19

A visiting science fiction author, James D. Macdonald, showed a writing group at my school this story when I was in 7th/8th grade (around 1996-1997) and I can't remember the title or the author but it's always stayed with me and I'd love to find out more about it.

The gist of the story is that someone starts a job working for a news service, receiving telegrams or teletypes or similar written communiques. Pretty soon he starts receiving telegrams from a city that doesn't show up on any map, name kinda reminds me of Xanadu or something similar. The employee reads these telegrams as they describe a kind of mist enveloping this city; and to cut a short story short, the city is ultimately destroyed and no more word is received.

Really sorry if this is vague, doesn't leave much to go on.

26

"The Night Wire", a short story by H. F. Arnold, text available here, audio here. The city is Xebico.

How I found it: I cheated. I emailed James D. MacDonald and he was kind enough to answer me. He says you have a heck of a memory. The story is available many places on the web; I linked to the copy at MacDonald's web site.

An excerpt from the story:

The first wire was running out the usual sort of stuff and I just looked over it hurriedly. Then I turned to the second pile of copy. I remembered it particularly because the story was from a town I had never heard of: "Xebico." Here is the dispatch. I saved a duplicate of it from our files:

"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...

(more)"

That was all there was. Nothing out of the ordinary at a bureau headquarters, but, as I say, I noticed the story because of the name of the town.

  • 2
    Excellent research is always worthy of an upvote. – Valorum Dec 1 '17 at 19:18
  • 1
    I take no small measure of pride in the fact that I've never held an answer back to farm rep for the following day – Valorum Dec 1 '17 at 21:08
  • Thanks! Such a relief to finally have the answer. Grateful. Now to see if this story has held up from what my thirteen year old brain remembers. – Myles Lobdell Dec 3 '17 at 4:58
  • Don't know if you spotted this or if it's of interest; chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/41508421#41508421 – Valorum Dec 3 '17 at 11:13
  • @user14111 - Road trip!!! – Valorum Dec 3 '17 at 12:45

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