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Title: Polling Place (Part 2 of 2)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Author: tikific
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos, Mayor Pamela Winchell, Tamika Flynn, various and sundry Sheriff's Secret Police, the people of the city beneath lane five of pin retrieval area, and a couple of completely superfluous OCs.
Warnings: Cursing. This one lurches abruptly from mildly silly to gleeful incoherence. Sorry. Not sorry.
Word Count: 7000 (this chapter); 13000 total
Summary: Carlos registers to vote in Night Vale as the town prepares for the Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance parade.
Notes: At the end.





Chapter 2


Cecil awoke to the unmistakable sound of a seven-ten split.

He moaned and tried to move, only to find himself tied down by innumerable thin threads. He grunted and, after redoubling his efforts, managed to break enough of the slender bindings to sit up.

There was a shrill hub-bub around him. Moaning both from the many tiny stabbing pains in his ankles and sheer frustration, Cecil blinked and looked around. He was in the middle of a town. A vast but tiny town. From where he sat he could see broad avenues no wider than his thigh, and tall spires that barely topped his shoulders.

“You hit me with tranquilizer darts, kidnapped me, and dragged me back to the bowling alley?” Cecil asked the tiny people from the underground city, who now all crowded around him. “If I might editorialize, that's kind of rude.”

The people from the underground city, flourishing miniscule weapons, chattered in their high-pitched voices. Several of them still carried their teeny-tiny picket signs from the giant if nebulous protest.

Cecil crossed his arms. “I really don't understand why you are always upset. Here you have this nice area under the pin retrieval area in lane five – a prime bit of real estate, I might emphasize – and all you can think to do is attack perfectly innocent scientists and their loved ones, although I'll admit the Apache Tracker was kind of a jerk.”

The people from the underground city continued their mutterings, and it really seemed to Cecil that they agreed about the Apache Tracker, who, though he died heroically, was kind of a racist after all. Frustratingly, the tiny people under the bowling alley, due to their size, spoke in reedy high-pitched voices that were nearly out of the range of his hearing.

Cecil had a sudden inspiration. Shifting to break a few more of the threads that bound him, he reached for his voice recorder, which, as a reporter, he always kept at his side. “Hello, people under lane five,” he said, pushing the button. He hit fast forward and played it back for the people from the underground city, his voice now chirping and high-pitched.

Suddenly, there was a massive commotion among the people from the underground city. Cecil watched in fascination as several of them grabbed their picket signs and began scrawling a sort of writing on them.

A line of them stepped forward, hoisting their signs high (for them – for Cecil it only came up a handspan). To his surprise, each sign was now painted with a single letter of the alphabet.

HLLO ENRMS PRSN

“Cooool,” said Cecil, who couldn't help patting himself on the back. “I'm Cecil,” he spoke into the recorder. “The voice of Night Vale.” It was a little self-important, but he thought it best not to mince words under the circumstances.

He played it on fast forward, and there was another commotion around the signs.

WE LSTN 2 WZZZ

Cecil shrugged. Random numbers people, he thought. Big or the size of a corn flake, they're all alike. “Why are you angry?” he spoke into the device. But then, thinking it over, he amended it to, “Why are you … concerned?”

There was a flurry of scribbling on signs, and then much jostling to get into the line. Obviously, this was an issue of some concern for the small citizens.

DSIENFRANCHEESIMNT the signs read.

“Cheesy Mints?” Cecil muttered to himself. “That does sound appetizing. I hear they have them on sale this week at Ralphs.” And then the letters rearranged themselves slightly. “Oh! Wait, disenfranchisement? You want to vote?” Realization dawned on Cecil. “I just remembered, I should have picked up my dry cleaning. They close at six.” He checked his watch, forgetting, as he was wont to do, that timepieces did not work in Night Vale or its environs.

Unfortunately, what to Cecil was simply an unnecessary gesture was to the height-challenged people from the underground city under the bowling alley a declaration of war. Instantly, the protest signs and markers were dropped, and weapons locked and loaded and aimed directly at Cecil's head.

“Wait, what did I say?” asked Cecil as the first of the volleys were unleashed. “Wait! Stop!” He struggled to flee, remembering too late that his legs were still bound by a network of teeny-tiny ropes.

Help!” he wailed.

And suddenly, there was a waft of periwinkle.

Cecil looked around. He was no longer under the bowling alley, but now seemed to be somewhere in the scrublands.

“Hey dere,” came a deep voice, weathered by beer and nicotine. Cecil turned to face his rescuer: a big, balding man with a prominent beer gut who had somehow squeezed himself into a lavender tutu.

“Who are you?” asked Cecil.

“Dey call me da Tiny Purple Fairy,” the guy answered, scratching his balls.

“What?”

Da Tiny Purple Fairy,” he repeated with a sigh, as if Cecil were slightly stupid.

