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

9. Killer

Maria calls my name again, but her voice catches on the wind and flutters away from me. I can pretend not to hear if I want.

I dig my heels into the edge of the riverbank and look down at the navy and yellow and silver ripples lazily wandering past. The wind presses up against my face and arms and it’s cold on my skin—so much colder than it’s ever been before—but I don’t care, because I’m all warm inside. I can still taste the molten gold at the back of my throat, and every time I breathe it in, I shiver with pleasure again. My body doesn’t feel like the same body I brought down here—it feels lighter, fitter, stronger. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s different—my thoughts are crisper and clearer where before I was clogged and fogged by the alcohol.

I’m empty and calm. I’m not afraid anymore, no matter how much my thoughts insist I ought to be. I’m not afraid of Maria, nor am I angry with her. I’m not afraid of the blood or the alleyway or the skip or the nightmares. I don’t care about the six outstanding assignments that were eating away at me a few minutes ago. I don’t care about university or the past or the future- I only care about now, and her, and the bottle. I’m free and brave, serene and utterly untouchable. For the first time in years and years, I’m happy to be sober. Twenty-four hours ago I was cursing Maria for what she’d done to me, but I swear, I’ll never curse her again. She’s given me a miracle.

I smile to myself. This time, when Maria calls my name, she sounds closer, and I reply.

“Scotty.”

“Yeah?”

“You shouldn’t jump,” she says, her voice playful as she walks up behind me. “It’s hard to grasp, being a vampire, but give it a chance.”

She laughs. So do I.

“Only joking. How does it feel? Is it… still there? Can you still feel it?”

I concentrate on the feeling in my head. “What d’you mean?”

“The buzz. Is it still there?”

I breathe in, noticing how the air feels wrong in my mouth, collects in my throat and refuses to go down. “Uh… a little. Yeah.”

A few minutes ago, I noticed it starting to wear off. I’m not crashing, like I do after drinking, but the warmth’s slowly slipping away, brushing my skin in farewell before jumping off to die in the cold air. I want to drag it back, but I let it leave, feeling my arms as they start to weigh heavy at my sides again, my hands as their clench loosens, my head as my thoughts harden at the edges. My hair, blowing irritatingly into my face, and the sticky, wet patch of blood on the neckline of my shirt, gluing the fabric to my skin.

“It’s okay,” she murmurs to the water below us. “Listen, I don’t want to rush you, but you’d better be going soon.”

I look back at her. “Wh—what?”

“It’s… no, but Frank’s on his way. He should be here any minute.”

I blink, realising I’d completely forgotten Maria’s boyfriend was coming. “Oh. Yeah. Okay.”

“You don’t…” She falters. “You don’t have to go. But I think you’re going to want to before—”

“Interrupting?” a loud man’s voice calls from directly behind us. I jump out of my skin and turn, but Maria looks at the two figures standing beyond the pool of streetlight like she knows them well.

“Oh. Speak of the Devil.” She laughs a little. I squint at the figures as they come into the light. Why are there two? One’s a man, but there’s a younger girl clinging to his arm. With a shiver of shock, I recognise Frank. He’s tall and bulky, with a hard square jaw, a big nose, and small eyes. His hair’s blonde and tufty, sticking straight up from his head like damp grass, and as he grins at us, I notice the thin red-and-white scar running up from the neckline of his shirt, ending in a knotted spiral on his chin. Where have I seen him before?

Oh, shit.

“There you are!” Maria says, bouncing up to him. She glances back at me. “This is Scotty. Scotty, Frank. You don’t have to shake his hand; he’s a bit thick.”

I stuff my hands into my pockets. So Frank knows all about Maria turning me. I wonder how he feels about it. If I were him, I wouldn’t feel great.

“Hey!” Frank says indignantly. He tugs his arm forwards, and I look down at the girl. She’s about eighteen or nineteen, and small. She’s got pale, nearly bluish skin, huge dark eyes and long wild black hair and she’s looking up at Frank with a dopey sort of adoration. I smile at her nervously, unsure who she is or why she’s here. Maria told me Frank was the only other vampire. Perhaps it’s transform-a-friend week.

“Hi,” I say to her, glad I’m not alone.

“Hi!” she squeaks. “Nice to meet you. I’m Izzy.”

“Scotty.”

“I’m Frank’s girlfriend.”

“Oh.” My blood runs cold. “Nice.”

I glance nervously over at Maria. I want to shrink back and hide behind her.

“Are you Maria’s boyfriend?” Izzy asks. Maria snorts.

“What?” I say. “No. Oh, no.”

“Oh.”

Maria looks over at Izzy and grins. “Hi, Izzy. I’m Maria. How are you?”

Izzy smiles wider. “Not bad, thanks. How are you?”

