A note from the author: I wrote this story several years ago and originally posted it on here under a different name. I took it down after I decided to stop writing fan fiction, but I've had several people asking if they could read it again, so here it is.
I was inspired to write this after seeing the Spielberg/Cruise movie, and the story you're about to read is set in that universe. I've always been a big fan of the book and am happy to credit H.G. Wells as the inspiration behind not only this story, but for some of my original creative writing.
A Survivor's Story
Everyone in the world knows where they were and what they were doing that first night when the invaders arrived. I was in a pub that night. I can recall every detail of the whole thing, despite being a little on the inebriated side. The things I saw sobered me instantly, and all I could think about was getting away; getting to my husband.
It was a Friday night, and the end of another week of work. Despite warnings on the news of a bad storm brewing I was determined to go out and enjoy myself. My husband had opted to stay at home. He said he tired and would prefer to play video games in the warm house than be drunk and freezing cold whilst waiting in a taxi queue. I didn't mind that he wasn't coming. I never did. Just because we were married didn't mean that we were joined at the hip. I kissed him goodbye and promised that I wouldn't be home too late. I never kept that promise.
I took the train into the city, watching buildings, countryside and clouds go by. The sky had darkened slightly, the clouds turning greenish. I took this as a hint of the oncoming storm and wished that I'd brought a jacket. It was too late to worry about it at that time, but at least I'd opted to wear warm, comfortable clothes that night. I'm still thankful that I had not made plans to go to a nightclub. A skirt and high heels would have been my downfall.
I met up with a couple of friends at the pub and started drinking, talking and laughing with them. We were so carefree, and blissfully ignorant of the events that were about to unfold in the city centre. A few people who had entered the pub after myself mentioned that the sky had gone a very odd shade of green and the wind was blowing quite harshly and, oddly enough, towards the storm rather than away. A few people went outside to have a look. My friends and I cared little. We were too busy having fun and, at this point, I was starting to feel tipsy.
The first crash of lightning got our attention. The lights in the pub went out and the jukebox ceased to play. A man who had been outside told us that lightning had struck a few streets away. Feeling curious, my friends and I decided to take a peek outside. We made it outside just in time to see the lightning strike again. We could see it reaching down from the sky and hitting the same spot over and over again. Twenty-three strikes we counted.
"That was weird," one of my friends said. "Lightning isn't supposed to strike the same place twice. I'd say that was a little more than twice."
"It isn't," I said, slurring slightly "but at least we got a pretty light show!"
Someone from the pub who had joined us outside pointed out to us that all the cars on the road that just stopped suddenly. "They just stopped at exactly the same time," he said. He was right, and this not only confused me, but worried me too. I decided that I would call my husband once we got back inside the pub. The jukebox and the lights were still off inside as we re-entered. It had grown rather dark suddenly too.
I found a seat and pulled out my mobile phone and was about to hit the speed dial for home, when I realised that the phone was turned off. At first I thought it was odd because I never switch my phone off, and it couldn't be the battery as I had charged it the night before. I pressed the "on" switch. Nothing happened. I pressed it again. Still nothing. I wasn't the only one who was having problems. Everybody who had a mobile phone couldn't seem to switch theirs on either.
"What the hell is going on?" I asked my friends. They shrugged, It was a silly question to ask really. None of us could have possibly known that this electrical storm was not only transporting the invaders down to our planet, but also simultaneously wiping out every electrical and mechanical appliance within a few miles.
At this point I started worrying in a bad way. My mobile was broken so I couldn't call home, all vehicles had simultaneously stopped in the street for no apparent reason and there was a sense of foreboding in the air, like something bad was about to happen. The bar manager rallied the patrons around the bar; urging everyone to keep calm and that everyone would get a free drink (but it would have to be spirits as the pumps were off due to the power cut). Not one to say no to a free drink, I ordered three double rum and cokes and sat down with my friends again.
