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

14. Pushover

I’M ROCKED AWAKE by a hard, angry knock on the door. I sit bolt upright in fear, but Maria’s already in the hallway. She opens the door and lets in a tidal wave of hysterical shouting, all of which I hear from the sofa as I stand up. My mind’s blurry with hunger. I can’t hear what either voice is saying, but one thing hits me as I listen, terrified. It’s not Frank. Maria’s shouting back.

“Woah, woah, calm down!” She’s saying.

“Don’t tell me what to say, you stupid bitch!”

“I don’t know you!”

“Yeah, you do. WHERE is he?”

Oh, my God. I run into the hallway, only hearing Maria saying “I’m telling you, he’s not here.” as I skid into view of the door.

Oops.

Both Maria and Olivia, who’s standing on the front porch, turn to face me. Maria sighs and Olivia smirks triumphantly. My heart sinks into my stomach when I see her.

“What the hell are you doing here, Olivia?” I say, walking forwards. I turn to Maria. “Go. I can handle this."

Maria only takes a single step back. The scowl on her face deepens.

“It wasn’t hard, Scotty.” Olivia curls her lip at Maria, whose face remains blank. “I just followed the smell of skank.”

“No, but like, actually. How did you actually find us?” I say. “I think that’s a plot hole.”

“Does it matter?”

“Did you follow me? God, Olivia, get out!”

“Don’t worry. I’m not here to start a bitch fight.” This time, when Olivia glares at Maria, I hear Maria growling at the back of her throat. I step between them, and Olivia turns her glower onto me. “I just came to check I was right.”

“Right about what?” My hands twitch as anger wells up inside me, reacting with the hunger in my head. My thoughts bubble like molten lava. I clutch the doorknob.

“You know what. About you moving in with your whore.”

“She’s NOT a whore!” I yell. “Mine or otherwise, god damn you! She’s a kind, sweet person who cares about me and wants to look after me. I want you gone. Now. Now, Olivia! I am not joking. We’re through. Get out of here.”

I know exactly what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to present herself as a massive inconvenience to Maria, in the hopes she’ll cut her ties with me. It’s worked brilliantly before. I’m scared it’s about to work again, and I’ll lose the only person who still cares about me.

“Why are you ordering me around?” Olivia folds her arms. “It’s not your house, is it?”

I sigh.

“Get out.” Maria mutters from behind me.

When I turn to look at Maria, her eyes are dark and her fists are clenched. The look on her face makes my muscles constrict with fear.

You,” Maria says quietly, stepping forwards with one finger pointed at Olivia. Olivia stays silent. “are a nasty piece of work, Olivia. Scotty wants you gone, and as far as I’m concerned, that means you’d better hop on your trike.”

Olivia’s pale face turns red, and that look stirs up so much anger and so much hunger in me I almost have to force myself to take a step backwards. Maria grips my wrist.

“You’re my boyfriend.” Olivia says, looking from her to me. “You can’t fucking leave me- your parents won’t let you. She’ll leave you soon enough, because she’ll realise like all the rest of us that you’re not worth the dirt you kick up.”

“Hey. Standing right here.” Maria says softly.

“Shut up, you fat stupid slut.”

Maria grips my wrist harder.

“Get the hell out.” She tells Olivia. “Get the hell away from my house and never come near me or Scotty again. I’ve warned you once; I will not warn you again.”

Olivia looks up at us, pouting in fury, her eyes narrowed to slits. Then, she scoffs. “Fine!” She bursts out. “Fine! I’ll fucking go.” She clenches her jaw. “But this isn’t the end!”

“Oh, you’d better HOPE it is!” Maria screams, slamming the door so hard I hear the cutlery in the drawers rattling. Then, she turns to me.

“Scotty, she’s a problem.”

I swallow, terrified. “She won’t come back.”

“Yes, she will.”

“Please.” I say. “P- please. I’ll leave, I promise. I’ll leave right now. I’ll get her away from you.”

“No. It’s not enough. You saw the way she looked at you. That’s the look of someone who’s crazy.”

“Oh, really?” I curl my lip as I look at her. “And how’d you recognise one of those, I wonder?”

“Scotty.” Maria says quietly, the anger leaking out of her as she squeezes her temples. I can see in her eyes how hungry she is. I know. I feel it too. Even though Olivia’s gone, it’s still bubbling up inside me. I can’t hold it back like she can. And the anger makes it worse. Frank’s gone mad. Olivia’s gone mad, and I’m the cause of all of it. Wherever I go, I cause problems. Everyone I touch turns to mud. Who was I kidding? This isn’t a fresh start. This is a disastrous ending.

