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

13. Rogue

Hi Scotty! :) I'm not going to be at the playground tonight. I’ve got some crap to get done. Don’t worry, it’s nothing nefarious. Do come back here after it’s over. I think Tricky and Bounce miss you. Maria ;)

I don’t know why I stayed there last night; I could have left the moment Maria and Frank went upstairs. I didn’t sleep. I stared up at the ceiling, thinking, and then tried to get some work done, but it became a little hard to focus after the noises began upstairs. There was definitely some sort of apology going on up there. A very loud apology. Luckily, the thunder drowned most of it out.

I force my smile flat as I put my phone away, kicking away from the tarmac to swing. It looks like I’ll be alone for a while longer. It’s possible Sam won’t show up at all.

I was in the middle of another lecture—one I was actually paying attention to, for once—when something started happening in my head. There was no pain or growling in my stomach—only a light muttering and dull sort of pressure at the back of my skull—but somehow, I instantly knew I was hungry, and the realisation froze my blood. The hunger was heavier in my head before the lecture was over. A twitch began in one of my fingers that’s now in four. I watch it as I sit swinging back and forth. How long do I dare hold on before I have to eat again? Oh, if only I could drink some whisky. That’d solve it. That muttering in my head’s shrill and rasped, and where a few hours ago there was only one voice there are now three, four, trying to talk over each other. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I recognise the urges they’re planting in my muscles. My mind’s red again and my fingers itch like mad and my mouth sparks every time somebody walks past. I never asked Maria how often she and Frank kill by the river, but the number of disappearances tells me it’s no more often than once every couple of months. God, I’m hungry. I need to figure out a sensible way to eat, and fast.

Sam and Greg show up together, after another thirty minutes of waiting. Greg’s greeting makes me jump.

“Hey, Scotty!”

“Oh. Hi.”

“Is, uh… Is Maria coming?” Greg look around, like he’s expecting Maria to drop down from the sky.

“Nah. She… told me she was busy.”

“Ooh.” Greg raises an eyebrow. “Mysterious.”

I laugh slightly. “Yeah.”

“I’m glad you two are still friends.”

“Yeah.”

“You still just friends?”

I jerk my head up. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“It was all a misunderstanding, Greg. Honest.”

“Okay.”

I don’t like lying to him. I turn to Sam, who’s already dumped himself down on the bench. “You feeling better, man?”

He looks up at me. “Oh, uh… Oh yeah. Yeah. I just overdid it a bit, that’s all.” He cracks his can of beer open and Greg and I glance at each other.

“Right.”

Greg clears his throat. “So is she—”

“Sam,” I say. “Don’t drink that.”

Sam looks up at me. “Huh?”

“Seriously, if you’ve been passing out, don’t drink it.” I clear my throat, unsure where this is coming from. I guess I see myself in him, now the urge to drink is clammily creeping back over me.

“What?” Sam says. “I’m okay. I’m not, like, addicted or anything. Seriously, stop.”

“Sam,” Greg says, glancing up at me. “You should listen to him.”

“I’m not, Greg!”

“You drink way too much. You don’t do it for fun anymore, do you?”

“Leave me alone,” he sulks, but stares at the can like it’s going to grow teeth and bite him. He doesn’t drink.

“We’re not gonna leave you alone, you mug.” Greg sits next to Sam on the bench. “We’re the only friends you’ve got.”

“Well, that was mean.”

Greg laughs. “Yeah, well, you’re mean to me. So.”

“I don’t…” I interrupt them. “I don’t wanna come off like some wanky expert here, but I am sort of an expert with the whole alcohol thing, Sam. And I do know you never know you’re an alcoholic till it’s too late to stop. And if you’re denying you’re one, that’s a bad sign. A really bad sign.”

Sam looks up at me, his eyes wide. “Scotty, you—”

“No. I’ve been addicted since I was thirteen. Or, I was,” I say. “I’m trying to stop. It’s hell. Trust me, man. It’s not something you want—to get even half as hooked as I am. You have to stop, now. It’ll hurt to stop now, but not as much as the addiction. And it’ll only get harder. And it’ll kill you eventually.”

I guess it’s kind of hypocritical to say I’m getting clean. I’m not. I’m exchanging one addiction for another. Still, the sudden scrutiny seems to be working. Sam hangs the can between his knees and raises his head. Greg puts his hand on his arm.

