Fry opened his eyes and found himself staring at the ceiling. He struggled to remember where he was, until a flash of purple appeared out the corner of his eye. He turned his head and saw Leela sitting in a chair, looking at him.
He smiled automatically a moment before he realized where he was.
“So you remember who I am,” she said matter-of-factly. She leaned toward him. “Do you know who you are?”
He stared blankly at her. “I’m me, I think.”
She took a deep breath.
“What’s your name?”
“Fry. Phillip Fry.”
“And your grandfather’s name?”
“Um, mother’s side or father’s side?”
She sighed, looking tired.
“Don’t play with me. Roswell.”
“Um, Fry. Phillip Fry.”
“Well, it’s you all right. And you still remember some things. It may not be too late.” She leaned back in the chair and jerked her thumb to the side. “Do you remember your partner in crime here?”
Fry looked around. He was in Leela’s living room, lying on the sofa, and Bender was standing in a corner.
“Bender! Aren’t you waiting outside for me?”
“Ix-nay on the ait-way, Fry. I was simply hanging around in a dark alley, mindin’ my own business, when eyeball here leans out the window and axes me to come up here to help out.”
“Why didn’t you tell-“
“And I must say I am shocked, shocked that you are breaking into my good friend Leela’s apartment. Though I must admit, it was pretty clever trying to go in through the window-“
“You’re saturating your sincerity simulator, Bender,” Leela said dryly. “Better get it adjusted.” She turned back to Fry. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“Um. I broke into your apartment. Looking for the holophoner. Hid in your closet. And then you found me and told me, told me—“ The memory of what she had said rushed back full force and he sprang from the couch and actually walked forward a few steps before he felt dizzy again and fell to the ground. His face lying sideways on the floor, he spotted the holophoner box and Leela’s gun lying a few feet away.
“Careful there,” Leela said, gently lifting him up. Why was she suddenly being so nice to him? It felt great, but somehow he couldn’t relax. Shouldn’t she be kicking his ass right about now?
“Yeah, I’d also add that you threw up on my carpet ,” she continued, as she set him back down on the couch. “Or more of a dry heave. When was the last time you’ve eaten?”
When had he eaten? Not at the dumpster. Or at the Cygnoids pizzeria, or even at the pub—he had been broke. In fact, he hadn’t eaten since his whole nightmare started. No wonder he had been feeling dizzy.
“Never mind,” she added, as she saw Fry trying to concentrate. “We’ll get you something. So I meant to ask, what was the last memory you have before you can’t remember what happened to you, over this past year?”
“How’d you know about that? I never was able to tell you.”
“I’ve been talking to Bender.” She looked a little sheepish. “I guess I never gave you a chance to mention it yesterday. But after you threw up and fainted on my floor I began to suspect something strange might be going on. And so I found Bender minding his own business outside, and we’ve had a nice discussion. So what do you last remember?”
“We went dancing for the first time. We danced in the street.” An unpleasant fact emerged in his memory. “You met Gary for the first time.”
Her cheeks colored slightly, but she said nothing.
“Well, they did a thorough job, didn’t they? Adam gets to stroll back into Paradise, innocent once more?”
“Who’s Adam? Is that Gary?”
“Are you having strange dreams?”
Fry’s heart fluttered slightly. How did she know? He nodded uncertainly.
“Do you feel that something or someone is after you, but you’re not sure who or why?”
Fry’s eyes widened and he scrambled upright on the sofa.
“How-How? Can you read my mind?”
“Easy there, Fry. Bender and I think you may have had a mind wipe. It’s illegal in DOOP territory, but available within this galaxy.”
“You’ve had certain memories removed. Actually an entire block of time removed from your memory.”
“They can do that?”
“Yes, the ability to remove memories is centuries old. But it’s still a dangerous procedure. There are lots of side effects, including paranoia and collateral memory loss.”
“Who did this?”
“I think you did.”
Fry lay silent for a few moments, trying to absorb this last revelation.
