Sunday Storytime: “I half-expected a flock of bats to come fluttering out…”

Scanlon meets Professor Teng, and we learn how vampires get around over long distances.

***

I suppose that was the night that I learned vampires can travel by teleportation. Of course I’d always known that vampires can move very fast, though not in a way that they ever let mortals see. Andra’s home was a small town in Wyoming, while the guys were spread throughout the mountain west. I wondered how they got together so easily, and when the gang decided to bring me to meet Professor Teng, I found out how easy it was. The place was in Seattle, and I’d assumed we’d be floating around for hours until we got there. Just follow us, they said. It was not as simple as several hours of flying over the countryside.

You'll never fly coach again.

You’ll never fly coach again.

Mortals experience distance as carved in stone, and the way to get from Point A to Point B is to push themselves across that 2-dimensional space one step at a time. Vampires see that distance more as a rope which they use to throw themselves from one place to another. When they want to go somewhere a substantial distance away, they give a pull—it doesn’t look that way, but that is the best description I can give of the sensation—and they create a sort of wormhole between themselves and the nearest pinch point. These are like knots in the rope; they appear at major changes in the terrain. If there is a change from forest to plain, a large lake, a change from plains to mountains, a major city, that forms a pinch point where the vampire must pause and create another wormhole. The gang led me through several of these wormholes between Andra’s home and their godlike Professor Teng’s headquarters. The whole journey took maybe a minute.

It was an abandoned library; the city appeared to have shut down the facility in favor of more modern and structurally sound architecture and not gotten around to repurposing or demolishing the old one. Lemuel pressed a button next to the front door—yes, I suppose weird old vampire-taming sorcerers use doorbells—and waited for an invitation to go inside.

I half-expected a flock of bats to come fluttering out through a broken window, but we heard footsteps, and a punkish young woman soon opened the door.

“How’d it go?” she asked the group, looking around until she saw me standing at the edge. “That’s him, isn’t it? How is he?”

“He eats afterbirth now,” Jacob said affably. “Scanlon, this is Naomi. She works with Professor Teng.”

“He’s expecting you all,” said Naomi. She beckoned us inside.

The inside of the library looked like someone had bought up an old fairy-tale witch’s lair and converted it into Mission Control for the magical equivalent of NASA. Magic-handlers aren’t really interested in exploring outer space, but where most mortals are concerned, a vampire’s hideout is almost as accessible.

The people working around the chamber were mostly mundanes, yet they greeted the vampires with effortless familiarity. Naomi led us to a large, dark wooden door at the far end of the room, but before she got there, the door opened, and it had to be Professor Teng who walked out.

The vampires reacted as though a demigod had just walked into the room; I could feel them shudder with excitement. Andra jumped up and told him, rather unnecessarily, that they’d just brought me up to meet him.

“Yes, I see,” Teng said graciously. “Scanlon Ness, did you know you are the third new vampire to be reclaimed since the Magical Resettlement Act?” he said.

He seemed like a pleasant, and very impressive, if perplexing character. One thing you learn about dealing with magic-handlers is that they like to look the part, and they’re not subtle. You can usually tell when a magic-handler is walking down the street. Purists like to look aristocratic, if eccentric. Opportunists tend towards a garish, artfully distressed esthetic. Naomi could have been an opportunist, except I could tell she was a mundane because the green dreadlocks in her ponytail didn’t glow. If you ever meet a sorcerer who looks just like a mundane, this person is not to be trusted. It’s common knowledge around the magical community that a sorcerer who looks indistinguishable from a tax attorney is probably working for the same crime bosses who keep vampires in a fresh supply of live victims. Professor Teng was clearly a purist, if the cut of his plum-red silk robe was any indication, and yet he had a lot of ordinary non-magical folk working in his tricked-out old library.

“I suppose it’s an honor to be…reclaimed?” I said, testing out the word he’d used for what his faithful undead had done with me.

“An honor? Well, not in the sense that we would have neglected someone else,” he said. “Still, count yourself damn lucky that my vamps found you when they did.”