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.


Author's note

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 :)

7. Vampire

I'm feeling better this morning. Must be all that blood I swallowed last night.

I’ve never been into the art building before, and I’m disappointed and confused. It’s full of canvases covered in mulches of paper and ink, and plenty of ragged strips of paint-caked string that look like intestines, but nothing pretty. The definition of art’s changed a little in the past few years. I guess now, it’s all about coming up with a dramatic title or heart-wrenching story to make everyone around you afraid to question what you produce. With the right explanation, it’s probably possible to take a shit on the floor and sell it as self-expression. I always hated art, but maybe that’s because I was dreadful at it. Maria’s better, from what I’ve seen of her sketches.

I still relax when I think of her. The little sleep I got has only made me more confident Greg was wrong.

I pause outside the door to the workshop, squinting through the gridded glass and trying to spot someone I recognise in the throng of kids sticking nails into corkboards and throwing paint at crumpled tissues and cutting letters out of magazines. My heart jumps as a boy with black hair turns towards the door. It’s Sam, wearing his lipstick and holding a fistful of paintbrushes. I’ve never seen him look this engaged before. With anything. He’s not Maria, but he’s a start.

I plant my hand on the doorhandle and take a couple of rapid breaths. This isn’t weird. Not at all. She asked you to come here. And this whole thing with Greg was just a misunderstanding, so it’s not like she’s gonna rip you in half or anything. What are you so worried about?

I open the door and battle through the fog of paint and chemical fumes to reach where Sam’s sitting, trailing his paintbrush over a piece of paper in lazy circles. I clear my throat, but he doesn’t hear me over his earphones.


He still doesn’t hear me. I sigh impatiently and grab the wire of one earbud, yanking it out of his ear. He looks up in indignant shock, one hand raised defensively to the side of his head. His outlined eyes widen. “Scotty?”

“I need—”

“What are you doing here?”

“I need…” I wring my hands, “to see Maria. Now.”

Sam raises one eyebrow, smiling a little. My heart sinks as I realise Greg told him that stupid story too. “Maria? Why?”

“It’s an emergency. Is she here, or not?”

Sam stays quiet for a couple of seconds, staring at me in confusion. Then, he nods into the far corner of the room. “She’s over there.”

I look over at the corner. Now that I listen, I can make out the sound of Maria’s wildly off-key singing. It’s Fleetwood Mac again, right lyrics, wrong tune. I can only see her sky-high leather boots, dancing and twirling in circles behind an enormous canvas on an easel. The canvas rocks, like she’s walked into it, the singing stops, and her cheerful “Ouch!” jumps towards me. I sigh and smile. There’s no way Greg was right about her. No way.

“Right,” I say to Sam. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

I walk around the canvas. Maria’s looking down at her phone with a smile on her face. I glance up at her canvas, frowning when I see it’s utterly blank.

“Did you only just get here, or something?” I say.

She jumps a little, then looks up and catches sight of me. “Oh! It’s you. What do you mean? The canvas?”

“Yeah. Is this a new project or something?”

She glances back at me. “Uh, no. This is my development piece, Scotty. I’ve been working on it for weeks.”

“Maria, it’s blank.”

“Um. No, it’s not.”

“It’s not?”

“No. It’s not.” She plants her hands on her hips. “It’s entirely painted white. It’s supposed to represent, like, fruitless actions, and how nothing you do really means anything in the end.”


She grins. “And it’s more about the process, you know, than what it looks like. But the reason I’m doing it is decidedly not because I’m a cynic. It’s because I’m lazy and tired!”

She dumps her brushes in the sink and dusts her skirt down. Her black blouse is smeared with white paint, but she hasn’t noticed. Actually, she seems a little more manic than usual. Maybe it’s just me.

“How are you feeling?” she asks me.

I sigh. “Worse.”