“I don’t know what it is,” Sam says softly. “I just… I started drinking when I got here, to be all rebellious against my parents.”

“Yeah, I get it,” I say.

“They’re so posh they can barely function. And now I can barely function. I keep throwing up. And it hurts, so much. So I drink more to—”

“Fix it.” I finish. “And then—”

“And now I need more of it to even get slightly drunk,” he says, looking up at me. “Yeah.”

I run my hand through my hair. This is the first time in a long while I’ve made a conscious effort to help someone, and it feels good. Maybe I should start doing it more often. “Listen. I’m not here to lecture you, Sam. But honest to God, I…” I sigh. “It’s cheesy, and I know everyone hates having to admit something’s wrong with them, but there’s no magic cure.”

It’s funny. I never admitted I had a problem, but I’m okay now, if the violent hunger digging its claws into my brain is discounted. I honestly can’t tell whether I’m itching for blood or itching for whisky. Does it matter? The fact remains if I hadn’t been an alcoholic, I’d never have been trapped at that party with Maria. It’s only been a week since I turned and I’m already hurting; Frank and Maria, meanwhile, are fine with only killing once every couple of months. Maybe there’s a trick to controlling it.

“That…” Sam looks down at his can. “That’s what everyone says.”

“Yeah, it is, and it’s what every gimmicky quitting club my parents forced me into said, too, but I swear it’s true.”

“Sam, he’s right,” Greg says. “Give it to me.”

Sam stares at him, holding the can to his chest like it’s his child. I see myself again, clutching that bottle of whisky in the corner of my room, on my bed, against the door, on the bathroom floor. I see myself drinking in every part of London—in my bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen when my parents were out. In the streets, at my friends’ houses, at work parties and school parties and house parties. In the toilets at school, and even in class, from opaque bottles and flasks I told everyone contained coffee, even though I can’t stand coffee and they must’ve been able to smell it in my bag, on my books, my clothes, my breath. Most of all, though, in Sam, I see myself at the start, before it took me over heart and soul. When I still had a chance. A chance I didn’t take.

“Sam, please give it to him.” I plead.

Greg clears his throat. “Sam.”

“What? No. I’m fine. This is my money, Greg. Okay, look. I’ll put it down, okay? For him.” Sam jerks his hand at me, and a stab of pride runs through me as he sets the can on the ground. “I’m still drinking it,” he says, looking sullenly from me to Greg. “Later. Anyway, I gotta tell you something. Guess how long it took after painting it for my sculpture to get broken.”

We talk for an hour or so about nothing at all, punctuated by long periods of silence, as usual. We can normally sustain a conversation for hours and hours, but Maria’s not here tonight. She’s probably finishing her artwork—according to Sam, their deadline’s in two days. He tells us everyone in the art group thinks Maria’s a genius, and I laugh as I remember her all-white canvas. As it starts to rain again, and Sam and Greg get up to go home, I start to wish I had somewhere to go. Then, I remember I do. I’m nervous to see Frank again—I’m positive now he can’t stand me, even though I can’t quite pinpoint why. I don’t want to intrude on them, but Maria did say I was welcome. In fact… I check my texts again. Do come back here after it’s over. She actually kind of ordered me to come over, didn’t she? And she’s a bloodsucking monster. Not exactly the kind of girl it’s safe to disobey.

I smile guiltily as I stand up, punching out another text. Hey, the rain. Is it ok if I come round? Wont if ur 2 busy.

The reply is almost instant: Yes! I missed you. Get your ass over here. Maria ;)

I smile. She missed me.

I remember the way, easily. As I walk, I tune back into the mumbling of the hunger. It’s thunder on the horizon of my mind—low, rumbling, distant, but getting closer. Soon, it’ll crash over me. Every jar of my foot against the pavement shoots insistent yelps up through my body. It doesn’t hurt, as it did before I turned, but both my hands are twitching and my thoughts are jerking like puppets on strings.

Awkwardly, I knock on the red door, listening as the dogs start to yap. I’m relieved to find I haven’t got a nosebleed. I guess texting counts as an invite.

“Come IN!” Maria yells over the loud booming of the radio.

