GREGOR WOKE UP from his heavy, swoon-like sleep at dusk. He would surely have awakened not much later even without being disturbed, because he felt as if he had had sufficient rest and sleep, and yet it appeared to him as if a fleeting footstep and a careful closing of the door leading to the hall had awakened him. The glow of the electric streetlights lay pale here and there upon the room's ceiling and the higher parts of the furniture, but down by Gregor it was dark. Slowly, he pushed himself to the door, still groping awkwardly with his feelers, which he just now learned to appreciate, so that he could take a look at what was happening there. His left side seemed to be a single, long, unpleasant, stretching scar, and he had to positively limp on his two rows of legs. Moreover, one little leg was severely injured during the course of the morning's incidents—it was a miracle that only one had been injured—and it dragged lifelessly behind.
He first noticed by the door what it was that had tempted him: it had been the smell of something edible. There stood a bowl filled with sweet milk in which swam small bits of white bread. He had almost laughed for joy because he was much more hungry than he had been that morning, and he immediately submerged his head into the milk almost up to his eyes. But he soon pulled his head back in disappointment, not only because eating was difficult with his delicate left side—he could only eat when his entire body, panting, would assist. Moreover, the milk, which was his favorite drink, and for this reason the sister had certainly prepared it, did not taste good to him at all, and so he writhed away from the bowl in disgust and crawled back to the middle of the room.
In the living room, as Gregor saw through the open door, the gas was lit; during this time of the day, the father was in the habit of reading the afternoon edition of the newspaper in a loud voice to mother and sometimes also to sister, and yet instead, there was silence. Now, perhaps this reading aloud, of which the sister had always told him and wrote to him about, was a custom that, of late, had been entirely abandoned. But it was also just as quiet throughout the apartment, in spite of the fact that it was certainly not empty. “I say, such a quiet life the family leads,” said Gregor to himself. As he stared into the darkness in front of him he felt a great pride in the fact that he could have provided such a life in such a nice apartment for his parents and his sister. 1 But what now, if all peace, all prosperity, all contentment should be brought to a frightful end? In order not to lose himself in such thoughts, Gregor, instead, began to move and crawled up and down in his room.
Once, during the long evening, the door on one side and then the other opened slightly, then quickly closed again; someone may have needed to come in, but then had some misgivings about doing so. Now, Gregor immediately stopped crawling near the door, quite determined to somehow bring in the hesitant visitor, or, at the very least, to discover who it is was. But now the door no longer opened, and Gregor waited in vain. Earlier, when the doors had been blockaded, all of them had wanted to come in to him; now that he had opened one door (the other doors had obviously been opened during the day) no one came any more, and the key was now inserted from the outside of the door.
The light in the living room was first turned off late at night, and now it was easy to ascertain that the parents and sister had stayed awake this long because, as one could clearly hear, they were tiptoeing away. Certainly at this point, nobody would come in to Gregor any more until morning. He had a long, uninterrupted time to ponder how he should put his life in order again. But the high, open room in which he was forced to lie flat on the floor made him anxious, and he could not find out the source of his anxiety, because for the past five years, he had inhabited this room. And with a half-unconscious turn and not without a little shame, he hurried under the couch, where he, despite the fact that his back was a little scrunched and despite the fact that he could no longer raise his head, he felt very cozy and regretted only that his body was too wide to fit fully underneath the couch.
There he remained the whole night, part of which he spent dozing, always waking with a start because of his hunger, and another part of which he spent in worry and vague hopes, which all led to the conclusion that he would have to behave quietly for the time being and endure with patience and the greatest consideration for his family the troubles that in his present state he was now suddenly forced to cause them.
