Novelty

Sep. 22nd, 2013 11:10 am
tikific: (Default)
[personal profile] tikific
Title: Novelty
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale
Author: tikific
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos
Warnings: Cursing. Snotty scientists. Badgers.
Word Count: 6000
Summary: What dwells on the 13th floor of Cecil’s apartment building? And what does it have to do with squeegees?
Notes: At the end. We had a plumbing problem in my office building. This is what happened.





It was a dark and stormy night.

And Carlos was attempting to titrate a reagent.

To be succinct, it wasn’t going well.

“Why won’t things precipitate in Night Vale!” he grumbled, dumping the contents of the flask into the sink, mouthing a few select phrases in at least two languages.

The reagent fizzled in the sink, and the resulting smoke created - for a brief instant no longer than a breath - the image of a little skull, fluttering ghoulish and empty-eyed above the lab bench.

“All rightie,” said Carlos, who decided it was time for some distraction. Wiping off his hands on his lab coat, he grabbed a somewhat grubby transistor radio down from the shelf up above and turned it on. It crackled with the static-y sounds of a universe being born, and then resolved into a very familiar voice.

“…The question remains, listeners, had this bouillabaisse come in peace? Or does it intend to poison our way of life, forcing us to live lives of toil and fish stew?

“In other news, as you know, I do not intend for this broadcast to be a private diary of my trials and tribulations, but I need to send a quick word out in case someone in my audience has a room to spare for a limited period of time. Unfortunately, the water damage to my apartment was more extensive than was first thought, and I have found my living space invaded by massive drying machines, fans, and coils of a large-sized yellow tubing of uncertain purpose, which snakes ominously throughout my domicile….

“My apologies, listeners! But Management has been heard flailing in its offices, so I must press on to more pertinent matters. Have you ever stopped and wondered, why is that suitcase in the middle of the roadway, and what is that howling noise?”

Before he had even really stopped to think it over, Carlos was already hitting his speed dial button.



“Carlos, this is such a kind favor.”

“Oh, no problem, Cecil.”

Carlos looked around at Cecil's apartment. For once, the somewhat excitable radio host hadn't been exaggerating. His place looked like an out-take from a Terry Gilliam film, with large humming equipment of mysterious purpose arrayed everywhere one might bark one's shin, and tangled tubes snaking across the carpet waiting to ensnare an unwary foot.

Cecil was dodging and dancing around the apartment, grabbing up completely random (at least to Carlos's eyes) bits and bobs and packing them away in his backpack, popping them into his steamer trunk (Carlos needed to ask him about this – it had a sticker for the HMSS Titanic on it), or handing them off to Carlos, who now found himself holding, among other things, a stuffed badger and a didgeridoo.

Carlos gazed up at the ceiling, and the gaps therein where water-damaged sections had been removed. The stained tiles were piled around his feet, like discarded bits of a fallen empire. “So what happened?”

Cecil poked his head out of the kitchen, where he was evidently occupying himself gathering up an even dozen hurricane glasses. “According to our building superintendent, there was a leak up on the thirteenth floor, and it dribbled down and all ended up pooled in my rumpus room.”

Carlos frowned. An eminently empirical frown.

“Cecil.”

“Mmm?”

Where is your thirteenth floor?”

“What? I didn’t know it was lost.”

Carlos stood, scowling. “When I was outside, I only counted twelve floors.”

Cecil beamed. “You counted my floors?” he gushed.

Carlos raised his chin. “I'm quantitative. It's part of being a scientist.”

Cecil ducked back into another room and, for no reason he could really divine other than an overreaching scientific nosiness, Carlos leaned over, grabbed a discarded ceiling tile and popped it into his lab coat pocket.

“All ready to go?” asked Cecil, who had shouldered his backpack. Working together, they upended the heavy trunk onto a dolly and slipped it into the padded freight elevator. Carlos noticed that there was indeed a button, right at the top, for the thirteenth floor. However, as
an empiricist, Carlos was also sure to re-count the floors once they had collected all of Cecil's gear and were transporting it to the car.

There were twelve.

They walked past a deserted storefront, near the place where Cecil's car was parked. “What was this place?” asked Carlos, regarding the prominent LAND USE ACTION sign out front.

