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Best Of?

The sun is actually cold. It’s cold and empty and all is lost. Greetings from Night Vale.

While your regular host, Cecil Palmer, is on vacation, we continue to bring you some of the highlights of his uncountable years here at Night Vale Community Radio, from lowly (but eager) intern filing reports from the field, to his tenure behind the desk at the greatest community radio station in America. Today I thought we’d start with a very special and rare clip: Cecil's first ever broadcast on our air waves. Let’s listen.

Hi, it’s Cecil! Oh boy! Or, oh, I’m sorry. Let me try that again and it’ll be way more professional.

Hello listeners, Intern Cecil Palmer here, reporting live for host Leonard Burton. I’m way excited.

[gathers self]

I am standing in a vast stretch of desert in which no one has lived for hundreds of years. Neat right? But it’s not even the neatest! Because some new folks have moved into the area recently. They look like they’re from back east aways. This isn’t their land, but they’re going to set up here anyway. They’re saying “this is ours”, and pointing, ludicrously, at actual earth as though that were an ownable thing.

One of the arrivals, famous screen actor Lee Marvin, who just turned 30 today, oh hey happy birthday Mr. Marvin, said that they were immediately proceeding to found a town, a town they will call Night Vale, a home for themselves, complete with all the things a home needs: secrets, dread, omnipresent government, and areas that are forbidden. He then donned a soft meat crown as the other newcomers bowed to him.

And now, the community calendar.

Monday through Sunday, this will be a barren stretch of desert strewn with human debris shot out by a population explosion back east. These shiftless fellows will mope around and complain about the heat and lack of water. The shadows up on the hills will watch and watch but will come no closer. Squinting, the newcomers will see the shadows in the hills, and then they will squint further and further until their eyes are closed, and then they will hum until their minds are empty, and sit dreaming until their dreams are clean, and they will never look at the hills again. They will cease to believe in hills at all. Elevation will become a laughable thing. The sky, a starry stranger. The ground, a barren friend. The cliff dwellings are empty now, but their scattered children are manifest and filled with love and mirth and grief.

This has been the community calendar.

Alright, back to you, Leonard… Mr. Burton, sir. Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

What fantastic old days those were. Everything old is wonderful. It is a shame anything had to change. I sure do dislike change. The sun has moved in the sky, and I distrust it completely.

Here's another early story Cecil reported as station intern. This was one of my favorites, a real turning point for our town, and for America, and for the world, but also (quite unfortunately) for the outer-galaxy warlords who wish to prolong the senseless Blood Space War.

Intern Cecil here on the scene.

All I see is devastation. Devastation that once was mere existence. People and buildings reduced to holes in space and time, gaps both concrete and metaphorical, losses that would be overwhelming if everything didn’t already proceed in a state of pre-loss, each thing defined in its existence by the nothing that will come after.

Devastation and ruins. Streamers and balloons.

So a happy big three-oh to immortal screen legend Lee Marvin, who is celebrating his special day by opening his Seventh Eye and incinerating onlookers by the wailing hundreds with his holy light. Happy birthday Mr. Marvin!

And now the Children's Fun Fact Science Corner.

I recently took a fantastic trip to Europe. I don’t have time right now, but one of these days I’ll tell all of you listeners out there some of the funny stories from my European vacation. In the meantime, we’re here about science right? And from whom better to learn about science than a scientist, right? Well, on my trip I met a very smart, and very handsome scientist. His name is Guglielmo Marconi.

He showed me all sorts of things. All sorts of things. All sorts. But he also showed me a new device he’s working on called, get this, radio. As unlikely as it seems, Marconi thinks that soon shows just like this will be carried by invisible waves right to your ears. He showed me the blueprints for his invention, full of strange words like “receiver” and “transmitter” and “community radio” and “three commercial-free hours of alternative music” that all are part of how this strange new mechanism will function.

Who knows, maybe one day I will see one of these “radios” for myself. Wow. Even the word sounds goofy.

This has been the Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner

Let's talk again about the good old days. Remember the 1930s (or the Sparklingly Clean 30s, as we once called them), when America was flush with cash and people literally could not, would not stop dancing with their hips and wearing sequined fringe? It was a great time to roll up hundred dollar bills and fill them with shredded up twenty dollar bills and smoke them like cigars. Just great. I truly wish for stasis.

Intern…[sigh]...still Intern Cecil here. Big thanks, as always, to our host Leonard Burton in the booth, as he has been for what seems like a really long time. Not saying it is a long time. Who knows what a long time is, even? Not me. But it just seems that way. That’s all.

It’s New Years Eve, 1934, and, here in Night Vale, as in towns all over this great country, we are celebrating with large swimming pools full of champagne. This is both fun and also practical, since we have way more champagne than we can drink or even safely store without the towering stacks of champagne crates threatening to tumble down onto our fragile bodies. So what better way of honoring the season than just dumping a ton of this stuff into a swimming pool and splashing around in it?

Turns out it’s not great for swimming in, what with the alcohol content and acidity, but it’s ok because we have pool floats made from compacted caviar.

Everyone is here and everyone is having a blast. Even little Josie Ortiz, young as she is, is getting in on the act, entertaining swimmers with simple magic tricks and minor prophecies. This is the best party Night Vale has had since last week’s big blowout in honor of Lee Marvin’s 30th birthday.

As I look out over the lush grassland and the verdant trees sagging with tropical fruit, an area that just a few years ago was flat empty desert forever, I feel the warmth inside, that American warmth that gives me great certainty. It will be this way from now to always. From now on, peace. From now on, prosperity. From now on, champagne swimming pools every New Years. America is taking flight, and hard-working people are its wings.

Back to you, as always, Leonard. Always. I genuinely can’t remember a time you didn’t have that job.

Of course, just a few years later, the trees and grassland were gone, the second war had hit Europe, and all of Night Vale came together to make explosives and devices to launch explosives. Nothing shows the beautiful perfection of human community like intercontinental weaponized combat. It was a better time then.

This was also Cecil's first ever broadcast as the full-time host of this show.

Cry havoc, and let slip the hounds of war. Weep havoc. Squeeze grief like coal to diamonds until it slides, crystalline and compact, down your reddened cheeks, and let slip those ugly, useless hounds to do their ugly, useless work. Welcome to Night Vale.

Hello listeners. Here I am, as I thought I might never be, behind the studio microphone at Night Vale Community Radio. Yes, top news tonight is that our beloved Leonard Burton has retired in order to spend more time trying to understand what a family is, and so I will, from now forward, take over as the voice of our little community. This is a proud day for me, and a proud day, I’m sure, for my mother, who has been hiding from me for decades now but whose absence in many ways speaks to me more than words could.

With the big news out of the way, we go back to the usual day to day. There is, of course, a war in Europe and the Pacific and all around the world. We ourselves have been attacked. Or not we, Night Vale is still fine, but people who share our same broad category, somewhere, they’ve been attacked. And that will not stand.

Night Vale, is of course, very tricky to leave, so no one has actually joined the army or anything. But we are doing our part for America by buying war bonds, growing victory gardens, and chanting in Bloodstone Circles. Leading experts say that it is the indomitable American spirit, the fighting prowess of our soldiers in the field, and mostly chanting in Bloodstones Circles that will win this war.

Like those famous Rosie the Riveter posters all over town say: “Get chanting in Bloodstone Circles double-time or me and the rest of riveters will come at you with rivet guns. You ever have someone come at you with a rivet gun? Well, bud, you don’t want that, trust me.”

Inspiring words in difficult times. But when the turbulent events of the past few years have you down, just remember your friend Cecil, behind the mic and talking you through it from this day forward.

Huh. While that clip was playing I found a few Fidelipac cartridges. They look pretty old. I don't remember pulling these for today's Best Of show. Let's see what this first one is. It's marked THE END? Question mark.

Nulogorsk, our Russian sister city, is gone. The people of Nulogorsk, our friends, they are gone too. Since then the sky has been hot with death. So much fuel for so many rockets burning away at once, it makes the fall air seem a little warmer, even down here, not to mention that final sizzle at the end of each.

Blooms of death all over the world, hot and final. I speak to you for as long as I can, from a world ending. 1983. Our final year. I suppose as good a year as any.

Josie Ortiz, once young, now middle aged, will never go on to be the old woman she could have become. Lee Marvin, famed screen actor, will die having just turned 30, never to see another year pass.

And I will go too. Amidst a screaming of sirens that warn without helping, that make a show of protecting without protecting at all. I will never meet that someone. That someone who could have given my life depth and meaning, who could have been my other. I will only ever sit here, only have ever sat here, behind this microphone, until I am not ever, ever again.

Good night, from a world ending, Night Vale...

[static, radio tuning, fading in on a different Cecil]

...By all accounts this is looking to be a good year. At least as good as 1983 has been. Josie Ortiz would like me to remind everyone that this Thursday she is holding a benefit for the Old Opera House. It will be a lavish evening, with everything you would expect from a fancy night out, like a salad bar. Tickets are $100 and are not for sale to the likes of you.

In other news, Simone Rigadeau, professor of Earth Sciences at the Night Vale Community College, says that her reality has split, that she is experiencing another history happening now, a history in which all of this ends. She is shutting down the Earth Sciences program in order to devote herself fully to understanding what has happened to her shattered mind and this ended but yet also not ended world. Well, best of luck in your new career Simone!

Oh yes, those were glorious days. These days the world seems to never be ending for some and not others. The world is a worse place now than it ever was before, but far better than it ever will be again. The past is always better than the present, and the future is the worst of all.

This next cartridge is marked WEATHER. Let's see what's on it.

["When Can I Say That I Love You" by Kyle Fleming]

And I have one last clip here. There's a piece of duct tape on the plastic casing upon which someone has written a thick, shaky NO. So let’s play that.

Listeners, oh listeners. I come to you with sad news. I think you know the news. I think we all saw what happened. To the family and friends of former Night Vale Community Radio host Leonard Burton, I extend my deepest sympathies. Not that my sympathies will do you any good.

For what Leonard experienced is something that no human, no sentient being should ever have to experience. The blood, those stains on the broken asphalt. The skin, or I think that was skin. But then all those bits that were clearly not skin, of course. And then all the more blood, of course. And the wretched sound of the pulling. And the single, awful snap. We will all remember the sound of the snap forever. There is more. But I cannot. There is more. But I won’t. And the fingernails, of course. Of course, the fingernails.

I mourn Leonard Burton with all my heart and my liver and kidneys. With the bones of my toes and with my belly button. I mourn him with my armpit and neck sweat. Every part of me. Every facet. The physical of me, I mourn him with these.

Leonard gave me my start. He took a chance on me. He gave me the life I have. And now he doesn’t have life. It is an equation with a miswritten number. Nothing can be solved. It is an error.

The City Council warned that the mess left from Leonard Burton’s death is likely to draw Street Cleaners and that we should all take shelter. Cover your mirrors. Shade your eyes. Stay indoors and mourn. Stay indoors and mourn.

Leonard’s death and my barely contained grief have been brought to you today by Shasta Cola. Shasta Cola: Same great taste. Low, low price.

And now, moving forward as best we can, to political news. Of course the focus now is on the big debate about President Clinton: Who is he? What’s a president? How did this strange news from the outside world reach our little desert hamlet?

For that let’s bring in senior political analyst Lee Marvin, who, oh look what day it is, this is your 30th [CLICK]

I... Listeners. Have you ever forgotten where you put your keys? You were certain they were on the mantel. But they were not. Have you ever missed an appointment because you were sure it was on Wednesday at noon, not Tuesday at ten? Have you ever remembered a life you did not lead? Has a carefully collated series of words ever made you uncertain? Unconfident? Or un. Just un. Un as an adjective unto itself.

I do not remember that story at all. I do not like that story. That is a bad story.

It was a better day earlier, back when I hadn’t heard that story. This present, this now, is no good. No good at all.

Stay tuned next for less of the best and more of the same. It's been a pleasure to fill in this week, in my old job, Night Vale. Cecil will be back soon. Until then, this has been Leonard Burton.

And as always "See ya, Night Vale. See ya."

Today’s proverb: "I'm all business," I say, peeling off my skin strip by strip, showing you what oozes out. Business to my core."

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