[PART 4]

THE FIRST FALLING ‘STAR’

“All war is uncivilized, but there are times when it must be endured.”

When war came I was in old London leading a quite life. The thought that a war was truly upon us came softly as if a dream had slowly come to life. I recall it was a night much like many other peaceful nights, not very much to distinguish it from other such closing days – except on this night an interplanetary enemy had focused on our small corner of solar space intent on taking it for their own. We had not been able to put up an orbital defense; a border wall one might say. Our homes were wide-open to the alien enemy hell bent on replacing our society with a very foreign one. Our comfortable illusion of security was about to give way to a brutal reality. As death descended much of humanity slept soundly that last free night… did you?

It is perhaps not too difficult to understand why the Martians would chose locations near Old London to begin their invasion of planet Earth. You see, at the time, Old London was the preeminent city on Earth and one with the largest population (not necessarily a positive aspect for many of those who lived there). It was also the center of the largest most widely spread and sophisticated empire on the planet. The British Empire, by far the largest in human history, held better than 400 million people spread around the world on every inhabited continent, covering some 25 % of the land mass of Earth. This was something the Martians clearly understood (Ref: Martian Electric Document 416T135). So it was that the first “falling star” was seen by the inhabitants of Earth southwest of their primary city of Old London in the cool dark early morning sky over Winchester. Of the hundreds who saw the “first event” William F. Denning was perhaps the most qualified observer being at the time the British expert on meteorites. He had been spending his evening looking at the familiar stars not really expecting to see much of anything. When interviewed he stated, “…the height of its first appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles above the surface of the Earth.”

It makes one wonder what Mr. Lavoisier and his Committee of the French Academy would have made of this event. In 1772 they decided that stones do not fall from the sky and these glowing objects were simply Earth rocks luminated and thrown into the air by lightening!

Leaving a glowing luminous trail of green in its wake, Denning calculated the ‘meteorite’ must have fallen around one hundred miles to the east of his location. It was different than any others he had seen and just for a moment a twinge of apprehension passed through his fertile mind, so much so he even spoke out loud to himself. “This is something different.” He could not place his finger on it, so he soon convinced himself it was nothing; he was perhaps just a bit tired from all the work. He was thankful that he would soon be on vacation. Denning’s plans would have to be put on hold! He was not aware at the time that a hissing sound had been reported by those much closer to the fall as it “flew over.” This aspect of the fall was not at all the usually expected report from a meteorite ‘fall’. This was “something different.” The noise of the impact was heard at least a few miles away, but it was clearly not an explosion.

Other areas around Old London including Berkshire, Middlesex and Surry, where I held a summer cottage, were soon adding their stories to the growing reports of the new “falling stars.” It would be reported that the flash of light in the sky was seen for several hundred miles. It did not take long for excited observers to begin the search for the remains thought to have come down as I had later written “…on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw and Woking.” It did not take long to find it either, but when they did it presented a wholly different aspect than one would have normally expected to find for such a large body which had impacted the ground. That is not to say that the effect of contact with the Earth was not dramatic – it was. It struck with such tremendous force splitting a row of trees which had made contact with the object as it came in. A large elongated hole had been created when it came in, creating mounds of dirt high enough to be seen half a mile away piled up in every direction.  It seemed to have skidded along perhaps hitting sideways starting a small fire as it came in. This fire would soon be put out, but it was still smoking when I first arrived.

However, even though more than half the object had been buried in the sandy soil it was not a particularly deep hole, nor were there any smaller pieces to be found. It almost looked as if the object had made a “clumsy landing of some sort.” This of course was impossible if this “thing” was just a rather large meteorite. Nevertheless, doubts soon began to rise from minds that would rather find other explanations. “It did not seem to come down like a meteorite.” “Perhaps it was very light or even hollow?” More pedestrian explanations would do – but then again it had not crashed as much as it had “landed upon the common.” No – quite clearly, that is not possible – is it?

