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As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic cockroach. Not knowing how this had come to be, he simply lay there, legs flailing about wildly.
“Yet another bother among all things.” He thought.
In finding the difficulty in getting up or moving around, he decided to lay in waiting for someone else to come and help him up. After a while of this, though, he realized that no one would possibly be coming since he had guards posted at the door, and even they were not allowed in. So he continued laying there, gathering his strength, and pondered how he was to move himself, since he was stuck flat on his back. As his eyes moved across the pillowed room, he realized that he could no longer perceive colors, but rather viewed everything as gray. His gaze met a figure carved in stone on the far side of the room. It was the likeness of a large, slightly portly, slightly balding, man dressed in robes and standing proud on the heads of his enemies. This was himself.
“That statue doesn’t fit me anymore.” he thought, “I need a new one to mark my change in appearance.”
Concentrating now on the task at hand, he finally had it figured. He rocked himself back and forth, gaining momentum, until he finally popped right over the side of the bed and landed with a great “thunk” upon the marble floor.
The guards outside his door knew by this sound that it was going to be a bad day.
Now crouching, Gregor felt a dull pain, but it soon passed. He slowly managed to stand himself up, shaking as he went, then shambled like a risen corpse across the room. He pushed his way through the door, groaning like a risen corpse.
The guards, standing on either side and facing away from the door, did not see Gregor until he had moved past them. They did not stir, but rather stared at him as he walked down the corridor, each paralyzed with fear. Then when he had rounded the corner, they looked at each other with wild gazes, remaining stunned the rest of the day.
As Gregor walked through the great hall, all his subjects watched silently until he slumped down into his elegant throne and cleared his throat in a loud hissing cough which signaled them to carry on.
The first to approach him was his advisor, Balario. A man nearing middle age, thin with pointy hat and still pointier beard, Balario had always thought Gregor repulsive, and had almost half expected that something such as this would occur some day. Indeed, Balario had waited for this opportunity, and was quite amused by this transformation. He had an almost mocking tone as he said, “Good morning sire. Pleasant night, I presume?”
“What makes you presume such a thing?” hissed Gregor. “You are wrong! My dreams were most upsetting, and I do not feel quite myself today.”
“Are you ill, sire?”
Gregor hissed angrily in reply.
“Shall I summon the priest?”
Balario slunk, knowing that justice was finally falling, to rouse the priest from his temple.
In the meanwhile, Gregor sank unpleasantly into his cushion, deeper and deeper, until he called over a nearby servant.
“I need a new statue,”
“And new robes,”
“And a new bathtub,”
“And add this to my title:” as he motioned with his hands as if picturing the words before him “The Affable Arthropod,”
“Of course, sir.” He began to inch away.
“And bring me some meat to eat... Raw!” Gregor finally concluded.
Gregor was consuming his dish of moldering meat when Balario returned with the priest, an old, but not feeble, fellow. Surprised at how “ill” Gregor really was, he stood stunned for a moment as he entered the room.
“Well,” started Gregor, “what are you going to do then?”
The priest spoke softly at first, “It appears you are afflicted by a curse.”
“I am no fool!” snapped Gregor, “I can see that just as well as you can. What are you going to do?”
“I’m afraid there is only one thing that can be done.” said the priest, “you must appease the gods that you offended.”
“The gods that I offended!” exclaimed Gregor, “It was not I, the king of Thebes, that caused this accursed form. It was this place, this city. All the city is rank with pestilence. One can see the afflicted lining the streets. Clearly I have been infected by whatever curse this forsaken city has been put under. No, It was not an act of mine, but one of yours that has caused this to happen, and you are all to blame. Somehow I must rid myself of this lycanthrope body by dealing justice to the guilty that infest these streets!”
The priest, still quiet, replied, “It is true that action must be taken to deal justice to the one guilty of the crime, but you cannot pass judgement upon an entire people for the actions of one man. “
“Then how am I to find the one responsible?”
“There is a highly respected soothsayer withing the city’s walls now. I would suggest that you go and see him for truth.”
“Very well then, you may leave, and a lot of help you have been, too” then to Balario, “Go and fetch this wretch and I shall hear the soothes he says, but I am just near my patience’s end with all this talk. I am not in a merciful mood.”
