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

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After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging

from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from

their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I

remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the

mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and


I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a pas-

sionate longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in

a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and continually

looking at the sand heaps that hid these new-comers to our

earth. Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an

octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately with-

drawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by joint,

bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling

motion. What could be going on there?

Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups

--one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of

people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared

my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I

approached--he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine,

though I did not know his name--and accosted. But it was

scarcely a time for articulate conversation.

"What ugly brutes!" he said. "Good God! What ugly

brutes!" He repeated this over and over again.

"Did you see a man in the pit?" I said; but he made no

answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a

time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one

another's company. Then I shifted my position to a little

knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of eleva-

tion and when I looked for him presently he was walking

towards Woking.

The sunset faded to twilight before anything further hap-

pened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking,

seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it.

The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There

was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.

It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage,

and I suppose the new arrivals from Woking also helped to

restore confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow,

intermittent movement upon the sand pits began, a move-

ment that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the eve-

ning about the cylinder remained unbroken. Vertical black

figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch,

and advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin

irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its

attenuated horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards

the pit.

Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly

into the sand pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the

gride of wheels. I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of

apples. And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing

from the direction of Horsell, I noted a little black knot of

men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.

This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty consulta-

tion, and since the Martians were evidently, in spite of their

repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to

show them, by approaching them with signals, that we too

were intelligent.

Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to

the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but

afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were

with others in this attempt at communication. This little

group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the

circumference of the now almost complete circle of people,

and a number of dim black figures followed it at discreet


Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of

luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct

puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the

still air.

This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word

for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the

hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set with

black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these puffs

arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal. At the

same time a faint hissing sound became audible.

Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the

white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little

knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black ground.

As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green,

and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed

into a humming, into a long, loud, droning noise. Slowly a

humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam

of light seemed to flicker out from it.

Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping

from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.

It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and

flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly

and momentarily turned to fire.

Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them

staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to


I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death

leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I

felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noise-

less and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and

lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them,

pine trees burst into fire, and every dry furze bush became

with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards

Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden

buildings suddenly set alight.

It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming

death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it

coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and

was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle

of fire in the sand pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that

was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet

intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather

between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line

beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled.

Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the

road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-

with the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-

like object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.

All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood

motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of light.

Had that death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably

have slain me in my surprise. But it passed and spared me,

and left the night about me suddenly dark and un-


The undulating common seemed now dark almost to

blackness, except where its roadways lay grey and pale under

the deep blue sky of the early night. It was dark, and sud-

denly void of men. Overhead the stars were mustering, and

in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost greenish

blue. The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of Horsell came

out sharp and black against the western afterglow. The Mar-

tians and their appliances were altogether invisible, save for

that thin mast upon which their restless mirror wobbled.

Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and

glowed still, and the houses towards Woking station were

sending up spires of flame into the stillness of the evening


Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonish-

ment. The little group of black specks with the flag of white

had been swept out of existence, and the stillness of the

evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely been broken.

It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless,

unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon

me from without, came--fear.

With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through

the heather.

The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not

only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about

me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had

that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I had

turned, I did not dare to look back.

I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was

being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very

verge of safety, this mysterious death--as swift as the passage

of light--would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder

and strike me down.



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