Saturday, August 27, 2022

SHOWCASE • “Even Vampires Have a Speed Limit” • by David VonAllmen


Standing in the dimly lit intersection of two streets, I’m the only living thing for miles in any direction. Humans abandoned these crumbling brick apartments years ago. Even pigeons and rats scurry away when they feel the evil chill that grips the night here.

“Whatch’yer got there?” the Cockney bat on my shoulder asks. I startle. The vampire moved so fast, so quiet, I hadn’t even known it was there until it spoke.

This is why my SWAT team won’t come to this part of town at night anymore. The vampires are too damn fast. Too fast to burn, too fast to shoot, too fast to see unless they pause to mock you.

“Looks like nothing more than a simple watch,” says a second voice, American and refined. My eyes dart this way and that, searching for the source. Finally, I spot the mist creeping up my legs.

We’ve designed hundreds of weapons, actually tried dozens of them in the field. The result is the same every time: me, watching good men bleed to death while the cackles of vampires echo off alley walls.

“Yeah, but it’s got no face fer tellin’ time, does it?” The bat floats down to get a better look. “Just a button. What’s it do, then?”

It kills vampires, that’s what it does, you smug sonovabitch. I’m finally going to kill you, because I finally figured out the one weapon that moves faster than a vampire.

I hope.

“This young man appears to be wearing a SWAT jacket,” the mist says as it coalesces into the form of a deathly pale man with slicked-back hair, wearing a trim, black suit. “If forced to wager, I’d lay down good money that wristband is some sort of weapon.”

“Oh la, another ingenious weapon,” says the bat, “Alright then, don’t tell us. More fun to guess, innit?”

I have two vampires within radius. I can trigger the weapon. But I have to be casual about it. If I make a sudden movement to press the button, they’ll be half a mile away before I can even contract the muscles in my arm.

“S-ar putea să inunde străzile cu aghiazmă,” says a woman’s gravelly voice. A hideous creature floats forward out of the blackness, sickly pale gray in color, the shape of a human female with the wings of a bat and the face of a demon. It’s the first time in my life I’ve seen a naked woman and wished she had some clothes on.

“I’m quite sure they already tried flooding the streets with holy water,” the vampire in the black suit replies. He keeps disappearing and reappearing in the same instant a few feet to one side or the other, casually looking me up and down from different angles. He’s timing his movements with my eye blinks—vampires enjoy messing with humans like that.

“Not ‘xactly,” the bat answers. “It was holy water hand grenades.”

“Ah, yes, that was it,” the suited vampire says, “Quite clever. At least in theory. In practical application, not so much—we danced between the water drops.”

“Alight, then, what else can kill us?” the bat asks.

“Foc,” the demon vampire says.

“We can outrun any flame, no matter how it’s dispersed,” the suited vampire replies.

“Yeah, but maybe if they set the whole town afire at the same time so’s we couldn’t just run away,” the bat suggests. “This city don’t happen to be on a fault line, does it? Maybe that button sets off a big bomb that cracks open the earth and lava comes out and burns up everything all at once. Huh? That’d work, right?”

“No, we’d fly up into the air, faster than the wind,” the suited vampire replies.

“Oh, yeah, we can fly,” the hovering bat says, as if he’d forgotten. “Okay, then, what else can kill us?”

“Wood stakes through the heart,” says a hound with a southern accent, that I’m positive wasn’t standing next to me one heartbeat earlier. Its eyes glow red and its fangs are so long and gnarled it can’t fully close its mouth.

“Hold on a second now,” the bat says, flitting around the hound. “We can turn into dogs? How come nobody told me we can turn into dogs?”

“It went out of fashion when the werewolves came out of hiding,” the suited vampire says.

“Hm. Well, if we kill off all the werewolves, can we go back to bein’ dogs sometimes?” the bat asks.

The four vampires glance at each other with nods all around—there seems to be a general consensus that this is a perfectly fine reason to start an inter-species war.

“Cum se înfinge butonul acela un par în inima noastră?” the demon vampire asks.

“Hm,” the bat looks up, as if in contemplation. “Maybe the button sets off machine guns they got hidden all around, and those fire bullet-size wood stakes at our hearts.”

“I don’t think so,” the suited vampire says. “The wood bullets would disintegrate in the barrel under that kind of explosive power.”

“Alright, but what if they was tiny little wood stakes hidden inside reg’lar bullets?” the bat asks.

“In that case,” the suited vampire states, “the question becomes: does the wood stake harm us if it passes through our hearts inside a lead casing, without the wood itself actually touching any part of our person?”

“Oh, that’s a good one, that is. One fer the philosophers, I recon. Well, I suppose someone could test it out,” the bat laughs and nudges the suited vampire with his wing, “but I ain’t volunteerin’!”

“Anyway, it still wouldn’t work,” the suited vampire says. “We’d feel the compression of the air before the bullet reached us and it would be all too simple to fly out of the bullet’s path.”

“Well, I give up. What’s faster’n a bullet?” the bat asks.

“Genetically engineered garlic,” the hound says.

“Cum? Din chestia aia cu butonul?” the demon asks.

“Oh, sorry, forgot about the button,” the hound says. “I was just trying to think of ways for the humans to kill us, and I thought ‘Well the scent of garlic makes us sick, maybe garlic genetically engineered to be much stronger could kill us.’”

“Wait, I’ll figure it,” the bat says. “It’s like one of them locked-room murder mysteries, ‘cept we gotta figure how to do the murderin’ to ourselves. Lessee… the button releases genetically engineered garlic oil into the veins in yer wrist so as when I bite you on the neck I ingest the garlic with yer blood and there you have it—dead vampire. Well, properly dead, I mean. Am I right?”

The four vampires stare at me, waiting for an answer. They have no fear that I might really be able to harm them because they see humans as their inferiors in every way. Slower. Weaker. Dumber.

Maybe we are slower. Maybe we are weaker. But a hundred years ago, one of us was smart enough to figure out that there’s a speed limit that no physical object, including a vampire, will ever surpass. They’re faster than fire, faster than sound, faster than bullets. But nothing’s faster than light.

“Alright, then, you win, human,” the bat says with a sigh of resignation. “Let’s see what she does. Go ‘head, give ‘er a push.”

I press the button. My wristband sends a radio signal to the satellites, which are already directed to my GPS coordinates. The satellites flick off the electric current in the nematic liquid crystals covering their giant mirror arrays. One satellite mirror array on the opposite side of the Earth bounces a stream of sunlight to the next mirror array, and that one to the next, and so on, until the last one in the chain sends it down to Earth right where I stand. And it all happens at the speed of light.

A waterfall of golden radiance, as wide around as a dozen men’s wingspans and as bright as the noonday sun, rains down on us. The vampires’ bodies burn to ash before they can so much as flinch.

Einstein was a human, bitches.




It wasn’t until David VonAllmen’s high school professor thought one of his short stories was suspiciously high in literary merit and threatened to have him expelled for plagiarism that he realized he just might have the talent to be a real writer. David’s writing has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, New Myths Deep Magic, and other professional publications. David is the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award. He lives in his hometown of St. Louis with his children, Lucas and Eva, who write some pretty darn good stories of their own. Links to his works can be found at



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