BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 5: THE HEAT-RAY
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.