After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging
from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from
their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I
remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the
mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a 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octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately withdrawn,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
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
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
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to
the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but
afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were
with others in this attempt at communication. This little
group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the
circumference of the now almost complete circle of people,
and a number of dim black figures followed it at discreet
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of
luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct
puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word
for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the
hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set with
black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these puffs
arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal. At the
same time a faint hissing sound became audible.
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the
white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little
knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black ground.
As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green,
and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed
into a humming, into a long, loud, droning noise. Slowly a
humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam
of light seemed to flicker out from it.
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping
from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.
It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and
flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly
and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them
staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death
leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I
felt was that it was something very strange. An almost 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. Forthwith
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
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 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.