We were about halfway through our free drink when a man ran into the pub. He looked shaken and was covered head to foot in what looked like a fine white powder,
"Run," he shouted, agitated "Everybody run for your lives! It's coming!" We looked at the man as if he were mad. "Run for your lives!" he repeated, the urgency in his voice was disturbing. He was half in, half out of the door and looked like he was preparing to run for it himself. I stood with the intention of seeing for myself what was going on when I heard an almighty crash, followed by a sound that I had never heard before or will ever forget. There was another crash and the whole pub shook. People in the pub began to scream and there were more crashes sounding like they were getting closer and closer. My friends and I decided unanimously that it was time to leave, so we ran to the door and almost got caught in the bottleneck of people who were also trying to escape.
We stumbled out into the street and were met by pandemonium. People – men, women, and children – were running away from something. From the sky fell rags of clothing, and some of the people who ran were covered in a white powder of sorts. My friends and I stood confused, wondering what was going on. At first I thought terrorists were attacking us. The crashing sounds and the terrifying sound that followed got closer and close. Then we saw it.
The machine, that had caused so much carnage and chaos in a matter of minutes, loomed menacingly over the street. It was taller than most of the buildings and looked like it had come from another world. It walked nimbly on three legs and snake-like tentacles stretched out from the base of the machine and writhed, knocking over walls, cars and people.
My instinct told me to run, so that's what I did. I ran blindly, getting separated from my friends. I never saw them again after that night and I still don't know if they survived.
I ran down the street, not daring to look back, my breath coming in raged gasps. I was tired and my lungs burned, but the adrenaline kick in, making my legs move faster than I never realised that they ever could. Behind me there were more crashes, as cars and tarmac and buildings were ripped apart in the wake of the machine. I knew that people were dying. I could hear their screams being silenced by something with a bright red light and an intense heat. I screamed myself when a man in front of me suddenly vanished in a blaze of light and heat, exploding into a fine white powder. I was almost sick as I ran through the ashes. The realisation dawned on me then that the man who had barged into the pub was covered in the ashes of human beings. People were being cremated alive by this Tripod machine.
I kept running. Time seemed to stand still whilst I was in the presence of the machine. There were a few moments when I thought I was done for as the deadly heat ray struck a yard or so away from me.
It then I noticed the entrance to the subway system. My instincts told me that if I went underground I would be safe, if only for a short time. I dodged in and out of the way of running people, trying not to let the destruction going on around me distract me. I wasn't the only person who had thought of going underground. Masses of people were pushing each other to get down the stairs. Surges of people were pushing and shoving and trampling and crushing their way into the station, and I found myself at the back of it all. I knew that I would never get inside in time, so I decided to take a chance and head towards the other entrance of the station. It was just around the corner, and I was counting on it not being as packed. I began to run down the street, just as the machine made its appearance near the station entrance that was packed with people. I didn't see what happened. I just heard the screams, followed by the horrific sound of an unearthly weapon firing. I learned later that every person who had crowded on the stairs down into station was massacred. If I had decided to stay put, I would have been one of them.
I rounded the corner and, to my relief, discovered that significantly less people were trying to get into the station. There was no crush or pushing, just people running down the stairs. The joined them, running as fast as I could. The station was dark due to the power cut, but the emergency lights glowed a ghostly white. A train that had pulled into the station at the time of the power outage stood waiting at the platform. People who had run into the station crowded onto it, and I joined them, although I knew that we would not be going there. It was safe for the time being.
Everyone was confused and scared. A young child standing near to me had wet himself, dark patch of urine staining the front of his trousers. His mother was clearly hysterical, but trying to be strong for her child. A pair of teenagers, whom I assumed were a couple, held each other and cried. A man ran up and down the train calling for someone called "Helen." When he got no answer, he slumped down onto the floor and began to weep. All this and more was going on around me. The sound of human suffering drew me back into reality. Ever since I had sighted the Tripod, I felt as if I were caught in a dream brought on by a drunken stupor; a dream I was desperately trying to wake from.
I had to call my husband. I needed to know he was OK. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and was about to dial when I remembered … my phone was broken. Downhearted and starting to feel slightly hysterical, I threw the phone to the ground and kicked it hard out of the train car. I fell down into the gap between the train and the platform with a breaking crack.
"Electromagnetic pulse," said someone. I spun round to face a middle-aged man leaning against the far closed door.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Electromagnetic pulse," he repeated, "That's what that lightning was. It's taken out everything. Cars, buses, mobile phones … you name it."
