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[personal profile] tikific
Title: Polling Place (Part 1 of 2)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Author: tikific
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos
Warnings: Cursing.
Word Count:
Summary: Carlos registers to vote in Night Vale as the town prepares for the annual Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance parade.
Notes: I'll probably have the rest of this up on Sunday. We have house guests, so things are a little hectic.



Chapter 1


“You really didn’t need to accompany me today,” said Carlos as Cecil hopped into the passenger seat of his late model hybrid sports coupe. “Although your presence is appreciated,” he was quick to add.

“Our laws can appear a little … arcane to outsiders.”

“Night Vale? Arcane?” laughed Carlos.

Cecil smiled fondly at his flawless companion as they roared out of the WTNV parking lot. “You’re determined to change your registration?” he asked hopefully.

Carlos puffed out his chest. “I feel it is my scientific duty to vote in the upcoming Night Vale mayoral race.”

“Due to Mayor Winchell's recent spate of proclamations, the voter registration procedures have changed dramatically in recent weeks,” Cecil explained.

Carlos flashed that little smile that made Cecil’s stomach launch into that funny loop-the-loop thing it seemed to do when he was either in close proximity to Carlos, daydreaming about Carlos, writing iambic pentameter dedicated to Carlos’s perfect hair, or tracing his fingers over the slightly airbrushed features of the 8x10 glossy photo of Carlos he now kept on his desk.

“Thank you by the way for giving me that head shot from your scientific portfolio,” Cecil told Carlos. “It’s very glamorous.”

In reply, Carlos only sighed. Cecil glanced over and noticed that Carlos's perfect features had grown wistful. “Are you all right?” he asked, his third eye fluttering open with concern. He perceived that Carlos’s aura was fizzling with dissatisfaction.

The scientist sighed softly, strong jawline flicking slightly in agitation. “The paper I submitted to The Scientific Journal of Science was rejected,” he confessed, a kind of moroseness creeping into his silken voice.

“How could they reject you?” Cecil stormed, the livid markings on his arms roiling with inchoate fury at anyone who did not esteem his beloved scientist to an appropriate degree. “Your headshot was flawless.”

“Well, some don’t agree with my theories regarding various phenomena I’ve encountered here. I had intended to submit an abstract regarding my recent research to the International Scientific Conference in Svitz next month. But now….” He shook his head, dark curls blowing fetchingly in the wind.

“Svitz?” asked Cecil, feeling a shiver run down his spine and then back up again until it crested on the top of his head. “Um. Will you be rolling down the hill?”

“That is the national pastime, isn't it? It is a country of rolling hills!”

Cecil's mood darkened, wondering in whose company Carlos was planning on rolling down the Svitz hills. “I will eviscerate them in their sleep,” he muttered.

“What was that?”

“Nothing! Oh, look up there!” he declared, pointing towards the sky. “Was there supposed to be a parade today? I thought the Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance wasn't until next Tuesday.”

The blue helicopter buzzed overhead, and then suddenly dropped down, plunging like a rotten fruit falling from a tree. Carlos brought his car skidding to a halt as the copter set down directly in front of them, smack in the middle of the roadway, blades whirring ominously in the steaming air.

Carlos leaned over towards Cecil, who nearly jumped out of his skin at such sudden scientific proximity, and popped open the glove compartment. He dug around inside. “Random papers check,” he told Cecil, who was looking baffled.

“What?”

“Random papers check. They stop me all the time,” said Carlos. The rotating blades slowed and stopped.

“Where you headed in such a hurry, boy?” asked the big, bull-necked secret policeman who had just been birthed from the helicopter's womb-like side door.

“We were just out for a drive,” said Carlos.

The secret policeman pressed his ample belly to Carlos’s car. “I’m gonna need to see your license and registration, as well as your supplication to the mighty eagle god, Garuda.”

While Cecil watched, slightly puzzled by this all (the sheriff’s secret police rarely pulled over citizens unless they were out on a child-snatching errand or collecting donations for the secret policeman’s not-so-benevolent-in-fact-kind-of-malignant fund), Carlos handed over the documents. “It should all be in order, officer,” Carlos told the portly cop.