Cecil scratched his chin. “You're hardly tiny.”

“What? You tink dis outfit makes me look fat?” asked the man, as if deeply offended.

“No, no, sorry!” said Cecil, waving his hands. He was eager not to offend his new acquaintance as he realized the man could be useful, for instance, in picking up his dry cleaning. He was awfully worried about that gooey stain of Management ooze on his favorite sweater vest. “Uh, I was wondering if you could help me?”

“Hey, buddy, didn't I just help you?”

“Yes, you did. But one more thing? My friend, Carlos, has been whisked away to an undisclosed location with really terrible internet access.”

“Whisked away, huh? Lotta dat goin' around. Was he whisked to a bowlin' alley?”

“Uh, no, it's actually more of an abandoned mine shaft.”

“Whisked from a bowlin' alley?”

“No.”

“Mebbe whisked t'rough a bowlin' alley?”

“Uh, no.”

“Well, den sorry, buddy.”

“Sorry?”

“I only work in bowlin'-related sitchiations. Kinda my job, yanno?” He took out a stubby cigar and lit it.

“But...” Cecil's mind reeled. “Carlos was trying to help the little people! The people from under the bowling alley.”

The Tiny Purple Fairy rolled his eyes. “Dat relationship seems tenuous, dontcha t'ink?”

“They tiny people are the victims of disenfranchisement.”

“Did you say, Cheesy Mints?” asked the Tiny Purple Fairy, licking his lips hungrily as his cigar oozed an acrid smoke.

“Uh. No. Disenfranchisement. I think the mayor is plotting to keep them from voting.”

“Ain't my bidness, mac.”

“She may or may not be under the influence of the Glow Cloud.”

Cecil thought the Tiny Purple Fairy was going to spit out his cigar. “Wait. Da Glow Cloud? Dat dickweed?”

“Yes! Well, maybe.”

The Tiny Purple Fairy's piggy eyes narrowed, darting left and right. “Well, I ain't supposed t'do dis. You unnerstand. But dat guy. Fucking Glow Cloud. Fucking guy.” And with that, he waved his cigar.

Cecil choked.

And suddenly, he was in an undisclosed location (which was actually the abandoned mine shaft outside of town, just off road 800, right before you get to the mile marker, but past those weird floating red blinking lights).

The fairy had plonked him down right in the middle of the lobby. It was nearly deserted. A very bored clerk was snoozing up at the front desk. And then Cecil spotted Carlos – sweet, perfect Carlos – sitting on one of the poorly-upholstered couches, hunched over his laptop. Cecil hastened over to greet him.

“Carlos!”

“Cecil!” said Carlos. “It's so good to see you. The reception in here is terrible! I never get more than two bars.”

“My poor, dear Carlos,” said Cecil, cupping his favorite scientist's face tenderly in his hand. He gasped. Carlos had a black eye. “Are they torturing you?”

Carlos blushed and put a hand through his perfect hair. “Um. No. Actually, I was leaning over to get a Diet Dr. Pepper from the mini bar, and hit my head. Can you believe it, five dollars for bottled water?”

“You are suffering so!” Cecil declared. He wanted to gather Carlos in his arms and then maybe see how quickly he could get Carlos's flannel shirt unbuttoned because he obviously needed medical attention and disrobing was a necessary part of that.

“Would you like a Cheesy Mint?” asked Carlos, offering a small pack to Cecil. Cecil enthusiastically took one, as he suspected, now that he was reunited with his beloved Carlos, that he would need his breath to be fresh within the immediate future.

“How did you find this undisclosed location, anyway?” asked Carlos. “The Sheriff's secret police has blocked all our social networking.”

“Those fiends,” said Cecil, his third eye popping open to glare at the miscreants. “The Tiny Purple Fairy brought me here.”

“The … what?”

“It's a long story. I was kidnapped by the tiny people.”

Cecil's dark eyes grew large. “The ones under the pin retrieval area of lane five?”

“Yes. I found out why they were protesting. And then they tried to kill me. I think they wanted to eat me!”

“Oh, it's all right, Cecil. I've been studying their culture while I've been here.” He turned his laptop screen so Cecil could see. The web site was titled, “The Nimerigar: teeny tiny badass motherfuckers.” “You see, from their point of view,” Carlos explained, “it was a mercy killing.”

“What?”

“Yes, it's part of their culture to murder the mentally unstable.”

Cecil started to answer but then glared. “So, they didn't want to eat me?” he asked at last.

“Oh, they would have eaten you. Eventually. Waste not, want not! Your tenderloin meat looks particularly delicious.”

Cecil stole a glance at his tenderloin, and blushed. He looked back at the web page Carlos was studying.

Carlos smiled at him, perfect teeth all set to attention. “So, why were the tiny people under the bowling alley protesting?”

“They want to earn the right to vote!”

