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Franz Kafka
Metamorphosis 02
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It was not until it was getting dark that evening that
Gregor awoke from his deep and coma-like sleep. He would
have woken soon afterwards anyway even if he hadn't been
disturbed, as he had had enough sleep and felt fully rested.
But he had the impression that some hurried steps and the
sound of the door leading into the front room being
carefully shut had woken him. The light from the electric
street lamps shone palely here and there onto the ceiling
and tops of the furniture, but down below, where Gregor was,
it was dark. He pushed himself over to the door, feeling
his way clumsily with his antennae-- of which he was now
beginning to learn the value-- in order to see what had been
happening there. The whole of his left side seemed like
one, painfully stretched scar, and he limped badly on his
two rows of legs. One of the legs had been badly injured in
the events of that morning-- it was nearly a miracle that
only one of them had been-- and dragged along lifelessly.
It was only when he had reached the door that he realised
what it actually was that had drawn him over to it; it was
the smell of something to eat. By the door there was a dish
filled with sweetened milk with little pieces of white bread
floating in it. He was so pleased he almost laughed, as he
was even hungrier than he had been that morning, and
immediately dipped his head into the milk, nearly covering
his eyes with it. But he soon drew his head back again in
disappointment; not only did the pain in his tender left
side make it difficult to eat the food-- he was only able to
eat if his whole body worked together as a snuffling whole--
but the milk did not taste at all nice. Milk like this was
normally his favourite drink, and his sister had certainly
left it there for him because of that, but he turned, almost
against his own will, away from the dish and crawled back
into the centre of the room.

Through the crack in the door, Gregor could see that the gas
had been lit in the living room. His father at this time
would normally be sat with his evening paper, reading it out
in a loud voice to Gregor's mother, and sometimes to his
sister, but there was now not a sound to be heard. Gregor's
sister would often write and tell him about this reading,
but maybe his father had lost the habit in recent times. It
was so quiet all around too, even though there must have
been somebody in the flat. "What a quiet life it is the
family lead", said Gregor to himself, and, gazing into the
darkness, felt a great pride that he was able to provide a
life like that in such a nice home for his sister and
parents. But what now, if all this peace and wealth and
comfort should come to a horrible and frightening end? That
was something that Gregor did not want to think about too
much, so he started to move about, crawling up and down
the room.

Once during that long evening, the door on one side of the
room was opened very slightly and hurriedly closed again;
later on the door on the other side did the same; it seemed
that someone needed to enter the room but thought better
of it. Gregor went and waited immediately by the door,
resolved either to bring the timorous visitor into the room
in some way or at least to find out who it was; but the door
was opened no more that night and Gregor waited in vain.
The previous morning while the doors were locked everyone
had wanted to get in there to him, but now, now that he had
opened up one of the doors and the other had clearly been
unlocked some time during the day, no-one came, and the keys
were in the other sides.

It was not until late at night that the gaslight in the
living room was put out, and now it was easy to see that
parents and sister had stayed awake all that time, as they
all could be distinctly heard as they went away together on
tip-toe. It was clear that no-one would come into Gregor's
room any more until morning; that gave him plenty of time to
think undisturbed about how he would have to re-arrange his
life. For some reason, the tall, empty room where he was
forced to remain made him feel uneasy as he lay there flat
on the floor, even though he had been living in it for five
years. Hardly aware of what he was doing other than a
slight feeling of shame, he hurried under the couch. It
pressed down on his back a little, and he was no longer able
to lift his head, but he nonetheless felt immediately at
ease and his only regret was that his body was too broad to
get it all underneath. He spent the whole night there.
Some of the time he passed in a light sleep, although he
frequently woke from it in alarm because of his hunger, and
some of the time was spent in worries and vague hopes which,
however, always led to the same conclusion: for the time
being he must remain calm, he must show patience and the
greatest consideration so that his family could bear the
unpleasantness that he, in his present condition, was forced
to impose on them.

Gregor soon had the opportunity to test the strength of his
decisions, as early the next morning, almost before the
night had ended, his sister, nearly fully dressed, opened
the door from the front room and looked anxiously in. She
did not see him straight away, but when she did notice him
under the couch-- he had to be somewhere, for God's sake, he
couldn't have flown away-- she was so shocked that she lost
control of herself and slammed the door shut again from
outside. But she seemed to regret her behaviour, as she
opened the door again straight away and came in on tip-toe
as if entering the room of someone seriously ill or even of
a stranger. Gregor had pushed his head forward, right to
the edge of the couch, and watched her. Would she notice
that he had left the milk as it was, realise that it was not
from any lack of hunger and bring him in some other food
that was more suitable? If she didn't do it herself he
would rather go hungry than draw her attention to it,
although he did feel a terrible urge to rush forward from
under the couch, throw himself at his sister's feet and beg
her for something good to eat. However, his sister noticed
the full dish immediately and looked at it and the few drops
of milk splashed around it with some surprise. She
immediately picked it up-- using a rag, not her bare hands--
and carried it out. Gregor was extremely curious as to what
she would bring in its place, imagining the wildest
possibilities, but he never could have guessed what his
sister, in her goodness, actually did bring. In order to
test his taste, she brought him a whole selection of things,
all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-
rotten vegetables; bones from the evening meal, covered in
white sauce that had gone hard; a few raisins and almonds;
some cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days
before; a dry roll and some bread spread with butter and
salt. As well as all that she had poured some water into
the dish, which had probably been permanently set aside for
Gregor's use, and placed it beside them. Then, out of
consideration for Gregor's feelings, as she knew that he
would not eat in front of her, she hurried out again and
even turned the key in the lock so that Gregor would know
he could make things as comfortable for himself as he liked.
Gregor's little legs whirred, at last he could eat. What's
more, his injuries must already have completely healed as
he found no difficulty in moving. This amazed him, as more
than a month earlier he had cut his finger slightly with a
knife, he thought of how his finger had still hurt the day
before yesterday.

"Am I less sensitive than I used to be, then?", he thought,
and was already sucking greedily at the cheese which had
immediately, almost compellingly, attracted him much more
than the other foods on the newspaper. Quickly one after
another, his eyes watering with pleasure, he consumed the
cheese, the vegetables and the sauce; the fresh foods, on
the other hand, he didn't like at all, and even dragged the
things he did want to eat a little way away from them
because he couldn't stand the smell. Long after he had
finished eating and lay lethargic in the same place, his
sister slowly turned the key in the lock as a sign to him
that he should withdraw. He was immediately startled,
although he had been half asleep, and he hurried back under
the couch. But he needed great self-control to stay there
even for the short time that his sister was in the room, as
eating so much food had rounded out his body a little and
he could hardly breathe in that narrow space. Half
suffocating, he watched with bulging eyes as his sister
unselfconsciously took a broom and swept up the left-overs,
mixing them in with the food he had not even touched at all
as if it could not be used any more. She quickly dropped it
all into a bin, closed it with its wooden lid, and carried
everything out. She had hardly turned her back before
Gregor came out again from under the couch and stretched

This was how Gregor received his food each day now, once
in the morning while his parents and the maid were still
asleep, and the second time after everyone had eaten their
meal at midday as his parents would sleep for a little while
then as well, and Gregor's sister would send the maid away
on some errand. Gregor's father and mother certainly did
not want him to starve either, but perhaps it would have
been more than they could stand to have any more experience
of his feeding than being told about it, and perhaps his
sister wanted to spare them what distress she could as they
were indeed suffering enough.

