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.
WARNING: STRONG BLOODY VIOLENCE AND GORE

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18. Layers of Hell


That night, he dreamed about killing his family.

Well, it wasn’t a dream, exactly. More like he’d gotten so drunk he’d blacked out on the pavement five feet from their front door and started hallucinating. It was the first time he’d done anything close to dreaming since the nightmare he’d had after coming home from the skip, with its bright green sunlight, electric blue shadows, and neon pink blood blossoming on neon yellow living-room walls. That man at the other end of Scotty’s bloodlust and anger became his father only once he was lying dead on the carpet, but the sight of his face triggered no remorse, no sadness, in the mind of his killer. He’d been dead before Scotty had even fallen asleep and he only knew he’d done it because of the delicious feeling of power that’d soaked into his nerves and set his mind afloat on euphoria. That, and the blood on his hands. That gleaming, glittering, intoxicating, blinding, deafening blood, sketching a map over the creases on his palms, overflowing downwards and upwards and sideways from both corners of his mouth, smashing cymbals in his ears and screaming for attention inside his head as he threw his gaze to the ceiling and laughed like a madman. Yes, it was screaming. Yes. YES! A million times, yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. That, and again. Do it again. Do it a million more times. Never, ever stop, ever, EVER again. You don’t need to. You’re unstoppable, unbreakable, invincible. You’re immortal. You’re everything. They’re nothing. Yes. Yes. Again. More. Do it more. More. More. MORE!

So he did. His father’s new wife? A fucking red stain on the fucking red carpet. His half-sister?  Boom. Like a bug on a windshield. His stepfather? Head off, stomach cut to ribbons, smashed, slashed, dissolved into nothing as his vision flashed redder and his anger grew sicker. His mother. The expression on her face died with her. Oh well. Couldn’t be helped. Her contempt for her son’s life choices might’ve finally found a bit of footing. His mind was screaming for more, but he’d run out, and he’d lost control of his dream. He focused, tried to summon something out of the walls or floor of the red room he was trapped in, but nothing ever came, and he was left alone. Alone with the blood, alone with the high, alone with the voice that screamed its orders of yes and again and more, painted the words on the walls, carved them into his skin, let them drip in a million shades of red from every facet of his drug-fuelled nightmare. He felt himself shrinking, growing weaker, curling up on the ground like he was sick with hunger again. This time, though, Scotty wasn’t a slave to sickness. He was a slave to his own bloodlust.

He woke up propped against the front door with Maria sitting next to him, pulling strings of dried blood from her hair and fiddling them to shreds with her fingertips. That power was still tingling in his head, that high was still screaming in his ears.

“Howdy,” Maria drawled in his ear, every syllable weighed down by drunkenness. “You have a good sleep, then?”

Scotty smiled. “Yeah.”

“Ex…cell…ent.” Maria dragged the word out for an age and then giggled through gritted teeth, winding a lock of hair round and round her finger till her fist was to her temple. “We’re sooo… fucking… wasted. Are we inside the door, or outside?”

Scotty blinked and felt that winter wind biting down on his bare arms.

Outside.”

“Oh. Cool beans.” Maria flicked a lump of blood away with her fingertips. “Every fucking fucker on this street can see us bleed.”

“Yeah.”

He thought back, and wished he could claim he’d just woken up from a long, long sleep. One that could smooth over the madness that’d consumed him after he’d tasted that first drop of blood. Wouldn’t that have been lovely and convenient? Oh, it wasn’t MY fault, he could’ve said. My inner animal took over and MADE me do it. Everything went black and then I woke up here, covered in the blood of an innocent boy, consumed by desperation. Help me. I’m bipolar. I’ve got an evil twin, an alter ego, a monster living in my head. I’m the tragic hero. Help me. Save me from myself before it’s too late. That was all bullshit.

