“Huh, what’s this?” Having heard- and then ignored- Planet Express’s doorbell, Fry had eventually been forced by Leela to go check it out. He’d expected to find some door-to-door salesman- or possibly a police officer looking into complaints of an old man committing acts of public nudity- but, instead, he found a small, white cardboard box lying upside down on the doorstep.
Bender and Amy appeared to the delivery boy’s right. Amy leaned down to pick up the package and squinted until she could make out what was written on the address label. “Looks like it’s addressed to you, Bender.” She gave the box an experimental shake, and something moved around inside. “Did you order someth-”
Bender grabbed the box, and it disappeared into his chest cabinet in an instant. “What? Me, order something illegal? Don’t be stupid!” The robot leaned through the doorway and looked in both directions down the street. No one was around.
Amy looked at the robot and then blinked a couple of times. “Uh, okay... “
Fry and the intern exchanged a look that was both confused and slightly worried before following Bender back into the depths of the building. When Bender entered the lounge, he removed the package from his chest cabinet and dropped it onto a table with a grand flourish. Professor Farnsworth, Leela, Hermes, Scruffy, and Zoidberg- who had all been watching Fox’s latest reality series- Survivor: Proxima Centauri- on the lounge television, ignored the robot. Or, at least, they tried to. When three seconds had passed and he was still not the center of attention, Bender reached out with one extensomatic arm and switched off the TV.
“Hey, now how’re we supposed ta tolerate being in da same room togetha?!”
“Shut up Hermes. I’ve got Bender related news!” The robot gestured to his package. “While you were all off working last week like a bunch of suckers, I was busy surfing the internet.”
“Spluh.” Amy retorted, rolling her eyes. “I had to delete thirty teraquats of robot porn from the ship’s computer this morning.”
Bender ignored the remark and began ripping into the package. “While I was surfing, I came across a black supermarket site that sells all kinds of illegal foods.“
There was a collective intake of breath as everyone present realized what exactly this could mean. Fry was the first to find the courage to ask the question that was on all of their minds. “So- so you’re planning to cook for us again?”
“Yep!” By this time the cardboard and most of the packing material had been ripped away, leaving half a dozen cigar-shaped objects resting in the bending robot’s hand. “I’m out of Spargle’s ‘confidence’ liquid, so I needed a new special ingredient. These things I bought will go good in that pie I make with owl pellets and tooth paste. All it needs is a- Leela, I see you over there edging toward the door!”
Leela froze. “Uhh, I need to use the restroom?” She smiled weakly.
“Nice try, now get back over here.”
Bender, done unwrapping one of the little paper cigars, held up his new ingredient. It was a spongy, moist, yellow cylinder about 4 inches in length. Something white oozed out of it in several places. “Neat, huh?”
“What is it, some kind of alien fungus?” Hermes asked.
“It looks like something from Fry’s locker.” Leela added. As she was speaking, she noticed an odd look on Fry’s face. “Fry, is everything alright? I mean, besides that Bender is planning to cook us dinner?”
The delivery boy looked at Leela for a moment and then back at the thing in Bender’s hand. “Uh, well, I mean… Bender, is that a Twinkie?”
Bender broke into a grin, or, at least, what counted as a grin. “Yep! And it only cost me a week’s worth of your salary! What I’ve got here is one of the most illegal foods in the entire galaxy.”
Fry looked around the room at his fellow employees, as if thinking someone was pulling his leg. “Huh? Illegal? I used to eat a package of those for dinner every night during football season, because Mom said she couldn’t leave the television or her team would lose.”
“Well, of course you did, you orange-haired Neanderthal.” Farnsworth snapped. “Back in the 20th century, people ate all sorts of things that had dangerous levels of toxic preservatives and artificial flavors in them, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys and liver. That’s why anything made with non-natural chemicals was outlawed back in 2492.”
“That’s crazy! I ate tons of artificial foods back in the 20th century, and I only ever had two kidney transplants!” Fry snatched the unwrapped Twinkie from Bender’s grasp. “Here, I’ll prove these things are harmless. Watch!” To everyone else’s horror, Fry took a huge bite of the pastry, chewed, and swallowed.
