A British publisher has updated some classic novels to make them more like the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey. This seems like a fantastic idea, so of course I have to join in. Here’s the first chapter of my work-in-progress.
Fifty Shades of Greg
Gregor Samsa didn’t show up for work this morning.
It’s my first day on the job, and my boss, Kate, is not happy. This Samsa guy is supposed to give a sales presentation at 2:30. He missed this morning’s pre-meeting strategy meeting. His cell phone is going directly to voicemail, which he’s not answering. Kate is getting frantic.
She orders me to go fetch him. My inner goddess rejoices at the prospect of getting out of the office for a while. My inner wallflower cringes. My inner Cocker Spaniel perks up at the word “fetch” but is immediately distracted by my inner squirrel.
Samsa’s parents are in their living room, pounding on his bedroom door. They tell me he’s sick and hasn’t left his room all morning. I explain, loudly, that his job is at stake. The door opens, revealing the most extraordinary man I’ve ever seen.
Gregor leans casually against the doorframe. He’s wearing a coat made of some kind of rigid material. I’d say it was buttoned up, but it has no visible buttons or other fasteners. It’s decorated with an assortment of long, thin appendages that seem to move of their own accord. The overall effect is striking. And then there are his eyes. They’re breathtaking: big and dark and multifaceted, they give the impression that he sees things the rest of us can’t even imagine.
He looks at me with those amazing gorgeous compound eyes. I gaze back at him and wonder whether he can tell that I’m a virgin. My inner HR representative glares at me, walks over to my inner file cabinet, and opens the drawer marked “Harassment Prevention Training Materials.” I pull myself together.
“Greg Samsa? I’m Callie Optera, from the office. I’ve been asked to make sure you get to your meeting on time. But I guess you’re already on your way? Because I see you’re wearing your coat.”
I can’t understand a word of his response. He has a very thick accent. Suddenly, I’m flustered. My face turns 50 shades of red.
As I start to leave, I notice his parents huddled at the far corner of the living room, staring at us, looking horrified. Calling him Greg may have been a little presumptuous, but this seems like an overreaction.
I think about Greg’s accent. It’s odd that he has one and his parents don’t. But then, he doesn’t really look like them either. Maybe he’s adopted.
The meeting starts. Greg isn’t here. Everyone looks at me. My face turns 50 shades of crimson. I text him. No response.
My inner virgin reminds me that it’s been a while since I mentioned I’m a virgin.
I pound on Greg’s apartment door – I should ring the bell, but I’m too angry for that. His mom lets me in just in time to see a girl come out of his bedroom. I feel a flash of jealousy, but it turns out she’s just his sister. My face turns 50 shades of beet red – you know, the colors you see in beets that have been roasted in the oven, not those awful canned beets.
I step into his room. It’s empty. I stand there for a moment, confused, and then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a hint of motion under the bed. Suddenly, it all makes sense. I speak to him, softly: “Oh, Greg, it’ll be all right. Lots of people suffer from depression, or agoraphobia, or whatever this is. We’ll work through it together.” I’ve read enough romance novels to know that pure selfless love can heal even the most tortured soul.
On my way out, I pass Greg’s parents and sister. I ask them how long he’s had this problem and whether he’s ever sought help for it. They tell me he’s been perfectly fine his whole life and that this transformation happened literally overnight. I feel sorry for them – some people just can’t see the truth, even when it’s staring them in the face.
Everyone at work thinks Greg has the flu. I visit him every evening. I turn out the lights and sit on the floor. He crawls out from under the bed and sits next to me, silently, as I tell him about my day. He’s a really good listener.
I sit quietly on the floor in the dark. Greg reaches out and touches my hand. Something stirs inside me, like autumn leaves rustling in the wind. My face turns the colors corresponding to the RGB encodings (206, 0, 0) through (255, 0, 0), inclusive.
He begins to massage my shoulders. And my upper back. And my lower back. Simultaneously. How is this possible? I think about asking him, but I don’t want to ruin the moment. My feelings are more intense now, like leaves being thrown around by a leaf-blower at full blast.
Greg touches me in ways I’ve never been touched before. He runs his mandibles playfully across my left shoulder. He strokes my face gently with his antennae. Greg has mandibles, says my inner Greek chorus, and antennae. I don’t care. Inwardly, I feel like a pile of leaves caught in the chaotic turbulence of leaf-blowers aimed in opposite directions by a pair of hostile neighbors, each trying to blow his own leaves into the other’s yard. The feeling grows even stronger as Greg makes his way towards more intimate areas. When he reaches my special lady place, I shatter into a million pieces, like a pumpkin frozen in liquid nitrogen and dropped from the roof of a tall building on Halloween.
Greg’s parents glare at me as I leave. I wonder whether they can tell I’m not a virgin. My face turns 50 shades of scarlet. My inner dermatologist prescribes a cream for my rosacea.
Update, of sorts: there’s a hilarious recap of Fifty Shades of Grey over at Speaker7.