How does true helplessness feel? It is a feeling of anxiety, and the clinging to hope that it would all just go away in a whim? Or, can it be frustration in your current state, and desperation to break free of this despair? Or, perhaps, could it be all of them at once?
The same thoughts were racing through Gregor’s head that day. It was the earliest hints of morning, strips of light creeping into view as night blended with day, coating the sky with a spectral purple, dotted with sunrays. Such a beautiful sunrise like this would be appreciated greatly by the hard-working family man; he would most likely be waking his children up and heading outside to work at the mine; if he and his family were to immigrate from England to France, he’d have to collect enough coin to allow them on the ships.
He wished he could occupy himself with thoughts of his family, the world he so desperately wanted to explore, or even his stressful, tiring job; but to his terror, the only thought that crossed Gregor’s mind that morning was the fact that he couldn’t move any part of his body.
‘What… what is happening to me? Why can’t I move my body?’ He heard his mind hissing. Silence reigned around him, not a single creak could be heard throughout the house- yet the dissonance of his cognition was deafening.
The morning outside was growing brighter, but the darkness only grew thicker inside Gregor’s room. He wanted to face toward his wife, to reach for her hand; salvation was just mere inches away, yet his body wouldn’t budge.
He could feel his eyelids twitching just when his wife, Victoria, released the typical exhausted yawn she’d utter every morning, stretching briefly before getting out of bed. How he envied her in that moment… being able to move her body, and think freely for herself. His mental prison only grew smaller, and less comfortable to dwell in.
‘Victoria! Help me!’ His consciousness shrieked, his very soul trembling from the sheer terror that held over him. Why couldn’t he talk?!
“Gregor?” Victoria inquired, her eyes tracing over his motionless body. It was the first time she recalled him not being awake before her. “Dear?” She approached him, placing her hand on his shoulder timidly. Her touch burnt Gregor- all he wanted was to utter a word of desperation, to express his helplessness to her- but his body rejected this.
“Mark! Help me bring him to the table!” Victoria called out. She had to race out of their house and to Gregor’s brother’s cottage; a retired lumberjack, Mark was a resilient, prideful man that was always eager on lending a hand to those deserving of it.
The two laid Gregor down on the kitchen table. Morning had already rose, and the sun was halfway to the top of the dome that encased the world; sunlight flooded the house and crept in every corner, yet complete, inescapable darkness clung to Gregor’s mind, shutting away his entire world. A darkness that if he wasn’t rescued from soon, might drive him to the very pits of despair.
Victoria decided that the best course of action would be the dress up Gregor and prepare for his wake.
“It can’t be anything serious- your man here is hard-working and a fierce bull, if that isn’t an understatement. He’ll be up before you know it.” Mark reassured the weeping Victoria.
And so they dressed Gregor up; his mining trouser and tunics, they did so with the hopeful belief that the dutiful call of his occupation would wake him up from this terrible slumber. With every limb of his they moved while dressing him, Gregor’s body shrieked; never in his life did he undergo such torment, be it physical or mental.
By the time evening fell on the village, Mark was already back in his cottage, assured that when he comes back next morning, Gregor would already be down in the mine; Victoria, however, was living through a different reality.
“Gregor, please… please wake up.” Her head was placed firmly on his chest- his heartbeats were growing fainter and fainter, and his body was stiff as stone. The darkness within Gregor’s mind was seeping into Victoria’s as well; the same torment that plagued his mind and poisoned his heart now thrust like needles unto Victoria’s skin.
Gregor’s cognition grew pale. His whole body had given up at this point, his only hope remaining in his eyelids. If only he could move them, to give his wife a sign…
One last evaluation would be held the morning to follow. Victoria and Mark were hunched over Gregor’s idle body, constantly checking his pulse while circling around him and trying to identify a breathing pattern. Any attempt of doing so proved futile, however; they were both at wit’s end.
‘I HAVE TO TELL THEM!’ Gregor’s whole body rocked and blared. His hardened, heavy blood flooded his head, his facial muscles twitching-
“Mark! Look! What’s going on with his eyes?!” Victoria was petrified. Mark wore a similar expression; they were both looking at him, but none of them dared to reach any closer.
“The pulse declares that he’s dead- but his eyelids are moving! This has to be a spasming of some sort!” Mark declared. Frightened and filled with grief, Victoria bitterly shut her husband’s eyes, his weary eyelids falling to rest. That was it. He could no longer move at all.
The funeral was held later that week. Relatives, friends, and even other villagers they’d never exchanged a word with- all wanted to come and console the crying, broken Victoria, and whisper words of comfort to the confused, angry Mark.
His body sinking into the wooden casket, Gregor was reaching the very limits of his sanity. He felt that his mind could take no more; yet his fleshy vessel carried on, and soon it was thrust to the ground, the casket sealing itself on him.
‘No, don’t! Stop!’ He screamed in his mind. He was in broad daylight, yet the darkness in his mind blinded him. There was nothing he could do; the contorted grimace his mind wore was veiled by the peaceful sleeping expression on his face, his pain sealed away, never to be seen.
So was the fate of Gregor; a victim of a terrible illness unknown to man, its origins only to be discovered in the far future, while the present only offered him to rot until death took him away.
And the worst part- everyone but him was oblivious to it