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The Sleeper is just an ordinary man, no one special, just someone going about his everyday business. Until one day he awakes, and finds that the world around him has changed. No longer a nobody, he has been catapulted into the unenviable position of a pawn in a dangerous conspiracy where the stakes are high and the players shockingly intelligent. For this is not the world that the Sleeper knows, but a new and terrifying mutation. (A decade after this novel was published, Wells fully revised and published it as The Sleeper Awakes.)
One afternoon, at low water, Mr. Isbister, a young artist lodging at Boscastle, walked from that place to the picturesque cove of Pentargen, desiring to examine the caves there. Halfway down the precipitous path to the Pentargen beach he came suddenly upon a man sitting in an attitude of profound distress beneath a projecting mass of rock. The hands of this man hung limply over his knees, his eyes were red and staring before him, and his face was wet with tears.
He glanced round at Isbister’s footfall. Both men were disconcerted, Isbister the more so, and, to override the awkwardness of his involuntary pause, he remarked, with an air of mature conviction, that the weather was hot for the time of year.
“Very,” answered the stranger shortly, hesitated a second, and added in a colourless tone, “I can’t sleep.”