Wake up, Kevin… come on, please wake up…
He stirs. The ground is hard and dusty and dry and rocky. The sharp stones had cut and bruised him when he landed, but that was the least of Kevin’s problems.
His skin was burned and blistered in places by the sun, but the near blinding light’s biggest toll had been on the broadcaster’s mind. His head felt as if it’d been shredded by buzzsaws, the layers of himself in ragged tatters.
Kevin…? Yes, that was him, wasn’t it? Who was…
Come on. Please. You need to get moving, find shelter. You won’t last long out here like this.
That voice… concerned, female. Someone he knew, trusted… Vanessa?
That’s right. Come on now. I know it hurts, I know you’re confused, but we can’t lose you. There’s a canyon not far ahead. You should make for it. It’ll do for now, I think- you can rest in the shade. The light’s not doing you any good.
The light…? Yes, it was all around… it was so beautiful, it seemed to call to him. Call him home… no. No, he couldn’t… but the light, it made him smile, he couldn’t stop, and…
Something in him was adamant. No. We will not do this again. (Again?) We are going for the canyon. Vanessa is right, we need to get out of the light.
It’s tough going, especially when a lot of him wants to turn around and run right into the light with open arms, but Vanessa keeps encouraging him. The canyon is a wide spiral, and once in the shade of its walls, something comes to him.
His dreams. He’s seen this place before. Yes. The spiralling canyon, the wasteland, the light. There’s even… yes! The mountain, the lighthouse at its summit.
He’d dreamed of all this. How very strange… and confusing… oh, no more confusion please, my head hurts so bad, just make it stop. Sighing, he leans back against the shaded rock wall, closing his eyes.
When he’d been drawn into the Other Desert, Carlos had been completely unprepared. He’d certainly been grateful that the House had protected him from abduction by Strex which could have resulted in heaven only knew what kind of horror.
All the same, he had expected to go back to Night Vale. When the Universe denied him his return, the scientist couldn’t help but feel stung.
He didn’t belong there, after all, it had decided.
It had been a blow, but after the initial shock, he knew it was nothing he would let get in his way. Carlos was a scientist. He could figure this out.
Once the initial shock had cleared, however, he couldn’t help but find fascination in the place where he now resided. It was, he reasoned, not unlike when he had found himself mysteriously living in Night Vale with no memory of how he had come to be there. There was so much to see; so much to study! The Masked Army had been kind enough to extend their protection to Carlos, as well, for which he was grateful. While he was intrigued by these new wonders, he recognized their inherent dangers.
The town had called to him once, and in his heart he knew it would call to him again.
He finds the other man when the Masked Army is at rest. Doug and the others keep a steady pace in their trek across the desert, and while Carlos was unsure of the goals they may have had in mind, it seemed prudent to follow their lead. Which wasn’t to say, of course, he didn’t like to do a little solo venturing when given the opportunity.
In the shade there, beneath the rock. A figure, but…who else was out in this Other Desert? Was some citizen of Night Vale still trapped here?
The voice is small, tired, confused, and pained. It sounds like it’s also trying, in spite of all this, to be cheerful. The figure the voice belongs to moves, slowly, cautiously, to the edge of the shade. He can’t be certain who this other person is. He looks familiar.
Of course, Kevin probably looks familiar to the other person, too…
"…what should I do?"
Go on. Maybe he can help us. He seems kind enough.
"…even so… what about the Other Me?”
Kevin didn’t know if he was gone or not. He was terribly afraid of it, though. Nasty, cruel thing. He had said all those horrible things, intimidated people into cruel treatment, had killed… had murdered…
…there were still bloody splotches on his torn and tattered yellow vest and khakis. On his gold silk tie and his golden yellow high tops. For not the first time since the Other Him had taken control and… decorated Cecil’s studio, Kevin feels violently ill…
…no. It is not polite to vomit in front of someone you’re just meeting. Manners, Kevin.
Don’t be afraid. Things are different now, somehow. I don’t think you need to worry about him anymore.
"…but how can you be sure?"
I’m not. But I think I’m right. Just have a little faith, okay? Not in a god smiling or otherwise, but in yourself.
It must have looked odd, this person in the shadows talking to himself. But after a bit he stops, and shuffles to the edge of the darkness. He doesn’t entirely emerge, his features partially obscured by shade.