“This was a magic store.”

“A novelty shop? In Night Vale?”

“Yes. Another victim of Mayor Winchell's development plan.”

“Her development plan?”

Cecil had popped his hatchback and was busy pulling items off the back seat (including an assortment of of Night Vale Scorpions bobbleheads and an ibex skull) so it could be lowered. “Well, at the press conference last week, she reportedly shrieked, ‘Everything must be torn down! DEN-SI-TY!’ and then transformed into either a very small crab or a very large millipede – reports differ – and scurried underneath the podium, leaving only a whiff of a really terrible imitation of a French perfume and some oyster crackers.”

Carlos shook his head. “That's weird.”

“I know. I am so voting for the Faceless Old Woman.”



Carlos didn't wish to be presumptuous.

He had invited Cecil to live with him, but not, as it were, to live with him. Although they were officially dating now, he didn’t want to assume anything.

He ushered Cecil into his residence, the high-ceilinged loft located up over his laboratory. “So, this is me,” he said, pink highlighting his cheeks, quaver in his voice. Cecil peered over his glasses, a hungry sort of glint in the radio host's eyes.

“Uh-hum,” said Cecil.

Carlos gave the three dollar tour, indicating the locations of the living room, kitchen, and bathroom, to which Cecil showed a modicum of interest, lifting a teacup here, fingering a hand towel there.

“Um. This is my spare room,” said Carlos, opening the door to a small space containing a few crates Carlos hadn’t gotten around to unpacking. It also had a well-worn cot pushed into the corner. There was a large, undraped window, through which the Big Rico's neon sign was visible, flashing on and off.

“Mmm,” said Cecil, crinkling his nose, just slightly.

“I could, you know, clean it up. A little. Move the boxes. Hang drapes. That sort of thing?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Cecil hummed with a noncommittal wag of his head. For a person who made his living speaking, he was being damnably non-verbal tonight.

Carlos found his palms were sweating. Overactive sympathetic nervous system. Fight or flight? he wondered to himself as neurons crackled.

He backed up several paces and, stumbling over his own feet, somehow grasped the handle of another door. “And this,” he said, wrenching it open, “is my bedroom.”

“MMMMmmmmmm!”

Carlos perceived a pronounced Doppler effect to the hum as Cecil swiftly brushed past him into the room, the pitch canting high to low. “Oh, uh, you like it?”

Cecil still did not reply, but in lieu of verbiage, gave the scientist a rather powerful yank on his lab coat lapels, and Carlos stumbled into the room.

The door slammed shut again.

“Mmmmm.....”



“How do you like your eggs?”

Carlos moaned, his face comfortably smushed into a pillow. With a terrific effort, he turned his head.

He sniffed.

Something definitely smelled good.

He managed to make it up on one elbow. Cecil, dressed in boxer shorts and a baggy T-shirt, sat cross-legged on the bed, holding a frying pan with a pair of oven mitts. “Over easy is here, over medium is here, sunny side up is here,” he explained, indicating each as he proffered a fork.

Carlos smiled. “No huevos rancheros?

Cecil grinned and handed over a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

“Seriously,” said Carlos, sprinkling the hot sauce and then tucking into the sunny side up egg, “this is terrific.”

“I was a fry cook. Back in another life.” Cecil tilted his head at Carlos, his eyes gone wide. “Oh my GAWD! Your hair is, like, utterly perf first thing in the morning. How do you even?”

Carlos glanced up from his eggs to make certain his bed had not suddenly been invaded by a fourteen-year-old girl, albeit one with a sonorous radio voice. “I don't really know. I don't even own a hairbrush, actually,” he admitted, shaking his head, causing Cecil to shiver with apparent fannish glee. He yawned, and Cecil handed over a cup of coffee (with cream and two sugars, Carlos noted). “Is that my Instituto Científico de la Tecnología T-shirt you're wearing?”

“Oh. This. I found it lying around. Um. In the bottom of a drawer.”

“You are a roommate and a thief,” said Carlos. “And a damned good fry cook.” He surreptitiously scanned his bedroom as he ate, and noted that all of it – the steamer trunk, the backpack, the stuffed badger and the didgeridoo – had ended up somehow tucked inside. It looked as if his spare room would remain stubbornly unoccupied for the time being.

