the Chobham Road had sent up his son with a barrow-load of green
apples and ginger beer.
Going to the edge of the pit, I found it occupied by a group of
about half a dozen men - Henderson, Ogilvy, and a tall, fair-haired man
that I afterwards learned was Stent, the Astronomer Royal, with
several workmen wielding spades and pickaxes. Stent was giving
directions in a clear, high-pitched voice. He was standing on the
cylinder, which was now evidently much cooler; his face was crimson
and streaming with perspiration, and something seemed to have
A large portion of the cylinder had been uncovered, though its
lower end was still embedded. As soon as Ogilvy saw me among the
staring crowd on the edge of the pit he called to me to come down, and
asked me if I would mind going over to see Lord Hilton, the lord of
The growing crowd, he said, was becoming a serious impediment to
their excavations, especially the boys. They wanted a light railing
put up, and help to keep the people back. He told me that a faint
stirring was occasionally still audible within the case, but that the
workmen had failed to unscrew the top, as it afforded no grip to them.
The case appeared to be enormously thick, and it was possible that the
faint sounds we heard represented a noisy tumult in the interior.
I was very glad to do as he asked, and so become one of the
privileged spectators within the contemplated enclosure. I failed to
find Lord Hilton at his house, but I was told he was expected from
London by the six o'clock train from Waterloo; and as it was then
about a quarter past five, I went home, had some tea, and walked up to
the station to waylay him.
THE CYLINDER OPENS
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 another, 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 humming sound from the
"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 blundered 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 essentials a man. I know
I did. But, looking, I presently saw something 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 another.
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
exclamations 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 petrified 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 leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. 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 tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this
first encounter, 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
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 things.
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, standing 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 vanished, 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 Woking would have been amazed at the
sight - a dwindling multitude 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
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 curiosity.
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate
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 withdrawn, 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 elevation and when I looked for him presently he was
walking towards Woking.
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. 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
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 movement that seemed to gather
force as the stillness of the evening 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 consultation, 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 distances.
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
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 run.
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 noiseless 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 unfamiliar.
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 suddenly 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 Martians 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 air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment. 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
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
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.
THE HEAT-RAY IN THE CHOBHAM ROAD
It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay
men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in some way they are
able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute
non-conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam
against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic
mirror of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a
lighthouse projects a beam of light. But no one has absolutely proved
these details. However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat
is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of
visible, light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its
touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass,
and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam.
That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight about the
pit, charred and distorted beyond recognition, and all night long the
common from Horsell to Maybury was deserted and brightly ablaze.
The news of the massacre probably reached Chobham, Woking, and
Ottershaw about the same time. In Woking the shops had closed when
the tragedy happened, and a number of people, shop people and so
forth, attracted by the stories they had heard, were walking over the
Horsell Bridge and along the road between the hedges that runs out at
last upon the common. You may imagine the young people brushed up
after the labours of the day, and making this novelty, as they would
make any novelty, the excuse for walking together and enjoying a
trivial flirtation. You may figure to yourself the hum of voices
along the road in the gloaming. . . .
As yet, of course, few people in Woking even knew that the cylinder
had opened, though poor Henderson had sent a messenger on a bicycle to
the post office with a special wire to an evening paper.
As these folks came out by twos and threes upon the open, they
found little knots of people talking excitedly and peering at the
spinning mirror over the sand pits, and the newcomers were, no doubt,
soon infected by the excitement of the occasion.
By half past eight, when the Deputation was destroyed, there may
have been a crowd of three hundred people or more at this place,
besides those who had left the road to approach the Martians nearer.
There were three policemen too, one of whom was mounted, doing their
best, under instructions from Stent, to keep the people back and deter
them from approaching the cylinder. There was some booing from those
more thoughtless and excitable souls to whom a crowd is always an
occasion for noise and horse-play.
Stent and Ogilvy, anticipating some possibilities of a collision,
had telegraphed from Horsell to the barracks as soon as the Martians
emerged, for the help of a company of soldiers to protect these
strange creatures from violence. After that they returned to lead that
ill-fated advance. The description of their death, as it was seen by
the crowd, tallies very closely with my own impressions: the three
puffs of green smoke, the deep humming note, and the flashes of flame.