There was a beat while Fry’s coworkers waited for the delivery boy to fall over dead, spontaneously combust, melt, or otherwise fall victim to the horrible Twinkie. Fry just stood there and smiled wryly. Eventually, it became apparent that nothing was going to happen.
“See, nothing. You people from the future are way too cautious about everything.” The delivery boy took another two Twinkies from Bender and unwrapped them. “Come on, you guys have to try these. Back in my day, I don’t think you were even allowed to be an American unless you liked Twinkies. It’s like the 32nd amendment, or something.“
One by one, Fry was able to coax a piece of yellow pastry into each of his coworker’s hands. Zoidberg devoured his immediately of course, but no one paid him any attention. Amy held the bit of Twinkie up to her eye and examined it. “I dunno, Fry. What’s it taste like?” She asked.
“You’ll love it. It’s like a combination of air, whipped cream, and Styrofoam, all wrapped in soggy bread.”
Amy gave the Twinkie one last, dubious look, shrugged, then popped it into her mouth. Moments later, everyone else did the same.
“Hey, these aren’t so bad.” Amy said. “It’s like you said, Styrofoam, soggy bread, and- uhoh.” The intern abruptly turned an alarming shade of green. “Umm, excuse me.” With that, she turned and ran in the direction of the bathroom.
“I’m really, really sorry guys. I didn’t know you’d all get sick, I swear.” It had been a couple hours since the incident, and most of Fry’s coworkers had more or less recovered. Amy, Hermes, and the Professor all lay slumped forlornly in the worn and threadbare cushions of the couch. Everyone else was scattered around the room, in more or less the same level of discomfort. Bender, the only one present other than Fry that hadn’t been affected, was idly smoking a cigar in the corner while whistling to himself.
Leela was not in the conference room. For some reason, the Twinkie had affected her harder than everyone else. The last time that Fry had seen her was about an hour ago. She’d been complaining of a raging headache and had gone to lie down for awhile in her cabin aboard the Planet Express Ship.
“Gwuck. I feel like my head is going to explode.” Amy complained weakly. “What the heck was in those things?”
Farnsworth sat up a little straighter in his chair. “Like I said earlier, most foods from the 20th century were so full of toxic chemicals so as to be practically inedible. I’m afraid that, without the partial immunity that Fry has built up after years upon years of eating such things, our bodies were unable to cope with it. We should all be thankful that no one seems to have suffered any permanent damage.”
“Speaking of which,” Fry added, “I’d better go check on Leela and make sure she’s ok.”
Fry turned his back on his friends and walked through the door to the conference room. He heard some noises coming from the hangar below, so he leaned over the railing to take a look. As he’d expected, Zoidberg was busily rummaging through some trashcans near the room’s far wall. He called out to the Decapodian. “Hey, Zoidberg! Would you mind checking on Leela for me real quick? She’s in her cabin on the ship.”
Zoidberg’s head appeared from the depths of one of the metal canisters. “Of course, my good friend! Let me just finish my lunch.” Abruptly, Zoidberg’s entire body was upside down inside the garbage can. The noises that reached Fry’s ears were so repulsive that the delivery boy had to turn away.
Fry looked up at the sky that was visible through the open hangar doors. Sometime in the past hour it had gone from a brilliant cobalt blue to a depressingly dark, slate grey. As Fry watched, a solitary raindrop fell from the sky and caught him square in the eye. Fry shook his head and blinked the moisture away in irritation. “Guess I’d better close the doors.” He said aloud to no one in particular, before walking over to the control panel built into the conference table and pressing a few buttons. As the giant steel hangar doors rumbled closed, Zoidberg extricated himself from his meal and headed toward the ship’s nose. The hangar was plunged into a deep shadow as Zoidberg, unperturbed, waddled up the ramp into the ship.
