There's a billboard along the highway that reads:
Welcome to Night Vale.
I don't talk much about my brother on this show.
He visited the other day from his home
out near Eagle Farm, up in the mountains.
He looked gaunt and pale.
When I opened the door,
he was bracing himself against the
porch beam with one arm and coughing.
Cal was holding a suitcase.
It was old-fashioned, leather,
the kind without wheels or an extendable handle.
He drove to my house in a 1980 Mercury Monarch, brick red, four doors.
The front left bumper was caved in and the headlight,
which looked to have been taped into
place, had loosened again and fallen forward.
I asked Cal what had happened to his car.
He didn't know what I was talking about.
I asked about the bumper and headlight, and he said, "
That's just how they make them, Cecil.
" Them he teased me for not understanding cars
and walked into my home before I could invite him in.
Have you ever opened a box, only to find another box inside that box,
and then you open that box and there was another box within
it, and then you kept opening boxes hoping to find the last box.
But the boxes became so small,
your comparatively large fingers could no longer open them.
Until the box was so tiny, you couldn't see the box at all."
I'm not sure what that means.
It's neither here nor there.
Which is to say it's nowhere.
Aquí, ahí, todo el mundo, no hay nada.
I don't know Spanish.
Yesterday afternoon, Hadassah Mc
Daniels and the other five-headed dragons,
outraged at the partial execution of
Hadassah's brother Hiram last fall, moved into City Hall.
They displaced Mayor Cardinal and her staff,
who then called upon the Sheriff's Secret Police,
and the rarely seen Double Secret Police – a police so
secret that even their members do not know that they are members.
Both the Secret and the very surprised Double Secret Police,
just that morning informed of their jobs,
showed up at City Hall and tried reasoning with the dragons.
The dragons ignored the weak efforts of
the police and made straight for City Council.
The Council climbed up on the roof of city Hall,
their many sharp appendages swinging down from their single giant
body, punching out windows and grabbing
whatever long dragon necks they could reach.
And the City Council's newest member, 16-year-old Tamika Flynn,
the only member not connected to their primary form,
rode on the rest of the council's back with a long bow.
The dragons breathed fire upward at the City
Council, who shrieked in pain, or possibly delight.
The battle ended when City Council was knocked off the roof
by five-headed dragon and private estate lawyer, Dirk Andrews.
The council, minus Tamika, retracted form the advancing dragons,
called a Lyft and sped out of town,
as they are wont to do in times of crisis.
Tamika paced at the edge of the City Hall lawn,
cursing and thwacking a well-worn copy of Glen David Gould's "
Carter Beats the Devil" into her calloused palm.
Above the City Hall,
a long black slit was torn into the light
blue sky, and no one reported seeing the moon.
When Cal entered my house,
I offered him some tea, and then called Carlos to come join us.
But Cal said he doesn't drink, and Carlos didn't respond to my calls.
I told Cal it was just tea,
no alcohol, and he said he doesn't drink anything.
I peaked into Carlos' office, but he wasn't there.
Nothing was there.
It was just an empty room.
Carlos wasn't gone, he had never been there.
And for a moment I did not miss him,
as for a moment, I did not remember he existed.
It was just an empty room, I thought casually.
Cal sat down his suitcase and said, "
You hear that Cecil?
You hear that noise?" He pointed straight up. "
In the firmament," he said. "
Do you hear it?" he repeated.
I listened, and I heard.
I heard paper being torn,
I heard weeds being pulled, I heard – egg shells crumbling.
When I looked back to say yes,
he was holding his hand to his
mouth and lurching forward over the sink.
A trickle of blood ran down the outside of his hand.
I could see his tongue moving rapidly along the
insides of his cheeks, as he let out small grunts.
He finally removed his hand and spat sharply into the kitchen sink.
I heard a loud rattling in the stainless steel basin and saw
two teeth, unbroken, root, bones and all, lying in the strainer.
I stared at them and remarked at how long a human tooth actually is.
Cal wiped his face and hands. "
Nice to finally get rid of those,
" he said as he tore off pieces of paper
towel and wedged them into the holes in his gums.
Then he asked, "
You got a girlfriend or what, little brother?"
In my life with Cal,
I'd never told him I would never have a girlfriend.