“You still don’t want to go to the doctor?” she says, the nerves in her voice ripe and slightly too high. She grins, but when she sees the look on my face, something changes. Her eyes darken a little. “Scotty? What’s wrong?”

“I need to talk to you, Maria.”

She looks worried. Not for you. For herself. “Do you want to go outside? Are you still feeling sick?”

“Maria, Greg called me last night.”


“He did. And he told me… something. About you.”

“Oh, did he?” she says, and I clench my fist as the fear in her eyes grows darker.

“Yeah. He, uh… told me you were a liar, basically. He said you were, uh… you were the chick who hooked up with me on Friday night. He said you’d been lying about Brook and all that to throw me off the trail, that you didn’t want me to find out it was you. Don’t worry; I know he’s wrong. I don’t believe any of it. I just wanted to ask you. Why would he say something like that about you? Did you two fall out?”

Maria makes a small noise at the back of her throat. “No.”

There’s a painful silence. “But…” I say. “But he told me that lie about you! He’d never do that unless…”

“No. You’re right,” Maria says, her voice damp again. “Greg would never lie. Not about me, or you, or anyone.”

I bite the inside of my cheek.

“Maria,” I say, my voice already growing desperate. “Please. There must be a reason he’d lie about you. Please. Just… think of a reason. Just think of a reason. Just feed me one, damn it! I’ll believe anything you tell me! Just not… not… that.”

I go silent, hardly able to believe I fucked up my composure so quickly. Maria walks around me and stands at my side. My heart isn’t beating faster, but something’s wrong in my chest.

“Scotty,” Maria says. “Greg would never lie to you. You know that, really, don’t you?”

“I don’t…” I say. “I don’t know.”

“No. You do know. Greg would never lie to you. Never.”

“Neither…” I say. “Neither… would… you.”

“Oh, I would.” She breathes in. “Especially if I’d done something really, really fucking awful to someone I cared about.”

My insides shrivel and something in my throat drops down to the ground. “Wh… what?”

“Scotty,” she says, sounding like she’s ready to start crying too. “You’re not… just… afraid of me because I snogged you, are you?”

My whole body freezes up when she looks at me, her face stricken with guilt and fear. For the moment, I guess, we’re both equally afraid of one another.

“No,” I say to my feet.

The teeth last night weren’t a nightmare—when I went into the bathroom after the sun came up, a few strings of blood were still in the sink and the flesh in my mouth was still a ragged mess. The memory of what I saw in that mirror is still ripe in my mind.

Maria’s eyes are telling me everything I need to know. She’d never have kept the lie for long, even without Greg’s betrayal. “How… much do you know?”

The word everything jumps into my throat.

“Enough,” I say instead. “Maria, you… have to tell me. Please. Just tell me the truth.”

“Right… now, surrounded by all these people?” Maria says. “Come outside. Please.”

I can’t force the word okay to leave my lips, but I follow her across the room, trancelike. She easily skips and sashays between the students, stopping a few times to throw a compliment at a piece of work. And all the while, my mind’s reeling, trying to replace her with the girl, the monster I saw in my dream. It can’t have been her. It can’t have been. She turns to face me as soon as the door swings shut on us.

“Something happened last night,” she says softly. “Before you called me. Didn’t it?”

The moment our eyes meet, I want to grab hold of her and sob. I feel so dreadfully weak. I sigh, determined to suppress the memory of what I almost did to Keith. And Greg. And that guy who was whistling outside the art block. “Not necessarily,” I say defeatedly.

She smiles grimly, running the tip of her tongue over her upper lip. She flicks her gaze down to my mouth.

“Open your mouth, Scotty,” she says.


“Open your mouth,” she demands, pointing to my mouth. I can tell she’s anxious. Obediently, I open my mouth and she gasps, covering hers with her hand.

“Oh, hell!” she says. “That’s a… mess.”

“Damn it, Maria, what the hell have you done to me?” I say. “I’m begging you. Tell me. Please. I nearly…” I trail off. “My roommate. I was—he was—Last night, I nearly…”

I bite back a sob, cursing myself for breaking in front of her a second time.

