BOOK TWO: THE EARTH UNDER THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 6: THE WORK OF FIFTEEN DAYS
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.