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Title: A Blinking Light up on the Mountains of Madness (Chapter 2 of 5)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale/Cthulhu Mythos
Author: tikistitch
Rating: M
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos, Telly the Barber, John Peters (you know, the farmer), the City Council, Big Rico, Intern Dana, various characters from Lovecraft
Warnings: AU. Cursing
Word Count: ~30,000
Summary: 1930s-era AU (yes, really). Carlos, an impoverished graduate student attending Miskatonic University, joins an expedition to the Antarctic. But the explorers get more than they bargained for when they stumble upon a weird lost civilization.
Notes: At the end.





“...and remember, if you see a hooded figure passing by, please, by all means, do not speak to him or her. It only aggravates them. The hooded figures probably will not harm you in any way, but they will suck out your immortal soul, which some people do find disconcerting. Remember this little rhyme: hooded figure, pass ‘em by; bird of prey, let ‘em fly; pentacle-symmetry elder god, run for your life, perhaps tossing small children and superfluous household pets into its path.

“And on that topic, citizens often stop me on the streets of our fine community and ask questions like, ‘Cecil, can you tell us why the penguins are moping today?’ or ‘Cecil, is my hair still on fire?’ or ‘Cecil, can you please stop that high-pitched whine from ringing and ringing and ringing?’ I would like to tell you now, I value these questions. Though sometimes, there are no answers to your questions. And other times, no questions to your answers. It’s all so terribly sloppy.

“Listeners, it has come to our attention that the hardy explorers visiting our fair community have constructed a camp, nestled right smack in the midst of our own foothills. Yes, in fact, I've just gotten word that the camp located directly over an ancient burial ground used by the Elder Gods. Oh, that’s going to work out well now, isn’t it?”



“Cecil is one sassy fooker, ain’t he?” mused Pabodie, who was sitting with his injured leg propped up, sipping at a mug of something Carlos suspected wasn't 100% coffee, and listening to the radio broadcast along with Carlos.

Carlos continued to hunch over the plans for his light aircraft, which were spread out all over the table. His hands were raw from working outside. He had come inside for a breather, and he was not in the best of moods. “Can we turn that off? Trying to concentrate.”

“I find I quite enjoy it,” said Pabodie as the radio continued to murmur with Cecil's odd bits of news.

Carlos only grunted.

“And how are the repairs going?”

“Well as could be expected.”

Pabodie leaned over and clicked off the wireless. “All right, boy, are you going to tell me what's got you in a blue funk?”

“Prof. Lake didn't pick me for the research team! I should be at Erebus camp instead of wasting my time here.”

Pabodie clutched his belly and chuckled. “That great arse, Lake? You don't even like the man.”

“They brought me along as … as a workman!”

“And what's wrong with working for a living? It's what your Papa did. And your brother.”

“Ernesto is my cousin.” Carlos suddenly felt like a sulking eight year old.

“Don't you think, given the choice, that your cousin would swap places with you? Or Gedney?”

Carlos sulked, but then felt bad about sulking, which just make him sulk harder.

Pabodie was leaning over, speaking softly. “Gedney is one of the smartest folks I've worked with. As are you, Carlos. But as bad as it's been for you, and I don't doubt it, do you think they'd let that lad walk the hallowed halls of Miskatonic? Lord knows, I get enough guff from that lot having him as my assistant.”

Carlos sat and rubbed his raw hands together, but the anger that had been bubbling under in the days since Lake's group decamped over the mountains seemed to have spent itself. He looked up, startled, as Pabodie grabbed his hands. At some point, the engineer had risen and limped over to where Carlos had been sitting. “I got something you could put on those hands. You think she'll be ready to fly?”

Carlos nodded.

“Then get our Beechcraft ready. I got a feeling in my gut something is coming up.”

“You should keep off that ankle,” Carlos said quietly.

“Eh,” grumbled Pabodie, who was limping away to rummage around in one of the medical kits. “Lake took that rascal Pym along to Erebus camp, so I'm no longer in danger of turning into journalist feed.” He fished out a jar, and tossed it over to Carlos. Carlos unscrewed the lid, and began to rub the cream on his raw hands.

The two-way radio buzzed to life. “Erebus camp to Base. Erebus camp to Base!”

Carlos huriedly set down the jar and leapt over to the radio set. He leaned over and spoke into the microphone. “This is Base. Over.”

“It's five-sided! Five-sided symmetry! Remarkable!”

Carlos frowned over at Pabodie, who threw up his hands. “Erebus Camp, I didn't read you. Over.”

“Our discovery! We're not sure if they're plants or animals. Eleven, twelve foot tall! They would have been giants!”

“Erebus Camp, this is Base. Danforth? What was eleven feet tall? Over.”

“The specimens! They were in the cavern. We managed to bring up a couple. They're defrosting in the sun.”

Carlos felt a hand on his shoulder. “I told you, lad,” said Pabodie. “Something is coming.”

The report from Lake's encampment was startling. After a bit more incoherent babble, Carlos had streaked out of the shack to gather up Dyer and the others, and their correspondent, Danforth, had finally calmed down enough to give them a more coherent narrative. The party had evidently been drilling for core samples when they had burst unawares into some kind of deep underground cavern. There were fossils aplenty: enough to keep any party of scientists going for years it sounded like.

But then they had happened upon what Lake was calling “the Old Ones.” Pabodie had later explained that it was a kind of joke based on Danforth's fannish attachment to the Necronomicom. What precisely they were nobody was quite certain. The appeared to be some kind of prehistoric Echinoderms, as they had the radial symmetry characteristic of that phylum. But they had grown to monstrous size, and also sported appendages that appeared to be legs, as well as primitive eyes.

The glacial freeze had preserved several of the specimens, a few of which Lake had managed to pull to the surface, only to find that their skin proved too tough for his dissection tools. Pabodie had muttered, “They damn well better not use my drill,” at the same point that Dyer had confessed they were contemplating jury-rigging Pabodie's beloved piece of equipment in just that manner.

“You best not go along with them, Gedney!' Pabodie had boomed while Dyer waved for silence.

“Mr. Gedney is no longer here,” said Lake over the wireless.

Pabodie looked shocked. “Well, what's that about?”

“Oh, in the all the commotion, I completely forgot to mention this: there's a light blinking from the mountains.”

“We can't see it from this side.”

“No. There's another mountain range beyond. To the west. Looks to be high: as high as the Himalayas! Our camp is in the foothills of the range. At any rate, there seemed to be a red light, blinking from atop, so we sent up a party, men and dogs, to go take a look.”

“You've … discovered a new mountain range?” said Dyer, who happened to be a geologist.

Yes, what luck!”

The moment the transmission concluded, Dyer had turned to Carlos.

“The light aeroplane: is she ready to fly?”

“With a few more minor repairs, yes,” said Carlos.

Dyer glared. “Then make them. We fly tomorrow.” And thereupon he stormed out of the room.

Pabodie winked at Carlos.



The Old One sat rotting in the sun.

Carlos wound his scarf tighter around his face and listened to the dogs howling. He didn't blame them for being upset. The smell of putrefaction was nauseating, but Lake seemed blithely unaffected by it all. They all stood in the shadow of the great unknown mountain range as he chattered away about pentamerism and how the Danish researchers he considered his bitter rivals would never be able to top this find.

All Carlos could think was that the things were dead and should have stayed buried. Dyer, to his surprise, had actually tried to convince Lake to transport the bodies back into the cavern, “for preservation.” He was also annoyed that, true to Lake's word, and in Gedney's absence, they had begun outfitting Pabodie's drill with a kind of circular saw, so turning it into a sort of improvised Dremel.

Carlos found himself more intrigued by the newly discovered mountain range looming overhead, and the blinking light several men swore they had seen each evening, or in what would have been the evening had it not been in the middle of the insane Antarctic summer season. Every night, they claimed, from around 9 pm to midnight, you could espy it up there. It was about the time of Cecil's nightly broadcast, Carlos mused, wondering what their mysterious friend would think about it all. Hadn't he called this area a graveyard?

Something tapped him on the shoulder, and he jerked around. But it was only the wind.

“Wind's picking up,” said Dyer.

“We'll need to secure everything for the day,” Prof. Atwood chimed in. “There's a storm coming.” Carlos wasn't entirely certain why the physicist had come along on this, but he served as a sort of ad hoc meteorologist.

“The party that went to the mountain,” said Carlos. “Gedney, and the others....”

“They'll be fine,” snapped Dyer. “Meantime, we've got work to do.”

Lake seemed to regret it, but was persuaded to splay a weighted tarp over his stinking samples, and then the men scattered to secure equipment for the night.

Carlos dashed for his aeroplane, intent on creating an improvised barrier of piled snow to shield it from the worst of the storm. The Beechcraft biplane was one of the finest things he'd ever flown, and now that it was in good repair he intended to keep it that way. He nearly ran into Pym, who was standing, staring up at the mountains.

“Pym,” muttered Carlos. He was going to run on, as time as short, but lingered for some reason.

At length, Pym turned towards Carlos, but appeared to be staring right through him. “They don’t know what they’ve awakened. But they’ll find out. They’ll find out soon enough.”

Carlos stifled a shiver: he wasn’t certain if it was from the cold, or from the strange little man’s portentous words, but he nodded, and hurried along to tend to his aircraft.

When finally they finished their work, Carlos at last climbed into his sleeping bag, cold and exhausted. But he did not fall asleep immediately. The wind had already begun to pick up outside, and he sat listening to it, wishing for some reason that he could hear that now familiar voice, chatting about all of the odd happenings in his town. He grabbed his bag and pulled out the paperback Ernesto had stuffed into his luggage: the one with the lurid cover of the tentacled thing menacing the busty blonde. Grinning fondly, he began to read.

He soon fell into restless dreams of strange, barrel-shaped beings moving silently through the night.



He awoke suddenly to a terrible commotion. He pulled his boots on and stumbled out of his tent, blinking sleep and ice from his eyes, squinting in the clear sun of the weird Antarctic morning.

Dogs were howling and barking, and men were rushing everywhere. He assumed the wind had done some damage, and thought to rush over to check his aeroplane. But he came to a halt near where Dyer and Lake were standing, Lake a picture of fury.

“They’ve stolen them! They’ve stolen my samples!” Lake was cursing. Even in the bitter cold, he was only half dressed, his face red.

“Lake, they blew away,” Dyer retorted, his face no less flushed.

“Nefarious bastards. They’ve absconded with my life’s work.”

“No one has stolen your samples. Lake, be reasonable!”

“They’ve were blown away by the strong winds last night, Lake,” Atwood interjected. “My meters show record wind speed-“

“Fools! You’ve always been jealous of my work!” stormed Lake. And then he leapt at a very surprised Atwood, tackling him and bringing him down into the snow.

Carlos’s boxer’s instinct kicked in immediately, and he was pulling the crazed professor off of his colleague almost before they hit the ground. He held him, his arms pinned to his side.

“Lake, you’re mad!” Dyer fumed, somewhat unnecessarily, as Carlos held him back.

“Unhand me, you lower class cretin!” Lake spat at Carlos, who did not loosen his grip.

“Lake, that was most ungentlemanly!” Dyer scolded, as a shaken Atwood brushed himself off.

Lake suddenly produced the most unearthly howl and broke free of Carlos. He pivoted and swung wildly at him. Carlos ducked, and then dropped the unhinged professor with one swift punch to the jaw.

“Enough!” barked Dyer. “Are we a group of savages?”

“Evidently,” grumbled Carlos, clenching his fists, and sadly aware that he had just decked a member of his dissertation committee.

There was a sudden commotion at the edge of the camp: men shouting and many dogs barking. “Come along,” fumed Dyer, who now helped a shaky Lake to his feet and dragged him off.

Atwood paused one second, patting Carlos on the shoulder. “Good job,” he whispered. And then he hurried off after Dyer and Lake. Carlos went after them. A small contingent of men had entered the camp on dog sledges.

