The Human-Joozian Cultural Exchange Program, Epilogue


It was a long time coming, but Sheila had had enough of Kyle spending every evening at the house on the couch, watching the crew of the Streisand on television in his pajamas. His hair was a frizzy mess, his skin was becoming pale, his eyes and cheeks were often pink-tinged and puffy from crying. His anguished groans at the television were disturbing her inner peace.

"Kyle, why are you torturing yourself watching this program? I understand how upset you are that you were voted off, but it's time to come back to reality!"

Kyle scrunched up his face and tried not to cry. He failed. "The program was my reality Mom, it was all real to me! It wasn't an act! Why won't anyone believe me?"

Sheila threw up her hands, "You had to have known, in the back of your mind, that the Program would be recording your actions- but still you had sex with that human, after the first date! God, what did I do to raise a son with such loose morals!"

It was the way the Program was edited, Kyle thought bitterly. They made him out to be something he wasn't, to cheapen what he had with Stan. Against his better judgment, Kyle kept watching, wasting away on a hope to catch even a glimpse of Stan- but he shied away from the camera. He blended into the background. He'd cover his eyes with his hands and it made Kyle ache. "I couldn't get away from it if I wanted to," Kyle mumbled in defeat. "Everyone is watching it. You and dad are watching it."

"You could certainly get away from it, if you moved out," Sheila reminded. "Gerald and I watch because we want to support your baby brother." After excusing herself, Sheila purposefully ran a vacuum hose over the couch, nudging Kyle up to get him on his feet. Once the crumbs of poptarts had been removed from the couch, Sheila and her son sat down to watch the program together.

"You know Gerald and I love seeing those two boys together- Tweek and Craig? They are so precious! We were thinking of commissioning a painting of them, and hanging it right there on the wall." Sheila pointed out the proposed spot for the finished piece.

Kyle groaned and sank in his seat. "Reality," as his mother called it, was sinking in. His fifteen minutes were up. He shouldn't watch the program anymore. If Kyle continued to watch, he might see that one day, Stan would stop turning away and hiding his eyes from the camera. He'd be smiling again, even without Kyle there. He'd forget all about him, and shine for all to see; a twinkling star millions of miles away. The gravity of it crushed Kyle until a fresh film of tears blotted out the images on-screen and the voices from the TV hissed like meaningless noise.

Sheila scooted over on the couch and dabbed at her son's cheeks with the corner of her apron. "Bubula, like it or not, the program is going to end one day. There won't be any more to watch, so either enjoy it while you can or stop watching it." she cupped her palm over her son's cheek. "Your face is a mess- you need to hydrate. Get yourself a glass of water from the kitchen."

By her incessant prodding, Kyle was peeled from the couch and sent out of the living room long enough to get some water, shoulders slumped, leaving the noise behind him in obscurity, tuning it out completely with the rushing sound of the sink's water faucet, looking numbly out the window at dense, fluffy pink clouds, huddling together under a bright green sky glittering with distant light.

The program had been greatly altered in format to accommodate the cast being self-aware, with footage shown from security cameras, or documentary-style shooting with interviews interspersed throughout.

Live from the bridge, Leslie interviewed the Captain."Wendy, what do you think of the program?"

The Captain answered curtly,"I think that it could be a very valuable tool for education, but instead it's edited for sensationalized drama. Further, it's greatly impacted the efficacy of our operations."

With extra care to her hair and make-up, Bebe abruptly slid into view. "Hey, what's up, TV-land? Co-Captain Bebe Stevens, reporting in!" Bebe posed, doffing a red beret, working more closely with Wendy on the bridge after her promotion. Wendy was relieved to have her there and pull the focus of the camera away.

Shooting POV from ocular cameras, Leslie had taken it upon herself to conduct impromptu interviews, with spare rooms on each deck assigned as 'confessional booths' for the crew to talk into. "What are your plans for the upcoming season?"

Wendy tried to keep them engaged on the scientific merits of their expeditions, the real work they were doing. "A local asteroid cluster skimmed the orbit of a gas giant, and it is exhibiting unidentified chemical change. We'll be investigating samples of the asteroids and further investigating the area."

Gassy rocks was the farthest thing from the minds of the viewers, surely. Leslie prodded, "You're taking something of a detour today, isn't that right?"

Wendy sighed in defeat. Tawdry reality shows would always perform better than edutainment, wouldn't they? "Bebe, say something to make the camera pan away from me."

"Yeah! Over here, look out the window. One of the cloud cities on Joozia's moon. Can you see your house from here?" Bebe winked, the forward display behind her showing the nose of the Streisand pushing aside fluffy pink clouds to show a single human-styled house floating amongst alien pods and towers. A little red-haired dot leaned out of a window, and moments later came crashing out the front door to watch a shuttle from the ship land on his lawn, still wearing his Terrence & Phillip pajama bottoms and Earth T-shirt.

Stan jumped out of the shuttle while it was still idling a few feet off the ground, hitting it running, running toward and colliding with Kyle. They each tried to pick the other up, laughing and kissing and twirling on a lawn of purple grass.

They could not be separated long enough to conduct the interview Leslie had wanted to back onboard the ship. "Kyle, Stan appealed the decision to expel you from the ship. The crew of the Streisand voted you back on, and the fans couldn't be happier; they just can't live without Style. What are you feeling right now?"

"I just want to say thank you to everyone who rooted for us. It's because of your support that we're still here. Can you look away now? I want to be alone with Stan."