Maria presses her mouth. “Better now, thanks.”

When I look at her, the darkness is back in her eyes. Fear starts to drip into my stomach.

“Look,” Izzy says. For some reason, she chooses to look at me as she speaks. That, combined with the cold stab of terror that floods through me, makes me struggle not to visibly fidget. “Before you guys start being all weird around me, I need to say something.”

Frank looks down at her, tugging her under his arm. “What is it, babe?”

“Uh… I, uh, I know what you really are.”

I frown as Frank looks down at her.

“I know what you are,” she repeats. “Frank, you tried to hide it, but you can’t hide it from me. And I guess… you two… are as well. What else would you all be doing down here at this time of night? I—I mean, you’re freezing cold, Frank. You’re way too pale, and you never eat.”

“Scotty’s not pale.” Maria points out with another snort. I glare at her. “He’s just sort of greyer now.”

“And I never go out in the sunlight.” Frank’s smiling ever so slightly as he speaks.

Izzy nods. “Yeah. But I, uh… I knew when I first kissed you. When I saw your mouth. That you’re… that you’re a…”

Frank looks down at her. “Say it.”

Izzy’s voice is strangely empty of emotion as she says, “Vampire.”

Frank sighs theatrically. “Oh.”

“She knows?” Maria says. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.” Frank laughs shakily. “Sorry. She’s just super perceptive, I guess.”

Maria withers him with her eyes. I stare from one to the other as a hideous feeling of realisation crawls over me, seizing my limbs and refusing to let go. Maria’s right. I should’ve left. I should’ve left.

“What are we going to do now?” Maria says. “I told you falling in love with a human was a terrible idea.”

“Yeah. Well… Too late.” Frank and Izzy share a look that makes me choke back a retch, or maybe even a scream. Run, you stupid girl, I want to say, but I’m not going to say a word. She knew he was a vampire, and yet willingly followed him to a dark, isolated place where nobody’d hear her dumb arse getting eaten.

I look at Maria as she sighs heavily. I know she’s faking. Izzy doesn’t. “Frank,” she says. “This is a bad idea.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Frank turns Izzy to look at him. “Maybe she’s right; maybe our love is a bad idea. I could kill you in the blink of an eye.”

“You won’t kill me.” Izzy looks up at him, her expression determined. “I know you, Frank. You’d never hurt me.”

“I’m a monster. Monsters lose control. You should be scared.”

Izzy breathes out. I notice for the first time her mouth’s been hanging open the entire conversation. “I’m not scared.”

“Oh, yeah?” Frank says. My fists clench in fear as the softness vanishes from his voice, replaced by a hard, coarse drawl that makes me blink and Maria grin. “Well, you probably should be, don’t you think?”

Then, in a flash, he grabs Izzy’s shoulders, jerks her towards him, and plunges his suddenly-sprouted fangs into her exposed throat.

I stagger back a step, covering my mouth with my hands and making a noise that’s half-gasp, half-scream. Izzy doesn’t even whimper. Her eyes roll out of focus, her mouth slackens and her whole body goes limp, held up only by Frank as he keeps his hands on her shoulders and his head buried in her neck. I want to scream again, into my clamped hands, but it’s too late.

A noise from next to me makes me turn to look at Maria. She’s covering her mouth too, but like she’s stifling a laugh. We both turn to look at Frank as he detaches himself, swallows heavily, and then scoops Izzy up into his arms like she’s a pile of laundry. I notice the smell instantly—the pressure of the air on my face grows heavier, warmer, firmer, like a pair of hands on my cheeks. Frank grins sleepily at us with his blood-smeared lips, his fangs still sticking wonkily out of his mouth. My gums start to ache, but I clench my jaw and hold it in. It’s okay. Probably looks like I’m choked up with horror. The creeping, crawling fear slips away from me, replaced by a blanket of numb bewilderment. That didn’t just happen. Too stupid. Too much blood. Not real.

“Fuck,” Frank says to Maria through his fangs, his voice slurred and clumsy. “I’ve been waiting so long to do that again.”

Maria grins back, and snorts before stifling herself.

“Oh, God,” she says, laughter ripe in her voice. “She was a smart one.”

“She was… so… thick! Why would you let some random bloke you met a week ago drag you off to the riverside like that? Even if you didn’t know he was a vampire? A week! I must really be the charmingest bloke in Scotland.”

“We’re not winning any drama awards here yet, Frank,” Maria says. “Put those teeth away for Scotty’s sake, would you? He’s still on the fence about the whole eating-people thing.”

“Probably should’ve warned me,” he says quietly, “about that, before I did it in front of him, eh, babe?” Frank sneers in my direction. I shrivel under his gaze, but stare back, happy to look at anything but the girl in his arms, in her blackening crimson mess of blood.

