I don't remember many details, unfortunately. The main character was looking for someone who had disappeared, I think, and was exposed to something in the missing person's house, that slowly enhanced the main character's speed and strength - so much so that the main character was dangerous to things around him - a phone he touched would begin to melt (because of heat generated by his speed?), and he could accidentally tear a door off its hinges or step through a wall. I believe the missing person left a voice message which is garbled because of the speeding up issue. I think the story ends with him deciding to go somewhere where he wouldn't be a danger to other people - so disappearing like the other person had. I would expect this story to be from the period from 1979 to 1984 or so.

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  • Very similar to that - but definitely a more modern story (and the Wells doesn't have increased strength, I think)
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 3 at 23:56
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    I don't remember the title, but this rings a bell. See if these details match: 1) The main character speeds up incredibly. 2) The last recordings he leaves have to be slowed down to be understood. 3) He radiates a lot of heat but feels cold and goes to Death Valley. 4) There's a mention that the genie or demons in myth may have been people who went through the same thing. Commented Apr 4 at 19:07
  • Yes. Those details sound familiar- thanks
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 4 at 22:48
  • "Death Valley" and "Asimov's Science Fiction" finds this promising snippet (note the words running together, like someone talking faster and faster books.google.com/…
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 4 at 23:04

1 Answer 1


All thanks to Cybernetic-nomad for the vital clue I needed

The story is "Martin's Feast" by Phillip C. Jennings, July 1989 (the main character is a woman, Sharon, looking for the missing Martin. She doesn't get powers herself, but we do get Martin's first-person account in a recorded message.

Quote from the story (listening to a slowed down recording):

(pause) "Excuse me. I’m trying to be brave,” Martin’s voice continued. 'Tell Lee I love her. I don’t know what’s worse, burning out and dying, or just continuing like this and getting worse, so jazzed with hellish vitality I might be unkillable. I can’t see anymore, just a little dim red solar disk out the window. And like I said, it’s so t-t-terribly cold!

"I’m trying to imagine the effect I’m having on my environment, moving so fast, more than ten times normal at the very least. My thoughts eu-e moving fast, too. I wish I had more of an education in physics, because cleverness doesn’t count if the foundation isn’t there. — Sharon? Maybe you can help me. I remember stuff about mechanical energy, and chemical energy, and electrical energy, and how when one gets converted to the other, the waste product is heat. It’s like heat is the lowest common denominator, the basement of the whole system. Is that right?

"Well, I’ve fallen through that basement. There was something in my soup, some enzyme or funny kind of sugar, or some broken-down protein that recombined in some new illegal way. My cells used to be like yours, my body was a slow fire that burned food, and I could keep going on a miserable two thousand calories a day, only now I’m alive with a new kind of fire that bums heat, and I don’t even know what the waste product could be.”

"My checkbook and wallet are under my socks in the bedroom dresser,” he shrilled. "My magic money code is S, 0, N, G — take the card. I’ve tried writing a check to you for $5000 to cover your expenses — for me it’s like writing on Kleenex in the dark but I hope it’ll pass muster. Don’t feel guilty about taking my money it’s no good to me anymore and Lee’s got an inheritance that won’t quit. Besides I’ve put you toalot of trouble evenif you can’t work Death Valley in. I’m not sure why I want to see you there cepta fewdays foryou r’months forme soany message you getisgoingtobefrom aman withawholeneweducation.Byenow.”

If this phenomenon was possible, it had happened before and would happen again. Notice would be taken — of heatloving, dancing creatures, dustdevils to be propitiated because of the damage they could do. Except those things would be of such scale that a normal eye could only see glimpses — atoms only see atoms, and molecules don’t register.

Likewise for the other side. Martin was in a new world now, involved in complexities beyond Sharon’s understanding, complexities much more important to his existence than anything from before his transformation. He’d soon learn that truth, if he hadn’t learned it already.

He’d be as uninterested in a Death Valley rendezvous as she was loathe to go.

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