Alice Isn't Dead is a serial Surreal Horror/Surreal Humor podcast from Night Vale Presents, produced by Disparition and written by Joseph Fink. It details the life of a long haul trucker looking for her wife, the titular Alice. Along the way she runs across a disturbing individual who seems to be stalking her for some purpose or another, as well as several other run-ins with the paranormal. Despite all this, she remains determined to find Alice and get an explanation for why she vanished, come hell or high water.
Like its predecessor, Welcome to Night Vale, Alice Isn't Dead balances humor and horror, though it aims to differentiate itself with a darker tone and a pre-determined end date. It aired every other week on Tuesdays, and can be found on iTunes, Libsyn, and the Night Vale Presents website. Part One ran in 2016 from March 8th through July 12th, Part Two ran in 2017 from April 4th through August 8th, and Part Three, the final part, aired in 2018 from April 24th through August 25th.
Contrast Alice Is Dead.
The Podcast contains examples of:
- Alice Allusion: Right there in the title. The narrator is going through a bunch of bizarre events and goes down a rabbit hole of conspiracies and situations that just keep getting weirder to find her wife.
- Ambiguous Situation: Whatever happened to Alice, she is definitely not dead, but we have yet to find out what exactly happened to her or made her disappear.
- Finally revealed in Part 3.
- Ambiguously Human: The Thistle Man is described as a human male, but there's enough in his mannerisms, slightly just-too-repulsive physical description, and speech to suggest that he isn't. Eating Earl, his possible Offscreen Teleportation, the way people just seem to not notice him no matter what he does, and his apparent ability to pacify people with a touch, all add fuel to the fire.
- The woman masquerading as a cop later called Thistle is also this. She seems human enough at first, but there's just enough things wrong with her to make everyone around her uneasy. Most evident in the fact that she can regenerate and come back to life after death.
- Anachronic Order: The narrator's audio diary entries appear disorganized and recorded over in places, with each switch signaled by the static of her CB radio. This results in Mood Whiplash when the recording abruptly shifts from her fearful recounting of terrible events to pleasant, philosophical musings on the scenery, then back again.
- And Show It to You: Inverted in "Omelet," when the Thistle Man slowly and casually inflicts a mortal injury on a hapless victim as a private "demonstration" for the narrator after asking if she wants to "see sumthin' funny." He bites off a chunk of a man's flesh at the site of an artery, and as his victim exsanguinates, keeps digging out flesh from the wound to eat, purely to show off.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: After everything she's been through, Alice still scoffs at the mere idea of aliens.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: Inverted in "The Factory by the Sea," where Praxis Industries employee Jack has the unwitting but cooperative narrator join him to bear witness to his funeral, a Burial at Sea. She helps him, still living, into his coffin, and pushes it off to sea as though it were a boat, while he shuts the lid on himself.
- The Bad Guys Are Cops: In "Nothing to See," the narrator learns the hard way that she'll get no help with her search for Alice or against her Humanoid Abomination pursuer. Not only does a Dirty Cop ignore her complaints and treat her as a nuisance, he does so due to open familiarity with the Thistle Man, and chides her to do as he says. Later, she realizes the scope of the corruption as she endures an Incredibly Obvious Tail by police car.
- Season 2's Big Bad wears a police outfit, although it becomes very clear very quickly that she is not a cop.
- Beautiful Void: Zig-Zagged as the narrator vacillates in describing her surroundings with her shifts in mood. In "Omelet," the Narrator ambivalently meditates on the nature of the night sky, and whether it's more apt to describe it as "beautiful," or "nothing." In context, she's musing wistfully and nihilistically in the aftermath of being traumatized by a Humanoid Abomination stalker. Subsequently, she articulates a mild fear of particularly empty vistas like flatlands, until in "Nothing to See," she's actually relieved by the pleasant way Kansas grasslands offer "nothing to see." Then she hears noises from her trailer, and her fear and isolation are underscored yet again.
- Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: Gender Inverted and Zig-Zagged in "Alice," wherein an elderly man stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop which confines him to the mobile Vanishing Village of Charlatan attempts an escape by manifesting in the cab of the visiting the narrator's truck and silently pointing to the road out of town. The silence as he enters the truck suggests that he's intangible, and may be a ghost. The Narrator escapes the loop, but sees the man restored to his usual mark in her rearview mirror. The Narrator is unable to make sense of events, and never gets an answer as to the nature of the town or its people.
- Big Damn Heroes: Pulled off in "Thistle" when the narrator is saved from the remaining Thistle Men by an armed, uniformed group... who happen to work for Bay & Creek Shipping, the same company as the narrator.
- Big Good: The Oracles turn out to be this, being the opposite number of the Thistle Men.
- Burial at Sea: In "The Factory by the Sea," the Narrator witnesses the strange, Lonely Funeral of Praxis Industries employee Jack, on a jetty outside the Nightmarish Factory where he works. She helps him into his coffin, and pushes it off the jetty. Then he shuts the lid on himself, and she watches it float away.
- Can Only Move the Eyes: As recounted by the Narrator in "Omelet," under the effects of the Thistle Man's power, Victimized Bystander Earl doesn't so much as twitch or cry out when mortally wounded, only silently weeps.
- Captain's Log: The story takes the form of the narrator, a long-haul trucker, recording audio diary entries/letters to her wife Alice in the cabin of her truck, while fleeing a Humanoid Abomination stalker.
- Chekhov's Gunman: In season 1, "Praxis" only appears in one episode, seemingly bizzare filler of the same sort as "Alice." Season 2 has them come back- and if the hints are anything to go by, Praxis may be the actual Big Good in the series.
- Connect the Deaths: In "Alice," the Narrator Implies that she collated, then eventually began to map out each sighting of Alice in the background of news reports on various deaths and disasters.Narrator: I made a list of every place I saw you on the news, and that list became a map of America.
- The Conspiracy: Alice seems to have been involved in one before her disappearance, relating to three things that she wrote about a lot; The Cumberland Project, Vector H, and Bay & Creek Shipping, the company The Narrator now works for.
- Season 2 doubles down on it; the entire war between the Thistle men and Bay & Creek Shipping is all one big farce- Bay & Creek Shipping works for the US government just as the Thistle men do, with B&CS providing a fake resistance that reassures anyone who DOES learn too much that the situation is being handled. That said, most workers for B&CS don't know they're the bad guys.
- Contemplate Our Navels: The Narrator has a habit of this.
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: Bay & Creek Shipping, the trucking company for whom the narrator now works to Exploit the job's mobility in her search for Alice, featured most heavily in Alice's scattered documentation of The Conspiracy. It hauls thoroughly mundane cargo like travel-sized deodorant and paper products.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: In "Nothing to See," the narrator is troubled by the sound of footsteps in her trailer, only to check it twice, find nothing and still hear noises, until the third check, where the Thistle Man reveals himself, then makes a point of attacking her in public to display how easy it is, and how no one will help. The police, as it turns out, are in his pocket.
- Darker and Edgier: It is explicitly described as being darker in theme and content than Welcome to Night Vale by Disparition.
Narrator: They were hungry, but she... she was smart.
- Season 2 seems to be going the darker route as well. The narrator compares the new Big Bad to the Thistle Men, saying
- Dead Guy Junior: Alice and Keisha named their daughter after Sylvia.
- Distant Finale: The series finale recaps the rest of Alice and Keisha's lives together, up until they happily die of old age.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the hell Keisha and Alice go through over the course of the show, they deal a large blow to Thistle and Bay and Creek, and then get to live the rest of their life together, peacefully. They even have a daughter, named Sylvia.
- Eldritch Location:
- In "Omelet," the Narrator observes one of these from a distance, commenting on how very creepy an Evil Tower of Ominousness looks from her vantage point driving past it in her truck. However, it is implied to only be the old smelt stack in Anaconda, Montana.
- In "Alice," the town of Charlatan, which The Narrator goes through multiple times, despite not turning back around to go back through it. The situation also changes each time she goes through it, but stays similar as well; there is always the same set of places and people doing similar things, but with distinct changes each time. The first time it is fairly normal, the second time everyone is distinctly looking away from her, the third the entire town is burning around her, and the fourth everyone seems to be crying.
