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 irrevocably 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.

And if he wants answers, there's only one thing he can do: Find the woman who haunts his nightmares.




1. Out with the Trash

When Scotty Pruitt woke up, several things didn’t feel quite right.

For a start, his mattress felt lumpy and misshapen, like he was lying on a rubble-strewn floor instead of a bed. When he rolled onto his back, a million needles dug into his eyes, and the leg he’d been sleeping on bent back into its natural position with a CRACK and a phut and a whole fucking lot of pain. In fact, come to think of it, his entire body was screaming in pain. His head whined and wheezed like a broken siren, aches burrowing into his brain and freezing it, then burning it, then letting it smoulder and crumbing it like ashes, all whilst the remnants of last night scratched at the inside of his skull like a hungry animal. A few memories floated up, but they were quickly shot down by more blasts of rainbow delirium. Music. Head-spinningly loud music: a delirious heartbeat that sung into his aching head and made it ring. That’s right- he’d been at a party. At a club? No. The alcohol must have been free. He’d had a whole fucking lot of it, too. Beer that burned his throat and shots that burned his stomach and something else- maybe alcohol, maybe not- that set his entire damned head on fire and bubbled in his blood like molten lava. Last night, he must have been with crowds and crowds of people from his university, but his blurred memories were filled with bits and pieces of just one person. Those memories contained a lot of the colour purple- someone’s eyes, someone’s lips, someone’s hair. He remembered her, and yet he didn’t. His mouth was so dry his breaths dragged across his tongue like sandpaper, and when he looked up, the thin slivers of light rimming the top of the ceiling shone brighter than acrid sunlight.

This was the worst hangover of his life. And that was saying a lot.

Scotty sat up, rubbing the last crusts of sleep from his eyelids, and sank a few inches. Emotionally and physically. There was sunlight boring down on him from above, but it was pitch-dark down here, and the hot heaviness in the air made the room reek like several loads of rotted rubbish. He looked down.

Oh, shit. This wasn’t a mattress.

Tweaking sharpened bolts of pain from a raw spot on the back of his neck, he raised both arms and pushed at the ceiling till it opened with a rusted metallic creak. Sunlight flopped into his lap and lit up the black and green bin bags on the ground all around him.

Yeah, no. He hadn’t made it home after all.

Scotty had fallen asleep in a skip.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he moaned, dragging himself up onto his feet with the edge of the skip with rust clinging to his numb fingers. His hair was brittle with little flecks of frost and he was damp all over, aching, cold, hungover, and bewildered. Where the fuck was he? Where the fuck had he been last night? Why hadn’t he managed to stagger back to his house- which, mind you, he couldn’t remember the location of either- and fallen flat on his face on a stale pillow instead of a stale bag of trash?

Oh, that’s right. Because he was a broke student. He had a bike with one flat tire that protested every time he dared drag it out of the cupboard full of the broken shit he couldn’t be bothered to throw away. He lived in one room of a two-room flat with an ant infestation and beer cans piled over the top of the bin to the ceiling. Scotty didn’t even have a front door, since his roommate had stopped trusting him with the keys, and he slept on piles of laundry he couldn’t be bothered to put away instead of a pillow.

That was probably why he’d been able to sleep in a skip quite soundly. At least, here, it was dark and quiet.

Not like last night.

He didn’t remember much. His memories were like spiders- motionless, seemingly grabbable, until he made a move, when they’d scuttle away and vanish. Once or twice, he snatched one before it could run away, but then it’d melt into liquid and run through his fingers.

“For fuck’s sake,” Scotty repeated as he rubbed his throbbing forehead with his fingertips. Strips of black hair clung to the sweat on his face, mangling through his eyelashes and letting him know that he’d left his bandanna somewhere the night before. He tucked it behind his ears as best he could, cursing himself for letting it grow so long and cursing again as he gritted his teeth and hauled his agonisingly heavy mess of a body over the edge of the skip.

He fell a few feet, then cracked his ankles against concrete and lay there for a second, staring up at the orange-and-pink smeared sky. He couldn’t be bothered to stand up. He knew it’d just hurt more. What was he going to do once he got home? Probably drag a bottle of whiskey out from under his bed. Nurse it in the corner of his room till his roommate came home from his classes. Stand up and pretend to be fine when he heard the front door opening. Just like always.

In the silence that followed, Scotty noticed something. He should have been panting- the climb out of the skip had shot pain through his chest, but nothing was throbbing inside his ribcage and nothing was pounding in his head but the alcohol and the memory of the music. He dragged in a breath, then choked on the muddy air and spat it out in a thick glob. He tried again, but ended up gagging and swallowing. He could still taste the alcohol in his mouth, but not on his breath- he was numb to his own breathing and his heartbeat had lulled in his chest. Finally, he managed to suck in a breath of air and hold it down in his throat till it dissolved. He was still alive. Not dead, not dying.

