When one door closes, another opens. That's why there are so many raccoons living in your house. Welcome to Night Vale.
The phantom ocean has struck again. Last night around 2am, a horrible splintering sound was heard across town. Many residents awakened exclaiming “What was that horrible splintering sound?” Many others who heard it shrieked “I heard nothing, nothing at all!”
Flickering lights splashed across the desert sky. The lights moved into the neighborhoods, forming dark shapes across walls and streets, shapes which moaned and shuffled as if wounded. A confused seagull cried out for sandwich crusts in the dark.
Big Rico, owner of Big Rico's Pizza, neither heard the splintering sound nor saw the lights. He was awakened instead by a soft knocking at the door of his home. Believing the knocking to be part of his recurring dream where he is driving a pizza delivery car eternally down a dark suburban street looking for an address that doesn’t exist, he tried to go back to sleep, not wanting to end such a pleasant fantasy.
The knocking grew more insistent. Rico groaned his way to the living room, half asleep, and was confronted by a bedraggled group of entities in rain slickers who appeared to be in trouble. Though they did not speak a language known to Big Rico, the leader of the group, who we now know as The Captain, managed to explain the situation by drawing an entire graphic novel on old pizza boxes.
The images told the story of a doomed sailing vessel that met with misfortune when the ocean disappeared from underneath it, and it was dashed to pieces against solid earth. The confused sailors had gathered themselves from the desert floor, gotten together torches and supplies, and journeyed approximately eight blocks to civilization.
The Secret Police confirmed this story after finding the wreckage of a wooden sailing ship in the Scrub Lands earlier this morning. Illegally parked nearby was a silver 2011 Mini Cooper with an open sunroof, filled to the brim with saltwater and blobs of translucent jelly. If this is your vehicle, please pick it up immediately. Looking at you, Susan Willman.
After being physically coerced by the Secret Police, several caring families in Night Vale have volunteered their homes to these sailors: The Captain, Doctor Shouty, Old Wood Teeth, Rebecca, and The Really Tall One. We will be checking in with some of these families periodically for updates on how things are going.
Brandi Lantz, behavioral science expert of the Girl Scouts splinter faction The Onyx Fist, believes there was a mutiny in progress before the shipwreck even occurred, a theory that was substantiated by today’s exceedingly awkward welcome breakfast at the Pancake House. Rebecca and Old Wood Teeth spoke only in grumbling undertones, periodically telling Doctor Shouty to shush, while The Captain sat far across the restaurant, pensively stirred his clam chowder. Bitter looks were exchanged between all parties.
But eating together in suffocating silence doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong. For example, since Carlos didn't want to go to the welcome breakfast, we had a quiet meal at home. Like really really quiet. I told him his scientist friends Nilanjana and Mark had called again to ask about organizing a case study on the shipwreck survivors. He got the strangest look on his face and said he was really busy with another project right now. I asked him what he was working on and he said oh, you know, and then made the universal hand gesture for "Science." Then he kissed me on the cheek, washed his plate, and disappeared into his home lab. Later I heard the muffled screams of a sitcom laugh track from behind the closed door.
Meanwhile, in light of recent happenings, the Night Vale Tourism Board, along with the Business Association, has announced plans for a massive expansion of the Harbor Waterfront project. This has been met with protest from the Marine Biology Association, who are intensely opposed to encouraging the existence of an ocean in a desert).
In response, Madeleine LeFleur of the Tourism Board issued the following statement at an emergency town hall meeting: “We believe expanding the Waterfront project will bring forth new opportunity and added value to this great city. Just because we don't know how, when, or where the ocean appears, and have literally zero control over its behavior, doesn't mean we can't at least profit from sightseers.”
The agitated marine biologists responded: “That's stupid. You're stupid."
To which Annette Mahaka, head of the Business Association, responded in a whining tone: “Why can't you just let us be happy?”
LaFleur added in a much deeper, more authoritative tone: “Plunging ahead without considering the consequences is one of the maverick values this great land was founded on!” This last statement was met with thunderous applause, based entirely on her tone of voice, rather than the actual words spoken.
Despite the conflict around this issue, there is something I admire about each party's ability to clearly state their positions. There's no confusion about either side's feelings. They can express their concerns and move on from there. Or maybe they'll end up deadlocked in stalemate, repeating the same phrases continuously until they cease to convey actual meaning. But at least they know where they stand. Comprehension without flexibility is so important when resolving conflict.
