The Welcome to Night Vale podcast can be delightfully creepy and unnerving and a little grotesque, but sometimes, it’s also unexpectedly lovely:
“Thinking back, ladies, looking back, gentlemen, thinking and looking back at my European tour, I feel a heavy sadness descend up on me. Of course, it is partly nostalgia, looking back at that younger me, bustling around Europe, having adventures and overcoming obstacles that, at the time, seemed so overwhelming, but now seem like just the building blocks of a harmless story.
But here is the truth of nostalgia:
We don’t feel it for who we were, but who we weren’t. We feel it for all the possibilities that were open to us, but that we didn’t take.
Time is like wax, dripping from a candle flame. In the moment, it is molten and falling, with the capability to transform into any shape; then the moment passes, and the wax hits the tabletop, and solidifies into the shape it will always be. It becomes the Past, a solid single record of what happened, still holding in its wild curves and contours the potential of every shape it could have held.
It is impossible—no matter how blessed you are by luck, or the government, or some remote invisible deity, gently steering your life with hands made of moonlight and wind—it is impossible not to feel a little sad, looking at that bit of wax, that bit of the Past; it is impossible not to think of all the wild forms that wax now will never take.
The village, glimpsed from a train window, beautiful and impossible and impossibly beautiful on the mountaintop, and you wondered what it would be if you stepped off the moving train and walked up the trail its quiet streets, and lived there for the rest of your life. The beautiful face of that young man from Luftnarp, with his gaping mouth and ashy skin, last seen already half turned away, as you boarded the bus, already turning towards a future without you in it, where this thing between you, that seemed so possible, now already and forever never was. All variety of loss opportunity slide from the window of public transportation, really.
It can be overwhelming, this splattered, inert wax, recording every turn not taken. What’s the point, you ask. Why bother, you say. Oh, Cecil, you cry. Oh, Cecil! But then you remember—I remember!—that we are even now in another bit of molten wax. We are in a moment that is still falling, still volatile, and we will never be anywhere else. We will always be in that most dangerous, most exciting, most possible time of all: the Now, where we never can know what shape the next moment will take.
Stay tuned next for, well… let’s just find out together, shall we?
Good night, Night Vale. Good night.”
Episode 21: A Memory of Europe
Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor