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

19. Player

 “HE TOLD ME pretty girls like me should smile more often.” She says, repositioning herself with her head on my chest. “So I smiled at him. With my fangs out.”

I laugh.

We’re wrapped in her black satin blankets, looking up at the pink-washed ceiling. I never stopped her, as it turned out. Couldn’t. Rather, could- but didn’t want to. It’s been a week since the first time we kissed, and the time’s only made me even surer I’m never going to leave. I knew it was already too late when I kissed her. Actually, I knew it the second I stepped back inside that door. Being righteous has never worked in my favour before, and whether I like it or not, and however sure I am it’s a terrible idea, I’ve fallen in love. Being with her makes me feel right. I’m happy. And I’ll put up with whatever the hell that means- with whatever the hell she does. After all, now I let her talk without interrupting her with some grand moral speech, some of the stories she tells are pretty goddamn funny. No children. Hardly any women. Mostly men, out on their own in the dark, whom she teaches a lesson for getting too close.

“And then I killed him.”

I look down at her, stroking her hair. “Yeah. I guessed.”

She giggles quietly. “I told you about the guy, uh… yesterday. Morning. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“The one who thought I was a… whatever he said.”

“A harpy.”

She grins up at me. “Yep.”

“Harpies are birds.”

“They… what? He thought I was a bird?”

“A vulture.”

“Huh.” Maria snuggles into me. “Well, that’s blatantly offensive.”

“I…” I say softly, wrapping my arms around her. “Would’ve laughed if I’d been there. Probably.”

“Maybe you should come with me next time.” Maria says. She stiffens against me, and her eyes screw shut for a split-second. I hug her closer. The hunger’s coming back. Every time it does, my head tries to copy. “Because, uh… perhaps you need to see… what I do.”

I frown. “Why?”

“So you can know for sure you’re not being an idiot staying with me.”

“I already know the answer to that.” I say, suddenly afraid at the prospect of seeing her hunting. And why? Am I afraid I’ll change my mind? Am I afraid I won’t be able to control my hunger? “The answer’s yes.”

She laughs, but the laughter sounds pained. “Mm. You idiot, Scotty Matthews. Should’ve listened to Olivia, huh?”

I raise one eyebrow at her. Then, she moves her head off my chest and I cup her chin, pulling her in and pressing my lips to hers. When we pull away, I say, “Don’t ever think that. I love you.”

“You are an idiot, Scotty.” She leans forwards and kisses me again, bringing her hand to my cheek. “Is that really how you want to spend the rest of eternity? Smitten with a bloodthirsty maniac?”

I look at her. “I’m not smitten with a bloodthirsty maniac. I’m smitten with my weird blonde goth best friend who likes to draw and swings off the swings like a five-year-old.”

“Well.” She pulls a face. “You might change your mind if you ever see me doing it.”

“Doing it?”

“Doing vampire things. I think… I think I’d feel better if you came with me. Once. I want to know you know you’re picking the right life. Throwing away your past and present and future and freedom and moral compass and stuff for the right reasons.”

“I never doubted it.”

She smiles, but the smile stretches into a wince as she stiffens against me again. I hate seeing her in pain.

“Hey.” I say. “Go.”

She looks up at me. “I’m scared. I’m scared of letting it get worse.”

I pause, trying to think of something reassuring to say.

“It won’t. You mustn’t feel bad about doing it in front of me, alright? I can’t see you in pain. You have to look after yourself.”

She sits up. “That’s exactly what I said to you a fortnight ago, remember? But you didn’t break.”

“No.”

“But I’m going to.” Maria lets the sheets fall into her lap and I reach out to run my fingers down her back. “I do have an idea.”

I sit up too. “What?”

“Well, technically it was your idea.” She says. “D’you remember when you first moved in? You told us we should try targeting people who deserve it. Really deserve it. And it was actually a good idea. I think I should try going further out. To the bad side of town. You know, the really bad side.”