"Why would they do that?" I asked. It was a bit of dumb question really; one I could have easily answered myself.
"To make us helpless and vulnerable of course. Without transport, communications and power, we're helpless," said the man. "Pretty good plan if you ask me."
"What are those things? Are they terrorists?" I asked. This man seemed to know a lot and I was hungry to find out what was going on. I noticed that I wasn't the only one who was listening in. The entire car had gone silent.
"They're terrorists all right, just not the type we're used to," he said cryptically.
"Meaning?" asked the woman standing to the right of him.
"They're not from this planet. They're aliens," he said. His voice was gravely serious and his expression held no signs of playfulness.
Aliens? Had I heard him right? At first I shook off that notion. Seriously though, aliens? This was an alien invasion. Puh-lease! Some of the other people obviously felt as I did. Some were laughing and some were telling him to shut up.
"You can scoff all you want," he continued, "but answer me this: has anyone ever seen technology like that before? I've never seen any army in the world with artillery such as that. Have any of you? That technology is beyond our comprehension. That machine ploughed through our city streets with ease, and cremated people alive as they ran away from it. These are alien beings and they've made it clear that they want this planet."
"Oh come on," shouted another man from down the car. "How can you possibly know that?"
"Why have they been killing everything that moves with that weapon of theirs then?" he argued. The car went eerily silent. He was right and we knew it. We were just in denial.
Aliens had come to our planet to invade and it seemed that there wasn't anything we could do to stop them.
I needed to get out of the car. It was getting to stuffy inside and my mind was swimming. I wasn't feeling drunk anymore. What I had seen and what I had heard had sobered me up completely. As I paced the platform, I rubbed my temples trying to prevent a tension headache from coming on. Trying to comprehend all of what had happened was a lot to digest, considering that only hours earlier I was happy in the knowledge that man was alone in the universe.
I walked towards the nearest wall and slid down it, tears streaming down my face. I buried my face in my hands and wept. I wept for Katrina and Scott. I wept for the devastation I'd seen, and I wept for the loss of Earth's innocence. The planet was being violated and there seemed to be nothing that could be done about it.
My thoughts went to my husband, my family and my friends. At that point I doubted that I would ever see them again. I buried my head in my hands and wept silently.
I must have sat in that position for along time. It may have been half an hour; it may have been several hours. I honestly don't know. Time had seemingly stood still. I was grieving and I wanted nothing more than to be left alone with it. The world had changed in a matter of minutes and the future was uncertain. I was brought back to reality by a loud and violent crash coming from the stair well leading down to the station. A few people had come out of the train cars to see what was happening. I peeped round the corner and saw what looked like several black tentacles creeping down the stairs and towards the platform. My heart leaped into my throat and my stomach began to tie itself in knots. They were the tentacles of the Tripod and they were investigating the station. Probably looking for more people to kill.
I flattened myself against the wall. I didn't want to see anymore. I wanted to run, but I stood frozen against the wall. Many people for the train moved closer to the tentacles as they approached the platform, their curiosity getting the better of them. This proved to be a fatal mistake.
It happened to so quickly. One minute the tentacles were "feeling around", the next they were grabbing people and dragging them out of the station. I was still frozen against the wall and almost screamed when a tentacle brushed against my leg. That was the final straw. As the people started to panic and try to force shut the doors of the train, I saw my only escape route: the train tracks. To my left the platform lead onto the "no access" zone of the station. The only thing blocking my escape route was a simple barrier with "no trespassing. Penalty: £200" written in bold white text on a red background. I doubted the penalty would be enforced in a situation such as this, so I ran for it. It wasn't too far away.
A few people followed me including the teenaged couple from the train. I ran along the remainder of the platform that lay behind the barrier and jumped on the tracks. It was pitch black, but that was to be expected. I had no fear of being run over by a train, as I knew that none would be running because of the power outtage. In the darkness I began running, being mindful of the tracks below me and trying not to trip over. The people following me kept up the pace with me as we headed through the tunnel to safety.
Behind us, I could the screams and the cries of the people still on the train and in the station. I tried to shut it out of my mind as I knew I couldn't go back and help them.
