Basically, Carl looks like he’s made of a metal, but it’s January in New York, so my guess is it’s quite cold and metal at ambient temperature would have felt very cold. Initial reports are that these things are super heavy, so it doesn’t make sense that they would be made out of coated plastic. I have no idea what else would not feel very cold to the touch but also be heavy and shiny.
Unless he actually felt warm, in which case there is likely some kind of power source inside of him keeping him warm.
There’s a Carl here in the Bay Area, but it’s looking less and less likely that I’ll be getting my hands on him, so I was just wondering if you could satisfy my curiosity. Was Carl warm like touching Styrofoam would be warm? Or was he warm like touching a mug full of coffee would be warm?
Did you notice anything else about him that would help with this mystery?
Thank you for your time and I totally understand if you’re not able to get back to me.
That was the only email I responded to that day.
RE: You said it was warm?
Thanks for your message! On the list of peculiar things about Carl, this didn’t really stand out, but now that you mention it, it was super weird. He didn’t feel warm, he just didn’t feel like a temperature. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it without the prompt, but it was very much like hard, smooth Styrofoam. Like he didn’t have heat, but all of my hand heat stayed in my hand when I touched him. I did actually give him a good whack with my knuckles and it was like a *thunk* followed by a faint low hum. It didn’t give at all. It was like knocking on a painted brick wall.
I imagine I’ll have a pretty hard time getting up close with NY Carl again too, so I probably won’t be able to be of much further help. Sounds like whoever did this is going above and beyond in the weirdness category.
With that, I considered myself done enough.
“MAYA! Phone, please!”
“This is super weird, right?!” she shouted back unseen, before coming into her room.
“So what’s the damage?” I asked, gesturing to the phone.
“Um . . . you are suddenly extremely popular. Andy would like to talk. He would like to talk a lot. He would like to talk for at least four years. Your parents also called.”
I called my parents—they were fine, if a little stressed. My slightly older, very successful, extremely normal brother, Tom, was getting married in Northern California in a few months and they were helping with a lot of the planning. Tom had studied math and worked at an investment bank in San Francisco. I kept expecting him to move to New York with all the other investment bankers, but he wasn’t doing it.
I want to be very clear that whatever hang-ups I have are 100 percent mine. I had a very happy childhood; I just wasn’t a very happy child. My parents have always been supportive and without expectations, which is pretty much all a kid can ask for. So we talked about Carl and about Tom and about how much they loved Tom’s fiancée and how smooth the planning was going, even if it was still a lot of work. They wanted to know what I knew about Carl, so I told them a bunch of stuff they mostly already knew. They asked about work and hinted that they could give me some money if I needed it, which they always did and I always ignored. They loved the video, and they were proud of me. For what? Who knows. Parents, right?
I called Andy, who sounded . . . unstable.
“APRIL MAY THIS IS GETTING REALLY WEIRD!”
I winced away from the phone. “You’re going to need to be calm with me right now.”
“The video has had three million views now, people think you’re fantastic! You aren’t reading the comments, right?”
“I haven’t actually watched the video yet.”
“You’re, like, the only person who has not seen it. The story just keeps getting weirder. They still haven’t found any surveillance footage. There’s a camera that shows the spot pretty clearly, but at 2:43 A.M. it just cuts out . . . records nothing for five minutes, and when it comes back Carl is just standing there. Military analysts say it’s possible that an EMP knocked out all the local electricity for EVERY CARL while they were being installed and they were all installed at the exact same time. The thing that makes this weirder is that the static that the security cameras recorded wasn’t random. The cameras that were recording audio—every one that the news has gotten their hands on has an undertone of static that is very clearly, if you turn it up loud enough, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen.”
“I love that song.”
“No, I’d just never even heard of it. But, yeah, if you listen, it’s there. No one knows how it could have gotten there . . . some extremely high-energy radio pulse, maybe?”
“Yeah, this is super weird, but, Andy, it doesn’t really have much to do with us, does it? I mean, we made the video, I’m happy to say that we spotted the New York Carl—”
“Just ‘New York Carl,’” he interrupted.
“New York Carl, that’s the one in New York’s name. Not ‘the New York Carl.’ Everyone is calling it New York Carl and the one in Mumbai is Mumbai Carl and there’s Hong Kong Carl and São Paulo Carl. Even people who don’t speak English are calling their Carls Carl.”
“You being picky about nomenclature is not changing my point . . . We didn’t make Carl, we just found him. Not even . . . we found like one-sixtieth of him.”
“I made this point to my dad, he babbled for like ten minutes about narrative and memetic diffusion and cultural mythology, and he totally convinced me with an argument that I am completely incapable of repeating. Which brings me to the most salient point . . . I just made ten thousand dollars.”
There was a long pause, and then I finally said, “Um . . . neat?”
“News stations would very much like to interview you, but they took me instead because I’m the best they could do at the moment. Pundits and experts are blabbing about Carl for about five minutes every hour, but there’s only so much they can say to keep it interesting. They can’t interview Carl, but they can interview you. My dad says he can get us a ten-thousand-dollar licensing deal with all the major networks if you agree to do interviews.”
“Wait . . . total? Or per network?”
“Per network! They’re totally fucked because they already ran the footage. Dad has them by the balls.”
My head wasn’t working super fast, but I did recognize that $10,000 multiplied by the number of news networks I could think of would eliminate a sizable portion of my student loans. I could quit my shit job. I could have time in the evenings to do things that were my idea.
“I would have to go on TV?”
“You would get to go on TV!”
“What am I supposed to say on TV?”
“You just answer their questions!”
“Do I have to do my hair?”
“April May, it’s gonna be like fifty thousand dollars.”
“OK, fine, I’m in.”
* * *
Within the next thirty minutes, I had two network news interviews scheduled for that day, and, figuring that I should probably have something worth saying, Maya and I spent the hours I had free before I had to head downtown reading everything we could about Carl. It wasn’t much—Andy had caught me up pretty thoroughly. I was a little bit terrified about going on the news and honestly had no idea what I was supposed to say. “I saw this thing, it was cool, I don’t know what it is, my friend and I made a video”—that’s like nineteen seconds. Doesn’t seem worth precisely $10,000, but I didn’t know how TV worked. Turns out, they mostly just wanted to keep using the footage that they’d already stolen from us without getting sued.
I ended up on the Wikipedia page for “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the barely audible song that bizarrely showed up on all the static-filled security camera footage of areas where Carls had appeared.
“Don’t Stop Me Now” is a song by the British rock band Queen, featured on their 1978 album Jazz that was released as a single in 1979. Wrtten by lead singer Freddie Mercury, it was recorded in August 1978 at Super Bear Studios in Berre-les-Alpes (Alpes-Maritimes), France, and is the twelfth track on the album.
Weird, I thought, typos like “wrtten” don’t usually make it into Wikipedia. But, being the good steward of the internet that I was, I edited the page, fixing the typo, then went back and reloaded the page.
“Don’t Stop Me Now” is a song by the British rock band Queen, featured on their 1978 album Jazz that was relesed as a single in 1979. Wrtten by lead singer Freddie Mercury, it was recorded in August 1978 at Super Bear Studios in Berre-les-Alpes (Alpes-Maritimes), France, and is the twelfth track on the album.
“Hey, Maya, can you bring up the Wikipedia page for ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’?”
“Do you see any typos?”
“Uhh . . . two in the first paragraph.”
“Yeah, ‘released’ and ‘written’ are both spelled wrong.”