“They want to vote?” asked Carlos, shutting his laptop and looking puzzled. “That's … weird.”

Cecil stopped short. “Why is that weird?”

“How would that even work, Cecil? I mean, they're too tiny to work the levers of a voting machine, and far too short to place their completed ballots up in the box. Not to mention that the mailed voter pamphlet would be capable of crushing an entire neighborhood. No, I'm afraid that it is all just a pipe dream.” He said this last with great certainty.

Cecil regarded his beloved scientist with more than a smidgen of skepticism. “You don’t think they should vote?”

“Besides, according to my sources, their form of government is incompatible with ours. Did you know, the Nimerigar are traditionally under the rule of a child king?”

“Carlos,” said Cecil, peering over his shoulder to the laptop screen, “you do realize that the source you’re using is Teddy Williams’s Facebook page.”

Carlos slammed the laptop shut. A bit peevishly, Cecil thought.

“Carlos, we obviously need to discuss this in greater depth. But right now, I'm worried about picking up my dry cleaning, so we need to move.”

Cecil and Carlos got up to leave, but were stopped short by an annoyingly familiar voice shouting from across the lobby.

“Where do you think you're going there, boy?”

“Why aren't you out flying your silly azure whirlybird or whatever it is?” Cecil snapped at the bull-necked Sheriff's secret policeman who had just waddled into the lobby of the undisclosed location, along with about a dozen of his men.

“It's a blue helicopter, boy! Don't disrespect mah vehicle!”

“You need to release this man,” said Cecil, waving his hand at Carlos. “He did nothing wrong.”

The cop leaned in, crowding Cecil's space. “He knowingly filed a falsified voter application. That there is unlawful and illicit behavior!”

“No. He did not. The application is no longer on file. I have it right here!” Cecil dramatically pulled the paper the clerk had given him from his pocket. He was faintly hoping that dramatic music would play, or there would at least be an accompaniment of “doop-doop” on some horns, but no such thing happened.

The cop leaned closer. “Is that chewing gum?” he asked, pointing to the edge of the paper.

“Cecil, how did you get that?” asked Carlos, his eyes wide. Cecil puffed out his chest.

“This is an illegal banishment,” said Cecil. “You no longer have any evidence!”

“It don't matter!” insisted the cop. “Boy, once you been whisked away, you been whisked away, permanent!”

“Cecil,” whispered Carlos. He had picked up his bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper.

“Yes?”

“Run!” Carlos dropped a Cheesy Mint into his soft drink and aimed it at the Sheriff's secret policeman, who was sprayed by the ensuing gusher of cheesy minty soda.

Carlos and Cecil raced out of the lobby and out into the network of abandoned mining tunnels. “Wow, how did you do that?” Cecil huffed.

“It's all due to the nucleation on the Cheesy Mints!” Carlos explained. And then he went into detail about how aspartame lowered the surface tension of the water, and even though it was all a bit tedious, Cecil fell in love with his scientist all over again.

“So, why do you think Mayor Winchell wants to prevent the tiny people from voting?” Carlos asked. It took Cecil a moment or two to come back to his senses.

“I'm not sure. But it's the Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance, and she's supposed to have an address at the end of the parade that will kick off this year's mayoral race. I say we go and confront her directly!”

“That sounds like a good plan!” said Carlos, who was always up for acting in a rash but heroic manner.

But there was one important piece of his plan that Cecil had not put together. “Uh, do you know which way is out?” asked Cecil when they turned a blind corner and came to a dead end.

“I could probably divine a way out,” Carlos told him, “given adequate research dollars, and a better equipped laboratory. You know the research facilities in this undisclosed location are woefully inadequate!”

“Carlos?”

“Yes?”

Cecil appeared to be summoning up his courage. “Do you still intend to go to this conference in Svitz?”

“The International Scientific Conference?”

Cecil nodded grimly.

“Why, yes, Cecil. Given that my paper is accepted. And that we are able to flee this undisclosed location without being vaporized by the Sheriff's secret police. And that after we escape, we do not suffer further punishment by the no doubt vengeful mayor.”

Cecil bit his lip. “And … you intend to go rolling down the hills?”

To Cecil's surprise, Carlos smiled fondly. “You're still worried about that?”

“I'm not worried!” Cecil insisted. “I'm not worried. I'm … concened.”

Suddenly, there were shouts and running footsteps from down the shaft.

“We need to get out of here!” said Cecil. “Tiny Purple Fairy, where are you?”

The Tiny Purple Fairy popped in, wearing a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers instead of a tutu, and clutching a TV Guide. “Godzilla Versus da Smog Monster is gonna be on in five minutes. Whaddya want?”

“We need to get out of here before we're caught by that Sheriff's secret policeman. He's an asshole!”

The Tiny Purple Fairy gave a short, frustrated huff. “Buddy, you know da rules. Can't you make dis request vaguely bowlin'-related?”