The secret policeman flourished the paperwork, never taking his eye off Carlos. “That’s one mighty fine lab coat you’re wearin’ there, boy. Mighty fine.”

“Thank you. It’s one hundred percent vicuña.”

“You ain't from around these parts.” It sounded like an accusation. Which is exactly what it was.

“I just came from my laboratory.”

“No. I mean, you weren’t born here, were you?”

Carlos pretended to look around. “In the middle of the highway? No.”

The officer bristled. “I ain’t got time for your kind,” the officer sneered, jamming the papers back in Carlos's face.

“What kind is that?” asked Cecil.

The cop leaned over, trying to appear menacing. “You scientists. Coming here from outside. Bringing your methodologies, and your inductive reasoning. You think you’re so high and mighty, strutting around with your empiricism.”

“Am I free to go?” asked Carlos, who was already starting the engine.

“You just watch yourself,” sniffed the secret policeman. He waddled back to the helicopter, which jerked aloft and disappeared into the sky.

“What a fascist asshole!” sputtered Cecil as they resumed their drive to City Hall. “The Sheriff's secret police usually don't interfere with the citizenry unless we're actively crafting wax fruit. Which of course, is strictly forbidden.”

“I’m used to this,” said Carlos, cramming his paperwork back in the glove compartment. “Unfortunately, it's just one of those things a scientist has to put up with.”

Cecil stared at him, mostly because he liked staring at Carlos (and it was not creepy at all) but also partly because he was curious. “Do you come from a family of scientists?”

“No, actually. My parents were originally from Hispaniola. My family owned a humble business, designing, manufacturing and mass-marketing whirligigs to big box retailers.”

“Whirligigs?”

Carlos grew wistful. “Yes, it is the national pastime in Hispaniola.” He peered over his fashionable aviator shades at Cecil. “Along with composing sad banjo music.”

“Sad banjo music?” asked Cecil, who was feeling very much like an echo just lately. “Sad banjo music.”

“Of course. I know many tragic banjo ballads. The songs of my people.” And here Carlos wiped a tear.

Concerned, Cecil offered Carlos a handkerchief.

“But they were forced to flee when their whirligigs became politically unpopular,” relate Carlos, dabbing his eyes. “Alas, it was a common story in the old country.”

“I’m sorry. Um. Maybe some time you could play me a, you know, like, sad banjo number?” said Cecil, who was partly sympathetic but also eternally crafting ways of hanging out more with Carlos.

Carlos’s dark eyes brightened. “Oh! I would be most pleased to show you my banjo!”

Cecil’s heart went thumpity-thump.



They arrived at City Hall soon afterwards, finding the only additional impediment to their progress the annual migration of the Portuguese Men o' War across the scrublands. As they stopped to watch the pink- and muave-tentacled cnidarians undulate their way over the two lane blacktop, Cecil tentatively leaned over and rested his head on Carlos's shoulder, inhaling deeply of the intoxicating scent of agar substrata and sparking Bunsen burners. Carlos smiled and twined his hand with Cecil's, rubbing a dark thumb over the tendrils tattooed to the back of Cecil's wrist. It was almost a disappointment (to Cecil at least) when the last bluebottle wafted into the distance.

Carlos found a convenient parking spot near City Hall, thanks to Cecil's Somewhat Professional Press hang tag, and, after bribing the ferryman with ancient Roman and Carthaginian coins and colorful shirt buttons, they were transported across the eel-filled moat and into the hallowed corridors of Night Vale City Hall. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote howled, a hollow, lonely sound.

Grabbing torches from the sconces that dotted the drafty stone walls in the entryway, Cecil and Carlos headed towards the Registrar's office, which was located down a dim and moss-studded staircase.

“State your name,” the clerk demanded, straightening his powdered wig, and licking the tip of his quill pen.

“This is Carlos the scientist!” Cecil interrupted. “Don't you recognize Night Vale's most beloved outsider?” Carlos placed a hand on his friend's arm, shushing him.

“Primary residence?” intoned the clerk.

“I live in the attic above my scientific laboratory, right next to Big Rico's pizza.”

“How long at this address?”

Carlos glanced at Cecil, who swooned. “One year.”

“Occupation?”

“Scientist!” chorused both Cecil and Carlos. Cecil blushed, pale face tinting pink at his cheeks.

