H.G. Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
"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
"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 flittering 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
"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
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.