“You nearly hurt him.” She looks serious now. “Didn’t you? Oh, poor Keith. Okay, um…”

Please no more riddles.” My face twists sideways in time with my stomach. “Tell me the truth. I can’t take much more of this.”

“Hey. Hey. I’m so sorry.” Maria looks up at me, and all the anger I’ve been clinging to starts evaporating. “Scotty, I have to tell you what I did, okay? But you have to swear you’ll, um…” She runs her hand through her blonde and purple curls. “Believe me.”

“Why the hell wouldn’t I believe you, after all this?”

“Oh, you don’t know what I’m about to say. I promise you won’t believe me. At first. At least.”

“Try me.”

“Okay, okay. Another thing you’ve got to promise?” Maria takes a step closer to me, softening her voice—I resist the urge to step backwards. “Don’t tell a soul.”

“Right, right. Whatever. Maria, whatever the hell this is, I want to—I want to know. I want to fix this. I wanna stop feeling like death warmed up, okay?”

Maria sniggers, then stops. “Right. Right. Okay. So here’s the deal.” She looks me in the eye, fiddling her tongue inside her mouth. “I’m sort of a vampire.”

I look at her, no eyebrows raised, no laughter on my lips, nothing. Boy, I can practically hear the dramatic music swelling up around us.

“You’re a vampire,” I say.

She nods, smiling nervously.

“Huh. Now the goth clothes make sense.”

She tilts her head. I try to cock my eyebrow, sure I just look like I’m in pain.

“And the cape,” I say. “That’s what you were wearing at the party, isn’t it? You weren’t fucking Batgirl, were you?”

“I can tell you believe me, Scotty.”

“Can you? Do I?”

“Yes, I can. Yes, you do.” Maria nods. “If you didn’t believe me you’d have laughed.”

“How do you know that?”

She sighs. “Because we’ve known each other for a year. You knew exactly what was going on all along, didn’t you? You’re smart enough. You just didn’t want to believe it. Or maybe you just didn’t want to believe it was me. You needed to hear me say it.”

I look down at the ground. I want my heartbeat to speed up. I want to feel frightened or angry or relieved or something. I can’t. I’m in too much pain to think straight. “I thought…” I wring my hands. “I was desperately hoping I had blood poisoning.”

She lifts a hand to brush the hair back from my neck. I should stop her, but I don’t. “And the bite mark?”

I look at her. “Broken bottle.”

She splutters with laughter, and I smile too, only because I can’t quite believe what’s happening. This should be stupid, but it doesn’t feel stupid.

“It’s happened to me before,” I say. “Blood poisoning, I mean. And accidental impalement.”

“Like I said,” Maria says. “You’re smart. But you never really believed that, did you? You’ve been throwing up everything you’ve eaten, and I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen your teeth, too. And you’ve been lusting for human blood.”

“Oh,” I say as the lump in my throat grows harder. “So that’s what I was doing.”

“Yep.” Maria smiles. “That hunger? It’s not for food. What kind of human disease makes you so hungry you fantasise about ripping your best friend to shreds? What kind besides being a vampire?”


Maria stops and stares at me. Then, she laughs again. “Stop laughing,” I say, but she can’t stop. “No, stop laughing!”

Maria covers her mouth with her hand. “I—I—I’m so sorry,” she says. “Really. I’m so sorry. You’re right. This is serious. Dead serious.”

“You’re damn right it’s dead serious, Maria!” I burst out. “Why? Why the hell would you do this to me? Just—just… why?”

“What do you mean, why?”

“Why did you turn me into a vampire?” I practically shout, as she nervously looks over her shoulder.

She turns back. “Oh. Uh, well…”

“Oh, Maria, you’d better hope you’ve got a good reason.”

“Well, I’m sorry, Scotty. It was an accident.”

