The Midwich Cuckoos

Part One

CHAPTER 1

No Entry to Midwich

ONE of the luckiest accidents in my wife’s life is that she happened to marry a man who was born on the 26th of September. But for that, we should both of us undoubtedly have been at home in Midwich on the night of the 26th-27th, with consequences which, I have never ceased to be thankful, she was spared.

Because it was my birthday, however, and also to some extent because I had the day before received and signed a contract with an American publisher, we set off on the morning of the 26th for London, and a mild celebration. Very pleasant, too. A few satisfactory calls, lobster and Chablis at Wheeler’s, Ustinov’s latest extravaganza, a little supper, and so back to the hotel where Janet enjoyed the bathroom with that fascination which other people’s plumbing always arouses in her.

Next morning, a leisurely departure on the way back to Midwich. A pause in Trayne, which is our nearest shopping town, for a few groceries; then on along the main road, through the village of Stouch, then the right-hand turn on to the secondary road for – But, no. Half the road is blocked by a pole from which dangles a notice ‘ROAD CLOSED’, and in the gap beside it stands a policeman who holds up his hand.…

So I stop. The policeman advances to the offside of the car, I recognize him as a man from Trayne.

‘Sorry, sir, but the road is closed.’

‘You mean I’ll have to go round by the Oppley Road?’

‘’Fraid that’s closed, too, sir.’

‘But –’

There is the sound of a horn behind.

‘’F you wouldn’t mind backing off a bit to the left, sir.’

Rather bewildered, I do as he asks, and past us and past him goes an army three-ton lorry with khaki-clad youths leaning over the sides.

‘Revolution in Midwich?’ I inquire.

‘Manoeuvres,’ he tells me. ‘The road’s impassable.’

‘Not both roads surely? We live in Midwich, you know, Constable.’

‘I know, sir. But there’s no way there just now. ’F I was you, sir, I’d go back to Trayne till we get it clear. Can’t have parking here, ’cause of getting things through.’

Janet opens the door on her side and picks up her shopping-bag.

‘I’ll walk on, and you come along when the road’s clear,’ she tells me.

The constable hesitates. Then he lowers his voice.

‘Seein’ as you live there, ma’am, I’ll tell you – but it’s confidential like. ’T isn’t no use tryin’, ma’am. Nobody can’t get into Midwich, an’ that’s a fact.’

We stare at him.

‘But why on earth not?’ says Janet.

‘That’s just what they’re tryin’ to find out, ma’am. Now, if you was to go to the Eagle in Trayne, I’ll see you’re informed as soon as the road’s clear.’

Janet and I looked at one another.

‘Well,’ she said to the constable, ‘it seems very queer, but if you’re quite sure we can’t get through.…’

‘I am that, ma’am. It’s orders, too. We’ll let you know, as soon as maybe.’

If one wanted to make a fuss, it was no good making it with him; the man was only doing his duty, and as amiably as possible.

‘Very well,’ I agreed. ‘Gayford’s my name, Richard Gayford. I’ll tell the Eagle to take a message for me in case I’m not there when it comes.’

I backed the car further until we were on the main road, and, taking his word for it that the other Midwich road was similarly closed, turned back the way we had come. Once we were the other side of Stouch village I pulled off the road into a field gateway.

‘This,’ I said, ‘has a very odd smell about