It was impossible for Gregor to find out what they had told
the doctor and the locksmith that first morning to get them
out of the flat. As nobody could understand him, nobody,
not even his sister, thought that he could understand them,
so he had to be content to hear his sister's sighs and
appeals to the saints as she moved about his room. It was
only later, when she had become a little more used to
everything-- there was, of course, no question of her ever
becoming fully used to the situation-- that Gregor would
sometimes catch a friendly comment, or at least a comment
that could be construed as friendly. "He's enjoyed his
dinner today", she might say when he had diligently cleared
away all the food left for him, or if he left most of it,
which slowly became more and more frequent, she would often
say, sadly, "now everything's just been left there again".

Although Gregor wasn't able to hear any news directly he did
listen to much of what was said in the next rooms, and
whenever he heard anyone speaking he would scurry straight
to the appropriate door and press his whole body against it.
There was seldom any conversation, especially at first, that
was not about him in some way, even if only in secret. For
two whole days, all the talk at every mealtime was about
what they should do now; but even between meals they spoke
about the same subject as there were always at least two
members of the family at home-- nobody wanted to be at home
by themselves and it was out of the question to leave the
flat entirely empty. And on the very first day the maid had
fallen to her knees and begged Gregor's mother to let her go
without delay. It was not very clear how much she knew of
what had happened but she left within a quarter of an hour,
tearfully thanking Gregor's mother for her dismissal as if
she had done her an enormous service. She even swore
emphatically not to tell anyone the slightest about what had
happened, even though no-one had asked that of her. Now
Gregor's sister also had to help his mother with the
cooking; although that was not so much bother as no-one ate
very much. Gregor often heard how one of them would
unsuccessfully urge another to eat, and receive no more
answer than "no thanks, I've had enough" or something
similar. No-one drank very much either. His sister would
sometimes ask his father whether he would like a beer,
hoping for the chance to go and fetch it herself. When his
father then said nothing she would add, so that he would not
feel selfish, that she could send the housekeeper for it,
but then his father would close the matter with a big, loud
"No", and no more would be said.

Even before the first day had come to an end, his father had
explained to Gregor's mother and sister what their finances
and prospects were. Now and then he stood up from the table
and took some receipt or document from the little cash box
he had saved from his business when it had collapsed five
years earlier. Gregor heard how he opened the complicated
lock and then closed it again after he had taken the item he
wanted. What he heard his father say was some of the first
good news that Gregor heard since he had first been
incarcerated in his room. He had thought that nothing at
all remained from his father's business, at least he had
never told him anything different, and Gregor had never
asked him about it anyway. Their business misfortune had
reduced the family to a state of total despair, and Gregor's
only concern at that time had been to arrange things so that
they could all forget about it as quickly as possible. So
then he started working especially hard, with a fiery vigour
that raised him from a junior salesman to a travelling
representative almost overnight, bringing with it the
chance to earn money in quite different ways. Gregor
converted his success at work straight into cash that he
could lay on the table at home for the benefit of his
astonished and delighted family. They had been good times
and they had never come again, at least not with the same
splendour, even though Gregor had later earned so much that
he was in a position to bear the costs of the whole family,
and did bear them. They had even got used to it, both
Gregor and the family, they took the money with gratitude
and he was glad to provide it, although there was no longer
much warm affection given in return. Gregor only remained
close to his sister now. Unlike him, she was very fond of
music and a gifted and expressive violinist, it was his
secret plan to send her to the conservatory next year even
though it would cause great expense that would have to be
made up for in some other way. During Gregor's short
periods in town, conversation with his sister would often
turn to the conservatory but it was only ever mentioned as a
lovely dream that could never be realised. Their parents
did not like to hear this innocent talk, but Gregor thought
about it quite hard and decided he would let them know what
he planned with a grand announcement of it on Christmas day.
That was the sort of totally pointless thing that went
through his mind in his present state, pressed upright
against the door and listening. There were times when he
simply became too tired to continue listening, when his head
would fall wearily against the door and he would pull it up
again with a start, as even the slightest noise he caused
would be heard next door and they would all go silent.
"What's that he's doing now", his father would say after a
while, clearly having gone over to the door, and only then
would the interrupted conversation slowly be taken up again.

