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

2. Alkie

I wake up feeling wrong. I don’t even need to open my eyes.

There’s something beneath me, but it’s not the floor—if I’d passed out on the floor again I’d have a crick in my neck and both knees from lying too flat. One of my arms is twisted under me, completely numb and crackling with pins and needles. As I try to move my legs, my right snaps back into place with a CRACK that shoots knives of pain up my spine into my shoulders. When I try to breathe in, the air clogs my nose and mouth like cotton wool. As I sit up, the thin whining in my skull turns into a scream. Then, I hit my head on a ceiling that’s six feet too low.

“Ow.”

Opening my eyes doesn’t show me where I am; it’s black as hell, apart from a narrow white line of light hovering above me. Coffins come to mind. Maybe I’m dead. Maybe the drink’s finally killed me. About fucking time.

A rotten stench presses up against my face when I look down, making me cough as my head spins and my body grows lighter. I squint against nothing, digging through my mind, trying to figure out where the hell I am and how I ended up here. My thoughts are like spiders—they stand just out of reach, taunting me, and scuttle away when I try to grab them. I sigh again, even though my lungs feel empty, and lie back down.

My eyes flutter shut for a second, and I become aware of a commotion somewhere inside me. A rhythm, but not my heartbeat—it sounds like music, smothered by a whining squeal like a siren. God, I’m in pain.

Your head hurts. Okay. Your head hurts, Scotty. Your neck hurts. My head, heavy as lead, rolls to one side, and a sharp bolt of pain races up into my skull. See? Your back hurts. Your legs, your arms. Your stomach. You’re hurt. And you’re just going to LIE there? You’re just going to lie there, when Olivia and Keith and Sam and Greg and Maria might be killing themselves looking for you and you don’t know what day it is and you’ve probably got a lecture sometime soon? Pathetic.

This is nothing new. Most of my days are jigsaws with missing pieces—I’m used to having to muddle them together, trying to figure out what I’ve done, where, and with who, with no memories to help me. I guess I must’ve drunk myself unconscious again last night.

Luckily, I’ve not quite ruined my long-term memory. Yet.

What’s my name? Scotty Matthews.

How old am I? Twenty years and five months… five months? Six months. Twenty years and six months.

What city am I in? Aberdeen. Probably. I assume I’ve woken up in the same place I fell asleep, though I suppose it’s not certain.

And where am I? I breathe in again, blocking out the reek of rotting rubbish and gradually starting to feel the cold air on my face. Hear the sounds of the city outside. Traffic. The thin stripe of white light runs round in a rectangle, like it’s lining a ceiling—I’m in a box. A dark, smelly box.

I’m in a skip, aren’t I?

“Aw, fuck’s sake,” I groan, raising both my arms to push at the ceiling. White light spills over me as I get to my feet, throwing the lid of the skip back to hit the wall with a shuddering CRASH. I turn, hoist one leg over the lip of the skip and lean, lean, lean, apparently forgetting gravity’s existence till it snatches me by the waist and crushes me down on the pavement. I roll onto my back and lie there, staring up at the sky, hoping all my bones are broken.

The guttural, thumping impression of music leaks back into my head, and when I close my eyes, neon sparks explode against the black. I’ve got a headache and my throat still burns from the whisky. And my nose, and my eyes. I wince and scratch my neck. My skin starts to smart and tingle as I lie half-in, half-out of a rectangle of sunlight on the ground. Actually, the longer I lie here, the more it hurts. I heave myself to my feet, gripping the side of the skip as my head gets unbearably light. I sway. Looking around, I realise I’m in the car park behind the community centre, with the broken glass phone boxes at one end and the bright blue skips at the other. One of which my hideously drunk self apparently pegged as a comfy bed. I choke back a sob of frustration, begrudgingly relieved I’m not too far from my flat. At least I didn’t wake up on a train to Manchester again. Or in the middle of the road. Or buried in snow.

I wish I had a car, or even a bike, but I can’t afford so much as a pair of roller skates. All I have are my skinny legs, one of which still feels twisted in the wrong bloody direction and throbs with pain whenever I take a step. I ignore my body’s incessant whining and keep walking. Around the corner, down the dark alleyway, into the street and the sunlight. As I turn left and start the short walk to my block of flats, the early morning bustle blurs into static. The sun’s light burns my eyes and its heat burns my skin, but I barely even notice till it all dissolves, after I’ve walked into the shade of the front porch.

“Fuck’s sake,” I say to myself again as I slam my body into the door and stumble inside. I drag my nails down my arms, but the fizzing pain the outside air left on my skin has already disappeared. I tuck my hair behind my ears as best I can, cursing myself for letting it grow so long and cursing again as a light-bulb pulses once and dies above me, ramming another stake of pain through my skull. The colours in the hallway leak away into grey and black. I look down at my feet, and then groan in pain as something strains at the base of my neck. Stopping outside the door to my flat, I raise a hand to touch my skin. There’s a thick crust above my collarbone that gets soft and gooey as I pry. A scab. Whatever. I sigh and push open the door.

“I’m home,” I say half-heartedly. The door was ajar, but I assume my flatmate is out. Then, there’s a soft clatter from the kitchen, followed by the squeak of him pushing back his chair. I curse and quicken my pace, but I’m barely halfway along the hallway before Keith rounds the corner.

“Hi,” he says slowly.

“Hey, man.” I turn around, spotting the familiar wince on his face. The way I look when I come home frightens him—my dark skin drenched grey, my green eyes washed-out and watery like they’re fluorescent and ringed with navy blue. I look like death. Every goddamn day. And he’s got to live with me, the poor sod.

