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THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE

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Author Topic: THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE  (Read 148 times)
Zodiac
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« on: February 27, 2007, 12:23:43 am »

The shock served to loosen several tongues, and embarrassed whispers
were exchanged. "It spreads on everything organic that's been around
here," muttered the medical examiner. No one replied, but the man who
had been in the well gave a hint that his long pole must have stirred
up something intangible. "It was awful," he added. "There was no bottom
at all. Just ooze and bubbles and the feeling of something lurking
under there." Ammi's horse still pawed and screamed deafeningly in the
road outside, and nearly drowned its owner's faint quaver as he mumbled
his formless reflections. "It come from that stone--it growed down
thar--it got everything livin'--it fed itself on 'em, mind and body--Thad
an' Merwin, Zenas an' Nabby--Nahum was the last--they all drunk
the water--it got strong on 'em--it come from beyond, whar things
ain't like they be here--now it's goin' home--"

At this point, as the column of unknown colour flared suddenly
stronger and began to weave itself into fantastic suggestions of shape
which each spectator described differently, there came from poor
tethered Hero such a sound as no man before or since ever heard from a
horse. Every person in that low-pitched sitting room stopped his ears,
and Ammi turned away from the window in horror and nausea. Words could
not convey it--when Ammi looked out again the hapless beast lay
huddled inert on the moonlit ground between the splintered shafts of
the buggy. That was the last of Hero till they buried him next day. But
the present was no time to mourn, for almost at this instant a
detective silently called attention to something terrible in the very
room with them. In the absence of the lamplight it was clear that a
faint phosphorescence had begun to pervade the entire apartment. It
glowed on the broad-planked floor and the fragment of rag carpet, and
shimmered over the sashes of the small-paned windows. It ran up and
down the exposed corner-posts, coruscated about the shelf and mantel,
and infected the very doors and furniture. Each minute saw it
strengthen, and at last it was very plain that healthy living things
must leave that house.

Ammi showed them the back door and the path up through the fields to
the ten-acre pasture. They walked and stumbled as in a dream, and did
not dare look back till they were far away on the high ground. They
were glad of the path, for they could not have gone the front way, by
that well. It was bad enough passing the glowing barn and sheds, and
those shining orchard trees with their gnarled, fiendish contours; but
thank Heaven the branches did their worst twisting high up. The moon
went under some very black clouds as they crossed the rustic bridge
over Chapman's Brook, and it was blind groping from there to the open
meadows.

When they looked back toward the valley and the distant Gardner
place at the bottom they saw a fearsome sight. At the farm was shining
with the hideous unknown blend of colour; trees, buildings, and even
such grass and herbage as had not been wholly changed to lethal grey
brittleness. The boughs were all straining skyward, tipped with tongues
of foul flame, and lambent tricklings of the same monstrous fire were
creeping about the ridgepoles of the house, barn and sheds. It was a
scene from a vision of Fuseli, and over all the rest reigned that riot
of luminous amorphousness, that alien and undimensioned rainbow of
cryptic poison from the well--seething, feeling, lapping, reaching,
scintillating, straining, and malignly bubbling in its cosmic and
unrecognizable chromaticism.

Then without warning the hideous thing shot vertically up toward the
sky like a rocket or meteor, leaving behind no trail and disappearing
through a round and curiously regular hole in the clouds before any man
could gasp or cry out. No watcher can ever forget that sight, and Ammi
stared blankly at the stars of Cygnus, Deneb twinkling above the
others, where the unknown colour had melted into the Milky Way. But his
gaze was the next moment called swiftly to earth by the crackling in
the valley. It was just that. Only a wooden ripping and crackling, and
not an explosion, as so many others of the party vowed. Yet the outcome
was the same, for in one feverish kaleidoscopic instant there burst up
from that doomed and accursed farm a gleamingly eruptive cataclysm of
unnatural sparks and substance; blurring the glance of the few who saw
it, and sending forth to the zenith a bombarding cloudburst of such
coloured and fantastic fragments as our universe must needs disown.
Through quickly reclosing vapours they followed the great morbidity
that had vanished, and in another second they had vanished too. Behind
and below was only a darkness to which the men dared not return, and
all about was a mounting wind which seemed to sweep down in black,
frore gusts from interstellar space. It shrieked and howled, and lashed
the fields and distorted woods in a mad cosmic frenzy, till soon the
trembling party realized it would be no use waiting for the moon to
show what was left down there at Nahum's.

Too awed even to hint theories, the seven shaking men trudged back
toward Arkham by the north road. Ammi was worse than his fellows, and
begged them to see him inside his own kitchen, instead of keeping
straight on to town. He did not wish to cross the blighted,
wind-whipped woods alone to his home on the main road. For he had had
an added shock that the others were spared, and was crushed forever
with a brooding fear he dared not even mention for many years to come.
As the rest of the watchers on that tempestuous hill had stolidly set
their faces toward the road, Ammi had looked back an instant at the
shadowed valley of desolation so lately sheltering his ill-starred
friend. And from that stricken, far-away spot he had seen something
feebly rise, only to sink down again upon the place from which the
great shapeless horror had shot into the sky. It was just a colour--but
not any colour of our earth or heavens. And because Ammi recognized
that colour, and knew that this last faint remnant must still lurk down
there in the well, he has never been quite right since.

Ammi would never go near the place again. It is forty-four years now
since the horror happened, but he has never been there, and will be
glad when the new reservoir blots it out. I shall be glad, too, for I
do not like the way the sunlight changed colour around the mouth of
that abandoned well I passed. I hope the water will always be very deep
--but even so, I shall never drink it. I do not think I shall visit the
Arkham country hereafter. Three of the men who had been with Ammi
returned the next morning to see the ruins by daylight, but there were
not any real ruins. Only the bricks of the chimney, the stones of the
cellar, some mineral and metallic litter here and there, and the rim of
that nefandous well. Save for Ammi's dead horse, which they towed away
and buried, and the buggy which they shortly returned to him,
everything that had ever been living had gone. Five eldritch acres of
dusty grey desert remained, nor has anything ever grown there since. To
this day it sprawls open to the sky like a great spot eaten by acid in
the woods and fields, and the few who have ever dared glimpse it in
spite of the rural tales have named it "the blasted heath."

The rural tales are queer. They might be even queerer if city men
and college chemists could be interested enough to analyze the water
from that disused well, or the grey dust that no wind seems to
disperse. Botanists, too, ought to study the stunted flora on the
borders of that spot, for they might shed light on the country notion
that the blight is spreading--little by little, perhaps an inch a
year. People say the colour of the neighboring herbage is not quite
right in the spring, and that wild things leave queer prints in the
light winter snow. Snow never seems quite so heavy on the blasted heath
as it is elsewhere. Horses--the few that are left in this motor age--
grow skittish in the silent valley; and hunters cannot depend on their
dogs too near the splotch of greyish dust.
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