“Marital status?”

“Single,” said Carlos. Cecil glanced at him. Had he detected a note of regret?

The clerk looked between them, staring for an uncomfortably long time at Cecil, who flushed again. “Single?” he prodded.

“Single,” sighed Carlos.

The clerk scratched on his parchment. “Why were you born?” he droned.

Carlos blinked, long eyelashes fluttering in surprise, which nearly caused Cecil an embolism. “Um, why? Did you want a recap of the biological principles involved?”

The clerk emitted a small, frustrated snort. “Why were you born? Come on now, we need to know your epistemological affiliation. Why was your soul launched into the noxious void that comprises existence? Was it all pre-planned? Are you a mindless slave to fate?”

“Ah,” said Carlos. “I believe it was happenstance.”

“Happenstance?” asked the clerk, who was now baffled as to which check box to tick.

“Why, yes,” said Carlos, who began to warm to the topic. “My existence is due to a fortuitous co-mingling of haploid DNA strands.”

“Very fortuitous,” sighed Cecil.

“A completely non-reproducible moment, due to quantum uncertainty.”

“I'll put you down as an Empiricist,” concluded the clerk, his pen scratching parchment as he scratched a mark in the ticky-box. “Height? In stocking feet.”

Carlos cast a puzzled glance at Cecil, but decided not to further antagonize the clerk by asking pesky questions. “Um, five feet, eleven and a half, with no shoes.”

The clerk nodded. “Now, for the declaration. Do you solemnly declare that you actually and indubitably do exist, and are not simply a figment of all our fevered imaginations?”

“I do,” said Carlos, and Cecil breathed a sigh of relief.

The clerk opened a squeaking desk drawer and extracted an ancient box. He opened it, revealing a stamp pad and a stamp with a really big check mark on it. He stamped the documents several times, up and down and all around. And then he had Carlos hold out his hand for a stamp, and Cecil too, just for good measure. Cecil held up his hand to the dim light that filtered in from god knows where, vowing right then and there to preserve this moment with another tattoo.

The clerk shuffled the papers with palsied hands. “These will need to go to Mayor Winchell for final approval.”

“All right,” said Carlos, who stood up along with Cecil. “When will I receive my voter ID card?”

“On the next light of the midsummer moon,” said the clerk, “the card will appear mysteriously in the midst of the fairy circle in your back yard. Unless you wanna pay six bucks for Priority Mail?”



Cecil trod carefully through Carlos's laboratory. He had been there before, on their fifth date, and also on their eighth and ninth. It was all bright and shiny and modern and so full of science-y goodness, with racks of gleaming test tubes and sparkling beakers and a Jacob's ladder fizzling in the background.

But there was one place in particular he had not been to yet....

“This way,” said Carlos, indicating a side door that opened to a narrow staircase.

Cecil swallowed hard, and followed him.

“Cecil?”

“Yes?” gasped Cecil.

Carlos paused on the stairway, looking down. “Why do you suppose there's a height requirement for voting?”

“A height requirement?”

“Well, the clerk asked me how tall I was, and there was also a sign on his desk marked with an arrow that said, 'You must be this tall to vote.'

“Oh. I didn't notice. As I said, the Mayor has just offered several edicts and none of the press have been able to question her about it. Since, you know, the whole whisking away thing that tends to happen at the end of her press conferences.”

“Well, if you hear anything let me know. Ah, here we are,” he added, as he threw open the door at the top of the stairs and entered the secret, sacred place.

Carlos's bedroom.

Cecil looked around, desperately trying not to look like he was looking around. In contrast to the stark, stainless steel lines of the laboratory, the room was a little cramped and untidy. Carlos hadn't even bothered to make his bed, as the sheets were rumpled. Cecil shivered, his mind straying to various activities that could cause the sheets to get all tangled up like that.

“Go ahead and have a seat,” muttered Carlos, his voice muffled as he had stuck his head into a cluttered closet, leaning over, giving Cecil a very nice view of his assets. Cecil glanced around, realizing, as there were no other chairs visible, that Carlos intended for him to sit on his bed. Holding his breath, he sat down. It was terribly soft. And springy.

