He’s been in here for weeks. Days. Months. Hours. Seconds. Minutes. Any form of measuring the immeasurable truth that is time. He doesn’t know. Can’t tell. His head is fuzzy when thinking about the past, but crystal clear as he contemplates here, now.

Where is he? Strexcorp, that’s easy enough. A room, small, sterile, suffocating, cagelike…a cell? They’re holding him here, but it’s nothing like the abandoned mineshaft. No people and no comfort and no HBO. And there they don’t tie people to cold metal chairs in small, clean, boxlike rooms with florescent lighting shining on them incessantly and the maddenly quiet yet infuriating existent strexcorp music playing from somewhere that he’s only half certain is not his own head.

He tried talking at first to fill the silence, until he became paranoid by the sound of his own voice, so calm, so steady, reporting on old news until it was a constant loop of reminders that dogs are not allowed in the dog park, over and over, until he stopped and wondered where the strange voice was coming from and why it too was torturing him like the soft music.

But as unclear as his thoughts are now, he remembers clearly some things. Parade day, being taken away, broadcast cut off with a startled gasp as hands grabbed him and covered his mouth, waking up here and, god, reeducation.

He fought hard against it, which is why now he’s a confused mess, trying to figure out if what he feels is happiness or desperation, whether the expression on his face is a grimace or a smile.

They may have confused him, but one thing he knows is that he does not believe in a smiling god.

He’s often wondered where Tamika is, if she’s here now, wherever here is. And he wonders about Carlos.

After what he pulled in the studio, there’s no way they would leave his scientist alone. But Carlos must have been smart enough to gt away, because otherwise Cecil is sure they would use his boyfriend against him, somehow. So at least he can console himself with that.

He just wants out.

Sometime later, he hears a noise. Soft, at first, then thunderous. Someone is opening the door to his cell, and after so much silence, the sound is deafening, crashing aroud his ears like a garbage truck emptying a trash can.

Cecil groans, shys away from the noise and light.

Two men enter wearing orange Strexcorp uniforms and carrying what looks like a radio between them. They set it down in front of him on the clean linoleum floor, the device standing out harshly against the glaringly white tiles.

One bends down to turn it on as the other turns towards Cecil. “We thought you might like to hear your show,” he says with what might be a sinister grin, or maybe a joyous smile.

The two turn to leave as a peppey, energized, overly happy voice fills the room. The voice of Lauren Mallerd sounds sinister even as she cheerfully opens his show.

“Welcome to the Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area.” Soft, bright music plays as Cecil’s whole body fills with horror.

Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area? That means… he has failed, Tamika has failed, anyone strong enough to fight back has failed. Strexcorp has taken over and Night Vale is doomed.

And the voice of Night Vale is powerless to stop it.

Lauren is still talking, “…We can stop focusing on our differences and instead focus on our similarities, our commonalities. For instance, the future. We all share that, don’t we?”

“We sure do!” says a voice, a laughter filled and impossibly joyful voice. A familiar voice. One he knows. He recognizes it somehow. It’s so familiar…

Lauren’s next sentence confirms it.

“Why hello again Kevin!”

For the first time since Parade Day, Cecil is well truly terrified.