Danforth was at the head of the party, ripping off his hood, his eyes wide and crazed. “Did you see them? They were terrible!”

“Did we see what, man? Speak sensibly,” snapped Dyer.

“Prof. Dyer?” said Danforth, eyes still lacking focus.

“Of course it’s me,” sighed Dyer, who seemed at the end of his rope after the events of that morning. “What did you see?”

“Where is Gedney?” asked Carlos, who had been searching fruitlessly for his friend among the returned men. “He went out with you as well, didn’t he?”

Danforth had started flailing, waving his arms up and down. “We were separated in the storm. And then they came! They must have been fifteen, twenty foot tall! Marching through the snow, they were.”

“Danforth, pull yourself together, or I’ll have Carlos knock some sense into you.”

Carlos tried to keep himself from grinning. Still and all, it wasn't like the stuffy professor to rage like this. Something was very amiss in the camp this morning, and it was beginning to worry him.

“It's the Old Ones,” say Pym. All heads turned. Carlos didn't remember the melancholy little man even being there. “That's what you saw. And woe betide all of us.” Danforth went pale.

“Nonsense,” said Dyer. “What's gotten into all of you? We're suppose to be scientists, men of reason! We can't go telling fairy stories about … escaped vegetables, or whatever the blazes those things mad were supposed to be.”

“There's more of them! Down in the cavern!” Lake insisted.

“God help us,” said Danforth.

“All right, Lake,” said Dyer. “Then get some men, and pull out a couple more of your samples, we'll pack them and transport them back to base camp.”

This appeared to satisfy Lake, and he trudged off through the snow.

“What about Gedney?” Carlos asked Dyer. “He's out there somewhere.”

Dyer clasped Carlos's shoulder. “Take your light aircraft and make a pass over the area. He can't have gone far.”

“They were making for the pass,” Atwood told him, pointing upwards. “That's where we've been seeing that light.”

Carlos nodded, staring up at the dark mountain range, wondering what variety of madness lay on the other side. Dyer had told him it was higher than the Himalayas. His thoughts strayed. Was Cecil up there somewhere, maybe crouched in a cave, huddled over a wireless device?

He dismissed such speculations from his mind, and went to the flat stretch where his aeroplane had been secured for the night. He was grateful that it had survived the stormy night in good shape. It was while he was circling around the craft, doing a visual inspection, that he saw it: an impression in the ice. He looked along to the side, and saw another and another like it, along the ice, and then disappearing into a wind-blown snow bank. It seemed to be a trail of footprints. But the markings were like to the paw of no animal he had ever seen before: possibly like no animal on earth.

He squatted down and put a hand inside the print at his feet. His entire outstretched hand fit comfortably in the oddly symmetrical track. It looked like a big starfish, five points going outwards. He straightened and looked back and forth along the trail. The thing would have been huge. He recalled Danforth’s mad ravings about the huge barrel-shaped creatures, and Lake’s missing samples.

No, it wasn’t possible.

Somewhere out there, amid the lonely mountains, Gedney was lost and alone. Carlos was going to find him.

He climbed into his aircraft, a Beechcraft Staggerwing biplane. The seats were a soft leather: Carlos had never actually flown in something that felt so luxurious before, but one of the benefactors had evidently been generous with this project. It was beautiful to look at, and light and quick in the air, and he felt energized the moment the landing gear left the ground.

Carlos had been going along on search and rescue missions almost his whole life, so he immediately fell into a search pattern once he reached the mountain, sweeping back and forth across the area, keeping his eye out for movement. On one low pass he spotted what he figured was the path Danforth’s group had taken up the mountain, so he paid careful attention to that area.

As he was climbing higher and higher, his eyes were drawn to the narrow mountain pass. Although Danforth had told him the highest mountains in the range were over 30,000 feet, which would have been over the safe ceiling for his plane, the pass was much lower. Would Gedney have headed up that way? It was possible that he had gotten turned around in the confusion of the snowstorm and kept to the pass.

Wait.

Was that a light?

