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Voicemail

Cecil, recorded: You have reached the voicemail of Cecil Gershwin Palmer. That might seem like an easy thing to do, but think about how long you had to stay alive just to learn how a phone works and who I am. Congratulate yourself on that. Give yourself a vigorous pat on the back, and… don’t forget to leave a message after the heavily distorted sample of a man saying “I just couldn’t eat another bite.”

Carlos, with wind in the background: Hey, sweetie, it’s Carlos. I know you’re probably busy talking, or not talking. It seems like you’re always talking, or not talking, you know?

So, I’ll try again in a bit, but I just wanted to let you know what’s up here. What’s up? The sky!

OK, OK, that is a funny joke, but it is also a scientifically accurate one. I only tell scientifically accurate jokes. I don’t get how people can find inaccurate jokes funny.

Like, OK, so a horse walks into a bar, and says “I feel used. As a species, even, I feel used.” And so then the bartender, who is also a horse, ‘cause, you know, this is the Horse District where the horses live when they’re not being used by the humans, and the horse bartender says, “Don’t I know it, buddy!” and the first horse says “I’m not your buddy!” And then he says, “Man, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That was awful of me. It’s the anger.”

So, that’s another example of a scientifically accurate joke.

Things are going really well here. With the help of Doug and Alicia and the other members of the masked army that live in this strange desert other world, we’ve been starting to build out an infrastructure. Of course, I had already set up a temporary lab, but now we’ve dug up the stones that were used in the old settlements up on the mountain and have been building important basics of life, like shelter and roads and blood stone circles. It’s starting to look downright homey around here… if you ignore the disquieting wasteland beyond. So it’s just like the rest of the world, really.

There’s lots of material to work with, because – get this – we’ve been just finding stuff lately. Microwaves, toolboxes, old tennis balls. They look like they’ve been here a while. I’m not sure how this stuff ended up here, but I’m going to find out.

Ooh! That reminds me. I’m thinking of getting a tattoo with the definition of science straight out of Webster’s Dictionary. So it’ll say, quote, “I don’t know, but I’m trying to find out, OK?” end quote, and then it’ll have a skull and some roses. Ooh, maybe an anchor, to make it look old-timey.

Hmm.

I’m still working on how to get you here, but I will. How? I don’t know, but I’m trying to find out, OK?

OK?

OK.

I love you. Talk again soon.

[BEEP]

Michelle Nguyen: Hey, Cecil, it’s Michelle from Dark Owl Records calling. The new… ugh… Woody Guthrie album is in for you? I can’t believe you’re still listening to that stuff! He hasn’t been cool since his electro-punk period. We’re all listening to archival recordings of bees now.

Come in for your stupid album and I’ll show you the bee sounds while you’re here. And maybe you could hang out for a while, because I’m lonely and I need more human contact. Ugh. Woody Guthrie?

[BEEP]

Steve Carlsberg, with “A Wandering Star” from Paint Your Wagon playing in the background: Hey, Cecil! I know you said that I wasn’t allowed to leave any voicemails on your phone, and you marched around the room waving your arms and saying, “No, Steve Carlsberg, no voicemails!” Then you tried to convince me that voicemails aren’t real, but you couldn’t, because I know what is what around here.

I know what is what.

But anyways, I just wanted to make a quick call to see if Janice could stay with you in a few months. Abby and I are looking at doing a nice little vacation. You know, just the two of us. Somewhere romantic, like the Warehouse District, or the Sand Wastes, or Arby’s. You of all people know how romantic a long weekend at Arby’s can be!

Which – listen. By the way, I meant it as just a nice gift when I printed up all those T-shirts of you and Carlos there, looking up at the lights. And you got all weird about it, but… I don’t mind. Sorry I made you upset again.

Just get back to me about the Janice thing, or answer me on your radio show while ranting about me. Either way is fine.

Hope everything’s going well with Carlos. Hope everything is just… going. Hope everything goes. Hope it’s gone. We all do.

Okie dokie!

[BEEP]

Tamika Flynn: Cecil, Tamika Flynn here. I’m calling to let you know that me and the rest of the missing children are having a book drive. We’re taking books and herding them out on the long trail. Sleepless nights on our horses, books clear from our feet out to a horizon gone dusty, with the dreary stomp of spine and page upon Earth, the sad yelp of books taken in the night by coyotes or librarians…I don’t know how long we’ll be gone, but when my horse is neck deep in the Colorado, and I’m watching the drowned carcass of some book that will never find a reader again float away on that relentless current, I’ll think about you.

