In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This September First
The Globe Theater
The Queen's Room
I fear for the safety of our people. For what has touched France, has now touched our own sacred lands. I ran up the stairs of my basement entrance and out into the lower stage area. All my stagehands were racing outside, as well as my actors.
Only the Stage Manager remained, and he was so shaken I didn't dare to bother him. I knew from the terror in his eyes that he had seen something unspeakable.
I ran outside and joined my people.
There across the skies was a bloody rent, made as if something had torn a bloody claw across it. The rent came from high in the heavens and I have to presume beyond our world and tore across the skies until it vanished over Surrey.
From that direction a plume of dust and smoke rose into the air, further disfiguring the London airs. My only thought then was that I must secure my family.
But that was not to be.
Before I could secure a coach to my home, the military came riding past in full battle gear. Their swords and muskets held proudly in the air, announcing to all who watched that none dare get in their way, neither foreigner or native.
We all cheered naively as they past and the brave men, whom I now realize were also braver than we thought at the time, rode furiously past, giving their steeds rein to do their best. I knew why almost immediately because the air became emblazoned by a burst of light that smashed across the skies like the anger of Thor's hammer.
I fell back against the stage door, frightened for the my life and that of my family. I was determined not to wait until harm came to any of us.
I turned around and my Stage Manager was behind me. He looked at me, then gestured to follow him. I did so and he brought me to the stables to the back of the theater where the coaches and carraiges were parked for the shows. There, we kept rides always ready for the distribution of flyers about coming and present shows by our lads who messengered for us.
About ten of them were huddled in the back of the stables, all looking frightened for their lives. They were, after all, but kids, none more than ten, with little experience of the war and savagery I suspected were coming.
"Be not frightened." I told them, striving to soothe their beating hearts into some semblance of calm. "Our brave soldiers even now ride to battle with the enemy forces."
The children, for that is what they were, all sprang up and ran to me, hugging me and crying. I did not know what to do about it. I had my own family to despair of at that moment, and yet I couldn't abandon these few to terror.
The Stage Manager saved me though. "Come children, we must let William get to his family. Come with me inside, I'm sure he won't mind if we share some of the treats we had saved to sell at the show this evening."
He looked to me and I nodded. The treats...small cakes and breads, fresh fruit and pies...were sold to the rich and the poor, each purchasing what they could with their meager or great wealth. It helped us to increase the edge of our profitability when nights were not as strong as hoped. I preferred we always had a little extra so than none of my crew, either actor or back stage hand went without. They all had families, and I made sure they were kept well as my own.
My wife, Anne, sometimes would chide me for being so generous, but then later on in the silence of our bed, she would stroke my cheek and tell me, "Willie, you are a man among men. Your words are like the breath of God to these people you serve, but your acts of generosity are the actions of an angel of God."
I would always smile and close her lips with a kiss. I am not given to accepting praise; it shores up the ego in idleness.
I took the strongest horse of the stable, Albert. An older stallion with white spots on its head and lovely white on its legs. I waved goodbye to my messengers, but they were already in better spirits as they realized they were going to be filling up on sweets, instead of bread and milk as usual.
My Stage Manager looked back and gave me a sign that he would handle everything and I nodded, assured that I was leaving our humble theater in good hands.
I rode like the wind up Park Street, following the natural curve of the River Thames as it coursed through the channel alongside London. People were in the streets everywhere, and buggies and carriages were clogging the intersections, many stopped as drivers and riders stood to stare at the strange marks in the sky and to listen to the sounds of battle in the distance.
For battle sounds they were. I could hear rifleshot and cannon fire. I suspected that some of our military ships were coming into the battle as well. I just prayed to God that they didn't lost their patience and harm innocents caught in this new terror. But such is war, that it spares none, either the innocent or the guilty.
I dodged about the barriers before me, Albert taking it all in stride, hardly breathing hard. He was a good strong horse and wasn't even frightened by the sound of cannon fire. I turned him onto Holland Street and we rode several blocks until we reached Hopton and turned up that street and made our way across some neighborhoods until we reached the Blackfriar's Bridge.
There I discovered more military. Our local Marines were marching across it and there was nothing for me to do but fall aside and wait for them to pass. They were brilliant looking in their sparkling clean scarlett jackets with white braids and cross bands. They carried their rifles on their shoulders and a hand stayed on their swords on the left. They marched like a well rehearsed band, one step, then two, then one step, then two.
Once in awhile one of them would break the rhythm so as not to shake the bridge down, as it had been found in the past when so many men marched in unison it could shake a bridge down to destruction.
The last of them crossed and I urged Albert onto the bridge and had him gallop as fast as he could to the opposite side.
A huge searing sound swept the air behind me and the bridge behind me erupted in an explosion of fire and shredded wood and iron.
I was flung from Albert's back onto the surface of the bridge.
I lay there stunned.
Albert nudged me with his nose. He was a loyal beast and probably saved my life that day.
I grabbed the reins about his head and drew myself to my feet and looked back. There, crossing into view was a horrible sight. Something I pray I never see again.
A huge mechanical device whose towering head rose above the tallest of our buildings. It had two windows in its head that glowed a bright green and glowing green and red lights up and down the length of huge columns of metal which I assume were its legs.
It had about six or eight tentacles attached to the head, which were swishing around, as if feeling for something, though at the time I couldn't for the world of me imagine what that might be.
Then terror made my blood grow cold.
A great third eye opened up in its metallic forehead, which was of a deep bronze and red color. The eye flashed off and on with an evil yellow color, then a burst of light that made a horrid sound like a gigantic thunderbolt crossed with an angry bee.
I didn't wait to see where that bolt was going to land. I threw myself back upon Albert's back and urged him with all my might to get us off the bridge.
For though half was gone, I had been safe at the middle's edge.
Albert's legs flew like the wind as the beam of hellish energy struck the middle where we had been and made its way towards the other side of the bridge.
I prayed to God we would make the other side, but I wasn't sure that day if even God could stop what was happening. A heresy of a thought in retrospect, but when one is in so much terrror for one's life, all common sense flies before it.
"Hurry, Albert!" I commanded, urging him to further speed.
He galloped like a warrior's horse into battle, his head low and furious, teeth showing as he grimaced against the strain he was putting his massive body to.
And behind us, behind us the ray kept eating up the bridge, like a hungry dragon feeding on the slaughter of its victims.
I didn't think we were going to make it.
God help us I thought as the beam reached right behind us and we were flung into the air by a mighty explosion.
And that was the last I remembered.