It was when we were a fair distance away that the entire tunnel was lit up by an explosion. Instantly the group stopped and we turned to look. The Tripod had destroyed the train. In the distance we could see the carriages burning brightly and the tunnel echoed with the noise. We were far enough away to avoid the debris of the explosion, but we could feel the heat of the fire flowing up the tunnel, trying to escape.
That was the second time that day that I had escaped certain death. Again I tried not to think about the people who may still have been on board.
It took all of us several minutes to realise that we had to keep moving.
I don't know how long we walked for. It took us a little while to reach the end of the tunnel. I could tell we were approaching it as I could feel a gentle breeze ahead of us. It was night when the little group and I stepped out. It was then that I realised which way we had come. We had headed south towards the railway bridge. It was advantageous to me, as I wanted to go south. Going south meant the possibility of finding my husband.
The little group and myself lingered at the opening of the tunnel, not wanting to go to far out onto the bridge in case of danger. The cool air felt heavenly after the dark, dankness of the tunnel. I peered over to the other side of the bridge. It looked so easy just to walk across, but I didn't want to risk it, not with the possibility of the Tripod being out there. At that point I had no doubt in my mind that there was probably more of them. If it was invasion, they couldn't very well do it with just one (although one machine seemed to be enough considering the destruction I had seen). The problem was that we would be exposed as we crossed the bridge. We could probably make it if we ran and kept low, but as I looked to the group, everyone was clearly exhausted from the escape from the train station.
A man from the group, about my age, came up to me. "Are we going to cross this bridge?" he asked. The rest of the group looked to me with a questioning look in their eyes.
"Yes, what are we going to do?" asked the teenaged boy. Inwardly I sighed in disbelief. It appeared that I had been elected to be their leader. I didn't ask for it, and I'm not what you would call leadership material. One wrong move and we would all be dead and I didn't like having that responsibility on my head. I'd rather look after myself rather than a group of people. Still, I thought that I could at least to let them know what I was thinking.
"We can't go back into the tunnel. This is the only way we can go," I explained to him. "If we keep low and don't draw attention to ourselves then I think we'll be all right.
"What about that thing?" the teenaged boy asked. He was holding his girlfriend close as she quietly sobbed.
"I don't think it's alone," I said. I saw no point in sugar coating things. This seemed to slightly panic the group, but I told them to hush and continued. "We are in danger here. There's no point in tiptoeing around it," I told them. "If we're going to survive, we need to know exactly how much danger we are in so we are prepared for the worst. I don't claim to know exactly what's going on, but the most important thing now is staying alive." My little speech was met with murmurs of agreement and nodding heads. "Right, I'm going to have a quick peek out to see if the coast is clear. If it is, I'll wave you all over and we'll run as fast as we can across. Try to keep low as you run, so we're keeping as out of sight as possible." I'd seen soldiers do something similar in movies. It couldn't hurt to try it. It wasn't like anyone else was coming up with any other bright ideas.
I stepped out of the tunnel onto the bridge and walked a little way forward. The sun had set, so night had fallen. It was to be expected. It was dusk when I had left home. At the time I found it hard to believe that I'd only left only a couple of hours earlier. It had seemed like days.
As I looked around me, I noticed that the sky was lit up with reds, oranges and yellows – fire. Behind us the city was burning. Flashes of the heat ray created highlights in the coloured sky, making that truth all the more real. I could hear the cries of the terrified masses, the horrifying fizz that followed the firing of the heat ray, and that awful cry of elation that cam from the machine. There were multiple cries, so I knew I was right; there was more than one.
I looked around. I could only see darkness up ahead. Our only light would be the burning light of the city. At least we only had to run in a straight line. I could see the tunnel at the other side of the bridge. It was our goal. Once inside, we'd follow the tunnel out to safety. I wasn't naïve enough to think that we would be safe once we got across the water, but it was a start.
The sounds seemed far behind us, so after another quick check around, I signalled from the group to follow. I ducked as low as I could go, almost kneeling on the ground. The group mimicked me, ducking low too. When they had caught up to me, I spoke to them in a whisper:
"Keep low, stay together and don't look back. The tunnel is straight ahead. If we are determined to make it, we will."