But that crowd of people had a far narrower escape than mine. Only
the fact that a hummock of heathery sand intercepted the lower part of
the Heat-Ray saved them. Had the elevation of the parabolic mirror
been a few yards higher, none could have lived to tell the tale. They
saw the flashes and the men falling and an invisible hand, as it were,
lit the bushes as it hurried towards them through the twilight. Then,
with a whistling note that rose above the droning of the pit, the beam
swung close over their heads, lighting the tops of the beech trees
that line the road, and splitting the bricks, smashing the windows,
firing the window frames, and bringing down in crumbling ruin a
portion of the gable of the house nearest the corner.
In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees, the
panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed hesitatingly for some
moments. Sparks and burning twigs began to fall into the road, and
single leaves like puffs of flame. Hats and dresses caught fire. Then
came a crying from the common. There were shrieks and shouts, and
suddenly a mounted policeman came galloping through the confusion with
his hands clasped over his head, screaming.
"They're coming!" a woman shrieked, and incontinently everyone was
turning and pushing at those behind, in order to clear their way to
Woking again. They must have bolted as blindly as a flock of sheep.
Where the road grows narrow and black between the high banks the crowd
jammed, and a desperate struggle occurred. All that crowd did not
escape; three persons at least, two women and a little boy, were
crushed and trampled there, and left to die amid the terror and the
HOW I REACHED HOME
For my own part, I remember nothing of my flight except the stress
of blundering against trees and stumbling through the heather. All
about me gathered the invisible terrors of the Martians; that pitiless
sword of heat seemed whirling to and fro, flourishing overhead before
it descended and smote me out of life. I came into the road between
the crossroads and Horsell, and ran along this to the crossroads.
At last I could go no further; I was exhausted with the violence of
my emotion and of my flight, and I staggered and fell by the wayside.
That was near the bridge that crosses the canal by the gasworks. I
fell and lay still.
I must have remained there some time.
I sat up, strangely perplexed. For a moment, perhaps, I could not
clearly understand how I came there. My terror had fallen from me
like a garment. My hat had gone, and my collar had burst away from
its fastener. A few minutes before, there had only been three real
things before me - the immensity of the night and space and nature, my
own feebleness and anguish, and the near approach of death. Now it
was as if something turned over, and the point of view altered
abruptly. There was no sensible transition from one state of mind to
the other. I was immediately the self of every day again - a decent,
ordinary citizen. The silent common, the impulse of my flight, the
starting flames, were as if they had been in a dream. I asked myself
had these latter things indeed happened? I could not credit it.
I rose and walked unsteadily up the steep incline of the bridge. My
mind was blank wonder. My muscles and nerves seemed drained of their
strength. I dare say I staggered drunkenly. A head rose over the
arch, and the figure of a workman carrying a basket appeared. Beside
him ran a little boy. He passed me, wishing me good night. I was
minded to speak to him, but did not. I answered his greeting with a
meaningless mumble and went on over the bridge.
Over the Maybury arch a train, a billowing tumult of white, firelit
smoke, and a long caterpillar of lighted windows, went flying
south - clatter, clatter, clap, rap, and it had gone. A dim group of
people talked in the gate of one of the houses in the pretty little
row of gables that was called Oriental Terrace. It was all so real
and so familiar. And that behind me! It was frantic, fantastic!
Such things, I told myself, could not be.
Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my
experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of
detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all
from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time,
out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all. This feeling
was very strong upon me that night. Here was another side to my
But the trouble was the blank incongruity of this serenity and the
swift death flying yonder, not two miles away. There was a noise of
business from the gasworks, and the electric lamps were all alight. I
stopped at the group of people.
"What news from the common?" said I.
There were two men and a woman at the gate.
"Eh?" said one of the men, turning.
"What news from the common?" I said.
"'Ain't yer just _been_ there?" asked the men.
"People seem fair silly about the common," said the woman over the