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THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE

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Zodiac
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« on: February 27, 2007, 12:19:11 am »

* THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE

H.P. Lovecraft


West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep
woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the
trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without
ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentle slopes there
are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding
eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but
these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled
sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.

The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live
there. French-Canadians have tried it, Italians have tried it, and the
Poles have come and departed. It is not because of anything that can be
seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined.
The place is not good for imagination, and does not bring restful
dreams at night. It must be this which keeps the foreigners away, for
old Ammi Pierce has never told them of anything he recalls from the
strange days. Ammi, whose head has been a little queer for years, is
the only one who still remains, or who ever talks of the strange days;
and he dares to do this because his house is so near the open fields
and the travelled roads around Arkham.

There was once a road over the hills and through the valleys, that
ran straight where the blasted heath is now; but people ceased to use
it and a new road was laid curving far toward the south. Traces of the
old one can still be found amidst the weeds of a returning wilderness,
and some of them will doubtless linger even when half the hollows are
flooded for the new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and
the blasted heath will slumber far below blue waters whose surface will
mirror the sky and ripple in the sun. And the secrets of the strange
days will be one with the deep's secrets; one with the hidden lore of
old ocean, and all the mystery of primal earth.

When I went into the hills and vales to survey for the new reservoir
they told me the place was evil. They told me this in Arkham, and
because that is a very old town full of witch legends I thought the
evil must he something which grandams had whispered to children through
centuries. The name "blasted heath" seemed to me very odd and
theatrical, and I wondered how it had come into the folklore of a
Puritan people. Then I saw that dark westward tangle of glens and
slopes for myself, end ceased to wonder at anything beside its own
elder mystery. It was morning when I saw it, but shadow lurked always
there. The trees grew too thickly, and their trunks were too big for
any healthy New England wood. There was too much silence in the dim
alleys between them, and the floor was too soft with the dank moss and
mattings of infinite years of decay.

In the open spaces, mostly along the line of the old road, there
were little hillside farms; sometimes with all the buildings standing,
sometimes with only one or two, and sometimes with only a lone chimney
or fast-filling cellar. Weeds and briers reigned, and furtive wild
things rustled in the undergrowth. Upon everything was a haze of
restlessness and oppression; a touch of the unreal and the grotesque,
as if some vital element of perspective or chiaroscuro were awry. I did
not wonder that the foreigners would not stay, for this was no region
to sleep in. It was too much like a landscape of Salvator Rosa; too
much like some forbidden woodcut in a tale of terror.

But even all this was not so bad as the blasted heath. I knew it the
moment I came upon it at the bottom of a spacious valley; for no other
name could fit such a thing, or any other thing fit such a name. It was
as if the poet had coined the phrase from having seen this one
particular region. It must, I thought as I viewed it, be the outcome of
a fire; but why had nothing new ever grown over these five acres of
grey desolation that sprawled open to the sky like a great spot eaten
by acid in the woods and fields? It lay largely to the north of the
ancient road line, but encroached a little on the other side. I felt an
odd reluctance about approaching, and did so at last only because my
business took me through and past it. There was no vegetation of any
kind on that broad expanse, but only a fine grey dust or ash which no
wind seemed ever to blow about. The trees near it were sickly and
stunted, and many dead trunks stood or lay rotting at the rim. As I
walked hurriedly by I saw the tumbled bricks and stones of an old
chimney and cellar on my right, and the yawning black maw of an
abandoned well whose stagnant vapours played strange tricks with the
hues of the sunlight. Even the long, dark woodland climb beyond seemed
welcome in contrast, and I marvelled no more at the frightened whispers
of Arkham people. There had been no house or ruin near; even in the old
days the place must have been lonely and remote. And at twilight,
dreading to repass that ominous spot, I walked circuitously back to the
town by the curious road on the south. I vaguely wished some clouds
would gather, for an odd timidity about the deep skyey voids above had
crept into my soul.

In the evening I asked old people in Arkham about the blasted heath,
and what was meant by that phrase "strange days" which so many
evasively muttered. I could not, however, get any good answers except
that all the mystery was much more recent than I had dreamed. It was
not a matter of old legendry at all, but something within the lifetime
of those who spoke. It had happened in the 'eighties, and a family had
disappeared or was killed. Speakers would not be exact; and because
they all told me to pay no attention to old Ammi Pierce's crazy tales,
I sought him out the next morning, having heard that he lived alone in
the ancient tottering cottage where the trees first begin to get very
thick. It was a fearsomely ancient place, and had begun to exude the
faint miasmal odour which clings about houses that have stood too long.
Only with persistent knocking could I rouse the aged man, and when he
shuffled timidly to the door could could tell he was not glad to see
me. He was not so feeble as I had expected; but his eyes drooped in a
curious way, and his unkempt clothing and white beard made him seem
very worn and dismal.
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2007, 12:19:51 am »

