I want to start by saying, oh shit, sorry, someone cut me off. Mm. Anyway, I want to start by saying that this is not a story, It's a road trip. Which same difference and a good one. That start is exciting and the finish is satisfying and we end up somewhere else, somewhere. A long way from where we started. I don't know where this trip started, what counts as the first moment, but for lack of a better answer, I'll start with this. I'll start with um with Alice isn't dead by joseph Fink performed by Jessica Nicole produced by desperation. Part one, Chapter 1 omelette. I was sitting at a gas station or not a gas station, a diner that was in a gas station. The diner part of the gas station. I was in that it was somewhere near Spokane. I think I saw a man eating an omelet, but it wasn't the omelet, but it was just the way he was eating the omelet, he was devouring it big chunks of yellow, scooped up with long grease stained fingers, just shoving them into his mouth. And he was staring at me. He was wearing a yellow hat, like, like a baseball hat. His fingernails were yellow to not cigarette yellow or nail polish yellow, translucent yellow just below the surface. Polo shirt. Dirty, filthy, dirtier than you think a restaurant would allow someone to wear would serve just the word vissel on the right breast, no logo. And he was moving that omelet from plate to mouth like it had nothing to do with eating like he was just a machine that's function was to do that. And he was staring at me. No, he was eyeing me. No staring. People say that bad experiences are like nightmares. This wasn't a nightmare. What I remember most about it was how real it was. Even as it happened, I noticed that the most how really it was, how I couldn't escape that reality. How I would never be able to convince myself. I remembered any part of it. And correctly, Alice, Alice. I it's the engine, Alice the sound of it, the noise of a truck, This size height, It's the height. None of us are used to being this height anymore. Once upon a time we rode horses. I mean, you know what I mean? I've never even seen a horse up close. It's the height. I'll get used to it. There's this tower in the distance, coming out of the hillside looks like it's part of a factory, but just coming right out of the earth, creepy, gut, creepy, like something gone wrong. Like a terrible crime. It looks like something out of a myth. I guess that's where myths come from when the real world looks like something out of a myth. Who am I at this point in my life? To talk about? Unreality. That's so weird. It doesn't look real. Mm I can't stop thinking about what's behind me. Not the stuff in the back, not what they've got me carrying. I think this assignments travel sized deodorant. Most deodorant can go on a plane. You don't need travel sized versions. Not that many ounces, even in full sized ones, but anything that can hold a price, a single human being will lay down for cash has to exist. And so here we are. Me and my cargo calling. What needed to have ever been from the place? It needn't have been made to the place. It needed to be used. I'm not getting distracted. I know what you're thinking. Alice. This is intentional avoidance. I don't have to explain myself to you, but I will. I just I just passed an exit sign that said anaconda opportunity. That's a fine invitation. But I think uh I mean no thanks. I will pass that opportunity up. Mm. An explanation. Right. Mhm. Mhm. Yeah. Mhm. Talk big chunks of eggs, chewing them, devouring them. He saw me staring back. Now. We were staring at each other. Something electric and monstrous there in the diner between us. The face of death in styrofoam ceiling tiles and sagging pleather booths. He got up and approached my table. His clothes were filthy. He walked like his legs weren't muscle and bone but just sacks of meat attached to his torso. He sat across from me and he licked his lips When he spoke. His voice sounded like the accidental hollowing of the wind. It's a fine evening, he said. Doesn't look much like rain egg crusted his lips and his chin. His teeth were an impossibility of spacing and angle nothing about. His tone matched the words he was saying. At first. I didn't say anything. I thought if I was quiet he would go away. But that only works with people who aren't already in it to bother you, who haven't already made up their minds to be awful. Hope you don't mind if I join you? He said not a question or a request, but a joke. I actually was hoping to eat alone. I said good people deserve good things, he said. I didn't know what to say to that. He scratched his cheek, scratched it really hard, and I swear that some of it peeled away under his fingers. It's dangerous out here, he said, Out where I said, The state, this country life, life is dangerous. Did you come over here to explain death to me? He laughed. Yes, he said, I came over to explain death to you. He leaned in close. His breath was rotten, not bad, but like fruit turning to soil. Want to see something funny? He asked. He got up, vessel, his shirt said his face was slack and not quite arranged right like human, but not. He walked over to a table where there was this man, a truck driver probably. He looked like a truck driver. What does a truck driver look like? Hey, Earl? The Thistle man said. Uh huh! Said Earl, looking up. He seemed just as unhappy as me to be disturbed, but then that this old man grabbed him by the back of his neck and Earl's face went vacant that this old man picked her up by the neck, and Earl walked with, he looked asleep almost, or like some part of him, wasn't there anymore. Neither early nor that this old man paid their checks. No one did anything. No one looked. But it was, there are times I hate you more than any of them Alice out to the parking lot. He was waiting for me. It was what he did next. First the mountains, then these canyons winding around themselves. Haven't seen a house in an hour, It's getting dark now. The clock says the same things as it did when I started this morning. But