I splutter. “What do you mean, it was an accident? What kind of excuse is that?”

She falters. She’s lying- there must be another reason. She looks at me, and that look’s enough to make my blood run cold.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she says eventually. “That I’m sorry?”

“You’re not?” I try to stay angry, but I’m too confused. “Oh, Christ.” I cover my face with my hands. “This… this is a lot.”

“And I…” Maria says, scuffing the toe of her boot against the ground. “I just… I… thought it was what was best for you.”

“You thought it was good for me? How’s that a reason? How screwed up d’you have to be?”

She shrugs. “Pretty.”


We stare at each other for a couple of seconds.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “So, so, so sorry. My God, I am. But I wanted to… I wanted to… Scotty, you just seemed so… like you were in so much pain.”

I raise an eyebrow. “In pain?”

“Yeah. You’re an alcoholic, aren’t you?”

I wince at the word. Hurts ten times more coming from her mouth than Keith’s or Olivia’s. I consider denying it, but find myself nodding instead. “Yeah. How did you know?”

“You were always… drinking so much. You were always drunk. Always, Scotty. Day, night, midday, afternoon… always. It’s easy for me to tell things like this. Besides, enhanced sense of smell.”

I frown. “You dick.”

“And also Keith told me.”


“Keith told me, Scotty. About the bottles under your bed, about the throwing up, everything.” Maria stays quiet for a second as someone walks past us, and then continues. “Don’t look like that, please. Don’t be cross with him. He told me because he thought you might listen to me. You wouldn’t listen to him. Look, I know how hard it is. But I couldn’t bear the thought of that. Not for you. So I decided to… fix it.”

“Fix it.”


“You put on a fucking vampire cape and sucked out all my fucking blood.”


“Why the cape?”

“Oh, you know me.” Maria smirks nervously. “Theatrics.”

“I can’t drink now because of you. I can never, never drink again because of you.”

“Yeah!” She still looks proud of herself. I suppose she’s right, in a way- I’d never have stopped if it wasn’t for this. Never. But now I’m a vampire instead, which I’m pretty sure is worse than being an alcoholic. I want to wipe the irritating grin off her face, but can’t quite bring myself to raise a finger.



“If you had a reason… for doing this to me, then why did you spend so long lying to me and avoiding me?”

She looks up at me. “What do you mean?”

“Surely you should’ve been there when I woke up. To, like, explain shit. Rather than leaving me and then pretending it wasn’t you when I asked.”

She doesn’t answer for a long time. “I dunno what to tell you, Scotty. I guess I was afraid. Maybe it just… I dunno. Seemed like a good idea till I’d done it, and then I panicked. Seeing you covered in blood was fucking scary, you know. You can’t blame me.”

“Yes, I can. You’re the one who fucking bit me.”

“Point. But it still… made me… panic. I guess… when you came back… I don’t think I knew what to say to you. Or how to say it.”

“I nearly killed someone because I didn’t know what was happening to me, Maria.”

“I would’ve come to tell you eventually.”

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“Yes, probably.”

I think about how well she’s hidden being a vampire from me, despite being the worst liar I’ve ever met. I can’t help asking, “Do Sam and Greg know?”

She winces. Then, she nods. “Yeah.”

I sigh heavily, pressing my fist into my stomach again. I should’ve known it before. Maria isn’t the only vampire. I was the only normal one in her group of freaks, and now… I’m one of them too. Sam and Greg have been lying to me as well.

I sigh. “I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t believe a word of this.”

“Yes, I know. But I’ll shut that up where it stands,” Maria says. “Watch.”

She reaches into her mouth and hooks two fingers around her back teeth, pulling the gold, double semicircle of her braces away into her hand. I stare down at them, then up at her. She grins at me. She looks strange without them.

“Your braces are fake,” I say. “Is that it? I think I—”

“Nope.” She grins. “I have fake braces because of what I’m about to show you.”

