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

« on: February 27, 2007, 12:23:02 am »

Twilight had now fallen, and lanterns were brought from the house.
Then, when it was seen that nothing further could be gained from the
well, everyone went indoors and conferred in the ancient sitting-room
while the intermittent light of a spectral half-moon played wanly on
the grey desolation outside. The men were frankly nonplussed by the
entire case, and could find no convincing common element to link the
strange vegetable conditions, the unknown disease of live-stock and
humans, and the unaccountable deaths of Merwin and Zenas in the tainted
well. They had heard the common country talk, it is true; but could not
believe that anything contrary to natural law had occurred. No doubt
the meteor had poisoned the soil, but the illness of persons and
animals who had eaten nothing grown in that soil was another matter.
Was it the well water? Very possibly. It might be a good idea to
analyze it. But what peculiar madness could have made both boys jump
into the well? Their deeds were so similar-and the fragments showed
that they had both suffered from the grey brittle death. Why was
everything so grey and brittle?

It was the coroner, seated near a window overlooking the yard, who
first noticed the glow about the well. Night had fully set in, and all
the abhorrent grounds seemed faintly luminous with more than the fitful
moonbeams; but this new glow was something definite and distinct, and
appeared to shoot up from the black pit like a softened ray from a
searchlight, giving dull reflections in the little ground pools where
the water had been emptied. It had a very queer colour, and as all the
men clustered round the window Ammi gave a violent start. For this
strange beam of ghastly miasma was to him of no unfamiliar hue. He had
seen that colour before, and feared to think what it might mean. He had
seen it in the nasty brittle globule in that aerolite two summers ago,
had seen it in the crazy vegetation of the springtime, and had thought
he had seen it for an instant that very morning against the small
barred window of that terrible attic room where nameless things had
happened. It had flashed there a second, and a clammy and hateful
current of vapour had brushed past him--and then poor Nahum had been
taken by something of that colour. He had said so at the last--said it
was like the globule and the plants. After that had come the runaway in
the yard and the splash in the well-and now that well was belching
forth to the night a pale insidious beam of the same demoniac tint.

It does credit to the alertness of Ammi's mind that he puzzled even
at that tense moment over a point which was essentially scientific. He
could not but wonder at his gleaning of the same impression from a
vapour glimpsed in the daytime, against a window opening on the morning
sky, and from a nocturnal exhalation seen as a phosphorescent mist
against the black and blasted landscape. It wasn't right--it was
against Nature--and he thought of those terrible last words of his
stricken friend, "It come from some place whar things ain't as they is o' them professors said so..."

All three horses outside, tied to a pair of shrivelled saplings by
the road, were now neighing and pawing frantically. The wagon driver
started for the door to do something, but Ammi laid a shaky hand on his
shoulder. "Dun't go out thar," he whispered. "They's more to this nor
what we know. Nahum said somethin' lived in the well that sucks your
life out. He said it must be some'at growed from a round ball like one
we all seen in the meteor stone that fell a year ago June. Sucks an'
burns, he said, an' is jest a cloud of colour like that light out thar
now, that ye can hardly see an' can't tell what it is. Nahum thought it
feeds on everything livin' an' gits stronger all the time. He said he
seen it this last week. It must be somethin' from away off in the sky
like the men from the college last year says the meteor stone was. The
way it's made an' the way it works ain't like no way 0' God's world.
It's some'at from beyond."

So the men paused indecisively as the light from the well grew
stronger and the hitched horses pawed and whinnied in increasing
frenzy. It was truly an awful moment; with terror in that ancient and
accursed house itself, four monstrous sets of fragments-two from the
house and two from the well-in the woodshed behind, and that shaft of
unknown and unholy iridescence from the slimy depths in front. Ammi had
restrained the driver on impulse, forgetting how uninjured he himself
was after the clammy brushing of that coloured vapour in the attic
room, but perhaps it is just as well that he acted as he did. No one
will ever know what was abroad that night; and though the blasphemy
from beyond had not so far hurt any human of unweakened mind, there is
no telling what it might not have done at that last moment, and with
its seemingly increased strength and the special signs of purpose it
was soon to display beneath the half-clouded moonlit sky.

All at once one of the detectives at the window gave a short, sharp
gasp. The others looked at him, and then quickly followed his own gaze
upward to the point at which its idle straying had been suddenly
arrested. There was no need for words. What had been disputed in
country gossip was disputable no longer, and it is because of the thing
which every man of that party agreed in whispering later on, that the
strange days are never talked about in Arkham. It is necessary to
premise that there was no wind at that hour of the evening. One did
arise not long afterward, but there was absolutely none then. Even the
dry tips of the lingering hedge-mustard, grey and blighted, and the
fringe on the roof of the standing democrat-wagon were unstirred. And
yet amid that tense godless calm the high bare boughs of all the trees
in the yard were moving. They were twitching morbidly and
spasmodically, clawing in convulsive and epileptic madness at the
moonlit clouds; scratching impotently in the noxious air as if jerked
by some allied and bodiless line of linkage with subterrene horrors
writhing and struggling below the black roots.

Not a man breathed for several seconds. Then a cloud of darker depth
passed over the moon, and the silhouette of clutching branches faded
out momentarily. At this there was a general cry; muffled with awe, but
husky and almost identical from every throat. For the terror had not
faded with the silhouette, and in a fearsome instant of deeper darkness
the watchers saw wriggling at that tree top height a thousand tiny
points of faint and unhallowed radiance, tipping each bough like the
fire of St. Elmo or the flames that come down on the apostles' heads at
Pentecost. It was a monstrous constellation of unnatural light, like a
glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an
accursed marsh, and its colour was that same nameless intrusion which
Ammi had come to recognize and dread. All the while the shaft of
phosphorescence from the well was getting brighter and brighter,
bringing to the minds of the huddled men, a sense of doom and
abnormality which far outraced any image their conscious minds could
form. It was no longer shining out; it was pouring out; and as the
shapeless stream of unplaceable colour left the well it seemed to flow
directly into the sky.

The veterinary shivered, and walked to the front door to drop the
heavy extra bar across it. Ammi shook no less, and had to tug and point
for lack of controllable voice when he wished to draw notice to the
growing luminosity of the trees. The neighing and stamping of the
horses had become utterly frightful, but not a soul of that group in
the old house would have ventured forth for any earthly reward. With
the moments the shining of the trees increased, while their restless
branches seemed to strain more and more toward verticality. The wood of
the well-sweep was shining now, and presently a policeman dumbly
pointed to some wooden sheds and bee-hives near the stone wall on the
west. They were commencing to shine, too, though the tethered vehicles
of the visitors seemed so far unaffected. Then there was a wild
commotion and clopping in the road, and as Ammi quenched the lamp for
better seeing they realized that the span of frantic greys had broken
their sapling and run off with the democrat-wagon.

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