Balario and the priest took their leave.
“But I am hungry”, Gregor continued out loud to himself. “You there, go find me some more stinking meat.” He did not realize that his previous snack had ended up all over himself. During the wait, everyone kept their fair distance from him, more than usual, due to his odor, his countenance, and his apparent mood.
He had finished off three more plates of festering flesh before he grew weary of waiting and had the inclination to leave. He discovered that once again he must rock himself to and fro before being able to dislodge himself from his seat. But after the spectacle he resumed his poise and descended the palace steps in dignity.
He walked though the streets of the town, the way clearing in front of him like it had never quite done so before. This pleased him, this fact and that no one dared begging for food, money, or a release from horrid squalor. By the time he had finished his merry tour of the town he had grown quite accustomed to this, and he even decided that he would rather remain as he was and kept the great respect that such a form demanded. Rounding the corner, he noticed that Balario had returned, and also present was a old, wrinkled figure, blind as a box.
“This is the respectable soothsayer?” laughed Gregor, hissing.
“May I present the honorable Teiresias?” replied Balario.
“You are much too quick to speak, proud king. Many words are heard from your mouth, but you have yet to see anything.” said Teiresias.
“You would call me blind, old man? You can’t see the hand in front of your face.”
“I can see inside of you, but you cannot see what is plain as day, can you? You do not understand what is set before you in simple terms, even. I waste my time hear, I should just leave you to your fate. It stinks in this city.”
“What of my fate! I do not choose to be returned to what I was, but rather see this as a blessing. I will not be made sour by the rest of you men; I take what I am given, and I am given what I deserve!”
“Indeed, that is true, but even stupidity cannot shield you from what will befall you. I have peered deep within, and have seen what will become of you, of all of us. None shall withstand the onslaught that is to come.”
“I will not be made the victim, for I ally myself with that power that has dealt these fortunes here, rightly. I accept what has been given and see that it is just. For this, I will not be made the enemy.”
“But you already have, just look at what has happened.”
“Ha! This is nothing to me! I have already taken what was coming to me, and I see it as a good thing. Surely if I were to be punished it would have been worse, I might have died in my sleep if I were truly meant to suffer. But judgement has already passed on me, and will now strike upon he that called forth this wrath.”
“You know not of this wrath.”
“If there is more then, tell me of it. What is to befall this unfortunate place.”
“There is much to tell of your fate, shall I begin where it began? Nine years past you were a man of Euboea, until you made a boast against Amphilochus,the king of Thebes that you were greater than he.”
“And see how rightful it was now!”
“You did indeed have victory after bringing war upon these shores, but by what method, and for what purpose?”
“To make an honest man of myself.”
“For your own pride and greed! You sent for your men to kill the king as he was along the road, with little of his own defense, and you were not even the one to commit the deed. You acted as a coward would do, and took the crown without right.”
“He left himself defenseless. It was simply a strategic act of genius. And don’t think I didn’t get my hands bloodied in this also.”
“If you interrupt me again, I will leave, and not continue. You brought war to Thebes, and did not tend to her ills, nor the wounds of her inhabitants. A famine was sent to your homeland, killing your countrymen, but you remained indifferent, not heeding the pleas of your kin as you grew fat with power. You even had convinced yourself that it was your fate to leave as you did, to avoid this fate yourself. Finally then the great disease struck the city, and yourself now directly affected, see this as a good thing, too. Now fate will not tolerate any more failure. Death is the final curse, and it comes swiftly! You have had many chances, and this is your last.”
“But what could I do to prevent such a fate?”
“Humble yourself and you shall see what you have done, then you may see what to do. Otherwise, begone! And free this land from your curse! But you still do not know all of what will happen, and shall not until it befalls you. Also before the horizon are these things: you shall kill your father and sleep in his stead, you shall drive all people from your house and lead your sister to her doom, and lastly, more foul even than these all, is what became of you in your dreams last night. Now heed my warning and relinquish yourself.”
