Sunday, January 29, 2012

I spoke too soon (aka, The Terror!)

As Herodotus’s story of Solon and Croesus reveals, call no man blessed until he is dead, because we must wait to see if he will “end his life well.” By the same logic, count no story bland until it’s over. 

I wrote in passing in my last blog post that The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells featured “undistinguished” writing. Well, forgive me, for I have just arrived at the following pronouncement by the Invisible Man, a soliloquy so maniacally diabolical that it makes Captain Ahab sound merely peevish:

You have been amazingly energetic and clever, though what you stand to gain by it I cannot imagine. You are against me. For a whole day you have chased me; you have tried to rob me of a night’s rest. But I have had food in spite of you, I have slept in spite of you, and the game is only beginning. The game is only beginning. There is nothing for it, but to start the Terror. This announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me – the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch, – the Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First. To begin with the rule will be easy. The first day there will be one execution for the sake of example, – a man named Kemp. Death starts for him to-day. He may lock himself away, hide himself away, get guards about him, put on armour if he likes; Death, the unseen Death, is coming. Let him take precautions; it will impress my people. Death starts from the pillar box by midday. The letter will fall in as the postman comes along, then off! The game begins. Death starts. Help him not, my people, lest Death fall upon you also. To-day Kemp is to die.

It comes in chapter 27 out of 28-plus-epilogue, and it’s perhaps the only great passage in the book, but it was worth the wait.

No comments: