A modern retelling
(based upon the story written by Nigel Kneale)
By Steve Johnson
Nigel Kneale is one of my
most admired writers. His scripts are intriguing and exciting, from the first Quatermass Experiment to The
Stone Tape to the apocalyptic Quatermass. He utilises
science fiction conventions to tell stories that please fans of
other genres. He has ghosts, demons, aliens and corrupt government
in equal measure.
Of all of his treatments, my personal favourite is Quatermass and the Pit. This was first broadcast on the BBC as a six-part serial in 1958 and remade as a motion picture by the Hammer studio in 1967. My treatment below is largely based around the movie. I have brought the timeframe forward to the present day, as I believe that the main plot of the script is as relevant now as it was almost fifty years ago.
I have written it in the present tense, leading the reader through the scenes and describing the action as it happens. I have used many of the same characters, but changed one or two, notably Captain Potter has become Detective Inspector Potter, and added names to some. Going against traditional treatment conventions, I have several lines of dialogue. I have included these as they were key lines in the original story and I felt they conveyed the gravitas of the scenes they are in more than I could describe. I have also decided not to split the story into acts (beginning, middle and end), as I feel it flows quite well as it stands.
Of course, I could not hope to even come close to Kneale's quality of writing, but I enjoyed writing the treatment so much that I just wanted to share it. Perhaps I will expand it to a full script one day.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
We begin on Hobbs Lane in London. A modern street nameplate is accompanied below by an old one with the spelling ‘Hob’s Lane’. We pan down and as the street itself is revealed, we notice that almost every lamppost has bunches of dried, withered flowers both fastened to them and surrounding their bases, some accompanied by faded photographs of lost loved ones, young and old.
On one side of the road are rows of derelict, terraced houses, their windows smashed or boarded-up with graffiti-covered wood. They appear to have been vacant for decades. On the other side, a pub stands on the corner, its exterior covered with grime and many of its windows either bricked-up or protected by heavy, steel mesh. It is open and an angry-looking young man stands outside, his tattooed arms exposed, despite the air being cold.
Beside the pub is a new, large building, appearing oddly out of place, with its gleaming, glass frontage and shiny, brass nameplate identifying it as the new London headquarters of the ‘United Nations Humanitarian Relief Fund’ – ‘Opening Soon’ reads another sign pasted onto the wall below. To the right of the main entrance, a ramp descends down into a large, underground parking facility, watched over by a bored-looking, middle-aged guard in a small booth. Behind it stands a huge gantry crane, towering above the ten-storey office block.
Next to the new building is the shabby façade of the Hobbs Lane Underground Station. Hundreds of people fill the street, going about their businesses, both inside and outside the busy Tube station.
A white Ford Transit van pulls into the lane and makes its way to the UN building ramp. Two men, wearing black balaclavas and goggles that completely obscure their features, are in the front of the van. They stop by the security booth and shoot the guard with a silenced pistol through the open window. As the man slumps back, the driver glances in his mirror and smiles beneath the mask as nobody on the bustling street appears to notice what has just taken place. He reaches out of the van and hits the button in the booth that raises the barrier. The van slowly rolls into the darkness below and the barrier drops behind, barring any other vehicles from entering.
The van pulls up and the two men quickly exit, heading to the back doors and flinging them open to reveal two more similarly-attired men. Three of the team begin pulling heavy cases out of the van, while the fourth, under orders from the driver, scouts the car park for anybody that might witness their actions.
He creeps into the shadows, peering between the few cars and vans parked in the subterranean lot. The small, automatic machine pistol he wields glints menacingly in the low lighting. Behind him, his comrades set about their work with quiet confidence, affixing dozens of boxes to several of the huge support pillars that keep the building above them upright. The masked sentry reaches the back wall of the car park and is about to turn to report back to his superior when a movement causes him to whirl. Flicking on the flashlight he has pulled from his belt, he trains it in the direction of the motion he thought he saw.
He catches his breath as a small, shadowy, hunched figure disappears into the dark shadows at the back of the parking lot. He attempts to follow it with his torch, but it has vanished, seemingly melting into the wall where the darkness had been. He curses under his breath, a barely-audible exclamation of fear, and turns to head back to his colleagues. Far below, a Tube train thunders through the station, causing the concrete foundations to tremble slightly. When the rumbling fades, though, the trembling continues, accompanied by a low, thrumming sound that the man can feel throughout his entire body. Then it has passed and he shakes his head, again cursing.
He returns to his team and, in a Cockney accent, informs his leader that they are alone, but he wants to get the hell out. The driver laughs and calls him a derogatory name. The other three men approach and more Cockney accents are exchanged, telling the driver that all the charges are set. The driver, stilling laughing, tells them of the sentry’s fears and they, too, begin to poke fun at him.
Without thinking, the sentry raises his weapon and guns down all of his comrades. As they drop to the concrete floor, he realises what he has done and pulls off his balaclava, revealing a young, white man with sandy blond hair. He checks his wristwatch, drops his weapon and races from the underground car park.
Seconds after his departure, massive explosions rip through the lot, the charges doing their work and turning the support pillars of the new building to dust. The building collapses in on itself, disappearing in a huge plume of smoke and debris. Unfortunate commuters on the street are killed instantly by flying shards of glass and high-velocity projectiles from the collapsing structure. Within seconds all that remains is a pile of shattered steel and concrete and a deathly quiet falls on Hobbs Lane, soon to be interrupted by the wailing sirens of the approaching emergency services.
A BBC newsreader tells us that six weeks have passed since the terrorist bombing of the new United Nations Humanitarian Relief Fund building, in which a hundred and seventeen people lost their lives. The Anti-Terrorist Branch is confident that Middle Eastern groups were behind the plot and have made several arrests. Most of the wreckage of the building has been removed and civilian engineering consultants are now assisting in the excavation of the foundations that were severely damaged in the blast.
Where a ten-storey building once stood is now a huge hole in the ground, surrounded by a high fence of wood, topped with barbed wire, to deter the curious. Detective Inspector Potter of Scotland Yard stands with arms folded, surveying the work going on below. He is an honest, genuine police officer, in his mid-thirties, with keen eyes and a curious nature. Now he is looking at the huge crater gouged by the plastic explosives. The deep foundations of the building have been completely pulverised for a hundred feet in all directions, exposing the damp clay beneath. Structural engineers are busy working in the pit, gathering buckets of material and feeding it onto a long conveyor belt that leads up to more workers beside a small hut. They sift through the debris for evidence, under the watchful eyes of Potter’s men.