Also, it will probably be Thursday. We’ll be back Thursday. We’re not taking the books that far. They can’t walk, and…they’re not even sentient, so this will be a short one.

Oh! Gotta go. Night Film by Marisha Pessl is looking restless, and I’m worried it’ll start a stampede!

[BEEP]

Earl Harlan, with the sound of a crowded restaurant in the background: Hi, it’s me. Sure, I’d love to come back and do another segment of “Cooking Stuff with Earl Harlan.” I have this great recipe for pumpkin pie. There’s so much less blood splatter than you would think!

Um, but listen, I’m trying to schedule a little more time in my life for my son. It’s hard for both of us, what with me having a full-time kitchen job, plus going straight from being a childless teenager to a middle-aged man with an eleven-year-old. I– I mean, they have Sesame Street episodes about it that you can show your kid, but even with PBS’s help, trying to explain how weird time is? It’s really hard! Time is unimaginably weird.

Uh, my son’s name is Roger. I finally asked him, and he told me. It was that easy, and it wasn’t easy at all.

I gotta get back to the kitchen. We have a lot of orders coming in, plus it’s on fire. Cook with you soon, Cecil.

[BEEP]

Fey: SEVENTEEN.
EIGHTY-EIGHT.
[DING]
FORTY-NINE.
EIGHTY-SIX.
EIGHTY-ONE.
SIXTY-EIGHT.

♫ 'CAUSE I AM A CHAMPION ♫
♪ AND YOU’RE GONNA HEAR ME… ♪
[SIGH]

EIGHTY-ONE.
EIGHTY-THREE.
[DING]
FOUR.

[BEEP]

Carlos: Hey, sorry to call again so soon…I know we talked about space and boundaries and all of that, especially with this whole Lot 37 thing you’re going through…gotta have time to think. And Cec, I understand a time to think, but I have made an important scientific discovery, and you know the rules are different when an important scientific discovery is made. An important scientific discovery is grounds to interrupt anything!

I found people! Here, in this desert other world! We – me, and the members of the masked army – saw human shapes coming towards us. The masked army opted, as is their way, for something of a warlike response, but I convinced them that it was important to discover the facts before formulating a response – an idea to which Doug roared in a fearsome voice, “THAT MAKES TOTAL SENSE! LET’S GO CHAT WITH THEM AND SEE WHAT’S UP!

And here is, my sweet Cecil, what was up. These people were citizens of Night Vale. They had been lost from their home, as of today, for exactly two years, and they have apparently been wandering the desert since!

They are a tad traumatized by their years in a featureless wasteland accompanied only by a distant rumble and a bright light that they felt primarily in the roots of their teeth, and so they haven’t told me yet how they got here, but I have them resting in the hot yoga studio we recently built, so I hope to hear their story soon. And when I hear the story, you will too. And then, you know, I’m sure everyone who listens to your show will, you old blabbermouth!

You know, it would upset me if it weren’t just who you are. So much of each other would be annoying if it weren’t also the essence of us. Hmm.

OK, more soon.

[BEEP]

Deb: Hello, Cecil. It’s Deb, the sentient patch of haze. I have some new ad copy I wanted to run by you, and then I want to disregard any petty human feelings you have about it, and then I want to run the ad on the air. Here goes, okay?

I drift above you. I see mostly the top of your heads. You are pitiful from that perspective. Your hair droops, or falls out, or hangs flat. I haze above you, sentiently. You slog below me, humanly.
Sentient patches of haze: we are the future. We are also the past. You aren’t even the props. You are the backdrop.
So if you have any issues or questions at all about that ad, don’t hesitate to not tell me.

Hope you’re having a great day. Okay, Cecil, buh-bye.

[BEEP]

Faceless Old Woman, with the sound of moths fluttering about in the background: Hello, Cecil. It’s the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. I’m in your closet, listening to moths eat one of your suits. They make such a lovely crunch and tear.

I just wanted to reach out in regards to you protecting your former intern, Dana, against Hiram and I’s good work toward destroying her. You’ve foiled us more than once. I won’t forget that, Cecil. I forget nothing. Unlike you, your brain a dusty surface so easily blown clean.

My memory cakes on. It stains. It warps. My memory’s erosion. It is on the very surface of the earth.

Do you feel my fingernails on your back? No. You don’t. I could do so many things to you without you feeling it. Remember that, if you remember nothing else…which seems likely these days.

Tell Carlos I said hi. I always liked him.

And stay out of my way, or I will destroy you. Just as these moths I caught outside and carried into your closet are destroying all of your clothing.

[BEEP]

Old Woman Josie: Cecil. I’m here with Erika and Erika, just checking to see if we can get a ride to league night later. My car’s in the shop because I stopped believing in it, so if you can fit us all in there, we’d appreciate it.