“Hello? Zoidberg? Leela? Is everything alright up there?” Fry peered up into the darkened interior of the Planet Express Ship. There was no answer. Fry wasn’t sure how long he’d been waiting by the conference room table for Zoidberg to reappear. He’d expected the Decapodian to go to Leela’s cabin, knock on the door, get told to shove off, and then report back to him. It shouldn’t have taken more than two minutes. Eventually Fry had gotten impatient and headed down to the ship to see what was up.
When, after another minute, Zoidberg still hadn’t shown his head, Fry started to ascend the forward ladder. “Stupid lobster” the delivery boy grumbled. “He’s probably raiding the pantry.” Fry got to the airlock and had to fumble for the light switch. It was so dark outside that not much light was making it into the hangar, and almost none at all was making it up into the ship.
Fry soon found the little toggle switch that turned on the airlock light, but nothing happened when he flicked it. That’s odd, he thought. Must’ve burned out, somehow. Luckily, there were flashlights stowed away in a locker within the airlock for nighttime deliveries, or for those pain-in-the-ass missions to planets that didn’t have suns. Fry grabbed a light and flicked it on, illuminating the tiny compartment enough for him to find the keypad- which Fry noticed was running on emergency power- that would grant him access into the interior of the vessel. When the inner airlock door swung open, Fry’s light shone out into the ship’s lower corridor. He turned left, closing the airlock door behind him. None of the lights were on in the corridor, making Fry wonder if the entire ship had somehow lost power. A little quiver of worry started to make its presence known at the back of his mind. Maybe Amy was working on the electrical system. Fry told himself. A low rumbling noise came to his ears from outside of the hull. It was thunder. Fry gulped and headed for the ladder to the command deck.
The hatch that led to the main deck was sealed shut. Someone had hit the emergency close button, which meant there was no way through until someone with a code came by and unlocked it. Leela had never seen fit to trust Fry with that code.
Fry was starting to get a bit worried, and his weak assurances to himself that “someone must have accidentally hit the button” didn’t convince him for a second, especially not when there was what his imagination thought just might possibly be a bloody clawprint on the other side of the glass porthole that was inset in the hatch. I guess I’ll have to try to get onto the bridge from the galley. Briefly he entertained the idea of just getting the hell out of the ship and coming back with his coworkers and a couple of laser rifles, but he immediately quashed that thought as stupid and cowardly. He was in a parked space ship inside what amounted to a fortress. There was nothing in here that was going to get him.
Carefully, Fry retraced his steps to the lower passageway and headed for the spacious galley. He was just entering the compartment when he heard noises coming from up ahead. Some sort of commotion was going on through the double doors that led into the kitchen. He could hear some kind of thumping and a bunch of muffled squeals that could only be Zoidberg in mid-peril.
Fry bolted into the kitchen and looked around wildly, but there was no one there. The noises were coming from up above.
“Fry, help, she’s got me!” The delivery boy looked up to see the Decapodian’s head framed in the circular hatch that led to the bridge. Zoidberg’s claws grasped feebly at the lip of the hatch, while something that Fry couldn’t see was obviously trying to pull him away. There were splotches of green blood on Zoidberg’s face and claws.
“Zoidberg! What’s going on, who’s got you?!” The Decapodian never got to answer. A final wrenching pull from whatever or whoever had a grip on his lower body succeeded in dislodging him. There was a loud, warbling scream, and then silence.
Fry froze, too panicked to do the sensible thing and flee for his life. A few seconds passed while Fry stood there like an idiot and could do nothing but listen to the sound of his heart racing in his chest.
No horrible alien monster appeared in the hatch, but Fry thought he heard a low moan. When he recognized the voice that was making the noise he was instantly thrown out of his paralysis. That sounds like Leela! She must be hurt!
There was a swishing sound from up above that Fry recognized as the bridge’s rear hatch. Maybe whatever got Zoidberg is gone. Fry thought. Either way, with Leela possibly injured, there was no way he was going to just leave the ship. A small part of Fry’s mind realized what he was about to do, sighed in resignation, and decided to shut itself down for the next few hours and attempt to skip the stupidity altogether.