“Scotty,” Maria repeats. “I’m sorry. I care about you, and I don’t want you to leave, especially now Frank… Frank’s gone. I still want you here.”

“But… but she said-”

“I don’t give a shit what she said; I’m not going to let her force you out of here!”

“Well, what if I want to leave?”

“Then you’re an idiot pushover, Scotty. Stop being a pushover. Take control of yourself for once. When problems arise, think of solutions. Look, I don’t want to hurt her, Scotty. Well…” She pauses, looking up. “No, that’s not true. I do want to hurt her, but for you, I won’t. Unless she carries on being a problem. If she does, we’ll have no choice. Understand?”

I stare at her, my lip wobbling. I’m so angry. So goddamn angry I could’ve hurt Olivia myself. I sigh.

“Scotty.” Maria puts her hand on my shoulder, but I slap it away.

“No! Don’t touch me. I can’t stand this. I can’t stand the way everything I touch turns to shit.” I say. I feel close to tears. “I need to be alone. Let me calm down first.”

I walk away from her, and she doesn’t call after me. Once I’ve reached the living-room, I grab my backpack and bury my face in it. All the hunger, the vicious anger, the violence, the madness- it’s all up here. It’s all in my head, and I want it gone. Gone. I scream, once, and realise how good it feels; I don’t know how well I’m muffled. Another stab of bloody hunger wracks me, so I scream it out, pressing the backpack harder into my face till I think my nose is going to break. If it does, it’ll serve me right. I’ll bleed. Blood everywhere, hot and red and- “No!” I cry, sitting down on the sofa. I’m scared. I want to run after Olivia so badly, to… jump on her from behind and knock her cold and tear her to pieces for making me feel like this. And for DARING to say those things to Maria. How dare she? How DARE she? How stupid can she be? I let loose what I think’s a scream of rage, but turns out to be a hysterical sob. I pull the backpack away from my face. Then, I’m seized by the beginnings of a fit. I clench my fists. I sob again, trying to will my whole body to shake, but my body doesn’t want to obey my thoughts anymore, because my thoughts aren’t going to feed it. My thoughts aren’t going to stop this blinding red rage, this hurricane of insane thoughts inside me. I want to die. I do. I do. Or I want to kill. I want to give in, but I can’t. I can’t. I promised myself.

She deserves it.

Nobody deserves to die. Nobody.

Slowly, I start to feel calm again. I don’t know why, or how, but I’ve run out of the necessary energy to obey my hunger. I sit there, quietly, listening, and try to breathe. Even though I don’t need to. The breaths wrestle with my throat till I spit them back out.

“Scotty?” Maria says softly, sitting down on the sofa next to me.

“Leave me alone.” I say half-heartedly.

“I know it’s a lot. At first. I’m so sorry.”

I sigh. “It’s not your fault, Maria.”

There’s a long silence. Nervously, she puts her hand on mine. Then, I hear my phone pinging; I ignore it. It pings again. I ignore it again.

“At least it’s over now, right?” Maria says with a smile.

“No.” I say. “It’s not. In about ten seconds, my parents are gonna call me to repeat everything Olivia just said.”

“You could always not answer.” Maria says. Then, right after she’s spoken, my phone starts to ring. We both look at it as I pull it out of my pocket.

I breathe out. I don’t realise the call’s on loudspeaker until I’ve accepted it.

“Hi, Mum.”

“You WHORE, Scott!”

I hold the phone at arm’s length. Maria looks at me, her eyes wide in shock.

“Thanks.” I tell her. Then, on instinct, I hang up.

“Oh, my god.” Maria says quietly. She stares at me. I stare down at my phone as it lights up again. I decline the call. Then, the texts start to come in.

“What do they say?” Maria asks, a tiny shred of amusement in her voice. I look at her.

“Take a guess.”

“Whore?” She says.

“Yeah.” Ping. Ping. Ping. “Over and over again. Oh, no- wait.” I look up at her, smiling slightly. “This one says slut.”

I close my phone and toss it across the room. Maria must be able to see the misery on my face, because she puts her hand on mine again. I don’t move.

“You’re not a whore.” She says. “Scotty, look at me.”

I sigh and look at her.

“None of what they say about you’s true.” She says. “The lot of them are stupid deluded pillocks and you’re stupid if you believe a word they say about you. You’re so much more than you think. You deserve so much better. You don’t have to listen to a thing they say. Okay?”