Carlos turned his aeroplane around, swearing that he had seen a flash of red in his peripheral vision. Would Gedney have taken along a flare gun, or something like that? He cursed himself for not asking, but the camp had been chaotic that morning.

He circled around, gaining in elevation, and took a swing through the pass. Dark clouds loomed overhead, obscuring the mountaintops, but he could see the sunlight peeking through on the far side. He brought the plane through a cloud bank, and, breaking through, was momentarily blinded by the bright sunlight.

Carlos blinked, and gasped.

He kept his sweating hands on the controls, disbelieving what he was now seeing below him. The mountain pass opened up into another world, a riot of rich, vibrant color. In contrast to the stark ice-covered world on the eastern side of the mountains, this land was a crazy quilt of vegetation. And there was animal life as well: he had already spotted a flock of birds on the wing.

What the hell?

But that wasn’t the end of it. For nestled in the foothills of the great mountain range there was a weird, ancient city. He flew overhead, tipping a wing tip of his biplane to get a better view. It covered acres. Many of the now crumbling structures appeared to have been carved directly out of the mountain itself. The great stone edifices and broad avenues were curious in that there seemed to be almost no right angles here. Indeed, everything seemed to reflect that same odd five-sided symmetry Lake had discovered in his hideous corpses of the Old Ones.

Carlos decided that he needed to land. It was not so much his curiosity, which was intense, but the fact that he felt it was possible Gedney had happened upon this place and retreated here for shelter. He turned on his radio, trying to open a free channel.

“Beechcraft to Erebus camp. Beechcraft to Erebus camp. This is Beechcraft. Over.”

But he heard nothing but static in return. He wondered if his radio transmissions were being blocked by the high mountain range.

He turned his dial, and, to his surprise, he came upon a familiar broadcast.

“Let my voice wash over you. You are safe now. Welcome, traveler from afar. Welcome to Night Valhal-La.”

And then, nothing but static.

There was a suitable flat area to land his plane just to the west of the town. Carlos put the aeroplane down, and then threw some items in his pack for his trek into town. He grabbed a pistol, as he had seen some movement within the city from the air, and worried that animals were now using the old buildings for dens. When he opened the door and stepped outside he was amazed to find he had no need for his heavy fur coat, as it was as warm here as a fine spring day in Arkham. He wished for a moment he had brought Atwood along, to explain the bizarre microclimate hereabouts.

He left the coat inside the plane and headed for town. There were birds chirping around him, and he spotted what he thought were some kind of deer along the path. They must have seen him too, as they bounded away before he could get close enough to identify them more positively. He searched his memory, trying to remember whether reindeer or the like had ever been discovered at this latitude. Certainly when he got back to camp Dyer would have more to be jealous about than just Lake’s findings.

Just outside of town, in sight of one of the strange, star-shaped buildings, he paused. He was seeing movement. But it was not animal.

He crept into the shadow of a crumbling edifice, once again disbelieving what he was seeing. He pulled the pack off his back and fumbled inside, reaching for the gun.

“Hello there!”

Carlos jerked around, arm still plunged deep into the backpack. There were two men standing there, smiling at him. Humans. Or so it seemed. “Uh, hello?”

“You must be Carlos!” said a potbellied man with a luxurious mustache. Carlos noticed he was carrying a very large pair of shears.

“He must be, his hair is perfect!” said the other man, who was holding a pitchfork He was dressed in overalls and chewing on a blade of grass.

“Yes,” said Carlos, looking nervously between them. “I'm Carlos.”

“I wouldn’t say it was perfect,” muttered the first man, who was snipping the air with his shears. “Could stand a trim!”

“Aw, come off it, Telly,” the second man told him. “Cecil said you were coming,” he said to Carlos, extending a hand. “I’m John Peters. You know, the farmer?”

“Uh, hi,” said Carlos.

“And this is Telly. He’s a barber.”

“You could use an appointment, Carlos,” said Telly. “You can find my barber shop by the striped poll!” He pointed off down the street. Carlos spied a rotating candy-striped pole down there. Oddly enough, it wasn’t round, but appeared to be five-sided.

