“A friendly winter tundra community where the wind is cold, the sun hides its face, and mysterious lights pass overhead while the town pretends to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale. “
“Hello listeners, I’ve been asked to read this brief notice to start our program ‘the City Council announces the opening of a new Ice Rink at the corner of Eros and Agape, near the Magnit. They would like to remind everyone that figure skating is not allowed on the ice, hockey is not allowed on the ice, light is not allowed on the ice, and oxygen is not allowed on the ice.
You may see transparent figures entering and exiting the ice rink. Do not approach them. Do not approach the Ice Rink. The doors are vacuum sealed to prevent any oxygen from entering and the electronic touch pads are electrified; the code to the building is kept in an underground bunker deep in the abandoned mineshaft outside of town. Try not to look at the Ice Rink or the transparent figures. The Ice Rink will not harm you,”.
The new Ice Rink is on Victor’s route to the Night Vale Public Radio station. He doesn’t dare look directly at it, he’s responsible for setting a good example for his listeners. But from the corner of his eye he spies the neon red sign, dripping like an open wound into the evening air. It reads “Ice Castle,”.
Yuri is already waiting for him at the station. He’ll make his complaints known by handing Victor a lukewarm, half-filled cup of coffee as soon as he enters. If Victor’s lucky, he’ll avoid the inevitable gravitational backsplash of liquid dribbling down his trench coat. He is rarely lucky. Today, their exchange proceeds as it usually does.
“Excellent aim, as always, Yura,” Victor smiles, snagging the now quarter full cup and draining it in one gulp.
“And now the news:
Nikolai Plisetsky, out near the pirozhki stand, says the angels revealed themselves to him. He said they were ten feet tall, glowing, and one of them was from China. Nikolai reported that they were friendly and helpful, one of them sharpened young Yuri Plisetsky’s skates, another weeded Nikolai’s garden.”
[Yuri]: “Tch, young,”.
“A new man came into town today. Who is he? What does he want from us? How is his hair so perfect and beautiful, why does he shine more brightly than our shy sun in his wrinkled and stained overcoat? He says he is a scientist. Well, aren’t we all scientists, of a sort? Why here and now? What is he planning with all those beakers, and electronics, and bottles of starlight? What does he get up to in that lab he’s renting, the one next to Plisetsky’s Pizza?
[a long pause]
No one does a slice like Papa Plisetsky. No one.
[Yuri]: “You’re not related to him asshole. And stop slobbering over the dumb scientist."
Victor first sees the Scientist in the Magnit two blocks away from his apartment. He prefers this store because they let him bring Makkachin in with him instead of tying him up outside. They live in a tundra, how could someone be so cruel to a dog?
Makkachin is forever his favorite. As they round the corner of the dog food and housewares aisle, Makkachin breaks Victor’s gentle grasp on his leash. Bounding past the rusted cans, the radioactive nails, and the six gluten-free brands of dog food, he stops just short of the sheets of single paper towels —(“for the scrooge in all of us”)— to tackle a man with perfect hair wearing a hideous, rumpled, brown coat.
Makkachin licks the man’s face, eyes glowing yellow in the flickering florescent lights, his second head staring back at Victor with an uncannily intelligent expression of “look at me, I’m such a good dog,” as the man laughs, squirms, and then does a double take at Makkachin’s second head.
The man rises to his feet patting Makkachin’s first head, pausing, and then pats his second one as well. Victor takes one look at his wide brown eyes slotted behind the chunky blue frames of his glasses, at his black gelled back hair —falling out of its style from the persistent melt of snow under the plumes of fire erupting from the heating vents—, at his strained smile, stained coat, and lopsided scarf and thinks “Makkachin is getting extra treats tonight,”.
Victor is falling, falling, falling.
(He does not want to be caught.)
“If you see helicopters hovering in the sky above Night Vale, just remember Night Vale Public Radio’s handy guide to airborne mechanical objects. As the song we all learned in elementary school goes: black for world government, blue for the sheriff’s secret police, complex murals depicting birds of prey for an unknown agency.
But the unknown is the Night Vale's normal so I wouldn’t worry if I were you. It might just be the ISU observing the Ice Castle, our town’s new Ice Rink! Or it could be the hockey team from Arctic Bluffs attempting to intimidate their only regional competition.
Simply return to your homes, lock your doors, and wait until the sheriff’s secret police leave a green carnation on your front porch to signal that the danger has passed. Don’t forget your City Council issued earplugs to blot out the screams,”.
The Scientist calls a meeting. Victor learns that his name is Yuuri. He is Japanese. He is 24 years old. His favorite color is blue. He has perfect hair. He is beautiful, and Victor is in love.