“I wanted to repay you. You know, for letting me stay.”

“Stay as long as you like,” said Carlos.

Cecil’s smile was as bright as a 20 megaton blast.



By the time Carlos and Cecil stepped descended into the laboratory, Vitter and Swaggart, two of his least favorite colleagues, were already there. Cecil kissed Carlos goodbye, to hoots from his fellow scientists, and Carlos was forced to recall why he often ran his experiments late at night, when the laboratory was thankfully empty of other personnel.

“Good morning,” he grumbled.

“Looks like you had a good night,” said Vitter, who elbowed him.

“That is my personal life. It has nothing to do with science.”

“Yeah. Sure,” Vitter quipped. Swaggart chortled.

Carlos rolled his eyes, and glanced around at the bewildering array of equipment lying around. “What are you two currently investigating?”

“We found this suitcase, right in the middle of the road,” said Swaggart, indicating a rather battered piece of luggage.

“We're gonna take measurements!” bragged Vitter. “We think it's significant!”

Carlos looked between them. “Have you thought of just opening it, to see what's inside?”

Vitter and Swaggart glanced at each other, and then chuckled.

“Aw, Carlos. You're such a joker.”

Carlos sat down on a stool in front of his microscope, heaving a sigh.

“We were thinking of going to Big Rico's for lunch,” Swaggart told him.

“I thought you liked that Franchian place across the street?”

Swaggart's eyes went wide. “The Pyrite Arches? Mmm. Yes, I loved the parboiled ham.” He licked his lips.

Vitter laughed. “Yeah, that place mysteriously disappeared, Carlos.”

Carlos blinked. “What? Really? It was just there yesterday.”

“Well, you know,” Swaggart explained, “one of those secretive and unexplained construction cranes moved in during the dark of the night.”

“I need to work through lunch today,” Carlos told them. “Maybe you could just bring me a slice of pizza?”

Swaggart nodded. “Sure. Sure. You want pepperoni, extra pepperoni, more extra pepperoni, pepperoni stuffed down your gullet until you scream for mercy and pray ineffectively to your chosen god or gods, or bread sticks?”

“Just … a slice of cheese pizza is fine.”

“No meat?” asked Swaggart.

“I thought you were the kind for … salami,” leered Vitter.

Carlos’s glare burned with the fire of ten thousand pizza ovens. “Just. Cheese.”

“Sure, one slice, loser pizza,” snorted Vitter, forming his thumb and forefinger into an “L” and raising it to his forehead. He and Swaggart departed, wheeling the suitcase behind them. One of the wheels squeaked.

“Vitter!” Carlos shouted after him. “Your- Your hypotheses are poorly supported by the empirical evidence!”

He heard nothing but the sound of chuckling. And the squeaky wheel.

Cursing, Carlos felt something in his lab coat pocket: it was the piece of ceiling tile from Cecil's flooded apartment. He put it out on the lab bench and stared at it for a moment.



“They've moved into your neighborhood, listeners. What can be the meaning of these strange, unmarked constructions cranes? Why do they only work in the middle of the night, during the full moon? Who is behind this? Could it be … Desert Bluffs? It might be, they're real jerks over there.

“In other news, John Peters (you know, the farmer) has reported that his chickens now believe that they are sheep. When reached for comment by this station, Peters couldn't point out any specific behaviors that led him to the conclusion, but only stated, 'It's the look in their eyes. They got somethin’ going on, and it spells sheep.'

“This just in: the Sheriff's Secret Police reports that rumors of another murder victim being found parboiled, accompanied by a lovely sprig of fresh parsley, are completely untrue, and residents who spread such rumors of unsolved serial murders which the local constabulary is too incompetent to solve will be sent for re-education with very limited access to HBO or indeed any of the premium channels.”



“Cecil?”

“Oh, what a pleasant surprise!”

Cecil smiled, and Carlos was immediately glad he had decided to come down to the community radio station. He badly needed a break from certain annoying co-workers.

“I was testing this in the lab today,” he said, bringing a square, flat item out of his lab coat pocket.

Cecil squinted at it. “Is this a ceiling tile from my apartment?”

