Where even to start. It’s been awhile since an episode of Welcome to Night Vale has absolutely blindsided me like that and, if you’re anything like me, those of you that have heard it probably share my exhilaration. Released on Labor Day, Episode 53: The September Monologues provides a new and daunting depth to an already developed world by putting the narration in the hands of the citizens of Night Vale. Cecil leads us into this haze of monologues, telling us only that the season is growing more malicious, and leaving us alone to absorb the words of a few select residents. As always, there are spoilers throughout the next few paragraphs.
The first of the three vignettes is told by The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, and could almost be understood as a sort of breakup letter. Expressing her grievances to Chad, the man who’s home she’s been secretly living in (though she technically secretly lives in everyone’s home), she simultaneously complains of his mundane beer drinking and TV watching, and how it can’t be rectified in her mind with his occult rituals and channeling of unearthly languages. She reluctantly feels no other choice than to leave. Adding to the permeating terror of the town, it seems that there are some things in Night Vale beyond even the knowledge of the supernatural.
In a moment close to my heart, the next voice we hear is from Michelle, an employee at Dark Owl Records. A hopeless addict to record stores, I couldn’t stop smiling as I listened to the bitter, elitist musical tastes of Dark Owl’s hipster clerk. If it’s popular, it’s terrible. If you’ve never heard her favorite album, she wants it to stay that way. You’d just ruin it for her, anyway. Also, if you want a 3:1 scale model of Woodie Guthrie, they’re 70% off. But you shouldn’t buy them. Like, who is even into folk music these days anyway? Whatever.
Finally, and damningly, we finally hear from town conspiracy theorist Steve Carlsberg. Cecil’s favorite target of ridicule and malign, Steve offers us his perceptions of the world, raw and unfiltered. As it turns out, Steve can see the answers to the world in circles, dotted lines, and pointing arrows in the sky. He can understand everything, including the failure of those around him to perceive what he does, the inner workings of Night Vale, the ire of his brother-in-law Cecil, and even the hate he may one day garner from his wife and daughter in his refusal to back down from his ideas about the truth.
After years of his role as a comedic punching bag, the reason for every bitter Scorpio horoscope, the target of derision at every PTA meeting, Steve gives us our first look into understanding how he could have possibly incurred the hatred of Cecil. At his wedding to Cecil’s sister years ago, while making small talk, the topic turned to the agents from the Vague Yet Menacing Government Agency. Only it wasn’t vague to Steve. With forbidden knowledge from the sky, Steve explained what branch of the government they were from, who they reported to, everything. Cecil, a community mouthpiece for only what Night Vale is allowed to know, despises him instantly, and even objects to the wedding. There is no weather. There is no break or relief. There is only the well of pity that floods inside us as Steve explains himself.
For years, we have only been receiving information from Cecil, an openly unreliable narrator that we seem to trust anyway. Cecil has been reeducated numerous times, has openly acknowledged his function as a pawn for powers beyond him, and yet, perhaps due to his rich, comforting voice, we trust him all the same. We have seen for a second a glimpse of Cecil the person, rather than Cecil the Personality, and it is a dark vision.