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The Debate

We found a little piece of heaven here. It is black, smooth, oblong. It hums a soft but discordant note, and we are afraid to touch it.

Welcome to Night Vale.

Listeners? We have a first here Night Vale! A mayoral debate!

Many of you know that mayor Pamela Winchell will be stepping down soon, and that this is entirely her own decision. She issues daily press releases in shaky, uncertain handwriting, explaining emphatically that she made this choice on her own, and that no one is soul-merging with her and forcing her to leave office.

Each press release is signed, “Yours truly, though not me truly, Pamela. P.S. –” And then there’s just a sticky black sludge for a P.S.

And we have some new candidates for this coveted office, all of whom I am welcoming in this studio.

This is a great day! The first ever mayoral debate the town has seen. Since this is America, and we are a democracy, mayors have always been chosen by counting, and interpreting, the loud pulses coming out of Hidden Gorge. That’s still how it will be done, but we thought we’d offer a chance for citizens to hear from the candidates they’ll have no impact on electing.

But first, this breaking news:

The City Council announced the closure of Route 800 for the following reason: deer. The City Council spoke in low, sing-songy chants, a steady digital bass ululation underneath their unified voice. They stood atop a makeshift pyramid out of heavily charred copies of the official biography of Sean Penn, heroic mementos of our recent victory over the Night Vale Public Library, and announced that the deer have taught themselves advanced mathematics, telepathy, and short-range time travel. No official word yet on what these deer have done to cause the only highway in and out of town to be shut down, but the Council is asking anyone still out on the roads right now to please, return home.

If you are not a citizen of Night Vale, but cannot currently get out of town to your home because of the road closings, then congratulations! You now live in Night Vale! Please pick up a New Citizen Welcome Packet and mandatory orange poncho at the City Hall.

OK, listeners! It’s time to introduce the candidates who will be taking part in our studio debate.

First, someone I’ve known my whole life, and you have too. It’s the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home!



And where are you? I can hear you, but I can’t see you.

I’m behind you in a mirror, just over your shoulder in the distance. You’ll see slight movements in the dark. You’ll feel a single fingernail gently run across your cheek.

Ooooh! Uh, Faceless Old Woman, um…can I call you Faceless Old Woman?

I have a name, Cecil!

You do?


Let’s introduce the next candidate, and I’m so glad to finally meet this man. Nooo, not man. No, this person…noo, uh, not person. This entity, Hiram McDaniels.


You know, in the entirety of Night Vale’s recorded history, there is no sign of a five-headed dragon ever running for mayor, so it hasn’t happened in at least seven years.

Cecil, I am thrilled to be breaking new ground for those of us who do not identify as human.

We are thrilled!

Yes, my purple head brings up a good point. I also do not identify as a single being. I have five heads. You’ll notice that my opponents have one. One head each, just the one.

Only one head? That is impossible for thinking!

Well, green head, not impossible. But certainly very difficult.

And speaking of your opponents, let’s meet our last candidate for mayor. It’s an honor to introduce our wealthiest citizen, and now potential new mayor, billionaire Marcus Vanston! Welcome!

Yup! Hey. I mean, uh, whatever. All this? This is…this is whatever. You know, I used to own a dragon.

Excuse me? What an inappropriate thing to say!

I agree with Mr. McDaniels’ gray head. Ownership of sentient life is cruel and unconscionable.

Yeah. Well it was great. It had eight heads, though, not just five. Yeah, I pretty much used it for commuting to work.


Great! Let’s get the debate started! We’ll have opening statements as well as two rounds of questions. So listeners, if you have a question, call now. Call, silently, to the sky with pleading eyes. When the birds come you will feel your question has been received. You will not know for sure, because presumed knowledge is arrogance.

But first, let’s pause for a quick word from our sponsors.

It’s not easy starting a small business. There are a lot of things to worry about, like building a customer base, developing a strong product, wrestling with self-doubt, crying a lot, bleeding a little, looking up in the small hours at the sagging ceiling over your too-small bed thinking, “Why? Why?” Being overrun by rats and worms, and discovering that you are just matter, just rotting organic matter, fated to feed the earth and trees.

