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The Time Machine
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

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`It may seem odd to you, but it was two days before I could

follow up the new-found clue in what was manifestly the proper

way. I felt a peculiar shrinking from those pallid bodies. They

were just the half-bleached colour of the worms and things one

sees preserved in spirit in a zoological museum. And they were

filthily cold to the touch. Probably my shrinking was largely

due to the sympathetic influence of the Eloi, whose disgust of

the Morlocks I now began to appreciate.

`The next night I did not sleep well. Probably my health was

a little disordered. I was oppressed with perplexity and doubt.

Once or twice I had a feeling of intense fear for which I could

perceive no definite reason. I remember creeping noiselessly

into the great hall where the little people were sleeping in the

moonlight--that night Weena was among them--and feeling

reassured by their presence. It occurred to me even then, that

in the course of a few days the moon must pass through its last

quarter, and the nights grow dark, when the appearances of these

unpleasant creatures from below, these whitened Lemurs, this new

vermin that had replaced the old, might be more abundant. And on

both these days I had the restless feeling of one who shirks an

inevitable duty. I felt assured that the Time Machine was only

to be recovered by boldly penetrating these underground

mysteries. Yet I could not face the mystery. If only I had had

a companion it would have been different. But I was so horribly

alone, and even to clamber down into the darkness of the well

appalled me. I don't know if you will understand my feeling, but

I never felt quite safe at my back.

`It was this restlessness, this insecurity, perhaps, that

drove me further and further afield in my exploring expeditions.

Going to the south-westward towards the rising country that is

now called Combe Wood, I observed far off, in the direction of

nineteenth-century Banstead, a vast green structure, different in

character from any I had hitherto seen. It was larger than the

largest of the palaces or ruins I knew, and the facade had an

Oriental look: the face of it having the lustre, as well as the

pale-green tint, a kind of bluish-green, of a certain type of

Chinese porcelain. This difference in aspect suggested a

difference in use, and I was minded to push on and explore. But

the day was growing late, and I had come upon the sight of the

place after a long and tiring circuit; so I resolved to hold over

the adventure for the following day, and I returned to the

welcome and the caresses of little Weena. But next morning I

perceived clearly enough that my curiosity regarding the Palace

of Green Porcelain was a piece of self-deception, to enable me to

shirk, by another day, an experience I dreaded. I resolved I

would make the descent without further waste of time, and started

out in the early morning towards a well near the ruins of granite

and aluminium.

`Little Weena ran with me. She danced beside me to the well,

but when she saw me lean over the mouth and look downward, she

seemed strangely disconcerted. "Good-bye, Little Weena," I said,

kissing her; and then putting her down, I began to feel over the

parapet for the climbing hooks. Rather hastily, I may as well

confess, for I feared my courage might leak away! At first she

watched me in amazement. Then she gave a most piteous cry, and

running to me, she began to pull at me with her little hands. I

think her opposition nerved me rather to proceed. I shook her

off, perhaps a little roughly, and in another moment I was in the

throat of the well. I saw her agonized face over the parapet,

and smiled to reassure her. Then I had to look down at the

unstable hooks to which I clung.

`I had to clamber down a shaft of perhaps two hundred yards.

The descent was effected by means of metallic bars projecting

from the sides of the well, and these being adapted to the needs

of a creature much smaller and lighter than myself, I was

speedily cramped and fatigued by the descent. And not simply

fatigued! One of the bars bent suddenly under my weight, and

almost swung me off into the blackness beneath. For a moment I

hung by one hand, and after that experience I did not dare to

rest again. Though my arms and back were presently acutely

painful, I went on clambering down the sheer descent with as

quick a motion as possible. Glancing upward, I saw the aperture,

a small blue disk, in which a star was visible, while little

Weena's head showed as a round black projection. The thudding

sound of a machine below grew louder and more oppressive.

Everything save that little disk above was profoundly dark, and

when I looked up again Weena had disappeared.

`I was in an agony of discomfort. I had some thought of

trying to go up the shaft again, and leave the Under-world alone.

But even while I turned this over in my mind I continued to

descend. At last, with intense relief, I saw dimly coming up, a

foot to the right of me, a slender loophole in the wall.

Swinging myself in, I found it was the aperture of a narrow

horizontal tunnel in which I could lie down and rest. It was not

too soon. My arms ached, my back was cramped, and I was

trembling with the prolonged terror of a fall. Besides this, the

unbroken darkness had had a distressing effect upon my eyes. The

air was full of the throb and hum of machinery pumping air down

the shaft.

