The Baker Street Universe Book Store
In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This September Second
The Globe Theater
The Queen's Room
Humming. Very loud humming. The sound of something big moving close by. Screams in the distance. Gun shots. Cannon fire. Flashes of light searing the inside of my eyelids. Thunder so intense the ground shook beneath me.
It was then I realized I was still alive.
I remained silent and still, not daring to move for fear I might be close to that monstrous machine. It became very, very still. So still I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. I am a spiritual man by nature, but no amount of spirituality can overcome the sense of dread I felt at that moment. I have never claimed perfection. I do believe we are in the process of becoming perfect, but perfect no.
Slowly I opened my eyes to slits, allowing some light in. It was dark. I must have been unconscious for hours at least. I opened them wider and could see that I was sprawled across broken wood and railing. My right arm was pinched. I couldn't move it. Then I rolled a bit and realized I had been lying upon it.
I wanted to groan. My body ached all over as if someone had used a giant fly swatter upon it. The machine was nowhere to be seen. The sounds I had heard were just echoes rising from my subconscious as I regained consciousness. But then I saw the gigantic footprint to my right, barely missing my prone boy. It depressed the grass there a good four to five feet. Whatever had stepped upon the lawn edging the bridge on this side of the Thames must have weighed a tremendous amount of tonnage.
What unimaginable power drove such a machine I couldn't begin to imagine. I am a writer first and foremost, a philosopher second and somewhat of a hand person around the home when it comes to simple things, but not engineering. That is beyond my scope.
I sat up, then painfully pulled myself to my feet. Then it was I saw Albert. Poor Albert, his great and noble head twisted in a strange position, his tongue hanging from his mouth. The great animal had not made it. I mourned for his loss. For animals are our best friends, and he had been one of the best in our stables. One I had known since he had been a fine colt, barely half my height.
I had no way to bury him then, but I did draw some wood over his body as best I could to cover it, then I said a small prayer for its soul to be rested peacefully with our Creator. For I do believe that even the smallest of beings have their place in God's heaven.
I looked towards home. It was still many miles away, but I was a good walker and in great shape, else the explosion would've wrought worse on my sturdy body.
I looked back towards the way I had come and it was a trail of destruction, great scars of blazing fire and smoke.
It was as if the world were coming to an end.
"Will?" A man's voice called to me. "Is that you?"
I turned about. It was my Stage Manager.
He rushed up and gave me a big hug.
His face was lit up with relief. "When you raced off like that I feared for your life and that of your family, but when the Great Thing passed our theater safely and destroyed everything heading on your path, I thought my fears had been realized."
"My people?" I asked.
"All safe. I herded them into the basement in case."
"Good man." I told him, proud of his foresight. "But what of your own family? Surely you should be seeking them."
"They are well. They left for the Americas this morning to visit with our relatives there."
I felt a great burden lift.
"Have you horses?" I asked, seeing none.
He shook his head.
"I took a boat across the Thames, for as you can see..." He swept a hand at the destroyed bridge behind us. "No other simple path remained."
"Then I wish you well." I told him. "I must see to my own family and their safety."
"Let me come with you." He asked. He pulled out at his left side and I suddenly realized he was carrying one of our swords for the theater, but one that was real, only used for decoration.
"Very well. Though against that monster I doubt it will make much of a difference."
"Always the optimist, Will." He jested.
We spent the better part of the night working our way along the Queen Victoria Street, helping stragglers who were lost or wounded as best we could. It was a slow progress, but I hadn't the heart to refuse any help that needed it, even knowing my own loved ones might be dead or dying. For it is fear that most slows the heart and prevents clear thinking and I was determined not to give into it, even though it ate darkly at the corners of my soul.
We finally had to camp out in the remains of a shattered building that had huge mechanical imprints about it, where the machine had traveled unhampered by man or beast.
It tore at our hearts and minds that someone or something could wield such dread power and in such a small amount of time, by itself, destroy structures that had stood the test of time for centuries.
I started a small fire and my Stage Manager fed it with bits of wood from the destruction. We had nothing to eat at first, but then as luck would have it, he found a loaf of bread in a portion of the building that might have been a bakery. The rest was flattened.
It was a bit dirty, but hungry men do not pass a meal of certainty for one that is not perfect. We toasted it a bit over the fire to sterilize it as best as possible, then divided its portions.
Soon thereafter, we made a bed as best we could in the scraps of the building and warmed by the glow of the fire, we drifted into a deep and weary sleep.