by Julia Andresakis ’18
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale,” speaks a smooth, deep voice. The voice belongs to Cecil Palmer, local radio show host, who reports on the news in town as it develops, however dangerous or confusing it may be for him.
Night Vale cannot be found on a map, but it is located somewhere in the American southwest. Hard to find and hard to leave, most residents find themselves staying put their entire lives, even if their lives last hundreds of years. In the case of one citizen, Jackie Fierro, it is possible to have recently turned 19, and to have been 19 for decades. Both of these can be true at the same time. In Night Vale, time does not exist. It is hard to determine what does exist.
The town is, in many ways, like many others: there is a faceless old woman who, of course, lives in every resident’s home, a dog park where dogs nor people are permitted, and a five-headed dragon who, despite his criminal record, has tried running for mayor. Frequent disaster strikes the desert town, and residents find themselves in a perpetual crisis. Be it the Glow Cloud (All hail!) that appeared one morning, emitting various dead creatures before settling down as president of the school board, or the often unexplainable death of yet another radio station intern, the absurdity of the town’s happenings has long been accepted by nearly every resident.
Not every day in Night Vale is full of complete panic and dread, however. For example, the spontaneous appearance of Khoshekh, a cat that resides in the radio station’s men’s bathroom and is in every way a regular cat except for the fact that he floats, was celebrated by Cecil and his coworkers. Additionally, listeners get to hear the relationship between Carlos the Scientist, who does not recall how he ended up in Night Vale in the first place, and Cecil develop. Even when Carlos temporarily finds himself stuck in the Dog Park, the two still communicate and find time to spend with one another. And if a situation does get too dire, Cecil is always ready to take listeners to the weather, in the form of a different daily song.
Cecil Palmer, voiced by Cecil Baldwin, narrates every episode of the bimonthly podcast, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Premiering in 2012, each episode, typically 20 or 30 minutes in length, follows a different story arc–making most episodes standalone narratives that first-time listeners can follow along with. Fink and Cranor released a standalone novel by the same name as the podcast in 2015, with another novel, It Devours!, set to be released on October 17th of this year.