Work Header

The Temporal Tornado

Work Text:

There is a ringing in your ears. Listen. Can you hear it? It’s still there. It’s always been there. It will never not be there, ever again.

Welcome to Night Vale.

Our top story today is the temporal tornado that touched down near Big Rico’s Pizza last night. These summer storms can be brutal, and I am afraid there were casualties, both from the high winds and from the time vortices. But as we all know—now, that’s not for eating, Carlos, those are not for eating!—the temporal casualties should be temporary. As always, the trained staff of the Night Vale Goodwill will be adopting the temporal victims of the tornado for sale and processing until they’ve re-attained their lost years.

Well. Most of them. Look, Carlos was just so small in the wreckage of his lab, so very, very small, and frightened, and when he saw me he just reached out, tears all over his darling chubby face—and, well. I am only mostly human, after all.

And so, yes, Night Vale, as you have probably already surmised, I do have our town's littlest scientist with me in the studio today, and he is currently and with impressively single-minded determination trying to eat my microphone. Carlos, no! Microphones are not food! Oh, are you hungry? You must be getting hungry.

...I know, I know, listeners. We are not technically equipped for child care here, and I am certainly not a certified or registered Child Rearer! Nor is a toddler much conducive to active and attentive news reporting, as has been brought to my attention by Station Management. But this is only temporary! And really, how hard can watching a smaller version of our adorably perfect Carlos be? Not watching him would be far harder, in my opinion.

And, by the way, you might think you have an inkling of just how perfectly adorable a baby Carlos is, but I assure you, you do not. You cannot possibly imagine the magnificence of his tousled little curls. And his rosy cheeks! His teeny, tiny glasses! And oh, the way his entire little face just squishes up when he smiles at you!

It is abundantly clear that once Carlos is back to his dashing and adult self again, he will be capable of producing the absolute pinnacle of precious and precocious progeny. Not that I am presuming. Or planning ahead. Or—well—oh, it’s too soon to speculate, isn’t it? Carlos and I have only just become an item!

But our offspring would look just so cute with my eyes and his hair, listeners. I really cannot even.

A community update –  it's July, and we all know what that means: stock up on your umbrellas and windshield wipers, Night Vale, for the annual jellyfish migration is at hand.

Despite recent events, I do still have a duty to the whole of our desert community to report on latest news, and this wave of jellyfish is apparently deadlier than the last—who knows how that might factor into the upcoming swim match between between the Night Vale Anglerfish and our eternal nemeses, the Desert Bluff Angelfish?

And by the way, that team name is so. Annoying! There are plenty of fish in the sea, Desert Bluffs! They could not pick a species that is closer to our team name in spelling and pronunciation if they tried, which, in fact, I suspect they did. Desert Bluffs. Is there no end to your awfulness?

Anyway. This morning I gave Carlos a tiny microphone and we went together to the rec center to interview Griselda Goggins about the incoming jellyfish. Carlos was nervous at first, but that didn’t last long, listeners! He and Griselda got into quite a few arguments, actually. Carlos, oh, Carlos—he called them jellofish. Jellofish! And he seemed to believe that these “jellofish” live in water, and as we all know, there's... really none of that in or around Night Vale, now, is there? The little tyke must have gotten a few wires crossed in the de-aging process.

But Carlos was quite vehement about jellyfish being 'mawine aminals,' and in the ensuing verbal fisticuffs, we never did get a concrete answer from Griselda about the swim match. But all the other press present agreed that the interview was nonetheless highly adorable and informative and really, he was the cutest thing, with his tiny microphone and imaginary notepad and pen. He kept looking over to me to see if he was doing it right. If I had a lower boiling point, I'd have melted, listeners.

And, speaking of melting, let’s go to a word from our sponsors.

The word: deliquesce. The sloughing away of a solid as it dissolves, like a pillar of salt lapped at by the encroaching sea. Lot’s wife, they say, screamed as each grain beautifully, viscously, slid into the watery abyss and became part of a greater cosmic ocean. Deliquesce. The humidity, the weight of water impossible, unbearable. Your equilibrium shifts, and everything you were and are and will never be again slips and slides away into a formless mass of liquid. You shine, shimmer, slump as you go. You are lost. Deliquesce.

This word is brought to you by Skittles. Taste the rainbow. Taste it.

I said taste it.