Brushing aside his spare lab coat and several whirligigs that also shared closet space, Carlos emerged holding a stringed musical instrument. “Here it is. Now, what would you like to hear?” he asked, pulling on the strap. And then Cecil realized that when Carlos had invited him up to see his banjo, he had really meant he wanted to show Cecil his banjo.

Cecil sagged slightly. “Um. Whatever you want to play, I guess.”

“We Hispaniolistas specialize in epic balladry!” Carlos told him proudly as he tuned the instrument. His fingers were long and dextrous.

“Well, then, an epic ballad.” Cecil stretched himself out on the bed, feeling his heart begin to beat in a syncopated rhythm. He plucked at the coverlet and was stunned to find a single dark strand of hair from Carlos's perfect head snared there. He absent-mindedly twined it around and around his finger. It felt nice, like he had a sweet little memento of Carlos.

“This is the tragic story of a young maiden who misplaced the twist tie from her fresh loaf of bread,” said Carlos, tuning up his banjo. He steeled himself, and began to play. At first, it was slow and mournful, truly the saddest banjo music Cecil had ever experienced (not that he'd experienced a whole lot of banjo music). But then inexorably, Carlos's fingers seemed to pick up a life of their own, and the music became more and more lively. Cecil began to bounce his head in time to the cheerful beat.

“Oh, I'm sorry,” said Carlos, suddenly stopping, and staring at his betraying fingers. “That seems to happen lately. I'm not certain what's going on. Let's try again.”

To Cecil's delight, Carlos began to play again, and then he sang....

Mucho gusto.
¿Dónde hay un buen restaurante?
La cuchara esta picante
No comprendo.
Me he perdido....


“That's beautiful, Carlos. Is this about how she lost the twist tie?

“Oh, no! This verse is about her maternal grandmother, and how she made money in a home marketing campaign. The song is a little bit long.”

“That's all right!” Cecil assured him brightly. As Carlos resumed singing, Cecil listened contentedly for a while to Carlos's oaky voice, imagining what would happen when the song at last ended, and Cecil tugged his scientist down on the bed next to him, and various other things that would inevitably ensue.

The song went on. And on. And on. And then on some more. Cecil snuck a glance at his watch, sadly remembering that timepieces didn’t work in Night Vale. At any rate, Carlos had been singing a good long time. Cecil wondered if it would be polite to interrupt, or at least suggest they take a break and order pizza, or maybe indulge in some heavy petting. He lowered his head into his arms, as time stretched out.

He awoke with a start, a line of drool dripping down the side of his mouth, when Carlos shook him.

“I think it's time for your radio program,” said Carlos helpfully.

“Waarrrrgh?” said Cecil, hair flopping into his eyes.

“Your intern called.”

“Wait. The intern? The one who was sucked into the infinite void last week?”

“The other one. I think. He said there was some kind of big protest going on. A huge protest!” Cecil didn’t think he had ever seen Carlos look quite so excited. Cecil’s third eye opened a sleepy crack, and he could tell Carlos’s aura was pinging. Cecil thought his scientist looked very much like someone needed to kiss him, and quickly. He slipped off the bed and sidled up to Carlos.

Carlos broke into a smile, teeth in perfect alignment. Cecil drew nearer, fluttering his eyes closed, leaning slightly closer, into Carlos's space.

“I’m going down there to see,” Carlos told him. “Would you like a ride to the station?”

“I … suppose so,” said Cecil. He stepped back as Carlos bustled past him, berating himself for chickening out on the attempt at lip-lock.




“The mayor has issued several directives while you were out,” the other intern (the one who hadn't been sucked into the void) told Cecil when he arrived back at the studio. “She just held a press conference. The mayor talked to journalists, and then all were whisked away in a puff of mauve smoke.”

“Mauve smoke? Is the glow cloud involved in this too?”

“We called the glow cloud's office. The mighty glow cloud has no comment, although it did rain down a torrent of stoats.”

“What did the mayor say before she was whisked away?”

The other intern handed Cecil a rather thick stack of papers, and they started striding purposefully towards the broadcast booth. Because, really, there was no other way to stride towards the broadcast booth. “Do we have any word from the planning committee regarding the upcoming Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance?” he asked the other intern.