Yeah, no. He remembered every last fucking detail, and it’d been him pulling the strings. Him. Scotty fucking Pruitt. The monster wasn’t in his fucking head; it was him. Excuses, excuses, excuses; they were playing through his head on an endless loop, all of them poetic, none of them true. The truth was that he just loved the taste of blood. And, as an unintended but not entirely unwanted side effect, he was starting to enjoy being an evil bastard too. Made a change, at least, from being Maria’s gamble, her pity project, her angel boy.

He was lost forever, but maybe the path he’d lost had been the wrong one anyway.

“True,” he said in answer to Maria’s careless comment. “But maybe they shouldn’t be.”

“Shouldn’t be what?”

“Seeing us… bleed.” Scotty murmured, fingering a dried patch of blood on his cheek. It wasn’t his. Of fucking course.

“I don’t want… don’t ever want anyone to see me bleed again.”

Scotty held his hand up to his face; it was slick and tar-black and sticky in the light spilling from their front porch. Was this real? Maybe it was just another layer of his fucked-up dream. When he’d been younger, he’d had nightmares all the time, and he’d always known better than to trust the world he’d woken up in afterwards. More often than not, he’d be panting into the darkness in front of him, taking in the walls, the ceiling, the window, and decide he was back in his bedroom, only for a shadow to lurch onto that wall, a plague of spiders to overflow from the cracks in that ceiling, a creature with skin the colour of death to unlatch that window with its pale-fingered hand and press its clammy face to the glass. Then, he’d wake up again, panting into the darkness, again, and the whole fucking thing would repeat, over and over and over and over, an endless vortex of wave after wave of misery that’d keep on going till he’d so given up on ever finding his way home that he’d start crying and get shaken awake with real tears drying on his face. It was funny, really, because he’d always been told there were only seven layers to Hell.

Luckily, Scotty wasn’t afraid of the dark or of monsters anymore.

He was unstoppable.

He was unbreakable.

He was invincible.

He was immortal.

But then again, that was how he’d always felt when he was drunk.

* * * * *

The next morning, he woke up on the mattress with the dull pressure of a painless headache and stinging raw patches on his face and hands where he’d scrubbed himself clean with a scourer. Maria had left the blood on herself a little longer, lying down on the living-room floor with her hair spread out in a halo, her arms flung out around her head and her eyes fixed on the ceiling like she was stargazing without stars. She’d made him lie down with her, then rolled over so she was facing him and whispered in his ear some song he’d never heard before about the sky turning redder than blood and heaven burning to the ground. Somehow, it’d suited her drunken, husky voice like a charm. She’d still been humming it when he’d gone to lie down for a second and then found himself falling into a weirdly dreamless sleep.

“Maria?” He called, noticing she wasn’t in the room with him. “Maria!”

No answer. Her music wasn’t playing and the house was dark, so he assumed she wasn’t home. Scotty sighed, rubbed nothing from his eyes, and dragged himself down the stairs, along the hallway and into the kitchen, peeling a yellow post-it note from the counter and scanning it with his eyes before crumping it into a ball. It said, gone into campus to paint some white circles on my white canvas. Don’t worry, I had a shower before going. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I was a murderer or anything. Love Maria x ;)

He was about to go back upstairs and rummage through his meagre backpack of belongings to find something, anything, to read when something caught his attention; a slight prickling, the hissing of a single needle in the back of his head, that urged him to turn around. Suddenly, his senses felt sharpened- the same way they did when he was around blood- and that was the only reason he didn’t ignore the instinct altogether.

Over there, his senses urged him; he looked over at the window, his blood turning to cold water for a fraction of a second, but there was nobody there. No, THERE, you fucking idiot!

He walked over to the sink, picking up the scourer and wringing the dirty dishwater from it for no reason at all. Some of that water was staining the white porcelain of the sink brown; was that it? Probably. He used a tea towel to dry his hands, then stopped in his tracks as he went to put it back on the rail. Wait. Right THERE.

