Short Story #45: The Fly by George Langelaan
Title: The Fly
Author: George Langelaan
Short Story #45 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)Date Read: 2/10/2014
Source: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur. You can find the story on this website.
SummaryFrancois is awoken in the middle of the night by his sister who calls him to go to the factory where he will find her husband dead and that she is responsible for killing him. It is discovered that Helene had operated a machine that smashed down upon Andre's head and arm. The Commissioner Charas who is investigating the case is attempting to get an answer out of her about what happened, but her only response to "why" is that she cannot say. Her actions land her in an insane asylum as the case is sorted out where she spends her time catching flies and examining them closely. Regular visits from Francois and the Commissioner ensue but to no progress. One day, Francois is talking to Helen's son who explains about a fly Helen was obsessed with finding that had a white head. The son had found it a while back but let it go and she had wanted to find it ever since. With this knowledge, Francois confronts Helen who finally gives in and provides a written confessional.
The confessional travels back several months as Andre has learned how to transmit physical matter. Though it has some imperfections, he tweaks his work until it can perfectly transmit inanimate matter. He next tries to transmit animate objects. He tries their cat and it disappears but he eventually has success with other animals. Along this time, he stops talking too much about his experiment until one day when Helen comes to the lab in the house to bring lunch and Andre answers by providing a type-written letter slipped under the door. Helen becomes increasingly scared as this becomes the sole means of communication and Andre refuses to let her see him. He sends her on a quest to find a fly with a white head but to no avail. He eventually explains that he used the transmitter on himself and a fly must have gotten into the transporter. He continues to transmit himself but to no avail and increasingly worse results. She eventually sees him and is utterly horrified by his appearance. It's at this point that she agrees to help him to end his life. A few days later, Francois shares this account with the Commissioner at dinner. Helen had committed suicide the day after giving Francois the account and so the two are left to ponder the account The Commissioner chalks it up to pure insanity but Francois reveals that earlier, he had swatted and killed a fly whose head was white.
Having been a big fan of 1986 film, The Fly, I was excited to see this story included in the anthology. Though there are differences, the film gets the gist of it and in many ways adds more complex elements than this story could at the time it was published. I appreciated how the story took us from Francois to Helene to parts of Andre. In some ways, it reminds me of the inward and outward moving of perspectives in Frankenstein. It also found the pacing good and the reveal that not only was Andre blended with the fly but also, ultimately, the cat.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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