فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

In the Ruined House

The arrival of a second fighting-machine made us move back out of the kitchen into the hall, because we were afraid that from that height the Martian might see us through the hole. At a later date we began to feel less in danger of being seen because the sunlight outside was very bright, but at first anything approaching the house drove us back into the hall in fear. However, despite the danger, we could not prevent ourselves from going back to look again and again. In our desire to watch, we even fought each other within a few centimeters of being seen.

We were very different people with different habits of thought and action, and those differences increased because we were living together in this dangerous place. The curate talked endlessly, and this prevented me from forming a plan of action.

He had no self-control at all and sometimes cried for hours at a time. He ate more than I did, and did not seem to understand that we had to stay in the house until the Martians had finished their work if we wanted to stay alive. I tried threatening him, and in the end I hit him. That worked for some time.

The curate was watching through the hole when the first men were brought there. I was sitting near him, listening hard. He made a sudden movement backwards and for a moment I shared his panic. Then curiosity gave me courage and I got up, stepped across him and went to the hole.

At first I could see no reason for his behaviour. The night was coming but the Martians had lights on their machines. The whole scene was one of moving lights and shadows, difficult for the eyes. The Martians at the bottom of the pit could no longer be seen, because the earth around it was now so high. A fighting- machine stood in the corner of the pit. Then, through the noise of the machinery, came the faint sound of human voices.

I watched the fighting-machine closely, sure for the first time that it did actually contain a Martian. I could see the oily shine of its skin and the brightness of its eyes. And suddenly I heard a shout and saw a long tentacle reaching over the shoulder of the machine to the little cage on its back. Then something - something struggling violently - was lifted high against the sky and brought down again. I saw that it was a man. He was fat, red- faced, middle-aged, well-dressed; perhaps earlier he had been important. He disappeared behind the pile of earth and for a moment there was silence. Then we heard him scream and the sound of long and cheerful calling from the Martians.

I moved away from the hole, put my hands over my ears and ran into the hall. The curate, who had been lying silently with his arms over his head, looked up as I passed, cried out quite loudly and came running after me.

That night, as we hid in the hall, I felt a great need to do something but could think of no plan of escape. But afterwards, during the second day, I was able to consider our position clearly. The curate, I found, was quite unable to discuss anything. The death of the man outside had taken away all his powers of thought. He had almost sunk to the level of an animal. I began to think that, although our position was terrible, there was no reason yet to give up hope. The Martians might only stay in this pit for a short time, then move on. Or if they stayed permanently, they might not think it necessary to watch it all the time.

On the third day, if I remember correctly, I saw a boy killed. It was the only occasion on which I actually saw the Martians feed. After that I avoided the hole in the wall for most of a day.

The Martians had made such an impression on me that at first I did not think I could escape. I did not think that they could be defeated by human beings. But on the fourth or fifth night I heard a sound like heavy guns.

It was very late and the moon was shining brightly. The Martians had taken away the digging-machine and apart from the fighting-machine on the far side of the pit and a building- machine that was busy out of my sight, the pit was empty. I heard a dog, and that familiar sound made me listen. Then I heard a noise exactly like the sound of big guns. I heard six bangs and then six more. And that was all.

On the sixth day of our imprisonment I looked out for the last time, and I soon found myself alone. Instead of staying close and trying to move me away from the pit, the curate had gone back into the hall. I followed him quickly and quietly and in the darkness I heard him drinking. I put my hand out and my fingers closed around a bottle of wine.

For a few minutes we fought together. The bottle hit the floor and broke, and I stopped fighting and got up. We stood breathing heavily, staring at each other. In the end I moved between him and the food and told him that I was going to take control.

I divided the food in the cupboard into separate amounts to last us ten days. I would not let him eat any more that day. In the afternoon he tried to get some food. I had been asleep but in a moment I was awake. All day and all night we sat face to face. I was tired but would not give up, and he cried and complained about his immediate hunger. The rest of the time he just talked to himself, and I began to realize that he had gone completely mad.

Through the eighth and ninth days his voice grew louder. He threatened me, begged me, and this was mixed with a great deal of talk about his service to God. Then he slept for some time and began again with even more strength, so loudly that I had to try to stop him.

‘Be still!’ I demanded.

He rose to his knees. ‘I have been still too long,’ he said, loud enough for the Martians to hear, ‘and now I must tell the world. This place will be destroyed because of the bad things we have done!’

‘Shut up!’ I said, getting to my feet. ‘Please -‘

‘No!’ he shouted, at the top of his voice. ‘Speak! The word of God is with me!’

In three steps he was at the door leading to the kitchen.

I went after him, picking up the coal-hammer as I entered the room. Before he was half-way across the floor, I was right behind him. I swung the hammer and hit him on the back of the head. He fell forwards and lay flat on the floor. I stepped over him and stood there breathing hard. He did not move.

