"Um, Mr. Palmer?" The intern - what was her name, Monica? Monique? No, it was Monica - looked a little worried as she ducked her head in the men's bathroom. Cecil turned around curiously from where he was absentmindedly petting Khoshekh. "It's time for the broadcast."
"Of course," Cecil replied, nodding. He'd been thinking so hard he'd nearly lost track of time, not that time was even real in Night Vale, according to Carlos. Cecil sighed. Oh, Carlos.
The men's bathroom was only two rooms away from Cecil's booth, and luckily the hallways no longer had a rip in the space-time continuum that made the trip take approximately twenty-two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, so Cecil slid into his chair just in time for the broadcast to begin.
"You will live a life alone. For even when we are together, we are still alone. We are always alone. Welcome to Night Vale."
Cecil shuffled his papers, took a deep breath, and pushed all thoughts of anything but the broadcast from his mind. By the time the introductory music was over, he was prepared to give a broadcast.
"Hello, listeners. In news for today, our moon appears to have disappeared. I urge you not to worry, however, as this tends to happen once every month or so. The fact that the moon was full when it disappeared does not mean anything. I am sure.
"The people at the Night Vale Harbor and Waterfront Recreation Area have said that the tides are…different. How they are aware of this, no one is quite sure, as there is no body of water anywhere in Night Vale, but they are very certain that the tides are different. More on this story as it develops.
"Former Intern and current Mayor of Night Vale, Dana Cardinal, has released a statement today. 'Doors are not real,' she said. When asked for elaboration, she simply glared and returned inside the City Hall. So, there you have it. Doors are not real. Thanks for telling us, Dana. That's very important information to know.
"And now, a word from our sponsors: Darkness. Darkness all around you. Darkness everywhere. Darkness INSIDE you. Is light real? Is light merely a lie that we have been fed since birth and always believed? Can light exist, or is there only…darkness? Today's show has been brought to you by Skittles. Taste the darkness. TASTE IT.
"Larry Leroy, out by the edge of town, has been rumored to have said that he saw the moon being taken away. When reached for comment, Larry Leroy replied that he had said no such thing. No one's quite sure whether or not to believe him, as there is video evidence of him saying to Sarah Sultan - the smooth, fist-sized river rock who is also the president of the Night Vale Community College - that he saw the moon being taken away. So. Larry Leroy may or may not have seen someone take our moon away. It all depends on who you believe. Who do you believe?
"A Man in a Tan Jacket was seen today in Night Vale, carrying a buzzing deerskin suitcase. He is said to have entered the City Hall to visit the Mayor around teatime, so it is assumed that he visited to have tea. However, no one is quite sure whether or not that actually happened, as all memories of seeing him are…vague. So, there may or may not be a Man in a Tan Jacket, currently having tea with our Mayor.
"And now, a public service announcement. You are standing in a line. You are always standing in a line, even if you don't know it. Do not skip to front of this line. Do not cut in front of people in this line. Do not do it. DO NOT DO IT. You don't want to know what will happen if you do.
"New development on the moon situation, listeners: A new moon has appeared in our sky. This one is far farther away than our old moon used to be, and seems to be purple and shaped like a triangle. However, this moon is better than no moon, so I guess it's our new moon! Oh, oh, wait, no, sorry. I've just gotten a message from Intern Monica that says that that moon has also disappeared. So, we don't have a moon. Again. Sorry about the confusion, listeners.
"Old Woman Josie, out by the Car Lot, has said that her angels told her that the moon will return. So, that's good. However, as angels aren't real, we at the broadcast station are unsure of whether or not we can believe what they say. Can you believe what something says if it isn't real? I mean, they clearly said it, but can you believe it? Can you believe…anything? Can you? CAN YOU?
"Mayor Cardinal has released another statement, this time saying that oak is not real. When asked for elaboration, she sighed, said, 'Ugh, do I have to spell everything out for you?' and returned inside. Some eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a Man in a Tan Jacket, but no one's really sure, so, yeah. Oak is not real, and doors are not real. Thanks again, Dana. This is also important information. Probably.
"The City Council has placed a new moon in the sky. It is smaller than our old moon, and far closer to us than our old moon, and seems to be made of styrofoam. It is also hanging by a string from the flagpole. Thanks, City Council! New moon! Awesome. Oh, oh, no, wait, sorry. A bird has come and flown away with our new moon. So, we don't have a moon. Again. Ugh, moon-stealing birds are the worst. It probably came from Desert Bluffs. Ugh. Desert Bluffs.
"When approached for comment about the disappearance of our new moon, the City Council let out a low moan in unison that caused the ears of anyone with a hundred feet to begin bleeding. So, if your ears began bleeding a few minutes ago, and you are within a hundred feet of City Hall, that's probably why. No guarantees. Who knows. Who even knows?
