Look to the stars. Find the constellations that are right for you. That one's a door, you might say. That one's half a jaguar. That one's a map of all the things you've broken. Welcome to Night Vale.
Carla can't really remember what it's like to not be surprised. At first it was the hugely improbable and the surely impossible that sent her reaching for her phone. But now, even the ordinary is starting to ping her as strange: the stretch of baked concrete visible through the lab window looks suspiciously flat this evening, no sudden rifts or rippling iridescence. She realises she's all tensed up, waiting for the next great improbability to strike, unsure and eager all at once.
She turns on the radio, knowing as she always does that Cecil's show is about to start. Time doesn't work in Night Vale, or rather it does, but in slanting, skittering ways that she has to approach slantwise herself. Like: it's no good asking what hour to tune in, partly because it's pretty hard to tell what hour it is anyway, but mostly because radio time is not real time. As Cecil is once again proving, by warmly and enthusiastically announcing that today's broadcast has been replaced by tomorrow's, and vice versa, so if you're waiting for something special - or terrible - to happen, listeners, you might want to switch off while you still can and keep hope - or dread - alive for one more night.
Oh god, god, and there it is, the lurching dread/delight that she's been missing all day. She wonders if that something special was aimed at her, because, well, because a lot of things. Because they have their first staying-in date tonight. Because they still haven't progressed very far beyond kissing like overheating teenagers. Because she's secretly sure that Cecil - Cecil, who is so dazzlingly unsubtle in all the most endearing and exasperating ways - is a better tease than they let on. And god, if this is the voice of tomorrow's Cecil who's starting to read the news, will they - did they - does she want to listen?
Exciting news, listeners! Did you see last night's lightning storm? What a show! It left us the usual scattering of tiny charred robots, but something else too - something remarkable: a real - although, I am sad to report, deceased - ship. The rising sun, with pale and melancholy tenderness, lit up its broken carcass lying out among the sand dunes by the Night Vale Waterfront and Harbour Recreation Area - which, although I'm sure I need not remind you, is a collective, if convincingly tactile, hallucination. Now, I'm an amateur historian at best, but i'm pretty sure that this is Night Vale's first ever shipwreck! Isn't that something?
Carla, intrepid Carla, went out to investigate, and she left me a voicemail - in that voice, that caramel voice I may never be able to hear without blushing ever again, listeners - to say that the ship had poured a great pool of blood into the surrounding sand. Well now, I'm no marine biologist, folks, but even I can say with some confidence that bleeding is only to be expected when you come crashing out of the sky, no matter what your species.
Oh, thinks Carla; Night Vale. She leaves the door open so she can keep listening, and steps outside, under a lime-speckled sunset. There's a hazy heaviness to the air, a sense of waiting. She thinks, if something terrible is happening right now, we won't know. She thinks this would be the perfect opportunity to investigate the causality of Cecil's show. She thinks, do I want to do that?
When Cecil shows up, their voice is still drifting from the open lab door. A message from tomorrow's sponsors. The here-and-now Cecil greets her with a bright, innocent smile (when did I start being able to think of those pointy teeth as innocent, she thinks), and drawls: 'Carlaaa.'
She jumps slightly to hear the radio echo her name - just dropped by the studio? Carlaaa! She wanted to show me the thin, cloud-like substance pouring from her eyes and mouth. Well, I think that's what she wanted to show me. She had to communicate by gesticulating with heavily bandaged hands, her voice having been replaced by the sound of whispering grass. I… don't think it's a good idea to go out to that ship, listeners.
'Um,' says Carla, as radio-Cecil goes on to assure anyone listening that it's probably just a temporary effect and how Carla's so smart, she'll figure out how to reverse it in no time. 'What happened to my hands?'
Cecil smiles wickedly under the green-spangled dusk, which is starting to crackle and hum.
'We could find out,' they say, in that smooth, dark voice that Carla sometimes thinks is what made her decide, on that first day, that this was somewhere she could be.
Oh god, she thinks.
The window in Carla's sparsely furnished room is open, the night hot and electric outside. Cecil has laid out a bloodstone circle around the bed. 'I'm very thorough about sexual health,' they say. 'The standard prophylactic enchantments should have been renewed on all citizen's homes since last Street Cleaning Day, but you can't be too careful.'
There's a small, self-observant part of Carla's mind that laughs at how the thing she takes away from that is the word citizens. I'm one, she thinks, and feels a faint curl of delight in her belly. She has a giddy image of herself decked out in white, of tonight being her wedding night to this perfect, unthinkable town. The sky flashes blank, and she feels the answering thunder in her bones, wonders if Cecil feels it too, wonders if Cecil has bones in the same way she does -
I'm thinking too much, again, she thinks; it's part of being a scientist, but it's not for now, right here and now -
She reaches out and pulls Cecil down on top of her, catching their lips and kissing hard. They're fantastic at this now, Cecil careful not to bite too hard but wild and forceful all the same. Hands on Cecil's back, Cecil's hands in her hair, blood sparking and leaping in time to the shuddering night, as the radio, still on downstairs, purrs: and with that thought, let us go to to... the weather.