She parts her lips slightly, closes her eyes, and presses her tongue to the roof of her mouth. Her face twists in concentration, her hands clench into fists, and my gut twists with silent, resigned horror as her teeth slide away. Instinctively, I glance over my shoulder to make sure we’re alone, and when I turn back, I look into her mouth. There they are: six rows of splintered fangs, just like mine.

“Holy shit,” I murmur, my voice trembling as I stare at them. There’re too many of them to fit in her mouth. They’re off-white, and mismatched shapes and sizes, ranging from about half an inch to an inch long. Somehow seeing them here, in broad daylight, in a university corridor, instead of a dark blurry black and red bathroom mirror, is ten times more terrifying. Or perhaps it’s seeing them on her.

“I know, ‘ight?” Maria smiles a little, flicking her tongue across one fang. As my eyes grow wider, they disappear, sucked back into her gums, and her teeth slide back. She replaces her braces and grins wider. “It’s a bit bloody obvious, right? And stupidly difficult to talk. I think that’s why they evolved… is evolved the right word? Anyway, I think that’s why they’re retractable. Nature looking out for us bloodthirsty maniacs, letting us blend in with the normal folk, long as they don’t catch sight of the hideous mess that’s befallen our gums. That’s what the braces are for—to distract from my gums—but it’s only because I smile so much. You can get by without them, pass for being human perfectly well, ‘cos you’re not much of a smiler. I dunno how Dracula and all those fictional vampires with their teeth out all the time went unnoticed for so long. Guess they never smiled. Or laughed. What a miserable life, right?”

I nod, slowly, feeling like a moron with my eyes wider than saucers and my mouth hanging open like my jaw’s stopped working. “Uh…huh.”

“Anyway, that’s what happened to you last night, isn’t it?” Maria says. “You had your teeth come through?”

“Yeah,” I say softly. “I saw them.”

“Bloody hurts, right? It’s kinda hard to learn how to make ‘em come out slow.” She waves her hands. “At first they only show up when you get desperately hungry. Like, ready to hunt.”

“To hunt?” I frown, remembering Keith. How the sound of him next door last night drove my hunger past the point of no return.

“Mm. Keith?” Maria’s mouth twitches into a nervous smile. “If you had your teeth out, he’s bloody lucky to be alive.”

I shake my head, my face crumpling again as the sobs crawl over one another in my throat. “Oh, my God.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t…” She sighs, then titters nervously. “I didn’t realise how quickly it’d work.”

“Oh, is that right?” I say softly. “I can’t believe… I almost killed someone… be—because of you! You betrayed me. You turned my entire life upside-down, you betrayed my trust… but you’re sorry. That’s just… wonderful. That is.”

“Are you angry?” Maria says softly. I stare at her like she’s stupid. Then, I realise something.

“I should be.” I tell the ground.

She breathes in. “But you…”

I shake my head, my face crumpling.

“Look, look,” she says, putting her hand on my arm. “I’ll fix this, I promise, Scotty.”

I don’t tear my arm away, like I should. As I look up at her, I remember the creature from my nightmare. Gorging itself stupid on me. It was her. But when I look at her, I still can’t see it.

“You’re a monster,” I say.

She laughs. “Don’t even make me guess how many times I’ve heard that before. You’re right. But I’m not going to hurt you anymore, Scotty.”

My eyes sting and I bite back another sob. “You… have hurt me. You have hurt me, Maria. How… how could you?”

She says nothing.

“How fucking could you?”

“It’s okay. We can mend it.”

“What do you mean, we can mend it? How can you reverse a fucking vampire?”

“You can’t,” she says, and my heart sinks. “Or if you can, I don’t know how. But I do know how to make one.” I look up at her, confused. “We can stop you hurting. Look, I need to explain something to you first. You’re not fully a vampire yet, Scotty. You’re what we call a daywalker.”

I frown, recognising the phrase. “A daywalker?”

“Yes. A half-vampire.”

