It is the third Friday in October, and the moon is full, a fat glowing orange, pulling itself up over the horizon like an old woman getting up out of her easy chair, slow at first and then with a final heave as it breaks loose from its constrains and bobs free up in the sky. The sky itself is a whispering purple, a dizzy premonition.
Cecil knows better than to be outside in Night Vale on a full moon, but a curious parade of circumstances – the least strange of which is that he started a one hour broadcast at 4pm and when he finished one hour later it was 8pm the following day and his car had been towed – have led to this inevitable moment, walking home on the evening of a full moon, skirting the edge of the sidewalk furthest from the shadows.
(If Cecil were to make a list of things best avoided in Night Vale, shadows would be high on that list, most particularly shadows with distinct, sharply-delineated geometric shapes like the ones he passed a block back. Also shadowed figures, hooded figures, invisible figures; any man-made (or apparently man-made) object that shines brighter than the sun; roads that are signposted Desert Bluffs; roads that are not signposted Desert Bluffs but everyone knows lead to Desert Bluffs; boxes that make crackling, hissing noises that gradually increase in volume over time until the box starts to vibrate and the table starts to shake and then everything goes blank after that; boxes that hum, quietly, mysteriously; Old Woman Josie's oatmeal and raisinless cookies (she not only forgets the raisins, she forgets the sugar. How hard is it to remember sugar in cookies?); the dog park. This is not a comprehensive version of such a list. The full version would be very, very long. But would not include the dog park, which does not exist, and therefore cannot be avoided or be on a list of things to be avoided.)
There are no other pedestrians (human, at least) and few cars. It is the full moon, after all. Everyone in Night Vale knows to stay inside on the full moon.
Well, maybe not everyone, for there is a… sound. A noise. Something that is affecting Cecil so much that he wants to place his hands firmly over his ears to block it out. It is a dreadful noise. Cecil is a reporter at heart, though – even on a full moon when common sense dictates that he should forget all his finely-honed journalistic skills – so he doesn't cover his ears. Instead, he cocks his head from side to side to try to locate the noise. It sounds like it's ahead, perhaps around the corner of the block he's walking.
The sound is a disturbing sound. Not because there is anything inhuman to it; inhumanity Cecil can deal with (he is a resident of Night Vale after all). No, it is most definitely human. But this is a painful sound, made a million times worse by Cecil's strong suspicion that he knows the source of the sound. There is a familiarity to it. This is a warped, tuneless version of a sound Cecil knows very well.
He slows his footsteps. He doesn't want to confirm his suspicion, but if he turns around now, he will be heading in the opposite direction of the safe sanctuary of his home, and it is the full moon in Night Vale.
No sane man chooses to walk Night Vale during the night of the full moon.
It is a dilemma.
The sound gets louder. Cecil grits his teeth, the perilous sound increasing with every step he takes, and turns the corner.
He was right.
(Cecil has been proven to be right the majority of the time. It is both a joy and a burden.)
"Carlos," he says in greeting, for it is indeed Carlos, his perfect milky-white teeth gleaming in the light of the full moon, his glossy black hair framing his beautiful symmetrical face, his perfectly-proportioned legs striding along the sidewalk towards Cecil.
Carlos stops singing and greets Cecil in turn. He says hello in his rich, caramel voice that is so pleasurable when he speaks, and so truly, utterly excruciating when he sings.
Perfect, beautiful Carlos isn't entirely perfect after all. This is a revelation.
(Cecil takes a moment. Just a short one, a few seconds borrowed from tomorrow, around lunchtime, nothing he will miss. He takes a moment and contemplates. Perfection that is no longer perfection. He stretches his moment of contemplation, and it yields results. It yields most unexpected results. He stands still in his tracks, regardless of the fact that it is a full moon in Night Vale and he is out in the open. He contemplates his revelation.)
Carlos walks on past, clearly considering the greeting to be sufficient social interaction for an evening when the full moon is shining over Night Vale (and quite possibly over other desert towns too, even Desert Bluffs). Cecil smiles to himself as Carlos leaves, turning to watch until he rounds the corner. Carlos is singing again, either unaware or uncaring of the utterly tuneless nature of his singing voice. It is a dreadful sound. And yet now, now that Cecil has contemplated it, has considered that Carlos is no longer to be considered wholly perfect in every way, now he is aware that the sound, while still toneless, is no longer dreadful. There is a certain charm to its toneless nature, a smile to be drawn forth by each off-key over-loud word, whimsy in its incongruity. Cecil believes it might actually heighten Carlos' perfection rather than detracting from it. And that – despite his previous, long-held belief that Carlos was the very pinnacle of human perfection – it turns out slight imperfection is in fact the model to which all men should aspire.
As for Cecil. Well, Cecil walks on, step by step closer to the safety of home, and ponders the possibility that he might have fallen a little more deeply in love with Carlos. His almost perfect Carlos.