Vampire Ltd. tells the story of a man traveling from Prague to England for a conference with a friend.The narrator begins his story by describing his encounters in Western Europe during,what he calls, "an automobile invasion". His first encounter is with a fat Irishman while on a flight with his friend. The Irishman boasts that he is a representative for an automobile company that makes the best sport cars in the world. The narrator's friend chimes in that he owns an English car, a Hillman, and the Irishman seems displeased by this answer, hinting that the car is not a very good one. The narrator's second encounter occurs when he's trying to find directions to his girlfriend's house. He walks off the subway towards the street in hopes of finding someone that can direct him, but he can't find anyone walking on the streets, he only finds people in their cars. These people are oblivious to him trying to find directions, they were isolated from society in their “steel boxes”.
The narrator’s third encounter, and most notable, is when he discovers his friend has left for the conference without him and that he must hitchhike his way there. At a gas station, a tall, pale man offers him a lift to the conference in his very nice car. After driving for a short time, the stranger suddenly pulls the car over and tells the narrator that he can drive the car to the conference, and that the man will fetch the car later, stating he has business to attend to in the city. The narrator reluctantly accepts, but upon driving the car he realizes how much attention he gets with it.
“I soon found out that everyone on the highway wanted to help me. Cars stopped in awe. All those Austins, Fords, Rolls-Royces, Morrises, Peugeots, Chevrolets, and what have you, all these middle-class cars stopped respectfully for my aristocrat. Even policemen on motorbikes saluted me.”
Along his route, the narrator picks up a girl named Susan and offers to let her ride with him. The two stop at a bar shortly after and have an encounter with the Marchioness of Nuvolari, the wife of a famous race car driver. The Marchioness challenges the narrator to a race, as she thinks her car is superior to his. The narrator wins the race, but as he begins to celebrate with Susan he passes out in the car. When he comes to, Susan tells him that there’s a large sore on the bottom of his foot and that he’s lost a lot of blood. The narrator doesn’t believe her at first as he has just had a medical examination before leaving Prague and he had been in healthy condition. When he realizes that she’s telling the truth, he inspects under the hood of the car and finds that the engine is like nothing he’s ever seen before. He tries to push the accelerator with his bare shoe but the car won’t budge; then he tries again with his finger and the car accelerates forward. Upon examining his finger, he notices a sore on his finger and comes to the realization that the car runs on blood.
Susan and the narrator decide to ditch the car and walk all the way to the conference, but the two soon start to argue and Susan splits off from the narrator. He finally makes his way to Old Georgetown, coincidentally where the car was made. The narrator hunts down the maker of the car, but upon speaking to the maker’s secretary, he learns that the maker of the car has been dead for years. Before the maker’s passing, he had gone bankrupt and made one last car that he left town in, never to be heard from again. Putting two and two together, the narrator tells the secretary that he knows where the car is but warns her that it is lethal. The secretary insists that the car will get him into high society, will get him everything he’s ever wanted, and seems to disregard the fact that the car will kill him.
The narrator phones to his friend at the conference and asks him to send someone to pick him up in Old Georgetown. While waiting, the Marchioness of Nuvolari finds him and asks to buy the car. The narrator warns her that it will drain her blood through the accelerator, but she is more interested in winning races with the car and insists that dying will not be important to her after she has won. The narrator has no other choice but to let her go, and he makes his way to his conference without hardly any time to spare.
“Now I understood why no one had returned the limousine since ‘32, why everyone gladly submitted to this technological devil and let themselves be sucked by a vampire. It was just to be able to get ahead of everyone else.”
This story is so centered around "keeping up with the Joneses" and everyone trying to be better than everyone else, that people are willing to lay their lives down to achieve a higher status in society. They are warned of what the car does, or find out on their own, and yet everyone continues to drive the car. The narrator is the first person to not sacrifice his life for a shot at quick fame.
About The Author:
Josef Nesvadba was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1926. He had a degree in psychiatry, which tends to be shown through the themes in his science fiction short stories. He was known for making jabs at the Communist party in a few of his writings, as he did not believe in the dreams that communism promised, although he did agree with Charles Marx overall.
"The Half-Wit of Xeenemuende." The Josef Nesvadba Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.
Nesvadba, Josef. Vampire Ltd.: Artia, 1964. Print.
"Josef Nesvadba." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Apr. 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.