And yet, it did not have the look of any meteorite anyone on Earth had ever seen – and the size, it was quite large, as big as a house, at around 90 feet in diameter – very strange. The color was of a yellowish gray/white. The shape too was unusual being more in the form of an elongated cylinder, not to mention the incrustation on its surface seen to be of a scaly nature. This was most unusual to be sure. Indeed, if this object had not been seen to have come from the heavens few would have projected the thought that it was a meteorite at all. Perhaps a very ancient volcanic protrudence now uncovered at the surface. That must be the answer – but from outer space – never! Yet, there it was and what were we to make of it? Only closer examination could answer our questions, which were coming with greater speed as the light of the early morning began to remove the night’s blanket of darkness. Yes, easy to see now in a daylight which added even more mystery to the object.

A nervous woman in the small crowd could be heard to say, “We should keep people away from it until we know what it is.”

One in the crowd even spoke of spacemen from other planets, but he was soon wishing he had not mentioned the possibility as the crowd laughed it off quite readily. “Spacemen indeed; such rubbish!”

Some were wondering out loud where this man had found an open pub so early in the morning to have come up with such a drunken idea. Yet, there was some nervous laughter among those gathered. But what was it? I began to wonder myself as did more than a few who had dared the early morning chill. Not everyone laughed with such ease. An unspoken caution was creeping upon our minds; one might say it was uneasiness. I found myself speaking out loud to no one in particular.

“What is this thing?”

It was indeed a new morning, yet no one in the crowd seemed to notice that no birds on this cool early day seemed to be stirring, nor would it seem were any other animals or for that matter any insects as the crowd slowly moved in for a closer look. A few brave souls even went up to touch the ‘object’. It was at that point our world changed forever on that first day of the war. It was the ‘meteorite’ that moved!

“Is that possible?”

At first no one seemed to fully understand what we had just seen. Small pieces of the crystal surface were falling off and with them the general conversation of the now fully attentive crowd began to hush. Almost as one we took our measure and stepped back. In the silence of our day those closest to the object in the pit could now clearly hear what they described as “faint movements.” Of course, it was cooling and the sounds were from the crust. Weren’t they?

“No” said a man who had been but a few feet from the object, “I swear. It came from within!” No one else said a word, save a few uneasy chuckles. More than a few spectators could now hear a strange humming sound emanating from deep within the object. It was more of a mechanical sound than one of cooling stones or some such thing. It was becoming clearer to the ear.

“Don’t get too close to that thing.”

“Do meteors make such a sound?”

No one seemed to have an answer. It was after all such a silly question. Of course it was nothing more than a large meteorite – wasn’t it?

As if by some unexplained plan, and even before anyone could complain that the man must have been mistaken, another voice, a shocked voice, was heard from the crowd. The shock and urgency of the message was so great as to demand attention.

“Look! Another one is coming down!”

Everyone looked up, even the man closest to the object in the pit. No one said a word for several seconds as their faces expressed more than words could truly convey. It was to say the least a mixture of shock, confusion, surprise, but above all, fear, real fear, all at the same time as many looked up at the glowing object and then down at the object in the pit and then up again as the second ‘meteorite’ came down closer to the Earth. No one could grasp a logical meaning to these events. Were they somehow connected? What were we seeing?

No one missed the fact that the new object changed course as it came in. One man pointing towards the sky shouted, “Can a meteorite do that?” No one answered. All in attendance paused.

Finally, from one of the spectators in the crowd came an agitated question, “What is all of this? What is happening here? Someone, please tell me what in the devil is going on here?”

Another man with an agitated voice cried out, “It is the devil indeed, sir.”

As if as a single body a single mind a cold chill passed through the stunned crowd. I felt it slowly crawl up my spine. It took all that I was at that moment. I found myself shaking for some reason. A cold silence held the moment.

“Something is happening in the pit – a movement of some sort I think.”

“Look. It’s moving!”

