As mentioned by Alasdair:
Art Bell-The Frantic Caller
The Hugo Awards have these things they call nominations tallys but they are commonly referred to as The Long Lists. These include the top fifteen nominees, and show who just missed making the finals. For example, Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Mothership Zeta all made the long list last year for Semiprozine.
One of the great values of these long lists is that it allows readers even more excellent works to add to their “to read” pile. David Steffen has worked to make mining those lists significantly more convenient for you. For the third year in a row, David has published a volume of The Long List Anthology. In this most recent version are included works from names familiar to fans of Escape Artists. Lavie Tidhar, Ursula Vernon, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Ken Liu, among a host of amazing others.
Want to know what sort of story makes it to this anthology? Go listen to episode 607 of Escape Pod and catch Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo. Been procrastinating picking up Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw or Run Time by Escape Pod’s S.B. Divya? This anthology will assuage your guilt. You can find The Long List Anthology Volume 3 at all the usual purveyors of books. If you’re already the proud owner of this book, become a subscribing supporter of Diabolical Plots which is also edited by David Steffen. Subscribing there puts you in line early for not only the ebooks of the original stories published in Diabolical Plots, but also gets you in line early for The Long List Anthology Volume 4. Go support this fantastically creative human being.
Alarm Will Sound
by Christopher Shultz
And we’re back. This is hour two of Talk it Out. I’m your host, Gabrielle Esposito. If you’re just tuning in, in our first hour on the air we talked at length with Mary from Poughkeepsie, New York, who has been having suicidal thoughts. She was able to talk through a lot of what’s been bothering her, and I think overall we left things in a good place.
Now of course, if this is your first time listening to the show, I want to reiterate that I am not a licensed therapist, nor do I behave like one. What we provide on this show is an avenue for people just to talk. I listen, and the rest of you, the audience, listen too, and we share messages of positivity and encouragement from you listeners, which you can send via email or post to our Facebook page. I always recommend that anyone experiencing things like suicidal thoughts, like Mary, or any other psychological issue, to seek out counseling. Now, Mary definitely wanted help, and we gave her several numbers of therapists in her area to call. My producer Michelle just told me that Mary was okay with a callback live on the air next week, so for those of you concerned for her well-being, be sure to listen in.
Okay, it looks like we have a handful of callers waiting in the queue, so let’s answer the next one in line. We have Charles on the line, from a small town in Oklahoma. Charles, welcome to Talk it Out.
Charles, how can we help you today?
Um. I’m calling from Scissortail, Oklahoma. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s okay, but I’m hoping after tonight, everyone will know the name. Scissortail, remember. Oklahoma.
Okay, no problem. Scissortail.
Thank you. See, this deals with what I believe to be…some kind of force or entity or intelligent being, attempting to make contact in some fashion with my town. Maybe, even, attempting to take over my town. Now, I know that sounds crazy, but please just hear me out. Please don’t hang up.
I promise not to hang up on you, Charles. I do believe that you believe this is happening.
This is all actually happening. I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles as tall as Everest if you ask me to. Just let me explain…
Please, Charles, go ahead.
Okay. This all started with what we assumed at the time to be an unknown graffiti artist everyone called Alarm Will Sound. None of us knew if that was the artist’s name, but that’s what he or she spray-painted in big red block letters all over the place, just those three words, Alarm Will Sound. You know, like on emergency exit doors. The lettering was always crude, like the artist had a shaky hand.
That’s a very cryptic phrase. Do you know what it means?
I…I don’t. No. The wife and I and our friends are about as far removed from the modern art scene as you can get. Which isn’t to say we’re uneducated, we know about the big famous painters, your Picassos and Van Goghs and whatnot, and we knew about Banksy because we watched that movie about him on Netflix. But, you know, we didn’t know the who’s who anymore, locally or internationally.
What I’m trying to get across here is this: we were only aware of Alarm Will Sound because he or she—or it—was EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it seemed like he or she—I’m going with “she” on this one, I don’t know why, that’s just…it’s fitting. I don’t know.
Whatever is easiest for you, Charles.
Thank you. What was I saying? Yes…She was everywhere, all at once. And she was fast. You’d see the tag in a few places one day, and then the next, she’d’ve hit fifty other places over night. Now, that’s not so strange, I suppose, but looking back I know there was a kind of…I don’t know, um…mutual eeriness we all felt about it, but nobody really wanted to acknowledge it.
It wasn’t too long, though, that things started getting weird. Scary.
Case in point: I’m on the phone with Glenna—that’s my wife—she was at the grocery store, and we were talking about Alarm Will Sound, about how fast she is, and she stops mid-sentence, and there’s a pause. And I say, what is it? And she tells me she was looking at the side wall of the building where she’d parked, and she looked away for a split second, and when she looked back up, there was the tag, right there in front of her, ALARM WILL SOUND. She swears it wasn’t there not two seconds before. It just appeared out of nowhere.
