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The War of the Worlds
by H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

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When I returned to the common the sun was setting.

Scattered groups were hurrying from the direction of Woking,

and one or two persons were returning. The crowd about

the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon

yellow of the sky--a couple of hundred people, perhaps.

There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared

to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed

through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent's voice:

"Keep back! Keep back!"

A boy came running towards me.

"It's a-movin'," he said to me as he passed; "a-screwin' and

a-screwin' out. I don't like it. I'm a-goin' 'ome, I am."

I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think,

two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one an-

other, the one or two ladies there being by no means the

least active.

"He's fallen in the pit!" cried some one.

"Keep back!" said several.

The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through.

Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar hum-

ming sound from the pit.

"I say!" said Ogilvy; "help keep these idiots back. We

don't know what's in the confounded thing, you know!"

I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe

he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out

of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.

The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within.

Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blun-

dered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto

the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must

have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel

with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person

behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again.

For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black.

I had the sunset in my eyes.

I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly

something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essen-

tials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw some-

thing stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements,

one above another, and then two luminous disks--like eyes.

Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the

thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing

middle, and wriggled in the air towards me--and then


A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek

from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed

upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now

projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge

of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the

faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclama-

tions on all sides. There was a general movement backwards.

I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I

found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of

the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the

cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petri-

fied and staring.

A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear,

was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As

it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet


Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me stead-

fastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was

rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth

under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and

panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and

pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped

the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.

Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely

imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar

V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of

brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike

lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon

groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in

a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness

of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the

earth--above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense

eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and

monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown

skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedi-

ous movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first en-

counter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and


Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the

brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like

the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar

thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared

darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.

I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of

trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly

and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these


There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I

stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The

common round the sand pits was dotted with people, stand-

ing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these

creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit

in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a

round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the

pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but

showing as a little black object against the hot western sun.

Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed

to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he van-

ished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached

me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him

that my fears overruled.

Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep

pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had

made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Wo-

king would have been amazed at the sight--a dwindling mul-

titude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a

great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates

and hedges, saying little to one another and that in short,

excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of

sand. The barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black

against the burning sky, and in the sand pits was a row of

deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags

or pawing the ground.



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