The Cylinder Opens

: The War Of The Worlds

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

ind. 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


"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


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


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