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Literature / The Night Wire

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"The Night-Wire" is a 1926 short story by a man named H.F. Arnold and happens to be one of the most famous short stories ever published in Weird Tales.

The story follows two radio operators who happen to work late at night, an anonymous narrator and a man named John Morgan who usually take down the reports of various tragedies from all over the world. However on one night John receives a mysterious bulletin from a town called Xebico, a town that neither of them have ever heard of. The report starts out describing how the city was enveloped by an unthinkably massive fog. The reports only get more disturbing from there.

The story itself is available for free on the Weird Tales website and has been anthologized several times, but never by the author who wrote two more short stories before disappearing completely.

A Description of Tropes Appearing in "The Night-Wire":

  • The All-Concealing "I": Nothing is known of the narrator other than what his job is.
  • Alien Sky: The sky above Xebico becomes filled with strange lights and a Fictional Color as the fog grows larger.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The titular "night wire" is the transcription of a series of telegraph messages from a reporter within the town of Xebico as he narrates the town's destruction up until it takes him too.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Maybe, or maybe not. Nothing Is Scarier that way.
  • Deadline News: The person reporting the titular night wire narrates the events that are destroying the town until the very end. It's this trope twice over, even — John Morgan, the man who received and transcribed the night wire, died during the act in some unknown way and his zombified body finished the job.
  • Dies Wide Open: John Morgan's body is dead in this fashion, and the narrator notices that the eyes' glazing is evidence that Morgan has passed on for some time.
  • Fictional Color: The colors that appear over the sky in Xebico are described as Colors as yet unseen by man or demon.
  • Fog of Doom: The fog covering Xebico is actively consuming the town's inhabitants.
  • Ghost Town: Xebico after every one of the inhabitants has been consumed by the fog.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Where to begin?
    • We never find out where the fog came from or why.
    • We never learn what killed John Morgan or how.
    • We never even find out if Xebico was a real town or not!
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Despite being dead for hours John Morgan manages to finish typing the entire Xebico report.