The man in the uniform with the drooping moustache first shouted at the sleeper, then shook him vigorously.
“Come on, wake up!”
The sleeper rolled over. His matted, dishevelled hair fell over his forehead; his teeth clenched in a rictus, his mouth twisted downwards, his face contorted in an expression of unspeakable terror. His forehead was bathed in sweat.
Well, there was no help for it, he simply had to wake him up. So, once more, he shook him.
“Come on, now!”
The sleeper, his eyes still shut, raised his head. At the spine-chilling cry of terror that broke from his lips the man with the drooping moustache shuddered and involuntarily started back.
“N‑n‑no! ... N‑n‑no! ... Take it away!... Not that!”
Some such words burst from the man as he slowly roused from sleep, together with the white foam that bubbled from the corners of his mouth. A little while later he opened his eyes, whose white was shot with blood. He cast a pair of wavering eyes around him.
“A‑ah! What’s that?”
The man with the drooping moustache cleared his throat. It was a painful task: for the first time it occurred to him that he had chosen an unpleasant occupation, after all. He made an effort to recover himself.
“Now then... Pull yourself together... it’s six o'clock.”
The waker sat up. He cast his eyes round the confined space. He clutched at the outer planks of his bed with both hands. Once again the man with the drooping moustache sprang back, expecting worse to follow the bad start. Eventually, however, he regained his composure, observing with astonishment the waking man recover his senses, pass a hand across his forehead and heave a deep sigh as of relief. He thought he even saw the shadow of a smile flit across his face.
“Oh, Pop Marci. . .” the man said. “Dear old Pop Marci... Good morning, Pop Marci.”
“Good morning,” Pop Marci muttered, with eyes averted and less than a firm conviction in his voice.
Briskly the other man straightened himself and swung his feet to the floor.
“Just a minute,” he said buoyantly and rubbed his eyes to restore himself finally to the waking state. After which he buttoned up his jacket and bounced to his feet.
“Is it six o’clock yet?”
Pop Marci coughed in embarrassment.
“It's fixed at six-thirty, isn't it?”
Pop Marci muttered something,
“I’m ready. Is the priest up yet?”
“He’s waiting outside, in the passage.”
They were passing through the door when the condemned man looked back and with a warm smile said:
“Oh, Pop Marci... Just one thing I want to say to you ... You’ve no idea how grateful I am to you for waking me up ... Hell, I was in the middle of a simply horrible nightmare ... Now, then, where’s the reverend gentleman?”
SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. The Nightmare (Az álom), translated by István Farkas, in Grave and Gay: Selections from His Work, selected by István Kerékgyárto, afterword by Károly Szalay, binding and jacket by István Bányai, 2nd ed., (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1973), pp. 68-69.
“Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker” by Miklós Vajda
Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English
Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto
Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Sándor Szathmári (1897-1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide
Frigyes Karinthy @ Ĝirafo
Frigyes Karinthy @ 50 watts
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