In the early morning—it was yet night—Gregor already had the opportunity to test the strength of the carefully-considered resolutions he had made, because the sister, almost fully dressed, opened the door leading to the hall and looked with anticipation inside. She did not find him right away, but as soon as she noticed him under the couch—God, he simply had to be somewhere, he couldn't really fly away—she was so shocked that, without being able to control herself, she shut the door again from the outside. But, as if she rued her behavior, she immediately opened the door again and tiptoed inside, as she would near a seriously ill person or even a stranger. Gregor had pushed his head forward, right to the edge of the couch and observed her. He wondered: Would she really notice that he had let the milk stay there, and not even from a lack of hunger; would she bring in another dish that was more suitable for him? If she didn't do it herself, he would rather starve than to make her aware of this, even though he actually had a gargantuan urge to shoot out from under the couch, throw himself at sister's feet, and beg her to bring anything that was good to eat. But the sister immediately noticed with astonishment that the bowl, out of which only a little milk was spilled round about, was still full; she lifted it up immediately, not with merely her hands but with a rag, and carried it out of the room. Gregor was especially curious about what she would bring in its place, and he thought up various ideas about it. However, he could have never guessed what his sister, out of the kindness of her heart, actually did. She brought him an entire smorgasbord in order to investigate his tastes, all of it spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-rotted vegetables; bones from the evening meal that were coated with a congealed white sauce; a few raisins and almonds; a piece of cheese that Gregor had declared to be inedible two days ago; a stale piece of bread, a piece of bread with butter smeared on it, and another piece of bread with butter and salt smeared on it. In addition to all of this, she also put down a bowl (probably intended to be Gregor's for all time) into which she had poured some water. And, out of her tenderness of heart, knowing that Gregor would not eat in front of her, she hurried away, even turning the key in the lock so that Gregor would notice that he might make himself as comfortable as he wanted. Gregor's little legs buzzed now as if they themselves were about to eat. In addition, his wounds must have completely healed already; he felt no handicap any more, and was astonished at this, remembering that he had cut his finger a little with a knife a month ago and that this wound had still hurt the day before yesterday.
“Could I be less sensitive now?” he thought, already sucking greedily on the cheese to which he, over and above the other foods, had immediately and aggressively been drawn. As tears of satisfaction came to his eyes, he consumed the cheese, the vegetables, and the sauce in quick succession. In contrast, the fresh foods didn't taste good to him; he couldn't endure the smell and dragged the things that he wanted to eat a bit further away. He had long been finished with everything and had been lying lazily in the same place for some time when his sister indicated that he should move back by turning the key slowly. This immediately startled him, in spite of the fact that he was almost slumbering, and he hurried once more underneath the sofa. But it required a great amount of will power to remain under the couch, even during the short time during which his sister was in the room, because his body had become a bit round due to the copious food, and he could hardly breathe in the narrow space. As tears poured from his eyes, and in the midst of minor asphyxiation attacks, he looked at his unsuspecting sister as she used a broom to sweep into a bucket, not just the leftovers but also the food that Gregor had hardly touched, as if these were not usable any more; she closed the wooden lid and then carried it all out of the room. She had hardly turned around when Gregor pulled himself out from under the couch, stretched out, and flatulated.
In this manner, Gregor now received his food daily: Once in the morning while the parents and the maid still slept, and a second time after the common lunch, as at that time the parents likewise slept again for a while, and the maid was sent away by his sister to do some shopping. They surely would not have wanted Gregor to starve, but perhaps they couldn't have endured any experience of his eating other than hearsay; or perhaps sister was trying to save them from what was possibly only a small sorrow, as they had actually suffered quite enough already.
Gregor couldn't find out at all with what excuses they had previously sent the doctor and locksmith out of the house that first morning; as he could not be understood by the others, not even sister, nobody thought that he could understand them, and so when the sister was in his room, he had to be content hearing her sighs and appeals to the saints. Only later, when she had grown used to everything—of fully becoming accustomed to it there was never any discussion, of course—did Gregor sometimes manage to hear comments that were meant in a friendly way or could be so construed. “But today, it tasted good to him,” she said when Gregor had really put away the food; while in the opposite situation, which gradually began to repeat itself more and more often, she was in the habit of sadly saying, “Now it's all come to a standstill again.”
While Gregor could find out no news directly, he did overhear some things from the neighboring room; he ran immediately to the appropriate door and pressed against it with his whole body as soon as he heard voices. There wasn't any conversation (especially in the early days) that didn't somehow concern him, even if it only hinted at it. For two entire days there were discussions at every meal about how they should now go about things; but between mealtimes, they spoke about the same subject because there were always at least two family members at home—nobody really wanted to remain alone in the apartment, and yet, under no circumstances could they entirely abandon it. On that first day, the maid—what and how much about the occurrences she knew was entirely unclear—had also fallen to her knees and begged the mother to dismiss her immediately, and when she said goodbye a quarter of an hour later, she thanked mother for the dismissal with tears, as if it were the greatest favor that anybody had done for her, and, without anyone requesting it of her, swore a terrified oath never to tell anyone the slightest word.