“Bender, Fry really should have something to eat. Would you do me a favor and run down to the 7/11 and get a few cans of Bachelor Chow? Actually, get the self-heating one.”
“But you’ve got a lot of mold and wine in the kitchen. Enough for two humans.”
“It’s feta cheese, Bender, and he needs something less rich.” She sighed. “And yes I’ll pay you.”
“Glad to be of help-“
“Step away from the purse.” She walked over, fished out a few bills to Bender, and said, “And I’m moving the purse to a new hiding spot, so don’t bother.”
Bender hesitated at the doorway, swiveling his head to look at Fry on the couch.
“He’ll be fine. We won’t anything until you’re back, as we discussed.” And then Bender was gone.
Fry looked at her back as she watched Bender leave. She wasn’t turning around.
“Leela? What’s going on?”
“Fry, you had your memories removed because you wanted to forget some things. Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Tell me everything,” he said firmly.
God, she hated to remember all this, to drag herself back into the past and reopen old wounds. But the expression of mingled confusion and fright on the red-haired delivery boy’s face was so similar to the expression he had the day he left Planet Express for good, that it was almost as if she were there again--
“But I didn’t want this. I didn’t want this to happen.”
They stood outside Planet Express, leaning against the low wall where she had once confessed to him about her terrible loneliness at not knowing her parents. At the time, she had been caught off guard by how much his simple-minded words had comforted her.
Now he stood in the same spot, but with a backpack on his shoulder, about to leave for good, but now instead of comforting her, every word of his stabbed.
“I didn’t really want this either. But it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be hard, and we need to decide together what to do about it.”
“How’d it happen?”
“Well, when a man and a woman sleep together, sometimes-“
“Yeah, but I’m human and you’re-you’re not.”
Her heart skipped a beat. He had never cared about this before.
“Well we’re close enough apparently. But, there’s going to be—issues. The fetus is very small. Too small. And she’s not going to be --normal.”
“What do you mean, normal?”
“She may be missing a hand, maybe even an entire arm. And her lungs are going to be incomplete.”
“She’s a mutant?”
Her vision blurred for a moment as she nodded. He didn’t have to say it that way. What made it hard is that they’d already had this conversation three times, and it always seem to end exactly the same way. She twisted the holophoner book with her hands.
“I really need to know if you’re with me on this. You can’t dodge it any longer. I didn’t want it, but I’m going to go through with it. I know that things aren’t working out between you and me and that you think I’m kind of boring—“
Her temper rose, but she tamped it down. Not now. There was someone innocent who needed her.
“I never told you that. Can you read my mind?” His eyes widened in surprise. She used to think that was cute.
“I heard you talking to Amy. Among other things.”
“Oh”, he said. Then his eyes nearly popped out. “Oh.”
“Yeah, not a great thing to do to me. And normally you’d be running for your life right now. But I’ve got to do what’s best for her. She’s going to need tissue samples. From me. And from you.”
He stood there, staring, mouth open, looking like a fool.
Fry lay back on the sofa as Leela spoke. Initially hesitant, she soon settled into a steady rhythm as she spoke of initial passion, creeping disillusionment, feeble fights, test kits in the bathroom.
Finally freed to speak, the words seemed to soothe and relieve her, all the while as they burned and scorched him. He could only listen, and bathe in the flames. From first kiss to final breakup, it had taken only two months. Two months. After three years of winning her over. That hurt. The other Fry and Leela from the Fighting Mongoose Universe had gotten married. What had happened here?
Turunga Leela was a proud woman. From birth she had been surrounded by others who had told her she was worthless. The others at the orphanage would tell her to her face. Others, like the prospective parents who would glance at her before walking on, or the guidance counselors who pushed her into dead-end careers, were more subtle. She had had to like herself, because no one else would do it for her. And she was proud of herself, because she had pulled herself up with no one’s help.