“This has nothing to do with bowling!” Carlos insisted.

“I'm da Tiny Purple Fairy,” the fairy pointed out, scratching an armpit. “I only deal in da bowlin' and da bowlin'-related.”

“You're not even particularly tiny,” insisted Carlos.

“Carlos!” Cecil, who knew about the Tiny Purple Fairy's sensitivity to these kinds of comments, cautioned his friend. But alas, it was too late.

“Eh. Go rescue yourselves. I'm missin' da kaiju,” snorted the Tiny Purple Fairy, who poufed out.

“He was unpleasant,” grumped Carlos, just as the secret policemen arrived.

“All right, boys,” bleated the very unpleasant Sheriff's secret policeman who had just jogged up, puffing and red-faced, along with several of his colleagues. “We're through messing around. Time to toss this scientist into the dog park!”

“Nooooo!” said Cecil, who impulsively leapt in front of Carlos.

“Whoa, stop right there,” said another secret policeman, who wasn't the really unpleasant one. He stepped forwards. Cecil cringed, squeezing his eyes shut. To his surprise, the cop grabbed Cecil's hand. “Look. Flower ring.”

“Oooo!” chorused the other secret policemen, clutching their hands over their kevlar-padded hearts.

Cecil peeked over at his own hand. It was true, he was still wearing the ring of delicate little flowers that the other intern had crafted him from tiny petals and a strand of Carlos's perfect hair.

“Isn't this a single strand of his hair that's carefully woven into the ring?” the cop asked.

Cecil nodded sheepishly, and Carlos arched an eyebrow at him.

“Well, they're obviously in looooove,” the not terribly unpleasant cop concluded.

“Awwww!” chorused the other secret policeman, much to Cecil's embarrassment, Carlos's bewilderment, and the bull-necked cop's supreme annoyance.

“Sorry, Benjamin,” said the pleasant cop, “but you know how garlands as a relationship signifier outweigh the law under our capricious-but-inviolate ethical system.”

“Shhhh!” said the bull-necked cop. “I’m a secret policeman! You can’t use my real name.”

“We need to get to the Day of Nebulously Brooding Intemperance parade!” Carlos told them, stepping forward and acting terribly officious. “We need to confront Mayor Winchell.”

“Sure, we'll get you a ride on one of the blue helicopters,” the not terribly unpleasant cop told them. The other secret policemen (well, not the unpleasant one, but the other ones) all nodded and beckoned for Cecil and Carlos to follow them.

“Where did you get that ring?” Carlos whispered as they followed the Sheriff's secret policeman to the helicopter landing pad.

“Long story,” muttered Cecil, who was still a little embarrassed.

Carlos stopped and, pulling Cecil to him, gave him a quick kiss, much to the delight of most of the Sheriff's secret policemen.

Despite his reporter's instincts, Cecil didn't remember a whole lot about the ride in the blue helicopter. The cops occupied themselves with the Guns N' Roses pinball game over in the corner, while Carlos held his hand and the copter gently swayed, and the mysterious entity tangled in the chandelier overhead twined its limbs in the candelabra and silently watched over everything.

The blue helicopter set down right in the middle of the parade route, scattering terrified waves of spectators in every direction.

“Come this way,” Cecil urged, pointing up towards the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex. “The mayor's press conference will be held at the end of the parade route.”

“Wait, Cecil,” Carlos cautioned. “Do you see what I see?” He pointed down towards the Arby's parking lot.

“Our first date,” swooned Cecil.

“Well, yes, that,” said Carlos, “but look at the Dr. Pepper float!”

Cecil turned his attention to a vast float made mostly of delicate flower petals, tissue paper and remaindered automatic weapons, advertising the tasty carbonated beverages. There was a shape like a shade moving underneath it. Since this was a rather common occurrence in Night Vale, Cecil hadn't given it a second glance, but now he paid attention.

“It's the tiny people from the underground city!” said Cecil.

“And they are packing small containers of Cheesy Mints!” Carlos noted, using his scientific powers of observation. “You know what this means?”

“They're having a sale on Cheesy Mints at the Ralphs!” said Cecil excitedly.

Carlos took a deep breath. “Cecil, I think they are planning to drop the Cheesy Mints into the large container of Dr. Pepper on the float, thus causing a great geyser of soda, which will disrupt Mayor Winchell's address.”

Cecil blinked. “Carlos, what kind of oddball conspiracy theory are you spouting now?”

Carlos sighed. “Let’s … just get up to the bowling alley.”

Cecil and Carlos began to move, but were soon intercepted by a pair of familiar faces.

“Cecil!” said the other other intern as the other intern slipped a flower crown onto Carlos’s head. “Have you guys seen the other intern?”

He’s the other intern,” Cecil scolded, pointing to the intern who was now weaving a fashionable flower bracelet.

