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The War Of The Worlds - H. G. Wells

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Before the War
In the last years of the nineteenth century, no one believed that this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than our own. We had no idea that we were being studied almost as carefully as a scientist studies the small creatures in a drop of water. With great confidence, people travelled around this world and believed that they were in control of their lives. No one gave a thought to possible threats from other planets.
At most, people believed there might be living things on Mars, perhaps less developed than us and ready to welcome visitors. But across the great emptiness of space, more intelligent minds than ours looked at this Earth with jealous eyes, and slowly and surely made their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century, the great shock came.
The planet Mars, I need not remind the reader, goes around the sun at an average distance of 224,000,000 kilometres, and receives from the sun half of the light and heat that is received by this world. It must be, if scientific thinking is correct, older than our world, and life on its surface began a long time before this Earth cooled down. Because it is hardly one seventh of the size of Earth, it cooled more quickly to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary to support living things.
But people are so blind that no writer, before the end of the nineteenth century, suggested that much more intelligent life had developed there than on Earth. It was also not generally understood that because Mars is older and smaller than our Earth, and further from the sun, it is nearer life's end as well as further from its beginning.
Mars is getting colder, as one day our planet must too. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know that even in the middle of the day, in its warmest areas, the temperature is lower than during our coldest winter. Its air is much thinner than ours, its oceans have become smaller until they cover only a third of its surface, and from its far north and south the ice is steadily moving forwards. The end of all life, which is a distant possibility for us, is an immediate problem for the Martians.
This has brightened their intelligence, increased their abilities and hardened their hearts. And looking across space, with instruments and minds more powerful than we can dream of, they see, at a distance of only 56,000,000 kilometres, a morning star of hope — our own warmer planet with its green land and grey seas, its cloudy atmosphere and its growing population.
We, the people who live on this Earth, must seem to them at least as different and less developed as monkeys are to us. And before we criticize them for thinking in this way, we must remember how badly we have treated not only the animals of this planet, but also other people. Can we really complain that the Martians treated us in the same way?
It seems that the Martians calculated their journey very cleverly — their mathematical knowledge appears to be much more developed than ours. During 1894, a great light was seen on the surface of the planet by a number of astronomers. I now believe that this was a fire built to make an enormous gun in a very deep pit. From this gun, their shots were fired at us.
The attack came six years ago. Towards midnight on 12 August, one astronomer noticed a great cloud of hot gas on the surface of the planet. In fact, he compared it to the burning gases that might rush out from a gun.
This, we now know, was a very accurate description. However, the next day there was no report in the newspapers except one small note in the Daily Telegraph, and the world knew nothing of one of the greatest dangers that ever threatened Earth.
I do not think I would have known anything about it myself if I had not met Ogilvy, the well-known astronomer. He was very excited at the news and invited me to spend the night with him, watching the red planet.
Despite everything that has happened since, I still remember that night very clearly. Looking through the telescope, I saw a circle of deep blue with the little round planet in the centre. Because it was so small, I did not see the Thing they were sending us, which was flying quickly towards me across that great distance. I never dreamed of it then, as I watched. Nobody on Earth knew anything about the approaching missile.
That night, too, there was another sudden cloud of gas from the distant planet as a second missile started on its way to Earth from Mars, just under twenty-four hours after the first one. I saw a reddish flash at the edge, the slightest bend in its shape, as the clock struck midnight.
I remember how I sat there in the blackness, not suspecting the meaning of the tiny light I had seen and all the trouble that it would cause me. I told Ogilvy, and he took my place and watched the cloud of gas growing as it rose from the surface of the planet. He watched until one, and then we lit the lamp and walked over to his house.
Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the following night, at about midnight, and again the night after that. For ten nights they saw a flame each night. No one on Earth has attempted to explain why the shots ended after this. It may be that the gases from the firing caused the Martians inconvenience. Thick clouds of smoke or dust, which looked like little grey, moving spots through a powerful telescope on Earth, spread through the clearness of the planet's atmosphere and hid its more familiar features.
Even the daily papers woke up to these events at last, and there was much discussion of their cause. But no one suspected the truth, that the Martians had fired missiles, which were now rushing towards us at a speed of many kilometres a second across the great emptiness of space.
It seems to me almost unbelievably wonderful that, with that danger threatening us, people could continue their ordinary business as they did. One night, when the first missile was probably less than 15,000,000 kilometres away, I went for a walk with my wife. I pointed out Mars, a bright spot of light rising in the sky, towards which so many telescopes were pointing.
The night was warm. Coming home, a group of party-goers from Chertsey passed us, singing and playing music. There were lights in the upper windows of the houses as people went to bed. From the distant railway station came the sound of trains. The world seemed so safe and peaceful.
The Falling Star
Only a few nights later, the first falling star was seen towards the east. Denning, our greatest astronomer, said that the height of its first appearance was about one hundred and fifty kilometres. It seemed to him that it fell to Earth about a hundred kilometres east of him.
I was at home at the time and writing in my study with the curtains open. If I had looked up I would have seen the strangest thing that ever fell to Earth from space, but I did not. Many people in that part of England saw it, and simply thought that another meteorite had fallen. Nobody went to look for the fallen star that night.
But poor Ogilvy had seen it fall and so he got up very early with the idea of finding it. This he did, soon after dawn. An enormous hole had been made and the Earth had been thrown violently in every direction, forming piles that could be seen two kilometres away.
The Thing itself lay almost completely buried in the earth. The uncovered part looked like an enormous cylinder, about thirty metres across each end. It was covered with a thick burnt skin, which softened its edges. He approached it, surprised at the size and even more surprised at the shape, since most meteorites are fairly round. It was, however, still very hot from its flight through the air and he could not get close to it. He could hear movement from inside but thought this was due to it cooling down. He did not imagine that it might be hollow.
He remained standing on one side of the pit that the Thing had made for itself, staring at its strange appearance and thinking that there might be some intelligent design in its shape. He was alone on the common.
