's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Unwanted Signs

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

The signs began appearing days before they were noticed. At first, we paid them no mind, we were an opinionated town, and it was election season. It was expected to see a half dozen signs, begging us to vote for said candidate, or say no on a specific issue, littering the yards of our neighbors. The signs buried themselves behind this background noise, using it to their advantage. By the time we first truly noticed them, by the time we first realized something was wrong, it was too late to change anything, it was to late to stop them. They had institutionalized themselves into the town, becoming as normal and commonplace as our streetlights and mom and pop stores.


We first noticed it during a Sunday drive, we were arguing about the name of a song on the radio, and our kids were discussing a cartoon that had quickly become their newest obsession. It was a normal drive, completely unremarkable in every way.

           Well, until we saw the sign.

           We first saw it on our rear view mirror, it was large and orange, seemed to be made out of wood, it looked worn and weathered, like it had been there since the creation of the town, but we knew for a fact that the sign wasn't there a week ago.

           Its message was printed on clean white stationary, in black letters.

           "Say yes to Addendum 17!" The message was printed on the sign three times, as if the maker wanted to emphasize how important this issue was.

           No further information on what addendum 17 was, no hint as to how one could say yes to addendum 17. The sign was absent of context.

           Before we could check back, to make sure we read all there was to the sign, it was out of our view.

           The rest of the car ride was dominated by discussion about the sign, we all had our own theories as to what the signs purpose was, and what it could have been referring to. These theories changed and shifted as the conversation continued, which each of us becoming convinced by the others theories. By the time we had gotten home, we had all completely changed our view of the sign and it's meaning, but had not gotten any closer to having a concrete answer for it.


The next day, we found we were not the only ones who had noticed the signs.

           Like a blindfold had been collectively removed from our eyes, we all were suddenly aware of the signs. What was most troubling to us is that no one had encountered the same sign, each person had discovered a different one, and each one varied in size, message and location, yet they were all connected by the same nonsensical, confusing type of message.

           Next to the intersection on Benton Street, is a circular sign flimsily kept rooted by a single plastic pole, which says "No to subset 5E", below the words is the image of an eagle surrounding and caressing a yellow rhombus. It should be noted that this symbol was seen on quite a few of the signs, not all of them, but enough to be worthy of note.

           At the edge of our towns limits, there is a sign securely planted into the gravel that says "Shout Maybe at agreement 9.3 B".

           There is seemingly no pattern or plan to where the signs were planted. Sometimes they would be miles from its closest neighbors; other times standing just feet away from another sign. Private property doesn't seem to deter the people responsible for planting the signs either. After the first few weeks, signs began popping up in peoples homes. The informative message "Time to keep your promise: vote for doors!" wedged firmly underneath couch cushions. The fear mongering statement, "Be alert! Be skeptical! Be careful! Avoid red nails! " cooling in the freezer.

           The signs could be anywhere, and we soon made a habit of checking our beds every night, terrified we may go to sleep with a sign keeping us company.


They didn't seem to all be planted by the same group, as they more often than not contradicted each other. Next to the Hooley's farmhouse are two faded blue signs, so close to each other that one was leaning on the other for support. One said "Forbid them from passing the knee lick act", right next to it; the other sign said, "Help them pass the knee lick act"

           Besides the message, the two signs looked identical.

           We asked friends and family members from nearby towns if they had the same problem, making sure to tell them the full story, no matter how unbelievable it might seem. They just gave us a look that said they really wanted to believe us, but couldn't, and changed the subject, or told us that maybe we should take a break from our jobs and commitments and just try and get some rest. We attempted to get our friends and family to see for themselves. "See", we said, pointing them toward the large twenty-foot pro-anthill sign that had appeared overnight on the roof of our dunkin-donuts, "see what we've been dealing with".

           They tried not to look us in the eye, and told us they didn't see anything but the roof of a donut shop. It became alarmingly clear to us that we were alone in this, the signs were only appearing in our town, and were only visible to us.

           To say we were frightened would be an understatement.


Some people, people that weren't us, tried to remove the signs.

           None of them were successful.

           The lucky one's walked away with broken hands and twisted fingers, the unlucky one's didn't walk away at all. The ones who could talk never explained what the signs did to them, or what they tried to do, only that it didn't work. We didn't push them.

           A sign on our lawn tells us to "Go up to the sky and strike down Sullivan"; firecrackers that are still burning adorn this sign. The one on our front porch simply says "No".

           This sign is made out of hardened candle wax, with the word's being written into the wax. The wax was still melting when it first appeared, and our front porch is now covered in melted wax.


It's taken over signs that we used to be able to trust, signs that we thought were safe. All of our billboards now urge us to vote on issues and matters we don't understand, and all of all election signs, the yard signs, the ones who had candidates that, while we did not agree with them, we at least recognized, have been morphed, change into slogans we don't know, with faces and names we don't have context for.