“No, the one who was sucked into the void?”

“I thought that intern was sucked into the infinite void?”

“Yes, but we were supposed to meet him here.”

Cecil stared at him for a long moment. “Oh. Well, you could follow us up to the bowling alley. We’re trying to stop an inter-dimensional conspiracy to corrupt the voting process in Night Vale. Also, I still need to pick up my dry cleaning.”

“Come along, Cecil!” urged Carlos. “The mayor is starting to speak.”

“Oh,” said Cecil as they hurried along towards the end of the parade route. “Has the mayor always been quite that shade of mauve?”

“She is looking terribly purple,” Carlos concurred. “And wasn’t that a stoat dropping from the sleeve of her ceremonial gown?”

The mayor was conducting a ceremony honoring Tamika Flynn and several other children for successfully completing the Summer Reading Program. The snarling children were being held behind razor wire.

Tamika was standing beside the podium, popping her gum. She was being overseen by two large guards holding long electrified poles. She growled ferociously at them as the mayor's annoying assistant, Trish Hidge, chucked her a medal for writing a book report on Cry, the Beloved Country. Tamika snapped, and Trish Hidge stepped back, grabbing some hand sanitizer from her purse and rubbing it on her hands and face.

“We must confront the mayor,” vowed Carlos. “Before the tiny people get here.”

“Carlos! Wait!” said Cecil, but the scientist would not be dissuaded. He strode up to the dais, waving his voter registration application.

“Mayor Winchell,” Carlos boomed, his voice especially oaky today.

Several Night Vale residents near the front rows swooned. “He looks even better than his glossy head shot,” someone whispered. Cecil smiled proudly, though he vowed to hunt down that person in their sleep.

“Why are you stripping the voting rolls!” Carlos was demanding. “Night Vale demands to know!”

The mayor glared at Carlos, her eyes a lurid shade of violet. “What I do with voter registration is my own business,” she boomed in a voice that shattered eyeglasses and did rather extensive damage to the Arby’s float, which was made of antique crockery. She leaned into Carlos and pointed at his voter application. “Hey, is that gum?” she asked, pointing to the edge.

“You need to answer our questions,” Carlos insisted.

The mayor lifted her arm, as if to strike. A stoat fell out of her sleeve, dropping to the floor and scurrying off. Watching from the audience, Cecil cringed.

“You don't fool me, lady!” shouted a paunchy, balding man in a tutu who had just appeared onstage in a pouf of periwinkle smoke, clutching the latest issue of TV Guide magazine.

“The Tiny Purple Fairy!” exclaimed Cecil, who really needed to cool it on his habit of narrating events.

“You’re not da Mayor! You’re dat asshole, da Glow Cloud!” raved the Tiny Purple Fairy.

Mayor Winchell suddenly began to smoke and glow in a most un-mayoral fashion. The Tiny Purple Fairy bonked her on the head with his TV Guide and, to the astonishment of the gathered Night Vale citizens, she toppled over, and a great amount of purple smoke began to emit from her eyes, nose and mouth. The vapor reassembled above her, and it was, indeed, none other than the mighty Glow Cloud.

“I’ll get you, you jerk!” vowed the Tiny Purple Fairy, as he and the Glow Cloud suddenly began to wrestle. They grappled for a while, tumbling off the dais, raising dust and periwinkle smoke.

“Wow, why does he hate the Glow Cloud so much?” asked Carlos, who had hopped back down from the dais when the melee started.

“No clue,” said Cecil. “But you know how people get petty.”

“But they weren’t people: one was a supernatural being, and the other an amorphous patch of condensation!”

“Still,” said Cecil as the Tiny Purple Fairy and the mighty Glow Cloud grunted and struggled as the crowd watched in awe. At one point, the Glow Cloud managed to toss the Tiny Purple Fairy right through a saloon window, which was especially interesting as there was no saloon in the middle of Main Street.

Teddy Williams, who was a doctor (as all bowling alley owners must be) had run out of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex to check on the semi-conscious Mayor Winchell. “The mayor is all right!” he announced to general cheers from the gathered crowd as the mayor stood up and dusted herself off.

“Yes,” said Mayor Winchell, now coming to stand behind the podium. “I am no longer being controlled by the mighty Glow Cloud.”

There were more cheers. And even some hoots.

“Now I am released from my possession!”

The crowd whooped and whistled and applauded.

“Now ... I am free to wreck my revenge on Night Vale!” She thereupon grew up several stories tall, and spouted some hideous (if a bit hyperbolic) fangs.

Oh, and she also belched radioactive fire.

The citizenry, which had up until that time been in a generally good mood, screamed and tried to flee.

“Wait, the mayor is a giant, rampaging kaiju?” asked Cecil.