Then suddenly, he noticed that some of the burnt skin was falling off the round edge at the end. A large piece suddenly came off with a sharp noise that brought his heart into his mouth. For a minute he hardly realized what this meant, and although the heat was great, he climbed down into the pit to see the cylinder more closely. He realized that, very slowly, the round top of the cylinder was turning.
Even then he hardly understood what was happening, until he heard another sound and saw the black mark jump forwards a little. Then he suddenly understood. The cylinder was artificial — hollow — with an end that screwed out! Something inside the cylinder was unscrewing the top!
'Good heavens!' said Ogilvy. 'There's a man in it — men in it! Half burnt to death! Trying to escape!'
At once, thinking quickly, he connected the Thing with the flash on Mars.
The thought of the creature trapped inside was so terrible to him that he forgot the heat, and went forwards to the cylinder to help. But luckily the heat stopped him before he could get his hands on the metal. He stood undecided for a moment, then climbed out of the pit and started to run into Woking.
The time then was around six o'clock. He met some local people who were up early, but the story he told and his appearance were so wild that they would not listen to him. That quieted him a little, and when he saw Henderson, the London journalist, in his garden, he shouted over the fence and made himself understood.
'Henderson,' he called, 'you saw that meteorite last night?'
'Yes,' said Henderson. 'What about it?'
'It's out on Horsell Common now.'
'Fallen meteorite!' said Henderson. 'That's good.'
'But it's something more than a meteorite. It's a cylinder — an artificial cylinder! And there's something inside.'
'What did you say?' he asked. He was deaf in one ear.
When Ogilvy told him all he had seen, Henderson dropped his spade, put on his jacket and came out into the road. The two men hurried back at once to the common, and found the cylinder still lying in the same position. But now the sounds inside had stopped, and a thin circle of bright metal showed between its top and body.
They listened, knocked on the burnt metal with a rock and, getting no answer, they both decided that the men inside were either unconscious or dead.
Of course the two were quite unable to do anything, so they went back to the town again to get help. Henderson went to the railway station at once, to send a telegram to London.
By eight o'clock a number of boys and unemployed men were already walking to the common to see the 'dead men from Mars'. That was the form the story took. I heard it first from my newspaper boy at about a quarter to nine and I went to the common immediately.
When I got there, I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people surrounding the great pit in which the cylinder lay. Henderson and Ogilvy were not there. I think they understood that nothing could be done for the moment, and had gone away to have breakfast at Henderson's house. I climbed into the pit and thought I heard a faint movement under my feet. The top had certainly stopped turning.
At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the Thing had come from the planet Mars, and I felt impatient to see it opened. At about eleven, as nothing was happening, I walked back, full of such thoughts, to my home in Maybury.
By the afternoon the appearance of the common had changed very much. The early editions of the evening papers had shocked London. They printed stories like:
There was now a large crowd of people standing around. Going to the edge of the pit, I found a group of men in it — Henderson, Ogilvy, and a tall fair-haired man I afterwards learnt was Stent, the Astronomer Royal, with several workmen holding spades. Stent was giving directions. A large part of the cylinder had now been uncovered, although its lower end was still hidden in the side of the pit.
As soon as Ogilvy saw me, he called me to come down, and asked me if I would mind going over to see Lord Hilton, who owned the land. The growing crowd, he said, was now becoming a serious problem, especially the boys. He wanted a fence put up to keep the people back.
I was very glad to do as he asked. I failed to find Lord Hilton at his house, but was told he was expected from London by the six o'clock train. As it was then about a quarter past five, I went home, had some tea and walked up to the station to meet him.
The Cylinder Opens
When I returned to the common, the sun was setting. Groups of people were hurrying from the direction of Woking. The crowd around the pit had increased to a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on around the pit. As I got nearer, I heard Stent's voice:
'Keep back! Keep back! '
A boy came running towards me.
'It's moving,' he said to me as he passed, '- unscrewing and unscrewing. I don't like it. I'm going home.'
I went on to the crowd and pushed my way through. Everyone seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
'Keep those fools back,' said Ogilvy. 'We don't know what's in the Thing, you know.'
I saw a young man — I believe he was a shop assistant in Woking — standing on the cylinder and trying to climb out of the pit again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly half a meter of shining screw stuck out. Someone pushed against me, and I almost fell down on top of the screw. I turned, and as I did the screw came out and the lid of the cylinder fell onto the sand with a ringing sound. I pressed back against the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. I had the sunset in my eyes and for a moment the round hole seemed black.
I think everyone expected to see a man come out — possibly something a little unlike us on Earth, but more or less a man. I know I did. But, looking, I soon saw something grey moving within the shadow, then two shining circles — like eyes. Then something like a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking-stick, came out of the middle and moved through the air towards me — and then another.
I suddenly felt very cold. There was a loud scream from a woman behind. I half-turned, still keeping my eyes on the cylinder, from which other tentacles were now coming out, and began pushing my way back from the side of the pit. I saw shock changing to horror on the faces of the people around me, and there was a general movement backwards. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off. I looked again at the cylinder, and felt great terror.
A big, greyish round creature, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it moved up and caught the light, it shone like wet leather. Two large dark- colored eyes were looking at me steadily. The head of the thing was rounded and had, one could say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, and its lipless edge shone wetly. The whole creature was breathing heavily. One tentacle held onto the cylinder; another moved in the air.
Suddenly, the creature disappeared. It had fallen over the edge of the cylinder and into the pit. I heard it give a peculiar cry, and then another of these creatures appeared in the deep shadow of the door.
I turned and ran madly towards the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred metres away. I fell a number of times because I was running with my head turned round. I could not take my eyes away from these creatures.
The common was now covered with small groups of people. They were all very frightened, but still interested in the strange happenings in the pit. Then I saw a round object moving up and down. It was the head of the shop assistant who had fallen in, looking black against the hot western sky. He got his shoulder and knee up, but again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Then he disappeared, and I thought I heard a faint scream. For a moment I wanted to go back and help him, but I was too afraid.