Suddenly a cry emanates from the crater and Potter hastily runs down the ramp to where a man is pointing to something embedded in the clay on the far side of the depression. Potter recognizes it immediately as part of a deformed, human skull. Carefully, he plucks it out of the wall and turns it over in his hands. It is a fossil, completely petrified. Police Sergeant Ellis joins him, an older, uniformed bobby, assigned to Potter’s team because of his familiarity with the area – he was born and raised only a street away from Hobbs Lane. Potter smiles and tells Ellis that he knows a man at the Natural History Museum that would love to see this fossil. The sergeant smiles in return, then notices something in the hole where the skull had rested – something dark and smooth. He points it out to Potter and the detective orders the engineer to clear away more of the clay.
Moments later, we see what appears to be part of a cylindrical object, buried deep in the mud. Its surface is smooth and intensely black, hardly reflecting any light at all. Potter asks Ellis what he thinks and, after rejecting ideas of water mains or sewage pipes, the old sergeant suggests it might be an unexploded bomb from World War II.
Potter swears under his breath. The Bomb Squad will have to be called in to deal with this.
In a nondescript room in Whitehall, Professor Bernard Quatermass is arguing intensely with the Minister of Defence. The MoD has decided that, given the current world climate, his rocket group should be absorbed by the ministry. Quatermass, a renowned scientist of about fifty years of age, disagrees, citing that it was a civilian operation and that he had guarantees from the former Prime Minister that it would remain so. He is informed that PMs change and the new man at Number 10 feels that the rocket group has produced little reward for the billions of taxpayers’ pounds that have been poured into it. The professor argues that his project managed to put British astronauts into space for the very first time, but the minister reminds him that this sole achievement was marred by the tragedy that left the entire crew and several civilians dead. No, the rocket group would become a military project, still headed by Quatermass, but co-led by Colonel Breen, the MoD’s foremost expert on military rockets. Unless, that is, he wants to resign from his position. The professor is furious, but the minister walks out before he can do or say anything.
Breen consoles Quatermass and assures him that they will make a good team. The professor tells him that he has no intention of resigning. Breen, a typical army officer of about the same age as Quatermass, but with less hair, smiles and explains that martyrdom is not Quatermass’ style. Perhaps they could have dinner to smooth things over? The professor grudgingly accepts the invitation.
A male secretary enters the room and hands Breen a piece of paper. He curses and explains to Quatermass that dinner will have to wait. It appears his expertise is required elsewhere. An unknown Nazi weapon has been unearthed on Hobbs Lane and the Bomb Squad are unable to identify it. Quatermass says he will tag along and this time it is Breen that must grudgingly accept.
By the time they reach the Hobbs Lane pit, the entire upper surface of the object has been revealed. Quatermass is pleased to see his old friend, anthropologist Dr Mathew Roney. They shake hands and Roney shows Quatermass the skull found by Potter and several other bones that were unearthed as the cylinder was cleared of clay. Most of the remains are smashed and in pieces, but Roney estimates that these early humans probably stood only about three or four feet in height.
Quatermass notices the abnormalities in the skull, the large brain pan is inconsistent with the more primitive features present, such as the protruding eyebrow ridges. Roney agrees and explains to the professor that the layer of clay in which the remains were found could be as old as five million years. Quatermass is astonished.
Breen is in conversation with Captain Cleghorn, the CO of the squad despatched to deal with the ‘bomb’. Quatermass joins them and comments that the dark surface and lack of airfoils suggest that this is not a German V-weapon. Breen suggests that the Nazis cooked up some weird stuff during the war, things we couldn’t imagine. Cleghorn explains that he has examined the exposed section and found that it was not magnetic and that no working internal mechanisms could be heard through the stethoscope. It had also foiled any attempts to burn through it and the diamond drills they had used had been useless in leaving even the tiniest of scratches on the surface of the cylinder.
One of the soldiers clearing the cylinder calls out, explaining he has found more bones. Roney rushes forward, almost knocking Breen off his feet. Another skull peers out of the clay, this time in a cavity inside the unknown device. Roney digs it out, gleefully announcing that it is almost intact. Quatermass cannot believe his ears. He looks to the cavity from where the skull had come and asks how it might have remained so well-preserved, when all the other remains were badly damaged. Roney matter-of-factly suggests that it was protected because it was inside the cylinder.
Then it dawns on him what he has just said. “That’s no bomb! What on earth is it?” he exclaims.
Breen informs Quatermass that he is going to hang around for a few days until the entire cylinder has been cleared and he can get a good look at it. The professor has also decided to stick around.
Potter is somewhat angry that this diversion is seriously hampering his investigation. Breen snaps that he will just have to live with it for a few days. Both Quatermass and Roney seem to notice that tempers fray easily in close proximity to the cylinder.
Quatermass helps Roney gather up the fossils and they take them back to his rooms at the Natural History Museum. While there, Quatermass telephones his assistant at the rocket group and orders him to get to London as quickly as possible and to bring the particle detector with him, as well as any other equipment he might need. When asked what that might be, the professor tells him to use his imagination. The professor and the doctor discuss, briefly, the ramifications of what they suspect – that the cylinder in the pit is five million years old. Also, why was the skull of a primitive anthropoid inside the object? It almost beggars belief, they agree.
As Roney sets about dating the relics more accurately, Quatermass introduces himself to the anthropologist’s assistant, Barbara Judd. She is a young woman in her late twenties and, according to Roney, too damn good at her job. Quatermass has decided to return to Hobbs Lane and Roney suggests that Barbara go with him in case the Bomb Squad unearths any more bones. Barbara gathers up a folder filled with papers and follows the professor out of the door
The sun is setting and Cleghorn’s men are still hard at work when Quatermass and Barbara arrive. A good deal more of the cylinder has been revealed. It is, indeed, a cylinder, completely smooth and pure black from one end to the other. The only blemish on its surface is the gaping, perfectly circular hole where the skull was found.
Something occurs to Quatermass and he asks one of the structural engineers if it was possible for a ‘missile’ of this size to completely bury itself without leaving a visible sign of entry into the ground. The man muses about this and eventually admits that it would be unlikely, but in his many years of poking around in the ground, he has seen some pretty strange stuff, so he could not rule it out entirely.
Sergeant Ellis overhears the conversation and takes Quatermass to one side. He tells him that his parents used to tell him about what went on during the war. Although much of London was hit by Nazi V-weapons, from V-1 Doodlebugs to V-2 rockets, all that fell on Hobbs Lane were a couple of incendiary bombs. He had heard the story enough times to be certain it was accurate. He also explains that casualties were at a minimum, because the houses on the street were empty to begin with. Breen overhears and suggests that they were evacuated. Ellis disagrees and tells Quatermass that the houses had been empty for many years before the war. “Some kind of scare,” he says. “Strange noises, things moving about by themselves, even things been seen.”
