In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This September Nineth
Rúa Pai Crespo, 30
"Jules!" Wells screamed at me, his hands a blur as they swept over the flight controls, flipping a switch, adjusting a dial, meanwhile striving to keep our course from a total nose dive, which it appeared to be doing anyway as our view precipitously became almost a ninety degree angle. We weren't that high, so it would only be a matter of seconds before we struck the ground, or a windmill!
"On it!" I yelled, deploying our emergency flaps.
The ship shuddered as the inflatables shot out, released by explosive bolts from the interior of the ship. It would open our skin to invasion for a time, but better a temporary scar, then a permanent one mixed with our blood and bones.
It caused out nose to angle up about forty five degrees, but we were still losing altitude. Our speed was now about a hundred kilometers an hour, as Wells backed them off to help ease our deployment.
I had one last card to play and I did it, knowing it would probably mean the end of our mission if unsuccessful, and a long delay if successful.
I turned on the repulsors.
I dreaded using them because they were touchy and could just as easily spin us in a loop that would crush us for certain as act as a cushion between our plunging ship and the ground below.
My next words are a description as told to me later by good farmer Don Pedro Fernadez.
The Master of the World came screaming from the heavens like a golden gold of wrath, plumes of flame and smoke on the right side and blasts of unbearable blue light beneath it, like a furious lightning bolt creature struggling to smash the ship from its exterior.
Don had been tending to a flock of sheep, only fifty yards from the windmill he called home and his source of income. For it ground the corn he grew on the last half of his land and mashed the grapes he grew on the other. He found the one crop would sustain him through the winter months, while the other through the warmer ones. Because of the high alkaline content of most ground water and its unsuitability for drinking, most people drank wine to stop from poisoning themselves.
Some wells were notoriously pure and free of the salts and minerals and contamination common to much ground water, but they were few and far in between.
Don was driving his cart down row after row of corn, gathering up the frothy green swards shaped like tiny torpedoes, snapping their heads from their long, crackly stems, then tossing them into the back of the cart.
His son, Pedro, a swarthy young man with shocking blue eyes he had inherited from his mother, worked the other side, sometimes breaking a husk open to feed it to the horse...Consuela...a very domesticated and long term member of the Fernandez family. She nibbled on it, shaking her head happily as he held it for her.
Don would laugh at her delight, then break a husk for himself and eat at the sweet, ripe corn. It was hard work they did, but a rewarding one. They never starved. They just worked hard. And what were hard work, but not God's blessings to keep man trim and fit. He never had a belly as some of his friends from the city did, and his wife liked the play time they had together after the day's end. So no complaints from anyone in his household.
And he always had enough energy to relieve his wife at the end of the day with the twins. Beatrice and Merilee, named after two saints. She was usually quite worn by then, so the nap time he gave her, assured she would be happy with his time away during the day, even though long and even more happy later on to share some of her sleeping time with him.
He grinned as he thought about that, then Pedro hollered at him.
He looked up, startled from his daydreams and eyed his son, then the sky he was pointing out.
"Maldita!" He swore, then leaped onto the cart and urged Consuela to move to the right as quickly as she could. He didn't have to urge her at all as it turned out.
Pedro ran alongside the cart as Consuela put on a panicked burst of speed.
They arrowed explosively through the corn field, putting yards behind them as the great Master of the World let out a brilliant burst of blue rays from its lower belly and seemed to yoyo on a buoyant stream of blue energies for a moment, then land where the farmer and his son had just been, settling heavily to the ground.
It sat there, streaming curls of steam and smoke a few moments, then a hatch sprang open on its front nose and Jules leaped out with a huge cylinder in his arms, followed by Wells with another. They dashed along the length of the ship, spraying at the superheated skin.
Don saw the two men cursing and screaming like madmen and at first thought them some kind of strange combat warriors, but when he caught some of the English swear words and the French ones he burst into laughter.
He and Pedro made sure Consuela was calm, then they ran to help.
Jules spotted them first. He was streaming sweat and teary salt from his face and eyes and felt a great relief when Pedro offered to take over his burden.
Jules thanked him "Gracias!" Jules said.
Pedro grinned. "El Diablo esta caliente!"
"Si!" Jules grinned back. "Mucho, mucho!"
The four men worked the side of the craft, taking turns at the spraying, while Jules and Wells went back inside for two more containers. These were skin sealants, meant to help reseal any abrasions or tears in the highly healing skin.
It took several hours of hard, hot, sweaty work, but they finished it.
When they were done, they all threw themselves down on the ground by the cart, where Don pulled out a bottle of wine he had recently pressed. He passed it around and Pedro broke husks and offered fresh sweet corn.
In a few minutes the men's hearts were slowing down again, the sweat stopping and their stomachs refusing to growl like angry lions anymore. The terror of the moment was past, and they could consider their options.