The sun went down before anything else happened. The crowd around the pit seemed to grow as new people arrived. This gave people confidence and as darkness fell, a slow, uncertain movement on the common began. Black figures in twos and threes moved forwards, stopped, watched, and moved again, getting closer and closer to the pit.
And then, coming from the direction of Horsell, I noticed a little black group of men, the first of whom was waving a white flag. They were too far away for me to recognize anyone there, but I learned afterwards that Ogilvy, Stent and Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication. As the group moved forwards, a number of other people started to follow them.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light and bright greenish smoke came out of the pit in three separate clouds, which moved up, one after the other, into the still air.
The smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be a better word for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead seemed to darken as these clouds rose. At the same time we could hear a faint sound, which changed into a long, loud humming noise. Slowly a dark shape rose out of the pit and a beam of light seemed to flash out from it.
Then flashes of bright fire came from the men, and I realized that the Martians were using some kind of invisible ray. Then, by the light of their own burning, I saw each of the men falling, and their followers turning to run.
I stood staring, watching as man after man fell over. As the unseen ray of light passed over them, trees caught fire and even the bushes exploded into flame. And far away to the west I saw flashes of trees and bushes and wooden buildings suddenly set on fire.
This flaming death, this invisible sword of heat, was sweeping round quickly and steadily. I knew it was coming towards me because of the flashing bushes it touched, but I was too shocked to move. All along a curving line beyond the pit, the dark ground smoked. Then the humming stopped and the black, rounded object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
All this happened so quickly that I stood without moving, shocked by the flashes of light. It that death had swung round a full circle, it would have killed me. But it passed and let me live, and left the night around me suddenly dark and unfamiliar. There was nobody else around. Overhead the stars were coming out, and in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost greenish blue. The tops of the trees and the roofs of Horsell were sharp and black against the western sky. Areas of bush and a few trees still smoked, and the houses towards Woking station were sending up tongues of flame into the stillness of the evening air.
I realized that I was helpless and alone on this dark common. Suddenly, like a thing falling on me from above, came fear. With an effort I turned and began an unsteady run through the grass.
The fear I felt was panic — terror not only of the Martians but of the dark and stillness all around me. I ran crying silently as a child might do. After I had turned, I did not dare look back.
Mars Attacks
I ran until I was totally exhausted and I fell down beside the road. That was near the bridge by the gas-works.
I remained there for some time.
Eventually I sat up, strangely puzzled. For a moment, perhaps, I could not clearly understand how I came there. My terror had fallen from me like a piece of clothing. A few minutes earlier there had only been three things in my mind: the great size of the night and space and nature, my own weakness and unhappiness, and the near approach of death. Now I was my normal self again — an ordinary citizen. The silent common, my escape, the flames, seemed like a dream. I asked myself if these things had really happened. I could not believe it.
I got up and walked up the steep slope to the bridge. My body seemed to have lost its strength. The figure of a workman carrying a basket appeared. Beside him ran a little boy He passed me, wishing me good-night. I thought about speaking to him, but did not. I answered his greeting and went on over the bridge.
Two men and a woman were talking at the gate of one of the houses. I stopped.
'What news from the common?' I said.
'Eh?' said one of the men, turning.
'What news from the common?' I repeated.
'Haven't you just been there?' the men asked.
'People seem fairly silly about the common,' the woman said over the gate. 'What's it all about?'
'Haven't you heard of the men from Mars?' I said. 'The creatures from Mars.'
'Quite enough,' said the woman. 'Thanks.' And all three of them laughed.
I felt foolish and angry. I tried but could not tell them what I had seen. They laughed again at my broken sentences.
'You'll hear more soon," I said, and went on to my home.
My wife was shocked when she saw me, because I looked so tired and dirty. I went into the dining-room, sat down, and told her the things that I had seen.
'There is one good thing,' I said, to calm her fears. 'They are the slowest, fattest things I ever saw crawl. They may stay in the pit and kill people who come near them, as they cannot get out of it... but they are so horrible!'
'Don't, dear!' said my wife, putting her hand on mine.
'Poor Ogilvy!' I said. 'He may be lying dead there.'
My wife, at least, did not think my experience unbelievable.
When I saw how white her face was, I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had told me about the impossibility of Martians capturing the Earth.
On the surface of the Earth the force of gravity is three times as great as on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, although his strength would be the same. That was the general opinion. Both The Times and the Daily Telegraph, for example, said this very confidently the next morning. Both ignored, as I did, two obvious problems with this theory.
The atmosphere of Earth, we now know, contains much more oxygen than there is on Mars. This certainly gave the Martians much greater strength. And we also learned that the Martians were so mechanically clever that they did not need to use their bodies very much.
But I did not consider these points at the time, and so I thought the Martians had very little chance of success. With wine and food and the need to help my wife feel less afraid, I slowly became braver and felt safer.
I remember the dinner table that evening very clearly even now: my dear wife's sweet, worried face looking at me from under the pink lamp-shade, the white cloth laid with silver and glass, the glass of red wine in my hand. I did not know it, but that was the last proper dinner I would eat for many strange and terrible days.
If, on that Friday night, you had drawn a circle at a distance of five kilometres from Horsell Common, I doubt if there would have been one human being outside it, unless it was a relation of Stent, whose emotions or habits were affected by the new arrivals. Many people had heard of the cylinder, of course, and talked about it, but it did not have as much effect as a political event.
Even within the five — kilometer circle, most people were unaffected. I have already described the behaviour of the people to whom I spoke. All over the district people were eating dinner. Men were gardening, children were being put to bed, young people were out walking together.
Maybe there was talk in the village streets, a new topic in the pubs — and here and there a messenger, or even an eye-witness of the later events, caused some excitement. However, for most of the time the daily routine of work, food, drink and sleep went on as it had done for countless years.
