22 CHAPTER FIVE
My first act before I went into the pantry was to fasten
the door between the kitchen and the scullery. But the
pantry was empty; every scrap of food had gone. Appar-
ently, the Martian had taken it all on the previous day. At
that discovery I despaired for the first time. I took no food,
or no drink either, on the eleventh or the twelfth day.
At first my mouth and throat were parched, and my
strength ebbed sensibly. I sat about in the darkness of the
scullery, in a state of despondent wretchedness. My mind
ran on eating. I thought I had become deaf, for the noises
of movement I had been accustomed to hear from the pit
had ceased absolutely. I did not feel strong enough to crawl
noiselessly to the peephole, or I would have gone there.
On the twelfth day my throat was so painful that, taking
the chance of alarming the Martians, I attacked the creaking
rain-water pump that stood by the sink, and got a couple
of glassfuls of blackened and tainted rain water. I was
greatly refreshed by this, and emboldened by the fact that
no enquiring tentacle followed the noise of my pumping.
During these days, in a rambling, inconclusive way, I
thought much of the curate and of the manner of his death.
On the thirteenth day I drank some more water, and
dozed and thought disjointedly of eating and of vague im-
possible plans of escape. Whenever I dozed I dreamt of
horrible phantasms, of the death of the curate, or of sump-
tuous dinners; but, asleep or awake, I felt a keen pain that
urged me to drink again and again. The light that came into
the scullery was no longer grey, but red. To my disordered
imagination it seemed the colour of blood.
On the fourteenth day I went into the kitchen, and I was
surprised to find that the fronds of the red weed had grown
right across the hole in the wall, turning the half-light of the
place into a crimson-coloured obscurity.
It was early on the fifteenth day that I heard a curious,
familiar sequence of sounds in the kitchen, and, listening,
identified it as the snuffing and scratching of a dog. Going
into the kitchen, I saw a dog's nose peering in through a
break among the ruddy fronds. This greatly surprised me.
At the scent of me he barked shortly.
I thought if I could induce him to come into the place
quietly I should be able, perhaps, to kill and eat him; and
in any case, it would be advisable to kill him, lest his actions
attracted the attention of the Martians.
I crept forward, saying "Good dog!" very softly; but he
suddenly withdrew his head and disappeared.
I listened--I was not deaf--but certainly the pit was still.
I heard a sound like the flutter of a bird's wings, and a hoarse
croaking, but that was all.
For a long while I lay close to the peephole, but not daring
to move aside the red plants that obscured it. Once or twice
I heard a faint pitter-patter like the feet of the dog going
hither and thither on the sand far below me, and there were
more birdlike sounds, but that was all. At length, encouraged
by the silence, I looked out.
Except in the corner, where a multitude of crows hopped
and fought over the skeletons of the dead the Martians had
consumed, there was not a living thing in the pit.
I stared about me, scarcely believing my eyes. All the
machinery had gone. Save for the big mound of greyish-blue
powder in one corner, certain bars of aluminium in another,
the black birds, and the skeletons of the killed, the place
was merely an empty circular pit in the sand.
Slowly I thrust myself out through the red weed, and
stood upon the mound of rubble. I could see in any direction
save behind me, to the north, and neither Martians nor sign
of Martians were to be seen. The pit dropped sheerly from
my feet, but a little way along the rubbish afforded a prac-
ticable slope to the summit of the ruins. My chance of escape
had come. I began to tremble.
I hesitated for some time, and then, in a gust of desperate
resolution, and with a heart that throbbed violently, I
scrambled to the top of the mound in which I had been
buried so long.
I looked about again. To the northward, too, no Martian
When I had last seen this part of Sheen in the daylight
it had been a straggling street of comfortable white and
red houses, interspersed with abundant shady trees. Now
I stood on a mound of smashed brickwork, clay, and gravel,
over which spread a multitude of red cactus-shaped plants,
knee-high, without a solitary terrestrial growth to dispute
their footing. The trees near me were dead and brown, but
further a network of red thread scaled the still living stems.
The neighbouring houses had all been wrecked, but none
had been burned; their walls stood, sometimes to the second
story, with smashed windows and shattered doors. The red
weed grew tumultuously in their roofless rooms. Below me
was the great pit, with the crows struggling for its refuse.
A number of other birds hopped about among the ruins. Far
away I saw a gaunt cat slink crouchingly along a wall, but
traces of men there were none.
The day seemed, by contrast with my recent confinement, dazzlingly bright, the sky a glowing blue. A gentle breeze kept the red weed that covered every scrap of unoccupied ground gently swaying. And oh! the sweetness of the air!
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