Not knowing just how he could best be launched on his tales, I
feigned a matter of business; told him of my surveying, and asked vague
questions about the district. He was far brighter and more educated
than I had been led to think, and before I knew it had grasped quite as
much of the subject as any man I had talked with in Arkham. He was not
like other rustics I had known in the sections where reservoirs were to
be. From him there were no protests at the miles of old wood and
farmland to be blotted out, though perhaps there would have been had
not his home lain outside the bounds of the future lake. Relief was all
that he showed; relief at the doom of the dark ancient valleys through
which he had roamed all his life. They were better under water now--
better under water since the strange days. And with this opening his
husky voice sank low, while his body leaned forward and his right
forefinger began to point shakily and impressively.

It was then that I heard the story, and as the rambling voice
scraped and whispered on I shivered again and again spite the summer
day. Often I had to recall the speaker from ramblings, piece out
scientific points which he knew only by a fading parrot memory of
professors' talk, or bridge over gaps, where his sense of logic and
continuity broke down. When he was done I did not wonder that his mind
had snapped a trifle, or that the folk of Arkham would not speak much
of the blasted heath. I hurried back before sunset to my hotel,
unwilling to have the stars come out above me in the open; and the next
day returned to--Boston to give up my position. I could not go into
that dim chaos of old forest and slope again, or face another time that
grey blasted heath where the black well yawned deep beside the tumbled
bricks and stones. The reservoir will soon be built now, and all those
elder secrets will be safe forever under watery fathoms. But even then
I do not believe I would like to visit that country by night--at least
not when the sinister stars are out; and nothing could bribe me to
drink the new city water of Arkham.

It all began, old Ammi said, with the meteorite. Before that time
there had been no wild legends at all since the witch trials, and even
then these western woods were not feared half so much as the small
island in the Miskatonic where the devil held court beside a curious
'lone altar older than the Indians. These were not haunted woods, and
their fantastic dusk was never terrible till the strange days. Then
there had come that white noontide cloud, that string of explosions in
the air, and that pillar of smoke from the valley far in the wood. And
by night all Arkham had heard of the great rock that fell out of the
sky and bedded itself in the ground beside the well at the Nahum
Gardner place. That was the house which had stood where the blasted
heath was to come--the trim white Nahum Gardner house amidst its
fertile gardens and orchards.

Nahum had come to town to tell people about the stone, and dropped
in at Ammi Pierce's on the way. Ammi was forty then, and all the queer
things were fixed very strongly in his mind. He and his wife had gone
with the three professors from Miskatonic University who hastened out
the next morning to see the weird visitor from unknown stellar space,
and had wondered why Nahum had called it so large the day before. It
had shrunk, Nahum said as he pointed out the big brownish mound above
the ripped earth and charred grass near the archaic well-sweep in his
front yard; but the wise men answered that stones do not shrink. Its
heat lingered persistently, and Nahum declared it had glowed faintly in
the night. The professors tried it with a geologist's hammer and found
it was oddly soft. It was, in truth, so soft as to be almost plastic;
and they gouged rather than chipped a specimen to take back to the
college for testing. They took it in an old pail borrowed from Nahum's
kitchen, for even the small piece refused to grow cool. On the trip
back they stopped at Ammi's to rest, and seemed thoughtful when Mrs.
Pierce remarked that the fragment was growing smaller and burning the
bottom of the pail. Truly, it was not large, but perhaps they had taken
less than they thought.

The day after that-all this was in June of '82-the professors had
trooped out again in a great excitement. As they passed Ammi's they
told him what queer things the specimen had done, and how it had faded
wholly away when they put it in a glass beaker. The beaker had gone,
too, and the wise men talked of the strange stone's affinity for
silicon. It had acted quite unbelievably in that well-ordered
laboratory; doing nothing at all and showing no occluded gases when
heated on charcoal, being wholly negative in the borax bead, and soon
proving itself absolutely non-volatile at any producible temperature,
including that of the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. On an anvil it appeared
highly malleable, and in the dark its luminosity was very marked.
Stubbornly refusing to grow cool, it soon had the college in a state of
real excitement; and when upon heating before the spectroscope it
displayed shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum
there was much breathless talk of new elements, bizarre optical
properties, and other things which puzzled men of science are wont to
say when faced by the unknown.

