Synopsis of “The Colour Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft

Hello everyone, it’s synopsis-time, but, unlike synopsis of “At the Mountain of Madness”, I think I am going to do things a little different.  So get your seeds and barbiturates ready, because we are going to learn how H.P. Lovecraft pulls off a stunning garden, using “The Colour Out of Space” as a reference.

The Story begins with an unsettling description of the farming community in the hills west of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite town, Arkham. The area was never really resettled or tended to after what the older folk call, “The Strange Days”.

Then some out-of-towner shows up. It’s narrator, an unnamed surveyor tasked with cataloging the area in which water from new reservoir is going to flood. Fun fact, this particular story was written during a time when the Massachusetts state government was putting in not one, but two reservoirs, which sparked the creative interest of our favorite author.

Anyways, the townsfolk warn the surveyor that there’s crazy stuff out in the backwater woods, but he’s like, “Whatever…what do people, who have lived here all their lives, know?” He starts conducting his survey and finds a plot of land devoid of anything but the ruins of an old homestead and a blanket of gray dust, known by the locals as “the blasted heath”.  He asks around, and eventually runs into Ammi Pierce. The old man happens to be the expert on this weird patch of land where nothing lives, but has never spoken to anyone about it.

Until now…

He decides to break his silence, which spanned several years, and tells everything to this complete stranger.

Alright readers, Step One: to create the perfect Lovecraftian garden, make sure you firmly plant a meteor in the middle of your plot.

Ammi says that the crazy business all starts with a meteor landing on property of one Nahum Gardner, beside his well. The farmer contacts Lovecraft’s made up Miskatonic University to get some science folk out.

First, the meteorite shrinks in size before the science folk get there. Once they arrive, they say Gardner is silly and cannot measure things, then proceed to cut a chunk out of the rock to take back to the lab.  They run some tests at the university, but the next day the chuck vanishes along with the glass beaker they put it in!

First thought: Uh maybe someone stole it? Which would be reasonable, but then one considers the test results: other than reacting violently to silicon and staying perpetually hot, nothing else seemed to affect it. It didn’t show any occluded gases when heated on charcoal nor was it volatile at any producible temperature, even when in an oxy-hydrogen blowpipe! Oh and it was unaffected by exposure to any acid.

The meteor chunk did do one creepy thing, though: it shined a colour yet unseen on the colour spectrum. That, in and of itself, was crazy enough for the scientists to go for another piece. Back at the Garner farm, they gouge into the now even smaller meteor, but this time they uncover a weird globule which is the same colour as the glimmer exhibited by the first meteor fragment. So what do these guys do, being scientists? They hit the globule with a hammer.

Unfortunately, the globule just pops and disappears. The scientists, totally dissatisfied, leave with their rock and find nothing else in their additional tests. That night the meteor vanishes.

Step Two: Feed your horror garden plenty of healthy plants and creatures, and do NOT eat the fruit it bears.

The seasons begin to pass and Gardner’s fruit trees around his house ripen like never before, the fruit being described as of “phenomenal size and unwonted gloss”. But when people try eating the fruit, it tasted bitter and sickish, causing lasting disgust. Then in the winter, Gardner starts noticing that the animals around his farm are beginning to mutate and become totally creepy. At the same time as this, the trees start budding prematurely and seem to sway without the assistance of wind.
Yea, is anyone else freaked out? Well the Gardner family sure is, and it comes as no surprise that, as this all occurs, they start taking on weird behavior, like listening when there was nothing to hear and giving M. Night Shyamalan movies positive reviews.

By April all the plants around their house are growing big and freakish with pigments of unknown colour. The farming community, at this point, decides to take other routes far from the road that passes by the Gardner plot, and I don’t blame them, that area is getting pretty intense. With May comes some new torture on the mind: some of the plants start to glow slightly at night. Oh and the cows’ milk starts coming out bad.

Step Three: make sure your family is nice and crazy.

So with rumors going about town and the crops suddenly losing all colour and becoming brittle, The Gardner family decide to stay home, as in never leave for anything. Ammi, being the friend that he is, decides to do their errands for them.

Mrs. Gardner, after this lifestyle change, takes it the hardest. By June she snaps, screaming to, what I like to call, the tune of Lovecraft: raving about stuff that isn’t there, some of it coming out as gibberish, etc. During her ravings, she talks about something which changes, flutters and “fastens itself on her that ought not to be”.

Seeing his wife like this, good ‘ol Gardner decided to the only sensible thing: he locks her in the attic. This, by the way, was totally an appropriate thing to do to crazy women in the early 20th century. She screams some more but, eventually, stops her ranting and raving. Score one for the attic treatment! In fact, it works so well she stops speaking altogether. Double win!

Oh did I mention she also starts crawling on all fours… and may have started glowing in the dark? By this point, all of the vegetation around the house has turned completely gray and brittle, and all the insects have either died or left.

September comes around and the boys don’t show up for school. Ammi decides, on a whim, to visit and finds that the family has become “calloused to strange and unpleasant things” drinking the now fetid well water and eating disgusting food. It was then that one of the sons, Thaddeus, goes mad. Ammi put it best, remarking that, “Two in one family [is] pretty bad”. I have to agree. So Mr. Gardner, being a man of habit, puts Thaddeus in the attic as well. In another room though, so that makes it okay. This is around the time when the pigs and cows follow the trend set by the plant life, dying and turning brittle.

Step Four: Now that your family is good and crazy, you might as well feed ‘em to your garden of blasphemous wretchedness as well!

Mid October, Nahum Gardner comes to Ammi to let him know that Thaddeus died in his attic. Ammi is like, “Woah dude, you came to my house to tell me that? You need to go home and morn or something!” and accompanies Mr. Gardner back to his house, only to find the family in a state of shock (well everyone but Mrs. Gardner, who is still in the attic).

Three days later, the youngest, Merwin “disappears” while fetching water from the well. Two weeks later, into the month of November, Ammi, seeing neither hide nor hair of his friend, decides to pay Mr. Gardner a visit. He finds Gardner on the couch, yelling for his last son Zenas to get wood. When asked where Zenas is, Gardner only replies that “He lives in the well”. Ammi then goes up to the attic in search of the wife. He finds Mrs. Gardner curled up in the corner of a locked room. She starts to move towards him while crumbling to pieces like the livestock. If that isn’t jarring enough, Ammi also feels something move past him, a “hateful current of vapour” and sees colours like the globule from the meteor flow through the air. He then starts to go back down the stairs and hears something hit the floor then a dragging sound. As he descends, appropriately FREAKING OUT, he sees the area below become illuminated in that same crazy colour, followed by the sound of something splashing in the well. Ammi descends the stairs the rest of the way to find Gardner collapsed, graying and brittle. The dying man, with his last breath gives his cryptic rosebud line, describing some crazy demon thing that lives in the well which sucks the life out of everything. He goes on to say that it grew from the seeds in the globule that the scientists cracked open. One hell of a breath.

Vola! Your perfect Lovecraftian garden! If you aren’t disintegrating on your kitchen floor, sit back and watch the lightshow, birthed from the insane reaches of the great beyond!

Okay, time for a recap: Ammi is in his friend’s house, Gardner is dead on the floor, Mrs. Gardner is crumbling to pieces upstairs, and all of the children dead or missing. So what does Ammi do? He goes and gets the friggin’ police! I like Ammi, even through all the crazy, he keeps a level head.

He comes back to the house with an investigative team and they begin snooping. They examine the well, emptying it of its stinking water, and find the skeletons of Zenas and Merwin as well as that of a small deer, dog, and several small animals. Baffled, the men decide to go into the house to talk about the case. Was it the strange vegetables that lead to the crumbling sickness? The unknown disease of the livestock? Mr. Plum in the study with a lead pipe?

It is as they contemplate these questions that the outside begins to glow and a beam of light shoots up from the well. Then a phosphorescent mist collects around the beam as the trees start their windless dancing. The light get brighter and it seems to be building up to something.

Again, someone in the group thinks practically in the face of some insane, balls-to-the-wall freakiness: one of them puts a large wooden beam over the door. The investigators huddle together as they hear their horses get the hell outta there, all except poor Ammi’s horse, Hero, who couldn’t get free of his bindings. Yea, he dies.

Then a wave of the unknown color starts to emanate from the wood of the house. Time to go! The group goes out the back and gets to higher ground, in the hills around Gardner’s homestead. They look back and see that anything not gray and dead has begun to glow. Then suddenly the misty mass of colour shoots up and away into the stars. Right after, the residual colour of the area erupts and disappears, leaving nothing but destroyed ruins. As the group leaves, Ammi looks back and sees a little bit of colour rise up for a moment, then drop back down and sink into the earth.

Ever since then, stuff still isn’t right around the blasted heath. People began to leave the homesteads around there shortly after the event, and those who stayed are somewhat weak of mind to this day. Oh and about our surveyor, he quits his job and vows never to drink the water from the reservoir or ever return to Arkham.

Until next time, good day!
-SM


Stephan is not only an aspiring author but works with creatives to help them acheive success in life and project management as well. If you are interested in Stephan's time and project management consultation or ghost writing services, please email contact@stephanmcleroy.com

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