Do not pray. Whatever you do, do not pray. There is someone listening, but, believe me - oh, believe me - you do not want them to answer.
Welcome to Night Vale.
It is a cold day in Night Vale, Listeners. Fire up your stoves, heat up that soup, and hope it is enough to ward off the cold that seeps through your walls, drags its cold fingers in that light, icy touch across your spine, and plucks the hairs on your arm one by one until the skin at the base of the follicles stands in tiny points. Hope that the soup is enough. Sometimes, hope is all you have. Let’s hope it is enough.
When I came into the station today, I found a small brown package shoved under my door. From a distance, it might have been mistaken for a paper-wrapped parcel, but when I picked it up, I found it to be soft, supple, and too much like human skin for my own comfort, and for the comfort of the human whose skin it was, I presume. Now, this is not my first time coming across artifacts of arcane nature, and - as any accurate horror movie will tell you - not reading every word in a book such as this aloud, latin and all, and transcribing the symbols into your bloodstone circle is just asking to be cursed. With no other choice, I seem obligated to open this book and read it aloud to you, Listeners. Granted, I probably don’t need to read it on air, but, well, with everyone bundled up inside their homes, snuggled up with their loved ones, and waiting to hear a good story, this might very well be the most interesting thing to happen today, so here goes.
‘Five Simple Secrets to a Stress-Free and Successful Existence.’ Well… that was… not what I was expecting. I thought this would be like ‘Cooking Tips!’ or ‘How to Erase All Traces of Your Numerous Past Lives’ or something a little lighter, you know? Jumping right into the secrets of existence is rather sinister. But, I am committed now, and so I must continue.
[Sound of page turning]
‘Secret One: Trust everything you read. Books are illegal in some more progressive towns, but have you ever considered why? It’s because books hold the secrets to all knowledge of all universes - the known and the unknown. Books very much like this one, no, exactly like this one, really do hold the secrets you have been searching for while putting about that long, dark, lonely road you call existence. Always trust books that begin with secrets, end with secrets, and contain secrets. Secrets being broadcast to the general public are the only sorts of secrets worth anything, and I suggest you take them very, very, very seriously.
‘Secret Two: Diversify your portfolio. This is common sense. To have all of your money invested in one company, project, person, pet, cause, charity, or abstract concept is foolish. Those companies who claim to be transparent, who say that they “have no secrets - 100% of your money is going towards building a time machine that will go back in time and get you winning lottery numbers, we promise,” are lying. Do not trust people who say they have no secrets. (There is a bonus secret for you.) So take all the money from your bank accounts and buy physical objects that can easily be sold back for equal or greater money. Do this now, and I promise you will feel much more secure in your investments when you do.’
Listeners, I’m going to take a break from reading for a minute to give you an update on the winter ‘Storm of the Century.’ While I do so, hopefully you can begin to follow the secrets from this mysterious book sitting on my desk. After all, the advice seems sound, and diversifying your portfolio takes only a few minutes, as we all know. ‘Easy as shootin’ a groundhog,’ Harvey Waters, Night Vale’s own investment banker always says. ‘You diversify that, you reversify this, and boom, that’s all it takes!’
This storm has taken Night Vale by surprise, shifting from cold and dry to cold and wet, gearing up for what has been called the ‘smoothest ride- I mean, snowiest night that our town has ever seen,’ or so my report says. The meteorologists go on to absolutely not recommend sledding down the hill near the abandoned lot out back the Ralph’s. It is dangerous, and no matter how incredibly fun it might look, is not all it is cracked up to be. The cold is frosting up the car windows, creeping up the durable, tempered glass. ‘Beware of black ice on the roads-’ which, as a small editorial note, is not black at all. All ice is clear; it is in the very nature of ice. What is under the ice is black, not the ice itself. Whoever named black ice would have done better working for Mountain Dew than the Weather Phenomenon Naming Association. But, I digress.
‘Beware of black ice on the roads,’ the report continues, ‘especially if your tires aren’t friction-controlled, traction-collecting, rubberized, round, diamond-patterned ones such as on, say, your neighbor’s Buick. He won’t have to worry. He also won’t have to worry about any extreme temperature fluctuations cracking the tempered glass of his windows. He won’t have to worry about a thing, at least not when it comes to his car! And, really, in trying times and terrifying storms such as these, are our cars not the largest worries in our minds?’