Yes, there are many concerns facing small businesses. Web design should not be one of them!

Hey! Want a simple low-cost and beautifully designed web solution for your small business? Well, do you?

It…doesn’t sound like you do, actually.

I am looking at your web page right now, and it is lovely! Really smooth, really easy to navigate. Looks like you put a lot of thought into this, and you…don’t need our help. We won’t even tell you who we are because we don’t want to pressure you into changing what you’ve already done with your web site. It’s…it’s perfect! Wow! Good job! Really, we…we just…wow! We are sorry to have interrupted.

I just want to say, you are really, really good at web design.

Much better than us.

Carry on, I guess.

Let us get to our opening statements. You have two minutes each. Faceless Old Woman.

Night Vale, I want to be your mayor. Who better to serve as leader of a town than the one person who lives secretly in the home of every single resident? I know each and every one of you personally. Intimately.

Mike Numminen? You need to discipline your children more.

Claire Franklin! Tell Eva you love her! It’s been three years and you need to take this seriously!

Felicia Jackson, there is an enormous spider on the back of your dress this very moment. You should probably change clothes before you leave the house. Change clothes slowly.

What other candidate can help our community on such a personal level? I have set fire to countless home appliances, and stood secretly and stoically over crumbled bodies of sobbing citizens who only thought they were alone! Night Vale, you are not alone! I am here. I am always there, staring at you with curiosity…and concern. Look for me out of the corner of your eye just before you fall asleep. I want to brush against your face at the deepest gulf of night.

I want to be your mayor.

Thank you for that! Let’s go next to Hiram McDaniels and his opening statement. Hiram?

Thank you. Ladies, gentlemen, sentient creatures, imagine your perfect Night Vale. Close your eyes and imagine what a perfect town would be like.

You can’t, can’t you? That’s because you only have one head! I have five.

Listen, I don’t mean to say that I’m better than you. I, after all, have my own faults. Caring too much, caring too little. Caring just the right amount, but at the wrong time. Debilitating claustrophobia, and occasional lack of control over my fire breathing.

One thing I do have is a multitude of heads. Heads that can think through problems that a single head cannot.

Here, try this: Try solving an easy math problem. Quickly, what’s 56 times 97?

5,432! The answer is 5,432! Your math skills are undeveloped and puny!

See? I have a green head that is excellent at math! I mean, I don’t know why mayors have to be, uh, good at math, but the point is..

Well mayors have to be– they have to write budgets, and they have to know population numbers, and all things that–

Yup! See? Good point there from my blue head! See how we all work together? I could think quickly about a variety of topics thanks to my many heads and brains and personalities and needs and desires. Some of these desires are nearly unmanageable, and I have a strong desire to be a good mayor. So you know I’ll do everything – EVERYTHING – I will stop at nothing to do that. I will be mayor!

Charming. Thank you, Hiram!

Marcus Vanston.

Hmm? Yeah.

Go ahead with your opening statement.

Let me just finish this email to my assistant.

“And that is when I first understood what it meant to love myself for who I am. I am a complete person, Jake.”


OK, so, people of Night Vale. I would like to be your next mayor. I will use all of my resources to do this. In fact, I’ve already invested several million dollars into finding and excavating the Hidden Gorge where mayoral races are decided. I plan on developing a single computer voting machine to help…streamline elections. So once that is complete, everything should work out fine. We’ll all be…just fine. Some of us will be more “just fine” than others, but again that’s also…that’s also just fine.

Thank you, Marcus. Thank you, candidates, for your desire to serve the Night Vale community with your leadership.

I want to go now to the issues. But first, an update on our earlier news story.

Listeners, we’ve just received word that the newly-intelligent deer are stopping on the road, and allowing themselves to get hit by moving vehicles. They are then using that physical contact to launch themselves, and the drivers, and the wrecked vehicles, backward in time by several days.

The leader of the deer, a two-headed spider-eyed mule deer named, as all deer are named, Deer, apologized for the problems they are causing, but they just want to experience pain.

They have been so numb, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and they want to remember again what it is like to hurt. Not just in their bodies, but to see others suffer as well.