I open the door, and I’m instantly greeted by the two dogs, who scamper towards me to jump at my heels. I smile and make my way down the hallway towards the deafening music. There’s a trashy pop song playing, and Maria’s singing along, completely out of tune, as usual. I walk into the kitchen. She’s washing dishes at the sink, alone.

“Hey!” she says, grinning.

I smile back. “Hi.”

“Told you the dogs like you,” she chuckles. “They don’t like Frank.”

I feel a stab of smugness. “Oh.”

“How are you doing?”

“Good, thanks. You?”

“I’m great!” She jerks her hips in time with the music, scrubbing more profusely under the dark brown frothy water.

“Is Frank here?” I ask her.

“Nope. He’s out.”

“Oh.” Awkwardly, I lean against the counter and look down.

“How’re the guys?”

“Yeah, they’re, uh… not bad. Sam’s back.”

She looks up. “Is he okay?”

“Uh…” I lie. “Yeah.”

Despite her manic singing and dancing, Maria seems tired. She rubs her forehead, leaving a smear of brownish bubbles. Then, she shakes her head and looks at me, noticing my fidgeting.

“Hey. You hungry?”

I look at her. There’s no point in lying to her—I can tell she’s hungry too. “Yeah.”

“That was fast. I’m sorry. It’s weird the first time, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I, uh… can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Do you think it’s possible that I, uh… I’m getting hungry so quickly because I was an… alcoholic? Or is it possible for me to still be addicted to alcohol… for my body to still feel like it needs it, even though it’s so different? Or am I just addicted to blood already by default?”

She looks up at me. “Oh. Um. Well, honestly? I’m not sure. But I have to admit, when Frank turned… he didn’t really get hungry at all for nearly a month. So, maybe. Maybe you’re going to deteriorate faster after every drink, because you were an addict.”

“Oh,” I say. “Great.”

“Or maybe it’s to do with your size.”

“My size?”

“Yeah. He’s built like a tank and you’re, like… not.”

I chuckle. “True.”

“But either way, Scotty… it looks like as far as vampires go, you’re a lightweight.”

I shudder. “Oh, no.”

“Don’t worry.”

“I’m going to worry whether you like it or not.”

She pulls her hands from the sink, wipes them dry on her skirt, and then comes to stand on the other side of the counter. I keep my eyes down, but feel hers on me. Then, we both look up at the window as a rumble of wind lashes rain against the glass.

“You better not be thinking about leaving,” she says to me.

I look from the rain to her, and my resolve wavers. “Nah. I’d rather not. If… if that’s okay.”

“Course it is! Okay, this is your home now. So make yourself at… it.” She grins. “Go wherever you want. You can watch TV, or… do whatever. Read your books again.”

“Alright.” I turn to take my stuff into the living-room. Two steps into the corridor, though, I stop for a minute. “Where is Frank?” I ask.

Horrible images fill my head. They don’t feel horrible, according to my hunger, which starts mumbling louder, but they are.

“Oh, he’s just on a wander. He does it a lot.”

“In the pouring rain?”

She blinks. “Yep.”

“Okay.” I heft my backpack and leave the room. The dogs start to follow me till Maria indignantly calls them back.

I sit in that room for a while, reading my play again, but the noise Maria’s making renders focusing impossible. I’m pretty sure she’s turned the radio up even louder since I left the room and she’s still singing—shouting, even. I stuff my play back into my bag and try to think back on what I just read, but end up staring blankly at the wall instead. I don’t want to be left alone with the hunger, so eventually, I tug myself up and go back into the kitchen. As I walk through the doorway, Maria lets loose a particularly jerky high note that makes me snort with laughter. She turns to me as the song ends.

“Hey, how dare you? I’m an artist.”

I shrug. “Well, I guess everyone’s an artist nowadays.”

She bursts out laughing. “How could you—”

“Wait.” I hold my hand up, my chest freezing solid at the first news story on the radio. “Listen.”

Maria stops to listen to the report.

“-outside a nightclub in Aberdeen. The area has been evacuated and the suspect, or suspects, are still at large. The attack had eight total victims and police are appealing for more witnesses. Scotland Yard issued a statement—”

We stare at one another. I try to speak, but can’t.

Then, Maria gasps as the next news story begins. “Scotty, they—”

“Be quiet,” I say, on instinct. We keep staring at one another; her eyes are wide and her mouth’s hanging open.

