The violence of team sports echoes distant wars, tribal rivalries that end in blood and salted earth. Suck deep from the half-time orange slices and imagine it is the flesh of enemies into which you sink your teeth. Welcome... to Night Vale.
Ladies, gentlemen, undetermined, and the strange, unnatural, many-tentacled creatures who tune in to our radio show from the spaces between shadows and static and never stop writing us disgruntled letters about the decreasing attendance of today’s youth at bloodstone circle prayers and chanting sessions, it is that time of year again. Yes, today is our quarterly high-school football match against that terrible team from Desert Bluffs. Urg, Desert Bluffs. I swear they get more obnoxious every time we see them, with those glowing eyes that are just totally designed to blind our players at the most inopportune moments, and all those extra limbs. And they give us trouble about Michael Sandero’s two heads?
[quietly and vehemently] Desert Bluffs.
In any case dear listeners, tonight I will be reporting to you live, not from my usual post at the radio station but from the Night Vale stadium next to the Harbour and Waterfront Recreation Area, which has been opened – at the request of the City Council and with many, many blood sacrifices to the mysterious hooded figures to appease their possible but unconfirmed wrath – especially for this game. The Council has set me up with all the necessary equipment in a booth with an excellent view of the field, and although I am not a professional sports commentator and have never done this before, learning new things is both fun and a commendable virtue!
So come on down if you were one of those lucky individuals who won tickets in the weekly mandatory Night Vale Post Office Lottery whose overall winner is fed to the Thing from the Deeps that sorts our mail – not to be confused with the Night Vale Quarterly Community lottery whose losers are fed to the wolves at the Night Vale Petting Zoo and Makeshift Carnival. There are many lotteries in Night Vale, because the universe is a random and chaotic place and our town is dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging that fact. But if you didn’t win a ticket to the game tonight, then tune in for what I’m sure will be a lively evening in which we give those Desert Bluffs jerks the beating they so greatly deserve.
Wait, listeners. What’s this?
Our very own Mayor, Pamela Winchell, is coming into the booth and she’s followed by...
Oh. Oh no.
It’s the man I saw that fateful day of the sandstorm, the man with my hair and my nose and my body but those dark, black eyes like two empty pits gouged from his skull, his smile pulled back to the corners of his cheeks and showing hundreds of tiny sharp teeth like a fish from the heaviest depths of the ocean.
[a woman’s voice, but with the strange echo of a thousand ghosts crying out in the distance behind it] Hello Cecil. You should absolutely not be concerned about anything, especially not the stranger standing behind my shoulder. This is Kevin, from Desert Bluffs’ Strex-corp Incorporated Radio, and he’s here to commentate on their side of the game this evening.
[Kevin] Hey there Night Vale neighbour! Such a surprise to see you here after all this time. Y’know, isn’t it just great that we can come together in a spirit of town community like this? Team sports are just a wonderful way to bring people closer. Bonding, leaping into each others’ arms in exultation, weeping over victories and defeats... eating warm Strex-corp hot-dogs and drinking refreshing, ice-cold Strex-corp licensed Strex-cola...
[Mayor Winchell] Now gentlemen, don’t be concerned that your commentaries will get in each others’ way. The City Council has loaned us two Rhombi of Silence. And obviously those rumours aren’t true that if you tamper with them in any way this will result in your excruciatingly horrible deaths, that would be silly, but maybe don’t touch them just in case. Also, they think they’ve fixed the suffocation problem, but just give a shout if you start to feel faint and collapse, okay!
[slight period of muffled noises, squeaking chairs, a strange electric hum]
The Rhombus of Silence has been erected, listeners. I can report to you that it is an odd, glowing, purple wall forming unnatural angles despite its clear rhomboid shape... oh, we all know I can’t talk about something so ordinary as a Rhombus of Silence when Kevin from Desert Bluffs is sitting right. Next. To. Me.
You know, now that I know where it was that I ended up the day of the sandstorm, I’m not surprised. Of course Desert Bluffs is a viscera strewn hellhole pulsing with horrid, meaty pipes and scattered blood vessels. I mean, there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing, and that place is once a week at the bloodstone circle, not in a community radio station! Of course it would be Desert Bluffs that would get that wrong!
Looking to my left, I can still see him clearly, through the lavender haze.
