~ 3 short stories of parasocial relationships taking strange and terrifying turns in the age of livestreaming and online celebrity.
Aleksandra watched her bestie every day through a live feed.
She’d talk and listen and watch videos and play video games. She’d react to such experiences with great animation and playfully yell at chat, get up to go to the bathroom and leave an empty chair and a pleasant lo-fi tune behind. The streams were long and the days short because of it.
The fandom was collectively called “Moxies” and Aleksandra considered herself Queen Moxie. That was even her username.
While she watched, Aleksandra would do some of these things too. “Alek” had an email job and could sit at the computer all day multi-tasking on multiple monitors; she had plenty of time for her bestie even while she toiled for an average of $19 per hour writing, designing, and sending fancy emails for her various clientele.
Sometimes they played the same games together, her and her streamer. Alek liked to imagine them playing together on the couch, cooperatively adventuring through fantastical landscapes, helping each other defeat monsters, even making love…
Livestreaming gifted her the capacity for double experiences — words alongside images, time to herself combined with time for bestie. Alek could listen to her rant about the state of the gaming industry or the whole world, soaking in the social energy from her frustrations and her enthusiasm and her zest for the comedically dramatic. Such doubling left Alek satisfied. So much so that when she said good-bye each day and shut off her computer screen, Alek could sleep like a baby, jovial and alone and complete.
But the streams were not satiating as of late. Alek needed more.
That’s why she finally found the source of the stream, a location. The house of her bestie. With a few simple dark web transactions which cleaned out her savings, she now knew where bestie lived!
Aleksandra was going there today. She’d walk up to the front door armed with cupcakes and smiles, hair down with a top flight fit to show off. She held no illusions about their relationship; today they’d meet face-to-face for the first time and pick up right where they left off.
Pain was nothing compared to friendship.
Jamy had thousands of friends. They were on channels, online, actively beaming their consciousness into the World Wide Web. To people like him. He suffered for their streams willingly, every pound of flesh was borne from his full attention gathering to uptick their viewership by one.
With a matrix of screens surrounding his basement home, Jamy could hang out with all his friends at once if he wanted to. There was X, and Hassy, and Moongoold, and Moxi and so many more. All beautiful friendships, where he got to know them through conversation during games, dialogue in times of great drama, absurd exclamations borne of nonsensical ironies from one of his many chat messages. He’d been banned by each of them at least once, fifty or more times in total, because of his various linguistic misbehaviors in the shared chat associating these star streams.
For Jamy, the bans just meant that his friends cared about him. The temporary revocation of his ability to communicate upon their livestream platform just meant that he was an especially active member of the community.
But Jamy was running out of time.
Through blood, sweat, and tears, Jamy had forged these companionships at great personal cost to himself, beyond what anyone knew. Somewhere along the ten thousand-hour journey with all his online idols, his 7-monitor setup of Asus and Samsung screens had morphed into a singular monstrosity, with blood and light pulsing from out of bulbous musculature. It growled and bubbled and siphoned much of the power from his grandma’s house and the surrounding suburban grid.
Jamy never questioned the strange occurrence because there was nothing he could do. He lived here. And Jamy’s many friends stayed on the big screen. So Jamy kept watching, bundled up with a butcher’s knife.
You see, in order to keep the monstrous screen going — alive — Jamy had to keep feeding it. If he wanted to continue to see his friends every day, his monitor needed fuel. That fuel just so happened to be flesh and blood.
And this time, Jamy took too much. He leaked his lifeblood onto the blanket draping his scarred and ruined body. Jamy watched his final stream with a smile on his pale face, sunken eyes left unblinking on the manifold screen that pulsed with as much of its own otherworldly blood as his.
“That’s TOTAL bullshit! And anyone that tells you differently is lying. And I can actually tell you right now, I can guarantee for you right now, if you brought them on they’d not be able to say it to my face-”
D. Public enemy #1 in Nic’s book. He watched his stream every day. Rival to his fave, a betrayer god in the pantheon of interactive online drama, Nic hated D more than anyone else in the world. (In truth, there weren’t many people Nic knew at all.)
Nic was finally about to do something with all that vitriol this little man in the box produced within him; he was about to prove this motherfucker to be the liar he knew he was.
A liar that lied still.
D was still lying to this day, every day he came online he was still lying to his audience.
Lying, lying, lying.
About himself, about his idealogy, about everything.
He was an enemy to the American working class and to the furry community too.
And Nic could prove it. For the whole audience of freakish, terminally online “stans” and fellow hate-watchers alike, he could construct his chosen confrontation to do the deed in the very same format that D had enjoyed so much ill-gotten success from thus far.
Nic hacked into the hosting mainframe for the livestream platform D called home; everything from his personal info to his private messages were now under Nic’s control. He’d set up evil D’s stream to not only pipe into a private stream v. stream call with him for a full ten uninterruptible minutes but also programmed it to instantly send out D’s home address, credit card info, social security details, and damaging private messages to everyone in chat via an @everyone banner message.
Nic donned his headset, angled his webcam, and put on a wicked grin in the form of a plastic Richard Nixon mask.
D would never forget this stream; D would never lie again to his audience about how much of a piece of shit he truly was. D would never stream again.
Nic intended to make sure of it. This prodigiously talented 11-year-old was about to ruin the motherfucker’s life. ~