Not yet, anyway.

He was hardly surprised when he emerged from the alleyway and realised he’d been mere metres from his apartment block when he’d given up and decided to sleep rough. He hurried through the vague smear of direct sunlight between the alleyway and the entrance as quickly as he could, only noticing the fizzing, livid pain it’d left on his skin once he was inside. He looked down at his arms as they started to itch like mad and dragged his fingernails half-heartedly down them, but then, just like that, the pain dissolved.


As he started picking his way down the corridor, trying to walk in a straight line despite the dizziness flinging his vision around like mad, the yellow of the walls and brown of the carpet started twisting white and grey. Scotty looked down at his feet, and another tweak of raw pain raced down from that same spot on the back of his neck. He stopped, then raised his hand to touch his skin, pushing his overlong hair out of the way. Between two of the lumps on his spine, Scotty felt a few pricks of pain, little scabby crusts at best, and one got soft and gooey as he pried, leaking orangey-red dregs of blood onto his fingertips. He must have fallen asleep on a broken bottle, then. Yeah.

Insipid yellow sunlight was falling through the hallway window, glittering with specks of dust, and it burned Scotty’s eyes and nose like a red-hot explosion.

“Keith!” he yelled, hearing his voice wavering as he thumped the front door of the flat with his fist. “Keith, let me in, would you?”

“Fuck off!” yelled a voice from inside.

“Nah, man, I’m serious!” Scotty shouted, banging harder on the door. “Let me the fuck in! I’m hungover as fuck and tired out of my goddamn mind! It’s what, eight in the morning?”

“Six-thirty in the evening, mate!”

“Holy shit,” Scotty mumbled, looking down at his watch. It was gone. Fuck. He fumbled in his pocket for his phone. Gone too. Double fuck. It was sunset, not sunrise; he’d been asleep in that damned skip for twelve hours at least. Maybe more. It all depended on how long the party had lasted.

“Mate, would you let me in?” Scotty pounded on the door again. ”Please. I’m begging you.”


“Aw, why not?”

“Because I don’t fucking know you!”

Scotty paused. “What? Yeah, you do, Keith! I live with you!”

There was a long pause.

Then, “I’m not Keith!”

Scotty blinked, then looked up at the number on the door. 28. Oh, shit. He’d knocked on the wrong door. He lived at number 36.

“Sorry,” he mumbled into the air between his mouth and the door.

Scotty turned, almost losing his balance, and saw that the door to his apartment was slightly ajar. He struggled across the carpet, the wound on his neck stabbing him harder as cold wind blew over the blood on his skin, and managed to make it through the door, past the kitchen, and into the bathroom without falling over again. He slammed the door, the sound jarring the air around his oversensitive ears enough to knock him backwards and make his head roar in anger; then, he gripped both sides of the sink and forced himself to stare up into the mirror. Did he look any different? He could barely remember what he’d looked like before.

The single crack along the diagonal of the mirror broke his reflection into two slightly mismatched pieces, like he’d been torn in half and shoddily sewn back together again. Little spots of grime and mildew blurred a couple of parts of his face, making his reflection look like one in water instead of in glass. The sheen of sweat on his skin made his face glisten and all the warmth had been drained from his dark skin, making him look nearly grey. His eyes were somehow managing to look sunken and enormous at once, their pale green so washed-out it was nearly fluorescent, and when he turned to one side to idiotically stare at himself harder, he could’ve sworn one of his pupils caught the light and pulsed metallic red like he’d been caught in a camera flash. His hair, thick and straight and straggling down past his shoulders with its shittily-cut fringe, was greasy as fuck and sticking up in every direction but the right one. God, he hated his own face at the best of times, and today, he looked like shit. But if he tilted his head at just the right angle, dropped his eyelids to lessen their buglike size, held his mouth slightly open, and ignored the spindly bundle of twigs that was his body under his shirt, he could kid himself he looked okay. Good, even. Scotty blinked a couple of times and shook his head; the colours in the mirror faded back to normal and he flipped off his reflection before stumbling out of the bathroom and into his bedroom.

It was six-thirty. He’d wasted an entire Sunday. Providing, of course, that it was Sunday, and he hadn’t slept through the weekend. Who gave a shit? He was just taking a creative writing course, after all; it wasn’t like he was going to lose a job from failing his degree or getting thrown out of university. He clawed at his head as he collapsed on top of his duvet before remembering he wasn’t wearing his bandanna.

Scotty Pruitt, with his head full of a fog of alcohol and his mind full of questions, was dead to the world before his feet had even given out. As his brain took a nosedive into hungover nightmares, he felt the last memories- the blood seeping all over his neck and the girl with the purple eyes- vanishing like mist in the wind.

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