When explaining things, his father repeated himself several
times, partly because it was a long time since he had been
occupied with these matters himself and partly because
Gregor's mother did not understand everything first time.
From these repeated explanations Gregor learned, to his
pleasure, that despite all their misfortunes there was still
some money available from the old days. It was not a lot,
but it had not been touched in the meantime and some
interest had accumulated. Besides that, they had not been
using up all the money that Gregor had been bringing home
every month, keeping only a little for himself, so that
that, too, had been accumulating. Behind the door, Gregor
nodded with enthusiasm in his pleasure at this unexpected
thrift and caution. He could actually have used this
surplus money to reduce his father's debt to his boss, and
the day when he could have freed himself from that job would
have come much closer, but now it was certainly better the
way his father had done things.

This money, however, was certainly not enough to enable the
family to live off the interest; it was enough to maintain
them for, perhaps, one or two years, no more. That's to
say, it was money that should not really be touched but set
aside for emergencies; money to live on had to be earned.
His father was healthy but old, and lacking in self
confidence. During the five years that he had not been
working-- the first holiday in a life that had been full of
strain and no success-- he had put on a lot of weight and
become very slow and clumsy. Would Gregor's elderly mother
now have to go and earn money? She suffered from asthma
and it was a strain for her just to move about the home, every
other day would be spent struggling for breath on the sofa
by the open window. Would his sister have to go and earn
money? She was still a child of seventeen, her life up till
then had been very enviable, consisting of wearing nice
clothes, sleeping late, helping out in the business, joining
in with a few modest pleasures and most of all playing the
violin. Whenever they began to talk of the need to earn
money, Gregor would always first let go of the door and then
throw himself onto the cool, leather sofa next to it, as he
became quite hot with shame and regret. He would often lie
there the whole night through, not sleeping a wink but
scratching at the leather for hours on end. Or he might go
to all the effort of pushing a chair to the window, climbing
up onto the sill and, propped up in the chair, leaning on
the window to stare out of it. He had used to feel a great
sense of freedom from doing this, but doing it now was
obviously something more remembered than experienced, as
what he actually saw in this way was becoming less distinct
every day, even things that were quite near; he had used to
curse the ever-present view of the hospital across the
street, but now he could not see it at all, and if he had
not known that he lived in Charlottenstrasse, which was a
quiet street despite being in the middle of the city, he
could have thought that he was looking out the window at a
barren waste where the grey sky and the grey earth mingled
inseparably. His observant sister only needed to notice the
chair twice before she would always push it back to its
exact position by the window after she had tidied up the
room, and even left the inner pane of the window open from
then on.

If Gregor had only been able to speak to his sister and
thank her for all that she had to do for him it would have
been easier for him to bear it; but as it was it caused him
pain. His sister, naturally, tried as far as possible to
pretend there was nothing burdensome about it, and the
longer it went on, of course, the better she was able to do
so, but as time went by Gregor was also able to see through
it all so much better. It had even become very unpleasant
for him, now, whenever she entered the room. No sooner had
she come in than she would quickly close the door as a
precaution so that no-one would have to suffer the view into
Gregor's room, then she would go straight to the window and
pull it hurriedly open almost as if she were suffocating.
Even if it was cold, she would stay at the window breathing
deeply for a little while. She would alarm Gregor twice a
day with this running about and noise making; he would stay
under the couch shivering the whole while, knowing full well
that she would certainly have liked to spare him this
ordeal, but it was impossible for her to be in the same room
with him with the windows closed.

