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The Insect by Ivan Turgenev


I dreamed that we were sitting, a party of twenty, in a big room with open windows.

Among us were women, children, old men.... We were all talking of some very well-known subject, talking noisily and indistinctly.

Suddenly, with a sharp, whirring sound, there flew into the room a big insect, two inches long ... it flew in, circled round, and settled on the wall.

It was like a fly or a wasp. Its body dirt-coloured; of the same colour too its flat, stiff wings; outspread feathered claws, and a head thick and angular, like a dragon-fly's; both head and claws were bright red, as though steeped in blood.

This strange insect incessantly turned its head up and down, to right and to left, moved its claws ... then suddenly darted from the wall, flew with a whirring sound about the room, and again settled, again hatefully and loathsomely wriggling all over, without stirring from the spot.

In all of us it excited a sensation of loathing, dread, even terror.... No one of us had ever seen anything like it. We all cried: 'Drive that monstrous thing away!' and waved our handkerchiefs at it from a distance ... but no one ventured to go up to it ... and when the insect began flying, every one instinctively moved away.

Only one of our party, a pale-faced young man, stared at us all in amazement He shrugged his shoulders; he smiled, and positively could not conceive what had happened to us, and why we were in such a state of excitement. He himself did not see an insect at all, did not hear the ill-omened whirr of its wings.

All at once the insect seemed to stare at him, darted off, and dropping on his head, stung him on the forehead, above the eyes.... The young man feebly groaned, and fell dead.

The fearful fly flew out at once.... Only then we guessed what it was had visited us.

May 1878.