“The time travel was a happy accident,” Deer admitted, as they had no idea humans experienced such angst, such terror, when confronted with multiplicity of self.

The Sheriff’s Secret Police remind us that while capable of time travel, the deer don’t actually understand the implications of parallel universes versus linear continuity. The deer, while talented, are still very dumb animals.

The deer countered that the Sheriff’s Secret Police are just being mean now!

The City Council are asking that residents lock their doors, and close their windows. The deer are organized, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want, Night Vale. Be safe.

And now, back to our first ever mayoral debate. Let’s reach out to our community, and find out what they want from their mayoral candidates. First caller, you’re on the air. Who is this?

   Hi, Cecil! This is Diane Crayton. Candidates, as a member of the Night Vale PTA, one of the most important topics to me is our schools. This past year we’ve seen a rise in some concerning trends. Declining graduation rates, gun violence, teacher complaints about centipedes crawling out of their eyes at unexpected moments, and clocks that don’t work correctly, causing confusion about when the next class is. What will you do, as mayor, to improve our schools?

Well, the centipede thing is tough. ‘Cause centipedes are helpful and intelligent beings. So I’m not gonna say they have no right to live in, and crawl out of, teachers’ faces. But I think we can find ways to compromise with them, about living in maybe different parts of the body so that they do not distract our children from learning.

As for the other issues, we spend an exorbitant amount each year on extracurricular activities, such as sports and art and history. I think we could take some of that money, put it towards after-school programs to help tutor students in important topics like music and bricklaying, and…how to build great stone shrines to…oh, whoever, I mean, uh, let’s just say reptiles for instance, just as an example. That’s just an example.

While I agree with my opponent that we must stop our children from learning too much in schools, I disagree that we must cut finding from any school programs, nor should we ask the government for more. We can do this as a community. I propose selling off unused items from our homes to raise money for our schools. Cecil! You have a whole set of collectible jadeite bowls you never use. I would be happy to sell them on ebay for you! Hiram, you live in a cave that I do not like, but you have a collection of rare jewels and coins in a mahogany chest that you keep locked and buried. Let’s put those up for sale! Marcus, you have a coffee table made of human bones.

Yeah, and I need that coffee table.

Please, let the Faceless Old Woman finish, Mr. Vanston.

OK, but I need that coffee table.


No no no…I need it.

Well, we all have things we do not use, books we do not read or care for, furniture and electronics and dead mice and antiques that could be worth a lot of money to our students! Children are our future. They are a terrible and less enjoyable future than the future we all represented, but they are a future nonetheless.

Marcus, do you have a rebuttal?

No, doesn’t really affect me at all, no.

Um, sorry for yet another interruption in our debate, but I’ve just received an update on the deer situation. The City Council announced that the deer are multiplying.

When asked how they are doing this, the City Council rolled their eyes, and said “the same way deer always replicate – by humming and breathing softly in unison until others that hear them suddenly become them! Good thing you’re a reporter and not a biologist!” the City Council teased.

But then a sudden shared laughter broke the tension of the room.

The City Council then announced that they just can’t be here anymore, and that they wish us all the best in our final moments.

“We’re pretty much done for,” the City Council reassured reporters. “The deer have taken over the streets, the sidewalks. Many are standing at your window right now for you to see their eyes and hear their hums.”

Do not open your window or doors, listeners. Stay by your radios. Stay always by your radios, and we will update you with more information.

OK. Uhh, next caller, you’re on the air. Who is this?

   This is Erika?

And what’s your question, Erica?

   It’s spelled Erika! With a K?

I’m sorry. What’s your question, Erika?

   Well, uh, I’m an angel, and I’m concerned? I'm– it’s not concerned, just…anxious.

Let me stop you right there, Erika. Angels aren’t real. But go ahead with your question.

   Of course. Yes, uh, well, um, there’s a tiny civilization living under Lane 5 of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex? Angels haven’t been able to determine where this nation came from or what it wants. And it’s rare that angels cannot solve a problem but when they cannot, they turn to small town civic leaders for help and guidance.
   What do you know about this nation of small people in the bowling alley?

Erika, let me first say thank you for your hard work. You do not exist, but if you did we would be extraordinarily proud of the work you do protecting humans.