“Here you go.” The other intern (the one that hadn't been sucked into the void) offered Cecil yet more papers. “There will be the usual parade, followed by an address by the mayor regarding the upcoming election. Also, there have been more reports from around town regarding the Tiny Purple Fairy.”

“Yes. Any information about it?

“It's reported to be of a small stature. And sort of a periwinkle.”

“Good.” There had been incidents of the Tiny Purple Fairy appearing before various residents, but little was known about its exact purposes or whether it was more of a plum or violet. Cecil was still leafing through his reports when he sat down. The other intern whisked away to fetch him coffee. Because, frankly, he sure needed it.

Cecil donned his headphones. The red light went on. “Sometimes life is like a bowl of cherries that have been sitting out in the sun, gone rotten and desiccated, with a lot of those strange little insects that you think are gnats but don't really know what to call them hovering around with nebulous intent. Welcome to Night Vale.

“This just in from Mayor Pamela Winchell, who evidently issued a number of new proclamations before vanishing in a puff of mauve smoke that may or may not be attributable to the glow cloud: lying or falsification on your voter registration forms is now punishable by swift and permanent banishment from the environs of Night Vale. This is just one of the recent directives issued with the intent to tighten voter registration. When asked why this was necessary, the mayor began to yodel enthusiastically.”

“And now a word from our sponsor....” Cecil went to a pre-recorded tape. He had put a hand down on his desk and had it come up covered in a sticky, green-ish goo, which had then gotten all over his favorite sweater vest. Obviously, management had been scurrying around in his booth after hours again. Cursing to himself, he got up to visit the men's room to try and wash out the stain before it set, only to run into an intern.

“Cecil!” The intern's face was flushed.

Cecil paused. This wasn't the intern who had been sucked into the faceless void. And it wasn't the other intern either. “What happened to the other intern?”

“He happened to catch a glimpse Management before they slithered back into their office,” the other other intern whispered. They both looked around nervously. “He's now wracked with despair, and is out back weaving flower crowns for the rest of the staff.”

“Flower crowns?”

“They're the latest thing.”

“But he was supposed to bring my coffee!” Cecil protested peevishly.

“We've received news that the powers that going to be are cracking down on the giant protest in front of City Hall!”

Cecil's mind reeled. “What? No!”



Pushing his flower crown back out of his eyes, Cecil slammed on the brakes in front of City Hall. The show today had turned into a nightmare. Time had stretched out, as it tended to do in Night Vale, until the end of his broadcast, when he could finally rush out to warn Carlos about the upcoming crackdown on the protestors. And he had never gotten to the men's room to wash the goo off his sweater vest, so on top of everything else, he had had to stop of at his dry cleaners, which fortunately was running a special on removing stains attributable to Yog-Sothoth and any related mythos.

He saw to his chagrin that Carlos was not only present, but actually holding a picket sign. Oddly enough, though, Cecil could divine no other evidence of a protest of any kind.

He spotted something moving on the sidewalk next to Carlos, and thought for a moment that his beloved scientist had perhaps stepped on an anthill, as there were dozens of tiny figures milling to and fro. And then it hit him.

Cecil's heart stopped. It was the tiny people from below the pin retrieval area of lane five of the bowling alley

“Cecil!” said Carlos, waving cheerily. “You've come to the protest! We have a really great turnout.” Carlos extended a hand, indicating the roiling mass of inch-high protestors.

“Carlos,” hissed Cecil, pulling him aside. “Do I need to remind you that these tiny people almost killed you?” His heart trembled at the terrible memory.

“Yes, but Cecil, I think they are just misunderstood!”

Cecil was so agitated he nearly lost his flower crown. “They shot you! They killed the Apache Tracker! Even though he was a racist and that stupid headdress had to go, they murdered him!”

“Yes, but think about it from their perspective! How little they’ve seen, living their tiny lives under the pin retrieval area in lane five of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade. What do they know of the human race, other than the fact that we are awfully fond of hurling giant-sized (to their perspective) heavy balls down highly polished wooden floors, causing a set of high towers (as the bowling pins are greater in height than all but their highest spires) to topple over, resulting in an immense booming noise, greater perhaps than the noise that accompanied the creation of the known universe! How would they know of our art, our science, our twenty-seven flavors of gourmet mustard available at the Ralph’s condiment aisle?”

