The lazy whirl of a ceiling fan in a diner on the edge of town sees strangers passing in the late afternoon, drinking the sweet beverage of respite from the road. Also, coffee.
Welcome to Night Vale.
Well, it's another harsh yet beautiful day in our little desert community, listeners, where we take civic pride in the dry heat of valleys and the distant loom of mysterious unexplored mesas. I know you were all expecting the seductive voice of Cecil Palmer, but our much beloved Cecil has taken a sabbatical for the day. Or possibly been lured from the safe confines of the radio station by dread creatures from the unknown, who will return him forever altered. We aren't sure.
Hope you're enjoying your day off, Cecil!
I'm Intern Lee Ann, here to present to you all the news, traffic, community events, and weather this hour.
John Peters -- you know, the farmer? -- has called in to report that a strange debris field of metal and what appears to be tape and latex rubber crashed down in his peach orchard last night. He says that a stamp on one of the metal struts reads PROPERTY OF NIGHT VALE CIVIC WEATHER SERVICE, and that the latex appears to be an enormous deflated balloon.
As he is unable to locate contact information for any organization, civil, state, or federal, which could possibly have launched the device, he is asking for community assistance in returning what he describes as "Probably a weather balloon" to its rightful owners. If there is a reward posted, he would like the reward paid to him in lead ingots, or in hay.
Here's a public service announcement: Monsoon season will be here soon, citizens, and you know what that means. Time to renew your umbrella permits! This year, the Department of Umbrellas and Slickers will require a photo ID, answers to a brief and harmless questionnaire, and the sacrifice of a small goat.
The family discount, like last year, means parents, grandparents, and any offspring below the age of discretion can all get their permits renewed for a single goat-sacrifice. So if you have a family, rejoice! And if you don't have a family, find one fast!
Lines are expected to be long, so make sure you show up early and have your documentation and livestock ready for processing.
I have just received an email at the Night Vale Community Radio email account which informs me that John Peters -- you know, the farmer? -- was entirely mistaken in his assessment of the crashed device in his peach orchard. The sender, whose email address is both anonymous and nonexistent, assures me that it is, in fact, simply a harmless spacecraft from a distant galaxy. Supposedly the landing of this craft was heralded three nights ago by stranger-than-usual lights in the sky, circles appearing in several well-manicured lawns in Old Town Night Vale, and a strange ache in the bones of several older members of the community.
Well, I don't know about you, listeners, but this leaves a lot of unanswered questions in my mind. Why does the spacecraft contain tinfoil, which alien civilizations deride as an indulgent convenience that does nothing but contribute to our landfills? What purpose would a giant balloon serve on an interstellar flight? And if it is a downed spacecraft, where are our alien brethren or possibly robot overlords? I don't see anyone trying to point a ray gun at ME.
At least, not this week.
If you have any information on this so-called alien spacecraft, let us know! Our email, twitter, facebook, and livejournal accounts are available on our website.
HA HA HA just kidding, like anyone has a livejournal anymore.
It's a Myspace.
[iPhone alarm sound]
Oh! Sh -- Darn! I set that timer to remind me to play the paid advertisement!
And now, a paid advertisement!
It is warm in this room, lit dimly by the golden glow of a single, antique lamp. The blankets are piled high on the bed against the chill of a desert night, and there is a well-worn book waiting on the bedside table, waiting to be picked up and thumbed through, like the gentle hug of an old friend. Outside the wind blows against the windows but inside there is shelter and comfort. Close your eyes and snuggle down under the soft sheets, breathing evenly as you relax, carefree in the knowledge of another day accomplished, and all your duties done. The town sleeps peacefully, and you are safe in the embrace of your home, sleepy and content. This message was brought to you by [SUDDEN LOUD AIRHORN.]
People of Night Vale, this is VERY exciting. During the paid advertisement, Mayor Pamela Winchell called a press conference to discuss the weather balloo -- the downed alien spacecraft! And I got to go! Eee!
Uh, I mean. Mayor Winchell, dressed in a flawless dove-grey Dolce and Gabbana suit, with shoes like the wings of angels and exquisite trinitite earrings, her hair coiffed in the very latest fashion, told us all that John Peters -- you know, the farmer? -- was mistaken.
"After all," she said, in a voice like the music of the stars, "what does a farmer know about the weather? How could he possibly believe in such a thing as a weather balloon?"
She then gestured gracefully to a large flatbed truck being backed up to City Hall, covered in pieces of what certainly did look like some kind of spaceship, albeit one made out of papier mâché spray-painted silver.
"As you can see," she said, her eyes alight with the fire of lawful rule, "it's clearly a craft meant to travel vast distances between galaxies, and definitely not a set piece from last year's amateur theatrical summer-stock production of Plan Nine From Outer Space."
Her very existence seems proof of the divine, listeners, so who am I to question the existence of far-traveling aliens who have crashed in the orchards of John Peters -- you know, the farmer?
"There are no weather balloons," she told us. "Weather balloons are a myth propagated by those who would make you fear your local government. Trust us. Believe in us. Disdain the weather balloon. What does weather need a balloon for, anyway?"
More on this controversy as it develops, but I for one am sold.
Let's have a look at the community calendar.
