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Your First Encounter With Night Vale Was Not Your First Encounter With Night Vale

It’s ten minutes before your tenth birthday party when your father pulls you aside to give you a radio. It’s an old fashioned thing. The once black nobs have faded to a dull gray, but the wooden face gleams as though recently polished. You stare at it, unsure if this is some sort of gag gift or if your father was honestly under the impression that you were hoping for an old time radio for your birthday.

You’re not an ungrateful child, you don’t think, but honestly, a radio?

A frown tugs at the corners of your mouth, but your father is grinning so brightly at you that you have to fight to keep them turned up in a poor excuse for a smile.

“It’s great, dad. Thanks.”

Your father raises an eyebrow at you. His grin turns into an amused smile.

“It’s wonderful that you like the radio, Carlos, but the radio isn’t your gift. What you’ll be listening to with it is.”

He takes the radio from you again, his fat fingers leaving a smudgy fingerprint on the polished wood. With a turn of one of the nobs, the radio flickers to life. Soft static fills the room and with the hand not holding the radio, your father rubs his chin. He turns some more nobs, partially formed words cut off before any sort of comprehensive meaning can be deciphered from them. You father grows frustrated with every station he hits that isn’t the one he’s looking for, but you wonder how he even knows none of those stations are the one he’s looking for when he’s going through them so quickly.

“The sun is actually cold. It’s cold and empty and all is lost. Greetings from Night Vale.”

The voice that comes through is high pitched and reminds you too much of sandpaper and can’t help but flinch at the sound of it. A voice like that should not be allowed on the radio.

“A Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared suddenly in the Sand Wastes earlier today and made its way down to the ruins of the Night Vale Opera before disappearing just as suddenly as it appears. Ten were killed and countless others were injured during the prehistoric beast’s visit. “

Your mouth drops open in a cartoonish expression of shock. The grating voice disappears when your father flicks the radio off.

“Well?” Your father asks.

You turn your face from the radio to your father. Your mouth does not shut. Your vocal cords produce no sound.

“Carlos?”

You grab the radio from your father and turn it back on, but rather than the sandpaper voice coming through the speakers all you hear is the soft hum of static white noise.

“What happened?” You ask, more distress coming through in your voice than the situation calls for.

“You have to find the station for yourself. It changes every time you turn the radio on and it only works on this radio.”

You fall silent, staring at the radio. Your father watches you.

“What was that?”

“That is a radio show from the most scientifically interesting community in the U.S.” Your father says and does not offer any other explanation. “Now, I believe your birthday party is beginning soon. Let’s just focus on that for now, hmm?” 

You go to bed that night with the door shut. You pull the covers over your head as though that would keep your parents from waking up and hearing you play with the radio so late at night. You search through the stations at least twice before you find something that could be the one you heard before, but the voice is different this time. It’s high pitched, but lower than, and nowhere near as grating as the voice from before.

“All substances are potentially mind altering substances. Welcome to Night Vale.” The new voice says. “If any scoutmasters are listening this is Cecil Palmer trying to earn my—“

Your door opens, you shut off the radio, and your father walks back to his and your mother’s room without a word. You turn the radio back on and static fills the room.