- It seems Praxis specializes in this- specifically locations that violate the laws of time and/or space.
- Epistolary Novel: Though Dead takes the form of a Captain's Log, it's also a monologic epistolary. In her logs, the narrator speaks throughout as though she's addressing her wife, Alice, occasionally adding commentary that implies she expects Alice to listen through them if they reunite.Narrator: I know what you're thinking, Alice. "This is intentional avoidance." I don't have to explain myself to you. But I will.
- Escape from the Crazy Place: In "Alice," when the distressingly mobile Vanishing Village Charlatan insists on reappearing multiple times despite her driving away from it, illustrating a curious "Groundhog Day" Loop with bonus horrible violations of the laws of physics, the Narrator becomes increasingly desperate waiting for the stoplight to change so she can depart. So are the citizens of Charlatan, judging by the weeping elderly man who attempts to escape by teleporting into the cab of her truck and mutely pointing to the road, only to be locked back into his loop as she leaves for the last time.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: In "Omelet," the Narrator is disturbed by the strange, unreal visual quality of a tower she sees incongruously jutting out of a hillside in the distance. This tower is implied to be the smelt stack located in Anaconda, Montana.Narrator: Creepy. Gut creepy, like something gone wrong. Like a terrible crime.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: Discussed and Played for Drama by the narrator in "Omelet", as out of nowhere, she begins a long, ambivalent digression on the pointlessness of ascribing traits to the night sky, which is a void of nothingness. Though she self-deprecatingly notes that the listener can ignore her, she says that humans are also nothing. Abruptly, she reveals that she witnessed a Humanoid Abomination casually murdering a man, which gives her prior nihilistic musings context as a coping mechanism for her fear.
- Ghost Ship: One's featured in episode 2 of season 2. It's been floating at the mouth of the Columbia River for over 30 years with no visible crew or anything holding it in place, and anyone who tries to investigate it disappears. As a result the townspeople refuse to talk about it or acknowledge it. It's destroyed at the end of the episode when a cargo ship collides with it.
- Gilligan Cut: A rare audio-only example in "Sylvia":Narrator: I snorted and shook my head. "Sylvia, I am an adult, okay? I am an adult woman with a job, and that job says that I have to go to the distribution center, not drive a teenager hundreds of miles to a town I've never heard of, for reasons that that kid won't even tell me. I am a responsible goddamn adult!"
(radio cuts out, then back in)
Narrator: Swansea is not the most bustling of towns...
- Going in Circles: In "Alice" a power of mobile Vanishing Village Charlatan, which appears four times in different locations, forcing the narrator to drive through it to bear witness to a physics-defying "Groundhog Day" Loop.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Zig-Zagged in "Alice" where the truck-driving narrator repeatedly encounters the mobile, looping Vanishing Village of Charlatan, where residents are perpetually reenacting the same motions, but in increasingly bizarre and disturbing contexts. First they behave normally, then stay frozen in their places while covered in muck, then exist in a total inferno while burning to death, then finally compulsively weep in a normal environment, but in the final visit, one of the townsfolk attempts to escape. In a peculiar variation, the narrator isn't able to make sense of the loop's cause, or understand what triggered her own escape.Narrator: I dont know what this meant. I only know that its meaning does not include me. I am not necessary to it.
- Happily Ever After: Deconstructed Trope in the final episode. Keisha and Alice make up, forgive each other, learn to live with their trauma and live happily for many years before dying of old age... but Thistle is simply waiting and it's implied that their daughter will have to take up the fight again.
- Hero Complex: Both the narrator and Alice have one, though the narrator does occasionally have to remind herself she can't solve all problems by herself, especially dealing with the Thistle Men. Alice even gets involved with the fight against the Thistle Men this way.