This has been traffic, brought to you by Buick Century, the official sponsor of The Storm.
And now for a quick look at horoscopes.
Virgo: Go out and buy yourself something nice. You’ll deserve it after what’s about to happen to you.
Libra: Listen closely. Listen very closely. Now listen from an acceptable distance. Now listen from far away. Can you hear the voices yet? No? Get your hearing checked, Libra.
Scorpio: Run. Don’t ask questions, just run. Run now. Run right now. Run as if something large, heavy, and dangerous is chasing you. Run as if your life depends upon it. RUN. The stars say that if you don’t, you will miss being in shape for your upcoming 5k by about 2ks. What a shame.
Sagittarius: You’ve been afflicted with a paralyzing fear lately, but don’t worry, things are going to turn around soon. And when they do, don’t be alarmed. This is just a warning. When you come home to see your fridge put in backwards or all the dolls on their little shelf facing away from you, don’t be alarmed. Embrace that paralyzing fear, sure, but do not be alarmed.
Capricorn: The stars are more accurate than anyone thinks. This will not be a comfort to you, Capricorn.
Aquarius: What you drank this morning was not coffee. Best not think about it too much.
Pisces: The stars say that the trees have a message for you, Pisces. They say to bring rope and an axe to the forest behind your house at midnight. There is a tree they don’t like, and they have put up with it long enough.
Aries: Tomorrow, you will meet the love of your life, but they will not meet you. You will both go your separate ways, unaware that you were just steps away from happiness. You will return to your normal jobs and normal lives, still searching for that special someone. After tomorrow, you will not have to search any longer, for you will know for certain that you have missed the love of your life. Take comfort, Aries, that your search is over.
Taurus: You should get a dog. That’s all. There is no sinister message or prophecy attached to this horoscope; the stars are just very big fans of dogs and think you should get one.
Gemini: Go to the store right now and buy three rolls of duct tape, a pack of licorice, and a tube of glitter. If you had done this yesterday, you might have survived. If you go right now, you might have a chance. Godspeed, Gemini.
Cancer: In light of your recent identity crisis, your identity has been returned to the manufacturer for refurbishment. In the meantime, enjoy life as a faceless, nameless, thoughtless being. Don’t be mad. We’re doing the best we can.
Leo: Play the lottery today with the numbers 09, 45, 12, 03, 88. Keep in mind what is most important here - is it actually winning the lottery, or is it simply the anticipatory feeling of excitement when there’s a potential that you might win? The stars know the answer, and you will find out soon, Leo.
Anyway, now that that’s over with, let us return to the final three secrets to a Stress-Free and Successful Existence.
‘Secret Three: Remove all alarms, sharp objects, guns, and protective devices from your home. Do this now. Immediately, I guarantee that you will feel lighter, freer, and certainly safer. Having such things in, and booby-trapped around, your home makes you feel as if you have something or someone to fear, from which you must protect yourself. Feeling as if you have something to fear generally makes you afraid. Being afraid is not conducive to a Stress-Free and Successful Existence. Therefore, by removing those objects that trigger thoughts of fear and danger, you can live in complacent security and believe that nothing can harm you if you don’t believe there is any harm you must fear. It is simple logic.
‘Secret Four: Keep all of your valuables in one secure place. There are those that say to scatter your valuables about, but this is poor advice. What if you forget where you stashed a large amount of money? What if your cat, dog, small child, or large guinea pig find your grandmother’s treasured jeweled necklace and consume it to fill the perpetual hunger of their small souls? And then there is the obvious consideration of security. If you leave all of your valuables in one place, a potential robber is statistically less likely to find one in however-many-places-are-inside-your-frame-of-reference than if you were to divide your possessions amongst, say, a dozen hiding places. It is only logical that you choose one place and put all of your valuables inside. Don’t be afraid to realize that this place is not guarded, booby-trapped, or alarmed. That fear should be gone if you properly followed the instructions in Secret Three.’
Here I pause again, dear Listeners. Can you hear the wind howling? It is filling the sound booth with an awful ringing whistle despite the fact that there are no windows in here, or in any of the rooms in close proximity. Nevertheless, the sound is in here, and it is annoying to say the least. While you hide your valuables in one location, and while I attempt to sound proof the station with a lint roller and sixty four packs of chewing gum, I leave you with: The Weather.
