To whom it may concern,
I am writing to formally request a paid vacation leave for a duration of two weeks, at a time to be determined. I understand that that as the officially appointed Voice of Night Vale I have duties that cannot properly be performed by anyone else, and that as unfathomable beings you are far removed from human emotional needs (and praise be to you for it). However, if you look at my work history, you will see I have not taken vacation leave since my summer in Europe, which was twenty years ago at least. I think. My memory of the period is riddled with holes, but I feel like it was the nineties. Anyway, I have been a faithful and diligent employee since then, and I have been under some personal stress lately, and I hope you will agree with my assessment that I deserve a short break. This city can survive for two weeks without me. It’s survived much worse.
The purpose of my leave is to visit my boyfriend Carlos. As you are no doubt aware, he has been living in an alternate universe since last May, and I have not seen him in person since then. We communicate regularly via phone, text, astral projection and Tumblr, and we are handling the realities of a distance relationship as best we can, but we both agree that a voice over the phone is no longer an adequate substitute to physical contact.
I told Carlos that I didn’t want to go much longer without him, lest I forget the feel of his hand running through my hair, of his lips on my cheek, of his fingers entwined with mine. I curse my memory, so fragile and faded compared to your eternity. Carlos told me that he thinks it would be good for me to get out of Night Vale for a bit and expand my horizons. He says there is so much more world out there and so many more things than he ever dreamed of and he wants to show me just a little part of it. I must admit, from my brief sojourn through the desert otherworld in the spring, it is a neat place. Unfortunately, at the moment travel between the two worlds appears to be impossible. Carlos is working on a solution, which is why I would like to keep my options flexible, so I can take the vacation days as soon as it becomes feasible.
It will begin when he finds a way to open up the doors between worlds. He will text me his location, and as soon as I read it I will run to him, ignoring whatever I am doing at the time. Unless I’m in the middle of a show. I would never abandon my listeners for personal gratification, of course, because I am a professional. Although now that I think about it, opening up a rift in space seems like a pretty big news story that people would need to know about. So I would probably still go, but for journalistic reasons. Or maybe I won’t have to go anywhere. Maybe an old oak door will appear right in front of me in my home or in the studio or at the bowling alley, and the distance that keeps us apart will evaporate like dew.
Either way, when I see him I will stand before him as though electrified, taking in the sight of him in the flesh – so much clearer than blurry Snapchats or translucent projections could ever be. Part of me will wonder if this is really happening or if it is merely a wonderful dream, so I will embrace him to confirm to myself that yes, this is Carlos, my Carlos, my starshine, my one and only, real and present for the first time in nearly a year. And I will hold him for longer than necessary because I will be making up for all the hugs we haven’t shared in the interim. We will both say that we’ve missed this and how much we love each other, and then Carlos will motion for me to go through the door with him and I will follow. I have a bag packed at home for when this happens but it’s quite possible I will forget about it in the heat of the moment and not care.
The desert will stretch around us endlessly in every direction. Hot sunlight will beat down on us, but it will not be the blinding burning light of a smiling god that once threatened to come through those doors and undo all that is. No, Carlos assures me that this place is safe now. There is no evil light, and though there is still rumbling, it appears to be only ordinary earthquakes. I feel the need to emphasize that I will not be putting my life in danger by going on this vacation.
Carlos will lead me first to the most prominent feature of the desert landscape – the jagged rock formation atop which sits a lighthouse, atop which sits a blinking red light. (It is not a mountain. It looks like one, and some people who have seen it have referred to it as one, but I know that’s impossible. I know it so deeply that seeing it and climbing it only reaffirms my belief that mountains could never be real.) I have been to this lighthouse before, but now I will come here under much more pleasant circumstances. He will show me the living photos lining its walls, each a window looking back into Night Vale. I will try not to look through them too often because the point of this trip is to get me away from home, but I will glance in at the studio from time to time if I can. I’ll call, too. Don’t call me, calling only works the one way.
Assuming I remembered them, we’ll unpack my belongings in the makeshift lab he’s built here (he’s so inventive!). Then we’ll head down to the camp where the army of masked giants is currently living, and Carlos will introduce me to his friends there. Some of them met me briefly in the spring, but I barely talked to any of them back then. I thought they were simply fearsome and dangerous, but now I know they are also friendly and kind so I’ll try to be more sociable.
I will say hello to Doug and Alisha, and thank them for doing so much to protect Carlos. I think we will all be excited to meet each other. From what Carlos tells me, they like listening to my show with him and hearing what he tells them about me. I’m flattered already just thinking about it! I hope Alisha will let me pet their dog. A gigantic bichon frisé sounds like the cutest thing in existence and I really want to give it a huge hug. I’m not going to lie, it’s one of the things I look forward to the most.
In the evenings the giants build bonfires and we will be invited to join them in their festivities. There will be dancing and music – I hear Doug plays the flute – and the dancers will appear as shadows flickering against the firelight, darkened by the gloaming, as if occupying yet another universe and only glancing into this one. Kind of like your tendrils glimpsed through the frosted glass of your office, actually. There may be food. I’m not sure. I kind of got the impression that the otherworld has no food sources and people do not actually need to eat as long as they’re there? I keep forgetting to ask Carlos about it. If there is food I’m sure it will be delicious.
