Quatermass vs. the Aliens
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Ian groaned and stretched, trying to get the muscles in his back to relax. Ilkley Moor stretched out around him as far as he could see, its flat expanse interrupted by rocky outcroppings that broke through the ever-present heather. The sun was setting and the moor was no place for a man to be at night, even with Ian’s years of sheep-herding experience.
Ian shook his head and decided to head back to the little village of Helmdale and grab a pint at the Slug and Lettuce. He would look for the lost sheep tomorrow when daylight would make the moor safe to travel again. With my luck, he thought, the fool creature is stuck in quicksand and I’ll never find it.
"Come along, Sawyer" he said to his dog, but the dog had his back turned toward him, looking intently at the horizon.
"Come now," Ian said gruffly. The thought of a pint or two under his belt was making him impatient. The dog looked at him, whined and went back to staring intently at the horizon.
"What’s the matter, boy?"
The answer came suddenly. The eastern sky lit up with a dull red glow and Ian swore in terror as the glow coalesced into a fireball and streaked toward him. With a roar, the fireball swept over his head while his dog cowered under his feet.
Though World War II had ended twelve years ago, Ian remembered the sights and sounds of the buzzbombs and V-1 rockets the Nazis had used to turn London into rubble. Instinctively, he fell to the ground face-first, practically on top of the howling dog. Behind him he heard a dull thud and the ground shook.
Ignoring the dog, Ian staggered to his feet, stunned to discover he was still in one piece. A half-mile away, he could see the turf of the moor blown outward with the impact of whatever had flown over his head.
Weighing his options, Ian paused for a moment and then walked toward the crater. Sawyer simply turned tail and headed toward home ignoring the impatient calls of his master.
Within ten minutes Ian stood at the lip of the crater. At the bottom, cushioned by the soft turf of the moor, lay a cylindrical object. Ian sucked on his bottom lip as he pondered the problem. This was like nothing he had ever seen or heard of before.
Ian abruptly recalled last year’s fiasco when that one scientist had sent a rocket crashing into the ground near Wimbledon. Quatermass. Yes, that was the man’s name. And the rumors were saying that Quatermass had almost unleashed a horror on the world that made Hitler look like Saint Swithin.
Ian turned on his heel and walked rapidly toward Helmdale. Whatever it was that lay in the pit, it looked like trouble to him which meant somebody else was going to have to deal with it.
* * *
“Professor Quatermass!” yelled Peter Marsh, waving at the figure that turned when he called. Professor Bernard Quatermass, silhouetted against the silver rocket that stood poised on its launch pad, stood dressed in a beige overcoat and Trilby hat.
Quatermass turned back to his contemplation of the rocket, a silent figure among the rush and mumble of humanity that worked around him.
“She’s a beauty, sir,” Marsh said as soon as he was close enough for Quatermass to hear him above the racket. He squinted at the morning sun shining through the clear blue English sky. “I say, you’ve certainly the day for it.”
“There should be a man in that rocket,” Quatermass said, his words clipped in frustrated anger. “I can’t believe there are so many cowards in the government. I had men beating down my doors begging to be on that ship.”
Marsh wisely kept silent. Since last year’s disaster with Quatermass’ first launch and the return of the alien-possessed astronaut Victor Carroon, public opinion toward manned space exploration was definitely negative. Most of the public had seen the destruction of the thing that Carroon had become when it had crawled into Westminster Abbey during a BBS televised special on the building’s reconstruction. Just a month ago, Harold Macmillan was swept into the office of Prime Minister with a promise to keep public safety a higher priority than man’s exploration of the final frontier.
Quatermass had not taken the news well. On October 4th and November 3rd of 1957, just four months after Quatermass’ debacle with his first rocket launch, the Soviet Union had successfully launched two unmanned probes, the latter containing an eleven pound dog. The United Kingdom wanted to share in that glory also, even as the Americans pushed ahead their own space program, yet no matter how eager the Parliament was for a spot in the history books, there were to be no men or women leaving earth’s surface until it was discovered exactly what threat they would face outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
Frustrated, Quatermass looked at the silver rocket balanced delicately on its launching pad. No matter how sophisticated the instrumentation and sensors in the payload, they simply had no capability to creatively deal with situations like a human astronaut.