Welcome back, Listeners. Intern Faroh and I have managed to reduce the intense din of the howling wind, and my voice should be coming uninterrupted and unaffected by the bone-chilling cold that is currently seeping into your home and destroying your will to live. We only have one secret left until I am free to stop reading this book without fear of being cursed, and so I might as well take these final few minutes on air to finish up.
There is some fine print at the bottom of this page, but I don’t have time to read it to to you. It begins with “By continuing to read this book, you hereby agree and surrender all…’ and on and on. It seems rather dry and boring, almost like a legal document, or something equally as silly and unimportant. I’m going to skip it. Fine print doesn’t count when it comes to curses, right? Anyway, here is the final secret.
‘Secret Five:* Practice Daily Meditation. First, find a friend - but not one who actually cares about you. This will be easy for some of you, difficult for others, but when you feel that all is lost and you are destined to live and die alone, remember this string of letters and type it into your nearest electronic device, etch it into the side of a slab of quartz, or write it on a scroll and send it floating away through the ocean in a bottle. After doing any of those, I promise that you will have someone to call your friend almost immediately, depending on how much of your soul you have left that qualifies for automatic and un-authorized withdrawal from the soul bank. Those letters are as follows: r-e-n-t-a-f-r-i-e-n-d-d-o-t-c-o-m.
‘After you have found a friend - or, as an extreme back-up, a relative or stranger will do - have them read the following in their slowest, most calming voice, placing inflection where indicated (anyone rated four stars or higher on rentafriend.com is guaranteed to have a level 9 or above meditative voice):
‘Imagine yourself on a beach. It is a long beach, white, soft sand, gentle sun cresting at the horizon. The sunset is not loud today, but instead sounds of soft music, calming and soothing. The waves crash on the beach, one after another, after another. Crash, swell, crest, crash, suck, swell, crash. They’re predictable and yet wild, the most ordered chaos that exists. Imagine that you are a shell under those crushing waves; let yourself drift, be sucked out with the tide, swept in and pounded against the shore. Pay no attention any pain you feel, any sudden bruises that seem to be forming on your skin. You have no skin. You are a shell. You are calcium secretions, built up and broken down, a shard of a hardened bit of beauty.
‘Imagine that a wave comes, this one bigger than those before. It picks you up, sweeps you higher up the sandy beach than you’ve ever gone before, and deposits you before retreating. There you stand, your jagged edge peeking out from beneath the tiny grains. If you had eyes as a shard of shell, you would see the seagull that lands a few feet away from you, staring at you with its beady eyes. It starts to walk towards you, mistaking your vibrant color for a crab or some other form of food. You would like nothing more than to leave, to head for the safest place you know, the place where all your valuables are hidden. Just being among those precious items, those piles of money that you cash out of your retirement, makes you feel better. You think there might be someone following you, but you are mistaken. You are alone. Your breathing eases. Breathe in, breathe out. The seagull fades into the background, and you realize that you have survived. You have survived. It was all you. No one else helped, no one gave you any instruction or guidance. No one else was even present. You did that all by yourself, you took control of your mind, your body - your tiny calcium body. You realize you no longer need your valuables; they are not the source of your power - you are. You walk away from the safe place, leaving it unguarded. It no longer matters. All that matters is you, and the control you find through meditation. You are in control of your own body. You always have been. You always will be. Come back to yourself now and go home, draw a bath, and sleep for twenty four hours, or until the next flight out of the country has safely landed at its destination.
'Congratulations on completing the first five steps to a Stress-Free and Successful Life!’
Well, Listeners, do write in and tell me if you feel well-rested and stress-free after that meditation. I hope the soothing tones of my voice and the instructed inflection translated over the air in all the right places.
The storm outside seems to have abated for a short while, and so I plan to take this opportunity to make my way home to my boyfriend Carlos, who no doubt has a steaming hot mug of Champurrado waiting for me. And then maybe we’ll pile some blankets on the couch and watch that History Channel documentary about how the sun is actually a lie that he’s been wanting to see. And, well, I recommend you do the same, Listeners. Go home, go to the ones you love and use them as a weapon against the cold. Let them fight off the clawing, icy fingers of sub-zero temperatures while you relax. Let’s hope this storm clears up soon. After all, blankets, superficial heat sources, and love are among the weaker forms of energy.
So, as I head out into this cold winter’s day, I bid you goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.