Hot as it was, they tested it in a crucible with all the proper
reagents. Water did nothing. Hydrochloric acid was the same. Nitric
acid and even aqua regia merely hissed and spattered against its torrid
invulnerability. Ammi had difficulty in recalling all these things, but
recognized some solvents as I mentioned them in the usual order of use.
There were ammonia and caustic soda, alcohol and ether, nauseous carbon
disulphide and a dozen others; but although the weight grew steadily
less as time passed, and the fragment seemed to be slightly cooling,
there was no change in the solvents to show that they had attacked the
substance at all. It was a metal, though, beyond a doubt. It was
magnetic, for one thing; and after its immersion in the acid solvents
there seemed to be faint traces of the Widmanstatten figures found on
meteoric iron. When the cooling had grown very considerable, the
testing was carried on in glass; and it was in a glass beaker that they
left all the chips made of the original fragment during the work. The
next morning both chips and beaker were gone without trace, and only a
charred spot marked the place on the wooden shelf where they had been.

All this the professors told Ammi as they paused at his door, and
once more he went with them to see the stony messenger from the stars,
though this time his wife did not accompany him. It had now most
certainly shrunk, and even the sober professors could not doubt the
truth of what they saw. All around the dwindling brown lump near the
well was a vacant space, except where the earth had caved in; and
whereas it had been a good seven feet across the day before, it was now
scarcely five. It was still hot, and the sages studied its surface
curiously as they detached another and larger piece with hammer and
chisel. They gouged deeply this time, and as they pried away the
smaller mass they saw that the core of the thing was not quite
homogeneous.
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« Reply #2 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
him.

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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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 12:21:03 am »

People vowed that the snow melted faster around Nahum's than it did
anywhere else, and early in March there was an awed discussion in
Potter's general store at Clark's Corners. Stephen Rice had driven past
Gardner's in the morning, and had noticed the skunk-cabbages coming up
through the mud by the woods across the road. Never were things of such
size seen before, and they held strange colours that could not be put
into any words. Their shapes were monstrous, and the horse had snorted
at an odour which struck Stephen as wholly unprecedented. That
afternoon several persons drove past to see the abnormal growth, and
all agreed that plants of that kind ought never to sprout in a healthy
world. The bad fruit of the fall before was freely mentioned, and it
went from mouth to mouth that there was poison in Nahum's ground. Of
course it was the meteorite; and remembering how strange the men from
the college had found that stone to be, several farmers spoke about the
matter to them.

One day they paid Nahum a visit; but having no love of wild tales
and folklore were very conservative in what they inferred. The plants
were certainly odd, but all skunk-cabbages are more or less odd in
shape and hue. Perhaps some mineral element from the stone had entered
the soil, but it would soon be washed away. And as for the footprints
and frightened horses--of course this was mere country talk which such
a phenomenon as the aerolite would be certain to start. There was
really nothing for serious men to do in cases of wild gossip, for
superstitious rustics will say and believe anything. And so all through
the strange days the professors stayed away in contempt. Only one of
them, when given two phials of dust for analysis in a police job over a
year and half later, recalled that the queer colour of that
skunk-cabbage had been very like one of the anomalous bands of light
shown by the meteor fragment in the college spectroscope, and like the
brittle globule found imbedded in the stone from the abyss. The samples
in this analysis case gave the same odd bands at first, though later
they lost the property.

The trees budded prematurely around Nahum's, and at night they
swayed ominously in the wind. Nahum's second son Thaddeus, a lad of
fifteen, swore that they swayed also when there was no wind; but even
the gossips would not credit this. Certainly, however, restlessness was
in the air. The entire Gardner family developed the habit of stealthy
listening, though not for any sound which they could consciously name.
The listening was, indeed, rather a product of moments when
consciousness seemed half to slip away. Unfortunately such moments
increased week by week, till it became common speech that "something
was wrong with all Nahum's folks." When the early saxifrage came out it
had another strange colour; not quite like that of the skunk-cabbage,
but plainly related and equally unknown to anyone who saw it. Nahum
took some blossoms to Arkham and showed them to the editor of the
Gazette, but that dignitary did no more than write a humorous article
about them, in which the dark fears of rustics were held up to polite
ridicule. It was a mistake of Nahum's to tell a stolid city man about
the way the great, overgrown mourning-cloak butterflies behaved in
connection with these saxifrages.