"I have gotten an email with supposed information about the moon and its disappearance. Oh, it's from my niece, Janice! She says that the moon was taken by…government operatives? Who want to try to use it for their secret missile…? Steve Carlsberg. This is an email from Steve Carlsberg, I am sure of it. He has hacked into Janice's email and sent me the email pretending it's from her, because he knew that if it were from him, I would not have answered. Of course I wouldn't answer, Steve Carlsberg, because you are WRONG. The government does not steal the moon for secret missile testing information. The government steals COMETS. There is a big difference between the moon and a comet, Steve Carlsberg. Ugh. Thanks for nothing, Steve.
"And now, the community calendar:
"Wednesday is Game Day. All games, all the time. Do not lose a game. You have been warned.
"Thursday, we will sleep. All day. All day long. So, you can catch up on sleep you've been missing on previous days when we have not been allowed to sleep. And, I mean, we won't get anything done, but sleep! It's good!
"Friday will be a dream.
"Saturday, for reasons unknown to all of us, we will all do the Macarena in front of City Hall.
"Sunday, the sky will be orange. And grass will be red. Don't ask why.
"Monday…seems to be a normal day!
"And Tuesday… Oh, the apocalypse is scheduled for Tuesday, but it's just, like, a tentative plan, so… Maybe, maybe not? I mean, like, be prepared for anything, really.
"This has been the community calendar.
"Listeners… I hate to talk about myself on the air too much, but… I didn't get a call from Carlos last night. He calls me every night, or appears in my house or something, at least. But, last night there was…nothing. And I don't know why. I worry about him, listeners. He is off in a Desert Otherworld where I cannot reach him. I know he's doing science, and I know that he's working. And that's okay. I mean, I want him to come back, but I understand that sometimes your job comes before other things. As the Voice of Night Vale, I definitely understand. I cannot tell you how many dates I've had to cancel because I've had to do some sort of emergency radio broadcast, sometimes about things that are actually emergencies and sometimes about cows, but, you know. So, if he's staying the Desert Otherworld for a while… I mean, I miss him, and I'd like if he came to visit, but I won't make him leave.
"But we call each other every night, listeners. Every single night. There has not been a night since he left that I have not seen him or heard his voice. Except last night. And I am worried because of that. I know he has his friends, the masked army, to help him, and, I mean, I guess it takes something pretty big to get past a giant masked army and a Bichon Frisé the size of a Prius, but… What if something did, listeners?
"No, I'm being ridiculous. I'm sure he's totally fine. Totally fine. Yeah, so um, sorry about crashing into the middle of the broadcast with my own personal problems, and let's get back to the news.
"The Mayor has issued a third statement today that old is simply a subjective way of looking at things. When asked for elaboration, she said, 'Oh my god, old is not real either. Has anyone put this together, because if not, really?' So, doors are not real, oak is not real, and old is not real.
"Hey, doesn't… doesn't that mean that then old oak doors are triply not real? I mean, everyone knows a double unreality creates reality, but what does triple unreality create? And what does that mean for Carlos? He's looking for an old oak door out in the Desert Otherworld so he can come back, but if they are not real, then what is he looking for? Listeners, I'm worried. What is Carlos looking for? Is there anything he can find? Will he ever find a doorway that will take him from the Desert Otherworld back to Night Vale? Will I ever be able to visit him in the Desert Otherworld?
"I think I should probably talk to Dana about this, so I'll just put on a, uh, prerecorded broadcast segment so that I can make that call. So, yeah."
Cecil picked up his phone and dialed as his prerecorded statement ("This is the Children's Fun Fact Science Corner. Would you like to know more about space? Would you like to know more about the moon, perhaps? Would you like to know science about space? Would you like to know science about the moon? If you would, please stay where you are. Officials are coming to your location to detain you. Don't struggle, it'll only make things worse. Thank you for listening to the Children's Fun Fact Science Corner and, well, goodbye to some of you, I guess. Don't worry, they have HBO down in the abandoned mine shaft. It'll be okay.") played. The phone rang three times before Dana picked it up.
"Um, Dana?" Cecil asked quietly.
"I-I couldn't help but realize that, when you said doors aren't real, and oak isn't real, and old isn't real then that would mean that old oak doors are triply not real, and I was just thinking about, you know, what that means for Carlos."
"You figured it out," Dana stated after a pause, sounding pleased.
"What? I-I don't understand."
"Oh, you will. Just, give it a few minutes, Cecil. Just a few."
