Everybody’s just dying to know. Everybody’s just dying to find out. Everybody’s just dying and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Welcome to Night Vale.
Listeners, I’m afraid I must begin tonight’s show with some distressing news. Local IT consultant and life-long Night Vale resident, Jeremy Beaudin, was reported missing yesterday. Because it has been more than 24 hours since Jeremy’s disappearance and because they are, quote, “having a pretty good day today, so . . . okay, they guess,” the Sherriff’s Secret Police have declassified some of their Secret Police Files. Now we all know that transparency - be it administrative, governmental, or skin-related - is not standard procedure in Night Vale, but Mr. Beaudin has been a valued member of our community for many years. Plus, the Secret Police would like everyone to know that their day was just really great, just the best, just waaay better than your day, so they are allowing me to broadcast the Missing Persons Report, as filed by Jeremy’s sister. It is as follows:
And that’s . . . that’s it. Just those words. They are in all lower case, devoid of any punctuation or spacing. Just a neat, dark amalgam of letters and still darker connotation. Then a full stop. Then ‘screaming.’ The word ‘screaming’ is actually written out in full, in what looks to be a thin, crusting paste of blood and peach spread.
So it seems Ms. Beaudin might just be the first person in Night Vale history to file a Missing Persons Report correctly! There have been many attempts, of course, but the process can be quite difficult as it involves a large amount of emotional clarity and a mid-sized amount of fruit jam. Neither of these things have been particularly easy to obtain, due to an extensive fruit-related panic and subsequent, similarly extensive fruit-related recalls. At any rate, congratulations to you, Ms. Beaudin! That is, on your flawless adherence to municipal guidelines, not on the disappearance and – if we are being honest with ourselves – violent loss of your closest relative.
If you have any information on Mr. Beaudin’s whereabouts, or if you’re hoping to solidify your material worth by winning a prize you have not yet earned in a contest you have not yet heard of, please call in.
More on this story when the malevolent forces that took Mr. Beaudin decide to return him.
And now: the Community Calendar.
Tuesday, there is a mandatory meeting. Everyone is required to attend this meeting, unless you attended last week’s meeting and are still there. In that case, the City Council would like to remind you that food and medical supplies are on their way. The City Council would also like to remind you that they’re not quite sure which way the food and medical supplies are on, but it’s definitely a way, and they definitely have it narrowed down to three. So don’t freak out.
Wednesday, the Night Vale Community Swimming Pool opens for the summer. But not for you.
Thursday would like you to do what’s best for all of us and stop asking questions, Sharon.
Friday and Saturday . . . have been kind of weird lately, right? Like, I know it’s not my business, but I’m sure I saw Friday out alone the other night and Saturday has just been so tied up at work . . . anyway, I shouldn’t gossip. I’m just concerned. So. I’ll Facebook you about it later.
You will miss Sunday completely, but that doesn’t mean it will return your texts.
Finally, on Monday, the Night Vale Boy Scouts will be collecting old clothes, outgrown toys, and used furniture to give to no one in particular. These items will be loaded onto the back of Troop Leader Dom Ciggani’s pick-up truck and driven to a predetermined desert waste, leveled clear of any protruding rocks or scruff, where the items will then be dumped, cleaned, and stacked into a colossal staircase of forgotten junk and rotting wood. The Boy Scouts plan to scale this staircase and, one by one, transcend this mortal coil. They have been wanting to do this for quite some time and have decided on Monday, because eh, why not?
This has been the Community Calendar.
An update now on Jeremy Beaudin, the missing person. The update is . . . that there have been no updates. Not yet, anyway. But we have managed to contact Jeremy’s sister, whose name, I have just been informed via a press release finger-painted into the dust on our studio window, is Julia. In fact, Julia is standing outside of our building now! Right outside of our building! Right outside. But I'm jumping to conclusions, of course. Perhaps she is not outside. Perhaps she's just there and we are all inside.
Listeners, look. I know this isn’t the time for editorials, and I don't want to become that guy who wastes airspace meant for urgent, life-altering news in order to voice his personal opinions, but wouldn’t it be nice if we all stopped assuming that our place was the right place and that every other place besides required some sort of qualifier like ‘outside,’ or ‘next to,’ or ‘buried so far underground that you’ll never, never, never, never, never, never, ever find it’? Honestly. Who are we to say that our experience is baseline and that every other experience is an anomaly?
It’s a little like being lost. Whatever place we find ourselves in, we demand that there is a lost from that place. Consequently, whatever home we find ourselves in, we convince ourselves that there is a lost from that home. But we convince ourselves of many untrue things . . . ‘he just forgot to call,’ ‘this is fine,’ ‘I can fit into that washing machine.’ So maybe Jeremy Beaudin is not lost. Maybe he just is, and maybe his ‘is’ happens to be somewhere that isn’t Night Vale. Maybe he's been lost for years, and maybe – just yesterday afternoon – he became unlost.
Oh. Oh no, it looks like Julia is writing on our studio window again. Her fingers are coated in dust from the window and her face is coated in dust from some other place, and there are tears tracked through that dust, as clear as the words now tracked across the windowpane.
“He is here.”
And then below that: “He is lost.”
I admit, I do not know what that means. But, as it manages to contradict my previous statement, I both hate and admire it.
And now: a word from our sponsors.
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Well, it seems we had a few callers during that last segment. Most choked back cries of abject terror and hung up before Intern Indria could patch them over, but the glowing switch on my soundboard looks promising. Caller? You’re on the air.
“No. No, see, it’s a question I’m asking you. As in: Is this Cecil and, if so, are you sure that you’re him and, if so, are you sure that things like identity and existence are concepts that anyone can actually be sure of?”