I smirk at her. “Maria, the bad side of town is wherever you are.”

She laughs. “I know. But I’m kind of starting to feel bad for nightclub fuckboys. If I keep going the way I am there won’t be any left in Glasgow, and wouldn’t that be a rotten shame? Bad side’s where all the crap goes down. The real crap.”

“I…” I trail off, surprised. “I think that’s a good idea. A great idea, even.”

She hits my arm. “Coz you came up with it.”

“Well, yeah. I’m proud of myself. But I’m also proud of you.”

She grins. “Guess I should take what I can get.” Her grin softens. “Thank God I’ve got you, my love.”

The word sends a shiver of sugary warmth through me. When Maria calls me love she says it carefully, spelling it out like it’s sacred. In her mouth, it sounds like a different word.

I can’t tear my eyes away from her as she gets out of bed and goes to the wardrobe. God, she’s so beautiful- I can’t understand how I didn’t fall in love with her the moment I met her. The old Scotty was an idiot. I’m so glad he’s gone.

I leave the room to get changed. Once I’m done, I’m stupid enough to look in the mirror again before I remember I’ve got no reflection. I think if I could see myself now I’d like what I saw. I sit down on my bed, thinking back on everything we said. Maybe Maria’s right. Maybe I should go with her. If she is planning to head over to the bad side of town, I’ll worry about her till she comes back, even though I know no force on Earth could threaten her. Maybe what I mean is that I’ll miss her. God, I’m pathetic.

I don’t want to see her doing what she does, but that might be the old Scotty speaking again. That self-righteous twat. Yesterday, after Maria helped me clean up the mess in here, throw away all the mirror shards, scrub the carpets, pull the shredded door from its hinges, I told her it was me and her against the world. How can she ever believe that, if I’m too scared to come and help her through the worst part of her day? It’s not like I have to watch. And what if the blood breaks you? It’s not like I have to give in.

After a few more minutes, Maria’s bedroom door opens, spilling pink down the stairs. I stand up. She smiles weakly at me when she comes out, wearing her old black jeans and t-shirt with her hair tied back in two bunches behind her ears.

“I, uh… I’ll see you later.” She says. Her face doesn’t twitch, but I see the pain hitting her again, darkening her eyes. They’re deep violet, her eyes. I realised yesterday. But they char black when she’s hungry.

“I’m coming with you.” I say. She looks at me in surprise. “If you don’t mind. If I won’t get in your way.”

“Mm.” She smiles.  Some of the cloudiness in her eyes blows away. “I’d like that.”

Once we’re outside the front door, the cold wind bites down on my face. Maria knots her fingers through mine and squeezes my hand. I look at her nervously, and as we walk down the road, I see her looking down at her feet. She spits out her hair as it starts to blow across her face. The last shreds of deep-orange sunlight are sucked from the purple sky, and the light sting vanishes from my eyes. Maria starts to skip slightly, swinging our clasped hands back and forth. To a random bystander, we’re just another young stupid couple out for a walk. Oblivious to the dangers of the night. I smile. It’s amazing to see how happy I’ve made her. I’ve never felt anything like it before.

It’s a long walk, but at least our hands never get too sweaty to hold. I grow sick with apprehension as the brick houses slump into concrete apartment blocks and curtains and warm glows become broken windows and splashes of graffiti. The air swells up with the barking of dogs, the whining of sirens, and the slamming of doors. It smells of a mixture of dead leaves, spilt petrol and rainwater. I look down at Maria for the first time in fifteen minutes or so. We’ve been talking, but not catching each other’s eyes.

“So what’s the plan?” I murmur.

When she looks up, the colour’s gone from her face. “Uh…” She says softly. “Well, when I’m doing this sort of thing, I usually lie in wait. Somewhere dark. I try to vary it so they don’t notice patterns when they find the bodies. I don’t know…” She looks around. “If there’s anywhere like that around here. Looks like it’s mostly deserted.”