In Night Vale,
no one cared either way, but I felt like Cal would have.
In this other reality, I was single.
So I only said, "
He shrugged and scratched his head.
As he did, a patch of dark hair fell to the floor.
We watched it fall, lilting and looping slowly downward.
Which falls faster, a brick or a tuft of hair?
Carlos taught me this physics riddle.
It's a trick question.
The brick falls faster,
not because of its weight but because a brick falling is less
horrifying than the unexpected
loss of even a minor part of your body.
Time does not slow down for that which is uninteresting.
Hah, better not look in the mirror," Cal said,
as he nervously simulated the sound of laughter.
A dribble of blood ran down his chin and onto his chest.
When the Public Library disappeared last week,
no one celebrated nor mourned its absence,
as we could barely remember it being there.
In its place, a long black sliver of nothing.
A hole in our universe, near which no one wanted to go.
Except for Carlos,
who's a scientist and wants tot
study everything, but I told him no way.
The pteranodons which poured out of a similar hole inside the Rec
Center last month have taken over the Barista District,
building giant nests from canvas bean sacks and
flyers promoting local bands and burlesque shows.
Near the City Hall, dozens of angels,
more than I have ever seen at one time,
are still surrounding the Hall of Public Records,
demanding expedition of their application
to be officially recognized as living beings.
The angels are waving hand-drawn signs with phrases like "
Look at us".
But their handwriting is so shaky as to make the typography quite
distracting, so most bystanders did not notice the
angels, but instead fixated on trying to read their signs.
The angels are shouting, "
It only works if you believe it does!
" But as this sentence has an erratic rhythm,
it didn't catch on with many passers-by,
many of whom were busy screaming and
running from vengeance-minded dragons.
Some even pointed into space and yelled, "
The Distant Prince!" He's less distant than ever before.
Cal told me stories of our youth.
How, as kids,
we would sneak out late at night
and vandalize houses and cars for fun.
Little things like stealing hood ornaments or placing live
scorpions in mailboxes or making
creepy ghost noises outside bedroom windows.
He smiled as he regaled what was for him,
a funny story of boys being boys, but I didn't like his story.
I could remember it, but I also knew it wasn't real at all.
In his story, I was prying loose the aluminum ram's head at
the front of a 1975 Dodge pickup with a flat head screwdriver.
The truck was dark blue with tan leather bench seats.
I remembered it was parked in front of a mid-century ranch
style home with a rock garden full of succulents and herbs.
As Cal spoke, I could smell rosemary in the cool desert air.
Cal placed his hands on his belly,
and his eyes rolled back in his head. "
You OK?" I asked. "
It's just the after effects man," Cal shrugged. "
Hey, you remember when Mom used to take us to the library to
read, but we would look up dirty words in the dictionary instead?" "
Mom would have never put us in such danger," I protested.
He stared at me for a moment,
his head cocked sideways, an eyebrow raised.
Then he lurched forward out of his seat onto
his hands and knees and vomited onto the rug.
We both stared at the viscous red stain concerned.
No, not concerned – embarrassed.
Let's have a look at the Community Calendar.
This Thursday afternoon,
the Faceless Old Woman and the Woman from Italy will be at the Night
Vale Mall from noon to 4 PM,
offering bespoke tortures for anyone who walks by.
The Woman from Italy will recite the unlucky
passers-by future pain, in the form of a catchy poem like:
The Woman from Italy will leave you in stitches.
Not laughter, though she'll laugh.
A sound which is full of diabolical torment
And wicked behavior,
As she flays you before your friends and your neighbors.
You'll yet be alive when she opens your chest,
The wet beat of your heart and the choke of your breath.
She coos, "
It's as quick as can be."
But in truth, there's years left to this misery.
The Faceless Old Woman will simply write some harsh insults in
silver sharpie on the side of an eggplant and hurl it at your family.
the Night Vale PTA will be holding an emergency bake sale to raise
money for the elementary school
gym, recently burned down by Hadassah Mc
It's also a clearance sale to finally get rid of the store
room full of baked goods that have gone unsold the past two years.
Monday, another hole will open in the sky, and then another.
Things will come, other things will go.
I will remember that Michigan is a
real state and its capital is Lansing.
