"To get there, you have to take The Zero."
Neither 'you should' nor 'you need'. They have no choice. So their little truck with scientists had been wheeling through the night for twenty minutes already and no any signs to the route. Is it invisible? Carlos is pretty tired already, but it's his turn to drive the car. Others are sleeping in the backseat, Carlos hums with the radio trying not to dose off.
Carlos used to work with facts and facts only: he observes, he listens and scribes down all their way from his hometown to the new place of work. Sometimes, he looks through his writing and can’t believe all this actually happening. But he keeps his notes up to date and in order.
The invitation came the next day he thought of retiring from the University. His work about neonatal mutations was found very interesting in CIA headquarters. Nothing can be more suspicious and frightening then to become interesting for the CIA. So the scientist panics a little, but don’t tell any of his colleagues about this - too early to panic all together. Carlos only thought of the possibility to run - and here is it: an invitation for him and his crew of scientists in the Research Facility of… of Vale something somewhere in Kentucky.
The letter, signed by Dr. Weaver, the mathematician translator between English and Spanish, said they needed to pack only the essentials, since the Facility will provide everything they needed: from personal rent lab to all equipment. In the invitation were also some advertisements with local sightseeing and a tourist map with directions to the town. It all looked kind of retro and creepy. (Mostly creepy, though.)
Everything with this trip is wrong: Carlos should turn away home, when they reached a farm with graveyard near the house, or maybe earlier, when they first saw a strange man on a petrol station: his leg was glowing orange and green, but he was so happy and friendly, that Carlos almost forgot to get frightened.
Carlos is a man of science, but he can't put together all the crap that happened to him this night. Some punks on a motorcycle invited him on their own concert somewhere in downtown, but Carlos was too distracted and in a big hurry to get away from this town than actually listen to them.
Now he quietly hums to the radio and waits when it should make strange noise. ‘Listen for something familiar, but strange’. Carlos agreed: he drives and listens carefully.
Carlos does everything by instructions: he believes that they were made by qualified people or at least, by locals who knows these roads better than him. He has a map, but a girl on a farm said they they won't work on Zero and definitely he doesn't need it in the town where they are headed to. Carlos tries not to think about this too much - he just nods and smiles ‘Thank you for your help’. On one point of their trip, he just stopped asking questions. Somehow he understands: they ran out of time and there's no other choice, but to drive forward.
He drives a while until radio begins screeching, hissing and stops on a station with something strange, but familiar and…
And then, everything snaps; for a second Carlos doesn’t breathe, doesn’t see and can’t function properly, because he suddenly knows: he’s there. They are on a right path. This is The Zero.
Less than a minute ago he was driving through the dark and then horses… and now they’re just here. It’s pitch black, he almost can’t see the road, lights don’t work here, but Carlos doesn’t stop.
“Head clockwise some time until you reach the Mountain. Then back a little until you see the Windmill , after that turn around and shortly you’ll be there where you need to be.” Carlos remembers the instructions and attentively follows them.
Sun slowly cracks clouds on the horizon and Carlos sees a few blue helicopters. The scenery around him buzzes and glows in orange - he’s driving through a desert.
Carlos bravely collects himself: this night was too long, this path too loop and why is he suddenly in the desert? If there’s no any desert in Kentucky, then where are they now and how did they come here?
The radio turns on by itself suddenly, Carlos is sure he turned it off as soon as he found the Zero route. Instead of screeching and horses he hears some kind of talk-show. He likes the voice: it’s deep and smooth, so he listens a bit more.
“…while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”