Now, the sister had to cook in conjunction with the mother; this was not a lot of trouble, mind you, because they hardly ate anything. Time and time again, Gregor heard one of them extend to another a futile invitation to eat and receive no other answer than, “Thank you, I've had enough,” or something similar. Perhaps they also drank nothing. Sister often asked the father whether he wanted to have a beer and gladly offered to get it herself; when the father remained silent, she said that she would send the doorkeeper to go get it, but then father finally voiced an emphatic “No,” and no more was said about it.
During the course of the first day, father had already laid out the entire financial situation and prospects to both mother and sister. Now and then he stood up from the table and took some receipt or ledger out of his small lockbox, saved from the successful collapse of his business five years ago. One could hear as he opened wide the complicated lock and, after removing the sought-after item, locked it again. These declarations of his father were in part the first delightful thing that Gregor had heard during his imprisonment. He had had the impression that the father had nothing at all left from his former business, or, at least, father had not said anything to the contrary, and at any rate, Gregor hadn't asked about it. Gregor's only concern had been to do everything in his power to allow his family to forget, as quickly as possible, the bad business luck that had brought them to complete despair. And since that time, he had begun to work with a particular fervor, going almost overnight from being a minor clerk to a traveling salesman, who naturally had a lot of other possibilities for earning money because his success at work was transformed immediately into the form of a cash commission that could be laid on the table at home before his astonished and delighted family.
Those had been fine times, and they had never thereafter been repeated—at least not with the same splendor—despite the fact that Gregor later earned so much money that he was capable of bearing the expenses of the entire family, as he also did. They had become quite used to it, the family as well as Gregor; they accepted the money gratefully, and he gladly handed it over, but it no longer resulted in that special warmth. Only the sister still remained close to Gregor, and his secret plan was to send her, who differed from Gregor in that she loved music and knew how to play the violin movingly, to the conservatory next year, without any consideration for the significant cost that it must entail; they would recoup that in other ways. During Gregor's brief layovers in the city, the conservatory was often mentioned in conversations with the sister, but always as a mere, beautiful dream, the realization of which was unthinkable; the parents never relished listening to the mention of these things, but Gregor had considered it in detail and intended to formally explain his thoughts on Christmas Eve.
In his present circumstances, such useless ideas ran through his head while he adhered to the door and eavesdropped. At times, his general fatigue made it such that he could hardly listen; he carelessly let his head thump against the door, but immediately pulled it back up, as even this little noise that he had caused had been heard in the next room and had silenced them all. “What is he up to now?” said the father after a while, obviously turning towards the door, and only then would the interrupted conversation gradually pick back up again.
Gregor heard quite a few times—the father was in the habit of often repeating his explanations, in part because he had not dealt with these things for a long time now, and in part because the mother did not always understand everything correctly the first time—that in spite of all bad luck, a very small fortune from the old times was still available, and in the interim the interest, which had not been touched, had allowed it to sprout and grow. In addition, the money that Gregor had brought home every month—he had only kept a few guilders for himself—had not been completely used up and had accumulated to become a small asset. Gregor nodded eagerly behind his door, delighted at this unexpected foresight and frugality. He would have actually preferred it if they could have further paid off his father's debt to the boss with this surplus money so that the day that he could be rid of this position would be much closer, but things were undoubtedly better the way his father had set them up.
Right now, however, this money was entirely insufficient to allow the family to live on the interest; it was perhaps enough to sustain the family for one or at the most two years, but no more. It was simply a sum that one was never really allowed to attenuate and that would have to be put aside for an emergency; the money to live on, however, had to be earned. Now, the father was a quite healthy—albeit older—man who hadn't worked at all for five years and in any case couldn't be relied upon too much; he had put on a lot of weight in those five years, which had been the first vacation of his toil-filled and unsuccessful life, and had thus become quite ponderous. And should the old mother now perhaps earn money, she who suffered from asthma, for whom a walk through the apartment was strenuous, and who spent every other day on the sofa under an open window because of breathing trouble? And should the sister earn money, she who was yet a child with her seventeen years, whose way of life up to this point was so enviable, consisting of dressing herself nicely, sleeping late, helping with household matters, partaking in a few modest pleasures, and above all playing the violin? When it came to conversing about the necessity of earning money, the first thing Gregor did was run away from the door and throw himself on the cool leather sofa near the door, as he was very hot with shame and sorrow.