Fry cautiously poked his head above the bridge’s deck and looked around. There was no one there except for Zoidberg, who lay crumpled in a heap by the rear hatch. The moaning that had sounded like Leela had stopped.
When Fry was sure he was alone he tiptoed his way to the cupboard on the compartment’s starboard side and pulled out the small gauss pistol that Leela always had stashed in the emergency snack box. He was a godawful shot, and he knew it, but it felt good to have it in his hand.
Zoidberg appeared to be unconscious. He had what looked like small tooth marks on one of his legs, and green blood was dripping from a few of them. Fry decided to leave the Decapodian there and come back for him later.
Fry was certain that he’d heard Leela’s voice and, since she wasn’t on the bridge, that meant whoever was on the ship had taken her with him. Fry moved to the rear hatch and commanded the butterflies in his stomach to quiet down. Leela was in danger. He had to do something. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, Fry walked through the hatch.
Fry didn’t dare use his flashlight to illuminate the corridor, which was pitch black save for the occasional spark that was escaping from a smashed-up EPS power conduit. That explains the power outage. Fry had to run his hands along the walls in order to find his way. Up ahead, something made a noise. Fry whipped out his pistol and switched on his flashlight, only to find Leela standing in the middle of the corridor with her back to him.
Fry blinked, and he lowered his weapon. “Leela? He whispered. “What are you doing? Are you alright?”
The purple haired cyclops muttered something too low for Fry to hear and began swaying slowly back and forth.
“Huh? What did you say? I didn’t catch that.”
Leela slowly spun around, and Fry nearly crapped himself when he saw the deathly pallor of her face.
“TTwwwiiinnnnkkkiiiiessss!” The thing that wasn’t Leela moaned, but Fry was too busy running away- and crapping his pants- to hear.
“Professor, Leela’s turned into a zombie! And she bit Zoidberg!”
“So, what else is new? “ The old scientist waved dismissively at the delivery boy. “Now, leave me alone and let we watch the telev- wait, did you say hit, or bit?”
“I said bit!”
There was a collective horrified gasp by everyone present. “By Jah, dat’s disturbing on so many levels, I can’t collate dem all!”
The Professor didn’t seem quite as shocked as everyone else present. For a few moments he looked off into space while he absently stroked at a beard that had been gone for decades. “Hmm… Perhaps the toxins from that bit of Twinkie that Leela ingested somehow reacted with her mutant DNA.”
“Yes, but you’re missing the important thing!” Fry exclaimed. “I went looking for Leela on the ship, and she’s turned into a zombie! We’ve got to get out of here, or she’ll eat our brains!”
Bender made an offended noise. “Pfft. That is such a stereotype, Fry. Some of my best friends are zombies, and none of them have tried to eat anyone’s brains.”
“And besides, Fry.” Amy added. “Even if there was a danger, she’s been confined to the ship, right?”
“Uhh yeah well, see, there’s the thing…”
The silence into which Fry’s voice faded was immediately punctuated by a low moan coming from somewhere on the other side of the door to the conference room.
Amy sighed. “You didn’t lock the ship, did you?”
“It was on my to-do list, I swear!”
There was another moan from the other side of the door, followed by the strobing flash of lightning through the lounge’s bay window. Fry was just edging carefully away from the door when it whooshed open, revealing Dr. Zoidberg in the tattered remains of his clothes. While Zoidberg just stood there swaying back and forth and staring into nothing, the crew began to back slowly toward the room’s other door.
Zoidberg took a couple of steps forward, and the crew retreated one by one through the door. Scruffy, in his haste, accidentally bumped a chair with the heel of his foot. Zoidberg’s head whirled around, and his eyes fixed on the janitor.
“Scruffy’s got a bad feeling about this.”
Unfortunately for Scruffy, his feeling turned out to be well founded. Zoidberg lunged and, as the door closed behind the last of the PE crew to escape from the lounge, the last thing to be heard was a warbling scream mixed with the cry of “Oh, marmalade!”