“We now know the Scientist’s name is Yuuri. He called a town meeting. His face is union of hard and soft, pillowy cheeks, sharp jawline, and eyes like autumn leaves not yet lost beneath summer’s first snow. His hair is perfect, we all itch to tuck each wayward strand behind his ear, to brush the feathery fringe back from his forehead.
Nikolai Plisetsky brought his famous pirozhki. At least two bystanders lost hands in the fray. Some had an usual filling of fried pork, rice, and egg. Papa Plisetsky said the American angel suggested the new recipe variation.”
[Yuri: He's not your grandpa! Stop calling him Papa.]
“Yuuri told us that we are— by far— the most scientifically interesting community in Russia. And that he has come to study our humble little community. He grinned—that alluring combination of supple and solid— and everything about him was perfect. I fell in love instantly.”
[Yuri: yes we know already!].
(If Victor was honest with his listeners, he would have spent a quarter of his on air time extolling the virtues of Yuuri's ass and thighs. Instead, he just tells a fuming Yuri while they run that day's weather.)
Victor shifts in his cold hard plastic chair, notepad and pen poised for action, glasses perched on the tip of his nose. He has perfect vision, and he never takes notes, but he has to keep up appearances. He represents Night Vale Public Radio, after all. He avoids the fray for Nikolai’s pirozhki. Yura brought some into the station earlier, and he needs his hands so he can pretend to take notes.
Yuuri stands at the front of the room, still and solid behind the podium carved from the glacier ice that never thawed. At the meeting’s appointed hour, the podium lets out a high pitched pulse of sound. Yuuri clasps his hands to his ears, and looks around at the unperturbed faces of Night Vale’s residents.
The room falls silent, eyes swivel from conversational partners to the podium, greasy hands grasping pirozhki and varenniki fall loosely into their respective laps. It was like being faced with a room of utterly attentive statues.
Victor sighs, the only audible gasp of air in the room. He catches bits and pieces of Yuuri’s introduction through his lovelorn haze; “Yuuri Katsuki….here to study the town..most scientifically interesting community in Russia…”. Yuuri carries on for about fifteen minutes, though Victor can’tbe sure. Time has always moved differently in the middle school gym. Victor’s passes purely by the pulse of his heart— beating out a rhythm of Yuuri, Yuuri, Yuuri.
“We received a press-release this morning: ‘The Night Vale Business Association is proud to announce the opening of the brand new Night Vale Harbour and Waterfront Recreation Area. Having toured the facilities recently I can tell you it is absolutely top of the line and utterly beautiful.
Eco-friendly docks reaching their fingers out to the ships still frozen in the harbour, an iced over boardwalk ready for pedestrians, and a host of stalls waiting for merchants to transform them into a buzzing public market.
Now, there is some concern about ice and snow hazards considering we are in…well… a tundra. But bundled up in coats, sipping a warm thermos of hot chocolate powered by bloodstones, those summer afternoons will never be more delightful.”
The docks aren’t empty. The Night Vale Business Association had told Victor that the new waterfront complex would be his to explore, but a figure in a dark coat and a grey woolen hat stalks through the empty stalls, slips— then crawls— across the dock, and prods the frozen ships with a retractable rod fished out of a coat pocket with a magician’s flourish.
Before Victor can snatch a good look, the figure retracts the rod— and skates away.
“The Night Vale Skating Society wants to remind our listeners of their ongoing fundraiser to change the name of skates to ‘knife shoes.’ President, Otabek Altin, reiterated the campaign and subsequent Kickstarter are ongoing indefinitely until quote ‘justice has been achieved.’
They will be selling bumper stickers reading ‘Don't make me use my knife shoes’ outside of the library every Tuesday and Thursday after school lets out. Except for the third Thursday of every month, when they make their monthly pilgrimage to the quote ‘actually functional’ ice skating rink in Arctic Bluffs.
Perhaps Mr. Altin and his co-president, Mr. Yuri Plisetsky, will manage to convince to town council to build a second skating complex in our own humble town. Bumper stickers can also be ordered by standing on your front porch and shouting ‘knife shoes’ three times before spinning in a counterclockwise circle. If you spin clockwise, remember to say goodbye to your loved ones.”
Night Vale is always frozen. Yuri brings his skates everywhere, often skating to work and school. Skating is far safer than driving since the Night Vale DMV won’t issue a license without blood oaths, soul bond fees— and actually stepping foot in the DMV.
Victor makes Yuri hang his skates by the door, the ice dripping from the blades and pooling into a small lake within the relative warmth of the studio. They still use a coal furnace, but Victor is hopefully they'll have the budget for a renovation within the next century. He frowns, and make a note to himself to set up a Kickstarter. After all, he provides the community an invaluable service.
(And it worked for Otabek and Yura.)
"I saw Katsuki skating on my way in," Yuri said, apropos of nothing. It is the best news Victor has heard all day.
“Yuuri and his team of scientists would like to warn Night Vale at large that one of the booths in the new Night Vale Harbour, doesn’t actually exist. It seems like it exists, explained Yuuri and his perfect smile, it’s right there when you look at it. And it’s between two identical booths, so it would make more sense for it to be there then not.
But, according to their experiments, and the booth is definitely not there. At this point, Yuuri sighed, and mumbled something about ‘Phichit daring the other scientists to go behind the counter,’ and trailed off before staring into space, his beautiful eyes clouded in confusion.”
There were many things Victor does not know— and never wants to know— about Night Vale, but two things he and all the other residents— corporeal or otherwise—know with complete certainty are: 1. If you interrupt the pecking order at Night Vale Middle School’s PTA Meeting Buffet, you will lose a hand (Victor’s eventually grew back, but now glows under a precise combination of events he still hasn’t been able to pin down) and 2. Everyone in Night Vale loves a good (or bad) press conference. Victor especially. They’re what make Night Vale Public Radio viable.
(Victor thanks the Old Gods and promises a plutonium muffin sacrifice once Plisetsky’s finally got a shipment in from Abu Dhabi. It was getting close to solstice, so it shouldn’t be too long.)
Yuuri’s arrival in Night Vale exponentially increases the number of press conferences. And as long as Victor keeps his hands away from the snack table, every one of them was utterly delightful.
“A great howling roared through town yesterday. Auditory witnesses claimed the sound originated from the Night Vale Post office, but all five postal workers denied any knowledge.
The Bollywood Tracker— that annoying and honestly offensive French Canadian man who insists on wearing an outfit out of some whitewashed Hollywood film and claims to be a king— swore he would discover the truth. I’m sure he told us his name, but no one could be bothered to remember it.“
“Say Victor, that was some piece you wrote on Night Vale’s flesh eating birds,” the Bollywood Tracker drawls, his irritating French Canadian timbre inevitably dipping in and out of various practiced accents— each one a parody that's approximately a full moon’s distance from Indian.
“I don’t recall,” Victor replies, pointedly staring at his notepad. He hasn’t written anything new in at least five minutes.
“In other news, Yuuri and his team of scientists insist that Night Vale appears to be experiencing constant catastrophic earthquakes that none of us can feel. Is this a lone tree in a forest with no one watching situation? Yuuri insists that the monitors are functioning properly, so try submitting an insurance claim. It can’t hurt!”
Victor slumps against the bar, cradling his drink. He's already had four, and the world is just beginning to blur at the edges. On the other side of the bar Chris stands, drying a glass. He's been drying the same glass for the past ten minutes.
Tuesdays are a slow night for him, though Wednesdays are one of the busiest. Generally, Tuesday's are reserved for Victor solemnly drinking himself into a stupor, then stumbling around the block to his apartment. Not today though. Today, Victor whines like Chris hasn’t heard in years. He’s never thought plaintive yearning could sound so sweet.
"Chris, have you see him? His hair. And his eyes. And his ass, Chris. God, his ass. I almost wept. Well...I actually did weep, but later. When I was alone and not in danger of wrecking whatever professional facade I have left. I think he's going to kill me, Chris." Victor moans, and then downs the rest of his drink.
"And Yuri, I mean little Yuri, not hot Yuuri—damn I'm going to need a way to differentiate the two of them," and at that, Victor trails off to stare contemplatively into his empty glass.
He’s silent for a full minute, the quietest he's been all night. Chris would have cheered in relief, but there's something about seeing his friend so animated again, for the first time in years, maybe decades —(he actually doesn't know how old Victor is)—that he forces himself to push that annoyance aside in favor of burgeoning happiness.
He sighs as discreetly as he can manage (though, really, Victor is drunk enough not to notice), sets down the glass, and pours his friend another drink.
“So, his ass, huh?” he asks, leaning an elbow on the bar and placing his chin on his palm. Victor sighs, enchanted by the mere mental image.
“Tighter than the sheets on a freshly made hotel bed.” Chris prepares himself for a long night.