I suppose it all depends on the day and on the order in which you’d like those questions answered, but I suppose yes, sometimes, and probably not but maybe.
“I only ask because I’m not sure I’m me anymore, and I thought you might be able to help.”
Oh? Well, actually, we’re a bit busy right now –
“With the disappearance?”
Yes! Caller, do you have some information on Mr. Beaudin’s whereabouts you’d like to share with our listeners?
“Yes, I do! Or maybe no, I don’t. I’m not sure. It’s like . . . you know that feeling? The one you get when you’ve just come home from this long trip, and you’ve a taken an airplane, then a taxi, and now the sleeves of your jacket smell like cigarette stubs and parking lot gravel, but you’re finally home.”
I’m . . . I’m sorry? What's an airpl –
“Yeah, well, anyway. You open your front door. It’s been your front door for years, and everything behind that front door has been your everything for years, but the air smells different, stale somehow. And it looks – no, it feels as though the junk on your countertops has been rearranged, just slightly. Like your couch has been pushed three inches to the right, but you’re not sure by what, or by whom, or if this home really is the same one you left. It’s like that.”
Caller, look. I’d love to be able to help you, but I’m afraid you’re not making any sense.
“I’ve been getting that a lot lately. I think I’m starting to believe it.”
I know what you mean. But there are worse things than believing. There are better things, too. There are also unrelated things, and impossible things, and things which exist beyond the limits of description. And there are important things I really should get back to right now. Things like the absence of our dear community member.
“Oh, Jeremy? Yeah, this is him."
And this – well, this is a bad line. Caller, are you saying that you're Mr. Beaudin? The missing person?
“I’d say that’s probably correct.”
Well that is interesting. Mr. Beaudin, um, Jeremy, please stay on the phone! And listeners, please stay tuned for the weather.
Welcome back, listeners.
And welcome back to old friend. I can now confirm that our caller was, in fact, Jeremy Beaudin, formerly the missing person. The Secret Police, who - as always - were listening in on this and every other show, jumped into action immediately, tracing the call back to a cell phone. They then traced that cell phone back to the man holding it, before tracing the man holding the cell phone to the abandoned lot he was currently standing in. The Secret Police asked me to remind you that they have never traced anything else. Especially not that landscape they drew for my birthday. That was just really, really good and they worked really hard on it.
The officers in attendance were sure to ask the man some questions that they knew Jeremy Beaudin couldn’t answer. Questions like: What’s my dog’s name? Is Richard Nixon still alive? Have I become my father? Do the Game of Thrones writers have some sort of a plan or . . . ?
When the man was unable to answer any of these correctly, the Secret Police shrugged, nodded slowly in the direction of their clipboards, and decided that the evidence was clear enough. They had their Missing Person.
Except he wasn’t missing anymore, and his face was covered in dust. It was the same dust that coated his sister Jessica’s face when she appeared outside of our studio. When I brought this fact to his attention during our brief interview, he simply sighed, shrugged, and stared off toward that sad middle-distance to which we all, at some point, find our eyes drawn. It is a confusing place, where horizon blurs the sky and land, and the inescapable forward movement of our lives blurs reality and wished-for reality. I do not know what Mr. Beaudin wished for, but he was able to account his reality.
He said that yesterday had started out like any other day: with three anonymous women in dark, sharp-shouldered suits rifling through his bedroom drawers. After coffee and a light breakfast, however, the women were on their way, mumbling to themselves and holding a pair of Jeremy’s socks up to the light as if to divine some deeper meaning from them. Some deeper meaning. Watching this, Jeremy was suddenly, violently alerted to the lack of meaning in his life. Where was his sharp-shouldered suit and secret, most likely government-mandated mission? Where was his sock to hold up to the light?
And so, to clear his mind, to find anything, to get anywhere, Jeremy began walking. He walked and walked, and the farther he got, the more things became . . . different. The air was cooler, and the buildings taller, and the ground was smooth concrete where before it had been cracked pavement and sand; there were fewer cameras and he passed an Olive Garden. Just one. Usually, it’s impossible to find an Olive Garden that doesn’t have five smaller (but more exclusive) Olive Gardens flanking it.
The new landscape intrigued him. The new landscape frightened him. The new landscape kindled a dull fire within him, and as he began the long walk back to Night Vale, that fire kept his legs moving and his blood circulating.
As soon as he returned, he called his sister to meet him out in the abandoned lot, but, when Jessica saw her brother, the expression of relief she had worn congealed first to an expression of hurt, then anger.
What have you done with him? She said. Where is my brother? What have you done to my brother?
He told her he had been somewhere new, and that maybe it had broadened his mind enough to let some happiness in.
What does that mean? She said.
I don’t know, he said. I think it means that there are other places besides this place. That there's more than just an Inside of Night Vale and an Outside of Night Vale. Knowing that makes existing in one place at a time a little more bearable.
Someone's taken my brother. I have to find my brother, Jessica replied bitterly.
Let me know when you do, said Jeremy.
As for that dust, Jeremy said he found that everything here on the outskirts sort of sticks to you – that you never really forget it . . .
So, yes, listeners. Jeremy was lost and I think it’s safe to say that Jeremy’s still lost, if only because he hasn’t found his ‘is’ yet. But it’s possible he will soon. It’s possible Jessica will recognize him one day, that she will stop tracking the hypothetical evils that stole him away, and that she will stop smearing messages into my studio window. It's also possible we will all someday just be, without any insides or outsides, without any lost or found. It’s all possible. It’s all equally impossible, but that’s never stopped us before.
Stay tuned next for an hour of the worst things your mother has ever said to you, followed by an hour of the worst things you’ve ever said to your mother, followed by silence, followed by the dinner you were supposed to enjoy together.
And, as always: Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.