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. My mind’s blurry with hunger. I can’t hear what either voice is saying, but two things hit me as I listen, terrified: One, the person at the door isn’t Frank, and two, Maria’s shouting back.

“Hey, calm down!” she says.

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

“There’s no need for that.”

Where is he? Tell me where he is right now.

I murmur, “Oh, my God,” as I get to my feet.

I run into the hallway, only hearing Maria say, “I’m telling you, he’s not here,” once I’ve skidded 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 at the sight of 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 sneers at Maria, whose face remains blank. “I just followed the smell of skank.”

“No, but actually. How did you actually find us?” I say. “Who told you?”

“Does it matter?”

“Or did you… you didn’t follow me here, did you? God, Olivia, get out!”

“Don’t worry. I’m not here to start a bitch fight.” This time, when Olivia glares at Maria, Maria growls at the back of her throat. When I step between them, 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.

“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 an inconvenience to Maria, in the hopes Maria will 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 constricts my muscles.

You,” Maria says quietly, stepping forwards with one finger pointed at Olivia. “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. I won’t ask you again. I’ll force you to leave.”

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 mine,” Olivia says, looking from her to me. “You can’t fucking leave me, but 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, Scotty.”

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

“Shut up, you fat stupid slut.”

“Oh my God. 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 enough times; I will not warn you again.”

Olivia pouts up at us, her eyes narrowed to slits. “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 yells, slamming the door so hard the cutlery in the drawers rattles. 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 frown at her. “And how’d you recognise one of those, I wonder?”

“Scotty, come on,” Maria says quietly, the anger leaking out of her as she squeezes her temples. Her eyes betray how hungry she is. The sight reminds me of my own hunger. Olivia’s gone, but it’s still bubbling up inside me. I can’t hold it back like she can, and the anger’s making it worse. Frank’s gone mad, Olivia’s gone mad, and I’m the cause of it all. Wherever I go, I cause problems. Who was I kidding? This isn’t a fresh start. I’ll never be free to start again.

“I…” I say softly. “I’m so sorry. For the things she said to you. I’m so sorry she thinks we’re… more than friends, too. Especially now, with Frank… it’s so fucking stupid. I should’ve told her to stop, properly. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Scotty.”

“But I’m ruining your life if I stay here. I’ll just go.”

“No,” Maria says. “I care about you, and you shouldn’t have to leave.”

“But… but she said—”

“I don’t give a shit what Olivia 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. Stop willingly paying for other people’s mistakes. 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 unless she carries on being a problem, I won’t. If she does, we’ll have no choice.”

I stare at her, my lip quivering. I’m so goddamn angry I could’ve hurt Olivia myself. I swear it’s not my fault; I swear it’s the hunger, the change in my body. I swear I’m already ten times worse than I was yesterday.

“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, my voice bleary with tears. “I need to be alone.”

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 my nose feels close to breaking. 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 a scream of rage that turns into a hysterical sob. I pull the backpack away from my face. I clench my fists and 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 promised myself.

She deserves it.

Nobody deserves to die. Nobody.

Slowly, I start to feel calm again. Maybe I’ve just run out of energy. I sit still, trying to breathe. Even though I don’t need to. Even though the breaths wrestle with my throat till I spit them back out.

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

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

“It’s a lot. At first. I’m so sorry.”

I sigh. “It’s not your fault, Maria. It’s not your fault I’m worse than everyone else. In every way.”

There’s a long silence. Nervously, she puts her hand on mine. Then, my phone pings; 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!” Gordon bellows.

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

“Thanks,” I tell him. “Say hi to Mum.” Then, on instinct, I hang up.

“Oh, my God,” Maria says quietly. 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 are 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 idiotic and deluded if they can’t see how much you’re worth, and you’re deluded too if you believe a word they say about you. You deserve better than this. Okay?”

I look at her, and say nothing. Then, a smile prods my lips as I remember something.

“Hang on,” I say, pulling my backpack onto my lap and starting to rummage through it. “It’s Friday, right?”

She looks at me in surprise. “Um, yes. Why?”

“I’ve got something for you.”

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

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

“It’s for you,” I say, smiling weakly. “I guess it helps my case against my parents. Maybe I’m not quite the asshole they think I am.”

She looks at me strangely, then down in shock at the little flowerpot as I 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?”

She shakes her head. “No, but—”

“It is your birthday today? Good. I thought, y’know… when I came to your home after that sob story exchange, I was sort of expecting purple flowers everywhere, because of what you said. 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 pansies from me. She looks up at me, her eyes wide.

“You… you bought these for…”

“Yeah. Is it kinda stupid? Cos 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 thinking you deserve to be miserable, or anything.”

She nods, wide-eyed.

“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. 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; I want to make her happy. I want her to know I don’t resent her for what she did. “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 the value of it’s not the point. I tell the truth. “By… being yourself, Maria. You know you’re still the best friend I’ve had.” I smirk. “With or without the bloodsucking and murdering. I’m clinging to the fact the intention was good.”

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. In my mind, there aren’t a lot of rules in place for what’s okay and what’s not. I guess my reaction to Izzy, and Emma… it was pretty fucked up. Must’ve given you a clue my head’s not on quite right. 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. I’m with you.”

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. I don’t just need the blood; I want it. I want it. I can use needing it as an excuse. “We need to do what we need to do to survive. And if that involves, uh… a death once every two months or whatever, we’ve gotta get on with it. I understand that now.”

She looks at me. When she speaks, her voice is choked up, lower than usual, and soulless. “I need to tell you something.”

My veins fill with ice. At least, they feel as though they do. I suppose since I’ve got no blood flow, I must just be imagining all these sensations.

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, afraid again.

“What?” I say.

“I, uh… I lied to you.” Maria’s voice deepens even more. 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. I don’t have time for her emotions anymore. “We don’t need to drink blood to survive.”

I stare at her.

“Oh, yeah,” 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. We’re immortal, Scotty. We’re undead. We don’t need anything at all to survive. Nothing at all.”

“That…” I can’t cough my words out. “That can’t be right. You’re joking, right? What do you mean, you don’t need blood to survive?”

“I mean just that. 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 looks up again. “Longing. Your body’s hardwired to want it with every cell, because now it’s dead, it’s got nothing else to want. Yeah, you crave the blood, and when you resist it, you go crazy. And you crave it more than anyone, of course. But as much as you might want to convince yourself, you don’t need it.”

“So… so you’re saying it’s… what?” I say. “If you don’t need it, what is it?”

“Something that tastes awesome.”

I glare at her.

“An addiction,” she says softly, and then sobs when she sees my face. “I’m addicted! Blood’s not food at all. It’s just a drug, and I’ve been addicted to it for a hundred and eighty years. You get hooked after one hit, it’s so fucking incredible. And I had… when I first became a vampire, God, I had far too much of it. 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. I deteriorate like lightning. Only let myself go out now when I’m about to pop with the desperation, because if I indulged it whenever I was hungry for it, there’d be nobody left in Aberdeen. You know…” She looks up at me, choked with frustration. “You know how often I have to kill someone and devour them now, just to keep myself sane?”

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. She’s trying to frighten me. 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 week. Sometimes more.”

“I—I don’t understand,” I say softly.

“It’s right as bloody rain.”

“But you’ve only been killing people, like… once every couple of months 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 drags over her tongue.

“The truth’s never been my style,” she says. Oh, God—the longing in her eyes. The want. The need. I feel it. 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 no inhuman creature, forced to drink blood by nature; she’s just a junkie who can’t stop. She’s like me. But even though it’s part of my biology now, and even though I was hardwired to long for anything and everything before I even turned, I’m not addicted yet.

I don’t think.

“I…” I say. “Can—can you… is it… possible to quit? To resist it? If I resist it long enough, is there a chance I could come out the other side?”

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

“I can’t,” she whispers.

“Yes, but could I?”

Slowly, she nods. “Perhaps.”

My mind’s made up.

“It’ll hurt,” she says. “It’ll hurt, Scotty- I’ve tried it. You can’t do that to yourself.”

“I’m going to fight this. I’m going to quit, Maria. I can’t end up like you.”

“Huh,” she says after a pause, pressing her mouth. “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 laughs sadly. “Somewhere you won’t be able to claw your way out of.”

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