He is smiling at me, this man whose face is too much like my face, with his wide, wide mouth. There is a large tote-bag by his feet that was not there before. He is lifting it onto his lap and unzipping it. He is pulling out a wriggling kid, that is, a baby goat not a human child, although I would not put it past him. Its fur is as wet as though it has just been born. I cannot hear it bleating through our Rhombi of Silence, but its mouth opens and closes. Now he is lifting its belly to his teeth...
Oh, he is only examining its organs to divinate the result of the game. Well he could have brought a knife! But what do you expect from those uncultured boors from Desert Bluffs? I ask you!
Or... perhaps extispicy is not all he intends. He is now dismembering the kid, removing the heart, the aorta, the vena cava, the larynx. He appears to be setting up some kind of display on his half of the desk. Where he presses the vessels onto the larynx they merge together. Now he is connecting it to the soundboard in front of us...
Listeners, I believe that he may be constructing a microphone...
But I cannot speak any more about Kevin from Desert Bluffs because the game is about to start. And before it does, I must bring you a message from our sponsors.
You are running along a beach. It is night, and the crash of the waves against the shore drowns your thoughts and replaces them with white noise. Spray trickles down your cheeks like tears. With each stride your feet sink into the black sand and it is a struggle to tear them free. Your thighs are burning, burning and weary. There is something chasing you, in the dark of the night, and so you cannot stop as you so desperately desire but must keep going on and on until you think you can go on no more. The sweat of your body mixes with the spray and you are naked, utterly naked, beneath the placid and uncaring maw of the void above.
Drink Mountain Dew!
It appears that the Night Vale Scorpions have won the mascot death match to decide the kick-off. Michael Sandero is stepping up to the ball and...
Oh. A note has just appeared on the desk beside me. It is from the Sheriff’s Secret Police. It seems they have been approached by several hooded figures just moments ago and told that the football match must not, I repeat, must not be narrated over the radio. The reasons for this were unclear, as the hooded figures communicated mostly in screeches on the edge of human hearing, and white noise. I am sorry listeners. In lieu of my commentary therefore, and since there is no other news of note to report happening anywhere, here is a tape I happened to have in my pocket of Unmodified Sumerian Poetry, a language which I am currently studying through Night Vale Community College’s correspondence courses.
[Cecil whispering along a translation]
Bridegroom, dear to my heart
Goodly is you beauty, honeysweet
Lion, dear to my heart
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you
My precious caress is more savoury than honey
In the bedchamber, honey-filled
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty
Lion, let me caress you
My precious caress is more savoury than honey...
[some fifty minutes of poetry later]
It looks like that is the end of the game folks, as all of the players are dead, incapacitated, or otherwise much too mutilated to continue, and it is a strong win for the Night Vale Scorpions. I would like to congratulate both of Michael Sandero’s heads on their tactical performance, as well as that spectacular touch-down in minute thirty-four. Well done Michael Sandero! Well done both of your heads!
Now, I’m not sure, but I think that Kevin from Desert Bluffs did not receive the same note that I did, and therefore has been providing commentary for all this time. It is probably too much to hope that this will result in his detainment and possible torture by the Secret Police in the abandoned mineshaft outside of town, but a man can dream, right? Well, I don’t think anyone in Night Vale was actually getting his broadcast, so it probably doesn’t matter anyway.
[a high-pitched whine, growing deeper and quieter]
[Kevin] Hey there! Cecil, wasn’t it?
[Cecil] Ah... the Rhombi appear to have lost power.
[Kevin] How about that? Everything you folks have here over in Night Vale is so quaint. So charming, your little town. You must miss out on so many of the advantages that Strex-corp has given all of us over in Desert Bluffs. If I were you I’d be just yellow with envy.
[sound of Cecil shuffling papers violently]
[Kevin] Congratulations on the match though! We might not have done so well this quarter, but we’ll be back in a few months with an all new team, you can count on it! Sure, the players tried hard, and we all know it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about productivity, but, well, I’m afraid some of them just haven’t been very productive. Their spreadsheets are awful, and some of them don’t even know how to do basic accounting!
[Cecil, through clenched teeth] Will you be staying long?
