- "In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed 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 extracosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes."
- ―The narrator, The Color out of Space, 1927
The Color out of Space is the designation given to a strange, not-fully-material form of life. It's believed to have originated outside of our known universe, as it has properties which cannot be explained by science. It seemingly feeds upon all kinds of organic life, causing its prey to mutate and degenerate, both physically and mentally, before death.
It came to Earth within a meteorite which fell in 1882 in a small property belonging to a man named Nahum Gardner, in a lush valley near the city of Arkham, Massachusetts.
The following day, three scientists from the Miskatonic University showed up to see the meteorite. Gardner was astonished to see that the rock had shrunk since the previous night, and the scientists were curious to find that the material appeared strangely soft and malleable.
A fragment was taken and several laboratory tests showed the strange properties of the material. It refused to react with any substance applied to it, but did show an unexplainable affinity for silicon. It likewise refused to melt or vaporize, no matter how high a temperature. It was highly malleable and showed a strange luminescence in the dark. It also had magnetic properties. Most notably, however, it kept shrinking in size without liberating any detectable gas or other substance, until it finally disappeared along with the glass container it had been put into.
A second sample from the meteorite revealed that it contained inside it a small hollow sphere of an indescribable color which easily broke apart when touched. Despite utter scrutiny, no other spheres were found. The next night a storm came and the meteorite displayed yet another puzzling property: it attracted no less than six consecutive lightnings towards itself. The following day, it had disappeared completely.
For the following months, Gardner's crops started to give rise to strange fruits that were much larger than normal, yet unfortunately inedible due to their weird luminescence and nauseating taste. At the same time the neighbors noticed that Gardner, his family and even his dogs were becoming increasingly private and showing signs of inquietude and depression. Gardner spoke of strange footprints of rabbits, foxes and squirrels he found on the snow which seemed somehow wrong, suggesting that they didn't quite match the anatomy and/or behavior of these animals. Other people reported catching a groundhog with a strange appearance and somewhat unnatural proportions, describing it as uncanny and throwing it away.
As the winter ended, bizarre trees started to grow and take over the area. All sorts of mutated plants appeared, displaying weird and unhealthy color schemes. The neighbors started spreading stories that the Gardners too were becoming sick. It was observed that the trees would move their branches at night even when there was no wind. A very faint luminescence was also noticed, emanating from the sick vegetation. While grass was seemingly unaffected at first, eventually the cattle started producing unpalatable milk.
About a year after the fall of the meteorite, the news came along that Gardner's wife had become insane and spent the days yelling about horrible things in the atmosphere. As the children became scared, Gardner was forced to keep her locked. He was horrified to notice that her body seemed to exhibit a faint glowing at night, much like the vegetation. Next thing the horses were affected by some kind of mental unrest that caused them to run away and eventually had to be sacrificed.
As the days passed, the formerly colorful fruits and flowers became increasingly fragile and grey. The mutated insects died out and the bees moved towards the woodlands abandoning their old hives. The water from the well became unpalatable too, yet the Gardners kept drinking it as they had by this point developed a sort of apathy towards the whole situation. Gardner's son Thaddeus soon became insane like his mother and would ramble about the strange colors moving deep in the well. The birds and the pigs became horribly fat and grey, and quickly died out. Their meat was completely inedible. Soon the cattle became affected too. The animals' bodies would become strangely fragile to the point that they started falling apart even before death. The cats and dogs had by this point ran away, so the entire farm was left without a single living animal. Not even mice and rats were present. Thaddeus died soon afterwards. His brother Merwin disappeared in the grey woods and was never seen again. The last brother, Zenas, was said to have disappeared in the well.
Finally, Gardner lost his touch with reality. His neighbor Ammi Pierce was the only one who still had courage to visit him and found him in his couch babbling incoherent things. His wife suffered the same fate as the animals. Shortly afterwards, Gardner too perished in the same mysterious way.
That night, all the trees' branches started moving in unity towards the skies and the indescribable light emanating from the well become more intense until at last it exploded and launched itself upwards like a rocket, directly towards the stars, and disappeared.
For several decades later, the valley where the Gardners' property was located remained empty. Those who lived there moved away. Nobody else would settle, as those who tried were haunted by eerie feelings and unrestful dreams. The region has since been flooded to create the new Arkham water reservoir.
- The Color out of Space, by H. P. Lovecraft (1927)