Quatermass snorts at tales of ghosts and ghouls, but decides to take a look at the derelict houses over the road. He climbs out of the pit and, along with Ellis and Barbara, makes his way to the foreboding, dark-windowed buildings across the way. As they go, Barbara produces the folder from her bag and leafs through it. She explains that while Roney was here, she got all the archive files she could about Hobbs Lane. She pulls one out and reads it aloud to Quatermass.
“May 19th, 1927 – Work on the new Underground Station at Hobbs Lane is halted when workers refuse to enter the site after claiming to have seen a ghostly figure walk through a wall. One worker, a Mr Parker, said, “The figure was small, like a hideous dwarf.”
Quatermass finds the report interesting, but dismisses it as unscientific.
Finding a back door to one of the houses open, one that directly overlooks the bomb crater, they enter and Ellis flicks on his flashlight. Quatermass makes his way to the front of the house, carefully avoiding the broken floorboards, filthy mattresses and discarded hypodermic needles. He peers out of a broken window to see the banks of powerful lights burst into life around the pit.
Ellis explains how as kids, he and his friends would see how long they could stay alone in these houses. He admitted to not winning any of those competitions. Barbara admits that the houses have ‘a bad feeling’ about them and Quatermass casts her a rebuking glance.
Then he notices long, deep scratches on one of the walls and the inside of one of the inner doors. He wonders what might have caused those. A piece of plaster falls to the ground and Ellis almost jumps out of his skin. He is visibly terrified and splutters that ‘kids or druggies’ did them. Then he rushes out of the dwelling. Barbara goes after him to make sure that he is okay and Quatermass begins to follow. Then he catches a movement out of the corner of his eye and whips his head round just to see a dark, hunched form step out of the light and back into the shadows. The professor investigates, scientific curiosity overcoming any fear he might feel, but finds nothing.
He rejoins Barbara and Ellis outside and the sergeant apologises for losing his cool inside. Quatermass assures him that no apology is necessary and the policeman returns to the dig site. Barbara glances up at the street nameplate on the wall of the house, noting that the spelling has changed – Hob’s Lane has become Hobbs Lane. She explains that the name was changed in honour of Jack Hobbs, an English cricketer who died in 1963. The old spelling is what intrigues her:
“Hob was once a name for the Devil,” she whispers.
The couple follow Ellis back across the road and walk down the ramp into the excavation. The interior of the cylinder has now been cleared and a man is climbing out, covered from head to toe in thick clay. As he steps off the short ladder that leads up to the opening, a scream comes from inside. He quickly climbs back inside and drags his friend out. The man, called West, is a gibbering wreck. Quatermass, Breen and Potter rush down to the cylinder. Cleghorn asks what happened and West blubbers that he saw a figure inside the cylinder. “It walked through the wall!” he shrieks. The men help him up to the hut, where Barbara is waiting with a hip flask filled with brandy. She explains that she always carries one on digs to fend off the cold. Quatermass smiles.
West takes a gulp of the liquor and almost gags as it burns his throat. Potter again asks what he saw exactly. He says it was a short figure, kind of hunched.
“The figure was small, like a hideous dwarf,” whispers Barbara.
“That’s it!” says West. “How did you know?”
Quatermass glances up at the derelict house, its upper storey peering over the top of the fence. He advises that West be sent on sick leave and that he speak to none of the other men. Cleghorn agrees and helps the terrified sapper out of the dig site.
Breen snorts with derision. Dwarfs? Ghosts? “That man doesn’t need a sick note. He needs a straight-jacket!” Quatermass finds it difficult to control his temper and almost strikes the army officer. Potter steps in and defuses the tension. He suggests that Breen might contact Whitehall and ask for any and all information on classified Nazi weapons, while he, Quatermass and Barbara will return to Roney’s laboratory at the museum.
When they exit the excavation, Quatermass thanks the policeman for intervening when he did, explaining that he almost punched Breen. He could not help himself. It was as though an external force were at work, urging him to act out the act of violence.
Potter explains that fights have been breaking out all day in the pit, with men who have served together for years suddenly brawling over nothing. He thinks the cylinder is something to do with it, but does not understand why.
At the museum, Barbara, Quatermass and Potter pore over the files and news clippings that she has amassed. It seems that the Hobbs Lane site has had more than its fair share of tragedy over the centuries, dating back to the earliest Roman records. The Normans wrote that the region was infested with unclean spirits and abandoned an attempt to build a fort on the site when terrifying noises began to emanate from the ground. In the winter of 1341, an ‘outbreak of evil at Hobbs Lane’ was recorded. ‘Imps, demons and foul noises did sorely afflict the charcoal burners who had been sent there’. In September of 1763, alarming noises and spectral appearances terrified the locals during the digging of a well. One man asserted that ‘he had often spied the apparition of a hideous goblin and sometimes several.’ In 1927, the Tube station was built, with the associated ‘ghost stories’. In 1967, a riot broke out on Hobbs Lane, after protestors demonstrated against the demolition of a church that had stood where the UN building was later built. Then, now, things are seen when a building is brought down by terrorist bombs and the forensic excavation that followed.
They all agreed that these incidents coincided with disturbances of the ground: A Norman fort being built, charcoal burners felling trees, the digging of a well, the building of the Underground station etc.
How this tied in with the cylinder was unclear, however, save for its vicinity.
Just then Quatermass’ assistants, led by Jerry Watson, burst in, hauling boxes and crates of equipment. Roney enters and is somewhat perturbed by the new arrivals. His is an anthropology department, not the Jet Propulsion Laboratory! The professor insists that they’ll have everything out of the way shortly. He opens one crate and finds an odd piece of equipment. It is a strange, helmet-shaped contraption, with all sorts of wires sticking out of the back. Quatermass asks why the heck Jerry brought the experimental thought-controlled flight system apparatus. The reply comes that he was told to use his imagination. The professor harrumphs and selects the devices he might need at the dig site – including the helmet.
Roney confirms that the bones do indeed date from about five million years ago and that the soil above the cylinder is undiluted i.e. the cylinder has also been there for that length of time too! Quatermass asks if the hominids are of this Earth and is visibly disappointed when Roney replies that they are. They fit into the known pattern of human development. The only extraordinary thing about them is the large size of the cranium.
The next morning, Quatermass and his team arrive at Hobbs Lane. They find Breen’s squad still there, the men all appearing tired and drawn. The cylinder is now completely exposed, sitting, dark and enigmatic at the far side of the pit. The colonel is incredibly tetchy and is irked that a bunch of ‘rocket boffins’ are trying to take over his operation. As his assistants set up their equipment, Quatermass attempts to calm him down, explaining that his equipment could find out what the cylinder is made from and if it is still active.