Carlos withdrew his hand from his pack to shake with John and Telly. It was a really weird situation, but they seemed friendly enough. “John and Telly, I wonder if you could help me? I’m looking for a friend.”

“Oh, everyone needs a friend,” said John Peters. “Have you tried joining a club? We have a bowling team!”

Carlos briefly wondered if the bowling balls here were some off variation of a pentagram. And then he started envisioning a bowling alley configured with radial symmetry, and began to get confused. “Uh, no. I mean, there was a man from our party.”

“The scientists?” asked John as Telly also leaned closer. They both looked terribly intrigued.

“Yes, our party of scientists. He was exploring the mountain pass, but became separated from the group, and he hasn’t returned to camp.” Carlos searched their faces. “Is it possible he came through here?”

“Anything is possible!” said John, not too helpfully.

“He should probably ask the City Council,” whispered Telly, twisting the end of his mustache, and snipping the air with this clippers.

“Yes, it would be a matter for them!” said John. “Come on, Carlos. They’re holding a session right now.”

“Wish I could join you,” said Telly, wistfully. “But I’ll be down by my pole. Come visit! We’ll get that hair taken care of.”

Carlos followed John down the street. They started to encounter more and more citizens of Night Valhal-La as they proceeded through the maze of passageways between the many oddly-shaped structures. Some buildings were at least as high as the skyscrapers he had seen in New York City, and others along the way seemed to extend underground to unknown depths, as he glimpsed a few lighted tunnels into the mountain along their circuitous route. Just when Carlos thought they had circled around to where they had started, they came upon the biggest building of all. It was shaped as a ten-pointed star, and was at least a good ten stories high. There were vast stone archways at the entrances on every side, and people were pouring inside. Carlos and John followed the crowd, milling into a high-ceilinged lobby area. There were strange hieroglyphics all along the walls. Carlos stopped and contemplated them. They were primitive, little more than pictographs, and depicted the life of some strange beings of more than a passing resemblance to Lake’s Old Ones. Were these weird creatures involved in the construction of this structure, and indeed the entire city? It seemed inconceivable.

He looked around and realized that John Peters had disappeared into the crowd somewhere. So he followed the rest of the townspeople into the auditorium area. There were finely-upholstered seats on raised tiers set in a semicircle, and a stage down below. It seemed a rather large venue for a City Council meeting, but Carlos thought perhaps he had misunderstood. The auditorium was huge, with room for thousands, although he would estimate only a few hundred people actually filled the seats.

The lights began flashing, so Carlos found an empty seat just as the lights dimmed.

A single spotlight shown down on the group of people who had silently filed onstage. They were dressed in robes, and Carlos guessed they must have been elderly or infirm, as all of them carried canes.

One of the members came up to stand before a microphone. He tapped it a couple of times, and feedback squealed.

And then music cued up, and the City Council member began to sing.

In olden days Old One kept watching
To pick out what things we’re botching
If you don’t a straight line hoe
Elder Gods know.


Shaman used to invoke our wishes
To the ones shaped like starfishes
But now oh woe,
Elder gods know.


Penguins fly today
And spiders weave today
And the day’s long today
And we grieve the day
When we leave the day
That we conjured abominations to and fro
Elder Gods knows!


The rest of the Council, meanwhile, performed a jaunty tap routine, tapping their canes and waving their straw boaters.

Lesser folks outside Valhal-La
May study the sacred Kabbalah
But oh no,
Elder gods know.


Cthulhu likes to keep his tentacles
Wrapped in our sacred pentacles
So hear me, Joe
Elder gods know.


There followed thunderous applause, as the Council all took their seats. “Is there any new business?” asked the lead singer, who was now holding a gavel. The room was silent. “Any old business?” He looked around again to silence. He raised his gavel. “Well then-“

“I have some business!” shouted Carlos, who had leapt out of his seat. He cringed as every head turned towards him.

The lead singer was shielding his eyes, peering up at him. “You’re Carlos the scientist?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Yes, you have very straight teeth,” said the City Council member. The others began to murmur their agreement.