[Kevin] Well I’m just trying to be friendly. You know, it’s so rare that we really think about anyone in Night Vale aside from at sporting events, and it’s odd because we are neighbours. There’s what? Only forty miles of desert between us?
[A chair screeches against the floor as it is pushed backwards. Footsteps.]
[Cecil] What are you doing, Kevin?
[Kevin] I already told you that, silly. Being friendly.
[Cecil] I don’t know how you do things in Desert Bluffs but here in Night Vale we believe in a little thing called personal space...
[strange wet noises]
[Cecil] Are those... tentacles? Hey! Hey, get off me!
[Sounds of a violent struggle. Sharp intakes of breath, yelps of not-quite-pain, incomprehensible shouting and then... silence.
[In a happy voice, Kevin.] Hi there Night Vale! Cecil is looking just a little sacked-out right now, so he’s having a quick nap. Strex-corp! Coming to a town near you! And by town, I mean your town! Have a wonderful night and a pleasant day tomorrow as well.
[Footsteps walking away. A door, opening and closing. And then, a low groan. Cloth dragging against the floor. Someone fumbling with the microphone.]
Hello... listeners. I can report that I am... mostly fine. Although very glad right now that I am one of the 53% of our community who was born without pain sensing nerves. Ah... I am feeling... somewhat woozy. And now that I come to think of it... there is a lot of blood... pouring out of my neck and sides... Someone should probably clean that up.
[Noises of rustling in pockets. Buttons on a phone being pressed.
Carlos? Carlos are you there?
Yes, it’s me. I’m sorry to bother you Carlos, it’s just that I’ve been a little bit injured and...
I’m at the stadium. You know... the one by the Harbour and Waterfront... Recreation Area...
Yes, thank you... Carlos.
[Laboured breathing for some time. Then, an opening door, hurried feet, someone crying out.]
[Carlos] Cecil! Oh god, Cecil, what happened? Oh my god, there’s so much blood...
[Cecil] Just need... to apply a little... pressure. I’ll be fine... very... resilient...
[Carlos] Nonono, no you won’t be. Cecil, I’m taking you to the hospital. Come on, let’s get you up.
Our organs are strange and pulsating creatures inside of us, ready to betray us at the slightest provocation. Welcome... to Night Vale.
Well listeners, you will probably note that I am not dead. It is not even that I had failed to gather the ‘service to your town and community’ rating that would be required in our new meritocracy-based death system, as I am sure my long history of serving as the host of this show on Night Vale Community Radio would speak for itself. No! It was Carlos, sweet, gentle, beautiful Carlos, who saved me.
Although I was unconscious at the time, I am told that, via the appropriate chanting and rituals to the snake-covered obsidian obelisk that our ancestors built the Night Vale Hospital Emergency Room around, all of my bodily fluids were replaced with poisonous ichor. It’s green, faintly glowing, and terribly toxic to human skin. I have been instructed never to weep, not even at the Annual Sorrow-Songs Sing-Along despite the fact that weeping at this event is mandated by the City Council. Given a choice between a quick week in the re-education cubes, and having my face slowly melt from my skull... I think I’ll choose the former.
Fortunately for Carlos and I, the ichor does not penetrate latex.
The bite-marks and ragged patches where lumps of my flesh were removed have all been stitched up and are healing well, and the doctors say that my scars won’t even be all that disfiguring! So that’s nice to know. And if any of us needed more evidence that Desert Bluffs is a terrible, terrible place filled with horrible people, Kevin’s utterly unprovoked attack should be all the proof that anyone could ever need.
So listeners, my recovery is coming along just fine. If perhaps I have smashed all the mirrors in my apartment because I cannot bear to see that man’s face in my own reflection, then that is simply a perfectly helpful coping mechanism. Station Management were not pleased with my idea of doing the same in the men’s bathroom here, so I’ll be popping in with some duct tape and copies of the Night Vale Daily Journal later on.
In the mean-time, our stories tonight include the Mayor’s comments, or lack thereof, on Kevin’s vague and threatening message to us all, as well as an update on the nascent political campaigns of Hiram McDaniels and the Faceless Old Woman secretly living in your home, and the upcoming Scout camping trip out into the middle of the desert. May many of them come back alive and mostly sane.
Whilst I leave you, listeners, to paper over any and all reflective surfaces I can find, here... is the weather.