It soon becomes clear that the cylinder is not as inert as previously thought. The technical gizmos show that a steady stream of unknown particles are emanating from every surface of the object. The closest analogy that Jerry can come up with is that it is emitting pheromones. Quatermass realises that this may be closer to the truth than at first thought. Pheromones act on the behaviour of people and animals, making them aggressive or docile, lustful or indifferent. This might explain the fights that have broken out recently, he says. It would also account for the area’s long and tragic history.
One of the assistants looks up from a scope and announces that the cylinder has a sealed compartment at one end. Breen acknowledges that he suspected as much and that a contractor with an industrial borazon drill was on the way to attempt access to the compartment.
While they wait, Quatermass checks on his team and they find that the hull of the cylinder is generating a very low-level infrasonic field. They note that the field grows in strength significantly when somebody approaches it or when a Tube train rumbles beneath them. Quatermass suggests that this infrasound could be the catalyst that causes people to see the apparitions and add to the feelings of aggression generated by the pheromones. Infrasound can create sensations of fear and this, coupled with aggression, can be a dangerous cocktail. What cannot be explained, though, is why the apparitions are always the same – small, dwarf-like figures. Unless the infrasonic field sparks a dormant faculty in the human brain allowing them to briefly glimpse other realities or times long past, or pull them closer to our own.
Breen shows markings on the wall of the sealed compartment. Quatermass immediately recognizes the symbols as being pentagrams, cabbalistic forms used in witchcraft. The colonel snorts at such fanciful notions.
The contractor, a jaunty man called Sladden, arrives and, under orders from Breen, sets his equipment up inside the cylinder. He boasts that his borazon drill can cut through anything.
“This bloke got locked in a bank safe once, but I got him out. No problem. That was a secret job, too, like this one.”
“Then I'm glad you don’t talk about it!” groans Breen in reply.
Quatermass climbs inside the hull and hunkers down beside Breen and Sladden, who greets him jovially. Sladden starts up his drill and presses it against the wall of the sealed compartment. Almost immediately, the entire cylinder begins to rumble and a terrifying shriek fills the air. A cacophony of rising and falling wailing sounds fill the pit, causing everybody to clasp their hands to their ears. Sladden stops his drill and the sounds cease. There is not even a mark on the wall. Quatermass suggests he try again.
Again, everybody is almost overcome by the terrible sounds emanating from the very fabric of the hull. One more attempt has them flinging themselves from the cylinder, retching and wheezing on the cold, damp mud outside.
Cleghorn tells them that all hell was let loose outside, with cables and anything that was not fastened down flying through the air. He is visibly shaken by the experience, as is everybody present.
Sladden says he is ready for another go and Breen commends him. The contractor climbs inside the cylinder and immediately pokes his head back out, telling the colonel and Quatermass to come and look.
What they find is startling. A perfectly circular hole can be seen in the exact centre of the wall. The edges, while smooth, seem slightly melted, as though great heat has been applied. Sladden informs his employers that his drill did not make that hole. He could not even make a mark on the surface. Also, his drill bit is much smaller than the calibre of the hole now staring darkly at them.
Breen orders Sladden out and calls out to Cleghorn to get a man inside with a crowbar. Perhaps now they could force a way into the compartment. Quatermass is doubtful. He peeks into the hole and immediately withdraws his head, gasping with astonishment. He asks Breen to look and the colonel is as surprised as the professor. Quatermass asks him to describe what he saw. “It looks like an eye,” whispers the army officer.
Suddenly, electricity surges through the hull, somehow missing the two men and focussing on the hole. As they watch blue-white lights play across the wall, highlighting the pentagrams. Then, in a flash of pure, white light that has the men throwing their arms across their faces, the wall vanishes to reveal the compartment beyond.
Hanging in bizarre, organic-looking frames are three, small, insect-like creatures. Unmoving, apparently dead, their multi-faceted eyes glint malevolently in the half-gloom. All around them hang tendrils that connect to the hull of the cylinder.
“My God!” says Quatermass. He shouts out of the hull, “Jerry! Get Roney down here now! And tell him to bring all the organic preservatives he can carry.”
Breen orders Cleghorn to send a car for the anthropologist and then asks what he is looking at and Quatermass suggests that these three beings are the actual pilots of the cylinder.
“You’re not serious!” exclaims Breen. “I knew you were building up to something, but now I’ve heard it all. I suppose you’re going to say they’re Martians.”
Quatermass smiles, but says nothing.
One of the creatures drops out of its frame and lands with a squelch on the floor, hideous, green fluid oozing from between the joints of its carapace. Quatermass explains that they have been sealed in the compartment for five million years, completely free from earthly germs and bacteria. Now, filthy London air is pouring in, eating away at them. He calls for sandbags and soon has the fallen creature on a table inside the hut.
Roney and Barbara arrive with jars of yellow liquids, large, plastic bags that can be sealed airtight and aerosol spray cans. Quatermass shows them the creature in the hut and, after the shock has worn off, Roney asks his assistant to use the aerosol spray to seal the outer exoskeleton. He then follows the professor to the hull and they extract the two remaining insects. Roney seals them in the plastic bags, accidentally breaking off one of the creature’s legs in the process. At least the airtight bags will help slow down their deterioration, he explains.
Soon, the insects are safely in Roney’s lab. His staff set about dissecting and preserving two of the creatures, while the third, sealed by the aerosol plastic spray, is mounted on a stand.
Quatermass admires its hideous face. Two horns protrude above the multi-lensed eyes, while attached to the jointed body are three legs below two slender arms that terminate in delicate finger-like structures.
“Where are they from, I wonder?” asks Roney.
“Breen mentioned Mars,” smiles the professor.
“That’s not too much of a stretch, old boy,” replies the anthropologist. “Mars may be dead now, but five million years ago, it could have had life.”
Quatermass agrees that it may have been possible, as water appears to have flowed on the Red Planet until relatively recently. A hardy, intelligent insect species could have found a way to survive the increasingly harsh conditions…
“It’s a name that has almost been worn out before something came along to claim it. Are we looking at a Martian?”
Detective Inspector Potter is sitting in his office, elbows on the desk and his head resting in his hands. He looks infinitely bored. Detective Sergeant Savile enters the room and drops a video cassette onto the desk in front of his boss. Potter asks what it is and is told that it is CCTV footage rescued from the rubble of the UNHRF building. It was found by the forensic team a couple of days earlier, just before the ‘bomb’ was found, albeit in a smashed case and digitally transferred to a fresh cassette.
