Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 15, “Street Cleaning Day”
“Run! Run! Forget your children and leave behind the weak! Run!”
Few things cause open terror in every citizen of Night Vale. There are also few times where Cecil seems able to openly warn people about a pressing danger in town. This is the episode where the rules get broken as everyone tries to survive the cleansing carnage of Street Cleaning Day.
There’s no calm opening this time. Cecil immediately warns us that the street cleaners are coming and we already have little chance of surviving the coming massacre. Everyone must run for their lives and forget about helping others. He also tells us to remain calm in a tone that is anything but calming.
In other news, John Peters (you know, the farmer) has reported something strange. There’s an old-looking oak door standing in one of his fields. Although he can easily see both sides of it, he has still somehow been able to hear knocking, as though coming from another world. Now whenever he sleeps he has visions of distant, blurry shapes advancing and hissing. Hmm….
Next we get to hear from one of the best businesses in Night Vale: Dark Owl Records. The staff there wants to announce that the only musician they care about right now is Buddy Holly. In fact, he’s even going to be performing a live show! It’s to promote his newest album, “I’m Trapped Between Worlds, Existing Only In the Form That You Knew Me. This Is Not Who I Am. Leave Me Alone and Let Me Die, Please!”
We also get an update on the follow-up to “Wheat and Wheat By-Products”. It turns out that a thriving black market has developed for “those depraved addicts” who still want some gluten in their lives. It’s really not surprising, given how many ridiculous laws Night Vale has, as well as how incompetent the Sheriff’s Secret Police tend to be, I’m sure there are thriving black markets for a lot of things in town. In this case however, the police seem to be doing a better job than usual. It helps that freshly baked bread is something they can literally sniff out. Recently, Big Rico of Big Rico’s Pizza was caught selling wheat-filled products, but he was let go after he sincerely apologized for his crimes. That, or he bribed/blackmailed the City Council. It really leads me to wonder just what sort of power Rico has over the Council. What can he blackmail them with? What could they feel threatened by? Why is Big Rico’s the only pizza shop that hasn’t been burned to the ground in an unsolved arson case?
Back to Street Cleaning Day. Citizens are still in a panic and the City Council is not helping. They announce that they forgot to tell everyone, but they actually have plans to travel to Miami today and so, tragically, won’t be able to help out with the street cleaning situation. Cecil wonders if there will be any survivors on this dark day and we go to a commercial.
Today’s message is from Target, who would like us to consider the variety of silences in the world. There’s the silence at a deadly point in an argument, the silence after making love, the silence after a person’s last breath. There’s silence in wilderness, space, and dead air on the radio. And after making this poetic list Cecil himself is silent, giving us a moment to ponder the profoundness of his words. Just then, when the quiet feels deep and right, he whispers the words “Shop. At. Target.” And I lose it every time. A+ advertising, Night Vale. I commend you.
Next there are a few short pieces where we learn that any information Cecil says about clouds will be censored, that a complicated series of sirens are going off all over town for no reason, and that there are currently glowing arrows on the highway which will make cars driving over them go faster.
Soon we return to the coverage of Street Cleaning Day. Cecil can’t directly report on what’s happening as he’s moved to the station’s broadcasting bunker. Instead he offers his theories about the chaos outside. There is screaming, char, and the sounds of breaking objects. It’s also like the song “La Bamba”, only faster. Finally Cecil’s fears reach such a fever pitch that he can only cut away to the weather.
This episode’s weather is “A Little Irony” by Tom Milson.
As usual, when the weather is over the threat has passed. The street cleaners are gone. The town is cleaner, but also missing many familiar faces. There seems to be an atmosphere of genuine grief mixed with relief among the survivors. A man spontaneously proposes to a woman he has always admired from afar. She asks to maybe go on a date first and he hastily tries to take back his words. It seems like an exchange they will both dwell on, yet also pretend never happened.
All the people of Night Vale gather at Mission Grove Park. They leave space for those who are missing, but otherwise grip one another tightly, embracing the sensations of life. They even make room for the normally feared City Council, who have just returned from their trip to Miami.
And although there is great sadness for the day’s massacre, Cecil encourages everyone to embrace the joys of being alive. He wants them to remember this day and this feeling and use it as something to grow from. For an episode with a fairly amusing premise, its conclusion is surprisingly profound.
That’s all for this episode. It’s hard to see how the next one will measure up at this point. It’s just got something to do with a…phone call.
Here’s the Conspiracy Tracker!
1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council wants to capture them.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
3. The Apache Tracker has changed into a real Native American and only speaks Russian
4. Time is weird in Night Vale and Carlos wants to figure it out.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
7. Literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…
9. What the heck is the dog park?
11. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
12. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
13. The government can control the weather.
14. Two boy scouts are close to becoming Eternal Scouts.
15. The Apache Tracker and angels are watching the Desert Flower.
16. Night Vale is prone to duplication.
17. A dark planet is calling to people.
18. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
19. There’s a man with a tan jacket who’s affiliated with the underground city.
20. There’s an old oak door on John Peters’ farm.
Alex Townsend is freelance writer, a cool person, and really into gender studies and superheroes. It’s a magical day when all these things come together. You can follow her on her tumblr and see her comments on silver age comics. Happy reading!
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