That wasn’t quite true. Before her was one person she had leaned on for help, in so many ways. He got her the job she loved, pulled her out of a coma, had helped find her parents, had written an opera for her. She tried to remember that as she threw her pride away and begged this frightened and nervous man to stay. But the more desperate she became, the more he seemed to shrink away. She could almost see the respect, the admiration he once had for her, die in his eyes.
“The doctor says that she will need frequent blood transfusions, and genetic adjustments that require lung tissue that only the parents can provide. Both parents need to provide. On an ongoing basis. Or she’s going to die.”
“Lungs? I gotta give her part of my lungs? Forever and ever?”
Even now, she couldn’t stop rolling her eye.
“Not the whole lung, just a piece of it. And yes, for at least three years.“
“Please. I know you have it in you.”
“I didn’t want this to happen.”
“Well neither did I.”
“I can’t do this, be stuck to this, like forever. It’s not fair.”
“Of course it’s not fair. Life isn’t fair. It isn’t always walking on sunshine, you know.”
“I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to go.”
“She’s going to die if you go. Do you understand that?”
He put his chin down on his chest for a moment.
And then he was gone.
It was a day she wanted to forget. But couldn’t.
Fry didn’t dare say anything. Leela’s hands trembled on her lap, and her eye bored into his, unblinking, an eye of judgment. He could only stare back, mind spinning in panic. Did this really happen?
“Leela… Bender and Zoidberg, nobody, told me about this.”
“No one except my parents knew. I was …uncertain… about our relationship, so I made you promise not to tell Bender we were together, and the rest of Planet Express didn’t know, although Amy figured out we were dating shortly before you left.”
A secret relationship. Figured she would do that.
“I took leave just the day before you left, when I was a month pregnant. She was born only three months after that in the mutant hospital, premature, brain damaged, beautiful. Apparently mutants develop quickly, otherwise she wouldn’t have survived at all.”
“What was her name?”
She really didn’t know if she had actually ever loved him. She did know that for a long time the world looked like a thin layer of dirt had covered it, as if she were staring through a dirty windshield. Food tasted bland, music was just a sequence of sounds, and her pregnancy was a curse, not a miracle. She wasn’t sure that she hated him. You couldn’t hate somebody for being what they were. Could you?
“Eureka. Turanga Eureka.”
“And then what happened?”
“I regret to inform you, Ms. Turunga, that your daughter’s condition is caused by a genetic anomaly—caused by genetic incompatibility between you and the father. The prognosis is terminal, unless we can somehow find the father and take a lung sample. Would you know where the father is?”
“He left months. I don’t know where he is. He never tried to contact me.”
Leela was silent.
…she sat up at 3 AM, listening to her daughter fight for breath, hacking and wheezing pitifully, as she fought a losing battle. The injections from the home I.V. kit were not working. It was hard, so very hard, for someone used to action, to have to sit there and know you could do nothing…
…the wooden box was lowered into the ground, where the mutants buried their dead. She would go to hell before she cremated her body. She deserved to lie here in the sewers with all the Turangas.
The coffin was so small. It wasn’t fair.
Leela had finished speaking. The room seemed unnaturally quiet.
“So I killed her? When did I come back to do that?”
“The law doesn’t see it my way, but I think that a person can be a murderer, even if they don’t physically kill someone. Deliberate inaction can kill just as effectively as any action. Do you understand what I mean?” And she looked at him. In fact, she was focused very intently on him now. He squirmed under the intensity of her eye’s gaze.
“Um, you meant like if a friend of mine wanted money to buy a new Xbox, and I said no I wouldn’t give it to him, and he goes out to ask another friend and crosses the street, but slips on a banana peel and falls down into the sewer, breaks his neck and dies? No wait-wait,” he waved her off before she could speak—“no, it wouldn’t be my fault ‘cause I didn’t put the banana there, and wouldn’t. I hate bananas.” He thought again.
“It’s more like I’m in this desert and this other person is in the desert and they need water and I have some, but I need it to, so I drink it and they die.” He looked again at Leela, whose face was studiously neutral.