He often lay there all night long, not sleeping a wink and scratching at the leather for hours. Neither did he shy away from the great effort of pushing an armchair to the window, crawling up to the window sill and, propped up on the chair, leaning and looking out the window, obviously with some sort of memory of the freedom he formerly enjoyed. He actually saw, more and more indistinctly from day to day, even things that were not far removed from him. He could no longer catch any glimpse at all of the hospital across the way, the frequent sight of which he had previously cursed, and if he hadn't known for sure that he lived on the quiet yet very urban Charlotte Street, he could have believed that his window overlooked a wilderness in which the gray heavens and the gray earth, indistinguishable from one another, merged. The observant sister needed only to see twice that the stool stood by the window, and then each time that she tidied up the room, she slid the stool back to the same place by the window, from now on even leaving the inner window frame open.
If Gregor could only speak to his sister and thank her for everything that she had to do for him, he would have more easily endured her service; as it stood, however, he suffered through it. The sister sought, of course, to conceal the embarrassment of everything as much as possible, and as more time went by, she naturally got better at doing this—but Gregor was also able to see through all these attempts much better as time went on. Her entrance into the room was already terrible for him. Hardly had she stepped in before she, without taking time to shut the door (even though she generally took great care to spare anyone a view of Gregor's room), ran directly to the window, tore it open in haste almost as if she were suffocating, and remained there breathing deeply for a little while, even when it was still so cold. With this running and racket, she startled Gregor twice a day; the entire time, he trembled under the couch and knew quite well that she would gladly have spared him all this if it had only been possible to stay with closed windows in a room where Gregor lived.
Once—a full month had already gone by since Gregor's transformation, and the reason for this could hardly be that the sister found herself astounded by Gregor's appearance—she entered a little earlier than usual and came upon Gregor while he was still looking out the window, immobile and situated so as to scare. Gregor would not have been surprised if she had not entered, because his position would have prevented her from opening the window immediately, but she did not only not enter, she retreated immediately and shut the door; a stranger would have thought that Gregor had been lying in wait there and had wanted to bite her. Gregor had immediately hidden himself under the couch, of course, but he had to wait until midday before the sister returned, and she seemed much more nervous than usual. He realized from this that the sight of him was now unbearable even for her and would henceforth remain unbearable for her, and that she would have to force herself not to run away from even the small part of his body that stuck out from underneath the couch. In order to spare her even this sight, he one day dragged the linen sheet onto his back—he needed four hours for this work—and situated it on the couch in such a way that he was now completely concealed, and the sister couldn't see him, even when she bent down. If the linen sheet wasn't necessary, in her opinion, then she could certainly remove it, because it was certainly clear enough that Gregor could have no pleasure in completely shutting himself up; but she left the linen sheet exactly as it was, and Gregor believed that he even caught sight of a look of gratitude once when he lifted the linen sheet a little with his head to have a look at how the sister appraised the new arrangement.
In the first fourteen days, the parents couldn't bring themselves to come in to him, and he often heard how they fully acknowledged his sister's current work, whereas before they had often become angry with the sister because she appeared to them to be a fairly worthless girl. However, now the both of them, the father and the mother, often waited outside Gregor's room while the sister cleaned up in there, and she had hardly come out before she had to tell in exact detail how things looked in the room, what Gregor had eaten, how he had behaved himself this time, and whether, perhaps, she had noticed a slight improvement. Moreover, the mother wanted to visit Gregor relatively soon, but, at first, the father and the sister held her back with sensible reasons that Gregor listened to attentively and of which he fully approved. Later, however, they needed to hold her back forcefully, and when she cried, “Let me in to Gregor; he is my unfortunate son! Don't you understand that I have to go to him?” Then Gregor thought that perhaps it would actually be good if the mother came in—not every day, of course, but perhaps once per week; she understood everything much better than the sister, who, in spite of all her courage, was still just a child and, in the final analysis, had perhaps taken on such a difficult task only out of childish thoughtlessness.
