View Full Version : First Men in the Moon, The - Herbert George Wells

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06-01-2007, 11:53 PM
Chapter 12 - The Selenite's Face

I FOUND myself sitting crouched together in a tumultuous darkness. For a
long time I could not understand where I was, nor how I had come to this
perplexity. I thought of the cupboard into which I had been thrust at
times when I was a child, and then of a very dark and noisy bedroom in
which I had slept during an illness. But these sounds about me were not
the noises I had known, and there was a thin flavour in the air like the
wind of a stable. Then I supposed we must still be at work upon the
sphere, and that somehow I had got into the cellar of Cavor's house. I
remembered we had finished the sphere, and fancied I must still be in it
and travelling through space.

"Cavor," I said, "cannot we have some light?"

There came no answer.

"Cavor!" I insisted.

I was answered by a groan. "My head!" I heard him say; "my head!"

I attempted to press my hands to my brow, which ached, and discovered they
were tied together. This startled me very much. I brought them up to my
mouth and felt the cold smoothness of metal. They were chained together. I
tried to separate my legs and made out they were similarly fastened, and
also that I was fastened to the ground by a much thicker chain about the
middle of my body.

I was more frightened that I had yet been by anything in all our strange
experiences. For a time I tugged silently at my bonds. " Cavor! " I cried
out sharply. "Why am I tied? Why have you tied me hand and foot? "

"I haven't tied you," he answered. "It's the Selenites."

The Selenites! My mind hung on that for a space. Then my memories came
back to me: the snowy desolation, the thawing of the air, the growth of"
the plants, our strange hopping and crawling among the rocks and
vegetation of the crater. All the distress of our frantic search for the
sphere returned to me.... Finally the opening of the great lid that
covered the pit!

Then as I strained to trace our later movements down to our present
plight, the pain in my head became intolerable. I came to an
insurmountable barrier, an obstinate blank.



"Where are we?

"How should I know?"

"Are we dead?"

"What nonsense!"

"They've got us, then!"

He made no answer but a grunt. The lingering traces of the poison seemed
to make him oddly irritable.

"What do you mean to do?"

"How should I know what to do?"

"Oh, very well!" said I, and became silent. Presently, I was roused from
a stupor. "O Lord!" I cried; "I wish you'd stop that buzzing!"

We lapsed into silence again, listening to the dull confusion of noises
like the muffled sounds of a street or factory that filled our ears. I
could make nothing of it, my mind pursued first one rhythm and then
another, and questioned it in vain. But after a long time I became aware
of a new and sharper element, not mingling with the rest but standing out,
as it were, against that cloudy background of sound. It was a series of
relatively very little definite sounds, tappings and rubbings, like a
loose spray of ivy against a window or a bird moving about upon a box. We
listened and peered about us, but the darkness was a velvet pall. There
followed a noise like the subtle movement of the wards of a well-oiled
lock. And then there appeared before me, hanging as it seemed in an
immensity of black, a thin bright line.

"Look!" whispered Cavor very softly.

"What is it?"

"I don't know."

We stared.

The thin bright line became a band, and broader and paler. It took upon
itself the quality of a bluish light falling upon a white-washed wall. It
ceased to be parallel-sided; it developed a deep indentation on one side.
I turned to remark this to Cavor, and was amazed to see his ear in a
brilliant illumination - all the rest of him in shadow. I twisted my head
round as well as my bonds would permit. "Cavor," I said, "it's behind!"

His ear vanished - gave place to an eye!

Suddenly the crack that had been admitting the light broadened out, and
revealed itself as the space of an opening door. Beyond was a sapphire
vista, and in the doorway stood a grotesque outline silhouetted against
the glare.

We both made convulsive efforts to turn, and failing, sat staring over our
shoulders at this. My first impression was of some clumsy quadruped with
lowered head. Then I perceived it was the slender pinched body and short
and extremely attenuated bandy legs of a Selenite, with his head depressed
between his shoulders. He was without the helmet and body covering they
wear upon the exterior.

He was a blank, black figure to us, but instictively our imaginations
supplied features to his very human outline. I, at least, took it
instantly that he was somewhat hunchbacked, with a high forehead and long

He came forward three steps and paused for a time. His movements seemed
absolutely noiseless. Then he came forward again. He walked like a bird,
his feet fell one in front of the other. He stepped out of the ray of
light that came through the doorway, and it seemed as though he vanished
altogether in the shadow.

For a moment my eyes sought him in the wrong place, and then I perceived
him standing facing us both in the full light. Only the human features I
had attributed to him were not there at all!

Of course I ought to have expected that, only I didn't. It came to me as
an absolute, for a moment an overwhelming shock. It seemed as though it
wasn't a face, as though it must needs be a mask, a horror, a deformity,
that would presently be disavowed or explained. There was no nose, and the
thing had dull bulging eyes at the side - in the silhouette I had supposed
they were ears. There were no ears.... I have tried to draw one of these
heads, but I cannot. There was a mouth, downwardly curved, like a human
mouth in a face that stares ferociously....

The neck on which the head was poised was jointed in three places, almost
like the short joints in the leg of a crab. The joints of the limbs I
could not see, because of the puttee-like straps in which they were
swathed, and which formed the only clothing the being wore.

There the thing was, looking at us!

At the time my mind was taken up by the mad impossibility of the creature.
I suppose he also was amazed, and with more reason, perhaps, for amazement
than we. Only, confound him! he did not show it. We did at least know what
had brought about this meeting of incompatible creatures. But conceive how
it would seem to decent Londoners, for example, to come upon a couple of
living things, as big as men and absolutely unlike any other earthly
animals, careering about among the sheep in Hyde Park! It must have taken
him like that.

Figure us! We were bound hand and foot, fagged and filthy; our beards two
inches long, our faces scratched and bloody. Cavor you must imagine in his
knickerbockers (torn in several places by the bayonet scrub) his Jaegar
shirt and old cricket cap, his wiry hair wildly disordered, a tail to
every quarter of the heavens. In that blue light his face did not look red
but very dark, his lips and the drying blood upon my hands seemed black.
If possible I was in a worse plight than he, on account of the yellow
fungus into which I had jumped. Our jackets were unbuttoned, and our shoes
had been taken off and lay at our feet. And we were sitting with our backs
to this queer bluish light, peering at such a monster as Durer might have

Cavor broke the silence; started to speak, went hoarse, and cleared his
throat. Outside began a terrific bellowing, as if a mooncalf were in
trouble. It ended in a shriek, and everything was still again.

Presently the Selenite turned about, flickered into the shadow, stood for
a moment retrospective at the door, and then closed it on us; and once
more we were in that murmurous mystery of darkness into which we had