“Yes, and-”

Cecil clutched the soggy tile to his chest. “You tested my ceiling tile? My ceiling tile? With science?” he trilled. Carlos could have sworn that tiny cartoon hearts danced around the head of the besotted radio host.

“Um. Yes. And my tests revealed that it's not soaked with ordinary water.”

“No?” Cecil’s cartoon hearts stopped in mid-waltz.

“No. That's seltzer water.”

“Well. That's … unexpected.” Cecil turned the tile this way and that. “Just a mixer? No scotch?”

“No scotch. I think perhaps we should conduct an investigation of your thirteenth floor. It may be … scientifically interesting.”

“Let's do it!” enthused Cecil. “For science!”



Carlos noted with some dismay that the building with the novelties shop on Cecil's block had already been razed. A mysterious, unmarked crane sat in the middle of the now vacant lot. He wasn't entirely certain why, but it all made him feel a trifle melancholy.

“It won't be easy,” Cecil warned him. “The thirteenth floor is restricted.”

“There are ways around it,” said Carlos. “I was an elevator operator for a time, when I was working on my degree in science.”

“Oh, I didn't know that.”

“Yes, it was very hard work,” said Carlos, warming to the topic. “Because we were so poor, the elevators in my country didn't go upwards, only down. So I would transport my passengers, and then I would have to climb up the stairs and do it all over again.”

“Hum. Well.” Cecil was quiet as they walked along. “What happened to the elevator once it got to the bottom floor then?”

Carlos sighed. “Nobody knows. It's just one of those mysteries.”

They entered the building and, trying to be stealthy (but probably failing miserably), made their way into the elevator. Carlos pulled out some kind of electronic gizmo and hooked it to the elevator buttons, hitting the thirteenth floor.

“We need to slip inside this house,” said Cecil.

“It's an apartment, not a house,” Carlos scolded.

The elevator doors slid open on the thirteenth floor. The hallway was darkened. Cecil and Carlos stepped out of the elevator. There was a muffled sound coming from down the hallway.

“Is that someone … giggling?” whispered Carlos.

There was movement, and a sound. Both men flinched and then exhaled as the elevator doors glided shut.

The only light was the full moon shining through a grimy window. The noises rippled through again, like soft, high laughter. Carlos beckoned, and he and Cecil crept down the hall, towards the doorway at the end. There seemed to be a very faint, eerie glow showing underneath the door.

They glanced at each other. Cecil cupped an ear to the door.

“What do you hear?” whispered Carlos.

“There's laughter. And … something that sounds like a slinky?”

Carlos frowned.

Cecil twisted the doorknob. “It's unlocked.”

“Should we-?”

Cecil nodded, gripping the knob.

Carlos stuck up three fingers and counted down, 3-2-1....



Carlos yawned, and found his face scrunched into his pillow.

He rolled over, blinking at the dawn. There was something pressing against his face. Something round and squishy. He reached up and found a plastic band around his head. He tugged it off, and was confronted with the big red false nose he’s apparently been wearing.

“Mrrrmrrm.”

He looked over at Cecil lying beside him. Cecil was snoring and wearing a conical paper party hat.

They were both completely dusted in glitter.

“Cecil?”

“Rrramararhhargh?”

“Cecil are you awake?”

Cecil blindly groped the nightstand for his glasses. He rolled over on his back and donned his glasses.

Two googly eyes, mounted on long springs, bounced out of the eyepieces.

“Uh, what happened last night?” asked Carlos, as Cecil removed the glasses and tossed them away.

Swinging his pale legs off the bed, Cecil groped around on the nightstand. “I have no idea.” He gripped his eyeglasses. “A not uncommon occurrence around here.”

Carlos reached over and snatched the party hat off his friend's head. “Did we have a good time, do you think?”

“I'm sure we did!” said Cecil. He picked up the noise maker that was also on the nightstand and gave it a blow. It tooted merrily. “Would you like some breakfast?”

“Um.” Carlos regarded his now rainbow-hued arm. “Maybe a shower first?” He flinched. Cecil had somehow magically transported himself to sit on top of Carlos's legs.

“That's a terrific idea! A hot shower would be invigorating. Come on!”

Carlos found himself blushing, but allowed Cecil to lead him to the washroom.