“Yeah.” She’s right- I don’t think I’ve seen a single person since we left the house. I squeeze her hand again as she stumbles, trying to shake off the pain as she straightens up. “Don’t worry. We’ll find somewhere soon.”

She looks up at me. “You shouldn’t be so okay with this.”

“Well, I am.” I say truthfully. “So shut up.”

We come to the mouth of the road and I look both ways across the junction. I follow Maria’s eyes towards the skeleton of a bus shelter on the other side of the road to our right. I realise now this is a main road. The city centre’s to our right, the suburbs to the left. Someone’s bound to walk past eventually.

“How about that bus shelter?” Maria says.

“Yeah.” I tug her hand. “Well, I mean, it’s see-through.”

“Yes, but it’ll hold the rain off us.”

“Yeah.” The air still smells of rain, and it’s still dustily spitting on my face.

We cross the road, interrupted by nothing but the distant rumble of traffic. I’m starting to get used to this buzzing hum of silence in my ears, spookily unbroken by my breaths or heartbeat. The bus shelter only has two panels of glass left in it- the rest’s sparkling in the grooves of the pavement, and crunches under our feet.

“Okay.” Maria sits down on the bench and huddles into me as I join her. I put my arm around her. When she speaks again, there’s a slight giggle in her voice. “The trap has been set.”

I look down at her. “The trap?”

“Well, I mean… it’s not really a trap. I suppose it’s more a case of leaping out and grabbing fools as they pass. I dunno… d’you reckon this is dodgy enough?”

I look around. This is a main road, but it’s lined with houses, a few of which have their lights on.

“Oh, yeah.” I lie.

I hope she’s quick. I want to go back home.

We sit on that bench in that bus shelter for half an hour, never seeing a single soul. The damp film of water on the seat soaks right through my clothes, spreading aching chills right down to my bones, and my fingers grow so numb I can barely lift my hand to take Maria’s when she moans softly with pain again. Her hunger grows rapidly, making her curl into me and press her face into my shoulder. I hug her close, but there’s nothing I can do to make her feel better. Nothing but wait.

 “Jesus.” She murmurs. “Your hands are freezing.”

I look down at her. “No shit.”

Then, I see her looking to the right, down the road. She sits up. “I think someone’s coming.”

My veins chill when I hear the change in her voice.

“They are?” I look down the road, but the glass side of the shelter is grimy. I hear the faintest drumming of footsteps, growing louder as someone gets closer to us.

Maria’s weight vanishes from my side and I turn to see her leaning around the side of the shelter. Then, she ducks back in again and looks at me.

“She- I mean, he’s alone.”

“Why’d you say she?”

She looks at me. Her mouth’s pressed tight. “Because I don’t know. He’s kind of small and skinny. I think it’s a guy, though.”

“Like, a young guy?”

“Uh-huh.” She absent-mindedly licks her lips.

With a slight hiss, the streetlamp hanging over us pulses once and then goes out, turning the street inky black and the raindrops in the air bright white. I look back at Maria- her silhouette’s only a black cutout against the sparkling glass wall. The sudden darkness makes me nervous- what if something goes wrong?

“You sure he’s alone?”

There’s a long pause.

Then, “Yeah.”

Her voice sounds further away than before.

“You sure he’s up to no good?”

This time, she audibly sighs. I watch her breath crystallising in the air. “Oh, yeah. Definitely. I’m taking it.”

She clenches her fist and I see her fingertips catching the light as the claws slide out, then disappear in a flash. She drums a finger on the side of her leg in thought before hurrying out into the street, running straight into the man on the road. I hear him grunting in shock, then giving a loud sigh of irritation. In return, Maria yelps, then laughs. My chest is cold.

“Gosh, I’m so sorry!” Maria says.

“God. Be more careful. Idiot.” A second voice says, and my head grows lighter with fear. It’s not a man. It’s a woman. I can see her shape now: skinny, hands rammed into pockets. I recognise the voice, but I need her to speak again first.

