by Adam Gill
A poetic re-telling of the HG Wells classic, from my publication "Life Bites"
|No-one might have believed it, but eyes out there in space,
Were spying on our worlds, envious of our place,
Their own world dying for hundreds of years,
Now – their plans ready – their journey to our fears,
Great things I heard from Ogilvy, whom I infrequently met,
Great plumes of smoke from our neighbouring planet,
Though I am assured by scholars who study our stars,
"The chances minuscule of anything coming from Mars…"
For ten days and nights the lurid green gases burst,
Curiosity then piqued, down here on our earth,
"Alien Invasion?", "Martian Attack?" read the tabloid bars,
(…But still the chances slight of anything coming from Mars…)
On the tenth day these other-worldly events began,
Shouting and calling "To Horsell Common..!" – they ran,
Such curiosity, such wonder, such fear – such awe!
A spectacle the like of which never witnessed before!
Ogilvy, it seems, was one of the first to hear,
The rumours of a fallen meteor somewhere near,
Believing it to be inhabited, he halted – then ran,
And told me of the glowing disc and inside it – a man!
For my part, I followed, though quite cautiously in tow,
Not venturing quite so near as others might go,
Such radiant heat held back those who dared,
Such curious knocking rendering all of us scared,
I watched for some hours but then I grew weary,
As did many of those who were stood near me,
We departed, still anxious, away into the night,
Leaving the great metal disc in its own diffused light.
I slept less fitful that night, arose and drew mead,
Until, watching embers, my consciousness concedes,
The next morning I awoke, startled, sat in my chair,
"The Disc – Its opening! – there's someone in there..!"
Ramshackle, I hurriedly made out through my door,
My half-drunken mead pot lain in waste on the floor,
I followed the droves to then witness the sight,
And inform myself of progress made there, overnight,
As I drew closer the throng merged – growing in size,
All of us in wonder at the sights in our eyes,
The Disc then revolving, grating – drawing out,
"I can see inside..!" I heard many near, shout.
With a thunderous crash the Disc lid fell away,
Still in my distance, I sensed danger – dismay,
Then, all at once, a flat, onerous sound,
Shaking nearby trees and trembling the ground.
A portent, I recall thinking, of things yet to come,
My first instinct – paralysed My second – to run!
But I stood my ground, watching as many around did,
Though some behind shelter or otherwise hid.
And – there! Right there – I could see what appeared,
An apparition as unholy as all that I'd feared,
A tentacle rose high upon Horsell Common that day,
Then a blinding flash of light – death, in a ray.
All of us gathered there took flight and ran,
The sweeping death's lantern took man after man,
I turned on my heels and with them took flight,
Stopping e'er seldom, homeward – into twilight…
Arriving at home I gathered what I thought I should,
As the news of devastation reached our neighbourhood,
My possessions and my wife, who then lead,
Made our precarious way to Leatherhead.
My wife then ensconced at her cousin's, I once again set out,
My premise to return some goods, however my mind in doubt,
I had to see more of this mortal enemy – and learn of its ray,
I headed off back home to meet them, cautiously making my way.
Travelling the pathways and roads I knew less used,
I chanced upon an artilleryman, dazed and confused,
"They stop at nothing!" he exclaimed, weary of flight,
"…and they never stop moving – not day – nor night!"
I took rest with him, assured of no danger near,
He told me other contraptions, weapons and gear,
I deduced early on that the poor man was in shock,
His plans to form cities right there, under the rock.
"Great caverns and byways with no Martians allowed!",
He extrapolated his theories, (though rather too loud),
In the distance the sound of Martians drawing near,
I left the poor fellow digging frantically, in fear.
Diving from sight at every turn and Martian sound,
I made haste towards Weybridge, my journey unbound,
I chanced on a curate and his wife, most distressed,
As he ranted of our demise and ungodliness.
I made little sense of his scathing – though it was clear,
His thoughts of an end to mankind rang true in my ear,
I could see that my ministrations were of no use,
Sympathising with his wife, I made my excuse…
My path was well chosen and I moved swiftly on,
No signs of encumbrance, I made haste to London,
Though tired and hungry, I moved by night and by day,
Ever avoiding any hint of the terrifying Death Ray,
From here, I must recall a tale of my brother's flight,
His own journey to the coast full of gruesome fight,
His goal to secure passage to Oostend by a boat,
"The Thunderchild" steamer's last journey…" he wrote.
As I approached, the wreck of our capital was some surprise,
Those whom I passed had ne'er hope in their eyes,
Sallow, distant, unspeaking – they also regarded me,
As I forged ahead to make sense of the things I see.
At Wimbledon Common I saw once again a face I knew,
The Artilleryman, whose plans were sadly not new,
His fanciful thoughts of an underground world all but gone,
I left him in his drunken stupor and quickly moved on.
I declare, my despair took me as I walked the Street,
My thoughts dark and selfish, I considered I was beat,
I trudged forwards through devastation that made me ill,
Until I crested a rise by a large pit on Primrose Hill.
My elation evident as my realisation became clear,
The pit full of dead Martians, from front to rear,
Later I was told of their earthly demise,
Caused by our own bacteria, which took their lives.
As word spread that the Martians were beat,
My renewed vigour set me back on my feet,
Through celebrations in villages and towns on my way,
Homeward bound I made haste, where my longing lay.
Though Martianless, the devastation lay where’re I roam,
I looked, in desperation, at the wreck of my own home,
Quietly I picked through rubble, resolving to rebuild my life,
Then, looking up, I wept – standing there was my wife.