There was a honk of a car horn and Quatermass and Marsh turned in curiosity. A Daimler Majestic, its pristine chrome covered with mud as it bumped over the rough broken ground, came to a halt. The left-hand driver’s door opened and an overweight man eased his bulk from behind the wheel.
A government man, Marsh thought, you can identify them from a mile away.
The man huffed and puffed, stumbling over the ground. “Are you Professor Quatermass of the British Experimental Rocket Group?” he asked when he caught his breath.
The professor simply gave him a withering look and nodded.
“I’m Denis Bruce with the Department of the Interior,” he said while mopping his forehead with a large white handkerchief. “It seems there’s been a problem and I’ve been sent to fetch you.”
“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it and not going to be the one to take the blame for it,” Quatermass shot back.
Bruce held up his hands in a placating manner. “Please, professor, I know your feelings about the government’s decision about space exploration.”
“Do you?” Quatermass responded coldly.
Bruce ignored the rhetorical question. He looked uncomfortably at Marsh and back at the professor.
“This is Peter Marsh, my senior engineer,” Quatermass said impatiently,“Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of him.”
“Well, sir,” Bruce said in a rush, “it appears that a Soviet satellite has landed in our back yard.”
“What?” Quatermass and Marsh cried out in unison. Bruce motioned for them to be silent and, after furtively looking about, continued in a conspiratorial whisper.
“Hush now,” he said. “This is all top secret. It seems some shepherd found it up on Ilkley Moor. Actually saw the thing fall! But, anyway, we got a call from the owner of a local pub telling us about it and said they were sending some men up to guard it until the government could get up there and get their bloody rocket back!”
Bruce smiled. “But it’s not ours, so it has to be the Soviets. We want you, professor, to come and take it apart for us.”
The professor took all of three seconds to make up his mind. “It will be an intriguing opportunity.
Quatermass turned to his assistant. "Marsh, get Blake and Matthews. And bring along only the necesary equipment, we’ll use the bigger stuff when we get the thing back in our lab.”
“I will get two helicopters here in one hour,” Bruce said. “Two Bristol Sycamores. They’ll get us to the crash site in two hours.”
“There will only be me and three men,” Quatermass huffed.
“No,” Bruce said. “We’re taking soldiers with us. They’ll make better guards than shepherds and farmers.”
“Call the pub back and tell them not to disturb the crash site,” Quatermass said. “I don’t want anybody trying to obtain souvenirs.”
“Well,” Bruce replied. “that will be somewhat difficult. For the last two hours we’ve been unable to ring up anybody in the entire village. The lines must be down.”
* * *
The Bristol Sycamores were noisy and cramped. Holding a total of six people, the leading helicopter carried Quatermass, Marsh, and Blake and Matthews, Quatermass’ two assistant engineers. Completing the crew was the pilot and Major John Kent, the British officer in charge of securing the crash site. Behind them, in the second Bristol, rode five of Major’s men along with its pilot.
The waiting was making the Professor impatient even though the helicopter was cruising over the English countryside at its highest speed. Blake and Matthews simply enjoyed the scenery, but Marsh felt out of sorts. Even though a rocket scientist, he detested flying. It always made him ill. He was content to build them. Just don’t make him fly them when he was done.
“We’ll have to work fast,” Quatermass shouted at him over the roar of the rotors. “When we get there, we’ll only have about three hours of daylight left so we will have to learn as much as we can in a small amount of time.” He smiled; a rare sight on Quatermass’ face.
“We’re lucky it fell on the moor,” he continued, “but it will take some time to get a truck up there to take it back to the laboratory. Several days possibly. We’ll have to practically build a road to it.”