Gregor's wish to see the mother was soon fulfilled. During the day, Gregor didn't want to show himself at the window out of consideration for his parents; he also couldn't crawl on the few square meters of the floor much. It was very hard for him to endure lying down quietly during the night, and food didn't give him even the smallest pleasure any more, so as a diversion, he picked up the habit of crawling back and forth across the walls and ceiling. He especially liked hanging up on the ceiling; it was much different from lying on the floor—one could breathe more freely. A slight undulation moved through the body, and in the almost absent-minded state that Gregor found himself in up above, it could happen that, to his surprise, he let himself go and crashed to the floor. But now, of course, he had his body under much better control than he did previously and didn't hurt himself by such a great fall. The sister noticed immediately the new entertainment that Gregor had found for himself—he left behind traces of his adhesive when he crept here and there—and got the idea of making Gregor's crawling as easy as possible by getting rid of the furniture that impeded him, especially the chest of drawers and the desk. Now she was in no position to do this herself; however, she didn't dare ask the father for help, the maid would certainly not have helped her—as this almost sixteen-year-old girl stood by her post courageously since the former cook's dismissal, but had begged for the privilege of being allowed to perpetually confine herself to the kitchen, opening the door only when specifically called—and so the sister had no choice except to go fetch the mother one time while the father was absent. The mother drew near with exclamations of exuberant joy, but fell silent at the door of Gregor's room. First the sister checked, of course, to see whether everything in the room was in order; then she let the mother step in. Gregor had in great haste pulled the linen sheet further down and in more folds, and the whole of it really looked like a linen cloth thrown randomly over the couch. This time Gregor refrained from spying out from under the sheet; he abstained from seeing his mother this time, and was just happy that she had even come. “Come on; you can't see him,” said the sister, and, apparently, she led the mother by the hand. Gregor now listened as the two weak women managed to move the heavy, old chest of drawers from its place, and, how the whole time the sister took upon herself the greater part of the work without listening to the warnings of the mother, who feared that the sister was going to strain herself. This lasted a long time. After a quarter-of-an-hour's work, the mother said that they should instead leave the chest of drawers right there—primarily because it was too heavy, and they would not be done before the father arrived, and, with the chest in the middle of the room, Gregor's every path would be barricaded—and secondarily because it was hardly certain that Gregor would be pleased with the removal of the furniture. For her, the opposite seemed to be the case: the sight of the empty walls oppressed her spirits, and why shouldn't Gregor also have this feeling, being long used to the room's furniture.
“And is it not so,” concluded the mother very quietly, actually almost whispering as if she wanted to avoid having Gregor (whose exact position she really didn't know) hear even the sound of her voice, because she was convinced that he didn't understand the words; “and is it not so, that we, as it were, are, through the removal of the furniture, signifying that we are giving up all hope of recovery and are inconsiderately leaving him to himself? I believe that it would be best if we seek to maintain the room in the exact condition that it previously was, so that Gregor, when he returns to us again, will find everything unchanged, thereby being able to forget the intervening time with that much more ease.”
Upon hearing the mother's words, Gregor realized that the lack of any direct human conversation, together with the monotonous life among the family, must have, during the course of these last two months, confused his intellect, because he could not otherwise explain to himself how he could earnestly have longed for his room to be emptied. Did he really desire to let the warm room, comfortably furnished with inherited furniture, be transformed into a cave in which he could then freely crawl in all directions without interference, and yet, also at the same time, quickly and completely forget his human past? Was he even now close to forgetting, and was it only the voice of the mother, long unheard, that had roused him? Nothing should be removed; all must remain; he could not do without the beneficial influence of the furniture upon his condition; and if the furniture prevented him from carrying on with his senseless crawling about, then that was no loss—it was rather a great advantage.
Unfortunately, the sister was of another opinion; she had, certainly not without reason, been in the habit of interceding with the parents as an expert witness in matters concerning Gregor, and so the mother's advice to the sister gave her sufficient grounds to carry out the removal not only of the chest of drawers and the desk, the only things that she had first thought of, but also of the entirety of the furniture, with the exception of the indispensable couch. It was not only childish defiance and the unexpected and hard-won self confidence that prompted this demand; on the contrary, she had also observed that Gregor actually needed a lot of room to crawl about, and the furniture, as far as one could see, was of no use whatsoever toward this end. But maybe the enthusiastic spirit of girls her age also played a role, a temperament that sought its own satisfaction at every opportunity, and because of this Grete now let herself be tempted to make Gregor's situation even more infuriatingly terrifying so that she could do even more for him than she did now. For who besides Grete would ever dare even once to step into a room where Gregor was the sole ruler of the empty walls.