The uneasy crowd now almost as one, once again focused now quite sharply on the object in the pit. More and more of the crusty covering was flaking off exposing a metallic finish not unlike cold polished gunmetal. It was smooth, precise, and cold and now we knew it could not have been a meteorite. This was confirmed for all who remained, as many were now leaving the general area having seen enough. This was all becoming far too much. On top of the object the failing crust exposed what was clearly a round cover or hatch of some sort which began to rotate! No – no meteorite, this.

One witness spoke for all when he later wrote, “The cylinder was artificial – hollow – with an end that screwed out! Something within the cylinder was unscrewing the top!”

To this observer came a tiny thought at first so deep and repressed as to be unrecognizable as the idea pushed and struggled to reach the surface of a numbed mind desperately trying to stop the thought. There must be another explanation. There must be. Finally breaking through with such force and purpose that the thought nearly knocked me over as I began to shake once again. “MARS?!”

Was this the vanguard from the Planet Mars? Was there a man from Mars really inside this thing?

The next thoughts were coming too fast to relate and questions by those still on the scene were of concern as well as wonder. Was this cylinder really from Mars? Human compassion soon rose to the surface despite the fear.

One older woman spoke, “Is the creature within in trouble?”

From yet another, “Can we help get it out?”      

What would we say to this traveler from another world? Surely nothing in our experiences could possibly relate to a creature from Mars or any other planet for that matter. Would it look anything like a man? It must be intelligent. After all, it had traveled so far. We soon had answers to many of our questions as the hatch continued to unscrew itself, nearly two feet of length. The cylinder must have been very solidly built to withstand the rigors of space of which we knew so little at the time. The Martians knew so much more. We held our breaths as we waited the first meeting of two worlds that shared solar space. All eyes were now transfixed on the top of the cylinder. Silence commanded the moment.

When the hatch mechanism finally finished its work and fell to the ground some in the crowd pressed forward. After all there had been nothing to fear so far? However, many more took more than a step or two back. A very slight reddish glow could now be seen to come from inside the cylinder. A shape was soon rising out of the pit and we could now make out some type of living creature. A being from another world was about to set ‘foot’ upon the Earth!

A man in the thinning crowd pointed and exclaimed, “Look! Someone – no… wait… something is crawling, moving out of the top of the cylinder.”

FIRST CONTACT!

We few remaining spectators were, as far as we knew, about to become the first people on Earth to come face-to-face with a being from another world! The very thought was nearly unimaginable; terrifying and exciting at the same time. In the still cool air no one moved. First one of the creatures struggled to rise up then another and then a third creature ‘stood up’ on what at first appeared to be a group of thin legs. Needless to say, the now well-known features of a Martian were a shock at first with its tentacled appendages, bulbous head with saliva dripping from its peaked V-shaped mouth.

One of the few local men who survived the encounter also doubled as a part-time reporter for a local newspaper and would later write his own impressions of these events.

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 shop man 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. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.

Perhaps the best statement came from a man who was looking down from the top of one of the mounds of disturbed soil, which had been piled up from the ‘landing.’

“What ugly brutes! Good god! What ugly brutes!”

Ugly? Perhaps upon first blush humans could look upon the face of a Martian and see an ugly appearance, but that would have soon faded to acceptance had contact been of a friendly nature. However, “brutes” and enemy aliens they were to remain and as such the ugliness never faded from our collective minds. Nor should it have, as long as they were here only to invade, steal and kill. Certainly their deeds were ugly. Before this thought had entered our shocked minds some dared hope their intentions were peaceful. At least all who represented humanity that first day and stood on the common were peaceful. We would come to realize the destinies of two worlds were balanced in that moment. It would not be long before that slim hope would be extinguished along with many lives. Perhaps our hopes had only been childlike dreams. Even now, knowing all the destruction they have brought to our world there are still people who would demand that we must somehow “understand their needs.” Did we make some kind of error as yet unknown? Who am I to say? I was but a humble spectator of one of the most pivotal moments in the whole history of mankind.