“I did tell you not to do it in front of him. At least, not that quickly,” Maria says playfully, reaching up and jabbing Frank’s cheek with her finger. “Put them away.”

Frank rolls his eyes as his fangs sink back into his gums. He nods at me, blood still smeared all over his mouth. “Nice to meet you, Scotty.”

He doesn’t sound like he means it at all. I grit my teeth. “Hi.”

“You all booted up now?”

“Uh…” I look sideways nervously. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“She’s pretty good, in’t she?” Frank looks at Maria again. He’s got the sort of face that makes him look like he’s regarding everyone like they’re food, not just the people he’s actually planning to eat. “Sweet-talked you into selling your life to her. Took me a couple minutes. Heard you took a year.”

“Frank, stop scaring the crap out of him, would you? Neither of you sold your lives. You chose me.” Maria laughs, nudging him before turning to me. “And he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

It’s then I notice her eyes are dark again, flicking between the conversation and the corpse like a pair of pinballs, and her mouth’s fallen open slightly.

“Uh, I…” I bite back a sob. “I didn’t actually have a choice.”

Frank leers at me, and I shrink. I look up at Maria, whose eyes are now wild and hungry. She shoots another glance down at Izzy and runs the pointed tip of her tongue over her braces. I know how she feels. I’m… the same. My sick shock only reaches down so far; at my core, I’m prickling with longing. I can already tell human blood is different. It’s so powerful I can taste it in the air. My head feels like it’s full of molten lava and I dig my heels into the ground as my gut wrenches with longing. No. No. You promised yourself. Get AWAY from them, from her!

“Scotty,” Maria says. ”If you don’t want to eat anything, you need to go. It’s not gonna be this easy for much longer. I’m sorry we did it in front of you. That’s just… what we have to do. To survive.”

I look up at her as the air pulses with molten metal again, and nod silently. Why do I feel so wrong? I accepted Maria drank human blood the second she told me. I was expecting this, but I guess I never registered it till I saw the light leaving that girl’s eyes. Any good guy’d go to the police, but I’m not going to. Any bad guy’d give in to the persistent tugging in his gut telling him to eat, but I’m not ready to give in. Not yet. Not ever.

I’ll just spend a little while being morally grey. I’ll come through eventually.

“Mm.” I nod.

Maria smiles nervously. “And I need you to swear you won’t tell a soul. I know you already did, but now you’re in it, swear again.”

I blink. “I… I swear.” Then, I look up at Frank. He looks back, his eyebrows raised. “You killed my friend. Both of you. Didn’t you?”

Frank stares at me. “Wh—what?” he says, looking down at Izzy. “You… you knew…”

“No, not her,” I say, swallowing. Why aren’t I screaming in anguish? “Emma. I saw you with her the night she disappeared. I bumped into you on the pathway.”

Frank furrows his brow. Then, a grin floods onto his face. “Oh! That was—”

“Yeah. And you killed Jane Davies too, didn’t you? All these girls… no, all these people who’ve been disappearing, it’s all because of you, isn’t it?”

Frank’s lip twitches. “I suppose so, yeah. Geez, Maria, you didn’t tell this guy shit, did you?”

“Jesus Christ,” I say, rubbing my face.

“Shut up, Frank.” Maria elbows him, her eyes wide as she looks at me. “Scotty, you have to understand…”

“No, it’s okay. I do,” I say, rubbing my face. “You had to kill all those people. You had to. Yeah, whatever.”

Those poor people who went missing from the campus… they all ended up here. Killed by my best friend and her boyfriend. All those police swarming the campus, the town… all those pleas for answers, all that blue and white tape, those news reports, missing posters, worried faces, billboard notices… they’re all because of Maria. And tomorrow, poor Izzy’ll join them. She’s no longer a real person. She’s a missing person. A face on a damp piece of paper on a lamppost, a red-faced wet-eyed family, a name on a white and crimson tape at the bottom of a screen, a lost cause. A fucking cautionary tale. Oh God. I have the answer to the most perplexing police case in years, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Because I’m not one of the victims, or one of the detectives, anymore. I’m one of the monsters.

“Scotty, we’re sorry,” Maria says.

“Don’t bother,” I say. “I know you’re not really. Thanks for fixing me. I’m gonna go now. Leave you to it.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow?” she says.

The air pulses once more, nearly forcing me off-balance as I walk past them and the body. I manage not to turn. “Yeah.”

I’m calm again by the time I’ve reached the path, and deadpan once I’m back at the main road. The only whisper of emotion I feel is the stab of fear that prods my spine when Frank mutters something to Maria as I walk away. She responds without words. By laughing like a maniac.

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