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

21. Victim

The stares start on the train journey to King’s Cross, thanks to the argument I start with the ticket collector over losing my ticket. They continue as we draw closer to London, because the moment we start weaving in and out of tunnels, clicking the daylight on and off outside the windows and tightening the pressure in my head till my ears pop, the guy opposite me pulls half the fucking food cart out of his backpack and starts to eat it as slowly as humanly possible, tearing pieces off and shoving them into his bulging cheeks like a rodent. It smells disgusting, and my tetchiness gets worse and worse till I finally jump up and trip over half a million bags to get out of my seat. As I stand at the far end of the carriage, hands in my hoodie pockets, inhaling the smoke and watching the countryside whip past in a watercolour green-and-grey striped blur, I try to tell myself I’m sick with anxiety for the funeral. But I know the truth. It’s because the urges are playing tricks on my mind again. I’m pressed into a tight narrow carriage with too many other people and their sweat and their chatter and their bodies and their bloody smells. Nowhere I can turn can calm me down. And being so close to somebody eating, even though there’s nobody on this entire cross-country train eating anything I want to eat (obviously), makes me crazy. The sound of chewing. The tiny cut on the forefinger of the girl who comes to sit in the windowsill opposite me with her earbuds in, leaking old brown blood through its bright blue plaster. The weak aching in my gums and the way I’ve taken to absent-mindedly licking the ragged mess in my gums, thanks to Maria. Tasting the old blood in my mouth, remembering the high by the river, when I was emptier, colder, freer, more innocent. The chewing. The chewing. The chewing.

The train arrives nearly an hour later than expected and my heart sinks when I realise the sun’s already up. A thousand people see me, in my perfectly clean clothes, sitting down and curling up with my head on my knees at the exit of the station like a beggar. The sunlight licks the window behind me, drooling onto my back.

I have to get used to this before the funeral tomorrow. If my fears are right, tomorrow, everyone’s eyes will be on me. I sit in the archway of the train station for four hours, but eventually I get bored and spend the rest of the day wandering round the shops in pointless, pointless circles. I spend the last scrapings of my money on a yellow rubber nametag keyring for Maria. It says Mildred. I think I’m funny. Then, as soon as the sun goes down I text my Mum, apologising for the delay, and head down to the underground to go home.

Home? Is it my home?

As it turns out, no. At least, vampire lore says no. The second I get there, the pressure in my head starts to build up, making my eyelids flutter. My nose has started leaking by the time Mum answers the door. She stares at me like I’m a postman here to deliver a parcel, like the words what do you want? are frozen in her mouth. I want to beg her to hug me, to tell me she’s sorry for my loss, to treat me like her son, but I’m not really her son anymore.

I haven’t seen her in two years. She still looks the same, but I’m a sight thinner, a little taller, and my hair’s ten inches longer. The first thing she says is: “Take your shoes off; there’s new lino.”

“Where’s Gordon?” I ask as I lean against the counter to untie my trainer laces.

“He’s in the living-room.” Mum folds her arms. Then, realising she’s got another chance to wipe the lofty look from my face, she turns and yells: “Gordon!”

“What?” My stomach flips as Gordon’s voice bellows from the other room, over the blaring of the TV. Then, it switches off.

“Scott’s here.” Mum looks back at me as heavy footsteps punch the tiles.

Gordon appears, wearing his ridiculously small reading glasses. He looks me up and down. “Bloody hell, you’ve gotten lankier,” he says. “Close the door; you’re letting a draught in.”

I laugh softly as I turn to close the door. When I look back at them, they’re both staring at me.

I clear my throat and stop laughing. “Sorry.”

My confidence is leaking away. I want to blame what happened on the train, but it’s because, despite everything that happened to me in Maria’s house, this is my true house of Hell. To me, Hell smells of charity-shop furniture and candy—flavoured air-fresheners.

“You can put your stuff upstairs.” Mum turns her back on me. Gordon narrows his eyes as I open my mouth to speak.

“Okay,” I say, picking up my suitcase. “I’ll probably stay up there. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah,” Mum says. “Be down at eight.”

“Will be. I—”

“Wait.” Gordon interrupts me. “Shanice, there’s something… smile again.”

Mum stares at him, but I realise with a cold pang in my gut that he’s talking to me.

“What?” I say.

“Yeah, you, boy. Open your mouth again.”

I freeze.

“What?”

“Open your mouth, damn it!” Gordon yells. I jump. “Shanice, look at his…”

“Oh my God!” My Mum grabs my face with one hand. “Oh, God, Scott! For God’s sake, what the hell happened to you? Gordon, look. Open your mouth properly!

“I know.”

“Doesn’t it look awful?”

“Meh. He always had an ugly mug.” Trying to wriggle my face out of my Mum’s hand, I glare at Gordon as he says, “Scott, answer your mother.”

“What happened?” Mum repeats.

“Nothing.”

Gordon finds this answer hilarious. “Oh,” he says, leering. “We all know what that means. Don’t we?”

I try not to breathe a sigh of relief. He thinks I got into an accident drunk. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it would’ve had to be the weirdest accident in the world, to mangle my gums and leave the rest intact.

“I don’t know how,” Mum says, shaking her head. She’s talking to Gordon, not me. “I don’t know how it happened.”

“Me neither, sweetheart.”

“How you could’ve raised a son like me?” I say. “Yeah, I was surprised too.”

“I don’t understand why you drink so much, Scott.” My Mum says. “You shovel that stuff in your face like it’s candy.”

“I don’t do it because I like the taste!” I burst out, livid. I force myself to calm down. “I’m going up to my room.”

Mum yells after me. “Eight tomorrow!”

“Yeah!” Gordon echoes.

I don’t reply. I clatter up the stairs, cross the hallway, and push open the door that still has Scott’s Room spelt in yellow wooden letters on the door. They’ve been there since I was three. Why didn’t I ever tear them down? Why didn’t Mum tear them down after I moved out? I’m surprised any of my bedroom remains at all. I dump my suitcase onto my bed. Why am I shaking? It’s not anger, that’s for sure.

I can’t believe this tiny room used to be the only place I felt safe. It stinks of alcohol, but only under the cocktail of synthetic fruit disinfectants Mum’s covered the furniture in. I’ve got no reflection in the old porthole mirror that used to show me myself at my worst—after hours of no sleep, after hours of drinking with my wonky mouth and mismatched eyes, before hours of drinking with my purple eye-bags and yellow cheeks and manic expression. Broken glass sticking out of me. The time I cut my own hair. The time I cut my own arms. Everything. Everything of the boy who used to live here is gone. He used to live in silent fear of those two sadistic idiots downstairs. He’s the Scott whose name’s on the door. Not me. I’m Scotty. I’m dead. I’m a bloodsucker, or was. I’m not an alkie. I’m a junkie. Or was. I’m not a quitter; I went cold turkey on the worst drug in the world and I won. I’m the boy who killed his girlfriend. I’m the boy who loves Maria McCammon. I’m Maria McCammon’s love.

There’s nothing left for me here—this bedroom’s tainted. Tainted by the memory of all the times I laid on this bed or this floor or sat at this desk or this windowsill, drinking myself blurry. The bathroom’s tainted too, by the bottles I used to hide in the toilet tank. And the kitchen by the cupboards and the pantry, and the living-room by the sofa-cushions and the curtains and even the chimney. If I ever had to go back to my high school, that’d be tainted too. There’s not a single place in all of London I didn’t drink in, and that isn’t now blackened by the memory. I want to go home, but I’m stuck here. And I’ve got worse things to worry about now than my drinking.

I take my mind off the pain by thinking of Maria waiting for me back in Aberdeen. That’s a luxury I never had before in this room—something better to think about. However hurtful this is all going to be, and however guilty it makes me feel, soon, I’ll be able to leave it all behind for good. I was texting her all the way through the train journey, and I’ve already started again as I lie down on my bed. I wonder if she’s missing me. I’m sure as shit missing her. It makes me ache all over.

 

 

I was absolutely right about the funeral. As I take my seat in the church, my parents either side of me, I feel the entire congregation’s eyes on my back. A prickle of fear ignites me, but boils into anger before the service has even begun. I’ve been to two funerals before—my Grandma’s and my Great-Aunt’s—and at both of those, the people I came across were acting weirdly cheerfully. I didn’t even see a single tear. Today, every face I look at is red, and every face that looks at me has something deep and dark in its eyes. Suspicion. I clamp my hand over my mouth.

Olivia’s mother is wrapped up in a determined conversation with an older man I don’t recognise. She’s holding Olivia’s little sister Dora, who looks asleep, on her hip. Her eyes are fixed forwards and she’s talking quickly like she’s frightened to stop, which I suppose she is, but when she sees me, she stops in her tracks. Mum waves at her grimly, and then, she turns back and ignores us. The stake of guilt that pierces me right then is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I don’t know if I’m going to have another episode, like I did on the train, but I’m scared. I’m blocked into the pew on both sides.

“I… Maybe… I should leave,” I say to my Mum. She stares at me, the smallest ghost of a triumphant smile on her face. “I don’t think I’m wanted here.”

Mum turns away from me, and Gordon leans over her. “Oy. Your Mum’s got tissues on her if you need them. Now shut up and don’t cause a scene.”

Then, we’re all asked to stand. That’s when the scarlet and black and purple and gold images start striking my head like lightning and I’m forced to squeeze my eyes shut. I don’t open them for the rest of the service. So in the end, coming back was pointless. I can’t make myself think of Olivia. I can’t force it. I’m too frightened. Halfway through, Gordon wraps his arm around my Mum as she starts to bawl and sniffle and gasp like she can’t breathe. A few people look at her in sympathy. A few more look in anger. She’s making a fuss on purpose.

 

 

Mum elbows me hard as we walk out of the church and head back to our car. “Are you drunk?”

“What?” I look up at her. “No.”

“You were acting like it.”

“I’m not.”

“Nah, Shan, he’s on harder shit now,” Gordon says, turning a good few heads our way in the car park. “You can tell by the way he’s jittering.”

Those poor people—this is a funeral. Those poor people whose daughter I murdered. I grit my teeth. Even though Gordon’s the one who spoke, I’m the one they’re glaring at.

Mum doesn’t say anything, but once we’re home, she grabs my arm, digging her fingers hard into my bicep, and shoves me inside.

“Are you eating?” Mum says.

“What?”

“You didn’t eat a bite at that reception.” Gordon adds.

“God, you’re like a twig under that fancy jacket.”

Gordon sneers. “It’s hanging off you like a sackcloth.”

I lean against the counter, kicking it with my heel. “I’m not hungry,” I murmur.

“No. I know. I wasn’t offering you food, Scott.”

“I know. I—”

“It’d be stupid, wouldn’t it? If you’re back on that ridiculous diet of yours, anyway. Waste of food, you are.”

“That ridiculous diet had a name,” I mutter. But I don’t say it out loud. What would be the point?

Mum lets go of my arm. “You were useless at that funeral. Utterly, useless.”

I spit, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t realise I was there to be useful.”

Mum’s taken aback, but I’m not. I can’t believe insults like this used to get to me. When I look up to see Gordon leering, and the anger twists through my gut again, it’s not anger with either of them. It’s anger with myself for spending all those years letting them beat me down. Maria was right; what was wrong with me?

There’s silence in the kitchen for a long, long time. Gordon loosens his tie. He’s put on weight since he last had to wear a suit—it must’ve been a long, long time ago. Probably the last time he had a job. I tune back into the grumbling in my head. It’s not going to grow, but it’s not going to go either. I look out at the sky, which is slowly turning blue. I can’t leave yet. I was lucky the church and car park were all completely in shade, since there was a rainstorm—my plan if there’d been sunlight was to hide in the toilet till darkness fell, pretending I had a stomachache. Not that my parents would’ve believed that. The walk from my house to the underground station, though, takes me over the Thames—on the same route I used to take to get to high school—and the evening always drenches that bridge with orange. I have to wait to leave till it gets dark. I can’t wait to get out of this hellhole. Back to Maria.

