The coffee tastes like shit since they put garlic in the water.

For all these centuries, people have been told that vampires were a myth, when in actuality they have been hiding, in the coffin, so to speak. With every sip of his coffee, Jonas Sulke was reminded of how much he hated them. Garlic extract was added to the water supply throughout the country, elevating garlic levels in human blood to make them unpalatable to vampires. It was a novel, inspiring state solution to the archaic VP (vampire problem).

“You know, Nouri, it gets to the point where I can hardly drink coffee anymore.”

“It’s still better than just garlic water,” Nouri replied. Jonas had lunch with Nouri nearly every day at the Magnum Dei Research Institute.

“I know, but I still feel bad about the fine you had to pay.”

“It’s okay, Jonas. You know, to be honest, I was bringing gallons of this water home; your pot of coffee didn’t raise any red flags in the department. I guess I was too greedy to want this precious, pure water for myself. It is really only for the test subjects.”

The garlic farmers, once a small contingent of American agriculture, had become a powerful cartel. Outside the cities, you could drive for miles and miles without seeing a single fruit tree. Rows and rows of garlic wafting up that pungent aroma. In the old country, where they still dispatch vampires the old-fashioned way, they gladly sold produce at exorbitant prices. The NEWS praised the glory of free trade with the old country when not instilling fear about their exotic and barbaric nature. The TIMES chided the citizens to eat even more garlic to stimulate the local economy. One thing was certain: the old ways weren’t coming back.

Jonas read in the TIMES:

Other states have made it legal for vampires to take up subordinates. Sadly, our state is not one of them. Governor Johnson wants the state to guarantee that right. In a letter to the governor, Rasputin Villarose, spokesman for the vampire rights organization, said, “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as vampires and as families when we read an argument, presented in state court, implying that the relationships between vampires and subordinates are of no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”

Garlic didn’t kill vampires, but it weakened their thirst for human blood enough that they did not feast on the living. That, and the mandatory weekly blood donations provided by human citizens. Vampires didn’t drink water, but human’s blood garlic content was high enough to dull their parasitic hunger, like methadone. Mandatory weekly blood drives were imposed on citizens by a thin majority of nervous suburban housewives who, when not vacillating and wringing their hands over a referendum, were wholly devoted to enforcing its outcome. The weekly blood donations left the humans gaunt and pale. It became harder to distinguish humans and vampires. Jonas tried to get an exemption, but that was almost as hard as getting a water filter. He couldn’t collect data without the water filter, but could do without a pint of garlicky blood each week, so his application was denied.

It had been years since Jonas heard the word “bloodsucker” on television. You needed to have a license simply to carry stakes, which was generally limited to two per person. Jonas had several illicit stakes, but not nearly as many as Nouri, who came from the old country and had a family to look over.

The vampires formed a nonprofit nearly 50 years ago after the big war. They had, through sufficient payoffs to sympathetic politicians (those that weren’t subordinates themselves), bought mandatory blood donations and repeated calls for vampires to be accepted by humans so that vampires could “come out of the shadows” and join productive, taxpaying society. Vampires took the free blood, remained in the shadows, and refrained from interacting with humans on their terms. They took all the night shifts at coffeehouses, bars, tattoo parlors, and picked up shifts at the grocery store, but their lifestyle required no food and little attention to hygiene or housing. They were shiftless, drifting in and out of larger cities, wary of the angry populace in rural areas ready to stake without precursor. Even though owning a water filter without a license was a felony, some vampires procured one through the dark market and had a massive, bloodthirsty orgy of destruction, covered in inarticulate detail in the NEWS. Meanwhile, the TIMES always covered, in immaculate prose, the horrible staking of (without fail) harmless, law-abiding vampires. Jonas read both papers daily and, as a result, had no opinion at all on the matter…he just craved a good cup of organic coffee.