Now, I’m a rational person, always have been. I complement Glenna in that way because she’s fanciful. And she complements me, reminds me to not be so buttoned-up all the time, as she puts it. But I default in this case, because I believe that the simplest solution is always the correct one, and in most cases I’m right. So I tell her, love, you probably just didn’t notice it before. The store’s a red brick building, and this artist paints in red, so it probably just blended in and you didn’t actually see it until just now. She concedes to that, and she starts the car and is getting ready to drive away.
Here’s where this particular part of this story gets really strange, because I cannot explain what happened next. I mean, I could—I did explain it away at the time but…
Are you still there, Charles?
I’m here. Yes…Now, I didn’t mention before that at the time of the phone call I was outside doing a little yard work, just some raking, you know. And I consider myself an observant person, overall. Now, I wasn’t looking anywhere in particular while I was raking, you understand. I’m not going to lie and tell you I was staring at the wall of my house the entire time I was talking to Glenna, because I wasn’t. But our house is white, you see, a lot easier to see big red letters across the wall…
I think you know where this is going. I hang up with the wife, look up…And there it is. ALARM WILL SOUND, right there on the wall, right under our bedroom window. Put another stack of Everest-tall Bibles on top of the one we’ve already got, and I’ll swear on those too. I am ninety-nine percent positive those letters were not there the ENTIRE time I was out raking the lawn. No, it was like…I don’t know what it was like. It was like…she knew we were talking about her. The artist, I mean. And it sounds totally crazy. And at the time, I did think it was crazy, because…well, I just couldn’t completely let go of the rational. Not completely. I held onto logic. Even though this…this defied logic.
But I was adamant about a reasonable explanation. I think I read somewhere once that people do that, that we cling to logic and reason and begin making excuses and rationalizations in our heads for the things we can’t comprehend, like a defense mechanism to keep us sane, or something like that. And I think that’s what I did. I created a scenario that made perfect sense.
And Charles, if I may ask—
Please just listen, I think I’m running out of time here—
You have all the time you need—
I don’t. You don’t understand, just listen…
I told myself there were two possibilities: Either I truly hadn’t noticed the graffiti, which meant my powers of observation were beginning to fail—certainly a possibility at my age—or, the artist had done it while I had my back turned to the house. So the writing Glenna saw at the grocery store had been there the whole time, and she just hadn’t noticed it upon first glance. Meanwhile, Alarm Will Sound tagged me while I wasn’t looking, and the timing of the two “events” happening side by side while Glenna and I were on the phone, well…it was just a coincidence.
That is very sound logic, Charles.
It is, but…That’s what I told myself, anyway, and I cursed and I got out the extra bucket of house paint I had in my garage and painted over the message before Glenna got home, because I didn’t want her getting anymore funny ideas about the whole thing.
But see, I couldn’t hold on to my logic and reason for very long. About a week later, Glenna and I went over to Jim and Lisa’s—they’re our friends—for a barbecue. Some of the other couples from the neighborhood were there too. And this one couple, the Brandons we called them not because it was their last name but because they were both named Brandon, told almost an identical story to the one Glenna and I had experienced, only they were both having lunch on a patio at some restaurant or other, sitting at a table facing each other, and in the blink of an eye—that was the term they used, the blink of an eye—they each saw the message “magically” appear on a wall and a telephone post, respectively. They were facing opposite directions, you understand. I mean, looking at each other as they talked, but you know, we notice things out of our peripheral vision. And—again, in the blink of an eye—the same blocky red letters just appear.
And just like Glenna and me, they were talking ABOUT Alarm Will Sound when it happened.
It was like she knew, see? She knew they were talking about her. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. But she knew.
Well, I confessed about the message I saw then, too. Glenna was a little miffed at me for not telling her, but she understood. It was my way, she knew that. And together, we told our tale, our impossible little tale. I don’t know why I was willing to give in, to share this story with my friends, as though we were kids around a campfire. Like I said, I’m always sticking to the rational, and I’m the last person to want to cause any kind of panic in people, but…I don’t know. In the same way I’m telling this to you, Gabrielle, and the rest of the world, it just seemed…appropriate.
We do appreciate you sharing with us—
At the time, it was appropriate, but now, it’s MANDATORY.
I do understand—
No, you don’t. See, when we got home from the barbecue, and Glenna’s all freaked out as it is, guess what we find as we pull into the driveway? ALARM WILL SOUND. In the EXACT same place as the one I painted over. The exact same letters, even down to the same EXACT drip mark coming off the W. It was like the message had bled through the three coats of paint I’d put over it. Glenna was in utter terror over this. I was too, to tell the truth.