Potter slaps the tape into his VCR player and begins to watch footage of the front of the UN building. We see grainy, colour images, taken in one second increments, of commuters milling back and forth. Then a white van pulls up to the security booth at the top of the ramp leading to the underground car park. Potter and Savile react with shock when they see the guard shot at point-blank range. Nobody on the busy street reacts. Potter mentions that this is typical of today’s society. Dozens of potential witnesses and nobody sees a thing.
The van slips into the car park. Several minutes later, a man runs out of the parking lot and quickly melts into the crowd. Then the camera judders and a huge cloud of dust begins to rise, then nothing but static as the camera is destroyed when the entire building collapses.
Potter rewinds the tape and pauses on the fleeing man. He squints at the screen, noticing his white skin and shock of blond hair.
“That does not look like a Middle Eastern terrorist to me!” he says. “Savile, get a blow up and enhancement of this shot. I want that man found.”
Quatermass and Roney have made a decision and by the time the evening papers went to press, a new front page headline adorned most of them: ‘SPACE MACHINE FOUND!’ with the subheading: ‘Monster Insects Found Inside Flying Saucer’
Called back to Whitehall, Quatermass expects and gets pilloried for his actions. The Minister of Defence is furious and makes this clear in no uncertain terms. How dare the professor make a public statement of this magnitude without authorization! Quatermass argues that the people have a right to know. The minister responds that the voters elect their officials to make those kinds of decisions for them, not some swivel-eyed loony in a lab coat. Thankfully for the ministry, Breen has a more logical explanation. Despite Quatermass’ protestations, he guarantees that the cylinder is a Nazi V-weapon from World War II and the insects nothing more than elaborate props, designed to create this kind of panic. He claims that German experts are on hand to confirm his theory. Quatermass insists that Roney’s analyses clearly show that the cylinder is not a modern creation, but has lain exactly where it is for millions of years. Why can’t they see what is in front of them?
His arguments fall on deaf ears and the minister tells him that a retraction will be published, along with Breen’s explanation and Quatermass’ acquiescence to ‘the truth’. The professor seethes that he will sign no such retraction, but is told that if he does not, he will lose his position as head of the rocket group, along with any pension he might have received.
Potter’s investigations seem to have come to a dead end. Despite a clear image of the bomber’s face, all attempts to identify him have failed. Advanced feature recognition software has offered up several possible people, but all have clear alibis and, more importantly, no motive for being a part of such an attack. Even calls to Interpol and the FBI have come to nothing. It’s as though the man never existed.
“You know, Savile, it’s at times like these that those wacko conspiracy theories sound plausible.” He replays the tape yet again. “Look at the way he moves. The calm indifference he conveys, blending into the crowd, yet quickly working his way through to get as far away as possible. He was well-trained and not by some fundamentalist in a cave in Iraq or Afghanistan. I bet my entire salary that he’s Special Forces.”
“It’s possible he was killed in the explosion, guv,” suggests the sergeant. "Most of the people in this video are still missing, I reckon.”
“No, Savile. He’s out there somewhere. It’s time for me to call in a big favour.” He reaches for his phone. “Go get a coffee for half an hour, Savile.”
The next morning, Potter and Savile are sitting in an unmarked police car outside a rundown row of houses that have been converted into flats. Potter explains that his source has told him that the man they are looking for is hiding in the uppermost apartment, a safe house for MI5. The implications for this are staggering, suggesting that British forces were involved in the terrorist bombing, perhaps even arranging it. Savile suggests that the man may have been working undercover inside the gang, but Potter remarks that he doubted Middle Eastern terrorists would easily accept a white, blond-haired man into their major operations.
They climb out of the car and walk up the steps to the front door. Potter tries the handle and finds that it opens easily, although creakily. They slowly mount the stairs and make their way to the third storey, the uppermost floor. A single door is at the top of the steps. Potter raps on it, but there is no reply. He knocks again, but still no answer. He tries the handle, but it is locked. He steps back and gives the door a hefty kick, sending the door crashing inwards, ripped from its rotten and rusty hinges. He notes that it was bolted from the inside. Pulling out his pistol, he peeks inside, then happy that nobody is going to attack him, steps through.
The flat is a mess. Cushions are ripped and cupboards and drawers are flung open, their contents emptied onto the floor. The two men head for the first door on their right. It is the bedroom and is empty. The next, and only other, door opens on squeaking hinges. It is the bathroom. Savile gags at the smell and covers his mouth with his left sleeve. Potter enters and finds the man from the CCTV footage lying naked in the bath, blood-red water around him and his wrists slashed. He feels the water, wiping his fingers afterwards, leaving his handkerchief bloody. It is still warm, meaning this happened recently, probably barely an hour before their arrival.
“Damn!” shouts Potter.
That afternoon, Quatermass is back at the excavation. He is sullen and angry, having been forced to toe the party line. Cleghorn’s bomb squad are packing their gear away and Sladden is also present, wondering if his services are still required, yet hanging around in an effort to boost his ‘hourly rate’ pay.
Jerry Watson has made an intriguing discovery and calls Quatermass over to the cylinder. He explains that he has managed to connect the thought-controlled flight system helmet to the tendrils that are still hanging from the compartment in which the arthropods were found. What’s more, he’s getting data received on his computer. Pulling out a laptop, he shows Quatermass screen after screen of binary code and insists that it has come directly from the cylinder.
The professor can hardly believe it. If the helmet can interface with the hull, he wonders what would happen if a person wore the helmet whilst connected to the tendrils. Jerry offers to volunteer, but Quatermass insists that he will be the one to try. It may even be dangerous. If, as he believes, that the cylinder itself is partially organic, then it might view an unknown connection as some form of viral attack and take action to protect itself. Watson had not thought of this and suggests that they delay any attempt until more data is acquired.
Quatermass explains that the cylinder will soon be moved out of the pit and probably shipped off to some top secret location. This will be their only chance to learn the truth.
Watson agrees reluctantly and promises to record any data on his computer. Quatermass places the strange helmet on his head and concentrates. Slowly the lighting level in the compartment begins to rise and a low, guttural hum can be both heard and felt through the floor. Beads of sweat appear on the professor’s face and his teeth begin to grate audibly. The humming grows to a growl and then to a deafening roar. The cylinder appears to be convulsing, yet it remains static in the pit. Quatermass opens his mouth to scream, but no sound emerges. His eyes roll back in his head and his hands begin to claw at his face.
Jerry rips the helmet from his friend’s head and everything becomes still once more. The professor is panting, his head lolling forward. He is exhausted.
“My God, Jerry. I saw them. I saw them! Millions of them, on Mars and then here!” He grabs Jerry’s collar. “They invaded, Jerry and almost wiped us out!”
“Professor, get a grip!”
Eventually Quatermass calms down and Jerry confirms that he got everything on the computer. It is in binary code, but should not take too long to translate, although the translation may appear as gibberish, depending on what was recorded.
