THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE is definitely the scariest story I've read in a while, though it has by far the least scary name. I mean, The Colour Out of Space? Gasp! What colour could it be? Aubergine? Heliotrope?? Puce?!?!?
Well, when the bizarre meteorite falls on the Gardner farm, we discover that it is in fact a color not currently found on earth, so maybe it was Octarine. If so, then thanks to the work of Sir Terence Pratchett we can now know quite a bit more about the place from when the meteorite came, and it is indeed a very different world from our own (it's much flatter, for one thing).
But the color itself (sorry, the colour itself) is not the scariest part of this story. It's what the colour does - first spreading itself, then sucking out the life from everything around it - that gets pretty upsetting. I won't give away the specifics, but I will say that this story is the kind of thing that Twilight Zone episodes want to become.
I made the mistake of trying to read this story in pieces while on breaks from work. This was a very, very, very bad idea. Read this story in one or maybe two sittings, while in a darkened room with nothing to distract you. This is the most accessible of the Lovecraft stories I've read so far, with characters you can grab on to and one consistent story to follow. It also has the least antiquated, technical language and the most attempts at complete descriptions. This is in part, I think, because the narrator is not a scientist or an antiquarian. Rather, he is a land surveyor* who's just in town to help with a new reservoir they're putting in for the neighboring city of Arkham (That's right - Arkham, just like the asylum from Batman/the DC Universe. Lovecraft is everywhere!). And our narrator is relating the tale of a humble, stolid farmer. Between the two, things stay about as grounded as they can under the circumstances.
There will still come moments when your imagination has to fill in the blanks, and frankly you might not be happy that it did. Poor Ammi the farmer comes across some pretty disturbing stuff even before the dramatic climax, and you just have to go along with him. Nonetheless, if you want to know more about scary, dreary, unearthly, non-fun colors, then you need to read this one. Don't worry though, it's probably only real if you believe that it's real.
And even if it is, at least it isn't puce.
*much like the lead character in Kafka's The Castle, which I've incidentally been referencing with disturbing frequency in my off-blog life lately. Hm.