“So,” Gordon says. “Tell us about your new girl.”

I sigh. “I’m going up to my room.”

“Oh, really?”

I return his scowl. “Yeah. I’m getting ready to go.”

“Well, I guess I’m not allowed to ask, then. It wasn’t a confrontational question, Scott. It wasn’t a nasty question. Just a question about a nasty girl.”

I think of Maria, and my gut twists again. “Don’t you dare call her names.”

“You’re still with her?”

My voice must sound dreamier when I speak again. “So what if I am?”

“Well, why can’t I ask about her, then? What’s her name?”

I look over at my Mum instead.

“About her?” I say. “You’ve no right to ask.”

“You hear that, Shan?” Gordon crams his hands into his pockets. “I’m not allowed to ask Scott about his new fling. D’you think it’s because he’s feeling bad about what happened to the old one?”

Stop it.” I hiss.

“Why?”

“Why d’you always have to make me feel so guilty?”

“Why?” Gordon says, his eyes narrowing. “Why. Why, Shan?”

Mum looks up, but says nothing.

“Please, Mum,” I say desperately.

She ignores me.

Nice goodbye this is.

“Why, Shan?” Gordon repeats, leering at me again. He reminds me of Frank. Or, I suppose, more accurately, Frank reminded me of him. Frank’s dead; we squashed him, Maria and I. “Why? Well, Scott, have you considered maybe we think you know more than you’re letting on?”

I stare at him. When my voice comes out, it’s flat. “What?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Gordon says. “Even if you didn’t do it, you know everyone else in that room thought so.”

“Gordon,” Mum warns, but does nothing.

“Mum?”

“Scott.”

“Mum? What the hell? You can’t think I did this!” I burst out. Does she really have that little faith in me? I mean, I did do it, but that’s not the point. “Mum. You don’t, right?”

Mum says nothing. My heart starts to feel like it’s beating. The sky’s turning purple.

“I’m going to my room,” I say softly, my parents’ eyes sinking into me. For some reason, though, I don’t move.

“Go on, then!” Gordon says, the anger in his voice growing sharper. Mine’s growing, too, somewhere deep inside me. “Get out!”

“Alright, calm down.” I get up. “No reason to get angry.”

“I don’t need a reason to get angry with you, boy, and you know it.” Gordon walks closer to me, one finger raised. One of my eyebrows twitches upwards. “I’ll gladly beat the everloving shit out of you for backchat like that.”

He pauses, waiting for the fear to widen my eyes and shiver my bottom lip, like it used to. But I’m not afraid of him anymore. I watch the anger grow on his face, reddening his cheeks and forehead, making one eye twitch and his teeth peel back from his lips and a blue-tinted vein bulge up under his receding hairline. I’ve never watched him get angry before—not this calmly, anyway. It’s sort of fascinating, and sort of funny. He’s like a cartoon character. He used to make me cry. He used to make me drink. He used to make me hurt myself. Now he makes me want to laugh.

“What, you got nothing to say?” Gordon says, jabbing his finger into my chest. “Nothing at all? You too scared to chat back? Or too high-and-mighty to apologise?”

“I’ve got nothing to apologise for.”

He splutters, confused. Realising what’s coming next, I try to get past him. “I need to leave,” I say, deciding to risk the sunset outside. I don’t want to snap. I don’t.

“Hey, you’re not going anywhere till I say you can.”

 “Why not? You don’t want me here.” I avert my eyes to the ceiling, trying to think of a dramatic speech that’ll put them both in their place before I walk out that door to a better life.

“Because I said so, boy. This is my house, and you don’t walk out that door till you’ve apologised to me and your Mum, Scott.”

I sigh, and Mum jerks her head up at me. There’s an easy solution. Apologise, and then I can leave. I can be back with Maria before midnight. But still, this isn’t how I wanted things to end between us. I didn’t just come to say goodbye to Olivia, but to my parents, too. I wanted them to know they didn’t have control over me anymore. That I’ve found my pride again.

