Thursday, May 30, 2013

CENTIPEDIA: Gregor Samsa

From "The Return of Doctor Reverso"

Gregor Samsa was the other half of my new office staff.

He's a bit difficult to explain.

As far as work history goes, he was a traveling salesman in Europe for many years, until the day he awoke to find that he had been transformed into a human-sized insect of some sort. That's the easiest way to describe him, though he does not really resemble any terrestrial insect I've ever seen. How and why this metamorphosis took place is unknown. I suspect some trick of quantum mechanics combined with Gregor's own overdeveloped sense of existential angst.

Whatever the case, the former salesman was now a six-foot-long crawling vermin of an undetermined-- possibly unprecedented-- species. During a recent trip to Prague, where I had gone in search of the elusive Mary Jane Gallows, I had discovered Gregor lying at the bottom of a rubbish heap, apparently dead. He had evidently been there for quite some time. Intrigued, I had dragged the bizarre, chitinous remains back to my hotel. During the course of my scientific examination, the thing revived and told me its story. (Interested readers may find a full account of this in "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. How much truth there is in that version of the tale, I can't be sure, nor do I know how Kafka got the story. All I know is that Gregor Samsa was a giant, intelligent bug. How he got that way seemed almost immaterial.)

I had brought him back to the States with me and allowed him to live in one of the subcellars under the Benway Building, where he was charged with guarding the entrance to my secret tunnel. But Gregor, in spite of his social shortcomings, was not by nature a solitary creature. He had taken to crawling up one of the elevator shafts to the top six floors once or twice a day, in search of company. I often passed the time of day with him when I was not on a case, but he still spent most of his time alone. That had changed after Prufrock had been hired. The pair of them took to one another almost immediately, which I found a little surprising. But I suppose they had a lot in common, if you really got down to it.

Though I knew he possessed human intellect, something in me saw him as an amiable, if hideous, domestic animal. Though he could speak, and had even learned English, Gregor generally preferred to remain mute. He said he didn't like to startle people. 

I mean, come on...

--The Black Centipede

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