Eating Our Hearts Out

"If I'm sick of being a victim, but not cut out to be a hero, what does that make me?"

Scotty Matthews is an alcoholic- he’s used to waking up miles away from his university campus with no memories to explain where he was or who he was with. As he tries to recover from one night of drinking, though, he realises he doesn’t feel quite right. He has nightmares he can’t explain, sickness he can’t suppress, anger he can’t control, and- worst of all- hunger he can’t satisfy.

Scotty needs to know what happened to him that night, but he only has two leads- a neck wound that probably came from a broken bottle, and a vague image of a girl, taken from a dream and friends who aren’t sure what they saw. Scotty tries to convince himself she was just another drunk student at a party, but he’s soon forced to accept the far darker truth. Not only is she a monster- she’s turned him into a monster too.

And if he wants to get his symptoms under control, he’s going to need her help.

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Author's note

Hello!
This is a little trigger warning. "Eating Our Hearts Out" is a vampire story, but there isn't any sparkling or ballroom dancing, and the violence goes a HECK of a lot farther than a bit of vanilla stalking. This story is packed with blood, guts, violence, pitch-black humour and an unhealthy amount of cannibalism alongside themes of alcoholism and drug addiction. Also, both my protagonists make morally questionable decisions to say the least. If you're squeamish, proceed with caution. If none of that bothers you, then please have fun reading! Jem :)
AA

3. Disgrace

 "Oh, come on." Maria leans further over her lap. “It’ll be fun. And I don’t want to go by myself.”

“You won’t be by yourself—you’ve got me. And Sam, I daresay.” Greg says. “Scotty, you down?”

I look up from my hands, which I’m wringing in my lap. “Uh, I dunno… I think I’d better not.”

According to Sam, Greg and Maria, the only three people odd enough to want to spend time with me, some guy who graduated last year is holding a premature Halloween party at his house a few blocks from the university. He invited all his friends, and they invited all their friends, and they invited all their friends, and before you know it the whole of Aberdeen’s invited. Parties are never good news for me. On the one hand, my friends think I’m fun because I always get pissed and do ridiculous shit that makes them laugh. On the other, I get pissed because I’ve got a problem, and the ridiculous shit that makes everyone else laugh always ends in tears—my girlfriend Olivia’s tears of embarrassment and my tears of pain as I peel myself off whichever roadside I wake up on. I know I shouldn’t go. Then again, there’s going to be free alcohol, and I’ve already spent all my wages.

“Scotty, it’s a hell of a lot more fun with you, mate.” Sam says, looking up from his beer. “Come on. It’s not like you have plans.”

“How d’you know I don’t have plans?” I ask him. “I might be doing something exciting tomorrow night.”

“You’re not.”

“Yeah, I am.” I pause for a second. Wait. No you’re not. “Well, no, I’m not, but-”

“So come.” Maria leans further forwards, and I look up at her nervously. She’s sitting on the top beam of the swing set, her legs wide apart, her elbows on her knees. Her huge explosion of blonde and purple curls blows sideways in the wind and she wobbles as she spits strands from her mouth. She’s never fallen in the entire year I’ve known her, but that doesn’t reassure me much.

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can.”

“Maria, leave the poor boy alone.” Greg plucks his cigarette from his mouth with his thumb and forefinger like it’s a lollipop. “If he doesn’t wanna come, he doesn’t wanna come.”

Maria jokingly narrows her eyes at him. “Whose side are you on, Greg?”

We laugh. My breath condenses in the air. “Jesus, it’s cold.” I say, my voice shuddering. “Why do we always hang out in this playground?”

“Because it’s our spot.” Maria says, like my question was the stupidest she’s ever heard.

“But we could hang out in one of your dorms.” I say. “It’s less bloody cold indoors. Marginally. Less far to walk, too.”

Maria narrows her eyes at me, shaking her head slowly. “But Scotty, this is our spot.”

“Yeah, but why here? Is it just cabin fever, or because you’re goths?”

“What?”

“You and Sam. You’re goths. You like cold, dark, wet places. And that’s why you drag poor Greg and me out into this arse-freezing hellhole.”

“Scotty, we’re all goths.”

“No, I got over my emo phase back in high school.” I look over at Greg. His cigarette blinks back.

Maria sniggers. “You had an emo phase? Like, a full-on emo phase?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you have the haircut?”