Instead of doing what he told me, I say, “For what?”

“For acting so damn superior, Scott!” Mum interrupts.

The frustration grows crazier inside me, but I swallow it. “I’ve got nothing to apologise for. I want to go home.”

“Then SAY it!” Gordon walks up to me and shoves me hard in the chest. I stumble back and hit my tailbone on the kitchen counter. A shock of pain jumps up my spine, but I stand back up. I’m taller than Gordon, but I used to slouch.

“You’re pathetic,” I say softly.

He splutters. “What did you say?”

“I said you’re pathetic, Gordon.” Here comes the dramatic speech. Every good guy has to give one. “All my life, all you’ve done is beat me down. What joy did it bring you, beating up an alcoholic boy who was too drunk to care?”

Gordon huffs with anger, then shoves me again, harder. I look at him calmly, even though the counter’s biting into my back and my head’s boiling with rage. “How were you too drunk to care?” he says. “You care enough now!”

“No. You’re wrong.” My voice shakes slightly. “You’re wrong. I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck what you think of me, Gordon.”

“What about your mother?”

I look at my Mum. She looks back at me. Then, as I ask her with my eyes to say something, she gets up and walks to the other side of the room. My heart doesn’t just sink—it blackens and rots. I can feel it shrivelling up inside my chest.

 “No,” I say softly. Mum looks up at me, scowling, and I hold her gaze. “I don’t give a fuck what she thinks, either.”

Gordon slaps me hard across the face. My head snaps sideways and the shock of the pain pulses through my skull like electricity. The sound’s still echoing when I look back at him.

I open my mouth. “What—”

He slaps me again, on the other cheek. This time, I stumble back, and he leers at the pain on my face. I rub my cheeks with both hands, marvelling and recoiling at the way the shock boils into blind, unchecked rage. And the way the rage stirs up the murmuring inside me.

Gordon and I stare at each other.

“Yeah,” he says, smirking. “That’s more like it.”

“Try again,” I say. His smirk drops. Mine starts to twitch upwards.

Pow. Pow. Thud. Gordon slaps me on both cheeks again, even harder than before, and then punches me hard in the chest. It should’ve knocked the wind out of me, but I’ve got none. It just knocks me back hard against the counter. Growling through my teeth, I stand up again. God, it hurts. It’s nothing new, but it hurts. I’ve had enough now. I want to go home. I want Maria. God, after this, I’m never going to question the killing again. We’ll kill people who deserve it. No more pain, misery, inhibition, thinking, crying or worrying. No more morals.

Why the hell did I come here?

Do I really need to ask myself that question?

I crane my head back, clutching the counter for support. My head’s heavy from the train, heavy from my bedroom, heavy from the funeral. And now, I know why. It’s only going to get worse. And yet I still don’t leave. I let it boil over.

“Hey,” Gordon says. “Hey. Hey. Daydream.” He shoves me in the chest again, but I don’t move. If I move, we’re both screwed. He deserves it.

“Daydream!” Gordon gloats, shoving me one last time, then punching me in the stomach. I don’t react.

Then Mum screams, “Gordon, no!”

The sound of breaking glass radiates through the room and shears through me, snapping my mind back into focus. I look down, my eyes widening at the sight of the broken beer bottle centimetres from my throat. Two years ago, this would’ve snapped me like a twig, made me scream and beg and cry at him not to kill me. But the pressure crawling through my gums tells me I’ll be fine. And, interestingly enough, since I’m not screaming, my Mum is instead.

“Gordon!” Mum runs forwards and grabs his shoulder. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m teaching the shit a lesson. Relax, love; it’s only threatening.”

“No. Gordon, no, please,” Mum says. “He’ll call the police. He’ll get us in trouble.”

“He never has before.”