April brought a kind of madness to the country folk, and began that
disuse of the road past Nahum's which led to its ultimate abandonment.
It was the vegetation. All the orchard trees blossomed forth in strange
colours, and through the stony soil of the yard and adjacent pasturage
there sprang up a bizarre growth which only a botanist could connect
with the proper flora of the region. No sane wholesome colours were
anywhere to be seen except in the green grass and leafage; but
everywhere were those hectic and prismatic variants of some diseased,
underlying primary tone without a place among the' known tints of
earth. The "Dutchman's breeches" became a thing of sinister menace, and
the bloodroots grew insolent in their chromatic perversion. Ammi and
the Gardners thought that most of the colours had a sort of haunting
familiarity, and decided that they reminded one of the brittle globule
in the meteor. Nahum ploughed and sowed the ten-acre pasture and the
upland lot, but did nothing with the land around the house. He knew it
would be of no use, and hoped that the summer's strange growths would
draw all the poison from the soil. He was prepared for almost anything
now, and had grown used to the sense of something near him waiting to
be heard. The shunning of his house by neighbors told on him, of
course; but it told on his wife more. The boys were better off, being
at school each day; but they could not help being frightened by the
gossip. Thaddeus, an especially sensitive youth, suffered the most.

In May the insects came, and Nahum's place became a nightmare of
buzzing and crawling. Most of the creatures seemed not quite usual in
their aspects and motions, and their nocturnal habits contradicted all
former experience. The Gardners took to watching at night--watching in
all directions at random for something--they could not tell what. It
was then that they owned that Thaddeus had been right about the trees.
Mrs. Gardner was the next to see it from the window as she watched the
swollen boughs of a maple against a moonlit sky. The boughs surely
moved, and there was no 'wind. It must be the sap. Strangeness had come
into everything growing now. Yet it was none of Nahum's family at all
who made the next discovery. Familiarity had dulled them, and what they
could not see was glimpsed by a timid windmill salesman from Bolton who
drove by one night in ignorance of the country legends. What he told in
Arkham was given a short paragraph in the Gazette; and it was there
that all the farmers, Nahum included, saw it first. The night had been
dark and the buggy-lamps faint, but around a farm in the valley which
everyone knew from the account must be Nahum's, the darkness had been
less thick. A dim though distinct luminosity seemed to inhere in all
the vegetation, grass, leaves, and blossoms alike, while at one moment
a detached piece of the phosphorescence appeared to stir furtively in
the yard near the barn.

The grass had so far seemed untouched, and the cows were freely
pastured in the lot near the house, but toward the end of May the milk
began to be bad. Then Nahum had the cows driven to the uplands, after
which this trouble ceased. Not long after this the change in grass and
leaves became apparent to the eye. All the verdure was going grey, and
was developing a highly singular quality of brittleness. Ammi was now
the only person who ever visited the place, and his visits were
becoming fewer and fewer. When school closed the Gardners were
virtually cut off from the world, and sometimes let Ammi do their
errands in town. They were failing curiously both physically and
mentally, and no one was surprised when the news of Mrs. Gardner's
madness stole around.

It happened in June, about the anniversary of the meteor's fall, and
the poor woman screamed about things in the air which she could not
describe. In her raving there was not a single specific noun, but only
verbs and pronouns. Things moved and changed and fluttered, and ears
tingled to impulses which were not wholly sounds. Something was taken
away--she was being drained of something--something was fastening
itself on her that ought not to be--someone must make it keep off--
nothing was ever still in the night--the walls and windows shifted.
Nahum did not send her to the county asylum, but let her wander about
the house as long as she was harmless to herself and others. Even when
her expression changed he did nothing. But when the boys grew afraid of
her, and Thaddeus nearly fainted at the way she made faces at him, he
decided to keep her locked in the attic. By July she had ceased to
speak and crawled on all fours, and before that month was over Nahum
got the mad notion that she was slightly luminous in the dark, as he
now clearly saw was the case with the nearby vegetation.

It was a little before this that the horses had stampeded. Something
had aroused them in the night, and their neighing and kicking in their
stalls had been terrible. There seemed virtually nothing to do to calm
them, and when Nahum opened the stable door they all bolted out like
frightened woodland deer. It took a week to track all four, and when
found they were seen to be quite useless and unmanageable. Something
had snapped in their brains, and each one had to be shot for its own
good. Nahum borrowed a horse from Ammi for his haying, but found it
would not approach the barn. It shied, balked, and whinnied, and in the
end he could do nothing but drive it into the yard while the men used
their own strength to get the heavy wagon near enough the hayloft for
convenient pitching. And all the while the vegetation was turning grey
and brittle. Even the flowers whose hues had been so strange were
greying now, and the fruit was coming out grey and dwarfed and
tasteless. The asters and golden-rod bloomed grey and distorted, and
the roses and zinneas and hollyhocks in the front yard were such
blasphemous-looking things that Nahum's oldest boy Zenas cut them down.
The strangely puffed insects died about that time, even the bees that
had left their hives and taken to the woods.