People came to the common and left it, but all the time a crowd remained. One or two adventurous people went into the darkness and crawled quite near the Martians, but they never returned, because now and again a light-ray swept round the common, and the Heat-Ray was ready to follow. And all night the sound of hammering could be heard as the Martians worked on the machines they were making ready.
At about eleven, a company of soldiers came through Horsell and spread out in a great circle around the common. Several officers had been on the common earlier in the day and one was reported to be missing. Another one arrived and was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. The army was certainly taking things seriously.
A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey Road, Woking, saw a star fall from the sky into the woods to the north-west. This was the second cylinder.
Saturday lives in my memory as a day of worry. It was a lazy, hot day too. I had only slept a little and I got up early. I went into my garden and stood listening, but towards the common there was nothing moving.
The milkman came as usual and I asked him the latest news. He told me that during the night the Martians had been surrounded by soldiers and that field-guns were expected.
'We have to try not to kill them,' he said, 'if it can possibly be avoided.'
After breakfast, instead of working, I decided to walk down towards the common. Under the railway bridge I found a group of soldiers — engineers, I think, men wearing small round caps, dirty red jackets and dark trousers. They told me that no one was allowed over the bridge. I talked with them for a time and told them of my sight of the Martians on the previous evening. None had seen them, so they asked me many questions. An ordinary engineer is much better educated than a common soldier, and they discussed, with some intelligence, the odd conditions of the possible fight.
After some time I left them and went on to the railway station to get as many morning papers as I could. These contained only very inaccurate descriptions of the killing of Stent, Henderson, Ogilvy and the others. I got back to lunch at about two, very tired because, as I have said, the day was extremely hot and dull. To make myself feel better I took a cold bath in the afternoon.
During that day the Martians did not show themselves. They were busy in the pit, and there was the sound of hammering and a column of smoke. 'New attempts have been made to signal, but without success,' was how the evening papers later described it. An engineer told me that this was done by a man crawling forwards with a flag on a long pole. The Martians took as much notice of him as we would of a cow.
At about three o'clock I heard the sound of a gun, firing regularly, from the direction of Chertsey. I learned that they were shooting into the wood in which the second cylinder had fallen. An hour or two later a field-gun arrived for use against the first cylinder.
At about six in the evening, as I had tea with my wife in the garden, I heard an explosion from the common, and immediately after that the sound of gunfire. Then came a violent crash quite close to us, that shook the ground. I rushed out onto the grass and saw the tops of the trees around the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruins. The roof of the college was in pieces. Then one of our chimneys cracked and broken bricks fell down onto the flower-bed by my study window.
My wife and I stood amazed. Then I realized that the Martians could hit the top of Maybury Hill with their Heat-Ray because they had cleared the college out of the way.
After that I took my wife's arm and ran with her out into the road. Then I went back and fetched the servant.
'We can't stay here,' I said, and as I spoke the firing started again for a moment on the common.
'But where can we go?' said my wife in terror.
I thought, puzzled. Then I remembered my cousins in Leatherhead.
'Leatherhead!' I shouted above the sudden noise.
She looked away from me downhill. Surprised people were coming out of their houses.
'How will we get to Leatherhead?' she asked.
Down the hill I saw some soldiers rush under the railway bridge. Three went through the open doors of the Oriental College and two began running from house to house. The sun, shining through the smoke that rose up from the tops of the trees, seemed blood-red and threw an unfamiliar bright light on everything.
'Wait here,' I said. 'You are safe here.'
I ran at once towards the pub, whose owner had a horse and cart. I ran because I realized that soon everyone on this side of the hill would be moving. I found the pub's owner in his bar, with no idea of what was going on. I explained quickly that I had to leave my home, and arranged to borrow the cart, promising to bring it back before midnight. At the time it did not seem to me so urgent that he should leave his home.
I drove the cart down the road and, leaving it with my wife and servant, rushed into the house and packed a few valuables. While I was doing this, a soldier ran past. He was going from house to house, warning people to leave.
I shouted after him, 'What news?'
He turned, stared, shouted something about 'crawling out in a thing like a dish cover', and moved on to the gate of the next house. I helped my servant into the back of the cart, then jumped up into the driver's seat beside my wife. In another moment we were clear of the smoke and the noise, and moving quickly down the opposite side of Maybury Hill.
Running Away
Leatherhead is about twenty kilometres from Maybury. We got there without any problems at about nine o'clock, and the horse had an hour's rest while I had supper with my cousins and left my wife in their care.
My wife was strangely silent during the drive, and seemed very worried. If I had not made a promise to the pub owner, she would, I think, have asked me to stay in Leatherhead that night. Her face, I remember, was very white as I drove away.
My feelings were quite different. I had been very excited all day and I was not sorry that I had to return to Maybury. I was even afraid that the last shots I had heard might mean the end of our visitors from Mars. I wanted to be there at the death.
The night was unexpectedly dark, and it was as hot and airless as the day. Overhead the clouds were passing fast, mixed here and there with clouds of black and red smoke, although no wind moved the bushes around me. I heard a church strike midnight, and then I saw Maybury Hill, with its tree-tops and roofs black and sharp against the red sky.
At that moment a bright green light lit up the road around me and showed the distant woods to the north. I saw a line of green fire pass through the moving clouds and into the field to my left. It was the third cylinder!
Just after this came the first lightning of the storm, and the thunder burst like a gun overhead. The horse ran forwards in terror at high speed.
There is a gentle slope towards the foot of Maybury Hill, and down this we went. After the lightning had begun, it flashed again and again, as quickly as I have ever seen. The thunder crashed almost all the time. The flashing light was blinding and confusing, and thin rain hit my face as I drove down the slope.
I paid little attention to the road in front of me, and then suddenly my attention was caught by something. At first I thought it was the wet roof of a house, but the lightning flashes showed that it was moving quickly down Maybury Hill. Then there was a great flash like daylight and this strange object could be seen clearly.