I look at her, and say nothing.

Then, I remember something, and a smile prods my lips.

“Hang on.” I say, pulling my backpack onto my lap and starting to rummage through it. “I’ve got something for you.”

I panic, thinking I’ve lost it, till my hand closes around the rustling plastic.

“What’s up?” Maria says as I pull the plastic bag out.

“My parents are right about me. I am a whore.” I say, smiling weakly. “And here’s the proof.”

She looks at me strangely, then down in shock as I pull the little flowerpot out and hold it out to her.

“I couldn’t be arsed to wrap it, but… Happy birthday.”

Maria’s mouth drops open. She stares at me for a couple of seconds. “Scotty, what- why…”

“You did say your birthday was Halloween. That wasn’t just a joke, was it?” I say.

She shakes her head. “No, but-”

“And I thought, y’know… when I came to your home after that I was sort of expecting purple flowers everywhere, because of what you said about… about the garden. Your parents tore down. But there weren’t any, and I thought it was kind of sad, so I got you these.”

Maria remains utterly silent as she takes the pot of purple pansies from me. She looks up at me, biting her lip, her eyes wide.

“You… you bought these for…”

“Yeah. Is it kinda stupid? Coz I’m starting to think it might’ve been kinda stupid. It’s just a sort of, y’know, thing. I…”  trail off for a second as she stares at me. “Don’t want you to think you deserve to be miserable, or anything. You know?”

She nods. She looks utterly shell-shocked.

“Are you okay?” I say.

She nods again.

“Because I’m scared I’ve sent you catatonic now.”

“I…” she bursts out. It sounds like a sob. “You… you bought me a birthday present.”

“Well, yeah. You’re my friend.”

“I drugged you, bit you, dragged you into a dark alleyway, tried to… to…” She gulps. “I destroyed your life out of selfishness. And you bought me a birthday present.”

I falter. “Yeah?”

“What the hell’s wrong with you?”

I look at her, unsure if she’s joking. “What… what do you mean?”

She lets loose a burst of confused laughter. “What- what… I just can’t understand how nice you are.” She says. “After everything you’ve been through… I just… I can’t understand you, Scotty. You make no sense to me.”

I look at her. She’s absolutely right. I don’t know what’s wrong with me either. But I don’t hate her. “Is… being nice not okay?”

“You’re a vampire!” Maria says with another laugh. “I… I’m a vampire! I’m a murderous bastard who kills because she’s too scared to stop! I’ve never done a single nice thing for anyone in all my two centuries; by most people’s standards, I’m not even a person. I’m a bloody monster. What the…” She trails off. “What the hell did I do to deserve this? What the hell did I do to… to deserve you?”

I sigh, trying not to smile. It’s a pot of flowers, for God’s sake- I can tell she likes them. She’s stroking her hand down the frills on the porcelain, looking at the gift like it’s an eighteen-carat diamond crown. Or a mansion. But I know the value of it’s not the point.

I tell the truth. “By… being yourself, Maria. You know that. You know you’re still the best friend I’ve had.” I smirk. “With or without what you ended up doing.”

There’s a moment of silence. Weakly, Maria smiles. I clear my throat again.

“Look, Maria. The fact’s that a lot of shit’s happened in my life that’s left my morals pretty much in tatters.” I say. “In my mind, there aren’t a lot of rules in place for what’s okay and what’s not. And you’re the only person who’s ever been kind to me, and the fact is, now Frank’s gone, we… we’re stuck in this together, aren’t we?” I attempt a smile. “I’m with you, Maria. I’m not going to fight you anymore. I promise.”

She stares down at the flowers and says nothing.

“If you’re the bad guy, Maria, I’m the bad guy.” The hunger stretches out in my head, growing heavier. “We need to do what we need to do to survive. And if that involves, uh… a death once in a blue moon, we’ve gotta get on with it. I know you know that.”

She looks at me. When she speaks, her voice is utterly choked up, lower than usual, and flat. Soulless.

“I need to tell you something.” She says.

Something in her voice fills my veins with ice.

I watch as Maria heaves herself up from the sofa, walks over to the windowsill, and gently places the flowers on it. She looks at them for a long time before she turns to sit back down. When she does, I’m staring at her, suddenly afraid again.

“What?” I say.

“I, uh… I lied to you.” Maria’s voice deepens and darkens even more. She looks at me, and I see her eyes are dark, too. “About the blood.”