Wasn’t long after that, the messages began popping up, well, like I said, everywhere. But everywhere times a thousand, you understand? All over the place. On people’s cars, on the streets, on trees, everyone’s houses. And not just once per surface. I’m talking like an insane person writing on the walls of their padded room, over and over and over, the same thing, ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND. I mean, our house basically looks red at this point.
And this is why this is so important, you see, because our local media, they’re acting like there’s nothing going on. There hasn’t been one single news report, one single newspaper article, no one radio DJ or Internet blogger or anyone has written anything about it. And speaking of bloggers, one of the Brandons, well he decided to start writing about it himself, since no one else would. So he set up a blog, he starts writing, pushing out these awareness pieces, trying to get more people to reach out to him and share their stories, so that maybe we can figure out just what the hell is going on, but every time he publishes one, it just disappears. Do you understand what I’m saying? It just flat out disappears. You can’t find it on the Internet, you search for it on Google and you get no results, you search for ALARM WILL SOUND and you get stuff about emergency exit doors and some avant-garde musical group based in New York. I don’t think they’re related at all.
We’re afraid. We’re all afraid. I mean, true to the message, all our internal alarms are going off. I mean, we don’t know what the hell is going on.
Because here’s the thing, and you may look into this, you may not, but I want to be upfront with everything, because I don’t want you or anyone else thinking I’m crazy. I know how all this sounds, but…the thing is, if you try to look up our town, Scissortail…you’re not going to find it anymore. It used to be on the map. It isn’t now. And, and…We can’t get out anymore. If you drive to the edge of town, it’s literally an edge, there’s just nothing, nothing but a big huge cliff, and the road just ends, and all over the edge of the road and the edge of the cliff, and all down the cliff side, ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND.
And I know what you’re thinking, this guy is just making all this stuff up to get on the radio. Scissortail never existed in the first place, and it’s just a matter of convenience he’s saying it’s no longer on the map. I’m just a big liar, right? I’m not. Take all those Bibles I mentioned before and place them atop my own mother’s grave, and I’ll still swear on them. I’ll do whatever you ask me to do to get you to believe me. We’re desperate here, we don’t know where else to turn, because it seems like every time we try to find help, all we get back is silence…Although that’s not even true, because all we get is ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND, and it may just be words but when you look outside and all the world is red all over, all those words bleeding into one another, smashing up against each other, it begins to sound like alarms, like…what’s the word…klaxons. That’s it. Klaxons going off in your head. ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND, over and over and over, and none of us…none of us…knows what it means, I, I…I can’t explain. Any of this. I have no logical explanations. I can’t reason my way out of this anymore…
My front lawn is red…
Charles, are you still—
Oh God…right now! It’s right now! It, it’s Jim outside…he’s red, he’s covered in red…he’s walking outside, he’s getting covered in paint, right now, it’s happening RIGHT NOW! He’s alone but it’s happening right now. His face, OH JESUS—NO DON’T LOOK! GLENNA! DON’T—
Oh. Oh my God, oh Jesus oh Jesus oh…
He’s alone out there. He’s…I’m watching…He…
Oh—Please, someone look into this, try to find out, we’re still here, it says we don’t exist but we’re still here, we’re still here, I’m sounding the alarm, oh Jesus, I’m sounding the alarm, is that what it means? I’m sounding the alarm right now, this is the alarm, this is the warning, ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALARM WILL SOUND ALA—
Michelle, did we lose Charles…?
Well, Michelle tells me we must’ve lost Charles from…Oklahoma, correct?
A small town in Oklahoma.
Well, Charles, if you’re still listening, we’re sorry we got disconnected before you had a chance to speak with us, but do please call back and we’ll get you back on the air. And if we don’t hear back from you, well, we certainly hope that whatever’s been troubling you, it gets worked out soon.
Okay…Next we have Ronny from Schaumburg, Illinois. Welcome to Talk it Out, Ronnie…
About the Author
Christopher Shultz writes dark, weird horror fiction. His stories have appeared both online and in print, including in Apex Magazine, freeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel, and other places. He has also contributed articles, columns and reviews to LitReactor, Cultured Vultures and Tor.com. Christopher lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Lauren and their two mostly well-behaved cats.
About the Narrators
Susan Gage is a member of the Mickee Faust Club cabaret troupe in Tallahassee, FL, and spent the first part of her working career as a reporter/producer and host of “Capital Report” on the Florida Public Radio Network. She is married to Isabelle and is a domestic servant to their cat, Valkyrie “Kyrie” Gage.
Scott Campbell searches for battles that will increase his skills for the battles to come. The slush pile underneath Pseudopod Towers is a worthy opponent. He also writes, directs, and performs for the queer (in every sense of the word) cabaret The Mickee Faust Club. He also write far too infrequently at the official online home of the Sleep Deprivation Institute (and pop culture website) Needcoffee.com. He lives in Florida with absolutely no pets.