“Well, of course she is a kaiju,” sniffed Trish Hidge. “Like all mayors, she is able to turn into a legendary radioactive monster, fly, or veto City Council resolutions that have received less than two thirds of the vote. I have all the same powers,” she bragged.

“Watch out!” yelled Carlos, but just then, Trish, who was standing directly underneath the rampaging mayor, was crushed by Mayor Winchell's tremendous foot.

Cecil winced. Carlos grabbed him and threw him underneath the dais in order to evade the mayor’s trampling size 86 Manolo Blahniks and the stampeding crowd of Night Vale citizens and likely voters. “I’ll never get to pick up my dry cleaning now,” Cecil wailed.

At that exact moment, when all seemed lost, the Dr. Pepper float rumbled to the head of the parade, and the tiny citizens from underneath the pin retrieval area of lane five tossed several Cheesy Mints into the opening of the giant soda bottle depicted by flower petals and remaindered munitions.

The bottle produced a gurgling geyser, which managed to knock over the now gargantuan, rampaging mayor, quenching her fiery breath. She fell with a great crash, taking out a good twenty percent of the business district of downtown Night Vale with her.

“Cecil,” said Carlos worriedly, “we need to get out of here!”

“Didn’t the tiny people defeat her?” asked Cecil, who, despite being scared, was really having a rather wonderful time under the dais being held in Carlos’s strong, laboratory-tested arms.

“Cecil, don’t you realize, you can’t defeat a rampaging kaiju politician with high fructose corn syrup-sweetened soda alone! It’s scientifically impossible! Or at least, extremely unlikely. Which is essentially the same thing.”

As if in confirmation of Carlos's hypothesis, the mayor suddenly bolted upright and smashed the Diet Dr. Pepper float with one blow of her scaly tail, scattering the tiny citizens from beneath the bowling alley in all directions.

Cecil considered their options. “Carlos, you know what that means? If we need diet soda, we’ve got to get across the street to Ralphs!”

Cecil and Carlos cautiously crawled out from underneath the platform and, careful not to alert Mayor Winchell, who was grunting and howling and picking her teeth with the Arby’s sign, scurried across the road to Ralphs grocery store, accompanied by the two interns who hadn’t been sucked into the void.

“You two go to the candy, snacks and arcane symbols aisle and get some Cheesy Mints,” Carlos told the interns. “Come, Cecil, we’ll grab some Diet Dr. Pepper. Quickly, to the beverage and discounted sample size aisle!”

The two men sprinted across the well-stocked grocery store, only to encounter a horrible sight in the beverage and discount aisle: the City Council. Sadly enough, its members had chosen this exact moment to morph into flesh-eating zombies and run amok all over Night Vale.

Carlos and Cecil skidded to a halt and then carefully backed around the end cap to spy at the council members.

“Cecil, I don't believe this! Your City Council members are flesh-eating zombies?” asked Carlos.

Cecil shrugged. “Well, it was kind of an eligibility requirement that during times of emergency, they would morph into the undead. It dates back to the fourteenth century.”

Carlos frowned.

“Well, I warned you our laws were arcane.”

“Not another unexplained political phenomenon!” groused Carlos. “I've still got Dr. Pepper in my hair.”

“Oh, no!” wailed Cecil as a deranged City Councilman lurched around the end cap and charged right towards him. Carlos beaned the undead politician over the head with a whirligig (it was really cute, as it had a sailboat and a little windmill) and he staggered off.

“Where did you get that whirligig?” inquired Cecil.

“A scientist is always prepared!” Carlos told him. “It's part of being a scientist. Now, we need to figure out how to fend them off. We need the diet Dr. Pepper in that aisle to defeat the mayor!”

Just then several school children, hooting war cries, descended on the Ralphs. They rushed the City Council members, wielding library cards that had been whittled to sharp points, and razor-sharp reading lists. Quick-thinking Tamika Flynn, who had managed to elude her guards during the confusion, had unleashed her fellow Summer Reading Program veterans from the razor wire cage. They set upon the City Council. The carnage was terrible.

“We need those Cheesy Mints!” said Carlos as he and Cecil gathered soda bottles. “Where are your interns?”

As if in answer to his question, the other intern and the other other intern came into view, trailing a couple of the City Council members. The councilmen were both beaming, and wearing flower crowns.

“Guys, good news!” said the other other intern. “We found out you can subdue rampaging zombie councilmen with flower crowns.”

“That was good thinking!” said Carlos, who, as a scientist, esteemed thinking. “But where are the Cheesy Mints?”

“Um, that's the bad news,” confessed the other other intern. One of the City Councilmen belched, and the air was permeated by the distinct odor of minty aged cheese. “See, by the time we got them rounded up, they'd gobbled up all the Cheesy Mints, as well as the HoHos and most of the licorice whips.” The Councilman grinned, showing black, licorice-stained teeth.

There was a scream, and two of the Summer Reading Program members descended on the City Council members, eviscerating them where they stood.