Marsh nodded his understanding, terrified that he would be violently ill if he even attempted to speak. Blake and Matthews suddenly started pointing at something on the ground below them and spoke excitedly amongst themselves. Marsh hazarded a look outside the window and saw the flat expanse of Ilkley Moor under the light of the evening sun.
The moor stretched out like a gray mat of heather and moss interrupted by rocky outcroppings. Following Blake’s finger, Marsh saw the small stone circle known as the Twelve Disciples, a Neolithic survival far older than the followers of Christ. The history of the moor was ancient and the moor was older still.
Major Kent turned in his seat and tried to yell above the sound of the engine.
“Professor,” he yelled, “We’re approaching the crash site.”
Eagerly Quatermass craned his neck in an attempt to see below. As they approached the crater, the large black object inside it was easily visible from the air.
“Professor!” yelled Marsh, but Quatermass interrupted him with a wave of his hand.
“I know what you’re thinking, Marsh,” Quatermass responded. “Whatever that is it looks far too large for a Soviet satellite.”
Major Kent tugged on Quatermass’ sleeve. “I can’t see any of the townspeople” he said. “I was told they would be guarding the satellite until we arrived.”
Quatermass simply shrugged in response.
Within minutes the Bristol Sycamores had made a gentle landing on the moor. In spite of his impatience, Quatermass could do nothing until the Major’s men had first left the second helicopter to make a large perimeter around the crater. When they received the signal that all was secure, Quatermass was the first to reach the crater where he stared down at the object lying below him.
While he waited for the Major and his engineers to join him, the professor made a visual scrutiny of the object. Over thirty feet long and ten feet in diameter, it was the color of newly dug coal. There were no external markings. There was also no sign of heat damage that Quatermass would have expected to see on a satellite that had just made a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
“What on earth is that?” Marsh asked finally reaching Quatermass’ side.
“I don’t think Earth had anything to do with this, Marsh,” Quatermass said. In spite of the Major’s protests, Quatermass slid down the side of the crater to stand beside the object.
Slowly, the professor walked around the mystery until he found an open portal on the far side of the ship. A circular hole five feet in diameter, Quatermass paused only for a moment until he simply walked in, ignoring the Major’s shout of caution.
“Marsh!” the professor called from inside. “Bring me an electric torch from the helicopter.”
Marsh ran back up the crater’s side while Kent, Blake and Matthews stood outside the portal while Quatermass made a preliminary inspection.
There was enough sunlight coming through the portal that Quatermass could dimly see what was around him. Strangely, the interior of the craft was as featureless as the exterior. However, to his disgust, the professor saw the interior was spotted here and there with copious amounts of some gelatinous slime. Cautious, remembering what they had found aboard the spaceship that had carried the doomed Carroon back to Earth, Quatermass carefully backed out of the craft and ordered Blake to get specimen bottles.
Within fifteen minutes, the professor had several specimen bottles filled with the clear slime. Then they heard yells for the Major.
Running up the edge of the crater, they saw the Major’s men were gesticulating wildly at some point beyond the perimeter. One of them, yelling wildly, ran up to them, pale and almost incoherent in his fear.
“Man, get a hold of yourself!” the Major thundered. The frightened man gulped and assumed a stance of attention.
“Sir,” he gasped. “I saw something outside the perimeter so I thought I’d take a look. It’s … It’s a monster, sir.” The Major glared at him in skeptical anger. “I think it’s dead,” the soldier continued.
“Well, then,” the officer said sarcastically. “Maybe we’d better go have a look at this here dead monster of yours.”
They followed the soldier over the moor to where his comrades stood over some large dark form almost concealed in the heather.
“Mother of God!” the Major said after a moment of shock. “What is it?”
Professor Quatermass sucked on his lower lip while Marsh looked away from the thing in horror. Blake and Matthews kept back without comment.