Don looked at the mighty vessel, his eyes radiant with pleasure. "Your ship is wonderful."
Jules nodded. "But still vulnerable as it turns out."
"What happened?" Pedro asked, munching on his fifth head of corn.
Wells took over the conversation. "You saw the burning sky?"
The two men nodded. "We see all kinds of falling matter this time of year."
"Meteorites." Wells nodded. "But this was no meteorite."
The two Spanish men looked at each other in confusion.
Wells eyed his ship again. "She needs to regenerate before we can launch again."
"What are you seeking?" Pedro asked, his large luminous eyes filled with curiosity.
"To save humanity." Wells sighed.
Father and son again gave each other surprised looks.
Jules picked up on their confusion and explained. "I know this is going to sound crazy..."
"After seeing your vessel...little seems so strange anymore." Don told them with the hint of a grin on his lips.
Jules nodded, pleased at the man's attitude.
"Our world is being invaded by creatures from Mars."
Don broke into laughter and was joined by Pedro.
Wells and Jules looked at each other, surprised at the reaction, but not at the same time.
Don finally stood up, rubbing his belly. "I haven't had this much fun since last Christmas. Come, you two must have need of a bath by now, I know we do. And my dear wife always has room for one or two more at the table. We will talk about monsters and outer space creatures at a fine dinner."
Jules was hesitant and Don sensed it. "Is your ship going to go anywhere without you?"
"Not likely." Wells responded with words that almost sounded like a curse.
Jules laughed, then sobered. "How far to Madrid?"
"Fifty kilometers as the bird flies." Pedro answered. "Longer if you walk."
Wells and Jules stood.
Wells smiled and reached out a hand. "I'm Herbert George Wells and this rather rascally character next to me is Jules Verne."
Don and Pedro both looked startled.
"The authors!" Pedro exclaimed. He grabbed their hands and pumped them over and over. "I have read everyone of your adventures!"
The four men made their way back to the Windmill home and Jules made immediate friendship with the twins, holding them in his arms and playing with them to their bubbling squeals of laughter, while Wells loaned his cooking kills to Maria, Don's somewhat plumpish wife, who had the face of a saint, all soft and radiant. She smiled all the time and never was at a loss for the kind words. Jules and Wells immediately fell in love with this family and decided at that moment to never lose contact with them again after this was all over. If this was all over.
Finally, when the household was settled down enough, the food served on a large rough hewn table that Pedro and Don had cut and polished from bought wood, Maria set out fine plates made of cultured clay with fine slivers of red and gold glistening on their surface, then small cups made from finely wrought brandy colored glass from Madrid's finest glassblowers.
Don poured some more of his homemade wine into everyone's glasses and they settled down to eat further cobs of corn, this time sweetened with sauces that Maria made from pears and dates, and mashed together with bits of barley and wheat.
Jules had realized how hungry he was until he began eating the corn.
The meal was topped with a fresh chicken laid on a plate in the center of their meager table, its legs and head still on its body. It had been baked in a large stone oven.
Pedro did the honors of cutting the chicken and making sure everyone had a portion. The twins, worn out from the play that Jules had given them, were sleeping peacefully in their crib at the side of the tale.
Maria never lets them out of her view, except when Don was with them. A good mother.
When everyone was finished eating Don set down his rough cotton napkin on his plate, then leaned forward, his eyes set upon Wells face. "Now, tell us about these monsters from space."
Jules could tell he thought they were just being authors and that the only fantasy they truly had was their fantastic ship, but he would be no friend to them were he to let them get off so easily.
Jules said. "I just want you to be certain in your own minds that what we are going to tell you now is the truth. We can weave tales. True. But Wells and I have personally seen these monsters. They are real. They exist!"
Jules nodded to Wells, who began reviewing everything that had happened, even including the invasion of London in the tale.
It was quite late by the time he was finished.
The entire family had sat through every word, leaning on every breath that Wells took to speak, waiting through every pause with earnest expectation.
When he finished, the air had a tenseness to it that could have been cut by a knife.
Pedro was the first one to speak. He slowly revealed a smile. "Now I know why you are both such great writers. You know how to lie so convincingly. You almost had even me fooled."
Then the windmill home shook as if a mighty fist had slammed into it.
The twins screamed awake.
Maria went to them as the others ran outside.
Across the skies came a swarm of red gashes, first several, then a dozen, then more and more, all streaming red hot smoke and fire behind them.
"Dios Mio." Don said, crossing himself.
Jules felt this great weight upon his heart.
"Wells, the true invasion has begun. We are too late to stop it."
Then one of the glowing trails in the heavens veered around and began a long, slow arc in the heavens. They watched silently at first, but a sense of dread grew in both Wells and Jules as it appeared to straighten out and point towards them.
The Baker Street Universe Book Store