I sigh. “Yeah. Proper fringe and everything.”

“What colour?”

I stare at her. “Black.”

“Boring.”

“I was at school.”

Boring.” She insists.

“Not everyone needs to dress like Edgar Allan Poe threw up on them. It’s called growing up.”

Maria snorts, rocking treacherously backwards. “Ah, who the hell wants to grow up?”

I’m in the minority when it comes to making fun of my friends for being goths.  Sam nearly always looks the part—several days a week, he bothers to put on his eyeliner and lipstick and tease his black hair up into a quiff—but he sometimes shows up looking and talking like he’s just rolled out of bed. I don’t know how he became friends with Greg, who’s a creative writing student like me—Greg’s got light brown hair and bright blue glasses and a voice that sounds permanently giggly. He wears a lot of black, sure, but he’s the type of boy who’s so sweet he manages to make smoking look cutesy. Maria’s the only one of us who’s a goth every day of the week. She’s pale, she wears dark lipstick and wobbly eyeliner, and every item of clothing she owns is black and mesh or lace or both. She’s short and very plump, her hair looks like it’s never been brushed, and she’s always grinning—this strange closed-mouth smirk that twists her mouth sideways. She’s like a miserable, bratty teenager collided with a three-year old on a permanent sugar kick. She’s brilliant.

“It is cold, though.” Greg says, bundling his sleeves into his hands. “I still can’t wrap my head around why you two left England.”

Maria and I look at each other. She grins, swinging her legs in the air. “I wasn’t posh enough for England.”

I raise an eyebrow. “You’re the poshest person I’ve ever met.”

“Probably the poshest person in the whole of Scotland.” Greg adds.

“Yeah.” Sam says.

Maria laughs. Even her laugh sounds clipped and polished.

It’s started to rain. The pinpricks of water flash orange and silver in front of my face and the cold starts to soak from the bench into my bones.

 “I can’t get over the thought of little emo Scotty.” Maria somehow prods the back of my head and I look up, shocked to find myself eyeball-to-eyeball with her. She’s hanging upside-down from the swing set by her legs.

I squint. “What?”

“Did you wear eyeliner?”

I sigh. “Yeah.”

She grins. “Yes! I bet you looked amazing.”

“I looked like a maniac.”

“Like I said. Amazing.” She pauses for a second, and I know instantly from the way her eyes are working that she’s trying to think of a way to crowbar something into the conversation. Then, she says: “If you come to the Halloween party with me, I promise I won’t leave you, the whole night.”

“No, Maria.”

“Please! I won’t leave you, I swear! Not for the whole night! I’ll take care of you!”

“Why do I not believe that?”

She presses a finger to her bottom lip, pretending to think. “Why do you not believe that?”

“Because the last time you promised me you wouldn’t leave me, it literally took you twenty minutes to vanish. You went off with that guy.”

She frowns. “Which one?”

“The one with the cool beard.”

Maria looks off to the side for a second. Then, her face brightens. “Oh! Yes. Alberto.”

“And you never came back. And the time before that, you went off with that girl, and I woke up alone in the nightclub bathroom with no wallet and no keys.”

“Also not denying that.”

“Right.” I say. “So all it’s actually gonna take for you to leave me is someone cute. You have no willpower. So I’m gonna go ahead and say no, again, because I don’t want to get robbed again.”

“Okay, fine. You are boring.” Maria heaves herself up and grabs the bar. I step backwards as she detaches her legs and drops to the ground in front of me, wobbling slightly in her heels. As she looks at me, her grin drops for a second before coming back. “But, you know, I’m never going to see anyone as cute as you.”

“Course not.” I sigh. “Just go with Greg and Sam, why don’t you?”

Maria blows up into her fringe.

“Are you going?” Greg asks Sam, who grunts down at his beer can.

“Does that mean yes?”

Sam grunts again.

“Alrighty then.” Greg flicks his cigarette away. I look at him.

“Does that mean he’s going?” I murmur.

“Probably.”

I catch Maria’s eye as I look up at the sky. The moon’s right above us, and I realise we’ve been sitting here for hours and hours. We always alternate between short bursts of frantic conversation and long periods of unbroken silence, but I can tell we’ve all run out of things to say. I’m not going to the stupid Halloween party, and that’s that.