The professor carefully went to his knees to get a closer look. Whatever it was, the creature was vaguely humanoid. It appeared to have a carapace of some jet black material and Quatermass truly could not tell if he was looking at some madman’s nightmare of the devil or a weird amalgamate of machine and creature.
It would easily have stood some eight feet tall and its elongated head ended in jaws of teeth that gleamed like polished steel. Between its open jaws, a smaller set of jaws appeared. There was copious amount of slime around the double set of mouths answering the professor’s question as to what he had seen in the spacecraft. Six short tubes of unknown purpose jutted out from the creature’s back, three on each side of the spine. It’s six-fingered hands were armed with talons that looked as sharp and deadly as its teeth.
The thing had a gaping wound in its chest and some viscous yellow fluid had sprayed out covering the heather under its body.
“It’s been shot,” Quatermass said.
“Spread out,” he ordered the soldiers. “See what else you can find.” The five soldiers looked to the Major who simply nodded. With guns at ready that fanned out among the heather.
“Marsh,” Quatermass ordered. “Look at this.” Carefully he pointed at the yellow fluid that must have passed for the creature’s blood. Where it had sprayed, it had simply dissolved the heather as well as the igneous rock underneath.
“Incredible,” Marsh said. “Whatever that substance is, it’s eaten its way a good distance into the ground through solid rock.”
“Just make sure you don’t touch the stuff,” Quatermass said. “I’d hate to see what it can do to human flesh. What type of creature is this that has acid for blood?”
One of the soldiers approached them with a double-barreled shotgun in his grasp. “I found this, just over there,” he said. The Major took the gun and broke it open expelling the two spent cartridges. “Slugs,” he said. “That’s probably what killed our monster here.”
He cocked the shotgun closed and looked around. “But where’s the man who fired it?” he asked.
“I think,” Quatermass said as he stood and brushed the dirt from his pants, “that we’d better see the fine people of Helmdale and find out what went on here.”
“Then we had best move quickly,” the Major said. “We only have two hours of daylight left.
* * *
“I’ve radioed headquarters,” Major Kent shouted at Quatermass above the roar of the helicopter’s rotors. “They’re having trouble believing me, but when I told them you were involved, they took my story a little more seriously. We should have military backup here within the hour.”
The Major grinned. “It seems your name has become synonymous with monsters from outer space.” The professor ignored him, looking for the village of Helmdale where they might get answers to their questions.
They had left behind one of the Bristols, Blake, Matthews, and three soldiers to secure and investigate the site. The remaining pilot, Major Kent, Quatermass, Marsh and two soldiers sped over the moor toward the village.
“Do you think there may be more of those creatures, professor?” Marsh asked.
“Most likely,” Quatermass responded. “Postulating its size and the interior space of the craft, there could have been close to a dozen of those creatures in there. There is one thing that bothers me though …” Quatermass was interrupted by the pilot who shouted and pointed below at village of Hemldale.
Helmdale was a typical, picturesque English country village. From the air, the houses that made up the village were loosely clustered around the small store and the pub. To the west stood a fairly large country church that was clearly well past its prime. Incongruously, there were two wrecked cars in the middle of the one narrow street, but there was nobody to be seen. Helmdale appeared to be a ghost town.
The pilot sat the helicopter right outside the village on a small patch of pasture sending a small herd of sheep bawling in terror.
The two soldiers, rifles at ready, were the first to exit followed by the major with his sidearm. Quatermass followed the military men toward the town while Marsh walked by his side. The Major had given the pilot orders to return to the air base for more men. The sound of their helicopter disappeared quickly in the still evening air, leaving the five men standing at the edge of the little village.
Marsh felt uneasy as they entered Helmdale. Quatermass, as usual, was nonplussed or, at least, was master of his own emotions. Quatermass could be so coldly logical at times that he barely seemed to have any normal human reaction beside irritation when he experienced setbacks of his scientific projects.