“Traffic time, listeners. Night Vale Police— not the sheriff's Secret Police, the regular police— have issued a warning about dimensional cars surfing the highways leading in and out of Night Vale. Witnessing drivers claim the cars appear out of nowhere, speed ahead, and then appear to teleport to another plane.
‘I didn’t even get to finish yelling obscenities at the driver for cutting me off before he disappeared,’ Michele Crispino complained to anyone who would listen. He requests that you yell at these cars as loud as possible to enact revenge on his behalf, but that you should not match your speed to them, “that asshole was definitely going above 125 km per hour.”
“And now, the weather. “
Victor subjects himself to Michele Crispino’s tirade for a good ten minutes before he calls it quits. Michele’s sister, Sara, shoots him an apologetic look as he leaves. The things he does for radio.
As he leaves Crispino’s Coffee and Bakery, he watches the press of his feet in the snow, never noticing that they disappear entirely once he’s five paces away.
“Welcome back, listeners.
The sun didn’t set at the correct time today, Yuuri and his team of scientists reported. They checked multiple clocks and are certain that the sun set ten minutes later than it was supposed to.
They did not offer any explanations— outside of hushed whispers I strained to hear above hail the size of grapefruit. Mostly, they sat staring at a desk clock, engaged in a game of chicken, neither party willing to fire the first shot.
Still, we must be grateful to see the sun at all, it’s a rather shy ball of gas, and it only appears every fortnight or so. A gift for our little tundra community.”
Yuuri leaves his lab at 6pm every day like clockwork. Or what Victor imagines clockwork would look like if any of the clocks in Night Vale consistently kept time. This was something he only learned recently, after Yuuri and his team held yet another press conference to announce their findings— or rather their question.
This time, Yuuri stands just behind a man of medium height with soft dark hair and kind grey eyes. Victor has heard Yuuri address him as Phichit, and Victor privately marvels at Phichit’s ability to maneuver amongst the PTA harpies without losing a hand.
Victor barely registers what Phicit is saying, his eyes trained to the steeple of Yuuri's fingers.
"Quit mooning and do your job," Yuri hisses. Station Management had promoted Yuri from intern to whatever glorified title meant he kept Victor from forgetting to actually do his job. They'd hired a new intern to fill out the ranks, but no matter how Victor paws at his memory, he can't remember their name. He doesn't think it will matter, no one has lasted as long as Yuri in years.
"But Yura, he's so beautiful. It's distracting," Victor whines. Yuri whacks his arm again.
"If you can't focus I'm sending you back to the station. Alone. Without either Yuri.”
Victor whimpers, and drags his gaze back to Phichit, who is elaborating on Night Vale's apparently very real but unnoticed earthquakes. Victor's hand begins to glow.
"Quit it, Rudolph," Yuri snaps.
Victor raises an eyebrow, "wrong body part, Yura.”
Yuri mumbles something under his breath that sounds suspiciously like "who gives a fuck,".
Victor sighs, rests his chin on his glowing palm, and resumes staring at Yuuri as Yuri boils over beside him.
"And now for a public service announcement. Polar Bears: are they endangered? Yes. Can they kill you? Also yes."
Victor doesn’t feel like cooking tonight. He’ll head to Chris’s since they sell basic bar fare at Intoxicated . While he’s had good experiences with their Pad Thai he can’t say the same for the escargot. He treks through the perpetual snow, and shakes off his coat before stepping inside.
“Victor! My most loyal customer,” Chris says beaming at Victor across the bar.
“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult,” Victor says, taking his usual seat.
“A little of both, perhaps,” Chris winks, turns to grab a glass, and begins fixing Victor’s standing order.
“I’ll have the Pad Thai too,” Victor murmurs as he turns to glance around. Not many people tonight. Nikolai sits in a corner at the back, raises his tankard of beer, then returns to sipping at the foam in quiet thought.
Michele hovers a table away from his sister. Sara nurses a vivid pink concoction decorated with an umbrella and pointedly ignores him as she talks to Mila Babicheva, Night Vale Middle School’s Astrology teacher.
Victor is pretty sure they’re on a date. He won’t interrupt them. He sighs and turns his attention back to Chris, idly tracing a finger along the doomsday prophecies etched into the top of the bar.
“Something on your mind, Vitya?” Chris eyes the room, checking if anyone needs a refill.
“Let me rephrase that. Anything new on your mind?”
Chris lets out a low whistle at Victor’s answering glare, “That would be a no then,”.
“Shut up,” Victor says.
“You’re sounding more like Yura every day,”.
“You’re lucky he’s not around to hear you call him that, Chris,”.
“Trust me. I know. He’s a biter,” Chris grimaces at the memory.