- Humanoid Abomination: See Ambiguously Human
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Subverted in Part 2, Chapter 10, "Why Am I Alive?", Alice and Thistle have this exchange:Alice: You're all monsters.Thistle: Melodramatic...Alice: No, I mean you're actually monsters. You're not human. You're something, I don't know what... you're predators.Thistle: Well that is close to the truth, I suppose, but very judgy. Just cuz we're not human, we're monsters? Humans can be pretty monstrous.Alice: Hmmph. Save your equivocating for someone you don't have handcuffed in an interrogation room.Thistle: Fair.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The Thistle Man eats Earl near the end of episode one, as a set-up for how off-putting and horrific he really is.
- In Medias Res: The story starts after Alice's supposed death, and in the midst of the narrator's flight from her stalker. She spends the bulk of the first episode recounting her first meeting with him. Also, some of her recordings are cut off by other recordings.
- It's Not You, It's My Enemies / The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Alice's reasoning for abandoning her wife; her enemies were targeting Bay & Creek employees' families, so she simply disappeared so that Keisha would never have to face that sort of danger. A plan which, as Keisha points out, backfired rather spectacularly.
- I Will Only Slow You Down: Alice tries to pull this in 3.03, telling Keisha to go go on without her after a thistle man catches her and starts choking her. Keisha, of course, has had it up to here with Alice's over-protectiveness.Keisha: Well, fuck that and fuck the thistle men.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Very little is known from the start, other than Alice's supposed death and The Narrator's quest to find her. There's seemingly some kind of country-wide conspiracy going on, which is incidentally opposed to the narrator finding Alice; the police are in on it, and the Thistle Man works for them.
- Love at First Sight: Discussed Trope.Keisha: Did I know from the first time I saw you, Alice? It feels like I did. But I think our memories of these things get clouded. Maybe I didnt think anything but "Hey, shes cute." But now in my memory, I remember thinking about my plan to stay single and looking at you, and then thinking... "Well, shit."
- No Name Given: The Thistle Man hasn't had his real name revealed, if he even has a real name. The Narrator named him after the monogram on his shirt.
Alice: Who calls their wife by their actual name, right? Boring people, that's who.
- Until the end of series 1 the only names we had for The Narrator were nicknames given by Alice: Chipmunk and Chanterelle. Neither of them could remember where the latter name came from.
- We learn the name of The Narrator in episode 10. Alice calls her Keisha.
- Not Quite Dead: Pulled off by an Oracle. They're already dead but come back to life just long enough to warn Alice and Keisha to run from some Thistle Men. Justified in that Oracles exist outside of normal time and space, so it's quite possible that they simply came forward for a few moments from what seemed like the characters' past to exist in their present.
- Not So Omniscient After All: The whole of season 2 has the Big Bad appear as such a threat because she's always stalking the narrator, knows way too much about her, and can follow her anywhere. Unlike the Thistle man, she spends a lot of time quietly stalking "her prey." And then during her attempted Break Them by Talking moment in episode 10, she turns out to know nothing about Keisha's interactions with Praxis.
- Preserve Your Gays: Well, right there in the title it says that Alice, who is a lesbian, is not dead when the story kicks off. Both Keisha and Alice survive all the harrowing events of the show to EarnTheirHappyEnding.
- Ramming Always Works: The black boat in season 2 episode 2 is sunk when a mundane cargo ship crushes it. Though the cargo ship starts sinking too, slowly enough for the crew to be evacuated.
- Rapid Aging: When The narrator first meets Jacky in "The Factory By The Sea" he is no more than eighteen. After she follows him inside the factory, he agesfirst into his thirties, then into his fifties or sixtiesand says he is Jack, hasn't been called Jacky in a long time. By the time they get to the beach, he's at least in his late seventies. Then as he drifts out to sea in the coffin she helped him build, all she sees is a tiny, frail hand, suggesting he is now 90 or more. All this takes place over just a few hours.
- Spiritual Successor: To Welcome to Night Vale, being written by the same people and featuring one of the stars from that show.
- It also features the music of Disparition who also produces the series.
- Supernatural Repellent: The smell of heather oil repels the Thistle Man, so when she goes to confront him, The Narrator slathers herself in it and shoves some whole heather branches into his mouth.
- Surreal Horror: Similar to Welcome to Night Vale but with much less humor. Strange and frightening things happen, only the narrator isn't totally inured to it.