One day, about a month after Gregor's transformation when
his sister no longer had any particular reason to be shocked
at his appearance, she came into the room a little earlier
than usual and found him still staring out the window,
motionless, and just where he would be most horrible. In
itself, his sister's not coming into the room would have
been no surprise for Gregor as it would have been difficult
for her to immediately open the window while he was still
there, but not only did she not come in, she went straight
back and closed the door behind her, a stranger would have
thought he had threatened her and tried to bite her. Gregor
went straight to hide himself under the couch, of course,
but he had to wait until midday before his sister came back
and she seemed much more uneasy than usual. It made him
realise that she still found his appearance unbearable and
would continue to do so, she probably even had to overcome
the urge to flee when she saw the little bit of him that
protruded from under the couch. One day, in order to spare
her even this sight, he spent four hours carrying the
bedsheet over to the couch on his back and arranged it so
that he was completely covered and his sister would not be
able to see him even if she bent down. If she did not think
this sheet was necessary then all she had to do was take it
off again, as it was clear enough that it was no pleasure
for Gregor to cut himself off so completely. She left the
sheet where it was. Gregor even thought he glimpsed a look
of gratitude one time when he carefully looked out from
under the sheet to see how his sister liked the new

For the first fourteen days, Gregor's parents could not
bring themselves to come into the room to see him. He would
often hear them say how they appreciated all the new work
his sister was doing even though, before, they had seen her
as a girl who was somewhat useless and frequently been
annoyed with her. But now the two of them, father and
mother, would often both wait outside the door of Gregor's
room while his sister tidied up in there, and as soon as she
went out again she would have to tell them exactly how
everything looked, what Gregor had eaten, how he had behaved
this time and whether, perhaps, any slight improvement could
be seen. His mother also wanted to go in and visit Gregor
relatively soon but his father and sister at first persuaded
her against it. Gregor listened very closely to all this,
and approved fully. Later, though, she had to be held back
by force, which made her call out: "Let me go and see
Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Can't you understand I
have to see him?", and Gregor would think to himself that
maybe it would be better if his mother came in, not every
day of course, but one day a week, perhaps; she could
understand everything much better than his sister who, for
all her courage, was still just a child after all, and
really might not have had an adult's appreciation of the
burdensome job she had taken on.

Gregor's wish to see his mother was soon realised. Out of
consideration for his parents, Gregor wanted to avoid being
seen at the window during the day, the few square meters of
the floor did not give him much room to crawl about, it was
hard to just lie quietly through the night, his food soon
stopped giving him any pleasure at all, and so, to entertain
himself, he got into the habit of crawling up and down the
walls and ceiling. He was especially fond of hanging from
the ceiling; it was quite different from lying on the floor;
he could breathe more freely; his body had a light swing to
it; and up there, relaxed and almost happy, it might happen
that he would surprise even himself by letting go of the
ceiling and landing on the floor with a crash. But now, of
course, he had far better control of his body than before
and, even with a fall as great as that, caused himself no
damage. Very soon his sister noticed Gregor's new way of
entertaining himself-- he had, after all, left traces of the
adhesive from his feet as he crawled about-- and got it into
her head to make it as easy as possible for him by removing
the furniture that got in his way, especially the chest of
drawers and the desk.

Now, this was not something that she would be able to do by
herself; she did not dare to ask for help from her father;
the sixteen year old maid had carried on bravely since the
cook had left but she certainly would not have helped in
this, she had even asked to be allowed to keep the kitchen
locked at all times and never to have to open the door
unless it was especially important; so his sister had no
choice but to choose some time when Gregor's father was not
there and fetch his mother to help her. As she approached
the room, Gregor could hear his mother express her joy, but
once at the door she went silent. First, of course, his
sister came in and looked round to see that everything in
the room was alright; and only then did she let her mother
enter. Gregor had hurriedly pulled the sheet down lower
over the couch and put more folds into it so that everything
really looked as if it had just been thrown down by chance.
Gregor also refrained, this time, from spying out from under
the sheet; he gave up the chance to see his mother until
later and was simply glad that she had come. "You can come
in, he can't be seen", said his sister, obviously leading
her in by the hand. The old chest of drawers was too heavy
for a pair of feeble women to be heaving about, but Gregor
listened as they pushed it from its place, his sister always
taking on the heaviest part of the work for herself and
ignoring her mother's warnings that she would strain
herself. This lasted a very long time. After labouring at
it for fifteen minutes or more his mother said it would be
better to leave the chest where it was, for one thing it was
too heavy for them to get the job finished before Gregor's
father got home and leaving it in the middle of the room it
would be in his way even more, and for another thing it
wasn't even sure that taking the furniture away would really
be any help to him. She thought just the opposite; the
sight of the bare walls saddened her right to her heart; and
why wouldn't Gregor feel the same way about it, he'd been
used to this furniture in his room for a long time and it
would make him feel abandoned to be in an empty room like