Let's have a look at other local news.
The 1st Annual Fisherman's Stew Contest, sponsored by the Night Vale Culinary Society, has named a winner. John Peters, you know, the farmer, won with his five-ingredient corn chowder recipe made with invisible corn, hot water, cold water, kosher salt, and swedish fish.
Also, Night Vale Community College has its first ever Nobel Prize winner! Tara Arya (Tarr-ah Aria) won the coveted award for her work in Mathematical Poetry with the following haiku couplet.
You keep the drawer locked Where all five sharp knives are stashed But now it's open.
You live alone right? And didn't use any knives? But, now there's just four.
Tara has a fine future in the mathematical poetry trades.
Speaking of the community college, I think I'm overdue to give another guest lecture there. It's been, wow, over five years. I know because it was back when Carlos first got to town. I was walking down the hall on my way to the Communications department and I saw him standing there, talking to a group of people in hushed scientific tones. Our eyes met for a second as I walked by and he gave me a cordial nod, his perfect hair shimmering almost indigo under the fluorescent lighting.
Later, after my lecture, I went back to that hallway. It was empty. But then I heard his voice. He was talking to someone in an office a few doors down. I wanted to hide, I was so giddy and nervous, but then he was in the hall again. Before I could speak, he said "hey, you like science?" My mouth didn't work, so I nodded. He said "you want to see something scientifically interesting?"
We went up the back staircase to the Earth Sciences Building roof and he pointed toward a field at the edge of town. There was a hazy column of darkness stretching from the middle of the field into the sky.
What is that? I asked.
Carlos told me he wasn't sure but it could only be seen from this exact angle and distance. We took two steps to the side and it was gone. We took two steps back to the left - our feet in perfect unison, a stilted little barn dance - and we could see the dark column again.
That is scientifically interesting, I said, not sure if I was overselling my level of scientific interest. I told him, you can also see my apartment building from here. It's always there. It doesn't disappear.
And he asked, which one is it? And I showed him and he said “That has a nice roof. Good shingles.” It was the first compliment he ever gave me. And then he had to go to a meeting and I went home. It was a while before we spoke again but I used to think of that moment often.
I'm going to think of it again, now. While I do, you should think about the weather.
WEATHER: “Source Decay” by Holy Sons
Let's check in with our host families to see how some of our new nautical residents are adjusting.
Doctor Shouty and Rebecca have gone to live in a barista commune, learning secrets of coffee making, such as: the only difference between a latte and a flat white is 50 cents, and memorizing the incorrect spelling of every single human name.
Old Wood Teeth lives with the Wallaby family: Hershel, Tock and their daughter Megan, who is an adult hand sewn onto a tall Russian submariner. Megan showed Old Wood Teeth photos of submarines, and he didn't believe they were real, so she rented Crimson Tide, and while it didn't change Old Wood Teeth's beliefs, he's now boy-crazy over Denzel Washington and doesn't understand how Denzel didn't win an Oscar for Malcolm X.
I have a report here from my brother-in-law, Steve Carlsberg. The Palmer-Carlsberg family is hosting The Really Tall One. The Really Tall One has proved to be a calming presence in the household, and has even taught the family nautical dancing, sailing dirges in her native tongue, and how to read ancient star charts that were used to accurately navigate the globe long before maps and GPS.
Janice, my teenage niece, has shown The Really Tall One which remote controls are for the Blu-ray player and which are for the surround sound. My sister Abby has noted a strong odor that seems like a combination of ozone, copper, and shrimp permeating the house whenever The Really Tall One is asleep. The odor gets stronger the deeper into unconsciousness The Really Tall One is. Other host families have also reported this phenomenon but have been quick to add that it's totally not a complaint, just an observation.
Unfortunately, we've learned that The Captain, who was being hosted by witness protection resident Sigrid Borg, due to the extra levels of security in her apartment, has been reported missing. Sigrid released a statement saying "please stop telling people I'm in the witness protection program." We'll keep our eyes out for him, Sigrid!
I'm getting word now that the conflict between the Tourism Board and the Marine Biologists has escalated. The Biologists have discovered what appears to be a makeshift aquarium being hidden in a 12 by 12 public storage unit in Radon Canyon. The secret aquarium consists of several tanks containing blobs of semi-animate clear jelly, likely taken from the lungs of the Treloars, the rucksack of Girl Scout splinter faction leader Brandi Lantz, the potholes in Old Town, and/or Susan Willman’s Mini Cooper.
