13.2 – A Story About You

This is a story about you. You live in a trailer out by the car lot, next to Old Woman Josie’s house. Occasionally, she’ll wave at you on her way out to get the mail or more snacks for the angels. Occasionally, you’ll wave back. You’re not a terrible neighbor, as far as it goes.

At night, you can see the red light blinking on and off on top of the radio tower. A tiny flurry of human activity against the impeccable backdrop of stars and void. You’ll sit out on the steps of your trailer, with your back to the brightness of the car lot, watching the radio tower for hours. But only sometimes. Mostly, you do other things. This story is about you.

13.4 – A Story About You

You have a new job now. Every day except Sunday, you drive out into the sand wastes and there you find two trucks. You move wooden crates from one truck to another while a man in a suit silently watches. It is a different man each time. Sometimes the crates tick. Mostly, they do not. When you are done, the man in the suit hands you an amount of cash, also different each time, and you go home. It is the best job you’ve ever had.

Except, today, it was different. You moved the crates. The man in the suit, a stranger, watched. But then, as had never happened before, the man in the suit received a phone call. He walked off at some distance to take it. “Yes, sir!” he said, and “No, sir!” Also he made hawk shrieking sounds. It wasn’t terribly interesting. You moved crates. But then, an impulse, an awful impulse, came over you, and for no other reason than that you are trapped by the freedom to do anything in this life, you took one of the crates, and put it in your trunk.

By the time the man came back from his phone call, you were done with your job. He gave you the money – it was nearly five hundred dollars today, the second highest it had ever been – and you drove home with the crate in your trunk.

When you got home, you took the crate into your trailer and left it in the kitchen. The crate did not make a ticking sound. It made no sound at all. Nothing made a sound except you, breathing in and breathing out. You cooked dinner – you always cooked dinner – and the red light on the tower blinked on and off in your peripheral vision, a message that was there and then wasn’t, and that you could never quite read. You wondered how long it would take them to miss the crate. You did not wonder who they were. Some mysteries aren’t questions to be answered, but just the kind of opaque fact, a thing which exists to be not known.

Which brings us to now, to this story, this story about you. You are listening to the radio. The announcer is talking about you. And then you hear something else, a guttural howl out of the desert distance, and you know that the crate’s absence has been discovered. The crate. Well, it sits, that’s all, on the kitchen floor. That’s all. It’s warm, warmer than the air around it. It smells sharp and earthy, like freshly ground cinnamon. And when you put your ear against the rough warm wood, you hear a soft humming, an indistinct melody. It does not appear to be difficult to open. All you would need to do is remove a few nails.

You do not open it.

13.9 – A Story About You

And then, you are alone. Just you, and the desert. You stop the car and get out. Pebbles crunch in the sand in response to your movement. The radio murmurs behind the closed doors of your car. The headlights illuminate only a few stray plants, and the wide dumb eyes of some nocturnal animal. Looking back, you see the bulge of light that is your Night Vale. The purple cloud, now floating over the heart of the city, reaches its tendrils in and out of buildings. You hear screams, and gunfire.

You open the trunk and lay one hand on the crate. It pulses with some kind of life. Still no ticking though. You look back. Several buildings are on fire. Crowds of people are floating in the air, held aloft by beams of light, and struggling feebly against power they cannot begin to understand. The ground shifts, like it was startled.

It’s so quiet, when it finally comes. You see the black car long before it arrives. it comes to a halt nearby and two men step out. You don’t run. Neither do they.

“How did you find me?” you ask.

“Everything you do is being broadcast on the radio for some reason. That made it pretty easy,” says one of the men, the one who isn’t tall.

“Yeah,” you say. “I see that now.”

“You have the item?” the man who is not tall asks.

You say nothing.

The man who is not tall signals the man who is not short, and he walks past you, looks into your trunk, and nods.

“Even easier,” says the man who is not tall.

There is an unexpected click. One of the rear doors of the black car has opened, and your fiancée has stepped out. Her eyes are wet, like it was the night you left. She does not appear to have aged, but then, you can’t actually remember how long it has been. Could it have been last week? Or was it ten years ago?

“Why?” she says. “Why? Why?”

You don’t know what to say.

The man who is not short steps up to you, puts a knife against your throat. Nobody says anything. Your fiancée shakes her head. Her eyes are empty, broken, gushing. The radio is saying all of this as it happens. You hear it dimly through the car door. You can’t stop smiling.

All at once, the consequences. All at once you are no longer free. It’s all coming back around, all at once. Life, bleary, washed-out, snaps back into focus. The red light on the tower still blinks in the distance and every message in this world has a meaning. It all makes sense and you are finally being punished. You can’t think of a time you have ever been happier.

Your fiancée abruptly gets back into the car. Neither of the men seem to notice her. One opens the crate with a couple of quick taps, and pulls out of it an intricate miniature house. The hours that must have been spent building it! Every detail is accounted for! Inside the house, you think you see for a moment lights and movement.

“Undamaged,” says the man who is not tall.

You beam at him. The knife presses harder against your throat, but it does not hurt. Your eyes wander up and you see above you the dark planet of awesome size perched in its sunless void, an invisible titan, all thick black forests and jagged mountains and deep, turbulent oceans. A monster. Spinning. Soundless. Forgotten.

It’s so close now. You see it just above you. Maybe even if you tried very hard, you could touch it. You reach up…

This has been your story. The radio moves onto other things: news, traffic, political opinions, and corrections to political opinions. But there was time, one day, one single day, in which it was only one story, a story about you. And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio.

Good night, Night Vale. Good night.