Alice Isn’t Dead is a new serial fiction podcast written by Joseph Fink of Welcome to Night Vale, and narrated by Jasika Nicole. The podcast is part of the new Night Vale Presents network. March 8, 2016 saw the release of the first episode, “Part 1, Chapter 1: Omelet.” Episodes are set to be released every two weeks. The story follows a truck driver, the narrator yet to be named, who is travelling the country in search of her wife Alice. During her travels we can expect her to encounter strange people, places, and phenomena.
Thus far, the podcast has been very scant in details. While summaries online have provided much of the information above, the episode itself holds a lot back. We know little about who our narrator is or what happened to Alice, beyond her “leaving.” Unlike Welcome to Night Vale, which is more episodic with continuity running through it, Alice Isn’t Dead seems to be more concerned with a singular story. I do expect, however, that the narrator’s journey will involve run-ins with circumstances outside of her situation along the way.
The narrator’s preface to the story sets it up as a “road trip,” which she is recounting as she travels — or at least in this episode she is recounting what to her mind is the best starting point. This starting point is a strange occurrence that happened to her at a gas station diner, where she had an encounter with a grotesquely described man eating an omelet with his hands. I don’t want to give away how this develops, but why she considers this a good starting point for the story is so far unclear. I speculate that this omelet incident will act as a catalyst, its consequences propelling the narrator down the path towards more strange encounters that somehow tie into the fate of Alice.
While Night Vale can be ominous and creepy in a way that is sometimes paradoxically gleeful and charming, so far Alice Isn’t Dead is a world that I find far more unnerving. The writing still has Fink’s lighthearted yet mildly deranged style, poking fun at the oddness of the world and society, but it felt much more suppressed here. The strangeness of Night Vale feels commonplace, though it is alien to the listener. What is established here, however, is more explicitly horrific and threatening.
I particularly want to applaud the podcast’s use of sound in achieving the unnerving feel. While the narration is clearly speaking in past tense, ambient sound effects are incorporated to help set the scene. Along with clinking plates and soft banter, the description of the grotesque man eating an omelet is complemented by noticeable yet subtle sounds of someone boorishly eating. Though a small detail, it added a lot to the atmosphere of the scene. It is used again later on to even more unsettling effect. I’m excited to see them continue to experiment with sound and incorporate it in this way.
The first episode of Alice Isn’t Dead certainly did its job by hooking me in. It was genuinely creepy and even graphic, while at the same time being so vague and withholding that I’m eager to learn more about what is going on. I did also find this a little frustrating, however, as I would have appreciated a little more understanding of who the narrator is. I’m not asking for a mountain of exposition, just something that makes me care about who she is and what happens to her, rather than curious to find out what’s happening around her. I do appreciate the more sinister tone, regardless, and I’m interested to see how well Fink can incorporate his penchant for the strange and eerie into something more harrowing.