And so she did not let the mother dissuade her from her course of action, and as the mother seemed completely uneasy and unsure of herself in this room, she soon fell silent and, with all her strength, helped the sister to get the chest of drawers out of the room. Now after all, Gregor could do without the chest of drawers in an emergency, but the desk simply had to stay. And hardly had the women left the room, groaning as they pushed the chest of drawers, before Gregor stuck his head out from under the couch in order to see how he could intervene as carefully and scrupulously as possible. But, unfortunately, who else but the mother should be the first to return while Grete had stopped and, with arms wide around the chest of drawers, was swinging it back and forth by herself, naturally, without moving it from its place. The mother, however, was not accustomed to the sight of Gregor; he could have made her sick, and so Gregor, startled, ran backwards to the other end of the couch, but couldn't prevent the linen sheet from moving forwards a little. That was sufficient to draw the mother's attention. She hesitated, stood still for a moment, and then went back to Grete.
Despite Gregor kept saying to himself that nothing out of the ordinary was happening except a few pieces of furniture being rearranged, it seemed as if he would soon have to concede that the coming and going of the women, their little shouts to one another, and the scratching of the furniture on the floor seemed to him like a great tumult coming closer on all sides; and, so tightly did he curl up his head and legs and press his body to the floor that he would inevitably have to say to himself that he wasn't going to put up with all this any longer. They were clearing out his room, robbing him of everything that he held dear—they had already taken out the chest of drawers in which were the fretsaw and his other tools. They were even now loosening the desk that was fastened to the floor, the desk upon which he had written out his assignments as a student at the business university, as a student in the city school, yes, even as a student in elementary school—he really didn't have any more time to scrutinize the good intentions of the two women, the existence of whom he had moreover quickly forgotten because they were working almost silently due to exhaustion, and one heard only the heavy plodding of their feet.
So he ventured forth (at that moment the women were leaning on the desk so that they could take a breather) and changed directions four times, as he really didn't know what he should save first; then he saw, conspicuously hanging on the otherwise empty wall, the picture of the lady clothed in nothing but fur, and crawled quickly up to it and pressed himself up against the glass that held the picture in place, and it felt good against his hot underbelly. At least nobody would take this picture that Gregor was completely covering up. He twisted his head towards the living room door so that he could watch the women as they returned.
They hadn't given themselves much of a chance to rest and came back soon; Grete had placed her arm around the mother, almost carrying her. “So, what will we take now?” said Grete as she looked around. Then her gaze met Gregor's on the wall. The mother's presence was truly the sole reason she kept her composure; she leaned her face down towards the mother in order to keep her from looking about, and said, although trembling and without thinking, “Come, wouldn't we rather go back to the living room for one more moment?” Grete's intent was clear to Gregor: she wanted to take the mother to safety and then chase him down off the wall. Now, she could just keep on trying! He was sitting on his picture and wasn't handing it over. He would rather jump in Grete's face.
But Grete's words had worried the mother; she stepped to the side, saw the giant brown mark on the flowered wallpa-per, and, before she really came to the realization that it was Gregor she saw, she said in a hoarse, shrieking voice, “Oh, God, oh, God!” and, with her arms wide, as if giving everything up, fell on the couch and didn't stir. “Gregor, you…” cried the sister as she raised her fist and shot him an intense glare. These were the first words that she had addressed directly to him since the transformation. She ran into the neighboring room to get some sort of medicine that could wake the mother from her faint; Gregor wanted to help as well—there was still time to save the picture—he was, however, stuck fast to the glass and had to forcefully tear himself away. He then ran into the nearby room, as if he could give the sister some sort of advice as he had done in the past, but stood there doing nothing behind her while she rummaged around in various little bottles. She was startled when she turned around; a bottle dropped to the floor and shattered; a sliver of glass injured Gregor's face; some acrid medicine spilled on him; Grete now, without delay, took as many little bottles as she could carry and rushed in to the mother with them, shutting the door closed with her foot. Gregor was now cut off from the mother, who was perhaps near death, with him to blame; he was not permitted to open the door as he didn't want to chase away the sister who had to remain with mother; he now had nothing to do except wait, and, plagued by self-reproach and anxiety, he began to crawl; he crawled all over everything: walls, furniture, and ceilings, and when the whole room had just begun to spin around him, he finally fell, in his despair, onto the middle of the large table.
A little time went by as Gregor lay there weakly; everything around him was quiet; perhaps that was a good sign. There was a ring. The girl was locked in her kitchen as a matter of course, and Grete had to go open it. The father had arrived. “What happened?” were his first words; Grete's appearance had really given everything away. Grete answered with a muffled voice, apparently with her face buried in the father's chest: “Mother fainted, but she's better now. Gregor has escaped.” “Of course; I've expected that,” said the father. “I've always told you that, but you women don't want to hear of it.”