The houses seemed empty. Nobody responded when the soldiers knocked on the doors. As they approached the wrecked cars they finally saw their first human being. However, the man sitting in the driver’s seat of the Renault Dauphine was beyond any capability to give them a proper greeting to the village of Helmdale.
Quatermass examined the driver quickly and shook his head at the Major’s unasked question. “This man died on impact,” Quatermass explained. “However, look at the other car.”
Quatermass pointed to the skid marks on the left side of the road. “It looks,” he explained, “that the driver of this car swerved to avoid something and drove right into the path of the Renault, killing its driver instantly.”
“But where’s the other driver,” Marsh asked nervously, looking around at the vacant houses.
Quatermass shrugged. “You can see the car doors are all locked and the broken window glass is inside the car. I can conjecture that after the impact, the driver locked his car doors to protect himself, but somebody, or something, broke through the glass to carry him away.”
“Carry him away?” Marsh asked.
“I have to assume so,” Quatermass replied. “There’s no body and no blood.”
* * *
The Slug and Lettuce was a traditional village pub, except this one had its doors blockaded and furniture had been piled up at the windows. There was no response to the calls of the Major.
Apparently, the blockade had not worked. The two soldiers crawled over the rubble where it had been forced. Within moments, they scuttled back outside.
“There’s another one of those dead monsters inside,” the one soldier reported, his voice shaking with horror, “as well as five or six townspeople.
“Sorry, sir,” the other soldier continued, “but, there were no survivors.”
The Major swore and turned his back on the pub to face the village church that stood at the far end of Helmdale. Though evidently run down, its impressive bulk and looming bell tower overshadowed the little community.
Quatermass stood at the Major’s side and gently cleared his throat. “If you discreetly look at the second floor window in the building on your left, I think you’ll see we are being watched.”
The Major stiffened and slowly, nonchalantly looked in the direction Quatermass had mentioned. “Private,” he said softly to the soldier standing next to him. “There’s a man looking at us through the curtain in the window over there. I want you to go to the backside of the house.” The Major motioned the other soldier closer. “You and I are going to enter the house and see if we can clear up this mystery.”
The first soldier strode down the street and turned to go between the two houses. In his peripheral vision, Marsh could see the figure back away from the curtain as the major and the other soldier walked toward the front door. The Major didn’t knock, but tried the door knob. The door was locked. He nodded and the other soldier kicked the door open and, guns drawn, they ran into the first floor.
“Here! Here!” came an angry voice from the second floor. “There’s no call for the likes of you to come bustin’ down my door like I’m a common criminal.”
Quatermass and Marsh walked through the front door which lay in shambles. The Major and the soldier had already bounded up the narrow staircase and Marsh could hear them talking to somebody in loud and angry tones.
The scene in the second floor bedroom would have been ludicrous if they had not already had their fill of strange scenes in Helmdale. A man in his mid-fifties sat in a chair surrounded by two military rifles and a large box of British army hand grenades. His hands were up and he was being covered by the private’s rifle as the major asked the man in chair questions. As Marsh approached, he saw another aspect of the strange scene before him. The man sat because he simply could not stand. Both pants legs were pinned up at the place a normal man would have had knees.
“I lost ‘em at Dunkirk,” the man said proudly, “for queen and country. Not,” he added, “that a veteran’s pension can make up for the loss of ‘em.”
“What happened here?” Quatermass said, approaching the man.
“Monsters!” the man replied. “This morning some of me neighbors went up to the moor to look at some machine that fell out of the sky. Then, about four hours ago, I was having a spot of tea when I heard this crash at me window.
“I looks outside and here’s this big black thing from the devil’s own boudoir dragging John Trencher out of his brand new car that what smashed into poor Joe Gies! The thing tucks John up under its arm like he was wrapped sausage and runs down the street ignoring the people screaming and hollering all around it.
“I opened my window and I hear Ian Malory screaming about the men on the moor being attacked by a pile of these devils. Then I hear more screaming and people running into the Slug and Lettuce. That’s when I gets me souvenirs from the war for comfort.” He proudly pointed at the army rifles and the case of grenades at his feet. I just hid out here while the men fought the bloody things. Then about three hours ago, it gets all quiet and when I finally get the urge to take a good look out the window, I see you gentlemen standing quite pretty out in front of the pub.”
He gave a gapped-tooth smile and rubbed his bristly chin. “By the bye,” he said, “me name’s Jack Treppins.” He slapped his thigh and winked at the Major. “Lost ‘em for queen and country, I did. I even got a medal.”
“Mr. Treppins,” Quatermass asked. “Where did these monsters go.”
Treppins shrugged. “I wasn’t too keen in lookin’ out the window while that fracas was going on. As far as I’m concerned, they’re probably halfway to London by now.”
“Do you have a phone?” Quatermass asked.
Treppins shook his head. “I got a phone, but service isn’t dependable around here. The phone’s been out since this morning.”
“We’ve got to explore the rest of the village,” Quatermass said, turning to the Major. “Making a presumption these things won’t travel at night, I think they’re probably still here somewhere.”
“Well,” Treppins interrupted. “If you’re going to do some exploring, than maybe you better take some of these.” Treppins grabbed two hand grenades and thrust them at the major. “Go ahead,” he said, “they’re good British issue.”
The Major shook his head and took the two grenades. “Let’s go,” he said.
* * *
The other soldier who had been sent to guard the back of the house was no where to be found. They found his rifle laying the ground, but the private seemed to have vanished like most of the townspeople.
“The question here is where did those creatures take the surviving townspeople and your soldier,” Quatermass said to the frantic Major. “There are five bodies in the pub, but surely there were more defenders in there.
“And there’s no body here, so your soldier has got to be somewhere.”
Marsh interrupted. “There’s only one building big enough to hold all those people.” He pointed toward the church.
* * *
The front door of the church opened into the base of the bell tower and had been firmly nailed shut. A small sign had been posted stating the church had been closed due to unsafe conditions. Walking around to the side of the stone building they finally found a small open doorway leading into the dark interior of the church. The private’s hat lay right inside the door on the floor.
The church sanctuary was filled with shadows. The setting sun had barely enough light to send through the dark stained glass windows. A thick layer of dust covered all the woodwork and pews.
“Look,” Quatermass said, kneeling down to get a better look at the floor in the fading light. “Somebody’s been dragging something here. The marks lead off toward the wall.”
Following the signs in the dust, they came to a stairway in the floor that went down into complete darkness.
“The church crypt,” Quatermass said coldly.
The Major stared into the darkness. “We have to find out if there are any survivors down there. My man might still be alive as well as any remaining townspeople.” He holstered his gun and unclipped the two grenades from his belt. “Here”, he said, turning to the other soldier and holding them out to him. “Keep these for me.”
The other soldier reached for them, but a sudden hiss from behind the Major startled them all. Before the Major could turn completely around, two jet black arms grabbed his legs from out of the shadow in the stairway making him fall on his face. The grenades, pins still unpulled, rolled to Quatermass’ feet. The soldier yelled and tried to grab his commanding officer to prevent him from being pulled into the crypt, but over the Major’s prostrate form, an elongated head from nightmare hissed again, revealing gleaming teeth three inches long. It stepped over the Major and grabbed the soldier, falling backward with him into the stairwell. Before the stunned officer could regain his footing, he too was pulled into the darkness.
Quatermass, with an agility born of terror, scooped the grenades off the floor. “Marsh!” he cried, “Run!”
They ran back toward the exit, but were blocked by the horrible silhouette that filled the doorway.
“Professor!” Marsh yelled. “The tower!”
They ran through down the aisle toward the alcove that composed the base of the bell tower. Marsh, running ahead of the professor, slammed into the front door only to be reminded it was firmly nailed shut and too stout to be forced open.
