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Maupassant’s Short Stories

 

 

 

 

Maupassant’s Short Stories

 

The Umbrella

Mme. Oreille was a very economical woman; she knew the value of a centime, and possessed a whole storehouse of strict principles with regard to the multiplication of money, so that her cook found the greatest difficulty in making what the servants call their market-penny, and her husband was hardly allowed any pocket money at all. They were, however, very comfortably off, and had no children; but it really pained Mme.
Oreille to see any money spent; it was like tearing at her heartstrings when she had to take any of those nice crown-pieces out of her pocket; and whenever she had to spend anything, no matter how necessary it might be, she slept badly the next night.

Oreille was continually saying to his wife:

“You really might be more liberal, as we have no children, and never spend our income.”
“You don’t know what may happen,” she used to reply. “It is better to have too much than too little.”
She was a little woman of about forty, very active, rather hasty, wrinkled, very neat and tidy, and with a very short temper.
Her husband frequently complained of all the privations she made him endure; some of them were particularly painful to him, as they touched his vanity.
He was one of the head clerks in the War Office, and only stayed on there in obedience to his wife’s wish, to increase their income which they did not nearly spend.
For two years he had always come to the office with the same old patched umbrella, to the great amusement of his fellow clerks. At last he got tired of their jokes, and insisted upon his wife buying him a new one. She bought one for eight francs and a half, one of those cheap articles which large houses sell as an advertisement. When the men in the office saw the article, which was being sold in Paris by the thousand, they began their
jokes again, and Oreille had a dreadful time of it. They even made a song about it, which he heard from morning till night all over the immense building.
Oreille was very angry, and peremptorily told his wife to get him a new one, a good silk one, for twenty francs, and to bring him the bill, so that he might see that it was all right.
She bought him one for eighteen francs, and said, getting red with anger as she gave it to her husband:
“This will last you for five years at least.”
Oreille felt quite triumphant, and received a small ovation at the office with his new acquisition.

When he went home in the evening his wife said to him, looking at the umbrella uneasily:
“You should not leave it fastened up with the elastic; it will very likely cut the silk. You must take care of it, for I shall not buy you a new one in a hurry.”
She took it, unfastened it, and remained dumfounded with astonishment and rage; in the middle of the silk there was a hole as big as a six-penny- piece; it had been made with the end of a cigar.
“What is that?” she screamed.
Her husband replied quietly, without looking at it:
“What is it? What do you mean?”
She was choking with rage, and could hardly get out a word.
“You–you–have–burned–your umbrella! Why–you must be–mad! Do you wish to ruin us outright?”
He turned round, and felt that he was growing pale.
“What are you talking about?”
“I say that you have burned your umbrella. Just look here.”
And rushing at him, as if she were going to beat him, she violently thrust the little circular burned hole under his nose.
He was so utterly struck dumb at the sight of it that he could only stammer out:
“What-what is it? How should I know? I have done nothing, I will swear. I don’t know what is the matter with the umbrella.”
“You have been playing tricks with it at the office; you have been playing the fool and opening it, to show it off!” she screamed.
“I only opened it once, to let them see what a nice one it was, that is all, I swear.”
But she shook with rage, and got up one of those conjugal scenes which make a
peaceable man dread the domestic hearth more than a battlefield where bullets are
raining.
She mended it with a piece of silk cut out of the old umbrella, which was of a different
color, and the next day Oreille went off very humbly with the mended article in his hand.
He put it into a cupboard, and thought no more of it than of some unpleasant recollection.

But he had scarcely got home that evening when his wife took the umbrella from him,
opened it, and nearly had a fit when she saw what had befallen it, for the disaster was
irreparable. It was covered with small holes, which evidently proceeded from burns, just
as if some one had emptied the ashes from a lighted pipe on to it. It was done for utterly,
irreparably.
She looked at it without a word, in too great a passion to be able to say anything. He,
also, when he saw the damage, remained almost dumfounded, in a state of frightened
consternation.
They looked at each other, then he looked at the floor; and the next moment she threw the
useless article at his head, screaming out in a transport of the most violent rage, for she
had recovered her voice by that time:
“Oh! you brute! you brute! You did it on purpose, but I will pay you out for it. You shall
not have another.”
And then the scene began again, and after the storm had raged for an hour, he at last was
able to explain himself. He declared that he could not understand it at all, and that it
could only proceed from malice or from vengeance.
A ring at the bell saved him; it was a friend whom they were expecting to dinner.
Mme. Oreille submitted the case to him. As for buying a new umbrella, that was out of
the question; her husband should not have another. The friend very sensibly said that in
that case his clothes would be spoiled, and they were certainly worth more than the
umbrella. But the little woman, who was still in a rage, replied:
“Very well, then, when it rains he may have the kitchen umbrella, for I will not give him
a new silk one.”
Oreille utterly rebelled at such an idea.
“All right,” he said; “then I shall resign my post. I am not going to the office with the
kitchen umbrella.”
The friend interposed.
“Have this one re-covered; it will not cost much.”
But Mme. Oreille, being in the temper that she was, said:
“It will cost at least eight francs to re-cover it. Eight and eighteen are twenty-six. Just
fancy, twenty-six francs for an umbrella! It is utter madness!”
The friend, who was only a poor man of the middle classes, had an inspiration:

“Make your fire assurance pay for it. The companies pay for all articles that are burned,
as long as the damage has been done in your own house.”
On hearing this advice the little woman calmed down immediately, and then, after a
moment’s reflection, she said to her husband:
“To-morrow, before going to your office, you will go to the Maternelle Assurance
Company, show them the state your umbrella is in, and make them pay for the damage.”
M. Oreille fairly jumped, he was so startled at the proposal.
“I would not do it for my life! It is eighteen francs lost, that is all. It will not ruin us.”
The next morning he took a walking-stick when he went out, and, luckily, it was a fine
day.
Left at home alone, Mme. Oreille could not get over the loss of her eighteen francs by
any means. She had put the umbrella on the dining- room table, and she looked at it
without being able to come to any determination.
Every moment she thought of the assurance company, but she did not dare to encounter
the quizzical looks of the gentlemen who might receive her, for she was very timid before
people, and blushed at a mere nothing, and was embarrassed when she had to speak to
strangers.
But the regret at the loss of the eighteen francs pained her as if she had been wounded.
She tried not to think of it any more, and yet every moment the recollection of the loss
struck her painfully. What was she to do, however? Time went on, and she could not
decide; but suddenly, like all cowards, on making a resolve, she became determined.
“I will go, and we will see what will happen.”
But first of all she was obliged to prepare the umbrella so that the disaster might be
complete, and the reason of it quite evident. She took a match from the mantelpiece, and
between the ribs she burned a hole as big as the palm of her hand; then she delicately
rolled it up, fastened it with the elastic band, put on her bonnet and shawl, and went
quickly toward the Rue de Rivoli, where the assurance office was.
But the nearer she got, the slower she walked. What was she going to say, and what reply
would she get?
She looked at the numbers of the houses; there were still twenty-eight. That was all right,
so she had time to consider, and she walked slower and slower. Suddenly she saw a door
on which was a large brass plate with “La Maternelle Fire Assurance Office” engraved on
it. Already! She waited a moment, for she felt nervous and almost ashamed; then she
walked past, came back, walked past again, and came back again.

At last she said to herself:
“I must go in, however, so I may as well do it sooner as later.”
She could not help noticing, however, how her heart beat as she entered. She went into an
enormous room with grated doors all round it, and above them little openings at which a
man’s head appeared, and as a gentleman carrying a number of papers passed her, she
stopped him and said timidly: “I beg your pardon, monsieur, but can you tell me where I
must apply for payment for anything that has been accidentally burned?”
He replied in a sonorous voice:
“The first door on the left; that is the department you want.”
This frightened her still more, and she felt inclined to run away, to put in no claim, to
sacrifice her eighteen francs. But the idea of that sum revived her courage, and she went
upstairs, out of breath, stopping at almost every other step.
She knocked at a door which she saw on the first landing, and a clear voice said, in
answer:
“Come in!”
She obeyed mechanically, and found herself in a large room where three solemn
gentlemen, all with a decoration in their buttonholes, were standing talking.
One of them asked her: “What do you want, madame?”
She could hardly get out her words, but stammered: “I have come–I have come on
account of an accident, something–“.
He very politely pointed out a seat to her,
“If you will kindly sit down I will attend to you in a moment.”
And, returning to the other two, he went on with the conversation.
“The company, gentlemen, does not consider that it is under any obligation to you for
more than four hundred thousand francs, and we can pay no attention to your claim to the
further sum of a hundred thousand, which you wish to make us pay. Besides that, the
surveyor’s valuation–“
One of the others interrupted him:

“That is quite enough, monsieur; the law courts will decide between us, and we have
nothing further to do than to take our leave.” And they went out after mutual ceremonious
bows.
Oh! if she could only have gone away with them, how gladly she would have done it; she
would have run away and given up everything. But it was too late, for the gentleman
came back, and said, bowing:
“What can I do for you, madame?”
She could scarcely speak, but at last she managed to say:
“I have come-for this.”
The manager looked at the object which she held out to him in mute astonishment.
With trembling fingers she tried to undo the elastic, and succeeding, after several
attempts, she hastily opened the damaged remains of the umbrella.
“It looks to me to be in a very bad state of health,” he said compassionately.
“It cost me twenty francs,” she said, with some hesitation.
He seemed astonished. “Really! As much as that?”
“Yes, it was a capital article, and I wanted you to see the condition it is in.”
“Yes, yes, I see; very well. But I really do not understand what it can have to do with
me.”
She began to feel uncomfortable; perhaps this company did not pay for such small
articles, and she said:
“But–it is burned.”
He could not deny it.
“I see that very well,” he replied.
She remained open-mouthed, not knowing what to say next; then, suddenly recollecting
that she had left out the main thing, she said hastily:
“I am Mme. Oreille; we are assured in La Maternelle, and I have come to claim the value
of this damage.”
“I only want you to have it re-covered,” she added quickly, fearing a positive refusal.

The manager was rather embarrassed, and said: “But, really, madame, we do not sell
umbrellas; we cannot undertake such kinds of repairs.”
The little woman felt her courage reviving; she was not going to give up without a
struggle; she was not even afraid any more, and said:
“I only want you to pay me the cost of repairing it; I can quite well get it done myself.”
The gentleman seemed rather confused.
“Really, madame, it is such a very small matter! We are never asked to give
compensation for such trivial losses. You must allow that we cannot make good pockethandkerchiefs,
gloves, brooms, slippers, all the small articles which are every day
exposed to the chances of being burned.”
She got red in the face, and felt inclined to fly into a rage.
“But, monsieur, last December one of our chimneys caught fire, and caused at least five
hundred francs’ damage; M. Oreille made no claim on the company, and so it is only just
that it should pay for my umbrella now.”
The manager, guessing that she was telling a lie, said, with a smile:
“You must acknowledge, madame, that it is very surprising that M. Oreille should have
asked no compensation for damages amounting to five hundred francs, and should now
claim five or six francs for mending an umbrella.”
She was not the least put out, and replied:
“I beg your pardon, monsieur, the five hundred francs affected M. Oreille’s pocket,
whereas this damage, amounting to eighteen francs, concerns Mme. Oreille’s pocket only,
which is a totally different matter.”
As he saw that he had no chance of getting rid of her, and that he would only be wasting
his time, he said resignedly:
“Will you kindly tell me how the damage was done?”
She felt that she had won the victory, and said:
“This is how it happened, monsieur: In our hall there is a bronze stick and umbrella stand,
and the other day, when I came in, I put my umbrella into it. I must tell you that just
above there is a shelf for the candlesticks and matches. I put out my hand, took three or
four matches, and struck one, but it missed fire, so I struck another, which ignited, but
went out immediately, and a third did the same.”

The manager interrupted her to make a joke.
“I suppose they were government matches, then?”
She did not understand him, and went on:
“Very likely. At any rate, the fourth caught fire, and I lit my candle, and went into my
room to go to bed; but in a quarter of an hour I fancied that I smelt something burning,
and I have always been terribly afraid of fire. If ever we have an accident it will not be
my fault, I assure you. I am terribly nervous since our chimney was on fire, as I told you;
so I got up, and hunted about everywhere, sniffing like a dog after game, and at last I
noticed that my umbrella was burning. Most likely a match had fallen between the folds
and burned it. You can see how it has damaged it.”
The manager had taken his cue, and asked her: “What do you estimate the damage at?”
She did not know what to say, as she was not certain what value to put on it, but at last
she replied:
“Perhaps you had better get it done yourself. I will leave it to you.”
He, however, naturally refused.
“No, madame, I cannot do that. Tell me the amount of your claim, that is all I want to
know.”
“Well, I think that– Look here, monsieur, I do not want to make any money out of you,
so I will tell you what we will do. I will take my umbrella to the maker, who will re-cover
it in good, durable silk, and I will bring the bill to you. Will that suit you, monsieur?”
“Perfectly, madame; we will settle it so. Here is a note for the cashier, who will repay you
whatever it costs you.”
He gave Mme. Oreille a slip of paper, who took it, got up and went out, thanking him, for
she was in a hurry to escape lest he should change his mind.
She went briskly through the streets, looking out for a really good umbrella maker, and
when she found a shop which appeared to be a first- class one, she went in, and said,
confidently:
“I want this umbrella re-covered in silk, good silk. Use the very best and strongest you
have; I don’t mind what it costs.”

 

 

~*~

 

 

Simon’s Papa

Noon had just struck. The school door opened and the youngsters darted out, jostling
each other in their haste to get out quickly. But instead of promptly dispersing and going
home to dinner as usual, they stopped a few paces off, broke up into knots, and began
whispering.
The fact was that, that morning, Simon, the son of La Blanchotte, had, for the first time,
attended school.
They had all of them in their families heard talk of La Blanchotte; and, although in public
she was welcome enough, the mothers among themselves treated her with a somewhat
disdainful compassion, which the children had imitated without in the least knowing why.
As for Simon himself, they did not know him, for he never went out, and did not run
about with them in the streets of the village, or along the banks of the river. And they did
not care for him; so it was with a certain delight, mingled with considerable
astonishment, that they met and repeated to each other what had been said by a lad of
fourteen or fifteen who appeared to know all about it, so sagaciously did he wink. “You
know–Simon–well, he has no papa.”
Just then La Blanchotte’s son appeared in the doorway of the school.
He was seven or eight years old, rather pale, very neat, with a timid and almost awkward
manner.
He was starting home to his mother’s house when the groups of his schoolmates,
whispering and watching him with the mischievous and heartless eyes of children bent
upon playing a nasty trick, gradually closed in around him and ended by surrounding him
altogether. There he stood in their midst, surprised and embarrassed, not understanding
what they were going to do with him. But the lad who had brought the news, puffed up
with the success he had met with already, demanded:
“What is your name, you?”
He answered: “Simon.”
“Simon what?” retorted the other.
The child, altogether bewildered, repeated: “Simon.”
The lad shouted at him: “One is named Simon something–that is not a name–Simon
indeed.”
The child, on the brink of tears, replied for the third time:
“My name is Simon.”
The urchins began to laugh. The triumphant tormentor cried: “You can see plainly that he
has no papa.”
A deep silence ensued. The children were dumfounded by this extraordinary, impossible,
monstrous thing–a boy who had not a papa; they looked upon him as a phenomenon, an
unnatural being, and they felt that hitherto inexplicable contempt of their mothers for La
Blanchotte growing upon them. As for Simon, he had leaned against a tree to avoid
falling, and he remained as if prostrated by an irreparable disaster. He sought to explain,
but could think of nothing-to say to refute this horrible charge that he had no papa. At last
he shouted at them quite recklessly: “Yes, I have one.”
“Where is he?” demanded the boy.
Simon was silent, he did not know. The children roared, tremendously excited; and those
country boys, little more than animals, experienced that cruel craving which prompts the
fowls of a farmyard to destroy one of their number as soon as it is wounded. Simon
suddenly espied a little neighbor, the son of a widow, whom he had seen, as he himself
was to be seen, always alone with his mother.
“And no more have you,” he said; “no more have you a papa.”
“Yes,” replied the other, “I have one.”
“Where is he?” rejoined Simon.
“He is dead,” declared the brat, with superb dignity; “he is in the cemetery, is my papa.”
A murmur of approval rose among the little wretches as if this fact of possessing a papa
dead in a cemetery had caused their comrade to grow big enough to crush the other one
who had no papa at all. And these boys, whose fathers were for the most part bad men,
drunkards, thieves, and who beat their wives, jostled each other to press closer and closer,
as though they, the legitimate ones, would smother by their pressure one who was
illegitimate.
The boy who chanced to be next Simon suddenly put his tongue out at him with a
mocking air and shouted at him:
“No papa! No papa!”
Simon seized him by the hair with both hands and set to work to disable his legs with
kicks, while he bit his cheek ferociously. A tremendous struggle ensued between the two
combatants, and Simon found himself beaten, torn, bruised, rolled on the ground in the
midst of the ring of applauding schoolboys. As he arose, mechanically brushing with his
hand his little blouse all covered with dust, some one shouted at him:
“Go and tell your papa.”
Then he felt a great sinking at his heart. They were stronger than he was, they had beaten
him, and he had no answer to give them, for he knew well that it was true that he had no
papa. Full of pride, he attempted for some moments to struggle against the tears which
were choking him. He had a feeling of suffocation, and then without any sound he
commenced to weep, with great shaking sobs. A ferocious joy broke out among his
enemies, and, with one accord, just like savages in their fearful festivals, they took each
other by the hand and danced round him in a circle, repeating as a refrain:
“No papa! No papa!”
But suddenly Simon ceased sobbing. He became ferocious. There were stones under his
feet; he picked them up and with all his strength hurled them at his tormentors. Two or
three were struck and rushed off yelling, and so formidable did he appear that the rest
became panic-stricken. Cowards, as the mob always is in presence of an exasperated
man, they broke up and fled. Left alone, the little fellow without a father set off running
toward the fields, for a recollection had been awakened in him which determined his soul
to a great resolve. He made up his mind to drown himself in the river.
He remembered, in fact, that eight days before, a poor devil who begged for his
livelihood had thrown himself into the water because he had no more money. Simon had
been there when they fished him out again; and the wretched man, who usually seemed to
him so miserable, and ugly, had then struck him as being so peaceful with his pale
cheeks, his long drenched beard, and his open eyes full of calm. The bystanders had said:
“He is dead.”
And some one had said:
“He is quite happy now.”
And Simon wished to drown himself also, because he had no father, just like the
wretched being who had no money.
He reached the water and watched it flowing. Some fish were sporting briskly in the clear
stream and occasionally made a little bound and caught the flies flying on the surface. He
stopped crying in order to watch them, for their maneuvers interested him greatly. But, at
intervals, as in a tempest intervals of calm alternate suddenly with tremendous gusts of
wind, which snap off the trees and then lose themselves in the horizon, this thought
would return to him with intense pain:
“I am going to drown myself because I have no papa.”
It was very warm, fine weather. The pleasant sunshine warmed the grass. The water
shone like a mirror. And Simon enjoyed some minutes of happiness, of that languor
which follows weeping, and felt inclined to fall asleep there upon the grass in the warm
sunshine.
A little green frog leaped from under his feet. He endeavored to catch it. It escaped him.
He followed it and lost it three times in succession. At last he caught it by one of its hind
legs and began to laugh as he saw the efforts the creature made to escape. It gathered
itself up on its hind legs and then with a violent spring suddenly stretched them out as
stiff as two bars; while it beat the air with its front legs as though they were hands, its
round eyes staring in their circle of yellow. It reminded him of a toy made of straight
slips of wood nailed zigzag one on the other; which by a similar movement regulated the
movements of the little soldiers fastened thereon. Then he thought of his home, and then
of his mother, and, overcome by sorrow, he again began to weep. A shiver passed over
him. He knelt down and said his prayers as before going to bed. But he was unable to
finish them, for tumultuous, violent sobs shook his whole frame. He no longer thought,
he no longer saw anything around him, and was wholly absorbed in crying.
Suddenly a heavy hand was placed upon his shoulder, and a rough voice asked him:
“What is it that causes you so much grief, my little man?”
Simon turned round. A tall workman with a beard and black curly hair was staring at him
good-naturedly. He answered with his eyes and throat full of tears:
“They beat me–because–I–I have no–papa–no papa.”
“What!” said the man, smiling; “why, everybody has one.”
The child answered painfully amid his spasms of grief:
“But I–I–I have none.”
Then the workman became serious. He had recognized La Blanchotte’s son, and, although
himself a new arrival in the neighborhood, he had a vague idea of her history.
“Well,” said he, “console yourself, my boy, and come with me home to your mother.
They will give you–a papa.”
And so they started on the way, the big fellow holding the little fellow by the hand, and
the man smiled, for he was not sorry to see this Blanchotte, who was, it was said, one of
the prettiest girls of the countryside, and, perhaps, he was saying to himself, at the bottom
of his heart, that a lass who had erred might very well err again.
They arrived in front of a very neat little white house.
“There it is,” exclaimed the child, and he cried, “Mamma!”
A woman appeared, and the workman instantly left off smiling, for he saw at once that
there was no fooling to be done with the tall pale girl who stood austerely at her door as
though to defend from one man the threshold of that house where she had already been
betrayed by another. Intimidated, his cap in his hand, he stammered out:
“See, madame, I have brought you back your little boy who had lost himself near the
river.”
But Simon flung his arms about his mother’s neck and told her, as he again began to cry:
“No, mamma, I wished to drown myself, because the others had beaten me– had beaten
me–because I have no papa.”
A burning redness covered the young woman’s cheeks; and, hurt to the quick, she
embraced her child passionately, while the tears coursed down her face. The man, much
moved, stood there, not knowing how to get away.
But Simon suddenly ran to him and said:
“Will you be my papa?”
A deep silence ensued. La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame, leaned herself
against the wall, both her hands upon her heart. The child, seeing that no answer was
made him, replied:
“If you will not, I shall go back and drown myself.”
The workman took the matter as a jest and answered, laughing:
“Why, yes, certainly I will.”
“What is your name,” went on the child, “so that I may tell the others when they wish to
know your name?”
“Philip,” answered the man:
Simon was silent a moment so that he might get the name well into his head; then he
stretched out his arms, quite consoled, as he said:
“Well, then, Philip, you are my papa.”
The workman, lifting him from the ground, kissed him hastily on both cheeks, and then
walked away very quickly with great strides. When the child returned to school next day
he was received with a spiteful laugh, and at the end of school, when the lads were on the
point of recommencing, Simon threw these words at their heads as he would have done a
stone: “He is named Philip, my papa.”
Yells of delight burst out from all sides.
“Philip who? Philip what? What on earth is Philip? Where did you pick up your Philip?”
Simon answered nothing; and, immovable in his faith, he defied them with his eye, ready
to be martyred rather than fly before them. The school master came to his rescue and he
returned home to his mother.
During three months, the tall workman, Philip, frequently passed by La Blanchotte’s
house, and sometimes he made bold to speak to her when he saw her sewing near the
window. She answered him civilly, always sedately, never joking with him, nor
permitting him to enter her house. Notwithstanding, being, like all men, a bit of a
coxcomb, he imagined that she was often rosier than usual when she chatted with him.
But a lost reputation is so difficult to regain and always remains so fragile that, in spite of
the shy reserve of La Blanchotte, they already gossiped in the neighborhood.
As for Simon he loved his new papa very much, and walked with him nearly every
evening when the day’s work was done. He went regularly to school, and mixed with
great dignity with his schoolfellows without ever answering them back.
One day, however, the lad who had first attacked him said to him:
“You have lied. You have not a papa named Philip.”
“Why do you say that?” demanded Simon, much disturbed.
The youth rubbed his hands. He replied:
“Because if you had one he would be your mamma’s husband.”
Simon was confused by the truth of this reasoning; nevertheless, he retorted:
“He is my papa, all the same.”
“That can very well be,” exclaimed the urchin with a sneer, “but that is not being your
papa altogether.”
La Blanchotte’s little one bowed his head and went off dreaming in the direction of the
forge belonging to old Loizon, where Philip worked. This forge was as though buried
beneath trees. It was very dark there; the red glare of a formidable furnace alone lit up
with great flashes five blacksmiths; who hammered upon their anvils with a terrible din.
They were standing enveloped in flame, like demons, their eyes fixed on the red-hot iron
they were pounding; and their dull ideas rose and fell with their hammers.
Simon entered without being noticed, and went quietly to pluck his friend by the sleeve.
The latter turned round. All at once the work came to a standstill, and all the men looked
on, very attentive. Then, in the midst of this unaccustomed silence, rose the slender pipe
of Simon:
“Say, Philip, the Michaude boy told me just now that you were not altogether my papa.”
“Why not?” asked the blacksmith,
The child replied with all innocence:
“Because you are not my mamma’s husband.”
No one laughed. Philip remained standing, leaning his forehead upon the back of his
great hands, which supported the handle of his hammer standing upright upon the anvil.
He mused. His four companions watched him, and Simon, a tiny mite among these
giants, anxiously waited. Suddenly, one of the smiths, answering to the sentiment of all,
said to Philip:
“La Blanchotte is a good, honest girl, and upright and steady in spite of her misfortune,
and would make a worthy wife for an honest man.”
“That is true,” remarked the three others.
The smith continued:
“Is it the girl’s fault if she went wrong? She had been promised marriage; and I know
more than one who is much respected to-day, and who sinned every bit as much.”
“That is true,” responded the three men in chorus.
He resumed:
“How hard she has toiled, poor thing, to bring up her child all alone, and how she has
wept all these years she has never gone out except to church, God only knows.”
“This is also true,” said the others.
Then nothing was heard but the bellows which fanned the fire of the furnace. Philip
hastily bent himself down to Simon:
“Go and tell your mother that I am coming to speak to her this evening.” Then he pushed
the child out by the shoulders. He returned to his work, and with a single blow the five
hammers again fell upon their anvils. Thus they wrought the iron until nightfall, strong,
powerful, happy, like contented hammers. But just as the great bell of a cathedral
resounds upon feast days above the jingling of the other bells, so Philip’s hammer,
sounding above the rest, clanged second after second with a deafening uproar. And he
stood amid the flying sparks plying his trade vigorously.
The sky was full of stars as he knocked at La Blanchotte’s door. He had on his Sunday
blouse, a clean shirt, and his beard was trimmed. The young woman showed herself upon
the threshold, and said in a grieved tone:
“It is ill to come thus when night has fallen, Mr. Philip.”
He wished to answer, but stammered and stood confused before her.
She resumed:
“You understand, do you not, that it will not do for me to be talked about again.”
“What does that matter to me, if you will be my wife!”
No voice replied to him, but he believed that he heard in the shadow of the room the
sound of a falling body. He entered quickly; and Simon, who had gone to bed,
distinguished the sound of a kiss and some words that his mother murmured softly. Then,
all at once, he found himself lifted up by the hands of his friend, who, holding him at the
length of his herculean arms, exclaimed:
“You will tell them, your schoolmates, that your papa is Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and
that he will pull the ears of all who do you any harm.”
On the morrow, when the school was full and lessons were about to begin, little Simon
stood up, quite pale with trembling lips:
“My papa,” said he in a clear voice, “is Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and he has promised
to pull the ears of all who does me any harm.”
This time no one laughed, for he was very well known, was Philip Remy, the blacksmith,
and was a papa of whom any one in the world would have been proud.

 

 

~*~

 

 

About Author

 

 

 

 

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant (5 August 1850 – 6 July 1893) was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms.

Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert and his stories are characterized by economy of style and efficient, effortless dénouements (outcomes). Many are set during the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s, describing the futility of war and the innocent civilians who, caught up in events beyond their control, are permanently changed by their experiences. He wrote some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. His first published story, “Boule de Suif” (“Ball of Fat”, 1880), is often considered his masterpiece.

-from Wikipedia

[Author image courtesy: By User Den fjättrade ankan on sv.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1250918]

 

 

 

~*~

 

 

 

I am what I was…

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The War of the Worlds

 

 

 

The War of the Worlds

-by H. G. Wells [1898]

 

     But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be
     inhabited? .  .  .  Are we or they Lords of the
     World? .  .  .  And how are all things made for man?–
          KEPLER (quoted in The Anatomy of Melancholy)

 

 

BOOK ONE

THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS

CHAPTER ONE

THE EVE OF THE WAR

 

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is scarcely one seventh of the volume of the earth must have accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence.

Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from time’s beginning but nearer its end.

The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far indeed with our neighbour. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing subtlety–their mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of ours–and to have carried out their preparations with a well-nigh perfect unanimity. Had our instruments permitted it, we might have seen the gathering trouble far back in the nineteenth century. Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet–it is odd, by-the-bye, that for countless centuries Mars has been the star of war–but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well. All that time the Martians must have been getting ready.

During the opposition of 1894 a great light was seen on the illuminated part of the disk, first at the Lick Observatory, then by Perrotin of Nice, and then by other observers. English readers heard of it first in the issue of Nature dated August 2. I am inclined to think that this blaze may have been the casting of the huge gun, in the vast pit sunk into their planet, from which their shots were fired at us. Peculiar markings, as yet unexplained, were seen near the site of that outbreak during the next two oppositions.

The storm burst upon us six years ago now. As Mars approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet. It had occurred towards midnight of the twelfth; and the spectroscope, to which he had at once resorted, indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving with an enormous velocity towards this earth. This jet of fire had become invisible about a quarter past twelve. He compared it to a colossal puff of flame suddenly and violently squirted out of the planet, “as flaming gases rushed out of a gun.”

A singularly appropriate phrase it proved. Yet the next day there was nothing of this in the papers except a little note in the Daily Telegraph, and the world went in ignorance of one of the gravest dangers that ever threatened the human race. I might not have heard of the eruption at all had I not met Ogilvy, the well-known astronomer, at Ottershaw. He was immensely excited at the news, and in the excess of his feelings invited me up to take a turn with him that night in a scrutiny of the red planet.

In spite of all that has happened since, I still remember that vigil very distinctly: the black and silent observatory, the shadowed lantern throwing a feeble glow upon the floor in the corner, the steady ticking of the clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in the roof–an oblong profundity with the stardust streaked across it. Ogilvy moved about, invisible but audible. Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect round. But so little it was, so silvery warm–a pin’s-head of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this was the telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that kept the planet in view.

As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired. Forty millions of miles it was from us–more than forty millions of miles of void. Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.

Near it in the field, I remember, were three faint points of light, three telescopic stars infinitely remote, and all around it was the unfathomable darkness of empty space. You know how that blackness looks on a frosty starlight night. In a telescope it seems far profounder. And invisible to me because it was so remote and small, flying swiftly and steadily towards me across that incredible distance, drawing nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles, came the Thing they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so much struggle and calamity and death to the earth. I never dreamed of it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of that unerring missile.

That night, too, there was another jetting out of gas from the distant planet. I saw it. A reddish flash at the edge, the slightest projection of the outline just as the chronometer struck midnight; and at that I told Ogilvy and he took my place. The night was warm and I was thirsty, and I went stretching my legs clumsily and feeling my way in the darkness, to the little table where the siphon stood, while Ogilvy exclaimed at the streamer of gas that came out towards us.

That night another invisible missile started on its way to the earth from Mars, just a second or so under twenty-four hours after the first one. I remember how I sat on the table there in the blackness, with patches of green and crimson swimming before my eyes. I wished I had a light to smoke by, little suspecting the meaning of the minute gleam I had seen and all that it would presently bring me. Ogilvy watched till one, and then gave it up; and we lit the lantern and walked over to his house. Down below in the darkness were Ottershaw and Chertsey and all their hundreds of people, sleeping in peace.

He was full of speculation that night about the condition of Mars, and scoffed at the vulgar idea of its having inhabitants who were signalling us. His idea was that meteorites might be falling in a heavy shower upon the planet, or that a huge volcanic explosion was in progress. He pointed out to me how unlikely it was that organic evolution had taken the same direction in the two adjacent planets.

“The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one,” he said.

Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the night after about midnight, and again the night after; and so for ten nights, a flame each night. Why the shots ceased after the tenth no one on earth has attempted to explain. It may be the gases of the firing caused the Martians inconvenience. Dense clouds of smoke or dust, visible through a powerful telescope on earth as little grey, fluctuating patches, spread through the clearness of the planet’s atmosphere and obscured its more familiar features.

Even the daily papers woke up to the disturbances at last, and popular notes appeared here, there, and everywhere concerning the volcanoes upon Mars. The seriocomic periodical Punch, I remember, made a happy use of it in the political cartoon. And, all unsuspected, those missiles the Martians had fired at us drew earthward, rushing now at a pace of many miles a second through the empty gulf of space, hour by hour and day by day, nearer and nearer. It seems to me now almost incredibly wonderful that, with that swift fate hanging over us, men could go about their petty concerns as they did. I remember how jubilant Markham was at securing a new photograph of the planet for the illustrated paper he edited in those days. People in these latter times scarcely realise the abundance and enterprise of our nineteenth-century papers. For my own part, I was much occupied in learning to ride the bicycle, and busy upon a series of papers discussing the probable developments of moral ideas as civilisation progressed.

One night (the first missile then could scarcely have been 10,000,000 miles away) I went for a walk with my wife. It was starlight and I explained the Signs of the Zodiac to her, and pointed out Mars, a bright dot of light creeping zenithward, towards which so many telescopes were pointed. It was a warm night. Coming home, a party of excursionists from Chertsey or Isleworth passed us singing and playing music. There were lights in the upper windows of the houses as the people went to bed. From the railway station in the distance came the sound of shunting trains, ringing and rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance. My wife pointed out to me the brightness of the red, green, and yellow signal lights hanging in a framework against the sky. It seemed so safe and tranquil.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

THE FALLING STAR

 

Then came the night of the first falling star. It was seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame high in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star. Albin described it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed for some seconds. Denning, our greatest authority on meteorites, stated that the height of its first appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles. It seemed to him that it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him.

I was at home at that hour and writing in my study; and although my French windows face towards Ottershaw and the blind was up (for I loved in those days to look up at the night sky), I saw nothing of it. Yet this strangest of all things that ever came to earth from outer space must have fallen while I was sitting there, visible to me had I only looked up as it passed. Some of those who saw its flight say it travelled with a hissing sound. I myself heard nothing of that. Many people in Berkshire, Surrey, and Middlesex must have seen the fall of it, and, at most, have thought that another meteorite had descended. No one seems to have troubled to look for the fallen mass that night.

But very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the shooting star and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking, rose early with the idea of finding it. Find it he did, soon after dawn, and not far from the sand pits. An enormous hole had been made by the impact of the projectile, and the sand and gravel had been flung violently in every direction over the heath, forming heaps visible a mile and a half away. The heather was on fire eastward, and a thin blue smoke rose against the dawn.

The Thing itself lay almost entirely buried in sand, amidst the scattered splinters of a fir tree it had shivered to fragments in its descent. The uncovered part had the appearance of a huge cylinder, caked over and its outline softened by a thick scaly dun-coloured incrustation. It had a diameter of about thirty yards. He approached the mass, surprised at the size and more so at the shape, since most meteorites are rounded more or less completely. It was, however, still so hot from its flight through the air as to forbid his near approach. A stirring noise within its cylinder he ascribed to the unequal cooling of its surface; for at that time it had not occurred to him that it might be hollow.

He remained standing at the edge of the pit that the Thing had made for itself, staring at its strange appearance, astonished chiefly at its unusual shape and colour, and dimly perceiving even then some evidence of design in its arrival. The early morning was wonderfully still, and the sun, just clearing the pine trees towards Weybridge, was already warm. He did not remember hearing any birds that morning, there was certainly no breeze stirring, and the only sounds were the faint movements from within the cindery cylinder. He was all alone on the common.

Then suddenly he noticed with a start that some of the grey clinker, the ashy incrustation that covered the meteorite, was falling off the circular edge of the end. It was dropping off in flakes and raining down upon the sand. A large piece suddenly came off and fell with a sharp noise that brought his heart into his mouth.

For a minute he scarcely realised what this meant, and, although the heat was excessive, he clambered down into the pit close to the bulk to see the Thing more clearly. He fancied even then that the cooling of the body might account for this, but what disturbed that idea was the fact that the ash was falling only from the end of the cylinder.

And then he perceived that, very slowly, the circular top of the cylinder was rotating on its body. It was such a gradual movement that he discovered it only through noticing that a black mark that had been near him five minutes ago was now at the other side of the circumference. Even then he scarcely understood what this indicated, until he heard a muffled grating sound and saw the black mark jerk forward an inch or so. Then the thing came upon him in a flash. The cylinder was artificial–hollow–with an end that screwed out! Something within the cylinder was unscrewing the top!

“Good heavens!” said Ogilvy. “There’s a man in it–men in it! Half roasted to death! Trying to escape!”

At once, with a quick mental leap, he linked the Thing with the flash upon Mars.

The thought of the confined creature was so dreadful to him that he forgot the heat and went forward to the cylinder to help turn. But luckily the dull radiation arrested him before he could burn his hands on the still-glowing metal. At that he stood irresolute for a moment, then turned, scrambled out of the pit, and set off running wildly into Woking. The time then must have been somewhere about six o’clock. He met a waggoner and tried to make him understand, but the tale he told and his appearance were so wild–his hat had fallen off in the pit–that the man simply drove on. He was equally unsuccessful with the potman who was just unlocking the doors of the public-house by Horsell Bridge. The fellow thought he was a lunatic at large and made an unsuccessful attempt to shut him into the taproom. That sobered him a little; and when he saw Henderson, the London journalist, in his garden, he called over the palings and made himself understood.

“Henderson,” he called, “you saw that shooting star last night?”

“Well?” said Henderson.

“It’s out on Horsell Common now.”

“Good Lord!” said Henderson. “Fallen meteorite! That’s good.”

“But it’s something more than a meteorite. It’s a cylinder–an artificial cylinder, man! And there’s something inside.”

Henderson stood up with his spade in his hand.

“What’s that?” he said. He was deaf in one ear.

Ogilvy told him all that he had seen. Henderson was a minute or so taking it in. Then he dropped his spade, snatched up his jacket, and came out into the road. The two men hurried back at once to the common, and found the cylinder still lying in the same position. But now the sounds inside had ceased, and a thin circle of bright metal showed between the top and the body of the cylinder. Air was either entering or escaping at the rim with a thin, sizzling sound.

They listened, rapped on the scaly burnt metal with a stick, and, meeting with no response, they both concluded the man or men inside must be insensible or dead.

Of course the two were quite unable to do anything. They shouted consolation and promises, and went off back to the town again to get help. One can imagine them, covered with sand, excited and disordered, running up the little street in the bright sunlight just as the shop folks were taking down their shutters and people were opening their bedroom windows. Henderson went into the railway station at once, in order to telegraph the news to London. The newspaper articles had prepared men’s minds for the reception of the idea.

By eight o’clock a number of boys and unemployed men had already started for the common to see the “dead men from Mars.” That was the form the story took. I heard of it first from my newspaper boy about a quarter to nine when I went out to get my Daily Chronicle. I was naturally startled, and lost no time in going out and across the Ottershaw bridge to the sand pits.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

ON HORSELL COMMON

I found a little crowd of perhaps twenty people surrounding the huge hole in which the cylinder lay. I have already described the appearance of that colossal bulk, embedded in the ground. The turf and gravel about it seemed charred as if by a sudden explosion. No doubt its impact had caused a flash of fire. Henderson and Ogilvy were not there. I think they perceived that nothing was to be done for the present, and had gone away to breakfast at Henderson’s house.

There were four or five boys sitting on the edge of the Pit, with their feet dangling, and amusing themselves–until I stopped them–by throwing stones at the giant mass. After I had spoken to them about it, they began playing at “touch” in and out of the group of bystanders.

Among these were a couple of cyclists, a jobbing gardener I employed sometimes, a girl carrying a baby, Gregg the butcher and his little boy, and two or three loafers and golf caddies who were accustomed to hang about the railway station. There was very little talking. Few of the common people in England had anything but the vaguest astronomical ideas in those days. Most of them were staring quietly at the big table like end of the cylinder, which was still as Ogilvy and Henderson had left it. I fancy the popular expectation of a heap of charred corpses was disappointed at this inanimate bulk. Some went away while I was there, and other people came. I clambered into the pit and fancied I heard a faint movement under my feet. The top had certainly ceased to rotate.

It was only when I got thus close to it that the strangeness of this object was at all evident to me. At the first glance it was really no more exciting than an overturned carriage or a tree blown across the road. Not so much so, indeed. It looked like a rusty gas float. It required a certain amount of scientific education to perceive that the grey scale of the Thing was no common oxide, that the yellowish-white metal that gleamed in the crack between the lid and the cylinder had an unfamiliar hue. “Extra-terrestrial” had no meaning for most of the onlookers.

At that time it was quite clear in my own mind that the Thing had come from the planet Mars, but I judged it improbable that it contained any living creature. I thought the unscrewing might be automatic. In spite of Ogilvy, I still believed that there were men in Mars. My mind ran fancifully on the possibilities of its containing manuscript, on the difficulties in translation that might arise, whether we should find coins and models in it, and so forth. Yet it was a little too large for assurance on this idea. I felt an impatience to see it opened. About eleven, as nothing seemed happening, I walked back, full of such thought, to my home in Maybury. But I found it difficult to get to work upon my abstract investigations.

In the afternoon the appearance of the common had altered very much. The early editions of the evening papers had startled London with enormous headlines:

“A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS.”
“REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING,”

and so forth. In addition, Ogilvy’s wire to the Astronomical Exchange had roused every observatory in the three kingdoms.

There were half a dozen flies or more from the Woking station standing in the road by the sand pits, a basket-chaise from Chobham, and a rather lordly carriage. Besides that, there was quite a heap of bicycles. In addition, a large number of people must have walked, in spite of the heat of the day, from Woking and Chertsey, so that there was altogether quite a considerable crowd–one or two gaily dressed ladies among the others.

It was glaringly hot, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath of wind, and the only shadow was that of the few scattered pine trees. The burning heather had been extinguished, but the level ground towards Ottershaw was blackened as far as one could see, and still giving off vertical streamers of smoke. An enterprising sweet-stuff dealer in 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 irritated him.

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 manor.

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.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

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 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 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 dread.

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 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 ground.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

THE HEAT-RAY

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 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 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 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 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 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.

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

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 darkness.

CHAPTER SEVEN

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 dream.

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 gate. “What’s it all abart?”

“Haven’t you heard of the men from Mars?” said I; “the creatures from Mars?”

“Quite enough,” said the woman over the gate. “Thenks”; and all three of them laughed.

I felt foolish and angry. I tried and found I could not tell them what I had seen. They laughed again at my broken sentences.

“You’ll hear more yet,” I said, and went on to my home.

I startled my wife at the doorway, so haggard was I. I went into the dining room, sat down, drank some wine, and so soon as I could collect myself sufficiently I told her the things I had seen. The dinner, which was a cold one, had already been served, and remained neglected on the table while I told my story.

“There is one thing,” I said, to allay the fears I had aroused; “they are the most sluggish things I ever saw crawl. They may keep the pit and kill people who come near them, but they cannot get out of it. . . . But the horror of them!”

“Don’t, dear!” said my wife, knitting her brows and putting her hand on mine.

“Poor Ogilvy!” I said. “To think he may be lying dead there!”

My wife at least did not find my experience incredible. When I saw how deadly white her face was, I ceased abruptly.

“They may come here,” she said again and again.

I pressed her to take wine, and tried to reassure her.

“They can scarcely move,” I said.

I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had told me of the impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves on the earth. In particular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty. On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three times what it is on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his muscular strength would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to him. That, indeed, was the general opinion. Both The Times and the Daily Telegraph, for instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both overlooked, just as I did, two obvious modifying influences.

The atmosphere of the earth, we now know, contains far more oxygen or far less argon (whichever way one likes to put it) than does Mars. The invigorating influences of this excess of oxygen upon the Martians indisputably did much to counterbalance the increased weight of their bodies. And, in the second place, we all overlooked the fact that such mechanical intelligence as the Martian possessed was quite able to dispense with muscular exertion at a pinch.

But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my reasoning was dead against the chances of the invaders. With wine and food, the confidence of my own table, and the necessity of reassuring my wife, I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.

“They have done a foolish thing,” said I, fingering my wineglass. “They are dangerous because, no doubt, they are mad with terror. Perhaps they expected to find no living things–certainly no intelligent living things.”

“A shell in the pit” said I, “if the worst comes to the worst will kill them all.”

The intense excitement of the events had no doubt left my perceptive powers in a state of erethism. I remember that dinner table with extraordinary vividness even now. My dear wife’s sweet anxious face peering at me from under the pink lamp shade, the white cloth with its silver and glass table furniture–for in those days even philosophical writers had many little luxuries–the crimson-purple wine in my glass, are photographically distinct. At the end of it I sat, tempering nuts with a cigarette, regretting Ogilvy’s rashness, and denouncing the shortsighted timidity of the Martians.

So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless sailors in want of animal food. “We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear.”

I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to eat for very many strange and terrible days.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

FRIDAY NIGHT

The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and wonderful things that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social order headlong. If on Friday night you had taken a pair of compasses and drawn a circle with a radius of five miles round the Woking sand pits, I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it, unless it were some relation of Stent or of the three or four cyclists or London people lying dead on the common, whose emotions or habits were at all affected by the new-comers. Many people had heard of the cylinder, of course, and talked about it in their leisure, but it certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany would have done.

In London that night poor Henderson’s telegram describing the gradual unscrewing of the shot was judged to be a canard, and his evening paper, after wiring for authentication from him and receiving no reply–the man was killed–decided not to print a special edition.

Even within the five-mile circle the great majority of people were inert. I have already described the behaviour of the men and women to whom I spoke. All over the district people were dining and supping; working men were gardening after the labours of the day, children were being put to bed, young people were wandering through the lanes love-making, students sat over their books.

Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a novel and dominant topic in the public-houses, and here and there a messenger, or even an eye-witness of the later occurrences, caused a whirl of excitement, a shouting, and a running to and fro; but for the most part the daily routine of working, eating, drinking, sleeping, went on as it had done for countless years–as though no planet Mars existed in the sky. Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was the case.

In Woking junction, until a late hour, trains were stopping and going on, others were shunting on the sidings, passengers were alighting and waiting, and everything was proceeding in the most ordinary way. A boy from the town, trenching on Smith’s monopoly, was selling papers with the afternoon’s news. The ringing impact of trucks, the sharp whistle of the engines from the junction, mingled with their shouts of “Men from Mars!” Excited men came into the station about nine o’clock with incredible tidings, and caused no more disturbance than drunkards might have done. People rattling Londonwards peered into the darkness outside the carriage windows, and saw only a rare, flickering, vanishing spark dance up from the direction of Horsell, a red glow and a thin veil of smoke driving across the stars, and thought that nothing more serious than a heath fire was happening. It was only round the edge of the common that any disturbance was perceptible. There were half a dozen villas burning on the Woking border. There were lights in all the houses on the common side of the three villages, and the people there kept awake till dawn.

A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but the crowd remaining, both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges. One or two adventurous souls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness and crawled quite near the Martians; but they never returned, for now and again a light-ray, like the beam of a warship’s searchlight swept the common, and the Heat-Ray was ready to follow. Save for such, that big area of common was silent and desolate, and the charred bodies lay about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day. A noise of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.

So you have the state of things on Friday night. In the centre, sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart, was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet. Around it was a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few dark, dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there. Here and there was a burning bush or tree. Beyond was a fringe of excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation had not crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of life still flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war that would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain, had still to develop.

All night long the Martians were hammering and stirring, sleepless, indefatigable, at work upon the machines they were making ready, and ever and again a puff of greenish-white smoke whirled up to the starlit sky.

About eleven a company of soldiers came through Horsell, and deployed along the edge of the common to form a cordon. Later a second company marched through Chobham to deploy on the north side of the common. Several officers from the Inkerman barracks had been on the common earlier in the day, and one, Major Eden, was reported to be missing. The colonel of the regiment came to the Chobham bridge and was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. The military authorities were certainly alive to the seriousness of the business. About eleven, the next morning’s papers were able to say, a squadron of hussars, two Maxims, and about four hundred men of the Cardigan regiment started from Aldershot.

A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine woods to the northwest. It had a greenish colour, and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

THE FIGHTING BEGINS

Saturday lives in my memory as a day of suspense. It was a day of lassitude too, hot and close, with, I am told, a rapidly fluctuating barometer. I had slept but little, though my wife had succeeded in sleeping, and I rose early. I went into my garden before breakfast and stood listening, but towards the common there was nothing stirring but a lark.

The milkman came as usual. I heard the rattle of his chariot and I went round to the side gate to ask the latest news. He told me that during the night the Martians had been surrounded by troops, and that guns were expected. Then–a familiar, reassuring note–I heard a train running towards Woking.

“They aren’t to be killed,” said the milkman, “if that can possibly be avoided.”

I saw my neighbour gardening, chatted with him for a time, and then strolled in to breakfast. It was a most unexceptional morning. My neighbour was of opinion that the troops would be able to capture or to destroy the Martians during the day.

“It’s a pity they make themselves so unapproachable,” he said. “It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing or two.”

He came up to the fence and extended a handful of strawberries, for his gardening was as generous as it was enthusiastic. At the same time he told me of the burning of the pine woods about the Byfleet Golf Links.

“They say,” said he, “that there’s another of those blessed things fallen there–number two. But one’s enough, surely. This lot’ll cost the insurance people a pretty penny before everything’s settled.” He laughed with an air of the greatest good humour as he said this. The woods, he said, were still burning, and pointed out a haze of smoke to me. “They will be hot under foot for days, on account of the thick soil of pine needles and turf,” he said, and then grew serious over “poor Ogilvy.”

After breakfast, instead of working, I decided to walk down towards the common. Under the railway bridge I found a group of soldiers–sappers, I think, men in small round caps, dirty red jackets unbuttoned, and showing their blue shirts, dark trousers, and boots coming to the calf. They told me no one was allowed over the canal, and, looking along the road towards the bridge, I saw one of the Cardigan men standing sentinel there. I talked with these soldiers for a time; I told them of my sight of the Martians on the previous evening. None of them had seen the Martians, and they had but the vaguest ideas of them, so that they plied me with questions. They said that they did not know who had authorised the movements of the troops; their idea was that a dispute had arisen at the Horse Guards. The ordinary sapper is a great deal better educated than the common soldier, and they discussed the peculiar conditions of the possible fight with some acuteness. I described the Heat-Ray to them, and they began to argue among themselves.

“Crawl up under cover and rush ’em, say I,” said one.

“Get aht!” said another. “What’s cover against this ‘ere ‘eat? Sticks to cook yer! What we got to do is to go as near as the ground’ll let us, and then drive a trench.”

“Blow yer trenches! You always want trenches; you ought to ha’ been born a rabbit Snippy.”

“Ain’t they got any necks, then?” said a third, abruptly–a little, contemplative, dark man, smoking a pipe.

I repeated my description.

“Octopuses,” said he, “that’s what I calls ’em. Talk about fishers of men–fighters of fish it is this time!”

“It ain’t no murder killing beasts like that,” said the first speaker.

“Why not shell the darned things strite off and finish ’em?” said the little dark man. “You carn tell what they might do.”

“Where’s your shells?” said the first speaker. “There ain’t no time. Do it in a rush, that’s my tip, and do it at once.”

So they discussed it. After a while I left them, and went on to the railway station to get as many morning papers as I could.

But I will not weary the reader with a description of that long morning and of the longer afternoon. I did not succeed in getting a glimpse of the common, for even Horsell and Chobham church towers were in the hands of the military authorities. The soldiers I addressed didn’t know anything; the officers were mysterious as well as busy. I found people in the town quite secure again in the presence of the military, and I heard for the first time from Marshall, the tobacconist, that his son was among the dead on the common. The soldiers had made the people on the outskirts of Horsell lock up and leave their houses.

I got back to lunch about two, very tired for, as I have said, the day was extremely hot and dull; and in order to refresh myself I took a cold bath in the afternoon. About half past four I went up to the railway station to get an evening paper, for the morning papers had contained only a very inaccurate description of the killing of Stent, Henderson, Ogilvy, and the others. But there was little I didn’t know. The Martians did not show an inch of themselves. They seemed busy in their pit, and there was a sound of hammering and an almost continuous streamer of smoke. Apparently they were busy getting ready for a struggle. “Fresh attempts have been made to signal, but without success,” was the stereotyped formula of the papers. A sapper told me it was done by a man in a ditch with a flag on a long pole. The Martians took as much notice of such advances as we should of the lowing of a cow.

I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became belligerent, and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways; something of my schoolboy dreams of battle and heroism came back. It hardly seemed a fair fight to me at that time. They seemed very helpless in that pit of theirs.

About three o’clock there began the thud of a gun at measured intervals from Chertsey or Addlestone. I learned that the smouldering pine wood into which the second cylinder had fallen was being shelled, in the hope of destroying that object before it opened. It was only about five, however, that a field gun reached Chobham for use against the first body of Martians.

About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summerhouse talking vigorously about the battle that was lowering upon us, I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent rattling crash, quite close to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the mosque had vanished, and the roof line of the college itself looked as if a hundred-ton gun had been at work upon it. One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came clattering down the tiles and made a heap of broken red fragments upon the flower bed by my study window.

I and my wife stood amazed. Then I realised that the crest of Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians’ Heat-Ray now that the college was cleared out of the way.

At that I gripped my wife’s arm, and without ceremony ran her out into the road. Then I fetched out the servant, telling her I would go upstairs myself for the box she was clamouring for.

“We can’t possibly stay here,” I said; and as I spoke the firing reopened for a moment upon the common.

“But where are we to go?” said my wife in terror.

I thought perplexed. Then I remembered her cousins at Leatherhead.

“Leatherhead!” I shouted above the sudden noise.

She looked away from me downhill. The people were coming out of their houses, astonished.

“How are we to get to Leatherhead?” she said.

Down the hill I saw a bevy of hussars ride under the railway bridge; three galloped through the open gates of the Oriental College; two others dismounted, and began running from house to house. The sun, shining through the smoke that drove up from the tops of the trees, seemed blood red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon everything.

“Stop here,” said I; “you are safe here”; and I started off at once for the Spotted Dog, for I knew the landlord had a horse and dog cart. I ran, for I perceived that in a moment everyone upon this side of the hill would be moving. I found him in his bar, quite unaware of what was going on behind his house. A man stood with his back to me, talking to him.

“I must have a pound,” said the landlord, “and I’ve no one to drive it.”

“I’ll give you two,” said I, over the stranger’s shoulder.

“What for?”

“And I’ll bring it back by midnight,” I said.

“Lord!” said the landlord; “what’s the hurry? I’m selling my bit of a pig. Two pounds, and you bring it back? What’s going on now?”

I explained hastily that I had to leave my home, and so secured the dog cart. At the time it did not seem to me nearly so urgent that the landlord should leave his. I took care to have the cart there and then, drove it off down the road, and, leaving it in charge of my wife and servant, rushed into my house and packed a few valuables, such plate as we had, and so forth. The beech trees below the house were burning while I did this, and the palings up the road glowed red. While I was occupied in this way, one of the dismounted hussars came running up. He was going from house to house, warning people to leave. He was going on as I came out of my front door, lugging my treasures, done up in a tablecloth. I shouted after him:

“What news?”

He turned, stared, bawled something about “crawling out in a thing like a dish cover,” and ran on to the gate of the house at the crest. A sudden whirl of black smoke driving across the road hid him for a moment. I ran to my neighbour’s door and rapped to satisfy myself of what I already knew, that his wife had gone to London with him and had locked up their house. I went in again, according to my promise, to get my servant’s box, lugged it out, clapped it beside her on the tail of the dog cart, and then caught the reins and jumped up into the driver’s seat beside my wife. In another moment we were clear of the smoke and noise, and spanking down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill towards Old Woking.

In front was a quiet sunny landscape, a wheat field ahead on either side of the road, and the Maybury Inn with its swinging sign. I saw the doctor’s cart ahead of me. At the bottom of the hill I turned my head to look at the hillside I was leaving. Thick streamers of black smoke shot with threads of red fire were driving up into the still air, and throwing dark shadows upon the green treetops eastward. The smoke already extended far away to the east and west–to the Byfleet pine woods eastward, and to Woking on the west. The road was dotted with people running towards us. And very faint now, but very distinct through the hot, quiet air, one heard the whirr of a machine-gun that was presently stilled, and an intermittent cracking of rifles. Apparently the Martians were setting fire to everything within range of their Heat-Ray.

I am not an expert driver, and I had immediately to turn my attention to the horse. When I looked back again the second hill had hidden the black smoke. I slashed the horse with the whip, and gave him a loose rein until Woking and Send lay between us and that quivering tumult. I overtook and passed the doctor between Woking and Send.

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

IN THE STORM

Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill. The scent of hay was in the air through the lush meadows beyond Pyrford, and the hedges on either side were sweet and gay with multitudes of dog-roses. The heavy firing that had broken out while we were driving down Maybury Hill ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving the evening very peaceful and still. We got to Leatherhead without misadventure about nine o’clock, and the horse had an hour’s rest while I took supper with my cousins and commended my wife to their care.

My wife was curiously silent throughout the drive, and seemed oppressed with forebodings of evil. I talked to her reassuringly, pointing out that the Martians were tied to the Pit by sheer heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl a little out of it; but she answered only in monosyllables. Had it not been for my promise to the innkeeper, she would, I think, have urged me to stay in Leatherhead that night. Would that I had! Her face, I remember, was very white as we parted.

For my own part, I had been feverishly excited all day. Something very like the war fever that occasionally runs through a civilised community had got into my blood, and in my heart I was not so very sorry that I had to return to Maybury that night. I was even afraid that that last fusillade I had heard might mean the extermination of our invaders from Mars. I can best express my state of mind by saying that I wanted to be in at the death.

It was nearly eleven when I started to return. The night was unexpectedly dark; to me, walking out of the lighted passage of my cousins’ house, it seemed indeed black, and it was as hot and close as the day. Overhead the clouds were driving fast, albeit not a breath stirred the shrubs about us. My cousins’ man lit both lamps. Happily, I knew the road intimately. My wife stood in the light of the doorway, and watched me until I jumped up into the dog cart. Then abruptly she turned and went in, leaving my cousins side by side wishing me good hap.

I was a little depressed at first with the contagion of my wife’s fears, but very soon my thoughts reverted to the Martians. At that time I was absolutely in the dark as to the course of the evening’s fighting. I did not know even the circumstances that had precipitated the conflict. As I came through Ockham (for that was the way I returned, and not through Send and Old Woking) I saw along the western horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer, crept slowly up the sky. The driving clouds of the gathering thunderstorm mingled there with masses of black and red smoke.

Ripley Street was deserted, and except for a lighted window or so the village showed not a sign of life; but I narrowly escaped an accident at the corner of the road to Pyrford, where a knot of people stood with their backs to me. They said nothing to me as I passed. I do not know what they knew of the things happening beyond the hill, nor do I know if the silent houses I passed on my way were sleeping securely, or deserted and empty, or harassed and watching against the terror of the night.

From Ripley until I came through Pyrford I was in the valley of the Wey, and the red glare was hidden from me. As I ascended the little hill beyond Pyrford Church the glare came into view again, and the trees about me shivered with the first intimation of the storm that was upon me. Then I heard midnight pealing out from Pyrford Church behind me, and then came the silhouette of Maybury Hill, with its tree-tops and roofs black and sharp against the red.

Even as I beheld this a lurid green glare lit the road about me and showed the distant woods towards Addlestone. I felt a tug at the reins. I saw that the driving clouds had been pierced as it were by a thread of green fire, suddenly lighting their confusion and falling into the field to my left. It was the third falling star!

Close on its apparition, and blindingly violet by contrast, danced out the first lightning of the gathering storm, and the thunder burst like a rocket overhead. The horse took the bit between his teeth and bolted.

A moderate incline runs towards the foot of Maybury Hill, and down this we clattered. Once the lightning had begun, it went on in as rapid a succession of flashes as I have ever seen. The thunderclaps, treading one on the heels of another and with a strange crackling accompaniment, sounded more like the working of a gigantic electric machine than the usual detonating reverberations. The flickering light was blinding and confusing, and a thin hail smote gustily at my face as I drove down the slope.

At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention was arrested by something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill. At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement. It was an elusive vision–a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the green tops of the pine trees, and this problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.

Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong, and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it! At the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether. Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse’s head hard round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.

I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly. In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.

Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.

So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.

As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder–“Aloo! Aloo!”–and in another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the field was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at us from Mars.

For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops. A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again. Now and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night swallowed them up.

I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of my imminent peril.

Not far from me was a little one-roomed squatter’s hut of wood, surrounded by a patch of potato garden. I struggled to my feet at last, and, crouching and making use of every chance of cover, I made a run for this. I hammered at the door, but I could not make the people hear (if there were any people inside), and after a time I desisted, and, availing myself of a ditch for the greater part of the way, succeeded in crawling, unobserved by these monstrous machines, into the pine woods towards Maybury.

Under cover of this I pushed on, wet and shivering now, towards my own house. I walked among the trees trying to find the footpath. It was very dark indeed in the wood, for the lightning was now becoming infrequent, and the hail, which was pouring down in a torrent, fell in columns through the gaps in the heavy foliage.

If I had fully realised the meaning of all the things I had seen I should have immediately worked my way round through Byfleet to Street Cobham, and so gone back to rejoin my wife at Leatherhead. But that night the strangeness of things about me, and my physical wretchedness, prevented me, for I was bruised, weary, wet to the skin, deafened and blinded by the storm.

I had a vague idea of going on to my own house, and that was as much motive as I had. I staggered through the trees, fell into a ditch and bruised my knees against a plank, and finally splashed out into the lane that ran down from the College Arms. I say splashed, for the storm water was sweeping the sand down the hill in a muddy torrent. There in the darkness a man blundered into me and sent me reeling back.

He gave a cry of terror, sprang sideways, and rushed on before I could gather my wits sufficiently to speak to him. So heavy was the stress of the storm just at this place that I had the hardest task to win my way up the hill. I went close up to the fence on the left and worked my way along its palings.

Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a flash of lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black broadcloth and a pair of boots. Before I could distinguish clearly how the man lay, the flicker of light had passed. I stood over him waiting for the next flash. When it came, I saw that he was a sturdy man, cheaply but not shabbily dressed; his head was bent under his body, and he lay crumpled up close to the fence, as though he had been flung violently against it.

Overcoming the repugnance natural to one who had never before touched a dead body, I stooped and turned him over to feel for his heart. He was quite dead. Apparently his neck had been broken. The lightning flashed for a third time, and his face leaped upon me. I sprang to my feet. It was the landlord of the Spotted Dog, whose conveyance I had taken.

I stepped over him gingerly and pushed on up the hill. I made my way by the police station and the College Arms towards my own house. Nothing was burning on the hillside, though from the common there still came a red glare and a rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up against the drenching hail. So far as I could see by the flashes, the houses about me were mostly uninjured. By the College Arms a dark heap lay in the road.

Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices and the sound of feet, but I had not the courage to shout or to go to them. I let myself in with my latchkey, closed, locked and bolted the door, staggered to the foot of the staircase, and sat down. My imagination was full of those striding metallic monsters, and of the dead body smashed against the fence.

I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering violently.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

AT THE WINDOW

I have already said that my storms of emotion have a trick of exhausting themselves. After a time I discovered that I was cold and wet, and with little pools of water about me on the stair carpet. I got up almost mechanically, went into the dining room and drank some whiskey, and then I was moved to change my clothes.

After I had done that I went upstairs to my study, but why I did so I do not know. The window of my study looks over the trees and the railway towards Horsell Common. In the hurry of our departure this window had been left open. The passage was dark, and, by contrast with the picture the window frame enclosed, the side of the room seemed impenetrably dark. I stopped short in the doorway.

The thunderstorm had passed. The towers of the Oriental College and the pine trees about it had gone, and very far away, lit by a vivid red glare, the common about the sand pits was visible. Across the light huge black shapes, grotesque and strange, moved busily to and fro.

It seemed indeed as if the whole country in that direction was on fire–a broad hillside set with minute tongues of flame, swaying and writhing with the gusts of the dying storm, and throwing a red reflection upon the cloud-scud above. Every now and then a haze of smoke from some nearer conflagration drove across the window and hid the Martian shapes. I could not see what they were doing, nor the clear form of them, nor recognise the black objects they were busied upon. Neither could I see the nearer fire, though the reflections of it danced on the wall and ceiling of the study. A sharp, resinous tang of burning was in the air.

I closed the door noiselessly and crept towards the window. As I did so, the view opened out until, on the one hand, it reached to the houses about Woking station, and on the other to the charred and blackened pine woods of Byfleet. There was a light down below the hill, on the railway, near the arch, and several of the houses along the Maybury road and the streets near the station were glowing ruins. The light upon the railway puzzled me at first; there were a black heap and a vivid glare, and to the right of that a row of yellow oblongs. Then I perceived this was a wrecked train, the fore part smashed and on fire, the hinder carriages still upon the rails.

Between these three main centres of light–the houses, the train, and the burning county towards Chobham–stretched irregular patches of dark country, broken here and there by intervals of dimly glowing and smoking ground. It was the strangest spectacle, that black expanse set with fire. It reminded me, more than anything else, of the Potteries at night. At first I could distinguish no people at all, though I peered intently for them. Later I saw against the light of Woking station a number of black figures hurrying one after the other across the line.

And this was the little world in which I had been living securely for years, this fiery chaos! What had happened in the last seven hours I still did not know; nor did I know, though I was beginning to guess, the relation between these mechanical colossi and the sluggish lumps I had seen disgorged from the cylinder. With a queer feeling of impersonal interest I turned my desk chair to the window, sat down, and stared at the blackened country, and particularly at the three gigantic black things that were going to and fro in the glare about the sand pits.

They seemed amazingly busy. I began to ask myself what they could be. Were they intelligent mechanisms? Such a thing I felt was impossible. Or did a Martian sit within each, ruling, directing, using, much as a man’s brain sits and rules in his body? I began to compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time in my life how an ironclad or a steam engine would seem to an intelligent lower animal.

The storm had left the sky clear, and over the smoke of the burning land the little fading pinpoint of Mars was dropping into the west, when a soldier came into my garden. I heard a slight scraping at the fence, and rousing myself from the lethargy that had fallen upon me, I looked down and saw him dimly, clambering over the palings. At the sight of another human being my torpor passed, and I leaned out of the window eagerly.

“Hist!” said I, in a whisper.

He stopped astride of the fence in doubt. Then he came over and across the lawn to the corner of the house. He bent down and stepped softly.

“Who’s there?” he said, also whispering, standing under the window and peering up.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“God knows.”

“Are you trying to hide?”

“That’s it.”

“Come into the house,” I said.

I went down, unfastened the door, and let him in, and locked the door again. I could not see his face. He was hatless, and his coat was unbuttoned.

“My God!” he said, as I drew him in.

“What has happened?” I asked.

“What hasn’t?” In the obscurity I could see he made a gesture of despair. “They wiped us out–simply wiped us out,” he repeated again and again.

He followed me, almost mechanically, into the dining room.

“Take some whiskey,” I said, pouring out a stiff dose.

He drank it. Then abruptly he sat down before the table, put his head on his arms, and began to sob and weep like a little boy, in a perfect passion of emotion, while I, with a curious forgetfulness of my own recent despair, stood beside him, wondering.

It was a long time before he could steady his nerves to answer my questions, and then he answered perplexingly and brokenly. He was a driver in the artillery, and had only come into action about seven. At that time firing was going on across the common, and it was said the first party of Martians were crawling slowly towards their second cylinder under cover of a metal shield.

Later this shield staggered up on tripod legs and became the first of the fighting-machines I had seen. The gun he drove had been unlimbered near Horsell, in order to command the sand pits, and its arrival it was that had precipitated the action. As the limber gunners went to the rear, his horse trod in a rabbit hole and came down, throwing him into a depression of the ground. At the same moment the gun exploded behind him, the ammunition blew up, there was fire all about him, and he found himself lying under a heap of charred dead men and dead horses.

“I lay still,” he said, “scared out of my wits, with the fore quarter of a horse atop of me. We’d been wiped out. And the smell–good God! Like burnt meat! I was hurt across the back by the fall of the horse, and there I had to lie until I felt better. Just like parade it had been a minute before–then stumble, bang, swish!”

“Wiped out!” he said.

He had hid under the dead horse for a long time, peeping out furtively across the common. The Cardigan men had tried a rush, in skirmishing order, at the pit, simply to be swept out of existence. Then the monster had risen to its feet and had begun to walk leisurely to and fro across the common among the few fugitives, with its headlike hood turning about exactly like the head of a cowled human being. A kind of arm carried a complicated metallic case, about which green flashes scintillated, and out of the funnel of this there smoked the Heat-Ray.

In a few minutes there was, so far as the soldier could see, not a living thing left upon the common, and every bush and tree upon it that was not already a blackened skeleton was burning. The hussars had been on the road beyond the curvature of the ground, and he saw nothing of them. He heard the Maxims rattle for a time and then become still. The giant saved Woking station and its cluster of houses until the last; then in a moment the Heat-Ray was brought to bear, and the town became a heap of fiery ruins. Then the Thing shut off the Heat-Ray, and turning its back upon the artilleryman, began to waddle away towards the smouldering pine woods that sheltered the second cylinder. As it did so a second glittering Titan built itself up out of the pit.

The second monster followed the first, and at that the artilleryman began to crawl very cautiously across the hot heather ash towards Horsell. He managed to get alive into the ditch by the side of the road, and so escaped to Woking. There his story became ejaculatory. The place was impassable. It seems there were a few people alive there, frantic for the most part and many burned and scalded. He was turned aside by the fire, and hid among some almost scorching heaps of broken wall as one of the Martian giants returned. He saw this one pursue a man, catch him up in one of its steely tentacles, and knock his head against the trunk of a pine tree. At last, after nightfall, the artilleryman made a rush for it and got over the railway embankment.

Since then he had been skulking along towards Maybury, in the hope of getting out of danger Londonward. People were hiding in trenches and cellars, and many of the survivors had made off towards Woking village and Send. He had been consumed with thirst until he found one of the water mains near the railway arch smashed, and the water bubbling out like a spring upon the road.

That was the story I got from him, bit by bit. He grew calmer telling me and trying to make me see the things he had seen. He had eaten no food since midday, he told me early in his narrative, and I found some mutton and bread in the pantry and brought it into the room. We lit no lamp for fear of attracting the Martians, and ever and again our hands would touch upon bread or meat. As he talked, things about us came darkly out of the darkness, and the trampled bushes and broken rose trees outside the window grew distinct. It would seem that a number of men or animals had rushed across the lawn. I began to see his face, blackened and haggard, as no doubt mine was also.

When we had finished eating we went softly upstairs to my study, and I looked again out of the open window. In one night the valley had become a valley of ashes. The fires had dwindled now. Where flames had been there were now streamers of smoke; but the countless ruins of shattered and gutted houses and blasted and blackened trees that the night had hidden stood out now gaunt and terrible in the pitiless light of dawn. Yet here and there some object had had the luck to escape–a white railway signal here, the end of a greenhouse there, white and fresh amid the wreckage. Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal. And shining with the growing light of the east, three of the metallic giants stood about the pit, their cowls rotating as though they were surveying the desolation they had made.

It seemed to me that the pit had been enlarged, and ever and again puffs of vivid green vapour streamed up and out of it towards the brightening dawn–streamed up, whirled, broke, and vanished.

Beyond were the pillars of fire about Chobham. They became pillars of bloodshot smoke at the first touch of day.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON

As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the window from which we had watched the Martians, and went very quietly downstairs.

The artilleryman agreed with me that the house was no place to stay in. He proposed, he said, to make his way Londonward, and thence rejoin his battery–No. 12, of the Horse Artillery. My plan was to return at once to Leatherhead; and so greatly had the strength of the Martians impressed me that I had determined to take my wife to Newhaven, and go with her out of the country forthwith. For I already perceived clearly that the country about London must inevitably be the scene of a disastrous struggle before such creatures as these could be destroyed.

Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylinder, with its guarding giants. Had I been alone, I think I should have taken my chance and struck across country. But the artilleryman dissuaded me: “It’s no kindness to the right sort of wife,” he said, “to make her a widow”; and in the end I agreed to go with him, under cover of the woods, northward as far as Street Cobham before I parted with him. Thence I would make a big detour by Epsom to reach Leatherhead.

I should have started at once, but my companion had been in active service and he knew better than that. He made me ransack the house for a flask, which he filled with whiskey; and we lined every available pocket with packets of biscuits and slices of meat. Then we crept out of the house, and ran as quickly as we could down the ill-made road by which I had come overnight. The houses seemed deserted. In the road lay a group of three charred bodies close together, struck dead by the Heat-Ray; and here and there were things that people had dropped–a clock, a slipper, a silver spoon, and the like poor valuables. At the corner turning up towards the post office a little cart, filled with boxes and furniture, and horseless, heeled over on a broken wheel. A cash box had been hastily smashed open and thrown under the debris.

Except the lodge at the Orphanage, which was still on fire, none of the houses had suffered very greatly here. The Heat-Ray had shaved the chimney tops and passed. Yet, save ourselves, there did not seem to be a living soul on Maybury Hill. The majority of the inhabitants had escaped, I suppose, by way of the Old Woking road–the road I had taken when I drove to Leatherhead–or they had hidden.

We went down the lane, by the body of the man in black, sodden now from the overnight hail, and broke into the woods at the foot of the hill. We pushed through these towards the railway without meeting a soul. The woods across the line were but the scarred and blackened ruins of woods; for the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain proportion still stood, dismal grey stems, with dark brown foliage instead of green.

On our side the fire had done no more than scorch the nearer trees; it had failed to secure its footing. In one place the woodmen had been at work on Saturday; trees, felled and freshly trimmed, lay in a clearing, with heaps of sawdust by the sawing-machine and its engine. Hard by was a temporary hut, deserted. There was not a breath of wind this morning, and everything was strangely still. Even the birds were hushed, and as we hurried along I and the artilleryman talked in whispers and looked now and again over our shoulders. Once or twice we stopped to listen.

After a time we drew near the road, and as we did so we heard the clatter of hoofs and saw through the tree stems three cavalry soldiers riding slowly towards Woking. We hailed them, and they halted while we hurried towards them. It was a lieutenant and a couple of privates of the 8th Hussars, with a stand like a theodolite, which the artilleryman told me was a heliograph.

“You are the first men I’ve seen coming this way this morning,” said the lieutenant. “What’s brewing?”

His voice and face were eager. The men behind him stared curiously. The artilleryman jumped down the bank into the road and saluted.

“Gun destroyed last night, sir. Have been hiding. Trying to rejoin battery, sir. You’ll come in sight of the Martians, I expect, about half a mile along this road.”

“What the dickens are they like?” asked the lieutenant.

“Giants in armour, sir. Hundred feet high. Three legs and a body like ‘luminium, with a mighty great head in a hood, sir.”

“Get out!” said the lieutenant. “What confounded nonsense!”

“You’ll see, sir. They carry a kind of box, sir, that shoots fire and strikes you dead.”

“What d’ye mean–a gun?”

“No, sir,” and the artilleryman began a vivid account of the Heat-Ray. Halfway through, the lieutenant interrupted him and looked up at me. I was still standing on the bank by the side of the road.

“It’s perfectly true,” I said.

“Well,” said the lieutenant, “I suppose it’s my business to see it too. Look here”–to the artilleryman–“we’re detailed here clearing people out of their houses. You’d better go along and report yourself to Brigadier-General Marvin, and tell him all you know. He’s at Weybridge. Know the way?”

“I do,” I said; and he turned his horse southward again.

“Half a mile, you say?” said he.

“At most,” I answered, and pointed over the treetops southward. He thanked me and rode on, and we saw them no more.

Farther along we came upon a group of three women and two children in the road, busy clearing out a labourer’s cottage. They had got hold of a little hand truck, and were piling it up with unclean-looking bundles and shabby furniture. They were all too assiduously engaged to talk to us as we passed.

By Byfleet station we emerged from the pine trees, and found the country calm and peaceful under the morning sunlight. We were far beyond the range of the Heat-Ray there, and had it not been for the silent desertion of some of the houses, the stirring movement of packing in others, and the knot of soldiers standing on the bridge over the railway and staring down the line towards Woking, the day would have seemed very like any other Sunday.

Several farm waggons and carts were moving creakily along the road to Addlestone, and suddenly through the gate of a field we saw, across a stretch of flat meadow, six twelve-pounders standing neatly at equal distances pointing towards Woking. The gunners stood by the guns waiting, and the ammunition waggons were at a business-like distance. The men stood almost as if under inspection.

“That’s good!” said I. “They will get one fair shot, at any rate.”

The artilleryman hesitated at the gate.

“I shall go on,” he said.

Farther on towards Weybridge, just over the bridge, there were a number of men in white fatigue jackets throwing up a long rampart, and more guns behind.

“It’s bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow,” said the artilleryman. “They ‘aven’t seen that fire-beam yet.”

The officers who were not actively engaged stood and stared over the treetops southwestward, and the men digging would stop every now and again to stare in the same direction.

Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of hussars, some of them dismounted, some on horseback, were hunting them about. Three or four black government waggons, with crosses in white circles, and an old omnibus, among other vehicles, were being loaded in the village street. There were scores of people, most of them sufficiently sabbatical to have assumed their best clothes. The soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise the gravity of their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids, angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them behind. I stopped and gripped his arm.

“Do you know what’s over there?” I said, pointing at the pine tops that hid the Martians.

“Eh?” said he, turning. “I was explainin’ these is vallyble.”

“Death!” I shouted. “Death is coming! Death!” and leaving him to digest that if he could, I hurried on after the artillery-man. At the corner I looked back. The soldier had left him, and he was still standing by his box, with the pots of orchids on the lid of it, and staring vaguely over the trees.

No one in Weybridge could tell us where the headquarters were established; the whole place was in such confusion as I had never seen in any town before. Carts, carriages everywhere, the most astonishing miscellany of conveyances and horseflesh. The respectable inhabitants of the place, men in golf and boating costumes, wives prettily dressed, were packing, river-side loafers energetically helping, children excited, and, for the most part, highly delighted at this astonishing variation of their Sunday experiences. In the midst of it all the worthy vicar was very pluckily holding an early celebration, and his bell was jangling out above the excitement.

I and the artilleryman, seated on the step of the drinking fountain, made a very passable meal upon what we had brought with us. Patrols of soldiers–here no longer hussars, but grenadiers in white–were warning people to move now or to take refuge in their cellars as soon as the firing began. We saw as we crossed the railway bridge that a growing crowd of people had assembled in and about the railway station, and the swarming platform was piled with boxes and packages. The ordinary traffic had been stopped, I believe, in order to allow of the passage of troops and guns to Chertsey, and I have heard since that a savage struggle occurred for places in the special trains that were put on at a later hour.

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church–it has been replaced by a spire–rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

“What’s that?” cried a boatman, and “Shut up, you fool!” said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud–the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

“The sojers’ll stop ’em,” said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the water’s edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet–a splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water! That was it!

“Get under water!” I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface. The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice for the moment of the people running this way and that than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked. When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian’s hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton. Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal.

“Hit!” shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.

I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge wave, like a muddy tidal bore but almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian’s collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises–the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

HOW I FELL IN WITH THE CURATE

After getting this sudden lesson in the power of terrestrial weapons, the Martians retreated to their original position upon Horsell Common; and in their haste, and encumbered with the debris of their smashed companion, they no doubt overlooked many such a stray and negligible victim as myself. Had they left their comrade and pushed on forthwith, there was nothing at that time between them and London but batteries of twelve-pounder guns, and they would certainly have reached the capital in advance of the tidings of their approach; as sudden, dreadful, and destructive their advent would have been as the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon a century ago.

But they were in no hurry. Cylinder followed cylinder on its interplanetary flight; every twenty-four hours brought them reinforcement. And meanwhile the military and naval authorities, now fully alive to the tremendous power of their antagonists, worked with furious energy. Every minute a fresh gun came into position until, before twilight, every copse, every row of suburban villas on the hilly slopes about Kingston and Richmond, masked an expectant black muzzle. And through the charred and desolated area–perhaps twenty square miles altogether–that encircled the Martian encampment on Horsell Common, through charred and ruined villages among the green trees, through the blackened and smoking arcades that had been but a day ago pine spinneys, crawled the devoted scouts with the heliographs that were presently to warn the gunners of the Martian approach. But the Martians now understood our command of artillery and the danger of human proximity, and not a man ventured within a mile of either cylinder, save at the price of his life.

It would seem that these giants spent the earlier part of the afternoon in going to and fro, transferring everything from the second and third cylinders–the second in Addlestone Golf Links and the third at Pyrford–to their original pit on Horsell Common. Over that, above the blackened heather and ruined buildings that stretched far and wide, stood one as sentinel, while the rest abandoned their vast fighting-machines and descended into the pit. They were hard at work there far into the night, and the towering pillar of dense green smoke that rose therefrom could be seen from the hills about Merrow, and even, it is said, from Banstead and Epsom Downs.

And while the Martians behind me were thus preparing for their next sally, and in front of me Humanity gathered for the battle, I made my way with infinite pains and labour from the fire and smoke of burning Weybridge towards London.

I saw an abandoned boat, very small and remote, drifting down-stream; and throwing off the most of my sodden clothes, I went after it, gained it, and so escaped out of that destruction. There were no oars in the boat, but I contrived to paddle, as well as my parboiled hands would allow, down the river towards Halliford and Walton, going very tediously and continually looking behind me, as you may well understand. I followed the river, because I considered that the water gave me my best chance of escape should these giants return.

The hot water from the Martian’s overthrow drifted downstream with me, so that for the best part of a mile I could see little of either bank. Once, however, I made out a string of black figures hurrying across the meadows from the direction of Weybridge. Halliford, it seemed, was deserted, and several of the houses facing the river were on fire. It was strange to see the place quite tranquil, quite desolate under the hot blue sky, with the smoke and little threads of flame going straight up into the heat of the afternoon. Never before had I seen houses burning without the accompaniment of an obstructive crowd. A little farther on the dry reeds up the bank were smoking and glowing, and a line of fire inland was marching steadily across a late field of hay.

For a long time I drifted, so painful and weary was I after the violence I had been through, and so intense the heat upon the water. Then my fears got the better of me again, and I resumed my paddling. The sun scorched my bare back. At last, as the bridge at Walton was coming into sight round the bend, my fever and faintness overcame my fears, and I landed on the Middlesex bank and lay down, deadly sick, amid the long grass. I suppose the time was then about four or five o’clock. I got up presently, walked perhaps half a mile without meeting a soul, and then lay down again in the shadow of a hedge. I seem to remember talking, wanderingly, to myself during that last spurt. I was also very thirsty, and bitterly regretful I had drunk no more water. It is a curious thing that I felt angry with my wife; I cannot account for it, but my impotent desire to reach Leatherhead worried me excessively.

I do not clearly remember the arrival of the curate, so that probably I dozed. I became aware of him as a seated figure in soot-smudged shirt sleeves, and with his upturned, clean-shaven face staring at a faint flickering that danced over the sky. The sky was what is called a mackerel sky–rows and rows of faint down-plumes of cloud, just tinted with the midsummer sunset.

I sat up, and at the rustle of my motion he looked at me quickly.

“Have you any water?” I asked abruptly.

He shook his head.

“You have been asking for water for the last hour,” he said.

For a moment we were silent, taking stock of each other. I dare say he found me a strange enough figure, naked, save for my water-soaked trousers and socks, scalded, and my face and shoulders blackened by the smoke. His face was a fair weakness, his chin retreated, and his hair lay in crisp, almost flaxen curls on his low forehead; his eyes were rather large, pale blue, and blankly staring. He spoke abruptly, looking vacantly away from me.

“What does it mean?” he said. “What do these things mean?”

I stared at him and made no answer.

He extended a thin white hand and spoke in almost a complaining tone.

“Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done? The morning service was over, I was walking through the roads to clear my brain for the afternoon, and then–fire, earthquake, death! As if it were Sodom and Gomorrah! All our work undone, all the work—- What are these Martians?”

“What are we?” I answered, clearing my throat.

He gripped his knees and turned to look at me again. For half a minute, perhaps, he stared silently.

“I was walking through the roads to clear my brain,” he said. “And suddenly–fire, earthquake, death!”

He relapsed into silence, with his chin now sunken almost to his knees.

Presently he began waving his hand.

“All the work–all the Sunday schools–What have we done–what has Weybridge done? Everything gone–everything destroyed. The church! We rebuilt it only three years ago. Gone! Swept out of existence! Why?”

Another pause, and he broke out again like one demented.

“The smoke of her burning goeth up for ever and ever!” he shouted.

His eyes flamed, and he pointed a lean finger in the direction of Weybridge.

By this time I was beginning to take his measure. The tremendous tragedy in which he had been involved–it was evident he was a fugitive from Weybridge–had driven him to the very verge of his reason.

“Are we far from Sunbury?” I said, in a matter-of-fact tone.

“What are we to do?” he asked. “Are these creatures everywhere? Has the earth been given over to them?”

“Are we far from Sunbury?”

“Only this morning I officiated at early celebration—-“

“Things have changed,” I said, quietly. “You must keep your head. There is still hope.”

“Hope!”

“Yes. Plentiful hope–for all this destruction!”

I began to explain my view of our position. He listened at first, but as I went on the interest dawning in his eyes gave place to their former stare, and his regard wandered from me.

“This must be the beginning of the end,” he said, interrupting me. “The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord! When men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them and hide them–hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne!”

I began to understand the position. I ceased my laboured reasoning, struggled to my feet, and, standing over him, laid my hand on his shoulder.

“Be a man!” said I. “You are scared out of your wits! What good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent.”

For a time he sat in blank silence.

“But how can we escape?” he asked, suddenly. “They are invulnerable, they are pitiless.”

“Neither the one nor, perhaps, the other,” I answered. “And the mightier they are the more sane and wary should we be. One of them was killed yonder not three hours ago.”

“Killed!” he said, staring about him. “How can God’s ministers be killed?”

“I saw it happen.” I proceeded to tell him. “We have chanced to come in for the thick of it,” said I, “and that is all.”

“What is that flicker in the sky?” he asked abruptly.

I told him it was the heliograph signalling–that it was the sign of human help and effort in the sky.

“We are in the midst of it,” I said, “quiet as it is. That flicker in the sky tells of the gathering storm. Yonder, I take it are the Martians, and Londonward, where those hills rise about Richmond and Kingston and the trees give cover, earthworks are being thrown up and guns are being placed. Presently the Martians will be coming this way again.”

And even as I spoke he sprang to his feet and stopped me by a gesture.

“Listen!” he said.

From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull resonance of distant guns and a remote weird crying. Then everything was still. A cockchafer came droning over the hedge and past us. High in the west the crescent moon hung faint and pale above the smoke of Weybridge and Shepperton and the hot, still splendour of the sunset.

“We had better follow this path,” I said, “northward.”

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

IN LONDON

My younger brother was in London when the Martians fell at Woking. He was a medical student working for an imminent examination, and he heard nothing of the arrival until Saturday morning. The morning papers on Saturday contained, in addition to lengthy special articles on the planet Mars, on life in the planets, and so forth, a brief and vaguely worded telegram, all the more striking for its brevity.

The Martians, alarmed by the approach of a crowd, had killed a number of people with a quick-firing gun, so the story ran. The telegram concluded with the words: “Formidable as they seem to be, the Martians have not moved from the pit into which they have fallen, and, indeed, seem incapable of doing so. Probably this is due to the relative strength of the earth’s gravitational energy.” On that last text their leader-writer expanded very comfortingly.

Of course all the students in the crammer’s biology class, to which my brother went that day, were intensely interested, but there were no signs of any unusual excitement in the streets. The afternoon papers puffed scraps of news under big headlines. They had nothing to tell beyond the movements of troops about the common, and the burning of the pine woods between Woking and Weybridge, until eight. Then the St. James’s Gazette, in an extra-special edition, announced the bare fact of the interruption of telegraphic communication. This was thought to be due to the falling of burning pine trees across the line. Nothing more of the fighting was known that night, the night of my drive to Leatherhead and back.

My brother felt no anxiety about us, as he knew from the description in the papers that the cylinder was a good two miles from my house. He made up his mind to run down that night to me, in order, as he says, to see the Things before they were killed. He dispatched a telegram, which never reached me, about four o’clock, and spent the evening at a music hall.

In London, also, on Saturday night there was a thunderstorm, and my brother reached Waterloo in a cab. On the platform from which the midnight train usually starts he learned, after some waiting, that an accident prevented trains from reaching Woking that night. The nature of the accident he could not ascertain; indeed, the railway authorities did not clearly know at that time. There was very little excitement in the station, as the officials, failing to realise that anything further than a breakdown between Byfleet and Woking junction had occurred, were running the theatre trains which usually passed through Woking round by Virginia Water or Guildford. They were busy making the necessary arrangements to alter the route of the Southampton and Portsmouth Sunday League excursions. A nocturnal newspaper reporter, mistaking my brother for the traffic manager, to whom he bears a slight resemblance, waylaid and tried to interview him. Few people, excepting the railway officials, connected the breakdown with the Martians.

I have read, in another account of these events, that on Sunday morning “all London was electrified by the news from Woking.” As a matter of fact, there was nothing to justify that very extravagant phrase. Plenty of Londoners did not hear of the Martians until the panic of Monday morning. Those who did took some time to realise all that the hastily worded telegrams in the Sunday papers conveyed. The majority of people in London do not read Sunday papers.

The habit of personal security, moreover, is so deeply fixed in the Londoner’s mind, and startling intelligence so much a matter of course in the papers, that they could read without any personal tremors: “About seven o’clock last night the Martians came out of the cylinder, and, moving about under an armour of metallic shields, have completely wrecked Woking station with the adjacent houses, and massacred an entire battalion of the Cardigan Regiment. No details are known. Maxims have been absolutely useless against their armour; the field guns have been disabled by them. Flying hussars have been galloping into Chertsey. The Martians appear to be moving slowly towards Chertsey or Windsor. Great anxiety prevails in West Surrey, and earthworks are being thrown up to check the advance Londonward.” That was how the Sunday Sun put it, and a clever and remarkably prompt “handbook” article in the Refereecompared the affair to a menagerie suddenly let loose in a village.

No one in London knew positively of the nature of the armoured Martians, and there was still a fixed idea that these monsters must be sluggish: “crawling,” “creeping painfully”–such expressions occurred in almost all the earlier reports. None of the telegrams could have been written by an eyewitness of their advance. The Sunday papers printed separate editions as further news came to hand, some even in default of it. But there was practically nothing more to tell people until late in the afternoon, when the authorities gave the press agencies the news in their possession. It was stated that the people of Walton and Weybridge, and all the district were pouring along the roads Londonward, and that was all.

My brother went to church at the Foundling Hospital in the morning, still in ignorance of what had happened on the previous night. There he heard allusions made to the invasion, and a special prayer for peace. Coming out, he bought a Referee. He became alarmed at the news in this, and went again to Waterloo station to find out if communication were restored. The omnibuses, carriages, cyclists, and innumerable people walking in their best clothes seemed scarcely affected by the strange intelligence that the news venders were disseminating. People were interested, or, if alarmed, alarmed only on account of the local residents. At the station he heard for the first time that the Windsor and Chertsey lines were now interrupted. The porters told him that several remarkable telegrams had been received in the morning from Byfleet and Chertsey stations, but that these had abruptly ceased. My brother could get very little precise detail out of them.

“There’s fighting going on about Weybridge” was the extent of their information.

The train service was now very much disorganised. Quite a number of people who had been expecting friends from places on the South-Western network were standing about the station. One grey-headed old gentleman came and abused the South-Western Company bitterly to my brother. “It wants showing up,” he said.

One or two trains came in from Richmond, Putney, and Kingston, containing people who had gone out for a day’s boating and found the locks closed and a feeling of panic in the air. A man in a blue and white blazer addressed my brother, full of strange tidings.

“There’s hosts of people driving into Kingston in traps and carts and things, with boxes of valuables and all that,” he said. “They come from Molesey and Weybridge and Walton, and they say there’s been guns heard at Chertsey, heavy firing, and that mounted soldiers have told them to get off at once because the Martians are coming. We heard guns firing at Hampton Court station, but we thought it was thunder. What the dickens does it all mean? The Martians can’t get out of their pit, can they?”

My brother could not tell him.

Afterwards he found that the vague feeling of alarm had spread to the clients of the underground railway, and that the Sunday excursionists began to return from all over the South-Western “lung”–Barnes, Wimbledon, Richmond Park, Kew, and so forth–at unnaturally early hours; but not a soul had anything more than vague hearsay to tell of. Everyone connected with the terminus seemed ill-tempered.

About five o’clock the gathering crowd in the station was immensely excited by the opening of the line of communication, which is almost invariably closed, between the South-Eastern and the South-Western stations, and the passage of carriage trucks bearing huge guns and carriages crammed with soldiers. These were the guns that were brought up from Woolwich and Chatham to cover Kingston. There was an exchange of pleasantries: “You’ll get eaten!” “We’re the beast-tamers!” and so forth. A little while after that a squad of police came into the station and began to clear the public off the platforms, and my brother went out into the street again.

The church bells were ringing for evensong, and a squad of Salvation Army lassies came singing down Waterloo Road. On the bridge a number of loafers were watching a curious brown scum that came drifting down the stream in patches. The sun was just setting, and the Clock Tower and the Houses of Parliament rose against one of the most peaceful skies it is possible to imagine, a sky of gold, barred with long transverse stripes of reddish-purple cloud. There was talk of a floating body. One of the men there, a reservist he said he was, told my brother he had seen the heliograph flickering in the west.

In Wellington Street my brother met a couple of sturdy roughs who had just been rushed out of Fleet Street with still-wet newspapers and staring placards. “Dreadful catastrophe!” they bawled one to the other down Wellington Street. “Fighting at Weybridge! Full description! Repulse of the Martians! London in Danger!” He had to give threepence for a copy of that paper.

Then it was, and then only, that he realised something of the full power and terror of these monsters. He learned that they were not merely a handful of small sluggish creatures, but that they were minds swaying vast mechanical bodies; and that they could move swiftly and smite with such power that even the mightiest guns could not stand against them.

They were described as “vast spiderlike machines, nearly a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express train, and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat.” Masked batteries, chiefly of field guns, had been planted in the country about Horsell Common, and especially between the Woking district and London. Five of the machines had been seen moving towards the Thames, and one, by a happy chance, had been destroyed. In the other cases the shells had missed, and the batteries had been at once annihilated by the Heat-Rays. Heavy losses of soldiers were mentioned, but the tone of the dispatch was optimistic.

The Martians had been repulsed; they were not invulnerable. They had retreated to their triangle of cylinders again, in the circle about Woking. Signallers with heliographs were pushing forward upon them from all sides. Guns were in rapid transit from Windsor, Portsmouth, Aldershot, Woolwich–even from the north; among others, long wire-guns of ninety-five tons from Woolwich. Altogether one hundred and sixteen were in position or being hastily placed, chiefly covering London. Never before in England had there been such a vast or rapid concentration of military material.

Any further cylinders that fell, it was hoped, could be destroyed at once by high explosives, which were being rapidly manufactured and distributed. No doubt, ran the report, the situation was of the strangest and gravest description, but the public was exhorted to avoid and discourage panic. No doubt the Martians were strange and terrible in the extreme, but at the outside there could not be more than twenty of them against our millions.

The authorities had reason to suppose, from the size of the cylinders, that at the outside there could not be more than five in each cylinder–fifteen altogether. And one at least was disposed of–perhaps more. The public would be fairly warned of the approach of danger, and elaborate measures were being taken for the protection of the people in the threatened southwestern suburbs. And so, with reiterated assurances of the safety of London and the ability of the authorities to cope with the difficulty, this quasi-proclamation closed.

This was printed in enormous type on paper so fresh that it was still wet, and there had been no time to add a word of comment. It was curious, my brother said, to see how ruthlessly the usual contents of the paper had been hacked and taken out to give this place.

All down Wellington Street people could be seen fluttering out the pink sheets and reading, and the Strand was suddenly noisy with the voices of an army of hawkers following these pioneers. Men came scrambling off buses to secure copies. Certainly this news excited people intensely, whatever their previous apathy. The shutters of a map shop in the Strand were being taken down, my brother said, and a man in his Sunday raiment, lemon-yellow gloves even, was visible inside the window hastily fastening maps of Surrey to the glass.

Going on along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, the paper in his hand, my brother saw some of the fugitives from West Surrey. There was a man with his wife and two boys and some articles of furniture in a cart such as greengrocers use. He was driving from the direction of Westminster Bridge; and close behind him came a hay waggon with five or six respectable-looking people in it, and some boxes and bundles. The faces of these people were haggard, and their entire appearance contrasted conspicuously with the Sabbath-best appearance of the people on the omnibuses. People in fashionable clothing peeped at them out of cabs. They stopped at the Square as if undecided which way to take, and finally turned eastward along the Strand. Some way behind these came a man in workday clothes, riding one of those old-fashioned tricycles with a small front wheel. He was dirty and white in the face.

My brother turned down towards Victoria, and met a number of such people. He had a vague idea that he might see something of me. He noticed an unusual number of police regulating the traffic. Some of the refugees were exchanging news with the people on the omnibuses. One was professing to have seen the Martians. “Boilers on stilts, I tell you, striding along like men.” Most of them were excited and animated by their strange experience.

Beyond Victoria the public-houses were doing a lively trade with these arrivals. At all the street corners groups of people were reading papers, talking excitedly, or staring at these unusual Sunday visitors. They seemed to increase as night drew on, until at last the roads, my brother said, were like Epsom High Street on a Derby Day. My brother addressed several of these fugitives and got unsatisfactory answers from most.

None of them could tell him any news of Woking except one man, who assured him that Woking had been entirely destroyed on the previous night.

“I come from Byfleet,” he said; “man on a bicycle came through the place in the early morning, and ran from door to door warning us to come away. Then came soldiers. We went out to look, and there were clouds of smoke to the south–nothing but smoke, and not a soul coming that way. Then we heard the guns at Chertsey, and folks coming from Weybridge. So I’ve locked up my house and come on.”

At the time there was a strong feeling in the streets that the authorities were to blame for their incapacity to dispose of the invaders without all this inconvenience.

About eight o’clock a noise of heavy firing was distinctly audible all over the south of London. My brother could not hear it for the traffic in the main thoroughfares, but by striking through the quiet back streets to the river he was able to distinguish it quite plainly.

He walked from Westminster to his apartments near Regent’s Park, about two. He was now very anxious on my account, and disturbed at the evident magnitude of the trouble. His mind was inclined to run, even as mine had run on Saturday, on military details. He thought of all those silent, expectant guns, of the suddenly nomadic countryside; he tried to imagine “boilers on stilts” a hundred feet high.

There were one or two cartloads of refugees passing along Oxford Street, and several in the Marylebone Road, but so slowly was the news spreading that Regent Street and Portland Place were full of their usual Sunday-night promenaders, albeit they talked in groups, and along the edge of Regent’s Park there were as many silent couples “walking out” together under the scattered gas lamps as ever there had been. The night was warm and still, and a little oppressive; the sound of guns continued intermittently, and after midnight there seemed to be sheet lightning in the south.

He read and re-read the paper, fearing the worst had happened to me. He was restless, and after supper prowled out again aimlessly. He returned and tried in vain to divert his attention to his examination notes. He went to bed a little after midnight, and was awakened from lurid dreams in the small hours of Monday by the sound of door knockers, feet running in the street, distant drumming, and a clamour of bells. Red reflections danced on the ceiling. For a moment he lay astonished, wondering whether day had come or the world gone mad. Then he jumped out of bed and ran to the window.

His room was an attic and as he thrust his head out, up and down the street there were a dozen echoes to the noise of his window sash, and heads in every kind of night disarray appeared. Enquiries were being shouted. “They are coming!” bawled a policeman, hammering at the door; “the Martians are coming!” and hurried to the next door.

The sound of drumming and trumpeting came from the Albany Street Barracks, and every church within earshot was hard at work killing sleep with a vehement disorderly tocsin. There was a noise of doors opening, and window after window in the houses opposite flashed from darkness into yellow illumination.

Up the street came galloping a closed carriage, bursting abruptly into noise at the corner, rising to a clattering climax under the window, and dying away slowly in the distance. Close on the rear of this came a couple of cabs, the forerunners of a long procession of flying vehicles, going for the most part to Chalk Farm station, where the North-Western special trains were loading up, instead of coming down the gradient into Euston.

For a long time my brother stared out of the window in blank astonishment, watching the policemen hammering at door after door, and delivering their incomprehensible message. Then the door behind him opened, and the man who lodged across the landing came in, dressed only in shirt, trousers, and slippers, his braces loose about his waist, his hair disordered from his pillow.

“What the devil is it?” he asked. “A fire? What a devil of a row!”

They both craned their heads out of the window, straining to hear what the policemen were shouting. People were coming out of the side streets, and standing in groups at the corners talking.

“What the devil is it all about?” said my brother’s fellow lodger.

My brother answered him vaguely and began to dress, running with each garment to the window in order to miss nothing of the growing excitement. And presently men selling unnaturally early newspapers came bawling into the street:

“London in danger of suffocation! The Kingston and Richmond defences forced! Fearful massacres in the Thames Valley!”

And all about him–in the rooms below, in the houses on each side and across the road, and behind in the Park Terraces and in the hundred other streets of that part of Marylebone, and the Westbourne Park district and St. Pancras, and westward and northward in Kilburn and St. John’s Wood and Hampstead, and eastward in Shoreditch and Highbury and Haggerston and Hoxton, and, indeed, through all the vastness of London from Ealing to East Ham–people were rubbing their eyes, and opening windows to stare out and ask aimless questions, dressing hastily as the first breath of the coming storm of Fear blew through the streets. It was the dawn of the great panic. London, which had gone to bed on Sunday night oblivious and inert, was awakened, in the small hours of Monday morning, to a vivid sense of danger.

Unable from his window to learn what was happening, my brother went down and out into the street, just as the sky between the parapets of the houses grew pink with the early dawn. The flying people on foot and in vehicles grew more numerous every moment. “Black Smoke!” he heard people crying, and again “Black Smoke!” The contagion of such a unanimous fear was inevitable. As my brother hesitated on the door-step, he saw another news vender approaching, and got a paper forthwith. The man was running away with the rest, and selling his papers for a shilling each as he ran–a grotesque mingling of profit and panic.

And from this paper my brother read that catastrophic dispatch of the Commander-in-Chief:

“The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a black and poisonous vapour by means of rockets. They have smothered our batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston, and Wimbledon, and are advancing slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight.”

That was all, but it was enough. The whole population of the great six-million city was stirring, slipping, running; presently it would be pouring en masse northward.

“Black Smoke!” the voices cried. “Fire!”

The bells of the neighbouring church made a jangling tumult, a cart carelessly driven smashed, amid shrieks and curses, against the water trough up the street. Sickly yellow lights went to and fro in the houses, and some of the passing cabs flaunted unextinguished lamps. And overhead the dawn was growing brighter, clear and steady and calm.

He heard footsteps running to and fro in the rooms, and up and down stairs behind him. His landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating.

As my brother began to realise the import of all these things, he turned hastily to his own room, put all his available money–some ten pounds altogether–into his pockets, and went out again into the streets.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN SURREY

It was while the curate had sat and talked so wildly to me under the hedge in the flat meadows near Halliford, and while my brother was watching the fugitives stream over Westminster Bridge, that the Martians had resumed the offensive. So far as one can ascertain from the conflicting accounts that have been put forth, the majority of them remained busied with preparations in the Horsell pit until nine that night, hurrying on some operation that disengaged huge volumes of green smoke.

But three certainly came out about eight o’clock and, advancing slowly and cautiously, made their way through Byfleet and Pyrford towards Ripley and Weybridge, and so came in sight of the expectant batteries against the setting sun. These Martians did not advance in a body, but in a line, each perhaps a mile and a half from his nearest fellow. They communicated with one another by means of sirenlike howls, running up and down the scale from one note to another.

It was this howling and firing of the guns at Ripley and St. George’s Hill that we had heard at Upper Halliford. The Ripley gunners, unseasoned artillery volunteers who ought never to have been placed in such a position, fired one wild, premature, ineffectual volley, and bolted on horse and foot through the deserted village, while the Martian, without using his Heat-Ray, walked serenely over their guns, stepped gingerly among them, passed in front of them, and so came unexpectedly upon the guns in Painshill Park, which he destroyed.

The St. George’s Hill men, however, were better led or of a better mettle. Hidden by a pine wood as they were, they seem to have been quite unsuspected by the Martian nearest to them. They laid their guns as deliberately as if they had been on parade, and fired at about a thousand yards’ range.

The shells flashed all round him, and he was seen to advance a few paces, stagger, and go down. Everybody yelled together, and the guns were reloaded in frantic haste. The overthrown Martian set up a prolonged ululation, and immediately a second glittering giant, answering him, appeared over the trees to the south. It would seem that a leg of the tripod had been smashed by one of the shells. The whole of the second volley flew wide of the Martian on the ground, and, simultaneously, both his companions brought their Heat-Rays to bear on the battery. The ammunition blew up, the pine trees all about the guns flashed into fire, and only one or two of the men who were already running over the crest of the hill escaped.

After this it would seem that the three took counsel together and halted, and the scouts who were watching them report that they remained absolutely stationary for the next half hour. The Martian who had been overthrown crawled tediously out of his hood, a small brown figure, oddly suggestive from that distance of a speck of blight, and apparently engaged in the repair of his support. About nine he had finished, for his cowl was then seen above the trees again.

It was a few minutes past nine that night when these three sentinels were joined by four other Martians, each carrying a thick black tube. A similar tube was handed to each of the three, and the seven proceeded to distribute themselves at equal distances along a curved line between St. George’s Hill, Weybridge, and the village of Send, southwest of Ripley.

A dozen rockets sprang out of the hills before them so soon as they began to move, and warned the waiting batteries about Ditton and Esher. At the same time four of their fighting machines, similarly armed with tubes, crossed the river, and two of them, black against the western sky, came into sight of myself and the curate as we hurried wearily and painfully along the road that runs northward out of Halliford. They moved, as it seemed to us, upon a cloud, for a milky mist covered the fields and rose to a third of their height.

At this sight the curate cried faintly in his throat, and began running; but I knew it was no good running from a Martian, and I turned aside and crawled through dewy nettles and brambles into the broad ditch by the side of the road. He looked back, saw what I was doing, and turned to join me.

The two halted, the nearer to us standing and facing Sunbury, the remoter being a grey indistinctness towards the evening star, away towards Staines.

The occasional howling of the Martians had ceased; they took up their positions in the huge crescent about their cylinders in absolute silence. It was a crescent with twelve miles between its horns. Never since the devising of gunpowder was the beginning of a battle so still. To us and to an observer about Ripley it would have had precisely the same effect–the Martians seemed in solitary possession of the darkling night, lit only as it was by the slender moon, the stars, the afterglow of the daylight, and the ruddy glare from St. George’s Hill and the woods of Painshill.

But facing that crescent everywhere–at Staines, Hounslow, Ditton, Esher, Ockham, behind hills and woods south of the river, and across the flat grass meadows to the north of it, wherever a cluster of trees or village houses gave sufficient cover–the guns were waiting. The signal rockets burst and rained their sparks through the night and vanished, and the spirit of all those watching batteries rose to a tense expectation. The Martians had but to advance into the line of fire, and instantly those motionless black forms of men, those guns glittering so darkly in the early night, would explode into a thunderous fury of battle.

No doubt the thought that was uppermost in a thousand of those vigilant minds, even as it was uppermost in mine, was the riddle–how much they understood of us. Did they grasp that we in our millions were organized, disciplined, working together? Or did they interpret our spurts of fire, the sudden stinging of our shells, our steady investment of their encampment, as we should the furious unanimity of onslaught in a disturbed hive of bees? Did they dream they might exterminate us? (At that time no one knew what food they needed.) A hundred such questions struggled together in my mind as I watched that vast sentinel shape. And in the back of my mind was the sense of all the huge unknown and hidden forces Londonward. Had they prepared pitfalls? Were the powder mills at Hounslow ready as a snare? Would the Londoners have the heart and courage to make a greater Moscow of their mighty province of houses?

Then, after an interminable time, as it seemed to us, crouching and peering through the hedge, came a sound like the distant concussion of a gun. Another nearer, and then another. And then the Martian beside us raised his tube on high and discharged it, gunwise, with a heavy report that made the ground heave. The one towards Staines answered him. There was no flash, no smoke, simply that loaded detonation.

I was so excited by these heavy minute-guns following one another that I so far forgot my personal safety and my scalded hands as to clamber up into the hedge and stare towards Sunbury. As I did so a second report followed, and a big projectile hurtled overhead towards Hounslow. I expected at least to see smoke or fire, or some such evidence of its work. But all I saw was the deep blue sky above, with one solitary star, and the white mist spreading wide and low beneath. And there had been no crash, no answering explosion. The silence was restored; the minute lengthened to three.

“What has happened?” said the curate, standing up beside me.

“Heaven knows!” said I.

A bat flickered by and vanished. A distant tumult of shouting began and ceased. I looked again at the Martian, and saw he was now moving eastward along the riverbank, with a swift, rolling motion.

Every moment I expected the fire of some hidden battery to spring upon him; but the evening calm was unbroken. The figure of the Martian grew smaller as he receded, and presently the mist and the gathering night had swallowed him up. By a common impulse we clambered higher. Towards Sunbury was a dark appearance, as though a conical hill had suddenly come into being there, hiding our view of the farther country; and then, remoter across the river, over Walton, we saw another such summit. These hill-like forms grew lower and broader even as we stared.

Moved by a sudden thought, I looked northward, and there I perceived a third of these cloudy black kopjes had risen.

Everything had suddenly become very still. Far away to the southeast, marking the quiet, we heard the Martians hooting to one another, and then the air quivered again with the distant thud of their guns. But the earthly artillery made no reply.

Now at the time we could not understand these things, but later I was to learn the meaning of these ominous kopjes that gathered in the twilight. Each of the Martians, standing in the great crescent I have described, had discharged, by means of the gunlike tube he carried, a huge canister over whatever hill, copse, cluster of houses, or other possible cover for guns, chanced to be in front of him. Some fired only one of these, some two–as in the case of the one we had seen; the one at Ripley is said to have discharged no fewer than five at that time. These canisters smashed on striking the ground–they did not explode–and incontinently disengaged an enormous volume of heavy, inky vapour, coiling and pouring upward in a huge and ebony cumulus cloud, a gaseous hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the surrounding country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of its pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes.

It was heavy, this vapour, heavier than the densest smoke, so that, after the first tumultuous uprush and outflow of its impact, it sank down through the air and poured over the ground in a manner rather liquid than gaseous, abandoning the hills, and streaming into the valleys and ditches and watercourses even as I have heard the carbonic-acid gas that pours from volcanic clefts is wont to do. And where it came upon water some chemical action occurred, and the surface would be instantly covered with a powdery scum that sank slowly and made way for more. The scum was absolutely insoluble, and it is a strange thing, seeing the instant effect of the gas, that one could drink without hurt the water from which it had been strained. The vapour did not diffuse as a true gas would do. It hung together in banks, flowing sluggishly down the slope of the land and driving reluctantly before the wind, and very slowly it combined with the mist and moisture of the air, and sank to the earth in the form of dust. Save that an unknown element giving a group of four lines in the blue of the spectrum is concerned, we are still entirely ignorant of the nature of this substance.

Once the tumultuous upheaval of its dispersion was over, the black smoke clung so closely to the ground, even before its precipitation, that fifty feet up in the air, on the roofs and upper stories of high houses and on great trees, there was a chance of escaping its poison altogether, as was proved even that night at Street Cobham and Ditton.

