Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 19A “The Sandstorm”
There’s a blinking red light and some changes on the horizon.
At last we get to “The Sandstorm”. This is one of the big episodes in Night Vale’s history. A very important character is introduced. The seeds are sown for one of the biggest plotlines of the series. The revelations are many. But I want to start by talking about a blinking red light.
Normally I skip over the little introductory bits when Cecil welcomes everyone to the show. I feel an exception is warranted here. This episode begins with “Blinking red light in the night sky. The future is changing, but it’s hard to tell.” The reason I don’t generally talk about these introductions is they don’t usually have anything to do with the rest of the episode. In this case though, the blinking light actually becomes a plot point in later episodes and ties in a lot with some of my more complicated conspiracy theories. More on that once we’re done covering this sandstorm.
The episode begins with an announcement about the eponymous storm. City Council meant to let people know about it sooner, but they just lost track of time on Facebook this morning. In any case, a huge, potentially deadly sandstorm is approaching and everyone needs to get somewhere safe.
Next there’s a brief story about the upcoming baseball season. The Night Vale Spider Wolves will soon be facing off against the Desert Bluffs Sunbeams. Everyone is excited for the game because everyone in Night Vale deeply loathes Desert Bluffs. Up to now it’s mostly been implied that the people of Night Vale are just jealous because Desert Bluffs has better public facilities, sports uniforms, and engineers that would actually know how to build things like drawbridges. In fact, it’s not even clear if the “rivalry” between the two towns goes both ways. We’ve never heard of any negative things the people of Desert Bluffs have had to say about Night Vale. Still, Cecil continues to insist that the Sunbeams are terrible, even though they’ve just gotten a new owner and manager.
For traffic we actually get a pretty normal report for once. The sandstorm has started to hit and so travel has become difficult and dangerous. Because of these conditions, a traffic jam has started on the highway and people are getting out of their cars and finding other people to fight with. Strangely, every battling pair is wearing matching clothes and looks remarkably similar to each other. Hmm…
Larry Leroy, out on the edge of town, is the first to officially call in about the sandstorm. He has some interesting things to say.
“Larry Leroy, out on the edge of town, called moments ago to say that the sand was thick and really flying fast – but that when it touched his skin, he could hardly feel it. He could hardly feel a thing, that the past was a fiction, and that consequences were a choice.”
This reminds me again of the narrative of “A Story About You”, where so much of the protagonist’s life was defined by living without consequences. As for the past being a fiction…Well, I’ve got a lot of thoughts to sort through when we get to Part B of this episode. Really, “The Sandstorm” is a doozy all around. For the moment though, we also learn that Larry ended the call by crying out “No! Not you! Not you!” and hanging up.
In similar news the latest intern, Dana, has reported a strange picture of some runes on Old Woman Josie’s Facebook page. Translated, the runes seem to say “They come in twos. You come in twos. You and you. Kill your double!” It’s ominous, but Cecil is soon much more interested in a video Josie posted of a cat jumping in and out of boxes. Oh Cecil, I will always love your priorities.
Next up is a financial report that is actually a description of a boy carrying a hatchet and wandering through wilderness with a bird following him. He sees himself reflected in a river and “[n]either he nor his mirror knows the other is there”. By the end of the segment he has injured something, some creature that may have meant him harm. We leave him there, waiting to see how his enemy will respond.
So, yeah, finances are as mysterious and complex as they’ve always been.
Once we’re back to general news we get to stop dancing around the issue: the sandstorm has hit and it is duplicating everyone it touches. It’s unclear if the doubles are then attacking or if everyone in Night Vale is just pre-inclined to violence, but fights are breaking out everywhere between Night Vale citizens and their doubles. This has even extended to the radio station, where Cecil sees Intern Dana fighting with her double in the booth. He goes to help her and leaves us with a commercial for Home Depot.
The ad is weird in the typical Night Vale fashion, implying that the listener has deep-seated problems in their life that somehow home improvement can help with. The most interesting part though, is the rhythm of the ad. Cecil keeps pausing and then saying “Incomplete?” almost like the commercial itself is incomplete, but actually referring to the listeners. It’s a nice chipper-but-creepy segment.
When we get back Cecil says he has terrible news. Dana is dead. Or, possibly, her double is dead. As they were exactly identical it’s hard to know which was the original. In any case, one Dana has killed the other. Also, and this is the bad news, one of the Danas printed out an e-mail from Steve Carlsberg.
Reluctantly, Cecil reads the message. Steve believes that the sandstorm was created by the government, which is somehow a cover-up for them trying to suppress citizens with pharmaceuticals. That’s as far as Cecil reads before he is overcome with rage. He can’t believe Steve would bash the local government this way, acting like it’s some big secret that the government created the sandstorm. In fact, as we can see on the Conspiracy Tracker, we’ve known that Night Vale’s government can control the weather for some time now. Apparently they can even control earthquakes, which could explain the confusing readings Carlos has been getting on his seismological equipment.
Cecil takes Steve’s e-mail as an argument against the government in general and goes on a rant about how Steve has no idea how governments work and that you can’t just throw out the whole system because some parts aren’t perfect. It’s hilarious in the context of Night Vale, but you know that Cecil would have found something to be angry about no matter what. He’s very invested in his unexplained hatred of Steve Carlsberg.
After he calms down Cecil prepares to take us to the weather, but something stops him. Inexplicably a beautiful vortex has appeared in the studio wall. Cecil is hypnotically drawn to it. He promises that he won’t be gone long.
There is quiet.
And then, there is a voice. A new voice.
It’s the voice of a pleasant-sounding man who calls himself Kevin. He’s confused about where he is because the radio equipment looks older and dryer than he’s used to at his studio…in Desert Bluffs. In fact, he even wonders for a moment if he’s gone back in time, suggesting that Desert Bluffs is no stranger to weird things happening.
He asks for someone called Vanessa, but doesn’t see her. Instead he describes a picture he sees on the desk. It’s presumably of Cecil (because Cecil is the sort of dork who would have a picture of himself on his own desk) but Kevin only says vague, unhelpful things. We learn that Cecil has hair and a nose at least. He also seems to bare a resemblance to Kevin, yet there is some intangible quality that is different between them.
Kevin is mystified by the whole experience. Still, he’s a radio professional so he starts the weather before going back through the vortex and, presumably, to Desert Bluffs.
This episode’s weather is “Eliezer’s Waltz” by The Ventura Klezmer Band.
When the weather ends Cecil has thankfully returned. He’s grateful to be back from the horrible place he went, though he doesn’t say where that was or why it was horrible. Instead he tells us he met a man while he was in the vortex. The man attacked him and Cecil tried in turn to strangle him to death. But Cecil was able to remember that violence is not the answer (at least not always) and let the man go.
Cecil isn’t sure just what happened today. He regrets all the blood shed in the battles with everyone’s doubles. Still, he is happy to be alive. He is happy his listeners are alive. He is even happy that the man from the vortex is alive.
With that Cecil wishes us all a good night. Little does he know that for us listeners this episode is far from over. Check in on Saturday and be ready for a lot of revelations and conspiracy theories as we take a look at Part B of “The Sandstorm”!
No additions to the Conspiracy Tracker yet. We’ll save that for next time!
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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