“But he—”

“God damn it, Shan; I’ll do what I WANT in my own HOUSE!” Gordon yells, letting go of me and stepping back. He slashes at the air with the broken bottle, and Mum jumps back. I stand slightly straighter. I’m getting angrier, angrier. Gordon’s blocking the door. I’m getting closer, closer. My head’s hot. My mouth’s hotter.

“Kill me,” I growl in a voice that’s not my own. It’s dark and husky and ruthless and I love it. “Kill me, and see what happens, Gordon.”

Gordon’s and my Mum’s eyes widen. Gordon’s face reddens.

“How dare you?” he says, thrusting the bottle forwards. I flinch. “How DARE you, you little piece of shit?” He grabs me and pushes me down over the counter, pressing the bottle into my throat, and the pain explodes blindingly white in my head. Mum does nothing. My teeth and gums burn.

“Want more?” Gordon hisses. “I could kill you, Scott. I could kill you right now, cut open your pretty little neck, and nobody’d give a damn.” He presses it in deeper and I growl, deep in my gut. “Nobody would care if I killed you. Not even your blonde slut.”

I growl louder. “DON’T call her that!” I scream, shoving him hard in the chest to make him stumble back. I step towards him and grab him, and in retaliation, he swings the bottle clean through my face.

Oh.

My Mum screams, my vision goes black in one eye, and my face grows cold with drips of blood. I don’t drop, though. I don’t even sway. I stop.

I’m going to heal.

“What the hell?” Gordon murmurs, the smirk dropping from his face as mine grows wider and wider and wider. The huge, diagonal gash across my face tingles with pins and needles and jerks with tiny jumps of electricity as it knits back together. I wipe the crust of blood from my mended eye, pressing my fingers to my lips as my gums start to burn. My parents are staring at me in shock. I hate these faces. Hate them, hate them.

But I love these expressions.

With speed I didn’t even know I had, I snatch the broken bottle from Gordon and ram it into his throat.

I watch, listlessly, as his eyes go wide and I listen, numbly, as my Mum starts to scream and scream and scream. Everything’s red and it’s not because of the blood. I pull the bottle from Gordon’s throat; I know he’s dead, because it’s stuck right in there and the second it’s out, blood sprays everywhere, covering my right hand. He’s dead, sure, but dead’s not enough. I want him destroyed.

I stare down at my hand, running my desperately thirsty gaze over the scarlet slick on my fingers. All the world’s noises buzz and hum in my ears. My head’s heavy—it won’t stay on my shoulders if I don’t do something. Maria did this to me. Maria would understand. Finally, so do I.

The air buzzes and hisses and squeals like a bad TV signal. The squealing grows harder and harder and drills into my eardrums as I raise my hand to my face, in a trance, but yet not. It glistens on my skin. Molten gold. Through the electric squeal and the pressure that gorgeous smell is putting on my brain, my Mum is screaming—she’s talking to someone called Scott, asking in a blind hysterical squeak what he’s doing. Don’t ask me; I don’t know what he’s doing either. The screams grow louder and excite my nerves, filling me with clamours of electricity. This is it. This is the moment I always knew was coming, all my life. Maybe it’s from studying all those tragedies. The people who fight the hardest always fall the hardest in the end. I fought, so I’m not a victim. I failed, so I’m not a hero.

The last month was hell.

It means nothing now.

I plunge three fingers into my mouth. I suck. I swallow. The mumbling inside me grows thicker as I slowly trace my hand down from my face.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.

I gasp. The world explodes with fire and blinding peals of light and all my nerves short-circuit at once and white lighting shoots through my veins and tautens my limbs and arches my spine. I breathe out, in, out. The taste fills my mouth in waves and warms me right down to my core. It sets my teeth on edge, widens my eyes, stretches my mouth further and further open, tautens me all over till I’m sure all my joints are about to break in half. I’m seared. Sharpened. Primed. One more mouthful will set me alight. Before I know what I’m doing I’m on my knees in the shiny red mess on the kitchen tiles and I’m scooping it up and I’m pouring it from my palms into my mouth and I’m letting it run all over my face. It flows over my tongue red-hot, burns my nerves to death, makes my whole body crackle like a live wire. The sensation keeps building inside me, burning brighter and brighter, screaming louder and louder. Then, it peaks. I judder all the way along my spine and throw my head back and gasp again, holding unwanted air in my mouth as my body sings and sings and sings. God. More. More. More. More. More. Give me more. Give me more.