“You come here first to insult me, and now you would have me step down from my own pedestal! That which I obtained by my own accord! What could put you to this? What is your motive? You threaten me with exile, on pain of death. Surely this is a plot! What a fool you must think me, not to see such an obvious threat! The guise of a prophet for the sake of conspirators! Who put you up to this?” he turned to Balario. “You! You brought this man to me, who says these things. You are the one who would have my throne. Well, the throne is mine, and the power to execute my orders, and my orders are execution.”
“I could never do these things!” Balario cried out.
“Stay your lies! You and the false sage both shall feel my wrath. Not just mine, but divine, for you are the ones who have brought such plagues upon Thebes. You are the ones who would have us fall. You are the ones who have turned me into what I am. No doubt some witchcraft of yours! You, sage, I know how you came to be where you are now. I have heard the story a hundred times. You were a poor man, then you most fortunate should spy the bathing goddess until she shut your eyes forever. Now, because of your fate, anything you say is believed by the many fools about these lands, and your fortune hath made itself from this. You have no ability, it was only a fool’s luck that put you where you are, and now you want my position, my power. We shall see where your fates fall, for now you must pay back what you have swindled all these years. I will make things right, for I am right.”
“You have made your last mistake, and this one shall not go unpunished.” said the soothsayer. “Now I shall leave, for you are a sore on my sight!”
“You shall never again leave this city!” hissed Gregor. “Guards! seize these conspirators and imprison them. No, entomb them. They shall die shut away in the walls, never to be heard from again.”
As the guards rushed forth, Balario pulled out his sword and lept towards Gregor, who received the point in his side. Blue blood ushered forth from the wound, but Balario was restrained before he could do more. Teiresius had somehow vanished in this episode, and was gone before the guards would sieze him. Gregor’s wound went untreated as he stood on the steps, making visible to all what had happened, as Balario was led away to his death. A crow flew overhead.
Most of the city shut themselves in that day, fearful of what might happen. Most would peer out from their windows at Gregor as he moved past. Some spent the day praying, while others joked that he had never looked nicer than he did that day. Still, everyone had things to do, especially with the massive numbers of famished and ill. The day seemed almost too normal, but for the storm clouds gathering overhead.
Gregor stood there for a while, bleeding to the public, occasionally eating more of his favorite rotten meats. At once he declared, to no one in particular (indeed no one was minding him at all), that he was to make a proclamation to the city, and that everyone was to gather at the steps of his palace. Slowly they did start to assemble, including many who were sick or even dying.
Gregor waited until he judged the weather to be fair, and then made his appearance. Somehow, everyone had failed to notice the beast climb up the roof of a house opposite the palace steps, now a suitable amphitheatre for the uninspired folk.
He begins, his blood still dripping onto the cobbles below:
“My people, My city:
Today we have born witness to a series that would shake the foundations of the city, if I were to allow such a thing. These devils have conspired here to be the end of me, the end of all Thebes. You may see the signs all around you: War, Famine, Disease, even Death! All these things have come to pass in the time that the two that shall not be named have come to our city. For these acts, they must be delivered unto there from whence they came. They must fall back into the abyss so terrible. One is being dealt with now, as I stand I stand here before you. The other, though, through some black art hath eluded me, and still haunts the streets, waiting for his chance to devour us, one by one, starting with the weak, then the children, and finally with me. This is not a fate you shall have, so long as I draw breath... so long as I can stand! Give me your swears of allegiance, for I have been empowered, and I shall be king of Thebes for years to come! No blind warlock can dare stand up to my might! Ahahahahahaha!!!”
Just as his last laugh struck, so too did the thunder; actually exactly as he had hoped it would. With his final remark, “Go forth my army of spirits!” the townsmen slid off, or at least, those that had survived until the end of the speech. Gregor then slid himself off the roof, down onto his dried pool of blood, which was now purple, mixed with the blood of others. His deep wound was now fully healed, and Gregor was once again thankful for his new-found form.
The smell of death around him aroused his senses. He was now monstrously hungry. He gorged himself right there upon the dead that lie about, then proceeded to scour the city streets, feasting upon all the festering corpses. It did make the town a little bit neater. He may have consumed as many as a thousand in those few hours that peace had spared him.