On the side of the cupboard, right below the lip of the sink, four little brown ovular blobs stood in a neat row. The two in the middle were slightly smaller and lower down than the others, but all four were hazy and blotchy. Fingermarks. His senses bristled. Bloody fingermarks. And they weren’t from last night, because none of them had touched that sink and these marks were thick and congealed. One had dripped a thin line down a groove in the wood that just looked like part of the grain till you followed it upwards. Scotty breathed in, then stopped himself.

Scotty, seriously? How paranoid can you fucking get? Demanded the voice in his head. You’re a fucking VAMPIRE, living in a house with another VAMPIRE, and you come home with your hands full of blood every other night. Why the hell are you paying this much attention to ONE bloodstain? Idiot. Go read a book or something.

He did go to read a book, as a matter of fact. He dug a stack of old revision guides out of the depths of his backpack and spent two and a half hours reading them from cover to cover, contemplating the days when words like simile and metaphor and assonance had rung through his head harder and louder than blood and hunger and Maria. But before that, he’d searched the entire kitchen from top to bottom, scouring every surface for another trace of blood. He’d found nothing at all.

He was six pages into the last useless book on his useless pile when he heard Maria’s key in the door, followed by the sound of it opening and a cheerful yell of “Of course it’s fucking unlocked!”

Maria walked into the living-room, her hair exploding in a freshly-washed cloud over both shoulders and down to her waist. She grinned as she walked in, then looked at him sideways and narrowed her eyes playfully.

“Why… the face?” she said, walking over to dump herself next to him on the sofa. “Have I… done something wrong?”

“No,” he said before he could stop himself. “I just, um… noticed something weird. Probably nothing. Could you-”

“What’s this?” Maria grabbed a book from the top of his pile. “Ooh, An Inspector Calls! I remember this little bastard. Hated its guts.”

“Yeah. Maria-”

“Not a bad story. Love a bit of societal-decay stuff. How she was beaten down by life and love. She grinned. She was acting warm and bouncy again, even more so than the evening they’d danced together in the kitchen before she’d snapped and broken him for good.  “Um, Scotty? I ran into Olivia today.”

Scotty looked up, his eyes wider. “Um. Oh God, what happened?”

“She’s mad, Scotty. Mad as a box of frogs.”

“Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.”

“She ambushed me as I was coming out- proper sh..” She moved her hand forwards in a shoving motion. “Proper shoved me into a wall. Was asking me what the fuck I’d done to you, why you’d run off with me.”

“Oh, fuck!” Scotty looked sideways, then back at her. “Does she…”

“No, no. She doesn’t know. Course not. She’s just being paranoid,” Maria said with a nervous grin. “God, she-”

“But she’s right.”

“Uh-huh.”

“So what, uh… What did you say?”

Maria sighed. “Exactly what I would’ve said if I was innocent, Scotty. I told her I didn’t even know who you were.”

“Uh…” Scotty closed his eyes. “Oh, no.”

“What?”

“She knew I knew you!” Scotty said. “She saw me with you outside the workshop.”

“Sure, sure, but she didn’t know we were, like, proper friends, right?”

“She already accused me of being… of, you know… cheating on her.” Scotty covered his face wit his hands, embarrassed. “With you.”

“And you told her it was bullshit? Please tell me you did.” Maria smiled nervously. “I mean, I know I’m all that, but I might’ve fucked up just now. Please tell me you told her it was bullshit.”

“Course I did. At that point, it was.” He sighed. “Okay. Okay. You know what? It’s probably fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Maria put her hand on his shoulder. “You sure?”

“Uh-huh.” Scotty eyed her nervously, but she just smiled and kept talking.

“Alright. Anyway, An Inspector Calls is some bullshit. They wanted to tell a story about some girl beaten down by society, so they should’ve put her in it, at least. Always pick the right main character.” She grinned, not at him, but up at the ceiling.

“Right.”

