A day I want to forget, part 1.
Seventy-two hours earlier:
He sat in a small room crammed with DVDs and old pizza boxes, watching a small TV. The only light in the room was the amber glow of the screen, casting an unhealthy pallor on his blank, unblinking face.
A gentle tone reached his ears, fading away like a sunset over a desert. For the first time in a long time, he looked around.
He saw a glow fading behind the blinds of the only window in the room, a foot-square ceiling window, covered with dust. He looked around, and saw that everything was covered by a layer of dust, including himself. Strange. He turned to look back at the TV, and realized that it was showing nothing but static. Also strange. Not wanting to do anything, he stared at the screen, but even though he was capable of watching just about anything, even static got boring after a while.
He kept thinking of that tone. He knew that tone. He wanted to find it. But how? Well, leaving the room would be a start. He looked for a door. There wasn’t one. Really strange. He nearly choked himself on the blinds before he found a way to pull them open, and he clambered on top of the dusty DVD piles to peek through the window, after rubbing his elbow on the glass to smudge away some dust. What met his eyes was an enormous, flat, featureless landscape, with a black sky. Yet somehow there seemed to be enough grey light to see to the horizon.
He found he was able to push open the window and tried to slide through. It hurt more than he thought. It hurt very badly. It would be so easy to go back, sit down, and watch and not worry.
No, there had been something in that tone, a longing, a loneliness, that prompted him to move on, despite the pain, and after a while he slipped through and fell to the ground.
He was standing outside a one-room house in the middle of the plain. Except it now looked like a desert. In the dim light he could make out shapes of cactus in the distance, and overhead he was able to resolve a few stars. Now what?
In one direction there seemed to be a faint glow that was rapidly receding beyond the horizon. He began to walk.
He walked for what seemed to be days, but he had no sense of time. He did notice, after a while, that the plain was no longer featureless. At first he would see just a few files of sand, or an isolated cactus, but eventually he began to see pebbles, then rocks, then boulders. He actually had to watch his step as he scrambled over the rough trail.
Now the sky was filled with stars, with more winking back on every time he looked. And as each star appeared, more light fell onto the landscape, revealing more features.
He was thirsty, but he couldn’t drink. He went on. He was hungry, but couldn’t eat. He went on. He went on, even though he had no idea whether he was heading in the right direction, or even what exactly he was looking for.
The rock formations had become denser and now they joined into actual walls. The ground was now sloping upward, and he was so busy watching his next step that it took him a while to realize that the rock formations had developed a bunch of regularly shaped holes, almost like windows. In fact, the formations looked a lot like buildings now…
He walked down what now seemed to be a street, but a street piled with rubble amidst what appeared to be an abandoned city. He didn’t feel fear until he caught glimpses of faint wisps out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look they were always gone.
One formation, or building, seemed more familiar than the others. He walked to a ground-level cave opening and walked in. Somehow he sensed that he was spiraling up inside the building. Passages became corridors and steps became stairs. He now noticed doors and hallways. He saw his first sign.
“NO POWER FAILURES SINCE 1997…”, it read. He had no idea what it meant, but he felt he should open the door.
Inside he saw several long objects that looked like coffins, propped against the wall. They scared him, but he also knew that he should know what they were. He had spent a lot of time in one of them. A lot of time. In fact, this one, to the far left.
And for reasons he couldn’t fathom, he stepped in…
He woke up, scratched himself in a place that needed some scratching, and looked around. Pizza box on floor, some unknown stinky liquid pooling in the corner, streaks of some smelly goop creeping down the walls… It all seemed comfortable, familiar. He was home.
But was he? That dead owl on top of that pile of trash just didn’t seem right. Actually, that big pile of diapers didn’t seem right either. He was pretty sure he didn’t wear diapers. He checked. Nope. Also, it looked like those diapers were meant for someone with a tail. He shoved his hand down the back of his underpants. Nope. He looked down. He was sleeping on a big pile of garbage bags. Garbage bags? An image of a huge garbage ball hurling through space jumped into in his mind, then faded before he could understand it.
He looked up at the sloping ceiling a few inches above him. That didn’t seem right. Had his room shrunk? Not likely. Had he grown bigger through some enlarging formula that –what was his name?—had created? Now why was he thinking thoughts like that? By the way, who am I? He tried to remember the past, and couldn’t grasp anything. He reached out his hand and pushed against the ceiling. It moved. That also didn’t seem right.
He pushed harder and sat up. The glare of a bright blue sky overwhelmed him for a moment, and he had to squint to focus. He was in a dumpster, holding up the lid. Hovercars passed back and forth in the street in front of him, a bunch of Cygnoids were chattering in front of a pizzeria, and a small coffee house was doing a brisk business a short distance away. He stared at the Cygnoids. He wasn’t feeling shocked or amazed, so he guessed he must be used to seeing things like this. He looked around again. A building stood catty-corner from his location, next to a large river. As he looked at the spherical upper floors suspended above the enormous hangar, something swatted at his mind before curling up and going back to sleep. He knew this place. It was important to him.
And someone was walking up to the front door. She walked steadily and straight, no movement wasted, every motion of her body indicating concentration and purpose. Only her long purple ponytail seemed to indulge itself in the luxury of wasted motion as it swung back and forth behind her head.
Her name was… was…
Damn! But he knew her. She was important, very important. And at that moment terror seeped into his mind. Something bad had happened. Very bad. And somehow she was part of the bad thing. So much so, that he was afraid to go near her. But he felt an equally strong urge to go after her.
Still indecisive, he dropped both hands to the lip of the dumpster, to try to haul himself out. Had he been a Rolsalian, this would have been a perfectly good move, because he could have used his third arm to hold up the dumspter lid. But he wasn’t, so he didn’t, and the lid crashed onto the top of his head, knocking him back into the dumpster.
Turanga Leela heard a crash from across the street. Her thoughts moved away from the weather (clam, clear, no electromagnetic storms—good launching conditions) to the street. All she saw was a group of owls flying away from a dumpster.
She sighed. She was jumpy, and although she knew why, she didn’t like thinking about it. In just a few days it would mark one year since Fry had left Planet Express. The bile rose in her stomach as images of that day leapt over her carefully-constructed mental blocks and invaded her memory. Disgusted, she shoved them out her mind. Hatred and bitterness were no use to her now. She had suffered worse and had endured. It was time to move on, but like a persistent mosquito the events of that day kept irritating her thoughts.
It really was a day she wanted to forget.