           Their promises, as expected, mean nothing to us.

           "Vote Chester Retsehc to get back your mirrors." Says a poster that has been sighted near a sewer grate. The poster has a picture of Chester, but where his face should be is a broken mirror. It is unclear if this mirror was broken by one of us, or if this was an intentional choice on the sign makers part.

           "Ask Pam, she knows!" Says another sign dangling from a tree. Three weeks later, we found another sign, ten miles away, which says, "She knows a lot of things, that pam!" This sign has a black and white picture of a woman's back stapled to the poster board.

           "Jonathan!" Says another sign, which has taken over a now abandoned city bus. The sign, which has a man's face (Assumed to be Jonathan), wearing a strained smile, has been wrapped around the entirety of the city bus, giving the quite normal face a distorted nightmarish quality.

           While we knew it was not the owners fault, we found ourselves actively avoiding businesses and residences with the signs early on. But as the signs became more commonplace, our standards lowered. Once it became impossible to find a place with no signs, we resigned ourselves to only going to houses and buildings with one sign, then two, then three. Now, we are lucky to find a place where you can walk without fear of bumping into one.


We had a meeting once the signs began replacing the billboards.

           It was the most packed city hall had been. You could tell that the city officials went to great lengths to make the place look presentable, un-stacking the folding chairs hours before the meeting, buying refreshments, even taken down the cryptic, slightly off-putting graffiti that adorned the woman's stalls.

           Our mayor, newly appointed after the sudden disappearance of our old mayor just hours before, called the meeting to order.

           She was a tall woman wearing a blue vest under a black overcoat; she had white hair and dull eyes. It was impossible to tell if her hair was dyed or if it was natural. None of us thought to ask.

           Most people had seen her before, at town events and various ribbon cuttings, but none of us were certain what her role was. We were never that concerned about the political workings of our town, perhaps we should have been.

           She didn't tell us her name, just told us to address her as mayor.

           She admitted that there was a lot of formalities and such to get through usually, but thought that it may have been best to just skip all that and get to the signs.

           We asked her questions she could not answer, and accused her of knowing more than she said when she told us the truth.

           She told us that they were dealing with something that did not have an answer. She did not know where the signs came from, and despite her best efforts, she had been unable to find anyone who did. She told us the former mayor, the one that no one we knew voted for, was last seen shirtless, yelling about how he was going to take care of those signs himself, and running into the woods, with nothing but his bare hands to aid him in this task.

           He was presumed dead, no one missed him.

           She said that if we could understand the signs, if their instructions were one's concrete enough to follow, perhaps we could try to appease the signs and do as they wanted. But if they weren't vague, they were about impossible things. One could not "Take out tongue for Crossing guard", or "Become chairs for the three world followers"

           She left, saying that there would be another meeting next week.

           We never saw her again.

           No one really felt like becoming the new mayor, and the position is still vacant.


The signs cannot hurt us unless we touch them, but this is not our concern. We were never physically afraid of the signs, it was what they represented, what they meant. The signs were intruders into our world, they have taken all of the concepts and ideas we had about the world and discredited them by merely existing. They serve no purpose but to question their purpose. When we looked at the signs, and as the weeks turned to months, it became harder not to, we felt as if we were the butt of a huge joke.

           We picture the perpetrator's, whoever they are, mocking us. "Look at them, they don't get it! They don't understand it at all! It's hilarious!"

           But at this point, the joke has been played long enough. It has gone from a practical joke to a real concern. We have gotten a few panicked phone calls from neighbors about how signs have sprouted from their pets. We don't know if the animals are still alive, and felt it wasn't the right time or right place to ask.


We have been seeing flyers that say that the appearance of the signs is increasingly exponentially. If they continue to multiply at the current rate, our entire town will be covered by the end of the month.

           No one knows where these flyers come from, but we all believe their claims. It's something we all assumed, even if the more optimistic ones didn't want to admit it.

           One may ask us why we have not left. If we are so certain we will die if we don't leave, why do we stay? Why do we give ourselves willingly to this fate?

           It's quite simple really, we are scared that the signs will follow us. They will be there, we think, no matter where we escape to, no matter what town we relocate to they will be there, waiting for us in the driveway as we pull into our new home.

           Those from others towns cannot see the signs, they our not aware of the problem, who's to say they don't have their own sign infestation, who's to say they aren't appearing all over the world, and we are simply the first town to notice. We have already gotten reports that other towns, none of them close, have had similar occurrences.

           That is why we cannot leave this town, that is why, even after signs have sprouted from our own body, and we die reading instructions we do not understand, we will have no regrets.

           Because we will understand that, if it is not a certainty, it is depressingly likely that we will never escape the signs. They may have always been here, and we have only just recently noticed them. Running away is merely postponing the inevitable, and we would rather give in to our fate sooner rather than later.