Whispers and Lullabies
Nightvale's Mortician & "Coroner"
Geoffrey Wilson McCamp was born to a family in rural Ohio who already had three children, and hadn’t really intended to have a fourth, but managed to fit another bed in one of the rooms and carried on anyway. His siblings were all at least 6 years older than he was, so he spent a lot of time alone, and found that he never really related to people very well. However, he found the natural world fascinating. From an early age, Geoffrey would dig up flowers, pull the wings off of butterflies (and then try to put them back on), and generally escape the demands of the social world for the sensible world outside.
It seemed natural to Geoffrey to pursue biology, and he eventually decided to go into medicine, although he soon found his “bedside manner” left much to be desired. He felt more comfortable in the dark basement rooms of the hospital morgue, this time figuring out what had made human anatomy stop working rather than how it had worked before. But he never really seemed to get on well with people. He tried his best, tried to give them gifts, and agree with the thoughts they expressed, and did what people wanted him to, but he never quite managed to retain any friends and was never invited out for drinks on Fridays.
When his residency was finished, Geoffrey was not asked to stay on, and found himself walking meekly home after his last day, box of locker contents in hand, when he noticed a strange flier tacked to a telephone pole directly outside his apartment building. He hadn’t noticed it anywhere else, but Geoffrey was not accustomed to questioning things, and promptly contacted the number listed for an interview. The nice man on the line agreed to interview him the next morning, and suggested that Geoffrey take the evening to settle his affairs before the next day (which Geoffrey found a bit odd, but thought it might be cultural, because the man’s name didn’t sound like any name he’d ever heard of, so he let it go). The man insisted on sending a car to take him to his interview, which Geoffrey found quite considerate, and happily agreed on ten o’clock.
The next morning, Geoffrey made himself coffee and toast, fed his parakeet Juliet (there had been two, but Romeo had died, and despite their namesakes Juliet hadn’t seemed too put out), and put on his best tweed suit. He was picked up by a small car with black windows (he noted that the windshield was somehow black too, although the man driving didn’t seem to mind). Geoffrey fell asleep in the back of the car almost at once despite is best efforts to pay attention and make small talk with the driver, and somehow managed to wake up again just as the car was slowing to a halt in front of a large, sort of nondescript but official-looking building.
He was escorted inside by a nice man whose face he had trouble remembering, who said things he had trouble remembering, and whose general existence he also had trouble remembering. He must have been nervous, because he couldn’t remember the answers to any of the questions his interviewer asked him. Come to think of it, he couldn’t really remember the questions, or the interviewer, or the interview for that matter, but he was so certain he’d done badly that he was quite surprised when he was escorted back down the spiral escalator stairs and through the back exit with the green snakeskin railings clutching a very heavy and fairly incomprehensible employment contract in his hands.
Having expected to be taken back home, Geoffrey felt a bit disoriented to be dropped off in front of an almost entirely normal house, with only slightly menacing shingles, which had been fully furnished with slightly musty and overly lacy but good quality furnishings and a few too many doilies. Juliet was there too, in a larger cage than her old one that could accommodate her newly reactive tail “situation” and even included a “silence” button for when her high-pitched whistling outbursts happened at night.
Geoffrey started work immediately. For the most part he enjoyed it as he always had—the silence, the methodical process of it. He didn’t entirely like the strange difficulties he seemed to be having determining the causes of death. Once in a while, the bodies would get up and leave when he wasn’t watching, which perturbed him quite a bit. It meant quite a bit of extra paperwork. But for the most part, he fell into routine as he always had, and chalked up the odd extra appendage or missing lungs to strange coincidence. When he went home at exactly 4:30 each day, he felt that he’d probably done a good day’s work, even though nobody ever checked his work, and even though his paycheck always just sort of showed up in his hat when he was ready to leave on Fridays without any accountant to accompany it.
Geoffrey was comfortable, but didn’t entirely feel comfortable in his new town. He had a nagging suspicion he’d liked it where he’d lived before, but he wasn’t sure, and he wasn’t sure exactly where that had been, so he tried not to worry about it. To take his mind off things, Geoffrey began taking photos of the things he liked around town. He printed and framed a particularly nice shot he’d taken of one of the oddly unsupported doors near the third Applebee’s (although it had disappeared the next day, and was replaced by a photo of three identical apples).
But he started to worry when he started seeing the shadowy figures. At first they were fairly unobtrusive. But eventually they stopped rushing out of the corner of his vision when he turned around, and just started sort of begrudgingly scuffling away when he focused on them, blinked a few times, rubbed his eyes, and coughed nervously. When he started seeing them in the mirrors in his house, he decided he must have had a psychotic breakdown, and resolved to go see the Nightvale Psychiatrist in hopes of removing these strange apparitions from his life.
The Nightvale Psychiatrist was quite competent, or at least he must have been, because Geoffrey always felt better whenever he left the office. He tried to remember their sessions sometimes, and he sometimes recalled something that might have been giant eyes, but he wasn’t quite sure, and usually it was just a sort of dull ticking. Geoffrey usually came home from their weekly sessions with a homework assignment, and he did his best to carry them out faithfully, although he never could finish the ones that required paragliding.
And so Geoffrey’s life went on, week after week. He cleaned the scales out of his bird’s cage, went to work, collected bodies from the hole behind the Ralph’s, took his photos, saw his psychiatrist, and tried to ignore the shadowy figures. He followed the rules, and remembered to stay in a windowless room on the first Tuesday in November. He did his best to suppress those pesky nagging feelings that things might not be quite right, stayed away from the dog park, and went on living a perfectly normal life.