Wednesday 23 March 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Red Weed


As the dawn grew brighter we withdrew from the window from which we had watched the Marsians, and went very quietly downstairs.

Ginger, Speccy and Orlando agreed with me that the house was no place to stay in - apparently my cutting edge games console was more cartridge-driven than they were used to, and my iPod too full of W.A.S.P.. Orlando proposed to make their way Londonward, and thence get aboard the Hogwarts Express. My plan was to return at once to Leatherhead; and so greatly had the strength of the Marsians impressed me that I had determined to take my wife to Newington, and bog off out of the country. I already suspected that the area about London would become the scene of a disastrous struggle before the Marsians could be destroyed.

I wasn't scared for myself, you understand, but Enid's a bit weird.

Between us and Leatherhead, however, lay the third cylinder, and the monsters of uberfuckening it had spawned. Had I been alone, I think I should have taken my chance and struck across country; but Speccy's fevered weeping dissuaded me. In the end I agreed to go with them, under cover of the woods - for while, at least.

I ransacked the house for a flask, which I filled with Red Bull, and we lined all our pockets with biscuits and meat. Why? I'm not really sure. We had loads of Tupperware. Then we crept out of the house, and ran as quickly as we could down the road by which I had come overnight. The houses seemed deserted. In the road lay a group of three charred bodies close together, struck dead by the Heat-Ray; and here and there were things that people had dropped: a clock, a slipper, a silver spoon, a candlestick, a rope, a lead pipe...

None of the houses had suffered very greatly here, apart from the orphanage, which was blazing hilariously. The majority of the inhabitants had fled - escaped by way of the road I had taken when I drove to Leatherhead.

We went down the lane and broke into the woods at the foot of the hill. We pushed through these towards the railway without meeting a soul. The woods across the line were but the scarred and blackened ruins of woods; for the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain proportion still stood, dismal grey stems, with dark brown foliage instead of green.

After a time we drew near the road, and as we did so we heard the clatter of hoofs and saw three cavalry soldiers riding slowly towards Woking. We hailed them, and they halted while we hurried towards them. It was a lieutenant and a couple of privates of the 8th Hussars.

"You are the first I've seen coming this way this morning," said the lieutenant. "What's brewing?"

Ginger jumped down the bank into the road and saluted.

"We've been hiding. Trying to get back to London, you see. You'll come in sight of the Marsians, I expect, about half a mile along this road."

"What are they like?" asked the lieutenant.

"Giants in metal plate armour of rapening, sir. Hundred feet high. Three legs and a body like aluminium, with a mighty great head in a hood, sir. They carry a kind of box, sir, that shoots fire and strikes you dead."

"Do you mean 'a gun'?"

"No, sir," and Orlando began a vivid account of the Heat-Ray. Halfway through, the lieutenant interrupted him and looked up at me. I was still standing on the bank by the side of the road.

"What?" I asked. "Do I look like I'm in charge of these fuckwits?"

"Look here," said the lieutenant, "we're detailed here clearing people out of their houses. Go along and report yourself to Brigadier-General Marvin, and tell him all you know. He's at Weybridge. Know the way?"

"Yeah, sure." I said; muttering "Dick." under my breath as he turned away.

By Byfleet station we emerged from the trees, and found the country calm and peaceful under the morning sunlight. We were far beyond the range of the Heat-Ray there, and had it not been for the silent desertion of some of the houses, the stirring movement of packing in others, and the knot of soldiers standing on the bridge over the railway and staring down the line towards Woking, the day would have seemed very like any other Sunday.

Several farm wagons and carts were moving creakily along the road and, through the gate of a field, we saw six twelve-pounders standing neatly at equal distances pointing towards Woking. The gunners stood by the guns waiting, and the ammunition waggons were at a business-like distance. The men stood almost as if under inspection.

"That's good!" said I. "They will get one fair shot, at any rate."

"Bows and arrows against the lightning." said the Orlando. "They haven't seen the Heat-Ray yet."

Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of hussars, some of them dismounted, some on horseback, were hunting them about. The soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise the gravity of their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids, angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them behind. I stopped and put him in a headlock.

"Do you know what's over there?" I said, gesturing at the pine tops that hid the Martians.

"Eh?" said he, choking. "I was explainin' these is vallyble."

"Death!" I shouted. "Death is coming! Death!" and leaving him to digest that if he could, I hurried on after the Hogwarts kids.

No one in Weybridge could tell us where the headquarters were established; the whole place was in such confusion as I had never seen in any town before. Carts, carriages everywhere, the most astonishing miscellany of conveyances and horseflesh. The respectable inhabitants of the place, men in golf and boating costumes, wives prettily dressed, were packing, river-side loafers energetically helping, children excited, and, for the most part, highly delighted at this astonishing variation of their Sunday experiences. In the midst of it all the worthy vicar was very pluckily holding an early celebration, and his bell was jangling out above the excitement.

The kids and I, seated on the step of the drinking fountain, made a very passable meal upon what we had brought with us. We saw as we crossed the railway bridge that a growing crowd of people had assembled in and about the railway station, and the swarming platform was piled with boxes and packages.

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church—it has been replaced by a spire—rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small toilet between them, with some of their household goods piled in the bowl.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Marsians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

"What's that?" cried a boatman, and "Shut up, you fool!" said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud — the sound of a gun.



Debuting in 1968 and lasting just two all-too-brief series, Land Of The Giants, the original science-fiction/adventure series created by sci-fi visionary Irwin Allen has far outlived its initial run.

Taking on a remarkable life of its own, the show maintained an astonishing degree of popularity, spawning worldwide fan clubs, newsletters and convention appearance.

Now, for the first time in the UK, the first series on this cult classic comes to DVD in a wonderful 7 disc set, which includes some fantastic Special Features!

Thanks to our friends at Revelation Films, we've got a copy of Land of the Giants: The Complete Series One on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Wednesday 30th March, making sure to put "Land of the Giants" as the subject. The first entry out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Land of the Giants" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Land of the Giants: The Complete Series Oneis available from Monday 28th March, priced £39.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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