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Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 31 “A Blinking Light Up on the Mountain”

Is it time for the future to change?

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A while back I mentioned that for once the introduction to a Night Vale episode was relevant to the overall series. That was when Cecil mentioned a blinking light in the distance that was changing the future. Now we’re going to get to take a closer look at that light. We also get another significant introduction to begin this episode. Welcome to Night Vale, and remember:

“Our God is an awesome God. Much better than that ridiculous god that Desert Bluffs has.”

Cecil begins immediately by telling us there is a blinking light on the mountain. The light is red, as of course all blinking lights are red. The City Council briefly tried to deny that the light was there, but for once they gave in to the obvious truth when everyone in town could clearly see it.

Next we have a few brief stories. The first is about a local professor with some wild theory that the pyramids in Egypt were built by humans rather than aliens. I mostly bring this one up because it introduces another one of my favorite characters: Sarah Sultan, president of the Night Vale Community College and also a smooth, fist-sized river stone. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Sarah were just an ordinary stone that Night Vale randomly decided to have run a college, but no. She’s actually the sassiest rock I’ve seen since the Crystal Gems. When Cecil tried to get a comment from her about the pyramid story she responded by drawing an insulting caricature of him. Go Sarah! You’re not going to let local media get you down!

The other short story is about something weird. It’s sitting on Cecil’s desk and he doesn’t quite know what it is.

“Is it a bomb?

Is it one of those objects that isn’t a bomb?

Is it just a kind of dog?

We don’t know. And we will never find out. And we will never try to find out. Ignorance may not actually be bliss, but it certainly is less work.”

Finally we get back to that blinking light up on the mountain. Listeners have been calling in and point out that Cecil has indirectly implied that there is now a mountain in the area as well. Things appear in Night Vale all the time, but this one is troubling because so many Night Vale citizens refuse to believe that mountains exist. Cecil goes to several witnesses who agree that there is definitely a mountain there on the floodplain. He is unable to get a comment from John Peters (still a farmer) though, as no one has seen him for weeks. Did he go through the old oak door in his field? Is he still in the mysterious house Dana visited, staring at odd photos?

Then we get a political ad for the upcoming mayoral election. This one is from the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. She announces that she has changed all the books in our homes as part of a metaphor that she doesn’t understand. She claims to be the best candidate for mayor because she is simple and can understand reality in ways the rest of us can’t. Also, who could trust Hiram McDaniels? He’s literally a five-headed dragon and he’s been exchanging e-mails with corn lobbyists!

Back with the whole blinking light/mountain story, Cecil corrects himself again. He neglected to specify that, yes, there is also a large floodplain that has appeared beneath the mountain. It’s muddy and full of bones and it ripples under the feet of the approaching masked army marching through it. Carlos wants to study the whole thing, but Cecil passive-aggressively reminds Carlos that he promised to cook Cecil dinner and that Carlos needs to prioritize things besides science sometimes. Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good.

In other news, the Man in the Tan Jacket seems to be the only lingering fan of the subway system from two episodes ago. He’s campaigning to get the subway to reopen sooner with catchy brochures that say “Subway? More like WOWZA!” and “Transverse the navel of the world, that secret buried point. It is my home. Help me get home. It is already too late to be early, but not too late to be on time.” It’s interesting. We already knew that the Man in the Tan Jacket was from somewhere underground, but I’d assumed that meant he had something to do with the city under the bowling alley. Now I think this implies that he’s from a different place underground. If only there was some sort of book I could read to find out more.

Returning to our main story, Cecil acknowledges that he’s flubbed again. He mentioned the blinking light, the mountain, and the floodplain, but failed to specify that there is also a giant army of masked warriors marching toward Night Vale. Whoops. On the bright side, he’s pretty sure that that’s the last of the important details for this story. Now we all just need to get to panicking and trying to hide from the coming invasion.

“If you have homes, I suggest you flee them. If you have friends, I suggest you warn them. If you have children…did you not know how dangerous and unpredictable the world was when you created a defenseless, tiny human within it?”

And of course, in this moment of potential doom, we go to the weather.

This episode’s weather is “Never Be Famous” by Hussalonia.

When we get back Carlos has finally had a chance to take a look at the whole blinking light/mountain/floodplain/masked army thing and declares that it’s all actually a mirage that should disappear in a few hours. He turns out to be right, sort of. Everything disappears except for the invading army. That’s okay though, as it turns out the army isn’t there to attack Night Vale. They’re just passing through on their way to attack another place. In fact, they provide a great boost to local tourism, something that Madeline LeFleur, director of the Night Vale Tourism Board is happy about.

“Madeline LeFleur was both relieved and pleased. “I’m relieved,” she said, “I’m also pleased.” She was still sipping her coffee too often. Perhaps her feeling of lack of control stems from a personal issue, rather than the impending doom we imagined. Stress from her failure to live up to her own self-imposed life goals, for instance. Or a relationship that wasn’t exactly the relationship she had envisioned it would be.”

Cecil wraps up the episode from there, but we still need to talk about the subtext of this one. At this point Cecil clearly isn’t as happy dating Carlos as he thought he would be. It’s understandable. If you worship someone from afar long enough it’s going to be impossible for that person to live up to your expectations. Still, it’s an unsettling development, as the relationship between Cecil and Carlos is often the most compelling part of the show. What’s going to happen to our beloved lovers? Only time (or just listening to the dozens of episodes I haven’t recapped yet) will tell!

Finally, here’s the Conspiracy Tracker:

1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council denies they exist.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist, but connects to a desert world and the Dog Park.
3. The Apache Tracker died to save Carlos’ life.
4. Time isn’t real in Night Vale.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city of tiny people underneath the Desert Flower preparing for war.
7. Literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…
9. Russian=Weirdness
10. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
11. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
12. Night Vale is prone to duplication and Desert Bluffs is one of the duplicates.
13. A dark planet is calling to people.
14. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
15. Old oak doors are appearing around Night Vale
16. Desert Bluffs is controlled by the evil company StrexCorp.
17. A blinking red light is coming from somewhere unknown.
18. Simone Rigadeau thinks the world ended decades ago.
19. Cecil doesn’t know how old he is.
20. Earl Harlan thinks he and Cecil could have had something.
21. Mayor Winchell is retiring, possibly not by her own choice.
22. The Faceless Old Woman is running for mayor.
23. Cecil will be killed one day and it will involve a mirror.
24. Something big and bad is coming from a desert other-world.
25. Desert Bluffs has a ridiculous god.
26. The Man in the Tan Jacket is from somewhere underground.

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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