 “Yeah.” Maria murmurs. “The lamps.”

I dig my fingers into my thighs.

The woman dips her head and tries to sidestep Maria, but Maria jumps in front of her; their shadows blend into one. There’s a yelp, a growl, a hysterical squeak of fear that sucks the warmth right from me. Maria’s got her.

“Let me go! Ah! Ah!” The girl wails, and my heart drops down onto the pavement. Yeah, I was right. “Let me GO, BITCH!”

Then, with another fizz and pop, the streetlamp comes back on. The raindrops on the bus shelter glitter gold and the lumpy silhouette in front of me becomes two girls. I bolt to my feet in shock, my eyes fixed not on the face of the thrashing, screaming girl in Maria’s arms, but on Maria. I don’t need to look at the girl again. I know who she is. Maria’s eyes are still dark with hunger, but fearful and pitiful too. She recognises her too.

“Scotty?” Olivia says. “What- what- let me GO!”

I choke back another scream.

I look at Maria. Why hasn’t she killed her yet? I realise why in an instant- she’s too afraid. She’ll let Olivia go if I tell her to. When… when I tell her to.

A million thoughts surge into me in a millisecond.

The first is that Olivia’s not wearing a coat; she’s dressed up like she’s come from a nightclub. She must’ve decided to walk home alone. Stupid, stupid girl. The second is that she’s fighting like mad. Maria’s too strong for her, but she’s screaming and thrashing like a trapped animal, terrified. I’ve never seen her afraid before. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen either of them afraid before. “Let her go.” My head says, but it’s not enough to push the words out of my mouth. The sight of her makes me angry. I thought I’d never see her again, but here she is, back again, her deep scowls and hysterical shrieks biting into my head and making poor Maria chew her lip in agony as she waits for me to help her. The moment she lets Olivia go, we’re over. Maria’s shaking with her and looking up at the stars, too frightened to look at me. I hate seeing her frightened. Seeing it in Olivia, though…

“Scotty.” Olivia says, her mouth wide and her eyes wider. “Scotty. Scotty. SCOTTY!”

“Scotty.” Maria pleads.

I’ve been letting her do it for weeks. What’s the difference between that, and…

I look at Maria and nod.

“Do it.” I mutter.

Maria’s reaction is instant. She cracks her jaw and grows her teeth and buries her head in Olivia’s neck, but even as she screams and gasps, Olivia twists, managing to get free from her arms. She stumbles into me, clutching her blood-soaked neck with one blood-soaked hand, and our eyes meet. She’s going to get away. I gave the order. What’s the difference between that, and…

Viciously, I grab Olivia by the front of her shirt and shove her back into Maria, who grabs her by the throat and descends on her and rips her apart in an instant. Blood and screams and growls spray up into the sky and down again, flowing over the pavement. I clamp my hands over my mouth in shock and sob, once, twice. It’s not enough to make anyone feel sorry for me.

After a couple more seconds, I see Maria freeze against the ground. She pants as she raises her head, her mouth and her neck and the bottom of her hair soaked with red, and that’s when I see her eyes are gone, rolled up into the back of her head, glossy and white and blank. A mindless, sickened grin pulls her jagged mouth out of shape, and as she clutches her hands to her chest, I see her entire body loosening. Her breaths calming, then stopping. Her claws and teeth retreating. Her smile growing relieved. I swallow.

Well, she’s definitely not hurting anymore. That’s something to feel glad about.

Maria plunges her head back down again, and this time, she doesn’t stop. I thought I could watch, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. Not because of Olivia. Because of her. So I turn and clamber over the skeleton of the bus-shelter and, as the sighs and unspeakable noises grow louder behind me, I walk away.