“What? Anyway, my friend-“

“Is this new business?” asked one of the City Council members.

“Well, I guess so,” said Carlos.

“It can’t be new business,” said another City Councilman. “Cecil already told us he was coming.”

“But my friend-“ Cecil protested.

“So it’s old business,” said the first City Councilman.

“How long have you been here, Carlos?” asked a City Councilwoman.

“Um, just a couple of hours.”

“Well, then it’s not old business either,” she remarked.

“Well, no new business and no old business, so I guess we’ll adjourn!” said the lead Councilman, banging his gavel.

“Wait!” shouted Carlos, but to no avail. The City Council shuffled out, and, as the house lights came up, the townspeople began to mill out as well.

“Damn,” he muttered. He felt a large hand on his shoulder.

“Carlos!” boomed the biggest man he had ever seen.

“Yes,” sighed Carlos, who was getting quite frustrated.

“Cecil told us you were coming.” The big man leaned over and, to Carlos’s dismay, sniffed him. “Ah, yes, you do smell of lavender. Come, you look hungry. I’m Big Rico, and I run the best pizza place in Night Valhal-La! Well, it’s also the only pizza joint in town.”

Carlos decided to accompany the man, partly because he was out of ideas, but mostly because Big Rico had a mammoth hand wrapped around his arm and was pretty much dragging him away. Once more he was led through a maze of pathways, overpasses and tunnels, Big Rico often having to stoop over so he could pass through the doorways.

“So, science: is it a good racket?” asked Big Rico at one point.

“Racket? Well, I’ve never thought of it that way. But, yes, I enjoy it.”

“I got a laboratory.”

“You have … what?”

“I got a lab. Right in back of my pizza place. You oughta check it out, being a scientist and all.”

“Well, I guess I will.” Carlos wondered what they would consider a scientific laboratory in these parts. They had reached the restaurant, which had a blinking Big Rico’s neon sign out front. Carlos could smell the food cooking, and his stomach growled at the scent of melted cheese and spices. He realized he hadn’t gotten any breakfast that day, and was a little hungry.

Rico grinned. One of his front teeth was gold, and glinted in the sun. He put a large paw on the front door and wrenched it open. “Ah. What you need is a special! I’ll get that right up for you.”

Carlos paused at the doorway. “I’m sorry, I just realized, I’m not carrying any money.” In fact, he had no idea what kind of currency they might accept here.

“On the house! It’s not every day we have an important visitor,” said Big Rico with a wink. He went back to the kitchens, and Carlos found himself a seat at an empty table. His day had been an odd mix so far. People seemed polite, but no one appeared terribly worried about a lost explorer. When the pizza arrived, Carlos found himself devouring first one and then a second slice without even much thinking about what kinds of meats had gone into the pepperoni.

“Soooo, Carlos, you’re a scientist?”

Licking his greasy fingers, Carlos looked up from his pizza to be confronted by a striking pair of violet-hued eyes blinking back at him. “Um, yes?”

The man leaned forward, chin in hands, staring openly. “I'm very into science these days!”

Carlos searched his memories. He didn’t recognize the slim, preternaturally pale man sitting across from him, but there was something very familiar about the voice. And then it hit him. “Cecil?”

The smile was quick and genuine, and actually quite charming. “Yes!” he said, the distinctive sonorous voice now radiating pure delight. He extended a long-fingered hand. “I’m Cecil. Some call me the voice of Night Vale, but I personally think that’s a bit rich.”

Carlos stared for what was probably an uncomfortable amount of time. Cecil’s entire forearm, at least up to the extent of his rolled shirtsleeves, was covered with arcane markings. Tattoos, such as one might see on sailors. Carlos unconsciously reached up to scratch the still healing marking on his own shoulder.

Cecil flicked his hand and Carlos, suddenly realizing his gaffe, reached over to shake. Cecil’s hand was cool, his skin soft as silk.

“Ah a firm handshake,” said Cecil. “That’s a good sign!”

“Look, you’re a broadcaster? Maybe you could help me. I’ve asked the City Council….”

