As Tony Malone awoke one morning from uneasy sleep, caused partly by reading Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, or The Metamorphosis, until far too late for someone with Tony’s early-bedtime habits, he found himself changed into a monstrous bookworm. He looked down at his body and saw nothing but a long, worm-like torso, and, when he glanced over at the curtainless window, he thought he saw something resembling a puffy, oval face, with large eyes, more suitable for heavy reading than his usual small ones. He fell back onto his bed, pondering the change which, for no reason he could think of at the moment, besides, of course, the incessant reading he had been undertaking of late, had come over him while he was sleeping or, to be more accurate, slipping in and out of consciousness. What had happened? What was he to do? And, more importantly, what was he to read next?
As he mulled over the situation in his mind, he began, unconsciously, to think back to Kafka’s novella, smiling wryly at the coincidental irony of undergoing such a transformation after reading that particular book – although, of course, perhaps it wasn’t such a coincidence when you considered that, just like Gregor Samsa, and Kafka himself, he too was a family man, burdened by responsibility, subconsciously waiting for something to take matters out of his own hands and relieve him of his onerous task. He reflected upon the possibility, perhaps the certainty? No, the possibility, that this rejection of social norms, the role of the man as worker and bread winner, was linked to a regression in Samsa’s condition (and it was certainly possible, if not certain, that this was also a factor in Tony’s own, recent – and maybe not entirely unexpected – unfortunate accident…), a regression which was nothing more, or less, than a rejection of the load his family was asking him to bear.
Tony was just about to follow this train of thought further, when, suddenly and abruptly, especially for that time of the morning (for, although it was light outside, the sun certainly hadn’t risen much above the horizon yet), the door crashed open, and his elder daughter Emily ran into the room. On seeing her father, or more accurately, the creature lying where her father was usually to be found, she stopped, silent, as if first weighing events and possible explanations up in her mind, before then deciding to speak after all, asking with an, understandably, quivering voice, “Is that you, Daddy?”. Now, this put Tony on the spot, firstly, because he wasn’t sure if he would still be able to speak and, more importantly, be understood, but also because, if he was honest with himself, he wasn’t quite sure of the answer to this question himself… As he attempted to move himself into a more upright position, preparatory to responding to his daughter’s unexpectedly metaphysical question, Emily, seeing only a creature shifting itself slightly in her direction, turned and fled from the room.
Tony now managed to turn himself over onto what might, or might not, have been his stomach, feeling all of a sudden, although the feeling may have been there for some time, masked by the aches caused by his uncomfortable position, that he was actually very hungry. Some toast would be nice or… no. The idea of food repelled him, but a book… a book would be good, preferably something old and long since ideologically rotten. He paused for thought, wondering where that idea had come from, letting it slip away as quickly as it had entered his head.
Again he thought back to Die Verwandlung, marvelling at more parallels between his and the protagonist’s plight, deciding this time to consider the possibility of a metaphor of terminal illness or disability, a theme that had already crossed his mind when reading another of Kafka’s works, Der Prozeß. Perhaps Samsa’s transformation was a metaphor for a more mundane, but equally debilitating, disease, one which his family would struggle to accept and adapt to. Possible… Nevertheless, Tony couldn’t really see his twinges of RSI in the same vein, and he was struggling to see how an inability to type for long periods of time could somehow evolve into a full-body mutation of the kind he was experiencing. He paused, unsure, unable to understand the logic of the proceedings, cogitating, considering and clarifying events in his mind. He still felt hungry too.
Just then, in the middle of his musings, he became aware of another intruder into his bookworm’s lair, a figure he could just make out through his slightly altered, near-sighted vision. He slowly recognised his wife as she crossed the threshold, looking around calmly, as if registering slight changes in the environment, before fixing her gaze calmly on the entity lying beneath the sheets. Tony’s heart began to beat faster, and his mouth, or what he still thought of as his mouth, being, as it was, in the place where he was accustomed to find that feature, opened and closed quickly, almost as if the creature, the bookworm, the husband wanted to say something. The wife took a step forward, looked Tony in the eye, and calmly, but with a barely veiled hint of hostility, said:
“If you think this will get you out of mowing the lawn, you’ve got another think coming.”
With that, she turned and left the room, and Tony, still cowering under the sheets, started thinking about getting dressed – and especially about how he was going to get his t-shirt over his over-sized head…