“Carlos-“

But his friend had warmed to the topic. “How would they know we are not simply warriors, but also friends, comrades, lovers?”

That stopped Cecil on the dot, his mouth hanging open, as his neural synapses seemed to all fire simultaneously when Carlos enunciated the word, “lover.” “Uhhhh,” he answered. With some effort, he attempted to reboot his central nervous system. “So, you’ve been communicating with them?”

“I have been attempting to learn their language! It’s difficult, as it sounds to our ears like a series of squeaks. However, if you slow it down you can begin to make sense of it. Let me show you.” Carlos brought out a tape recorder. He clicked on play. What emitted was a terrible sound, like a beluga whale moaning in great annoyance.

Cecil brought his hands to his ears. “That sounds like an annoyed beluga whale!”

“Yes! So you see, by listening to this tape, I have divined that they were not intending to kill me as a show of force.”

“Really?”

“No! Not at all. They meant to kill me for food!”

“They were going to kill you and … and eat you?”

“Yes, they said my haunches are most impressive! Especially from a low angle.”

Cecil leaned over and took a look. He shrugged. The tiny people had a point there. “Your haunches are resplendent, Carlos. I suppose upon that we can agree.”

Carlos grinned, and Cecil’s heart fluttered with the wonderfulness of wonder. Though he was still quite pissed at the tiny people, whatever their motivations.

A blue helicopter streaked out of the sky, dropping to the ground like a lump of rotting meat, blowing protest signs and Carlos's perfect hair.

Cecil tugged on Carlos's arm. “Carlos, we need to get out of here! The government is planning to crack down on the giant protest … of the tiny people.”

“Then I will stand fast with my comrades!” Carlos vowed. “This is just like back home in Hispaniola! But we will not be moved.”

The blue helicopter had come in for a landing, and the same bull-necked Sheriff's secret policeman emerged as before. “What do you think you're doin', boy?” he sneered.

“We are protesting!” answered Carlos, perhaps unnecessarily.

“What exactly are you protesting,” Cecil asked, as he'd completely forgotten.

“Well,” Carlos admitted, “I'm not exactly certain, but almost certainly very, very important!”

“You are in violation of a whole passel of city ordinances right now, I'll have you know,” said the cop.

“He's engaging in his lawful right to protest,” Cecil interjected. Not that he thought that jumping into the middle of this like an addled tree frog was a great idea, but he was more than a little annoyed that the cop would challenge Carlos.

“Not in my municipality!” threatened the officer.

“Yeah?” said Cecil, who was feeling rather uncharacteristically sassy. “So, what are you gonna do about it?”

“I'm gonna bring out the hose!”

“We will not be moved!” Carlos vowed as the officer stamped back towards the helicopter.

“You sure we shouldn't, you know...?” asked Cecil.

“He can't frighten us away. Stand tall....” He looked at his fellow protesters, who were clustered around his ankles. “Um, well, you know what I mean.”

The Sheriff's secret policeman had returned, dragging back a length of thin green hose and then, with a look of determination on his face, yelled, “Turn it on!”

The hose emitted a thin stream of water, which successfully soaked Carlos's Converse sneakers.

“OK,” said Cecil, after a moment. “I see what you're trying to do here, but that's a garden hose.”

“The fire department is all on parade for the Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance,” the secret policeman pouted.

Cecil rolled his eyes. “Will you just go away?”

“You don't need to be abusive!” snorted the cop. He turned and, as he coiled up the green garden hose, looked back to sneer, “I'll be back!” And then he mounted the blue helicopter, and was swiftly gone, like a lump of coal, if a lump of coal were ever to fly off into the sky.

“Cecil, you were brilliant!” gushed Carlos. “We couldn't have done it without you.”

“Aw,” said Cecil, who may have blushed.

“What do you say we go back to the lab? We can conduct experiments?”

Cecil felt his heart soar, exactly not like a stationary lump of coal.



¿Dónde está mi coche?
¡Cuánto pelo tienes!
¡Cuántas arañas!
¿Cuántos dólares tiene el muchacho?
Mi amiga es muy inteligente.
¿Vas al supermercado?— le preguntó.
No sé.


