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

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After eating we crept back to the scullery, and there I

must have dozed again, for when presently I looked round I

was alone. The thudding vibration continued with wearisome

persistence. I whispered for the curate several times, and at

last felt my way to the door of the kitchen. It was still day-

light, and I perceived him across the room, lying against

the triangular hole that looked out upon the Martians. His

shoulders were hunched, so that his head was hidden from me.

I could hear a number of noises almost like those in an

engine shed; and the place rocked with that beating thud.

Through the aperture in the wall I could see the top of a

tree touched with gold and the warm blue of a tranquil

evening sky. For a minute or so I remained watching the

curate, and then I advanced, crouching and stepping with

extreme care amid the broken crockery that littered the floor.

I touched the curate's leg, and he started so violently that

a mass of plaster went sliding down outside and fell with a

loud impact. I gripped his arm, fearing he might cry out,

and for a long time we crouched motionless. Then I turned

to see how much of our rampart remained. The detachment

of the plaster had left a vertical slit open in the debris, and

by raising myself cautiously across a beam I was able to see

out of this gap into what had been overnight a quiet suburban

roadway. Vast, indeed, was the change that we beheld.

The fifth cylinder must have fallen right into the midst

of the house we had first visited. The building had vanished,

completely smashed, pulverised, and dispersed by the blow.

The cylinder lay now far beneath the original foundations--

deep in a hole, already vastly larger than the pit I had

looked into at Woking. The earth all round it had splashed

under that tremendous impact--"splashed" is the only word

--and lay in heaped piles that hid the masses of the adjacent

houses. It had behaved exactly like mud under the violent

blow of a hammer. Our house had collapsed backward; the

front portion, even on the ground floor, had been destroyed

completely; by a chance the kitchen and scullery had escaped,

and stood buried now under soil and ruins, closed in by

tons of earth on every side save towards the cylinder. Over

that aspect we hung now on the very edge of the great

circular pit the Martians were engaged in making. The heavy

beating sound was evidently just behind us, and ever and

again a bright green vapour drove up like a veil across our


The cylinder was already opened in the centre of the pit,

and on the farther edge of the pit, amid the smashed and

gravel-heaped shrubbery, one of the great fighting-machines,

deserted by its occupant, stood stiff and tall against the

evening sky. At first I scarcely noticed the pit and the

cylinder, although it has been convenient to describe them

first, on account of the extraordinary glittering mechanism I

saw busy in the excavation, and on account of the strange

creatures that were crawling slowly and painfully across the

heaped mould near it.

The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first.

It was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been

called handling-machines, and the study of which has already

given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As

it dawned upon me first, it presented a sort of metallic spider

with five jointed, agile legs, and with an extraordinary number

of jointed levers, bars, and reaching and clutching tentacles

about its body. Most of its arms were retracted, but with

three long tentacles it was fishing out a number of rods,

plates, and bars which lined the covering and apparently

strengthened the walls of the cylinder. These, as it ex-

tracted them, were lifted out and deposited upon a level

surface of earth behind it.

Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first

I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.

The fighting-machines were co-ordinated and animated to

an extraordinary pitch, but nothing to compare with this.

People who have never seen these structures, and have only

the ill-imagined efforts of artists or the imperfect descriptions

of such eye-witnesses as myself to go upon, scarcely realise

that living quality.

I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first

pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The

artist had evidently made a hasty study of one of the

fighting-machines, and there his knowledge ended. He pre-

sented them as tilted, stiff tripods, without either flexibility

or subtlety, and with an altogether misleading monotony of

effect. The pamphlet containing these renderings had a con-

siderable vogue, and I mention them here simply to warn

the reader against the impression they may have created.

They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than

a Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet

would have been much better without them.

At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me

as a machine, but as a crablike creature with a glittering

integument, the controlling Martian whose delicate tentacles

actuated its movements seeming to be simply the equivalent

of the crab's cerebral portion. But then I perceived the re-

semblance of its grey-brown, shiny, leathery integument to

that of the other sprawling bodies beyond, and the true

nature of this dexterous workman dawned upon me. With

that realisation my interest shifted to those other creatures,

the real Martians. Already I had had a transient impression of

these, and the first nausea no longer obscured my observa-

tion. Moreover, I was concealed and motionless, and under

no urgency of action.

They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it

is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies--or,

rather, heads--about four feet in diameter, each body having

in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils--indeed, the

Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell, but

it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just

beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or

body--I scarcely know how to speak of it--was the single

tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear,

though it must have been almost useless in our dense air.

In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost

whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.

These bunches have since been named rather aptly, by that

distinguished anatomist, Professor Howes, the HANDS. Even

as I saw these Martians for the first time they seemed to

be endeavouring to raise themselves on these hands, but of

course, with the increased weight of terrestrial conditions,

this was impossible. There is reason to suppose that on Mars

they may have progressed upon them with some facility.