Bloated, he made his way back to the palace, where he met upon a sight startling to even he. There stood two creatures not unlike his own form. Two cockroaches, large, but not as much as he. One was male, the other female, though only Gregor could distinguish that, of course. He tried greeting them, but they seemed only able to respond in hisses, which he was not able to distinguish. Then he got inspired.
Gregor made a move towards the female, but was cut off by the male, who seemed to understand his intentions. Gregor tried to push him aside, but was lashed at with flailing limbs. Then the mandibles started snapping and they were at it. A brutal conflict, epic on the entomol scale, cost many wounds to both, but in the end, Gregor overpowered him, and once again being presented with a corpse, he devoured the victim.
Remembering what the tussle was about, Gregor found the female in a corner and then pursued her past the gates until he caught her in the brush; or rather, the brush caught her. Mostly instinctive were his motives, but he also sensed something familiar in her.
By and by, nature took its course, and Gregor was alarmed by what this would mean. After he had his way, she then bit down upon his head violently, trying to crush it. He was able to shake her off though, and was then able to dispose of her in the same way he had with the male, and then sauntered nonchalant back into town.
After these meetings he had had enough of other giant insects. He called his soldiers to the task of searching the land for any others and killing them on site. This was a regrettable task for them. To make it seem a preferable task, he gave them the option of searching the town for any more dead bodies for him to eat. None hesitated to leave the city before a moment had passed.
After resting on the floor of his great hall long enough for his new wounds to heal, Gregor’s attention was brought to new developments. His new advisor, Flafales, read to him the report:
“Our armies have swept the lands and found but one giant cockroach, which was promptly put down on the spot, with little confrontation. Tracing its tracks, it has been concluded that the roaches have come from the lands of Euboea, though it seems they were all that had been there also.”
“That conlcudes that issue, then.” said Gregor.
“The priest has suggested that is is a sign.”
“The roaches, they came from Euboea, your homeland, and you are also like them, at least in appearance. He believes that you may have something to do with them.”
“He thinks I brought them here?!”
“Is that what he has been preaching?!”
“Well, I wouldn’t say...”
“I think it is time I go pay homage at the temple. You may leave now... Wait! Has there been any sign of the false prophet?”
“Teire- er, there has been sign of no prophet in the city since you sent him away.”
“Good, perhaps he is coward enough to stay away, or he has left that I have seen through his guise, exposing his lack of power. Power, yes, power. That is something I have in abundance now. Not just the powers of a king bless me, but I feel a divine force within me! Maybe he died... Ah, yes, the temple!”
Gregor then made his way up the acropolis to the impressive marble structure at its center. Gregor scoffed at it’s predominance. He marched his way straight through the doors, down the columned hall to the priest. He seized the wrinkled holiman with two limbs and stared him down.
“What is it you have been saying about me, priest?” He started drooling ooze, and the stench permeating from his mouth would make a musk ox faint. “Or are you too weak to say it to my face?”
The priest appeared unafraid. He yelled at Gregor, but his voice was frail from age and usage. “What have you been doing, king? You have brought more suffering upon us! A plague of giant insects is too much for the weak, and you are one of them!”
“I have taken care of that problem already.”
“What have you been doing, king?”
He hissed. “Eating”
“Eating what? I have seen more than a few bodies disappear this day, and I have attended no funerals.”
Hiss. “That is none of your concern.”
“You have been eating people! It is everyone's concern!”
“I do not eat the living. I am ridding this city of the dead. You will soon be among them. It seems there are always three. I had forgotten that B-, my traitorous advisor had brought you to me first. You were the instigator! Now with this final act, the city will be cleansed of all evil.”
“Murderer! You should, you will burn for this! You will burn!”
It was over quickly for the priest, though far too long for the spectators, who all wore ghastly faces. Fear was gripping their hearts as hard as there hands now did. When he concluded, Gregor turned and faced down the mount, making another proclamation:
“My people of Thebes, people of the world:
I have decided that I am not just the king of Thebes, but am also a god. All people shall now worship me. Tear down the statues! All constructs shall now reflect my greatness. Furthermore, anyone who would dare defy or fail me shall know that my divine wrath shall smite them on the spot! I can sense your treachery! The temple shall now be my new palace. My position, high above the city, and in its epicenter, it is exactly as it should be. And also, all citizens of the city will now give all offerings to me, along with all the dead of the town... And if anyone knows anything of the whereabouts of the false prophet, they shall inform me immediately. All this on pain of death! All hail your king and deity!”
