As the creator of cult-classic podcast Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink has achieved some degree of notoriety in the world of fictional podcasts. Fans of Welcome to Night Vale have made note of Fink’s ability to create surreal atmospheres and bizarre comedies; the podcast is a strung-together re-imagining of daily events in a town where nothing is ever quite normal. This past March, Fink debuted his second podcast: Alice Isn’t Dead. True to form, this new podcast plays on the same surreal ideas of Fink’s earlier work, but the content creator has opted for something much more sinister in his newest piece.
Alice Isn’t Dead is posed as a series of self-recorded voice narrations of an unnamed female truck driver. In principle, the narrations are simple; it’s an amalgamation of road musings reminiscing about the days she spent with her old girlfriend, Alice. As the podcast develops, it quickly becomes clear that Alice suddenly disappeared from the narrator’s life and that the narrator is the only person holding on to hope that Alice hasn’t died. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are fuzzy, and the narrator never makes it quite clear when Alice vanished.
The unnamed protagonist explains that she took a job on the road in an effort to search out her missing girlfriend. By traveling around the country to deliver packages, she can commit herself to looking for roadside clues about where she could have gone. Slowly but surely, the narrator is able to piece together a patchwork conspiracy theory revolving around a mysterious corporation that is simply called “Thistle.” The company itself is manned by a staff of people that are indeterminately human; the narrator struggles to determine where these ambiguous men could have come from, and they slowly become a more pressing danger to her as she gets closer to finding Alice.
Where the podcast excels is in its writing; Fink manages to create an atmosphere that manages to be as creepy as it is relaxing. By creating the piece as a series of recordings, Alice Isn’t Dead takes on an incredibly intimate quality—a seat-side chat as one lonely woman fights to find her missing girlfriend. Fink’s contribution to the relationship between Alice and the narrator is a quiet and delicate way, which he contrasts with the dim reality that the narrator faces on the road. It is in this way that he keeps the listener on their toes; he treads the line between frightening and adorable in his juxtaposition of the two stories.
Alice Isn’t Dead is at the forefront of the new breed of story-based fictional podcasts, and frankly the broadcast excels in its field. The storytelling itself serves as a unique, engaging, and decidedly macabre experience but still pulls at the heartstrings with the complete sense of intimacy that the listener develops with the narrator. In effect, Fink has managed to add a podcast to his lineup that is exciting and original in a way completely different from his previous work.