Then, quietly, almost whispering as if wanting Gregor (whose
whereabouts she did not know) to hear not even the tone of
her voice, as she was convinced that he did not understand
her words, she added "and by taking the furniture away,
won't it seem like we're showing that we've given up all
hope of improvement and we're abandoning him to cope for
himself? I think it'd be best to leave the room exactly the
way it was before so that when Gregor comes back to us again
he'll find everything unchanged and he'll be able to forget
the time in between all the easier".

Hearing these words from his mother made Gregor realise that
the lack of any direct human communication, along with the
monotonous life led by the family during these two months,
must have made him confused-- he could think of no other way
of explaining to himself why he had seriously wanted his
room emptied out. Had he really wanted to transform his
room into a cave, a warm room fitted out with the nice
furniture he had inherited? That would have let him crawl
around unimpeded in any direction, but it would also have
let him quickly forget his past when he had still been
human. He had come very close to forgetting, and it had
only been the voice of his mother, unheard for so long, that
had shaken him out of it. Nothing should be removed;
everything had to stay; he could not do without the good
influence the furniture had on his condition; and if the
furniture made it difficult for him to crawl about
mindlessly that was not a loss but a great advantage.

His sister, unfortunately, did not agree; she had become
used to the idea, not without reason, that she was Gregor's
spokesman to his parents about the things that concerned
him. This meant that his mother's advice now was sufficient
reason for her to insist on removing not only the chest of
drawers and the desk, as she had thought at first, but all
the furniture apart from the all-important couch. It was
more than childish perversity, of course, or the unexpected
confidence she had recently acquired, that made her insist;
she had indeed noticed that Gregor needed a lot of room to
crawl about in, whereas the furniture, as far as anyone
could see, was of no use to him at all.

Girls of that age, though, do become enthusiastic about
things and feel they must get their way whenever they can.
Perhaps this was what tempted Grete to make Gregor's
situation seem even more shocking than it was so that she
could do even more for him. Grete would probably be the
only one who would dare enter a room dominated by Gregor
crawling about the bare walls by himself. So she refused to
let her mother dissuade her. Gregor's mother already looked
uneasy in his room, she soon stopped speaking and helped
Gregor's sister to get the chest of drawers out with what
strength she had. The chest of drawers was something that
Gregor could do without if he had to, but the writing desk
had to stay. Hardly had the two women pushed the chest of
drawers, groaning, out of the room than Gregor poked his
head out from under the couch to see what he could do about
it. He meant to be as careful and considerate as he could,
but, unfortunately, it was his mother who came back first
while Grete in the next room had her arms round the chest,
pushing and pulling at it from side to side by herself
without, of course, moving it an inch. His mother was not
used to the sight of Gregor, he might have made her ill, so
Gregor hurried backwards to the far end of the couch. In
his startlement, though, he was not able to prevent the
sheet at its front from moving a little. It was enough to
attract his mother's attention. She stood very still,
remained there a moment, and then went back out to Grete.

