Volume 5—A Modern Utopia & In the Days of the Comet
For those who know anything of the most outstanding British authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the name of Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) needs little introduction, for he wrote on many subjects. He is principally remembered as one of the ‘Fathers of Science Fiction’ and this six volume Leonaur collection focuses upon his writing in that genre—from the strange to the fantastical and scientifically prophetic—with which he will forever be associated. These wonderful and dramatic stories have been gathered together in these attractive, good value volumes in chronological order of original publication.
In ‘A Modern Utopia’ (1905) two adventurers travel to a planet ‘out beyond Sirius’ to experience a society in which their own doubles exist. ‘In the days of the Comet’ (1906) a bizarre green comet enters the Earth’s atmosphere releasing a soporific fog. Upon awakening humankind has been forever changed promoting a healthy, contented and peaceful society.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
I did not hear the reply, because of the faint rustle of my own movements. Clearly these people were all too much occupied by the battle to look in my direction, and so I walked now straight toward the darkness that held Nettie and the black desire of my heart.
“Look!” cried someone, and pointed skyward.
I glanced up, and behold! The sky was streaked with bright green trails. They radiated from a point halfway between the western horizon and the zenith, and within the shining clouds of the meteor a streaming movement had begun, so that it seemed to be pouring both westwardly and back toward the east, with a crackling sound, as though the whole heaven was stippled over with phantom pistol-shots. It seemed to me then as if the meteor was coming to help me, descending with those thousand pistols like a curtain to fend off this unmeaning foolishness of the sea.
“Boom!” went a gun on the big ironclad, and “boom!” and the guns of the pursuing cruisers flashed in reply.
To glance up at that streaky, stirring light scum of the sky made one’s head swim. I stood for a moment dazed, and more than a little giddy. I had a curious instant of purely speculative thought. Suppose, after all, the fanatics were right, and the world was coming to an end! What a score that would be for Parload!
Then it came into my head that all these things were happening to consecrate my revenge! The war below, the heavens above, were the thunderous garment of my deed. I heard Nettie’s voice cry out not fifty yards away, and my passion surged again. I was to return to her amid these terrors bearing unanticipated death. I was to possess her, with a bullet, amidst thunderings and fear. At the thought I lifted up my voice to a shout that went unheard, and advanced now recklessly, revolver displayed in my hand.
It was fifty yards, forty yards, thirty yards—the little group of people, still heedless of me, was larger and more important now, the green-shot sky and the fighting ships remoter. Someone darted out from the bungalow, with an interrupted question, and stopped, suddenly aware of me. It was Nettie, with some coquettish dark wrap about her, and the green glare shining on her sweet face and white throat. I could see her expression, stricken with dismay and terror, at my advance, as though something had seized her by the heart and held her still—a target for my shots.
“Boom!” came the ironclad’s gunshot like a command. “Bang!” the bullet leapt from my hand. Do you know, I did not want to shoot her then. Indeed, I did not want to shoot her then! Bang! and I had fired again, still striding on, and—each time it seemed I had missed.
She moved a step or so toward me, still staring, and then someone intervened, and near beside her I saw young Verrall.
A heavy stranger, the man in the hooded bath-gown, a fat, foreign-looking man, came out of nowhere like a shield before them. He seemed a preposterous interruption. His face was full of astonishment and terror. He rushed across my path with arms extended and open hands, as one might try to stop a runaway horse. He shouted some nonsense. He seemed to want to dissuade me, as though dissuasion had anything to do with it now.
“Not you, you fool!” I said hoarsely. “Not you!” But he hid Nettie nevertheless.
By an enormous effort I resisted a mechanical impulse to shoot through his fat body. Anyhow, I knew I mustn’t shoot him. For a moment I was in doubt, then I became very active, turned aside abruptly and dodged his pawing arm to the left, and so found two others irresolutely in my way. I fired a third shot in the air, just over their heads, and ran at them. They hastened left and right; I pulled up and faced about within a yard of a foxy-faced young man coming sideways, who seemed about to grapple me. At my resolute halt he fell back a pace, ducked, and threw up a defensive arm, and then I perceived the course was clear, and ahead of me, young Verrall and Nettie—he was holding her arm to help her—running away. “Of course!” said I.
I fired a fourth ineffectual shot, and then in an access of fury at my misses, started out to run them down and shoot them barrel to backbone. “These people!” I said, dismissing all these interferences. . . . “A yard,” I panted, speaking aloud to myself, “a yard! Till then, take care, you mustn’t—mustn’t shoot again.”
Someone pursued me, perhaps several people—I do not know, we left them all behind. . . .
We ran. For a space I was altogether intent upon the swift monotony of flight and pursuit. The sands were changed to a whirl of green moonshine, the air was thunder. A luminous green haze rolled about us. What did such things matter? We ran. Did I gain or lose? that was the question. They ran through a gap in a broken fence that sprang up abruptly out of nothingness and turned to the right. I noted we were in a road. But this green mist! One seemed to plough through it. They were fading into it, and at that thought I made a spurt that won a dozen feet or more.
She staggered. He gripped her arm, and dragged her forward. They doubled to the left. We were off the road again and on turf. It felt like turf. I tripped and fell at a ditch that was somehow full of smoke, and was up again, but now they were phantoms half gone into the livid swirls about me. . . .
Still I ran.
On, on! I groaned with the violence of my effort. I staggered again and swore. I felt the concussions of great guns tear past me through the murk.
They were gone! Everything was going, but I kept on running. Once more I stumbled. There was something about my feet that impeded me, tall grass or heather, but I could not see what it was, only this smoke that eddied about my knees. There was a noise and spinning in my brain, a vain resistance to a dark green curtain that was falling, falling, falling, fold upon fold. Everything grew darker and darker.
I made one last frantic effort, and raised my revolver, fired my penultimate shot at a venture, and fell headlong to the ground. And behold! the green curtain was a black one, and the earth and I and all things ceased to be.