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 12:21:41 am »

By September all the vegetation was fast crumbling to a greyish
powder, and Nahum feared that the trees would die before the poison was
out of the soil. His wife now had spells of terrific screaming, and he
and the boys were in a constant state of nervous tension. They shunned
people now, and when school opened the boys did not go. But it was
Ammi, on one of his rare visits, who first realised that the well water
was no longer good. It had an evil taste that was not exactly fetid nor
exactly salty, and Ammi advised his friend to dig another well on
higher ground to use till the soil was good again. Nahum, however,
ignored the warning, for he had by that time become calloused to
strange and unpleasant things. He and the boys continued to use the
tainted supply, drinking it as listlessly and mechanically as they ate
their meagre and ill-cooked meals and did their thankless and
monotonous chores through the aimless days. There was something of
stolid resignation about them all, as if they walked half in another
world between lines of nameless guards to a certain and familiar doom.

Thaddeus went mad in September after a visit to the well. He had
gone with a pail and had come back empty-handed, shrieking and waving
his arms, and sometimes lapsing into an inane titter or a whisper about
"the moving colours down there." Two in one family was pretty bad, but
Nahum was very brave about it. He let the boy run about for a week
until he began stumbling and hurting himself, and then he shut him in
an attic room across the hall from his mother's. The way they screamed
at each other from behind their locked doors was very terrible,
especially to little Merwin, who fancied they talked in some terrible
language that was not of earth. Merwin was getting frightfully
imaginative, and his restlessness was worse after the shutting away of
the brother who had been his greatest playmate.

Almost at the same time the mortality among the livestock commenced.
Poultry turned greyish and died very quickly, their meat being found
dry and noisome upon cutting. Hogs grew inordinately fat, then suddenly
began to undergo loathsome changes which no one could explain. Their
meat was of course useless, and Nahum was at his wit's end. No rural
veterinary would approach his place, and the city veterinary from
Arkham was openly baffled. The swine began growing grey and brittle and
falling to pieces before they died, and their eyes and muzzles
developed singular alterations. It was very inexplicable, for they had
never been fed from the tainted vegetation. Then something struck the
cows. Certain areas or sometimes the whole body would be uncannily
shrivelled or compressed, and atrocious collapses or disintegrations
were common. In the last stages--and death was always the result--
there would be a greying and turning brittle like that which beset the
hogs. There could be no question of poison, for all the cases occurred
in a locked and undisturbed barn. No bites of prowling things could
have brought the virus, for what live beast of earth can pass through
solid obstacles? It must be only natural disease--yet what disease
could wreak such results was beyond any mind's guessing. When the
harvest came there was not an animal surviving on the place, for the
stock and poultry were dead and the dogs had run away. These dogs,
three in number, had all vanished one night and were never heard of
again. The five cats had left some time before, but their going was
scarcely noticed since there now seemed to be no mice, and only Mrs.
Gardner had made pets of the graceful felines.

On the nineteenth of October Nahum staggered into Ammi's house with
hideous news. The death had come to poor Thaddeus in his attic room,
and it had come in a way which could not be told. Nahum had dug a grave
in the railed family plot behind the farm, and had put therein what he
found. There could have been nothing from outside, for the small barred
window and locked door were intact; but it was much as it had been in
the barn. Ammi and his wife consoled the stricken man as best they
could, but shuddered as they did so. Stark terror seemed to cling round
the Gardners and all they touched, and the very presence of one in the
house was a breath from regions unnamed and unnamable. Ammi accompanied
Nahum home with the greatest reluctance, and did what he might to calm
the hysterical sobbing of little Merwin. Zenas needed no calming. He
had come of late to do nothing but stare into space and obey what his
father told him; and Ammi thought that his fate was very merciful. Now
and then Merwin's screams were answered faintly from the attic, and in
response to an inquiring look Nahum said that his wife was getting very
feeble. When night approached, Ammi managed to get away; for not even
friendship could make him stay in that spot when the faint glow of the
vegetation began and the trees may or may not have swayed without wind.
It was really lucky for Ammi that he was not more imaginative. Even as
things were, his mind was bent ever so slightly; but had he been able
to connect and reflect upon all the portents around him he must
inevitably have turned a total maniac. In the twilight he hastened
home, the screams of the mad woman and the nervous child ringing
horribly in his ears.

