Something about growing up at home made me feel like a monster in a cave. Whether I wanted to be a monster or not, it was where I belonged, and the world was safer for it. My name is Cryztal. I’m a streamer, meaning I am online way more than anyone should be, and people seem to like watching what I’ll do next. The past seven years I have rarely left my house. Why? Because streaming earns me enough to where I can stay home and have anything delivered to me if I want it. I would also say I have bad people skills, so the less I have to interact directly with people the better. This isn’t helped at all by me being half-human and half-alien.
As much as I would love to say I’m the child of a passionate intergalactic love story, my origin is much less romantic than that. My mama was a witch, and my father was just a client who crashed to Earth in a space travel accident. In exchange for her crafting a magical item for him, she took some samples from his body, since she needed them for the craft anyway. A few months later she decided to try to make new life, and I was the only successful result. My father wanted nothing to do with me, and it is fair to say Mama was only somewhat interested in taking care of me. Because of this I was sort of raised by my neighbors, but one might say I was scouted instead.
My friend Jason’s dad was a writer for TV shows. Because he was at home the most, Jason’s dad looked after some of us after school. Supposedly seeing us play pretend growing up inspired him to create a show in a fantasyland, and he convinced the producers to hire us to play pretty important roles on the show. I honestly didn’t care much about the show. I was just happy to spend time with my friends. And the show was canceled part way through filming the fourth season, during the summer before I started high school. It was a rough time, especially since our friend Nai-bu was sent off to a boarding school, and her parents explicitly told us never to talk to her again.
“No one thinks it’s your fault.” Jason said to me, sitting in my kitchen.
Every other week Jason mows my lawn and then we shoot the shit. When I said I didn’t go outside I meant it. Unless he really needed a second set of hands, I stayed inside the whole time. Since graduating high school, Jason had become an insurance agent, and a pretty good one at that apparently. His business had plenty of strong and positive comments about him in the reviews. He was also probably my last thread to anything local, since everything I was doing was online now.
“The production staff might think that, but you and I know better. I’m why season 4 was canceled and I don’t deserve to go to a reunion of any kind.” I argued, like a broken record.
“You haven’t gone to any of them! It’ll be good to get out and see people! Or pretend you don’t know anyone! What are the odds they’ll even recognize you?” Jason wagered.
“I’d rather not risk it. They’ll probably say some gross boomer shit about how it’s a tragedy I would do this to myself.” I tried to laugh it off.
“That’s fair. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.” Jason said, then sighed. “It’s just lame being the only star from the show that goes! The twins don’t show up, and I can’t imagine Nai-bu ever attending.”
“Okay! Okay! I’ll think about it.” I caved, and pretty much decided I was going to go. But I couldn’t let him know that.
Every time there was a reunion, Mama had no interest in going, and when I was old enough to go on my own, I just didn’t care for it. I never really watched the show, so I can’t attend as a fan, and Jason is the only peer who I would even recognize. The others apparently have more going on in their life. I also don’t drive, and I don’t want to be stuck around people who might know it was my fault the show ended.
Being half-alien, in my case at least, means I can transform my appearance. It isn’t something cool where I can do it at-will, especially not as an adult, or even transform into something specific like a form of disguise. Either I look like a relatively normal human, or I become something like a big red lizard monster. My father once explained that he and I both have two bodies, with the inactive or hidden body being in a sort of dimensional pocket, and we can shift between them. He can do it in an instant, which will blind most people who may be watching the change happen. Because I did not “descend from the heavens” as he put it, my transformation is more gradual, and my alien body is much larger. For context, his human and alien bodies were roughly the same height. Whereas when I was twelve, my alien body was the same height as him, despite my human body still being pretty short for my age. I haven’t fully transformed as an adult yet.
When being hired for the show, I was asked to reveal this ability to a select few of the show’s staff. They wanted to use this for the show, making my character a double agent: as a human, I was a friend to the good guys, but as a monster, I was their enemy. It went over fine, with very few staff knowing it was me, and everyone else assuming I was a costume. It honestly felt a little freeing at times, except for when a director didn’t know, and they were more rough with me than I liked. This choice would ultimately lead to the show’s cancellation.
Not even during filming, but while doing some promotional shots, they wanted to photograph Nai-bu’s head and upper body in my mouth. It wasn’t an unreasonable request, and had been done on the show before to build tension, but something was different that day. When we were done posing, I froze in place with Nai-bu still in my mouth. Even now I don’t know why, but before I could process it, Nai-bu’s mother freaked out, and some of the show’s staff had to rip my jaw open to let Nai-bu out. The pain was so bad that after running off and transforming back to my human form, I couldn’t go in for a week because my jaw needed to heal. Halfway through that week we were told the show was canceled. And I knew it was my fault.
The morning of the reunion came and I told Jason I would go with him. I did my makeup like I normally would for my stream, but wore oversized sunglasses and a large trucker hat to help obscure my face better. I didn’t expect anyone to recognize me as the kid from the show, but was way more worried about being recognized from my streams. I may not be one of the most popular streamers, but you don’t earn as much as I do without having made some waves.
When Jason pulled up, he looked me up and down, then stopped at my shorts. “You’re really going with short shorts and tights. To a reunion.” Jason said, with disapproval.
“You said it was casual attire. I’m comfortable like this.” I said.
Jason didn’t really put up much of a fight about it and told me to get into his car. Despite the plan, I had already checked how much a rideshare back home would be from the venue. It wasn’t so far that I couldn’t walk, but if I wanted to leave, I definitely didn’t want anyone following me. The venue wasn’t exactly a high security environment. It was the same type of auditorium-type place you’d hold a wedding reception or a family reunion. And maybe for some of these people this was like a family reunion, but to me, this was just trying to appease an old friend.
We walked in together, and at first I thought I would pretend to be Jason’s girlfriend, hold onto his arm and stuff, but that started to feel gross the more I thought about it. So instead I lightly walked behind him, only for people to immediately flock to him once they saw him. Apparently his parents didn’t attend anymore, so he had to speak for them, and since he was such a great socialite, he could handle the droves of people coming at him. Last time I dealt with crowds I was so anxious I nearly forgot how to speak, so I slipped off to a poorly lit corner of the room, hoping to not be noticed.
The venue was pretty lame, honestly. There weren’t assigned tables or anything, and decorations were pretty minimal. Some of the old costumes and set pieces were on display, as well as photos from the show. The short stage was being hogged by some of the producers who were arguing over what to talk about and what to share on the projector. Most people seemed to find themselves seated and chatting, but I didn’t see anyone worth sitting with. Not like I remembered any of the production staff anyway. If things calmed down, I might try to sit with Jason, but that doesn’t seem likely.
As I absentmindedly stood in the back staring at my phone, someone approached me.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Craith, would you?” Their voice softly asked.
Looking up from my phone, I made eye contact with Nai-bu for the first time in over a decade. We may have grown a lot, but her face was unforgettable. I began to realize what was going on, and fixed my posture. What could I even say? Where could I even start?