“You didn't need to do that,” Cecil sighed, viewing the mess.

“Extra credit!” whooped the students, who ran off.

“Since we no longer have Cheesy Mints as a substrate, we need another source of nucleation, and we need it now,” said Carlos, who was absently twirling his whirligig.

The floor began to tremble. It was the very large but very stylish high heeled sling-backs of Mayor Winchell, tromping their way.

“Carlos, it’s too late!” said Cecil.

“I have a theory!” said Carlos, handing his two liter soda bottles off to Cecil and heading for the Lutes, Dulcimers, Balalaikas and Other Stringed Instruments aisle. He returned, tuning a banjo that had been marked 20% off, which was a very good deal.

“Carlos, you can’t-“ sputtered a wide-eyed, horrified Cecil, who was still juggling soda bottles.

“I must do what I must,” said Carlos. “There is no force on earth more powerful than a Hispaniolian epic ballad! If I don’t return, Cecil, please remember, I have a great fondness for you, which has no scientific basis.”

If this declaration of affection was a little disappointing to Cecil, Carlos swiftly made it up by pulling Cecil close and giving him a quick kiss. The pressure from his embrace dislodged a few bottle caps, causing several of the Diet Dr. Pepper bottles he was holding to produce little geysers as Cecil stood in the middle of the soda aisle, more than a bit dazed.

And then, with a gleam in his eyes, Carlos boldly strode out to the front of the store, right in front of Mayor Winchell.

“This is an epic ballad about a young maiden who forgot to put out her recycling bins on a Tuesday,” he explained in a hushed voice, and then began to sing.

Marianela, mira el mapa
El mapa es verde y azul.
Voy a visitar mi amigo.
Penso visitar mi amigo.
Estoy pensando en visitar mi amigo.
La fuente es linda….


As Cecil and the interns watched in amazement, the mayor halted in her Blahniks, seemingly mesmerized by the epic ballad of love, loss, and colored newsprint.

“She seems tranquil for the moment,” said the other other intern, looking up in astonishment while the other intern started weaving a very large flower crown. “Mesmerized by the soulful balladry. But what about when the song ends?”

“Oh, these things tend to go on,” sighed Cecil, looking at his watch and wondering if his dry cleaners had survived the melee, and if so, if it was still open.

The giant mayor stood, spellbound, a giant tear forming in her eye as Carlos sang of the young maiden’s great-uncle, who had once misplaced the race car from his Monopoly set. But just as Mayor Winchell was grabbing at the tarp that had been draped over a set of lumber to use as a giant handkerchief, Carlos’s fingers, as they had done before when Cecil watched him play, began as if all on their own to speed their picking, and suddenly his song had lurched from a dirge to a lilt.

“Oh no!” said Cecil. “Carlos, the mayor is getting agitated! You need to go back to your lament.”

“I can’t help it!” wailed Cecil, who was nodding his head in time to the bouncing tune. The mayor threw down her improvised handkerchief and emitted a frustrated roar.

“Oh, there you are!” said the other other intern, and suddenly both interns were waving happily towards something up the sky.

“Carlos, look! It’s our intern!” said Cecil called out to Carlos.

“The one who was sucked into the void?” asked Carlos.

“Yes, that one!”

“Neat!” said Carlos, who, despite his peril, was much enjoying the bouncing tune he was plucking.

From across dimensions, the intern smiled and waved at everybody. And then he reached out and grasped a still squalling Mayor Winchell by her hair, wrenching her back into the infinite vortex with him. She was sucked away, leaving nothing but a very big, very fashionable slingback in her wake.

“Well, that was a narrow escape,” said Carlos as the dust settled. The other other intern gifted him with a lovely flower bracelet.

To Cecil's surprise, the Glow Cloud came ambling up (as much as an amorphous vapor may be said to amble) arm in arm with the Tiny Purple Fairy, who had a black eye and was missing a couple of his front teeth.

“I thought you guys despised each other,” said Cecil.

“Aw, dat was all nothin',” the Tiny Purple Fairy assured him. “Water under da bridge.”

“Well, that's good,” said Cecil.

“We're gonna hit da town, go drinkin'. You wanna come with?”

Carlos tapped Cecil on the shoulder. The Night Vale survivors had begun to pick their way out of the rubble, and were looking around in confusion. “Cecil,” Carlos told him. “I think you are needed here now.”

Cecil politely declined, and the Tiny Purple Fairy and the Glow Cloud whisked off, presumably to paint the town (or what was left of it) in a bright shade of periwinkle.

Wiping the worst of the diet soda and City Council zombie gore off his shirt, Cecil strode over to what was left of the podium. After tapping the microphone, he addressed the shocked and disoriented city. “My fellow citizens of Night Vale. The carnage has been terrible, but in the end, the beings that menaced us, as well as only a few innocent bystanders (and really, who among us is innocent) have been defeated by our eagle-eyed citizens.”