Upon first contact (that we knew of at the time) the Martians thought only of death and destruction and with that there was no going back. These were enemy aliens by the full definition of the words. A small group of spectators, three as I recall, stepped forward and closed in on the object. The man in the middle held a stick with a small white cloth attached to it – a flag of truce. Did these creatures know what a white flag meant or for that matter what anything humans do really means? They certainly knew a great deal more than we suspected at this early point in our ‘relationship.’ A close up witness to the destructive nature of their horrific Heat-Ray weapon said it all as the Martians preferred to have their destructive technology do all their talking for them. Civilized discourse with ‘modern’ humans was never part of their plans or their ‘culture’. It was not even considered. The powerful Martians had arrived uninvited across the ethereal border of solar space and they were decidedly hostile!

Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three different puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the still air. 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 the 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 destructive, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.

Screams! The Martian beam weapon had turned the three closest people to dust. I ran and threw myself to the ground behind a stone wall. There was nothing else to be done as the beam had come far too close. I could ‘feel’ the electric charge of the destroyed air just above my head. The stones were melting! I am certain if the beam would have continued above my head for much longer the heat in the air would have surely taken my life. I had been very lucky – many were not.

Later, as the Martian machines began to move, more often than not survivors would recall that at some distance a low-level hum could be distinctly heard reminiscent of a large group of angry bees. I myself have heard such ‘bees’. At the time it was not possible to know if this sound represented some type of communication or was perhaps only the sounds of their deadly machines as they moved into battle. “The bees are coming.” This was the vanguard sound of an invading army from the planet Mars.

A few days later I wrote, “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.”  And then the smell of sudden death filled the air.

All around me lay at least 40 perhaps more dead in the field. The very ground had caught on fire from the Heat-Ray. Sections had become so heated they flowed as if liquid. I would have thought the simple soils of Earth could not behave as such. I crawled as far as I could past the steaming black corpses. My eyes burned with the dust of sudden death. I found it difficult to wrap my mind around what I had seen. Why had they attacked? Had we done something that made them feel they were in some kind of danger? It simply did not make any sense. They had murdered without any reason! The military needed to be informed with great speed. This was after all an alien invasion. We were in a war not yet declared nor understood by the stunned mind of man.

It was not long before the second cylinder was located. That night observers reported that a good deal of activity could be seen in the first pit lit by a soft glow. Before long the Martians would be on the move and in attack formation.

Editor’s Note: London was recognized as the prime city on Earth and therefore became the primary focus of early Terrain War operations.

A TRULY WORLD WAR!

“Then the lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah
brimstone and fire from the lord out of heaven.”

Genesis 19:24

When Old London proper first came under attack news reports would state that “beyond doubt the greatest free show that London has ever enjoyed is underway.” The Lancet would report, before of course the newspaper’s offices became part of the rubble, that, “…a fundamentally important factor, that of race, which is seen par excellence in the response of the crowd to stimuli of the character that we have become familiar with since the outbreak of the War.” The war had given the British people the opportunity to show just how British they really were in the face of great adversity. Said by some if only to ourselves to be the “most civilized ‘race’ on Earth.” We had convinced ourselves that it was England’s destiny to civilize the world. I could not help but think of the people of Tasmania who had been slaughtered by British settlers’ years earlier if they would have agreed with the “most civilized” race on Earth? Pure horror would come soon enough. For now a stiff upper lip and a calm disposition would hold the day. It was to be a decidedly short day!

Another reported: “In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees, the panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed hesitatingly for some moments. Sparks and burning twigs began to fall into the road, and single leaves like puffs of flame. Hats and dresses caught fire. Then came a crying voice from the common. There were shrieks and shouts, and suddenly a mounted policeman came galloping through the confusion with his hands clasped over his head, screaming, ‘The Martians, they’re coming!” The calm façade was failing. Enemy aliens bringing fire and brimstone were the order of the day.