I’m giggling like a lunatic and breathing like I’ve never tasted air before as my vision bleeds redder and redder and my mother screams with horror and my mind screams with delight. Holy hell. Look what you’ve done. I look. He tormented me for six years. He deserved it. He deserved to end up as nothing more than a taste to set me free. More more more more more more more. It runs all over my face and my neck and my chest inside my shirt; its heat elates me. The bloodlust’s not leaving—it’s growing stronger by the second. More. I scoop up another mouthful and another and another and another. I can’t stop. God, Maria was right. I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I can’t stop.

I look down at my black-clotted hands as a thud between my shoulder-blades jerks me back into my body. Then, through the dizzying heat of the high, the my shirt starts to cling, freezing cold, to my skin. I stand up from the man’s body and my eyes fall on his wife—she’s trembling hard with fear, wringing her hands by her stomach. I crane over my shoulder and see the massive butcher’s knife buried hilt-deep in my back. It should’ve pierced my heart. Probably did.

Ouch.

Only when the screaming subsides for a millisecond do I hear the voices whispering again.

Do it again.

Shanice stares at me, and I growl as I idly wonder why she hasn’t run. I slap my hands towards the knife handle. I can’t reach it. My arms are clumsy and light with the high. Then, I manage to get a grip on it, and, gritting my teeth, yank it out. Cold blood flows from me like water from a leaky pipe, making me shudder, but I’m so utterly gorgeously full of warmth I can’t feel a single blip of pain. The knife in my back is nothing. My senses are sharper. The blood makes every scrap of light burn brighter and every breath of draught grate across my skin. The air starts muttering in my ears as Shanice’s breathing quickens.

I grin at her. “Nice try.”

“Sc—Sc—Scott.”

“You talking to your son?” I ask, licking blood from my lips and swallowing it and feeling a little piece of me die. “Your son’s dead, Shanice. Why in God’s name d’you think I’d answer you now? You broke me. You did. You made me this.” The white walls are still bleeding red and that longing’s still coursing through me, churning my snarls into a hurricane in the back of my throat. She’s frozen in the corner, slack-jawed, empty-eyed, but her eyes are brimming with fear.

I like it. I like her fear.

I don’t do it on purpose. But I have to stop and open my mouth wide and lick my teeth of blood again. My eyes roll up inside my head and my legs go weak at the taste.

“D—d—demon,” she mutters, taking a step backwards and stumbling against the wall. “Devil’s spawn. D—d—Devil! Monster!”

“You’ve given me all that shit before,” I growl. “Even though I wasn’t. Not then, anyway.”

“Drop—drop—drop—drop the w—weapons.”

“Weapons?” I say. I look down at my hands. I’m still holding the broken bottle and the knife from my back. I raise them to my shoulders and then drop them with a flourish—my head jumps downwards as the knife clatters and the bottle explodes on the tiles. Still looking at the ground, I lick my teeth again, not wincing at all when they suck up into my gums, or even when the other teeth shove their way out. Then, I look back at her, high as Heaven or Hell, smiling my jagged new smile.

She goes crazy. She screams. Screams. Screams. Somehow, the sounds don’t reach me. I walk up to her, sucking in breaths and growling them out, my hands shaking as huge shudders of bloodlust rip through my body, and Shanice doesn’t move. In her eyes, there’s no disbelief, no agony, no fear that isn’t selfish. I was planning a shred of mercy for my mother. Rotten shame this woman’s not my mother.

“Demon,” she murmurs one last time. My miserable grin stretches so wide it aches. I rub the tip of my tongue along the serrated edge of one fang, savouring the delicious terror in her eyes for as long as I dare. Then, I finally think of something cool to say before I kill her.

“Demon, huh? Guess I’ll see you in hell.”

I mean, it wasn’t bad.

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