Cecil sat on Carlos's bed, futzing with a whirligig in the shape of several dwarfs taking pickaxes to a portabella mushroom. Carlos had been utterly giddy with the success of his protest movement, and so when they returned to the lab, had offered to sing Cecil a sad Hispaniolista ballad about an unfortunate young woman who let her discount coupons all expire.

That had been … well, many, many stanzas ago.

“Carlos, what do you suppose the tiny people are protesting about.” He was interrupting, sure, but he supposed it was probably slightly less impolite than dozing off again during the part where the sad heroine's maternal grandfather filed his real estate taxes.

“I don't know.” Carlos sat down his banjo, looking wistful. “I need to do more work in translating their language. It's a little eccentric. For example, I have found at least sixty-three expressions that mean, 'Ouch! You're standing on my foot.'”

“That's interesting,” said Cecil. He felt his cell phone buzzing in his pocket and pulled it out, irritated at the interruption. He sighed as he read the text from the other other intern. “I need to get back to the station. The mayor has just appeared on television to announce a new pruning of the voter rosters.”

“Should we tune in?” Carlos asked. “There's a television down in my laboratory.”

“No, I mean she appeared on a television. It was in the living room of Hortense Baumgardtener, and boy was she peeved, because they were just sitting down to dinner.”

“I thought your mayor was stepping down?”

“She did. And then she reached the bottom of the stairs.”

Cecil pursed his lips. “That's weird.”

“Yeah,” Cecil agreed. “Mayor Winchell rarely walks anywhere, she usually just appears.”

Carlos appeared to think. That's what scientists did, Cecil had found. His brow furrowed in an attractive manner. “So if she's purging the voter roster, that means some citizens will be disenfranchised.”

“It's a horrifying development. Perhaps even worse than the onerous decision to change the Arby's sign from red to lime green. The people of Night Vale cherish their precious right to vote their conscience, and then be taken away to the abandoned mine shaft at the edge of town when they vote incorrectly!”

“I've heard they have HBO and free WiFi,” said Carlos, his eyes sparkling. “Wait, Cecil, Eureka!”

Cecil raised his arm and sniffed underneath. “I took a shower this morning.”

“No, I just thought of something. This may be a breakthrough in understanding the language of the tiny people.” He pulled out his tape recorder and played it for a few seconds. Suddenly, the air was pierced by something that sounded like the moaning of tortured souls condemned to an eternity without Pinkberry.

“Turn that off, Carlos!” Cecil pleaded.

Carlos switched off the tape. “Cecil! I think I know what they're protesting about.”

“Their eardrums are bleeding?” Cecil knocked at the side of his own head.

“No! They want their HBO! Or the equivalent premium channels. I'll be that in their tiny universe below lane five, they only have basic cable.”

“Well, that's a theory, Carlos. I think-”

But whatever Cecil thought was lost to the ages, because at that exact moment, the glass in Carlos's window shattered as a bevy of the Sheriff's secret police suddenly rappelled in to Carlos's apartment.

“We got you now,” said the very annoying bull-necked Sheriff's secret policeman, whose identity wasn't terribly well hidden by his balaclava. He was holding Carlos by the scruff of his lab coat, knocking his flower crown all askew.

“What's the meaning of this?” sputtered Cecil.

“We caught your boy lying on his voter application.”

“That's not possible!” Carlos protested. “I truthfully answered every question.”

“You checked the ticky-box for Empiricism, boy. And I have it on good authority that you're involved in a protest movement, which would categorize your epistemological view as an Idealism. And that there is punishable by by being spirited away to an undisclosed location.”

“Yes. The abandoned mine shaft,” sighed Cecil.

The black-clad Sheriff's secret policemen all looked at each other in apparent confusion. “How the Sam Hill do you know that? That location is undisclosed.”

“You have Wi-Fi. People have been updating their Facebook pages.”

“God damn those social networkers!” He turned to the other cops. “Folks, let's get this evidentiary poseur out of here.”

“I'll get you out, Carlos, don't worry!” Cecil promised as they prepared to drag his beloved scientist away to parts unknown, even thought it was the abandoned mine shaft.

“It's all right, now I can catch up on Girls,” Carlos assured him as the secret policemen whisked him out the window.