The man who escaped at the former place tells a wonderful story of the strangeness of its coiling flow, and how he looked down from the church spire and saw the houses of the village rising like ghosts out of its inky nothingness. For a day and a half he remained there, weary, starving and sun-scorched, the earth under the blue sky and against the prospect of the distant hills a velvet-black expanse, with red roofs, green trees, and, later, black-veiled shrubs and gates, barns, outhouses, and walls, rising here and there into the sunlight.

But that was at Street Cobham, where the black vapour was allowed to remain until it sank of its own accord into the ground. As a rule the Martians, when it had served its purpose, cleared the air of it again by wading into it and directing a jet of steam upon it.

This they did with the vapour banks near us, as we saw in the starlight from the window of a deserted house at Upper Halliford, whither we had returned. From there we could see the searchlights on Richmond Hill and Kingston Hill going to and fro, and about eleven the windows rattled, and we heard the sound of the huge siege guns that had been put in position there. These continued intermittently for the space of a quarter of an hour, sending chance shots at the invisible Martians at Hampton and Ditton, and then the pale beams of the electric light vanished, and were replaced by a bright red glow.

Then the fourth cylinder fell–a brilliant green meteor–as I learned afterwards, in Bushey Park. Before the guns on the Richmond and Kingston line of hills began, there was a fitful cannonade far away in the southwest, due, I believe, to guns being fired haphazard before the black vapour could overwhelm the gunners.

So, setting about it as methodically as men might smoke out a wasps’ nest, the Martians spread this strange stifling vapour over the Londonward country. The horns of the crescent slowly moved apart, until at last they formed a line from Hanwell to Coombe and Malden. All night through their destructive tubes advanced. Never once, after the Martian at St. George’s Hill was brought down, did they give the artillery the ghost of a chance against them. Wherever there was a possibility of guns being laid for them unseen, a fresh canister of the black vapour was discharged, and where the guns were openly displayed the Heat-Ray was brought to bear.

By midnight the blazing trees along the slopes of Richmond Park and the glare of Kingston Hill threw their light upon a network of black smoke, blotting out the whole valley of the Thames and extending as far as the eye could reach. And through this two Martians slowly waded, and turned their hissing steam jets this way and that.

They were sparing of the Heat-Ray that night, either because they had but a limited supply of material for its production or because they did not wish to destroy the country but only to crush and overawe the opposition they had aroused. In the latter aim they certainly succeeded. Sunday night was the end of the organised opposition to their movements. After that no body of men would stand against them, so hopeless was the enterprise. Even the crews of the torpedo-boats and destroyers that had brought their quick-firers up the Thames refused to stop, mutinied, and went down again. The only offensive operation men ventured upon after that night was the preparation of mines and pitfalls, and even in that their energies were frantic and spasmodic.

One has to imagine, as well as one may, the fate of those batteries towards Esher, waiting so tensely in the twilight. Survivors there were none. One may picture the orderly expectation, the officers alert and watchful, the gunners ready, the ammunition piled to hand, the limber gunners with their horses and waggons, the groups of civilian spectators standing as near as they were permitted, the evening stillness, the ambulances and hospital tents with the burned and wounded from Weybridge; then the dull resonance of the shots the Martians fired, and the clumsy projectile whirling over the trees and houses and smashing amid the neighbouring fields.

One may picture, too, the sudden shifting of the attention, the swiftly spreading coils and bellyings of that blackness advancing headlong, towering heavenward, turning the twilight to a palpable darkness, a strange and horrible antagonist of vapour striding upon its victims, men and horses near it seen dimly, running, shrieking, falling headlong, shouts of dismay, the guns suddenly abandoned, men choking and writhing on the ground, and the swift broadening-out of the opaque cone of smoke. And then night and extinction–nothing but a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its dead.

Before dawn the black vapour was pouring through the streets of Richmond, and the disintegrating organism of government was, with a last expiring effort, rousing the population of London to the necessity of flight.

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE EXODUS FROM LONDON

So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning–the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames, and hurrying by every available channel northward and eastward. By ten o’clock the police organisation, and by midday even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in that swift liquefaction of the social body.

All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-Eastern people at Cannon Street had been warned by midnight on Sunday, and trains were being filled. People were fighting savagely for standing-room in the carriages even at two o’clock. By three, people were being trampled and crushed even in Bishopsgate Street, a couple of hundred yards or more from Liverpool Street station; revolvers were fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had been sent to direct the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking the heads of the people they were called out to protect.

And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and stokers refused to return to London, the pressure of the flight drove the people in an ever-thickening multitude away from the stations and along the northward-running roads. By midday a Martian had been seen at Barnes, and a cloud of slowly sinking black vapour drove along the Thames and across the flats of Lambeth, cutting off all escape over the bridges in its sluggish advance. Another bank drove over Ealing, and surrounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, but unable to escape.

After a fruitless struggle to get aboard a North-Western train at Chalk Farm–the engines of the trains that had loaded in the goods yard there ploughed through shrieking people, and a dozen stalwart men fought to keep the crowd from crushing the driver against his furnace–my brother emerged upon the Chalk Farm road, dodged across through a hurrying swarm of vehicles, and had the luck to be foremost in the sack of a cycle shop. The front tire of the machine he got was punctured in dragging it through the window, but he got up and off, notwithstanding, with no further injury than a cut wrist. The steep foot of Haverstock Hill was impassable owing to several overturned horses, and my brother struck into Belsize Road.

So he got out of the fury of the panic, and, skirting the Edgware Road, reached Edgware about seven, fasting and wearied, but well ahead of the crowd. Along the road people were standing in the roadway, curious, wondering. He was passed by a number of cyclists, some horsemen, and two motor cars. A mile from Edgware the rim of the wheel broke, and the machine became unridable. He left it by the roadside and trudged through the village. There were shops half opened in the main street of the place, and people crowded on the pavement and in the doorways and windows, staring astonished at this extraordinary procession of fugitives that was beginning. He succeeded in getting some food at an inn.

For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next to do. The flying people increased in number. Many of them, like my brother, seemed inclined to loiter in the place. There was no fresh news of the invaders from Mars.

At that time the road was crowded, but as yet far from congested. Most of the fugitives at that hour were mounted on cycles, but there were soon motor cars, hansom cabs, and carriages hurrying along, and the dust hung in heavy clouds along the road to St. Albans.

It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelmsford, where some friends of his lived, that at last induced my brother to strike into a quiet lane running eastward. Presently he came upon a stile, and, crossing it, followed a footpath northeastward. He passed near several farmhouses and some little places whose names he did not learn. He saw few fugitives until, in a grass lane towards High Barnet, he happened upon two ladies who became his fellow travellers. He came upon them just in time to save them.

He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner, saw a couple of men struggling to drag them out of the little pony-chaise in which they had been driving, while a third with difficulty held the frightened pony’s head. One of the ladies, a short woman dressed in white, was simply screaming; the other, a dark, slender figure, slashed at the man who gripped her arm with a whip she held in her disengaged hand.

My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted, and hurried towards the struggle. One of the men desisted and turned towards him, and my brother, realising from his antagonist’s face that a fight was unavoidable, and being an expert boxer, went into him forthwith and sent him down against the wheel of the chaise.

It was no time for pugilistic chivalry and my brother laid him quiet with a kick, and gripped the collar of the man who pulled at the slender lady’s arm. He heard the clatter of hoofs, the whip stung across his face, a third antagonist struck him between the eyes, and the man he held wrenched himself free and made off down the lane in the direction from which he had come.

Partly stunned, he found himself facing the man who had held the horse’s head, and became aware of the chaise receding from him down the lane, swaying from side to side, and with the women in it looking back. The man before him, a burly rough, tried to close, and he stopped him with a blow in the face. Then, realising that he was deserted, he dodged round and made off down the lane after the chaise, with the sturdy man close behind him, and the fugitive, who had turned now, following remotely.

Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer went headlong, and he rose to his feet to find himself with a couple of antagonists again. He would have had little chance against them had not the slender lady very pluckily pulled up and returned to his help. It seems she had had a revolver all this time, but it had been under the seat when she and her companion were attacked. She fired at six yards’ distance, narrowly missing my brother. The less courageous of the robbers made off, and his companion followed him, cursing his cowardice. They both stopped in sight down the lane, where the third man lay insensible.

“Take this!” said the slender lady, and she gave my brother her revolver.

“Go back to the chaise,” said my brother, wiping the blood from his split lip.

She turned without a word–they were both panting–and they went back to where the lady in white struggled to hold back the frightened pony.

The robbers had evidently had enough of it. When my brother looked again they were retreating.

“I’ll sit here,” said my brother, “if I may”; and he got upon the empty front seat. The lady looked over her shoulder.

“Give me the reins,” she said, and laid the whip along the pony’s side. In another moment a bend in the road hid the three men from my brother’s eyes.

So, quite unexpectedly, my brother found himself, panting, with a cut mouth, a bruised jaw, and bloodstained knuckles, driving along an unknown lane with these two women.

He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of a surgeon living at Stanmore, who had come in the small hours from a dangerous case at Pinner, and heard at some railway station on his way of the Martian advance. He had hurried home, roused the women–their servant had left them two days before–packed some provisions, put his revolver under the seat–luckily for my brother–and told them to drive on to Edgware, with the idea of getting a train there. He stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake them, he said, at about half past four in the morning, and now it was nearly nine and they had seen nothing of him. They could not stop in Edgware because of the growing traffic through the place, and so they had come into this side lane.

That was the story they told my brother in fragments when presently they stopped again, nearer to New Barnet. He promised to stay with them, at least until they could determine what to do, or until the missing man arrived, and professed to be an expert shot with the revolver–a weapon strange to him–in order to give them confidence.

They made a sort of encampment by the wayside, and the pony became happy in the hedge. He told them of his own escape out of London, and all that he knew of these Martians and their ways. The sun crept higher in the sky, and after a time their talk died out and gave place to an uneasy state of anticipation. Several wayfarers came along the lane, and of these my brother gathered such news as he could. Every broken answer he had deepened his impression of the great disaster that had come on humanity, deepened his persuasion of the immediate necessity for prosecuting this flight. He urged the matter upon them.

“We have money,” said the slender woman, and hesitated.

Her eyes met my brother’s, and her hesitation ended.

“So have I,” said my brother.

She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in gold, besides a five-pound note, and suggested that with that they might get upon a train at St. Albans or New Barnet. My brother thought that was hopeless, seeing the fury of the Londoners to crowd upon the trains, and broached his own idea of striking across Essex towards Harwich and thence escaping from the country altogether.

Mrs. Elphinstone–that was the name of the woman in white–would listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon “George”; but her sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last agreed to my brother’s suggestion. So, designing to cross the Great North Road, they went on towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony to save it as much as possible. As the sun crept up the sky the day became excessively hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew burning and blinding, so that they travelled only very slowly. The hedges were grey with dust. And as they advanced towards Barnet a tumultuous murmuring grew stronger.

They began to meet more people. For the most part these were staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions, jaded, haggard, unclean. One man in evening dress passed them on foot, his eyes on the ground. They heard his voice, and, looking back at him, saw one hand clutched in his hair and the other beating invisible things. His paroxysm of rage over, he went on his way without once looking back.

As my brother’s party went on towards the crossroads to the south of Barnet they saw a woman approaching the road across some fields on their left, carrying a child and with two other children; and then passed a man in dirty black, with a thick stick in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other. Then round the corner of the lane, from between the villas that guarded it at its confluence with the high road, came a little cart drawn by a sweating black pony and driven by a sallow youth in a bowler hat, grey with dust. There were three girls, East End factory girls, and a couple of little children crowded in the cart.

“This’ll tike us rahnd Edgware?” asked the driver, wild-eyed, white-faced; and when my brother told him it would if he turned to the left, he whipped up at once without the formality of thanks.

My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among the houses in front of them, and veiling the white facade of a terrace beyond the road that appeared between the backs of the villas. Mrs. Elphinstone suddenly cried out at a number of tongues of smoky red flame leaping up above the houses in front of them against the hot, blue sky. The tumultuous noise resolved itself now into the disorderly mingling of many voices, the gride of many wheels, the creaking of waggons, and the staccato of hoofs. The lane came round sharply not fifty yards from the crossroads.

“Good heavens!” cried Mrs. Elphinstone. “What is this you are driving us into?”

My brother stopped.

For the main road was a boiling stream of people, a torrent of human beings rushing northward, one pressing on another. A great bank of dust, white and luminous in the blaze of the sun, made everything within twenty feet of the ground grey and indistinct and was perpetually renewed by the hurrying feet of a dense crowd of horses and of men and women on foot, and by the wheels of vehicles of every description.

“Way!” my brother heard voices crying. “Make way!”

It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach the meeting point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like a fire, and the dust was hot and pungent. And, indeed, a little way up the road a villa was burning and sending rolling masses of black smoke across the road to add to the confusion.

Two men came past them. Then a dirty woman, carrying a heavy bundle and weeping. A lost retriever dog, with hanging tongue, circled dubiously round them, scared and wretched, and fled at my brother’s threat.

So much as they could see of the road Londonward between the houses to the right was a tumultuous stream of dirty, hurrying people, pent in between the villas on either side; the black heads, the crowded forms, grew into distinctness as they rushed towards the corner, hurried past, and merged their individuality again in a receding multitude that was swallowed up at last in a cloud of dust.

“Go on! Go on!” cried the voices. “Way! Way!”

One man’s hands pressed on the back of another. My brother stood at the pony’s head. Irresistibly attracted, he advanced slowly, pace by pace, down the lane.

Edgware had been a scene of confusion, Chalk Farm a riotous tumult, but this was a whole population in movement. It is hard to imagine that host. It had no character of its own. The figures poured out past the corner, and receded with their backs to the group in the lane. Along the margin came those who were on foot threatened by the wheels, stumbling in the ditches, blundering into one another.

The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another, making little way for those swifter and more impatient vehicles that darted forward every now and then when an opportunity showed itself of doing so, sending the people scattering against the fences and gates of the villas.

“Push on!” was the cry. “Push on! They are coming!”

In one cart stood a blind man in the uniform of the Salvation Army, gesticulating with his crooked fingers and bawling, “Eternity! Eternity!” His voice was hoarse and very loud so that my brother could hear him long after he was lost to sight in the dust. Some of the people who crowded in the carts whipped stupidly at their horses and quarrelled with other drivers; some sat motionless, staring at nothing with miserable eyes; some gnawed their hands with thirst, or lay prostrate in the bottoms of their conveyances. The horses’ bits were covered with foam, their eyes bloodshot.

There were cabs, carriages, shop cars, waggons, beyond counting; a mail cart, a road-cleaner’s cart marked “Vestry of St. Pancras,” a huge timber waggon crowded with roughs. A brewer’s dray rumbled by with its two near wheels splashed with fresh blood.

“Clear the way!” cried the voices. “Clear the way!”

“Eter-nity! Eter-nity!” came echoing down the road.

There were sad, haggard women tramping by, well dressed, with children that cried and stumbled, their dainty clothes smothered in dust, their weary faces smeared with tears. With many of these came men, sometimes helpful, sometimes lowering and savage. Fighting side by side with them pushed some weary street outcast in faded black rags, wide-eyed, loud-voiced, and foul-mouthed. There were sturdy workmen thrusting their way along, wretched, unkempt men, clothed like clerks or shopmen, struggling spasmodically; a wounded soldier my brother noticed, men dressed in the clothes of railway porters, one wretched creature in a nightshirt with a coat thrown over it.

But varied as its composition was, certain things all that host had in common. There were fear and pain on their faces, and fear behind them. A tumult up the road, a quarrel for a place in a waggon, sent the whole host of them quickening their pace; even a man so scared and broken that his knees bent under him was galvanised for a moment into renewed activity. The heat and dust had already been at work upon this multitude. Their skins were dry, their lips black and cracked. They were all thirsty, weary, and footsore. And amid the various cries one heard disputes, reproaches, groans of weariness and fatigue; the voices of most of them were hoarse and weak. Through it all ran a refrain:

“Way! Way! The Martians are coming!”

Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane opened slantingly into the main road with a narrow opening, and had a delusive appearance of coming from the direction of London. Yet a kind of eddy of people drove into its mouth; weaklings elbowed out of the stream, who for the most part rested but a moment before plunging into it again. A little way down the lane, with two friends bending over him, lay a man with a bare leg, wrapped about with bloody rags. He was a lucky man to have friends.

A little old man, with a grey military moustache and a filthy black frock coat, limped out and sat down beside the trap, removed his boot–his sock was blood-stained–shook out a pebble, and hobbled on again; and then a little girl of eight or nine, all alone, threw herself under the hedge close by my brother, weeping.

“I can’t go on! I can’t go on!”

My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted her up, speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphinstone. So soon as my brother touched her she became quite still, as if frightened.

“Ellen!” shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her voice–“Ellen!” And the child suddenly darted away from my brother, crying “Mother!”

“They are coming,” said a man on horseback, riding past along the lane.

“Out of the way, there!” bawled a coachman, towering high; and my brother saw a closed carriage turning into the lane.

The people crushed back on one another to avoid the horse. My brother pushed the pony and chaise back into the hedge, and the man drove by and stopped at the turn of the way. It was a carriage, with a pole for a pair of horses, but only one was in the traces. My brother saw dimly through the dust that two men lifted out something on a white stretcher and put it gently on the grass beneath the privet hedge.

One of the men came running to my brother.

“Where is there any water?” he said. “He is dying fast, and very thirsty. It is Lord Garrick.”

“Lord Garrick!” said my brother; “the Chief Justice?”

“The water?” he said.

“There may be a tap,” said my brother, “in some of the houses. We have no water. I dare not leave my people.”

The man pushed against the crowd towards the gate of the corner house.

“Go on!” said the people, thrusting at him. “They are coming! Go on!”

Then my brother’s attention was distracted by a bearded, eagle-faced man lugging a small handbag, which split even as my brother’s eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of sovereigns that seemed to break up into separate coins as it struck the ground. They rolled hither and thither among the struggling feet of men and horses. The man stopped and looked stupidly at the heap, and the shaft of a cab struck his shoulder and sent him reeling. He gave a shriek and dodged back, and a cartwheel shaved him narrowly.

“Way!” cried the men all about him. “Make way!”

So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both hands open, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting handfuls in his pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in another moment, half rising, he had been borne down under the horse’s hoofs.

“Stop!” screamed my brother, and pushing a woman out of his way, tried to clutch the bit of the horse.

Before he could get to it, he heard a scream under the wheels, and saw through the dust the rim passing over the poor wretch’s back. The driver of the cart slashed his whip at my brother, who ran round behind the cart. The multitudinous shouting confused his ears. The man was writhing in the dust among his scattered money, unable to rise, for the wheel had broken his back, and his lower limbs lay limp and dead. My brother stood up and yelled at the next driver, and a man on a black horse came to his assistance.

“Get him out of the road,” said he; and, clutching the man’s collar with his free hand, my brother lugged him sideways. But he still clutched after his money, and regarded my brother fiercely, hammering at his arm with a handful of gold. “Go on! Go on!” shouted angry voices behind.

“Way! Way!”

There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into the cart that the man on horseback stopped. My brother looked up, and the man with the gold twisted his head round and bit the wrist that held his collar. There was a concussion, and the black horse came staggering sideways, and the carthorse pushed beside it. A hoof missed my brother’s foot by a hair’s breadth. He released his grip on the fallen man and jumped back. He saw anger change to terror on the face of the poor wretch on the ground, and in a moment he was hidden and my brother was borne backward and carried past the entrance of the lane, and had to fight hard in the torrent to recover it.

He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little child, with all a child’s want of sympathetic imagination, staring with dilated eyes at a dusty something that lay black and still, ground and crushed under the rolling wheels. “Let us go back!” he shouted, and began turning the pony round. “We cannot cross this–hell,” he said and they went back a hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my brother saw the face of the dying man in the ditch under the privet, deadly white and drawn, and shining with perspiration. The two women sat silent, crouching in their seat and shivering.

Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss Elphinstone was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat weeping, too wretched even to call upon “George.” My brother was horrified and perplexed. So soon as they had retreated he realised how urgent and unavoidable it was to attempt this crossing. He turned to Miss Elphinstone, suddenly resolute.

“We must go that way,” he said, and led the pony round again.

For the second time that day this girl proved her quality. To force their way into the torrent of people, my brother plunged into the traffic and held back a cab horse, while she drove the pony across its head. A waggon locked wheels for a moment and ripped a long splinter from the chaise. In another moment they were caught and swept forward by the stream. My brother, with the cabman’s whip marks red across his face and hands, scrambled into the chaise and took the reins from her.

“Point the revolver at the man behind,” he said, giving it to her, “if he presses us too hard. No!–point it at his horse.”

Then he began to look out for a chance of edging to the right across the road. But once in the stream he seemed to lose volition, to become a part of that dusty rout. They swept through Chipping Barnet with the torrent; they were nearly a mile beyond the centre of the town before they had fought across to the opposite side of the way. It was din and confusion indescribable; but in and beyond the town the road forks repeatedly, and this to some extent relieved the stress.

They struck eastward through Hadley, and there on either side of the road, and at another place farther on they came upon a great multitude of people drinking at the stream, some fighting to come at the water. And farther on, from a lull near East Barnet, they saw two trains running slowly one after the other without signal or order–trains swarming with people, with men even among the coals behind the engines–going northward along the Great Northern Railway. My brother supposes they must have filled outside London, for at that time the furious terror of the people had rendered the central termini impossible.

Near this place they halted for the rest of the afternoon, for the violence of the day had already utterly exhausted all three of them. They began to suffer the beginnings of hunger; the night was cold, and none of them dared to sleep. And in the evening many people came hurrying along the road nearby their stopping place, fleeing from unknown dangers before them, and going in the direction from which my brother had come.

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE “THUNDER CHILD”

Had the Martians aimed only at destruction, they might on Monday have annihilated the entire population of London, as it spread itself slowly through the home counties. Not only along the road through Barnet, but also through Edgware and Waltham Abbey, and along the roads eastward to Southend and Shoeburyness, and south of the Thames to Deal and Broadstairs, poured the same frantic rout. If one could have hung that June morning in a balloon in the blazing blue above London every northward and eastward road running out of the tangled maze of streets would have seemed stippled black with the streaming fugitives, each dot a human agony of terror and physical distress. I have set forth at length in the last chapter my brother’s account of the road through Chipping Barnet, in order that my readers may realise how that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those concerned. Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human beings moved and suffered together. The legendary hosts of Goths and Huns, the hugest armies Asia has ever seen, would have been but a drop in that current. And this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede–a stampede gigantic and terrible–without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind.

Directly below him the balloonist would have seen the network of streets far and wide, houses, churches, squares, crescents, gardens–already derelict–spread out like a huge map, and in the southward blotted. Over Ealing, Richmond, Wimbledon, it would have seemed as if some monstrous pen had flung ink upon the chart. Steadily, incessantly, each black splash grew and spread, shooting out ramifications this way and that, now banking itself against rising ground, now pouring swiftly over a crest into a new-found valley, exactly as a gout of ink would spread itself upon blotting paper.

And beyond, over the blue hills that rise southward of the river, the glittering Martians went to and fro, calmly and methodically spreading their poison cloud over this patch of country and then over that, laying it again with their steam jets when it had served its purpose, and taking possession of the conquered country. They do not seem to have aimed at extermination so much as at complete demoralisation and the destruction of any opposition. They exploded any stores of powder they came upon, cut every telegraph, and wrecked the railways here and there. They were hamstringing mankind. They seemed in no hurry to extend the field of their operations, and did not come beyond the central part of London all that day. It is possible that a very considerable number of people in London stuck to their houses through Monday morning. Certain it is that many died at home suffocated by the Black Smoke.

Until about midday the Pool of London was an astonishing scene. Steamboats and shipping of all sorts lay there, tempted by the enormous sums of money offered by fugitives, and it is said that many who swam out to these vessels were thrust off with boathooks and drowned. About one o’clock in the afternoon the thinning remnant of a cloud of the black vapour appeared between the arches of Blackfriars Bridge. At that the Pool became a scene of mad confusion, fighting, and collision, and for some time a multitude of boats and barges jammed in the northern arch of the Tower Bridge, and the sailors and lightermen had to fight savagely against the people who swarmed upon them from the riverfront. People were actually clambering down the piers of the bridge from above.

When, an hour later, a Martian appeared beyond the Clock Tower and waded down the river, nothing but wreckage floated above Limehouse.

Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have presently to tell. The sixth star fell at Wimbledon. My brother, keeping watch beside the women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green flash of it far beyond the hills. On Tuesday the little party, still set upon getting across the sea, made its way through the swarming country towards Colchester. The news that the Martians were now in possession of the whole of London was confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother’s view until the morrow.

That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the urgent need of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights of property ceased to be regarded. Farmers were out to defend their cattle-sheds, granaries, and ripening root crops with arms in their hands. A number of people now, like my brother, had their faces eastward, and there were some desperate souls even going back towards London to get food. These were chiefly people from the northern suburbs, whose knowledge of the Black Smoke came by hearsay. He heard that about half the members of the government had gathered at Birmingham, and that enormous quantities of high explosives were being prepared to be used in automatic mines across the Midland counties.

He was also told that the Midland Railway Company had replaced the desertions of the first day’s panic, had resumed traffic, and was running northward trains from St. Albans to relieve the congestion of the home counties. There was also a placard in Chipping Ongar announcing that large stores of flour were available in the northern towns and that within twenty-four hours bread would be distributed among the starving people in the neighbourhood. But this intelligence did not deter him from the plan of escape he had formed, and the three pressed eastward all day, and heard no more of the bread distribution than this promise. Nor, as a matter of fact, did anyone else hear more of it. That night fell the seventh star, falling upon Primrose Hill. It fell while Miss Elphinstone was watching, for she took that duty alternately with my brother. She saw it.

On Wednesday the three fugitives–they had passed the night in a field of unripe wheat–reached Chelmsford, and there a body of the inhabitants, calling itself the Committee of Public Supply, seized the pony as provisions, and would give nothing in exchange for it but the promise of a share in it the next day. Here there were rumours of Martians at Epping, and news of the destruction of Waltham Abbey Powder Mills in a vain attempt to blow up one of the invaders.

People were watching for Martians here from the church towers. My brother, very luckily for him as it chanced, preferred to push on at once to the coast rather than wait for food, although all three of them were very hungry. By midday they passed through Tillingham, which, strangely enough, seemed to be quite silent and deserted, save for a few furtive plunderers hunting for food. Near Tillingham they suddenly came in sight of the sea, and the most amazing crowd of shipping of all sorts that it is possible to imagine.

For after the sailors could no longer come up the Thames, they came on to the Essex coast, to Harwich and Walton and Clacton, and afterwards to Foulness and Shoebury, to bring off the people. They lay in a huge sickle-shaped curve that vanished into mist at last towards the Naze. Close inshore was a multitude of fishing smacks–English, Scotch, French, Dutch, and Swedish; steam launches from the Thames, yachts, electric boats; and beyond were ships of large burden, a multitude of filthy colliers, trim merchantmen, cattle ships, passenger boats, petroleum tanks, ocean tramps, an old white transport even, neat white and grey liners from Southampton and Hamburg; and along the blue coast across the Blackwater my brother could make out dimly a dense swarm of boats chaffering with the people on the beach, a swarm which also extended up the Blackwater almost to Maldon.

About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in the water, almost, to my brother’s perception, like a water-logged ship. This was the ram Thunder Child. It was the only warship in sight, but far away to the right over the smooth surface of the sea–for that day there was a dead calm–lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next ironclads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended line, steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary during the course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet powerless to prevent it.

At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Elphinstone, in spite of the assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had never been out of England before, she would rather die than trust herself friendless in a foreign country, and so forth. She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that the French and the Martians might prove very similar. She had been growing increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed during the two days’ journeyings. Her great idea was to return to Stanmore. Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They would find George at Stanmore.

It was with the greatest difficulty they could get her down to the beach, where presently my brother succeeded in attracting the attention of some men on a paddle steamer from the Thames. They sent a boat and drove a bargain for thirty-six pounds for the three. The steamer was going, these men said, to Ostend.

It was about two o’clock when my brother, having paid their fares at the gangway, found himself safely aboard the steamboat with his charges. There was food aboard, albeit at exorbitant prices, and the three of them contrived to eat a meal on one of the seats forward.

There were already a couple of score of passengers aboard, some of whom had expended their last money in securing a passage, but the captain lay off the Blackwater until five in the afternoon, picking up passengers until the seated decks were even dangerously crowded. He would probably have remained longer had it not been for the sound of guns that began about that hour in the south. As if in answer, the ironclad seaward fired a small gun and hoisted a string of flags. A jet of smoke sprang out of her funnels.

Some of the passengers were of opinion that this firing came from Shoeburyness, until it was noticed that it was growing louder. At the same time, far away in the southeast the masts and upperworks of three ironclads rose one after the other out of the sea, beneath clouds of black smoke. But my brother’s attention speedily reverted to the distant firing in the south. He fancied he saw a column of smoke rising out of the distant grey haze.

The little steamer was already flapping her way eastward of the big crescent of shipping, and the low Essex coast was growing blue and hazy, when a Martian appeared, small and faint in the remote distance, advancing along the muddy coast from the direction of Foulness. At that the captain on the bridge swore at the top of his voice with fear and anger at his own delay, and the paddles seemed infected with his terror. Every soul aboard stood at the bulwarks or on the seats of the steamer and stared at that distant shape, higher than the trees or church towers inland, and advancing with a leisurely parody of a human stride.

It was the first Martian my brother had seen, and he stood, more amazed than terrified, watching this Titan advancing deliberately towards the shipping, wading farther and farther into the water as the coast fell away. Then, far away beyond the Crouch, came another, striding over some stunted trees, and then yet another, still farther off, wading deeply through a shiny mudflat that seemed to hang halfway up between sea and sky. They were all stalking seaward, as if to intercept the escape of the multitudinous vessels that were crowded between Foulness and the Naze. In spite of the throbbing exertions of the engines of the little paddle-boat, and the pouring foam that her wheels flung behind her, she receded with terrifying slowness from this ominous advance.

Glancing northwestward, my brother saw the large crescent of shipping already writhing with the approaching terror; one ship passing behind another, another coming round from broadside to end on, steamships whistling and giving off volumes of steam, sails being let out, launches rushing hither and thither. He was so fascinated by this and by the creeping danger away to the left that he had no eyes for anything seaward. And then a swift movement of the steamboat (she had suddenly come round to avoid being run down) flung him headlong from the seat upon which he was standing. There was a shouting all about him, a trampling of feet, and a cheer that seemed to be answered faintly. The steamboat lurched and rolled him over upon his hands.

He sprang to his feet and saw to starboard, and not a hundred yards from their heeling, pitching boat, a vast iron bulk like the blade of a plough tearing through the water, tossing it on either side in huge waves of foam that leaped towards the steamer, flinging her paddles helplessly in the air, and then sucking her deck down almost to the waterline.

A douche of spray blinded my brother for a moment. When his eyes were clear again he saw the monster had passed and was rushing landward. Big iron upperworks rose out of this headlong structure, and from that twin funnels projected and spat a smoking blast shot with fire. It was the torpedo ram, Thunder Child, steaming headlong, coming to the rescue of the threatened shipping.

Keeping his footing on the heaving deck by clutching the bulwarks, my brother looked past this charging leviathan at the Martians again, and he saw the three of them now close together, and standing so far out to sea that their tripod supports were almost entirely submerged. Thus sunken, and seen in remote perspective, they appeared far less formidable than the huge iron bulk in whose wake the steamer was pitching so helplessly. It would seem they were regarding this new antagonist with astonishment. To their intelligence, it may be, the giant was even such another as themselves. The Thunder Child fired no gun, but simply drove full speed towards them. It was probably her not firing that enabled her to get so near the enemy as she did. They did not know what to make of her. One shell, and they would have sent her to the bottom forthwith with the Heat-Ray.

She was steaming at such a pace that in a minute she seemed halfway between the steamboat and the Martians–a diminishing black bulk against the receding horizontal expanse of the Essex coast.

Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and discharged a canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her larboard side and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away to seaward, an unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which the ironclad drove clear. To the watchers from the steamer, low in the water and with the sun in their eyes, it seemed as though she were already among the Martians.

They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of the water as they retreated shoreward, and one of them raised the camera-like generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it pointing obliquely downward, and a bank of steam sprang from the water at its touch. It must have driven through the iron of the ship’s side like a white-hot iron rod through paper.

A flicker of flame went up through the rising steam, and then the Martian reeled and staggered. In another moment he was cut down, and a great body of water and steam shot high in the air. The guns of the Thunder Child sounded through the reek, going off one after the other, and one shot splashed the water high close by the steamer, ricocheted towards the other flying ships to the north, and smashed a smack to matchwood.

But no one heeded that very much. At the sight of the Martian’s collapse the captain on the bridge yelled inarticulately, and all the crowding passengers on the steamer’s stern shouted together. And then they yelled again. For, surging out beyond the white tumult, drove something long and black, the flames streaming from its middle parts, its ventilators and funnels spouting fire.

She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard. My brother shouted involuntarily. A boiling tumult of steam hid everything again.

“Two!” yelled the captain.

Everyone was shouting. The whole steamer from end to end rang with frantic cheering that was taken up first by one and then by all in the crowding multitude of ships and boats that was driving out to sea.

The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding the third Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time the boat was paddling steadily out to sea and away from the fight; and when at last the confusion cleared, the drifting bank of black vapour intervened, and nothing of the Thunder Child could be made out, nor could the third Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now quite close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.

The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and the ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was hidden still by a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part black gas, eddying and combining in the strangest way. The fleet of refugees was scattering to the northeast; several smacks were sailing between the ironclads and the steamboat. After a time, and before they reached the sinking cloud bank, the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went about and passed into the thickening haze of evening southward. The coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid the low banks of clouds that were gathering about the sinking sun.

Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came the vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving. Everyone struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into the blinding furnace of the west, but nothing was to be distinguished clearly. A mass of smoke rose slanting and barred the face of the sun. The steamboat throbbed on its way through an interminable suspense.

The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of the greyness–rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it flew it rained down darkness upon the land.

 

 

 

 

BOOK TWO

THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS

CHAPTER ONE

UNDER FOOT

In the first book I have wandered so much from my own adventures to tell of the experiences of my brother that all through the last two chapters I and the curate have been lurking in the empty house at Halliford whither we fled to escape the Black Smoke. There I will resume. We stopped there all Sunday night and all the next day–the day of the panic–in a little island of daylight, cut off by the Black Smoke from the rest of the world. We could do nothing but wait in aching inactivity during those two weary days.

My mind was occupied by anxiety for my wife. I figured her at Leatherhead, terrified, in danger, mourning me already as a dead man. I paced the rooms and cried aloud when I thought of how I was cut off from her, of all that might happen to her in my absence. My cousin I knew was brave enough for any emergency, but he was not the sort of man to realise danger quickly, to rise promptly. What was needed now was not bravery, but circumspection. My only consolation was to believe that the Martians were moving London-ward and away from her. Such vague anxieties keep the mind sensitive and painful. I grew very weary and irritable with the curate’s perpetual ejaculations; I tired of the sight of his selfish despair. After some ineffectual remonstrance I kept away from him, staying in a room–evidently a children’s schoolroom–containing globes, forms, and copybooks. When he followed me thither, I went to a box room at the top of the house and, in order to be alone with my aching miseries, locked myself in.

We were hopelessly hemmed in by the Black Smoke all that day and the morning of the next. There were signs of people in the next house on Sunday evening–a face at a window and moving lights, and later the slamming of a door. But I do not know who these people were, nor what became of them. We saw nothing of them next day. The Black Smoke drifted slowly riverward all through Monday morning, creeping nearer and nearer to us, driving at last along the roadway outside the house that hid us.

A Martian came across the fields about midday, laying the stuff with a jet of superheated steam that hissed against the walls, smashed all the windows it touched, and scalded the curate’s hand as he fled out of the front room. When at last we crept across the sodden rooms and looked out again, the country northward was as though a black snowstorm had passed over it. Looking towards the river, we were astonished to see an unaccountable redness mingling with the black of the scorched meadows.

For a time we did not see how this change affected our position, save that we were relieved of our fear of the Black Smoke. But later I perceived that we were no longer hemmed in, that now we might get away. So soon as I realised that the way of escape was open, my dream of action returned. But the curate was lethargic, unreasonable.

“We are safe here,” he repeated; “safe here.”

I resolved to leave him–would that I had! Wiser now for the artilleryman’s teaching, I sought out food and drink. I had found oil and rags for my burns, and I also took a hat and a flannel shirt that I found in one of the bedrooms. When it was clear to him that I meant to go alone–had reconciled myself to going alone–he suddenly roused himself to come. And all being quiet throughout the afternoon, we started about five o’clock, as I should judge, along the blackened road to Sunbury.

In Sunbury, and at intervals along the road, were dead bodies lying in contorted attitudes, horses as well as men, overturned carts and luggage, all covered thickly with black dust. That pall of cindery powder made me think of what I had read of the destruction of Pompeii. We got to Hampton Court without misadventure, our minds full of strange and unfamiliar appearances, and at Hampton Court our eyes were relieved to find a patch of green that had escaped the suffocating drift. We went through Bushey Park, with its deer going to and fro under the chestnuts, and some men and women hurrying in the distance towards Hampton, and so we came to Twickenham. These were the first people we saw.

Away across the road the woods beyond Ham and Petersham were still afire. Twickenham was uninjured by either Heat-Ray or Black Smoke, and there were more people about here, though none could give us news. For the most part they were like ourselves, taking advantage of a lull to shift their quarters. I have an impression that many of the houses here were still occupied by scared inhabitants, too frightened even for flight. Here too the evidence of a hasty rout was abundant along the road. I remember most vividly three smashed bicycles in a heap, pounded into the road by the wheels of subsequent carts. We crossed Richmond Bridge about half past eight. We hurried across the exposed bridge, of course, but I noticed floating down the stream a number of red masses, some many feet across. I did not know what these were–there was no time for scrutiny–and I put a more horrible interpretation on them than they deserved. Here again on the Surrey side were black dust that had once been smoke, and dead bodies–a heap near the approach to the station; but we had no glimpse of the Martians until we were some way towards Barnes.

We saw in the blackened distance a group of three people running down a side street towards the river, but otherwise it seemed deserted. Up the hill Richmond town was burning briskly; outside the town of Richmond there was no trace of the Black Smoke.

Then suddenly, as we approached Kew, came a number of people running, and the upperworks of a Martian fighting-machine loomed in sight over the housetops, not a hundred yards away from us. We stood aghast at our danger, and had the Martian looked down we must immediately have perished. We were so terrified that we dared not go on, but turned aside and hid in a shed in a garden. There the curate crouched, weeping silently, and refusing to stir again.

But my fixed idea of reaching Leatherhead would not let me rest, and in the twilight I ventured out again. I went through a shrubbery, and along a passage beside a big house standing in its own grounds, and so emerged upon the road towards Kew. The curate I left in the shed, but he came hurrying after me.

That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did. For it was manifest the Martians were about us. No sooner had the curate overtaken me than we saw either the fighting-machine we had seen before or another, far away across the meadows in the direction of Kew Lodge. Four or five little black figures hurried before it across the green-grey of the field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian pursued them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently he tossed them into the great metallic carrier which projected behind him, much as a workman’s basket hangs over his shoulder.

It was the first time I realised that the Martians might have any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity. We stood for a moment petrified, then turned and fled through a gate behind us into a walled garden, fell into, rather than found, a fortunate ditch, and lay there, scarce daring to whisper to each other until the stars were out.

I suppose it was nearly eleven o’clock before we gathered courage to start again, no longer venturing into the road, but sneaking along hedgerows and through plantations, and watching keenly through the darkness, he on the right and I on the left, for the Martians, who seemed to be all about us. In one place we blundered upon a scorched and blackened area, now cooling and ashen, and a number of scattered dead bodies of men, burned horribly about the heads and trunks but with their legs and boots mostly intact; and of dead horses, fifty feet, perhaps, behind a line of four ripped guns and smashed gun carriages.

Sheen, it seemed, had escaped destruction, but the place was silent and deserted. Here we happened on no dead, though the night was too dark for us to see into the side roads of the place. In Sheen my companion suddenly complained of faintness and thirst, and we decided to try one of the houses.

The first house we entered, after a little difficulty with the window, was a small semi-detached villa, and I found nothing eatable left in the place but some mouldy cheese. There was, however, water to drink; and I took a hatchet, which promised to be useful in our next house-breaking.

We then crossed to a place where the road turns towards Mortlake. Here there stood a white house within a walled garden, and in the pantry of this domicile we found a store of food–two loaves of bread in a pan, an uncooked steak, and the half of a ham. I give this catalogue so precisely because, as it happened, we were destined to subsist upon this store for the next fortnight. Bottled beer stood under a shelf, and there were two bags of haricot beans and some limp lettuces. This pantry opened into a kind of wash-up kitchen, and in this was firewood; there was also a cupboard, in which we found nearly a dozen of burgundy, tinned soups and salmon, and two tins of biscuits.

We sat in the adjacent kitchen in the dark–for we dared not strike a light–and ate bread and ham, and drank beer out of the same bottle. The curate, who was still timorous and restless, was now, oddly enough, for pushing on, and I was urging him to keep up his strength by eating when the thing happened that was to imprison us.

“It can’t be midnight yet,” I said, and then came a blinding glare of vivid green light. Everything in the kitchen leaped out, clearly visible in green and black, and vanished again. And then followed such a concussion as I have never heard before or since. So close on the heels of this as to seem instantaneous came a thud behind me, a clash of glass, a crash and rattle of falling masonry all about us, and the plaster of the ceiling came down upon us, smashing into a multitude of fragments upon our heads. I was knocked headlong across the floor against the oven handle and stunned. I was insensible for a long time, the curate told me, and when I came to we were in darkness again, and he, with a face wet, as I found afterwards, with blood from a cut forehead, was dabbing water over me.

For some time I could not recollect what had happened. Then things came to me slowly. A bruise on my temple asserted itself.

“Are you better?” asked the curate in a whisper.

At last I answered him. I sat up.

“Don’t move,” he said. “The floor is covered with smashed crockery from the dresser. You can’t possibly move without making a noise, and I fancy they are outside.”

We both sat quite silent, so that we could scarcely hear each other breathing. Everything seemed deadly still, but once something near us, some plaster or broken brickwork, slid down with a rumbling sound. Outside and very near was an intermittent, metallic rattle.

“That!” said the curate, when presently it happened again.

“Yes,” I said. “But what is it?”

“A Martian!” said the curate.

I listened again.

“It was not like the Heat-Ray,” I said, and for a time I was inclined to think one of the great fighting-machines had stumbled against the house, as I had seen one stumble against the tower of Shepperton Church.

Our situation was so strange and incomprehensible that for three or four hours, until the dawn came, we scarcely moved. And then the light filtered in, not through the window, which remained black, but through a triangular aperture between a beam and a heap of broken bricks in the wall behind us. The interior of the kitchen we now saw greyly for the first time.

The window had been burst in by a mass of garden mould, which flowed over the table upon which we had been sitting and lay about our feet. Outside, the soil was banked high against the house. At the top of the window frame we could see an uprooted drainpipe. The floor was littered with smashed hardware; the end of the kitchen towards the house was broken into, and since the daylight shone in there, it was evident the greater part of the house had collapsed. Contrasting vividly with this ruin was the neat dresser, stained in the fashion, pale green, and with a number of copper and tin vessels below it, the wallpaper imitating blue and white tiles, and a couple of coloured supplements fluttering from the walls above the kitchen range.

As the dawn grew clearer, we saw through the gap in the wall the body of a Martian, standing sentinel, I suppose, over the still glowing cylinder. At the sight of that we crawled as circumspectly as possible out of the twilight of the kitchen into the darkness of the scullery.

Abruptly the right interpretation dawned upon my mind.

“The fifth cylinder,” I whispered, “the fifth shot from Mars, has struck this house and buried us under the ruins!”

For a time the curate was silent, and then he whispered:

“God have mercy upon us!”

I heard him presently whimpering to himself.

Save for that sound we lay quite still in the scullery; I for my part scarce dared breathe, and sat with my eyes fixed on the faint light of the kitchen door. I could just see the curate’s face, a dim, oval shape, and his collar and cuffs. Outside there began a metallic hammering, then a violent hooting, and then again, after a quiet interval, a hissing like the hissing of an engine. These noises, for the most part problematical, continued intermittently, and seemed if anything to increase in number as time wore on. Presently a measured thudding and a vibration that made everything about us quiver and the vessels in the pantry ring and shift, began and continued. Once the light was eclipsed, and the ghostly kitchen doorway became absolutely dark. For many hours we must have crouched there, silent and shivering, until our tired attention failed. . . .

At last I found myself awake and very hungry. I am inclined to believe we must have spent the greater portion of a day before that awakening. My hunger was at a stride so insistent that it moved me to action. I told the curate I was going to seek food, and felt my way towards the pantry. He made me no answer, but so soon as I began eating the faint noise I made stirred him up and I heard him crawling after me.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

WHAT WE SAW FROM THE RUINED HOUSE

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 daylight, 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 peephole.

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 extracted 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 coordinated 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 presented 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 considerable 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 resemblance 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 observation. 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 rabbit.

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 emotion.

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 invasion, 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 publication, 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 remained 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 accomplishment 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 contagions 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 communicated 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 concerning 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 elaborately complicated operations together without either sound or gesture. Their peculiar hooting invariably preceded feeding; 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 ornament 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 complicated system of sliding parts moving over small but beautifully 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 unpacking 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 unmistakable 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 quivering. It piped and whistled as it worked. So far as I could see, the thing was without a directing Martian at all.

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

THE DAYS OF IMPRISONMENT

The arrival of a second fighting-machine drove us from our peephole into the scullery, for we feared that from his elevation the Martian might see down upon us behind our barrier. At a later date we began to feel less in danger of their eyes, for to an eye in the dazzle of the sunlight outside our refuge must have been blank blackness, but at first the slightest suggestion of approach drove us into the scullery in heart-throbbing retreat. Yet terrible as was the danger we incurred, the attraction of peeping was for both of us irresistible. And I recall now with a sort of wonder that, in spite of the infinite danger in which we were between starvation and a still more terrible death, we could yet struggle bitterly for that horrible privilege of sight. We would race across the kitchen in a grotesque way between eagerness and the dread of making a noise, and strike each other, and thrust and kick, within a few inches of exposure.

The fact is that we had absolutely incompatible dispositions and habits of thought and action, and our danger and isolation only accentuated the incompatibility. At Halliford I had already come to hate the curate’s trick of helpless exclamation, his stupid rigidity of mind. His endless muttering monologue vitiated every effort I made to think out a line of action, and drove me at times, thus pent up and intensified, almost to the verge of craziness. He was as lacking in restraint as a silly woman. He would weep for hours together, and I verily believe that to the very end this spoiled child of life thought his weak tears in some way efficacious. And I would sit in the darkness unable to keep my mind off him by reason of his importunities. He ate more than I did, and it was in vain I pointed out that our only chance of life was to stop in the house until the Martians had done with their pit, that in that long patience a time might presently come when we should need food. He ate and drank impulsively in heavy meals at long intervals. He slept little.

As the days wore on, his utter carelessness of any consideration so intensified our distress and danger that I had, much as I loathed doing it, to resort to threats, and at last to blows. That brought him to reason for a time. But he was one of those weak creatures, void of pride, timorous, anaemic, hateful souls, full of shifty cunning, who face neither God nor man, who face not even themselves.

It is disagreeable for me to recall and write these things, but I set them down that my story may lack nothing. Those who have escaped the dark and terrible aspects of life will find my brutality, my flash of rage in our final tragedy, easy enough to blame; for they know what is wrong as well as any, but not what is possible to tortured men. But those who have been under the shadow, who have gone down at last to elemental things, will have a wider charity.

And while within we fought out our dark, dim contest of whispers, snatched food and drink, and gripping hands and blows, without, in the pitiless sunlight of that terrible June, was the strange wonder, the unfamiliar routine of the Martians in the pit. Let me return to those first new experiences of mine. After a long time I ventured back to the peephole, to find that the new-comers had been reinforced by the occupants of no fewer than three of the fighting-machines. These last had brought with them certain fresh appliances that stood in an orderly manner about the cylinder. The second handling-machine was now completed, and was busied in serving one of the novel contrivances the big machine had brought. This was a body resembling a milk can in its general form, above which oscillated a pear-shaped receptacle, and from which a stream of white powder flowed into a circular basin below.

The oscillatory motion was imparted to this by one tentacle of the handling-machine. With two spatulate hands the handling-machine was digging out and flinging masses of clay into the pear-shaped receptacle above, while with another arm it periodically opened a door and removed rusty and blackened clinkers from the middle part of the machine. Another steely tentacle directed the powder from the basin along a ribbed channel towards some receiver that was hidden from me by the mound of bluish dust. From this unseen receiver a little thread of green smoke rose vertically into the quiet air. As I looked, the handling-machine, with a faint and musical clinking, extended, telescopic fashion, a tentacle that had been a moment before a mere blunt projection, until its end was hidden behind the mound of clay. In another second it had lifted a bar of white aluminium into sight, untarnished as yet, and shining dazzlingly, and deposited it in a growing stack of bars that stood at the side of the pit. Between sunset and starlight this dexterous machine must have made more than a hundred such bars out of the crude clay, and the mound of bluish dust rose steadily until it topped the side of the pit.

The contrast between the swift and complex movements of these contrivances and the inert panting clumsiness of their masters was acute, and for days I had to tell myself repeatedly that these latter were indeed the living of the two things.

The curate had possession of the slit when the first men were brought to the pit. I was sitting below, huddled up, listening with all my ears. He made a sudden movement backward, and I, fearful that we were observed, crouched in a spasm of terror. He came sliding down the rubbish and crept beside me in the darkness, inarticulate, gesticulating, and for a moment I shared his panic. His gesture suggested a resignation of the slit, and after a little while my curiosity gave me courage, and I rose up, stepped across him, and clambered up to it. At first I could see no reason for his frantic behaviour. The twilight had now come, the stars were little and faint, but the pit was illuminated by the flickering green fire that came from the aluminium-making. The whole picture was a flickering scheme of green gleams and shifting rusty black shadows, strangely trying to the eyes. Over and through it all went the bats, heeding it not at all. The sprawling Martians were no longer to be seen, the mound of blue-green powder had risen to cover them from sight, and a fighting-machine, with its legs contracted, crumpled, and abbreviated, stood across the corner of the pit. And then, amid the clangour of the machinery, came a drifting suspicion of human voices, that I entertained at first only to dismiss.

I crouched, watching this fighting-machine closely, satisfying myself now for the first time that the hood did indeed contain a Martian. As the green flames lifted I could see the oily gleam of his integument and the brightness of his eyes. And suddenly I heard a yell, and saw a long tentacle reaching over the shoulder of the machine to the little cage that hunched upon its back. Then something–something struggling violently–was lifted high against the sky, a black, vague enigma against the starlight; and as this black object came down again, I saw by the green brightness that it was a man. For an instant he was clearly visible. He was a stout, ruddy, middle-aged man, well dressed; three days before, he must have been walking the world, a man of considerable consequence. I could see his staring eyes and gleams of light on his studs and watch chain. He vanished behind the mound, and for a moment there was silence. And then began a shrieking and a sustained and cheerful hooting from the Martians.

I slid down the rubbish, struggled to my feet, clapped my hands over my ears, and bolted into the scullery. The curate, who had been crouching silently with his arms over his head, looked up as I passed, cried out quite loudly at my desertion of him, and came running after me.

That night, as we lurked in the scullery, balanced between our horror and the terrible fascination this peeping had, although I felt an urgent need of action I tried in vain to conceive some plan of escape; but afterwards, during the second day, I was able to consider our position with great clearness. The curate, I found, was quite incapable of discussion; this new and culminating atrocity had robbed him of all vestiges of reason or forethought. Practically he had already sunk to the level of an animal. But as the saying goes, I gripped myself with both hands. It grew upon my mind, once I could face the facts, that terrible as our position was, there was as yet no justification for absolute despair. Our chief chance lay in the possibility of the Martians making the pit nothing more than a temporary encampment. Or even if they kept it permanently, they might not consider it necessary to guard it, and a chance of escape might be afforded us. I also weighed very carefully the possibility of our digging a way out in a direction away from the pit, but the chances of our emerging within sight of some sentinel fighting-machine seemed at first too great. And I should have had to do all the digging myself. The curate would certainly have failed me.

It was on the third day, if my memory serves me right, that I saw the lad killed. It was the only occasion on which I actually saw the Martians feed. After that experience I avoided the hole in the wall for the better part of a day. I went into the scullery, removed the door, and spent some hours digging with my hatchet as silently as possible; but when I had made a hole about a couple of feet deep the loose earth collapsed noisily, and I did not dare continue. I lost heart, and lay down on the scullery floor for a long time, having no spirit even to move. And after that I abandoned altogether the idea of escaping by excavation.

It says much for the impression the Martians had made upon me that at first I entertained little or no hope of our escape being brought about by their overthrow through any human effort. But on the fourth or fifth night I heard a sound like heavy guns.

It was very late in the night, and the moon was shining brightly. The Martians had taken away the excavating-machine, and, save for a fighting-machine that stood in the remoter bank of the pit and a handling-machine that was buried out of my sight in a corner of the pit immediately beneath my peephole, the place was deserted by them. Except for the pale glow from the handling-machine and the bars and patches of white moonlight the pit was in darkness, and, except for the clinking of the handling-machine, quite still. That night was a beautiful serenity; save for one planet, the moon seemed to have the sky to herself. I heard a dog howling, and that familiar sound it was that made me listen. Then I heard quite distinctly a booming exactly like the sound of great guns. Six distinct reports I counted, and after a long interval six again. And that was all.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

THE DEATH OF THE CURATE

It was on the sixth day of our imprisonment that I peeped for the last time, and presently found myself alone. Instead of keeping close to me and trying to oust me from the slit, the curate had gone back into the scullery. I was struck by a sudden thought. I went back quickly and quietly into the scullery. In the darkness I heard the curate drinking. I snatched in the darkness, and my fingers caught a bottle of burgundy.

For a few minutes there was a tussle. The bottle struck the floor and broke, and I desisted and rose. We stood panting and threatening each other. In the end I planted myself between him and the food, and told him of my determination to begin a discipline. I divided the food in the pantry, into rations to last us ten days. I would not let him eat any more that day. In the afternoon he made a feeble effort to get at the food. I had been dozing, but in an instant I was awake. All day and all night we sat face to face, I weary but resolute, and he weeping and complaining of his immediate hunger. It was, I know, a night and a day, but to me it seemed–it seems now–an interminable length of time.

And so our widened incompatibility ended at last in open conflict. For two vast days we struggled in undertones and wrestling contests. There were times when I beat and kicked him madly, times when I cajoled and persuaded him, and once I tried to bribe him with the last bottle of burgundy, for there was a rain-water pump from which I could get water. But neither force nor kindness availed; he was indeed beyond reason. He would neither desist from his attacks on the food nor from his noisy babbling to himself. The rudimentary precautions to keep our imprisonment endurable he would not observe. Slowly I began to realise the complete overthrow of his intelligence, to perceive that my sole companion in this close and sickly darkness was a man insane.

From certain vague memories I am inclined to think my own mind wandered at times. I had strange and hideous dreams whenever I slept. It sounds paradoxical, but I am inclined to think that the weakness and insanity of the curate warned me, braced me, and kept me a sane man.

On the eighth day he began to talk aloud instead of whispering, and nothing I could do would moderate his speech.

“It is just, O God!” he would say, over and over again. “It is just. On me and mine be the punishment laid. We have sinned, we have fallen short. There was poverty, sorrow; the poor were trodden in the dust, and I held my peace. I preached acceptable folly–my God, what folly!–when I should have stood up, though I died for it, and called upon them to repent—repent! . . . Oppressors of the poor and needy . . . ! The wine press of God!”