Three days later Nahum burst into Ammi's kitchen in the early
morning, and in the absence of his host stammered out a desperate tale
once more, while Mrs. Pierce listened in a clutching fright. It was
little Merwin this time. He was gone. He had gone out late at night
with a lantern and pail for water, and had never come back. He'd been
going to pieces for days, and hardly knew what he was about. Screamed
at everything. There had been a frantic shriek from the yard then, but
before the father could get to the door the boy was gone. There was no
glow from the lantern he had taken, and of the child himself no trace.
At the time Nahum thought the lantern and pail were gone too; but when
dawn came, and the man had plodded back from his all-night search of
the woods and fields, he had found some very curious things near the
well. There was a crushed and apparently somewhat melted mass of iron
which had certainly been the lantern; while a bent handle and twisted
iron hoops beside it, both half-fused, seemed to hint at the remnants
of the pail. That was all. Nahum was past imagining, Mrs. Pierce was
blank, and Ammi, when he had reached home and heard the tale, could
give no guess. Merwin was gone, and there would be no use in telling
the people around, who shunned all Gardners now. No use, either, in
telling the city people at Arkham who laughed at everything. Thad was
gone, and now Merwin was gone. Something was creeping and creeping and
waiting to be seen and heard. Nahum would go soon, and he wanted Ammi
to look after his wife and Zenas if they survived him. It must all be a
judgment of some sort; though he could not fancy what for, since he had
always walked uprightly in the Lord's ways so far as he knew.

For over two weeks Ammi saw nothing of Nahum; and then, worried
about what might have happened, he overcame his fears and paid the
Gardner place a visit. There was no smoke from the great chimney, and
for a moment the visitor was apprehensive of the worst. The aspect of
the whole farm was shocking--greyish withered grass and leaves on the
ground, vines falling in brittle wreckage from archaic walls and
gables, and great bare trees clawing up at the grey November sky with a
studied malevolence which Ammi could not but feel had come from some
subtle change in the tilt of the branches. But Nahum was alive, after
all. He was weak, and lying on a couch in the low-ceiled kitchen, but
perfectly conscious and able to give simple orders to Zenas. The room
was deadly cold; and as Ammi visibly shivered, the host shouted huskily
to Zenas for more wood. Wood, indeed, was sorely needed; since the
cavernous fireplace was unlit and empty, with a cloud of soot blowing
about in the chill wind that came down the chimney. Presently Nahum
asked him if the extra wood had made him any more comfortable, and then
Ammi saw what had happened. The stoutest cord had broken at last, and
the hapless farmer's mind was proof against more sorrow.

Questioning tactfully, Ammi could get no clear data at all about the
missing Zenas. "In the well--he lives in the well--" was all that the
clouded father would say. Then there flashed across the visitor's mind
a sudden thought of the mad wife, and he changed his line of inquiry.
"Nabby? Why, here she is!" was the surprised response of poor Nahum,
and Ammi soon saw that he must search for himself. Leaving the harmless
babbler on the couch, he took the keys from their nail beside the door
and climbed the creaking stairs to the attic. It was very close and
noisome up there, and no sound could be heard from any direction. Of
the four doors in sight, only one was locked, and on this he tried
various keys of the ring he had taken. The third key proved the right
one, and after some fumbling Ammi threw open the low white door.
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 12:22:20 am »

It was quite dark inside, for the window was small and half-obscured
by the crude wooden bars; and Ammi could see nothing at all on the
wide-planked floor. The stench was beyond enduring, and before
proceeding further he had to retreat to another room and return with
his lungs filled with breathable air. When he did enter he saw
something dark in the corner, and upon seeing it more clearly he
screamed outright. While he screamed he thought a momentary cloud
eclipsed the window, and a second later he felt himself brushed as if
by some hateful current of vapour. Strange colours danced before his
eyes; and had not a present horror numbed him he would have thought of
the globule in the meteor that the geologist's hammer had shattered,
and of the morbid vegetation that had sprouted in the spring. As it was
he thought only of the blasphemous monstrosity which confronted him,
and which all too clearly had shared the nameless fate of young
Thaddeus and the livestock. But the terrible thing about the horror was
that it very slowly and perceptibly moved as it continued to crumble.

Ammi would give me no added particulars of this scene, but the shape
in the comer does not reappear in his tale as a moving object. There
are things which cannot be mentioned, and what is done in common
humanity is sometimes cruelly judged by the law. I gathered that no
moving thing was left in that attic room, and that to leave anything
capable of motion there would have been a deed so monstrous as to damn
any accountable being to eternal torment. Anyone but a stolid farmer
would have fainted or gone mad, but Ammi walked conscious through that
low doorway and locked the accursed secret behind him. There would be
Nahum to deal with now; he must be fed and tended, and removed to some
place where he could be cared for.

Commencing his descent of the dark stairs. Ammi heard a thud below
him. He even thought a scream had been suddenly choked off, and
recalled nervously the clammy vapour which had brushed by him in that
frightful room above. What presence had his cry and entry started up?
Halted by some vague fear, he heard still further sounds below.
Indubitably there was a sort of heavy dragging, and a most detestably
sticky noise as of some fiendish and unclean species of suction. With
an associative sense goaded to feverish heights, he thought
unaccountably of what he had seen upstairs. Good God! What eldritch
dream-world was this into which he had blundered? He dared move neither
backward nor forward, but stood there trembling at the black curve of
the boxed-in staircase. Every trifle of the scene burned itself into
his brain. The sounds, the sense of dread expectancy, the darkness, the
steepness of the narrow step--and merciful Heaven!--the faint but
unmistakable luminosity of all the woodwork in sight; steps, sides,
exposed laths, and beams alike.

Then there burst forth a frantic whinny from Ammi's horse outside,
followed at once by a clatter which told of a frenzied runaway. In
another moment horse and buggy had gone beyond earshot, leaving the
frightened man on the dark stairs to guess what had sent them. But that
was not all. There had been another sound out there. A sort of liquid
splash--water--it must have been the well. He had left Hero untied
near it, and a buggy wheel must have brushed the coping and knocked in
a stone. And still the pale phosphorescence glowed in that detestably
ancient woodwork. God! how old the house was! Most of it built before
1670, and the gambrel roof no later than 1730.

A feeble scratching on the floor downstairs now sounded distinctly,
and Ammi's grip tightened on a heavy stick he had picked up in the
attic for some purpose. Slowly nerving himself, he finished his descent
and walked boldly toward the kitchen. But he did not complete the walk,
because what he sought was no longer there. It had come to meet him,
and it was still alive after a fashion. Whether it had crawled or
whether it had been dragged by any external forces, Ammi could not say;
but the death had been at it. Everything had happened in the last
half-hour, but collapse, greying, and disintegration were already far
advanced. There was a horrible brittleness, and dry fragments were
scaling off. Ammi could not touch it, but looked horrifiedly into the
distorted parody that had been a face. "What was it, Nahum--what was
it?" He whispered, and the cleft, bulging lips were just able to
crackle out a final answer.

"Nothin'...nothin'...the colour...it burns...cold an' wet, but
it burns...it lived in the well...I seen it...a kind of smoke...
jest like the flowers last spring...the well shone at night...Thad
an' Merwin an' Zenas...everything alive...suckin' the life out of
everything...in that stone...it must a' come in that stone pizened
the whole place...dun't know what it wants...that round thing them
men from the college dug outen the stone...they smashed it...it was
the same colour...jest the same, like the flowers an' plants...must
a' ben more of 'em...seeds...seeds...they growed...I seen it the
fust time this week...must a' got strong on Zenas...he was a big boy,
full o' life...it beats down your mind an' then gets ye...burns ye
up...in the well water...you was right about that...evil water...
Zenas never come back from the well...can't git away...draws ye...ye
know summ'at's comin' but tain't no use...I seen it time an' agin
senct Zenas was took...whar's Nabby, Ammi?...my head's no good...
dun't know how long sense I fed her...it'll git her ef we ain't
keerful...jest a colour...her face is gittin' to hev that colour
sometimes towards night...an' it burns an' sucks...it come from some
place whar things ain't as they is here...one o' them professors said
so...he was right...look out, Ammi, it'll do suthin' more...sucks
the life out..."

But that was all. That which spoke could speak no more because it
had completely caved in. Ammi laid a red checked tablecloth over what
was left and reeled out the back door into the fields. He climbed the
slope to the ten-acre pasture and stumbled home by the north road and
the woods. He could not pass that well from which his horses had run
away. He had looked at it through the window, and had seen that no
stone was missing from the rim. Then the lurching buggy had not
dislodged anything after all--the splash had been something else--
something which went into the well after it had done with poor Nahum.

When Ammi reached his house the horses and buggy had arrived before
him and thrown his wife into fits of anxiety. Reassuring her without
explanations, he set out at once for Arkham and notified the
authorities that the Gardner family was no more. He indulged in no
details, but merely told of the deaths of Nahum and Nabby, that of
Thaddeus being already known, and mentioned that the cause seemed to be
the same strange ailment which had killed the live-stock. He also
stated that Merwin and Zenas had disappeared. There was considerable
questioning at the police station, and in the end Ammi was compelled to
take three officers to the Gardner farm, together with the coroner, the
medical examiner, and the veterinary who had treated the diseased
animals. He went much against his will, for the afternoon was advancing
and he feared the fall of night over that accursed place, but it was
some comfort to have so many people with him.

