It’s a feeling, Carlos thinks. A feeling of something unbearably, undeniably wrong. Of course, it’s Night Vale, and so there’s always some kind of feeling on the horizon, but this one feels like an organic emotion. Something from himself, as well as the outside world, and while he is sick, he’s pretty sure he’d know nausea from dread.
He glances over at the clock on his dresser. 5:47. It has been 17 minutes since Cecil left, and it will be ano He thinks – no, knows – number of people listening to the Night Vale Community Radio spikes then, and that it’s because of Cecil, but he doesn’t know what’s on any other hour of the day. He turns it on.
Muffled screams. Worrying and likely sinister, but there’s nothing he can really do about that. Isn’t that just the way? He turns the radio back off - the only other accessible stations in Night Vale are 1. the one that plays propaganda 24/7, 2. the numbers station, 3. the one that plays garbled and backwards Russian, and 4. the station of the smiling god.
So he sits and he waits, that feeling of dread mixed with something else growing stronger by the second . The franticness of it in his head in sharp contrast to the rapidly cooling desert air around him and the stillness of the house makes him feel sicker than he already is.
Carlos must jump ten feet in the air when his alarm goes off. 6:50. Ten minutes. It feels like too long to have to wait. He runs a hand through his hair. The emotion has escalated enough to be physical, like a weight just inside his chest, scratching to get out.
Five (turn the radio on).
Four (struggle to find the switch).
Three (come on, this should be easy).
Two (It’s not plugged in, it was plugged in a minute ago ).
“Call me crazy, but I think I’ve gone insane .
“Welcome to Night Vale.
“Our first story today is about the end of the world. Not the actual ‘end of the world’ which will come at any minute, or, if you’re Simone Rigaudeau , came over thirty years ago, in 1983.
“We’re talking about the graffiti on the side of the dog park fence – which, let me remind you, is a featureless wall of obsidian – that reads ‘the end of the world’.
“The graffiti is done in either paint or blood, but is probably done in paint, because there is some paint missing from the secret paint storage bunker that we made the time we painted all of the buildings in town red. Either way, it is red. Red, as we all know, is scientifically the most dangerous color.
“City Council released a statement earlier today about the graffiti. It reads ‘Dear god, how many times do we have to say not to go in the dog park? We tell you and tell you, and you never listen! It’s like you don’t even care! We think that maybe, if you want to go to the dog park so badly ... , ”
Carlos lets the radio noise fade into the background. He knows Cecil is just going to retell all this to him later, and he’s just listening for his own name or some mention of his work.
Then there’s a scream. Carlos wasn’t really sure what was happening, only that Cecil was chirping something about the Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner, and then something about Station Management and it was as though everything was fine until it wasn’t. Like a switch had been flipped, and everything that was okay was suddenly a disaster.
Carlos flung himself out of bed and drove himself to the Night Vale Community Radio Station. When he arrived, there was a crowd around the station, all of them gathered around the door, trying to find someone who had been granted permission to unlock the front doors to bleed on them.
Carlos noticed, with something close to both annoyance and amusement, that Dana Cardinal, who had been granted access to the station not once but twice, was being pushed back away from the doors by force of circumstance. Carlos, however, was let through immediately.
“The advantages of being a spouse.” Carlos mumbles to himself, cutting a finger on one of the sharp edges of the door. It practically breaks open from the sheer number of people pushing themselves through it. Carlos and Dana, who are two of the few people who know where the recording booth is , make a beeline for where Cecil would, logically, be.
They find him there, pressed against his desk with his legs pulled up to his chest. He’s crying, actually sobbing , and Cecil’s always been emotional, but this level of panicked is something he doesn’t get except for in the direst of circumstances. Cecil slams his head into his desk backwards, and the noise it makes is soul-rending.
Carlos is at Cecil’s side in an instant, pulling him away from the desk and holding him as he shakes. Dana stands awkwardly in the doorway, suddenly caught between trying to help and not wanting to intrude. Then she’s gone, off running down the hallway. She points the others in the wrong direction while Carlos and Cecil sit in the recording booth.
After around half an hour, while Cecil lays sniffling in Carlos’ lap, Carlos again asks a question he has yet to get an answer to.
Cecil curls up again, and his grip on his husband’s mess of curls tightens. He gives a plaintive cough and stutters something that Carlos can’t make out. It wouldn’t be worrying if Cecil weren’t cursed with near-perfect annunciation and speaking ability (cursed in the manner that even when he tried to hide snarky marks in the form of coughs or whispers , it was still incredibly obvious what he was trying to say).
“Cecil, sweetie, it’s going to be okay, you just have to tell me what happened.”
“’M not-,” Cecil chokes.
“Not what, munchkin?” Carlos asks, pulling his husband up into a sitting position next to him.
“The Voice.” he mumbles.
“The voice...,” Carlos pauses, and it hits him. “The Voice of Night Vale?”
Cecil makes a small “mm-hm,” noise, nods and starts to slouch back into Carlos’s lap.
“Imperfect heavens, Cecil - you haven’t done anything wrong, what are you sorry for?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I just- I must’ve, right? I must’ve done something-,”
“ Munchkin, come on. It’s going to be okay. Just...calm down, okay?”
Cecil takes a deep, shuddering breath. “Okay.”
“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go home.” Carlos says, standing and holding out a hand.
Cecil nods, taking it and pulling himself up. Once Carlos gets into a windowed room, he realizes by the darkness of the night that more time has passed than he originally assumed. Then, this is Night Vale. Time is weird. He notes this to Cecil, and his husband gives a weak laugh.
The drive home is quiet, and Carlos grins as the increasing number of comments from Cecil.
Official Voice of Night Vale Cecil Gershwin Palmer was no longer, but he was still, fundamentally, the same talkative town gossip.