INVISIBLE ENEMIES V: THE STRANGERS
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
The writer known by the pseudonym John Lymington (1911-83) was a prolific writer in many genres. In SF he is notorious for his grim stories, which usually have unhappy endings.
“The Coming Of The Strangers” (1961) is no exception.
It is set in an ordinary English seaside town in which, normally, nothing happens except for the invasion of holiday makers in the summer.
However, a different kind of invasion is happening without the inhabitants realising it.
The first person to suspect something is wrong is our main protagonist, who is enjoying a romantic evening on the seashore. Suddenly, he hears unusual noises and sees what appear to be the tracks of unknown animals appearing in the wet sand. Soon, the townsfolk start reporting strange sounds and mysterious markings appearing in soft ground. One man, John Sebastian, apparently knows what is happening and keeps watch from his large clifftop residence.
Things get more mysterious as time passes. Hitherto placid animals become terrified or violent as if they are aware of things that the people cannot see. Some of the inhabitants start reporting poltergeist activity after hearing peculiar noises in the night and, in the morning, finding that objects have been moved from their usual places. The protagonist watches a passing tramp abruptly thrown into the air with his throat cut—but no assailant is seen.
The protagonist alerts the authorities, who are, naturally, sceptical. Eventually he and his girlfriend end up in the clifftop house and discover its owner has been acting an undercover agent for the invaders—The eponymous Strangers.
They are not extraterrestrial but highly intelligent deep sea creatures that have recently discovered how to live on land. They are extending their dominion over both sea and land, and intend to exterminate the inconvenient beings currently occupying the latter. Their agent repents of his foolishness, realising there be no place for him in the new world order the Strangers will create. In response, the creatures besiege his house, intending to slaughter the inhabitants.
However, just as they are about to break in, a crop spraying aircraft flies overhead, spraying a dye which makes the Strangers visible. The authorities had finally believed the story.
Now the threat is visible, the army makes short work of those creatures who did not make it back to the sea in time
But, this being Lymington, we learn that this victory is only a reprieve. This invasion was only by a scouting party, testing human defences. The survivors of the army attack will now have reported back to their leaders.
And when they have devised effective counter measures, the Strangers will return in force.
As Sebastian puts it: “They’ll come back. Now they know what’s here, they’ll come back… They’ll come back and destroy us, if it takes a thousand years to find the means.”