Also, I can’t use my left hand lately, so it might be a little tricky, but we are still going to win. We’ll crush 'em, Cecil!

[BEEP]

Dana: Hi, Cecil! It’s may–…it’s Dana. I hope you’re doing OK. You seem kind of…I mean, lately. Lately you’ve been…

Isn’t it weird how we talked more when I was trapped in that distant desert other world than now when we work a five-minute drive from each other? It’s funny how life works.

That word meant the opposite of its usual meaning. That’s funny too, I guess.

I know you think I bought Lot 37, but you’re wrong. I wasn’t in Night Vale at the time. Yes, I projected myself into the auction that day, but I only bought some collectible spoons and a Lee Marvin-autographed baseball of my brother. That’s all, though.

It’s awful when you can see the reasoning for someone’s feeling towards you while knowing wholly that they’re wrong.

I wonder sometimes if my double could have done better, or if I am the double, whether the original me would have done better. Did I destroy my better half? Then maybe I was lucky that even half of me was better, once upon a time.

Cecil, I do my best with what I have. I don’t have much.

I hope we’ll talk soon. Night Vale needs me as much as it needs you, and when it comes down to it, I’ll stand for that before anything else. It’s my job.

OK.

[BEEP]

[Electronic static and feedback]

[BEEP]

Carlos: Hey, OK, quick update, and then *poof* I’m gone again from your voicemail.

I’ve put some of the junk we found and some of the people we found in my lab, and I’m studying them using microscopes and vials of bubbling liquid and me making thoughtful expressions and saying things like “Hmm.” So I’m really using all of the available scientific tools right now.

Ooh, I feel like I’m on the verge of something big here, something new!

I’ll call you soon. [Gasp] This is so exciting!

[BEEP]

Hiram McDaniels - Gold Head: Well, howdy Cecil! Uh, Frank Chen here.

Blue Head: Yes, Frank Chen. With 100% certainty, that is who I am.

Gold Head: Right. Uh, so, uh, Frank Chen, normal human with one voice. No other voices interrupting that main voice, making me sound anything less than human.

Green Head: What’s going on? Someone put the phone near my ears! I can’t hear!

Gray Head: Well, there’s that busted.

Gold Head: Just normal Frank Chen, uh, playing a joke with funny voices, wantin’ to hear if the mayor told you any plans she might have. I’m curious 'cause, uh, I’m a citizen, and a voter.

Purple Head: This was a bad plan! I told you I didn’t want any more to do with your foolish plans!

Gold Head: Purple! Green, Blue, Gray, come on, guys! We’re in this together!

[Exasperated sigh]

Just…all right. Frank Chen, average person of normal head amount, saying, uh, goodbye. See ya around, Cecil.

[BEEP]

Automated voices: Hello, this is your daily update from the automated weather service. Here is the current weather.

[“Tag!” by Scarves]

Automated voices: Thank you for using our automated weather service. Have a nice day.

[BEEP]

Carlos: Cecil! Cecil, I did it! I understand! I hooked everything up to computers, and I said “hmm” a lot, and then I asked the people to talk about how they ended up in the desert and it turned out that they were all lured into the Dog Park during Poetry Week. And then the gates closed on them, and they’ve been in this desert ever since.

And I thought about this. I thought about how Dana came in here with them on that same day, and about all of the stuff I found, which I think is junk that people got rid of by throwing them over the walls of the forbidden Dog Park.

And I realized…this is the Dog Park! This whole desert, the mountain, the light up on the mountain, we’re in a vast, perhaps endless, and definitely endlessly forbidden Dog Park!

Which means you can visit now! You just have to walk through that Dog Park gate, and then…you know, walk a few more hundred miles after that to wherever we’re at in this huge desert, and then you’ll be able to take that vacation here!

Uh, call me as soon as you get this. Cecil! Oh, honey-voiced honey! You’ll be able to visit!

Talk soon. I love you.

[BEEP]

Kevin: Hey, friend! We haven’t spoken in a while. Not since all that…unpleasantness happened. I hope everything has been super-pleasant since then.

Oh! But hey! I’ve been working on something I’d like to show you. I think you’ll be just jazzed about it! Get back to me A.S.A.P., OK?

Until next time, Cecil. Until next time.

[BEEP]


Instead of a proverb today, I just have some important news about the stray cats that live outside my apartment. There is the usual one, named Bisquick, who is missing one ear and is terrifying, but today I saw a second one, who is fatter and less terrifying and who I have named The Baron. I will keep you updated as events unfold.

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