That being said, it is a crime to acknowledge the existence of angels, so I have nothing more to say.


We could just, uh, burn it down, or…whatever.

I’m not crying.

What was that?

I said I’m not crying.

Um, listeners at home, Marcus is hunched over, head turned away from his microphone. He is sobbing.

No I’m not.

Uh, perhaps he has been chosen by the angels who – as a legal reminder – are not real in the slightest. But those who are chosen for special tasks by angels often cannot stop weeping when they talk about angels.

I’m fine. Next question. *sniff*

Uh, caller? You’re on the air with the mayoral candidates.

   Hi, this is, uh, John Peters – you know, the farmer? Now last year there was a pretty big glowing cloud that went through town? Dropping, uh, dead animals and things everywhere. Now I know that that Glow Cloud is now on the School Board and all, but is there anything that one of you could do to keep it from dropping animals everywhere? I nearly lost my organic certification because none of those cows, or crows, or nurse sharks, or spider wolves it dropped had any paperwork. Also, all that radiation was probably not healthy.

Uh, thank you, John. Candidates? What will you do to protect us from the Glow Cloud? What will you do to serve the Glow Cloud? What efforts will you make to hail the almighty Glow Cloud?


And to John’s point, it’s a difficult situation, given that the Glow Cloud is a stand-up member of our community. But, the Glow Cloud is also a


Thank you for your call, John.

   Yeah, you bet.

All right. Next up. Caller?

   Hi, this is Erika again?

Erika? You sound different.

   I do?

Well, yes! I mean, in your earlier call you sounded like a man, and now you sound like a woman.

   Angels cannot hear gender, Cecil.

Well. If angels were real, Erika, what would your question be?

   Thank you. This question is just for Marcus.
   Marcus. If called upon by angels to serve a great good, to serve a great calling, to serve a great war, would you serve?

Marcus? Are you crying?

Hang on. *sniff* Nope, I’m fine. I'm– I’m fine.

   You are needed, Marcus. You are needed now.

Oh, my. Marcus is rising from his chair. His feet are off the floor. He is stretching to inhuman lengths! His eyes are glowing black and his fingers are spiraling long and diaphanous.

Marcus? Ooooooh, dear.

Uh, listeners, Marcus grew gold feathers from his back, as he vanished. And he is gone.

   I am sorry to interrupt your debate, Cecil. Goodbye.

Um, goodbye, Erika!

   Oh, and, uh, Cecil!


   I’m afraid…

Yes? Go on.

   No, that’s…that’s it. Just…I am afraid. OK, bye!

Oh! All right!

Well, this debate has certainly taken an odd turn, listeners, but none of this happened and we will comment no further.

One last caller? You are on the air.

   Hi, this is Steve Carlsberg? And, um, my question is for Hiram. Hiram, –


Candidates, let’s get to our closing statements. Faceless Old Woman.

My fellow Night Valians, my opponent talks about human children but he has never been a human child. I have. It has been centuries, but I have. He claims he wants to improve fitness and health in our schools, but he cannot even regulate his own body temperature. I can. I can also regulate yours.

He says he cares about you, but I am the only candidate who is actually in your home at this very moment, writing down the grim specifics of your eventual death on the back side of one section of dry wall. You’ll see it someday, when getting some pipes or wiring fixed, and you’ll be impressed.

Not impressed, terrified. This is a promise I make to you.

My other opponent is now an angel, and cannot legally be thought about.

So vote for me. The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.

I’m touching your neck right now. You smell nice.

Thank you.


Night Vale, Sure, there’s a Faceless Old Woman Secretly Living In Your Home. And I respect that! She is vaguely familiar, and unsettlingly comfortable, and I admire that.

But isn’t it time we stop this politics as usual? Isn’t it time we got the government out of our homes? There once was a day when we all needed government agents snooping around in our books and dishes. That was a different time!

Should the government really be able to…touch our necks, and be aware that we smell nice? I say no!

I am literally a five-headed dragon. I don’t know anything about being human. I do things like breathe fire, fly, regenerate limbs, and molt. I don’t care anything about your personal lives. They’re your choice! I wouldn’t even know how to interfere!