The Biologists also discovered plans for a more complete aquarium once the funding for the expanded Waterfront project comes through. To which the Biologists cried out “Over our dead bodies!” alerting nearby Tourism Board sentries of their presence.
A verbal altercation took place, with both sides speaking over one another at louder and louder volumes, eventually erupting into awkward, grabby physical violence. It ended when their roughhousing tumbled most of the scufflers into the canyon. The remaining Biologists have chosen a more non-violent approach, instead marching through town waving signs warning of impending doom and chanting rhymes.
Madeleine LaFleur of the Tourism Board responded on public access television that most Night Vale residents support waterfront development. Several have even submitted their own ideas for storefronts, LaFleur claimed. Like one of those places where you write your name on a frisbee in puff paint, or a savory taffy stand, or a mysterious warehouse which appears abandoned but sometimes you hear clanging sounds inside.
Hang on, listeners, someone is knocking on my studio door. I'm not expecting anyone. Maybe it's Carlos…
I'm sorry, everyone, let me just… Oh. Well, The Captain has entered the studio. He's wild-eyed and is making the shushing motion with his finger. He's now hiding under my desk. And now my phone is ringing. A lot is happening all at once. I better deal with this. Listen to this prerecorded PSA while I figure things out—
DEB: Hello Night Vale. This is Deb, a sentient patch of haze, speaking for the Department of Motor Vehicles. When it comes time to renew or apply for your drivers license, please remember to check the eyeball donation box on the back of the form. Contrary to those nasty rumors, it does not authorize a representative of the DMV to break into your house at night and remove your eyeballs while you sleep. (Usually.) Those days are, for the most part, long behind us.
It does mean you have the chance to be a hero in one of the many eye-claiming accidents that disproportionately affect residents of our fair city each year.
Say you get into a car accident and die. And say someone else who was in that accident is alive but no longer has any eyes. Your eyeballs will be removed from your face and placed into that person's face. Then, that person not only regains the power of sight, but you do as well. Your consciousness, which lives inside your eyeballs' posterior chamber, will remain intact, seeing whatever your host body sees, experiencing whatever they experience, throughout the rest of their life. And of course if that person gets into a fatal accident later, both of your consciousnesses will remain as your eyeballs are transferred to a third party. In this way, it is technically possible to gain immortality. So please remember to check the box on the back of the form. Thanks, friends.
[A moment of dead air]
CECIL: Sorry about that. I was greeting The Captain, and then my phone rang and it was Carlos. He wanted to meet on the roof of the Earth Sciences Building and watch the sunset together over the column of hazy darkness. A purely romantic gesture is somewhat out of character for Carlos but I didn't feel like questioning it. I'm just grateful he finally seemed willing to open up. I didn't realize how much it's been getting to me until talking to him just now.
Whew. I know I haven't resolved (or even fully understood) what's been bothering me, but I feel relieved anyway. Tentatively relieved. No. I feel relieved. Why frame positive things with the fear of losing them?
So, I'm closing tonight's broadcast a little early. I'm sure you'll understand. Station Management won't, which is why I've set up a Cecil-shaped mannequin I made out of burlap, twine, and dried lentils to place in my chair for the final few segments of the show. Maybe I can get The Captain to help me secure the-
Oh no. I forgot all about The Captain. He must have snuck out of here while I was on the phone. Ah! I can see him through the window. He's climbed up to the top of our radio tower and is looking through a spyglass, gesturing frantically at the horizon. He's crying out "we are doomed! we are all doomed!" He's going to blow my cover. If I'm going to sneak out of work, I need to do it now.
He's an eccentric fellow, that Captain. Sigrid Borg, I know you’re trying to keep a low profile, what with your participation in the Witness Protection Program, but please come to the station and collect your houseguest. Susan Willman, your Mini Cooper has been towed.
[in a hurry] All right, stay tuned next for a Cecil-shaped mannequin made out of burlap, twine, and dried lentils reading you the latest on traffic and the community calendar.
Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.
Today’s proverb: I believe in tough love. Also, tough tenderness, tough vulnerability, and a daily session of tough mindfulness meditation.
A Door Ajar Part 1
A Door Ajar Part 3