Then he would suddenly revert to the matter of the food I withheld from him, praying, begging, weeping, at last threatening. He began to raise his voice–I prayed him not to. He perceived a hold on me–he threatened he would shout and bring the Martians upon us. For a time that scared me; but any concession would have shortened our chance of escape beyond estimating. I defied him, although I felt no assurance that he might not do this thing. But that day, at any rate, he did not. He talked with his voice rising slowly, through the greater part of the eighth and ninth days–threats, entreaties, mingled with a torrent of half-sane and always frothy repentance for his vacant sham of God’s service, such as made me pity him. Then he slept awhile, and began again with renewed strength, so loudly that I must needs make him desist.

“Be still!” I implored.

He rose to his knees, for he had been sitting in the darkness near the copper.

“I have been still too long,” he said, in a tone that must have reached the pit, “and now I must bear my witness. Woe unto this unfaithful city! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! Woe! To the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet—-“

“Shut up!” I said, rising to my feet, and in a terror lest the Martians should hear us. “For God’s sake—-“

“Nay,” shouted the curate, at the top of his voice, standing likewise and extending his arms. “Speak! The word of the Lord is upon me!”

In three strides he was at the door leading into the kitchen.

“I must bear my witness! I go! It has already been too long delayed.”

I put out my hand and felt the meat chopper hanging to the wall. In a flash I was after him. I was fierce with fear. Before he was halfway across the kitchen I had overtaken him. With one last touch of humanity I turned the blade back and struck him with the butt. He went headlong forward and lay stretched on the ground. I stumbled over him and stood panting. He lay still.

Suddenly I heard a noise without, the run and smash of slipping plaster, and the triangular aperture in the wall was darkened. I looked up and saw the lower surface of a handling-machine coming slowly across the hole. One of its gripping limbs curled amid the debris; another limb appeared, feeling its way over the fallen beams. I stood petrified, staring. Then I saw through a sort of glass plate near the edge of the body the face, as we may call it, and the large dark eyes of a Martian, peering, and then a long metallic snake of tentacle came feeling slowly through the hole.

I turned by an effort, stumbled over the curate, and stopped at the scullery door. The tentacle was now some way, two yards or more, in the room, and twisting and turning, with queer sudden movements, this way and that. For a while I stood fascinated by that slow, fitful advance. Then, with a faint, hoarse cry, I forced myself across the scullery. I trembled violently; I could scarcely stand upright. I opened the door of the coal cellar, and stood there in the darkness staring at the faintly lit doorway into the kitchen, and listening. Had the Martian seen me? What was it doing now?

Something was moving to and fro there, very quietly; every now and then it tapped against the wall, or started on its movements with a faint metallic ringing, like the movements of keys on a split-ring. Then a heavy body–I knew too well what–was dragged across the floor of the kitchen towards the opening. Irresistibly attracted, I crept to the door and peeped into the kitchen. In the triangle of bright outer sunlight I saw the Martian, in its Briareus of a handling-machine, scrutinizing the curate’s head. I thought at once that it would infer my presence from the mark of the blow I had given him.

I crept back to the coal cellar, shut the door, and began to cover myself up as much as I could, and as noiselessly as possible in the darkness, among the firewood and coal therein. Every now and then I paused, rigid, to hear if the Martian had thrust its tentacles through the opening again.

Then the faint metallic jingle returned. I traced it slowly feeling over the kitchen. Presently I heard it nearer–in the scullery, as I judged. I thought that its length might be insufficient to reach me. I prayed copiously. It passed, scraping faintly across the cellar door. An age of almost intolerable suspense intervened; then I heard it fumbling at the latch! It had found the door! The Martians understood doors!

It worried at the catch for a minute, perhaps, and then the door opened.

In the darkness I could just see the thing–like an elephant’s trunk more than anything else–waving towards me and touching and examining the wall, coals, wood and ceiling. It was like a black worm swaying its blind head to and fro.

Once, even, it touched the heel of my boot. I was on the verge of screaming; I bit my hand. For a time the tentacle was silent. I could have fancied it had been withdrawn. Presently, with an abrupt click, it gripped something–I thought it had me!–and seemed to go out of the cellar again. For a minute I was not sure. Apparently it had taken a lump of coal to examine.

I seized the opportunity of slightly shifting my position, which had become cramped, and then listened. I whispered passionate prayers for safety.

Then I heard the slow, deliberate sound creeping towards me again. Slowly, slowly it drew near, scratching against the walls and tapping the furniture.

While I was still doubtful, it rapped smartly against the cellar door and closed it. I heard it go into the pantry, and the biscuit-tins rattled and a bottle smashed, and then came a heavy bump against the cellar door. Then silence that passed into an infinity of suspense.

Had it gone?

At last I decided that it had.

It came into the scullery no more; but I lay all the tenth day in the close darkness, buried among coals and firewood, not daring even to crawl out for the drink for which I craved. It was the eleventh day before I ventured so far from my security.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

THE STILLNESS

My first act before I went into the pantry was to fasten the door between the kitchen and the scullery. But the pantry was empty; every scrap of food had gone. Apparently, the Martian had taken it all on the previous day. At that discovery I despaired for the first time. I took no food, or no drink either, on the eleventh or the twelfth day.

At first my mouth and throat were parched, and my strength ebbed sensibly. I sat about in the darkness of the scullery, in a state of despondent wretchedness. My mind ran on eating. I thought I had become deaf, for the noises of movement I had been accustomed to hear from the pit had ceased absolutely. I did not feel strong enough to crawl noiselessly to the peephole, or I would have gone there.

On the twelfth day my throat was so painful that, taking the chance of alarming the Martians, I attacked the creaking rain-water pump that stood by the sink, and got a couple of glassfuls of blackened and tainted rain water. I was greatly refreshed by this, and emboldened by the fact that no enquiring tentacle followed the noise of my pumping.

During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I thought much of the curate and of the manner of his death.

On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and dozed and thought disjointedly of eating and of vague impossible plans of escape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of horrible phantasms, of the death of the curate, or of sumptuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt a keen pain that urged me to drink again and again. The light that came into the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disordered imagination it seemed the colour of blood.

On the fourteenth day I went into the kitchen, and I was surprised to find that the fronds of the red weed had grown right across the hole in the wall, turning the half-light of the place into a crimson-coloured obscurity.

It was early on the fifteenth day that I heard a curious, familiar sequence of sounds in the kitchen, and, listening, identified it as the snuffing and scratching of a dog. Going into the kitchen, I saw a dog’s nose peering in through a break among the ruddy fronds. This greatly surprised me. At the scent of me he barked shortly.

I thought if I could induce him to come into the place quietly I should be able, perhaps, to kill and eat him; and in any case, it would be advisable to kill him, lest his actions attracted the attention of the Martians.

I crept forward, saying “Good dog!” very softly; but he suddenly withdrew his head and disappeared.

I listened–I was not deaf–but certainly the pit was still. I heard a sound like the flutter of a bird’s wings, and a hoarse croaking, but that was all.

For a long while I lay close to the peephole, but not daring to move aside the red plants that obscured it. Once or twice I heard a faint pitter-patter like the feet of the dog going hither and thither on the sand far below me, and there were more birdlike sounds, but that was all. At length, encouraged by the silence, I looked out.

Except in the corner, where a multitude of crows hopped and fought over the skeletons of the dead the Martians had consumed, there was not a living thing in the pit.

I stared about me, scarcely believing my eyes. All the machinery had gone. Save for the big mound of greyish-blue powder in one corner, certain bars of aluminium in another, the black birds, and the skeletons of the killed, the place was merely an empty circular pit in the sand.

Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and stood upon the mound of rubble. I could see in any direction save behind me, to the north, and neither Martians nor sign of Martians were to be seen. The pit dropped sheerly from my feet, but a little way along the rubbish afforded a practicable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance of escape had come. I began to tremble.

I hesitated for some time, and then, in a gust of desperate resolution, and with a heart that throbbed violently, I scrambled to the top of the mound in which I had been buried so long.

I looked about again. To the northward, too, no Martian was visible.

When I had last seen this part of Sheen in the daylight it had been a straggling street of comfortable white and red houses, interspersed with abundant shady trees. Now I stood on a mound of smashed brickwork, clay, and gravel, over which spread a multitude of red cactus-shaped plants, knee-high, without a solitary terrestrial growth to dispute their footing. The trees near me were dead and brown, but further a network of red thread scaled the still living stems.

The neighbouring houses had all been wrecked, but none had been burned; their walls stood, sometimes to the second story, with smashed windows and shattered doors. The red weed grew tumultuously in their roofless rooms. Below me was the great pit, with the crows struggling for its refuse. A number of other birds hopped about among the ruins. Far away I saw a gaunt cat slink crouchingly along a wall, but traces of men there were none.

The day seemed, by contrast with my recent confinement, dazzlingly bright, the sky a glowing blue. A gentle breeze kept the red weed that covered every scrap of unoccupied ground gently swaying. And oh! the sweetness of the air!

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

THE WORK OF FIFTEEN DAYS

For some time I stood tottering on the mound regardless of my safety. Within that noisome den from which I had emerged I had thought with a narrow intensity only of our immediate security. I had not realised what had been happening to the world, had not anticipated this startling vision of unfamiliar things. I had expected to see Sheen in ruins–I found about me the landscape, weird and lurid, of another planet.

For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel. With us it would be as with them, to lurk and watch, to run and hide; the fear and empire of man had passed away.

But so soon as this strangeness had been realised it passed, and my dominant motive became the hunger of my long and dismal fast. In the direction away from the pit I saw, beyond a red-covered wall, a patch of garden ground unburied. This gave me a hint, and I went knee-deep, and sometimes neck-deep, in the red weed. The density of the weed gave me a reassuring sense of hiding. The wall was some six feet high, and when I attempted to clamber it I found I could not lift my feet to the crest. So I went along by the side of it, and came to a corner and a rockwork that enabled me to get to the top, and tumble into the garden I coveted. Here I found some young onions, a couple of gladiolus bulbs, and a quantity of immature carrots, all of which I secured, and, scrambling over a ruined wall, went on my way through scarlet and crimson trees towards Kew–it was like walking through an avenue of gigantic blood drops–possessed with two ideas: to get more food, and to limp, as soon and as far as my strength permitted, out of this accursed unearthly region of the pit.

Some way farther, in a grassy place, was a group of mushrooms which also I devoured, and then I came upon a brown sheet of flowing shallow water, where meadows used to be. These fragments of nourishment served only to whet my hunger. At first I was surprised at this flood in a hot, dry summer, but afterwards I discovered that it was caused by the tropical exuberance of the red weed. Directly this extraordinary growth encountered water it straightway became gigantic and of unparalleled fecundity. Its seeds were simply poured down into the water of the Wey and Thames, and its swiftly growing and Titanic water fronds speedily choked both those rivers.

At Putney, as I afterwards saw, the bridge was almost lost in a tangle of this weed, and at Richmond, too, the Thames water poured in a broad and shallow stream across the meadows of Hampton and Twickenham. As the water spread the weed followed them, until the ruined villas of the Thames valley were for a time lost in this red swamp, whose margin I explored, and much of the desolation the Martians had caused was concealed.

In the end the red weed succumbed almost as quickly as it had spread. A cankering disease, due, it is believed, to the action of certain bacteria, presently seized upon it. Now by the action of natural selection, all terrestrial plants have acquired a resisting power against bacterial diseases–they never succumb without a severe struggle, but the red weed rotted like a thing already dead. The fronds became bleached, and then shrivelled and brittle. They broke off at the least touch, and the waters that had stimulated their early growth carried their last vestiges out to sea.

My first act on coming to this water was, of course, to slake my thirst. I drank a great deal of it and, moved by an impulse, gnawed some fronds of red weed; but they were watery, and had a sickly, metallic taste. I found the water was sufficiently shallow for me to wade securely, although the red weed impeded my feet a little; but the flood evidently got deeper towards the river, and I turned back to Mortlake. I managed to make out the road by means of occasional ruins of its villas and fences and lamps, and so presently I got out of this spate and made my way to the hill going up towards Roehampton and came out on Putney Common.

Here the scenery changed from the strange and unfamiliar to the wreckage of the familiar: patches of ground exhibited the devastation of a cyclone, and in a few score yards I would come upon perfectly undisturbed spaces, houses with their blinds trimly drawn and doors closed, as if they had been left for a day by the owners, or as if their inhabitants slept within. The red weed was less abundant; the tall trees along the lane were free from the red creeper. I hunted for food among the trees, finding nothing, and I also raided a couple of silent houses, but they had already been broken into and ransacked. I rested for the remainder of the daylight in a shrubbery, being, in my enfeebled condition, too fatigued to push on.

All this time I saw no human beings, and no signs of the Martians. I encountered a couple of hungry-looking dogs, but both hurried circuitously away from the advances I made them. Near Roehampton I had seen two human skeletons–not bodies, but skeletons, picked clean–and in the wood by me I found the crushed and scattered bones of several cats and rabbits and the skull of a sheep. But though I gnawed parts of these in my mouth, there was nothing to be got from them.

After sunset I struggled on along the road towards Putney, where I think the Heat-Ray must have been used for some reason. And in the garden beyond Roehampton I got a quantity of immature potatoes, sufficient to stay my hunger. From this garden one looked down upon Putney and the river. The aspect of the place in the dusk was singularly desolate: blackened trees, blackened, desolate ruins, and down the hill the sheets of the flooded river, red-tinged with the weed. And over all–silence. It filled me with indescribable terror to think how swiftly that desolating change had come.

For a time I believed that mankind had been swept out of existence, and that I stood there alone, the last man left alive. Hard by the top of Putney Hill I came upon another skeleton, with the arms dislocated and removed several yards from the rest of the body. As I proceeded I became more and more convinced that the extermination of mankind was, save for such stragglers as myself, already accomplished in this part of the world. The Martians, I thought, had gone on and left the country desolated, seeking food elsewhere. Perhaps even now they were destroying Berlin or Paris, or it might be they had gone northward.

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

THE MAN ON PUTNEY HILL

I spent that night in the inn that stands at the top of Putney Hill, sleeping in a made bed for the first time since my flight to Leatherhead. I will not tell the needless trouble I had breaking into that house–afterwards I found the front door was on the latch–nor how I ransacked every room for food, until just on the verge of despair, in what seemed to me to be a servant’s bedroom, I found a rat-gnawed crust and two tins of pineapple. The place had been already searched and emptied. In the bar I afterwards found some biscuits and sandwiches that had been overlooked. The latter I could not eat, they were too rotten, but the former not only stayed my hunger, but filled my pockets. I lit no lamps, fearing some Martian might come beating that part of London for food in the night. Before I went to bed I had an interval of restlessness, and prowled from window to window, peering out for some sign of these monsters. I slept little. As I lay in bed I found myself thinking consecutively–a thing I do not remember to have done since my last argument with the curate. During all the intervening time my mental condition had been a hurrying succession of vague emotional states or a sort of stupid receptivity. But in the night my brain, reinforced, I suppose, by the food I had eaten, grew clear again, and I thought.

Three things struggled for possession of my mind: the killing of the curate, the whereabouts of the Martians, and the possible fate of my wife. The former gave me no sensation of horror or remorse to recall; I saw it simply as a thing done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the quality of remorse. I saw myself then as I see myself now, driven step by step towards that hasty blow, the creature of a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that. I felt no condemnation; yet the memory, static, unprogressive, haunted me. In the silence of the night, with that sense of the nearness of God that sometimes comes into the stillness and the darkness, I stood my trial, my only trial, for that moment of wrath and fear. I retraced every step of our conversation from the moment when I had found him crouching beside me, heedless of my thirst, and pointing to the fire and smoke that streamed up from the ruins of Weybridge. We had been incapable of co-operation–grim chance had taken no heed of that. Had I foreseen, I should have left him at Halliford. But I did not foresee; and crime is to foresee and do. And I set this down as I have set all this story down, as it was. There were no witnesses–all these things I might have concealed. But I set it down, and the reader must form his judgment as he will.

And when, by an effort, I had set aside that picture of a prostrate body, I faced the problem of the Martians and the fate of my wife. For the former I had no data; I could imagine a hundred things, and so, unhappily, I could for the latter. And suddenly that night became terrible. I found myself sitting up in bed, staring at the dark. I found myself praying that the Heat-Ray might have suddenly and painlessly struck her out of being. Since the night of my return from Leatherhead I had not prayed. I had uttered prayers, fetish prayers, had prayed as heathens mutter charms when I was in extremity; but now I prayed indeed, pleading steadfastly and sanely, face to face with the darkness of God. Strange night! Strangest in this, that so soon as dawn had come, I, who had talked with God, crept out of the house like a rat leaving its hiding place–a creature scarcely larger, an inferior animal, a thing that for any passing whim of our masters might be hunted and killed. Perhaps they also prayed confidently to God. Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us pity–pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.

The morning was bright and fine, and the eastern sky glowed pink, and was fretted with little golden clouds. In the road that runs from the top of Putney Hill to Wimbledon was a number of poor vestiges of the panic torrent that must have poured Londonward on the Sunday night after the fighting began. There was a little two-wheeled cart inscribed with the name of Thomas Lobb, Greengrocer, New Malden, with a smashed wheel and an abandoned tin trunk; there was a straw hat trampled into the now hardened mud, and at the top of West Hill a lot of blood-stained glass about the overturned water trough. My movements were languid, my plans of the vaguest. I had an idea of going to Leatherhead, though I knew that there I had the poorest chance of finding my wife. Certainly, unless death had overtaken them suddenly, my cousins and she would have fled thence; but it seemed to me I might find or learn there whither the Surrey people had fled. I knew I wanted to find my wife, that my heart ached for her and the world of men, but I had no clear idea how the finding might be done. I was also sharply aware now of my intense loneliness. From the corner I went, under cover of a thicket of trees and bushes, to the edge of Wimbledon Common, stretching wide and far.

That dark expanse was lit in patches by yellow gorse and broom; there was no red weed to be seen, and as I prowled, hesitating, on the verge of the open, the sun rose, flooding it all with light and vitality. I came upon a busy swarm of little frogs in a swampy place among the trees. I stopped to look at them, drawing a lesson from their stout resolve to live. And presently, turning suddenly, with an odd feeling of being watched, I beheld something crouching amid a clump of bushes. I stood regarding this. I made a step towards it, and it rose up and became a man armed with a cutlass. I approached him slowly. He stood silent and motionless, regarding me.

As I drew nearer I perceived he was dressed in clothes as dusty and filthy as my own; he looked, indeed, as though he had been dragged through a culvert. Nearer, I distinguished the green slime of ditches mixing with the pale drab of dried clay and shiny, coaly patches. His black hair fell over his eyes, and his face was dark and dirty and sunken, so that at first I did not recognise him. There was a red cut across the lower part of his face.

“Stop!” he cried, when I was within ten yards of him, and I stopped. His voice was hoarse. “Where do you come from?” he said.

I thought, surveying him.

“I come from Mortlake,” I said. “I was buried near the pit the Martians made about their cylinder. I have worked my way out and escaped.”

“There is no food about here,” he said. “This is my country. All this hill down to the river, and back to Clapham, and up to the edge of the common. There is only food for one. Which way are you going?”

I answered slowly.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have been buried in the ruins of a house thirteen or fourteen days. I don’t know what has happened.”

He looked at me doubtfully, then started, and looked with a changed expression.

“I’ve no wish to stop about here,” said I. “I think I shall go to Leatherhead, for my wife was there.”

He shot out a pointing finger.

“It is you,” said he; “the man from Woking. And you weren’t killed at Weybridge?”

I recognised him at the same moment.

“You are the artilleryman who came into my garden.”

“Good luck!” he said. “We are lucky ones! Fancy you!” He put out a hand, and I took it. “I crawled up a drain,” he said. “But they didn’t kill everyone. And after they went away I got off towards Walton across the fields. But—- It’s not sixteen days altogether–and your hair is grey.” He looked over his shoulder suddenly. “Only a rook,” he said. “One gets to know that birds have shadows these days. This is a bit open. Let us crawl under those bushes and talk.”

“Have you seen any Martians?” I said. “Since I crawled out—-“

“They’ve gone away across London,” he said. “I guess they’ve got a bigger camp there. Of a night, all over there, Hampstead way, the sky is alive with their lights. It’s like a great city, and in the glare you can just see them moving. By daylight you can’t. But nearer–I haven’t seen them–” (he counted on his fingers) “five days. Then I saw a couple across Hammersmith way carrying something big. And the night before last”–he stopped and spoke impressively–“it was just a matter of lights, but it was something up in the air. I believe they’ve built a flying-machine, and are learning to fly.”

I stopped, on hands and knees, for we had come to the bushes.

“Fly!”

“Yes,” he said, “fly.”

I went on into a little bower, and sat down.

“It is all over with humanity,” I said. “If they can do that they will simply go round the world.”

He nodded.

“They will. But—- It will relieve things over here a bit. And besides—-” He looked at me. “Aren’t you satisfied it is up with humanity? I am. We’re down; we’re beat.”

I stared. Strange as it may seem, I had not arrived at this fact–a fact perfectly obvious so soon as he spoke. I had still held a vague hope; rather, I had kept a lifelong habit of mind. He repeated his words, “We’re beat.” They carried absolute conviction.

“It’s all over,” he said. “They’ve lost one–just one. And they’ve made their footing good and crippled the greatest power in the world. They’ve walked over us. The death of that one at Weybridge was an accident. And these are only pioneers. They kept on coming. These green stars–I’ve seen none these five or six days, but I’ve no doubt they’re falling somewhere every night. Nothing’s to be done. We’re under! We’re beat!”

I made him no answer. I sat staring before me, trying in vain to devise some countervailing thought.

“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”

Suddenly I recalled the night in the observatory.

“After the tenth shot they fired no more–at least, until the first cylinder came.”

“How do you know?” said the artilleryman. I explained. He thought. “Something wrong with the gun,” he said. “But what if there is? They’ll get it right again. And even if there’s a delay, how can it alter the end? It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now–just ants. Only—-“

“Yes,” I said.

“We’re eatable ants.”

We sat looking at each other.

“And what will they do with us?” I said.

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” he said; “that’s what I’ve been thinking. After Weybridge I went south–thinking. I saw what was up. Most of the people were hard at it squealing and exciting themselves. But I’m not so fond of squealing. I’ve been in sight of death once or twice; I’m not an ornamental soldier, and at the best and worst, death–it’s just death. And it’s the man that keeps on thinking comes through. I saw everyone tracking away south. Says I, ‘Food won’t last this way,’ and I turned right back. I went for the Martians like a sparrow goes for man. All round”–he waved a hand to the horizon–“they’re starving in heaps, bolting, treading on each other. . . .”

He saw my face, and halted awkwardly.

“No doubt lots who had money have gone away to France,” he said. He seemed to hesitate whether to apologise, met my eyes, and went on: “There’s food all about here. Canned things in shops; wines, spirits, mineral waters; and the water mains and drains are empty. Well, I was telling you what I was thinking. ‘Here’s intelligent things,’ I said, ‘and it seems they want us for food. First, they’ll smash us up–ships, machines, guns, cities, all the order and organisation. All that will go. If we were the size of ants we might pull through. But we’re not. It’s all too bulky to stop. That’s the first certainty.’ Eh?”

I assented.

“It is; I’ve thought it out. Very well, then–next; at present we’re caught as we’re wanted. A Martian has only to go a few miles to get a crowd on the run. And I saw one, one day, out by Wandsworth, picking houses to pieces and routing among the wreckage. But they won’t keep on doing that. So soon as they’ve settled all our guns and ships, and smashed our railways, and done all the things they are doing over there, they will begin catching us systematic, picking the best and storing us in cages and things. That’s what they will start doing in a bit. Lord! They haven’t begun on us yet. Don’t you see that?”

“Not begun!” I exclaimed.

“Not begun. All that’s happened so far is through our not having the sense to keep quiet–worrying them with guns and such foolery. And losing our heads, and rushing off in crowds to where there wasn’t any more safety than where we were. They don’t want to bother us yet. They’re making their things–making all the things they couldn’t bring with them, getting things ready for the rest of their people. Very likely that’s why the cylinders have stopped for a bit, for fear of hitting those who are here. And instead of our rushing about blind, on the howl, or getting dynamite on the chance of busting them up, we’ve got to fix ourselves up according to the new state of affairs. That’s how I figure it out. It isn’t quite according to what a man wants for his species, but it’s about what the facts point to. And that’s the principle I acted upon. Cities, nations, civilisation, progress–it’s all over. That game’s up. We’re beat.”

“But if that is so, what is there to live for?”

The artilleryman looked at me for a moment.

“There won’t be any more blessed concerts for a million years or so; there won’t be any Royal Academy of Arts, and no nice little feeds at restaurants. If it’s amusement you’re after, I reckon the game is up. If you’ve got any drawing-room manners or a dislike to eating peas with a knife or dropping aitches, you’d better chuck ’em away. They ain’t no further use.”

“You mean—-“

“I mean that men like me are going on living–for the sake of the breed. I tell you, I’m grim set on living. And if I’m not mistaken, you’ll show what insides you’ve got, too, before long. We aren’t going to be exterminated. And I don’t mean to be caught either, and tamed and fattened and bred like a thundering ox. Ugh! Fancy those brown creepers!”

“You don’t mean to say—-“

“I do. I’m going on, under their feet. I’ve got it planned; I’ve thought it out. We men are beat. We don’t know enough. We’ve got to learn before we’ve got a chance. And we’ve got to live and keep independent while we learn. See! That’s what has to be done.”

I stared, astonished, and stirred profoundly by the man’s resolution.

“Great God!” cried I. “But you are a man indeed!” And suddenly I gripped his hand.

“Eh!” he said, with his eyes shining. “I’ve thought it out, eh?”

“Go on,” I said.

“Well, those who mean to escape their catching must get ready. I’m getting ready. Mind you, it isn’t all of us that are made for wild beasts; and that’s what it’s got to be. That’s why I watched you. I had my doubts. You’re slender. I didn’t know that it was you, you see, or just how you’d been buried. All these–the sort of people that lived in these houses, and all those damn little clerks that used to live down that way–they’d be no good. They haven’t any spirit in them–no proud dreams and no proud lusts; and a man who hasn’t one or the other–Lord! What is he but funk and precautions? They just used to skedaddle off to work–I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; working at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back streets, and sleeping with the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays–fear of the hereafter. As if hell was built for rabbits! Well, the Martians will just be a godsend to these. Nice roomy cages, fattening food, careful breeding, no worry. After a week or so chasing about the fields and lands on empty stomachs, they’ll come and be caught cheerful. They’ll be quite glad after a bit. They’ll wonder what people did before there were Martians to take care of them. And the bar loafers, and mashers, and singers–I can imagine them. I can imagine them,” he said, with a sort of sombre gratification. “There’ll be any amount of sentiment and religion loose among them. There’s hundreds of things I saw with my eyes that I’ve only begun to see clearly these last few days. There’s lots will take things as they are–fat and stupid; and lots will be worried by a sort of feeling that it’s all wrong, and that they ought to be doing something. Now whenever things are so that a lot of people feel they ought to be doing something, the weak, and those who go weak with a lot of complicated thinking, always make for a sort of do-nothing religion, very pious and superior, and submit to persecution and the will of the Lord. Very likely you’ve seen the same thing. It’s energy in a gale of funk, and turned clean inside out. These cages will be full of psalms and hymns and piety. And those of a less simple sort will work in a bit of–what is it?–eroticism.”

He paused.

“Very likely these Martians will make pets of some of them; train them to do tricks–who knows?–get sentimental over the pet boy who grew up and had to be killed. And some, maybe, they will train to hunt us.”

“No,” I cried, “that’s impossible! No human being—-“

“What’s the good of going on with such lies?” said the artilleryman. “There’s men who’d do it cheerful. What nonsense to pretend there isn’t!”

And I succumbed to his conviction.

“If they come after me,” he said; “Lord, if they come after me!” and subsided into a grim meditation.

I sat contemplating these things. I could find nothing to bring against this man’s reasoning. In the days before the invasion no one would have questioned my intellectual superiority to his–I, a professed and recognised writer on philosophical themes, and he, a common soldier; and yet he had already formulated a situation that I had scarcely realised.

“What are you doing?” I said presently. “What plans have you made?”

He hesitated.

“Well, it’s like this,” he said. “What have we to do? We have to invent a sort of life where men can live and breed, and be sufficiently secure to bring the children up. Yes–wait a bit, and I’ll make it clearer what I think ought to be done. The tame ones will go like all tame beasts; in a few generations they’ll be big, beautiful, rich-blooded, stupid–rubbish! The risk is that we who keep wild will go savage–degenerate into a sort of big, savage rat. . . . You see, how I mean to live is underground. I’ve been thinking about the drains. Of course those who don’t know drains think horrible things; but under this London are miles and miles–hundreds of miles–and a few days rain and London empty will leave them sweet and clean. The main drains are big enough and airy enough for anyone. Then there’s cellars, vaults, stores, from which bolting passages may be made to the drains. And the railway tunnels and subways. Eh? You begin to see? And we form a band–able-bodied, clean-minded men. We’re not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings go out again.”

“As you meant me to go?”

“Well–I parleyed, didn’t I?”

“We won’t quarrel about that. Go on.”

“Those who stop obey orders. Able-bodied, clean-minded women we want also–mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical ladies–no blasted rolling eyes. We can’t have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It’s a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race. And they can’t be happy. Moreover, dying’s none so dreadful; it’s the funking makes it bad. And in all those places we shall gather. Our district will be London. And we may even be able to keep a watch, and run about in the open when the Martians keep away. Play cricket, perhaps. That’s how we shall save the race. Eh? It’s a possible thing? But saving the race is nothing in itself. As I say, that’s only being rats. It’s saving our knowledge and adding to it is the thing. There men like you come in. There’s books, there’s models. We must make great safe places down deep, and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry swipes, but ideas, science books. That’s where men like you come in. We must go to the British Museum and pick all those books through. Especially we must keep up our science–learn more. We must watch these Martians. Some of us must go as spies. When it’s all working, perhaps I will. Get caught, I mean. And the great thing is, we must leave the Martians alone. We mustn’t even steal. If we get in their way, we clear out. We must show them we mean no harm. Yes, I know. But they’re intelligent things, and they won’t hunt us down if they have all they want, and think we’re just harmless vermin.”

The artilleryman paused and laid a brown hand upon my arm.

“After all, it may not be so much we may have to learn before–Just imagine this: four or five of their fighting machines suddenly starting off–Heat-Rays right and left, and not a Martian in ’em. Not a Martian in ’em, but men–men who have learned the way how. It may be in my time, even–those men. Fancy having one of them lovely things, with its Heat-Ray wide and free! Fancy having it in control! What would it matter if you smashed to smithereens at the end of the run, after a bust like that? I reckon the Martians’ll open their beautiful eyes! Can’t you see them, man? Can’t you see them hurrying, hurrying–puffing and blowing and hooting to their other mechanical affairs? Something out of gear in every case. And swish, bang, rattle, swish! Just as they are fumbling over it, swish comes the Heat-Ray, and, behold! man has come back to his own.”

For a while the imaginative daring of the artilleryman, and the tone of assurance and courage he assumed, completely dominated my mind. I believed unhesitatingly both in his forecast of human destiny and in the practicability of his astonishing scheme, and the reader who thinks me susceptible and foolish must contrast his position, reading steadily with all his thoughts about his subject, and mine, crouching fearfully in the bushes and listening, distracted by apprehension. We talked in this manner through the early morning time, and later crept out of the bushes, and, after scanning the sky for Martians, hurried precipitately to the house on Putney Hill where he had made his lair. It was the coal cellar of the place, and when I saw the work he had spent a week upon–it was a burrow scarcely ten yards long, which he designed to reach to the main drain on Putney Hill–I had my first inkling of the gulf between his dreams and his powers. Such a hole I could have dug in a day. But I believed in him sufficiently to work with him all that morning until past midday at his digging. We had a garden barrow and shot the earth we removed against the kitchen range. We refreshed ourselves with a tin of mock-turtle soup and wine from the neighbouring pantry. I found a curious relief from the aching strangeness of the world in this steady labour. As we worked, I turned his project over in my mind, and presently objections and doubts began to arise; but I worked there all the morning, so glad was I to find myself with a purpose again. After working an hour I began to speculate on the distance one had to go before the cloaca was reached, the chances we had of missing it altogether. My immediate trouble was why we should dig this long tunnel, when it was possible to get into the drain at once down one of the manholes, and work back to the house. It seemed to me, too, that the house was inconveniently chosen, and required a needless length of tunnel. And just as I was beginning to face these things, the artilleryman stopped digging, and looked at me.

“We’re working well,” he said. He put down his spade. “Let us knock off a bit” he said. “I think it’s time we reconnoitred from the roof of the house.”

I was for going on, and after a little hesitation he resumed his spade; and then suddenly I was struck by a thought. I stopped, and so did he at once.

“Why were you walking about the common,” I said, “instead of being here?”

“Taking the air,” he said. “I was coming back. It’s safer by night.”

“But the work?”

“Oh, one can’t always work,” he said, and in a flash I saw the man plain. He hesitated, holding his spade. “We ought to reconnoitre now,” he said, “because if any come near they may hear the spades and drop upon us unawares.”

I was no longer disposed to object. We went together to the roof and stood on a ladder peeping out of the roof door. No Martians were to be seen, and we ventured out on the tiles, and slipped down under shelter of the parapet.

From this position a shrubbery hid the greater portion of Putney, but we could see the river below, a bubbly mass of red weed, and the low parts of Lambeth flooded and red. The red creeper swarmed up the trees about the old palace, and their branches stretched gaunt and dead, and set with shrivelled leaves, from amid its clusters. It was strange how entirely dependent both these things were upon flowing water for their propagation. About us neither had gained a footing; laburnums, pink mays, snowballs, and trees of arbor-vitae, rose out of laurels and hydrangeas, green and brilliant into the sunlight. Beyond Kensington dense smoke was rising, and that and a blue haze hid the northward hills.

The artilleryman began to tell me of the sort of people who still remained in London.

“One night last week,” he said, “some fools got the electric light in order, and there was all Regent Street and the Circus ablaze, crowded with painted and ragged drunkards, men and women, dancing and shouting till dawn. A man who was there told me. And as the day came they became aware of a fighting-machine standing near by the Langham and looking down at them. Heaven knows how long he had been there. It must have given some of them a nasty turn. He came down the road towards them, and picked up nearly a hundred too drunk or frightened to run away.”

Grotesque gleam of a time no history will ever fully describe!

From that, in answer to my questions, he came round to his grandiose plans again. He grew enthusiastic. He talked so eloquently of the possibility of capturing a fighting-machine that I more than half believed in him again. But now that I was beginning to understand something of his quality, I could divine the stress he laid on doing nothing precipitately. And I noted that now there was no question that he personally was to capture and fight the great machine.

After a time we went down to the cellar. Neither of us seemed disposed to resume digging, and when he suggested a meal, I was nothing loath. He became suddenly very generous, and when we had eaten he went away and returned with some excellent cigars. We lit these, and his optimism glowed. He was inclined to regard my coming as a great occasion.

“There’s some champagne in the cellar,” he said.

“We can dig better on this Thames-side burgundy,” said I.

“No,” said he; “I am host today. Champagne! Great God! We’ve a heavy enough task before us! Let us take a rest and gather strength while we may. Look at these blistered hands!”

And pursuant to this idea of a holiday, he insisted upon playing cards after we had eaten. He taught me euchre, and after dividing London between us, I taking the northern side and he the southern, we played for parish points. Grotesque and foolish as this will seem to the sober reader, it is absolutely true, and what is more remarkable, I found the card game and several others we played extremely interesting.

Strange mind of man! that, with our species upon the edge of extermination or appalling degradation, with no clear prospect before us but the chance of a horrible death, we could sit following the chance of this painted pasteboard, and playing the “joker” with vivid delight. Afterwards he taught me poker, and I beat him at three tough chess games. When dark came we decided to take the risk, and lit a lamp.

After an interminable string of games, we supped, and the artilleryman finished the champagne. We went on smoking the cigars. He was no longer the energetic regenerator of his species I had encountered in the morning. He was still optimistic, but it was a less kinetic, a more thoughtful optimism. I remember he wound up with my health, proposed in a speech of small variety and considerable intermittence. I took a cigar, and went upstairs to look at the lights of which he had spoken that blazed so greenly along the Highgate hills.

At first I stared unintelligently across the London valley. The northern hills were shrouded in darkness; the fires near Kensington glowed redly, and now and then an orange-red tongue of flame flashed up and vanished in the deep blue night. All the rest of London was black. Then, nearer, I perceived a strange light, a pale, violet-purple fluorescent glow, quivering under the night breeze. For a space I could not understand it, and then I knew that it must be the red weed from which this faint irradiation proceeded. With that realisation my dormant sense of wonder, my sense of the proportion of things, awoke again. I glanced from that to Mars, red and clear, glowing high in the west, and then gazed long and earnestly at the darkness of Hampstead and Highgate.

I remained a very long time upon the roof, wondering at the grotesque changes of the day. I recalled my mental states from the midnight prayer to the foolish card-playing. I had a violent revulsion of feeling. I remember I flung away the cigar with a certain wasteful symbolism. My folly came to me with glaring exaggeration. I seemed a traitor to my wife and to my kind; I was filled with remorse. I resolved to leave this strange undisciplined dreamer of great things to his drink and gluttony, and to go on into London. There, it seemed to me, I had the best chance of learning what the Martians and my fellowmen were doing. I was still upon the roof when the late moon rose.

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

DEAD LONDON

After I had parted from the artilleryman, I went down the hill, and by the High Street across the bridge to Fulham. The red weed was tumultuous at that time, and nearly choked the bridge roadway; but its fronds were already whitened in patches by the spreading disease that presently removed it so swiftly.

At the corner of the lane that runs to Putney Bridge station I found a man lying. He was as black as a sweep with the black dust, alive, but helplessly and speechlessly drunk. I could get nothing from him but curses and furious lunges at my head. I think I should have stayed by him but for the brutal expression of his face.

There was black dust along the roadway from the bridge onwards, and it grew thicker in Fulham. The streets were horribly quiet. I got food–sour, hard, and mouldy, but quite eatable–in a baker’s shop here. Some way towards Walham Green the streets became clear of powder, and I passed a white terrace of houses on fire; the noise of the burning was an absolute relief. Going on towards Brompton, the streets were quiet again.

Here I came once more upon the black powder in the streets and upon dead bodies. I saw altogether about a dozen in the length of the Fulham Road. They had been dead many days, so that I hurried quickly past them. The black powder covered them over, and softened their outlines. One or two had been disturbed by dogs.

Where there was no black powder, it was curiously like a Sunday in the City, with the closed shops, the houses locked up and the blinds drawn, the desertion, and the stillness. In some places plunderers had been at work, but rarely at other than the provision and wine shops. A jeweller’s window had been broken open in one place, but apparently the thief had been disturbed, and a number of gold chains and a watch lay scattered on the pavement. I did not trouble to touch them. Farther on was a tattered woman in a heap on a doorstep; the hand that hung over her knee was gashed and bled down her rusty brown dress, and a smashed magnum of champagne formed a pool across the pavement. She seemed asleep, but she was dead.

The farther I penetrated into London, the profounder grew the stillness. But it was not so much the stillness of death–it was the stillness of suspense, of expectation. At any time the destruction that had already singed the northwestern borders of the metropolis, and had annihilated Ealing and Kilburn, might strike among these houses and leave them smoking ruins. It was a city condemned and derelict. . . .

In South Kensington the streets were clear of dead and of black powder. It was near South Kensington that I first heard the howling. It crept almost imperceptibly upon my senses. It was a sobbing alternation of two notes, “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” keeping on perpetually. When I passed streets that ran northward it grew in volume, and houses and buildings seemed to deaden and cut it off again. It came in a full tide down Exhibition Road. I stopped, staring towards Kensington Gardens, wondering at this strange, remote wailing. It was as if that mighty desert of houses had found a voice for its fear and solitude.

“Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” wailed that superhuman note–great waves of sound sweeping down the broad, sunlit roadway, between the tall buildings on each side. I turned northwards, marvelling, towards the iron gates of Hyde Park. I had half a mind to break into the Natural History Museum and find my way up to the summits of the towers, in order to see across the park. But I decided to keep to the ground, where quick hiding was possible, and so went on up the Exhibition Road. All the large mansions on each side of the road were empty and still, and my footsteps echoed against the sides of the houses. At the top, near the park gate, I came upon a strange sight–a bus overturned, and the skeleton of a horse picked clean. I puzzled over this for a time, and then went on to the bridge over the Serpentine. The voice grew stronger and stronger, though I could see nothing above the housetops on the north side of the park, save a haze of smoke to the northwest.

“Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” cried the voice, coming, as it seemed to me, from the district about Regent’s Park. The desolating cry worked upon my mind. The mood that had sustained me passed. The wailing took possession of me. I found I was intensely weary, footsore, and now again hungry and thirsty.

It was already past noon. Why was I wandering alone in this city of the dead? Why was I alone when all London was lying in state, and in its black shroud? I felt intolerably lonely. My mind ran on old friends that I had forgotten for years. I thought of the poisons in the chemists’ shops, of the liquors the wine merchants stored; I recalled the two sodden creatures of despair, who so far as I knew, shared the city with myself. . . .

I came into Oxford Street by the Marble Arch, and here again were black powder and several bodies, and an evil, ominous smell from the gratings of the cellars of some of the houses. I grew very thirsty after the heat of my long walk. With infinite trouble I managed to break into a public-house and get food and drink. I was weary after eating, and went into the parlour behind the bar, and slept on a black horsehair sofa I found there.

I awoke to find that dismal howling still in my ears, “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla.” It was now dusk, and after I had routed out some biscuits and a cheese in the bar–there was a meat safe, but it contained nothing but maggots–I wandered on through the silent residential squares to Baker Street–Portman Square is the only one I can name–and so came out at last upon Regent’s Park. And as I emerged from the top of Baker Street, I saw far away over the trees in the clearness of the sunset the hood of the Martian giant from which this howling proceeded. I was not terrified. I came upon him as if it were a matter of course. I watched him for some time, but he did not move. He appeared to be standing and yelling, for no reason that I could discover.

I tried to formulate a plan of action. That perpetual sound of “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” confused my mind. Perhaps I was too tired to be very fearful. Certainly I was more curious to know the reason of this monotonous crying than afraid. I turned back away from the park and struck into Park Road, intending to skirt the park, went along under the shelter of the terraces, and got a view of this stationary, howling Martian from the direction of St. John’s Wood. A couple of hundred yards out of Baker Street I heard a yelping chorus, and saw, first a dog with a piece of putrescent red meat in his jaws coming headlong towards me, and then a pack of starving mongrels in pursuit of him. He made a wide curve to avoid me, as though he feared I might prove a fresh competitor. As the yelping died away down the silent road, the wailing sound of “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” reasserted itself.

I came upon the wrecked handling-machine halfway to St. John’s Wood station. At first I thought a house had fallen across the road. It was only as I clambered among the ruins that I saw, with a start, this mechanical Samson lying, with its tentacles bent and smashed and twisted, among the ruins it had made. The forepart was shattered. It seemed as if it had driven blindly straight at the house, and had been overwhelmed in its overthrow. It seemed to me then that this might have happened by a handling-machine escaping from the guidance of its Martian. I could not clamber among the ruins to see it, and the twilight was now so far advanced that the blood with which its seat was smeared, and the gnawed gristle of the Martian that the dogs had left, were invisible to me.

Wondering still more at all that I had seen, I pushed on towards Primrose Hill. Far away, through a gap in the trees, I saw a second Martian, as motionless as the first, standing in the park towards the Zoological Gardens, and silent. A little beyond the ruins about the smashed handling-machine I came upon the red weed again, and found the Regent’s Canal, a spongy mass of dark-red vegetation.

As I crossed the bridge, the sound of “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla,” ceased. It was, as it were, cut off. The silence came like a thunderclap.

The dusky houses about me stood faint and tall and dim; the trees towards the park were growing black. All about me the red weed clambered among the ruins, writhing to get above me in the dimness. Night, the mother of fear and mystery, was coming upon me. But while that voice sounded the solitude, the desolation, had been endurable; by virtue of it London had still seemed alive, and the sense of life about me had upheld me. Then suddenly a change, the passing of something–I knew not what–and then a stillness that could be felt. Nothing but this gaunt quiet.

London about me gazed at me spectrally. The windows in the white houses were like the eye sockets of skulls. About me my imagination found a thousand noiseless enemies moving. Terror seized me, a horror of my temerity. In front of me the road became pitchy black as though it was tarred, and I saw a contorted shape lying across the pathway. I could not bring myself to go on. I turned down St. John’s Wood Road, and ran headlong from this unendurable stillness towards Kilburn. I hid from the night and the silence, until long after midnight, in a cabmen’s shelter in Harrow Road. But before the dawn my courage returned, and while the stars were still in the sky I turned once more towards Regent’s Park. I missed my way among the streets, and presently saw down a long avenue, in the half-light of the early dawn, the curve of Primrose Hill. On the summit, towering up to the fading stars, was a third Martian, erect and motionless like the others.

An insane resolve possessed me. I would die and end it. And I would save myself even the trouble of killing myself. I marched on recklessly towards this Titan, and then, as I drew nearer and the light grew, I saw that a multitude of black birds was circling and clustering about the hood. At that my heart gave a bound, and I began running along the road.

I hurried through the red weed that choked St. Edmund’s Terrace (I waded breast-high across a torrent of water that was rushing down from the waterworks towards the Albert Road), and emerged upon the grass before the rising of the sun. Great mounds had been heaped about the crest of the hill, making a huge redoubt of it–it was the final and largest place the Martians had made–and from behind these heaps there rose a thin smoke against the sky. Against the sky line an eager dog ran and disappeared. The thought that had flashed into my mind grew real, grew credible. I felt no fear, only a wild, trembling exultation, as I ran up the hill towards the motionless monster. Out of the hood hung lank shreds of brown, at which the hungry birds pecked and tore.

In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places. And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians–dead!–slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.

For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things–taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many–those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance–our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.

Here and there they were scattered, nearly fifty altogether, in that great gulf they had made, overtaken by a death that must have seemed to them as incomprehensible as any death could be. To me also at that time this death was incomprehensible. All I knew was that these things that had been alive and so terrible to men were dead. For a moment I believed that the destruction of Sennacherib had been repeated, that God had repented, that the Angel of Death had slain them in the night.

I stood staring into the pit, and my heart lightened gloriously, even as the rising sun struck the world to fire about me with his rays. The pit was still in darkness; the mighty engines, so great and wonderful in their power and complexity, so unearthly in their tortuous forms, rose weird and vague and strange out of the shadows towards the light. A multitude of dogs, I could hear, fought over the bodies that lay darkly in the depth of the pit, far below me. Across the pit on its farther lip, flat and vast and strange, lay the great flying-machine with which they had been experimenting upon our denser atmosphere when decay and death arrested them. Death had come not a day too soon. At the sound of a cawing overhead I looked up at the huge fighting-machine that would fight no more for ever, at the tattered red shreds of flesh that dripped down upon the overturned seats on the summit of Primrose Hill.

I turned and looked down the slope of the hill to where, enhaloed now in birds, stood those other two Martians that I had seen overnight, just as death had overtaken them. The one had died, even as it had been crying to its companions; perhaps it was the last to die, and its voice had gone on perpetually until the force of its machinery was exhausted. They glittered now, harmless tripod towers of shining metal, in the brightness of the rising sun.

All about the pit, and saved as by a miracle from everlasting destruction, stretched the great Mother of Cities. Those who have only seen London veiled in her sombre robes of smoke can scarcely imagine the naked clearness and beauty of the silent wilderness of houses.

Eastward, over the blackened ruins of the Albert Terrace and the splintered spire of the church, the sun blazed dazzling in a clear sky, and here and there some facet in the great wilderness of roofs caught the light and glared with a white intensity.

Northward were Kilburn and Hampsted, blue and crowded with houses; westward the great city was dimmed; and southward, beyond the Martians, the green waves of Regent’s Park, the Langham Hotel, the dome of the Albert Hall, the Imperial Institute, and the giant mansions of the Brompton Road came out clear and little in the sunrise, the jagged ruins of Westminster rising hazily beyond. Far away and blue were the Surrey hills, and the towers of the Crystal Palace glittered like two silver rods. The dome of St. Paul’s was dark against the sunrise, and injured, I saw for the first time, by a huge gaping cavity on its western side.

And as I looked at this wide expanse of houses and factories and churches, silent and abandoned; as I thought of the multitudinous hopes and efforts, the innumerable hosts of lives that had gone to build this human reef, and of the swift and ruthless destruction that had hung over it all; when I realised that the shadow had been rolled back, and that men might still live in the streets, and this dear vast dead city of mine be once more alive and powerful, I felt a wave of emotion that was near akin to tears.

The torment was over. Even that day the healing would begin. The survivors of the people scattered over the country–leaderless, lawless, foodless, like sheep without a shepherd–the thousands who had fled by sea, would begin to return; the pulse of life, growing stronger and stronger, would beat again in the empty streets and pour across the vacant squares. Whatever destruction was done, the hand of the destroyer was stayed. All the gaunt wrecks, the blackened skeletons of houses that stared so dismally at the sunlit grass of the hill, would presently be echoing with the hammers of the restorers and ringing with the tapping of their trowels. At the thought I extended my hands towards the sky and began thanking God. In a year, thought I–in a year. . .

With overwhelming force came the thought of myself, of my wife, and the old life of hope and tender helpfulness that had ceased for ever.

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

WRECKAGE

And now comes the strangest thing in my story. Yet, perhaps, it is not altogether strange. I remember, clearly and coldly and vividly, all that I did that day until the time that I stood weeping and praising God upon the summit of Primrose Hill. And then I forget.

Of the next three days I know nothing. I have learned since that, so far from my being the first discoverer of the Martian overthrow, several such wanderers as myself had already discovered this on the previous night. One man–the first–had gone to St. Martin’s-le-Grand, and, while I sheltered in the cabmen’s hut, had contrived to telegraph to Paris. Thence the joyful news had flashed all over the world; a thousand cities, chilled by ghastly apprehensions, suddenly flashed into frantic illuminations; they knew of it in Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, at the time when I stood upon the verge of the pit. Already men, weeping with joy, as I have heard, shouting and staying their work to shake hands and shout, were making up trains, even as near as Crewe, to descend upon London. The church bells that had ceased a fortnight since suddenly caught the news, until all England was bell-ringing. Men on cycles, lean-faced, unkempt, scorched along every country lane shouting of unhoped deliverance, shouting to gaunt, staring figures of despair. And for the food! Across the Channel, across the Irish Sea, across the Atlantic, corn, bread, and meat were tearing to our relief. All the shipping in the world seemed going Londonward in those days. But of all this I have no memory. I drifted–a demented man. I found myself in a house of kindly people, who had found me on the third day wandering, weeping, and raving through the streets of St. John’s Wood. They have told me since that I was singing some insane doggerel about “The Last Man Left Alive! Hurrah! The Last Man Left Alive!” Troubled as they were with their own affairs, these people, whose name, much as I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not even give here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me, sheltered me, and protected me from myself. Apparently they had learned something of my story from me during the days of my lapse.

Very gently, when my mind was assured again, did they break to me what they had learned of the fate of Leatherhead. Two days after I was imprisoned it had been destroyed, with every soul in it, by a Martian. He had swept it out of existence, as it seemed, without any provocation, as a boy might crush an ant hill, in the mere wantonness of power.

I was a lonely man, and they were very kind to me. I was a lonely man and a sad one, and they bore with me. I remained with them four days after my recovery. All that time I felt a vague, a growing craving to look once more on whatever remained of the little life that seemed so happy and bright in my past. It was a mere hopeless desire to feast upon my misery. They dissuaded me. They did all they could to divert me from this morbidity. But at last I could resist the impulse no longer, and, promising faithfully to return to them, and parting, as I will confess, from these four-day friends with tears, I went out again into the streets that had lately been so dark and strange and empty.

Already they were busy with returning people; in places even there were shops open, and I saw a drinking fountain running water.

I remember how mockingly bright the day seemed as I went back on my melancholy pilgrimage to the little house at Woking, how busy the streets and vivid the moving life about me. So many people were abroad everywhere, busied in a thousand activities, that it seemed incredible that any great proportion of the population could have been slain. But then I noticed how yellow were the skins of the people I met, how shaggy the hair of the men, how large and bright their eyes, and that every other man still wore his dirty rags. Their faces seemed all with one of two expressions–a leaping exultation and energy or a grim resolution. Save for the expression of the faces, London seemed a city of tramps. The vestries were indiscriminately distributing bread sent us by the French government. The ribs of the few horses showed dismally. Haggard special constables with white badges stood at the corners of every street. I saw little of the mischief wrought by the Martians until I reached Wellington Street, and there I saw the red weed clambering over the buttresses of Waterloo Bridge.

At the corner of the bridge, too, I saw one of the common contrasts of that grotesque time–a sheet of paper flaunting against a thicket of the red weed, transfixed by a stick that kept it in place. It was the placard of the first newspaper to resume publication–the Daily Mail. I bought a copy for a blackened shilling I found in my pocket. Most of it was in blank, but the solitary compositor who did the thing had amused himself by making a grotesque scheme of advertisement stereo on the back page. The matter he printed was emotional; the news organisation had not as yet found its way back. I learned nothing fresh except that already in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article assured me what I did not believe at the time, that the “Secret of Flying,” was discovered. At Waterloo I found the free trains that were taking people to their homes. The first rush was already over. There were few people in the train, and I was in no mood for casual conversation. I got a compartment to myself, and sat with folded arms, looking greyly at the sunlit devastation that flowed past the windows. And just outside the terminus the train jolted over temporary rails, and on either side of the railway the houses were blackened ruins. To Clapham Junction the face of London was grimy with powder of the Black Smoke, in spite of two days of thunderstorms and rain, and at Clapham Junction the line had been wrecked again; there were hundreds of out-of-work clerks and shopmen working side by side with the customary navvies, and we were jolted over a hasty relaying.

All down the line from there the aspect of the country was gaunt and unfamiliar; Wimbledon particularly had suffered. Walton, by virtue of its unburned pine woods, seemed the least hurt of any place along the line. The Wandle, the Mole, every little stream, was a heaped mass of red weed, in appearance between butcher’s meat and pickled cabbage. The Surrey pine woods were too dry, however, for the festoons of the red climber. Beyond Wimbledon, within sight of the line, in certain nursery grounds, were the heaped masses of earth about the sixth cylinder. A number of people were standing about it, and some sappers were busy in the midst of it. Over it flaunted a Union Jack, flapping cheerfully in the morning breeze. The nursery grounds were everywhere crimson with the weed, a wide expanse of livid colour cut with purple shadows, and very painful to the eye. One’s gaze went with infinite relief from the scorched greys and sullen reds of the foreground to the blue-green softness of the eastward hills.

The line on the London side of Woking station was still undergoing repair, so I descended at Byfleet station and took the road to Maybury, past the place where I and the artilleryman had talked to the hussars, and on by the spot where the Martian had appeared to me in the thunderstorm. Here, moved by curiosity, I turned aside to find, among a tangle of red fronds, the warped and broken dog cart with the whitened bones of the horse scattered and gnawed. For a time I stood regarding these vestiges. . . .

Then I returned through the pine wood, neck-high with red weed here and there, to find the landlord of the Spotted Dog had already found burial, and so came home past the College Arms. A man standing at an open cottage door greeted me by name as I passed.

I looked at my house with a quick flash of hope that faded immediately. The door had been forced; it was unfast and was opening slowly as I approached.

It slammed again. The curtains of my study fluttered out of the open window from which I and the artilleryman had watched the dawn. No one had closed it since. The smashed bushes were just as I had left them nearly four weeks ago. I stumbled into the hall, and the house felt empty. The stair carpet was ruffled and discoloured where I had crouched, soaked to the skin from the thunderstorm the night of the catastrophe. Our muddy footsteps I saw still went up the stairs.