"Uh, um, Dana, what are you-"
Abruptly, Dana began to whisper. "Shh, Cecil. It'll be okay. Now, actually, I'm in the middle of having tea with a friend, and I'm currently in the bathroom, but he just knocked on the door and asked what was taking me so long, so I should go back to having tea. This is actually kinda rude."
"Oh, oh, yes, of course Dana, of course."
"Oh, bye, Dana."
Cecil hung up the phone as the prerecorded segment ended and returned to his microphone, still not quite understanding what he was supposed to have figured out.
"Listeners, I just got off the phone with Mayor Cardinal, and I still don't understand what's going on. But she said I would understand in a few minutes or so, so… There's that!
"Update on the moon situation: There is a light in the sky, but it is not the moon or the sun or anything else that normally causes light in the sky. This light is new. And we have no idea what it is, at all. So, new light in the sky, unknown. Yeah. Sorry we don't have more information about that, but if I find out anything more, you will be the first to know. Other than me.
"Listeners, I have just received a text from John Peters - you know, the farmer? It reads, 'why.' That's all it says. Why. I assume he means it in reference to the moon situation, in which case, I believe we are all asking why, John. We are all asking why.
"Then again, he might also mean it in reference to the last text I sent him, which was saying that I wouldn't be able to make it to our bowling game tonight with Old Woman Josie, so… Actually, that's probably what he means. Let's ignore what I said.
"Listeners, there- there is someone in the station. I can hear footsteps that are not footsteps that belong to any of my interns. I am not quite sure who this is, but…
"There is a knocking at my door. You'd think they could see the sign that says 'ON AIR' and maybe NOT come in, but-"
Cecil looked up as the door opened and his breath caught in his throat. His papers dropped from his nerveless fingers and scattered on the floor. The world seemed to fall away around him. He could feel tears in his eyes.
Carlos smiled as he bent over the microphone and stated in a calm voice, "And now, the weather."
"Listeners, you will not believe who is sitting next to me right now. And I mean, actually sitting next to me. I can put my hand out and hold his, as I am currently doing because it's my boyfriend Carlos! He's back!
"Sorry, sorry, listeners. I am not acting very professional at the moment, and I should PROBABLY be reporting on the fact that the moon seems to have reappeared, but… Carlos is back!
"Carlos, how did this happen? How have you returned?"
Carlos smiled the slightly crooked smile Cecil loved so much as he answered. "Well, Cecil, I was in the Desert Otherworld with Alesha and Doug, which is where I've been for quite some time now, as you're aware."
"Yes, Carlos, we are- We are all aware," Cecil replied nodding. He was oh so aware of where Carlos had been for the past few months. "But how are you back?"
Carlos smiled, looking almost sheepish. "Well, actually it has to do with the whole, um, no moon problem you've been having. See, in the Desert Otherworld, there is no moon. And, if you had looked closely, you would have seen that your stars are also not your stars." Carlos shrugged. "I managed to make a scientific device with the help of Alesha and Doug and Alesha's Bichon Frisé the size of a Prius, and this device allowed the curtain between our worlds to, well, open. Not fully and not permanently, but enough. So, I managed to slip through the crack in the curtain. And, I'm back now."
"Well, Carlos, that's- that's wonderful." Cecil scrambled for something professional to say. "Dana said something about old oak doors being triply unreal?"
"Well, yes, of course they're triply unreal, because, in the Desert Otherworld, everything was unreal," Carlos replied. "And when it was six-hundred sixty-six hours into the new year - which is the most unreal number of all, as everyone knows - I could bend the unreality to create a little pocket of reality, and that brought me back to Night Vale. This is why I did not talk to you last night. Since time is not real in Night Vale, and nothing was real in the Desert Otherworld, I lost twenty-four hours in coming from the Desert Otherworld back home. And unfortunately, you also temporarily lost your moon. But your moon is back now, so everything seems to be in order."
Cecil offered Carlos a shy smile. "Well, you're here."
Carlos flushed lightly. "Oh, Cecil."
Cecil turned back to the microphone, wanting to wrap up the show and get back home with Carlos, to make up for the months they'd been apart. "So, listeners, I understand that I am perhaps being a little big abrupt in ending this broadcast, but the moon is back, the statements from our Mayor now make much more sense, as everyone knows that something which is triply unreal requires reality to negate it, and, best of all, my Carlos is back.
"So, listeners, good night. I hope that you too can spend the rest of this night wrapped up in the arms of someone you love, and someone who loves you."
"Oh, um, Cecil?" Carlos interrupted.
Cecil turned to him. "Yes, Carlos?"
"Can I say it? I've always kinda wanted to say it."
Cecil smiled indulgently. "Of course, Carlos."
Carlos smiled as he leaned over the microphone. "Good night, Night Vale. Good night."