How can I describe this Thing that I saw? It was an enormous tripod, higher than many houses, stepping over the young trees. It was a walking engine of shining metal.
Then suddenly, the trees in the wood ahead of me were pushed to the side and a second enormous tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, straight towards me. And I was driving fast to meet it. At the sight of this second machine I panicked completely. I pulled my horse's head hard round to the right. The cart turned over on the horse and I was thrown sideways. I fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.
I crawled out almost immediately and lay, my feet still in the water, under a bush. The horse did not move (his neck was broken, poor animal!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the turned-over cart and one wheel still spinning slowly. Then the enormous machine walked past me and went uphill.
As it passed it gave a deafening howl that was louder than the thunder — 'Aloo! Aloo!' — and a minute later it was with another one, half a kilometer away, bending over something in a field. I have no doubt that this was the third of the cylinders they had fired at us from Mars.
I was wet with rain above and pool-water below. It was some time before my shock would let me struggle up into a drier position, or think of the great danger I was in.
I got to my feet at last and, keeping low, managed to get into a wood near Maybury without the machines seeing me. Staying in the wood, I moved towards my own house. If I had really understood the meaning of all the things I had seen, I would have gone back to join my wife in Leatherhead immediately. But that night it was all very strange and I was physically exhausted, wet to the skin, deafened and blinded by the storm. All these things prevented me from making a sensible decision.
I walked up the narrow road towards my house. Near the top I stood on something soft and, by a flash of lightning, saw the body of a man. I had never touched a dead body before, but I forced myself to turn him over and feel for his heart. He certainly was dead. It seemed that his neck had been broken. Then the lightning flashed again and I saw his face. It was the owner of the pub, whose cart I had taken.
I stepped over him nervously and moved on up the hill. Towards Maybury Bridge there were voices and the sound of feet, but I did not have the courage to shout or go to them. I let myself into my house and locked the door, walked to the bottom of the stairs and sat down, shaking violently.
It was some time before I could get to my feet again and put on some dry clothes. After that I went upstairs to my study. The window looks over the trees and the railway towards Horsell Common. In the hurry to leave it had been left open. I stopped in the doorway, at a safe distance from it.
The thunderstorm had passed. The towers of the Oriental College and the trees around it had gone. Very far away, lit by red fire, the common was visible. Across the light, great black shapes moved busily backwards and forwards.
I closed the door noiselessly and moved nearer the window. The view opened out until, on one side, it reached to the houses around Woking Station, and on the other, to the burnt woods of Byfleet. Between them were areas of fire and smoking ground. The view reminded me, more than anything else, of factories at night.
I turned my desk chair to the window and stared out at the country and, in particular, at the three enormous black Things that were moving around the common. They seemed very busy. I began to ask myself what they could be. Were they intelligent machines? I felt this was impossible. Or did a Martian sit inside each, controlling it in the same way that a man's brain controls his body?
The storm had left the sky clear, and over the smoke of the burning land the tiny bright light of Mars was dropping into the west, when a soldier came quietly into my garden. I got up and leant out of the window.
'Psst!' I said, in a whisper.
He stopped for a moment, then walked across to the house.
'Who's there?' he said, also whispering.
'Are you trying to hide?' I asked.
'I am.'
'Come into the house,' I said.
I went down, opened the door and let him in. I could not see his face. He had no hat and his coat was unbuttoned.
'What's happened?' I asked.
'We didn't have a chance.' he said. 'Not a chance.'
He followed me into the dining-room.
'Have a drink,' I said, pouring one for him.
He drank it. Then suddenly he sat down at the table, put his head on his arms and began to cry like a little boy. It was a long time before he was able to answer my questions, and the answers he gave were puzzled and came in broken sentences.
He was part of a field-gun team. They were turning their gun to fire on one of the tripods when it suddenly exploded. He found himself lying under a group of burnt dead men and horses. His back was hurt by the fall of a horse and he lay there for a long time. He watched as the foot-soldiers rushed towards the tripod. They all went down in a second. Then the tripod walked slowly over the common. A kind of arm held a complicated metal case, out of which the Heat-Ray flashed as it killed anyone who was still moving. Then the tripod turned and walked away towards where the second cylinder lay.
At last the soldier was able to move, crawling at first, and he got to Woking. There were a few people still alive there; most of them were very frightened, and many of them had been burnt. He hid behind a broken wall as one of the Martian tripods returned. He saw this one go after a man, catch him in one of its steel arms and knock his head against a tree. After it got dark, the soldier finally ran and managed to get across the railway.
That was the story I got from him, bit by bit. He grew calmer telling me. He had eaten no food since midday, and I found some meat and bread and brought it into the room. As we talked, the sky gradually became lighter. I began to see his face, blackened and exhausted, as no doubt mine was too.
When we had finished eating, we went quietly upstairs to my study and I looked again out of the open window. In one night the valley had become a place of death. The fires had died down now, but the ruins of broken and burnt-out houses and blackened trees were clear in the cold light of the dawn. Destruction had never been so total in the history of war. And, shining in the morning light, three of the tripods stood on the common, their tops turning as they examined the damage they had done.
The Death of Towns
As the dawn grew brighter, we moved back from the window where we had watched and went very quietly downstairs.
The soldier agreed with me that the house was not a good place to stay in. He suggested going towards London, where he could rejoin his company. My plan was to return at once to Leatherhead. The strength of the Martians worried me so much that I had decided to take my wife to the south coast, and leave the country with her immediately. I had already decided that the area around London would be the scene of a great battle before the Martians could be destroyed.
Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylinder. If I had been alone, I think I would have taken my chance and gone straight across country. But the soldier persuaded me not to. 'It's no kindness to your wife,' he said, 'for you to get killed.' In the end I agreed to go north with him under cover of the woods. After that I would leave him and turn off to reach Leatherhead.