The internal anatomy, I may remark here, as dissection

has since shown, was almost equally simple. The greater

part of the structure was the brain, sending enormous nerves

to the eyes, ear, and tactile tentacles. Besides this were the

bulky lungs, into which the mouth opened, and the heart

and its vessels. The pulmonary distress caused by the denser

atmosphere and greater gravitational attraction was only too

evident in the convulsive movements of the outer skin.

And this was the sum of the Martian organs. Strange as it

may seem to a human being, all the complex apparatus of

digestion, which makes up the bulk of our bodies, did not

exist in the Martians. They were heads--merely heads.

Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much less digest.

Instead, they took the fresh, living blood of other creatures,

and INJECTED it into their own veins. I have myself seen this

being done, as I shall mention in its place. But, squeamish

as I may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I

could not endure even to continue watching. Let it suffice

to say, blood obtained from a still living animal, in most

cases from a human being, was run directly by means of a

little pipette into the recipient canal. . . .

The bare idea of this is no doubt horribly repulsive to us,

but at the same time I think that we should remember how

repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent


The physiological advantages of the practice of injection

are undeniable, if one thinks of the tremendous waste of

human time and energy occasioned by eating and the

digestive process. Our bodies are half made up of glands

and tubes and organs, occupied in turning heterogeneous

food into blood. The digestive processes and their reaction

upon the nervous system sap our strength and colour our

minds. Men go happy or miserable as they have healthy or

unhealthy livers, or sound gastric glands. But the Martians

were lifted above all these organic fluctuations of mood and


Their undeniable preference for men as their source of

nourishment is partly explained by the nature of the remains

of the victims they had brought with them as provisions

from Mars. These creatures, to judge from the shrivelled

remains that have fallen into human hands, were bipeds

with flimsy, silicious skeletons (almost like those of the

silicious sponges) and feeble musculature, standing about

six feet high and having round, erect heads, and large eyes

in flinty sockets. Two or three of these seem to have been

brought in each cylinder, and all were killed before earth

was reached. It was just as well for them, for the mere

attempt to stand upright upon our planet would have broken

every bone in their bodies.

And while I am engaged in this description, I may add

in this place certain further details which, although they

were not all evident to us at the time, will enable the

reader who is unacquainted with them to form a clearer

picture of these offensive creatures.

In three other points their physiology differed strangely

from ours. Their organisms did not sleep, any more than the

heart of man sleeps. Since they had no extensive muscular

mechanism to recuperate, that periodical extinction was

unknown to them. They had little or no sense of fatigue, it

would seem. On earth they could never have moved without

effort, yet even to the last they kept in action. In twenty-four

hours they did twenty-four hours of work, as even on earth

is perhaps the case with the ants.

In the next place, wonderful as it seems in a sexual world,

the Martians were absolutely without sex, and therefore

without any of the tumultuous emotions that arise from that

difference among men. A young Martian, there can now be

no dispute, was really born upon earth during the war, and

it was found attached to its parent, partially BUDDED off, just

as young lilybulbs bud off, or like the young animals in the

fresh-water polyp.

In man, in all the higher terrestrial animals, such a method

of increase has disappeared; but even on this earth it was

certainly the primitive method. Among the lower animals,

up even to those first cousins of the vertebrated animals, the

Tunicates, the two processes occur side by side, but finally

the sexual method superseded its competitor altogether. On

Mars, however, just the reverse has apparently been the case.

It is worthy of remark that a certain speculative writer of

quasi-scientific repute, writing long before the Martian inva-

sion, did forecast for man a final structure not unlike the

actual Martian condition. His prophecy, I remember, appeared

in November or December, 1893, in a long-defunct publica-

tion, the PALL MALL BUDGET, and I recall a caricature of it in

a pre-Martian periodical called PUNCH. He pointed out--

writing in a foolish, facetious tone--that the perfection of

mechanical appliances must ultimately supersede limbs; the

perfection of chemical devices, digestion; that such organs

as hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin were no longer

essential parts of the human being, and that the tendency

of natural selection would lie in the direction of their steady

diminution through the coming ages. The brain alone re-

mained a cardinal necessity. Only one other part of the

body had a strong case for survival, and that was the hand,

"teacher and agent of the brain." While the rest of the body

dwindled, the hands would grow larger.

There is many a true word written in jest, and here in

the Martians we have beyond dispute the actual accomplish-

ment of such a suppression of the animal side of the organism

by the intelligence. To me it is quite credible that the

Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves,

by a gradual development of brain and hands (the latter

giving rise to the two bunches of delicate tentacles at last)

at the expense of the rest of the body. Without the body the

brain would, of course, become a mere selfish intelligence,

without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.

The last salient point in which the systems of these

creatures differed from ours was in what one might have

thought a very trivial particular. Micro-organisms, which

cause so much disease and pain on earth, have either never

appeared upon Mars or Martian sanitary science eliminated

them ages ago. A hundred diseases, all the fevers and con-

tagions of human life, consumption, cancers, tumours and

such morbidities, never enter the scheme of their life. And

speaking of the differences between the life on Mars and

terrestrial life, I may allude here to the curious suggestions

of the red weed.

Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of

having green for a dominant colour, is of a vivid blood-red

tint. At any rate, the seeds which the Martians (intentionally

or accidentally) brought with them gave rise in all cases to

red-coloured growths. Only that known popularly as the red

weed, however, gained any footing in competition with

terrestrial forms. The red creeper was quite a transitory

growth, and few people have seen it growing. For a time,

however, the red weed grew with astonishing vigour and

luxuriance. It spread up the sides of the pit by the third or

fourth day of our imprisonment, and its cactus-like branches

formed a carmine fringe to the edges of our triangular

window. And afterwards I found it broadcast throughout the

country, and especially wherever there was a stream of water.

The Martians had what appears to have been an auditory

organ, a single round drum at the back of the head-body,

and eyes with a visual range not very different from ours

except that, according to Philips, blue and violet were as

black to them. It is commonly supposed that they com-

municated by sounds and tentacular gesticulations; this is

asserted, for instance, in the able but hastily compiled

pamphlet (written evidently by someone not an eye-witness

of Martian actions) to which I have already alluded, and

which, so far, has been the chief source of information con-

cerning them. Now no surviving human being saw so much

of the Martians in action as I did. I take no credit to myself

for an accident, but the fact is so. And I assert that I watched

them closely time after time, and that I have seen four, five,

and (once) six of them sluggishly performing the most elabo-

rately complicated operations together without either sound

or gesture. Their peculiar hooting invariably preceded feed-

ing; it had no modulation, and was, I believe, in no sense

a signal, but merely the expiration of air preparatory to the

suctional operation. I have a certain claim to at least an

elementary knowledge of psychology, and in this matter I

am convinced--as firmly as I am convinced of anything--that

the Martians interchanged thoughts without any physical

intermediation. And I have been convinced of this in spite

of strong preconceptions. Before the Martian invasion, as an

occasional reader here or there may remember, I had written

with some little vehemence against the telepathic theory.

The Martians wore no clothing. Their conceptions of orna-

ment and decorum were necessarily different from ours; and

not only were they evidently much less sensible of changes of

temperature than we are, but changes of pressure do not

seem to have affected their health at all seriously. Yet though

they wore no clothing, it was in the other artificial additions

to their bodily resources that their great superiority over man

lay. We men, with our bicycles and road-skates, our Lilienthal

soaring-machines, our guns and sticks and so forth, are just

in the beginning of the evolution that the Martians have

worked out. They have become practically mere brains,

wearing different bodies according to their needs just as

men wear suits of clothes and take a bicycle in a hurry or an

umbrella in the wet. And of their appliances, perhaps nothing

is more wonderful to a man than the curious fact that what

is the dominant feature of almost all human devices in

mechanism is absent--the WHEEL is absent; among all the

things they brought to earth there is no trace or suggestion

of their use of wheels. One would have at least expected it

in locomotion. And in this connection it is curious to remark

that even on this earth Nature has never hit upon the wheel,

or has preferred other expedients to its development. And

not only did the Martians either not know of (which is

incredible), or abstain from, the wheel, but in their apparatus

singularly little use is made of the fixed pivot or relatively

fixed pivot, with circular motions thereabout confined to one

plane. Almost all the joints of the machinery present a com-

plicated system of sliding parts moving over small but beauti-

fully curved friction bearings. And while upon this matter

of detail, it is remarkable that the long leverages of their

machines are in most cases actuated by a sort of sham

musculature of the disks in an elastic sheath; these disks

become polarised and drawn closely and powerfully together

when traversed by a current of electricity. In this way the

curious parallelism to animal motions, which was so striking

and disturbing to the human beholder, was attained. Such

quasi-muscles abounded in the crablike handling-machine

which, on my first peeping out of the slit, I watched un-

packing the cylinder. It seemed infinitely more alive than the

actual Martians lying beyond it in the sunset light, panting,

stirring ineffectual tentacles, and moving feebly after their

vast journey across space.

While I was still watching their sluggish motions in the

sunlight, and noting each strange detail of their form, the

curate reminded me of his presence by pulling violently at

my arm. I turned to a scowling face, and silent, eloquent

lips. He wanted the slit, which permitted only one of us

to peep through; and so I had to forego watching them for a

time while he enjoyed that privilege.

When I looked again, the busy handling-machine had

already put together several of the pieces of apparatus it

had taken out of the cylinder into a shape having an un-

mistakable likeness to its own; and down on the left a busy

little digging mechanism had come into view, emitting jets

of green vapour and working its way round the pit, excavating

and embanking in a methodical and discriminating manner.

This it was which had caused the regular beating noise, and

the rhythmic shocks that had kept our ruinous refuge quiver-

ing. It piped and whistled as it worked. So far as I could

see, the thing was without a directing Martian at all.



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