When I was lying in bed last night, a thought popped into my head and it just wouldn’t let me go. It seems I have untintentionally developed the head canon that the strange, desert otherworld that Carlos is trapped in… is Night Vale.
The army of huge masked warriors are the first inhabitants of Night Vale, who made the cave paintings that were powerwashed off the walls and now resemble smudges.
The old oak doors are forbidden technology, not taking people to one place to another, but from one time to another.
The lighthouse and the house that does not exist (whilst not in the same location) are both fixed points. They both contain picture frames that glimpse into present-day or the past. The photos in the house mostly contain pictures of photoframes; this is because there is no one inside the lighthouse, and the picture frames look out onto the picture frame on the opposite wall.
(I think if Dana went into the house during the last episode, she would see Carlos from a lot of different angles.)
Carlos does not find the strange, desert otherworld more scientifically interesting than Night Vale. He finds it as scientifically interesting as Night Vale, because it’s the same place just at different points in time.
There is a blinking red light on top of a mountain. There is also a blinking red light on top of the radio tower. This is not relevant, but is very nicely symmetrical.
The hidden gorge chose Dana Cardinal for Mayor because the Masked Army took her in, and she impressed them. They recognised her qualities, and so did Night Vale, which I am now considering to be a sentient place.
And, because it’s nicer to consider than the other possibility, Carlos was trapped in the desert otherworld, because Night Vale cannot identify whether he is past or present. He may in fact be from the slight future, just to throw Night Vale into further confusion.