I wanted to start at once, but the soldier had been in wars before and knew better than that. He made me find all the food and drink that we could carry, and we filled our pockets. Then we left the house and ran as quickly as we could down the narrow road. All the houses seemed empty. In the road lay a pile of three burnt bodies close together, killed by the Heat-Ray. In fact, apart from ourselves, there did not seem to be a living person on Maybury Hill.
We reached the woods at the foot of the hill and moved through these towards the road. As we ran, we heard the sound of horses and saw through the trees three soldiers riding towards Woking. We shouted and they stopped while we hurried towards them. They were an officer and two men.
'You are the first people I've seen coming this way this morning,' the officer said. 'What's happening?'
The soldier who had stayed with me stepped up to him. 'My gun was destroyed last night, sir. I've been hiding. I'm trying to rejoin my company. You'll come in sight of the Martians, I expect, about a kilometer along this road.'
'What do they look like?' asked the officer.
'Big machines, sir. Thirty metres high. Three legs and a great big head, sir.'
'What nonsense!' said the officer.
'You'll see, sir. They carry a kind of box that shoots fire and strikes you dead.'
'What do you mean — a gun?'
'No, sir.' And he began to describe the Heat-Ray.
Half-way through his report the officer interrupted him and looked at me.
'Did you see it?' he said.
'It's perfectly true,' I replied.
'Well,' he said. 'I suppose it's my business to see it too. Listen,' he said to my new friend, 'you'd better go to Weybridge and report to the highest officer.'
He thanked me and they rode away.
By Byfleet station we came out from the trees and found the country calm and peaceful in the morning sunlight. It seemed like any other Sunday — except for the empty houses, and the other ones where people were packing.
However, Byfleet was very busy. Soldiers were telling people to leave and helping them to load carts in the main street. Many people, though, did not realize how serious the situation was. I saw one old man with a big box and a number of flower-pots, angrily arguing with a soldier who wanted him to leave them behind.
'Do you know what's over there?' I said, pointing towards the woods that hid the Martians.
'Eh?' he said. 'I was explaining that these are valuable.'
'Death!' I shouted. 'Death is coming! Death!' and leaving him to think about that, I hurried on to Weybridge.
We remained there until midday, and at that time found ourselves at the place where the River Wey joins the River Thames. Here we found an excited crowd of people. There was no great fear at this time, but already there were more people than all the boats could carry across the Thames. Every now and then people looked nervously at the fields beyond Chertsey, but everything there was still.
Then came the sound of a gun and, almost immediately, other guns across the river, unseen because of the trees, began to fire. Everyone stood still, stopped by the sudden sound of battle, near us but invisible to us.
Then we saw a cloud of smoke far away up the river. The ground moved and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses and leaving us shocked.
'Look!' shouted a man. 'Over there! Do you see them?'
Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the Martian machines appeared, far away over the low trees towards Chertsey. Then, from a different direction, a fifth one came towards us. Their metal bodies shone in the sun as they moved forwards to the guns. One on the left, the furthest away, held a large case high in the air, and the terrible Heat-Ray shone towards Chertsey and struck the town.
At the sight of these strange, quick and terrible creatures, the crowd near the water's edge seemed for a moment to be totally shocked. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then came some quiet talk and the beginning of movement. A woman pushed at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned, but I was not too frightened for thought.
'Get under water!' I shouted, but nobody listened.
I turned around again and ran towards the approaching Martian, ran right down the stony beach and dived into the water. Others did the same. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I moved perhaps seven metres before I could get under the surface. I could hear people jumping off boats into the water.
But the Martian took no notice of us. When I lifted my head it was looking towards the guns that were still firing across the river. It was already raising the case which sent the Heat-Ray when the first shell burst six metres above its head.
I gave a cry of surprise. Then two other shells burst at the same time in the air near its body. Its head twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to avoid, the fourth shell.
This exploded right in its face. Its head flashed and burst into a dozen broken pieces of red flesh and shining metal.
'Hit!' I shouted.
The headless machine marched on, swinging from side to side. It hit a church tower, knocking it down, then moved on and fell into the river out of sight.
A violent explosion shook the air, and a column of water, steam, mud and broken metal shot far up into the sky. In another moment a great wave of very hot water came sweeping round the bend. I saw people struggling towards the shore and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the noise of the Martian's fall.
I rushed through the water until I could see round the bend. The Martian came into sight down the river, most of it under the water. Thick clouds of steam were pouring from the wreckage, and through it I could see its long legs and tentacles moving in the water.
My attention was caught by an angry noise. A man, knee-deep in the water, shouted to me and pointed, although I could not hear what he said. Looking back, I saw the other Martians walking down the river-bank from the direction of Chertsey. The guns fired again, but with no effect.
At that moment I got under the water and, holding my breath until movement was painful, swam under the surface for as long as I could. The river was rough around me and quickly growing hotter.
When for a moment I raised my head to breathe and throw the hair and water out of my eyes, the steam was rising in a white fog that hid the Martians completely. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them, enormous grey figures. They had passed me and two were bending over the fallen one.
The third and fourth stood beside him in the water. The cases that produced the Heat-Rays were waved high and the beams flashed this way and that.
The air was full of deafening and confusing noises: the loud sounds of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the flash of fire as trees and fences began to burn. Thick black smoke was rising to mix with the steam from the river.
Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came towards me. The houses fell as it touched them, and exploded into flame. The trees caught fire with a loud noise. The Heat- Ray came down to the water's edge less than fifty metres from where I stood. It ran across the river and the water behind it boiled. I turned towards the shore.
In another moment a large wave of almost boiling water rushed towards me. I screamed and ran. If my foot had slipped, it would have been the end. I fell in full view of the Martians on the stony beach. I expected only death.
I have a faknee-int memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within twenty metres of my head, going straight into the loose stones. Then I saw the four of them carrying the remains of the fallen one between them, now clear and then later faint through a curtain of smoke, moving away from me across a great space of river and fields. And then, very slowly. I realized that somehow I had escaped.