Bouncy guitar chords mix with the sounds of thunder and the high chiming of what Carla guesses must be the tiny robots plummeting to earth, their impact on the roof surprisingly musical. The bursts of lightning have bloomed into a vast rainless storm, and the static between their bodies is blooming into a vast and wordless something, Carla drawing a broken breath at every touch, exploring underneath Cecil's clothes while Cecil's strong, slender fingers pull tightly on the hair at the base of her skull.
'Is this okay?' she asks into Cecil's lips as she slides her hand down; she feels awkward asking - it was Cecil, after all, who just nonchalantly set up a safe-sex magic cirlcle - but they've had so many near misses and she wants to be sure.
'Oh, yes,' Cecil near-growls, twisting a fistful of Carla's hair. 'But you might want to go slow. It might be different from what you're expecting.' Carla isn't certain, but there's a trace of worry - no, concern, slightly awkward concern - on their face.
Carla didn't think her heart could pound harder than it already was, but it is now. She's tried to stop herself imagining, wondering, because she has precisely zero time for people who make a habit of speculating on others' genitals, and she wishes she could shut off her damn scientific curiosity where her partner's body is concerned. It's not just curiosity, though. She's said similar words in her time, too. Bam, bam goes her heart.
She thinks about asking, but Cecil's given her explicit permission, Cecil's eyes are glinting above her, Cecil's body is warm and wiry and she never wants to take her hands off it. So she doesn't. She closes her eyes and runs her tongue over Cecil's teeth and rolls them over, dark hair cascading into Cecil's face, feeling their heartbeats racing to out-do the thunder, and she slips a cautious finger between Cecil's thighs.
Cecil doesn't feel so different from most other girlfriends she's had, and Carla circles slick lips with her finger, a quiver running through her at the soft wet heat she's barely yet explored. Cecil answers with a whimper, and Carla spirals her finger closer, dips it in - and brushes a rim of something hard, something sharp.
'Teeth?' she says, and then quickly: 'Teeth is fine! Teeth is -' and there's another shiver as she realises how much she means it - 'great!' Cecil grins, their other, more customary teeth glittering in the low light. 'Bloodstone circle,' they remind her, in response to an unasked question.
Carla lays kisses on Cecil's thighs, thrilling at the gasps she can hear as she draws closer, closer, and then places a single, featherlight kiss on their clitoris. She runs her tongue in a circle, mimicking the movement of her finger from before, then licks her way inside. It's like kissing and nothing like kissing, soft flesh and hard enamel and that taste. Cecil tastes like the lightning storm sounds: sharp and deep and wild.
The teeth have grown, she thinks, but she's not going to stop and look; she licks around them carefully, and then a little less carefully, and hears Cecil's whine of pleasure and oh jesus ouch but she's not complaining. Either the bloodstone circle minimises pain too or she's just soaring on adrenaline, and she doesn't care which it is. She wonders how she must look, bloody-mouthed and lapping at Cecil as if she were dying of thirst.
Cecil comes with a high-pitched shout, spilling over Carla's swollen and smarting lips. Her mouth tastes of sex and metal, and Cecil's mouth comes away bloody when they kiss. 'Take me,' she says, and Cecil pushes her down and straddles her chest. Carla's head is ringing with the sound of metal rainfall; she feels, through a haze of giddy wonder, the teeth of Cecil's cunt grazing against her breast. She's babbling, she doesn't even know what, as Cecil reaches one hand back and fucks her sharply with their fingers. My wedding night to the town, she suddenly remembers, and laughs through her harsh cries, because the black/white night sky and the falling robots and the hum of the bloodstone circle and the radio below wishing Night Vale good night are all part of this; it's Night Vale that she feels shooting through her body, fizzing in her every nerve, bursting the world open.
Later, when they've washed off the blood and Cecil's curled in half-sleep, Carla stands at the window, looking out over a stretch of concrete covered with cooling robot corpses, marvelling at what she does and does not know. She knows that this is a place with teeth, and a place where she can be. She knows that tomorrow, she'll find a bleeding ship in the desert. Tomorrow she will leave a voicemail on Cecil's cell, tongue healed but thick with the memory of sharp, shining teeth. Tomorrow, perhaps, she'll find out what makes a ship bleed, and what makes clouds pour from a person's eyes.
Or maybe none of that will happen, because tomorrow is the proverbial other day, a constant un-constant, a theory subject to complete revision. But today - well, today happened.
Oh boy, did it happen.