The six men drove out in a democrat-wagon, following Ammi's buggy,
and arrived at the pest-ridden farmhouse about four o'clock. Used as
the officers were to gruesome experiences, not one remained unmoved at
what was found in the attic and under the red checked tablecloth on the
floor below. The whole aspect of the farm with its grey desolation was
terrible enough, but those two crumbling objects were beyond all
bounds. No one could look long at them, and even the medical examiner
admitted that there was very little to examine. Specimens could be
analysed, of course, so he busied himself in obtaining them--and here
it develops that a very puzzling aftermath occurred at the college
laboratory where the two phials of dust were finally taken. Under the
spectroscope both samples gave off an unknown spectrum, in which many
of the baffling bands were precisely like those which the strange
meteor had yielded in the previous year. The property of emitting this
spectrum vanished in a month, the dust thereafter consisting mainly of
alkaline phosphates and carbonates.

Ammi would not have told the men about the well if he had thought
they meant to do anything then and there. It was getting toward sunset,
and he was anxious to be away. But he could not help glancing nervously
at the stony curb by the great sweep, and when a detective questioned
him he admitted that Nahum had feared something down there so much so
that he had never even thought of searching it for Merwin or Zenas.
After that nothing would do but that they empty and explore the well
immediately, so Ammi had to wait trembling while pail after pail of
rank water was hauled up and splashed on the soaking ground outside.
The men sniffed in disgust at the fluid, and toward the last held their
noses against the foetor they were uncovering. It was not so long a job
as they had feared it would be, since the water was phenomenally low.
There is no need to speak too exactly of what they found. Merwin and
Zenas were both there, in part, though the vestiges were mainly
skeletal. There were also a small deer and a large dog in about the
same state, and a number of bones of small animals. The ooze and slime
at the bottom seemed inexplicably porous and bubbling, and a man who
descended on hand-holds with a long pole found that he could sink the
wooden shaft to any depth in the mud of the floor without meeting any
solid obstruction.

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« Reply #6 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
here...one 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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« Reply #7 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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Zodiac
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2007, 12:24:19 am »

They say the mental influences are very bad, too; numbers went queer
in the years after Nahum's taking, and always they lacked the power to
get away. Then the stronger-minded folk all left the region, and only
the foreigners tried to live in the crumbling old homesteads. They
could not stay, though; and one sometimes wonders what insight beyond
ours their wild, weird stories of whispered magic have given them.
Their dreams at night, they protest, are very horrible in that
grotesque country; and surely the very look of the dark realm is enough
to stir a morbid fancy. No traveler has ever escaped a sense of
strangeness in those deep ravines, and artists shiver as they paint
thick woods whose mystery is as much of the spirits as of the eye. I
myself am curious about the sensation I derived from my one lone walk
before Ammi told me his tale. When twilight came I had vaguely wished
some clouds would gather, for an odd timidity about the deep skyey
voids above had crept into my soul.

Do not ask me for my opinion. I do not know--that is all. There was
no one but Ammi to question; for Arkham people will not talk about the
strange days, and all three professors who saw the aerolite and its
coloured globule are dead. There were other globules--depend upon
that. One must have fed itself and escaped, and probably there was
another which was too late. No doubt it is still down the well--I know
there was something wrong with the sunlight I saw above the miasmal
brink. The rustics say the blight creeps an inch a year, so perhaps
there is a kind of growth or nourishment even now. But whatever demon
hatchling is there, it must be tethered to something or else it would
quickly spread. Is it fastened to the roots of those trees that claw
the air? One of the current Arkham tales is about fat oaks that shine
and move as they ought not to do at night.

What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing
Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed the laws that
are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as
shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories.
This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our
astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour
out of space--a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity
beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns
the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open
before our frenzied eyes.

I doubt very much if Ammi consciously lied to me, and I do not think
his tale was all a freak of madness as the townsfolk had forewarned.
Something terrible came to the hills and valleys on that meteor, and
something terrible--though I know not in what proportion--still
remains. I shall be glad to see the water come. Meanwhile I hope
nothing will happen to Ammi. He saw so much of the thing--and its
influence was so insidious. Why has he never been able to move away?
How clearly he recalled those dying words of Nahum's--"Can't git away
--draws ye--ye know summ'at's comin' but tain't no use--". Ammi is
such a good old man--when the reservoir gang gets to work I must write
the chief engineer to keep a sharp watch on him. I would hate to think
of him as the grey, twisted, brittle monstrosity which persists more
and more in troubling my sleep.

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