Listeners, Carlos has just gotten up from his nap in the filing cabinet, and he wants you all to know something. You may not believe it, I hardly can myself, but this little fellow has already learned how to carry a bladed weapon and has had his first kill! Aren't we all so very proud of our brave little scientist? Yes, we are! We are! Of course, he’s far too young for knife fighting, but he is handling his Fisher Price First Scythe wonderfully. I let him decapitate one of our station vermin, the purple kind, you know, the ones with the blue fangs? And before anyone gets their gills in a twist, it was with plenty of supervision! I was there the whole time, and he was never in any danger of being poisoned or disemboweled.

As my mother always said, you don’t get your caterpillars growing up to become deadly butterflies unless you let them stretch their fangs a bit, and she has been the most successful mother in town for centuries, after all. You don’t ignore a sixty-seven percent success rate lightly!

Anyway, Carlos is a natural. He learns so fast, it really is uncanny! And after our ‘hunt,’ we painted runes and different kinds of helicopters on construction paper. If only you all could see it! You are quite the little artist, aren’t you, Carlos? And oh, listen to him giggle, Night Vale! Are your hearts not lighter? Is your day not brighter?

Now, I know the tornado caused a few permanent deaths and also a great deal of structural damage. And it is true that we will be without a supplier of council-mandated pizza for some time, which is, I admit, alarming. But if I may just make a brief editorial comment: I cannot help but think we have all in Night Vale come out ahead here! It all comes down to our ability as a community to look on the bright side, listeners. Even with a choking fog of sticky and noxious jellyfish in our near future, there is still beauty. When the sun hits those jellies just right at the very end of a clear day, the whole of the sky above town seems to just be the stained glass window of some abstract, celestial cathedral. I wouldn’t miss that moment for the world, let alone for a mere bit of noxious cytoplasm.

And even though I’ve been planning our third date tonight at the Cactus Rose, reserving the backroom and arranging candlelight and live music and dead music and in-between music just in case—well, sometimes our beaus are spontaneously de-aged by several decades, and we just have to make the adorable best of it, don't we?

Ah, our new intern, Quincy, is handing me a note—thank you, Quincy. Oh. Oh, dear. I seem to have been neglecting the non-Carlos related news a bit today. Well. To the traffic, post-haste. Carlos, here. Let your Cecil talk about traffic, just for a little while. I know, you are as always the center of my small universe, but I really must do my job so that I can keep you in your adorable little lab coat onesies and myself from a messy death. Here, have a clock—oh, dear listeners, he is already dismantling clocks, just like his older self would. Babbling in that ancient tongue known only to infants and using his scythe on the screws. It is adorable.

Sorry, right. The news. Just, one last thing before we go to the traffic: I am having the most difficult time getting Carlos to take his bottle! I’ve tried it hot, and cold, and partially congealed. He just won’t have anything of it, listeners! Could any mothers, fathers, or elderparents out there offer some advice? Just email me, or call Quincy’s extension. That’s 376-312-3400. Remember, don’t forget those zeroes, or you will develop an intermittent explosive disorder!

And now, let’s look at the traffic. There are some downed telephone poles and trees out at the edge of the Whispering Forest. I’m afraid we’ve lost, once and for all, a living form of our poor former intern, Richard. We all certainly do hope that the corpse of his tree might be transformed into something sturdy and useful to remember him by. Might I suggest a bassinet, or perhaps a crib?

Additionally, several mysterious crevasses opened in the road outside the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex this afternoon, causing traffic to be re-routed into an endless and impossible Mobius-like loop. Possibly this is an attack from the definitely hostile and obviously horrible and most certainly murderous subterranean city beneath the pin retrieval area of lane five. The City Council certainly seems to think so, as they have already announced that they “Don’t give a damn whether or not it might be an act of xenocide, we are filling the crevasses AND the bowling alley pin retrieval area with molten lava, just as soon as our caldera at Town Hall finishes boiling.”

I, for one, applaud this decision.  Roads are the circulatory system of a town, and an attack upon them should result in bloody, violent, and immediate response from the vicious white-hooded blood cells within.

We all know a watched caldera seldom boils, however, so it is unfortunate that the City Council have so very many eyes. But still, those rocks should reach several thousand degrees any second now, so any and all amateur spelunkers in the vicinity should get out of the way A S A P!

Except Shireen Montgomery, who, as we all know, is from a good salamander family famously fond of cave exploration in that area. She should thank her scales that a really delicious bath is coming her way. It’s not every day that we get molten lava in Night Vale, after all!

Oh, Carlos, you little scamp. Sorry about the static, listeners, Carlos is just so clever with his tiny fingers, he’s been dismantling the microphone and is choking on a piece of it right now! I hope it wasn’t important. Carlos, give that back. No, don’t cry. Oh, if you cry, I’ll cry. Carlos. Carlos, darling—what if I find you another clock? Or maybe Quincy will take you to visit the kittens!

…there. Crisis averted. Whatever doodad that was, it has been re-attached, and a very excited Carlos has been carried off by our dubious intern to meet Khoshekh and the little ones. And listen, Quincy does know that any harm that might befall our littlest scientist while on this outing would be revisited upon him tenfold. I was top of my class in necromantic thaumaturgy in school, so that’s not an idle threat, listeners! Not even death would keep Quincy safe from my wrath. Really, I’m not worried at all about letting Carlos leave me for a short time while I continue broadcasting. Carlos is in good hands. I’m not staring anxiously at the door, or wishing desperately for a working clock to keep track of the time that they’re gone. That would be ridiculous.

I must say, a child is more work than I expected, and yet I am not in the slightest bit relieved to have a break from it!

Let’s go to Community Childcare Tips.  I have an email here from Old Woman Josie. Thank you, Josie, for responding to my plea so promptly. Hm. Well, Josie says that sometimes children just don’t know what’s good for them, and that I should use a car jack to lever Carlos’s mouth open and then just pour the bloodmilk in. I should have mentioned earlier, this is my fault, but Josie, I tried that first thing! The little fellow just spits it right back out, bless him. He is very headstrong. Which we Night Vale citizens do like to see in children, of course! It is the stubborn child who survives, isn’t that so? The stubborn, and the inoffensive, and no one in-between.

Another email here, from The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives In Your Home. She suggests just waiting until he gets so very hungry, hungry enough to eat. He will get hungry eventually. They always get hungry eventually. Always.


Well, that may be true, Faceless Old Woman, but I am afraid I am just too soft-hearted to watch a child go hungry up unto the point of mindless starvation if there is anything I can do about it. Especially if that child is the de-aged version of the man who will eventually become my perfect and wonderful and beloved boyfriend. But I digress!

Oh, now this is an interesting response. The Glow Cloud has sent an email as well. It had this problem with its own, cloudly offspring, and while it has no practical advice it does seem to be offering some sympathy. THE GLOW CLOUD CANNOT ALWAYS CONTROL THE THOUGHTS OF THE SOFT UNFORMED NEWBORN MIND, it says. THE GLOW CLOUD DEVOURS THE UNWORTHY AND THE WORTHY AND THE OTHERWISE ALIKE. Glow Cloud, I am frankly touched. I will do my best to keep my chin up. Thank you.

And now, lest I once again receive another reprimand from Station Management that my program is focusing too much upon Carlos and not enough upon the town at large, there are reports coming in that the Sheriff’s Secret Police found Shireen Montgomery—you know, the spelunking salamander?—who with a stolen backhoe was creating several more crevasses near Big Rico’s Pizza. For shame, Shireen. If you want to indulge in a bath of molten lava on the Council’s dime, you will just have to petition at Town Hall like everyone else. Resorting to grand theft auto and vandalism—that is illegal and also just plain rude. For shame.

Shireen has escaped arrest through a series of labyrinthine tunnels and should be considered non-dangerous. She is wanted dead or alive, but preferably dead. If you have any news on Shireen’s location, please contact the Sheriff’s Secret Police immediately via your closest electrical socket.

Since we are on the subject of vandalism, Night Vale, let’s discuss ways to keep our youth educated and entertained during the mandatory school break. Carlos is obviously too young at the moment to enjoy many of the summer activities that Night Vale offers—swimming at the rec center, camping at the Bone Spires, warfare in the Lead Paintball Fields, jellyfish harvesting and pickling—Carlos and other children his current age simply aren't strong enough to carry the necessary weaponry yet, let alone to have the hand-eye coordination to fire accurately!

For our littlest little ones, there's always a well-fortified trip to the children's section of the library for Story Hour. But personally, I highly recommend baking. It is productive and fun. Take the opportunity to educate our youth about important anatomical features—like ball and socket joints, femoral arteries, and the digestive system! In fact, you may consider letting your little bundles of joy knick the intestines as they carve blithely away. The resulting bitterness in their cupcakes is a better educational tool than any verbal warning, wouldn’t you say?

…seriously, listeners, I don’t mean to be one of those caretakers, overprotective and always hovering, but Quincy has really been gone quite some time now, hasn’t he? And he hasn’t answered any of my texts. I’m not worried. The station is just about as safe as houses, which as we all know are only seldom ambulatory and lethal.

But it really has been quite some time since they left for the men’s room.

Look, we all know how infant mortality works! I know it’s silly to get invested in such a young child, but Carlos is not just any infant, Night Vale! It’s Carlos, he—

That’s it. I’m taking a Bathroom Break. Pray for me, listeners. Pray for Carlos. And, I suppose, if you have a prayer to spare, you could drop one for Quincy. Although, frankly, if he can’t handle one toddler and a litter of adorable floating kittens for five minutes I’m a bit inclined to leave a really nasty note in his file. In fact, never mind praying for him. Curse Quincy. Curse him.

And now, I leave you, dear listeners, with:




Listeners. I don’t know what to say. I feel absolutely awful. Quincy, dear Quincy. He couldn’t have known Shireen was taking refuge here beneath the station, or that the Council would follow her with their lethal payload of super-molten and now radioactive lava.

With his dying breath, a heroically flaming and tumorous Quincy heaved little Carlos upon Khoshekh’s back, where my beloved future beloved then clung, safely suspended above the pit of boiling, liquid rock that was once the men’s room floor. Bravo, Quincy. What a truly horrible, grotesque, and noble death. To his surviving family, I just want them to know that if I ever do have children of my own, I will be sure to name at least one of them in Quincy’s honor. Well, maybe. Really, it depends on Carlos, too. I don’t want to speak for him!

And, by the way, Carlos—my Carlos!—is back to his perfect self again! By the time I found him in the men’s room he was naked in the shreds of that adorable lab coat onesie and desperately clutching an enraged, floating cat.

Oh, listeners, there is once more a distinguished touch of gray at his temples, and it, as ever, renders the dark beauty of the rest of his curls even more beautifully dark by contrast. His limbs are toned and taut, his speech sparkles with clarity and wit, and he is no longer disassembling and then attempting to eat every mechanical object within reach.

Carlos does however remember everything from his time as a toddler, which is a little embarrassing for both of us. I don’t know why he’s embarrassed, but I might possibly have rambled at him a slight amount during commercial breaks about how we would make the most perfect family, and how I wanted twelve girls and eight boys and six of both, and how beautiful our children would be, and, wow, I really wish I’d known he would remember all that later, you know?

And yet, even so, even after all the scrapes and panic and occasional bodily fluids, I kind of feel like today has been... good for us? As we all know, Carlos can be quite enigmatic and at times downright mysterious! Maybe even, I dare say, a little distant. But get this: tonight Carlos said—for the first time!—that he loves me. I. Know!  Listeners, I am non-literally beside myself. Of course I said it back, of course, and then he—well, it is unfortunate that we were at my place of work and that I am a consummate professional, and so am currently in a frustratingly unconsummated state.

But it's our third date tonight, listeners, and you all know what that means! If by chance you do not, well, I'm sorry, but I am afraid Carlos and I have agreed our plans for the night are a personal subject, and not one fit for public radio consumption.

But know this: these plans are wonderful. I’ll admit, I am a little nervous, but in the good way, you know? It's like when you're baking cupcakes together and they’re not ready, but everything smells so good that it's like torture waiting to just sink your teeth into one. But you know that soon, you'll get to, and that even if that cupcake is a little lopsided and bitter, it's still going to be amazing, because you made it together. It's going to be perfect.

In other news, if you’re feeling hungry, Big Rico’s Pizza is back in business, Night Vale! Stop by immediately for your mandatory slice. Immediately. Right now. Go. The City Council has stated that even though you only have six minutes left to meet your quota, and even if the jellyfish are falling thickly, failing to meet the pizza quota will still be a misdemeanor that will be prosecuted in Full.

Godspeed. And now, if you, unlike Carlos and I, have nothing to do tonight and no one to do it with, stay tuned for your high school chemistry teacher reading the whole of John Milton's Paradise Lost in the original Cthuvian, backwards.

Good night, Night Vale.

Good night.