This week, there are no events on record. Nothing will happen, as a sense of ennui and hopelessness settles over the town like a thick, blue-grey fog. Also, a thick blue-grey fog will settle over much of the town, preventing Monday's arts and crafts fair in the Night Vale High School parking lot, the free performance of Julius Caesar in the park on Thursday, and Friday's open-air bingo and gladiatorial trials of arms.
Well, folks, I guess it's time to catch up on all those episodes of Good Eats you recorded the last time there was a marathon on the Food Network!
This has been the community not-calendar.
The twitterverse is sure heating up with debate over the debris in the orchard. People are arguing in sentences of a hundred and forty characters or less, sometimes using the one-of-two and two-of-two format, to express their nuanced opinions of this controversy. Even the Glow Cloud is weighing in, saying HAIL THE MIGHT AND WISDOM OF THE GLOW CLOUD. IT WAS A WEATHER BALLOON.
Did you guys know the Glow Cloud had a twitter? I am TOTALLY following that!
Oooh, the Big Rico's twitter account has just commented too. Big Rico's says that three of their delivery drivers have been suddenly called away from their delivery duties and are now wandering the town in silver jumpsuits, claiming to be aliens from the downed craft. They are saying they totally love eating Earth Local and are collecting LPs and vintage bicycles to take back to their mother planet. They tell us they've come to Earth to see a concert, but the band is pretty obscure and we've probably never heard of them.
Is this possible? Have aliens been posing as heavily pierced delivery drivers in our midst? Are they legally sanctioned to work in Night Vale and are they paying their taxes like honest, hard-working Earthlings?
Let's check the traffic!
It looks like...yes...yes, the traffic is still there.
For real though, if I wanted to sit in my unmoving car for an hour I'd just leave it parked in the driveway, you know? COME ON, make the turn already! The light's not going to bloom! Oh my god, is he seriously trying to merge?
Traffic: it's always there.
Night Vale, this is almost unbelievable. I am getting reports through every social media network available that Cecil Palmer has returned. Of course we're thrilled to have Cecil's lovely smiling face and one-of-a-kind fashion back among us! I'm told he appeared on the steps of City Hall, next to the flatbed truck carrying the pieces of the downed spacecraft, like some kind of secular messiah with a message of hope, love, and scooping up after your dogs.
Cecil is saying -- yes, here we go, getting it now -- Old Woman Josie has faxed us a report that Cecil claims to know the truth about the debris in the orchard. He says his absence was due to an urgent radio-journalistic duty to investigate, and that now he has returned to inform us that the debris was NOT a downed spacecraft. Mayor Pamela Winchell's palms have sprouted a green, heatless flame and she has risen several feet in the air, while the Sheriff's Secret Police are holding back a crowd prepared to riot in confusion.
Mayor Winchell is now shouting, like the voice of vengeance, that Cecil Palmer lies, and Cecil insists angelically that the dirty politics of City Hall must not interfere with the truth. What is the truth -- what is the -- the truth is -- !
I can't possibly say this on air without authorization from Station Management. But I must report the news! I can't...I don't...
Who should I trust? Cecil Palmer, the secret darling of all hearts, or Mayor Pamela Winchell?
And now...existentially...the weather.
Well, listeners, it seems things on the steps of City Hall have calmed down considerably with the appearance of the Glow Cloud on the scene. Under the gentle mediation of the Glow Cloud, Mayor Winchell has retracted her statement that the debris was a spacecraft, and Cecil has assured us that it was not a weather balloon either.
I just don't know what to think. Cecil says, and now Mayor Winchell supports this statement, that the debris was in fact a hoax meant to stir up unrest between the citizens of the town and our governing body. The Sheriff's Secret Police is now rounding up would-be rioters to see if they know anything -- about anything -- perhaps about illicit use of wheat and wheat by-products or the production of bootleg pencils....the Glow Cloud has retired to a corner of the municipal plaza, and Cecil is on his way back to the station. Mayor Winchell has returned to her office to once again participate in the orderly governance of our fair city.
Who perpetrated this terrible hoax? Who bought a giant balloon and attached it with string and tape to a few pieces of old scrap metal, scrawling PROPERTY OF NIGHT VALE CIVIC WEATHER SERVICE on one of them in grease pencil? What twisted criminals could have done such a thing?
I think we all know the answer to that. In our heart of hearts, in the secret places where we keep our most tightly held convictions, we know who possesses the level of cruelty required to incite a civic war in Night Vale. Only monsters with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Yes, listeners. I am talking about Desert Bluffs.
So keep your doors locked tight tonight, and your windows covered in plastic. Hold your loved ones as close as personal intimacy issues will allow. Give thanks, in bloodstone circle or at the dinner table, in secret ritual or in simple conversation, that we do not live in that pit of depravity which stretched out its mucus-smeared tentacle to interfere with our town. Be joyous that you live in Night Vale, harsh yet beautiful, and not in that den of malice known as Desert Bluffs.
And so, with Cecil returning to his rightful place in time to cue up the next hour of one single violin performing all of The Who's famous rock opera Tommy, I say to you good night, Night Vale.
OH MY GOD CECIL DID I DO ALL RIGHT? THAT WAS SO COOL!