I followed them to my study, and found lying on my writing-table still, with the selenite paper weight upon it, the sheet of work I had left on the afternoon of the opening of the cylinder. For a space I stood reading over my abandoned arguments. It was a paper on the probable development of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilising process; and the last sentence was the opening of a prophecy: “In about two hundred years,” I had written, “we may expect—-” The sentence ended abruptly. I remembered my inability to fix my mind that morning, scarcely a month gone by, and how I had broken off to get my Daily Chronicle from the newsboy. I remembered how I went down to the garden gate as he came along, and how I had listened to his odd story of “Men from Mars.”

I came down and went into the dining room. There were the mutton and the bread, both far gone now in decay, and a beer bottle overturned, just as I and the artilleryman had left them. My home was desolate. I perceived the folly of the faint hope I had cherished so long. And then a strange thing occurred. “It is no use,” said a voice. “The house is deserted. No one has been here these ten days. Do not stay here to torment yourself. No one escaped but you.”

I was startled. Had I spoken my thought aloud? I turned, and the French window was open behind me. I made a step to it, and stood looking out.

And there, amazed and afraid, even as I stood amazed and afraid, were my cousin and my wife–my wife white and tearless. She gave a faint cry.

“I came,” she said. “I knew–knew—-“

She put her hand to her throat–swayed. I made a step forward, and caught her in my arms.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

THE EPILOGUE

I cannot but regret, now that I am concluding my story, how little I am able to contribute to the discussion of the many debatable questions which are still unsettled. In one respect I shall certainly provoke criticism. My particular province is speculative philosophy. My knowledge of comparative physiology is confined to a book or two, but it seems to me that Carver’s suggestions as to the reason of the rapid death of the Martians is so probable as to be regarded almost as a proven conclusion. I have assumed that in the body of my narrative.

At any rate, in all the bodies of the Martians that were examined after the war, no bacteria except those already known as terrestrial species were found. That they did not bury any of their dead, and the reckless slaughter they perpetrated, point also to an entire ignorance of the putrefactive process. But probable as this seems, it is by no means a proven conclusion.

Neither is the composition of the Black Smoke known, which the Martians used with such deadly effect, and the generator of the Heat-Rays remains a puzzle. The terrible disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories have disinclined analysts for further investigations upon the latter. Spectrum analysis of the black powder points unmistakably to the presence of an unknown element with a brilliant group of three lines in the green, and it is possible that it combines with argon to form a compound which acts at once with deadly effect upon some constituent in the blood. But such unproven speculations will scarcely be of interest to the general reader, to whom this story is addressed. None of the brown scum that drifted down the Thames after the destruction of Shepperton was examined at the time, and now none is forthcoming.

The results of an anatomical examination of the Martians, so far as the prowling dogs had left such an examination possible, I have already given. But everyone is familiar with the magnificent and almost complete specimen in spirits at the Natural History Museum, and the countless drawings that have been made from it; and beyond that the interest of their physiology and structure is purely scientific.

A question of graver and universal interest is the possibility of another attack from the Martians. I do not think that nearly enough attention is being given to this aspect of the matter. At present the planet Mars is in conjunction, but with every return to opposition I, for one, anticipate a renewal of their adventure. In any case, we should be prepared. It seems to me that it should be possible to define the position of the gun from which the shots are discharged, to keep a sustained watch upon this part of the planet, and to anticipate the arrival of the next attack.

In that case the cylinder might be destroyed with dynamite or artillery before it was sufficiently cool for the Martians to emerge, or they might be butchered by means of guns so soon as the screw opened. It seems to me that they have lost a vast advantage in the failure of their first surprise. Possibly they see it in the same light.

Lessing has advanced excellent reasons for supposing that the Martians have actually succeeded in effecting a landing on the planet Venus. Seven months ago now, Venus and Mars were in alignment with the sun; that is to say, Mars was in opposition from the point of view of an observer on Venus. Subsequently a peculiar luminous and sinuous marking appeared on the unillumined half of the inner planet, and almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a similar sinuous character was detected upon a photograph of the Martian disk. One needs to see the drawings of these appearances in order to appreciate fully their remarkable resemblance in character.

At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind. It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson, and that on the planet Venus they have found a securer settlement. Be that as it may, for many years yet there will certainly be no relaxation of the eager scrutiny of the Martian disk, and those fiery darts of the sky, the shooting stars, will bring with them as they fall an unavoidable apprehension to all the sons of men.

The broadening of men’s views that has resulted can scarcely be exaggerated. Before the cylinder fell there was a general persuasion that through all the deep of space no life existed beyond the petty surface of our minute sphere. Now we see further. If the Martians can reach Venus, there is no reason to suppose that the thing is impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught our sister planet within its toils.

Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of life spreading slowly from this little seed bed of the solar system throughout the inanimate vastness of sidereal space. But that is a remote dream. It may be, on the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is the future ordained.

I must confess the stress and danger of the time have left an abiding sense of doubt and insecurity in my mind. I sit in my study writing by lamplight, and suddenly I see again the healing valley below set with writhing flames, and feel the house behind and about me empty and desolate. I go out into the Byfleet Road, and vehicles pass me, a butcher boy in a cart, a cabful of visitors, a workman on a bicycle, children going to school, and suddenly they become vague and unreal, and I hurry again with the artilleryman through the hot, brooding silence. Of a night I see the black powder darkening the silent streets, and the contorted bodies shrouded in that layer; they rise upon me tattered and dog-bitten. They gibber and grow fiercer, paler, uglier, mad distortions of humanity at last, and I wake, cold and wretched, in the darkness of the night.

I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet Street and the Strand, and it comes across my mind that they are but the ghosts of the past, haunting the streets that I have seen silent and wretched, going to and fro, phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body. And strange, too, it is to stand on Primrose Hill, as I did but a day before writing this last chapter, to see the great province of houses, dim and blue through the haze of the smoke and mist, vanishing at last into the vague lower sky, to see the people walking to and fro among the flower beds on the hill, to see the sight-seers about the Martian machine that stands there still, to hear the tumult of playing children, and to recall the time when I saw it all bright and clear-cut, hard and silent, under the dawn of that last great day. . . .

And strangest of all is it to hold my wife’s hand again, and to think that I have counted her, and that she has counted me, among the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

About Author

 

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946), usually referred to as H. G. Wells, was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, including even a book on war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a “father of science fiction”, along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.

During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of airplanes, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the world wide web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the “Shakespeare of science fiction”. His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.

 

[Author image courtesy: By George Charles Beresford – National Portrait Gallery: NPG x13208While Commons policy accepts the use of this media, one or more third parties have made copyright claims against Wikimedia Commons in relation to the work from which this is sourced or a purely mechanical reproduction thereof. This may be due to recognition of the “sweat of the brow” doctrine, allowing works to be eligible for protection through skill and labour, and not purely by originality as is the case in the United States (where this website is hosted). These claims may or may not be valid in all jurisdictions.As such, use of this image in the jurisdiction of the claimant or other countries may be regarded as copyright infringement. Please see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag for more information.See User:Dcoetzee/NPG legal threat for original threat and National Portrait Gallery and Wikimedia Foundation copyright dispute for more information.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37154905]

 

 

 

 

~*~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am what I was…

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Obsessed

 

 

Obsessed

(Full Story Original)

First book to the Obsession trilogy

-by Alicyn Night

 

To all that have come to love and come to hate in passion.

 

 

 

 

Prolog

She sat there quietly immersed inside of the tall-tale she read, her cello case right beside her. Her wavy dark tresses hitting her neck, her Azure eyes captivated by the daydream. He watched her moves carefully, angrily. Did she not know how frail she was, how delicate her wrist were? Why does she haul that monstrous thing with her? He left then angry, but an idea popped into his head, a Cheshire smile came to his face as he left.

 

 

Chapter 1
Watched

Evelyn watched her best friend Caden buy the ice-cream as she sat at her table, a book by her side. Caden was her only friend in her huge school, but of course Caden was a stand-out kind of guy that’s what drew her to him in the first place. He never went by the dress code and always wore chains and skulls, he had natural fiery red spiky lengthy hair, it stuck out in random places, he had told her one time ‘what’s the point of taming it when it wants to run free?’ He always wore hot-pink rimmed glassed, his hazel eyes always looking golden after a day in the sun.
“Hey Eve? You still there?” Caden waved a hand in her face; her icy eyes had gone blank. He had a grin on his face as she blushed.
“Yeah I’m here, can’t get rid of me that easily.” She smiled back, looking at the ice-cream in his hands, he handed her the mint tea one as he licked the chocolate cone.
“Thanks.” She said gratefully. They ate in silence for a moment as some people came in; Evelyn looked over to her worst nightmare.
“Heyyyy Ev.” Christopher slurred his voice, wrapping an arm over her shoulder, she quickly moved away from him, before he had a tight grip. Christopher was a jockey football player who vowed to get inside every girl’s pants at school, and Evelyn was last on his list.
“Go away you fool.” She hissed, her voice an angry growl of a beast. One of the reasons that the people at school never came near her, was her icy glare and her words, she could insult you in a blank of an eye, she would watch people and understand who they really were.
Caden glared at him, from his glasses, his hazel eyes now a dark shade of green. Christopher looked scared for a moment before licking her ice-cream.
“Can’t wait for you.” He said in a lustful voice, licking her neck, she looked down at him, her Azure eyes a bright sapphire, Caden growled as Christopher backed up into someone. Evelyn looked up to Damien glaring from under his golden locks. His chocolate eyes holding a violent threat of death.
“Watch where you are going.” He seethed, Christopher didn’t look very tough as he scampered away like a little dog. Damien looked to Evelyn with a loving look in his eyes.
“Hello Evelyn.” He smiled, his eyes going soft. She nodded turning her face away, this angered him.
“What do you need?” She asks, turning away from him, her face a slight crimson color, she loved his smiles but the sweetness he treated her with scared her.
He looked at her, a lustful glaze blinding him, her shirt was unbuttoned, showing her breast’s just a little, her skirt was a bit hitched up from Christopher’s encounter, showing her bare thigh.
She turned to him her face a more red, and stopped. He was right in front of her, their lips might have touched if she hadn’t have stopped moving. His deep chocolate brown eyes were staring in hers, her eyes widened.
‘So deep.’ She thought as he smiled.
“Just saying hello.” He whispered to her, his breath smelling like honey-suckle and mint. She wanted to lean in and inhale his wonderful breath, but that would mean kissing him.
“Then hello, and good bye.” She said turning away from him, she looked to Caden for help, he nodded, immersed by the strange yet intense exchange.
“Come on Eve, we got to go to the club room.” Caden pushed past Damien, grabbing a hold of Evelyn’s hand as she followed Caden out the door. That was another reason she loved her friend so much, because he wasn’t afraid of anyone, except his mom who had the power to take away his computer and cell phone.
Damien watched them leave, a sly smile on his lips.
“See you soon.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫X

Evelyn looked out the bay window, rain trickling down the pane; the birds were not there as she wished them to be. Her lunch sat in front of her. On the desk next to her lunch was a letter that said: ‘Meet me in the English room-Caden

’ she knew what he wanted to ask, it was obvious. It was about Damien, he was getting closer to her and it was freaking both of them out. Another reason she didn’t want to be in the lunch room was because in some eerie way, Damien had the same classes as she. She sighed as she looked at her lunch, it didn’t look even remotely good, another reason she hated being near Damien, it made her appetite go away. Then lights in the room went off. She could hear the complaints of her classmates. But it didn’t matter to her, it was plenty light outside, sure it was mostly grey but there was a bizarre tranquility to it.
The door open and looked up to it, but it wasn’t Caden, Damien stood there all in black, his eyes were closed as he shut the door.
“Hello, Damien.” She said gently, scarred once more.
He looked up to her, his eyes relieved then desperate. She watched him come nearer, slowly, not wanting to scare her.
She glanced down at her desk again looking for some kind of weapon, nothing was there that would aid her.
“Evelyn.” He whispered, angrily. “Why? Why do you torment me so?!” he grabbed her arm, she winced at his cool touch.
“What do you mean?” she asked, her voice shaking. He was in front of her then, ripping her out of her chair, he held her arm tighter. She felt tears build in her eyes, as he grabbed both of her arms.
“Please let go of me, it hurts.” She whimpered, a few tears bubbled out of her eyes.
Why did she want him to let go, couldn’t she see how much he wanted her? Why he would go the end of the earth to shield her? How he loved her so?
He pushed her against the wall, pressing himself to her. She was small and soft, easily breakable.
She can be tamed, she can become a bit tougher, and I wouldn’t want to hurt her.

’ He thought, loving the way it felt against her. He wrapped his arms around the small frame of Evelyn, burying his face in her neck, inhaling her.
Rain, and sunlight, that’s what she smells like.

’ His arms constricted around her, she gasped at the lack of breath, her face as red as beet root.
“Please!” she yelled, a sob escaping her throat. “Let me go!” he looked at her, wanting her to be his, she would never stray from his side, he slowly, silenced her with his lips, her warm inviting lips that made him want her even more.
She pushed against him, tears running down her face, she hated this; she hated herself for being weak against him. His lips were cold and icy, soft, yet rough against hers; she hated him and hated enjoying his lips.
He licked the bottom of her lower lip, feeling her shiver in pleasure or maybe fear, it confused him, and he wanted more of her, wanted her to call out his name, wanting him as well.
“Evelyn.” He whispered braking away from her; he touched her now swollen mouth, then looked into her eyes. They were filled with tears and fright; he had scared her with his love? 
But how can that be?!

’ he bellowed in his head, irritation took a hold of him.
“Why don’t you love me?” he growled at her, she froze scarred almost to death.
Silence met his question, she was sobbing.
“I don’t love you, I am sorry.” She sobbed, tears hitting her cheeks. “I can’t love you!” he silenced her maddening talk again with his mouth, his rough hands entangled with her dark locks. Why, why did she not care for him? Why did she say such heart-wrenching words?! 
His teeth hit her lips, biting her until he drew her blood. She whimpered at the stinging pain, pushing on his chest to let her go, if he loved her as he said he did, he wouldn’t be doing this. She wanted him to stop.
Caden watched the two lovers in the room, he had sent Evelyn a letter to tell her to meet him here, but she must have seen the two, and stepped out. Her Cellos’ case was in there, and her lunch, so why wasn’t she?
He watched the man pull away, and the site horrified him, Evelyn was one of the two, her lip was bleeding and tears rolled down her cheeks. She was sobbing and the man was Damien.
Anger boiled in his head as he watched him yell at her, he wanted to go in, but was afraid that if he did, Damien would only hurt her more, but he couldn’t let this go on.
“Damien!” he yelled, opening the door. “Let her go!” Caden marched forward as he saw Evelyn fall to the ground, whimpering in the corner where that wicked man had put her in.
Damien smirked, his eyes livid and sadistic.
How dare he do this to her!


Caden growled at him, standing still, Damien smiled, a foolish, sickening smile.
“Now why would I let the love of my life go?” he grinned, his eyes a sinister grimy russet.
Evelyn looked up at Caden, he was fighting for her, she stood up and looked at them, growling and at arms with each other, she ran to her cello case, and pulled her black cello out, it was hand-made by her uncle who was a master cello player and had passed it down to her when he had passed. She set it down gently and looked at the heavy metal piece she had put in there to add weight so she would get stronger and took it out, she looked at the boys.
“Move Caden!” she yelled and threw it at Damien’s head. He took the warning to heart and stepped away as the heavy metal piece clashed with Damien’s skull. He fell over, holding his head, yelling curses at Caden, then he turned his head to Evelyn. His eyes desperate.
“Why?” he whispered, his voice pained and saddened, and fell to the darkness, dark dots covered his vision. 
Evelyn looked to him, tears forming again in her eyes. Caden hurried to her, embracing her shaking frame.
“Evelyn, Evelyn…” he whispered, it scared him that Damien had gotten to her like that.
“Caden, my mouth hurts.” She sobbed into his chest. “He hurt me, it hurt so much.” She flinched as Caden touched her upper arms, they were red and bruising.
“shh, Evelyn it’s okay, let’s go before he wakes up okay, do you want ice-cream?” he asked, ice-cream always made her happier. She nodded to his relief as she grabbed her cello and put it back in the case. Caden grabbed it and held her hand.
“I want mint tea ice-cream and an izze soda, the peach kind.” She sniffed, clutching his hand.
He laughed.
“And chicken dumplings?” he smiled. She nodded her head, a blush on her cheeks.
He smiled wider. 
“Same old Evelyn.” She smiled at this.
“Thank you Caden.” She kept her head down, feeling his hand tighten on hers. 
“Anything for you.” He kissed the top of her head, a loving smile on his face. “Anything.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

She slept sound fully, her breathing soft. Damien sat on the edge of her bed, the blankets soft, warm, and inviting. He looked to her, eyes saddened.
“Why do you do this Evelyn?” he whispers, his warm eyes water as he watches her sleep. “Why do you do this to me? I love you so much why do you hurt me this why?” he says and touches her lips the swelling went down, he did this to her, why did he hurt her?! She turns over, facing away from him.
“You even shun me in your sleep,” a few tears slip to his cheeks. He grabbed onto her then froze; moonlight streamed into the window hitting her face in the perfect place, her face glowed like a shining gem. She looked so…stunning.
“Evelyn.” He whispered and kissed her gently, her lips like soft ribbons against his. He took her face in his large hands and cried. He cried for hurting her, for her hurting him, how could they stay together if they kept doing this to each other?! His thoughts took him away to his fantasies where she would love him, and kiss him and make love to him when she was needing him that way. How she would call him when she missed him and play her cello to him when he needed to be calmed down. His thoughts took forms of dreams as he held her in sleep. The moonlight made her glow, but made him look dead.
Evelyn awoke to the sun streaming in the window, had she left it open last night? She stretched and got up and closed it, she looked around her room, it seemed different to her, her parents were gone so they couldn’t have came in here? She shrugged it off and laid on her bed again.
“You know if you keep sleeping like that for hours on end, how can I say sorry.” The voice laughed. Evelyn eyes opened to Damien sitting on her computer chair, a small smile on his lips. She gasped and sat up.
“W…why are you here?” she struggled to breath.
His eyes saddened.
“Because I want to say I am sorry for what happened yesterday, I was too…harsh on you, and forced you.” He seemed to be struggling with the thought. “I just wanted to voice my feelings.”
She looked at his eyes closely, he wasn’t lying, but still it scared her that he was here.
“You are forgiven.” She said gently, not wanting to arouse his temper.
He smiled a real smile and laughed.
“That’s good I was afraid that you wouldn’t dare forgive me.”
“I am a kind person I suppose.” She said lightly with a smile of her own. This was the old Damien she knew way back in elementary school. He was abused by his father more then often and his mother had left long after he was born, she hated him as his father hated him more. Every day he would come to school with blood-shot eyes from crying and dirty clothes that stunk of urine, but everyday he smiled and laughed with everyone, even if they didn’t want to be any where near him. One day he had been beaten up and was waiting for his father to pick him up, it was sunset and Evelyn was there too, her mother was late because she had an office meeting. She stood up and looked at him, he looked up at her.
‘Why do they hate me?’ he had asked, Evelyn shrugged her shoulders.
‘Maybe they hate you because you’re cooler than them?’ she had asked, he grinned with tears in his eyes. He started sobbing then and Evelyn comforted him, until his father came and she smiled at him and waved, only she didn’t know what happened that night when he got home, why the next day, he was covered with plasters and bandage wrapping and bruises, why he is himself.
Damien smiled at her, her sweet innocent self.
Soon so soon, she will be mine, I will make her mine…

’ he thought, crazed.
“Damien, How did you get in here?” the question confused him, didn’t she just close the window a moment ago, why was she asking such a dense question?
He smiled and shook his head.
“The window love I came in threw the window.” She froze on the bed now afraid. She took in a deep breath.
“what’s wrong?” he asked, tilting his head to the side, his hand twitching to her desk, then did she noticed and saw a knife from the kitchen laying there, when he picked it up and twirled it in his hands, ice flowed threw her veins, she couldn’t move, her muscles had locked in place, tears brimmed her eyes.
“Please, please no.” she whimpered, horror-struck when he came near. He looked at the knife fondly, then at her.
“My beautiful Evelyn, you have hurt me. I have punished myself already for hurting you, now it’s time for yours.” She tried to run, but he was faster, he grabbed her tender arm and threw her onto the bed, leaning over her.
“No please no!” she begged, tears fell down her face silently as she sobbed. He set the knife down and sat on her; he grabbed her hands roughly and pulled them over her head. He grabbed the knife and set it at her wrists.
“Honestly love I don’t want to do this but you misbehaved and I just can’t let you get away with that.” A piercing pain hit her wrists, as the metallic frame became tainted with her crimson blossoms.
She screamed out in pain, he only muted her with his lips. He slit her wrists again and again; the blood seeping into the blankets, her cries became louder.
“Tell me you love me!” he yelled. “Tell me and I’ll stop!” her screams became muted, he stopped as she glared at him.
“I fucking hate you!” she spit in his face, he hit her, her neck popping as her head went the other way, more tears clouded her vision, as he slashed another gash onto her wrists.
“Stop!” she screamed, he threw the knife on the other side of the room, and twisted her over, ripping her shirt off. She started sobbing again; only her cries were muffled by the bloody sheets.
“This is so they know you are mine!” he hissed in her ear, his hand reached to his back pocket a gleaming pocket knife, appears in his hands.
Then does he begin to carve on his canvas.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden rushed to Evelyn’s house, she wasn’t in school, either was Damien. His gut turned in an nasty way, why didn’t he go pick her up before school, why did he just leave after what happened. His head pounded as he opened the front door, the house was clean, but a metallic scent hit his nose.
Blood.

’ He thought racing up the stairs to Evelyn’s room, the door was shut and he could hear soft sobs. Sweat gripped at his hands as he touched the door-knob, it opened slowing by itself, to show him a horrific site. 
Evelyn lay on her bed; her back smeared in blood, a knife was in the corner drenched in her red fluid. But the most horrifying thing was in her back, was carved his name. A ghostly chuckle came from the room.
“I told you she was mine.” Damien’s voice floated to Caden’s ears.
Evelyn groaned in pain as she tried to move, her body shivering.
“If you don’t hurry my dear love will die, she has lost so much blood; I can’t believe she did this to herself.” His voiced mused.
“She could not do this to herself! You fucking bastered! Evelyn could never…” Caden became a loss of words, she was hurt this way, and he couldn’t save her. His eyes pained and filled with tears. He knew Evelyn, she could never have done this and he was sure of it. He touched her back gently as she winced at him.
Then Damien appeared from the shadowy part of the room, his blond hair messed up, sticking out, blood smeared on his face, his eyes wild, and distraught. He had a sick smile on his face. 
“If you love her so fucking much why do you do this to her?!” he screamed, Damien’s smile disappeared, hurt was in his eyes then, it tamed the wild part of him.
“I…I don’t know.” He said in a blank voice. He leaped out of the window then landing with grace.
Why? Why did I do that to her? I can’t remember why did I do that?

’ he thought as he ran away from the house.
Caden went down stairs and grabbed a clean sheet from the closet and hurried up to the room, he wrapped it around the small shaking girl, she was crying, her sobs made Caden heart ache.
“I’m sorry Caden I couldn’t do fight him off.” She looked up to him, her blue eyes clouded with tears.
“No you did a good job you’re not dead are you?” he looked down to her, as she said the most horrendous words he had ever heard.
“Not yet.” She was silent after that; he picked her up, as she whimpered slightly he walked down the stairs and out of the door.

 

 

Chapter 2
Distraught

Caden watched Evelyn eat her soup. That was all she ate since what happened with Damien. She rarely talked too; her parents blamed them self’s for what happened, not being home more often.
“Caden.” Evelyn whispered.
“Yeah?” he asked, she looked pouty.
“I want ice cream!” she yelled, she crossed her arms. But, of course she only acted like a zombie in front of her parents.
“All they feed me is soup I want ice cream and cake and chicken dumplings!” Caden laughed as she ranted. 
After her little rant about food, Caden went down stairs and go her ice cream, but his mind was somewhere else.
Damien disappeared after what he did to Evelyn, I know that he is waiting for something I just don’t know what. It scares me because he really got that close to her.

’ He thought as he walked up the stairs. When he entered the room Evelyn was asleep, the T.V. was on MTV, which always made her sleep, unless My Life as Liz was on. She looked peaceful; the curls in her hair were shape against her wonderful pale face. When Caden was younger, he was picked on a lot, but after Evelyn came, she protected him when people would make fun of him. Then there was Evelyn everyday she would dress in a lacy black dress and black boots, everyone thought she was a freak but Caden, he thought she was an angel, her clear blue eyes melted to his heart and soul, when she would leave her hair down small curls would wrap around her face. He even remembered the day he was beaten up, by some 7th graders. He was laying on the ground with Evelyn standing over him.
‘Were you beaten up?’ she asked as he closed his eyes, and nodded. 
‘For what?’ he looked to her with anger in his eyes.
‘I was beaten up because I look like a freak with red hair and strange glasses.’ He pointed to his hot-pink rimmed glasses that had been broken.
She nodded her head in understanding.
‘I see, well I don’t think you look like a freak’ She said, he had scoffed at her gentleness, but tears, by themselves gathered in his eyes.
“Caden…” Evelyn said in her sleep, bringing him out of his daydream, she was on her tummy, drooling, her arms spread of her head as if she was going to take flight. He smiled as her strange form, happy to know that she was here.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

The darkness of the clouds scared her, her body trembled to the cold weather that was freezing her from, the inside out, and she was only wrapped in a sheet stained with blood. Damien appeared a knife in his hand, a sad smile on his wicked lips.
‘It will only hurt for a moment.’ He said, the knife now suddenly dropping blossoms of the red life. He shifted then, his golden locks became fiery as the sun and his eyes became lighter a hazel green.
‘Evelyn…’ Caden whispered to her, as blood began to drip from his lips and his body became nothing but sand.
“Caden!’ Evelyn screamed, tears blotting her vision. 
‘Evelyn…Evelyn…’ Caden voice repeated in her head.
‘Evelyn!’ it yelled.

Evelyn looked to Caden standing over her bedside, she embraced him, sobbing.
“It’s okay Eve, it was only a nightmare.” She shook her head.
“It didn’t feel like one it felt real.” She shivered, afraid of what Damien could do, if he wanted to.
Caden’s arm wrapped around her waist, not remembering about the name in her back. She flinched.
“Sorry.” He said, he really was too. To him it was his fault he couldn’t protect her, couldn’t save her from what had happened. Tears came to his eyes; he was completely engulfed by his anger.
Why?! Why couldn’t I protect you?!

’ he thought holding her tighter.
“Caden?” she asked, wondering why he was crying.
“I…I feel so useless, Evelyn, I couldn’t protect you, like you have protected me, I couldn’t do anything for you!” he sobbed in her ear. Evelyn could say nothing to this. She only sobbed with him.
“It’s not your fault Caden, it’s not, really! I just couldn’t protect myself.” She sobbed. They stayed like that, until the sun went down.
“Caden.” Evelyn’s mother walked in, her tresses of newly blond hair, up in a bun.
He looked up, his eyes tried from crying, Evelyn in the nook of his chest.
“Yes Mrs. Heeren?” his voice laced with sleep.
“Are your parents going to be worried if you don’t go home?” she asked, crossing her arms, swaying side to side. He scoffed, his parents were never home and rarely paid any kind of heed to him, and right now they were at a party, already drunk off of beer and wine.
He shook his head. She smiled and looked at them, the way he held her, and how her daughter was sleeping peacefully in his arms, after what she had been through, it amazed her.
“I am really glad you’re here Caden.” She said, a pained expression on her face, he just smiled at her.
“Whenever she needs me.” He answered, laying his head down on the pillow, falling fast asleep. 
She smiled and shut the door.
“Yeah I know.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Damien watched the two, hidden in each other’s arms, his breathtaking love in the arms of a killer! The blade he held in his hand started to bring blood out of his hand, the scarlet trail smeared against the branch of the tree. He snarled at the sight of them.
She will love me!

’ he roared in his head, a new scheme popped into his head. He chuckled at the idea and vanished into the darkness.
She awoke to the wind on the trees, it was raining again, it poured against the window, thundering light outside.
She rubbed her eyes, looking to Caden’s arms around her, he was fast asleep.
She quietly, not to disturb him, moved away and off the bed. She tried to switch on her light, but the power was off, she yawned and went out the door, she wanted to see, the dark was causing her to dream of Damien again.
“Evelyn.” His voice whispered in her ear, the feeling of his icy arms wrapping around her made her shiver.
“I am so sorry Evelyn, so sorry.” The wind made it hard to hear.
“No you’re not.” She said, her voice low, afraid.
“Yes I am Evelyn, I am so sorry, never meant to hurt you…look up.” It said, and she did, the front entrance was in front of her, the door looked huge and scary.
She put her hand on the doorknob, she wanted to go outside, but was afraid of what might be waiting.
“Stop it, stop talking to me.” She growled at the voice, it only laughed.
She opened the door; the wind slapped her face roughly as she walked out. Rain painted itself on her, becoming wet instantly. Lighting flashed and she saw Damien, he stood there, like he was the one that caused this weather.
“Evelyn.” He voice was nothing but a whisper, but she heard it loud and clear like he was behind her.
He held out his hand, dripping wet.
“Evelyn it hurts so much, Dad hit me again.” The rain looked like tears to her. He was baiting her, drawing her in to him.
She was in his trance, her eyes hurt.
“Why does your dad hit you?” she asked, real tears going down her face.
He smiled.
“Because he likes to hurt me Evelyn, please Evelyn come here I need a hug, your hugs make me feel so much better.” He kept his smile.
“But you’re dangerous.” She said looking down, it seemed like the wind and rain couldn’t touch them.
His smiled disappeared.
“No I’m not; I am not dangerous Evelyn just come here and hug me.” His voice became demanding, freighting. Evelyn shook.
“Please Evelyn?” he asked his voice calm again.
In the distance of the storm she heard people call her name, it wasn’t Damien’s voice but…her mother’s and Caden’s. Step by step she walked to Damien.
“Evelyn!” Caden called her, she was soaked in water, her body was trembling and in the distance he saw Damien, he had a sick, triumphing smile on his face, he was drenched as well, his lips were blue as he shook.
“Evelyn please!” he yelled as she got further and further away. Her mother was holding onto Caden’s arm, pulling him in from the rain.
“It’s no use Caden. She’s gone.” Evelyn’s mother had tears in her eyes.
“No I am not going to stand by and watch her get hurt again!” he yelled, he pulled his arm gently away from her grip and ran to Evelyn, she was only a few feet away from Damien, that wicked man that he hated.
Caden grabbed Evelyn’s arm, trying to get her from getting closer. She turned back to Caden, her eyes dazed and unfocused.
“Damien he needs me, his dad hit him again.” She looked to him, a frown on her shivering lips.
“Evelyn wake up!” he yelled, shaking her. She stayed unfocused. He looked at her for a moment, then grabbed her.
“Sorry Eve.” His lips touched her, holding onto her tightly. Evelyn’s blinked, then looked into Caden’s hazel glaze. The moment was sweet, quiet, and short. Then Caden’s gentle lips were torn off of hers. Damien had him pinned to the ground, his hands around Caden’s neck, Caden clawed at Damien’s neck, crimson hue falling on his face. Growls erupted from both of them.
“Don’t you dare

touch her!” Damien snarled, shoving Caden into a tree, Evelyn heard something snap, as Caden howled in pain. Damien let him fall to the ground, Evelyn wanted to run over but she could, she was frozen watching her best friend fight for her, her mother had gone inside to call the police, her hand shaking as she listen to nothing.
She won’t get far

’ Damien’s head become raged with thumping and red.
Damien ran to Caden and kneed him in the gut, watching him as he fell, unable to fight much longer, Damien smiled as he realized this, then look to the woman who bore Evelyn. 
A shot rang threw the air as silence took hold. Evelyn screamed, watching her mother fall to the kitchen floor, the smell of blood mixed with the rain, she collapsed, her knees buckling from underneath her. The scene in front of her spun, dark blotches covered her vision from the corpse. Damien caught Evelyn in her grasp, he picked her gently, her small body fitting perfectly in his arms, he nudged her cheek, loving her smooth skin.
Caden watched Damien sit on the grass, holding his Evelyn whispering songs in her ears. He knew she had fainted, for the site of seeing her mother fall to the death of a gun. Tears ran down his face as he mourned her mother and his friend’s sanity.
“Caden.” Evelyn whispered, her eyes fluttering open, she felt Caden’s hands touch her face, his voice like a lullaby. Then she remembered, Caden was hurt by Damien, tears gathered in her eyes, blurring her vision.
Damien watched her cry in his arms; his iced heart only melted so little.
“Call my name Evelyn.” He whispered, she froze, her eyes widening as her tears increased, but only angry tears fell from her cerulean eyes.
His arms around her tightened only slightly, she was afraid of him, and he knew it.
She kept quiet and tried to wiggle out of his arms, he sighed knowing that this would happen, but he wanted to hold her, where she could not escape his grasp.
She struggled against his firm grip.
“Let me go!” she screamed, anger flooding her. 
“Never Evelyn, now be good and stay here.” He cooed in her ear, stroking her cheek, the tears soaking onto his skin. She screamed for help, knowing none will come.
“I hate you!” she seethed, rage filled Damien as he threw her on the ground.
“You little bitch!” he seethed; he wrapped his hands around her slim neck.“You will not talk to me in that manner!” Evelyn wished for air, her willowy hands gripping at his, her nails digging into his skin as she drew blood. 
He watched life slowly fade from her eyes, her slender fingers losing their vigor. Her chest barley moving. He grinned at the sight of a doll in his hands. Then he thought of her lips, her voice, her smiles. She wouldn’t do that anymore if she died. He started to panic.
Caden opened his eyes, only one word forming on his lips.
“Evelyn.” He whispered, tears coming to his eyes. Damien was hunched over a corpse-like body. He was crying, his large hands wrapped around her neck. 
“God Evelyn.” Caden staggered to his feet, as the rain, as to welcome an angel to heaven, stopped. He watched Damien look at him, now holding Evelyn to his chest, glaring at Caden, but then sunlight flooded the yard, under the light Damien got blinded from its shining light, not use to the bright sun.
“You…killed her!” Caden screamed, as he attacked Damien, both of them flying to the ground, the body of Evelyn laying on the grass, as if she was resting peacefully.
Damien couldn’t resist Caden’s blows; Caden was going too fast for Damien to stop him.
Tears blinded Caden, his hits growing weaker and weaker with every sobs that escaped his lips.
“Why?!” Caden cried. “Why?!” Damien’s eyes blank, tears sliding down his face silently. He all was but a void, nothing more than an empty shell, his mind couldn’t function.
“I don’t know…” Damien whispered, confused. He had blanked out, not remembering. 
“What the hell do you mean, you don’t know

?!” Caden yelled. Damien growled, he couldn’t remember, his head was pounding but he couldn’t remember.
Caden looked at him, shaking violently, his eyes having a killing intent to them. Caden’s hands went into fists, and hit Damien.
Huge dark dots, entered Evelyn’s vision, then became bright. She heard sobs from someone, and something holding her tight. It hurt her back slightly, as someone traced the name carved into her back.
“Evelyn…” she heard Caden’s voice call her, her head felt heavy like someone dropped a piano on it. 
“Caden…” she whispered, opening her eyes slowly, the brightness was from the sun, and the rainbows in the sky.
“Evelyn?! Your alive, god I thought you were dead!” he hugged her closer to him, he was warm and damp from the rain and sun.
“Were you…crying?” she asked, patting his head, as she felt warm tears fall on her neck.
“I thought Damien killed you E…Evelyn, w…why do you t…think I w…would be c…crying.” He stuttered as she soothed him.
“Hey I’m here there is nothing to be worried about.” He nodded and continued to sob on her. His arms were tight around her, making her feel safe.
“Evelyn…” he whispered, leaning closer to her. She looked up at his greenish eyes, the sun making them a tawny gold.
“Yes Caden?” she asked, her face feeling warm as he laid his hand on her cheek, tilting her head up, coming closer, until their lips touched. In a twisted way, Evelyn liked his lips there, but at the same time she missed Damien’s full cold lips. It sickened her.
They heard sirens then, as police cars pulled up with an ambulance. 
Evelyn looked to Caden.
“Where did Damien go?” Caden’s grip on her hand got tighter. 
“He got away.” He looked over to were dark stains covered the grass.
“Don’t look Evelyn.” She moved her head into his chest, afraid to face what had happened. “Mom is going to be all right, mom is going to be all right…” she kept the whispered chant to herself. Caden looked at her, as she shook. He knew she wanted to look to see her mother there waiting with open arms, but that woman was cold as ice now. 
Damien watched Evelyn being looked at by a doctor same with that boy. Her mother was taken on a stretcher and into a black bag. He looked back at Evelyn, her dark locks messy and tousled. Her nightgown was dirty and torn, but she still looked like an angel.
But I have to lay low for a while, the police are now involved.

’ Damien thought, sunlight touched his skin lightly, he hissed, and went back into the shadows. He looked to his love for the last time for a while until he could come back for her.
“Evelyn.” He whispered, he turned around unwillingly and walked into the forest’s edge.

 

 

Chapter 3
Torment

Evelyn watched the birds out the window, she had finally returned to school after 3 weeks. Her father still mourned her mother’s death, but was happy that is only daughter was alive. Caden sat next to her, never willing to leave her side, unless she had to go to the bathroom.
He held her hand as he sat on the floor a book in his lap.
“Hey Caden?” she asked, feeling him move to look at her.
“Yes?” 
“What do think blue or red?” she pointed at the birds as they bathed in the after droplets of the rain. He smiled at her, his eyes holding an emotion that she couldn’t comprehend. 
“Which one do you like better?” he asked, rubbing his thumb on her palm. She looked away shyly, a blush on her cheek.
“I like them both.” She said quietly. He chuckled, as he quieted down Evelyn gasped.
“What?! What is it?!” Caden stood up, embracing Evelyn, pulling her close to him.
“The bird’s eggs have hatched! Aren’t they cute?” she giggled, pointing out the baby birds. His grip relaxed as he saw the birds.
“Yeah they are cute.” He smiled then looked down at Evelyn, his heart started pounding against chest.
Evelyn looked down at Caden’s arms, he still didn’t remove them.
“Caden?” she wondered, she looked up to him; he looked at her with a fever she couldn’t grasp. He leaned into her face, taking one of his hands, touching her cheek.
“Evelyn, I have a strange feeling in my heart, and I don’t know what it is, do you know because I am afraid of what it means.” she turned around, and lightly touched his chest with her finger tips.
“Your heart is beating really fast and who is this for?” she asked, not daring looking at him in the eyes.
“It’s for you, it has always been for you Evelyn.” She looked up to him with tears in her eyes. 
“I love Evelyn. I don’t care if you don’t feel the same way, but I will always love you, only you can silence me.” He kissed her cheek. She closed her eyes and hugged him.
“I don’t know what I feel for you yet, and hopefully I can know what this feeling is inside my heart.” He embraced her closer to him and watched out the window as rain began to pour, matching his feeling of regret and hope.

XXX

Evelyn walked up her driveway, the rain had subsided as she opened the door, her dad was there watching T.V.
“Hey blossom.” He said, using her old nickname. She smiled at him.
“Hey dad.” She took off her shoes and set her bag down and sat next to him. 
“What cha watching?” she asked, taking some of his chips.
“Football.” He said intraced by the sweaty guys throwing around a ball that really wasn’t a ball at all.
“Well am going up stairs and am gunna work on my homework.” He nodded. And shoved a hotdog in his mouth. She smiled, and walked up the stairs, when she reached her room she shut the door with the smile still there.
“Gezz dad you always watched football when you didn’t want to do work.” She let out a small giggle, and flopped onto her bed. Grabbing a pillow she thought of Caden.
Caden loves me, I don’t know what to do…I want to say yes but at the same time I want to say no. god Caden you really picked a really shitty time to tell me you love me that way.

’ She threw the pillow on the other side of the room as something fell off her bed. She looked at the velvet box, and picked it up from the floor.
“What the heck…” she said to herself, not sure if or if not to open it.
“Evelyn?” she heard her dad yell.
“Yeah?” she called back; frightened he would find the mysterious little box.
“Chinese or pizza?” he asked, she rolled her eyes, her dad hated to cook.
“How about you go the store and get something good for us instead.” She laughed. She heard him chuckle.
“Fine fine but you’re cooking.” 
“okay.” She smiled, she heard him ruffling about then the door closed and there was silence.
She looked back to the box, and touched it. It was soft and like silk.
She looked inside to find a necklace.
“Wow!” she explained, it was a choker, somewhere in the 1700 century. It was black with a shining of red. Underneath the choker was a little piece of paper, rolled up with a black ribbon around it. She opened it to find a poem written it dark red ink. 

My dearest Evelyn.
The blossom of my eye
The sweetest flower in bloom
How dare I say that your beauty is not matched with anyone?
Or may I say that you are the gentle wind that holds me tight
My dear little ivory flower, a frail little bird, I will forever hold
My dearest love.
From your Dark Angel


Evelyn looked at the window.
“My dark angel?” she wondered, she sat there a little longer until the light grey skies grew dark.

XXX

He watched her sit there and read his poem, putting on the necklace he had given her, then watched her watch him. Her gentle blue eyes a glowing sapphire. He smiled and looked at his injured hand, a large cut where he had poured his blood with the ink, and wrote the letter. He leaned himself against the tree until her father got home, he was that bastered again, the boy looked up to him as he smiled wickedly and disappeared.
Caden looked up at Evelyn’s window, only to see someone watching her. He stood still as that person he thought had disappeared strolled into the woods and went with the mist.
He felt his heart pound against his chest.
“You okay Caden?” Evelyn’s dad asked him, juggling the bags of food. 
He nodded curtly and followed after Evelyn’s dad into the house.
“Blossom? We are home I brought Caden home with me.” After a moment of silence, Caden smiled at the father.
“I’ll go check on her, she must have fallen asleep.” Her father nodded and went into the kitchen humming a happy tune. Caden ran up the stairs, after seeing Damien there he was afraid that he had done something.
Please be all right!

’ he thought as he busted into her room.
Evelyn was on her bed, curled up into a ball asleep like he had told her father.
“Evelyn?” he called her softly, sitting at her bed’s edge.
She was in deep sleep because she was mumbling softly about monkeys and spaceships. He smiled and moved some of her hair out of her eyes.
“Caden…” she whispered, wiggling closer to Caden. “Love you…bad monkeys…” he stared at her for a moment, then laughed. He patted her head, and smiled.
“Love you too.” He kissed her forehead and left down stairs.
Evelyn awoke in the dark, rubbing her head she looked around. She was in her room but there was another present.
It was a white rose, bright and glowing in the dark. She felt arms around her as she moved and looked down to see Caden there. He was fast asleep and smelled of pizza.
“Dad…” she shook her head and removed his arms gently so he wouldn’t waken. She walked over to the rose another letter was attached to it. She opened it.

My dearest Evelyn
Again we meet under the moonlight
Come to me my dear Evelyn and
Let me set you gentle soul free


Evelyn set the letter down, afraid of what it said.
She ran back to the bed and watched Caden sleep.
“Caden?” she called him softly, afraid of what the letter meant.
He opened his eyes and looked up at her.
“Yes love?” he asked, wrapping his arms back around her.
“I am scared.” She said, feeling tears come forth on their own will.
“Why?” he sat up and looked around the room, pulling Evelyn closer to him.
“It’s okay Evelyn I’m here.” He said, laying back down, she looked at the window swearing she saw a pair of chocolate eyes staring at her.
“Damien…” she whispered, she looked down at Caden he was asleep again. She removed his arms and went to the window, the brown eyes still there. She pressed her hands against the window, and white pale hands met hers. She gasped, shaking. She kept her eyes down at the hands, feeling his eyes on her. 
He tapped the glass with his fingers, watching her. She closed her eyes tears coming out of them. She was crying because she couldn’t touch him. He smiled and tapped the glass. She looked up to him, as he read fear in her eyes.
“Open the window.” He mouthed; she shook her head backing away from the window. She looked to Caden as he stirred.
“Evelyn?” Caden sat up rubbing his eyes; he couldn’t see the auburn eyes that watched him with fury as he called Evelyn back to bed. Evelyn fled over to him and hide in his arms once again; he watched them for a little longer then disappeared into the mist.
In the morning, Evelyn awoke to on one there, her father had left a note saying he had a meeting, traces of his presence was there a half full plate of eggs and pancakes, which she knew Caden made because her father wasn’t talented enough to make Mickey Mouse pancakes. 
“Caden?” she called, she heard the back door open as Caden came in, soaking wet with rain.
“Gezz it rains so much.” He mumbled taking off his muddy shoes. Evelyn ran to him as he caught her.
“Ha-ha what’s wrong love?” he asked chuckling. She smiled at him.
“Nothing by the way did you sneak into my room last night as my dad went to bed.” He blushed and looked away, his pink glasses fogging up.
She laughed, then was silenced but her stomach growling.
“Come on let’s get something to eat.” He picked her up and went into the kitchen.
As Evelyn finished off her last pancake, Caden began to clean up.
“Caden.” She whispered, looking at her plate.
“Um? Yes?” he looked back at her, then noticed the necklace.
“Who gave you that?” he asked, looking at her neck. Before her neck was bare, now a old choker was placed there.
“Um…uh…” she started to fidget, that wasn’t a good sign. When Evelyn starts to fidget, you knew something was going on. 
“Evelyn.” Caden’s voice became stern, but it was still gentle.
“I dunno, someone left it on my bed and left me a poem with it and last night someone had place a really pretty white rose on my desk with another poem and that’s what had scared me.” She was looking out the window, her face drawn and sad.
“The last poem scared me.” She mumbled, barely even moving her lips, she looked back down at her lap, biting her lip.
Caden embraced he, already knowing who it was from.
“It’s okay Evelyn; I promise I’ll keep you safe.” Evelyn snuggled into Caden’s arms. He picked her up again and sat her on the loveseat
“Movie day?” she wondered, he nodded and wondered into the kitchen to pop popcorn and grab hot cider.
Caden had Evelyn close under the blanket, as they watched another horror movie.
“Caden?” she looked up to him and smiled. “I am happy you are here.” He wrapped his arms around her and smiled.
“Me too.” He kissed her cheek, and laid his head on hers.
Just then there was a knock on the door.
They both groaned.
“I’ll get it.” Caden jumped up unwilling to let her go and went to the door.
Damien watched the police walk up to the door, a sick smile on his face. But instead of Evelyn answering the door, that boy did.
He hissed as they told him what had happened, then came his angel. 
I did it for you Evelyn, because you slept with that boy, now I have the person who wanted you so much.

’ He thought smiling. Christopher was the boy who wanted Evelyn, his angel. But in rage he had to kill him, because the boy that held Evelyn’s hand now was going to suffer, yes and Evelyn would watch. Watch him die under his hand. He didn’t want the boy to get a quick kill no he had to suffer. 
He watched tears come down Evelyn’s brilliant face. Then did Damien realize that Evelyn was a selfless person she would cry for those who would torment her or pick on her, in a way she would care about them. His heart was being swallowed in guilt and pain that he was the one causing her pain. Damien looked at his hands, afraid of himself. 
What have I done?

’ he asked himself. He fled into the woods, then he thought:
What I have done is for her and nothing but her; it’s that boy that keeps getting in the way, I hurt her because she hurt me, and I hurt myself because I have hurt her, now he will be the one that hurts.

’ A few tears ran down his face as he thought of Evelyn in the arms of that boy.
He looked forward in the woods and smiled, his mind racing to make the dream happen.
“Be ready my dear Evelyn I am coming for you.”

 

 

Chapter 4
Bound

Evelyn watched the rain fall from the sky, she had to breathe, Caden stood by her side, with an umbrella. They were both dressed in black.
“Christopher was a wonderful young man with many goals in life, yes he fooled around in my class but he was a good student. Let his soul be set with peace.” Mr. Bronse stepped down from the microphone. As the priest started shouting words that Evelyn wanted to understand.
She kept her eyes to the sky instead of the coffin in front of her, she didn’t cry like anyone else because the sky was already crying for her. Caden wasn’t crying either, but then again he never really liked the guy, but still his face was crumbled with looking at Evelyn, her eyes were blank, lifeless, but she still was standing, but she didn’t move, didn’t blink. 
Caden put a hand on her shoulder. 
“Evelyn, the ceremony is over, let’s go.” She finally looked at him, her eyes watering.
“I know who did this.” She said quietly turning her attention to a lowing grave.
“I know.” Caden dropped the umbrella wrapped his arms around her as she cried for a loss of a classmate.
Caden felt his own tears coming on as his head spun.
After a while in the rain they finally walked to the graveyard’s gates, as someone watched them go, his brown eyes a dark cream, as something silver shinned in the out coming sun.
“Evelyn.” He whispered.
Evelyn looked back to the grave seeing Damien there, his blond hair untidy, his clothes a dirty mess.
She stood there frightened as Caden tugged on her.
“What wrong Evelyn?” he asked, she pointed to Damien as he smiled. Caden looked at him his eyes going a dark green.
“Get behind me Evelyn.” Caden said pulling her away from the man that was keeping her frozen. Damien walked forth, smiling as he approached them.
“Evelyn.” He said, starring at her with a loving look. Evelyn looked back at him, the depth of his eyes disappearing; they were wild eyes that held nothing but darkness. He looked like a mess; his hair was still somewhat red of the killing of Christopher, his clothed dark and reeked of dirt and the dead.
“What do you want?!” Caden hissed. Evelyn looked from behind him, and stood away from Caden.
“Why?” she asked with hurt in her voice.
Damien smiled.
–“It’s all for you, for us.” Damien said taking Evelyn’s hand, his hands were rough and hard. He looked down at her hands and wrist. Scars were there from him, the knife was still in his hand.
“Did this hurt?” he asked her, the desperate look in his eyes made her looked down.
“Yes they did.” She gently removed her hand from his; he looked in his empty hands, afraid of it.
“No they couldn’t have I gave them to you, they couldn’t have hurt.” He reached for her hands again, put she pulled away, he raised the knife to her, tears reaching his eyes.
“No that not possible!” he yelled, but when he pulled the knife down, Caden wrapped his arms around her.
“Caden!” she screamed. 
Then it all went silent, the rain the only thing making noise, Evelyn looked down horrified. Blood stained his shirt a dark red, spreading, and spreading. Caden grunted in pain, afraid to scare Evelyn with screaming. 
“ oh no…Caden.” Evelyn cried. Caden just smiled up at her.
“Sorry I guess I really suck at protecting you.” Caden’s eyes rolled to the back of his head as she tried to support his weight.
“Caden…” she fell on her knees, holding him. “Please Caden don’t…” Damien watched them, a sick smile on his lips. He looked up to the sky letting the rain touch his face, he looked back down to them, Evelyn crying for that blasted boy.
“Well Evelyn my love it is time for us to go.” Damien picked up Caden with ease as he heaved him up on his shoulder, he smiled at Evelyn lovingly. 
“I hope to see you soon.” He kissed her forehead as she cried; he began to walk away as he felt Evelyn tugging weakly at him to let the boy go.
“Please! Please stop Damien!” she keep tugging on his arm at full strength, Damien thought this was cute, she was so small, so frail, she couldn’t possibly fight him.
“Good night Evelyn.” He flung her off gently, but hard enough to bring her to the ground. Damien walked away into the misty rain.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden awoke to the dark, his arms chained above his head, his feet barley able to touch the ground; he could make out small blurry shapes in the complete black room, only seeing small movements. 
He groaned, trying to move, trying to breath. He coughed, his lungs felt heavy, full of the thick air.
“Well well well you’re awake.” A strange familiar voice said, he watched the person move into the lighter side of the dark.
“Damien.” Caden seethed. “What did you do to Evelyn?!” 
Damien chuckled, like he thought this was funny.
“I haven’t done anything to her, yet. Honestly she is not here, but she will be soon.” He mused, slipping behind Caden, he felt Damien’s cold chest against his back, one of his arms reaching to Caden’s chained wrist.
“You see Caden; you need to die, because you have fallen in love with my Evelyn.” Damien whispered. 
“You fucking Bastard! You touch Evelyn and I swear to go…” Caden’s threat was cut off by a ghastly pain his back, he screamed.
“Say it again boy, tell me what do you think of me now, you saying anything I swear to fucking god I’ll cut your back in small pieces!” Damien hissed in his ear. Caden could feel the metallic edge in his back, something warm running down his bare back.
Damien smiled, knowing he won, for now.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn sat on the chair in her room, her cello between her legs, the bow in her hand. Her eyes on the window. She wished that Caden would be right behind her sleeping on her bed like he did when she played her cello when they were younger; her room was cut out of all light, as picked her cello back up and began to play again. Her father watched from her door, his eyes were sad for his daughter, for she was all alone again. And he didn’t like it at all.
“Evelyn?” he called softly as his daughter played the black cello, its notes a deep sad mournful cry. He was beginning to get anxious; she wouldn’t talk, eat, or move, except when she played her cello.
She stopped playing and turned around to her father, her eyes dead, depressing but still alive and deep, but they now were just deep in pain.
She put the cello down and crawled onto her bed, curling into a little ball, her sobs quiet, but still rocking her body. Her father sighed and walked out, knowing she wouldn’t get better without Caden there.
Evelyn watched the skies light fade; the different colors that passed made her feel dizzy. She closed her eyes for a moment to right herself in her mind again.
“Evelyn?” her father called, walking into the room. “Some for police men are here to…” she cut her father off.
“To question me?” she asked. “When I don’t even know where Caden is, where Damien is hiding him!” she screamed, now facing her father, standing in front of him, her eyes wild, her teeth clenched.
Her father just looked at her and sighed, nodding his head, and went back down stairs. She grabbed her blanket and followed him.
“All right so you have no idea where Damien Rose and Caden Mathews is at?” Officer Michael asked, looking very confused.
“Yes.” Evelyn said in anger, she knew he was a new officer but did he have to be this stupid?!
“so you do know?” 
“No I do not know where Damien and Caden are, I have no damned clue!” she seethed, the woman officer, put her hand on Evelyn’s shoulder.
“Officer Michael that’s enough, this girl is going through something hard, leave her be.” the black woman said, officer M just rolled his eyes acting like a child.
“Thank you for letting us question you, we’ll be on our way now.” She said with a smile, she grabbed officer M by the hair.
“Ow! That hurts Shelly! Why are you being so mean?!” and they left.
“Hey blossom are you hungry?” her father asked, sitting at her side.
Evelyn sighed and looked up with a weak smile.
“Nah, I’m just gunna head up to bed.” She stood up and walked to the stairs, turning to her dad, who now had his head hung and despair. 
“Maybe in the morning when am feeling better.” She smiled again as his head shot up and watched her hurry up the stairs. 
Evelyn laid back in her bed, her body feeling sore from moving. She let the tears fall that she hadn’t let down before. She hugged her bear close to her and cried into its neck.
“Caden…” she sobbed, she left a gentle hand on her head. She shot up.
“Ca…” she looked at the man in front of her, he smiled softly.
“Evelyn.” Damien said in a soft sad voice. “How are you?” she became angry, her body burning with Adrenaline.
“Go away…” she turned away from him, so the only thing he saw was her back.
“Eve…” she turned to him
“Leave me alone!” she screamed, he backed up, hearing her father run up the steps to them.
He looked at her.
“I hate you Damien, Leave me alone now! You’re a monster!” she screamed, tears running from her closed eyes.
“Evelyn honey what’s wrong?” her father busted in. Evelyn looked up to her window open and the storm thundering against the clouds, rain pouring heavily into her room.
And Damien no where to be seen.

