Imagine, young Cecil preparing weeks and weeks in advance for his birthday. He gets everything ready on his own, because his sister doesn’t like to be home (she has lots of friends and seems to live with them more than she lives at home) and his brother dislikes him and tends to hang out in the basement alone and his mother is having a string of bad mental health days. He’s saved up what money he could to buy everything, including some food and his own birthday presents. He’s very excited and gives out invitations to everyone his age that he knows or even doesn’t know. The big day arrives, everything is ready, he sits at the decorated table and counts down the minutes to the time of the party. Except nobody turns up on time. Maybe, he thinks, they’re just late. He nibbles at the food, opens one of the two presents he bought for himself, and he watches the clock.
After three hours he starts to realise that maybe nobody is coming and instead just sings himself happy birthday and his birthday wish is that this is all a bad dream, because nobody would miss his very important tenth birthday party, right? People like him…right?
He starts to pack up when there’s a tentative knock at the door. Earl Harlan is stood there, all dressed up with a stiff collar and bowtie. He apologises for being late, but he was catching Cecil’s present. The box has a live spiderwolf inside, Cecil isn’t sure what to do with it, but he’s tearful and happy all at once. They were best friends since that day.
The Characters of Night Vale, as explained by Troubled Birds
[image description note: all images are from The Minced Mockingbird’s Guide to Troubled Birds, and feature realistically painted birds on top of classical wall paper, with paper quotes on top. Image descriptions have the quote. I’d put what kind of bird it is as well, except I’m horrible with birds. Sorry!]
[image description: I had on my prettiest dress and he never even looked at it. “For God’s sake!” That’s all I could think of to say.]
[image description: The risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math.]
[image description: Your eyes look tasty.]
[image description: The ability to remain sober and gracious is, indeed, a form of mild insanity.]
[image description: Dealing with you is like herding cats.]
The City Council:
[image description: The drinks came. I wasn’t about to be sobered by anything like regret.]
[image description: My mating dance is mostly seizures.]
[image description: I’m three ounces of whoop-ass.]
Both Jackie and Earl claimed they lived for decades staying nineteen, though people around them felt/thought differently. Both Jackie and Earl have pictures of themselves as children that seem to be much older than is physically/logically possible (including showing things like steam locomotives and horses used as transportation).
Lucinda explained that the reason Jackie’s photo had changed was (to my understanding) because she felt she had lived that long or had in some way, lived that long, because time is weird in Night Vale. Earl therefore, probably only has his picture like that for the same reason.
The difference between Earl and Jackie is that Jackie’s journey and leading to her ageing was gradual (though unwanted on her part) and allowed her to start working things out and choose what age she then became, whereas Earl was seemingly thrust forward many years against his will and given a job and a child he never had a choice in with a mother for that child never known to him.
Will we ever get to know why? Is the fact that Earl’s picture showed the steam train that then reappeared and disappeared important? Guess we’ll see.
Also there is every chance that Roger Harlan is from another reality and either got stuck here or chose to stay here. I’m betting on that he got stuck, because he seems to be having an existential crisis (sitting in cupboards, going for long walks as if taking everything in like it’s all new). Just think about it, Earl is constantly forgetting his name even though he’s getting better at it, almost like Roger both does and doesn’t exist here. Maybe Roger isn’t even always in our timeline, just most of the time. Earl himself is a source of weird timeline happenings, it’s even possible the Earl we eventually came to know is a different Earl than who should have been there. It all makes sense and yet does not, ah, Night Vale.
So, sometimes I wonder about Earl Harlan being like. A little bit bitter that Cecil chose Carlos. Like, he kinda avoids them, and then is actually kinda happy when Carlos goes to the Desert Otherworld, but hasn’t actually MET him until that one particular Thanksgiving, where he’s like “aw, yeah, I’m gonna tell this guy what for, he’s probably a total jerk and I hate him!”
And then he actually MEETS Carlos, and Carlos is super happy to meet him, like “Cecil told me all about you I’m so excited to meet you!! You’re like, a food scientist, and that’s so cool!!” And just generally being the ball of awesome and dorky he is, and being really sweet and affectionate to Cecil when he thinks people aren’t looking.
And Earl is just absolutely shellshocked by this and almost immediately is like “omg I was so wrong this man is the nicest and sweetest cinnamon roll to exist I can’t hate this guy and that isn’t fair.”