`I do not know how long I lay. I was roused by a soft hand

touching my face. Starting up in the darkness I snatched at my

matches and, hastily striking one, I saw three stooping white

creatures similar to the one I had seen above ground in the ruin,

hastily retreating before the light. Living, as they did, in

what appeared to me impenetrable darkness, their eyes were

abnormally large and sensitive, just as are the pupils of the

abysmal fishes, and they reflected the light in the same way. I

have no doubt they could see me in that rayless obscurity, and

they did not seem to have any fear of me apart from the light.

But, so soon as I struck a match in order to see them, they fled

incontinently, vanishing into dark gutters and tunnels, from

which their eyes glared at me in the strangest fashion.

`I tried to call to them, but the language they had was

apparently different from that of the Over-world people; so that

I was needs left to my own unaided efforts, and the thought of

flight before exploration was even then in my mind. But I said

to myself, "You are in for it now," and, feeling my way along the

tunnel, I found the noise of machinery grow louder. Presently

the walls fell away from me, and I came to a large open space,

and striking another match, saw that I had entered a vast arched

cavern, which stretched into utter darkness beyond the range of

my light. The view I had of it was as much as one could see in

the burning of a match.

`Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big

machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black

shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare.

The place, by the by, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the

faint halitus of freshly shed blood was in the air. Some way

down the central vista was a little table of white metal, laid

with what seemed a meal. The Morlocks at any rate were

carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember wondering what large

animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I saw. It

was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big unmeaning

shapes, the obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and only

waiting for the darkness to come at me again! Then the match

burned down, and stung my fingers, and fell, a wriggling red spot

in the blackness.

`I have thought since how particularly ill-equipped I was for

such an experience. When I had started with the Time Machine, I

had started with the absurd assumption that the men of the Future

would certainly be infinitely ahead of ourselves in all their

appliances. I had come without arms, without medicine, without

anything to smoke--at times I missed tobacco frightfully--even

without enough matches. If only I had thought of a Kodak! I

could have flashed that glimpse of the Underworld in a second,

and examined it at leisure. But, as it was, I stood there with

only the weapons and the powers that Nature had endowed me

with--hands, feet, and teeth; these, and four safety-matches that

still remained to me.

`I was afraid to push my way in among all this machinery in

the dark, and it was only with my last glimpse of light I

discovered that my store of matches had run low. It had never

occurred to me until that moment that there was any need to

economize them, and I had wasted almost half the box in

astonishing the Upper-worlders, to whom fire was a novelty. Now,

as I say, I had four left, and while I stood in the dark, a hand

touched mine, lank fingers came feeling over my face, and I was

sensible of a peculiar unpleasant odour. I fancied I heard the

breathing of a crowd of those dreadful little beings about me. I

felt the box of matches in my hand being gently disengaged, and

other hands behind me plucking at my clothing. The sense of

these unseen creatures examining me was indescribably unpleasant.

The sudden realization of my ignorance of their ways of thinking

and doing came home to me very vividly in the darkness. I shouted

at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and then I

could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more

boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered

violently, and shouted again rather discordantly. This time they

were not so seriously alarmed, and they made a queer laughing

noise as they came back at me. I will confess I was horribly

frightened. I determined to strike another match and escape

under the protection of its glare. I did so, and eking out the

flicker with a scrap of paper from my pocket, I made good my

retreat to the narrow tunnel. But I had scarce entered this when

my light was blown out and in the blackness I could hear the

Morlocks rustling like wind among leaves, and pattering like the

rain, as they hurried after me.

`In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there was no

mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck

another light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can

scarce imagine how nauseatingly inhuman they looked--those pale,

chinless faces and great, lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!--as they

stared in their blindness and bewilderment. But I did not stay to

look, I promise you: I retreated again, and when my second match

had ended, I struck my third. It had almost burned through when

I reached the opening into the shaft. I lay down on the edge,

for the throb of the great pump below made me giddy. Then I felt

sideways for the projecting hooks, and, as I did so, my feet were

grasped from behind, and I was violently tugged backward. I lit

my last match . . . and it incontinently went out. But I had my

hand on the climbing bars now, and, kicking violently, I

disengaged myself from the clutches of the Morlocks and was

speedily clambering up the shaft, while they stayed peering and

blinking up at me: all but one little wretch who followed me for

some way, and wellnigh secured my boot as a trophy.

`That climb seemed interminable to me. With the last twenty

or thirty feet of it a deadly nausea came upon me. I had the

greatest difficulty in keeping my hold. The last few yards was a

frightful struggle against this faintness. Several times my head

swam, and I felt all the sensations of falling. At last,

however, I got over the well-mouth somehow, and staggered out of

the ruin into the blinding sunlight. I fell upon my face. Even

the soil smelt sweet and clean. Then I remember Weena kissing my

hands and ears, and the voices of others among the Eloi. Then,

for a time, I was insensible.



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