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Brilliantly played with, see the page image.
- Was It All a Lie?: The Narrator dejectedly asks Alice this, after scouring her laptop and discovering that all her supposed work trips were a cover-up for whatever she was doing for Bay & Creek Shipping.
- Was Once a Man: The Thistle Men. All of them were humans that were so disgusting and hateful that it began to warp them physically and mentally, to a point they are only superficially recognizable as human.
I want you to know that I chose this, she said. I could have gone another way, but I wanted this. Then her face was gone, and there was only the empty black of the Oracle.
- The Oracles as well, though more benevolently. In chapter 29, it happens to Sylvia.
- Wham Episode:
- Signs & Wonders. Alice knows the Narrator is looking for her, and she wants her to stop. Oh, and the Narrator is no longer alone in her journey.
- The Other Town. There's a second thistle man. There's a whole town full of thistle men. The episode ends with the Narrator deciding she's completely outmatched and giving up.
- Go Home Again. The thistle men are hanging around the Narrator's house, presumably playing with her before they kill her. And they know where Sylvia is hiding. Might as well crash the truck straight into their town. Then Alice shows up.
- Thistle. Alice and the narrator - real name Keisha - briefly reunite. Keisha rams her truck into the thistle men's town, briefly subdues The Thistle Man (the first one she met) with heather grass, and then beats him to death with her bare hands. The other thistle men are chased off by a secret army...revealed to be working for Bay & Creek Shipping.
- Why Am I Alive? Thistle and Bay & Creek Shipping are on the same side, though it's unclear if all of their employees know that. Praxis is confirmed as a third party. Then Alice shows up again!
- What Happened To Hank Thompson? To answer the question posed by the title, Hank Thompson was such a horrible, violent, hateful human being that he slowly turned into a Thistle Man. According to an Oracle (who, incidentally, perceives time simultaneously à la Dr. Manhattan), Thistle Men are not born that way; they were all human beings once, each so hateful and violent that it literally robbed them of their humanity.
- Wham Line: The very end of "Go Home Again":Alice...Alice, is that you?!
"Who do you work for?" "Who do you work for?""Right. You haven't even heard from me yet."
- Two from "Thistle":
"You're only alive because you haven't died yet." Though it takes a little while for Keisha to fully understand the importance of this statement.
- From "Why Am I Alive?":
The novel contains examples of:
- Adaptational Early Appearance: Praxis and the people in the hoodies appear much earlier in the novel than they do in the podcast.
- Adaptation Expansion: The novel takes some underutilized concepts from the podcast and expands on them. Such examples include:
- Alice's backstory and reasoning, while present in the podcast, is much more in detail here. The same goes for the police woman's backstory, which was only hinted at during her first appearance in the podcast.
- One of the biggest expansions was one of the victims of the Thistle Man, Cynthia O'Brian. While dead, her story is what truly separates the novel from the podcast. While all the victims get their backstory told, Cynthia is relevant to the plot.
- Additionally, the characters of Lynn (only present in the podcast during the Los Angeles live performance) and Mercy the librarian (who was an extremely minor character in the podcast) were expanded on in the podcast.
- Adapted Out: While plenty of things were expanded upon, an equal amount of things were removed, including:
- Everything regarding the town of Charlatan, The Factory by the Sea, the black barge, the Praxis chain restaurants, the Tradewinds Tiki Motel, and the speakers connected to another world are removed, including the characters that revolve around them. Charlatan, the factory by the sea, and the black barge, however, get a small mention in a book later in the story.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The moving from podcast to novel came with plenty of changes, the biggest of which is changing the narrative from first person to third person. The overall plot is the same, however.
- Due to the structure of the novel, certain plot points, while leading to the same ending, lead Keisha to different places. One of the biggest changes is the Season 2 finale, the confrontation between Keisha and the police woman, which was moved from a Bay and Creek base to a library. As such, instead of learning that Bay and Creek and Thistle are the same from the police woman, she learns it from the notes of Cynthia O'Brian.
- Title: The Adaptation: Alice Isn't Dead: A Novel