I saw an empty boat, very small and far away, moving down the river and, taking off most of my wet clothes, I swam to it. I used my hands to keep it moving, down the river towards Walton, going very slowly and often looking behind me. I was in some pain and very tired. When the bridge at Walton was coming into sight, I landed on the Middlesex bank and lay down, very sick, in the long grass.
I do not remember the arrival of the curate, so probably I slept for some time. As I woke up, I noticed a seated figure with his face staring at the sky, watching the sunset.
I sat up, and at the sound of my movement he looked at me.
'Have you any water?' I asked.
He shook his head.
'You have been asking for water for the last hour,' he said.
For a moment we were silent, staring at each other. He spoke suddenly, looking away from me.
'What does it mean? he said. 'What do these things mean?'
I gave no answer.
'Why are these things allowed? What have we done — what has Weybridge done? The morning service was over. I was walking the roads to clear my brain, and then — fire and death! All our work — everything destroyed. The church! We rebuilt it only three years ago. Gone! Why?'
Another pause, and then he shouted, 'The smoke of her burning goes up for ever and ever!' His eyes were wide and he pointed a thin finger in the direction of Weybridge.
It was clear to me that the great tragedy in which he was involved — it seemed that he had escaped from Weybridge — had driven him to the edge of madness.
'Are we far from Sunbury?' I said, very quietly.
'What can we do?' he asked. 'Are these creatures everywhere? Has the Earth been given to them?'
'Are we far from Sunbury?'
'Only this morning I was in charge of the church service -'
'Things have changed!' I said, quietly. 'You must stay calm. There is still hope.'
'Yes, a lot of hope, despite all this destruction. Listen!'
From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull sound of the distant guns and a far-away strange crying. Then everything was still. High in the west the moon hung pale above the smoke and the hot, still beauty of the sunset.
'We had better follow this path,' I said. 'To the north.'
In London
My younger brother was in London when the Martians fell at Woking. He was a medical student, working for an examination, and he heard nothing of the arrival until Saturday morning. The morning papers on Saturday contained, in addition to a great deal of information about the planet Mars, one very short report.
The Martians, alarmed by the approach of a crowd, had killed a number of people with a quick-firing gun, the story said. It ended with the words, 'Although they seem frightening, the Martians have not moved from the pit into which they have fallen, and don't seem able to do so.'
Even the afternoon papers had nothing to tell apart from the movement of soldiers around the common, and the burning of the woods between Woking and Weybridge. Nothing more of the fighting was known that night, the night of my drive to Leatherhead and back.
My brother was not worried about us, as he knew from the description in the papers chat the cylinder was three kilometres from my house. That night he made up his mind to visit me, in order to see the Things before they were killed. He sent a telegram, which never reached me.
On the Saturday evening, at Waterloo station, he learned that an accident prevented trains from reaching Woking. He could not discover what kind of accident it was. In fact, the people in charge of the railway did not clearly know at that time. There was very little excitement at the station. Few people connected the problem with the Martians.
I have read, in another description of these events, that on Sunday morning 'all London was panicked by the news from Woking.' In fact, this is simply not true. Plenty of Londoners did not hear of the Martians until Monday morning. Some did, but they needed time to realize what all the reports in the Sunday papers actually meant. But most people in London do not read Sunday papers.
Besides this, Londoners are very used to feeling safe, and exciting news is so normal in the papers that they could read reports like this without great fear:
At about seven o'clock last night the Martians came out of the cylinder and, moving around in metal machines, completely destroyed Woking station and the houses around it, and killed around 600 soldiers. No details are known. Machine guns are completely useless against them, and field-guns have been put out of action. The Martians appear to be moving towards Chertsey. People in West Surrey are very worried and defenses have been built to slow the Martians' movement towards London.
No one in London knew what the Martians looked like, and there was still a fixed idea that they must be slow: 'crawling', 'moving painfully' — words like these were in all the earlier reports. But none of them were written by anyone who had actually seen a Martian. The Sunday papers printed separate editions as further news came in. But there was almost nothing to tell people until the government announced that the people of Walton and Weybridge, and all chat district, were pouring along the roads towards London.
My brother went again to Waterloo station to find out if the line to Woking was open. There he heard that the Chertsey line was also closed. He learned that several unusual telegrams had been received in the morning from Byfleet and Chertsey stations, but that these had suddenly stopped. My brother could get very little exact information out of them. 'There's fighting going on around Weybridge,' was all the information they had.
Quite a number of people who had been expecting friends to arrive by train were standing at the station. One man spoke to my brother.
'There are lots of people coming into Kingston in carts and things, with boxes and cases,' he said. 'They come from Weybridge and Walton, and they said guns have been heard at Chertsey, heavy firing, and that soldiers told them to move out at once because the Martians are corning. What does it all mean? The Martians can't get out of their pit, can they?'
My brother could not tell him.
At about five o'clock the growing crowd in the station was greatly excited by the opening of the line between the South-Eastern and South-Western stations, which is usually closed. Then trains carrying large guns and many soldiers passed through the station, moving towards Kingston. Soon after that the police arrived and began to move the crowd out of the station, and my brother went out into the street again.
On Waterloo Bridge a number of people were watching an odd brown liquid that came down the river from time to time. The sun was just setting and the Houses of Parliament stood against a peaceful sky. There was talk of a floating body.
In Wellington Street my brother met two men selling newspapers which had just been printed. The advertising boards said, 'Terrible tragedy! Fighting at Weybridge! Defeat of the Martians! London in danger!' He bought a paper.
Then, and only then, he understood something of the full power and terror of the Martians. He learned that they were not just a few small crawling creatures, but that they could control enormous mechanical bodies. They could move quickly and strike with such power that even the biggest guns could not stand against them. They were described as, 'great machines like spiders, nearly thirty metres high, as fast as an express train, and able to shoot out a beam of strong heat.'