Some cautious cheers went up.

“Unfortunately, due to the mayor, Pamela Winchell, having been sucked into an infinite void; and the massive casualties amongst the City Council, Night Vale finds itself without a viable form of government, and this just before an important election.”

The other other intern dashed up to the podium and handed Cecil a report.

“Citizens, I’ve just been handed this item. ‘TNY PPL NDR LN FV F BWLNG LLY NMNT TMKA FLYNN FR CHLD KNG.’” Indeed, a wave of the tiny people from city beneath the bowling alley took up a very high pitched cheer. “It looks like our height impaired friends would like none other than Tamika Flynn to serve as our interim leader!”

As the cheers went up, Tamika shuffled to the front of the crowd. She popped out her iPod, and several people explained what had been going on. “Oh, yeah, like, I could totally do that,” she mumbled before going back to cleaning blood from her library card.

“Well, it looks like all's well,” Carlos told Cecil.

“No, there is one more thing! Acting Mayor Flynn, this man wants to register to vote!” said Cecil, indicating Carlos.

Tamika popped her gum. “'Kay,” she said. Wiping the bloodstains from her hands, she grabbed a colorful marker and signed Carlos's voter registration form, dotting the “i” in her name with a little heart. And then, just for good measure, she stowed her own wad of gum on the edge of the form.



“Do you think the other intern will make me one of those too?” asked Carlos some days later, as Cecil sat on his bed admiring his flower ring.

“The one who wasn't sucked into the void along with the mayor?” Cecil asked distractedly. Carlos set his whirligig aside and drew nearer. Reaching up, Cecil winced as he plucked out one of his own hairs from his head, offering it to Carlos, who smiled mysteriously and wrapped it around his ring finger. It showed pale against Carlos's dark skin.

“I’ve just gotten word that The Scientific Journal of Science accepted my abstract about bowling patterns among the Nimerigar,” Carlos confessed excitedly, his oaky voice caramel-tinged with pride.

Cecil smiled. “And I got my dry cleaning back.” He looked down at his sweater vest. But then his forehead creased. “Carlos. Does this mean you'll be attending the International
Scientific Conference in Svitz?”

“Yes!”

“Oh.” Cecil dragged a hand across the bedspread, which was decorated with little test tubes and teensy beakers. “Well,” he sighed dejectedly. “I'll miss you.”

“You won't,” said Carlos. “Not if you come with me.”

Cecil smiled up at him, his third eye blown wide with happiness accompanied by not a small grain of lust.

“What should we do now?” asked Carlos, his voice soft, fingers brushing Cecil's clean sweater vest. “To celebrate our respective achievements?”

“I have some ideas,” Cecil told him. He reached out and grabbed Carlos's lab coat lapels, tugging him nearer, so Carlos stood between his legs.

Carlos leaned over and, very gently, pressed his lips to Cecil's forehead. Cecil pulled him downwards, and they kissed. There may have been some tongue involved, and Cecil definitely got the sense of rolling down a very steep hill with his beloved scientist.

Cecil scooted backwards on the bed, and Carlos climbed up to straddle his thighs, slowly tugging Cecil's lovely sparkling clean sweater vest off over his head. Carlos unthinkingly wadded it up and tossed it into a corner. Cecil was about to protest, but then Carlos slid a cool, dark hand on Cecil's chest, and Cecil arched back, shuddering at his touch, while the tattoo marks on his chest writhed.

“This reminds me of one of the songs of my people,” murmured Carlos, who was happily nibbling on Cecil's earlobe.

“Really?” whispered Cecil.

To Cecil's utter disappointment, Carlos suddenly pushed back, his eyes bright. “Yes! It's the tragic story of a young maiden who let the top of her soda bottle fall onto the ground.” Carlos made to get up off the bed, reaching for his banjo. “Would you like to hear it?” he asked.

Carlos found himself suddenly yanked back down by Cecil. He was on top of Cecil now, nearly nose to nose with him, Cecil's hands gripping tightly on his lab coat lapels, eyes boring into him.

“No,” Cecil said definitively.

Carlos smiled, perfect teeth all in alignment, and Cecil pulled him nearer.

“Perhaps then I will write a new epic ballad,” Carlos was heard to murmur. “All about you.”

Somewhere, gathered around the monitors to their hidden video cameras, a large group of Sheriff's secret policemen chorused, “Awwww!”



xxxxx

Notes: In case it wasn’t obvious, Carlos’s songs are all just nonsense Spanish, pasted together with lines gleaned from elementary textbooks. Also, I totally made up an utterly ridiculous backstory for Carlos. The little people from under the bowling alley, believe it or not, are loosely based on the Native American legend of the Nimerigar, who were supposed to be tiny but fierce warriors.
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