“Sort of like how, like, if you wanna write about bad guys, you should tell it from the bad guy’s point of view. You’ve got blood in your hair.”

“What?”

“Sorry! I’m waffling.” Maria placed the book back on the pile, lining the corners up precisely and nudging them into a block. Then, she leaned back and started to fiddle with a couple of strands of his hair. “I’m all ears. You were saying?”

“Oh. Uh…” Scotty had to blink a few times and shake his head to remember. “Yeah. There’s uh… b- blood? On the sink?”

He could’ve sworn Maria’s eyes flashed darker for a second before brightening. “Oh?”

“Mmm.”

“Don’t worry; it’ll wash off. It’s a sink, after all.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “You with that sponge; there’s no wonder shit went everywhere.”

“Uh, what? No, what I meant… was…” Scotty managed to get it out. “It was on the side of the sink. And it was… old. Wasn’t me.”

“Oh?” Maria said again, getting to her feet. He got up too. “Show me.”

She led the way into the kitchen and Scotty bent down to point out the stain to her.

“Oh, that’s not blood,” she said immediately.

He stood up and looked at her. Her eyes were serious. “Huh? How do you know? You didn’t even see it, did you?”

“It’s not blood,” she repeated.

“You didn’t see it.”

“I did. I saw it the other day,” Maria insisted. “It was there when we moved in. I think it’s paint or something. Not blood. Honestly, what made you think it was blood?”

“I, uh…” Scotty looked at her questioningly. “My, um… senses? Told me. Like, I just saw it and sort of… knew.”

“Well, don’t worry about it.” Maria took his hand. “Come on, let’s go back and finish slagging off your GCSE books.”

Part of him wanted to give up, but part of him wanted to keep pressing her, because he knew it was blood. Why was she acting like this? It hadn’t even been that out of place before, but now she’d started denying it, he knew something was wrong.

“But- Maria-” He started, but she cut him off.

“It’s not blood, Scotty! God!” Maria said. She laughed, but had to force the laughter out of her lungs. “Come on; stop staring at it!”

“Why?” he asked. “Are you scared I’ll figure something out?”

She paused, then spat, “Like what?”

“Like that you’ve been lying to me after all.”

“Scotty, you helped murder Sam last night! I know you’re on board. What the fuck have I got left to hide from you?”

“I don’t… I don’t know,” he admitted, “but I don’t… I don’t believe you, Maria.”

“Fine. Don’t believe me.” She turned on her heel. “I don’t care if you don’t believe me, Scotty, because I have nothing to hide from you.”

“You’re lying again!” he said, his voice growing higher with what sounded like a sob. “Aren’t you? Aren’t you? I didn’t even think this bloodstain was anything till you told me it wasn’t blood!”

“It’s not blood!”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Scotty, that bloodstain is nothing you need to worry about,” Maria said, widening her eyes. “So please come away from there.”

He paused, weighing up his arguments, then sighed and shrugged. The frustration melted from Maria’s face as he took a step towards her.

“Thank you,” he said softly as he reached her.

She grinned up at him. “For what?”

“For telling me the truth.”

“You said I was lying a second ago! What’d you think, that I was some kind of criminal masterm-”

“No. You were lying, but then you stopped.” Scotty looked down at the ground. “You just called it a bloodstain, Maria.”

He looked back up at her, noticing the panic flashing past her eyes. Then, slowly, she opened her mouth and gritted her teeth.

“Okay, fine. So it is blood,” she said. “But-”

“Whose blood?”

“Mine.” She replied without missing a beat.

“Yours?”

“Yeah. I broke a plate and cut myself. Ages ago. Before you even moved in. I tried to get it off but it-” she clenched her fist. “It wouldn’t fucking budge!”

“Right. And why would you lie to me about that?”

“I-”

Why, Maria? Why would you lie to me about that?” Scotty pressed.

“For the same reasons I lie to you about everything else!” Maria burst out. “Because I can’t stand to lose you!”

He looked at her. She said nothing.

“Maria, I’m here. Just tell me the truth.”

She said nothing.

“Maria-”

“Scotty, I’ve been lying to you,” Maria said. “There. You happy now?”

“No, because you haven’t told me what about yet.”

“Oh, my god!” She burst out. “You just won’t drop it, will you? Next thing you know, you’ll have me spilling-”

There was a pause.

“What?” Scotty said. “Spilling what?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Maria!”

“It’s none…” she paused. “It’s none of your business!”

“It is my business! This all became my business when you made me a part of this. Come on. You don’t need to hide anything. Tell me!”

“Ooh, I dunno…” Maria licked her teeth, putting her finger in her mouth as she looked up at the ceiling with thoughtful eyes. “Oh! I’ve got one!” She fixed him with a look. “How about this one? Vampires don’t need to drink blood to survive.”

He widened his eyes.

“Oh, shit, it’s a good one, isn’t it?” Maria said bitterly. “Bet you-”

“What?” Scotty said.

“Bet you wish you’d never asked, huh?”

“But- but…” Scotty stuttered. “What?”

“Vampires,” Maria said, slowly. “Don’t need. Blood. To survive.”

He swallowed. “But- but that-”

“We don’t.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense!” He finished.

“But it’s the truth. All those people we killed?” Maria smiled bitterly. “A life for a life? Impossible choice? All that shit? It’s not true. Selfish? Picking our life over others? It’s worse than selfish. It’s wasteful. It’s pointless. It means- it means nothing.

“But- but then-” Scotty stuttered. “This- this hardly matters any more, really.”

“You’re right.”

“Because we’ve still been murdering people left, right and centre anyway.”

“True.” Maria grinned. “So-”

“But- why have we been getting hungry, then?”

“That’s not hunger. That’s just, oh… what’s the word?” Maria looked up again. “Longing.”

“But- if we don’t need to drink blood to survive, then why the fuck have we been doing it in the first place?”

“Because- because…” Maria trailed off. “Because it tastes awesome?”

“Really? That’s it?”

“Okay, fine. Because I’m ADDICTED!” Maria yelled. “I’m an addict. A druggie. A junkie. An alkie. Whatever you want to fucking call it; I’m one of those. You get hooked after one hit, don’t you? With regular drugs, even. And blood’s the worst drug of all. As time goes on, you need more and more and more in a dose to get the same high, and more and more and more often. I’ve been doing it for a hundred and eighty years, Scotty. Two CENTURIES! If I came off it now, I’d… I don’t fucking know and I don’t fucking want to find out. I have to drink almost every day or I get the shakes. Get depressed. Get angry. Sound familiar? Thought so.”

“I- I don’t understand,” Scotty said softly. “You said you need to drink blood every- every day. Is that right?”

“Right as fucking rain.”

“But you’ve only been doing it once every week or so.”

She didn’t say anything.

“Maria?”

She still didn’t say anything, looking down and scuffing her toe against the side of the cabinet.

“Maria!”

She didn’t say anything.

She’s lying to you.

“Tell me the truth.”

She’s lying to you!

She raised her head to look at him, and her eyes were dark and her lips were pursed and her face was pale with worry. When she opened her mouth to speak, her voice was dragging over her tongue again; husky, like it was when she was drunk.

“It’s my turn.”

Scotty blinked. “To what? It’s your turn to what?”

“Bugger off when you need me most.”

Without another word- without making any sound other than a sob- she turned, walked across the kitchen floor and pulled open the front door. Scotty watched her leave, his unanswered question only hanging in the air for a couple of seconds before it dissolved. He already knew the answer, after all.

In that silence, that fucking deafening, screaming silence, Scotty found his thoughts dragged back to the bloodstain on the sink. Then, to the open door.

And then to the tiny red spot he’d seen in the corner of Maria’s mouth.

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