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The Voice of Night Vale

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Carlos isn't listening to Cecil's broadcast as closely as he'd like today. There's something jamming up the works in the mass spectrometer, which usually means one of two things: either a large nest of spiders has hatched somewhere inside the machine, or the samples therein were not meant to be studied by human eyes. One of the two.

Either way, Carlos doesn't notice anything until he abruptly realizes that the soothing drone of Cecil's voice is absent. When he listens closer, he realizes that there's a different sound altogether emanating from the radio - chanting, almost too low for him to hear at first, curving up a slow crescendo.

"Oh... my," Cecil says, and he's either very, very excited or very, very uneasy. It's hard to tell. "Listeners, it seems I have some unexpected guests in the booth with me today! It's hard to say how they got in, exactly, but they are currently standing around me in a semi-circle, blocking both exits, and the young woman in the center is brandishing a very large stainless steel knife."

Carlos takes a step back, mass spectrometer forgotten, and drops the notebook he's holding.

"Aaah, well, listeners, my knife-brandishing young guest has declined to be interviewed - meaning that when I requested to interview her, she let out a blood-curdling screech and plunged her knife twice into wall - and I'm pretty sure she severed some of our wiring here in the process. It's sparking pretty badly." Another burst of static. "I had intended for my next segment to cover the education platform of mayoral candidate and five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels, but as I am a radio professional, I must roll with the punches, don't you agree? I hope to return soon, listeners... though I must say, from my current vantage point, it doesn't seem likely. And now, possibly for the last time, I give you, the--"

The static wails, Cecil's voice cuts out abruptly, and after a few garbled sounds, the broadcast lapses into complete silence. At first, all Carlos can do is stare, open-mouthed, at the radio. Then he grabs the first weapon-esque thing he can find and hauls ass down the street, completely forgetting, in the process, that he owns a car.

***

"Is it working now?" Cecil asks, staring up at the microphone from his position flat on the floor.

Carlos, sitting cross-legged next to Cecil, glances up at the desk. He used to think that the lights on Cecil's console actually indicated something, until he learned that they were about as easy to understand as the lights above the Arby's. "Your guess is as good as mine."

"Well, listeners," Cecil says, "neither Carlos nor I is completely sure whether we are really on the air right now, but as there is no concrete way to tell, I am just going to proceed as if you can hear me." He lets out a heavy sigh. "Listeners, I am deeply sorry to have kept you in suspense for so long. The thought that we, Night Vale's premier and government-mandated radio station, were off the air for forty-seven minutes and eighteen seconds, sends shame trickling through my veins. Though that may or may not be shame, as I am also currently receiving a transfusion."

"I'm still wondering when the radio station got an emergency blood bank," Carlos says.

A little of the color returns to Cecil's face as he grins. "Carlos is being so cute right now, listeners. He didn't even know about the blood bank at the radio station!"

He clears his throat, remembering himself, and carries on. "Anyway. I am coming to you now from the floor of my recording booth - which it seems has not been vacuumed since Intern Fiona spontaneously combusted earlier this month - and though I must report the events of this afternoon to you, Night Vale, I can scarcely believe it myself! Listeners... the Order of the Serpent has chosen me as their latest human sacrifice. Me!"

Carlos raises an eyebrow. They didn't exactly go over fine details in all the chaos. Cecil, catching his confusion, quickly amends, "It occurs to me now that some of our newer listeners may be unfamiliar with Night Vale's newest and trendiest cult. Not much is known about the Order of the Serpent, other than their penchant for draining the blood of high-profile Night Vale citizens in order to open a portal to the hell dimension from whence they came. Unfortunately, when I questioned them about which hell dimension, they informed me that it was pretty obscure, and I probably hadn't even heard of it, anyway."

Carlos would have snorted, if not for the warning look from Cecil. The microphone picks all of that up.

"In any case, I am humbled and honored and thrilled to join the august company of past Order of the Serpent victims, and I would like to thank each and every one of you who voted for me from the bottom of my heart," Cecil gushes. "I would thank you in person, if not for the ski masks that conceal your identities."

It disturbs Carlos a little bit that his first reaction isn't to be disturbed. The first thing he feels is affectionate exasperation - and a little pride?

Carlos bites back a groan. His life has become a screwball comedy. A 50's-style blood-soaked screwball comedy.

"But as you can well hear, listeners, the Order of the Serpent left the station before the ritual could be completed, thanks to the timely intervention of Night Vale's favorite scientist and a very sharp ice scraper." Cecil's fingers curl around his, and for a moment, Carlos forgets any and all agitation. "But was their retreat due to their decidedly sub-par hand-to-hand combat skills? The fact that, as dwellers of a desert town, they mistook the ice scraper for something more fearsome altogether? Or perhaps they were simply unfit to stand in Carlos's radiant presence? So many questions that will remain unanswered... unless, of course, they come back tomorrow."

Carlos, with a reluctant smile and a roll of his eyes, rubs his thumb against the back of Cecil's hand. He's always saying things like that. Perfect, beautiful, radiant, effervescent - the hyperbole only gets more and more, well, hyperbolic, to the point where Carlos has to wonder if Cecil spends a couple hours a day with a thesaurus, looking up more descriptors for him. Even though Carlos has mostly trained him out of it, he still, spontaneously and generally on-air, laments how very undeserving he is.

But though Carlos may be the 'community's favorite outsider,' Cecil is the Voice of Night Vale - and he might be the most extraordinary thing about this scientifically impossible town.

Of course, it's somewhat hard to know what to make of him when he's gushing on live radio.

"And then," Cecil says, giddy, "I'll never forget what Carlos said to me as he rushed to my side - he said, Cecil, just like that, in that caramel voice of his, can you hear me? Do you know where you are? And oh, this is the embarrassing part... in my haze of joy and desanguination, I told him that if he was a color, he'd be cerulean. And he frowned down at me and said, 'Okay, close enough.' But rest assured, listeners, I have my wits about me again. Everyone knows that Carlos is nothing if not a dignified burnt amber."

"Cecil," Carlos says, trying his best not to sound particularly caramel. "I'm sitting right here."

"... of course," Cecil says, collecting himself. "Listeners, I believe I have been talking overlong - unless, of course, we did not manage to fix our equipment at all, and I have been delivering my report into the void for the past five minutes. But in the event that you are, indeed, here listening to this broadcast, I give you now - the weather."

Without making any particular effort to get up, he reached for the console - perhaps hoping the long-dormant telekinetic powers he's always telling Carlos about will kick in again - and with a quickly-smothered grin, Carlos untangles his fingers from Cecil's and switches on tonight's song.

He's learned how to navigate parts of Cecil's inscrutable control panel. He's learned a lot from Cecil in the past year.

Carlos sinks down to the floor again, and for the first time since he burst into the recording booth with his improbable weapon, they really talk. "So. That was new."

Cecil beams up at him. "You really were very dashing. Though the ice scraper was a bit of a non-sequitur."

"Pot, kettle. In general." Carlos brushes Cecil's hair off his face. "Night Vale's trendiest cult, huh? I'm not sure whether to be proud, or to throw you in the trunk of my car and drive as far away from here as we can get."

"If it makes you feel any better, I think that's a common reaction to most major life milestones." Cecil's smile shifts a little, and there's a rare sly note in it. "Careful. They might start calling us a power couple."

Carlos leans in and mumbles, "I suppose there are worse things" - and as he kisses Cecil, he idly wonders whether Congratulations on Your Ritual Sacrifice will fit on a cake.

But then again, this is Night Vale. Those cakes probably come pre-made.