Suddenly, I heard a noise outside and the hole in the wall became dark. I looked up and saw the lower part of a building- machine coming slowly across it. Then, through a sort of glass plate, I saw the large, dark eyes of a Martian, and one of its tentacles appeared, moving in through the hole.

I turned, tripped over the curate and stopped at the hall door. The tentacle was now two metres or more into the room, moving backwards and forwards with strange, sudden movements. I forced myself back into the hall. I shook violently and could hardly stand straight. Had the Martian seen me? What was it doing now?

Then I heard the sound of a heavy body - I knew whose it was - being dragged across the floor of the kitchen towards the opening. I could not stop myself - I moved to the door and looked back into the kitchen. In the light from outside, I saw the Martian studying the curate’s head. I thought at once that it would know that I was there from the mark of the hammer.

I shut the door and moved back into the hall and tried to hide myself in the corner. Then I heard a faint metallic sound as the tentacle moved back across the kitchen floor. I thought that it might not be long enough to reach me. I prayed. Then I heard it touching the handle. It had found the door. The Martians understood doors!

It moved the handle up and down for a moment, and then the door opened.

In the darkness I could just see the thing moving towards me and examining the wall and the floor. It was like a black snake moving its head from side to side.

Once, even, it touched my boot. I almost screamed, but I bit my hand. For a time it did not move, then it moved back through the door.

I heard it go into the food cupboard, It moved the tins and a bottle broke. Then there was silence.

Had it gone?

At last I decided that it had.

The tentacle did not come into the hall again, but I lay all the tenth day in the darkness, too frightened even to move for a drink. I did not enter the kitchen again for two days. When at last I did, I found that the food cupboard was now empty. The Martians had taken everything. On that day and the next I had no food and nothing to drink.

On the twelfth day my thirst was so bad that I went into the kitchen and used the noisy rainwater pump that stood by the sink. I managed to get a couple of glasses of dirty water. This made me feel a lot better, and the noise of the pump did not bring a tentacle in through the opening.

On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and thought of impossible plans of escape. Whenever I slept, I dreamed either of the death of the curate or of wonderful dinners.

Then, early on the fifteenth day, I heard the sound of a dog outside. This greatly surprised me. I went into the kitchen and saw its head looking in through the hole.

I thought that if I could attract it in quietly, I would be able, perhaps, to kill and eat it. It would be a good idea to kill it anyway, in case its actions attracted the attention of the Martians.

I moved forwards, saying, ‘Good dog!’ very softly, but it suddenly pulled his head back and disappeared.

I listened. I heard the sound of some birds but that was all.

For a long time I lay close to the opening until, encouraged by the silence, I looked out.

Except in the corner, where a number of birds fought over some dead bodies, there was not a living thing in the pit.

I stared around, hardly believing my eyes. All the machinery had gone. Slowly I made the opening larger and pushed myself through it. I could see in every direction except behind me and there were no Martians in sight.

I hesitated, then with a rush of desperate courage, and with my heart beating violently, I climbed to the top of the pile of earth in which I had been buried.

When I had last seen this part of Sheen, it had been a street of comfortable white and red houses. Now the neighboring ones had all been destroyed. Far away I saw a thin cat walking along a wall, but there was no sign of people.

After my time in the darkness, the day seemed very bright, the sky was shining blue. A gentle wind moved the flowers. And oh! The sweetness of the air.

For some time I stood there, not worrying about my safety. At that moment, I felt the beginning of something that soon grew quite clear in my mind, that worried me for many days. I was not the master now, but an animal among the animals, under the power of the Martians. The rule of man had ended.

But as soon as this feeling came, it left me, and my main problem became hunger. I climbed a wall and fell into a neighboring garden. Here I found some young vegetables, which I took. Then I started walking towards the river. There were two ideas in my mind - to get more food and to move, as quickly as possible, away from the pit.

When I reached the Thames, I drank as much water as I could. I then walked up a hill to Putney Common.

Here I moved through areas which had been totally destroyed and others which were totally undamaged; houses with their curtains and their doors closed. I went into a couple of the houses, looking for food, but all of it had already been taken. I lay for the rest of the day in a garden, too exhausted to go on.

All this time I saw no human beings and no signs of the Martians. I saw a couple of hungry-looking dogs, but they hurried away from me. I also saw some human bones, with all the flesh eaten off. After sunset I struggled on along the road towards Putney, and in a garden I found some potatoes, enough to stop my hunger. From there I looked down on Putney and the river.

The view of blackened trees and empty ruined buildings made me very unhappy. And over all - silence. It filled me with terror to think how quickly that great change had come. Near the top of Putney Hill I came across more human bones, eaten clean and left lying around. The Martians, it seemed, had killed and eaten everyone around there, except for a few lucky ones like myself. They were now looking for food somewhere else. Perhaps even now they were destroying Berlin or Paris, or maybe they were moving north.

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