Molten gold. The air’s alive with it. It doesn’t make me mad anymore- it doesn’t fog my rational thoughts and tear my body away from me- but it still makes me ache. I don’t see it as blood. In fact, every time I remind myself it’s blood, I want it a little less. It’s the sensation I crave. The last time I felt it, I was down at the river, but I imagine that sensation stronger, harder, faster, heavier, casting me afloat and then pulling me under the surface. The strongest drug in the world. The way it’s made Maria a slave doesn’t sway my thoughts, because right now, she’s carefree. I cover my face with my hands. Being good’s boring. Being good didn’t stop all those people getting killed, did it? In fact, being good only makes it hurt more.

I can’t give in, though. I remind myself that’s Olivia on that pavement. I can’t think of her this way. In fact, I should be disgusted by the fact I’m not upset. By the fact I didn’t stop her. The fact I pushed her back. The fact I killed her. In the end, though, the only thing that disgusts me is the fact I’m not disgusted at all.

In a way, it’s a good thing it’s Olivia. If it wasn’t, I would probably have given in.

I glance back at Maria and see her crouching in a six-foot red circle on the ground under the streetlamp. She’s moving against the ground more slowly now; I know her hysterics have gone. I’m scared out here on my own. I want her to come back. Because I’m pathetic and lovelorn and my morals are gone. She took them from me.

I turn around to face the bus-shelter fully. The air presses up against my face and I bite down on my lip to stop the taste from snaking into my mouth. Then, dragged forwards by something inside me, I take a step closer to Maria. She looks up at me, her beautiful face ruined by all that ugly black and red. Her eyes widen when she sees me. Dark violet. She’s not high. Not even close.

I let go of my lip with my teeth and step back into the bus shelter. The rain stops falling on me. Maria mumbles something, looking from her bloody hands to the bloody ground to me, and then, as I take another step, she starts to panic.

“No.” She says softly, her voice flattened. “Go away.”

“It’s okay.” I say. “It’s why I came. To get used to seeing you like this.”

“Not… not… no!”  She says, forcing her bloody hand up and punching the smell through me. Then, she jumps to her feet. “Scotty. Scotty. No. Stay back.”

“It’s okay.” I say. Something inside me reaches out for that red pavement, willing it closer. “It’s okay. I…”

“Get away.” She says firmly, even though the blood’s slurring her and I can see the vacancy in her eyes. “Get away from her, Scotty. Get away!”

I look at Olivia. For the first time tonight, I look at her properly. But she’s so covered in blood she could be anyone, and Oh, Christ, the smell of it. Then, I realise Maria’s not batting me away because she’s ashamed. She’s afraid of what I’m doing.

“It’s okay.” I repeat.

“No, it’s not!” Maria clenches her fists and shoves me backwards. I stumble, a prick of anger running through my chest, and try again, but she grabs my arms, leaving two bloody handprints on my sleeves. I stumble beyond idle curiosity; the anger makes me want it. “No. No. Get away. Look at me. DON’T look at her, look at ME!” Maria yells.

I stop. I look at her.

“Don’t give in now, love.” She says, her voice pleading. Still, I can see the scarlet slump of longing in her eyes. “Don’t. I know… I know it seems impossible. But once you start, you… you’ll never be able to stop. Trust me, please.”

Shakily, Maria lets go of me, staring up into my eyes like she’s afraid I’m about to lunge, but I don’t move. I’m going to walk away again. She’s right. And she’s saved me again.

“Once you start eating you’ll never be able to stop.” Maria says, the lilt rapidly fading from her voice. “Exhibit A.”

She stares into my eyes for a couple more seconds, and I stare back, wondering what she means. Then, she bites her lip as she slowly raises her blood-soaked hand back to her mouth. My veins chill as I watch her suck her finger, running the others along her chin as her eyes roll out of focus.

She sucks another finger, seeming to forget I’m there. Then, with a sigh, she falls back to her knees in the red and snaps her head down. My legs are shaking as I walk backwards into the bus shelter and sit down. I crane my head far, far back, and grip the edge of the bench as hard as I can. I look up at the stars.

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