BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 5: THE HEAT-RAY
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the
white flag at its apex, arrested by these 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 destruction, I saw them
staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death
leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I
felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and
lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them,
pine trees burst into fire, and every dry furze bush became
with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards
Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden
buildings suddenly set alight.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming
death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it
coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and
was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle
of fire in the sand pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that
was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet
intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather
between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line
beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled.
Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the
road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forthwith the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like
object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.