A while later (probably later than he would have intended) Carlos was relaxing at his kitchen table, feeling terribly invigorated, if a little bit sore from the events of this morning. He blew experimentally on Cecil’s noisemaker. For his part, Cecil was cooking pancakes, and wearing Carlos’s Institut der Wissenschaftliche Forschung T-shirt and a pair of ratty Night Vale Scorpions sweat pants. He had also been checking his cell phone.

“There’s been another murder,” Cecil reported breathlessly as he stacked flapjacks on Carlos’s plate. “They were found parboiled, but with a slice of lemon! I believe the murderer is changing his or her pattern.”

“You look awfully appealing in that T-shirt,” said Carlos, dopey smile pasted to his square-jawed countenance.

“This? It was just lying around. In the back of your closet. Underneath your 1987 tax returns.”

Carlos drizzled some blue agave syrup on his pancakes. He felt two little paws on his thigh, and looked down.

Two soft brown eyes stared back. And little fangs glinted. “Cecil. Wasn't that badger of yours … stuffed?”

“Oh, you mean Howard?” asked Cecil

Carlos popped a smidgen of pancake at the furry creature that had been gazing up at him. The creature eagerly lapped it up. “Well. Yes.”

“I thought he was. But you know, these things happen.” Cecil sat down across from Carlos. “But as I was asking, what do you think of the murders, Carlos?”

“Murder is against my ethical principles.”

“Parboiled,” mused Cecil, sipping his coffee, and popping a bit of his eggs at Howard. “Just like my favorite Franchian dishes.”

“I thought you said no one lived in Franchia, and you saw nothing but mysterious stone arches?”

“Well, no, but when you travel in any country in Europe there’s always a good restaurant or too. The beer’s better there as well.”

Carlos felt his forebrain begin to lurch into gear. “Come to think of it, there was a Franchian restaurant just across from here. I wish I had been able to take you.”

“What happened to it? Did it get replaced by one of those disgusting bouillabaisse-to-go places?”

“No. It was like the magic shop. The cranes got there, and boom!” Carlos dramatically slapped his hand down on the table, startling Cecil and almost spilling his coffee, and causing Howard to scurry under the couch.

It also raised a puff of glitter.

“Oh, I guess I didn’t get all of that off,” said Carlos. The sparkling substance hung in the air, and then swirled away. He could have sworn he head the faint sound of bubbling laughter in the air. But he probably just needed more coffee.

“According to my sources, they’ve just torn down some more buildings.”

“What, overnight?”

“Yeah. Like that place over on Main that made dental plates?”

“That was a strange little place,” Carlos remarked. Though, he failed to add, probably not strange for the likes of Night Vale.

“And the squeegee factory. A lot of squeegers and squeegistas are going to be out of work.”

Carlos puzzled over Cecil's words. “I’m not certain why they need to level so many places. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of vacancies around town.”

“That’s true! The new Miskatonic Arms has an occupancy rate below 50%, or so I’ve heard. And they feature a mostly plague-free parking structure, as well as free bloodstone circles for residents over 65. Well, anyway, I have to run. The City Council is supposed to have a press conference regarding all those unsolved murders.”

Carlos arched an eyebrow. “I thought there were no unsolved murders?”

“Of course not,” said Cecil, big grin on his face.



Carlos arrived at his lab to find them short-staffed today. “What happened to Craig?” he asked.

“Oh,” Swaggart snickered. “They took him to the emergency room.”

“What? Why?”

“He had some of Big Rico’s new Hot Wings So Hot You’ll Burn Your Stomach Lining Through to China.”

“Why would he do a thing like that?”

“Vitter bet him five bucks.”

Carlos sighed deeply, knowing none of his scientists could refuse a five dollar wager. He signed the “enjoy your exploratory abdominal surgery” card for Craig, and then decided he needed a walk to clear his head. He strolled around his neighborhood, trying to ignore the hooded figures as they bustled past. There was a big sale on frozen waffles at Ralphs, so several of them carried shopping bags.

At one point, he reached into his pocket and drew out his ringing cell phone. “Carlos!” came a very familiar voice. “You're not out driving, are you?”

“No, Cecil. I'm taking a walk.”

“Oh, thank the Old Ones! There have been some attacks!”