“Hey.” I say. “I think I’d better go.”

“Yeah, me too,” Greg says, turning to Sam. “C’mon, we’re going home.”

Wordlessly, Sam gets up.

“See you tomorrow.” Greg says to me.

I smile. “See you.”

“Bye, guys,” Sam mumbles.

“Bye!” Maria says.

“Bye.” I echo.

We watch as they walk away. My head suddenly hurts again—I need to get home and finish that bottle before the hangover catches up with me.

I go to open the gate, but I can feel Maria’s eyes on my back. When I turn towards her, she folds her arms and sticks out her bottom lip in a pout. I half-laugh. “No.” I say. “I can’t.”

“I know, I know.” She suddenly sounds more serious. “Scotty, I promise I’ll take care of you. You shouldn’t think there’s anything you can’t do. You should do it if you want to.”

“I can’t.” I say, trying to think of another reason. “Olivia would kill me.”

She rolls her eyes. “Olivia doesn’t own you.”

“I don’t wanna piss her off.”

“Yes, but she wouldn’t have to know, would she? Scotty, honestly. If you want to come, come. We want you there.”

I sigh. I do want to go. I just know I shouldn’t, because whenever I get drunk in public, I wake up regretting it. I think Maria’s seen enough of my drinking to make anyone with half a brain suspicious. I was so drunk the first time we met I didn’t even realise I already knew her when I met her the second time. She’s never said anything about it, though. In fact, I like that I can pretend there’s nothing wrong with me whenever I’m with my friends. Maybe this time, if I trust her, I won’t get drunk and wake up somewhere ridiculous. She hardly ever abandons me at house parties—she says there’s never anybody there worth hooking up with.

“You, uh…” I say slowly. “Not that it’s your job. But it is if you’ve made me go.”

Maria’s face lights up. “Are you thinking about going?”

“You promise you won’t leave me?”

“Yep.” She nods. “I promise. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Okay.” I try to smile, but the smile’s cut in half by another stab of my headache. I need to go home; I’m starting to feel sick.

“Okay.” She repeats. “You off?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow! Wear a costume.”

I go to walk away, but turn back. I frown at her.

“Nobody said anything about costumes.”

“No, but I did. You can’t have a Halloween party without a costume.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll drop dead on arrival then. Do you even have a costume?”

“No. I was just messing with you. But you’ve at least got to wear some eyeliner. Come on; it must’ve looked so damn cool on you. You have to show me a picture from when you were younger.”

“No.” I say. “I don’t even have an eyeliner.”

She squints at me. “I think… you’re lying.”

“No, I’m not.” I lie. “Look, I have to go. Bye.”

She sighs theatrically. “Oh, fine. Bye.”

I turn, push open the gate and start to walk back to the campus. My headache grows heavier and starts to slosh back and forth like water as I walk, dragging me this way and that. I press my hand to my temple and squint, like I can force the pain out through my ears, but it just gets worse. When I lower my hand from my head, I stop for a minute. I thought I saw a flicker of shadows vanishing behind a tree. Just my imagination; not the first time, not the last. I blink and look closer at the tree. Its trunk is the wrong shape, like there’s something sticking out of it that shouldn’t be there. Jesus, Scotty, it’s a tree. Shut up and keep walking. And if you ARE insisting it’s a shadow, it’ll be some kid messing around.

I keep half an eye on that tree until it’s out of sight, and just as I turn to watch the path, I walk right into someone. “Oh! God, sorry.”

I shake my head, but look up at the sound of familiar laughter. It’s Emma, a girl I sometimes talk to in my creative writing class. She’s holding hands with a tall blonde guy who stares off into the middle distance as Emma and I laugh and start trying to sidestep one another. Eventually, she grabs and holds me still as she sidles by, still giggling. Her boyfriend hauls her away, putting his arm around her as their shapes grow smaller in the distance. I guess he’s a jealous type, like my Olivia.

Emma giggles and shouts goodbye to me. I mutter goodbye back and hurry on my way. The headaches make me rude, but they hurt too much for me to care. I need to get home—it’s dark, and it’s cold, and I hurt. I already regret agreeing to go to that party. What if I disgrace myself again? Against my better judgement, I force myself to trust Maria’s promise. She won’t let anything bad happen to me. At least, I hope she won’t.

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