“That still doesn’t seem right. No, it’s like I was sitting in a hot tub in the desert and someone crawls up to get a drink of water, and I don’t give them a drink of water, even though I have plenty of it.” He frowned. “And since I have one heart but two lungs, I guess I don’t really need that other lung, so if someone else really needed it and I said no, and no one else could give it, then yeah, I guess it would be like killing them.” He was somewhat pleased with himself that he had worked it all out, and then realized what he had just said.
“Oh geez, I did kill her, didn’t I?” And he stole a glance at Leela. He was expecting anger, but instead the neutral expression on her face had transitioned into sadness.
“Part of me was hoping that you wouldn’t understand,” she said softly.
“That you left just because you didn’t fully understand the implications. But you’ve just shown you understand right now, so you must have back then too, because I told you exactly the same statements back then.”
So she’s disappointed in me because I was too smart, Fry thought. My world really is upside down now.
“So this is why you hate me so bad. I left a little girl to die?” His eyes were wet, and he couldn’t bring himself to look directly at her any longer. He also couldn’t quite say the word “daughter”.
“Do I hate you? That is a hard, hard question. When you showed up yesterday and swaggered up to me without a care in the world, acting like nothing had happened, I finally hated you,” she admitted. “I’ve tried not to hate you for a long time, that you were simply being who you were, and it was my fault for putting you in such a situation in the first place. But no, over the past two days I found I really wanted to hurt you and wipe that grin off your face.”
She stared at him, thoughtfully. He didn’t dare move, didn’t dare look away from her.
She leaned forward.
“As of yesterday, I finally decided that you had murdered our daughter, as completely as if you had smothered her with a pillow. When you walked away, you knew what you were doing. You don’t always get a lot of things, but I thought you understood that. And you’ve proved it, just now, without me prompting you.”
The world was starting to spin around Fry again. Had he really left someone to die and wiped his mind to forget it?
And then, to his astonishment, she sniffed, and wiped a hand on the side of her face. The gun was still safely on the floor.
“But do I hate you now? That’s a hard question. A really hard question. I find out you did this to yourself, and I just can’t hate you as much as I did. Even if wiping your memory of her is like killing her all over again. For at least it tells me that you felt regret about what you did.”
“You don’t hate me?” He kinda hated him, right now.
“I can’t figure it out,” she said. “It’s like you’ve stepped into a time machine. It’s almost like you’re innocent again. But somehow you can’t be. If the same situation occurred, you’d do the same thing all over again.”
And then it was as if something had deflated in her, and she looked very, very tired.
“Oh, Fry,” she said. “I guess I can’t really bring myself to hate you anymore. Angry, yes. But I also feel a little pity for you. If anything, I also hate myself a bit about this.” She looked at the floor.
“You were the best friend I ever had. You were always there for me. You meant so much to me, almost as much as my parents.”
Two days ago Fry would have gnawed off his right elbow to hear these words. But now he found himself wishing that she would shoot him, because that would be quicker than what was now happening. Because somehow he knew that now she was saying goodbye. For good.
“Not only did I lose a daughter, but I lost both my best friend and my self-confidence in my judgement. I knew what would happen sleeping with you, but did it anyway. I thought I had better judgment than that. And I—we—ended up destroying something very special.”
A strand of purple hair had come loose from her normally immaculate ponytail and drifted by her eye. Absently she swiped it away. Fry’s heart ached. This was too much like the woman he remembered. Why couldn’t she yell at him instead?
He looked up at the white ceiling. Had this really happened? Had he really run away from a failing love life, a dying child, and wiped out the memory? He was not one for self-reflection. Generally in life he had been content to drift on the currents of existence and let the eddies take him wherever they went. And he had ended up in some interesting places, hadn’t he? He never had thought much about the future, even when he had finally found himself in it. What would he have done if he had finally slept with Leela? What if this had actually happened? What would he have done?
