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Author Topic: THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE  (Read 387 times)
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Posts: 4530

« on: February 27, 2007, 12:20:26 am »

They had uncovered what seemed to be the side of a large coloured
globule embedded in the substance. The colour, which resembled some of
the bands in the meteor's strange spectrum, was almost impossible to
describe; and it was only by analogy that they called it colour at all.
Its texture was glossy, and upon tapping it appeared to promise both
brittle ness and hollowness. One of the professors gave it a smart blow
with a hammer, and it burst with a nervous little pop. Nothing was
emitted, and all trace of the thing vanished with the puncturing. It
left behind a hollow spherical space about three inches across, and all
thought it probable that others would be discovered as the enclosing
substance wasted away.

Conjecture was vain; so after a futile attempt to find additional
globules by drilling, the seekers left again with their new specimen
which proved, however, as baffling in the laboratory as its
predecessor. Aside from being almost plastic, having heat, magnetism,
and slight luminosity, cooling slightly in powerful acids, possessing
an unknown spectrum, wasting away in air, and attacking silicon
compounds with mutual destruction as a result, it presented no
identifying features whatsoever; and at the end of the tests the
college scientists were forced to own that they could not place it. It
was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside; and as
such dowered with outside properties and obedient to outside laws.

That night there was a thunderstorm, and when the professors went
out to Nahum's the next day they met with a bitter disappointment. The
stone, magnetic as it had been, must have had some peculiar electrical
property; for it had "drawn the lightning," as Nahum said, with a
singular persistence. Six times within an hour the farmer saw the
lightning strike the furrow in the front yard, and when the storm was
over nothing remained but a ragged pit by the ancient well-sweep,
half-choked with a caved-in earth. Digging had borne no fruit, and the
scientists verified the fact of the utter vanishment. The failure was
total; so that nothing was left to do but go back to the laboratory and
test again the disappearing fragment left carefully cased in lead. That
fragment lasted a week, at the end of which nothing of value had been
learned of it. When it had gone, no residue was left behind, and in
time the professors felt scarcely sure they had indeed seen with waking
eyes that cryptic vestige of the fathomless gulfs outside; that lone,
weird message from other universes and other realms of matter, force,
and entity.

As was natural, the Arkham papers made much of the incident with its
collegiate sponsoring, and sent reporters to talk with Nahum Gardner
and his family. At least one Boston daily also sent a scribe, and Nahum
quickly became a kind of local celebrity. He was a lean, genial person
of about fifty, living with his wife and three sons on the pleasant
farmstead in the valley. He and Ammi exchanged visits frequently, as
did their wives; and Ammi had nothing but praise for him after all
these years. He seemed slightly proud of the notice his place had
attracted, and talked often of the meteorite in the succeeding weeks.
That July and August were hot; and Nahum worked hard at his haying in
the ten-acre pasture across Chapman's Brook; his rattling wain wearing
deep ruts in the shadowy lanes between. The labour tired him more than
it had in other years, and he felt that age was beginning to tell on

Then fell the time of fruit and harvest. The pears and apples slowly
ripened, and Nahum vowed that his orchards were prospering as never
before. The fruit was growing to phenomenal size and unwonted gloss,
and in such abundance that extra barrels were ordered to handle the
future crop. But with the ripening came sore disappointment, for of all
that gorgeous array of specious lusciousness not one single jot was fit
to eat. Into the fine flavour of the pears and apples had crept a
stealthy bitterness and sickishness, so that even the smallest bites
induced a lasting disgust. It was the same with the melons and
tomatoes, and Nahum sadly saw that his entire crop was lost. Quick to
connect events, he declared that the meteorite had poisoned the soil,
and thanked Heaven that most of the other crops were in the upland lot
along the road.

Winter came early, and was very cold. Ammi saw Nahum less often than
usual, and observed that he had begun to look worried. The rest of his
family too, seemed to have grown taciturn; and were far from steady in
their church-going or their attendance at the various social events of
the countryside. For this reserve or melancholy no cause could be
found, though all the household confessed now and then to poorer health
and a feeling of vague disquiet. Nahum himself gave the most definite
statement of anyone when he said he was disturbed about certain
footprints in the snow. They were the usual winter prints of red
squirrels, white rabbits, and foxes, but the brooding farmer professed
to see something not quite right about their nature and arrangement. He
was never specific, but appeared to think that they were not as
characteristic of the anatomy and habits of squirrels and rabbits and
foxes as they ought to be. Ammi listened without interest to this talk
until one night when he drove past Nahum's house in his sleigh on the
way back from Clark's Comer. There had been a moon, and a rabbit had
run across the road, and the leaps of that rabbit were longer than
either Ammi or his horse liked. The latter, indeed, had almost run away
when brought up by a firm rein. Thereafter Ammi gave Nahum's tales more
respect, and wondered why the Gardner dogs seemed so cowed and
quivering every morning. They had, it developed, nearly lost the spirit
to bark.

In February the McGregor boys from Meadow Hill were out shooting
woodchucks, and not far from the Gardner place bagged a very peculiar
specimen. The proportions of its body seemed slightly altered in a
queer way impossible to describe, while its face had taken on an
expression which no one ever saw in a woodchuck before. The boys were
genuinely frightened, and threw the thing away at once, so that only
their grotesque tales of it ever reached the people of the countryside.
But the shying of horses near Nahum's house had now become an
acknowledged thing, and all the basis for a cycle of whispered legend
was fast taking form.

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