Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Rating: Teen (for creepiness)
Characters: Carlos the Scientist, Cecil/Carlos
Spoilers: Yes, major spoilers for Ep 46 ("Parade Day") and allusion to Ep 47 ("Company Picnic")
Notes: I got the idea for this after listening to Parade Day, but it was Company Picnic that sealed the need to write it. Cleaned up from an earlier version I posted to Tumblr.
Also on AO3.
Carlos snaps his head toward the radio and stops breathing. Cecil's shouts echo through the air, and then there is silence. Silence. Dead air and more silence. No announcements, no prerecorded messages, no weather, not even static. Nothing. Silence. The rest is silence.
"No," Carlos breathes, picking up the radio, shaking it as if to bring Cecil's voice back to life. "No. Oh God. Oh Cecil. What did you do?" The other scientists look at him as his words become a shout, their eyebrows raised in a united front of skepticism, but Carlos cannot bring himself to care. He lets the radio go; it falls to the ground and kicks up dust (from the yard of the house that isn't there; is the dust there? even now, something deep in Carlos's brain worries at this question). He jumps into his car and puts the key in the ignition with shaking hands, snapping on the radio even before he starts the engine. Still there is nothing, a deafening roar of empty air, louder than the sounds of the car or the blaring of horns or the furious beating of his heart. He bangs the radio, fiddles with the dial knob, curses at it in English and Spanish -- first one, then the other, then both at the same time. But it is no use. There is nothing, no hint of anything, and so he finally jabs the Off button and drives drives drives.
Time is never right in Night Vale, but never is it more wrong than today. The drive to the station should have taken only a few minutes, and yet an hour passes on the dashboard clock before he pulls up in front of the radio station. Too late, too late, his brain screams; he ignores it and jumps out of the car, taking in the scene before him:
The radio station is abuzz with activity. Armed guards in riot helmets carry boxes in and out, shields hiding their faces, yellow triangles emblazoned on their arms. They could be soldiers, they could be secret police, they could be robots. They move in perfect silence and betray nothing.
The radio station blazes with light from every window. A beacon shines into the sky through a giant hole in the roof. Loud music blares from loudspeakers placed around the doors, presenting a cacophony of notes and rhythm so forceful that Carlos drops to his knees and claps his hands over his ears to drown out the sound.
The radio station is an abandoned ruin. The door is nailed shut, and all the windows are smashed. The wooden frames are rotten, showing wear of fifty years or more. Graffiti covers the cinderblock walls, inside and out. The slogans are written in a language that Carlos has never seen, paired with brightly colored symbols he does not recognize.
The radio station is in flames. The wreck of a Strexcorp helicopter sits on the roof, tangled with the remains of the radio tower, its yellow paint melting from the heat of the fire. The building is surrounded by a ring of children, pumping their fists in the air and carrying signs: "FREE TAMIKA" and "DOWN WITH STREX" and "CECIL LIVES!"
Carlos rushes to one of the boys and grabs his arm. "Cecil! Have you seen him? Do you know where he is?" The boy turns, his curls bouncing in the wind. He looks up at Carlos with eyes blazing white and says nothing.
The radio station is dark and quiet. Cecil stands in front of the door, staring blankly forward, a brown paper lunch bag gripped in his hands. Carlos fairly flies to his side. "Cecil!" He lays a hand on Cecil's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
Cecil turns with deliberate slowness, eyes still empty. "Yes," he says, voice flat, no life or resonance. "We are all at one with a Smiling God." His lips turn upward into a smile, a horrible rictus that shows all his teeth, white and glistening and stained with red.
The radio station is gone. A vacant lot sits in its place, fenced in with barbed wire. The grounds are returning to sand, and a gentle breeze kicks up dust devils that lazily wend their way down the sidewalk. Gone, as though it had never been.
The radio station stands at the convergence point of possible universes, every past and every future coming together into a swirling vortex of possibility. Carlos's senses, his scientific instruments, and his empirical observations -- all are inadequate to separate the truth from the lie, the fact from the fiction, the hope from the dream from the nightmare. All he knows, the one area of congruence, is this: They have Cecil, and they will come for him next.
So he sits back down in the driver's seat. After locking the door, he closes his eyes, rests his forehead against the steering wheel, and just breathes.
In, out, checking his respiration, knowing he is alive.
I'm sorry, Cecil. I'm sorry. Just hold on. I'll find a way to help you. Science will find a way.
And then he lifts his head and starts the car, slamming down on the accelerator, wheels squealing as he vanishes into the night.
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