Short Story #380: The Colours Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft
Title: The Colours Out of Space
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Summary:The narrator is a land surveyor checking out a section outside the city of Arkham that is set to covered in water when the new dam is constructed. He notes that the area seems to be struck by a blight and that for years, populations have moved in and out of the area. He discovers there is one person who has lived there for forty years and seeks out the man, though the man is described as odd. The narrator interviews Ammi and explains that directly following the explanation he returned to work, quit his job and moved away and would recommend that no one ever drink the water from that dam. He then retells Ammi's tale. Ammi lived with his wife in the area at time when it was a thriving farmland. However, one night, a meteorite struck down on the Gardner farm--the closest farm to Ammi, but still a reasonable distance away. Ammi and many others went to visit the meteorite to learn about it. The father of the Gardner house swore that it appeared to be shrinking but the professors from Arkham did not believe him. They took a sample of the soft--almost viscous--meteorite but by the next day, the same had disappeared entirely. They came back for more and continued to run tests but couldn't make any sense of it. Day by day, the meteorite shrunk, but one noticeable element was the unearthly light that came from the rock. After its disappearance, strange things begin to happen at the Gardner farm. The vegetables grow huge but they taste horrible; milk from animals goes sour and the mother goes made. The well becomes tainted but they continue to drink from it. Over the course of the next year, people avoid the Gardners, their crops continued to fail (except in areas distance from where the meteorite struck), and the family members continue to get sick. Ammi regularly checks on them but is helpless to do anything. Finally, after the mother and son die, the father is all but dead and the two other children have disappeared. Ammi tells the police of what has transpired and a team of them, with Ammi go to the house. Ammi is reluctant because he has increasingly seen the odd and eerie things on the farm and knows that it gets worse at night. As the men search the premises, they find remnants of the father, the mother, and one of the children. They finally look to the well where so much strangeness emanates from. They go down into the well and manage to find the remnants of the two children along with other animals that ended up in there. Twilight has arrived and an eerie glow begin appearing all around the men go into the house in part for protection as the glow gets brighter and the horses they brought begin acting out. The men witness strange things including trees moving about with no wind and finally, something comes forward from the well. The men escape from the back of the house and witness two masses of strange color rise up into the sky and disappear. The men are shocked and afraid by what they have seen and find their way home. Ammi is never quite right again and he believes that there is still a bit left of the meteorite still feeding off the land, growing the blight inch by inch until it will have enough strength to also return to space.
ReflectionThis is definitely a keeper. The story within the story is a fun approach and in this case, it's an interesting mirror reflection. That is, the horror happens to Ammi but the narrator's reaction (and supposedly truth in telling us the reader) adds its own level of legitimacy to it. But also, Lovecraft provides some excellent and vivid details that linger with the reader long after the sentence is read. This is perhaps my favorite example: "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." I don't know what this color is, but it is enough to make me feel uncomfortable to a serious degree. It's a good read and definitely one of the go-tos that I would recommend with Lovecraft as an opener to his work.
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Source: I read this version of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too). However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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