At first the British authorities felt they needed to do all they could to communicate with the Martians as orders came down from 10 Downey Street that “they aren’t to be killed if that can possibly be avoided.” After all, the thinking went, were they not intelligences from a world we knew so little about? Surely we could come to some type of an agreement and put an end to this sudden disaster before it got completely out of hand? That order would cost many more lives as several attempts were made to talk to the crews of their walking machines. Perhaps more to the point – it cost valuable time which should have been used preparing a massive counter attack. Our humanity was allowed to blind us to this new reality. We had to be blasted into real action. What seemed perhaps even stranger than this off-world enemy was the fact that the Martians never demanded a surrender. They simply and almost mechanically went on killing as if humans were only insects to be stamped out and not a race of intelligent beings. That was a terrifying thought.

After the first attack the Martians had gone back to their pit in order to prepare their walking machines for the murderous work ahead. The Heat-Ray had been ready when they landed, but their walking machines needed to be assembled for movement out of the pit. This was the opportune time to attack the Martians, yet we let it pass not realizing the opportunity that we had failed to see. And as we “discussed the situation” more of their deadly machines began to fall all over the southern outskirts of Old London. The first Martian attack wave had arrived on Earth and we were soon reading about this amazing event.

MARTIANS LAND NEAR LONDON!

The London papers, which all told could claim over a million in circulation at the time (with some ten evening and nineteen morning papers), reported, “Fresh attempts have been made to signal, but without success.” They were also able to report that the British authorities had wired the news to capitals around the world that they were under attack by Martians. More than a few did not take the cables seriously. The government of Italy cabled back that the British needed to take more care not to allow some drunk in their government to send such fantastic tales as it reflects badly upon the British government’s credibility. They were not to hold that opinion for many more hours. Several Martian machines were just now landing in several outlying areas in Italy. Rome would soon feel the brunt of a Martian onslaught. News was still reaching millions of people in Britain even as the Martians swept all before them.

Martian Walker drawn by newspaper illustrator in London
Martian Walker drawn by newspaper illustrator in London

DEADLY HEAT-RAY UNLEASHED BY MARTIANS!

It should be noted early reports coming out of the British countryside were also making their way to the Continent as well as America that deadly landings had been made by ‘men’ from Mars. And even though so-called “conventional wisdom” sided with probability that life – intelligent life – held sway upon Mars; few newspapers at first took these reports of Martians seriously. This was strange indeed for in those earlier days this type of tall-tale would have sold many newspapers and as such would normally have made headlines around the world – true or not! This time however, caution seemed to generally hold sway over many papers as perhaps the reports were just a bit too fantastic to print without some type of further evidence. Surely the story could not possibly be true – could it? Who would believe such rubbish? That evidence would soon manifest itself as sudden death became the harvest of mankind around the world.

MARTIANS NOW IN AMERICA AND SOUTH ASIA

They were easily standing up on their legs reaching above the trees and moving now to attack in earnest. Before long the Martians were on the move in many areas always in groups of three, sweeping all before them with fire from their Heat-Rays and dispensing deadly Black Smoke clinging to the cool wet ground; not a liquid, but nevertheless moving as such. One close observer would later remark, “Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles, one of which gripped a young pine tree, swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.”

The enemy was soon picking their way quite carefully along the British countryside seemingly carrying out some un-stated plan of attack. Bells were soon ringing their warnings to the residents of that great city to evacuate to the east of Old London as fast as possible. A strange thick Black Smoke soon told those who had not evacuated that death in the form of a Martian was just beyond the rise to the west.

Destroyed section of London after Martian Walker attack
Destroyed section of London after Martian Walker attack

One London paper was able to report: “The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a black and poisonous vapor by means of rockets. They have smothered our batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston, and Wimbledon, and are advancing slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight.”