“Attacks?”

“Yes, drivers stopped at intersections have been mobbed by squeegee men! They were squeegeed to within an inch of their lives! It's not pretty, Carlos. Oh, the humanity!”

Carlos began to think, which is something scientists are wont to do. “Cecil. You said one of the buildings destroyed by the mysterious cranes was the old squeegee factory?”

There was silence over the line for a long moment. “Well. Yes. What does that have to do with anything?”

“You don't think they could be … somehow connected?”

“The mayor denied all links between weird happenings and the mysterious construction cranes at her morning press conference. And then she disappeared into a wheat field. Which was a little strange, as the press conference was being held inside City Hall.”

“A little strange.” But really not terribly strange for Night Vale.

Carlos continued walking, heading back towards his residence. He was still thinking, because he really could not help it. He felt himself irresistibly drawn to the now vacant lot across the street from his lab. The crane still stood there, silently watching over the ruins of the Franchian restaurant.

There was a gap in the hurricane fence that bordered the construction site, and so he slipped through. Night Vale was turning him into a trespasser, he mused. He wandered around among the debris for a time.

All at once, he thought he heard a rustling sound. And there was the sour scent, not unlike parboiled ham. Without a thought towards his own safety, he approached the source, near the back of the lot. However, he still didn't see anything, or anyone else.

Something shifted and creaked. He spun around. Was that movement?

A shiver went up his spine. He suddenly had the feeling of being stalked.

He turned around and headed back for the hole in the fence, trying to shake off the impression that there was something there, just behind his back. He glanced back over his shoulder and ended up tripping over a piece of broken pipe. He scrambled to his feet, cursing his skinned knees and hands, and headed for the exit. There was something behind him, breathing down his neck, he just knew it.

He spun around, raising an arm. There was as shape, looming there. Something malevolent.

And then....

A burst of confetti tinkled in the air, like someone had just popped open a Christmas cracker. Carlos gasped, as whatever the hell it was stalking him suddenly paused, confused. He turned and bolted for the fence, slipping underneath, not stopping when he ripped out a pocket on his lab coat, not pausing until he reached the lab and fell back, breathing hard, against the door.

The lab was empty, all the other scientists, presumably, were out visiting Craig in the hospital.

Still breathing hard, Carlos collapsed down on a stool.

A huge farting noise sounded all over the lab.

He grabbed the whoopie cushion from underneath him and looked around. “All right. Come on out. I know you're here.”

There was suddenly a little glint in the air, as if someone had just tossed up a handful of multi-colored confetti, and it had somehow gotten stuck.

“You're from the magic store, aren’t you?”

The confetti twinkled.

Carlos put his chin in his hand. “OK. I'm not even gonna ask how a bunch of novelty items achieved sentience. I'll just chalk it up to Night Vale.” There was the far off sound, now so familiar, of giggling. “Thanks for the help. I'll assume you guys followed us home from Cecil's thirteenth floor?”

The confetti gathered nearer. Carlos wasn't sure why he had this impression, but did it seem … nervous? “Look. I'm a scientist, not an exorcist. I won't kick you out.”

The confetti glittered. Happy?

“But you have to do your part. Be careful with your tricks! I've got some experiments running, and my colleagues are here too.”

The confetti swirled around and then disappeared somewhere. Carlos supposed that constituted agreement.

I’ve just made a deal with a cloud of glitter, he mused, turning back to his test tubes.



“Did you hear about the Residents of Miskatonic Arms?”

“Cecil.” The radio host had just swept into the laboratory. Several of Carlos's colleagues were gathered there now. They were running some kinds of tests on a flock of chickens.

“They've all got dentures! All of them. They just woke up like that. Even the few who actually had teeth.”

“Cecil, I have a theory about that,” whispered Carlos, trying to keep his voice down. He saw several scientists, among them Vitter and Swaggart, turn away from the clucking, baa-ing chickens and start to take interest in the conversation.

“Theory? What's your theory?” asked Cecil. “I'm certain it's brilliant.”

“Er.” Carlos looked around at his colleagues. “I'm still formulating it....”

“What's your brilliant theory, Carlos?” taunted Vitter, as Swaggart chuckled.

