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The Colour Out of Space is a novelette written by American horror author H. P. Lovecraft in March 1927. In the tale, an unnamed narrator pieces together the story of an area known by the locals as the "blasted heath" in the wild hills west of Arkham, Massachusetts. The narrator discovers that many years ago a meteorite crashed there, draining the life force from anything living nearby; vegetation grows large, but tasteless, animals are driven mad and deformed into grotesque shapes, and the people go insane or die one by one.

Lovecraft began writing "The Colour Out of Space" immediately after finishing his previous short novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and in the midst of final revision on his horror fiction essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature". Seeking to create a form of life that was truly alien, he drew his inspiration from numerous fiction and nonfiction sources. First appearing in the September 1927 edition of Hugo Gernsback's science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, "The Colour Out of Space" became one of Lovecraft's most popular works and remained his personal favorite short story. It was adapted into feature film versions in 1965 and 1987.

Synopsis

Written in the first-person perspective of an unnamed surveyor from Boston, "The Colour Out of Space" tells the story of the narrator's attempts to uncover the secrets behind a shunned place referred to by the locals of Arkham as the "blasted heath". Unable to garner any information from the townspeople, the protagonist seeks out an old and allegedly crazy man by the name of Ammi Pierce who relates his personal experiences with a farmer who used to live on the cursed property, Nahum Gardner. Pierce claims that the troubles began when a meteorite crashed into Gardner's lands in June 1882.

The meteorite never cools, but begins shrinking and local scientists are unable to discern its origins. As the stone shrinks, it leaves behind globules of colour that are referred to as such "only by analogy", as they do not fall within the range of anything known in the visible spectrum. These remains eventually disappear but, the following season, Gardner's crops come in unnaturally large and abundantly. When he discovers that, despite their appearance, they are inedible, he accuses the meteorite of having poisoned the soil. Over the following year, the problem begins spreading to the surrounding vegetation and local animals, warping them in unusual ways. The plant life around the farmhouse becomes "slightly luminous in the dark", and Gardner's wife eventually goes mad, forcing him to lock her in the attic. During this time, Gardner begins to isolate his family from the rest of the town and Pierce slowly becomes his only contact with the outside world.

Soon after Gardner's wife becomes mad, the vegetation begins eroding into a grey powder and the water from the well becomes tainted. One of Gardner's sons, Thaddeus, goes insane like his mother and is similarly locked in a different room in the attic. The livestock begins turning grey and dying and, like the crops, their meat is tasteless and inedible. Thaddeus eventually dies and Merwin, another of Gardner's sons, goes missing during an excursion to retrieve water from the well. After two weeks of silence from Gardner, Pierce visits the farmstead and witnesses the tale's eponymous horror for the first time in the attic. Gardner's final son, Zenas, has disappeared and the "colour" has infected Nahum's wife, whom Pierce puts out of her misery. He then flees the decaying house as the horror destroys the last surviving resident, Nahum.

Pierce returns to the farmstead shortly after with six other men, including a doctor, who begin examining Nahum's remains. They discover Merwin and Zenas' eroding skeletons at the bottom of the well, as well as remnants of several other creatures. As they reflect upon their discoveries in the house, a light begins to emit from the well that eventually transforms into the "colour" and begins pouring out, spreading over everything nearby. The men flee the house just as the horror blights the land and then shoots towards the sky. Pierce alone turns back after the "colour" has gone and witnesses a small part of it try to follow the rest, only to fail and return to the well. The knowledge that part of the alien still resides on earth is sufficient to alter his mental state. When some of the men return the following day, there is nothing remaining but a dead horse and acres of grey dust, and the surrounding area is quickly abandoned by all of its remaining residents.

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