“You okay?” he asks.

“Yeah.” I push my hair behind my shoulders. God, my head hurts, and so does my stomach. I should eat, but I’m not going to.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool. Wait. What… Is that…”

I raise one eyebrow and then follow his eyes, looking down at my dark blue jeans and brown shirt. I look back up at him. “What?”

“Scotty, is that blood?

I look down again. Then, I finally remember I don’t own a brown shirt. I think this one used to be grey.

I look up. “Uh, no.”

“Scotty…” He looks closer at me, his eyes widening. “Oh, my God. What the hell’s that?”

“What?”

“On your… your neck. Move your hair?”

Instinctively, I clamp my hand over the side of my neck. The scab on my neck is much, much bigger than I’d thought. It’s not confined to the side. Thank God my hair’s plastered to it. “It’s nothing,” I say.

“It’s not nothing.”

“Well, no, it’s… it’s not nothing, but it’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

Stop asking if I’m sure!”

He sighs. “Alright, alright. You going anywhere today?”

“Um…” I run my hand through my hair, pulling more of it over my neck. “Yeah. No. Maybe. What day is it?”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Uh, Saturday.”

“What time?”

He checks his watch. “Five-thirty.”

“In the morning?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit, really?”

“Yeah.”

“Then no. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Okay.” He’s still staring at my shirt, his dark eyes wide. He runs a hand through his curly crop of red hair. “Look, you don’t have to tell me, but—”

“Keith, I’m fine.” I snap. I’m not fine, but what else was I going to say? Keith worries too much. “I’m gonna, uh… go. See you later.”

“Later,” he says, turning on his heel.

I push my bedroom door open and stumble into the darkness. Why does it make me feel so much better? My headache calms as I close and lock the door on the neon-yellow hallway, but keeps mumbling in the middle of my skull. As I peel the fabric of my t-shirt away from my stomach, I realise it’s dried cardboard-stiff. I pull it off over my head, crunch it up into a ball, and stare at it in confusion for a second—that sure is a lot of blood—before hurling it across the room. I’ll throw it away later.

As I lower my arms, the wound on my neck tweaks with pain again. I force myself to turn on the light and stumble over to the desk. When I look in the mirror, I become lost in my own eyes—they’re two big ice-green lights in the sickly dark muddle of my face. The mirror’s broken by a single black diagonal crack and speckled with a fuzz of rust that blurs me like I’m looking at water instead of glass. My black hair’s hanging loose in long, ugly ropes. The light from the ceiling pushes out my black scribble of freckles, but fills the hollows in my eye-sockets and cheeks if I tilt my head at just the right angle. I dip my chin, hold my mouth slightly open, fix the two halves of my reflection with an arresting stare. See? You look fine. Good, even.

Now, time to figure out where all that blood came from.

Wincing, I grab the fistful of hair that’s fallen over my collarbone and peel it back, exposing the great black gouge in my skin. I nearly retch. It stretches over my throat and crawls down to my collarbone and up to my jawline. When I move my head, it strains at my nape too. It’s bigger than my spread hand. It’s stiff and hard in places, and in others it’s glistening, still leaking watery dregs. Worse than the sharp pain on the surface is the cold ache settling deep underneath, like a bruise. When I touch it, my fingers come away wet. I gag and turn away.

I look towards my wardrobe, wondering if I should put on a clean shirt, but I’m burningly hot. My skin’s livid and sticky to the touch and my head’s full of sirens. When I press a hand to my chest, I can feel my heart quivering irregularly against my ribcage.

My headache comes back with a bloody vengeance. I need to shut it up. I get down on my hands and knees, stretch one arm under my bed, and scrabble till I find the neck of a bottle. I pull it out, then curse. It’s empty. My next scrabble finds a full one—a Grant’s. I get up and collapse onto my bed, leaning up against the headboard without a pillow. I’ve just unscrewed the cap when Keith sharply knocks on the door.

There’s a pause.

“What?” I say, the bottle pressed to my lips.

“Nothing,” he says. “I… I was just wondering if you remember where… where you were last night.”

Keith’s used to filling me in after my nights out. I don’t ask him to —not when it’s my own stupid problem I’m always hungover or drunk — but he does it anyway. See what I mean when I say he deserves better?

“N-no, actually.” I admit.

“Uh… you, uh, you left at about six in the evening with Maria and Greg. You said you were going to a party.”

“A party?” I say. I pause, rolling the word in my head like a marble. “Sounds like bad news.”

“Yeah. That’s what I thought too.”

“They must’ve forced me to go.”

I wait for Keith’s response, but all he does is grunt. Then, his footsteps recede. The sound of clattering plates tells me he’s back in the kitchen, but I still wait a couple more seconds before bringing the bottle back to my mouth. My headache’s growing worse, but there’s something else there too—a thought, demanding I give it attention before drowning it in whisky. Nervously, I reach out for it. Images fill my head. Yeah, I was at a party. Somewhere dark, full of cigarette smoke and sweat. Somewhere with deep, throbbing music and neon lights—purple and green. As I take a swig from the bottle, my head grows heavier and the word party starts to sing me to sleep, repeating over and over till the voice becomes someone else’s. Someone familiar. I sigh heavily as I realise who it is.

Yeah, Maria forced you to go. Remember that night at the playground, a week ago? You can remember that night, even if you can’t remember LAST night.

I pluck the memory from my curdling mess of thoughts. It’s the last thing I manage to do before the pain and the hangover and the whisky knock me cold against the floorboards.

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