“I just knew you’re just weren’t capable of a serious relationship, and that neither of us would be happy in a long-term relationship with each other. That’s what I thought. That’s what I knew. But after my coma dreams, after seeing our lives in the alternate universe, after the opera—I started to wonder-”
He had never lasted in any relationship for long, for he was happy to escape any commitment. Uriel, Morgan, the radiator woman--all had marched through his life and exited without leaving a mark, and he had never given them a second thought. What would he do if he had been faced with a decision like this? He didn’t like where his thoughts were heading.
“And even as it was happening, as our relationship sank and even as you were leaving, I couldn’t quite believe you would do it.”
“Are you sure it was me?”
A slight trace of annoyance crept into her voice.
“I was born in the 30th century, remember? Yes of course, toward the end, as I was grasping for some hope, any hope in this relationship, I asked the Professor to test some hair and skin flakes from you, that I had snatched when trying to cut your hair. I almost hoped that you were some clone or shapeshifting alien. I even had the professor check that the lids to the alternate universes were locked up. But no, I ran out of excuses for you.”
She straightened up.
“Anyway, I guess in retrospect I’m not surprised you would wipe your memory of the whole experience. It’s the easy way out. You usually take the easy way out of things. Well, I don’t have that choice, and I wouldn’t take it if I could. Removing your memories is like destroying a bit of who you are.”
She stood up, eyes dry. She always could mask her inner thoughts quickly.
“So now what?” he said.
“First things first. You need medical attention.”
“Bender and I looked online while you were out. You may be having a reaction to the memory treatment. It’s why you awoke in a dumpster with no idea how you got here. You may be in danger of losing more memories, and your side effects, your paranoia and dream states, are only going to get worse. We need to get you to a hospital.”
She had always comforted him, and he looked at her with longing as he asked, “and then what?”
She couldn’t seem to meet his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but even if you get well, and can’t remember what you did, we can’t go back to the way things were. A lack of memory does not mean a lack of responsibility. I still can’t be around you. I remember too much when I look at you. I now know what you are, fundamentally. And I have to move on. One of us is going to have to leave. And in fairness, you have nowhere else to go. I wasn’t lying about other job offers. Maybe it’s time I move up from a company that doesn’t pay me anything anyway.”
“No, no, I’ll go.” he said. His conscience was boiling. Did he sacrifice a family for his freedom? He was scared to look any deeper into himself, for he was scared he might find the truth. “I’ll be OK. You’re really happy there as a pilot. You should go on with your life.” He nearly choked on the words. “Even with Gary.”
And for the first time, she smiled, a little shyly, and suddenly he felt like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He wasn’t responsible any longer. Someone else would figure things out.
“I’m sorry it worked out like this,” she said, “but it’s the way it has to be.”
“No Fry, don’t, it has to be.”
She dragged the mutating mess up the stairway, away from the rest of them..
“Fry? Why are you looking at the ceiling?”
“I’m not sure. Leela, do you feel that something strange is going on?”
“You mean, other than you wiping your brain, making things very awkward between us, breaking into my apartment, and throwing up on my rug? No, not really.”
He stood up, crouched by the holophoner box, and opened it.
“What are you doing?”
“Why do you have this?”
She bit her lip for a few moments thinking.
“I wanted to remember the good times. There are so many good memories I have at Planet Express. I was surprised how quickly things turned so awful.”
He didn’t feel right, as if he had spun himself around in a chair too many times and was permanently dizzy. He was drowning in uncertainty, and his only lifeline was the belief that the holophoner would help him. He started assembling the pieces.
“Fry, what’s going on?”
“I think something bad has been here. I think it’s gonna come back.”
In went the mouthpiece, here snapped the bulb. It was calming, but he still found himself listening intently to the walls.
Leela clamped her hand down on the holophoner.
“Fry, you’re not yourself. You’re going through a paranoid delusion. You need help. Medical help. You’re going to wait here until they arrive.”
“No, I need to go. We need to go, Leela. Right away.”
And as he snapped the last piece of the holophoner into place, he felt the gun press against his temple.
“I’m sorry Fry. Believe or not, I’m tired and don’t want to fight. But you’re going to the hospital, whether you want to or not.”