It was clear to Gregor that Grete's far-too-short notification had been interpreted to mean something bad and that the father assumed that Gregor had done something vicious and violent. Therefore, Gregor would have to seek to pacify the father because he had neither time nor opportunity to explain. And so he fled to the door of his room and pushed on it, so that the father would see upon entering from the hall that Gregor had every intention of returning to his room at once, that driving him away was unnecessary, and that one needed only to open the door and he would promptly disappear.
But the father was not in the mood to exchange pleasantries. “Ah!” he cried immediately upon entering, sounding as if he were both furious and glad. Gregor pulled his head back from the door and lifted it towards the father. He had never really imagined father the way he now looked; on the other hand, while he had been crawling around in this new fashion, he lately had missed out on the events of the rest of the apartment, not caring about them as he had previously, and he actually should have been prepared to find that circumstances had changed. Nevertheless, nevertheless, wasn't this still father: the same man who had previously been buried in bed from fatigue while Gregor had embarked upon a business trip, who had greeted Gregor upon his return home at night sitting in an armchair in a dressing gown, hardly able to stand up and only raising his arms as a sign of pleasure, and who walked very slowly between Gregor and the mother during the strolls they seldom took together a few Sundays a year and on major holidays, Mother going slowly near him for his sake, always just a little slower, he, bundled up in his old coat, always working his way forward by putting his walking stick down carefully, and, when he wanted to say something, coming to an almost complete standstill and gathering his escort around him?
Now, however, he was standing starkly upright, dressed in a taut blue uniform with gold buttons like the ones servants in banking institutions wore; his prominent double chin expanded above the high, stiff, pleated collar; from underneath the bushy eyebrows a bright, alert, and penetrating gaze came forth from the black eyes; the normally disheveled white hair was meticulously combed down and precisely parted. He flung his hat, upon which a gold monogram (probably of a bank) was set, across the entire room onto the couch and, with the long coattails of his uniform thrown back, went up to Gregor with a determined face and his hands in his pants pockets.
He really didn't know what father intended; at any rate, the father raised his feet unusually high, and Gregor was amazed at the gigantic size of his boot soles. He didn't dwell on that, though, as ever since the first day of his new life, he had surely known that the father considered only the harshest severity appropriate for him. And so he ran away from the father, froze in place when the father stood still, and hurried away further when the father even stirred. In this way they circumnavigated the room several times without anything decisive happening, and as a consequence of the slow tempo of the whole thing, it didn't have the appearance of a pursuit. Because of this, Gregor remained on the floor for the time being, especially as he feared that the father could consider flight up the walls or on the ceiling to be particularly malicious. Regardless, Gregor had to keep telling himself that he wouldn't be able to keep up this running any longer because every time the father took a step, Gregor had to carry out innumerable movements. He already began to noticeably lose his breath, as he had in his former days when his lungs hadn't been quite trustworthy. As he now staggered about to gather his strength for running, he could barely keep his eyes open; in his witlessness, he could hardly think of deliverance through any method other than running, and he had almost forgotten that the walls were available to him, although they were blocked by the painstakingly-carved furniture full of points and pinnacles, when something small that had been lightly tossed flew close beside and rolled in front of him. It was an apple; a second one flew after it. Gregor stood still in terror and further running was useless because the father had decided to bombard him.
He had filled his pockets from the fruit bowl on the credenza, and now, without aiming precisely, threw apple after apple. These small red apples rolled about on the floor as if electrified and bumped against one another. One weakly thrown apple grazed Gregor's back but slid off harmlessly. One direct hit that flew immediately afterward penetrated Gregor's back; Gregor wanted to drag himself a little further, as if the unexpected and unbelievable pain would go away with a change of position, and yet he felt like he was nailed down and stretched out, all his senses being completely confused. Only with his last glance did he see how the door of his room had been torn open, how the mother ran out in front of the screaming sister (mother was in her underwear because the sister had undressed her to help her breathe more easily when she fainted), and how the mother then ran to the father; on her way to him, her fastened skirts slid one after another to the floor and as she tripped over the skirts, she assaulted the father and threw her arms around him, uniting wholly with him—Gregor's sight then failed him—as she put her hands on the back of the father's head and bade him spare Gregor's life.