Gregor kept trying to assure himself that nothing unusual
was happening, it was just a few pieces of furniture being
moved after all, but he soon had to admit that the women
going to and fro, their little calls to each other, the
scraping of the furniture on the floor, all these things
made him feel as if he were being assailed from all sides.
With his head and legs pulled in against him and his body
pressed to the floor, he was forced to admit to himself that
he could not stand all of this much longer. They were
emptying his room out; taking away everything that was dear
to him; they had already taken out the chest containing his
fretsaw and other tools; now they threatened to remove the
writing desk with its place clearly worn into the floor, the
desk where he had done his homework as a business trainee,
at high school, even while he had been at infant school-- he
really could not wait any longer to see whether the two
women's intentions were good. He had nearly forgotten they
were there anyway, as they were now too tired to say
anything while they worked and he could only hear their feet
as they stepped heavily on the floor.

So, while the women were leant against the desk in the other
room catching their breath, he sallied out, changed
direction four times not knowing what he should save first
before his attention was suddenly caught by the picture on
the wall-- which was already denuded of everything else that
had been on it-- of the lady dressed in copious fur. He
hurried up onto the picture and pressed himself against its
glass, it held him firmly and felt good on his hot belly.
This picture at least, now totally covered by Gregor, would
certainly be taken away by no-one. He turned his head to
face the door into the living room so that he could watch
the women when they came back.

They had not allowed themselves a long rest and came back
quite soon; Grete had put her arm around her mother and was
nearly carrying her. "What shall we take now, then?", said
Grete and looked around. Her eyes met those of Gregor on
the wall. Perhaps only because her mother was there, she
remained calm, bent her face to her so that she would not
look round and said, albeit hurriedly and with a tremor in
her voice: "Come on, let's go back in the living room for a
while?" Gregor could see what Grete had in mind, she wanted
to take her mother somewhere safe and then chase him down
from the wall. Well, she could certainly try it! He sat
unyielding on his picture. He would rather jump at Grete's

But Grete's words had made her mother quite worried, she
stepped to one side, saw the enormous brown patch against
the flowers of the wallpaper, and before she even realised
it was Gregor that she saw screamed: "Oh God, oh God!" Arms
outstretched, she fell onto the couch as if she had given up
everything and stayed there immobile. "Gregor!" shouted his
sister, glowering at him and shaking her fist. That was the
first word she had spoken to him directly since his
transformation. She ran into the other room to fetch some
kind of smelling salts to bring her mother out of her faint;
Gregor wanted to help too - he could save his picture later,
although he stuck fast to the glass and had to pull himself
off by force; then he, too, ran into the next room as if he
could advise his sister like in the old days; but he had to
just stand behind her doing nothing; she was looking into
various bottles, he startled her when she turned round; a
bottle fell to the ground and broke; a splinter cut Gregor's
face, some kind of caustic medicine splashed all over him;
now, without delaying any longer, Grete took hold of all the
bottles she could and ran with them in to her mother; she
slammed the door shut with her foot. So now Gregor was shut
out from his mother, who, because of him, might be near to
death; he could not open the door if he did not want to
chase his sister away, and she had to stay with his mother;
there was nothing for him to do but wait; and, oppressed
with anxiety and self-reproach, he began to crawl about, he
crawled over everything, walls, furniture, ceiling, and
finally in his confusion as the whole room began to spin
around him he fell down into the middle of the dinner table.

He lay there for a while, numb and immobile, all around him
it was quiet, maybe that was a good sign. Then there was
someone at the door. The maid, of course, had locked
herself in her kitchen so that Grete would have to go and
answer it. His father had arrived home. "What's happened?"
were his first words; Grete's appearance must have made
everything clear to him. She answered him with subdued
voice, and openly pressed her face into his chest: "Mother's
fainted, but she's better now. Gregor got out." "Just as I
expected", said his father, "just as I always said, but you
women wouldn't listen, would you."

