One day Steve Carlsberg walks into the desert. He does not look back to see how far he has come, but he can hear the sounds of Night Vale the screeching, the low humming, the static rumbling and the low tones of Cecil Baldwin fading softly the farther he gets away. Then it is gone and he collapses into the sand, feeling his face convulse in emotion. This must be silence, he thinks to himself, the legendary silence his mother used to tell him about as a child. Not silence filled with existential crisis, not silence of terror, not government mandated deafness, not a haunting empty void, but simple lack of noise. He loves it.

Steve fists his hands in the dunes, letting the rocks run through his fingers, marveling at how they fall straight down. Single purpose, single outcome and he can feel tears well up in his eyes at the perfect simplicity.

He cannot believe it was so easy to get away. Two hundred and seven attempted suicides and they had condemned him to a hundred more years of life. He had stood before the entire government of Night Vale and they found him guilty. He had defended himself, but the incorporeal judges had hissed and spat at him and he had known it was useless. The Voice of Night Vale sat upon his pedestal, the glorified court reporter, shaking his head. Occasionally, Cecil would flinch as the acidic tears of Steve's mother had fallen from the ceiling and ruined his beautiful aluminum suit. Steve had reveled in the sweet karma, for he knew had it not been for Cecil's dedication to public safety he would not be on trial. Repeated purposeful death was a terrible example to our children, everyone had seen the posters. Cecil may have been doing his duty, but Steve resented that the only person who could see his intent had felt the need to turn him in when they knew he would suffer for it. Cecil had been the sole witness, his eyes flashing violet with omniscience while he testified, but also hung low with pity. When the verdict had come, Steve had tried to kill himself right there on the spot, digging his nails into his stomach, calling forth the great forces to grant him the strength to tear out his innards which spilled across the Coliseum floor in a bloody pulp. His father had come to his side then and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"I am so sorry, oh great ones," his father had said, "My son can be terribly crude."

And as Steve passed out he knew his father was right. He had not disemboweled himself since he was a toddler and times were long past when it was considered acceptable. To simply die was not a crime, it was to do so with intent that lay the taboo, but Steve loved the blackness and the comfort of seeping nothingness. So he killed himself, but he was always alive again and in the godforsaken desert town and he could do nothing, but try to find another way to die and escape. When he was eventually arrested, pulled from his bathtub by the golems that made up the walls of the Coliseum, his father had demanded to know why his son was being taken. Steve did not regret his actions, but he could never forget the sickening shade of azure his father had turned when the words "death junkie" had materialized in front of their house.

In the end, most agreed the sentence had been lenient. He was still allowed to die, what a blessing his mother had cooed, only the time until his final death was extended. You had to earn final death, of course Steve you know that. Yet he had still gone home desolate and stared at himself naked in the mirror. He pinched at the flesh, watching it turn red. No sprawling symbols, only two eyes and humanoid arms. He had felt utterly useless. A body that could not even change form was no body at all. He had no prospects, no talents or skills, just a guaranteed hundred more years in a sack of meat and red blood and solid, unmoving skin. He had broken the mirror then and laid the pieces in a perfect decahedron on the floor and knelt and prayed to the higher deities that something might come to make life bearable.

He had thought Carlos was that gift. He first saw the man during his mandated visit to Big Rico's; the Scientist had walked by the window dragging a metal box behind him and Steve's jaw had dropped. He would have believed it to be another hallucination had not Cecil Baldwin himself confirmed that there was indeed a new man in town. Steve had hung around the lab, watching warily through windows, collecting notes on Carlos in his brain to later bleach into the walls of his bedroom. He had only one tongue that stuck out of his mouth while he concentrated. His hair was simple protein fibers. His hair grew only on his chin. And it seemed he no talent for transformation, in fact no ability to morph at all. Steve's heart had soared for finding another like him.

The day Carlos accepted Night Vale broke his heart. He had listened to the story of the scientist's bravery in jumping down into the underground city and his resurrection by that jerk the Apache Tracker. He had heard Cecil's heartbroken stifled sobs and felt for the reporter; no matter how he disliked him personally he could not ignore the emotion in the man's voice. He had felt joy in his heart upon hearing of Carlos' return, but it was soon doused by the turn of events near the end of the broadcast. Carlos loved Cecil Baldwin and Cecil Baldwin loved Carlos. Cecil Baldwin was Night Vale and thus Carlos loved Night Vale and there was no hope left for Steve Carlsberg. In the moment that he knew that Carlos the Scientist and Cecil Baldwin were staring up at the lights above Arby's Steve Carlsberg felt more alone than he had ever been.

ever been.

So he had walked out into the desert.