As the British military developed its proper battle plan to defend their capital from the Martians now attacking from three sides it soon became clear that we were woefully unprepared to deal with such power as these Martians could bring to bear in so short a time. The story would ring the same all over the world. It was not long before most of the infantry and artillery forces brought in to fight these walking steel monsters were swept out of existence. A last ditch cavalry charge led by the Queens Own Lancers never got closer than 50 yards before they too were swept out of existence in one intensely hot green flash of death. Blackened remains and the sweat smell of rotting flesh were soon to become an overwhelming horror to the terrified people of southern England, even as the newspapers continued to publish emergency single page editions. I too had joined the fight. Yet this was no grand war for personal glory, only the desperate struggle by men who in short order would come to know that their greatest efforts would amount to nothing more than a holding action before the inevitable came to the fore. Since we were all doomed it was time to do one’s duty until the end. I found a rifle once held by a now half corpse of a British infantryman and made my way into the fog.

DESPERATE BATTLE FOR THE HEART OF LONDON

I remember thinking and then writing in my note pad, “I already perceived clearly that the country about London must inevitably be the scene of a disastrous struggle before such creatures as these could be destroyed.” I could not have known at the time that the whole of Earth would soon be a battle ground. I remember even in this most desperate situation the people of London meeting the Martians magnificently as every available man was thrown into the fight. They would take the full measure of the Martians taking more than a few of them with them, but no one could stop the Martians. Millions would soon be dead. “We’re just ants in anthill cities, in a world that doesn’t matter; that goes on and rambles into nothingness.” Mankind could know at least one grand fact – we never stopped fighting.

Continuing from an earlier thought one scientist who would have the later opportunity to examine the Martians at close hand made an observation which still haunts biologists to this day. He made note that one of the primary features of mankind in our development of culture and invention was the evolution of the opposable thumb. This development in man allows for a grip with great strength as well as great delicacy for tiny manipulation. No such evolution could be seen on the Martian As yet their superior devices shown to mankind in war do indeed exist. How is this possible if we understand evolution? Did they truly develop these devices or have they inherited them from others not yet known to man? And if so, were the Martians only the vanguard of a much more powerful enemy yet to expose themselves? This was a particularly chilling thought. After all, the Martians were bad enough. Who or what else may lay off-stage ready to engage mankind? Would they be friend of foe?

CAN NOTHING STOP THE MARTIANS?

In several areas around the world small groups of scientists gathered together in an attempt to discover a way to defeat these invaders, but the attack had come too swiftly, our defense too slow to mobilize for any real answers to be known so soon. They would need more time to find answers. There was no time to give.

Terrifying wireless reports out of Old London soon informed the world that Armageddon was on the way. This was not to be “A splendid little war” once noted by American John Hay. It did not take long for the rest of the world to catch up with the horror that had come first to the outskirts of Old London. Cylinder after cylinder rained down upon the Earth as if mortal stones were being flung down by some vengeful god. Reports were soon on the wires of these cylinders falling around the world in places as far flung as Paris, Munich, Prague, Odessa and Moscow in Europe and Boston, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Eureka in America. News also came in from Tokyo, Seoul, Nanking, Canton, Saigon, Perth and Sydney as well as many other areas too numerous to note. The Martians were on the move and were now moving with great speed.

In its final addition the Pall Mall Gazette wrote on “the extinction of man.” “Even now, for all we can tell the coming terror may be crouching for its spring and the fall of humanity be at hand. In the case of every other predominant animal the world has ever seen the hour of its complete ascendancy has been the eve of its entire overthrow.”

We soon understood these machines were not coming down in random fashion. They seemed to be part of an overall plan to land on or near heavily populated areas on Earth and then attack in groups of three. They had calculated their attacks with the precision of a fine watch. Earth’s defensive actions had been haphazard at best.

