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H. G. Wells
The Time Machine 11
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CHAPTER XI


'I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes
with time travelling. And this time I was not seated properly in the
saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion. For an indefinite
time I clung to the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite
unheeding how I went, and when I brought myself to look at the dials
again I was amazed to find where I had arrived. One dial records
days, and another thousands of days, another millions of days, and
another thousands of millions. Now, instead of reversing the levers,
I had pulled them over so as to go forward with them, and when I
came to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hand
was sweeping round as fast as the seconds hand of a watch-- into
futurity.

'As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of
things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then-- though I was
still travelling with prodigious velocity--the blinking succession
of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace,
returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much
at first. The alternations of night and day grew slower and slower,
and so did the passage of the sun across the sky, until they seemed
to stretch through centuries. At last a steady twilight brooded over
the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet glared
across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated the
sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set-- it
simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more
red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars,
growing slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of
light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very
large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with
a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At
one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again,
but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by this
slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal
drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun,
even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very cautiously,
for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to reverse
my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until the
thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer
a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the dim outlines of a
desolate beach grew visible.

'I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking round.
The sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky black,
and out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the pale
white stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and
south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by
the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless. The
rocks about me were of a harsh reddish colour, and all the trace of
life that I could see at first was the intensely green vegetation
that covered every projecting point on their south-eastern face. It
was the same rich green that one sees on forest moss or on the
lichen in caves: plants which like these grow in a perpetual twilight.

'The machine was standing on a sloping beach. The sea stretched away
to the south-west, to rise into a sharp bright horizon against the
wan sky. There were no breakers and no waves, for not a breath of
wind was stirring. Only a slight oily swell rose and fell like a
gentle breathing, and showed that the eternal sea was still moving
and living. And along the margin where the water sometimes broke was
a thick incrustation of salt--pink under the lurid sky. There was a
sense of oppression in my head, and I noticed that I was breathing
very fast. The sensation reminded me of my only experience of
mountaineering, and from that I judged the air to be more rarefied
than it is now.

'Far away up the desolate slope I heard a harsh scream, and saw a
thing like a huge white butterfly go slanting and fluttering up into
the sky and, circling, disappear over some low hillocks beyond. The
sound of its voice was so dismal that I shivered and seated myself
more firmly upon the machine. Looking round me again, I saw that,
quite near, what I had taken to be a reddish mass of rock was moving
slowly towards me. Then I saw the thing was really a monstrous
crab-like creature. Can you imagine a crab as large as yonder table,
with its many legs moving slowly and uncertainly, its big claws
swaying, its long antennae, like carters' whips, waving and feeling,
and its stalked eyes gleaming at you on either side of its metallic
front? Its back was corrugated and ornamented with ungainly bosses,
and a greenish incrustation blotched it here and there. I could see
the many palps of its complicated mouth flickering and feeling as it
moved.

'As I stared at this sinister apparition crawling towards me, I felt
a tickling on my cheek as though a fly had lighted there. I tried to
brush it away with my hand, but in a moment it returned, and almost
immediately came another by my ear. I struck at this, and caught
something threadlike. It was drawn swiftly out of my hand. With a
frightful qualm, I turned, and I saw that I had grasped the antenna
of another monster crab that stood just behind me. Its evil eyes
were wriggling on their stalks, its mouth was all alive with
appetite, and its vast ungainly claws, smeared with an algal slime,
were descending upon me. In a moment my hand was on the lever, and
I had placed a month between myself and these monsters. But I was
still on the same beach, and I saw them distinctly now as soon as I
stopped. Dozens of them seemed to be crawling here and there, in the
sombre light, among the foliated sheets of intense green.

'I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung over
the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt
Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring
monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of the lichenous
plants, the thin air that hurts one's lungs: all contributed to an
appalling effect. I moved on a hundred years, and there was the same
red sun-- a little larger, a little duller-- the same dying sea, the
same chill air, and the same crowd of earthy crustacea creeping in
and out among the green weed and the red rocks. And in the
westward sky, I saw a curved pale line like a vast new moon.

'So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a
thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth's fate,
watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller
in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. At
last, more than thirty million years hence, the huge red-hot dome of
the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling
heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the crawling multitude of
crabs had disappeared, and the red beach, save for its livid green
liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless. And now it was flecked with
white. A bitter cold assailed me. Rare white flakes ever and again
came eddying down. To the north-eastward, the glare of snow lay
under the starlight of the sable sky and I could see an undulating
crest of hillocks pinkish white. There were fringes of ice along the
sea margin, with drifting masses further out; but the main expanse
of that salt ocean, all bloody under the eternal sunset, was still
unfrozen.

'I looked about me to see if any traces of animal life remained. A
certain indefinable apprehension still kept me in the saddle of the
machine. But I saw nothing moving, in earth or sky or sea. The green
slime on the rocks alone testified that life was not extinct. A
shallow sandbank had appeared in the sea and the water had receded
from the beach. I fancied I saw some black object flopping about
upon this bank, but it became motionless as I looked at it, and I
judged that my eye had been deceived, and that the black object was
merely a rock. The stars in the sky were intensely bright and seemed
to me to twinkle very little.

'Suddenly I noticed that the circular westward outline of the sun
had changed; that a concavity, a bay, had appeared in the curve. I
saw this grow larger. For a minute perhaps I stared aghast at this
blackness that was creeping over the day, and then I realized that
an eclipse was beginning. Either the moon or the planet Mercury was
passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it to be
the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that what I
really saw was the transit of an inner planet passing very near to
the earth.

'The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to blow in freshening
gusts from the east, and the showering white flakes in the air
increased in number. From the edge of the sea came a ripple and
whisper. Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was silent. Silent?
It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of
man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects,
the stir that makes the background of our lives-- all that was over.
As the darkness thickened, the eddying flakes grew more abundant,
dancing before my eyes; and the cold of the air more intense. At
last, one by one, swiftly, one after the other, the white peaks of
the distant hills vanished into blackness. The breeze rose to a
moaning wind. I saw the black central shadow of the eclipse
sweeping towards me. In another moment the pale stars alone were
visible. All else was rayless obscurity. The sky was absolutely black.

'A horror of this great darkness came on me. The cold, that smote
to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing, overcame me. I
shivered, and a deadly nausea seized me. Then like a red-hot bow
in the sky appeared the edge of the sun. I got off the machine to
recover myself. I felt giddy and incapable of facing the return
journey. As I stood sick and confused I saw again the moving thing
upon the shoal-- there was no mistake now that it was a moving
thing-- against the red water of the sea. It was a round thing, the
size of a football perhaps, or, it may be, bigger, and tentacles
trailed down from it; it seemed black against the weltering
blood-red water, and it was hopping fitfully about. Then I felt I
was fainting. But a terrible dread of lying helpless in that remote
and awful twilight sustained me while I clambered upon the saddle.


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