This seemed to give them the motivation they needed. I began to run across the bridge, keeping on the look out for potential dangers. I knew I should have asked someone at the back to keep a lookout, but I didn't want to speak mid-flight lest I make our whereabouts known. I wish now that I had.
We were half way across the bridge when I heard the cry of a machine. It was close by, very close. I stopped and looked around, urging the group to keep going as they began to stop too. "Keep going!" I hissed at them.
I saw a Tripod heading towards us. It was wading up the river towards the bridge; it's bright searchlights scanning the river and the quayside. I started to move again when suddenly a searchlight focused on me. I broke into a sprint and shouted to the others to run for it. Keeping low didn't matter anymore. We had been seen – or rather I had been seen.
The heat ray flashed, missing me, but hitting part of the bridge. The metal disintegrated and the bridge gave an almighty creak. I kept on running, thinking only of getting to the tunnel. Most of the group were almost at the tunnel. I hoped that they would just keep running for I had no doubt in my mind that the machine would try to fire the heat ray into the tunnel. A little distance might make all the distance. At that point, I felt that my luck had run out. I'd escaped certain death twice and Lady Luck had only so many favours to give.
As the heat ray fired and hit the bridge again, the bridge beginning to give way. I kept telling myself I was going to make. I started chanting at myself, "I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it."
I didn't notice anything else going on around. The Tripod, the heat ray, the noise of the bridge as it creaked – all of them were pushed to the back of my mind as I egged myself on. If I had been cornered by the Tripod and hit by the heat ray, I wouldn't have noticed either coming.
I didn't even realise that I had made it across and was inside the tunnel. I kept running. It was only when the darkness surrounded me and I was a fair way into the tunnel that I realised that I was still alive. I slowed to a jog and looked around me. I couldn't see any of the group, and I didn't dare to call out because that would be really pushing my luck.
I couldn't see any sign of the Tripod at the end of the tunnel. I had no doubt in my mind that it was still lingering outside. Two things entered my mind as I jogged on: it would either fire the heat ray into the tunnel or try and grab at us with its tentacles. I didn't want to wait to find out, so I kept moving.
As I moved further along the tunnel I heard a sound behind me. It sounded like hundreds of rats screeching loudly at a high pitch and it was getting closer. I dared to look over my shoulder and I saw the dim lights of several tentacles crawling along the tunnel. I started to run again, determined that I was not going to get caught. As the screeching grew louder, I broke into another sprint, even though my legs were burning with exhaustion. I didn't even notice that the screeching sounds had lessened.
I stumbled on the track, almost falling. As I recomposed myself, I felt something on my shoulder and it made me jump. To my relief it was not a tentacle, but the shape of the man who had spoken to me earlier.
"Glad you made it," he whispered. "I thought you'd gone down with the bridge."
"I'm still alive, barely," I said, panting for air. "We'd better move. The tentacles-"
"They're withdrawing," he interrupted. I turned to look back and sure enough they were withdrawing. "I think we're too far along the tunnel for them to reach us. Either, way we need to move."
I found myself relaxing instantly. Once I caught my breath, I gestured that we walk. "Did everyone make it?" I asked.
The man shook his head. "A couple went down with the bridge and another got killed by the heat ray."
Trying not to think about it, I said, "We'll be coming up to another station soon. Maybe we'll be able to get out and get to somewhere safe."
"They'll have crossed the river by now. We might as well keep going until we reach the end of this tunnel," suggested the man. He had a point. If we tried to leave at the next station it could be game over for all of us.
"Alright," I said, "we'll keep going." We had caught up to the rest of the group at that point and we all walked together through the darkness.
The air in the tunnel was very humid. The darkness and the closeness of the walls made it very claustrophobic, but we kept moving. I talked to the man (whose name, I learned, was Tony) in whispers as we walked. He had just finished work and was on his way home when the attack started. He was as desperate as I was to find out if his loved ones were OK too.
We walked on until tired feet and weary spirits ordered us to rest. Resting against the walls of the tunnel, each of us drifted off to sleep. I must have been the last to doze off. My last thought was of my husband and how I wouldn't be sleeping comfortably and safely in his arms that night.