I shudder. “Oh, no. What? What, Maria?”

“We don’t… Scotty. Oh, God.” She covers her face with her hands. Suddenly, I don’t have time for her emotions anymore. “We don’t need to drink blood to survive.”

I stare at her.

“Oh.” She says, smiling sadly. “Bet you didn’t see that one coming.”

“What?” I splutter, trying to figure out what the hell she could possibly mean. “What?”

“Vampires.” She says softly. “Don’t. Need. Blood. To survive.”

“But- but that-”

“We don’t. We can live without it. We don’t need it.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense.”

“But it’s the truth. All those people I’ve killed?” Maria smiles bitterly. “A life for a life? Impossible choice? All that crap? 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-” I stutter. “Then why… why’ve we been getting hungry?”

“That’s not hunger. Haven’t you noticed it doesn’t feel like hunger? It’s, oh… what’s the word?” Maria looked up again. “Longing.”

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

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

I bite back disgust. “That’s it?”

“Okay, fine. Because I’m addicted!” She sobs. “It’s not a hunger; it’s not a need, Scotty. It’s an addiction. A want. Blood’s not food. It’s a drug, and I’ve been addicted to it for a hundred and eighty years. You get hooked after one hit, don’t you? With regular drugs, even. And blood’s the worst drug of all. As time went on, I needed more and more and more of it in a dose to get the same high, and more and more and more often. I started to get the shakes and seize up and get fits whenever I hadn’t eaten for too long. I tried to quit a couple times. Sent me nuts. If I came off it now, I’d… I don’t know and I don’t want to find out. You know…” She looks up at me. She’s choked up with frustration- I can see it in her eyes. “You know how often I have to kill someone and devour them now, to keep myself standing upright?”

I don’t say anything. I’m frozen, clutching the ratty sofa fabric on both sides to keep myself from collapsing.

“One…” Maria breathes in. She’s trying so hard not to break, and I can see it. She’s trying to frighten me, and now, I know why. She doesn’t want me to feel sorry for her. She doesn’t want me to be kind to her. She doesn’t want a reason to stay good. She wants… she wants to be the bad guy. It’s easier, isn’t it? “One… every day.”

“I- I don’t understand,” I say softly.

“It’s right as bloody rain.”

“But you’ve only been killing people, like… once every month or so, haven’t you?”

She doesn’t say anything.

“Maria?”

She still doesn’t say anything, looking down and scuffing her toe against the side of the coffee table.

She’s lying to you.

“Tell me the truth.”

She raises her head to look at me, and her eyes are dark and her lips are pursed and her face is frozen, pale with worry. When she opens her mouth to speak, her voice’s dragging over her tongue, husky, like it is when she’s high.

“The truth’s never been my style.” She says.

“No… no shit.” I say, my voice flat with fear and shock. “No shit, Maria.”

“I lied to you, Scotty. I lied to you… about… everything. I’m not a poor tortured soul doing what she must to get by. I’m merciless, and greedy and gluttonous and ruthless and black-hearted. Rotten to the core. And now you know the truth about me…” She tries to grit her teeth. Oh, God, I can see it now- the longing in her eyes. The want. The need. And I can feel it too- because of her, it’s inside me as well. “You feel like running yet?”

I stare at her. She’s not who she said she was. She’s just a junkie who can’t stop. She’s like me.

But I can stop.

“I…” I say. “I can’t believe this. Can- can you… is it… possible to quit?”

She looks at me and says nothing. The hunger presses down on my brain, but it’s not real. I bite my lip and fight it back.

Then, she nods.

“I can’t.” She whispers.

“You’re right.” I say. “You are a monster for what you do. I can’t blame you… well, I mean, I can if I want to, but it won’t do anything. Will it? You’re a monster now, Maria. You can’t redeem yourself.”

“I know.”

“I…” I say. My resolve, somehow, tightens its grip as the hunger does. “But I’m not going to be. I’m going to fight this. And I’m going to quit, Maria. I can’t end up like you.”

“Huh.” Maria says, pressing her bottom lip. “You’re going cold turkey? You’re going to let the hunger rip you up?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” she says, getting up. “Okay. I guess you’d better move your stuff up to Frank’s room.”

I blink. “Why?”

“Because you’ll need your own space. Somewhere you can lock yourself in. Somewhere you can scream.” She licks her lips, and laughs sadly. “Somewhere you won’t be able to claw your way out of.”

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