Cecil made a dismissive gesture. “Aw, don’t ask them for anything. Gives them delusions of grandeur.”

“I’m looking for a colleague. A young man named Gedney.”

“Oh, yes, the intrepid young explorer with the dogsled.”

“You knew all about this?”

Cecil puffed his chest, raising an index figure. “It’s my job to know things. I am a broadcast journalist.”

“They were headed this way, up the pass, when Gedney became separated from the rest of the party. I think he may have come here, for shelter. But I got nowhere at the City Council meeting!”

Cecil waved a dismissive hand. His gestures were graceful and precise, like that of a dancer. “Oh, don’t ask the City Council things like that. It only feeds their egos.”

“Could you please help me?” Carlos pleaded. “Maybe make a mention of it on your radio program?”

“I can do better!” Cecil put his index finger and thumb in his mouth and gave a shrill whistle, and quite suddenly, a fresh-faced youth was hovering expectantly over the table. “Intern Byrd, could you be a dear and check into Carlos’s lost friend? Probably vanished down a bottomless pit, or looked into the mouth of unspeakable horror.” Cecil looked to Carlos, sympathy in his eyes. “It happens!”

“Sure thing, Cecil!” said Byrd, who, true to his namesake, flitted off.

“Is that man … a servant?” Cecil asked of Byrd.

“Oh, of course not!” laughed Cecil. “It’s one of my interns. Now that that’s taken care of,” he said, starting to rise, “I’d say a tour of the town is in order!” Carlos's hypothesis regarding Cecil being a dancer received further confirmation, as the broadcaster stood straight-backed and slightly pigeon-toed.

Cecil gestured for Carlos to follow. “By the way,” he said, taking a flustered Carlos by the arm, “I’ve been meaning to say, that’s a well-fitting shirt you have on there. Would look very good coming off. Oh!” Cecil rambled on as Carlos flushed. “That wasn’t what I meant to say. Sometimes, the things that go into my mouth!” Cecil laughed again. “Oh, dear, I meant of course the things that come out of my mouth.”

“Oh. Uh.”

Cecil patted Carlos's arm. “Or the things that come in my mouth.” He arched a pale eyebrow. “But we can talk about that later!”

Carlos felt his cheeks burning as they bustled outside, and it was not from the chill wind. Cecil was definitely a bit forward. They once again threaded through the town, though this time at a slower pace than before, Cecil pausing to point out interesting features of the town. For example, there was an underground tunnel leading out to near where Carlos's plane was parked. Carlos hadn't even seen the tunnel entrance, as it was quite overgrown.

They walked back by the forbidden penguin park. Well, it was forbidden in theory at least – in reality there were several citizens hanging around, including some of the mysterious hooded figures Cecil had mentioned before on his radio program.

One of them passed close by, and Cecil hailed him. “Hey, Morty!”

“Hey, Cecil!” rasped the hooded figure.

“Working hard, or hardly working?” asked Cecil.

“Another day, another dollar,” said Morty the Hooded Figure. “Say, is this Carlos?”

“It is indeed.”

“Very strong jaw on that one!” said Morty, and with a wave, he was off on his mysterious errands.

Carlos noticed some of the hieroglyphics he'd spotted in the auditorium carved on the wall that bordered the penguin park. He pointed it out. “Cecil, can you tell me about this writing.”

“Well, it was before my time. I took Modified Sumerian in high school.”

“These creatures in these glyphs....”

“They did like to talk about themselves, didn't they? 'We have five arms, bully for us!'”

“So, they made the carvings themselves?”

“The carvings were made when the city was built,” Cecil said, somewhat elusively.

“So someone, or something, built the city?”

“What, did you think it just appeared out of nowhere? Magical thinking, a bit odd for a scientist.”

“Cecil-”

“But here we are at the radio station, and it's about time for my show. Are you ready for your interview?”

“My … what?”



Notes on this chapter: The Beechcraft Staggerwing I have Carlos flying in this chapter is said to be one of the most beautiful planes ever built. And, yes, the name of the town is a little nod to Lost Horizon. Kind of a goulash of references on this one.
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