And Cecil was left to stand amidst the broken glass, alone like that last tuft of dandelion that doesn't blow away when you puff air at it.



Cecil carried his miserable burden of regret back to the studio. The other other intern was there (not the one who had been sucked into the faceless void, but not the other one, either). Amidst news of a fire sale at Louie's music shop (all oil fires were 20% off, sacred fires 30% off, and fires in the loins were half off) and public service announcements to remember not to look eternal scouts in the eye (really, how many times did they have to tell people about this), Cecil felt grave misgivings.

“I don't know what to do about Carlos,” he confessed to the other intern (not the one … well, you know) as he washed his hands in the mens room. He petted Khoshekh the cat, who was wearing an adorable, tiny flower crown, as were all of his kittens.

The other intern didn't reply, as he was sitting on the sink, busily making more flower crowns, his eyes staring vacantly into the eternal nothingness.

“I mean,” Cecil continued, “he's planning on attending a scientific conference in Svitz, and he might be rolling down the hills with someone else!” He bit his bottom lip with consternation, his odd, somewhat pointed teeth drawing tiny specks of blood.

The intern finished what he was doing and grabbed Cecil's hand, which still had the strand of hair he'd plucked from Carlos's bed wound around it, as Cecil couldn't bring himself to remove it. Before Cecil could protest, the intern deftly began to weave some tiny purple bittersweet nightshade and black swallowwort flowers into the hair and around his finger.

“Also, where are you getting all those flowers?” he asked the other intern, admiring his hand, as it was really nice work, even if it was annoying. “I mean, this stuff is indigenous to the mid-Atlantic.”

But the other intern did not answer, and instead began weaving a very fashionable looking flower belt and suspenders.

The other other intern intercepted Cecil on the way back to the broadcast booth. “You have a visitor,” she told him mysteriously. Cecil was suddenly alert with anticipation, but his hopes were dashed when he returned to his booth to spy that the visitor sitting there was not wearing that all-too-familiar lab coat.

The visitor turned his ancient, be-wigged head, and Cecil realized it was none other than the officious clerk from when Carlos had filled out his voter registry application.

“You!” sputtered Cecil, who was quite suddenly not his usually glib self in the face of this reminder of his vanished scientist.

The clerk looked down at himself, clutching both hands over his silver-tipped cane. “It could be me. Unless of course it's somebody else,” he answered, his voice soft and dry as vellum.

“You got Carlos into a lot of trouble!”

“I've come to return this application to you,” the clerk told him, proffering the well-stamped piece of paper. It had been folded and folded and re-folded, like some freakish piece of origami. “I believe the wrong ticky-box was checked.”

Cecil grabbed the papers away from the clerk. “This is too little too late! Carlos has already been whisked away to the undisclosed location.”

“The abandoned mine shaft?” asked the clerk, painfully rising to his feet. “I've heard they have free Wi-Fi.”

“Yes, but Carlos says it's only available in the lobby.”

“The boy has strength. He will see it through.”

“Why are you returning this to me?”

“After you boys left my office the other night, the mayor herself crawled in through the air conditioning vent and snatched all of my voter applications. All of them! Even after I’d applied all my stamps.”

“Did you confront her about it?”

The old clerk sighed and readjusted his powdered wig. “She just giggled, and then vanished in a puff of mauve smoke.”

“She has a habit of doing that.”

“I managed to keep this one application, as I had folded it up to keep my desk level. I believe it is a sign from the angels. Or maybe something like the angels. The mayor is planning something fiendish for the next mayoral election. You need to go investigate!”

“Thank you,” said Cecil. He squinted at the much-folded application. “Uh, is this your gum?” he asked, pointing to the edge.

And with that, the clerk rose. Tottering on his cane, he opened the door and walked right into the closet that was located at one end of Cecil's broadcast studio, shutting the door behind him. “Hey, who turned out the lights?” Cecil heard his muffled voice call out.

Cecil was still brooding about Carlos's sketchy internet access when at last he left the studio, stepping into the perpetually dark parking lot. Also, he wondered if he had time to make his dry cleaners before they closed. He had just reached his car when he felt the prickling at his ankles. He looked down, concerned that perhaps his shoelaces had become untied.

He gasped in horror.

And then it all went black. Tinged by sort of light heliotrope.
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