it's the other hemisphere of the day. We talk a lot as a species about the night sky. It's one of those subjects that come up more often than, say, the social structure of bees. That's just an example which is interesting because the social structure of bees is something it is an active object that can be looked at. And so much of the night sky is nothing at all. It is an empty box. And like all emptiness, It is a mirror. Mm Or don't listen to me. I'm just a lady driving deodorant from one place that doesn't need it to another. I only say because oh, if you could see what I'm seeing, you'd understand the night sky is something striking right now against the dark silhouettes of the trees. Mhm. It's beautiful, so much that I've seen is beautiful more than you would think even the worst things. And isn't it funny that the trees blocked out the sky? Physical objects as shadows against the void? We are nothing if not absurd. We are nothing. Stop! He was waiting for me in the parking lot. He was holding Earl Now, Earl seemed to be awake again, but that this old man was holding him too tightly for him to move. The outside lights and a gas station weren't working anymore. The two men were shadows against the harsh light of the diner windows, people eating waffles and sausages and shit. The embrace was almost tender, but there was nothing tender about The man with the yellow fingernails. His grip was strong and the truck driver couldn't move, couldn't shout. They both stared at me. Earl's eyes were wide, struggling with the vision of the future without him in it. The man with the yellow nails, his eyes were flat, like a bad painting of a face. They both stared at me and then the man with the yellow nails he took a bite out of Earl tore out a chunk of flesh right at the artery in his left armpit, and Earl began to bleed. He didn't move, but only whimpered A little tears started falling from his staring eyes, but he didn't move. The other thing, whatever it was, it was not a man dug his fingers into the wound and pulled out bits of Earl the way he had picked up the egg with the same flat movement, the nothing demeanor. This was not a meal, this was not something that he had to do in order to survive. It was a demonstration that this old man he wanted me to know, jesus. Right then I knew. I ran back to the truck. Of course I love the doors. Of course, of course I pulled out of the parking lot as fast as a truck that size will go. Which is not fast enough in a situation like that. Of course, of course I cried, Alice. Of course I did. Behind me in the mirror I could still see the two figures, could see the distant shadow of Earl dying without a friendly face in sight. The only person who could help him driving herself away to safety, And just the company of a monster to accompany him and his dissipation. I couldn't see details anymore. Those were in my memory. Mhm. Stop. Mhm. Flat and grassy. I think it's dark now and the darkness is fast here. It really has a depth to it keeps going. I didn't think that dark could have a bottom until I saw a dark that didn't. Yeah, I've seen that. This will man again. I've seen him again and again behind the bathrooms at rest stops and snack. I like gas stations. Sitting alone at the biggest booths of the smallest roadside bars, places with one kind of beer on the menu and video poker in the bathroom by the toilet. Something brutal and clumsy in his movements. Like he doesn't understand how any of him works. And sharp teeth not sharp enough to be things, but not human either. And yellow fingernails, not cigarette, yellow but translucent yellow just below the surface. He hasn't talked to me again, but I've been seeing him and he knows it. He wants me to know he's following me. Mhm. I don't know who this. I won't say man, he isn't a man. I don't know what he is. Do you know Alice? Is this why you left? But was it something else? Yeah. Was it me? Yeah. And now here The road between two places. I've never heard of travel size deodorant and unusual height closer to the night sky than I am to any other human. A night sky that seems gorgeous and heartbreaking. Even though it's not it's not anything. It just isn't. Where are you Alice? Why can't I find you? I'll keep driving this truck. I'll keep wandering this country. I'm going to find you. I will. Hopefully I'll do it before that. This old man finds me. Every time I look behind, I worry that the headlights are c or him and as strange dirty hands are on the wheel pointing them at me, going faster and faster. This better be worth it Alice. Yeah. Mhm. Nothing ever could be if you are listening to the show and thinking, man, I wish I could make something like Alice isn't dead, but I don't know where to start. I have some great news. Start with this is my brand new podcast that I'm making with my Welcome to Night Vale Co creator Jeffrey Craner. That is designed for writers and artists like you. Each episode we discuss an artistic topic, everything from something straightforward like dialogue to something as general as how to go from your big idea to the basic practical execution of that idea. And then we give our listeners to assignments, something to consume and something to create. We believe that the best way to start writing is to start writing, not sure where to begin. Start with this, find it today in your favorite podcast app or at start with this podcast dot com. And now the answer to our riddle, why did the chicken cross the road? Because the dead return Because light reverses because the sky is a gap because it's a shout because light reverses because the dead return because footsteps on the ceiling because footsteps in the basement because the sky is a shout because it's a gap because the grass doesn't grow or grows too much or grows wrong because the dead return because the dead return. That that is why the chicken crosses the road. That's audible dot com slash dead. This has been a production of night vale presents, find out more about us and our shows at night vale presents dot com.