Many field-guns, the report said, had been hidden around the country near Horsell Common, and especially between the Woking district and London. Five of the machines had been seen moving towards the Thames and one, by a lucky chance, had been destroyed. In other cases the shells had missed, and the guns had at once been destroyed by the Heat-Rays. Heavy losses of soldiers were mentioned, but in general the report was optimistic.
The Martians had been defeated, my brother read. They had gone back to their cylinders again, in the circle around Woking. Guns, including some very large ones, were moving in quickly. One hundred and sixteen were now in position, mainly covering London. There had never been such a large or fast movement of war equipment in England before.
No doubt, said the report, the situation was strange and serious, but the public was asked to avoid and discourage panic. No doubt the Martians were very frightening, but there could not be more than twenty of them against our millions.
All down Wellington Street people could be seen reading the paper. Men came running from buses to get copies. Certainly people were excited by the news, whatever they had felt before. A map shop in the Strand opened specially, and a man in his
Sunday clothes could be seen inside quickly fixing maps of Surrey to the shop window.
Going along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, my brother saw some of the refugees from West Surrey. There was a man with his wife and two boys and some pieces of furniture in a cart, and close behind him came another one with five or six well-dressed people and some boxes and cases. The faces of the people showed that they were very tired. Some distance behind them was a man on an old-fashioned bicycle. He was dirty and white-faced.
My brother turned towards Victoria station, and met a number of people like these. He had an idea that he might see me. He noticed an unusual number of police controlling the traffic. Some of the refugees were exchanging news with the people on the buses. Most were excited by their strange experience. My brother spoke to several of the refugees but none could give him any news of Woking, except one man who said that it had been totally destroyed the previous night.
At that time there was a strong feeling on the streets that the government should be blamed because they had not destroyed the Martians already.
At about eight o'clock the sound of tiring could be heard clearly ail over the south of London. My brother walked from Westminster to his room near Regent's Park. He was now very worried about me.
There were one or two carts with refugees going along Oxford Street, but the news was spreading so slowly that Regent Street and Portland Place were full of people taking their usual Sunday night walk. Along the edge of Regent's Park there were as many romantic couples as there had ever been. The night was warm and still. The sound of guns continued from time to time and after midnight there seemed to be lightning in the south.
My brother read and reread the paper, thinking that the worst had happened to me. He was restless, and after supper went out again. He returned and tried to concentrate on his examination notes, but without success. He went to bed a little after midnight and was woken in the early hours of Monday morning by the sound of knocking on doors, feet running in the street, distant drumming and the ringing of bells. For a moment he lay in surprise. Then he jumped out of bed and ran to the window.
Up and down the street other windows were opening and people were shouting questions. 'They are coming!' a policeman shouted back, banging on the door. 'The Martians are coming!' Then he hurried to the next door.
The sound of drums came from the army base in Albany Street and bells were ringing in every church. There was a noise of doors opening, and the lights went on in window after window in the houses across the street.
A closed carriage came up the street, quickly followed by a number of other fast-moving vehicles. Most of them were going to Chalk Farm station, where special trains were being loaded.
For a long time my brother stared out of the window in total surprise, watching the policeman banging at door after door. Then he crossed the room and began to dress, running with each piece of clothing to the window in order to miss nothing of the growing excitement. And then men selling unusually early newspapers came shouting into the street:
'London in danger! Kingston and Richmond defenses broken! Terrible killing in the Thames Valley!'
All around him — in the rooms below, in the houses on each side and across the road, and all across London — people were rubbing their eyes and opening windows to stare out and ask questions, and getting dressed quickly as the first breath of the coming storm of fear blew through the streets. It was the beginning of the great panic. London, which had gone to bed on Sunday night not knowing much and caring even less, was woken in the early hours of Monday morning to a real sense of danger.
Unable to learn what was happening from his window, my brother went down and out into the street, just as the sky turned pink with the dawn. Every moment brought more and more fast-moving people in vehicles.
'Black Smoke!' he heard people shouting. 'Black Smoke!' As he stood at the door, not knowing what to do, he saw another newspaper-seller approaching him. The man was running away with the others and selling his papers for many times their normal price as he ran — a strange mixture of profit and panic.
And from this paper my brother read that terrible report from the commander of the army:
The Martians are able to send out enormous clouds of black smoke. They have poisoned our gunners, destroyed Richmond, Kingston and Wimbledon, and are moving slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way, It is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke except by running away.
That was all, but it was enough. All of the six million people who lived in the great city were beginning to move. Soon everybody would be trying to escape to the north. 'Black Smoke!' the voices shouted. 'Fire!'
The bells of the local church rang loudly, a carelessly-driven cart smashed, and people screamed and swore. Yellow lights moved around in the houses. And in the sky above them, the dawn was growing brighter — clear and calm.
He heard people running in the rooms, and up and down the stairs behind him. His neighbour came to the door. She was not properly dressed and her husband followed her, shouting.
As my brother began to realize how serious the situation was, he returned quickly to his room, put all the money he had — about ten pounds — into his pockets and went out again into the streets.
The Black Smoke
While the curate had sat and talked so wildly to me in the flat fields near Walton, and while my brother was watching the refugees pour across Westminster Bridge, the Martians had started to attack again. As it was reported later, most of them remained busy with preparations in the pit on Horsell Common until nine that night, doing something that produced a great amount of Black Smoke.
But three certainly came out at about eight o'clock. They moved forwards slowly and carefully towards Ripley and Weybridge, and so came in sight of the waiting guns. These Martians moved in a line, perhaps two kilometres apart. They communicated with each other by loud howls.
It was this howling and the firing of the guns at Ripley and Weybridge that we heard at Walton. The Ripley gunners had never been in action before. The guns fired one ineffective shell each, then the soldiers ran away. The Martian, without using his Heat-Ray, walked calmly over their guns.
The Weybridge men, however, were better led or we
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