“Sir”, he said briskly, pulling himself to attention. A grimace crossed his face as his badly bruised body protested at the movement.
“We were on watch near the park as ordered… been there something like an hour when we heard ’em. ALOO! ALOO! We could hear they was getting close, so waited nice and quiet and hidden. Didn’t take ’em long to appear. Three of ’em as always, striding down the street as bold as brass. So we waited as the first two passed us. Then, when the third one was next to us, we ran for it.”
“Thank God they weren’t up to speed, or we’d never ‘ave caught ’em. The three of us threw our grappling hooks into the air – success! At least for two of us. Young Billy didn’t get a bite, but Moorcroft and me hooked on, and up we went. I saw Billy look up briefly before he coiled up his rope and made for cover. I looked across at Moorcroft, who was already climbing like a damn monkey towards the body of the machine. I started up the rope.”
“The Martian must ‘ave heard or felt us, ‘cos a metal tentacle came close to both of us, and kept waving around close by. Moorcroft was almost to the body when the tentacle found him and wrapped around his leg. I remember he screamed, and tried to push the thing away, but it got him. In a swift jerk, he was ripped away from the rope, and left dangling in front of the body of the machine, the Martian looking at it’s catch. Moments later he was hurled high in the air and landed somewhere behind us. I don’t think he would ‘ave survived that fall.”
“I kept climbing, and reached the metal body, finding a handy little nook just right for my dynamite pack. I put it in and pulled my lighter out of my pocket. Everything happened in a blur from there. I lit the fuse, and got ready to jump. As I looked down, the tentacle came whipping across my legs and I fell. Thank God I didn’t land too heavy, or I wouldn’t ‘ave made it back. That Martian devil did me a bit of a favour, ‘cos just after I hit the ground, the dynamite went off.”
“I managed to get myself to cover before the Martian’s buddies could find me – I think they were busy trying to work out what had happened to their pal. Anyways, the machine started billowing smoke, and then went crashing to the ground. From my hiding place, I watched the remaining two lift the fallen machine and carry it away. Then I made my way back ‘ere.”
“Did Moorcroft and Billy make it back sir?”
“Billy got back some time before you arrived, but Moorcroft hasn’t returned”
He closed his eyes, deep in thought…
“… And you say he does this quite often?” I asked as we left the room.
The nurse nodded, “Yes, he’ll stand to attention whilst he talks to his ‘commanding officer’. We don’t like to move him whilst he’s talking, but once he relaxes and closes his eyes, we know we can move him back to bed.”
“And what does he talk about?”
“All sorts really – sometimes its about living underground, sometimes it’s about going out on his missions, sometimes he even talks about catching one of their fighting machines.”
“Does he know they’ve come back?”
“No. The doctors think it’s best not to put that sort of pressure on his mind. He hasn’t fared very well since his first experience of the Martians, and the news of their return could destroy him completely.”
For the second time in my life, I turned and left this sad, broken dreamer.
… as a fan of the original book, I’m always interested in the links between it and AQotMF. This was a short piece of fiction that came to me two years ago, concerning my favourite character from the book. Enjoy!