Wednesday 26 January 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Red Weed


The most extraordinary thing, of all the strange things that happened upon that Friday, was the combination of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of events that was to topple our social order headlong into headbuggery. If on Friday night you had drawn a circle for five miles around Woking, then, firstly, you’d have had far too much time on your hands. Secondly, I doubt if you would have had one human being outside it whose emotions were at all affected by the coming of the Marsians. Many people had heard of it, of course, and talked about it at leisure, but it certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to North Korea would have done.

In London that night a telegram describing the gradual unscrewing of the cylinder was judged to be a prank, and the evening paper decided not to print a special edition. They ran the diary of some crankpot superhero instead.

Even within that five-mile circle the great majority of people weren’t all that bothered. I have already described the behaviour of the men and women to whom I spoke. All over the district people were dining and supping; working men were gardening, children were being beaten, young people were wandering through the lanes love-making (not literally...well..mostly), students sat over their bongs, pensioners rocked back and forth making racist comments.

Maybe there was a murmur in the village streets, a dominant topic in pubs, and here and there a messenger, or even an eye-witness of the later occurrences, caused a whirl of excitement; but for the most part the daily routine of working, eating, drinking, sleeping, went on as it had done for countless years—as though no planet Mars existed in the sky. Even at Woking station and Horsell and Chobham that was the case.

In Woking junction, until a late hour, trains were stopping and going on, and everything was proceeding in the most ordinary way. A boy from the town was selling papers with the afternoon’s news. The ringing impact of trucks and the sharp whistle of the engines from the station, mingled with their shouts of “Men from Mars!” Excited men came into the station about nine o’clock with incredible tidings, and caused no more disturbance than drunkards might have done. People rattling Londonwards peered into the darkness outside the carriage windows, and saw only a rare, flickering, vanishing spark dance up from the direction of Horsell, a red glow and a thin veil of smoke driving across the stars, and thought that nothing more serious than a heath fire was happening. It was only round the edge of the common that any disturbance was perceptible. There were half a dozen villas burning on the Woking border. There were lights in all the houses on the common side of the three villages, and the people there kept awake till dawn.

A curious crowd lingered restlessly, people coming and going but the crowd remaining, both on the Chobham and Horsell bridges. One or two adventurous souls, it was afterwards found, went into the darkness and crawled quite near the Marsians; but they never returned, for now and again a light-ray, like the beam of a warship’s searchlight swept the common, and the Heat-Ray was ready to follow. Save for that instrument of hot toasty death, that big area of common was silent and desolate, and the charred bodies lay about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day. A noise of hammering from the pit was heard by many people.

Such was the state of things on Friday night. In the centre, sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a needle into Amy Winehouse, was this cylinder.

Around it was a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few dark, dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there. Here and there was a burning bush or tree. Beyond was a fringe of excitement, and farther than that fringe the inflammation had not crept as yet. In the rest of the world the stream of life still flowed as it had flowed for immemorial years. The fever of war that would presently clog vein and artery, deaden nerve and destroy brain, had still to develop.

All night long the Marsians were hammering and stirring, sleepless, indefatigable, at work upon the machines they were making ready, and ever and again a puff of greenish-white smoke whirled up to the starlit sky. It seemed obvious at the time that they were making some sort of Marsian bong.

About eleven in the morning, a company of soldiers came through Horsell and deployed along the edge of the common to form a cordon. A second company marched through Chobham to deploy on the north side. Several officers from the Inkerman barracks had been on the common earlier in the day, and one, Major Eden, was reported to be missing. The colonel of the regiment came to the Chobham bridge and was busy questioning the crowd at midnight. I was – as always – sexually aroused by close proximity to military hardware, so took frequent walks there, whilst Enid remained in standby at home, with the dog collar and the buttercream.

A few seconds after midnight the crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine woods to the northwest. It had a greenish colour, and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder.


The massive battle for the World Tree reaches its boiling point as the dark gods, bent on reducing the earth to a cinder, have finally breached the mortal plane! Now all that stands between them and certain victory is the combined might of Thor and the newly resurrected Odin! The Mighty Avenger and the All-Father hurdle head-on into the jaws of the World Eaters for the epic monster-sized brawl of the century, this February – only in Thor #620!


Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), to help them kill the wolf.

But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. Panic grips the town as Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast-one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect...and bait.

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