Herbert’s fever broke last night. And what a night it had been. A night filled with dreams and visions of dark things to come.
Herbert was told by the doctors that he had picked up some kind of parasite but the worse was now over and that he could most likely go home in a day or two. But it wasn’t his illness that was occupying the young man’s mind – it was Martians.
All through last night he had been dreaming about them, as he floated in and out of consciousness due to the fever which had only broke a few hours ago.
He had been in the London hospital since Sunday, and it was only yesterday that his friend, Bertie, made a visit, bringing him clippings from American newspapers that he thought Herbert would be interested in.
“Right up your alley old son.” Bertie boasted as he handed over the clippings. “Help keep your mind off of this dreary and drab old place.”
His friend was correct; Herbert had a great interest in these stories about giant “mystery” airships appearing all over the U.S., reports coming in from every state of the Union, witnessed by hundreds of people at a time, containing apparent human crew members, who made landings and conversed with the locals. One lady from Arkansas reported one of these airship men approaching her farm and asking for water. The lady obliged the request commenting later that the man was very polite and acted like a gentleman.
Descriptions varied greatly about the ships themselves, especially about the appendages attached to the outside of them: wings, propellers, fins and lights; not small lights, but rather huge lights that rotated. And this more than anything else captured Herbert’s imagination.
The young genius knew a thing or two about dirigibles. Some of the newspapers were claiming that’s what they were – for what else could they be; although they didn’t have a clue where they came from, let alone who would be capable of building them. But Herbert didn’t buy this; he knew that no current operational dirigibles were capable of the reported flight characteristics, let alone be able to carry batteries big enough to power such massive searchlights. It would just be too heavy; the airship wouldn’t be able to stay afloat.
As soon as he came to this conclusion, the young author began to ponder what kind of craft they could actually be and more importantly, who built them and where did they come from?
Herbert knew that the technology of the world’s industries, including war, was developing at a rapid pace. It was only a couple of years before 1900, the start of a new century and a new chapter for man. He conjectured that perhaps some foreign government could have built these mystery airships secretly. But from everything he knew such airships of the sizes reported were still several years away from completion. As far as he was concern these unknown aircraft were not of human design or origin.
And then there was Mars; which was currently in a closer orbit to the Earth at the moment. Herbert had always speculated, along with many others about the possibility of life existing on that red planet. He told himself that the airships, or rather “rocket” ships could have come from Mars. And if that was the case, what then were their intentions?
Such out of the ordinary thoughts were galloping through his mind’s eye when the fever took a hold of him and he began to drift in and out of awareness; away with the fairies, as the expression goes. But in his fevered mind he didn’t see cute little sugar plum beings with wings, but rather ugly, tentacle Martians.
His sickly mind broke the confines of the Earth, traversing the vastness of space to the planet Mars itself, a world that has held such an enigma for mankind since he first climbed down out of the trees. A planet where Herbert now saw the famed canals; and the four great Martian volcanoes, Olympus, Ascreus, Pavonis, and Arsia Mons; and of course Valles Marineris – Mars’s great “Grand Canyon”. But that was not all - he also beheld the perishing civilization of the Martians; who had gone underground long ago to protect themselves from the harsh environment of their world. And who had now come to his planet, for survival, as their red world was dying, and as their race was becoming extinct.
But they didn’t come in peace.
They didn’t come for help.
They came for war.
He saw the Martians swarming to the Earth as conquerors, invading England and the other countries of the world. He witnessed the armies of the Earth fighting valiantly against their war machines, but in the end they were no match for the ruthless Martians. He felt like the prophet St. John witnessing Armageddon in the Book of Revelation.
The fever had shown him all this and more. But unlike the end of Revelation where God came and cast Satan into the pit, Herbert did not see how the invaders from Mars were defeated in the end; that was something he would have to invent. But as his fever broke and the parasite within him was dead, a little bug that caused him so much harm, an idea began to emerge in his creative mind exactly how Martians could meet their fatal end upon the Earth.
In fact, when Herbert George Wells left hospital two days later he already had the outline for his new book mapped out, he would call it: “War of the Worlds”.
(The airship sightings of 1896 and 1897 are still a mystery to this day. They appeared again in 1907 in countries as far away as New Zealand. H.G. Wells did find inspiration for his book “War of the Worlds”, first published in1898, from reading newspaper articles about these unidentified flying objects, while recovering from an illness in hospital.)
Copyright © 2011 by Peter Jessop