Friday, October 15, 2021

The Night Wire is a tiny taste of dread

With Halloween coming, I took a moment to reread The Nigjt Wire, a short story by Henry Ferris Arnold. It’s from 1926 so public domain and free to read online. It’s also pretty short so it’s easy to read in half a sitting.

In it, two men are on the night shift of a telegraph office, typing out news stories as they come in when they start getting live reports about a terrible apocalypse happening to a city they have never heard of.

I honestly don’t want to go into too many details because that would spoil the story. Mind you, it’s nearly a hundred years old, apparently was one of the most popular stories in that era of Weird Tales and has been frequently anthologized so you probably have already read it :D 

And you can click on the link below and read the thing in five minutes if you haven’t  :D

There are two elements in the story that I think make it resonate. Atmosphere and uncertainty.

The entire story takes place in one room in the middle of the night. The sparse setting manages to convey a sense of isolation where the only connection to the world is the telegraph and that is a tenuous connection. 

But the uncertainty is the real power of the story. We never have a clear idea what is going on. Is the night wire describing a Biblical apocalypse? A Lovecraftian cosmic horror? The afterlife? Or is the narrator having some kind of psychotic break? You can make arguments for all of the above.

But you get enough details for it to be really creepy. The story gives your mind enough to work with.

If you need a tiny taste of Halloween dread, the Night Wire should do the trick.


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