 

 

Chapter 5
Anguish

Evelyn watched the flame of her candle, dancing. She looked at the roses on her desk, she didn’t touch any of them and just watched them wilt away. She knew that Damien sent them, so that he could be forgiven, but there was no forgiving him now.
“Evelyn!” her father yelled from down stairs, he had stopped entering her room and just sat on the chair helpless and growing more sad then he ever was.
She looked to her window, it was a shining gold from the sun, but she saw the clouds coming in.
And looking at the sun she thought of Caden.
His voice, his touch, his kisses. They made her want to melt and dance in happiness. But of course not all dreams could come true. She closed her eyes letting a few tears fall from her face. Then she felt his eyes on her again.
Damien was watching her again from the woods, or the tree in front of her window. She knew he was there, seeing if she would touch the roses.
She looked up to a pair of chocolate brown eyes, deep and angry.
“Damien.” She greeted, her eyes narrowing at the site. His blond hair was cleaned of blood, his face a pale color of ivory. He wore black again, a turtle neck and jeans. He tapped his fingers against the window, a small sad smile on his lips. She turned away, looking to her picture on her bed for her and Caden.
“I want him back.” She growled, looking back at him. He looked away and jumped down from the tree once again angry at her.
She sighed and went to her bed, wanting to sleep, but she knew she couldn’t. The memories from the graveyard haunted her. The look that Caden gave her that he had failed her, just killed her.
“Caden…” she whispered, closing her eyes, thinking of her happy Caden. “I love you.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden looked to the brighten light, knowing who was coming.
“Damien…” he growled, Damien smiled at him.
“hello.” He said cheerfully, bringing the rusty knife to his chin. Then suddenly his mood went black.
“I hope you’re fucking happy you little shit!” Damien seethed, stabbing the knife into Caden’s back.
Caden screamed, panting, his back was numb before now it was in pain again, worse then the last time.
“She won’t forgive me, sometimes she didn’t even look at me, she hates me all because of you! She only wants you; she just stares at the flame of that damned candle! That white candle that I am envious of! I want to be stared at by her, only if she looked at me with such heat…” Damien’s vigor went lame, and he broke down crying. In a way Caden felt for the boy, he just wanted to be loved by someone; Evelyn had told him what happened to Damien. How every day he came and went to school being made fun of and his father beating. He learned of why Damien held onto Evelyn’s gentle embrace, because no one held onto him that way, except for her. Even Caden’s parents didn’t give a damn about him, they just let him be, always busy with parties and work. It angered him as a child that he wasn’t loved like all the other boys and girls at school, so he got into fights and cursed and hated everyone, until Evelyn came to his school. She was a hidden angel. He would watch her from the corners, as she gave out snoopy band-aids to kids that have fallen or gotten hurt. She would carry kids to the nurses office if they couldn’t walk. He wanted to be her friend, but he knew he couldn’t because she was too kind and gentle, he was too rough and angry, until she approached him…
“Thinking of my love

?” he asked, Caden refused to look at him in the eye, knowing he was guilty of thinking of her.
Damien stood up, his tears now gone they only thing left on his face was anger.
“too bad she’s mine.” Damien mused, beginning the torment all over again.
“Stop it!” Caden screamed, his body feeling the knife again, then going numb. Damien laughed at Caden’s pain. He smiled a gentle smile and touches the scars, the blood stained his hands.
“I wonder what Evelyn looks like in all white…” he mused; he sighed and looked to Caden. 
“Hm, you’re not going to last longer if you stay this way…” Damien went back out to the light, to the place Caden wanted to be.
“Evelyn…” Caden whispered her name, becoming tired; he closed his eyes, dreaming of the rain. 
Evelyn watched the sun rise again; she sat in the middle of her bed, her head full of thoughts of Caden.
“Evelyn please talk to me.” Her therapist said, sitting on a chair in front of her. The therapist sighed. “Evelyn if you don’t talk to me, then am going to force you to and I want us to be friends.” He looked at the paper.
“Mr. Jones will you please shut the fuck up?” she asked in mortone, her icy eyes sliding to him. He looked taken back for a moment as she sighed.
“Please leave.” She waved her hand at him.
“Am sorry Evelyn but I can’t do that.” Evelyn sighed again and got up, grabbing her coat.
“Then I am.” She said, opening the door, running out before Mr. Jones could stop her.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn walked the trail; her ballet flats were muddy from the rain. She looked up to the clouded skies and felt a few tears come down her face; she wanted to be home with her mother and father, and Caden right at her side. But she knew that would never happen again. She looked back to where she was walking, hearing people in the tall bushes, smoking something nasty.
“Hey sexy.” A man with sandy hair and a goatee came out, he had a blunt in his hand with a few of his friends laughing and following his.
Shit.

’ She thought as the man came closer.
“What are you doing out here all alone?” he asked, looking her up and down.
“None of your fucking business ass-wipe.” She growled. The man’s eyes narrowed.
“Watch your little slutty mouth bitch.” 
“Hey Joe what are you doing to that girl?” a female voice rang out. A girl came out with cherry red hair, her eyes a greenish blue. She put her hand on her hip, raising an eyebrow.
“Nothing Gabby.” Joe said. Evelyn looked to her, wary of people.
“Hey Darling, don’t mind Joe he likes getting some, he’s an idiot.” The red hair girl smiled.
“What’s your name?” the girl looked closely at Evelyn, curious.
“Nothing of your interest.” Evelyn seethed; she looked back to the trail, the rain pouring.
Gabby got close to her and grabbed her arm.
“He can’t get you here.” She whispered into Evelyn’s ear, pulling her toward the bushes. Evelyn watched Gabby look up, and growled, like an animal.
“Oh Damien dear love, you know you can’t be on this part of land, so get.” Gabby’s southern drawl made Evelyn think of an old Wild West movie. Evelyn looked up to Damien, his eyes pained; of course he had followed her, anywhere at any time. 
“Go away Damien.” Evelyn said, she looked angry with him. Gabby nodded.
“No use in following her here you idiot.” Gabby sighed at looked to Evelyn. “come on Darlin’ let’s get you inside.” Gabby pushed Evelyn more into the grassy part behind the bushes, as Damien watched her go.
“Damn it I forgot that I had promised them to stay off, now I’m going to hear it.” Damien sighed, and looked back to where Evelyn was.
But I can’t let them take her; they would keep her there forever, so I couldn’t get her.

’ Damien sighed again, and sat in the tree, getting comfortable, waiting until Evelyn came back out.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn looked to the fire in the middle of the field; tent like fabric hanging over most of the field from the tree to make one giant looking tent. All kinds of people were there. Old, young. An old man was telling tales of when he was in World War 2 and another older woman was watching the children play.
“This is our Coven I guess you can say, mostly filled with homeless people and gypsies.” Gabby stated proudly. She grabbed Evelyn a plate of food and sat down. Evelyn stood not knowing what to do.
“Come sit, its warm by the fire, and this is for you.” Gabby handed Evelyn the food. It was filled with a brownie, two pieces of fried chicken and green beans.
“How did you get this?” Evelyn asked, taking a bite of the brownie. 
“Well we all do odd jobs, and all. So this week we all together made about five hundred dollars.” Evelyn coughed, choking on her fried chicken.
“Then why don’t you buy a house or something like that?” Evelyn felt a conundrum in her brain. 
“Didn’t I tell you before, we all homeless or gypsies, and a few run always I might add. We like it out here; just moving to another place is exciting.” Gabby smiled.
“Okay then, what about Damien why isn’t he allowed on this land?” Evelyn asked, confused.
“This land belongs to my grandparents, who are still living, but gave me the freedom to do what I want, they said the day I left is that if I have to use their bought land then so be it. Damien’s family history is entwined with mine, so I was surprised to see him. You see the Rose family as always held a spiteful hate towards us, the Notes. I guess it’s because they have this way of getting things they want, when we use gentler ways to do things, thus getting more praise from others, they wanted that power, the power to be trusted and loved by people that they grew madly envious.” Gabby took a drink of water.
“But Damien’s family is a little different. His mother was a whore, and the father a drunken idiot, that was part of the Rose family. I remember seeing Damien when he was younger at a business party my father had taken me too. His best clothes were dingy, rank clothes that smelled of a cat box. I knew he was embarrassed. Because he had tears in his eyes. I felt really bad for him, and everyone looked down at him with shame! Even his own father! It was horrible.” Gabby looked to the fire again.
“I was surprised to see that Damien was following you though. He must some kind of interest for you.”
Evelyn nodded. 
“Yes, I believe it was because I was the only one that ever showed a caring touch to him.” Evelyn watched Gabby as she threw another log in.
“I don’t know what’s going on between you two, nor do I want to, but forgive and forget. When you go back out there, call him down from the tree and tell him something that you can only tell him. I know he will get angry very fast, but keep in mind of his past.” Gabby out up, and stretched. 
“It’s about time us folk got to go to bed. If you come back tomorrow we won’t be here. But I am glad I got to talk to you.” Gabby smiled and headed off to a sleeping bag. Evelyn stood as well, smiling that she made a new friend.
“Night Gabby!” Evelyn called. Gabby just smiled.
Evelyn watched from afar when they put out their fire, and shook her head, still hearing the squeals of the children running about not wanting to go to bed. She got back onto the trail, as she heard an intake of breath. She looked up to Damien wryly.
“Damien.” She stated quietly. She looked at him; his hair was messy from leaning against the tree, his eyes shocked and wide.
“Could you please get down here?” she asked, taking a breath. She wanted to yell at him, hurt him; so that he would tell her where Caden was, but knew asking nicely was probably the way to go.
She heard a drop and a soft landed, as Damien walked out.
“Evelyn.” He came to her slowly, not wanting to scare her, like before in the classroom.
“Damien, why did you take Caden from me?” she asked him, her heart pounding in her chest from just his name. Damien stopped in his tracks. His face full of disbelief.
“Why is it always about him?!” Damien yelled, fuming. 
“I just want to know Damien please calm down.” She looked at him with a pitiful gaze. 
Damien had always been alone, always been afraid, why did they only good thing in his life have to love someone else.
“I don’t want it to be about him! I want it to be about me! He doesn’t deserve it, your love. It’s not fair Evelyn! Why always him, he gets everything!” Damien had tears coming down his face as he fell to the ground, sadness of being abandoned over taking him.
“Evelyn why…” Damien sobbed. Evelyn ran to him, as he clutched onto her, crying into her jacket. He looked so wrecked, so broken. Damien had a mask that Evelyn broke, and she knew that.
“Damien hush, it’s okay, shh it’s all right I’m here.” Evelyn soothed him, smoothing his hair down.
“I don’t want you to leave me, I don’t want to be alone.” She felt him shaking under her arms, she rubbed his lean back.
“It’s ok Damien, I’m here, I’m here.” She cooed to him, he hated showing his weakness to her, but he couldn’t fight it anymore.
“Evelyn why can’t you see I love you so much, yet your with him?!” Damien looked up to Evelyn, their eyes meeting. It was silent then, as Evelyn was being held by Damien’s eyes.
“Evelyn…” Damien placed his hands on both of her sides, pinning her down, his face coming closer. “I love you so much so why do you does this, why do you love him and not me?” his voice was nothing but a whisper, Evelyn felt her face warm to a ruby red, as Damien caressed her cheek.
“Damien…please…don’t…” Evelyn was taken by his warm hands on her face, his forehead touching hers. It was a soft gester that made her heart go into a frenzy. 
Damien closed his eyes, gently pressing his lips to hers. Her lips were like soft velvet against his rough lips, she smelled of sweet spring. He wrapped his arms around her, his kisses becoming more urgent, fiercer even.
He broke away to a crying Evelyn. He caressed her face in his hands again.
“Why are you crying love?” he asked, afraid he did something wrong.
“It’s not fair, your lips are sweet, and your face is kind, but your hands are rough and your eyes are cold.” Evelyn sobbed, her lips trembling. She left her head fall into her hands. She loved Caden, but at the same time she could feel herself all into the temptation of Damien’s love. She couldn’t understand why this happened to her. 
Damien watched his angel fall into sadness, not knowing what to do. 
Why did she have to be so sweet, so kind!? Then maybe I wouldn’t be hurting her.

’ He wrapped his arms around her.
No not even then would I let her go.

’ He picked her up, cradling her in his arms. She fit just right. 
Walking back to Evelyn’s house was very easy, but also very sad. Damien wanted to take her away, to his home. So he wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. So she wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. He knew her very well. He knew even with Caden at her side, she was alone at home. Her mother was always working, always gone. Her father was always on trips to promote his work. And Evelyn would be alone at home, waiting for them, she would play her cello often, or clean humming tunes from her IPod. She was never happy until she talked to Caden or go online were she was adored by her fans. Her cello playing gotten her very far online. But mostly it was older people who were in elderly homes, asking her to play for them. Many men often took her song from online and played it for their wife’s, and Evelyn was happy she was able to make others happy with her songs. Then when she started singing online, many boys became her fans. But she didn’t like this and stuck to her cello. 
Damien looked to the sleeping girl in his arms. Her crying made her tried and soon she was asleep.
“Evelyn.” Damien smiled softly, kissing her forehead. He couldn’t help be in love with her, he just couldn’t. She was perfect in every way. Every time she smiled, he wanted to smile. When she laughed he wanted to know why so he could laugh with her, even if it didn’t make any sense. He wanted to be by her side until they very end.
He reached Evelyn’s house in no time, climbing up her tree, with Evelyn on his back, Damien opened her window to find it empty; laying her on the bed he took one finial glance at his love. He bent down to her forehead and kissed it. 
“Evelyn sweet dreams.” He whispered, then dropped from the window into the trees once more.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn opened her eyes groggily to the sun streaming in threw her window.
Sunlight that’s rare.

’ She thought rubbing her eyes. Just as she sat up her father busted in.
“Gezz Evelyn give me a fright! I went looking for you after you left the therapist pissed off and I walk back in and run up here and there you are sound asleep!” her father was sick from the rain, she could see it in his face. He grabbed her and pulled her into a hug, crying on her shoulder.
“Don’t you ever do that again? You understand me?!” he yelled half sobbed. She nodded and hugged him again, smiling.
So he is worried about me.

’ She felt her own tears coming as she hugged him.
“Love you dad.” She sobbed.
“Love you too Eve.” They sat there like that for a moment, her father trying to calm down his tears.
“All right I’m hungry.” Her father stated, she smiled and nodded her head in agreement.
“Me too.” Her father stood up and stretched.
“Okay let us go to Benny’s café. They got the best damned burger that I have ever tasted.” Her father rubbed his tummy, looking like a drooling dog.
She nodded. “mkays.” He left her to get changed and shower. Evelyn arched her back, the hot water felt nice after that cold night she had spent with Damien. She ran her fingers threw her hair, looking up at the ceiling.
Damien brought me home after everything, he just brought me home instead of taking me to his home. That was…sweet.

’ She thought, a blush rising onto her cheeks. A small smile reaching her lips. 
“Evelyn come on hurry up!” her father yelled form down stairs. She laughed and got out of the shower, dressing in a daze. Her father stood at the end of the stairs, smiling.
“Hey dad.” She laughed at his get up, a piano tie with a green dress shirt and jeans. She rolled her eyes, as he opened the door.
“love you Eve.” He smiled, grabbing his keys. She laughed and smiled.
“Love you dad.”
———————————

 

 

Chapter 6
Doubt

Evelyn watched the rain fall from the sky, her teacher writing on the board.
I hate math, I hate math, I hate math…

’ Evelyn sighed, resting her head on her fist. She turned to the clock, its hands ticking and tocking. She listened to Kamelot, she hummed with the song, tapping her fingers. She looked back out the window, seeing a blond head she knew every well.
Damien…

’ she thought, he looked up to her and smiled. She looked away, her face turning a scarlet color. She sighed as the bell rung, saving her from the evil question on board. She walked threw the walls, feeling alone.
“Hey look it’s the freak…”
“Yeah did you hear that she is being stalked…”
“Totally I mean sure he was cute but he is a killer…”
“Right I know what a freak…”
“Did you know she got Chris killed?”
Evelyn grimaced at this, she hated what they said. She turned to glare at the two cheerleaders in the corner. They flinched and scoffed.
“You’re not scary.”
“Yeah ghost girl. You’re not at all scary.” They looked at each other laughing like desperate idiots.
“Yeah maybe not but I know that your pregnant and your breasts are fake.” Evelyn said nonchantly. The two girls looked shocked for a moment, before getting murderously angry.
“Yeah well you’re a freak, and nothing is going to help you get away from Damien, He’s after you and he’ll kill the other freak!” one of them yelled. Her face was really red, and she thought she won. How wrong she was.
Evelyn eyes went dark, dropping her books, Evelyn ran after the girl, pinning her against the lockers behind them. She had grabbed her arm twisting it behind her back. 
“Don’t you dare talk such words again, or I swear to the devil…” she hissed in the girl’s ear. The girl screamed as some football players pulled Evelyn off of her, then went to tend to the girl. 
“Ms. Heeren.” a large hand placed its self on Evelyn’s shoulder. Evelyn looked up to the man.
“Come to the office.” He sighed, guiding her away from the stares of her classmates.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

“Evelyn, how could you get suspended?!” her father yelled, waving the piece of paper in her face like a flag.
“Because some bitch was talking about my friend and saying I was the freak!” she screamed back, running up the stairs.
“Evelyn get your ass down here!” he screamed, running after her. She hurried to lock her door, and grab her jacket.
How does Damien do this?

’ she wondered, opening her window as her father pounded on the door.
“Evelyn!” he screamed, heaving on the door.
Shit he’s going to break it down!

’ she climbed onto the tree, her feet dangling just above 26 ft. As her father busted in, she fell to the ground.
Can’t see, I must have it my head…

‘ Evelyn’s eyes were closed her head feeling heavy.
She rolled over in the grass, hearing her father yelling for her, she went to stand, but just fell back down again, her ankle was killing her. 
“Shit…” she muttered, dragging herself threw the wet grass, the rain pouring.
Great just my fucking luck…

’ she dragged herself to the trees, until she felt a hand on her head.
“Evelyn?!”
Damien walked through the forest, going to see his love.
I hope she likes candles I bought her, and the rose. I really hope she likes the rose.

’ He smiled. His face a very pale red. He stepped out through the trees, stepping on something soft. He looked down to a shivering Evelyn, dragging herself across the grass.
“Evelyn?!” he asked in surprise. Then he started to panic, why was she dragging herself along the grass? What was wrong with her legs? Why was her father yelling for her to come back to the house? Why was she crying? All of these thoughts went through his head at the same time as he bent down to her.
“I got suspended and dad broke down my door, I didn’t want to be here.” She started to sob. Damien sighed, knowing it wasn’t every serious then.
“What about your legs?” he asked, sitting her up in his arms.
“I think I sprained it.” She sniffed. Damien fingered it lightly, as she flinched when he made contact with the swollen ankle.
“Here, I need you to close your eyes, I am going to take you to my home, the other one, it’s not ready for you yet.” He picked her up, looking her in the eyes.
“All right?” he asked, serious. She nodded, resting her pounding head in the crook of his neck, wrapping her arms around his neck. She felt tears rise in her eyes, letting them pour onto his shirt.
“Evelyn its okay, its okay.” Damien patted her back, and he hurried threw the forest.
“Damien…thank you.” She sniffed, she couldn’t believe that she said thank you to the man who took her love away, but she was thankful. 
Damien smiled, and hugged her a bit tighter.
“Your welcome.”
X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X
“Damien?” Evelyn asked, she sat on an old broken sofa.
“Yes?” he asked, looking up to her.
“You live in this Apartment, I thought that the police…” she stopped, as Damien tightened the wrappings on her foot and ankle. He sighed and let her foot fall onto a pillow he had placed there.
“I came back after they searched it. I live up in an old manor right now. But I won’t tell you which one.” He winked, wrapping his arm around her. 
“Is that were Caden is at?” she asked quietly, looking down at her lap, biting her lip. She felt Damien stiffen, and move away from her.
“Evelyn please let’s not talk about this…” he sighed, letting his head fall into his hands.
“But Damien, Caden will die! I know your keeping him in the dark, because that’s your element! You strive in the dark, but Caden he needs the light! Please Damien…” Damien moved swiftly, grabbing Evelyn roughly, pressing his lips against hers. She went rigid for a moment then started to struggle. He grabbed onto her, forcing her down on the sofa. 
“Damien get off!” she gasped as he broke their kiss. He began to kiss her neck, nibbling at it.
“Damien!” she yelled. He bit her even harder, drawing blood. She kicked her legs, her ankle screaming in protest.
“Damien please!” she begged, pounding on his chest with her small fists.
“Evelyn…” Damien whispered in her ear. She froze her body shivered. His rough voice held unmistakable lust and anger. Damien brought his lips to hers again, his tongue tracing her bottom lip. His kisses were rough, and unwanted. Evelyn’s eyes began to water and spill.
“Damien stop it! Stop touching me!” she screamed, her fist connecting with his face. He hissed holding his face. His body was still on top of her, pinning her to the sofa. She struggled to sit up, as she got up a fraction, he pulled her back down.
“You’re not getting away!” he snarled, slapping her. He turned her over, pulling her shirt off.
“You belong to me!” he growled, his long fingers tracing his mark on her back. He could hear her sobs, muffled by the pillow.
“Or must I remind you of who you belong to?” he asked in a bored amused tone.
Her eyes widened as she shook her head.
“N…n…no please don’t do that again…” she sobbed, racking her body with sobs.
“Then stop resisting me!” he growled. Turning her back over, shoving her back into the sofa.
“Please…stop!” she whimpered. Damien went back to her neck, nibbling at her skin softly. She pushed against him, desperate to leave, to escape.
Damien’s fingers softly lingered on her silk-like skin. His lips kept pressing themselves against her skin, Eager. One of his hands, moved from her arms, to the back of her neck, knotting itself in her dark tresses, trailing down her back. He moaned in sheer pleasure of touching her skin. Her stomach, her collar bone, trailing his fingers down to her breast stone. Her back was wet with sweat, from their bodies being so near each other. But her tears did not stop. Her chest was raising and falling at a fast pace. Small sobs still choking themselves out of her swollen lips. 
“Evelyn…” he whispered, his teeth slightly grazing her ear.
“Damien…please…stop it, you’re…scaring me…”she cried, her sobs gently rocking her body. Damien froze as a pained expression crossed his rough face. His fingers became still. His kisses not as eager to touch her skin.
“Your scared of…me? He stuttered, his voice thick with aged desolation. 
Evelyn looked at him, afraid to speak, and nodded her head. Hesitantly he moved away from her, not wanting to leave her, but knowing he might have hurt her, torn him into pieces. He wanted to ravish her like the goddess she was, but now he just…couldn’t.
“I’m sorry Evelyn. My Emotions…” Damien looked down in shame, his heart sinking down into a deeper depression. Evelyn sprang up from the sofa, careful not to apply pressure to her ankle.
“I want to go home Damien.” Evelyn wanted her voice to be firm, but to her it just sounded weak, and breathless.
Damien stood up from the sofa, and picked her up.
“To atone for my sins.” He mumbled to himself, walking out the door, into the cold rain. 
X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X
Caden awoke to a slam and someone yelling profanities.
“Damien.” Caden greeted his voice raucous. Damien looked at him; from the corner he was crouched down in. his trousers were soaked and wet. His eyes were almost black from what Caden could see. 
“This is your fault!” Damien screamed at him, his fist connecting with Caden’s already sore jaws. Caden spurred and starting coughing up blood as Damien ginned in satisfaction as he saw the crimson blossoms pour down his lips.
“What the fuck did I do?!” Caden screamed at Damien, his teeth bared.
“Everything!” Damien screamed back. “She hates me! And you’re the reason why! I tried to be gentle, I wanted so badly to take her, but then she said those words! The words she dare not speak to you!” Damien thrashed Caden again, causing the flow of blood once more.
“It’s not my fault that she hates you!” Caden growled, wish he could whip his mouth of the blood.
Damien kicked him, then took the wipe off the wall.
“Liar!” he seethed, and began to whip Caden, then took the knife from his pocket digging it into his back, spelling a new word into his back.
X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X
Evelyn sat in her chair; her father had gone out to the bar. She looked at the computer screen.
300 more people have become my fans…

’ she thought as she typed a thank you to a few people. She sighed and pushed away from the computer, and stretched her arms. Looking out the window, Evelyn got up and laid down on her bed, her head swimming with thoughts of Damien.
Why does he act this way?

’ she questioned, rolling onto her side. ‘He first acts like a gentleman then he started to…

’ Evelyn shivered, pulling her blanket close to her. She listened to the door slam then heard her father turn on the T.V.
God my life is a mess.

’ She sighed and looked at her ceiling. 
She stood up, her ankle still a little tender. She grabbed her jacket, shoving her feet into her shoes. She looked to her window, and shook her head.
“Yeah am not gunna jump out of there again…” she mumbled as she tip-toed down the stairs.
Okay, the third stair down squeaks, along with the last one…

’ she looked down at her father who was snoring on the chair. She skipped the last three stairs, landing with a soft thud. She looked to her father for a moment, his snoring had stopped.
“Melody…” her father mumbled. Her mothers name. Evelyn sighed, and looked down.
Why am I doing this again? …that’s right, I want to leave for awhile so I can think clearly.

’ She shook her head and silently went to the door. She unlocked it silently then walked out, shutting the door behind her.
Evelyn walked down the road, the silence eating at her. She griped and ungriped her hands as she neared the graveyard. She looked to the old iron gates laced with ivy. She wanted to leave but felt a pull to go inside. Her hands lightly touched the swirls of the gates, pushing it open. Then a memory came to her.
Evelyn honey come here!’ her mother smiled in the sun. her pretty blonde hair flowing in the slight wind.
‘but mama I want to get a frog with daddy!’ a small Evelyn ran to the woman, pouting as her mother raised her high in the air.
‘but Hun, we got to go now there’s a storm coming, can’t you see the clouds are going grey?’ her mother asked, pointing to the sky. Evelyn pouted at the sky.
‘get let me get a frog okay mom?’ she crossed her small arms over her chest. Her mother rolled her eyes.
‘All right love. I will, l but remember get the frog and come straight to the car.’ Her mother kissed her and let her down, watching her run to the pound.
‘I dunno what mama is talking about its still sunny to me…’ little Evelyn mumbled, wading in the clear blue water. She bent down the little frogs that were hoping away.
‘Wait comes back frogie!’ she squealed, running after it. She tripped and fell into the water, her small doll like hands found themselves around a slimy frog. She held him up the fading sun in victory. Then a thunder cloud came over her and bellowed out a loud bang! Evelyn looked up the raining sky, letting the raindrops fall on her face. She blinked back a few tears from fright and laughed. 
‘Evelyn?! Evelyn?!’ she heard her mother call. Evelyn looked to her mothers figure running over to her picking her up.
‘Mama! Look! Look! The sky…it’s…it’s crying.’ Evelyn mumbled feeling a few tears run down her face.
‘I’m sorry sky for laughing!’ she yelled out to the sky, before her mother put her in the car, driving off…

Evelyn walked threw the gates into the graveyard, her hands ghosting over the old graves. Her eyes were looking at the up coming grave. It was huge, white marble and grey. Her eyes trained on the name.
Melody Heeren may her soul rest in peace, even though she left with a tragic sad end. Let God watch over her spirit as she crosses over. A loving mother and wife.
1972-2010


Evelyn felt tears sting her eyes as her hands touched her mother’s grave. She kept going after a moment, to cross to Chris’s grave.
‘ Christopher Grace
Loving brother and son
Let his soul be left in peace.
1993-2010


His grave wasn’t as good looking as her mothers’. There were also a few beers and toilet paper rolls by his grave. Somebody had graffiti his grave reading:
Faggot, Asshat, fuck face! You deserve to rot in the fucking ground!


Evelyn agreed with these people he was an ass, a jerk and honestly he deserved what he got. But at the same time she felt sad, because she knew she had caused his death. She wondered around a bit more before she was at her mother’s grave again.
“Mom…” she let the tears go this time, her knees giving out under her. She fell to the mossy ground and cried.
Cried for her mother and the people that Damien had killed.
Cried for father and her friend that was being held captive.
And Cried for herself, Damien had finally did it. He had broken her. 
She laid on the ground, curling up into herself, letting her mother watch over her. Her eyes drooped and fell.
And soon she was asleep. 
———————————————–

 

 

 

Chapter 7

Absence

Damien sat in the hall that lead to Caden’s torture room, resting his head against the cement wall. His thoughts swarming around Evelyn. He screamed in anger and frustration. He looked up to the dim lights, and choked out a dry sob.
Why? Why?! Why does that Asshat mean so much to her?! Why can’t she love me like that?!

’ he thought pounding his fists against the ground.
“Damn it!” he yelled, feeling a few tears roll down his face. “Why? Why Evelyn? Why? Why do you love him and not me?” Bringing his knees to his chest, he sobbed in the dim-lighten hallway, waiting for dawn.
Evelyn watched the sun come up, knowing something bad was going to happen. Her father already fleeing to his car. Sighing, she opened her laptop watching the screen pop up. She looked back to the window; Damien was outside, with a few things in his hands.
“Fuck.” She hissed. She hurried to create a new password then turned off her computer.
“Evelyn…” a soft voice called behind her. She froze and turned her head.
“Shit!” she hurried to her window as Damien hurried to grab her.
“No no Evelyn no escaping me today.” Damien threw her on her bed, going back to the door.
Evelyn realized with horror those things in his hands were duck tape and rope.
“Fuck! Please Damien, don’t!” she begged, rolling on her bed as he grabbed for her.
“Evelyn get over here. I don’t want to make this harder then it already is.” Damien sighed, grabbing for her again. She dodged him, flying into her desk.
“Shit.” She winced as she held her side. Damien sighed again and grabbed her arm gently.
“Please Evelyn stop, you’re going to get yourself hurt.” He threw her over his shoulder as she kicked and screamed.
“Let me go you Asshat! Fucking let me go!” Damien threw her back on the bed, glaring at her.
“stop fucking cursing at me you bitch!” he blew up in her face, shaking his fists around, he threw the kidnapping tools to the ground.
“Damn it Evelyn! I just want to be with you but you just keep shattering me!” he yelled pitifully, sinking to the ground. He held his head in his hands, feeling his eyes prick with tears.
“And what do you think your doing to me? Huh? You broke me down and now I’m NOT letting you have me! I want nothing to do with you Damien! I hate you and I’m sick of you playing this game!” she screamed at him, standing from the bed, her fists clenched.
“I hate you but I don’t hate you…” her bright eyes dulled, and closed. She fell back onto the bed, running her fingers threw her ebony hair. She felt tired and depressed. 
“What?” he looked confused and somewhat hopeful. 
She sighed and looked at him in the eye.
“I hate you for many, many reasons! But I can’t bring myself to really hate you.” She blushed and looked away, as he kept staring at her. He stayed silent for a moment before going off.
“Evelyn, if you give me a chance! A chance is all I ask, please! I could make you love me, willingly! I swear, just give me a chance love! One! That’s all I ask, and I’ll do anything for you!” he grabbed her hand, his eyes shining. “Please Evelyn that’s all I ask!” he looked at her desperate.
Evelyn looked at him, then back at the window, then back at him.
“Anything?” she asked quietly. He nodded his head slowly, not understanding what was going on in her head.
“I will if you let Caden go.” She watched his face as it sunk in to what she was saying. He stood abruptly, and went to her desk, his hands gripping tightly to the wood so he wouldn’t hurt her.
Why him?!

’ he seethed in his mind.
“Damien?” she whispered, picking at her nails nervously. He turned swiftly turned back around to her, his body rigid.
“No.” he stiffly said, threw clenched teeth. She starred at him for a moment before turning around, grabbing her lamp and throwing it at him.
“Then get out!” she screamed. She knew it was a long shot, but she had to try.
“Evelyn! Stop! You knew that I would have said no, and you knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that! So why did you ask?!” Damien yelled. Blowing up in her face, but she didn’t back down instead she stood up, her fists clenched.
“Because I love him!” she screamed. Damien’s face fell, his eyes no longer angry. But now they were drenched in unbearable sadness. 
“I understand…” he whispered, moving away from her, walking to her door.
“I’m sorry Evelyn…” he took a last glance at her. 
Evelyn sat back onto her bed, wrapping her arms around herself. Her body doubled over, feeling a few tears prick her eyes.
“No your not…” she whispered to nothing.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden watched as Damien came, his face drawn to the watery ground.
“Another pipe broke.” he stated, his voice void of emotion. 
“What now?” Caden coughed, Damien lifted his head to Caden’s shackles.
Maybe I should let him go…then maybe Evelyn would…

’ Damien shook his head, then looked at Caden straight in the eye.
“Evelyn said the only way for her to be mine, is that I have to let you go.” At these words Caden became anxious. Would he be let go, or? But then there was Evelyn. She ever backed down from a promise. But maybe she just said that so he could go free then they could run away where Damien couldn’t find them!
“Well?!” Caden about shook in his chains. How he missed the fresh air and sun! Leaving in the grass with Evelyn as she worked on another piece for her cello. Caden watched Damien’s eyes harden slightly.
“I said no, and now she hates me!” Damien grabbed his knife and threw it at the cement wall. He walked out of the dark water room full of rage.
Caden sighed.
“She already hated you.”
Damien ran up the stairs of the manor’s basement, his boots heavy against wood. Shoving his fist against the walls every chance he got. Finally he reached the top, then slammed the door. Locking it. 
“Damn it Evelyn!” he screamed to nothing, he ran up to the second floor, going to his room, he looked around looking for something to brake. Something to burn.
He took everything in the room, breaking it, throwing it, hitting it. He wanted this whole in his chest to go away. He went into the bathroom and broke the glass to the mirror, shattering all of it. Shards of the glass stuck in his hand as it became numb. Deep red rivers spurred from his hand, as he starred at it he thought of Evelyn. Memories flooding back of the night he sketched his name in her back, every thing he had done to her, everything he had done to her family.
He backed into the wall, holding his head.
“Stop it! Stop it!” he shook his head, tears falling from his eyes. His vision became blurred as he sobs, clenching his teeth. 
“I didn’t…I didn’t mean to…” then he was back in his old house. The old coffee table full of ash trays and empty beer bottles. The T.V. was full of snow as the sound screeched in Damien’s ears. The scent of the house was of decay and salt. That was the day when he found the cat Damien was hiding. It was a kitten, small and white. He had named her Snow for her fur.
“You little Bastered! Get in here and make my dinner!” his father screamed from the kitchen.
“Shoot Sir is mom, be quiet snow and I‘ll bring you your dinner.” Damien gave the little kitten a peck on its cheek, and hustled her to his room, shutting the door softly. Damien ran to the kitchen and went to the fridge.
“why the hell did it take you so long?!” his father screamed in his face. Damien gave him a shy nod of his head and began to explain when a tiny ‘mew’ came from behind his father. His father turned around to see a tiny kitten still trying to stand, hungry for food.
“so you’ve been hiding dinner have you?!” ‘Sir’ reached for Damien in a drunken slur, but before he could reach him a little hiss came from the kitten. ‘Sir’ turned around and grabbed the pussy by its tail, swinging it around.
“stop it!” Damien yelled, reaching for the cat, but his father pushed him out of the way, and went to the sink.
“you want me to let the cat go?” his father smirked. Then he turned on the garbage disposal. Damien’s eyes widened in fright.
“No please!” tears sprang from his eyes.
“okay then I’ll let the cat go!” his father’s grip on the tail loosened and the kitten dropping into the sink, one of its legs fell into the hole. 
The sound that came from the cat, made Damien shiver in fear, and scream. Blood spurred from the cats leg as it cried loudly.
“I’m going out for dinner, I’ll want this thing gone before I get home!” his father yelled, slamming the door. Damien hurried to shut off the disposal, but being his size, it took him a few minutes before the sound of grinding bones went off. Damien picked up the kitten and hurried to the bathroom.
“Silly Snow I thought I said to stay in the room…” Damien shakily said, trying to bandage the stump up. Sobs came from his throat as he began to cry. He held the kitten tightly to his chest for what seemed like forever.
Damien woke up to the groggy sound of his father coming in. he looked down to the kitten. Its breathing was gone and she wasn’t soft anymore.
More tears gathered in his eyes.
“Snow!” he cried, sobbing into the kitten’s fur. “No…why?” 
“You piece of shit get in here and clean this mess up!” his father screamed. Damien came out of the room with the cat bundled in his arms.
“That thing is still here?!” his father screamed, grabbing it and throwing it in the sink again, stuffing the kitten into the disposal, turning it on.
Blood and bones went everywhere as his father grinned in glee, turning back to his disappointment in life all he said was “clean it up.”

Damien sunk to the ground, shaking.
“He shouldn’t have killed her she was just a kitten. My little girl…” Damien looked to the shattered mirror shards.
“I…I need to finish the job.” Damien got up and left the room, walking down the stairs, then walking into the rain.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn sat in her Living room, her father was in the kitchen, cooking dinner. They had made up, and after she explained what had happened at her school she was let off the hook.
“Having trouble Dad?” she asked, chewing on some plain toast.
“Nah! I’m good Eve.” Then she heard a crash and bang. Looking concerned at the door, her father’s face popped up with a few noodles on his head.
“Take out?” she smiled. He nodded gratefully. She smiled as the T.V. began to blare something other the Invader Zim.
Breaking New!-
65 yr old Philip Ross’s body was found in his house filled with Stab wounds to his neck and back.

 

” 
Ross?

’ Evelyn thought her face going pale. Her father joined her on the sofa, his cell phone in his hands. He looked at her, his face the same color.
…the main suspect is his son, Damien Ross. Who had killed and murdered Melody Heeren, and kidnapped Caden Mathews. His is no where to be found.

 


A picture of all three of them popped up. Caden’s High school photo, Melody’s Law office ‘Employee of the month’ photo, and Damien’s high school photo. 
Evelyn shivered.
“I’m glad he’s dead.” Evelyn whispered, looking down at her fingers. He father looked at her shocked. 
“Why?” his all he asked.
“He’s the veil man that abused Damien, he’s the reason Damien is who he is. Is all because that disgusting veil man…” Evelyn snarled. Evelyn’s father looked at her then back at the T.V. not willing to say more, too scared to find out. Evelyn sighed and stood up, brushing her sweats from the toast crumbs. 
“Where you going Hun?” her father asked her. She just stayed silent and walked up the stairs to her room. She knew he would be there. 
She sighed as she noticed the lights were off, she had them on all day. But of course Damien had to go to the dark, he always did. She shut her door softly behind her, and looked around her room. That’s when she heard sobbing in her closet. She walked to closet slowly, wondering if he was there to hurt her. Opening the door, she found something that surprised her. 
Damien was in the corner of the closet, his hands fisted in his hair. Blood was everywhere on him.
“Damien?” she called softly. He looked up his eyes fearful and mad. His hands shook as he took the knife from his side and moved it away from her.
“I killed him…I killed Sir.” He sobbed, his eyes looking at nothing. The way he said that, the way he was, made her remember when they were younger and his father would always beat him. It scared her.
She crawled to his side as he continued to sob endlessly. Seeing him this way made her want to protect him, and shield him from himself and others. She wrapped her arms around him, as he moved his face to her stomach, lying down. He was completely shaking, the sobs racked his body. His grip on her became harder. His fingers digging into her back. 
Hours later he began to calm down as she rubbed his shoulders, soothing him with kind words, Evelyn began to sing a lullaby to him, so that he would calm down more. Hearing her voice was heaven to his ears. She was calming him, caring for him. He never wanted to come to her room but had no choice. He couldn’t stay in his house, his thoughts would kill him and he had no where else to go. Evelyn was his cure, his addiction. He began to feel tired, wanting to forever be in her arms. Resting his head in her lap, he closed his eyes slowly, and fell into deep darkness. 
Evelyn watched him sleep; hi face was full of lines. The bags under his eyes were a dark purple color.
“Damien…” she sighed, bushing away the small hairs from his face. “Only if your father wasn’t abusive to you. Then maybe we could have been friends…at least.” She sighed. She rested her hand on his back, and the other one on his head, closing her eyes herself, too tired from metal and physical stress.
If only…

’ Was her last thought until dawn
———————————————–

 

 

Chapter 8

Captive

Evelyn laid on her bed, once again committed to her room. When she had woken up that morning she was alone on her bed. She and sat up and called him softly.
“Damien?” but on one answered, then she knew that he was gone.
“Hey Eve?” her father came in, his had a tie on with his drown suit. It wasn’t the music note tie she had come to love, but a plain dark blue one.
“Hey.” She said rolling over, running her fingers threw her hair. 
“what do you need?” she asked.
“I’m going to a meeting for a few days. I got a cop to stay with you. Be nice.” He kissed her softly.
“Remember your music note tie!” she yelled after him, hearing a “yeah yeah…” she smiled and turned back over to look at her wall. She listened to the person down stairs, not really caring who it was. Then heard her father’s beat up old 1950 BMW roar and drive off, playing Kenny West.
She smiled, shaking her head.
“Stupid freaking country music.” She let a small chuckle out, then went back to her skulking.
After a few hours the cop came up. He was a big black guy, with no hair.
“Are you Evelyn?” he asked in a deep voice. She nodded her head.
“Yeah.”
“Hey Evelyn I’m Mike. I think you know my wife… Shelly?” Evelyn sat up, and smiled.
“Your Shelly’s husband?” she grinned. He laughed and smiled. “Yup! If you don’t mind, she was going to come over. Bring our kids. I’m not pretty sure your friend isn’t going to be here tonight.” He grinned.
She looked at him confused.
“You mean Damien?”
“Yup.”
“Why?” 
Did he get caught, where was he?

’ she thought as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Last time he was seen was three towns away.” As Evelyn absorbed this,as Mike pulled out his cell phone, calling his wife.
“Hey Hun when are you getting here?” he asked, smiling at a blank Evelyn.
“I’m almost there baby. Anna is really happy to see you.” A familiar female voice called out. Mike grinned.
“Okay hun bye.”
“Bye.” Evelyn looked to Mike.
“You know there’s another Police officer name mike too, I don’t like him very much though…” she mumbled. The big man gave her a hearty laugh.
“Me either, He’s an idiot. Thinks he’s a big shot. He’s just a kid.” He grinned. Evelyn gave him a rare smile.
“Yeah I believe it.” Then she heard the doorbell ring.
“Shelly’s here, want me to call you down when the food is ready?” he asked, she nodded her head and laid back down on her bed as Mike left. 
Sighing she looked to her window from habit. All she saw was the Oregon rain and the lush trees that was everywhere. Nowhere did she see the chocolate like eyes that threatened to haunt her forever. She curled 
up and stared at the wall, wishing that she could escape even for a moment.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden watched Damien pass in front of him, holding the dreaded knife.
“Tell me Caden what would you do to woe Evelyn?” he twirled the knife in his hands, sighing.
“To stop harassing her maybe.” He spat blood into the flooding water. Damien rolled his eyes and sighed again.
“I want to talk to Evelyn.” Caden coughed, Damien shoved a roll into Caden’s mouth.
“Maybe…if you tell me what kind of flowers Evelyn likes!” Caden’s eyes widened.
“She likes lilies. Star gazers and blue waters.” He answered almost immediately. Damien smiled, pondering over this new information. He pulled out a cell phone and dialed. 
“Hello Evelyn? Don’t hang up on me! No Caden wants to talk to you.”There was a pause. He smiled.
“Because I want you happy, and if you talk to Caden then maybe you will smile a bit more.” He laughed, then walked over to Caden holding up the phone to his ear.
“Two minutes.” Damien mouthed, then went back to thinking about the flowers.
“Caden?” Evelyn asked, her voice uncertain.
“Evelyn!” Caden about almost cried at the sound of her voice, knowing she was all right, that she was still herself.
“Caden oh god…! What has he done to you are you okay? I miss you somuch! I miss hugging you and kissing you and being idiots together…”
she began to sob in his ear.
“Calm down Eve. Its okay. I’m okay. I miss you too, so much. Evelyn…I love you.” Damien’s head wiped around, as he seethed at Caden.
“I love…” as Damien took away the phone.“Evelyn? Your two minutes are up. Good bye.” Damien threw the phone onto the ground, and glared at him.
“Your punishment is knife.” Damien growled, and began to slice Caden once more.

Evelyn stared at her phone, wondering if she should give the number to the police, then maybe they could save Caden. She saved it into her phone, and held it close to her chest; tears were dripping down her face.
“Caden…” she whispered, hearing his voice again was like a melody of angels! Even though his voice sound strained and coarse, she could hear him, his breath, his voice. It all made her want to jump for joy, until she said that last part to Damien. She had heard him pause and said that their time was up. She felt like an idiot. 
She got up and walked to her desk, sitting in the chair, watching the window. She knew he would be there soon, and just knowing that made her shiver in fear.
Hours later she heard Michael and Shelly come in, running up the stairs.
“Evelyn?” they called, she got up as they busted through her door.
“What’s wrong?” she asked frantic.
“Your Dad he got into a fight with Damien, we need to leave to go to him, please stay here and lock everything!” Shelly gave Evelyn a stun gun.
“Use it if he gets in.” she mumbled as they left her room and went back out. She stood there stunned for a moment before going down stairs, locking the back door, and then going to front door, that’s when she saw the shadow.
She backed away from it, as she heard someone trying to jimmy the locks.
She held the stun gun close to her as the knob turned slowly as shook.
Crap!

’ she thought as the door opened.
Damien stood there, his hair slightly tousled, his lip was cut, and there was some dirt on his pants.
Nice left swing dad.

’ She thought proudly as she look somewhere she
shouldn’t have looked.
His eyes…filled with dark desire of some sort that made her shiver, but she wasn’t cold. Some what frozen from starring at him she turned her head the other way, she choked out: “Damien?” 
But he only came forth and capturing her lips with his eagerly,almost desperately, surprised she dropped the stun gun. He pulled her to 
him, his arms snaking around her waist, tightening every time she pounded against his chest, trying to get away. But to her it seemed to no avail.
“Evelyn…” he whispered against her lips, brushing them with his. Evelyn 
felt this strange feeling shock her whole body, she shivered.
“Damien…stop it!” she gasped between kisses, trying to get a grip on this feeling and on him.Damien pushed her against the wall, his hands frantically roaming her
body for skin; any contact of her skin was surely to be more than pure bliss.
“God! Evelyn I love you.” He trailed down her neck, biting and sucking on her skin as if she was the only thing that could satisfy his hunger. A small whimper came from her, unwanted but it only urged him even more.
“Damien…” she called out, her voice was shaking and she had stuttered.He knew she must be frightened. He lifted his head to look at her, his hands found their way up to the 
sides of her face. Her eyes were shinning with tears as he became engulfed by them once again.
“Evelyn…Please…” was all he said, then something came over her. It might have been his eyes, the deep chocolate eyes that made her want succumb to him, or maybe it was this overwhelming feeling that she wanted to feel his hands on her again, but she moved closer to him and kissed him, he wasn’t forcing her but he was making her feel this. Their lips moved in sync, his lips were soft against hers; gentle even but the kiss had the same amount of urgency. 
Evelyn wrapped her arms around Damien’s neck, she didn’t know why but for some reason she yearned to be closer to him, as close as she could. Her fingers began to run threw his hair, it felt like rough silk, for some reason it was wonderful.
His kisses urged on as he licked her bottom lip, she shivered and whimpered. As his fingers trailed, softly brushing against her sides, then to her thighs, lifting her up onto his lap.
“Evelyn…” he whispered her name against her lips; he looked to her lips,slightly parted as breath came in and went out, then he found her eyes. 
Her eyes were very deep, sometimes when he looked in them he always felt like he was falling into her abyss, her gaze was entrancing. His hand came up to her face as he caressed her cheek with the palm of his hand, 
her eyelids went slightly limb. She wrapped her arms around his waist, laying her head against his chest.
“Evelyn Lets go to your room, okay love? I promise I won’t’ do anything.” She nodded as he picked her up.
But what if I want you to do something?

’ she thought, blushing.
Damien walked up the stairs, carrying his sweet girl. He couldn’t help but grin to himself. He was afraid he couldn’t kiss her like she should be kissed, but due to the extraordinary noises he heard coming from her 
when he touched and kissed her, he couldn’t help but to be proud. When he reached her door, he switched her into just one of his arms and opened it. He laid her on the bed, her eyes getting wider again, she didn’t look as tired. His hands went down her waist again, going under her shirt, resting his hands on her stomach. She shivered and gave him a slight smile. Damien looked at her shocked. He let his hands travel up to her sides, then around to her back, brushing against her chest only faintly. 
She arched her back, as his fingers messaged her skin. 
“Evelyn?” he whispered, she opened her eyes as a response. “Can I?” he tugged on her shirt; she froze for a moment, her mind racing to different possibilities, some of them scary, others not so much. He tugged on it again, getting her attention.
She nodded her head slowly; he slowly took off her shirt, freezing when 
he saw her. Her neck was elegant, dipping into her shoulder; his fingers traced her collar bones, then stopped. Her breast was covered with white spilling out of the fabric. He swallowed, and blushed, then let his gaze 
wonder to her body. His fingers coming down to her stomach, lightly tracing circles into her skin. He around on top of her, pressing his lips to her temple. He watched her shake lightly as she reopened her eyes starring right into him. He was falling once again, losing himself in the void of her eyes.
He moved to her side, falling onto the bed with a light ‘thump

 

’. She turned to stare at him again, only his hand covered her eyes.
“No more Evelyn. Please stop looking at me.” He mumbled against her hair, losing his fingers in the soft tresses as he pulled her to his chest. He held her tight, almost too tight. 
I’m afraid…I’m afraid to let go.

’ He thought as her arms wrapped around him. Her hands went under his shirt, he closed his eyes awaiting the rejection.
Scars…

’ Evelyn thought in surprise. Her fingers traced the scars on 
Damien’s back, they were softer then the rest of his skin, almost fleshy like. Instead of moving away from him, she just pulled him closer, until her ear was to his heart.
Thump, thump, thump, thump…

 

” she closed her eyes to the sound.
“Evelyn?”
Thump, thump, thump

 

…”
“Evelyn?”
Thump, thump, thump, thump

 

…”
“Yes?” she asked quietly, somewhat tired.
“Good night and sweet dreams…I love…” Evelyn’s wary eyes closed at that moment, falling asleep in his arms. He just smiled down at her, and held her close to his heart.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn awoke to the shrill voice of Shelly in her ear. She tried to move away until Shelly shook her awake. 
Evelyn’s eyes snapped open right at that moment, taking in the site before her. Shelly’s husband and her father stood to one side, his hair was devilish and his face was covered in some plasters. His white dress shirt had dirt on it, smudging. As she found a doctor fussing at her other.
“Um…what up with all the people?’ she asked in a thick voice, she coughed for a moment then yawned.
“Honey? Are you all right, we saw Damien leaving the house, then find you asleep like this…” she motioned to her almost naked torso.
Evelyn, looking down at herself, and blushed profusely, rushing to grab her blanket and covered herself up.
“Did he do anything to you?” she asked in a kind voice, she knew they were worried, but she wanted to explore this a little, so maybe she could use it to save Caden herself.
She shook her head, trying to piece together a lie.
“No he didn’t. When you left, I locked the doors and came back up here; I was sweating so much I felt kinda dirty in my shit so I took it off and covered up with my blanket. I must have fallen asleep.” She mumbled, fumbling with the blanket. Her father sighed in what seemed to be relief. 
Shelly smiled. Grabbing her into a hug, her Father squeezed her tight. She patted his back, and forced a smile.
“I’m glad you’re safe Ev.” He mumbled in her ear. Her eyes became sad as she heard this and gave him a small smile.
“Same here dad.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Damien walked into his home a grin on his face, and then it disappeared just as it had come. He looked around the old manor, dust and white covered it. He looked down and sighed. He wanted to bring Evelyn here 
but he was afraid that she wouldn’t like it. Staying there with him. He walked up the stairs and went to his room. His bed was in the corner, the four posters was large enough to stick five people in it. A writing desk 
and a fireplace across the room. He went to sit on his bed and sighed again.
“She wouldn’t want to…would she?” he asked himself out loud, running his fingers threw his hair. He laid back-closing his eyes, and imagined if she did. They would talk for hours on end, and watch the stars in the back, cuddling under a blanket in the gazebo. He would cook her food when she needed some, while she was in her study playing her cello. He could already hear the low beat of it in his ears. They would dance at night near the fireplace so he could seem her face as she was laughing and smiling. He wanted this, he wanted this bad. 
Caden watched the small bit of light that had come into the flooded basement threw a crack in the wall. He wanted to run his fingers in the sunlight, to let it touch his face. He struggled against the chains that held him. After a moment, he screamed. He heard Damien’s footsteps coming down the stairs. As his captor busted threw the door, Caden screamed again.
“Stop yelling!” Damien seethed; he was just awoken from sleep. His hair was a mess and he looked exhausted. Caden shook in his chains. 
“Let me out!” he screamed at him, he was on a verge to braking down.
“I can’t be here anymore! Let me out now!” he shook viciously on the chains, his feet thrashing around in the water.
Damien sighed.
“What do you want?” he asked, leaning against the door way. Caden stopped for a moment.
“I want sunlight…” he begged in his rough voice. His eyes glistened as Damien sighed again.
“Fine…” he agreed, taking a ring of keys from his pocket. Damien stepped forth and unlocked Caden from the shackles. He fell to the ground, water hitting his elbows. But his arms collapsed from under him, as Damien grabbed a hold of his hair.
“If you want sunlight, get up.” Damien growled. Trying to stand, Caden trudged threw the water, until he hit the stairs. 
“Hurry up.” Damien kicked his legs, making him collapse again. Caden groaned as his head hit one of the staircase steps.
“Get up!” Damien yelled angrily. Caden tried lifting himself up on his hands, but his arms shook and he fell again. He coughed up some of the nasty water Damien had let him drink.
Damien looked down to him in pity. Maybe he shouldn’t have locked him up like this. But it was his punishment. His punishment for 
touching his dear girl, and for loving her.
“All punishments must be served, no matter what,” he mumbled as Caden tried to pull himself up again.
“Give it up Caden; you know you can’t so stop it.” Damien sighed. Caden shook his head.
“No.” he reached another step, his arms gaining a small bit of strength he struggled against his weight. Damien shook his head and sighed. Throwing him over his shoulder he walked back down the few steps 
Caden had climbed.
“You’re too weak Caden.” As Caden shouted and cried out, Damien shackled him once again, walking toward the stairs, he looked back to 
Caden.
“Please don’t yell too much. I’m sleeping and have big plans tomorrow.” He lied. Of course he wasn’t sleeping he was preparing the house for Evelyn. Her room was almost finished and all he needed to do was stock the house. 
Caden just glared at him.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn stared at the street as she walked home from school. It had rained again, the scent permitting the air in a very delicious way. Her ears were trained on her ear buds that were playing a delightful sonata.
The only thing that would make her day even better if Caden was here.Every few minutes she would look to her side, hopeful to see her fiery friend. But every time she did, an ache reached her heart in the most painful way. 
She had betrayed him. She had let Damien touch her, kiss her, and embrace her. She had let Caden down in a horrible way. But in a way she 
could relive the moments and not regret it. The way that Damien touched her was gentle. Only at times did he seem desperate. His kisses
were loving and wanting. Soft and at the same time it was even heated with passion that she had never felt before. Just thinking about it made her face heat up and made her fidget. Sighing she just looked up to the sky, hoping that it would cleanse her thoughts, or at least keep them away for awhile.
When she got home, she heard her father snoring on the sofa and wrapped a blanket around him. For a moment the rain caught her gaze. It was spiraling and dancing down the window, but for a second she thought out loud.
“I wonder if Damien is watching the rain?” she wondered, when she realized what she said she clenched her teeth and pressed her lips 
together hard. She set her bag down at the door and ran up the stairs, shutting her door softly. She looked around her room, nothing was out of place, and nothing was missing. She sighed and flopped onto her bed, not bothering to take of her muddy rain boots. Her eyes focused on the rain once more, becoming intraced. Her eyes began to droop after a moment as she saw someone enter threw her window, her vision blurring. But she already knowing she closed her eyes, waiting for the nightmares to come again.