SILENCE FALLS OVER NEW YORK CITY

It was first hoped close observation of how they moved and fought could be forwarded to other nations engaging the Martians. But they were moving too fast, attacking so many cities at the same time. Population centers around the world were being evacuated as fast as possible, but it was hopeless. Several governments had fled their capitals meeting in tunnels hidden from sight in railway cars guarded by scant military forces as they attempted to coordinate any forces they could throw at the enemy. National governments who had for years been nothing more than adversaries fought side-by-side in desperate battles against the fearsome Heat-Rays of the Martian machines. Arabs and Jews fought shoulder to shoulder; African tribes, long enemies, fighting separate battles now as one were only two of the many examples. There were no human differences now, only man against Martian. It had taken an outside terror to finally unite all of mankind – but was it too late? Were we actually witnessing the Sun setting on humanities’ light hold on Earth? I found myself wishing I could travel back in time to warn my fellow man. Yet, with such a warning would I find a single individual to whom the warning would move them to an enterprise which would develop any type of planetary defense? I doubted it.

As reports came in of the arrival of more Martian machines, more often than not communications with those areas ended. All contact would be cut off – only silence remained. No area upon this Earth, it seemed was not part of the Martian plan for conquest and the results of this effort were soon to be felt by most of mankind. Humanity was being massacred all over the world, for these cylinders had truly brought to this Earth our first complete “War of the Worlds”. It was later estimated that had they been able to continue their attacks for one more week the Earth would have been theirs. This was how close humanity came to ending their dominion on Earth, if indeed domination is the proper term.

The last weak cable message from Germany arrived in London just before the silence. “Mein gott. All de vorlt is at vor! They haf burn’ Berlin; they haf burn’ London; they haf burn’ Hamburg and Paris. All de vorlt is at vor!” Nothing further came out of Germany or for that matter the rest of Europe – silence.

It was quite clear that along with all other major human players upon the world stage pax Britanica the most extensive empire the world had ever seen had been brought to her knees.

AS MORTAL AS OUR OWN

The end for organized mankind was near and the Martians knew it – but it was not to be. The Martians, strong of science and technology were indeed mortal as our own and their weakness of body soon signaled the end of their short but bloody terror upon the Earth. So it came to pass that the Martians were not felled by the mighty armies of Earth. Though mankind had fought with every manner, device and with every fiber of courage they could muster it had not been enough. Mankind’s weapons of war had, in a very short period of time, completely failed. The Martians had fallen, not to man’s efforts, but to the bacteria on Earth that we humans had long become immune. For all their wisdom the Martians had failed to prepare themselves against this defense which had been prepared by the Earth itself. Nature, not man, had been the victor in this “War of the Worlds”.

One observer would write, “…and scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians – dead! – slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the Red Weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that god, in his wisdom, has put upon this Earth.” All over the world their deadly machines began to fail. They could do nothing more against humanity. Perhaps these beings themselves never understood why they were dying as they lost this first “War of the Worlds”!

Scattered as we were many of us could not have known the Martians were finished, at least for now. For the tattered remains of mankind the nightmare out of that long dark night was just beginning. Theodore Roosevelt had recently remarked, “The century of which we have just entered must inevitably be one of tremendous triumph or tremendous failure for the whole human race.” He had spoken those words only days before the Martians landed. At this point it could have fallen either way.

As the end of fighting drew near exhaustion came hard. I no longer had within my grasp the means to resist. As I lay on the ground I looked up into the dust filled night sky to perceive a slight reddish glow – the point of a star. Yet, it was no star for there was no shimmer to this mere spec in the vastness of space. At once I recognized this tormenting spec of red – it was the planet Mars – the source of all evil which had been driven towards our world with such devastating force. I became overwhelmed by my hatred for that small red spec as I screamed towards the dirty sky as if to condemn that which I could not touch by any other means. I remember thinking if I could only destroy it, if only I could somehow remove it from the heavens all would be well again. I had been awake and on the move for days. To be sure – I was quite mad… darkness… silence… release…

[END PART 4]

Copyright © R. Michael Gordon, 2020

[Next week: Part 5: What was seen in the rubble of old London?]

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