Quatermass looked back from where they had come to see two creatures stalking them over the church pews. He grabbed the door that separated the alcove from the sanctuary and slammed it shut. “Marsh!” he said and pointed at the narrow stairs that led up into the tower. At that moment something hit the sanctuary door making the wood bulge and crack.
Marsh leapt to the stairs and began to climb. Quatermass, stuffing the grenades into the pockets of his overcoat followed closely behind. Pursued by the sounds of cracking wood, they ran up to a landing where the tower narrowed into a square of stone walls measuring five feet by five feet and the stairs ended at a narrow metal ladder.
Moaning with fear, Marsh scurried up the ladder, the professor at his heels. Finally reaching a trap door, Marsh shoved it open and pushed himself out into the bell room of the tower. There was a final crack as they heard the door below them finally give way. Quickly, Marsh helped the professor up into the open and slammed the trap door shut behind them.
The small room at the top of the bell tower had large open spaces offering an expansive view of the surrounding countryside and Ilkley Moor. A large cast iron bell weighing at least three tons, took up most of the room’s space. Looking down, Marsh saw the exterior walls of the tower were composed of slick stone that offered not even a toehold for escape. They were trapped.
Though breathing heavily from the exertion of the climb, Quatermass struggled to his feet and, much to Marsh’s horror, opened the trap door to look down. Quickly, he slammed the lid down again. “They’re coming up,” he said. “I only see two.” He stumbled against the bell. “Wait a minute,” he said thoughtfully to himself, looking at the bell with great interest.
“Marsh!” he suddenly ordered. “Get over to the far edge of the tower and flatten yourself against the floor.”
“What are you planning on doing?” Marsh asked.
Quatermass pulled a grenade out of his pocket. “I plan on getting us out of here alive.”
Marsh, unable to comprehend what the professor was planning, lay on the floor while Quatermass went to the far side of the bell. Taking only one precious moment to access the situation, Quatermass pulled the pin and jammed the grenade between the bell and the wood bracing which held it suspended. As the professor let go of the grenade, its handle fell away, but still remained firmly jammed in place.
Quatermass practically dove on top of Marsh, and as they saw the trap door on the far side burst open and metallic, black arms grab for purchase, the bell tower was rocked by the explosion of the grenade. Shrapnel sprayed outward, but away from the two men, protected by the bell and its bracing. The wood that held the bell, unable to take the strain of the explosion, cracked and bell suddenly fell to the floor and through it.
Hanging on to the shuddering tower as the bell fell thirty feet to the floor below, Marsh understood the professor’s plan. As it fell, the bell took the creatures with it, scraping them off the side of the bell tower’s interior as easy as a wiper removes rain from a windshield.
* * *
Marsh and Quatermass spent an uncomfortable thirty minutes clinging to the summit of the shattered bell tower. Afterwards, they sat in a military trailer while sipping on steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
“Most of the people had already gotten away,” an army officer was telling them. “having fled into the surrounding countryside. Sadly, we found far too many of them in the church crypt, but I can’t go any further as that information has been classified.”
Quatermass simply sighed and stirred his hot chocolate.
“However, I can tell you that it seems there were only four of those things. The townspeople killed one on the moor and another in defense of the pub. Your ingenious method of using the bell took out the other two. It seems we’ve seen the last of them.”
Quatermass shrugged. “I’m afraid that’s not true,” he replied. The officer and Marsh blinked at him owlishly.
“What do you mean, sir?” Marsh asked.
“That craft we saw on the moor was not equipped for space flight,” the professor said, looking into his cup. “It was meant for entry into our atmosphere only. And it was designed for a one-way trip.”
Marsh swallowed hard.
“Our examination of the alien bodies will tell us much, but not what I firmly believe is the truth. Whatever sent those creatures to us, believed them to be expendable. I believe those creatures were sent here to test us.” Quatermass drained the last of his cup and stood up.
“Let’s go, Marsh. I think we may have a full-scale invasion to prepare for.”
~ The End ~