A faint “hail” came from the crowds, and then hail came from the sky. It pelted the crowds back into their homes, and bombarded Gregor with a fury till he retreated back into the temple, wherein the pelting sounds on the roof were an assault upon his... antennae.
He set himself to dislodging the carved marble pantheon from its pedestals, one by one. Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Demeter, Eros, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Hermes, Hestia, the Olympians fell. Then the titans, Cronus, Oceanus, Iapetus, Hyperion, Rhea, and others. He felt himself weakening as he worked against Menoitios. When his figure was cast aside, the face of Teiresias was within Gregor’s sight. But this was no face of stone, for the soothsayer himself was there, staring back at his compound eyes. Gregor made out an infuriating hiss.
“Hisssss. You would dare show your face in my city, you treacherous apostate! I know where your allegiances lie.”
“Not with you, you may be sure.”
“You know that all who speak against me die!”
“Recently that seems true, though it seems everyone in your presence dies. Perhaps everyone has spoken against you? Rightfully so.”
“You fool! To speak against a god brings death!”
Gregor lunged towards the prophet, who evaded him, and presented Gregor a wall of stone to bash instead. However, the wall did bashing to Gregor’s head also. Both cracked. He hissed again, a black fluid now oozing from his cloven scalp. Teiresias is the first to resume speaking.
“How is it that a god bleeds?”
“I may bleed, but you will perish entirely!”
He thrusts again with his mandibles, only to snatch up the air.
“You are already perishing, Oh so mighty king! Do you not see all that has happened heretofore?”
“What has happened?”
“That which I have told you would, all but your nightmares, as if these have not been so to you. Why trouble this Terra longer, can you not see anything, you with all your eyes!”
“You would mock me yet again! You blind bat, are caught here in my cave! I should clip your wings. You mention things that you have told. What are these?”
“I shall remind your denseness. You had already been turned into this form when I mentioned the others. You killed your father and slept in his stead.”
“I did no such thing, liar! They yet reside in Euboea if not in Hades. None from there have traversed these parts today, for fear of the roaches that did come... from... Euboea.”
“You also led your sister to her death.”
Gregor has no reply.
“You cannot deny that you have driven all from your house. That leaves only your final fate.”
“Enough of my fate! It is over.”
A booming crack, as if thunder, came from the foundations of the temple. The crack in the wall wall expanding, rippling and reaching out to all parts of the temple. The compound eyes darted about as everything started to shake, even the air was convulsing. The roof caved in, revealing a swirling nebulosity obscuring the lugubrious sky. The air rushed up like a vacuum, trying to suck the insect up into the funnel. Spiked limbs gripped a column and held fast. Then he was alerted to a red light where the temple’s heart once stood. Gaea was opened in a jagged chasm. Soon it had spread to a terribly deep abyss, from whence the insectine creature witnessed a procession of dark spirits advance. The ground beneath him gave way, and he slid slowly down towards the fiery pits, flailing and clawing with all his apendages. In vain, he eventually was carried down to the bottom, where he awaited all that had been promised him.
The floors receded, coming together once more, now that the beast had been consumed beneath them. In the gloom, Teiresius is left to reflect upon the last.
“Oh, unfortunate Thebes. This has been the scene of so much tragedies, none should see all thy days lived through. For those who remain, the sorrow may be great, but it is come close, for there are yet but a few great conquests left for this land to endure, and all the better become by them. The last of the foul has departed this plane, and all now feel the great stings of death. Blinded be they now, no sight may yet permeate their eyes, they are now awakened to the full force of feeling, and yet the images still come to their minds, full and horrible. Grotesque is no word suiting for their standards now, living in what I did see the night past. Not much more should be reflected upon their fates, for they deserve not woe and mourning, but instead thoughts should dwell upon the living future. For me, Thebes shall not be a sight any longer. It’s dust will no longer travel with me, once I remove its dust from my sandals. I shall retire and leave the dead to bury themselves, or else to rise from their graves to new lives. I shall retire thence, and hear no more of Thebes.”