It was clear to Gregor that Grete had not said enough and
that his father took it to mean that something bad had
happened, that he was responsible for some act of violence.
That meant Gregor would now have to try to calm his father,
as he did not have the time to explain things to him even if
that had been possible. So he fled to the door of his room
and pressed himself against it so that his father, when he
came in from the hall, could see straight away that Gregor
had the best intentions and would go back into his room
without delay, that it would not be necessary to drive him
back but that they had only to open the door and he would

His father, though, was not in the mood to notice subtleties
like that; "Ah!", he shouted as he came in, sounding as if
he were both angry and glad at the same time. Gregor drew
his head back from the door and lifted it towards his
father. He really had not imagined his father the way he
stood there now; of late, with his new habit of crawling
about, he had neglected to pay attention to what was going
on the rest of the flat the way he had done before. He
really ought to have expected things to have changed, but
still, still, was that really his father? The same tired
man as used to be laying there entombed in his bed when
Gregor came back from his business trips, who would receive
him sitting in the armchair in his nightgown when he came
back in the evenings; who was hardly even able to stand up
but, as a sign of his pleasure, would just raise his arms
and who, on the couple of times a year when they went for a
walk together on a Sunday or public holiday wrapped up
tightly in his overcoat between Gregor and his mother, would
always labour his way forward a little more slowly than
them, who were already walking slowly for his sake; who
would place his stick down carefully and, if he wanted to
say something would invariably stop and gather his
companions around him.

He was standing up straight enough now; dressed in a smart
blue uniform with gold buttons, the sort worn by the
employees at the banking institute; above the high, stiff
collar of the coat his strong double-chin emerged; under the
bushy eyebrows, his piercing, dark eyes looked out fresh and
alert; his normally unkempt white hair was combed down
painfully close to his scalp. He took his cap, with its
gold monogram from, probably, some bank, and threw it in an
arc right across the room onto the sofa, put his hands in
his trouser pockets, pushing back the bottom of his long
uniform coat, and, with look of determination, walked
towards Gregor.

He probably did not even know himself what he had in mind,
but nonetheless lifted his feet unusually high. Gregor was
amazed at the enormous size of the soles of his boots, but
wasted no time with that-- he knew full well, right from the
first day of his new life, that his father thought it
necessary to always be extremely strict with him. And so he
ran up to his father, stopped when his father stopped,
scurried forwards again when he moved, even slightly. In
this way they went round the room several times without
anything decisive happening, without even giving the
impression of a chase as everything went so slowly. Gregor
remained all this time on the floor, largely because he
feared his father might see it as especially provoking if he
fled onto the wall or ceiling. Whatever he did, Gregor had
to admit that he certainly would not be able to keep up this
running about for long, as for each step his father took he
had to carry out countless movements. He became noticeably
short of breath, even in his earlier life his lungs had not
been very reliable. Now, as he lurched about in his efforts
to muster all the strength he could for running he could
hardly keep his eyes open; his thoughts became too slow for
him to think of any other way of saving himself than
running; he almost forgot that the walls were there for him
to use although, here, they were concealed behind carefully
carved furniture full of notches and protrusions - then,
right beside him, lightly tossed, something flew down and
rolled in front of him. It was an apple; then another one
immediately flew at him; Gregor froze in shock; there was no
longer any point in running as his father had decided to
bombard him. He had filled his pockets with fruit from the
bowl on the sideboard and now, without even taking the time
for careful aim, threw one apple after another. These
little, red apples rolled about on the floor, knocking into
each other as if they had electric motors. An apple thrown
without much force glanced against Gregor's back and slid
off without doing any harm. Another one however,
immediately following it, hit squarely and lodged in his
back; Gregor wanted to drag himself away, as if he could
remove the surprising, the incredible pain by changing his
position; but he felt as if nailed to the spot and spread
himself out, all his senses in confusion. The last thing he
saw was the door of his room being pulled open, his sister
was screaming, his mother ran out in front of her in her
blouse (as his sister had taken off some of her clothes
after she had fainted to make it easier for her to breathe),
she ran to his father, her skirts unfastened and sliding one
after another to the ground, stumbling over the skirts she
pushed herself to his father, her arms around him, uniting
herself with him totally-- now Gregor lost his ability to
see anything-- her hands behind his father's head begging
him to spare Gregor's life.


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