The Colour Out of Space (originally published in Amazing Tales in September 1927)
by H.P. Lovecraft
The narrator of this short story is a man sent to New England to survey land for a new reservoir. Even from the city of Arkham the narrator is told this area known as the Blasted Hearth is evil though the younger folk don’t known why and the elders won’t say other than, “strange days.” Curiosity gets the better of the him, and he finally gets the name of someone that might talk about those strange days. He warned not to believe Ammi Pierce’s crazy stories about the past and the desolate area known as the Blasted Hearth. Instead, the narrator seek Mr. Pierce out immediately.
Using the reservoir surveying as guise to ask about the story behind Blasted Hearth and the strange days, the narrator talks to Ammi and discovers the old man to be far more intelligent that he was led to believe. Ammi states it would be better for what had happen during those strange days to be under water. Without much prodding however, Ammi retells the story of Gardner Farm as well as its fall.
Decades ago in 1882, a strange meteorite fell on the Gardener Farm and intrigued professors from Miskatonic University to study it. The meteorite seemed to shrink in size after hitting the Earth according to Nahum Gardener. It was composed of a malleable material that was warm to the touch and seemed to completely inert to acids and many other chemicals. In fact many of the test performed by the professors yielded result not like any material known. After gouging deeply into it, the University geologist discovered a strange substance that could only be describe as a colour, though it was not like any in the known spectrum and entirely impossible to describe. Only one of these colour globules were found within the odd meteorite. After a thunderstorm the meteorite was struck by lightning according to Nahum and the professors could not find any remains of the meteorite.
It was this that Nahum’s farm began to produce huge, mutated crops that completely inedible. Disgusting in taste the entire crop was useless. Soon after, the animals began to act strange and the livestock also impossible to eat as the meat took on a horrid taste. After more than a year, the surrounding vegetation grow strange. The flower bloomed colors unlike they ever had and even the grasses were prismatic in their array of colors. The Gardener’s were not immune to what ever was causing this strange growth. Nahum grew taciturn though most though it was from the hard times at his farm. Mrs Garden fell into a madness, and the Gardener child became ill and died. By harvest, the Gardener Farm and the area surrounding the farm the vegetation was crumbing to gray ash like powder. Like the color and life had been sucked out. That was forty-four years ago.
The Colour Out of Space is brilliant blend of science fiction and horror. I always put myself in the shoes of Nahum Gardner who not only is his livelihood falling apart, but his family is either becoming ill and dying or insane. The Colour’s effect happens over the course of a couple years forcing Nahum to endure the menace and dread of such a tragedy far more than a simple serial killer or mad man chasing after the protagonist. He is truly helpless against this force from beyond the stars that even the brightest minds of Miskatonic University can’t understand. What is most frightening is that the Colour may continue to expand, perhaps faster, even after the reservoir is place over the Blasted Hearth. I always took the strange effect the Colour had on the environment as well as the heat from the meteorite to be a sort of radiation. Or even the Colour itself being or giving off toxic radiation that mutated and drove mad living things before draining the life and color out them.
The Colour, like the Nothing is the Neverending Story, is purely literary concept as Lovecraft goes out of his way to make the reader known it was a color know like any known shade or type. I can’t help to at least think a little of the impossibility of such an idea as I’m fascinated by electromagnetic radiation including the visible spectrum of light. However, I don’t let that bother me from such a chilling tale.
Bottomline: The Colour Out of Space is a tale that even to this day gives a heavy gut from the tragedy and horror it produces. The idea of a thing so subtly destroying your life without concern and perhaps one day becoming a threat to the entire world is a spine chilling one. I give The Colour of Space 6 out of 6 magnetic field producing elder signs.