Carlos glared. “Cecil. I think the the destruction of those buildings is connected to the assaults we've been having. Think about it!”

“I love it when you think,” sighed Cecil. Vitter smirked, and Carlos blushed.

“The squeegee factory was destroyed, and we have attacks by squeegee men. The Franchian restaurant was obliterated, and we have victims parboiled, which is characteristic of Franchian cuisine. And now the dentures, after the dental plate manufacturer was leveled.”

“What do you think is going on?” asked Cecil.

“I think somehow the essence of those buildings is … living on. And certain of them are trying to extract revenge. I think they're seeking out vacancies, new places to inhabit, like the denture spirits somehow moved into the Miskatonic Arms.”

Carlos cringed internally. Had he just actually said, “denture spirits?”

Everyone was silent for a moment.

Vitter chuckled. “Carlos. That's stupid.”

Carlos gnashed his perfect teeth, but Cecil stepped in front of him. “Oh my GAWD,” Cecil told Vitter, “I am stunned by the eloquence of your argument. Carlos, I'm sorry, I agreed with your hypothesis before, but your buddy here, by offering an opinion in a shout-y and obnoxious manner, has caused me to completely reframe my views on this subject. Yes, in fact, I think I will need to re-evaluate my entire world view, thanks to you being somewhat taller than Carlos and infinitely if inexplicably more assertive. My most sincere salutations to you, sir! For I find you not in any way whatsoever to be crude and oafish, nor do I think that citizens routinely snicker at you after you leave their vicinity, due to your incredibly pungent body odor, which does not in any way resemble aged cheese.”

Swaggart started to chuckle, until Vitter glared at him and he shut his mouth.

“Good night everybody,” said Cecil, heading for the stairs. “Carlos?”

You could see every single one of Carlos's white and perfectly straight teeth when he grinned.



“Where's Harold tonight?” asked Carlos as they were cleaning the dinner dishes.

“He's burrowing,” said Cecil, pointing underneath the couch which, oddly enough, was now raised off the floor a good two or three feet from all the nesting materials piled underneath.

“Oh. Is that my harpsichord?” Carlos asked, crouching down to more closely examine the burrow. He gave it a rap on the side with his knuckles. “It's well-engineered, I'll give him that!”

“Would you like a glass of Armagnac? It's from Luftnarp!”

Carlos was staring across the loft. For some reason, he felt unsettled. “Cecil, were you in my spare room? The door's open.”

Cecil strolled over, grasping two glasses of brandy. “No. Maybe Harold was in there searching for building material.”

“Can badgers open doors?”

“Badgers can do many wise and wonderful things!” said Cecil. “Like locating honey, and calculating insurance premiums!”

Carlos set down his Armagnac and went to the door of his spare room. The hinges creaked ominously as he opened it.

“What's that smell?” asked Cecil. “Wait. Is that-?”

“Parboiled pork,” said Carlos, stepping into the room.

“Carlos! Be careful,” warned Cecil, following him in. Carlos clicked the light switch, but it didn’t work, so they both stood looking around in the darkened room. The sick stench of Franchian cuisine permeated the air.

The door slammed shut.

Cecil tugged at the door handle. “It's stuck!”

Their eyes slowly adjusted to the dimness, the only light the street signs shining through the window. “Do you hear … a bubbling sound?” whispered Carlos as they stood in stunned silence, listening.

Something was moving behind the boxes. And, quick as a greased squid, then it leapt out. Carlos saw only the shine of a razor-sharp cleaver, and a ghoulish grin, and it was on him.

“Carlos!” shouted Cecil as Carlos struggled with a huge, half-seen enemy. Carlos caught what he thought was the thing's wrist. But it was cold, much too cold to be human. He wrenched with all his might, and came away with not only the cleaver, but the thing's hand. He gasped and stumbled back, tripping over the rug, and, as Cecil screamed, went crashing through the window.

Carlos fell, nothing but gravity and the sparkle shattered glass....

But the glass wasn't the only thing that glinted.

Carlos braced for the impact. But against all odds, his fall was suddenly arrested, and instead he was lowered to the ground on a cushion of sparkling, multi-hued glitter. He collapsed on the pavement, bleeding from many small cuts but still very much alive.

