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

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`I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that

comes with time travelling. And this time I was not seated

properly in the saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion.

For an indefinite time I clung to the machine as it swayed and

vibrated, quite unheeding how I went, and when I brought myself

to look at the dials again I was amazed to find where I had

arrived. One dial records days, and another thousands of days,

another millions of days, and another thousands of millions.

Now, instead of reversing the levers, I had pulled them over so

as to go forward with them, and when I came to look at these

indicators I found that the thousands hand was sweeping round as

fast as the seconds hand of a watch--into futurity.

`As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of

things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then--though I was

still travelling with prodigious velocity--the blinking

succession of day and night, which was usually indicative of a

slower pace, returned, and grew more and more marked. This

puzzled me very much at first. The alternations of night and day

grew slower and slower, and so did the passage of the sun across

the sky, until they seemed to stretch through centuries. At last

a steady twilight brooded over the earth, a twilight only broken

now and then when a comet glared across the darkling sky. The

band of light that had indicated the sun had long since

disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set--it simply rose and

fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more red. All trace

of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars, growing

slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of light.

At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very large,

halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a

dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At

one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again,

but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by

this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the

tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to

the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very

cautiously, for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to

reverse my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands

until the thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was

no longer a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the

dim outlines of a desolate beach grew visible.

`I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking

round. The sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky

black, and out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the

pale white stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and

starless, and south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing

scarlet where, cut by the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun,

red and motionless. The rocks about me were of a harsh reddish

colour, and all the trace of life that I could see at first was

the intensely green vegetation that covered every projecting

point on their south-eastern face. It was the same rich green

that one sees on forest moss or on the lichen in caves: plants

which like these grow in a perpetual twilight.

`The machine was standing on a sloping beach. The sea

stretched away to the south-west, to rise into a sharp bright

horizon against the wan sky. There were no breakers and no

waves, for not a breath of wind was stirring. Only a slight oily

swell rose and fell like a gentle breathing, and showed that the

eternal sea was still moving and living. And along the margin

where the water sometimes broke was a thick incrustation of

salt--pink under the lurid sky. There was a sense of oppression

in my head, and I noticed that I was breathing very fast. The

sensation reminded me of my only experience of mountaineering,

and from that I judged the air to be more rarefied than it is


`Far away up the desolate slope I heard a harsh scream, and

saw a thing like a huge white butterfly go slanting and

flittering up into the sky and, circling, disappear over some low

hillocks beyond. The sound of its voice was so dismal that I

shivered and seated myself more firmly upon the machine. Looking

round me again, I saw that, quite near, what I had taken to be a

reddish mass of rock was moving slowly towards me. Then I saw

the thing was really a monstrous crab-like creature. Can you

imagine a crab as large as yonder table, with its many legs

moving slowly and uncertainly, its big claws swaying, its long

antennae, like carters' whips, waving and feeling, and its

stalked eyes gleaming at you on either side of its metallic

front? Its back was corrugated and ornamented with ungainly

bosses, and a greenish incrustation blotched it here and there.

I could see the many palps of its complicated mouth flickering

and feeling as it moved.

`As I stared at this sinister apparition crawling towards me,

I felt a tickling on my cheek as though a fly had lighted there.

I tried to brush it away with my hand, but in a moment it

returned, and almost immediately came another by my ear. I

struck at this, and caught something threadlike. It was drawn

swiftly out of my hand. With a frightful qualm, I turned, and I

saw that I had grasped the antenna of another monster crab that

stood just behind me. Its evil eyes were wriggling on their

stalks, its mouth was all alive with appetite, and its vast

ungainly claws, smeared with an algal slime, were descending upon

me. In a moment my hand was on the lever, and I had placed a

month between myself and these monsters. But I was still on the

same beach, and I saw them distinctly now as soon as I stopped.

Dozens of them seemed to be crawling here and there, in the

sombre light, among the foliated sheets of intense green.

`I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung

over the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness,

the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul,

slow-stirring monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of

the lichenous plants, the thin air that hurts one's lungs: all

contributed to an appalling effect. I moved on a hundred years,

and there was the same red sun--a little larger, a little

duller--the same dying sea, the same chill air, and the same

crowd of earthy crustacea creeping in and out among the green

weed and the red rocks. And in the westward sky, I saw a curved

pale line like a vast new moon.

`So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of

a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth's

fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and

duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb

away. At last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge

red-hot dome of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part

of the darkling heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the

crawling multitude of crabs had disappeared, and the red beach,

save for its livid green liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless.

And now it was flecked with white. A bitter cold assailed me.

Rare white flakes ever and again came eddying down. To the

north-eastward, the glare of snow lay under the starlight of the

sable sky and I could see an undulating crest of hillocks pinkish

white. There were fringes of ice along the sea margin, with

drifting masses further out; but the main expanse of that salt

ocean, all bloody under the eternal sunset, was still unfrozen.

`I looked about me to see if any traces of animal life

remained. A certain indefinable apprehension still kept me in

the saddle of the machine. But I saw nothing moving, in earth or

sky or sea. The green slime on the rocks alone testified that

life was not extinct. A shallow sandbank had appeared in the sea

and the water had receded from the beach. I fancied I saw some

black object flopping about upon this bank, but it became

motionless as I looked at it, and I judged that my eye had been

deceived, and that the black object was merely a rock. The stars

in the sky were intensely bright and seemed to me to twinkle very


`Suddenly I noticed that the circular westward outline of the

sun had changed; that a concavity, a bay, had appeared in the

curve. I saw this grow larger. For a minute perhaps I stared

aghast at this blackness that was creeping over the day, and then

I realized that an eclipse was beginning. Either the moon or the

planet Mercury was passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at

first I took it to be the moon, but there is much to incline me

to believe that what I really saw was the transit of an inner

planet passing very near to the earth.

`The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to blow in

freshening gusts from the east, and the showering white flakes in

the air increased in number. From the edge of the sea came a

ripple and whisper. Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was

silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it.

All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of

birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of

our lives--all that was over. As the darkness thickened, the

eddying flakes grew more abundant, dancing before my eyes; and

the cold of the air more intense. At last, one by one, swiftly,

one after the other, the white peaks of the distant hills

vanished into blackness. The breeze rose to a moaning wind. I

saw the black central shadow of the eclipse sweeping towards me.

In another moment the pale stars alone were visible. All else

was rayless obscurity. The sky was absolutely black.

`A horror of this great darkness came on me. The cold, that

smote to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing, overcame

me. I shivered, and a deadly nausea seized me. Then like a

red-hot bow in the sky appeared the edge of the sun. I got off

the machine to recover myself. I felt giddy and incapable of

facing the return journey. As I stood sick and confused I saw

again the moving thing upon the shoal--there was no mistake now

that it was a moving thing--against the red water of the sea. It

was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps, or, it may be,

bigger, and tentacles trailed down from it; it seemed black

against the weltering blood-red water, and it was hopping

fitfully about. Then I felt I was fainting. But a terrible

dread of lying helpless in that remote and awful twilight

sustained me while I clambered upon the saddle.



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