As they climb out of the hull, Breen appears and asks them what the hell is going on. Quatermass explains what he saw, but the colonel snorts with derision and orders them off the site.
As the scientists leave, Sladden asks if he can pack his gear away. Breen thought that he had left hours ago and permits him to pack up his stuff. He will, of course, be paid for his time. Happy to hear that, Sladden sets about dismantling his drill, whistling as he does so. The Bomb Squad have now departed and Sladden is now alone in the pit. The sun is setting rapidly and he has trouble seeing in the gloomy interior of the cylinder.
Suddenly he becomes nervous, glancing around, unsure if he is seeing shapes moving in the dark recesses of the hull. He decides to get on with his work and begins using a spanner on the arm of his drilling rig.
All hell breaks loose in the cylinder. Cables begin flying around, along with Sladden’s tools. A deafening, screaming howl eclipses all other sounds. His face contorts into a terrible grimace and he begins convulsing, as though being jolted by electricity. He stumbles from the cylinder and everything that is not fastened down whirls around him, as though he is the centre of some psychokinetic tornado. Then he begins to hop up the ramp out of the pit, his arms pulled into his body and his hands held like a preying mantis in front of him. Sladden hops out of the excavation, past two surprised policemen, and disappears into the darkening London streets.
He continues down deserted backstreets, rubbish bins erupting their contents into the air in his wake, and finds himself approaching a mobile snack bar. He slumps against the counter and pleads for help, but his voice is drowned out by the cacophonous howling that surrounds him. Paper plates, plastic cutlery and other utensils explode into the air, terrifying the people in the van and their patrons outside. Sladden then lurches off again and an eerie quiet descends upon the devastated snack bar.
The contractor falls to his knees outside the gate of an old church. The church itself is in darkness, but lights are on at the rectory next door. He staggers up the path, falling onto the gravel close to the front door. As he lies there, the howling grows louder once more and the gravel stones begin whipping up around his body, cutting his skin and making him scream in pain. The front door opens and a shadow falls across him. He looks up into the eyes of an aged vicar and pleads for sanctuary. The rector approaches, oblivious to the maelstrom surrounding Sladden and offers out his hand. The howling subsides as Sladden gratefully takes the holy man’s hand.
In Roney’s lab, Jerry has downloaded the data from his laptop into a more powerful computer and announces to Quatermass, Roney and Barbara that the decoding is complete. He says that the data translated as a highly compressed visual record – a series of still images that, when viewed in rapid succession, form a moving picture. He has set up a program to convert the stills into a video file and Quatermass requests to see it.
What flickers onto the computer screen amazes everybody in the room. Stuttering and often out-of-focus, the video depicts millions of the arthropods (as Roney prefers to call them) marching across the surface of a dying, red world. Meteorites are striking in the distance, many of them exploding with tremendous force. The creatures are herding small, hunched humanoids into thousands of cylinders, identical to the one in Hobbs Lane. Roney remarks that they are the same species as the remains found at the excavation.
The image flickers and we see a representation of the cylinders leaving Mars and heading for Earth. Barbara’s hand goes to her mouth.
“They landed everywhere,” she says.
Indeed, a map of our planet appears as if to confirm her statement, with red dots indicating landing sites. Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East and North Africa and Far East Asia hold the largest concentrations of dots, but it was truly a global invasion. Quatermass insists that they must show the video to the Minister of Defence. Nobody disagrees.
Just then the phone rings and Barbara answers it. It is Detective Potter. He is at a church close to Hobbs Lane, where Sladden is in a terrible state. Quatermass tells Roney to set up a meeting with the minister and not to take no for an answer. In the meantime, he and Barbara will go to the church.
Potter is angry. He is angry not just because his investigation into the man he found dead in the bath has collapsed, but because the order causing it to collapse came from his own Chief Inspector. He was told in no uncertain terms that the terrorist cell behind the bombing had been arrested and that the blond-haired man had nothing to do with it. He could not believe what he was hearing. He tried to argue that the man was placed at the scene seconds before the attack, but it was no use. Threatened with demotion, Potter had to drop the case. He had returned to Hobbs Lane on the off-chance that he might find some more clues, but all he found was a site in disarray and two, frightened and confused coppers. They told him what had happened to Sladden and he had set off in pursuit, finding him not long after the vicar of St Mary’s had taken him in.
He explains this briefly to Quatermass, who nods, but has other things to worry about right now. If there is a link between the bombing and the Martian cylinder, he does not see it yet.
Sladden is sitting in the rectory in a large, wooden chair. The vicar hands him a pot of tea. Sladden is shaking so much that he is forced to use both hands to hold the cup steady. The vicar takes Quatermass and Barbara to one side and explains how he found the contractor. He witnessed what was happening around him and came to the conclusion that he had been in contact with spiritual evil.
Quatermass asks Sladden what happened at the excavation. The contractor reacts immediately, crying out, reliving the memories in his head. He describes scenes reminiscent of what the others had seen in Roney’s lab, of scores of the creatures leaping and jumping across a dusty landscape, beneath a dark, purple sky. What differed from the video, however, was that Sladden saw them killing each other. It was a slaughter of genocidal proportions, with only the fittest and strongest surviving to continue with the next generation. As Sladden finishes his story, the room begins to vibrate and the familiar wailing howl begins to rise. Sladden grabs his ears with his hands, dropping the tea on the floor. He begs for ‘them’ to leave him alone. The vicar places a hand on his shoulder and the room calms once more.
“See?” says the rector. “Only spiritual good can overcome this evil force that torments him.”
“I’d say it’s more of a race memory, passed down from our earliest ancestors. Locked away in our brains and only now released, instigating powers of telekinesis that we may all share.” Quatermass’ explanation holds no water with the vicar.
“This is evil, pure and simple,” he says. “It cannot be explained away in scientific terms.”
Quatermass agrees that what is at hand is evil, an evil of unimaginable power, ancient and ingrained. He spies a carving on the wall of the rectory and something occurs to him and he asks Barbara of what the arthropods remind her.
“I don’t know,” she admits. “They are ugly, with those horrible horns and long snouts.” She sees the carving that Quatermass is now standing beside. “Gargoyles, of course.”
“Haven’t you seen the faces of the creatures carved on a thousand walls in dozens of countries? I wonder from where the stonemasons got their ideas?”
He explains that he believes that humanity’s entire history has been influenced, almost subconsciously, by these aliens. Potter appears to understand something also, but decides to keep it to himself for now.