Bleeding, Carlos leapt to his feet, shattered glass on the ground, a sheen of confetti swirling around him. He turned to his window, and was terrified to see the silhouette of the Franchian monster looming over Cecil.

“Help him!” Carlos yelled. “He's going to be Franchian fried!”

The confetti, after a moment of hovering, as if in indecision, took flight and sailed up towards the broken window. Suddenly, Carlos heard the faint echo of music – he could have sworn it was “Yakity Sax” – fill the air. As he watched, transfixed, the monster lunged at Cecil, but then, with a muffled cry of “Oo-la-la” suddenly took a pratfall. Something yellow came flapping down from up high: a banana peel.

Carlos tore inside the lab, and leapt up the stairs two at a time. He heard a crash from his apartment, and arrived just in time to catch Cecil, who's managed to break out of the spare room, only steps ahead of the monster. As he clung to Cecil, it lumbered out, grunting “Zut alors!” a fiendish parody of a Franchian chef, from the tip of its frayed, oily tonque to its blood-stained clogs. Cecil and Carlos cowered as it raised a carving knife with its one remaining hand.

Just then, Harold the badger emerged from his burrow underneath the couch and leapt at the thing, giving a high reedy growl, and tearing out its throat with fierce, pointed teeth.

“Harold?” said Cecil.

Harold grunted and, still carrying the Franchian monster’s head in its pointed teeth like a victory prize, snuggled underneath the couch.

“Well, I guess we won’t have to feed him dinner tonight!” said Cecil.

“What are we going to do about those mysterious construction cranes?” asked Carlos, helping Cecil to his feet. “If we allow them to continue destroying Night Vale buildings, they’ll just create more monsters!”

Cecil smiled. “Leave that to me.”



“...The city council had no comment, and was later heard humming strange chants directed at the moon. Which, as we know, does not exist.

“And now a word from our sponsors. Adumbrate. This has been a word from our sponsors.

“I've just been given word on the construction cranes which showed up so mysteriously in the past week, and apparently laying waste to a number of Night Vale landmarks, including our beloved Old Squeegee Factory. What can be the purpose of these malignant sentinels, keeping silent if malignant vigil over our fine town? Are they symbolic of an inchoate longing which is at the heart of every creature? And more to the point, who could have sent them? The mayor's office strongly denied that it could possibly be, as some have suggested, the work of our much despised sporting rival....”



“Thank you for letting me stay here.”

“You're welcome as long as you want, Carlos,” Cecil told him, turning down the radio volume a bit. He was bustling about his now dry apartment, while Harold the badger padded at his feet. “You shouldn't have to stay at a place with a broken door and window.”

“It's the parboiled pork smell that irritates me,” sighed Carlos. “I never did care much for Franchian food.” He stared out of Cecil's window. “By the way, did you know you had a riot going on outside?” Indeed, there was now an angry crowd milling around the construction site where the novelties store used to stand. As Carlos watched, the citizens burst through the hurricane fence and began attacking the construction crane, tearing it down very much in the manner one might tear down goal posts following a victorious football game.

A colorful banner fluttered down from the top of the crane.

“Desert Bluffs Vultures?” asked Carlos, reading the logo as it fell to earth. He arched an eyebrow. “Really?”

Cecil was standing beside him, holding Harold and grinning like a mad Jack O'Lantern. “Desert Bluffs. Bunch of jerks.”

“This didn't have anything to do with you, did it?”

Cecil batted his eyes. “Alleging that the mysterious construction cranes were somehow connected with our much despised rival and then riling up local high school sports fans using my community radio program? I wouldn't dream of it....”

Carlos smiled.

Cecil placed Howard back on the floor. He scurried away. “Hey, anybody want pancakes? They were having a sale on agave syrup at Ralphs!”

And so they sipped Armangnac and watched their pet badger construct a burrow underneath the curio cabinet, while beneath them, with a great roar of triumph, the fine citizenry of Night Vale rioted in the streets.



------


Notes: The badger is thought by some to be the mascot of Miskatonic University. There have really been squeegee attacks (swear to the Old Ones). “Slip Inside This House” is a song by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators (geddit?). No badgers were harmed in the making of this fic.
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.
Page generated Sep. 20th, 2017 07:55 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios