Friends, as I believe I have made rather evident on this site over nearly nine years now – I am rather fond of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. I bring this up because I frequently listen to the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast – hosted by both Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey. It’s an excellent show in my opinion and Chad and Chris manage to educate about horror fiction in general, not just Lovecraft, all the while being entertaining. A couple of weeks back on their show they discussed a 1926 bit of weird fiction by H.F. Arnold entitled The Night Wire, which was originally published in the September issue of Weird Tales magazine – appropriate as H.P. Lovecraft’s He was published in that same issue.
In total H.F. Arnold wrote three stories, two of them published in the pages of Weird Tales with the third being found in Amazing Stories. It’s been said that The Night Wire was the former’s most popular story and in fact was appreciated by H.P. Lovecraft himself – so it’s rather odd that Arnold didn’t produce more stories. Some fans of weird fiction have suggested that H.F. Arnold might have possibly been writing under a different name – in terms of biographical data we know that he was born in 1901 and passed away in 1963 – working as a journalist… we assume this information is correct. Which is highly appropriate as the narrator of the story named Jim works as the manager of the night shift at a newsroom situated in a skyscraper of a major newspaper. Trying to stay awake as reports across the world comes in on the night wire – the night wire man’s job is to write up the news as it comes in. And while I will admit it sounds like quite possibly the most boring job in the World, in the case of our story something begins to come across the wire that is curious indeed… and horrific in scope as we learn that Jim would like nothing more than to be able to forget what he experienced.
I should mention that Jim isn’t solely alone at his job, there is a man by the name of John that also works the night shift. As Jim explains, John is the best ‘double’ man he has ever known. The description means that John can actually listen to two different wires and transcribe the news on two different typewriters at the same time. Jim points out that he has only known three other men in his career who have the skill to successfully pull this off night after night and not make a mistake while doing so. Things start to get weird though a little after three in the morning, when Jim takes a moment to read what John has typed up:
“Xebico, Sept 16 CP BULLETIN
The heaviest mist in the history of the city settled over the town at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. All traffic has stopped and the mist hangs like a pall over everything. Lights of ordinary intensity fail to pierce the fog, which is constantly growing heavier.
“Scientists here are unable to agree as to the cause, and the local weather bureau states that the like has never occurred before in the history of the city.
“At 7 P.M. last night the municipal authorities…”
I don’t believe I’m ruining the story by telling you that this mist or fog is not natural and as the story progresses we learn the horror that hides within in it, as well as it’s effects on the citizens of Xebico. Thanks to Ian Gordon, we can listen to this adaptation of The Night Wire by way of the HorrorBabble YouTube channel. Dim your lights if you are able and prepare to experience the night shift with Jim and John as they cover the night wire.