This week, Joseph Fink announced that Welcome To Night Vale will finally be taking its first break in November. About time. They’ve been at it for two and a half straight years. Then again, I usually don’t (read: shouldn’t) get projects very far past the “Whoa, [terrible idea] would be so cool!” stage, so I’m probably not the best judge of that kind of thing.
You know what else is usually not a good idea? Intentionally travelling to Night Vale. This week (Episode 55: The University of What It Is), a woman named Sylvia Kayali from the University of What It Is has been searching for their old science professor, Carlos. In an apparently decades-long search, Kayali and her staff are relieved to have finally tracked Carlos down, but the end of their mystery is the beginning of Cecil’s and, as always, of ours.
While Cecil is plagued by what Carlos has not told him of his past, I myself am trapped in the quandary of the world Night Vale inhabits. These faculty members seem just as strange and odd-mannered as any Night Valian (Night Valerite? Valese?), and from the sound of things, they come from an equally strange place, the University of What It Is boasting a single science professor teaching a single science class. Maybe they just had some really brutal budget cuts.
Before, I had made the assumption that the strangeness was a curse of the desert, since disturbing happenings also occur in neighboring Desert Bluffs and the ghost town of Pine Cliff (Episode 54). When I saw Welcome To Night Vale live in San Francisco earlier this year, Carlos had let slip that librarians at his Alma Mater were only marginally better than the ones in Night Vale. I’d written off this, as well as various jokes at Carlos’ expense, as irritating fan service, as the audience whooped and cheered in response. It felt like cheap shots, taking one of the few popular representations of an intelligent and professional person of color down a few pegs.
In light of this new knowledge however, I’m forced to reconsider the entire world in which Welcome To Night Vale takes place. Perhaps all the world is this mysteriously cursed and isolated, with no interactions not dictated in advance by supernatural forces. Maybe every place thinks that it is normal, while living in fear or hatred of neighbors that are suffering extremely similar fates, like so many West Virginia hollars. Maybe there are just little pockets of horror dotting America, or even the whole world, disappearing people like black holes out of our understanding of space and time. Until more is revealed, who knows?
Considering the increasingly unreliable narrator upon which we rely, the mystery will certainly have no problem being maintained. In this episode, Cecil once again demonstrates his isolation from popular thought and opinion by reporting on Khoshekh and subsequently passing up on any other local news. Regardless, Dr. Kayali and her entourage have moved on. Even if Night Vale’s Carlos is the one they are searching for, he is still trapped in another dimension, and seems in no great hurry to return. Perhaps this blast from his past will help motivate his return.