Fan Fiction

The Garden of Forking Pasts
By Christina Nordlander Dawson

The Garden of Forking Pasts

A Futurama fanfic by Christina Nordlander Dawson
Entered in the 2007 GFC Writing Competition
"Futurama" and all characters in this story are the property of Matt Groening

When the night wind starts to turn
Into the ocean breeze
And the dew-drops sting and burn
Like angry honey bees
That is when you'll hear the song
Falling from the sky:
"Happy yesterday to all,
We were born to die!"

(Scissor Sisters, Intermission)

* * *

Fry had bent down to pick up a rotting stick and sent it whirling through the crisp leaf-mould sweet air. Seymour had bounded off to fetch it, then sat down and let Fry scratch the tallowy fur behind his ears.

"Look, Seymour! Uncle Yancy!"

So it had been, getting out of his car to open the gate, looking more like Dad every year. Fry had rushed down the garden path, Seymour following with brief stops to roll in the leaves.

"Heya, Yancy, where's that ugly broad? Left you for the milkman?"

"Curb your jealousy, Phil, it gives you wrinkles. Anyway, Tammy's not coming, she's spending Thanksgiving with her folks in Arkham. Thought I might as well come over."

"Great, you can start by raking the leaves, cleaning the shelter, re-tiling the roof..."

The three had walked to the porch, two of them trading vile insults that hadn't been true any more, at least not Fry's. Once Yancy'd moved out, back in 2002, they'd become friends. It was a shame it couldn't have happened before.

It was a shame you couldn't go back and change things. This weekend -drinking beer in front of the TV, trying to teach Seymour to bark more songs, fighting over the telescope- was going to be a memory, too.

* * *

The woman was dragging him along, dark purple ponytail whapping across her shoulder-blades, jabbering about how he was ill because he'd forgotten their date. He probably was, too. She had a very nice body. But he didn't know why she was tugging him through the traffic-lit New York streets. The last thing he remembered was playing a Coke fuelled "Quake" deathmatch with Yancy. Maybe he'd fallen asleep over his computer. Some of the people around him on the street looked like nightmares.

Glaring light, a cold gurney under his butt, a doctor asking him lots of rubbish questions about his body moisture and spinal fluid. At least, Fry assumed he was a doctor, even though he looked more like some sort of octolobster. It wasn't that scary. An eye test board was hanging on the wall, but it was in a language he didn't know. Maybe he was in France. Yancy had kicked him into the lava and done a little victory dance on his computer chair.

"Fry, what's happened to you?" the girl said.

She was attractive, even with her one eye. There were memories there, but he had to dig so deep his head hurt, in between he'd flung his empty Coke can across the desk.

"I don't know where this is!"

His bitten-nailed hand waved across the traffic line hovering past the window. It would have been a cool dream, if he hadn't had the feeling he wasn't going to wake up.

"Fry." She put a warm hand over his. "Don't you remember anything? Anything at all."

"Oh, I do remember. Just not this. I remember... other things."

"What kind of things?"

"My parents. My brother. He was coming over for Thanksgiving. I remember it... as if it happened only yesterday."

* * *

Yancy had buffed up the telescope brass with the corner of his jacket.

"You still got this thing?"

"Yeah. Mom wanted to eBay it, but Dad said we need it for spotting al-Qaeda death satellites."

"Essential values for the win." Yancy had put his eye to the eye-y bit, making bazooka noises.

"Didn't you always want to go into space, Philip?"

He'd made himself laugh. "Still do, actually. But you know, now there's hope! Next summer, I'm applying as a counselor at Evergreen Space Camp!"

"Neat... you do know they don't actually go into space, right?"

He'd had to blink hard, but he'd been sure Yancy hadn't noticed.

* * *

"Good news everyone!"

Fry straightened up when Professor Farnsworth, that was him, came into the room and beamed at them. He knew the people around the table with him, but like he'd seen them in a film.

A moment ago, he'd been having Captain Crunch in the sun-drenched kitchen. He swallowed. He could push it away and try to live in this world, but doing it for long made his head tingle, a bit like high-school.

"After studying Zoidberg's abominable handwriting..."

"Oy, you don't know how hard it is for me!"

"... after studying Zoidberg's abominable and annoying handwriting about Fry's illness, I have discovered the cause! He's suffering from paramnesia."

Fry leant forward attentively, though he couldn't remember why.

"In layman's terms, this means he's not getting his own memories, but those he would have had in an alternate timeline. In this case, it's a timeline where you stayed in your time instead of getting frozen, isn't it?"

He managed to nod at about the right moment. He'd put the bowl with the last soggy cereal on the lino for Seymour.

"Paramnesia is caused by stray nano-probes left from the Mentalist Wars, but that is far too long and intriguing a story to be told here. I'm sure the same question burns in all your minds."

"Yes!" the woman, Leela burst out. "Can you fix him?"

"That's also an important question... yes. As it happens, I have concocted a cure."

He fished a bottle out of his pocket. Leela's brow creased.

"How do you medicate something like that?"

"Ah, it's quite simple. Alternate memories don't replace the existing ones, they just repress them. That's why Fry is able to remember our names with some effort and not go into a screaming fit every time he looks around. This potion wipes the superimposed memories, making the real ones resurface. Drinking it effectively causes amnesia, so only Fry gets to."

"Amnesia", Fry said. "Like in Days of Our Lives?"

They mumbled and pitied, and he escaped for a moment. He'd been planning to bug Yancy for betas of games from his company.

"And what are all the ingredients of this amnesia-causing medicine?" said the robot, with an audible clunk as he stretched in his chair. "Purely out of academic interest."

The Professor steepled his fingers. "Let me see... cooking sherry, honey, hot sauce, black pepper..."

"Professor, I don't think listing them all is such a good idea..."

"... vinegar, olive oil and mustard."

Leela looked up. "Really?"

"Oh my, yes. It has to be extra virgin, though. One spoonful a day should wipe out your alternate memories."

The bottle clinked down in front of Fry.

"Try it now", Leela said. "Has anyone got a spoon?"

The robot stretched across a section of the table. "And give it back afterwards, it's an heirloom."

Yancy had told him that his company made antivirus software, so there, and anyway he wasn't a provider for his stuck-in-the-"Space Invaders"-era brother.

Fry pinched the coat-of-arms on the silver handle, gaping.

Mom had wandered into the room. He felt the vibration of his voice in his throat from saying hello.

All blank.

Then he remembered the taste of the medicine. It was a bit peppery.

His friends were staring at him. Eleven eyes lit up when he waved.

"Ggghh, whv bbnd?" he said, then took the spoon out. "Gee, what happened? I had... flashbacks or something, didn't I? Are they gone now?"

"Keep taking a spoonful every day", the Professor said, gesturing to the bottle. "If you stop doing it, I'm afraid the paramnesia will return, bringing with it cognitive dissonance. And when it runs out... oh my, I don't know what will happen. I might have to clean my fridge again."

* * *

Not following prescriptions could wreck a life, but there was an ImaXXX opening downtown, and Bender had dragged him out before he'd had a chance to take his spoonful. Well, he'd get to do it in a few hours. Surely that wouldn't...

He and his parents had waved Yancy goodbye from the porch. It had been another sparkling autumn day, the leafage had been glowing from the inside like red and yellow candlewax.

... hurt, would it?

"I guess I'll see you at Christmas, loser", Yancy had said, his gaze level. "Good luck getting a life."

"Oh, why do you boys always have to fight?" Mom had lamented. "Yancy, you apologise to Philip!"

When Yancy had ambled over to his car, Fry had run back inside and squatted at the telescope. He'd loved doing this when someone left the house. He could follow them all the way to the main road.

Yancy's Volvo, a shiny candy car, had stopped on the line, then gassed ahead.

A truck had come tearing up the slope. It must have been going too fast, because Yancy hadn't seen it. It had been too far to hear the screech or the smash of metal.

Fry staggered up the aisle and into the men's room, his knees barely holding him up. So did some of the other viewers, though most of them didn't look as pale as he felt.

Yancy. Oh God, Yancy.

He had fallen back from the telescope, then looked at it again, like there was a Reverse button. This time, the green Volvo had been gone, but the truck stood parked at an angle, one headlight smashed, and the driver had climbed outside, talking on an invisible cellphone. There was a gully just down the road, he and Yancy had used to throw rocks down it when they were kids.

"I do like it when he comes over", Mom had said in the stairway. "I just wish he and Philip would get on."

He'd flung himself down the stairs, and they'd stared at him as he'd rushed through the hallway. Dad had jogged after him, perhaps to make him shut up more than because he had wanted to see what it was.

Fry never knew how he got back to Robot Arms. The flat was only lit by slats of city light from the windows, cold like space. A bottle was standing on the nightstand, the light glistening in the contents. It had a label in prim feminine handwriting: "To Fry. If you can't remember anything, take one spoonful." He took it up. He put it down.

Instead, he curled up in his comforting bed, making the pillowcase icky wet.

* * *

He'd spent the next day in his moist bed, the sunlight making his eyes feel on edge and odd, while Mom had made the calls to their relatives and Tammy. The light had been slanting away when she'd called him for dinner. He'd thought he wouldn't manage, but the tears had sucked everything out of him, he'd been starving.

Bender brought porpoise 'n'chips from O'Zorgnax's, and after that Fry slipped himself some medicine, just a coffee spoon, so he was able to go on the Internet. The pepper taste faded on his tongue, he could feel the other memories moving like shiny centipedes below the surface. According to the Deathmaskbook entry, Yancy Fry Jr. had died in 2056 in a freak weasel accident, a celebrated author and fêted member of society. But of course, the memories weren't from this timeline. They were from the one where he had stayed in the 20th century, the 21st century now, and Yancy had left the drive in the path of a speeding Scania truck.

Knowing that almost made him take his spoonful. It wasn't enough, though. If he took his medicine, the other him was going to live with it for the rest of his life.

* * *

The wind had snatched cold through the oak branches, but every now and then the overcast had cracked. He'd been shivering, uncomfortable in his suit and the tie Mom had tied for him, and when the others had turned to go he'd slipped his seven-leaf clover into the grave.

