"Education is the greatest tool of man. Learn to harness it, and you can destroy anyone who gets in your way. Welcome back to Night Vale High, Scorpions!"
This was the first thing I heard over the intercom as I entered Night Vale High School for the first time. Why the man from the radio was trying to give me such terrifying advice, I have no idea, but it definitely set the mood for my first day as a scorpion. Am I officially a "scorpion" now? It's not like I've contributed to the school in any way. Not yet, at least.
As I walked through the halls, I felt less like a student and more like a tourist. According to the schedule keyed into my moms' car (they were LIVID), my first class is Biology. What a good idea, to take the hardest class and make it so I can't procrastinate. How am I going to get any work done? Then, I tried to remember where my new locker was. I stood still for a second, in the middle of the intersection of two hallways, trying to remember what the radio said.
This July, the NVHS Radio Station started broadcasting on the radio. Although the school didn't want us to know (they broadcasted it on AM radio, for Pete's sake), the broadcast was a list of names, followed by a sequence of four numbers.The code corresponded to the lockers we were assigned. Luckily, we were tuned in to the station right after they called the "F" names. Now I just had to remember what the code was.
I considered visiting my guidance counselor, but I've heard horror stories from her office. The kids at Middle school said they heard that no one who leaves her office is how they were before. they are hollow, lifeless, entirely devoid of substance. Fearful as I was, it didn't seem like I had a choice.
I arrived at the guidance counselor's office with 15 minutes to spare. My plan was to go inside, ask her to pull up my locker number, and walk out. Easy. I took a couple of deep breaths and quickly swung open the door, being careful not to hit the wall behind it. The small, windowless room was filled with a dark magenta haze as, before my mortal eyes, I saw the GLOW CLOUD absorb the guidance counselor into it's fog-like body. Well' it was less that I saw it and more that I instantly knew every detail of what had happened in that room, on a cosmic level. every atom, every molecule. every guidance counselor fallen victim to the merciful GLOW CLOUD. I stood, frozen in awe as the GLOW CLOUD slowly turned towards me. "WHAT IS IT YOU DESIRE, CHILD?" It said, slowly. I was too nervous to say anything. Also, I'm pretty sure I physically could not move, as if the immense power of the GLOW CLOUD had taken over my body. the GLOW CLOUD began to move towards me as I fought to stay put. "DO NOT STRUGGLE, CHILD." it said. I then gave myself to the GLOW CLOUD. I trusted it to do the right thing, whatever the right thing was. I had no fear, no shame. I closed my eyes as I was absorbed by the merciful GLOW CLOUD.
I landed with a THUD on the warm tiled floor in front of a set of lockers. Oddly enough, the few kids around me didn't seem to question it. Do kids fall from the sky often here? Getting up, I realized the locker directly in front of me had a post-it note on it that read "Andrew Greene". It was my locker! I looked around; all the lockers had the same post-it notes on them, with other people's names instead of mine. I loaded my stuff into my locker, etched the password into the bottom of my shoe, and began leaving for class.
"wait, what time is it?!?" I thought. I had planned to only take 15 minutes in the guidance counselors office, but I must have spent an hour or two with the GLOW CLOUD! I quickly started walking towards my class, frantically looking for a clock. nothing. I finally arrived at the classroom door, panting, only to find that the door was locked. No one was inside, the lights were off, and the desks were still stacked in the corner of the classroom. "Had I missed the whole school day?" I thought."Can the GLOW CLOUD write me a tardy slip for that?"
Just as I was about to head home, a tall, beautiful woman ran up to me, grabbed my shoulders and shook me violently. "Were you trying to break in to my classroom? Do NOT break in to my classroom without adult supervision!" she yelled. I tried to explain to her what had really happened, but I was at a loss for words. what had happened? "What time is it?" I asked. She pulled out a stopwatch and said "6:45." "6:45?" "That's what I just said! Now, for your punishment..."
As I helped her set up the classroom for the first day of school, I couldn't help but think about what had happened this morning. School starts at 7:30. I arrived at the guidance counselor's office at 7:15. What happened next? Maybe I'll send in a Hey Cecil and see if the wisdom of an infinite being can help me figure this out. Or, maybe this doesn't need to be figured out. Some things are best left unsolved, right?
As I assembled desks and swept floors, I thought I heard someone talking over the intercom. they said "Education is the greatest tool of man. Harness it, and you can defeat all who stand in your way. Welcome back, Scorpions!"
It was the same message, but with different words. A different meaning. This time, I was a Scorpion.
Andrew's day finally starts, but something feels off. It's probably nothing. But it might be everything.
The desks practically set themselves. By that, I mean they literally grew appendages and marched into position, like a militia into war. There is no war. not on Earth, at least. After setting up the desks, I knelt down by my backpack and began to scream loudly, not a fearful scream but more a scream of purpose, of intent, a scream terrified for reasons beyond its control.
I asked the teacher if I could "go to the bathroom". I then winked at her, as one would if their words meant something other that what they do. "But you just got here. Are you already done?" she said, not looking up from her book. I explained to her that yes, I was already done setting up the desks, but she wouldn't listen.
While she was buried in her book, I took out two bobby pins from my back pocket and straightened one out. I always carry two bobby pins in my back pocket in case I'm locked in a room with a teacher who has been enveloped by a book and I need to "use the restroom". I went up to the restroom door, which for some reason was inside the classroom, not even against a wall, just in the middle of all the desks, standing there, glowing.
I got down to eye level with the lock, making sure the teacher wasn't looking, but when I looked at her desk it was empty, a sign that read "gone fishing!" hanging on her chair. A sign clearly uninformed of the lack of fish in night vale, let alone the lack of water.
I carefully wedged the intact bobby pin into the bottom of the lock. Keeping that pin in place, I stuck the other pin just above that, and started picking. As I expertly wiggled the straight pin, I pushed the bottom pin counter clockwise, so that when the lock was finally picked the doorknob would turn automatically. Everything was going according to plan.
Until the door opened.
I closed my eyes tightly as I was violently shoved through the door, like dust to a vacuum or magnets to Robocop. When I opened my eyes, I saw no bathroom, but I knew it was still a bathroom. I knew that it was all bathrooms overlapping on a multi-dimensional plane, a hyper-cube of toiletries and toilets themselves. There was too much information for me to process and yet suddenly I was able to, and I knew everything. my life, my death, laid in front of me in one long continuous strand of existence that was finite but so infinite in its greatness. "You know what, I can hold it" I thought, and yet somehow heard outside of my head. I turned around, but found that the door was gone, replaced instead by a 3 to 1 replica of my face, horribly mutilated into something resembling a toilet.
"Keep...it...together..." it whispered.
I woke with a sharp jolt as the teacher slammed her large, hairy fists onto my desk. "Do NOT fall ASLEEP in my classroom AGAIN!" she screamed.
The she mumbled something about me under her breath that I wasn't able to hear, but knew was about me because she was staring at me the entire time she was mumbling. She continued to explain the syllabus, but I couldn't listen. I was tired, and hungry, and I still had to pee, and I just couldn't listen. Of course, I was much too scared to tell her that I needed to use the restroom, especially after that horrible dream I just had. Then again, how do I know it was a dream? can I even separate dreams from reality in a town this strange? And who was whispering to me in my dream?
I couldn't answer any of these questions; that didn't matter. Even if I could, I would just be horribly tortured by the secret police. At least, that's what the secret police told me.
I then remembered that my moms had packed me a couple of cliff bars, so I picked up my bag, put it in my lap, unzipped it, and turned it upside down, dangling it over the floor as I did so. Amidst the sea of cliff bars that spilled out of my backpack was I small wooden sign with a piece of wire attached to the top with a few nails. I flipped it over from the top to bottom, shocked at what I had found. it may have been upside down, but I still knew what it said. "Gone Fishing".
I dropped the sign on the ground, and it landed with a loud clatter. It was final, I 'd had enough. I needed to leave school until I could figure out what was going on, and prevent it from happening a third time.
I needed to tell Carlos.
When Andrew meets Carlos, he nerds out, and pays the price.
The day was hot. A day so hot that, instead of being drenched in sweat I was completely dry, my skin so hot that the water immediately evaporates, or rather, my body was so desperate for water that my pores have shut tightly, holding on tightly to the sweat that so dearly needed to escape my body.
It didn’t help that I’d been walking for hour now. I left the school at around 8:00-8:20, and the sun made it seem like it was already 9:00. I need to stop looking at the sun, as horrifyingly beautiful as it may be, and focus on the task at hand. In the distance, I saw a large laboratory-shaped building. I would describe it in more detail but once I looked away I forgot everything about it. Color, texture, shape, all lost from my mind. Or, taken from my mind, by some all knowing being trying to protect me from dangerous ideas. I really wish he’d let off sometimes. I mean, it’s nice to forget, but not when I need to remember, and this time around I definitely needed to remember.
Approaching the laboratory, I took out my notebook and a pen and began to write about my experiences today. I know, I know, It’s illegal to use pens and paper, but I figured that the amazing and progressive team of scientists that work with Carlos were not also Narcs. Half of this chapter, along with the other two chapters before this, were written it the time between me seeing the building and me entering the building. I knocked on the door when I arrived, and was quickly met by a beautiful man in a large lab-coat.
“Are you here for scientific or personal reasons?” he asked. I then explained to Carlos my day, and gave him my journal. As predicted, he was not a Narc, taking the notebook and even smiling a bit, before swiftly restoring the stoic, scientific expression on his face. Carlos then began photocopying the individual pages of my notebook. “You’re not the first person to report this, you know.” he said. I asked him, “what else has happened, that you know of?”
“Well, yesterday morning, a man who lives in my house, uses my money and sleeps in my bed got up early to surprise me with breakfast. For reasons I’ll get into in a moment, once I figure it out, the door to our kitchen was standing in the middle of our bedroom. Naturally, he entered the door as if nothing was wrong, for reasons I could never explain but totally expect. He saw something similar to what you saw, but kitchen-themed. Also, he was able to exit normally, after making an omelet. The omelet then traveled along the fourth dimension, and we weren't able to retrieve it.”
I asked if there was anything shaped like the man’s head, but he said not that he’d heard of. “Now, the findings you bring me are very interesting, scientifically.” He started spitting a bunch of hot science jazz into my brain, and I was loving every second of it. I had always wanted to visit the laboratory, but mom says that too much education isn't safe, so I was never able to come. Finally being able too, it was like a dream, dream that was abruptly stopped once Carlos mentioned Erika. “I also wonder how and why Erika saved you,” He said. “That is, if it even is Erika.” In a moment without thought, I said “Oh, Erika! Isn’t that one of the angels?”
I should have just kept my mouth shut. Not even a second went by when I heard the window closest to me shatter as a member of the secret police burst through.
I didn’t even try to run. There was little to no chance I’d escape, and escaping would only mean more trouble. Escaping would mean less of a chance I’d escape. I got down on my knees, put my hands behind my head, and sat there. I sat there for over an hour while the officer pointed his gun at the ground and stared into me, his cold unfeeling eyes tearing at my soul. He then walked over, pulled my wallet out of my pocket and punched a hole in my Alert citizen card. “Good job!” the officer said, “You have reported -5- spatial oddities and -1- lovecraftian horror to the -authorities-. Find -7- more oddities and get a -buy one get one free- ice cream tub of -16- ounces or less at -Dave’s-.” He then smiled, gave me a firm, almost robotic pat on the back, and did a somersault back out of the window, landing with the talent and grace of a professional gymnast.
Carlos, who was standing behind me, watching the entire ordeal, helped me onto my feet. “Do you want a ride home?” he said. I told him that I wanted to help him figure out what was going on, and that we could stop it together, but he told me that “a good scientist knows when he doesn’t.” I didn’t understand what that meant, but I figured that since Carlos was a scientist, he was probably right, and had my best interests at heart.
Carlos showed me to his car. It was very messy, with papers and gadgets covering every seat except for the passenger side. He had a pair of fuzzy dice and an air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror, and a small scientist bobblehead on his dashboard. It’s eyes seemed to follow my eyes, and it’s expression was that of ignorant frustration. I Ignored the bobble head as best i could and gave Carlos the directions. He dialed my address into his phone and started driving, only remembering to buckle his seat-belt after he left the parking lot. It was very quiet, for longer than comfortable. I was about to say something, but he spoke first. “So, you like science?” he said. I nodded. “Cool” he said.
There was a pause. “You know, I’ve been wanting to do an internship program at the lab for a while, like they have at the the radio station” he said. “Would you be interested in that?” My heart skipped a beat, but then made up for that lost beat with an extra beat. I told him about my moms’ thing against education, but also how I would love to intern at the lab. He thought for a second, smirked, stopped smirking and started grabbing at papers in his backseat. He must have dug for a good minute or two before pulling out a manila folder filled with tabs and documents. “Somewhere in there is a form that talks about how close to safe science gets, and how cool it is. It should be able to convince your mom to let you intern.” I then started digging through the folder and calculating how much time we had left before we got home.
This was going to be fun.