The vermin woke from a long and untroubled sleep to find that he had been transformed on the street on which he slept into Gregor Samsa.

Of course, he was not immediately aware of this new name upon waking up. He only knew that something was different. Still lying in the corner where he had fallen asleep, he opened his eyes. Feeling indescribably and uncomfortably strange, he turned (his neck?) to look down at himself. He saw an enormous, soft, bipedal creature—a man.

Frightened, he tried to scuttle away from the man, only to see the two thick flanks below him moving wildly and without grace, as if they hadn’t been properly instructed on how to move. All four (just four?) of his limbs were failing uncontrollably. The man’s arms thrashed against the wall and he hissed in pain.

But his hiss was not a hiss. He again tried to force air through his spiracles, but found himself unable to locate them. Instead, a sound was forced through the man’s mouth.

“Ow!”

He recognized this sound. It had not belonged to him in the past.

All four (just four?) of his limbs were failing uncontrollably.

He stood, righted himself, and stumbled down the nearby alleyway.

“Gregor! Are you drunk again? The boss is going to kill you! You’ve got people to see, sales to make!”

The noise frightened him. So he continued to stumble, slightly more urgently than before, swaying off course.

The man walked towards him. “Come on, Gregor! Don’t think I can’t see you!”

Why was this man approaching him? He tried to hiss to scare the man away. That usually worked.

“Ow!”

“Come on, Gregor! We need to get you some rest, get you back to work. Don’t worry, we’ll straighten you out.”

The man caught up to the vermin, grabbed him by the (soft) trunk of his body, threw him over his shoulder, and walked in the opposite direction. The vermin tried to speak. With herculean effort, he tried to manipulate the shape of his mouth, the position of his tongue, the vibrations of his vocal cords.

“Ugh.”

“Get over it. You’ll feel fine tomorrow.”

Overcome with terror and nausea, the vermin passed out.

***

The vermin woke to find himself propped up in a chair, behind a desk, in a small room. There was a painting of a sailboat on the wall in front of him. He could hear the ticking of a clock from above the door behind him.

The door opened. A large man wearing a suit entered.

“Did you really think you could get away with this, Samsa? An entire day without anything to show for it? You missed four appointments! Did you think we wouldn’t notice?” The vermin tried to explain.

“I’m not going to fire you—no, I’m a nice guy, I’m a good boss—but don’t think there won’t be any consequences. I know I can’t trust you, so I’ll have to shorten your leash a bit. You’re not going to be our traveling salesman any more. You’re going to stay at this desk, answer phones, fill out paperwork, and do whatever else I tell you.” The vermin tried to protest.

“And you’re going to do it twelve hours a day, seven days a week—and don’t even think about taking any more vacations. And just so we’re clear: if you ever skip out again—even once—I’ll fire you and make sure nobody in this entire town will even think about giving you another shot. Understood?”

The vermin tried to speak, but the man spoke for him. “Ow!”

 

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Meet the Author

 Joseph Aitken was born in Canada and currently lives and writes in the Woodlands, Texas. His first published short story recently appeared in a charity horror anthology called Silent Screams, and he is a copy editor for Strange Horizons. He can be found online at josephaitken.com and on Twitter @joseph_aitken