“No! I’m too cute to be a zombie!” Amy’s body slid around the corner, and she was gone.
“Professor, we’ve got to do something! We’re the only ones left!”
Farnsworth, who was riding Bender piggyback style, reached out and slapped the delivery boy across the face. “Why must you always make me repeat myself?” He demanded. “We’ll be fine as long as you can get me to the basement. I’ve got something down there in cold storage that should flush the toxins from Leela’s bloodstream.”
“Uhh, not that I really care, but how does just curing Leela do anybody any good?” Zombie-Hermes appeared up ahead as if to highlight Bender’s point.
“Twwwiiiinnnkkkieessss.” Hermes moaned, before Bender shoved him out of the way down a side passage.
“Leela’s body obviously reacted with the toxins and created some sort of zombie-protein that can be passed to other people. I should be able to-“
“This is ridiculous.” A new voice interrupted. Cubert appeared out of nowhere from a side room and blocked Fry, Bender, and the Professor’s path. “Nothing that is going on is even remotely plausible. And now you’ve cobbled together some ridiculous-” Cubert’s rant was cut off when Bender pointed over the genius’s shoulder.
“What?” Cubert turned around. “Oh.” Leela was standing about ten feet away. “Umm, guys? What should I do?’ But there was no answer of course, as everyone else was busily running away in the opposite direction. Cubert turned back to Leela. “Uhh, I like that thing on your wrist?”
Cubert’s scream echoed through the building as Fry, Bender, and the Professor made a mad dash toward the elevator. Fry could sense the crowd that was coalescing behind them.
They made it to the elevator just in time. Bender jammed the door close button, and the lift propelled them down to the sub basement. When the doors opened again, Farnsworth pointed toward the refrigerator that was positioned by the lava pit on the other side of the cavern that served as the building’s lowest level. “Quickly, get me to the cold storage unit!”
The moment the trio left the lift it started to head back up again. Fry cursed loudly. “I guess zombies know how to use the elevator.” He took a quick survey of his surroundings and saw a stack of lumber lying against a nearby wall. He grabbed a one by four and waved it around experimentally. “Professor, I’ll hold off the zombies. You get that cure doohickey!”
The elevator doors opened again, revealing the rest of the Planet Express crew. Each of them wore a slack expression and moaned continuously to themselves. In their midst was Leela, who caught Fry’s eyes- and not just because her clothes had somehow managed to become torn. There was a small, sleek looking object in her right hand. It was the pistol that he’d grabbed from its stash aboard ship, and then tossed away in panic when he’d found Leela. Leela raised the weapon.
Zombies with death rays? Figures. Luckily, Leela was apparently not as good a marksman when she was a zombie, because her first shot went wide and buried itself in the cavern wall. There was a low rumble when the round impacted, and something fell off the ceiling and splashed into the lava pit.
“Be careful with that, you slack-jawed plebian!” Farnsworth hollered from over by the freezer. “This cave is unstable! Even the slightest impact could-”
Leela fired again, and this time the shot hit the ceiling. The whole cavern began to shake, and a huge chunk of the floor suddenly broke away, revealing an orange lake of molten rock. Fry suddenly found himself standing in the middle of an isthmus of solid ground about ten feet wide that was the only path from the elevator to the Professor. Since Bender didn’t seem particularly inclined to do anything, that left him the only thing standing between the Professor and a mob of zombies. And I decided not to skip work today, the delivery boy thought ruefully.
The zombies started to half walk-half stumble in Fry’s direction. He raised his board and tried to look as menacing as he could. “Professor, how’s that cure coming?” The delivery boy glanced over his shoulder and Farnsworth held up a syringe that he was filling with some sort of liquid.
“Just give me another few moments.” The inventor called.
Fry turned around again and winced, knowing that he would more than likely be in a huge amount of pain by the time ‘a few moments’ had passed.
Amy was the first to reach Fry. “Ttwwwiiinnnkkiiessss” the intern moaned.