 

 

Chapter 9
Chained

Damien watched Evelyn sleep, her ratty rain boots, and bright cherry red coat were now gone. Instead she wore a white lacy silk night 
gown. Her tresses of raven askew. Her lashes casted silhouettes against her peach painted cheeks. He ran his fingers threw her hair, shivering as he realized how soft it was. Her lips were slightly open, like an awaiting 
princess ready for her morning kiss. He was tempted but he did not, not wanting to wake her, so he took her temple instead. That’s when he heard Caden, he had been yelling for the past few days, but today, Damien could not afford him waking her up. He left her side reluctantly and ran down the stairs to shut him up.
Caden began screaming and yelling, he was sick of this basement and he was sick of Damien holding him there.
“Let me the fuck out of here!” he screamed, rattling the chains. He heard Damien’s footsteps come down the stairs.When Damien opened the door, he screamed even louder.
“Let me the fuck out of here!!!” he screeched. Damien hurried to close the door and slapped him.
“Shut the hell up, you’ll wake up Evelyn!” he hissed gently, Caden’s voice dimmed and a thump rose in his throat.
Stunned for one moment, Caden didn’t want to hear these words, but at the same time he wanted to be with Evelyn.
“You mean Evelyn…is…is here?” He stuttered in disbelief. Damien nodded and smiled.
“Gezz dude where have you been? Of course!” Damien laughed and punched Caden’s shoulder lightly, causing him to flinch. 
“We’re going to have so much fun! Hey, should I take her stargazing or maybe should we sit in the dark and watch a movie? I can’t wait to take her out, she’ll have so much fun!” as Damien explained how much fun they would supposedly have, Caden couldn’t help but want to vomit. 
Evelyn and he were supposed to be doing those things, watching the stars, kissing. He wanted to hit Damien, kill him. Do something horrible 
to him so he would know this feeling. This feeling that was so unbearable that it felt like his heart would stop, like it would blow up in his chest. 
After Damien stopped talking he smiled at Caden.
“well I want to be there when Evelyn wakes up so bye Caden talk to you later.” With that Damien left, leaving Caden to wallow in his despair.
As Damien climbed up the stairs, he couldn’t help but smile. Because first, Evelyn was here with him. Second, he knew that in the end she will not love Caden anymore. And third, he could hear Evelyn’s screams upstairs. She was awake, and he was coming for her.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

The world seemed hazy for a few moments as Evelyn opened her eyes. Her lashes fluttering a few times before awaking fully. Candle light
filled the room casting shadows against the dark colored tapestries. She couldn’t help but admire the splendor. The bed was of dark mahogany,the four poster bed then was covered in dark red fabric, covering her from the other side. The walls were painted a light grey, red strips going down all the way. She felt like she was in a movie of sorts. The room’s size baffled her. It was massive! She saw a side window, the glass painted black. The sitting area looked comfortable enough, a small two steps lead there. On the other side a fireplace sat, an old-looking rocking chair sat there, and then to her left there was a writing desk. Double doors which she assumed lead to the bathroom. And lastly the room was filled with shelves and shelves of books! Half the room was completely covered head to toe in books. Yes it was beautiful, but it only reminded her of a stunning prison. Her eyes wondered slightly until they settled on a 
Cello’s case. It stood near the fireplace, its black shinning case, glimmered as the firelight reflected off of it. Eyes pricked at her eyes as she felt that she knew where she was.

“Damien! I don’t wanna go to the creepy house; momma says it’s not safe!” a 
small six year old Evelyn was being dragged by a seven year old Damien. Damien looked back to her and grimaced.
“Do you do everything that your mommy tells you?” Evelyn blushed and looked down, embarrassed.
“Just come on! It can be our play house! It’ll be so much fun!” he smiled at her. She sighed and was continued to be pulled. Finally they pushed threw the brush of the small wooded area. She gasped as she saw the house. It was the old Manor. She had read about it at the local library. It was built in the seventh century, by a man who, later on, killed his wife and children in it. But before he could have been charged, he had disappeared. There where other manors around the neighborhood, but this was the only one where people where murdered. Damien dragged her further up the hill, until they reached the door. The doors looked huge to them, the knockers where worn down gold lions. Damien reached out and 
touched the door.
“Pretty isn’t it?” he smiled, looking back to Evelyn. She looked away, embarrassment cover her cheeks. 
Damien opened the door, pulling Evelyn inside. They saw the tables covered with dusted cloth, the stairs still holding their grand colors. Evelyn looked in stunned silence as Damien looked only at her.
“Do you like it?” Damien asked shyly, grasping her hand a little tighter. She nodded her head and smiled at him.
“It’s so pretty!” she giggled, he smiled back. He led her up the stairs as they toured the rooms, talking and smiling. That’s when they entered the bedroom. It was still warm from summer, and the room was lighten with sunlight. It was beautiful. They sat down and basked in the sunlight, until dusk began to sit in.
“Evelyn?” Damien asked in a sleepy voice. They had curled next to each other, holding hands.
“Yeah?” her small voice came.
“Do you think, that if we get older, that we can live here?” a light blush hit Damien’s cheeks, as he asked this. Evelyn looked thoughtful for a moment until she smiled at him.
“Of course. Then Mommy can come over sometimes to, and then I can keep you safe.” Damien’s heart swelled at these words.
“So…Sir wouldn’t be able to come?” he asked warily. 
She nodded seriously.
“I will protect you.” Her eyes filled with bravery and steel. Damien embraced Evelyn, happy for her words. And of course he believed her, they were just 
children.

Evelyn got up from the bed, running to the door, she remembered her words, but she wasn’t protecting him like this, she was being caged 
instead.
“Damien! Damien let me out of here!” she screamed, banging on the door, her fists immediately swelling and going numb. 
“Damien let me out!” she heard footsteps come up the stairs, fear in engulfed her heart as she backed away from the door. Stumbling, she 
made it halfway to the other side of the room, before she heard a ‘click’ and the door opened. 
He stood in the shadows a while longer, before entering. His clothing black once again, his hair covering half of his face. His dark eyes 
searching for her, until they rested upon her glowing silhouette.
“Evelyn.” He called her name softly. He took a step toward her, her eyes widened, stumbling back against the wall. Her breath quickened, her heart beating faster with every step he took. 
“I missed you…Evelyn.” Soon, too soon he crossed the room, a loving smile on his face as he took her face in his hands. He leans his forehead against hers, inhaling.
She froze in shock, tears collected in her eyes, until they ran down her face. Her entire frame was shaking in fear.
“Damien…stop…” she whispered, her blood pounded threw her ears. Adrenaline rushing threw her veins, her mind was screaming:
‘Get out! Get out of there now!’

But she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, even thought she felt her chest fall up and down rapidly, she couldn’t find her breathe.
“Mmm…you smell good today my love, do you rest well?” he questioned gently. His fingers trailed down her arms then up again, brushing them, so soft that she shivered every time she could feel them caress her skin.
“No, Damien stop it…” she pushed against him, not daring to look him in the eye. He grabbed her wrists, pulling them closer to him, instead she kept pushing away.
“Evelyn behave.” He said sternly, she shook her head. Concentrating on their arms locked in combat. As she tried to push away he only pulled her back.
“Damien let go!” she shouted, angry and frustrated.
His eyes turned to steel, the softness was gone.
“Evelyn don’t you test me…” he hissed, pulling her roughly towards him. She struggled, not daring to lose. 
“Damien just…just stop!” she screamed at him, she didn’t want to be held,she didn’t want to be touched. She didn’t want to be with Damien.
Damien watched the girl struggle, not wanting to hurt her, but he knew he had bring her into submission.He dragged her to the bed, throwing her upon it, she tried to escape by 
rolling off the comforting, but he grabbed her, pulling her to him. He sat her in his lap. Holding onto her tightly.
“Damien let me go!” she screamed and kicked. He only held onto her tightly. 
“Evelyn, there’s no need to be in panic. You’re all right and I will never hurt you…” he mumbled. “Not ever again…” Evelyn kept struggling, not wanting to believe him. Tears swelled in her eyes.
“Stop it!” she screamed, digging her nails into his skin. Small swells of his lifeblood pooled by her fingers. He hissed in pain, and then looked to her.
“No.” he grinded his teeth together so he wouldn’t lash out at her. She became a sobbing mess, struggling against him. He wanted her to 
become silent and just rest in his arms, but instead she was trying to get away from him. 
After a while Evelyn’s tears turned dry and she laid limp in his arms, he could still hear her rigid breathing, she was still awake, but just not there. Damien moved her onto the pillows, her head falling to the side. Her eyes were blank, he already knew she was excepting her fate with him. He closed her door softly, then turned on his heel, going 
downstairs and into the kitchen. 
‘She must be hungry after all that, but first I’ll let her sleep.’ He mused, the walked into the parlor. Dusty tabletops and white sheets covered the furniture. The windows covered with the black velvet curtains, the light 
only pouring in from where the darkness could not hide it. 
Oh how he wanted to go out into the light, if only he wasn’t consumed by the darkness his father had laid upon him, then just maybe he could be with Evelyn. If only his heart wasn’t of ice…
Damien sat on one of the chairs, dust flying around him as he sat, he simple brushed it away and kept watching the sunlight. 
‘Is this how Caden felt about the sun? Always wanted to bathe in the warm fiery
glow? I wonder if this is what he feels right now, the longing for sunlight, for 
air…’

Damien thought humbly as he watched the sunlight die and wither away into the growing night. He began to feel depressed, sitting there unaccompanied. Was he always going to be alone?

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn opened her eyes to nothing. Complete darkness had engulfed the room. The candles were blown out and the fire place wasn’t running. She felt only slight comfort in this. 
That’s when she thought for a moment-that in this darkness- she could escape. The thought brought hope to her. Then it died as fast as it came. 
She could hear Damien coming up the stairs, his boots thudding against 
the emaciated wood. Fear ran threw her very core as she bolted out of the bed. She looked for a place to hide as she heard his keys clang against the lock, so she hide behind the door. As he opened it, she held her breath, her
heart was in her throat. Adrenaline pumping threw her veins.
“Evelyn.” He called softly, almost human like. “I brought you some soup. I hope its okay it’s all I really had at the moment.” She peered from the small crack of where she saw him. He walked toward the bed. Her jumbled up blankets, conveniently looked like a body was in there. 
She swallowed, her hands shaking. If he only walked a few more steps then she could escape…
“Evelyn?” he called again, with more gusto in his voice. She took in a breath as he reached for the blankets to pull them back. In one moment she could have a chance to escape, or in one mistake she could lose everything. She knew he would not be happy with this.
His hand gripped around the blankets, and as he pulled them back, she ran.
Damien heard the sound of footsteps by the door, turning his head quickly he had enough time to see Evelyn running out the door. Anger and rage busted out of him in sheer astonishment. The plate of soup fell
to the ground, breaking and shattering. In that one second he was after her, he could he her running but she was going the wrong way, he smirked-running faster to catch up-he knew she wouldn’t find the exit, until she ran towards the parlor.
Evelyn ran down a flight of stairs, her heart drumming in her ears.
‘Please don’t let him find me, please!’

she pleaded silently to herself, or maybe even God himself, as she heard footsteps gaining on her.
“So fucking help me god Evelyn!” Damien screamed. Evelyn’s feet stopped. Afraid to go further, she could hear him coming up after her, she could hear him breathing, his breath matching his feet. Mustering up all the courage she had left, she bolted into a room, with sheets and dust. Quickly she ran under one of the tables, holding her breath as she heard him stop in front of the entry way.
Damien knew she was there; there was no where else for her to go.
‘I know she’s here, I fucking know it!’

he seethed in his mind, he quickly scanned the room, grinning when he saw movement under one of the tables.
“Evelyn…” he cooed softly, the movement stopped, he smirked.“Come here Evelyn like a good girl.” He waited for a moment before 
there was no movement what so ever, rage boiled threw him.
“Evelyn get out here now!” he snarled, throwing the table to the side. There was nothing there. That’s when he felt a small breeze come towards him.
The window was open. 
Shutting it, he looked around once again, growling under his breath. 
“Where the hell are you?!” he screamed. That’s when he heard a small whimper from the corner of the room. He strode over to the table in the
corner soundlessly. 
“Evelyn?” he called gently, knowing he had won.
Evelyn watched Damien’s shadow come towards her, she moved into the wall as a pale hand came into her hiding spot. She pulled her legs towards herself, her shaking arms wrapping themselves around her.
“Evelyn…” the demon slurred, his fingers ghosting over her ankle.
His fingers stroked her ankle for a few more seconds, before his hand roughly grabbed her, pulling her from under the table. She screamed ashis other hand came over her thigh, her hands blindly trying to reach for something, anything. Her fingers scraping over the brick from the fire place. Then sliding against the walls. 
“Caden!” she screamed, shaking as she pulled at the wooden floor. 
“Caden help me please!” she sobbed. 
Damien grinned as he saw his prize come from underneath the table. His fingers rubbing against her skin. Oh how wicked he felt for touching her,her skin was so smooth, he would never get over it. Finally he grabbed her by the waist, picking her up.
“you don’t run away!” he snarled at her, barely registering that she was crying. He walked up the stairs, and into her bathroom, sitting her on the sink. He turned around to lock the door.“Don’t you move.” He hissed as he turned on the bath. 
Evelyn didn’t see any mist rising from the water as it filled the tub. She shivered as Damien turned on a fan.
Damien walked up to her and ripped the nightgown from her skin, leaving her naked. She screamed but he didn’t care. He picked her up again and threw her into the tub.
When the water touched her skin, she screamed. It was freezingcold. She went to cover herself, until Damien took her hands, tying them together with his belt. He went under the sink, grabbing a scarf and tied 
her bound hands above her.
“I was really hoping you were going to wear that. Now is a good time forany. When ever you take a shower, new clothes will be under the sink.”
His face was expressionless as he stood up. He took one look at her and
nodded. Turning on his heel and unlocked the door.
“Next time your punishment will be worse.” He slammed the door behind him and Evelyn began to wail.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Caden listened to the cries of Evelyn. She was right above him. He couldn’t make out what she was saying, but knew Damien had done 
something to her.
He heard the basement door unlock as Damien came down the stairs,carrying what Damien called Caden’s dinner. It was green this time.
“What did you do to her?!” He seethed at Damien. Ignoring him, Damien poked a spoonful of the mush into Caden’s mouth. Caden spit it 
out, coughing up a fit.
“That is disgusting!” he yelled at Damien as he poked another spoonful in.
“It’s the only thing you’re eating tonight.” He said quietly. 
Somehow Damien didn’t look right to Caden. His was drawn down , and the lines that he thought were hardened forever seem to fall. Damien looked older, tired.
“What did you do to Evelyn?” Caden asked slowly. Damien looked away, not able to face Caden’s pondering face.
“Something I terribly regret.” His voice was stained with tears and sobs. 
Caden’s eyes widened.
“What did you d…do?!” Caden’s voice broke at the end, tears pricking at eyes.
“I didn’t kill her, I just hurt her…and not rape.” He mumbled, sitting in a chair, running his fingers threw his hair.
“She tried to run away and I got her, but I was so angry that I pt her in a really cold tub of water and tied her up there…” he got tense, ready for Caden to yell at him.
“Well I don’t blame her. Your so mean to her, and you killed her mom…you carved name into her back, then every time you see her, you 
practically have sex with her! I would try to run away to.” Caden said truthfully. Damien looked away, pouting.
“I can’t help that I love her.” He whispered. “I mean don’t you want to worship her too?” Caden blushed and looked away.
“I’m not answering that, I’m just saying maybe you should be nicer to her…” realizing his mistakes, Caden wanted to take it back, but seeing thejoy on Damien’s face made him stay quiet.
“So what do you think I should do?” he looked towards Caden in wonder, just like he did when they were kids.
“Do what you think is best.” Caden choked out. Damien smiled at him, and started walking to the door. 
“By the way thanks Caden, I promise next time I’ll make you some fried chicken.” He grinned and waved bye, but before he left, he turned on a light so that Caden could see.
Caden shook his head as the door behind Damien closed. Yes it was nicefor the light, but it just made the basement look even creepier. But he was kinda glad to see too.
“Gezz next time I need to keep my mouth shut.” A memory he thought he lost long ago, came back to him.
A ten year old Caden was walking with a nine year old Evelyn. Her hair had been cut short, her eyes raging with revenge.
“I think it looks cute Eve.” Caden smiled at her. Evelyn just blushed and looked away, her eyes trained on something far off.
“No it’s not mamma said that she was only taking off an inch but instead she cut it up to my ears!” she pouted. He laughed and ruffled her hair. 
“Don’t worry about it Evelyn its okay. It’s pretty.” But Evelyn stopped listening to him.
“Damien!” she suddenly cried, running towards a bundle of rags on a swing.
Caden ran after her, trying to call her back, until he saw the little boy. He was as tall as Caden, but way too skinny, his hair was stringy and smelled. He was dressed in a grey t-shirt that had stains, some he thought was blood. He had no shoes and his feet were burned.
“Damien what happened?!” Evelyn’s little voice came over his thoughts. The boy raised his head.
“Sir said I had to stay outside because his whore was coming over, he took away my shoes and he gave me a beating because I cooked his lunch wrong.” The raspy boy’s voice came out. He coughed and Caden looked down, sad.
‘his been threw so much…’

 

he thought as Evelyn tried to help him up.
“Here Evelyn I’ll do it.” Caden picked up the boy, and carried him to a bench, which resided by the slides. Evelyn’s hands fluttered all over him, looking for any cuts of sorts.
“I’m okay Evelyn. He just gave me a bloody nose. And some bruises, other then that its okay.” She gave him a small smile. 
“Okay then Caden, Damien we are going to get ice cream!” Evelyn declared with a crisp ten dollars in her hand. “Daddy gave it to me and said be careful I spent iton something important, and this is important, because every time I’m sad Momma always takes me out for ice cream.” The boy smiled at Evelyn, and hugged her.
“Here Damien…you can wear my shoes. I got socks on so the pavement won’t hurt my feet.” Caden slipped off his sneakers and gave them to Damien, he looked at Caden with wonder and a grin.
“Thanks Caden!” he hugged Caden, even though he smelled of cat pee and B.O. Caden hugged Damien back.
“Okay let’s go!” Evelyn giggled, taking both of the boy’s hands, leading them to Wendi’s ice cream parlor.

Caden smiled lightly.
“He still owes me a pair of sneakers…”
Damien hurried up the stairs, hoping that Evelyn was alright.
‘God what have I done?!’

he thought in horror as he opened up Evelyn’s  bathroom door.
Her skin was a pasty white, her whole frame shivering. Her eyes were closed, and her lips were blue. Everything about this picture was wrong, so very wrong. 
Damien went to the closet and grabbed some towels laying them on the floor. Unraveling the belt and scarf from her hands, Damien picking up Evelyn gently, finding out how cold she really was.
‘Her skin is like ice…’

he thought laying her down on the towel, hastily covering up her body.
“Evelyn?” he asked her, when she didn’t answer he went to her wrist for a pulse. There was hardly anything. 
Swallowing thickly, Damien picked her up once again, carrying her into her room. He laid her on the bed, and then went to her closet, grabbing a wool nightgown and some tights. He remembered everything Evelyn 
had taught him about trying to keep the heat in.
‘Make sure that they have on tights or heavy socks, warm clothes and a hat of some sort. The most heat that escapes the body is at the feet and the head.’

Her  voice rang in his head. Covering her up with a bundle of blankets, Damien went to get her a hat.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Two weeks had pasted and Evelyn was still in a coma like state. Damien sat at her side every day, holding her hand, hoping she would wake. Her heart beat was steady and she was warm, but she still slept.
‘Maybe it was because she never wants to see me again…’

he thought sourly.
“Maybe you want to be alone…” he said out loud. “Evelyn please come back…please…” he bent over as if in prayer and began to weep.
Evelyn awoke to a bright shine in her face, the world seemed to spin, spinning and spinning, until she felt sick. A cool hand rubbed itself against her arm, as if to will her awake. She mumbled for someone to turn off the light, that she didn’t want to wake up again. She heard someone exclaim loudly. Then she really opened her eyes. Damien stood over her, tears of joy in his eyes.
“Oh god Evelyn I promise never to do that to you again!” he embracedher tightly, as everything came back to her.
She screamed.
Damien froze as her high pitched scream hit his ears. The screech lasted until finally he couldn’t take it and pulled away from her. She rolled off the bed, landing with a thump, she ran towards the door, but of course it wasn’t open.
“Evelyn love what’s wrong?” he asked quietly, his ears ringing with pain. She turned back to him, willing herself to stand.
“Evelyn love what’s wrong?!” she shouted in rage, mimicking him. “what the hell do you think you bastered! Leaving me in the tub with freezing cold fucking cold water?! Go fucking rot!” she threw the closest thing to her.
The sound of the shattering vase, made Damien cringe as he stood frozen in front of her. She was breathing hard, wobbling only slightly, her hair was in a frenzy, and her eyes were wild. She looked like a raging 
goddess.
“Evelyn please calm down.” He held his hands up, palms out to her.
“Calm down?! You want me to fucking calm down?!” she clenched her teeth and let out a scream.
“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you….” She chanted, sinking to the floor.
Damien caught her as she fell. She was sobbing uncontrollability, crying out for Caden, her father and her mother.
“Caden….” She whimpered, shaking in his arms. Her rage dying down, only to be toppled with unbearable sadness.
“Don’t touch me!” she screamed at Damien, he let go of her with only slight reluctances.
“I love you Evelyn.” He walked out the door, and shut it quietly. She heard him walk away without locking the door. She curled into a ball on the floor, crying, and sobbing. She fell asleep like this, her tears still running in her sleep.
Evelyn awoke to sunlight in her eyes, nothing made sense anymore, well at least to her. She laid there for a few moments, before 
sitting up and stretching her aching back. She looked to a platter that had food and a cup of juice. Evelyn went over to the little table he had set up. 
The food looked yummy, but she didn’t want to eat anything made by his hand. She dressed carefully, and stood at the door.
‘I wonder if he let it still unlocked…’

she touched the cold knob. Her fingers tracing the design.
Gripping it she turned the door, it opened. 
“well my day has brightened.” She mumbled with a small smile on her face. 
She walked around the third floor for a while, then descending to the second floor, she found a patio. She ran to it, and found it locked.
“Damn.” She sighed then went to the first floor.
‘yeah he’s gone for now!’

she rejoiced in her mine, she hummed a tune as  she heard banging from somewhere.
“Hello?” she called loudly. The banging went on, only louder and more fierce.
She listened, walking around, putting her ear to every door, until she found the basement door. She put her ear to it, as she heard yelling. Her heart picked up.
She knocked on the door.
“Hello?!” the bang went on. She looked around for a moment, wondering if she would do this.
‘Caden might be down there…’

the little voice in her head whispered to her.
Her ears started to ring.
“Caden…” she whispered to herself, the name burning in her throat. She ran into the kitchen, the dishes were clean and the window was open. She could smell the faint scent of bleach. She went through all of the drawers,
and then finally found what she was looking for.
A bobby pin. 
She raced back to the door, jabbing the pin into the lock, it took her a few minutes before she could open it. Then finally the door swung open.
Only one thought came to her mind. 
“Caden!”

 

 

Chapter 10
Sanity

Evelyn heard the clanking noise, followed by a muffled yell.
“Caden?!” she cried out again, taking the stairs by two. Running downward until she saw the water.
“Caden?” she whispered now, not knowing if Damien was down there with him.
She heard a muffled scream and stepped into the water.
The water was like ice around her ankles, threatening to freeze them. She walked further down until the water hit her hips. 
‘its so deep.’

She thought, shivering. She put her hands out in front of her, so she could feel where she was going. 
Everything was dark and cold, the water’s ice-like grip began to make her feel chilled. She shivered again. 
The walls felt like slime or algae had taken over them, or maybe even mold. She wrinkled her nose and kept a steady hand on the wall, her other hand looking for something to hold onto as well. When a cord hit her in the face, she couldn’t help but smile. 
Tugging at it, she was able to find the light, but what illuminated the room was what scarred her.
The light bulb was bloody, dried blood made the room tint to a strange color, the clanking sound was behind her, her muscles tensed as she turned around, her heart’s beating in her ears, and nothing made sense to what she saw.
Caden was chained to a wall, his back against the cement, his arms above his head, his shirt was gone, his slacks that he wore to the funeral, were soaked and growing something green. Her eyes widened as she starred at him longer, noticing everything.
Old scars and opened wounds cover his body; his face only had a few cuts and bruises. He had been gagged and his eyes were open. 
Caden starred at Evelyn as she did the same. Her hair was a little longer. And she had grown a few inches, but she would never tower over him, like he did to her.
Tears suddenly ran down her cheeks as she flung herself at him. Wrapping her arms around him, as he wished he could do to her.
“Caden!” she sobbed, her whole frame shaking against him.
“I missed you, I missed you, I missed you!” she cried. Everything she said was blurring together, all that he cared about was that she was safe, and well. She reached up and untied the gag from his mouth, flinging it to the floor.
“Evelyn…” he whispered, was he dreaming, or was this real? He couldn’t tell, not right now with her in front of him.
“What did he do to you Caden? My god, this is my entire fault.” Her hands went to her lips as she started to cry again.
“Evelyn it isn’t your fault. Your fine, I just wasn’t strong enough remember?” she shook her head.
“No. if I hadn’t had befriended him, we wouldn’t even be here!” she sobbed.
‘Everything is wrong and nothing is right!’

Caden thought grimly.
“Evelyn. It’s okay love, it’s not either of our faults, its Damien’s okay? I missed you and I love you.” She nodded her head to this and wrapped her arms around him, giving him a chaste kiss on the lips. He smiled at her, as a shadow came down the stairs. He looked frozen as he starred at the thing in front of them. Evelyn looked to him.
“What’s wrong?” she began to turn around as Caden stopped her.
“Evelyn don’t…just kiss me one more time, please?” Evelyn smiled and kissed him again. 
It deepened as their tongues began to dance. But just as Evelyn whimpered, a rough hand grabbed her and threw her into the water.
Evelyn looked up shocked at what she saw. Damien stood over her as she shivered in the frosty water, his jaw was clenched and his eyes held murder.
“What have you done?!” he screamed at her. She cowered in the water, shaking from the fear that ran threw her body.
Damien grabbed her by her hair, chained her to the aged shackles that were placed there. Evelyn was sitting in the water, her wrists clanking against the walls as she tried to break free. 
“Please Damien, Don’t!” she sobbed. For a moment he considered to let her go, put her up stairs to deal with her later, but then again she had hurt him, as he had hurt her.
“I can’t….” his voice was strangled, angry. He turned to glare at Caden.
“This is your fault!” he growled, grabbing the knife from his pocket. Evelyn gasped as she saw the blood stains already dried upon it, it made her want to heave.
Damien went behind Caden, and thrusted the knife into his back. 
Evelyn watched as Caden’s face went into shock then utter pain. 
‘Nothing makes sense anymore…’

she thought hysterically. Caden was in pain, she caused that, Damien was in pain, and she caused that too. Everything was her fault. She started to shake, angry, embarrassed, depressed. 
“Damien!” she screamed. Damien stopped and looked to her. 
Caden looked to Evelyn, her scream still echoing in his ears. His vision was blurring, and his breathe was rough. He knew that this was the end. Nothing was going to save him this time, no personality change from Damien; Evelyn wasn’t strong enough to fight for the keys. He knew he was doomed.
He closed his eyes, thoughts of never seeing Evelyn again racing threw his mind, his life flashing before him. The colors began to blur together until finally it became black.
Damien watched as Caden submerged, he knew he wasn’t dead, but very close to death’s door.
“What do you want Evelyn?” he hissed at her. She held her chin high and her eyes narrowed.
“Punish me instead.” The words didn’t sink in until Damien was across the room holding her up by her neck.
“Why?! Because I’m going to kill him? Or because you want to save him?” 
“Isn’t it the same?” she said curiously, the anger was getting to him; nothing he said was making sense.
“Because if you kill him…” she growled at him, her eyes going into almost slits. “I will make sure that you get caught; I will never speak to you, never eat, never sleep, and never move. Then I will die. Nothing you do will make me stop. If you kill him, I kill myself.” She hissed at the end, he knew that she would keep her promise to him, if Caden was to die. He came close to her face, and kissed her roughly.
“Fine.” Was the last thing she heard him say, because after that he slammed her head against the wall, knocking her out.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Evelyn awoke to her prison. She was chained to the bed by her ankle. She wished for water, but knew that after what happened yesterday, she wouldn’t be getting anything. Pulling her legs to her chest, she cried into his arms. 
‘Caden….save me Caden, please, please, please, I’m so alone and I just want to see you again…’

she thought, sobs almost chocking her. 
“Caden, please help me….” She hoarsely whispered.
Damien watched Evelyn from the doorway. She didn’t see him come in; instead she curled into a little ball and began to cry, whispering the boy’s name. He did save him, and he was in a room now, but still chained up. Oh how he wanted to finish him off, how he wanted to run the knife threw his throat to finally have Evelyn to himself, no worries about others taking her. 
He walked toward her, setting the food on the table, her body had tensed and noticed him, he ran his fingers threw her hair, not noticing she flinched when he made contact.
“Damien let me go.” Her voice held no vigor, it was small and helpless.
“You are so fragile Evelyn; the smallest thing can break you. There is food if you want it. I know that you thought I was going to hurt you. But I’m not. Remember I promised you that I would never hurt you again?” he looked to her with hopeful eyes. 
She stood up, her eyes fierce and her small hands clenched into fists.
“You already broke that promise! If you hurt Caden, you hurt me too!” she cried, raising her hand against him. 
His head fell to the side, shock and astonishment binding him stay that way for a few moments. He turned to her stiffly.
“I see then.” And he walked out.
Evelyn watched him leave, and he never did come back into the room. He left her food on the table in the morning when she awoke and at night when she was taking a bath. And for lunch she had her afternoon nap, which she then awoke to lunch on the table as always. Weeks past before Evelyn saw Damien again, sometimes she stayed awake at night to listen to his heavy footsteps make their way upstairs, never once did they go to the basement. This worried her.
‘Is Caden getting food? Did Damien put him in another room, what happened when I pasted out? Did Damien kill…’

she couldn’t finish that thought.
Evelyn began to stop sleeping, her worries of Caden keeping her up all night. She paced around the room, the chain only going so far. That soon she just sat at the set window all day, not even moving.
She wondered if this was her punishment.

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Damien stood outside of Evelyn’s door way, it had been a month and a half sense he had seen her. He picked with the buttons on his shirt, nervous as hell.
“I wonder if she did what the note had said….” He started to pick at his nails, he looked at the clock on the wall, watching as it finally turned seven. He knocked on the door, and heard a muffled yelp, followed by a come in.
Evelyn sat on the bed, her ankles crossed, her hands in her lap. She had worn the pretty red satin. She looked wonderful. She hadn’t noticed him yet as he walked into her room.
“Evelyn…” he called her name softly. It burned on the end of his tongue, oh how he missed saying her name. He shuttered slightly, as she turned to him. 
Evelyn starred at Damien, dressed in black slacks and a white button down shirt. He looked handsome except she knew that he was holding a monster inside of him. She looked back down again at her dress. It was a deep ebony red with frills and lace. She had to admit it was very pretty but, she didn’t want to please Damien, she just wanted this to end. She watched Damien’s feet as he walked towards her, he wasn’t wearing his boots, but instead he was wearing a pair of nice dress shoes. But then they stopped, like he was frozen in the spot. She looked up to his face curiously and saw what he was starring at.
He was starring at her, her waist, her legs. She all about wasted away the other day, puking when she ate some food. She had become too skinny. She looked almost sunken in at the face, her wide eyes large and had a gleam to them. 
“What the…” she looked down in shame, only accusing the shackle that held her there. It had made her ankle swollen, purple and black.
“Evelyn…” his voice was sad, and depressed. He walked to her quickly , unlocking her.
“I’m sorry.” He hurried to the bathroom and grabbed some lotion. When he came back, Evelyn was on the floor.
“What happened?” he asked. She crossed her arms and pouted.
“Nothing, nothing at all.” She mumbled. Her voice nothing but a whisper. 
He sighed and didn’t argue, lifting her up back onto the bed. He applied lotion to her ankle, feeling her flinch in slight pain as he did so. Than he went back into the bathroom and grabbed some wrappings. He went back to her and wrapped up her ankle. When he finished he put all of his supplies back, and walked over to her. She looked to him, wry. Her arms felt tired and her body hadn’t got sleep in days. It all felt so different to her. Damien held out his hand.
“I have a surprise.” He smiled lightly at her. She didn’t want to take it, she hated him, hated him to the very core of her being; but she took his hand anyway. Let him carry her into his wonderland, she was afraid yes, but at the same time she knew she had to.
Damien smiled as she took his hand, he lifted her onto her feet, not letting her completely stand, than he took his arm under her legs and carried her out the door.
She held on to his neck, not letting go, as he smiled at her. Her face was slightly red and she sighed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as he walked up the long corridor. She stayed silent for a moment than spoke.
“I’m worried.” She mumbled tiredly. 
“About what?”
“At what we are doing. I might fall asleep on you.” He laughed.
“That’s all right. I’m pretty use to it now. I remember when you did that a lot before tests. You would fall asleep on my shoulder at lunch. Than when the bell rang you shot up and ran to class, because you thought you were late. You always aced the tests though so I was never really worried.” He grinned at her. She smiled grimly, remembering.
“Please don’t bring up the past.” She whispered. He looked at her confused.
“Why?”
“Because it just reminds me how much we all have changed,” She said carefully. “I don’t like it when people change too much.” He stayed silent as he kept walking. She somewhat enjoyed it, the silence. She had missed it, her thoughts weren’t there to torment her, and worries couldn’t keep her up. She felt suddenly very tired, But said nothing.
Suddenly he stopped walking. She looked to the door. She remembered seeing it once before; but before her memories could take her away Damien put her down. She rested against the door, as he opened the door. 
‘You could run away right now!’

her thoughts screamed at her. She didn’t listen though. She kept her eyes on Damien. She knew she couldn’t escape, not with her ankle, and not without Caden. Damien unlocked the door, than kept it closed.
“Why won’t you open the door?” she asked quietly, not wanting to hit at her nervousness. 
“You have to close your eyes.” Damien smiled at her. She took in a breath, and sighed; but she closed her eyes anyway. 
She felt him lift her up on his feet, so she wouldn’t have to walk on her ankle. He walked with her on her feet, and into the room. Under her eyelids she saw a soft light, it made her sleepy.
“You can open your eyes now Evelyn.” Damien removed her from his feet, and onto a chair. 
Evelyn opened her eyes and gasped. She sat a table filled with small yummy looking foods. A fire place was going, warming up the room. Small candles light the place, creating a gentle mood. Damien sat at Evelyn’s side, bringing the chair from the other end. 
“Damien….why did you do all of this?” she asked, in awe.
“Because I feel horrible for what I have done, I don’t like hurting you Evelyn. I don’t like hurting Cade, I don’t like hurting…” he looked down ashamed. Evelyn felt sorry for him.
‘Only if…’

she thought again, watching as he felt his head down, tensed up.
“Damien, I’m going to make this loud and clear.” She said roughly. “It’s a deal all right?” Damien’s head rose, and nodded grimly.
“I want you to let Caden go, Let him back outside, unchain him. And if you do, I will be your completely, I will not try to run away, I will not back down. I will let you kiss me when you want and I’ll smile for you. But I can’t do any of this, until you let Caden go.” Damien watched as every word she said, her head raised high, she was becoming proud, and confident. He thought about this for a few lingering moments, than looked her in the eyes.
“Yes.” Her eyes widened and she smiled.
“You swear, let Caden go, to let him be?” she asked excitedly. He nodded and sighed. 
But what she did next surprised him. 
She kissed him.
Her lips were soft, and sweet tasting, her arms slender and warm, every memory of her before he took her hit him with intensity, that he attacked her. The food went everywhere as they fell back; the chair that he was sitting in went back toward the door, hitting it with a ‘smack!’

 

Evelyn giggled as Damien came to his senses. He sat up quickly and blushed.
“I’m so sorry!” he yelled, Evelyn started to laugh, holding her sides.
“It’s okay…” she choked out. “I’m fine.” Damien got off of her as she sat up, and looked around with a smile on her face. She looked to Damien and her smile melted away.
“Say it. Say that you will let him go.” She starred at him with trust and hope.
“I promise to take Caden away from here and take him home.” Evelyn shook her head.
“Take him to my dad. His parents don’t care about him.” Damien nodded, and stood up.
“I’ll take him back if you do one thing for me.” He smiled at her, picking her up from the ground. 
“And what would that be?” she asked, with a small smile.
“Dance with me.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

Damien looked around Evelyn’s father’s house, there were police still, but there were all inside. Damien grabbed the sedated Caden’s arm, hauling him up onto his back.
‘you better be worth this…’ Damien thought, wrinkling his nose. He walked within the shadows and when he finally reached his goal, Evelyn’s father came out with a cigarette. A police man followed him.
“It’s going to be all right David.” Said the black officer.
“But you don’t know! You just don’t! I remember coming home sometimes when she was little and she was in-between Caden and Damien. They huddled over her like they were protecting her, saving her, but she was saving them! But now Damien has lost it, taken her! God, what if he hurts her!” Damien narrowed his eyes.
‘Never!’

he thought, snarling softly. No one seemed to notice. 
“He loves her David. He won’t hurt her. I’m worried about Caden.” Said the black officer. Damien smiled.
Finally they went back inside, and Damien laid down Caden on the front step.
He groaned and rolled over. Damien smiled as he retreated back into the shadows and watched as Evelyn’s father found him. Hugging the boy and crying, police officers spread around David’s yard with their guns high in the air, looking searching. He knew they would find nothing, and left. 
Caden opened his eyes, fresh air hit his face and he inhaled, small water droplets hit his face. He opened his eyes a bit more to see Evelyn’s father bent over him, crying. Caden put a hand on his head.
“He didn’t do this to Evelyn, only me.” Caden whispered in his ear. Evelyn’s father looked at him. 
“I know, but you didn’t deserve this son.” Caden, though all the times he has been though, the suffering, this was the only time he ever cried.

 

 

 

Chapter 11

Question

Evelyn awoke to sunlight, covering her room. Sitting up franticly, she searched for Caden. But than she remembered, she had trading her freedom, for Cadens’. She looked back to the now open window and smiled threw her tears.
He’s safe.

’ She wiped them away slowly and looked around her room. It looked much different from when it was darkened. Browns, golds, and blues shined throughout her room. She smiled and got out of bed. She changed carefully, noticing that Damien had wrapped her ankle up; it didn’t hurt as much as it did before.
Evelyn sat at her bed with a book, reading with a smile on her face. She was so far into the book she didn’t notice Damien had walked in. He stood in the small shadows by the doorway, watching Evelyn glow in the daylight.
“Evelyn…” he whispered soundly, she turned her head to him in surprise and smiled at him.
“Good Morning Damien.” She said, her smile turning into a frown. 
“Come sit by me Damien.” She requested, her eyes unwavering from his. 
“I’d rather not.” He looked to where the light cut off the shadows, he gulped.
Evelyn got off the bed and walked toward him.
“Please?” she held out her hand for him. He hesitated, afraid. “There is no more reason for you to hide.” He smiled at her, and walked into the sunlight.
Evelyn watched as he took her hand, and stood in awe as he came into full view. His hair, once a dull blond, was now a golden color, his skin seemed to glow, but that was only because he was so pale. He had his eyes closed, almost fearful that the sun would burn him like the demon he was. But all he felt was warmth, warmth in Evelyn’s hand and in the sunshine.
Evelyn giggled and took both of his hands.
“Damien open your eyes…” she whispered eager to show him. He took a breath, and after a moment, opened his eyes. He wasn’t on fire nor was he screaming, as his father had told him he would when he touched the sun. Instead he shivered, heat radiating threw him. It felt good. Damien watched as Evelyn smiled at him.
“There is nothing to fear.” She squeezed his hands. He smiled back at her, his smile now warm, happy.
“Thank you Evelyn.” He kissed her softly.
“No, thank you for the sunlight.” She blushed. He chuckled.
“The rest of the house is open as well, so you can go anywhere.” He twirled a piece of her hair in his finger, enjoying the feeling Evelyn leaned her head towards him. Damien smiled at her.
“You’re so pretty Evelyn.” He kissed her forehead. She blushed and smiled back at him. 
“So says you. I know I’m not. Not like the girl’s at school their much prettier than me.” She wrinkled her nose and sighed. Damien shook his head. 
“Nope. They don’t even compare.” Evelyn rolled her eyes and Damien laughed.
“Here I’ll show you. Sit in that chair over there.” He pointed to where a chair had been placed next to her dresser, which had a mirror on it. He left her, to go to her bathroom. She sighed and sat down, looking at her reflection.
Dark bags under my eyes, my hair doesn’t shine anymore, my skin is sickly pale, but I’m not sick. My eyes are dull…

’ Evelyn thought, as Damien came back with a brush. He stood behind Evelyn and took out her messy ponytail. He began to brush out her hair in long even strokes. She could swear he was counting.
“You’re not brushing your hair right. You have to brush yours a certain way. Remember like when we were kids I use to do this a whole lot, because every time we went exploring your hair would get tangled and you didn’t want your mom to cut it again, so I would brush it out before you went back home?” Evelyn nodded and began to hum a random tune. Damien kept brushing her hair, smiling as he heard her yawn slightly.
“What’s wrong my dear?” he asked quietly.
“You’re making me sleepy.” She mumbled, Damien smiled again stopped brushing her hair. He sat the brush down and ran his fingers through her hair.
“See now its soft again.” She smiled at him and ran her fingers threw her hair as well. 
“Your right.” Damien nodded and met her fingers and laced his with hers.
“I always am.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

It’s bright, so very bright. Is this sunlight…no, It’s like a light bulb…bright…

’ Caden’s thoughts took him towards a feeling of panic as he felt the phantom pains of the chains tearing into his skin. He opened his eyes, unable to breath. His eyes watched the blurred figures flit around him, and suddenly he could breathe. 
Coughing he wiped his eyes of the tears and saw that he wasn’t in the dreary basement as he first had thought, but he was in a hospital and doctors scurrying around him in a hurry.
“Mr. Mathews?” one doctor with blondish hair asked. He looked like a younger man but he seemed wise.
Caden nodded his head and coughed again. He laid his head back down and started to breath hard, trying to get his breathe back.
“Is he all right? Is he?” Caden heard a saint’s voice and saw David. His hair was disheveled and his eyes were bloodshot, as if he hadn’t sleep for days. 
“Mr. Heeren! We advised you to stay out of the room, you’re not family so you were to wait…” David sneered at the nurse who had spoken against him.
“To hell with you, you old bat! I just about raised that boy there, while his parents were off drinking and getting off at not even caring for their boy!” David screamed at the nurse and a few doctors held him back.
“I resent that!” a rough voice came from the doorway. Caden froze, his voice still. His “father and mother” walked through the door. His mother had dyed her hair blond, her beautiful red tresses now ruined. His father’s hair slicked back. Their cold and unwanted gaze landing on Caden. 
“Oh! My baby!” Caden’s mother, Jackie ran to him, hugging him and placing her pink painting lips all over him. His father watched in glee as camera men came in taking pictures and asking Caden’s father, Paul questions.
“Get out!” David growled at the men, they looked nervously at each other and backed out of the room. Caden tried to get Jackie off of him, but it was impossible. She wasn’t going to let go until the cameras were gone.
When David got the door shut and only one doctor and one nurse in the room, he turned to Caden’s parents.
“What the hell are you fuck faces doing here!?” he snarled at them. Caden looked to David and pleaded with him. But before David could do anything, the blond doctor pried off Jackie’s arms and pushed her away from Caden.
“Excuse me Mrs. Mathews but I would advice you to not touch Caden at the moment, for his wounds are very serious.” The blond doctor growled at Jackie in a gentle way. Jackie just stuck up her nose and glared at him in lust.
“So tell us Doc when can this idiot come home?” Jackie gave Caden a pointed look and went back to the doctor.
“Excuse me but I wouldn’t like to be called “Doc” Mr. O’ Grady will be all right Miss.” That when Caden noticed the Irish in the man’s voice. He watched as his mother and Mr. O’Grady went into a stare throw down. He twitched in excitement to see if his mother would back down, and apparently so was Evelyn’s father. 
“Well excuse me Mr. O’Grady but I would like to know when my son will be coming home.” Jackie asked in a strained, distained voice. Paul smirked as if his wife had won.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t hand him into your care, you see we found extended bruising and wounds on your son. We also older scars and would like to take a look at them.” The irish doctor smiled at Jackie as she went a sickly pale white.
“I don’t know nor do I care what you found Mr. O’ Grady. So if you don’t mind…” But the doctor interrupted her.
“No, you see Mrs. Mathews I know that you know what I am saying, and you know what happened to him then as well.” He watched as Mrs. Mathews turned almost green.
“So as you can see, I cannot let him back into your hands. But I will be watching over him myself as David and I agreed when he was incarnated.” David smiled at Caden; it was a sad smile but also a proud smile. He was proud of Caden.
Jackie took her husbands hand and turned to give a scorned look to Mr. O’Grady.
“I’ll get my lawyer I swear it!” she yelled in a shrilled voice. Mr. O’ Grady just smiled at her.
“You do that Miss.” 
Caden watched as his parents stomped out of his room, but more importantly his life. He would tell the police everything they did to him, ever since he was born.
Mr. O’ Grady turned to Caden, running his figures threw his hair.
“David would you like your time alone with Caden before I take him?” David nodded and smiled and Mr. O’ Grady.
“Thank you Gabriel for everything.” David smiled at Gabriel O’ Grady and turned to Caden.
“Caden tell me what happened.” David slipped his hand into Caden’s it was a small gester but it made Caden burst into tears. Oh how he wanted to save Evelyn, take her away from Damien, hold her in his arms forever. But he couldn’t, he had failed. Everything was wrong and nothing was right, nor will it ever be.
David held onto Caden’s hand, he knew this boy had never cried before. Never uttered a sound of a sob, but something must have broken him down, something horrible.
“Is Evelyn…Dead?” David tensed as Gabriel asked Caden this question. He turned to glare at his old time friend and softened as he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Caden starred straight at David and tensed as well.
“I don’t know anymore.” David felt his heart break in two, tears started to pour out of his eyes. Caden coughed once more and continued.
“Last time I saw her was when Damien found her in the basement he kept me in. Many of the pipes broke and there was water everywhere. I blacked out when I saw Damien going to Evelyn. She was chained the wall in front of me, I guess he was about to punish her. All I remember was the words “If you don’t I’ll…” I know Evelyn said those words…” Caden coughed again, Mr. O’ Grady walked over to the sink in the room and grabbed a plastic cup that held water and gave it to Caden.
“Thank you Doctor O’ Grady.” The man just shook his head.
“You can call me Gabriel. And you’re welcome Caden.” Caden just smiled at him.
David watched them exchange greetings and looked toward the window, it was pouring again, and it made him want to cry.
“Hey David.” Caden called his name in abundance, a warm smile on his face. 
“You look just like Evelyn when you do that.” David broke down into tears as Caden patted his head.
“I don’t think Damien will kill her. He loves her too much.” David nodded and looked up at Caden.
“But we love her so much more.” Caden nodded his head.
“I know.”

X♪♫♪♫♪♫♪X

All day Damien had been a gentleman. He opened up doors for her, and made her breakfast and lunch. He listened to her complain about how her book lacked character and theme. He sat next to her when she read and talk to her many times throughout the day. When she was tired he let her go to her room without him, And when she awoke he came to her room and made sure she was all right, he gave her snacks when she wanted and barley even touched her. Indeed he had been a gentleman.
Damien smiled to himself and fiddled with a strand of Evelyn’s hair. She was eating dinner now and he had a big surprise. He had told her to get ready and wear something pretty and of course she complied with a pretty white dress he had yet to see her wear until now.
“Damien?” she asked looking to him curiously. He smiled and looked to her warmly.
“Yes my dear?” she smiled at his light attitude.
“What’s the surprise?” he chuckled softly.
“Just what you said it is. I surprise which I will not tell you.” She pouted and he just grinned. 
A few minutes later she finished her food. Damien grabbed her hand, nervous but excited as well. They walked up the stairs and she giggled.
“What?” he asked her, stopping.
“This reminds me of one of my favorite movies.” She smiled lightly, humming the tune of the point of no return.
Damien laughed heartily.
“Only you Evelyn would watch Phantom of The Opera.” She nodded as they reached the third floor. 
I have never been up here. This is somewhere I don’t know…

’ Evelyn thought quietly.
Damien stopped in front of two doors, latched together. He looked nervous and scared, as if he was telling her a secret.
“This is been up here since I was little when I first met you. I’ve never showed anyone because I was scared of what they would of thought, but I know now that I can trust you.” He swallowed and took a shaky breathe. 
“This is my studio.” Damien opened the doors and Evelyn stood there dumbly.
The walls were white with a beautiful design etched into the wood. In front of her she saw a balcony with two sided glass doors closed but the room wasn’t what amazed her. It was the portraits, the drawings, the paintings. They were scattered everywhere, small sketches laid upon the ground. She was almost afraid to step into the room. But she did.
Avoiding the drawings she walked around the room, looking starring at all of them. Scenery, people, the school, the skies. She saw them all. Until she came to a bunch that were covered. She looked to Damien for approval and he nodded carefully. When she undid the sheet she saw herself, Caden, when they were kids. A small Evelyn in a playground starring at the birds in a small black dress. Evelyn under the oak tree eating lunch, Caden and Evelyn at the ice-cream shop. But then she found one that had her, Caden and Damien all together sleeping under a tree, all holding hands.
“That one was in third grade, when Mrs. Holstings took a picture. When I asked her for it she gave it to me. I did that one a while ago.” Damien soft voice startled her for a moment then she looked up to him.
“Well, what do you think?” he looked so scared, so terrified. She smiled at him.
“These are wonderful, beautiful even. Damien I didn’t know you had this talent. It’s wonderful.” She stood up and hugged him. “Thank you for showing me this.” He gave her a smile that she blushed at. He was relieved, proud and happy all at the same time. It made him look like….a man. 
When they went down stairs again, Damien had grabbed his sketch pad and they sat by the fire in the room they had danced in, eating strawberries and small treats. For a while they talked and laughed but when it struck midnight they became quiet and peaceful. Evelyn leaned next to Damien and Damien quietly hummed to her, sketching what they looked like right in their tender moment. 
When Evelyn started to sleep, Damien kissed her forehead sweetly and looked at her warmly.
“Good night Evelyn.”

 

 

Chapter 12
Passion

Evelyn looked to the sky, its gentle warming heat floated to her. The sun was raising in the sky, and she couldn’t stop it.
Just like how you can’t stop your feelings for Damien

the little voice mumbled in her ear, it wasn’t happy, she was going crazy.
“I don’t know anymore…” Evelyn tried as hard as she could to think of Caden, but he was a hazy memory, nothing made much sense anymore.
“Evelyn?” the knock on the door said. She rolled off her bed and dusted herself, even though it wasn’t needed. 
Damien walked threw the door, feeling confident in himself. He smiled towards his love, who was standing there awkwardly. Damien held out his arms and smiled brightly at her. She grinned back and embraced him.
“I missed you.” She whispered into his shirt. Her arms around him were small and comfortable. 
“I missed you as well. I don’t like being apart from you.” She looked up to him and smiled, releasing one of her arms and pulling a twig out of his hair.
“Looks like you wondered off far today.” He smiled impishly. 
“Not too far, just scouting the perimeter again that’s all.” Damien had started to look brighter when Evelyn had begun to trust him, inch by inch. But Evelyn still was strained. Her hair was getting its shine back, but the bags under her eyes kept getting darker, and her eyes weren’t bright either.
It’s slowly killing her…

Damien thought, his smiling strained on his lips.
“Evelyn lets go on a walk, its nice out today.” He grinned at her smiling secretly. Her cheeks went red quick and her eyes widened.
“You mean outside?” he nodded and grabbed her shoes for her. 
“But I haven’t been outside in months.” She kept looking where he stood before, but Damien was on the floor putting on her small feet in her shoes. 
“There was a garden attached to the house, it’s been blooming wonderfully.” He gave her a little smile and stood again. He took her hand and pulled her out the door.

XXX

“By golly we found them!” Gabriel’s slurred voice rang threw the air, the morning air took his voice all the way to Caden who was still in his room. He shot straight up from his chair and ran down the stairs.
A smile adorned his face.
“Did you really find them, was it the house I though it was?!” David put his hand on his shoulder; Caden looked up to his smiling face.
“You did well boy.” Caden’s face gleamed with pride. 
“Are you going to bring her home David?” David just smiled. 
“We both are going to bring her home, now let’s call Mike and Shelly, they will know what to do.”

XXX

“Keep your eyes closed Evelyn.” Damien was leading her outside, into the semi-morning mist. She felt the cool breeze on her face, and the warmth of the sun on her cheeks. She was outside.Evelyn’s eyes pricked with tears when she smelt the scents of the world she had been gone from for so long. Everything was beautiful once she opened her eyes. The roses were in full bloom and the grass was green. She would of fallen if Damien wasn’t there. “I love it, thank you.” She hugged him tightly as he hugged her back, his arms were stronger then hers so he squeezed her tightly.
It’s the only thing I can do for her…

Damien thought as she leg go and explored the garden, a bright smile on her forlorn face. God he would miss her. 
After a few hours, Damien brought out snacks for them, Evelyn grinned and sat next to him, closer then she would have inside
“Did you have fun?” she grinned at him and nodded, her mouth stuffed with food. After a few moments of silence she leaned on him.
“Today was the best day ever.” She smiled up at him. Damien couldn’t look at her, she was unstained, while he wallowed in his darkness. He just embraced her.
I have to…I have to let her go. I’ll kill her if I don’t.

Damien let one tears free from his eyes and buried his face in Evelyn’s neck. Just one.

XXX

“We will take the northern side and then…” Caden tuned out of Mike and Shelly’s talk to David of how they were going to grab Damien and Evelyn. He turned around to stare at Gabriel, who was at the moment, guzzling baileys. He swung his head with the music that was in his mind.
“Hey maybe you should stop.” David gave a moment to take a worried glance at Gabriel.
“Aye, sir you are mistaken, I should only still be drinking my love!” Gabriel went off in Gaelic, mumbling about food. Caden watched speechless as he got up and stumbled to the kitchen, he was surprised the old man hadn’t got a beer gut yet.
It started with a strange sound coming from his throat, so Caden coughed. And it happened again. Everyone was looking at him with mouths agape.
“Caden did you just laugh?” it happened again, a sounds so familiar but strange. It got louder until Caden was holding his side laughing like he just saw the funniest thing in the world. 
A crash then bang came from the kitchen and everyone was silent as Gabriel poked his head out.
“I’m fine lads!” he gave them an impish grin, and went back to the kitchen. Caden just laughed harder. David smiled and patted the boy on his shoulder.
“Go be a good lad and check on him for me.” David’s slightly irish drawl came out from watching Gabriel. Caden got up and went into the kitchen a smile on his face. 
Gabriel stood in front of the oven, cooking pasta sauce and a loaf of French bread was next to him.
“You all right?” Gabriel sighed and put his sauce into a bowl and grabbed his loaf of bread and sat down. Caden followed absently and waited for him to speak.
“You know Caden, I can see the blood of our ancestors run strong in ya, and you know I think of you as my own son. I look to you and see myself, but of course you’re not of my blood and it’s all hell that when I look at you I wish, oh I wish you were.” He sighed again and looked up at Caden and clapped him on the shoulder as if it was a father telling his son something important.
“You are my son, in my soul and heart I know that. But sometimes I wonder if you feel the same.” Caden felt his heart clench at the site of Gabriel a strong, proud Irish man looking so worn and heartbroken.
Caden felt like he grown up, and clapped the man on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about me Da, I’ll always think of you as my father, you are the only one that has been there for me rooting me on, from the start.” Gabriel smiled and went back to his food. 
“You know Evelyn’s a pretty girl, but I think Eowyn is better. She has a fire to her eyes that is just…” Gabriel’s eyes popped wide when he noticed how confused Caden looked.
“Who’s Eowyn?” Gabriel coughed and looked away.
“If you want to know ask David.” Just then as if on cue, David came bursting through the door and started shouting in Gaelic. Gabriel nodded and listened.
“Come on Caden.” David glared at Gabriel. 
Once they were back in the living room, David began talking to Mike, ignoring that Caden was asking him the same question over and over again.
“Who is Eowyn?”

