Kafka Lives!


Alan Sturrock, Wilmington

Everything the scientist touches turns to science…”      —John Fowles

Every day at precisely the same time the scientist collected data. The three clocks in his small house were synchronized perfectly. And, at the stroke of nine thirty every morning, he rose from his desk in his small study, picked up his data collection notebook and pen, descended a small flight of stairs, and left his house. Even though he was only walking a relatively short distance–some thirty three paces or so–he carefully locked the house behind him.

On reaching the small house next door, he wiped his shoes vigorously on the doormat, not wishing to track gratuitous bugs in with him. Much of this house was unfurnished, apart from one large room which had a few pieces of second hand furniture. This room was, daily, the locus of his collection–capturing, collecting and classifying dead bugs which had strayed into the shell of a house, presumably looking for water.

His mother had, prior to her passing, bought the second house for his wedding. Unfortunately, the wedding never materialized, through variables outside his control [his fiancée had decided, at the last moment, to marry someone else with ‘prospects’].

The room was always the same. Carefully temperature controlled, the same amount of light filtering in from the east-facing picture windows, the laboratory was where the scientist did his best to ‘control’ the many variables in his daily science. A cursory cleaning was held once a month but nothing was done to prevent the bugs from invading the large room. He could not control the weather. But he was beginning to note that drought spells drove more and more bugs into the small house looking [presumably] for water. Every week, he would assemble the collection [by size, by species, by sub specialties], and place them carefully in long, shallow drawers in the one major piece of furniture in the room.

A scientist he had not always been. Most of his young adult life he had worked as a lowly-paid insurance clerk. Something of a recluse by preference, the  sudden [and short] romance had been a brief interregnum between reigns of reclusivity. That romance had taken both he and his mother by surprise, resulting in the purchase of the small house next door… now a consolation prize [and his laboratory]. When his mother had died shortly thereafter leaving him a nice inheritance, he immediately resigned from his job and devoted his time and energy to being and becoming a scientist.

Then, one morning, he woke up feeling quite, quite queer. His upper torso felt like a hard shell. He had no appetite, used as he was to eating hearty breakfasts. His balance was off. And there was a strange ringing noise in his ears. He seemed to move slowly, but it was as if he was outside of himself, looking in. Furthermore his hand eye coordination seemed lacking.

At the appointed time he appeared to gather his notebook and pen and then headed next door to his laboratory. He would never return.  He seemed to glide across the path towards the house. And it seemed to take a longer time. He noticed that his eyes were losing focus, only to regain it fitfully in moments of extreme clarity. Everything looked large, larger and largest. Then a blur.

Inside the house next door, his mind–what was left of it–was a riot of confusion. That was when everything else happened at breakneck speed. He grew four more long, spindly legs. His own two legs changed in the process. His increasingly shell-like body sprouted a pair of gossamer wings. His eyes bulged large and it felt that two smaller legs sprouted from the center of where his forehead had been.

The next thing it was flying around the room, searching for food and water. It flew and flew reveling in a newly found freedom. It alighted on a small, carved shelf of a mirror.

It stared at the mirror.

And stared for the longest time.

It had become the many parts of the collection.

The metamorphosis was complete…

Photo credit: Domianick on Pixabay