Saturday, 17 October 2015

A Martian in Wessex

The Narrator of "War off of the Worlds" does not mention it, but at the ends of the first Great Martian War, one of the fighting machines was unaccounted for. In the general relief that London and the world were saved, few paid much attention. Any that wondered about the discrepancy assumed it had met a disaster and ended up at the bottom of a deep valley or on the sea bed - possibly a victim of the heroic charge of the Thunder Child.

But the London-centred press paid no attention to those in the counties west of the capital, who claimed that the last machine had struck out on its own, taking a route south and west and going through the literary discontinuity where Basingstoke unexpectedly becomes Stoke Bare-hills, and ending up on a heath in Mid Wessex.

And so it was that notorious local idiot Joseph Poorgrass, walking across shaggy Egdon after consuming a skinfull at Casterbridge Fair, spied two fighting machines advancing toward him. A quick look at the two Jan Coggans walking with him assured him that he was suffering from his old condition the "multiplying eye". The two rustics looked at the Machine, then each other, then ran like the wind towards Tranter Dewey's house north of Blooms End. The fighting machine sped after them, taking out  a stand of fir trees and drying up the ponds with the Heat Ray.

The rustics shoved Reuben back into his house, fearing the usual elaborate greeting, and all three dived into the side-pantry. They waited, terrified in the light of the horn lantern with which the revellers had been navigating, as they heard the Machine draw to a halt outside. There was a short silent stand-off, and then Joseph absent-mindedly sang three lines of "The Foggy Dew." They were found out.

A tentacle snaked in through the tranter's door, twisted into the pantry. The three pressed against the walls watched, as it gently felt its way round the small room, and then unexpectedly coiled round the hogshead of cider that stood in the middle. It pulled the barrel from the stand, and dragged it outside.

"That were a pretty drop of tipple! There's redstreaks and stubbards and Five-corners..." exclaimed Reuben. But the others shushed him.

It is known from the exciting account of Mr Wells that the Martians gained sustenance by drinking the blood of their victims. And maybe the alien assumed that the cider barrel was merely a different kind of terrestrial life - one with a strong exeskeleton and a hole through which sustenance were taken. In any even the evidence that the Martian consumed the contents is to be found in the way that, half an hour later, it floppd out of the machine and lay in Reuben's orchard, singing "The Barley Mow."

The cider, it later transpired, had a twofold effect on the Martian. In the first instance, it made it a convivial and friendly specimen, and one with a remarkable ability - given its many tentacles - to play a lively and complex bass viol part. The Martian was in demand for parties around the entire county. And the cider 's second lasting effect was even more remarkable. For, in accordance with the locals' theories about the beverage's properties, it gave the Martian lasting immunity against the viruses and bacteria that destroyed its companions. It lived a long and happy life, was three times Mayor of Casterbridge, and dedicated a row of almshouses to the poor of the town, "in memory of the lasting peace between our two great planets."


  1. I do love a happy ending! You don't get many of those in Hardy's Wessex

  2. As a resident of Casterbridge, I affirm the absolute truth of this tale. *scuttles furtively*


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