They'd had dinner, stiff white tablecloth and salmon quiche that had tasted nothing at all. Dad had been trying to make a speech. His eyes had gone pink, not just with tears. By the smell, it was Jack Daniels.

Fry resurfaced in the future and had to take another lick of medicine, just to be able to think. The bottle zoned in and out of his hands, but once he'd got the liquid on his tongue it felt real.

The wrong memories were gone, but he could remember remembering. If he hadn't, he could have gone back to taking the medicine every day and forgotten about Yancy.

He sat upright in bed, the drying tears singeing his cheeks. If he'd had a time machine, he could have gone back to the right moment, but time machines weren't realistic, and it was probably too much to hope for another supernova. Maybe if he stuck himself in a microwave...

That was stupid. Leela was right, he was stupid.

Fry pulled his legs up and hugged his knees. Yeah, he really needed more.

Leela hadn't said he was stupid, anyway, she was nicer than that. (The medicine must be wearing off. Leela was blanked in his memory.) She had said that he could be smart sometimes, like she was talking about a dog, but only when he thought with his heart instead of his head.

His heart was going very hard now, considering he hadn't exercised for years. Yancy was dead. If only there was a way to go back.

Wait. He had a way, didn't he? It was in his head, just like everything else.

It was definitely wearing off, he noticed off shadows and angles in the apartment like the first time he came here. He crashed on the bed.

"Hang in there, Yancy."

Fry closed his eyes and took a deep

"And look, now I'm bleeding as well." The shreds of the crystal glass had fallen from Dad's hand. "Look what you've done! First my son dies and now you've made me BLEED!"

No, thanks. Before that

He'd gone to the bathroom and heard Mom on the phone: "... least he went quick. All there is to it, really."

He had rushed back to his room, arms wrapped around his head to block out everything.

Before that.

"I guess I'll see you at Christmas, loser", Yancy had said, his gaze level. "Good luck trying to have a life."

"Oh, why do you boys always have to fight?" Mom had called out. "Yancy, you apologise to Philip!"

There. Fry reached in and wrenched the memory in the way it should have gone:

"Can I come with you?"

Yancy twitched. "What're you gonna do in town, anyway?"

"Stuff. And things. There's this girl..."

Yancy's face had softened a bit. It had almost been a smile.

"A girl, eh, Phil? What's her name?"

Damn. Fry had looked around for girl-named things in the surroundings. "Uh... Yancy."

His brother had tsk'd. "Fine. But I'm not driving you home."

They'd walked to the car, talking about stuff he wasn't going to remember. Fry had patted his back pocket. The seven-leaf clover had been in there.

The sun had been setting in their faces. Yancy had growled and not put his shade down. He'd always been a mean driver, particularly when he'd wanted to get somewhere fast. Fry'd heard gravel rattling against the mudflaps. He'd pulled his own shade down. The road up ahead had been empty.

Yancy had braked on the line.

"Nothing to the right, nothing to the left." He'd lifted his foot. "Let's hit this..."

Fry'd reached over and put his hands over his eyes. Still no truck.

"Sorry, Yancy."

He'd imagined it'd be easy, in his head, but Yancy'd tossed his head and brought his foot down. Their car had skidded into the road, wobbling.

Then Fry'd heard another engine, still so distant it had sounded like panting breath.

He'd kept one hand over Yancy's eyes, the other had slipped on the wheel. The car had swerved, and then the truck had towered over them. It had blocked out the sun.

Fry's safety belt had cut into the side of his neck. His hand had dropped from Yancy's face.

They had stopped.

"Yancy! Step on it!"

"What the HELL, Phil? You're getting me killed!"

"Actually, no! Step on it!"

This time, he'd been close enough to hear the smash, but it had been the fence over the gully putting an almighty dent in the side of the hood. The slipstream had been so close, both of them had screamed when it had tugged at them.

* * *

Most weekends he didn't take the medicine, now. He loved his future, but it was nice to have gone back and seen Mom and Dad and Seymour now and then, even when they started going grey. He and Yancy saw each other more. They laughed about how Fry'd made Yancy crash his car. There were always things to do, when you were old enough to be friends instead of brothers.

Then, one night they'd been to the X-Con and had been going home late as the traffic lines had loosened up. Yancy had never been into SF, but he'd come along to show willing. He'd put on Spock ears and his badge now read "Hi, My Name Is Vorga, I Kill You Deadly".

"But face it", was the last he had said. "The future isn't going to be anything like that. It'll be just as boring as the present, only more polluted. Well, see ya."

Fry had walked into the street. There had been frost on the asphalt, points of light the size of stars.

Headlights had glared in his face. In the half-second when he'd tried to decide which way to jump, his mouth had tasted like oil. Then everything had gone black.

* * *

Everything was blank.

Fry opened his eyes. There was the light of hovertraffic, spinning across his ceiling. His heart beat so hard it hurt, but he honestly couldn't complain.

After padding past the door to Bender's closet, he upended the Professor's bottle in the sink and watched the medicine glug down the drain. He didn't need it any more.