Saving Kafka From Kafka

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I am a time traveler who travels back into the past to meet famous historical figures. However, I don't help them become famous; instead, I visit them right before they're about to die and inform them of their future legacy.

Submitted: July 26, 2017

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Submitted: July 26, 2017



Unlike most people I love my job. I do it for free. To be fair, I have time travel powers so money isn't really an issue for me. This is because my job is to go back in time and inform famous historical figures about their future legacy right before they die. Now I know I said I love my job, but there is this one case...

His name was Kafka. He was a lawyer by trade, but wrote on the side. He was quite bitter and had a strange view of the world. Most of his stories did not end happily. Hell they didn't start happy either. I was really looking forward to cheering this guy up. They said that on his death bed he wanted to burn all his writing. Surely after hearing what I was going to tell him he would change his mind.

He lived alone. So I decided to visit him for dinner. I showed up at his doorstep and asked if I could have dinner with him. He said no. But before he shut the door I started telling him how I was a huge fan of his writing. He said "That's impossible, I haven't published them" and I replied "I'll explain if you let me inside so we can talk". "Fine" he said.

I asked him what he thought of his writing. "It's madness and disgusting, no one should read it" he replied. I asked why he thought that. He said "They are dark and brooding stories. They are distorting reality and making it seem worse than it is, and so others shouldn't read them, my worries and negative perspective should die with me. If it turns out they are an accurate representation of reality, no one should read them for ignorance is bliss. My writing is just an attempt at pity and attention, which I likely do not deserve. People want and need stories of heroes overcoming great odds, not weak whelps stumbling through fantastical and silly problems". I smiled and said "Oh but Mr. Kafka I have quite the surprise for you!" he simply tilted his head and remained dismissive "Will it at least explain how you know of my unpublished work?" he asked. "Yes. You see, I'm from the future!" somehow I wasn't surprised that Kafka wasn't surprised. I guess imagining bizarre situations like this is normal for him.

"Well why are you here?" he asked. So I said as enthusiastically as possible "To tell you that in the future, you become one of the most famous writers of all time! Your work is praised around the world!" At first he simply flinched in surprise, but only very briefly and then seemed displeased. "That's... not something I desire. Fame is for fools" he said. "But think about all the people you are helping!" I said. "I care not for these people. And why should I. They do not care for me. And honestly, they shouldn't." I had heard Kafka was suicidal, and it seemed he wasn't going to change just from my news. "People love you Kafka!" I tried to explain. "No, you are wrong. Yes I've been told I am entertaining and I do tend to help people with their woes but I do it out of obligation. For I know deep down I am unworthy, and so to be accepted I must put on a face and compensate. I know if others knew of the real me, the inner me, they would be disgusted". "But people love your work how could they hate the inner you" I tried to argue. But he replied "Firstly, my work I write for myself. It is my form of prayer. If people of the future like my work I'm certain it is the type of adoration given to a bearded lady. It entertains by being disgusting, but in all honesty not one man would ever call that bearded lady beautiful. The adoration for the bearded lady is mere mocking. Is that my role? To make others feel better about themselves by mocking my inner thoughts that I have written in private? I'm certain that is why they only dared to spread my work after I die. For making fun of a man to his face is uncouth but doing it after he has died is acceptable just as making fun behind a man's back is commonplace." He became quite angry. He got up and first headed to the kitchen where I saw he grabbed a lighter. He then headed to his study. "Oh god" I thought, "is he going to burn his books"?

I ran after him yelling "NO DON'T DO IT!" but I didn't know what to say to help convince him. "PLEASE I CAN'T ALLOW THIS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE FUTURE WITHOUT YOUR WORK! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW INFLUENTIAL IT IS!" And he calmly said back "Yes you may be scared of change, but I assure you, it will be change for the better. And even if it isn't for the better, my soul will rest far more peacefully if my work doesn't spread." He threw oil from a nearby lantern onto his desk and bookcase. He lit the lighter.

I panicked, and grabbed him. I threw him to the floor. I didn't know what to do, the moment I left he would surely burn all his books. So I used the only thing that I had over Kafka. Brute force. "KAFKA! I will come back, and I will beat you to a pulp, I will torture you. If you dare burn your books!" but he just smiled and replied "Moments of pain cannot measure to a legacy of embarrassment". So I just stood there over him, and started to think. What in the world could scare Kafka. I recalled he would die in a few months and I realized the sad bastard would probably be happy at the news. That's when I figured out how to threaten him. "Well Kafka, I have good news for you, you will die in a few months to a disease that is easily treated in the future. However, if you burn these books, I will come back, cure you, and ensure you live for as long as it takes to for you to rewrite them. In fact I can even make you live forever." I saw Kafka's eyes go wide for the first time, he was scared. He looked around, I could tell he was trying to think of a way out. He couldn't, and so, his eyes grew watery and I glimpsed a tear or two come down from his eyes. I felt bad for him but I knew that it was for the greater good. He grew embarrassed at his display of emotion. "Please leave" he said, and so I left.

However, I recalled historically he would once again plead to have his books burned mere moments before his death. So I made sure to write a letter to the person who would hear his request and told them that no matter what Kafka says or does, they should not burn Kafka's work or they would regret it. I added in secret facts about them to make sure they complied.

Maybe if I never came he wouldn't ever think to burn his books, assured no one would ever read them. Though I also I wonder if it was always this way. That Kafka's self esteem was so low that the only reason his work wasn't burned was because of time traveler intervention and the threat of eternal life. Seemed a little Kafkaesque.

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