And that I once when camping with Cal and my mother,
and some family friends, up near Higgins Lake when I was 9.
Soon after knowing this, I will stop knowing it again.
This has been the Community Calendar.
I tried to explain to Cal that something was amiss.
I had a sister, not a brother.
I wasn't single but married.
I tried to show Cal photos of Abby, and of my husband, Carlos.
But when I went to our photo albums, they were different.
There were photos of Cal and I as children,
but none of Abby or Carlos or Steve or Janice or this radio station.
Noen of a recognizable Night vale.
Based on our clothing and the cars and the
fashions, no photo was older than – I'd say the early 1980's?
There was a picture of me as a teenager at Cal's wedding.
I pointed at her and said, "
Still just as radiant, I bet."
And Cal said, "
How is she these days?" I asked Cal, and he pushed me and shouted, "
He started to cry.
I kept my eyes down the hall toward the empty office.
I knew someone should be in that empty room,
someone I c ared for, someone I loved but – I didn't know who.
Cal's crying turned to sobbing and he isad, "
I'm sorry I,
I didn't mean…" I put my arm around him and said softly: "
I know, I know Cal.
It's just when you asked about Bethany," he said. "
You know she didn't- she didn't-"
He couldn't finish the sentence, but I knew Bethany didn't.
That year, most people didn't.
But also that's not how it happened.
And also, I don't have a brother.
He quivered in my arms, and above us, I heard the sky tearing open.
Smoke in the distance.
Most days I see distant smoke.
You OK?" asked my brother. "
Yes," he said. "
Thank you for… thank you for understanding." "
Sure thing, I said to him. "
Please, leave my house."
And now, the weather.
Robert Frost" by Mal Blum]
I don't talk much about my brother on this show.
Because he's not my reality.
I almost said he's not real, but that's not true.
There is still a bloodstain on my
rug, and a bruise from where he pushed me.
I remembered Cal's wedding.
I remembered stealing hood ornaments.
I remembered the smell of that rosemary bush in that rock garden.
But then Cal left.
He did not drive away, but vanished as the gash tore open above us.
I had trouble remembering his visit, so I wrote it all down.
I'm reading it now, to you,
verbatim from my journal, and I cannot believe my own writing.
Carlos and his office are back.
They were never gone, Carlos says.
Multiple timelines is basic quantum physics,
which is the most exciting kind of physics, he said.
This morning, I gave Carlos a tight hug in bed and kissed him along
the back of his beautiful hair – perfect, e
ven when matted asymmetrically from sleep.
The angels are still standing around the Hall of
Public Records, demanding that people look at them.
There is one sign that says "
We're angels, and we're totally real,
and you're making a huge mistake not acknowledging that.
Trust us, we're totally angels."
And while I appreciate the sentiment,
I do think they'd be better served hiring a
copywriter, or at least a decent graphic designer.
Holes are tearing open across the sky,
and I can barely hear myself thinking most days.
The dragons have marched into the City Jail freeing all the inmates,
mostly political prisoners being held for an unnamed
as well as a handful of college-aged drunk tankers.
Mayor Cardinal, from her home,
issued a statement about the disintegration
of our town and bleeding together of realities.
The statement reads: "
My father, who died of liver cancer when I was five, has returned.
He arrived from a hole in our reality.
I am choosing to go with him, Night Vale.
I am choosing the world where he did not die,
where I did not kill my double,
where dragons did not destroy our town.
Listen to the ripping of the firmament
and find a world you prefer, Night Vale.
All else is pain."
I beg you not to do this.
This is the world we built, right here.
If you leave,
if you don't accept it – [whispers] it cannot hold together.
Hold tight those you love, Night Vale.
Not for fear of their loss, but for love of their presence.
Hold onto what you know is real.
Life is only a narrative, but it's a narrative we write together.
Stay tuned next for – huh?
Whatever was on the schedule for this
month has all been scribbled out with charcoal.
And with the same charcoal, someone has scrawled "
A story about Huntokar" across the entire broadcast calendar.
So stay tuned for that, I guess.
And for what it's worth,
and for however long our own narrative has left,
Today's proverb: You'll catch more flies with honey than with
vinegar, but you'll catch even more with a corpse of some sort.