Alisha will tell us stories around the campfire, and some of them will be true, and some will be made up on the spot, and they will smile under their mask as we try to guess which is which. I will tell stories too, because that is what I do, and they will all be true, because I want them to know who I am. I will tell them about my work at the station and all my co-workers (I will not mention you out of respect), and about Khoshekh and my family. We’ll do this every sunset and I’m sure I will not run out of stories.
In the days that follow, I will go with Carlos out into the desert to see all the things he has to show me. There are so many things he has found scientifically fascinating, namely:
- Rocks made of chemical compounds that are impossible in our dimension.
- Fossils of ancient beasts that suggest entirely new branches of evolution.
- A valley near the false mountain containing the ruins of a lost civilization.
- A telepathic being made of translucent slime.
- A body of water that disappears and reappears each day.
- Animate cacti with tiny needle teeth that he described as “so cool they blew my mind”.
That’s most of the things. There were some others that I can’t describe very well. I don’t always understand the scientific words Carlos uses. And there were some things he wanted to be a surprise. So I hope that’s detailed enough for you. That’s what I’ll be doing, exploring these curiosities and watching Carlos’ face light up as he describes what he has discovered about them. It never rains there, so I should be out in the desert every day, barring any unexpected changes in the weather.
At night, when the masked army retires, we will stay up, sitting on the cool dunes and counting the stars. With him holding my hand, I won’t be afraid to gaze at the void. Carlos will draw scribbled star charts, trying to find a pattern in the way they change from night to night. I’ll trace shapes in them to make new constellations and so will he. We’ll write our own mythology, creating heroes and monsters that reflect our hopes and fears and scratching pictures of them in the sand. But as beautiful as the stars may be, they’ll be even more glorious as reflections in Carlos’ eyes. And he’ll catch me staring at him and say “Hey, Earth to Cecil”, and I’ll say “I don’t think we’re on Earth, actually”, and we’ll turn it into a mock argument where we giggle and throw sand and push each other down the dunes and tell jokes about space.
Then we won’t be able to wait any longer so we will steal away back to the lighthouse to make absolutely sure we’re alone. In the silence of the dead hours every sound we make will seem deafening. We’ll be fierce and passionate together after holding back for so long. We’ll stumble in the dark, illuminated only by the blinking light spilling in, helping each other to feel when we cannot see. That blink will become our metronome, both of us unconsciously matching our movements to it – or is it speeding up to match us?
Blink. His hand runs through my hair.
Blink. I kiss every part of him I can find.
Blink. The sublime sound of his voice calling my name.
Blink. A heartbeat.
Blink. A gasp.
Blink. A scream.
Blink and in that blink we are one with the light just as we are one with each other, for minutes that we will make last months to make up for months apart. And when we can go no longer, I’d like to think the blinking stops with us, although the truth is simply that we will close our eyes to it.
The next morning, we will lie together quietly as the sun warms our skin. Carlos will probably wake first, and he’ll shift in my arms so I wake up facing him and embracing him. So I’ll know that he is real, that all of this is real, that I am still with him in this moment. Breathing easy, seeing clear, not moving even though I could, just basking in the glow of his majestic presence. I’ll whisper “This is good” and he’ll nod his head and there will be no need to say anything more. I have no idea if you know what waking up next to the love of your life feels like. Do you have loves? Do you even sleep? If none of what I just wrote means anything to you, let me summarize by saying it will be a great boost to my mental health. I will lie with Carlos and feel so awake and alive that I won’t even need my morning coffee. Which is just as well because they don’t have any.
That’s all I plan to do. The details may change slightly, but there’s nothing else on my itinerary. Exploration by day, celebration by night. I plan to stay with Carlos for every waking moment. Two weeks will pass in the blink of an eye – in fact, I’m not sure how time in the otherworld matches up to time in Night Vale, so they may literally pass in an instant from your perspective. I’ll wear my watch, the one he gave me, to keep track of time back home. When my time is up, I’ll thank him and kiss him goodbye and return home, invigorated and ready to take on the challenges of my ordinary life once again.
And after that, the future will once again be uncertain. Hopefully, whatever gateway Carlos opens up is something that can stay open permanently so we can pop in to visit each other more often. I won’t need more vacation days for that, I’ll just do it after work or on my off days. For my first show back, I want to report on all the wonders of the otherworld. My head will be bursting with new knowledge that I will want to share with all my listeners! In fact, I might have to dedicate more than one broadcast to get it all in.
In my absence, I recommend senior intern Maureen Duchamp to take over as temporary host of my show. Maureen is a resourceful, headstrong woman and has been a model intern, not to mention reliable. I have no doubt she has a long future in broadcasting ahead of her and the work experience will be good for her resume. If she is unavailable, any of my surviving interns would be a fine substitute. I know you’d probably prefer one of the other NVCR hosts for the spot, but I believe in these kids. They work hard and they deserve a day in the spotlight. Whatever decision you make, in your infinite wisdom, I know will be the right one.
Thank you for deigning to read the words of your humble servant. May you live for a billion years and witness the dying of the sun.