“I heard a daywalker was a ginger person who doesn’t burn in sunlight.”

“Nope.” She sniggers. “It’s a vampire who doesn’t burn in sunlight. But also can’t eat, or really function at all. A half-breed. Someone who’s been half-turned. When I, uh… bit you, in the alleyway? It didn’t work properly.”

I narrow my eyes at her. “What do you mean, it didn’t work?”

“It didn’t work. To make a vampire, you have to bite them, drink all their blood…” She picks over her words slowly. “And have them drink some of yours. There’s a whole ritual to it. I thought we’d be left alone to do it, properly… but someone saw us. I heard him coming and I panicked and left.”

“It was Jason.”

She grits her teeth. “Yeah, I know.”

“Why’d you leave me behind?”

“Because, Scotty, how would it look if some random student came across me, with a mouthful of blood, dragging you around, when you were so covered in the stuff you looked like a murder victim? What then?”

“Then you’d get arrested for turning me into a vampire, you crazy fucking lunatic!” I say. “I was a murder victim! It was exactly what it looked like and you deserved it!”

“And you’d have been left half-done, half-formed, and sick forever,” Maria said. “You’re half a vampire. You’re dead, but you still have all the disadvantages of being alive. The hunger hurts you, and makes you sick. Doesn’t it? If you let me, Scotty, I can fix it.”

I swallow. “By turning me into a vampire.”


I consider the proposal for a few seconds. Then, I rub my face. “Okay.”

She raises one eyebrow. “That was easier than I thought it’d be.”

“I just hurt, Maria!” I say, clenching my stomach. “I just need it to stop. Please. Whatever the hell you’re gonna do, just make it stop. Please. I can’t go on like this.”

I can trust her, can’t I? She’s been my friend for this long. She wouldn’t hurt me on purpose. She was trying to help me.

“So…” I say softly. She looks up at me. “If you turn me into a vampire… properly…”

She breathes in. “Mm?”

“Will I be, like… Will I need to drink… blood? To survive?”

She stares at me, one eyebrow raised. “Seriously, Scotty? I thought you were smart.”

“Guess you were wrong.”

“Yes, you’ll need to drink blood if you don’t want to starve,” she says. “But you’re—you’re starving right now, anyway. As of when I bit you, you no longer had a choice.”

I wince in pain again. “Great. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I was being sarcastic, God damn you!”

“Yes, I know. But if it makes you feel any better, I have to tell you, being a vampire can be pretty… pretty cool! You heal from anything, you get to live forever… there’s no downside apart from the whole sunlight thing.”

“And the fact I’m gonna have to live off blood, for Christ’s sake!” I burst out. “How d’you even do that? How d’you survive on blood without killing humans? I guess you hunt animals. Right? Buy blood from the goddamn supermarket? D’you have to show the cashier a special card? You rob… blood banks? How?”

She snorts with laughter. “What… what kind of…” She looks up, realising I’m not laughing with her. “What kind of vampire books’ve you been reading?”

“How do you get by without killing people?” I repeat.

She sighs. “We don’t.”

I go to laugh, then stop. She’s not joking. My insides freeze up.

“But don’t worry!” she says brightly. “Nobody’s going to die when we fix you tonight.”

I stare at her. She grins, but I don’t return the smile.

“To… tonight?” I say shakily. That soon? Maybe I need to think about this. Weigh up the options: Eternal youth or eternal stomachache? Wow. When it’s put like that it’s pretty damn easy.

“Yes, tonight,” Maria says.


“Like normal. At the playground.”

I sigh, overwhelmed. My friends are vampires. My best friend drank all my blood, and tonight, she’s going to turn me all the way. All this time, the three people who cared about me the most in the world have been lying to me. They kill people.

“And you promise nobody’s gonna die?” I say.

“Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to make you eat anyone.”

“That didn’t answer my question.”

She looks up at me with a guilty smirk. “I know.”

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