Eight people. Were murdered,” I say. “Maria. Eight of them. Who could have… who would…”

“Maybe it’s unrelated,” she says, her voice shaking slightly. “It could just be—”

“No. They said they were all killed with a single stab to the throat, Maria.”

“When… when’d they say that?”

“Before you shut UP!” I say, clenching my fist. “Maria, they said it was breaking news. It just happened. It was Frank, wasn’t it?”

“No,” she says. “Frank would… he would never…”

“He would, and you know it. He’s a sadist.”

I freeze as I remember last night’s conversation. What Maria said to him. And what he said to her.

“But…” Maria says softly. “But I know him.”

“Yeah, so you know he’s a sadist! Remember that argument we had last night?” I say, my voice softening with fear. “He said he was sick of playing by your rules. That he’d kill whoever he wanted.

Maria presses her mouth into a thin line. “I guess. But he’d… he’d never leave me.”

“How do you know?” I say before I can stop myself. She looks down at her feet. “He’d kill anyone he felt like. Anyone. What the hell do we do when he gets back? I have to leave. He hates me. He—he’ll be insane. Maria, he’ll kill me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

I’m not the one who’s being ridiculous!”

I feel sick. Maria plants her hands on her hips and looks down at the ground as the radio continues to blast, this time with adverts. I walk over to it and fiddle with buttons till I finally manage to switch it off.

Silence floods into the kitchen, but I turn back to Maria and break it. “Oh, God, he’s after me, Maria, but what about her? What about Olivia?”

She stares up at me. “What do you mean, what about Olivia?”

“He said he was going to pick on her!”

“What reason would he have?”

“Does he need a fucking reason, Maria? He hates me, doesn’t he?”

She doesn’t reply.

“And he’d kill her to prove a point to me, wouldn’t he?”

She still says nothing.

“Maria, we need to find her. He’s gonna… He’s gonna…”

“Scotty, calm down!” Maria says. I look at her. “Calm down and think. Frank doesn’t know Olivia, does he? He doesn’t know anything about her at all. How could he possibly find her, even if he did want to?”

My heart sinks. She’s right. Frank didn’t even know who Olivia was till we told him last night. And even then, we only told him her name.

“What if…” I say feebly. “He finds her? He could ask around. It wouldn’t take him long to…”

“He won’t,” Maria says. “Scotty, he’s long gone. He’s not coming back.”

I look up at her, surprised by the change in her voice. “What?”

“He’s not coming back. Frank’s not coming back,” she says, looking up at me. “He—he’d never do this to—to me unless he’d decided…”

She trails off.

“You had a fight last night, didn’t you?” I ask. She looks up at me, biting her lip. “I heard it.”

“I thought we made up.”

“I know. I heard that too.”

Nervously, she laughs. “I—I—I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” I look out as the rain grows harder. “You’re… sure he’s not coming back?”

“Positive,” Maria says. “I am. I’m positive. I couldn’t get him to come back now. I couldn’t. If—if it was him.”

“It was,” I say, “and you know it. I…” I look wildly over at the front door, terrified I can hear footsteps coming up the path, but it’s just the rain.

“Frank, what have you done?” Maria murmurs. I look back at her. She sounds close to tears. “Oh, God, Frank, what have you done? Why would you do this to me? You’re gonna bring the police right to our fucking door!”

Fear stabs me. What if I’m arrested for murder? I’m an accessory at best. My life, over.

“I should leave,” I say. “In… in case he comes back.”

Maria sobs. “He’s—he’s gone, Scotty! Anyway, I—I’d never take him back now. After what he’s done. I We kill. We kill all the time. But—but killing so much, and so wastefully, just to prove a point… That’s something he knows I’d never accept. He’s not coming back.” She looks up at me, her eyes full of misery. “He’s gone rogue. And he’d better hope he leads the police far away from us.”

We wait, and eventually, I throw up my hands in frustration and go back into the living-room. She soon joins me with the dogs. We sit together on the sofa for hours, rigid with fear, but nobody comes for us. Not Frank, not the police. My thoughts turn from fear for Olivia to fear for myself, and then, as the hours wear on, I start to calm down. Eventually, Maria goes upstairs to bed, leaving me on the sofa. I think she locked the doors.

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