Summer Short Fiction Winner Second Place, A. A. Rubin's "The Next Metamorphosis"

Updated: Aug 29



We set out to find local and regional writers who wanted to build a writing community here in Kansas City and beyond. With help from interns and volunteers, we put out contests on Submittable so we could share your creativity!


Our local 2021-2022 Writers group, met at AfterWords Tavern and Shelves in rain, sleet, or hail, masked and unmasked; they came to write and talk about our best story ideas. Thanks to this group who juried this 2020-2022 C-Note Contest celebrates-100 years of short fiction! And you delivered! You sent work celebrating the styles and genres of great classics in short fiction like The Metamorphosis by Kafka.


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The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka tells the story of Gregor Sama, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Unable to go to work and provide for his family, Gregor becomes increasingly isolated and depressed, and his family, threatened with financial ruin, must rent space to lodgers. The deeply psychological story pits Gregor against his classically Freudian father, and contrasts him with his musically-talented and compassionate sister whom he had intended to send to the conservatory to study music. My story plays of Kafka’s opening, which is among the most famous in all of literature. NB: Kafka’s story is public domain, but some of the more recent translations are not.



The Next Metamorphosis


As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from pleasant dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a slender human. He lay on his supple, pillow-like backside, and when he raised his head a little, he saw his knotted belly-button and hairy chest from which height the coverlet had slipped, and from which it was about to slide off completely. His two legs, whose length was accentuated by his short torso, prickled with goose bumps before his eyes.


“What has happened to me?” he thought. “Could it have been a dream?”


His room appeared to be a regular human room, if a little bit small. The familiar pictures hung on the wall. His samples, which appeared slightly less shabby than he remembered, lay spread out on the familiar desk, over which the woman in the picture he had cut out from the magazine smiled at him.


He shifted his gaze to the window and peered out at cloudless skies, which elevated his mood, as he dressed in clothes whose quality felt strange, and prepared to face the day.


“What if I could forget all that foolishness about the vermin?” he thought.


He wondered whether it would return if he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Gregor’s thoughts were interrupted by the pleasant sound of violin music. He stretched his delicate human fingers around the cool doorknob, turned it, pushed it open with the strange power he felt in his arm and shoulders, and tip-toed out of his room as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the harmonious sounds.


He sat down in a side chair to listen to his sister play. He had not heard her perform since that awful night with the lodgers, but it was one of his greatest pleasures. (There were no signs of those disgusting lodgers; had they finally moved out?) When the music stopped, he applauded, and a smile spread across his face.


“Grete,” he said, turning to his sister. “Your playing has improved.”


“After a year in the conservatory,” she said, a bit shyly, “I should certainly hope so.”

“The conservatory,” Gregor repeated with wonder. He did not remember her enrolling in the conservatory. He had planned on sending her for her Christmas present last year, but that was before his unfortunate change.


Gregor raised his head intending to meet his sister’s beatific gaze, but his eyes fell, instead, upon a clock that hung on the sitting room wall.

“God almighty!” he exclaimed. “How long have I been listening to you play?” It was close to nine, and he had missed his train. “I will have to call the boss and tell him I won’t be in today.”


“Gregor,” his sister replied. “Are you feeling well?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just an excuse. I can’t just not show up to work without giving a reason.”


“But Gregor!” Her voice was filled with concern. “It’s the Christmas holiday. Why do you think I am home from the conservatory?”


Before Gregor could answer, his father entered the room carrying a bowl of apples.

“Fancy some breakfast?” he asked as he picked an apple out of the bowl and tossed it lightly in Gregor’s direction. Gregor flinched, turning, and hunching his back from the projectile with unnatural timidity. He skittered away across the room like a small, scared animal.


“What’s with you?” his father asked. He took a bite out of the apple, held it out to show Grete, then left the room laughing.


Just then, his mother entered the room. Spying the apple languishing on the floor, she waved her arms feverishly.


“Pick it up; pick it up,” she exhorted. “If you leave it there, we’ll get bugs, and you know how much the charwoman hates insects.”


At the mention of the word “insects,” Gregor shuddered. His sister saw him go pale and moved quickly across the room to support him under his arms.


“Come sit down.” She placed him back in the side-chair by the sitting room window. “Here, let me play you something. You seemed to be enjoying it.”


Grete raised the violin to her chin and began to play Bach’s Second Partita. Gregor closed his eyes and listened to the music. It was one of his favorite pieces, and his sister was playing it beautifully. As the waves of sound rushed over him, his worries melted away. With each line of melody, his stress dissipated; with each chord, his anxiety lifted; with each note, he was removed further from the troubles of the modern world, further from the commute, further from the boss, further from the job, further from his memory of his unsettling dream. As his sister finished the piece, Gregor felt something he hadn’t felt in longer than he could remember: he felt fully and completely human.


Gregor opened his eyes. The rays from the morning sun shone through the window bathing him in a warm, comforting glow. He smiled as he looked up at the sky from his perspective in the chair below. He watched the sky, contentedly, for what felt like a long time.

The shrill cry of the air-raid siren pierced the serene silence and drove the echoes of the violin’s music from his mind.


Gregor’s smile faded as, off in the distance, he saw the first of the bombs streaking across the cloudless sky.


Suddenly, he wished he was a monstrous insect once again.

###




 


A. A. Rubin surfs the cosmos on winds of dark energy and conjures stories out of the universe’s negative space. He writes in a variety of genres, from comics, to literary fiction, fantasy, to formal poetry, and almost everything in between. His work has appeared recently in Love Letters to Poe, Ahoy! Comics, and Dollar Store Magazine. He can be reached on social

media as @TheSurrealAri, or through his website, www.aarubin.com.




 

Guest Juror, thanks to our 2021-2022 Writers group who met at AfterWords Tavern and Shelves and Sara Kaminski, who juried this 2020-2021 Short Fiction Contest. The C-Note Contest was about celebrating 100 years of short fiction!


Sarah Kaminski teaches high school math, but her real joy is to tell corny jokes to her students to make them cringe. Sarah’s short fiction has been published in several Of Words anthologies, as well as Running Wild Anthology and At Death's Door. Her contemporary YA novels and short fiction fiercely tackle the gamut of tough issues that affect real teenagers. You can find her in Kansas City with her two boys and her husband, where she’s often crocheting, singing aloud to music or snuggling with her dog, Loki.

 

Upcoming Anthologies


  • Tales from the Deep, Short Fiction illustrated by Alex Eickhoff, Holloween 2022

  • Night Forest, Folk Poetry and Story featuring poets Gary Baumier and Katharyn Howd Machan and artist Elke Trittle, Winter 2022

  • Sprouts Meditations: Artists, Poets & Writers, Summer 2022


 

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