Dipper stared reluctantly down at the old radio Stan had set down in front of him. It was a bit dusty, and may once have been a silvery color, but now was an coppery rusted color. He frowned.
"Grunkle Stan, when I asked if you could get me a radio, I didn't mean... this thing..."
Stan rolled his eyes at Dipper and put a hand on the radio.
"This old thing'll work fine for ya, kid! It's the same one I used when I was your age!"
Dipper eyed it again.
"I can tell."
"It's either that or nothing, kiddo."
"Thanks, Grunkle Stan."
Stan left the room, closing the creaky wooden door behind him.
Dipper sat cross-legged on the floor, fiddling with the buttons. He was tempted to go ask Grunkle Stan or Grunkle Ford how it worked, but neither of them would probably help right now.
Even Mabel was over at Pacifica's house for a sleepover that night.
He frowned again, and twisted a dial. The radio made a few staticky sounds, and then a man's deep, almost soothing voice came a little too clearly from the speakers.
"Red sky at night. Sailors delight. Red sky at night. The sailors are howling and laughing. The sailors begin to surround us and the night sky is so very red. Welcome to Night Vale."
Dipper's eyes widened. What in the world had that been?
After that strange... what sounded like an introduction, the radio went staticky again.
He could only make out a few words in each sentence, most notably things like "Tamika Flynn" or "Strexcorp." Dipper had no clue what those things meant, but he wanted to find out.
He jumped up off the ground.
The young boy dug around under his bed, finally, with a triumphant gesture, pulling out a battered purple notebook and a ballpoint pen.
He turned up the volume on the radio and turned a few dials so he could hear better.
Dipper intently scrawled out what he could hear from the radio speakers, eventually having to stop due to the sun finally setting over the trees.
"Goodnight, Night Vale. Good night."
Dipper laid on his bed, lantern on the nightstand flickering in the darkness.
It didn't make any sense! Was it some kind of fictional radio show?
No, it couldn't be... it sounded too authentic.
But how could these things be happening in this town the man on the radio talked about? How could nobody else have heard about these things?
From what it sounded like, this "Strexcorp" was hunting for a girl not much older than Dipper or his sister.
Dipper groaned. Why was he getting so caught up in this? This had nothing to do with Gravity Falls or any of its mysteries.
Yet, somehow, this little desert town on the radio had become a mystery itself.
Dipper pored over the words he'd written down, slowly dozing off as he re-read them.
Dipper slowly stirred from sleep several hours later when the sharp glare of sunlight directly hit his eyes.
He rubbed his eyes and sat up. After a moment or two, his vision cleared and he saw Mabel sitting on her bed with Waddles, knitting a sweater and humming under her breath.
"Mabel? Aren't you supposed to be at Pacifica's?"
Mabel stopped, jumping a little at the sudden breaking of the silence.
"I got home like a hour ago, Dips. It's like... noon!"
Dipper held his head in his hands. How long had he been up last night? The notebook still lay next to him, and the radio was on the ground by the foot of his bed, emitting the faint sound of dead air.
"Hey, Dipper? You alright there, bro-bro?"
He shook his head, snapped out of his reverie.
"So, how are things with you and Pacifica?"
Mabel and Pacifica had been hanging out a lot more ever since the ghost incident at Pacifica's house a while ago.
And, lately... it looked like Mabel was feeling a little bit more than friendly affection towards Pacifica. It was different from other crushes she'd had, though.
Mabel brightened a bit, turning to face Dipper.
"Well, last night was great! We watched movies in the home theater in her house, she has a home theater, isn't that cool? And then we went to sleep in this spare room with these big plushly couches! And..."
"Before I left, she gave me a hug and told me I was welcome anytime."
Dipper smiled, genuinely.
"That's nice, Mabel."
Mabel swung her legs off her bed, peering at the notebook her brother held.
"What's that? Another one of your nerd things?"
Dipper held the book to his chest, then let out an unconvincing laugh.
"Ha, yeah, just some... nerd thing."
Mabel glared at him a little.
"C'mon Dip, lemme see!"
She got up and sat next to him on his bed, and Dipper relaxed his grip on the notebook and let her grab it.
"What the- is this some story you wrote? Cuz it's really weird!"
"Well, no. Grunkle Stan gave me this radio thing, and it started playing a weird show. The guy talked about all that stuff that I wrote down."
Mabel tossed the notebook between them.
"Sounds interesting... I wanna hear it!"
Dipper nodded, then sat on the floor, turning on the radio.
"It's- it's not working."
"Really? Did you try turning it off and back on again ?"
“Oh my god, Mabel, I don’t think that’s gonna work…”
Dipper tried, and nothing happened.
“Let’s try again later, Mabel.”
Mabel sighed along with him.
She got up, plopped back down on her bed, and went back to knitting her sweater.
Over the next few weeks, whenever he had time, he would press every button, twist every dial, but ultimately it resulted in nothing.
Dipper sat on the floor, eyes heavy with sleep, fiddling with the dials one last time before going to sleep.
But this time… that voice came back on the radio.
Dipper ran over to wake up Mabel.
He frantically shook his sister.
She stirred a little, groaning.
“Dipper, go to sleep, geez!”
“Mabel, it came on! It’s on right now and you’re gonna miss it!”
That seemed to do it. Mabel mustered up the energy to stand up and go sit on Dipper’s bed as he turned the radio up.
“You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both, and there you have spiders crawling out of a red velvet cupcake. Welcome to Night Vale.”
Mabel and Dipper sat there for a while after the broadcast had finished.
Mabel played with a strand of long hair as she leaned against the wall.
“Whoa, that’s some… weird stuff. And- you’re right. It doesn’t sound fake!”
“Yeah, that’s what I told you!”
They made eye contact.
What they’d heard was kind of worrying. Orange juice that could transport you to another dimension. A double of some farmer guy?
Dipper would almost say it was weirder than Gravity Falls…
That would be saying something, though.
He yawned, and turned off the radio.
She looked up at him.
“Do you, maybe, wanna help me research that place tomorrow?”
She smiled at him sleepily.
Dipper turned off the lamp, and then it was dark.
The next day, in the afternoon, Dipper sat in Stan’s old computer chair, waiting for the ancient device to power up.
“Mabel! I got it working!”
Mabel popped up behind him, making Dipper jump.
“Gah! Mabel! Where did you come from?”
“That’s not important! I thought we were gonna look up your weird town thing.”
Dipper sighed, then opened up Google.
He quickly typed out “Night Vale” into the search bar and pressed the enter key.
Dipper intently read the few results that came up.
The one that seemed most informative was an online copy of a paper written by a science professor at some college called the University of What It Is.
“What a weird name…”
The paper was apparently written a few decades ago, and stated that the science professor and a few of his associates were going to a small town in the desert to research anomalous events.
Dipper clicked on the author’s name, and the most recent article wasn’t by him.
It… it said that he’d been missing for decades!
He leaned back in the chair and sighed.
“No closer to figuring out this place…”
Mabel stood next to him.
“Well, why don’t we just, like, go there then?”
“What?! Mabel, that’s ridiculous, you heard what I just said! That scientist guy went there forever ago and he was never heard from again!”
“Well, I don’t see any other way to figure out what’s going on there!”
“That’s true… but we don’t even know where it is!”
Mabel frowned for a moment.
“Maybe Grunkle Ford can help!”
Dipper perked up a little.
“Mabel, that’s a great idea!”
He grabbed her hand, and they ran off towards the vending machine.
Mabel reached out to punch in the code. Dipper nudged her over.
“Grunkle Ford changed the code, let me punch it in!”
She looked hurt for just a second, then gave her brother a forced smile.
The elevator ride was pretty awkward for both of them as they avoided meeting eyes with each other.
Ford was flipping through one of the journals, intermittently stopping to type into the computer in front of him.
“Hey, Grunkle Ford?”
“Dipper! What did I say about coming down here without permission?”
“Is that.. your sister with you?”
Mabel sidestepped from behind Dipper and waved.
“Grunkle Ford, I was wondering if you could help us with something.”
“Sure, Dipper, depends on what it is.”
“Well… Mabel and I, on the radio Stan gave me, we heard this weird radio show from a town called Night Vale, and we were wondering if you could help us find out more about it!” He said, all in one breath.
“Wait- did you just say Night Vale?” Grunkle Ford asked, face lighting up in recognition.
“I knew it was real, where is it, where is it?”
He pulled out a journal, not one of the original journals, because it didn’t have a hand or a number on the cover.
“Aha! Listen, I know I said I couldn’t tell you about what I did while I was in the portal, but at one point I was in Night Vale for a few months! Here!”
He thrust the journal at the twins. Dipper took it, and held it almost reverently.
“Thank you, Grunkle Ford!”
Dipper suddenly rushed forward and hugged him, then leapt back and cleared his throat.
“Um, yeah, thanks!”
He and Mabel rushed back into the elevator.