XXX

Evelyn laid on her bed, reading, as Damien came in. His hair was devilish from the shower and he sat on the edge of her bed.
“Still reading?” she nodded her head and smiled up at him.
“Is the shower free now?” he nodded and they stayed silent.
“Well I’m going then.” She got up from her bed and grabbed her things. “I’ll be done soon.” He nodded and watched as she walked away from him. But he didn’t stay on the bed; instead he went after her, embracing her.
“Damien? What wrong love?” she looked at him, he couldn’t stand it any longer, he kissed her. Long and hard, pressing Evelyn to him, feeling the curves of her body.
“Damien what are you…?” 
“Evelyn do you love me?” she was silent, not knowing what to say.
“Damien, I can’t answer that…” she looked shy, but knew her. Oh god he knew her.
“Do you love me?” She looked up to him afraid, then she changed, her eyes were amused.
“Yes I love you.” She whispered, bringing his face closer to hers. They kissed in a hated passion, and Damien threw her onto the bed.
“I love you, and I’m going to take you.” Evelyn’s eyes widened and she looked panicked.
“you are mine and mine alone.” And they gave into their Sin.

 

 

Chapter 13

Revealed

Caden Walked up the slope of the hills, Most of his thoughts were consumed of holding Evelyn in his arms, but the lingering thought of the name Eowyn was still stuck in his thoughts.
Who was she, was really his only thought towards that.
“Come on boy-o!” Gabriel called from in front of him, Caden could barely hear him over the rain. David was in front not listening, not hearing… only going back to his memories.
“Papa!” Eowyn Called with a giggle, she couldn’t help but laugh at her father. David was sitting on the sofa, with makeup caked on his face.
“Who was it?” He grabbed her and began to tickle her. she started laughing so hard, tears came to her face.
“It was Casper I swear papa!” Just then the door opened with a slam, as a little Evelyn was soaked with rain and glared at them.
“I had to take Damien home.” She hissed, glaring at the girl in her father’s arms.
Eowyn followed her sister into the bedroom.
“When can I meet them?” she asked Evelyn.
“Meet who?” Evelyn’s tithe like eyes glowed with a rage, David had never seen in her.
“Your friends? We are twins, I wanna see them too.” Eowyn smiled, Evelyn raised her hand and hit her to the ground.
“Your too sickly to go outside rat. Get over it.” With a smile, Evelyn went to her room, which she requested she slept by herself.
David watched in shock and picked up the crying girl.
‘It’s not safe for her…’ He thought grabbing his keys and walking out the door.

“David?” Caden was right next to him, looking worried and hopeful at the same time.
He shook his head.
“It’s nothing, let’s go get our girl.” He smiled weakly and kept leading the war party to the place where his daughter was.
XXX
Evelyn awoke to the sound of thunder in her ears. And someone holding onto her tight.
“Damien?” she felt his naked flesh on hers and she wondered why he was so scared.
“No Sir is coming!” his fingers dug into her flesh and she tried to get away.
“Damien please let go.” His grip tensed then eased away from her. She felt tears running down his neck, they were Damien’s’.
“Shush it’s okay love.” Damien nodded his head and she soothed his hair.
After a few moments, he sat up and stretched. He smiled and let the rest of his tears to dry up.
“I love you and good morning.” She giggled as he lightly kissed her.
“Not with that storm brewing outside it isn’t.”
“Well I can’t change the weather.” She smiled at him as he grinned back, this was the Damien she knew and loved.
And let his heart erupt in sorrow and let his blood run down my body in a triumph in victory, I have tamed the beast.’

 

The thought busted into her head and made her cry out in pain. Damien grabbed her and held her.
“What’s wrong love?”
Love? Ha! How dare he call us the word of a precious one, pathetic creature.

 

’ Evelyn’s eyes began to water.
“What’s wrong with me?” she sobbed as a laugh went through her mind.
Damien held Evelyn as she began to sob; he wondered what haunted her thoughts. Why did she cry out in pain and hold her head with her hands so tight. So he just held her and waited for her torment to be over.
You are her torment…

great the voice was back. He let his head fall.
“I know.” He whispered to himself.
XXX
Every foot that feel was struggled with pain and sleepiness, every one of the police officers kept going and going. They knew Evelyn well, and wanted to save her. Gabby watched from afar, smiling just a bit.
“God they seem to find this struggling.” She mumbled to herself and laughed a bit.
“Only if they knew.”
She was ready to get rid of Damien once and for all, he must fall in his own fiery grave.
Caden looked up to see a girl with red hair looking at him instantly. She had a smile on her face.
“Death to the Man who claimed a virgin!” her voice rang out, everyone’s head turn to her, as she walked out of the bushes and trees. She smiled at Gabriel.
“Long time no see O’Grady.” Gabriel gave her a smile.
“Been a long time since I was traveling lassie.” Gabby smiled.
“Indeed it has been.”
“So I’m guessing Damien finally took off with the girl with blue eyes, Evelyn correct? Or was it…no it couldn’t be, she has green eyes.” David stepped in his face hard and eyes like fire.
“What do you want Gabriella?” David’s hard tone surprised Caden, he seemed like he was being put on the spot.
She was taunting him.
“Nothing, just saying you’re going the wrong way old man.” David clenched his jaw, as if he was trying not to bite her head off.
Gabby spotted Caden and waltzed over to him.
“And this must be the boy that she loved. Funny who you walked into these days. Too bad I know her fate.” Caden just glared.
“The girl…” she glanced at David and smiled. “The girl your soul belongs to has green eyes.” David cried out in a war cry and began to run to Gabby, but she smiled and took Caden by the shoulders and put him in her spot. David ran into Caden and they both tumbled into the mud.
“It’s the way of fate.” She mumbled.
“Get away from here you dirty gypsy you know nothing!” Gabby smirked and leaned in so that she was nose to nose with David.
“You were a gypsy.” Her voice took on a hard tone. “And you were a great one. Now, you are just a pathetic father. You should have kept her David. You idiot.” Gabby walked off and disappeared into the trees.
Gabriel helped up both of them, and starred of into the trees were the gypsy girl had disappeared.
“She is right David and you know it.” David just sunk back into the ground and put his head in his hand.
“I know.”
They began to go the way Gabby came from, and after a half an hour of walking, they could see the house.
People began to run.
XXX
Sometime felt wrong, Damien could feel it. He felt anxious and worried. After they awoke and had a meltdown Evelyn asked to be alone and he let her. Now it was about one in the afternoon, he wanted to make her a sandwich so she wasn’t hungry. Evelyn was in her room reading a new book. He was in the kitchen looking out the window. God something was wrong. He felt like he was being watched.
He froze and watched out the window carefully…
They found them.
He could see the shadows of the forest move as watched, not blinking. Then he saw it.
Red hair.
Damien sprinted up into Evelyn’s room, and without knowing it knocking down his candle in the process.
“What’s wrong?” Evelyn asked worried. He locked the door and began to throw books on the floor.
“Damien!” she yelled tugging on his arm.
“They found us, god damn it they found us.” Evelyn’s mind flitted threw hazy pictures of her family and began to bolt out the door.
“Evelyn wait!” but she was gone, like he knew she would be.
He sunk to the ground.
“Evelyn…”
He looked around him a unexplainable sadness strike him in the chest and he bellowed out a sound of agony. He looked at the lighter in his hand. To destroy evidence. That was all he could do now.
He had nothing to live for she was gone, just gone.
Damien stood up and still threw books onto the ground, lighting them on fire, burning the place up. He went to every room and soon the place was filled with flames. God he wanted to die, not feel so angry or sad anymore…oh how he wanted to die.
Evelyn ran all the way down stairs, she had to let them know she was okay and let them be. She had to.
I love him…

she thought her heart pounding. She went through the door, not noticing the small fire in the kitchen. She stood in the yard, grass tickling her feet, and the rain softly falling on her. Slowly one by one came out. Caden was first then her father, then a few police officers, and a man with blonde hair, they stood in a unit.
“Caden, Dad…I” Just then a sound rang in her ears, the kitchen had exploded, a fire licked at the windows, burning away the pretty paint. Evelyn whipped around; the whole place was on fire.
That’s why Damien was throwing books all over she thought; she feet began to move by themselves as she heard someone calling her name. Caden was running toward her, begging her to come to him. She smiled and ran into the fire.
XXX
Caden screamed her name over and over again, but she didn’t come back. Tears ran
down his face, and his lips hurt from screaming.
No! No! No! No! No! he fell to his knees and watched as the place burned.
“No…” Damien was in his drawing room, the flames were licking at the door. His treasured drawings were going to be up in flames. Everything he had done, dead and gone. Just like her. He was looking at the drawing were the three of them were under the tree, sleeping, all holding hands.
They both were gone. He let the fire in, the flames, engulfing the drawings almost immediately.
“Damien?” he looked over to Evelyn, she was standing in the doorway, her dress was torn and ripped.
“Why are you here?” he asked, his voice was filled with anguish, and she just smiled and came over to him, wrapping her arms around him.
“I love you.”
And the floor fell beneath them. 

 

 

Epilogue

Caden watched as the flames were fighting against the water, the fire men came just a few moments ago, while the house collapsed half an hour ago. He could hear David howling in anger and sadness, she really was all he had left. Caden couldn’t feel anymore. She chose him, forgot about Caden and ran into her death.
“Caden?” Gabriel’s voice rose above others, and Caden turned to see him with his arms wide open. “Come here son.” The tears were unstoppable as Caden accepted his Da’s embrace. Sure, they weren’t father and son by blood, but in their hearts, it rang true.
“I loved her, we all loved her and she chooses him.” the Men grabbed onto each other in their grief, Irish men were not afraid to show their weakness, it was what made them stronger. Caden looked up and saw him. His blonde hair was covered with ash and he held a girl in his arms, he knew he would be gone before he could call out, to save the girl he loved, but it was too late.
Then he remembered, he remembered what Gabby had said, and what his Da had said. He let go of Gabriel and walked over to David, he had calmed down, and starring off into space.
“Ask away.” Was all he said, he knew what he wanted to know.
“Who is Eowyn?”

 

 

 

~*~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am what I was…

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How to Write a  Short Story  that Works

 

 

 

 

How to Write a  Short Story  that Works

 

 Michael Allen

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

THIS BOOK WILL show you how to write a short story that works. 

 A short story that works is a story which, at the end, makes a reader chuckle, or brings a tear to the reader’s eye, or makes the reader’s jaw drop open in amazement. In other words, it’s a story that generates emotion. The story works in the sense that it makes the reader feel something. The more powerful that feeling or emotion is, the more likely it is that a story might win a prize, or persuade someone to publish it, or cause them to recommend it to someone else – the so-called word-of-mouth effect. 

 Unlike most books on writing, this one is not going to make any silly promises.  It won’t guarantee to make you rich and famous in seven days.

 What this book will do is show you how to write an effective short story.  It will do this by providing you with a proven technique for developing your ideas into perfectly workmanlike pieces of short fiction.

 

Ten good reasons for writing short stories

 

Here, just to encourage you to get started, are ten good reasons for writing short stories.

 

  • It’s fun.
  • It doesn’t take long.
  • Through the internet you can now find readers far more easily than a writer ever could before.
  • Modern printing technology means that you can, if you wish, publish your own work in printed form at dramatically less expense than you could even five years ago.
  • If you have ambitions to be a novelist or a screenwriter, learning to master the short-story form will be excellent training.
  • If you do manage to get published in one of the small magazines, you may be approached by a literary agent. This is, believe me, a far more effective method of making contact with them than writing to them direct.
  • There are numerous competitions for short-story writers, some of which offer substantial prizes and have some standing in the literary world.
  • A short story can be about absolutely anything. It can be set in this world or the next, or on a planet ten light-years away; the chief character can be a contemporary Englishman or a prehistoric dinosaur; the ending can be tragic, comic, or anything in between. In other words, the author of a short story enjoys total freedom in the choice of subject matter, setting, timescale, final effect, and any other factor that you care to mention. You don’t have to take orders from an editor, producer, or director. 9 If you have a yearning to perform on a public stage, you can give readings of your work.

10  To make a start, you really don’t need anything more than a pad of paper and few pens. Although, these days, access to a computer and some technical skill with same is going to be a great asset. 

 

Finally, if you find that you really don’t enjoy this form of writing, or that you don’t seem to be much good at it, you have lost very little. Even if you buy a word processor, you can still use it for other purposes, after you have abandoned your literary ambitions.

 

 

Several good reasons for not writing anything other than short stories

 

In my experience, those who have ambitions to be an author often think that they could make a pretty good fist of writing more or less anything: a novel, a film script, radio play, television sitcom; you name it. However, the best advice that I can give you is not to try writing any of those. Not at first, anyway.  Here’s why.

 You may, perhaps, be toying with the idea of writing a novel. Do you have any idea how much time and effort that will take? I have written about twenty novels, and on average I find that it takes me three hours to produce each 1,000 words of polished, ready-to-print text. These days, most publishers are looking for novels of about 100,000 words or more – which means that a 100,000 word novel will take me about 300 hours to complete. If you are writing in your spare time, as most would-be novelists are, you will have to find six hours a week, every week, for a solid year. 

 With luck, and much hard work, you may then have a finished novel which you are able to offer to publishers. You will probably have heard that it is much easier to sell a novel through an agent than it is if you send it in on your own. But do you have any idea how difficult it is to get an agent to take you on? One of the agents at Curtis Brown recently revealed that in one year he personally was sent 1,200 manuscripts by unpublished authors. He agreed to take on just two of those authors as clients.

 But let’s suppose, with a giant leap of imagination, that you somehow persuade an agent to represent you, and the agent manages to get you a contract with a respectable publisher. Let us even suppose that you achieve some sort of a success with your first novel. Do you know what you will have to do then? You will have to go on writing clones of that book, year in and year out, until you finally go mad or die. That’s the way the modern publishing industry works.

 I won’t bother to describe in any detail how difficult it is to get established as a writer for radio, television, film, or the stage. But exactly the same situation exists as in publishing. It’s a brutally competitive business.

 Consider, by contrast, the happy lot of the short-story writer. She does not have to commit a whole year of concentrated effort to produce a finished piece of work. A short story can be written within a few hours – perhaps fifteen hours at the most, and often a lot less. Furthermore, a short-story writer is not under any commercial pressure to write the same type of work, over and over again; on the contrary, she can write a tragedy this week and a comedy next. 

 True, you are most unlikely to become rich and famous through writing short stories. But then, believe me, your chances of becoming rich and famous as a novelist or a screenwriter are pretty close to zero anyway. You may have heard that some Hollywood screenwriters pick up a million dollars just for one script – and that’s true. But some years ago the Hollywood branch of the Writers Guild did a survey. And guess what – they found that 393 of their members had indeed earned a million dollars from writing a script, but 1,333 members of the public had picked up the same amount through winning the California state lottery! And the lottery winners did not have to work their socks off for it.

 If you want to know more about how thankless a task it is to be a novelist, playwright or screenwriter, you will just have to read my earlier book, The Truth about Writing –  you can read it free on obooko. To begin with, however, I suggest that anyone who has a vague, unfocused desire to be a writer would be well advised to start with short stories; and it might well be sensible to stick with that form of writing for ever more.

 

The overall purpose of this book

 

The overall purpose of this book is to provide you with a technique for writing short stories.

 If you follow the simple procedures which are recommended in this text, you will learn how to find ideas for stories; how to develop the original germ of an idea into the outline of an effective story; how to revise and polish your first draft; and how to go about getting your work published. 

 To be fair, I should point out that you could decide to write short stories without using any conscious technique at all. 

 In his book On Writing, Stephen King tells us that, in his opinion, a short story is a sort of pre-existing entity, or a found object. The process of writing, he argues, is a bit like digging up a fossil which has lain buried in the ground for some time. 

 What happens, according to Stephen King, is that one day you catch a glimpse of some small portion of the story, sticking out of the earth, so to speak. (This is your original idea, which comes to you while you are in the shower, or out shopping.)  When you are free to work on the story, you sit down at the word processor and begin to write – i.e. you dig up the story, metaphorically speaking – and you see what emerges. When you start to write, you don’t know what the end of the story will look like. 

 In the old days, this process was known as depending on inspiration. 

 I can’t say that I favour the inspiration technique myself. It seems to me to be unlikely to produce anything which will impress your readers, and quite likely to produce turgid rubbish. What is more, it is a theory which readily finds favour with those deluded ‘geniuses’ who imagine that anything which flows from their brilliant brain must be absolutely wonderful, simply because they sat down and tapped it out. They don’t need to plan things out, you see.

To a genius it all comes naturally.

 Sorry, but I really can’t recommend the no-technique-atall method as the basis for writing short stories. By all means try it, and you may even have one or two successes, in the sense that someone reads a story that you have written in this way and tells you that they like it. But the main trouble with depending on inspiration is that you have nothing to fall back on when inspiration fails. As it assuredly will. 

 Suppose you get halfway through the story and then you just can’t decide where to take it after that. Or perhaps you have an idea – the original glimmer of inspiration – but you just can’t see how to develop that idea. You can’t even get started. If the magic doesn’t work, you are left up a gum tree. 

 It is far better, I suggest, to use the technique which I shall describe to you in this book. If you do, you will always have available to you a procedure which will bring out and develop such possibilities as are inherent in your original idea. You may not end up with a short story which will win major prizes, or even be published, but you will at least be able to finish what you have begun.

 For five decades I have read any book which seemed likely to help me to do the job of writing fiction more effectively. In fact, looking through my files, I find that I have read well over 300 books on writing. 

 Not all these books were of any major practical value, but many of them did contain useful advice. In particular, I acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Thomas H. Uzzell, the author of Narrative Technique. First published in 1923, that book is a classic in its field, and much of what I have to say is based in Uzzell’s teachings.

 This present book is a distillation of the thinking of all those 300 writers on writing, plus the benefit of my fiftyplus years of experience. In other words, I provide you with a technique which draws on the very best of theory and practice from the past, as amended and adapted by myself in the course of writing something like two million words of fiction.

 

Some working definitions

 

Before we go any further, it may be useful to define what we are talking about. Some of the definitions which follow will be expanded upon, and perhaps refined, later in the text, but for the moment let us agree on one or two terms.

       First, what is a short story?

 Well, to begin with it is fiction. That is to say, a short story is an account of events which never actually happened – at least, not quite in the way that you describe.  My own belief is that all fiction should be regarded as taking place in a parallel universe, where things do not happen in quite the same way as they do in the ‘real’ world. And some universes, of course, are much more ‘parallel’ than others. Fantasy stories, in particular, take place in a world in which magic is possible and hobbits live under the hill. And the stories are none the less effective for that; more so, probably.

 For reasons which will be explained later, I don’t think a short story should run much beyond 5,000 words. A story of that length can comfortably be read in one sitting.  A piece of fiction which is over 8,000 words certainly becomes something other than a short story. It is a long short story, perhaps. 

 Go up to 15,000 words and you have a novella, or a novelette. (I suggest that there is not much to be gained by discussing the difference between those two terms.)  

 Anything around 30,000 words in length is a short novel. (Full-length novels used to average 60,000 or 70,000 words when I was a lad, but, as noted above, they now seem to run to 100,000 words or more. And they are not noticeably better as a consequence of being longer.)  I would like to emphasise, right at the outset, that 5,000 words is the maximum length that I would recommend for a short story. A story of 2,000 or 3,000 words can be just as effective as a longer one. Furthermore, you can write two stories of 2,500 words in the same amount of time as one of 5,000, and have double the chances of achieving publication, fame, and money. (Not, I repeat, that fame and money are at all likely to come your way; but you may, like most writers, have some dreams and ambitions.)

 As for technique: well, a technique is simply a way of carrying out a particular task, especially in the arts or sciences. This book sets out to provide you with a technique for writing short stories. As stated above, there are others. But they aren’t as good.

 

                               

Three basic requirements

 

In order to write short stories you need a minimum of three things:

 

  • This means that you need some story ideas – something to write about.
  • Technique – a method of converting the original idea, or inspiration, into a story.
  • A facility with words. In short, you need to be able to write effective English prose.

 

This book can certainly do something to help you with requirement 1. In chapter 4 I will be suggesting ways and means through which you can consciously find and develop ideas to write about. This is important, because I suspect that the success of your stories will depend more on the nature of your ideas and subject matter than on any other factor. All the technique in the world won’t help much if your material is hackneyed, dull, or irritating.

 Requirement 2, narrative technique, is what this book is all about. In my opinion you would be wise to use the method outlined in this book, at least in the early stages of your writing career. In time, you may work out a way of proceeding which suits you better. 

 Whatever technique adopt, it will be of relatively little use to you until you have absorbed it into your bloodstream, so to speak, and turned it into something that comes naturally. It’s like learning to drive a car. At first you have to do everything slowly, remembering the correct order; in a few months’ time, however, you just walk out to the car, get in, and drive away. As the years pass, you become even more confident and skilled. Practice, in short, is the key.

 Requirement 3, the ability to write effective prose, is the one which I can do relatively little to help you with, though in chapter 7 I shall try. 

 In any case, even if you can write good English prose, becoming fluent in the art of writing fiction is a separate skill which takes a long time to master fully. How long? Well, the short-story theorist Thomas H. Uzzell used to say that you had to write a million words of fiction before you could consider yourself a qualified writer. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, argues that to become proficient at any major skill, such as playing the piano, or computer programming, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.  If that sounds discouraging, please don’t let me put you off. Return to the list of ten good reasons for writing short stories and think of the first one: doing it because it’s fun. If you discover, after some trial and effort, that you really don’t find it fun, then for goodness’ sake do something else.

Take up bowls, or grow fuchsias. 

 

The structure of the book

 

Because I am an Englishman, living in England, much of what I have to say is set in an English context. But the principles expounded are, I assure you, applicable absolutely everywhere.

 Chapter 1 provides you with a brief history of the short story. If you are going to work in this medium, you really need to know something about the great masters of the past, and the nature of what they produced.

 Mind you, you will soon discover that literary historians are very selective in what they write about. Most books on the history of the short story deal exclusively with the literary short story; they ignore, almost entirely, the history of the commercial short story. Chapter 1 attempts to remedy this deficiency.

 Chapter 2 examines the possible benefits which might, perhaps, come your way as a result of writing short stories. Theoretically, it may be possible to earn some money, to achieve a degree of fame (or popular acclaim), or to enjoy the (dubious) advantages of a literary reputation. This chapter makes it plain, however, that your chances of actually acquiring any of these benefits are exceedingly slim. Your best plan is to write short stories because you enjoy doing so, and not because you think it will make your fortune or build a career. If you adopt that attitude, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration.

 The third chapter explains the fundamental function of the short story. Readers may not consciously understand why they begin to read a story, but anyone who seeks to write effective fiction certainly needs to understand the mechanisms which are at work. After reading this chapter you will have a firm grasp of this important point. 

 But what will you write about? Some writers have no difficulty at all in thinking up ideas which can be turned into stories, but others find it almost impossible. Chapter 4 therefore does two things: it provides a method for generating ideas, if they are in short supply; and, more important still, it provides a method for classifying those ideas, so that you know how to develop them into fully fledged narratives.  

 Chapter 5 deals with the point of view from which the story is told. This is one of the more technical aspects of the book. With practice, however, you will soon understand the advantages and disadvantages of using the various possible viewpoints, and you will identify the best one for any particular story without much difficulty.

 The story idea which pops into your head may come to you in a complete form, all ready to write. It is much more likely, however, that your original idea will prove to be just a fragment of a complete story. Chapter 6 therefore offers a variety of techniques for completing the planning, and for intensifying the emotional effect of the basic idea – developing it so that it generates the maximum impact on the reader.

 Chapter 7 has advice on the actual writing of the narrative. It considers the question of an author’s style, and it also faces up to the writer’s need for a good working knowledge of English grammar, spelling and punctuation. Some suggestions are made as to what to do if you find yourself with problems in those areas.

 Chapter 8 provides a useful summary of the key points of procedure which have been fully described in the text.  Once the story is finished, you will naturally wish to offer it to readers. This involves sending it to editors, entering competitions, or publishing it yourself in one form or another. All of which are covered in chapter 9.

 And, finally, there are four appendices which give further details of some of the topics which have been touched upon earlier in the text.

 In short, this book provides you with a practical guide to narrative technique as applied to short stories. There is, however, just one disadvantage: once you have read the book, you will no longer have any excuses for not getting down to work.

Michael Allen

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

How to learn from past masters

 

_____________________________________

 

DON’T BE TEMPTED to skip this chapter; it contains some important information.

 Anyone who wants to write short stories can learn a great deal from the past masters of that art.  So you need to know something about the history of the short story; and this chapter will meet that need.

 First, I shall provide you with an orthodox history of the short story – the kind of brief summary that you might find in a literary encyclopaedia or a reference book. Second, and more importantly, I shall tell you some of the things that the purely academic accounts of events and personalities often leave out. 

 The combination of these two pieces of information will show you how to learn from the past masters of the shortstory form.

 

An orthodox history  

 

I am going to keep this section as short as possible, because it is boring to write about, which means that it is almost certainly going to be boring to read, and you naturally don’t want that.  But you do need to have some information about what we might call the official history of the short story, if only to appreciate the contrast with the unofficial history, which I shall also give you.

 The short story was invented as soon as human beings could talk. One day, one of the first hunter-gatherers went out and had a close encounter with a sabre-toothed tiger. When he came back he gave his family a lurid account of what had happened, no doubt with a little exaggeration thrown in. Later, his wife told the story to some of the other wives while they were doing the cooking. And so on. In other words, the short story began as a tale told orally, often around the campfire.

 As soon as civilisation invented writing, stories began to be recorded on paper. The Bible, of course, contains numerous parables and stories which contain moral lessons and judgements. The Greeks had the fables of the slave Aesop, dating from about the sixth century BC. The Arabian Nights is a collection of stories from Persia, Arabia, India, and Egypt, which was compiled over hundreds of years.

 In the fourteenth century, Chaucer gave us his Canterbury Tales, which are effectively short stories in verse. Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353) is definitely a collection of short stories, by any reasonable definition; one hundred of them. The book relates how a group of young people fled from Florence to avoid the plague. While they waited for the disease to burn itself out, they entertained each other with racy stories about wicked priests and randy nuns.  In the eighteenth century, The Spectator published many semi-fictional sketches of characters. 

 Generally speaking, however, the accepted view among literary historians is that the short story, as we know it today, began in the early nineteenth century; that is to say, it appeared as a literary form slightly later than the novel, which is usually held to have emerged in the eighteenth century. 

 According to some authorities, the first short story of any significance, by a writer of any standing, was The Two Drovers, by Sir Walter Scott. This was published in 1827.  Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in the 1820s, was a famous and influential collection of folk tales, and before long the Americans got into the act with Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales (1837) and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840).

 In England, Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Tales (1888) was the first volume of short stories to enjoy a major success.  Other masters of the short-story art who worked during the nineteenth century include Anton Chekhov in Russia and Guy de Maupassant in France.

 The term ‘short story’, incidentally, is said to have first been coined by Professor Brander Matthews, of Columbia University, in 1901.

 Once we enter the twentieth century, any orthodox history of the short story soon presents us with a long list of ‘respectable’ authors; and I am not going to bother listing them here. 

 Neither am I going to list all the so-called ‘styles’ or ‘movements’ which the professors of English literature claim to have identified: alleged movements such as realism, modernism, and minimalism.  It is all too wearisome to think about. If you really want to know more, visit any well-stocked academic library and you will soon find some learned (and extremely dull) treatises on the subject.  Let us turn, hastily, to something a bit more interesting and useful.

 

An unorthodox history

 

Over the years, I have come to the view that the ‘official’ histories of the arts often tell us only half the story. Or less.  Suppose you were to go to the library and find a book called British Theatre since 1950, or something similar. This book would almost certainly be written by an academic or a professional critic; and in terms of the year 1955, to take one at random, our official history would faithfully record that this was the year in which an ‘important’ and ‘influential’ play called Waiting for Godot was premiered.

 Which is true. But what this scholarly book is unlikely to mention is that 1955 also saw the first nights of such popular plays as The Reluctant Debutante and Sailor Beware. Also open for business in 1955 were The Mousetrap (which is still running), Separate Tables, and Dry Rot. These were all long-running successes, attracting big audiences. 

 And why are these popular productions not mentioned in an official history of British theatre? Because they are not ‘important’, that’s why. To respectable historians they were ‘mere entertainment’ – just mindless pap for gormless morons. But that is not, as you may have gathered, my own view.

 I readily accept that plays such as Waiting for Godot and Look Back in Anger, which appeared in 1956, were written about at length, both at the time, and since, by people who might reasonably be called intellectuals. But what reason is there for supposing that plays which are appreciated by intellectuals are more ‘important’ and ‘better theatre’ than those which entertain a more middlebrow audience?

 That is a question which I have answered at some length in chapter 5 of my earlier book, The Truth about Writing. If you want to consider the matter in any detail, I suggest that you read what I have said there. 

 For the present, I will content myself with saying that I know of no rational argument which convinces me that plays which are enjoyed and discussed by intellectuals are any better than plays which entertain a middlebrow audience. As far as I am concerned, they are not ‘better’ either morally, technically, emotionally, or in terms of any other criterion. They are not better at all – they are just different. They are different kinds of plays, which appeal to different kinds of audiences; these audiences approach the plays with different frames of reference and different sets of expectations.

 What is true of the theatre is also true of the short story. In the first section of this chapter, I gave you a brief rundown of the ‘official’ history of this form of fiction. But, as in the theatre, there is another history, which runs in parallel. It is a history of the short story as it has been read and enjoyed by the average person in the street.  Such a reader is not highly educated and has not travelled the world, and is not, thank you very much, at all interested in symbolism, stream-of-consciousness techniques, or having to work out what the hell is going on from a minimalist description. Such a person wants a story told in plain English, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And in my opinion it is no sort of crime for a reader to want to have things explained clearly.

 I shall now provide a history of such short stories, though like the earlier outline it will be a much condensed version of the facts.

               What we have to remember, and what is so easy to forget, is that, in the nineteenth century, magazines and books did not have much competition. There was live theatre, of course, but that was only available in towns. And there were certainly no radio programmes, no television sitcoms, or films.

 Compulsory schooling in England was introduced in 1870. This meant that more people were learning to read, and, as printing technology also improved, the short story and the novel were widely read and highly prized.

 It should never be forgotten that the most famous fictional character of the entire nineteenth century, Sherlock Holmes, has his existence mainly in the form of short stories; to be precise, there are four Holmes novels, and five major collections of short stories. When the stories first appeared, in magazines such as The Strand, sales markedly increased. 

 Conan Doyle, however, is not often mentioned with much enthusiasm in the official literary histories. Anthony Burgess, for example, in his 1984 essay on the short story in English, refers to Doyle’s ‘triumphant success’. But then he goes on to tell us that he (Burgess) has ‘never been satisfied that… the stories of Conan Doyle are literature, in the sense that Shakespeare is literature.’ So there.

 We can be quite sure that in the nineteenth century, and ever since, there has been a constant flow of fiction aimed at middlebrow or lowbrow readers. In the twentieth century, it became known as pulp fiction – so called because the magazines which published it were printed on the cheapest possible paper.

 In the 1930s, popular fiction magazines often appeared weekly, and they were endlessly demanding of product, particularly in the United States. I see from my file of notes that I once read a book called Pulpwood Editor, by Harold Brainerd Hersey. It was published in 1937 so is probably unobtainable now, but it was a marvellous autobiography by a man who edited pulp magazines. He had a number of extraordinary stories about writers who, in some cases, apparently churned out a million words a year.  Some British writers were also amazingly productive. Consider, for example, the career of Charles Hamilton, who is perhaps best known for writing the Billy Bunter stories under the pen-name Frank Richards. Hamilton used around thirty pseudonyms, and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most prolific writer; he is credited with a lifetime total of 70 million words.

 When I was a lad, in the 1940s and 1950s, there were still many boys’ comics, as they were known, which appeared weekly and regularly featured the same characters. The Rover, Champion, Wizard, and others, were famous for the exploits of such heroes as Wilson, the wonder athlete, Rockfist Rogan, the ace pilot who was also a boxer, Alf Tupper, the athlete known as the Tough of the Track, and dozens more.

 A similar situation could be found in the magazines which were read by women – titles such as Woman’s Weekly, Woman, Woman’s Own, and so forth. Throughout my lifetime, all these magazines for women (and more like them) have been printing several stories a week, and achieving circulations which are currently above half a million copies in each case. 

 Do the people who write stories for these women’s magazines ever get a mention in the official histories? Do they heck. Why not? Because they are writing for an audience which is mainly working class or middle class, of average intelligence or less, average education, largely unsophisticated, and of course, female. Such an audience simply does not count – indeed it barely exists – in the eyes of our official literary historians. The intelligentsia assume that anything which is enjoyed by readers of such modest abilities must, by definition, be absolute rubbish.

 I do not accept this view myself, and I suspect that anyone who tries to write for the lowbrow market will soon discover that the job is by no means as easy as it seems.  Exactly the same state of affairs exists if we go up a notch on the intellectual scale. In the first half of the twentieth century, by far the most famous and financially successful short-story writer was Somerset Maugham. He wrote hundreds of stories, and some of them were made into films, such as Quartet in 1948 and Trio in 1959. Another of his stories, Rain, was filmed several times, most famously as Miss Sadie Thompson, with Rita Hayworth in the lead.

 Maugham was a middlebrow writer to his core; almost anyone could read and enjoy what he wrote. And how is Maugham treated by our official historians? He barely rates a mention, naturally, and when he is mentioned he is sneered at. Here is Anthony Burgess once again, from the essay referred to above: ‘The first thing I wrote… was one of those cheating kind of short stories which Somerset Maugham indulged in: not a word of invention at all, but the mere recounting of an anecdote.’

 Later in the same text, Burgess has another go: ‘With some shame, I have to mention the name of William Somerset Maugham, the most successful practitioner of the short story we’ve ever had in England.’ Maugham, according to Burgess, was just repeating stories he had heard on his travels in the Far East. 

 Maugham himself seems to have got the message about what the literary elite thought of him. In his autobiography he says: ‘It is a misfortune for me that the telling of a story just for the sake of the story is not an activity that is in

favour with the intelligentsia.’ 

 Burgess, and the other commentators who grudgingly mention Maugham’s name solely in order to denigrate his achievements, seem to me to be offering a less than fair assessment. Whatever else may be said, Maugham was a man who communicated successfully with a wide audience.   Not only do academic writers tend to overlook whole areas of fiction writing, but they are also likely to ignore the economic facts of life. 

 In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, magazines were a popular form of entertainment, and the stories printed within those magazines were often the feature which readers enjoyed most. As the twentieth century advanced, however, other forms of entertainment rapidly took over, and the readership of magazines declined.   Cinema, radio, television; gramophones, tape recorders, video recorders; 78s, 45s, LPs, CDs, DVDs – in the twentieth century, new sources of entertainment appeared year by year. As a result, the markets for short stories disappeared almost entirely. H.E. Bates, in his book The Modern Short Story, first published in 1941, noted that even in the 1920s and ’30s it was said that the short story was unwanted, unprinted, and unread.

 From about 1960 on, there was, for all practical purposes, almost no commercial demand for short stories of any kind. True, there were a handful of small literary magazines, which published obscure stuff in return for small fees or no fees at all. There were some crime and science-fiction magazines, such as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Analog. And there were a few glossy magazines, such as The New Yorker and Playboy, which used occasional pieces of short fiction. And there were the women’s magazines. But these were all exceptions, and the likelihood that they would publish anything by a previously unknown writer was close to zero.

 A few writers, mostly those who also wrote commercially successful novels, still managed to persuade their publishers to put out collections of short stories: Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, and Maeve Binchy among them. These, of course, are again names which are ignored by the official historians of literature, because they are popular, easy to read, and therefore (it is said) valueless.

 Some writers did manage to swim upstream, and make an impact primarily through their short stories, rather than by means of full-length fiction. Stanley Ellin made his mark in crime fiction; Harlan Ellison in science fiction and fantasy; Roald Dahl in mainstream fiction. 

 Not that any of these names was ever given any credit for his achievement by the intelligentsia. Here is Anthony Burgess on Dahl: he is ‘not a very good short-story writer, not a writer that you would study in a university course, but well known… His stories… have a point; they have a twist in the tale; something happens in them.’   Perhaps Roald Dahl’s stories were not in the top rank when judged by some obscure academic standard. Nevertheless, they were good enough to form the foundation of an enormously successful writing career. Twenty-five of the stories were used as the basis of a long-running television series called Tales of the Unexpected. One of Dahl’s books for children, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was chosen by readers of The Times as the most popular children’s book of all time, and was adapted into a hit movie. Dahl also wrote the script for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Most of us would regard that output as the record of quite a good writer.

 Today (I am writing this in 2009), the situation as regards the market for short stories is changing rapidly. I shall say more about the increasing opportunities for writers in chapter 9; for the moment, however, let us just note that the advent of the internet has led to the creation of new ways to reach new audiences. Dramatic changes in printing technology have also made it possible to produce books at a small fraction of the cost which would have been incurred in previous years. 

 These changes mean that there is now some point in writing short stories, where previously there was little or none. I myself, for example, wrote a few short stories in my youth, but then never bothered to write any more for forty years, because there was nowhere to send them! In 2003, however, I published a book full of them.

 

Writers worth reading

 

If you are going to be serious about the business of writing short stories, you certainly ought to acquaint yourself with at least some of the work of the great masters of the form. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that you must believe what the professors of English literature tell you.  If you only read the work of the ‘respectable’ writers you will be (a) bored and (b) seriously misled in trying to understand what makes a short story successful.

 Some of the writers that I shall recommend in the next few paragraphs are indeed respectable in literary terms. But that’s not why I’m recommending them.  I’m suggesting that you read them because their stories still carry an emotional punch, even if they’re a hundred years old, and you can learn something useful from taking a look at them.  You could begin, perhaps, by reading the work of Guy de Maupassant. Anthologies of his short stories are readily available in almost every public library, and can be bought cheaply in paperback.

 It would also be sensible to read the first theorist of the short-story form, Edgar Allan Poe. Again, see the catalogue of almost any library, or the Amazon online database for a cheap edition.

 As for classic English writers, I certainly recommend Saki (the pen-name of H.H. Munro), and some Kipling would do no harm. Despite the reservations of the Eng. Lit. brigade, Maugham definitely is worth reading, as is Roald Dahl.

 A useful anthology of some well known stories from the past is The Oxford Book of Short Stories, edited by V.S. Pritchett, ISBN 0192801910 – though you must remember that this is a survey of literary fiction rather than popular fiction, as explained above. 

 An interesting critical analysis, subject to the same caveat, is The Short Story in English, by Walter Allen; at the time of writing it seems to be out of print, but many libraries will still have a copy. 

 If you already have an interest in one or more of the established genres, or types of fiction, such as romance or science fiction, you should investigate the classic short stories which have been written in those genres. 

 In crime, for instance, read the work of Ed Hoch (either his own stories or the anthologies which he edited). In science fiction, Isaac Asimov and Brian Aldiss. In fantasy, Roger Zelazny and Gene Wolfe. And so on.

               What you will discover, if you haven’t done so already, is that finding stories which really satisfy you is not as easy as buying a loaf of bread. It requires work. The newspapers tend to review and publicise only one kind of fiction – literary – and unless you take the trouble to do some research you will hear precious little about work in other fields. You will need to read the specialist magazines, either in printed form or on the internet, to hear about new and classic work in other genres. But do make the effort. You will find some amazing stuff. And if you take my advice, you will ignore the fact that the professors of English literature tell you that popular fiction is worthless.

                

Conclusions

 

What can we learn from the two condensed histories of the short story which have been presented in this chapter?  First, I suggest that any standard ‘history of the short story in English’ is likely to be seriously distorted, in that it will concentrate only on literary short stories, as appreciated by the so-called intelligentsia, and will ignore the vastly greater number and variety of popular short stories which are read and enjoyed by the great mass of people.   My second conclusion is that literary short stories are just a genre like any other. You should not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to feel defensive, or guilty, if you happen to prefer, say, fantasy fiction to literary fiction. Certainly you should never apologise for such a preference.  You will come to have a better understanding of my reasons for saying this as you read the remaining chapters. For the present, please take my word for it that there is no rational reason for you to struggle to ‘appreciate’ literary fiction if, in fact, it bores you to death.

               You should ignore the teachings of the literary establishment and make up your own mind about what you like and dislike – if only because when you write short stories of your own, you will be well advised to concentrate, at least to begin with, on writing the kind of stuff which you enjoy reading the most.

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

How to decide your aims

 

________________________________________

 

BEFORE WE GO any further, it might be as well to give just a little thought as to why we are going to bother to write short stories at all. 

 In the Introduction, I did mention ten good reasons for writing short stories, and you may think that ten is enough. On the other hand, I know from experience that many writers – or would-be writers – have an entirely different agenda. The truth is, you see, they wanna be rich, famous, and win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Preferably by next Thursday.

 Well… How can I put this tactfully? Let’s just say that it’s not going to be easy.

 What follows is an abbreviated version of a much fuller discussion of the same issue which can be found in my book The Truth about Writing. In the remainder of this chapter I shall describe four potential benefits which can arise from writing short stories (or any other form of fiction for that matter), and I shall invite you to consider whether any or all of those benefits are sufficiently valuable to you, as an individual, to persuade you to get involved in doing the actual work.

                

Money

 

Theoretically – and I emphasise theoretically – being a short-story writer can earn you some money. Perhaps a lot of money: we have already mentioned the commercial success which was enjoyed by such writers as Roald Dahl and Somerset Maugham. (In their day.)

 So, just to get you interested, let us begin by seeing how much money you might make if you sold a story to a major magazine.

 

Big payers in the USA

 

We will begin by considering some of the most famous American magazines, because they have access to the largest English-speaking market and hence can pay the highest rates in order to secure top-class material.

 Among general magazines, Harper’s reportedly pays 50 cents to $1 a word, and The Atlantic offers up to $3,000 for a story. Incidentally, both these magazines used to be listed on the website of the American magazine Writer’s Digest under the heading ‘Pie in the Sky’. In other words, it is most unlikely that an unknown writer will actually be able to sell a story to either of these magazines.

 In the crime-fiction field, perhaps the most prestigious outlet is Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. According to the magazine’s website, the editors pay 5 to 8 cents a word. (This rate has been constant for several years now.) So for a 5,000-word short story you would receive approximately $250 to $400.

 A leading science-fiction magazine, Analog, pays about the same rate as Ellery Queen.

               Some major magazines such as Playboy will still, oddly enough, consider stories from anyone who cares to send one in. And if, by some conceivable chance, you managed to sell them a story, you could count on receiving several thousand dollars. 

 Unfortunately, many other American journals, such as The New Yorker, state that they are closed to unsolicited submissions, which means that they will only consider work which is sent to them via a literary agent.

 

The British market

 

So much for theoretical earnings in the large and relatively wealthy US market. If we examine the UK market, then the sums of money involved are naturally smaller.

 British magazines tend to be coy about what they offer to contributors. In the reference books they are likely to say no more than that payment is ‘by negotiation’. But here are a few guideline figures.

For many decades, the leading women’s magazines have constituted perhaps the major market for short stories in the UK. Most of the magazines with really big circulations, such as Woman’s Own, refuse to consider unsolicited fiction. However, at the time of writing, a firm of literary agents which specialises in this field reports that the best payers for fiction among women’s magazines are Take a Break (up to £1,000) and That’s Life (reportedly £300). My Weekly and People’s Friend, on the other hand, are said to pay less than £100. 

 

Smaller markets

 

As I shall demonstrate shortly, the level of competition that you face when submitting work to the top-paying magazines is enormous. You may therefore be tempted to try your luck with some of the less well known journals. Unfortunately, most of these pay their contributors next to nothing. 

 Various writers’ sites on the internet list US shortfiction markets (print magazines) which invite submissions. You will find that the majority of these offer to pay their contributors in nothing more generous than free copies of the magazine: usually one or two copies, at that.  Closer to home, the smaller British magazines are similarly unrewarding. Peninsular offers £5 per 1000 words; Chapman (a Scottish literary magazine) goes to £15 per thousand.

 

Benefits of publication

 

Whether you get paid for your story or not, having it appear in print might in principle lead to other useful consequences. Your story might be noticed and picked up for reprinting in an anthology, such as The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. It might even be bought for adaptation as a film: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, one of Danny Kaye’s early successes in the 1950s, was adapted from a short story by James Thurber. And should you be published in the US magazine Zoetrope, the reported fee of $1500 will cover both the North American rights and a two-year film option. The option might even be taken up, and your story might be filmed. Who knows? Pigs have occasionally been known to sprout wings.

 A less remote possibility is that the published story might impress a literary agent, and she might ask you to consider writing a novel. That is what happened, in the US, to Amy Tan, who is now a successful novelist; she was first discovered in 1985 when she published a story in Seventeen, a magazine for teenagers. 

 Back in the UK, The 3rd Alternative once claimed that virtually every unagented writer who had been published in the magazine had received at least one approach from a leading agent. 

 

But… don’t forget the competition

 

In spite of the occasionally hopeful words printed above, the fact is that your chances of earning any money at all from writing short stories are almost nil. Why? Well, even if you can write a good story, you need to be aware of the enormous amount of competition.

 Some years ago, there was an American literary magazine called Story. This was a prestigious journal, which published early work by such famous names as Mailer, Capote, and Salinger. Whit Burnet was the editor, and he once revealed that, at the height of the magazine’s fame, it was receiving more submissions in a week than there were subscribers to the magazine.

 The editors of Playboy have stated that, in an average week, they are sent 20 short stories which they have asked to see, and 600 stories which they have not asked to see.  In reality, Playboy publishes only the most prestigious and successful writers in the world, so there really isn’t much point in sending them anything of yours. By all means try, but in my opinion it’s a waste of postage.

 The three biggest science-fiction and fantasy magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction) each receive, on average, a thousand submissions a month. They publish about six stories a month. Of these six, at least four are by established authors. The unknown writer is most unlikely to succeed.

 The position is little better in the UK-based small magazines. The editor of Peninsular is sent about 200 short stories in an average month. The Edinburgh Review receives 1600 submissions every year. Unfortunately it sells only 750 copies. The editor suggests that, if you do send something in, you should allow six months for a reply. And don’t hold your breath while you’re waiting.

 The Edinburgh Review situation is typical of many small magazines: in other words, the number of stories and articles offered for publication often exceeds the number of subscribers. 

 One British editor was heard to remark that if everyone who sent in a submission actually bought a copy of the magazine – just bought one copy, not a year’s subscription – then the circulation of his magazine would increase by fifty per cent. So, if he has a circulation of 1,000 copies (which would be high for a small magazine), he presumably gets 500 submissions per issue. 

 By now, I hope, you have got the message. The toppaying magazines have an enormous amount of material to choose from, much of it written by full-time professional writers with years of experience and a long list of publications to their name. What is more, their work is submitted by prestigious literary agents who carry a great deal of weight; the editors know for certain that if a story is sent in by, say, Curtis Brown, it will be of professional standard.

                

The truth about money and short stories

 

Magazines come and magazines go, and the rates they pay do vary a little from year to year.  Nevertheless, the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the facts set out above is that, if it’s money you’re after, writing short stories is no way to go about earning it. You will be much better off working behind the counter in your local garage or pub.

 An American writer, Dorothy Rothschild, revealed on her website that over a period of thirteen years she had made 500 submissions of short stories. She had earned, on average, less than $20 a year; this would probably not have covered her postage bill.

 

Fame

 

Many writers not only want to be rich, but they also want to be famous. Poor bewildered fools that they are, they actually want to be interviewed by the big names on TV. They really quite fancy having their picture in Hello! magazine, and they want to be photographed sitting next to Posh and Becks at a film premiere.

 Well, sorry, but writing short stories just isn’t going to do that for you. On its own, short fiction does not get you into the newspapers on a regular basis.  So if it’s fame you want – real, pop-star-standard fame – then you’re just going to have to try some other field of endeavour, and leave the short-story writing to those who are happy to remain unrecognised in the street.

 

Literary reputation

 

The third benefit which some writers yearn for is literary reputation. There are now quite a number of bookish types about: people, for instance, who have studied English literature at university and have believed every word that they heard and read there. As a result, these otherwise sensible people become afflicted with a strange desire to have said about them the same kind of thing as is said about writers who already have a high literary reputation.  If you ever read the literary pages of The Guardian or The Sunday Times you will know the sort of thing I mean. A typically gushing review might say of an author: ‘She writes with enormous sensitivity, with an ineluctable flow of glorious prose which sparkles and coruscates with wit and imagination.’ And a whole lot more crap of much the same order.

 There are, I’m afraid, quite a few people around who are naïve and misguided enough to think that sentences of that sort actually mean something. If you are among their number, just ask yourself one question: does any normal, well balanced person actually pay any serious attention to this kind of literary twaddle? Does your milkman care what The Guardian says about the great literary find of the year? Does your dentist care? Does that fabulous girl/boy who works behind the bar in your local pub give a tuppenny damn about any of it? Of course not. So why should you?  By now you will have realised that I am not overimpressed by literary praise. As it happens, my own books have from time to time had some excellent reviews in some most prestigious journals; and it’s always more comfortable to have nice things said about you than harsh ones. But what I realised, after these reviews had appeared, was that no one, in the entire world, seemed to notice what was written in, say, the book section of The New York Times or The Washington Post. And if I myself drew the fine words that were said about me to anyone else’s attention, their reaction was: ‘Oh really? How interesting!’ And then it was back to discussing last night’s telly.

 Yes, if you are determined to earn yourself a literary reputation you certainly can do it through the medium of the short story. But it will be a specialised reputation, known only to a select and eccentric few, and it is not likely to make you rich or famous. So think hard before you decide whether a glorious reputation as a deeply sensitive writer will justify the effort of acquiring it.

 And by the way – be warned. Literary reputation can disappear like smoke. This year’s avant-garde can easily become last year’s old hat.

 

Satisfaction

 

Mr Jagger, you will recall, claimed that he couldn’t get no satisfaction (a double negative which was, I think, unintentional); but it has to be said that the fourth and final benefit which might come your way, as a result of writing short stories, is that you might find the whole business rather satisfying. In other words, you might find that the act of writing and completing a short story, even if it is never published, or read by anyone else, is enjoyable in and of itself.

 You may find this a difficult idea to come to grips with, so let’s try to think of some other examples. My wife, for instance, is interested in flower arranging. Now, you may not realise it, but flower arranging is a popular activity. Almost every town has its own flower-arranging club, and all the local clubs are linked to a national body. Every so often there are local competitions, to see who can do the most impressive arrangement of flowers on a given theme, such as ‘Time’ or ‘Absent Friends’. There are regional competitions; national competitions; and every few years there is even, believe it or not, a world conference with associated competitions.

               Many of the ladies (and gentlemen) who take part in these local, regional, and national flower-arranging competitions are intensely ambitious. They are really keen to win first, second, or third place. In other words, they are a bit like writers who are passionately anxious to become rich, famous, and to have a high literary reputation. 

 But it is possible to approach flower arranging in a different way: a lady might, for instance, pick a few flowers from her own garden, take the trouble to arrange them in a highly artistic and pleasing manner, and simply enjoy them in the privacy of her own home.

 Writing short stories is an activity which can be approached in exactly the same way. You can, if you wish, simply choose to write stories for your own interest and enjoyment, taking pleasure in arranging the words on the page.

 Think about that. Because, in reality, this kind of personal satisfaction may well be the only reward that does come your way.

 

Conclusions

 

I hope this chapter has made it clear to you that writing short stories is not an activity which is likely to make you rich or famous. It might, perhaps, lead to your acquiring a literary reputation among experienced judges. And it can certainly be as satisfying, in creative terms, as photography, flower arranging, or painting.

 Personally I think it is important to have at least some idea of what you are trying to achieve when you write, if only to prevent you wasting your time. If you were under the impression, for instance, that writing stories was likely to be a valuable source of spare-time income, then I hope this chapter has cured you of that.

 For those who do wish to continue, the rest of the book is devoted to providing you with a basic technique which will at least enable you to write some kind of short story – even if that story does not, in the end, enable you to fulfil all your highest ambitions.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

How to understand emotion

 

________________________________________

 

AT THE TIME when he was in charge of the British education system, Sir Keith Joseph is alleged to have asked, ‘What is education for?’ 

 It was a fair question, though it’s doubtful whether he was ever given a clear answer. 

 In the same way, you and I might usefully ask: What is the short story for?

 Now – listen well. I am not often going to lay down the law in this book. I will usually admit that there is more than one way of looking at things, and that people whose opinion differs from mine may have a point. However, on one particular issue I am going to insist that I am right, and that no other opinion is valid. 

 In other words, what I am going to tell you in this chapter, about the purpose of the short story, is in the nature of an absolute truth. Sorry to be so dogmatic about it, but that’s the way it is.

 By way of justification, let me give you an example of what I mean by a statement of absolute truth. 

 Consider the following statement: If you go over to the nearest wall, and bang your head against it hard, you will feel pain.

 I don’t think you will have much difficulty in agreeing that that particular statement is true. And that’s because your experience of life, which includes banging your head against things by accident, confirms what I have said.   Let’s consider another statement. This time I am going to say: The sole purpose of the short story is to generate emotion in the reader. That is what is for. That is what it does (if it works at all). 

 This second statement is just as true as the first. Believe me. Trust me on this. 

 Of course, the truth of this second statement may not be immediately obvious to you, because you may not have had enough experience of writing short stories, and thinking about their technique, to give you a sound basis for judgement. 

 You are perfectly at liberty to doubt me, if you wish, and you are free to conclude that my statement about the purpose of the short story is total nonsense. But you will waste an awful lot of time and effort if you do. So for the moment I suggest that you go along with what I say, and act as if you believe it to be true. If you do that, you might even succeed in writing a halfway decent short story.  If you work on the principle that the purpose of a short story is to generate emotion in the reader, then everything that you do when planning and writing a story – all your thinking and the actual writing – will be directed to that end. And by focusing your efforts in that way you will certainly increase your chances of success – no matter what definition of success you choose to adopt.

 Conversely, if you choose to ignore the intended and actual emotional effect which is generated by your story, and if you write the piece without any conscious thought about those matters, then you are likely to produce something which may seem wonderful to you, but which is likely to be uninteresting and unimpressive to editors and readers alike.

 Commercially minded writers are most unlikely to make any serious money unless they understand what sort of emotions are sought by readers of large-circulation magazines; furthermore, commercial writers must learn how to generate those emotions in the mass-market readers, because such effects do not occur by magic. 

 Exactly the same is true of literary writers. They will not achieve any kind of a reputation unless they are sensitive to the emotions which stir the blood of highbrow critics.

 

Identifying emotions

 

In my earlier book, The Truth about Writing, I included a long chapter about emotion. In it, I described what modern science can tell us about the nature of emotion, how it is caused, and what happens in the human body when emotions are experienced. 

 I am not going to attempt even to summarise that chapter here. I will simply say that if you are serious about writing short stories – or novels, or stage plays, or screenplays – you should study that earlier chapter of mine at some length.

 All I am going to say here is that, from a writer’s point of view, it is convenient to divide emotions into those which are positive, and those which are negative. Positive emotions are those which, broadly speaking, are pleasant to experience, and negative emotions are those which are not so nice. Both types of emotion can feature in, or be the outcome of, a short story.

               You will find lists of both positive and negative emotions set out in Appendix I.

 The lists in that Appendix are not intended to be exhaustive. I don’t pretend to have listed every possible shade of emotion. The two lists are simply a tool which I developed for my own use, and which I am now making available to you. (Thus saving you, as it happens, a great deal of time and effort in research.)  When you start to write your own stories, feel free to add to, or delete from, these lists of emotions, in whatever way you wish. They are nothing more than an aid, and not a set of commandments handed down by Moses.

 I am now going to suggest that you sit down and read, or re-read, two or three short stories. Preferably famous ones, by established masters in the field.

 (Incidentally, without wishing to be flippant or rude, I have to say that, if you are going to make a serious attempt to write short stories, it would be a good idea to read more than two or three. I mention that because, as any ed