Fifty Shades of Gregor Samsa

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 Gregor Samsa -- 50 Shades of Grey meets Kafka's Metamorphosis

I’m especially proud of the cover art.

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.

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Posted in Humor
43 comments on “Fifty Shades of Gregor Samsa
  1. Darla says:

    I am dying over here! As much as I don’t like creepy-crawlies, your story was mesmerizing…intoxicating. I would love to order a copy to see what happens next, how many shades her face turns…who wins the leaf-blowing competition. The shattering pumpkin at the end was brilliant.

    • Laura says:

      Now I feel like I really should write this book, because that would be a really great quote for the back cover.

  2. Holly Folly says:

    You have made my day. “but is immediately distracted by my inner squirrel.” Had me laughing so hard. I think you should write a book about their adventures. Maybe they could fight crime.

    • Laura says:

      The original version of that sentence was:

      My inner Cocker Spaniel perks up at the word “fetch” but is immediately distracted by the sight of my inner squirrel climbing my inner tree, oblivious to my inner turmoil.

      But it was just too early in the story for all that.

  3. I found this to be 50 shades of fantastic. Obi, though, wants me to be sure your inner squirrel stays away from my inner nuts.

  4. “like a pumpkin frozen in liquid nitrogen and dropped from the roof of a tall building on Halloween.”—Best simile ever.

  5. pegoleg says:

    HA HA HA! I know the “ha ha”s have been done before, but they express my extreme giggling.

    I have always loved this story, in a creepy kind of way, and didn’t think it was possible to love it more. But now I do. Hysterical!

  6. Brilliant. Funny and brilliant.

  7. Mary, QoE says:

    This is hysterical and WAY better than the actual 50 Shades book. Well done. I tweeted it!

  8. Speaker7 says:

    This was brilliant and hot. The whole time I was reading this I was thinking “Double crapstick, that is, like, hot” and then I felt bad that my husband is not a bug because Greg just seemed so hot, like, really hot, like sun hot and he wears his pants off his hips in just that way because he doesn’t have hips. And not having hips is, like, hot.

    Thanks for the link!

  9. Brilliant. I would read this book. I really would. You had me at the leaf-blowers.

    • Laura says:

      The leaf blowers almost didn’t make it in! My first idea was a sequence that started with a butterfly flapping its wings and ended with a flock of geese being sucked into the engines of a 747.

  10. “I shatter into a million pieces, like a pumpkin frozen in liquid nitrogen and dropped from the roof of a tall building on Halloween.” Hilarious.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks! Compliments like that make my face turn the color of Fage Total 2% cherry-flavored yogurt once you’ve stirred all the cherry stuff in.

  11. Dana says:

    Absolutely genius! It almost makes me want to read the real Fifty Shades books, but now I know they will NEVER compare. The leaf blowers totally made it. :)

  12. Laura says:

    The amazon.com page for the first 50 shades book has a fairly long excerpt. My advice is to read that, and then, after your eyes stop bleeding, read speaker7’s recaps.

  13. Margie says:

    My hair is fifty shades of grey. Too bad I didn’t call my blog that… imagine the traffic I would have got.

    • Laura says:

      Quick! Compile a bunch of your blog posts into a book an dcall it Fifty Shades of Gray! It will sell really well on Amazon!

      (I really have heard of people putting out books with titles really similar to popular books, hoping to get people to buy theirs by mistake).

  14. Lisa Tognola says:

    Fifty shades of funny!

    • Laura says:

      Thanks! Compliments like that make my face turn the color of the stain you get when you spill red wine on a white carpet.

  15. Erica says:

    My inner English major loves this so much!

  16. Susie Lindau says:

    Oh my gosh! This is hilarious! I haven’t read the book, but have heard enough to “get it.” Mandibles! 50 shades… ! Fantastic.
    Thanks for coming today and I hope you meet lots of new writers!

  17. Alice says:

    That was hilarious! My inner squirrel is delighted. You should make a book from this. I know I’ve gotten lots of blog posts from my possibly disturbing obsession with dissing these horrible books. But I never would have thought of a bug. That’s perfect, because if he’s too big a jerk, you can squish him.

  18. […] draft. Before I know it, I’ve got a few decent paragraphs about some food I like, or a popular romance novel, or my […]

  19. Kevin says:

    Haven’t stopped by in a long time. But, um, you, um, don’t write a lot of blog posts, you know. You should; this is hilarious. Wouldn’t you love to hit on some formula of crap like the original “50 Shades” just to make enough cash so you could write full time instead of working? I surely would.

  20. Very funny! Think I’ll just give the original “Fifty Shades” a miss and wait for your next instalment.

  21. List of X says:

    This is great! 50 shades of great, to be exact. There is no way the original can be better than the parodies I’ve read (yours, speaker7, 1pointperspective, just to name a few)

    • Laura says:

      The great thing — and I’m not being sarcastic — about 50 Shades of Grey is that it’s managed to entertain both the people who like it and (indirectly, by inspiring parodies) a lot of people who don’t like it.

      And now I need to go find 1pointperspective’s parody, which I’ve somehow missed until now.

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I have some publications in other places, including short stories at Shimmer, Flash Fiction Online, and Daily Science Fiction, and a list of overly-wordy LOLCat captions on McSweeney's.

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