“The owner of Arabesque Flowers and Gifts, Minako Okukawa, reported the existence of a vast underground city in her third greenhouse. When this reporter asked, she said that she hadn’t ventured into it, but that she was “relieved it hadn’t spread to greenhouses one and two,” but that the clocktower’s hourly peals kept interrupting her sales.
‘I don’t think Magnit sells pesticides for this,’ she snapped, fiddling with the leaves of a ficus.
Apparently, Minako’s young clerk, Kenjiro Minami, discovered the entrance when he’d dropped a succulent between two rows of irrigation pipe.
‘I took that out of his paycheck,’ she said, “Apparently it took quite a while for the pot to shatter.’
No one is quite sure how far down the cavern goes. But whatever population that city has, they know about their overground neighbors now, so we may hear from them soon.”
Yuri hustles Victor out of Okukawa Gifts and Flowers after Victor accidentally learns Minako is an old friend of Yuuri’s mother.
“Tell me everything,” he breathes, fringe dangling over one eye, hands clasped in prayer. He’ll have to make a sacrifice to the Old Gods tonight.
(Nikolai had called him earlier, Plisetsky’s has finally gotten that shipment of muffins in.)
“You are disgusting,” Yuri snarls, dragging Victor through the door by the back of his coat. Victor absently notes that Yuri is much stronger than he expected even as he schemes to wheedle more information out of Minako. At the very least, he’d like his daydreams to be more realistic.
“Yuuri—beautiful, perfect, Yuuri— came into the studio during our break earlier. I did my best to get him on air for an interview but he declined, his hands clutching a blinking box covered in wires and tubes.
When I asked what it was, he said he was testing for materials, and he wouldn’t answer when I asked if it always beeped that much. Face pale and jaw clenched, he insisted that we should evacuate, before running out of the studio. I, of course, did not. I’ve worked at Night Vale Public Radio for years, and I’m perfectly fine,”.
[A noise that sounds like the screech of a thousand damned souls.]
“Sorry about that, listeners. Just a touch of the yearly fall flu. Make sure you stock up on chicken soup, batteries, and hand grenades before flu season really gets underway,”.
“Yuuuuuri,” Victor croons, drawing out the syllables like a string of taffy between his teeth.
“Good night, listeners. Good night.”
Yuuri— shy, beautiful, Yuuri, with eyes like honey-whiskey— comes into Chris’ bar, trailing Minako like a lost duckling. Victor, adrift on a sea of vodka and aimless anticipation, doesn’t notice their entrance until Yuuri stands up from his stool at the bar with a screech, stares down a magazine of empty shot glasses, and makes his way to the dance floor with all the determination of a man facing a firing squad.
Yuuri moves like a chemical reaction, combusting and transmuting as he twists across the sticky, alcohol-splattered floor. When was the last time Chris had this cleaned? Victor must have spoken aloud because Chris responds with a chuckle and helpless shrug.
“If nothing else, I know my clientele. It would just get dirty again. Just relax and enjoy the show, Victor,”.
(There wasn’t anything Victor could do to argue with that.)
Down the stretch of the bar, Minako nurses a bottle of sake. Victor glances around, then slides down a couple of seats so he’d be within ear shot.
“How long have you known Yuuri?” That isn't what Victor came over to ask. He already knows the answer. Minako doesn't know he knows though, so he plays it like an interview. It's a good opening question.
“Since before he could remember a time without me,” She drains her sake, then pours herself another glass. “Besides, he needed some time away from Hasetsu after… everything,”.
Victor considers how to phrase his next question— what does Minako mean by “everything,”— but instead blurts out, “Does he drink like this often?” Fuck, wrong question. And, really, he’s not in any place to judge. Chris fills his regular order without hesitation —every single time.
As though reading his mind—entirely possible with the City Councils Hellstrom Initiative— Minako scoffs, “Like you’ve got any extra legs to stand on, Nikoforov.” Then to herself she grumbles,“who the hell made humans with bipedal anyways, what a dumbass. Tripods have better stability.”
“Chris,” Victor hisses, waving him over, “You should probably cut her off. She’s…pretty drunk.”
“Ah, but Victor,” Chris smirks, “don’t you know that you don’t get drunk in Russia, Russia gets drunk at you.”
“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Victor sputters, unable to tear his eyes away from Yuuri, who’s finally, finally made his way back to the bar. He totters over, somehow managing to slide onto the bar stool next to Victor.
“Since when does anything in this town make sense,” he slurs, before shooting Victor a wink.
“Today’s Proverb is: “Not all water is wet. Some is too icy to thaw.”