So vote for me, Hiram McDaniels. I am literally a five-headed dragon with no regard for human life. Choices. Human life choices.

Thank you both!

Um, I’m very sorry for the…technical difficulties. I don’t know if you can hear that, but there is a very soft humming sound coming from the mics, or…or the soundboard, or…or something.

I don’t hear it, Cecil.

I don’t…I don’t hear a thing.

I remember this sound from before. Um, we’ll have an engineer come and take a look at it.

Uh, in the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, and all in between, the deer…have gotten quite out of hand.

One of the sales staff, um, thank you, Roberta, just handed me a note that says there are dozens of deer surrounding this station and trying to peer into the windows.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying right there, then. I could go outside and set fire to them if you want, uh. That would be a very mayoral solution.

That’s a fool’s errand, Hiram. Did you never play Deer Duck Dragon? Dragon beats duck, but deer beats dragon?

So we– we– we need a duck?

No! Deer beats duck, too! Deer beats everything! It’s a terrible game.


Oh, she’s right, Hiram. But it's– it’s not the deer. The– the humming is something worse.

Listeners, I fear something much worse is lurking. So, as we all hide from the deer, and hide from the hum, and hide from it all, I take you now to the weather.

[“Promise to the Moon”* by Jason Webley]

Listeners? The quiet humming is not the deer, but a swirling black vortex just outside our studio door. In fact, the deer have backed away from the station. I have seen this vortex before, listeners. And I am afraid to approach it. But Hiram went to look inside.

Yeah, and I found this guy in the vortex.


Who is this man? Not man. Who…is this creature? Why is he covered in blood? And where are his eyes?

   Hi! I’m Kevin!

You stay away!

Hello, Kevin. That’s Cecil. Wow, you guys look…almost just alike!

   Oh! Hello, Cecil! Nice to meet you! And yes, I completely see the resemblance! It’s mostly in the eyes, I think. OK, I met Hiram, and now Cecil, who are you?

I am the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home. Well, most homes. Not yours. I’ve never seen you before.

   Faceless? You’re not faceless! You have a beautiful face! A memorable face. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such deep hazel eyes, or proud lips, or archaic jaw.

I do not have a face, Kevin. I have never had a face.

   You do have a face! And it’s unlike any other face in history.

Why are you here? Explain to me what you are doing here.

   Oh. Sure.
   Well, I was sitting in my own radio studio in my own town, and I heard that…humming again. I saw a spiraling white vortex and rushed into it. It has been months since I have seen it, and once I met a man there who looked like me! With my eyes, and my smile. I think he was you, Cecil!
   I know that I am Kevin. I know I have been in this strange studio before, with its old-timey microphones and acoustic gray foam walls. A place like this is usually covered in clumps of hair and reddish-brown hand prints streaking down the only remaining unshattered window. But they do things differently here in…where is this?

Night Vale.

   Oooooh myyy! So this is Night Vale! Oh! How delightful!
   *clears throat* Hello out there, Night Vale listeners! This is Kevin from Desert Bluffs!
   You know, I was just telling my intern, Vanessa? I was telling Vanessa just today how much I have wanted to come here! I’m always telling her that, as a matter of fact. I just never get around to actually visiting. Work and family, and you get so busy it’s hard to find the time.
   And so…here I am! I wish Vanessa were here! She would love Night Vale! You guys have such…eh…you know!
   We always talk about coming here and here I am, without her! Oh! I wish you could have met Vanessa! Always a joke to start the day. She had one about limestone this morning, hahahahahahaha! Haaa! I don’t remember it, but it was a hit.
   Always a laugh, always a smile, a big smile! Where she’d show me all these perfect teeth, and I would just imagine the rest of her perfect skull. Funny how the skull is so visible in your mouth. Weird. Who thinks of that stuff? I don’t know. Weird, right?

Maybe next time you come you could bring her.

   Oh, gosh, I wish! But no.


   Oh, dear, I’m sorry, no. Vanessa died many years ago. We’re all still very upset about it. Very upset about what we saw. Some of us never came back to work again. Some of us never left our houses again. Most of us never woke up again.
   I don’t like to talk about it much.

I’m sorry.

