“The Beginning of The End – The Fall of Light”
Gregory V. Boulware
“You have been asking for water for the last hour,” he said.
For a moment we were silent, taking stock of each other. I daresay he found me a strange enough figure, naked, save for my water-soaked trousers and socks, scalded, and my face and shoulders blackened by the smoke. His face was a fair weakness, his chin retreated, and his hair lay in crisp, almost flaxen curls on his low forehead; his eyes were rather large, pale-blue, and blankly staring. He spoke abruptly, looking vacantly away from me.
“This must be the beginning of the end,” he said, interrupting me. “The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord!” When the men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them and hide them – hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne!”
I began to understand the position. I ceased my labored reasoning, struggled to my feet, and standing over him, laid my hand on his shoulder.
“Be a man!” said I, “You are scared out your wits! What good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent.”
For a time he sat in blank silence.
“But how can we escape?” he asked, suddenly. “They are invulnerable, they are pitiless.”
“Neither the one nor, perhaps, the other,” I answered. “And the mightier they are the more sane and wary should we be. One of them was killed yonder not three hours ago.”
“Killed1” he said, staring about him. “How can God’s ministers be killed?”
“I saw it happen.” I proceeded to tell him. “We have chanced to come in for the thick of it,” said I, “and that is all.”
“What is that flicker in the sky?” he asked abruptly.
I told him it was the heliograph signaling – that it was the sign of human help and effort in the sky.
“We are in the midst of it,” I said, “quiet as it is. That flicker in the sky tells of the gathering storm. Yonder, I take it, are the Martians, and Londonward, where those hills rise about Richmond and Kingston and the trees give cover, Earthworks are being thrown up and guns are being placed. Presently the Martians will be coming this way again.”
And even as I spoke he sprang to his feet and stopped me by a gesture.
“Listen!” he said.
From beyond the low hills across the water came the dull resonance of distant guns and a remote weird crying. Then everything was still. A cockchafer came droning over the hedge and past us. High in the west the crescent moon hung faint and pale above the smoke of Weybridge and Shepperton and the hot, still splendor of the sunset.
“We had better follow this path,” I said, “northward.”
Gene Barry was the starring hero from the classic ‘War of The Worlds’ by Herbert George Wells back in the sixties when I was a little boy. The bombs screamed across the big screen at the ‘Lehigh Movie Theatre’ on Lehigh Avenue between twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth Streets in North Philadelphia. My two younger brothers, two of the girls who lived next door on Myrtlewood Street; and me were shuttled off by our mothers that early Saturday evening. The ladies had plans of their own. We were shipped out to the movies. Man what a treat. Albeit we were all scared to death, afraid to leave the theatre on many other monster treated and frightful afternoons. I can remember running home, fearing the crossing of darkened alleyways along the route to the safe haven of the domicile. Vampires, Frankenstein’s Monster, Zombies, and Werewolves threatened to jump out and get us if we doddle and lagged behind.
The story, ‘War of the Worlds’ in the novel format takes the reader on a journey during the turn of the twentieth century in Britain. The Americanized movie version has it placed in Las Angeles with shots and scenes from around the globe.
The visionary Martian vessels were described as in the novel. They glowed the green lights and eerie screwing sounds of a mason jar unscrewing. The laser beam of instantaneous destruction managed to destroy and kill any and every living and non-living thing on the planet and in its path. The shadowy white dusty froth laden forms of human beings lay on the grounds and roadways of the countryside exit trails, hopefully leading to safety, played out in the book did make its ghostly presence on the big screen and in the book as well.
The movie version with Mr. Gene (Bat Masterson) Barry remains a classic; the traverse through the countryside of England uncovers a journey of epic endeavor, adventure, and excitement beyond the movie theatre.
“When Earth comes under siege from extraterrestrial invaders, the best and worst of mankind comes out among those struggling to survive.”
Mr. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent on September 21, 1866. He was called ‘Bertie’ by his family. His father was a shopkeeper who was previously a cricketer. After the business failed, his mother was forced to work as a domestic in the nearby country house of ‘Up-Park.’ She desired to return the family back to the middle-class status it had briefly enjoyed. Wells worked as a schoolteacher and a pharmacist. He also studied biology under Thomas Henry Huxley, a vociferous proponent of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This gentleman made an extraordinary impression on him so much so that he returned to teaching completing his course studies and earned his degree. Wells went on with his mastery of the imagination and produced more thought provoking science fiction works in novel format and magazine periodicals as well as a couple of biology textbooks while working for the University Correspondence College.
“Herbert G. Wells published his first novel, The Time Machine to critical and popular acclaim in 1895. He became one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Mr. Wells has explored a vast variety of social, philosophical, and political I thoughts and ideas via the medium of what is described as science fiction.”
“What was that?”
“I dunno…it’s pretty damned dark out there.”
“Shit man, a big ass bump like that had to be felt for a few blocks around!”
“…Feel anything else?”
“Nah…it was probably some big ass truck or something.”
Aw right, turn the radio up, the Halloween shows are about to start.” The doorbell rang. It was one of those chime-like doorbell ringers. It had a firm but soft tone.
“Damn kids – pain in the ass…where’s the candy?”
“Ho Dude! Listen! It’s Orson Welles! It’s one of his old radio shows – hurry up! Get me a cassette tape, quick!”
Rushing through the house with a cassette tape in hand, he fell over the ottoman sitting near the dining room threshold between there and the kitchen. He managed to get the tape into the recording machine just as the announcer introduced Orson Welles’ Halloween play.
Andre picked up his hot cup of java and prepared to drop a bit of whiskey in it. From the corner of his right eye he thought he’d seen a flash of light. He was reassured by another flash of falling light. This one more prominent that the other. The first one seemed to be a little ways down the road – over on ‘Haines Street.’ The second one seemed to fall a bit closer. It fell with an Earth-shattering boom…right smack in the middle of ‘High Street’ and ‘Baynton Street.’ The neighbors were all running around the corner to see what they thought was a terrible car crash. It wasn’t. It was the apartment building which sat on the northwest corner. The building was gone. What took its place was a monstrous sized gaping hole. The hole almost appeared bottomless at first. Then the rush of creek water sprouted from below. Rumor has it that the majority of this ‘Germantown’ area stood over bedrock and heavily flowing creek-water. The water was much deeper than the basements of houses that were built overhead.
The sidewalk began to crackle and break. The separation caused by the split right down the center of Baynton Street caused the crowds to disperse and run for home. The safety of their families was of extreme paramount.
Another monster boom sounded just around the corner on ‘Walnut Lane.’ The instant flash and boom on the street took out another building. A twin house on the odd numbered side of the street was suddenly and instantaneously gone. Loud noises under the street and greenish glowing lights appeared as the crowds rushed for their homes. The booming became regular. They exploded all around the neighborhood. Parked cars became airborne flying objects of mass destruction. They flew back to Earth as two ton bombs of metal and shrapnel, crushing other cars and several people in meshing. Jet planes flew overhead as police sirens screamed all around. The police cars did not stop in to check on the people, they were fleeing the area enmass.
A father and his three children ran down ‘Germantown Avenue.’ They vanished as one of the flying trash removal and collection trucks descended upon them. Overhead clouds formed and caused the daytime light to take on the appearance of a nighttime sky… The booming thunder, thumping-metal-grinding walking machines, flashing-burning white to blue-green rays, and falling lights burned to ashes anyone and anything it touched…
Til Next Time…
War of the Worlds and Other Science Fiction Classics by H. G. Wells.
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