Fry looked at the intern for a moment, and then shrugged in resignation. “Sorry, Amy.” He said, and then brought his makeshift club down on her head. Amy collapsed into a heap and didn’t move. Hermes was next, and Fry dispatched him in the same manner. The delivery boy was just starting to think that this wasn’t going to be as hard as he’d thought when a stray gauss round flew past his ear.
“Professor, hurry up!” Fry ducked, and Leela’s fist went sailing over his head. Fry lunged with his club, and Leela got out of the way, but the board got a lucky glancing hit on her pistol, and the weapon went flying off into the molten lava below. Fry grinned at his victory, and then immediately let out a grunt when Leela’s knee connected with his midsection.
Zombies shouldn’t be allowed to know kung–fu. Fry decided. It isn’t fair. The force of Leela’s blow knocked Fry onto his back. He raised his club, but Leela’s roundhouse kick easily snapped it in half. Fry squealed like a little girl.
As Fry backed away in terror from this drooling, moaning, ass-kicking harbinger of doom that had descended upon him, he bumped into something solid and metal. The delivery boy looked up and saw Bender standing over him.
“Oh hey, meatpouch. I think the old guy wants me to give this to you.” The robot held out his hand, revealing a filled syringe. Fry took the needle a split second before a black boot sailed over his head and took Bender’s head right off his body, sending it and the robot’s body toppling into the red-hot lake of molten rock. Leela, leering wickedly, leaned down over Fry’s prostrate form.
“Please Leela, don’t!” Fry pleaded, and the cyclops froze, as if somewhere, deep down, she recognized him. A few seconds passed in silence, and then, to Fry’s relief, Leela smiled at him. The PE Captain reached out and touched him lightly on the shoulder, and Fry broke into a relieved grin. Two milliseconds later, Leela lunged at him. Fry had just enough time to contemplate the irony of the fact that Leela was finally nibbling on his ear like he had always wanted before ramming Farnsworth’s syringe into her side.
“Let’s all agree right now to never talk about any of that again, okay?” Leela led her fellow employees toward the building’s front entrance.
There were various mumbled assents from everyone. Leela had awoken a few moments after Fry had jabbed her. She’d had no idea what was going on but, based on the fact that she was the only one present who wasn’t apparently a zombie, and that she was also the only one present with a large needle sticking out of her side, she was able to discern the syringe’s purpose. She easily overpowered her coworkers and injected them with the remaining cure, which, as it turned out, happened to be nothing more than an ultra-effective bear laxative. It had certainly flushed out whatever it was in the crew’s systems that was causing them to act like mindless zombies, as well as just about everything else. Bender had filled her in on what had happened when he’d managed to put himself back together and crawl out of the molten lava.
“Alright, then it’s settled. Today never happened. Now let’s all get the hell out of here. I need a drink… And to get out of these clothes. They smell like Zoidberg.”
Fry froze, which caused Amy, who was walking right behind him, to collide with him. “Hey, wait a minute. Speaking of Zoidberg, has anyone seen him?”
“Hmm, I don’t seem to remember him being down in the sub basement with the rest of us.” Farnsworth replied as Leela opened the building’s front door. “He might still be loose in the building. One of us should go back and- oh my.”
The city outside the Planet Express building was in flames. Hordes of zombies wandered aimlessly back and forth in the street outside Planet Express. Zoidberg was lying in the middle of the nearby intersection, munching on what looked like someone’s arm. Off in the distance there was the mournful sound of police sirens. A bolt of lightning ripped across the sky, illuminating the scene in harsh relief.
The crew cautiously stepped out onto the sidewalk. A crashed, smoking police cruiser sat abandoned by the curb. One of the windows was smashed in, and Leela reached inside. Her hand reappeared an instant later with a double barreled shotgun. As she hefted the weapon, a newspaper blew by her feet. The paper proclaimed in bold letters: The dead live! And they’re ungrateful!
Leela looked around the scene of death and destruction while the light breeze blew her ponytail. Sighing in resignation, she cocked the weapon.