   Night Vale, I don’t know why I was brought here, but I am starting to see we are connected. And by more than just a two-lane highway. We are connected much more deeply, Night Vale! And if this is true, I imagine your town, too, has been seeing a rise in the deer population this evening. It is a blessed event, of course, as these deer have been so very helpful to all of us in Desert Bluffs, doing all our math problems, gaining us extra work hours by time-traveling us back and forth…so productive and adorable, those deer!
   But, of course, there is sometimes too much of a good thing.
   StrexCorp, our parent company – oh! And I believe yours too, now, Cecil – is issuing a recall on all these time-traveling deer. They tried to implement the project slowly, but it got a little carried away. If you have lost loved ones, or are no longer in your original timeline or universe, then we apologize. Please contact StrexCorp attorney Luisa Reyes, as she is preparing a class-action lawsuit against StrexCorp. We’ve already budgeted for the remuneration for community harms, so don’t you worry about us! We’re fine!
   We’ve sent helicopters to dispatch the deer. If you have earplugs, you may want to put them in now, or simply turn up some loud music to drown out the machines and screams for the next hour or so.
   I can hear the fading hum of the vortex that fortuitously connects our two radio studios, Night Vale.
   Cecil, I will see you again. I am certain.
   I can’t wait to tell Vanessa what a great town this was! Haha!
   I must go. It was nice to meet you two!

He said I have a face! I’ve never seen my face. What do I look like, Hiram? Am I beautiful?

You are beautiful when you do beautiful things. Do you do beautiful things?

I think that I do.


Well, thank you, Hiram. You are beautiful, too.

Cecil, you are…distracted.

Cecil? You…you alright, there, buddy?


Cecil, it– it’s going to be OK.

Actually, that’s a lie. In general, it’s not going to be OK.

That man with the missing eyes, and bloodstained skin and teeth like an abandoned cemetery? He was certainly terrifying, but he’s gone now.

He was…

Cecil, we all get frightened and freeze in the face of unbearable terror. I mean, only if we can see that face. Some faces are apparently there but unseeable.

I…you’re right. Um, thank you both.

Candidates, uh, thank you, also, for coming on the show tonight. I think you both would make an excellent mayor, and I look forward to casting a meaningless vote for one of you soon.

Listeners, thank you for listening to the show tonight. Remember that you may hear terrible machines and screams as corporate agents terminate the false deer. Their attempt to destroy our way of life, by bringing us together as one, has failed. We are free to remain ourselves and find our own connections – beautiful or grotesque. Either way, a beauty or grotesquery of our own choosing.

So relax tonight, Night Vale. You are yourself. You are safe.

Tonight is a good night.

Tomorrow is unconfirmed.

We will all find out together.

Thank you again, candidates, and listeners, do not forget to cast your vote on election day. We do not know where votes will be cast, what election day is, or if votes are even read, but…it is your democratic duty.

Stay tuned next for a chasm of subjectivity and bravado between yourself and every other human being.

Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.

Welcome to Night Vale is a production of Commonplace Books. It is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.

The voice of Night Vale is Cecil Baldwin.

Guest voices tonight are Kevin R. Free, Mark Gagliardi, Mark Evan Jackson, Jackson Publick, Hal Lublin, Annie Savage, and Mara Wilson.

Today’s weather was Promise to the Moon by Jason Webley.*

Original music by Disparition.

Today’s proverb: Don’t judge a book by its cover. By its leather cover. By its human skin-looking cover. Don’t ever judge that book!

And now we welcome back to the stage Jason Webley!

Hi again. Um, so Joseph invited me to…to come do this and asked if I could play something to kind of finish things up, and I didn’t quite know what the right thing to…for that might be, so I asked John from Disparition if he had any ideas, um, which he might explain if he had a microphone.

Um, I think he would say…well, I know what he said in the email, which was that it might be kind of nice if we played a song by Joseph Fink. And so…but we wanted it to be a surprise, so we didn’t rehearse it. 'Cause…'cause sneaky fellow that he is, he would have heard us.

So, um, yeah. This is “These and More Than These.”

[“These and More Than These” by Jason Webley and Disparition]

A Story About Them
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