Barbara’s mobile phone rings and she answers it. Roney has arranged a meeting at his laboratory. The minister will be there, along with Breen and a few other government officials. Quatermass is delighted. He asks Sladden if there is anything he can do, but the contractor believes he is safest with the vicar for now. The kindly, old man is happy to care for him. It is his duty, after all, he smiles. Quatermass leaves a number where he can be contacted, as does Potter, and they leave.
The minister is unimpressed by the video of the Martian exodus to Earth. He suggests that it is nothing more than an elaborate computer-generated hoax. Jerry Watson protests, assuring him that the data is available to be analysed at any time, by anybody the minister cares to appoint. The politician does not bite, however, and insists that what he has viewed is not real. Breen agrees, accusing Quatermass of deliberately fabricating the entire incident, from the aliens to the video. Quatermass snaps and punches the colonel square on the jaw before Potter and Roney can restrain him. Breen hisses to Quatermass that he will regret that and goes on to inform him that there will be a press conference at the excavation the following evening, during which time the cylinder will be hoisted out of the pit.
Quatermass insists that they must not move the cylinder until more tests can be conducted. Five million years ago the Earth was invaded, but not by the Martians themselves. They could not survive in our atmosphere, so they instilled their race memories into the primitive, yet intelligent, anthropoids of their nearest neighbour. We are the result of their genetic manipulation. “We are the Martians!”
The government men ignore him and walk out. Quatermass calls them fools. He knows, somehow, that the cylinder is alive and imbued with all of the cold, callous emotion of its creators. He believes it feeds off human emotions, particularly fear and anger, drawing power from these negative emotions and in turn reaching out and manipulating people to create more sustenance for itself. It has remained buried for so long, almost starving to death beneath a thick blanket of clay, that if it were to gorge itself suddenly, God only knows what might happen.
They must somehow get back into the excavation and access the hull once more with the helmet, try and find out exactly how active the thing is.
As they head back to Hobbs Lane, Potter sits beside Quatermass in the back of Roney’s car. He explains that he believes that the military already knew that the cylinder was down there. His source in Whitehall had alluded to something going on at Hobbs Lane before the last General Election. Then a new party had come to power and before the military could react, permission was given to build the UN office block. Quatermass asks if Breen could be in on it and Potter is adamant that he knows more than he is letting on. Quatermass agrees that it is strange that his rocket group would suddenly become part of the military establishment right after the terrorist attack. But why the big deception?
Potter suggests that if the public knew that their own officials had sanctioned the murders of a hundred and seventeen people, there would be a national scandal. It might even force a vote of no confidence in the government and force another election. It all made an insane kind of sense. Of course, Breen would have no idea of what the alien technology was capable. Being of the military mindset, he could only see the short-term technological benefits, notably in terms of weapons.
“Now that weapon just might blow up in their face,” mutters the professor.
They arrive at Hobbs Lane and Detective Inspector Potter explains to the two policemen standing guard at the entrance to the excavation that they are here on official business.
Quickly, Jerry sets up the helmet in the cylinder and this time insists that somebody other than the professor goes through with the experiment. Quatermass grudgingly accedes, recalling the pain of his first attempt. Roney volunteers and quickly dons the helmet.
Nothing seems to happen. There are no sounds from the hull and Roney is completely passive. He cannot sense anything happening. They are just about to remove the device when Jerry cries out. Data is streaming across the computer screen. This time, though, we are not seeing binary code. Somehow, Roney is decoding the data in real time and feeding it onto the laptop’s monitor. Nobody can explain how this can be so. Roney suggests that his brain chemistry is slightly different to everybody else’s. This might be why he has felt none of the aggression or fear associated with close proximity to the cylinder. Somehow he is immune to its effects. Perhaps this immunity also allows his brain to process the data without the clutter of emotions stirred by the alien machine.
“See if you can control what we see,” says Quatermass.
Roney concentrates and a map of the world appears on the laptop. Thousands of red dots appear in a similar fashion to the earlier atlas they had viewed. The anthropologist explains that he thought about the current locations of any active cylinders. Suddenly, red lines begin to connect each of the dots, soon forming a huge, crimson spider web across the screen. Quatermass realises what is happening and yanks the helmet from Roney’s head.
“I fear it may be too late,” he says, watching the web grow more complex as each dot finds its neighbour, then the next and the next. “In our ignorance, we may have awoken a monster. Individually, buried deep under the ground and unconnected, those cylinders may have influenced the emotional states of people close by, much as this one here has over the centuries, but connected and sharing their power, I fear we may have unleashed an apocalypse on the world the like of which has never been seen.” He goes on to suggest that, using their shared power, they could focus on any point on the Earth’s surface and cause the humans present to destroy themselves in much the same way as happened during the Great Purges on Mars.
“That’s right, guv,” says Sladden from the opening in the cylinder. Everybody climbs out to find the contractor accompanied by the vicar, who explains that Sladden insisted on returning here to retrieve his equipment. “The vicar here seems to be the only person that can stop the attacks.”
Reverend Heathcote suggests that he can act as a spiritual lightning rod, a conduit through which good can overpower and dispel evil.
Quatermass is adamant that the press conference should be cancelled and that this cylinder is buried again, even deeper than before. Jerry removes his equipment from the hull and they watch as Sladden dismantles his own tackle with no ill effects. It seems that Heathcote is indeed some form of calming influence on the forces that emanate from the alien craft.
Back at the museum, Roney suggests that the major religions may have arisen to combat the ‘demonic’ forces that issue from these machines. This would explain Heathcote’s abilities, albeit subconscious. It is his faith, transferred to Sladden that does the trick, not any particular supernatural power from God, Allah, Buddha or any other deity. Barbara comments that for all they know, that is exactly where the power comes from to combat these aliens.
Quatermass tries to telephone the minister, but his calls go unaccepted. The press conference would go ahead it seems. Perhaps they could interfere, go public at the conference, let the people decide about what should be done?
Roney is sceptical, but it is their only option at this point.
The following afternoon, a huge crowd of journalists and reporters have gathered at the excavation. Dozens of television crews and their support trucks, with satellite dishes pointing skyward, are present and several huge generators have been brought in to handle the power demands of so many cameras and equipment.
Breen and the Minister of Defence are standing beside the cylinder. It is now swathed in heavy lifting straps, with thick chains reaching up to the gantry crane high above. Breen explains that the ‘V-weapon’ will be loaded onto a truck outside and packed off to the Imperial War Museum. Several of the camera crews have not yet set up their positions and one in particular, on the rim of the pit, above the cylinder, is having problems with a faulty power cable, getting intermittent current. He unplugs it and it drops down, landing on top of the alien machine. He grabs a spare length of cable from his pack and plugs it into the camera, handing the other end to his assistant, whom he orders to take it to the generator outside.
Below them, Breen is preparing for his opening statement and asks any of the reporters if they have any specific questions before they begin.
