fucking hell.”

Maria giggled. “I listened to a few of those voicemails. Sorry. Is she your girl?”

Scotty sighed and deleted all the messages, then jammed his phone back into his pocket. “Yep.”

“Well, anyway, I stuck my number in there too,” Maria said. “If you need anything. We come here every night, but I guess you don’t know the way yet.”

Scotty shook his head.

“Okay, then, I guess you can come to ours first? I’ll text you.” Maria grinned, then squeezed his hand.

Scotty nodded. Jesus, he was even more pathetic than usual. This girl practically rendered him mute.

“Uh, yeah. I’ll do that.” 

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