“I have a question,” thunders one voice. It is Quatermass and he is pushing through the crowd. “Is Colonel Breen a fool or a coward? I know he’s a liar.”
“How dare you…”
“He knew this device was down here all along,” says the professor, turning to the cameras that are swinging towards him. One reporter whispers that they are not live, but is told over his earpiece that they are getting it all on tape. “He knows full well that this is no Nazi weapon.” He turns back to Breen. “Don’t you, colonel?”
The minister interrupts, explaining that Quatermass is tired and should go and get some well-deserved rest. “A long rest.”
Quatermass is suddenly infuriated and has to force himself not to hit the politician. Suddenly there is a brilliant flash from the direction of the cylinder. The faulty power cable has surged and flooded the hull with raw electricity. It begins to glow, its deep black surface growing brighter until it almost hurts to look at it. Ripples of heat pulse outwards, burning through the straps and causing the cylinder to drop heavily to the ground. It rolls down towards the crowd, crushing several people before stopping. Mass panic ensues and the crowd surges up the ramp. Arcs of energy rip through the air from every piece of electrical equipment, scything through the air into the cylinder.
Quatermass is carried on a wave of bodies out of the excavation. The last thing he sees is Breen standing and staring at the cylinder, just a few metres away from its pulsating form, unmoving. The minister tries to pull him away to no avail. He runs with the crowd, but is knocked to the muddy ground and trampled to death beneath a hundred fleeing feet.
Quatermass staggers into Hobbs Lane and looks back at the site. A huge pulse of energy emanates from the pit and he gasps with horror as a huge amorphous form appears in the dark sky above. It is Hob, the Devil, the living image of the Martian arthropods, glowing malevolently, overseeing the carnage that reigns far below.
The professor feels his forehead, as though touched by something. He looks around, seeing not the streets of London, but the arid, dusty landscape of Mars. The rampaging people have transformed in his mind’s eye to hordes of alien insects, attacking and killing each other, destroying any that are different.
He runs forward, sensing that he must join them. Kill the weak! Purge the inferior! Then he is grabbed from behind and pulled into a building. It is the pub on the corner of Hobbs Lane. Quatermass spins round to see Roney staring at him, terrified.
The professor grabs his friend by the throat and begins choking the life out of him. Roney breaks free and staggers backwards. Quatermass looks to a chair and it flings itself across the room, barely missing the doctor.
“Quatermass! Stop!” Bottles and glasses begin flying, smashing on the wall behind Roney. “Bernard! You are Bernard Quatermass! My friend! This is not you doing this. Fight it!”
The objects begin dropping to the floor as the professor repeats the words of his friend. He slumps to the carpet and Roney rushes over.
“I wanted to kill you,” whispers Quatermass. “I could sense that you were different. You had to be destroyed.” He struggles again and Roney fears another onslaught, but it subsides. The professor holds his hand to his forehead. “I can feel it here. Rage. Uncontrollable rage, focussing and directing against you.” He looks around. “Where’s Barbara and Potter?”
Roney tells him that they were separated when the crowds surged. He doesn’t know what has become of them. Quatermass asks if he saw Hob. Roney nods, clearly terrified.
The windows rattle as an explosion from nearby lights up the room. Screams of insane people, mixed with howling animals and more thunderous explosions have turned London into an earthbound Hell.
Potter staggers into a short alleyway, finally free of the mob that had been pursuing him moments earlier. He begins walking towards the opposite end, but finds it blocked by a dozen, staring people. He turns to go back, but finds the opposite end similarly barred. One of the people is Barbara. Potter calls to her, pleads with her to end the madness. She glances at a nearby dustbin. The lid flies off and neatly decapitates the policeman. His body flops to the ground and the mob moves away, calmly, dispassionately about their work.
Quatermass and Roney climb the stairs to the second floor of the public house. Here they find a family, dead, killed by each other or by somebody who has since departed in search of more victims. They pass through the building until they come to a room that looks out over the pit. Far below, the cylinder burns with ever more ferocity. The men can clearly see Breen on his knees, his skin burned from his body, his clothes on fire. Then he falls forward and disintegrates in a shower of sparks and charred flesh.
High above, the glowing entity gloats over the suffering it is causing. Again Quatermass must resist the urge to kill Roney, but he finds it is becoming easier to fight off the incessant voices in his head. Beyond the rooftops they can see that London is ablaze. Fires rage in scenes not experienced since the Blitz.
Roney points to the gantry crane and Quatermass understands.
“Matter to energy. By God, Roney, you’re right.” He looks again to the crane. “If we can thrust enough iron into that thing, its power will have nowhere to go but the ground. It will become earthed.” The ancient stories were correct once more. Iron was used to protect against evil forces for centuries.
The men go back downstairs and peer out of the front door of the pub. The street is empty, the raging mobs having moved on. They head back to the pit, skirting around the edge to the opposite side where the crane stands beyond the fence. Quatermass pulls away a board and they slip through. The crane is in front of them, its horizontal beam achingly close to Hob. It would not take much to shift it into that demonic apparition.
They run as fast as they can to the base of the tower, Roney begins climbing the ladder, but Quatermass is knocked to the ground by an unseen blow. He looks up to see Barbara approaching alone. He yells for Roney to keep going.
The professor rushes towards Roney’s assistant, but she simply looks and he crumples to the ground, as though punched in the stomach. She turns her attention to Roney, who is now halfway up the tower. Quatermass grabs her ankles and she falls to the ground. Using all of his strength, Quatermass tries to restrain her, but she sends him flying as though he were a bug she had flicked from her collar. She gets to her feet and looks up to Roney again. Quatermass grabs a large stone from the mud and throws it at her, hitting her in the centre of the back. She turns and half a dozen stones begin pelting the professor. One strikes his head and he drops, unconscious.
Roney has reached the control booth of the crane. He hopes that there is still power and whoops for joy as the controls respond to his touch. He glances down to see Barbara staring at him and the prone form of his friend.
Glaring at Hob, he pulls a lever and the crane begins to turn towards the demon.
Barbara screams and collapses as the gantry touches the beast. A brilliant flash of incandescence lights up the night sky. Raw power courses through the gantry and Roney can only close his eyes as he is burned to a crisp in an instant.
Quatermass’ eyes flicker open and he sees that Hob has vanished. His joy turns to despair when he sees the burning hulk of the crane and the flames that have engulfed the control booth.
“Mathew...” he sighs.
He crosses to Barbara. She opens her eyes and begins to sob. Quatermass tells her that it is over, but inside, he knows that there are other cylinders out there and that this may be only the first victory in a coming global cataclysm.
(C) Steve JC Johnson - 2006
Updated 26th November 2011