Author's note: I do not claim ownership over any copyrighted material in this fic, be it century-old poetry or millenia-old delivery boy TV shows.
The giant digital clock which was visible from his window clicked to midnight. That tall building had been there as long as he could remember. It seemed like yesterday that he had been chasing down a parrot on top of that building. Fry sighed at the memory and took another swig from his brandy bottle. It had cost him a fortune, but he needed it. He always needed some booze in him these days. Even a year after the accident he still couldn’t get his head out of the sand; the liquor-sodden sand. What Leela would have said was anyone’s guess, although Fry knew perfectly well that it would have involved lots of yelling; if she had walked away from the wreckage instead of him.
Fry slammed the bottle down on the coffee table and curled up and cried. He cried until he couldn’t cry any more. Then he slurped down some more liquor and stared hard at the static of the television screen until he was in a sleepy daze.
Suddenly there came a tapping from somewhere behind him. In his intoxication, Fry couldn’t tell exactly where the distant rapping was coming from. It echoed all around him, like his voice had during his first visit to Old New York, his old home.
“It’s just someone at the door,” Fry muttered to himself.
It was a bleak December, and the wind outside slashed hard against the window, just as it had at every X-mas party he’d shared with his co-workers. He could almost hear Santa’s cackling Ho’s as he sailed around on his sleigh. Fry stumbled over to the bed/table where he’d once slept with Morgan and fell over. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to sleep deeper than he had ever done before. Deeper than all the times he’d been knocked out, deeper than Leela had in her coma, or when she’d been knocked out by the What-if machine. He wanted to sleep and never wake up.
Glancing upward, Fry became intrigued by the room around him. Even when he’d seen it so many times, from when Bender first opened the door to when he’d practiced his Holophonor for Leela. The shapes of once-familiar furniture and torn curtains by the window shifted and distorted themselves before him, as he had done on the Titanic. And still the tapping persisted, pulling him back to earth. The room was back to normal, and the rapping at the door pounded his eardrums. It reminded him of how Bender had deafened Leela. Was it Nibbler scratching at his door, aksing him to kill some brains, or perhaps Roberto tapping with his knife?
Fry found a bit of strength left in his legs, and forced himself into a wobbly standing position.
“Loog,” he said drunkenly to the door, “I’m sary I’m taki- so loooong. Im ded from th- neck ub, and ah couldan hear ya.”
With a step that could have made a toddler look like a winner of five Olympic Gold medals, Fry stumbled over to the door and opened it. There was nobody there.
Fry peered deep into the darkness for a long time. He didn’t know how long. From his “perspective” time was as confusing as counting on his fingers. Then he realized that he was only looking into what used to be Bender’s apartment. It was vacant now, as it had been since the alcoholic robot had left. Fry’s new act had been too much for him. Fry opened the other door. There was nobody there.
The evidence fell into place in side Fry’s mind. He’d heard a rapping at his chamber door, and there was nobody in the dark hallway beyond. He stood there, wondering and fearing, imagining things difficult to believe. Nothing but silence in the hall. Emptiness filled with black, rank with his own despair and heavy with tears. The world wept as much as he had.
“Leela,” he whispered.
Over and over he said her name, the name that angels spoke, listening to it, feeling it roll around his tongue, the way his lips formed each letter. For a moment he could feel her presence, and he remembered what it was like to hold her in his arms again, how she had smelled, and how he had felt just by knowing her for so long. For a moment he was happy again, better than Double-Soup Tuesday.
The tapping resumed, louder than before. Fry turned around, his eyes flicking over everything in the room. It happened again.
“Maybe,” said Fry, “that is something at the window. Just the wind.”
His head starting to clear up a bit, he strode over to the glass of the large window. He opened it, as he had done for the Planet Express ship that one time, and there appeared out of nowhere an owl, and nothing more. It flew in and promptly perched itself upon the Slurm sign on his wall. There it sat, staring at him and doing nothing more.
For some reason the bird made Fry smile. He had a friend. The friendly fowl had come to visit him. It was funny, in a weird kind of way.
“Hi there, little guy,” Fry said to it. “What’s your name?”
The owl spoke. It had no distinguishable accent, and no lack of diction. It was grandiloquent in its speech, as if trained by some man of knowledge, and made its statement in a way that almost demanded the spotlight.
Fry was confused, not just because the owl could talk, but also because it would not tell him its name. Why? Weren’t they friends? Hadn’t it come to see him? It had to have some reason. And it was good manners to give your friend your name. But then Fry figured it out, and almost laughed at himself for not seeing it sooner.
“Nice to meet you, Nevermore.”
Fry felt strangely satisfied with just knowing this new resident. The bird was silent, and stared at him with wide eyes, but that was all Fry cared about. Nevermore was there with him, standing by him. That was all he needed, and nothing more.
But then he remembered. There was no forever, so why bother? All his other friends had gone away. Amy was married, the Professor was dead, and one by one all the others had disappeared or deserted him. And Leela…
“Fly away then, Nevermore.” Fry said. “It’ll happen anyway. Might as well get it overwith. All the others have flown, and now you may join them. Please don’t nourish my suffering.”
Fry stared up into the owl’s eyes in utter shock. “So that’s all you say, is it?” said Fry, irritated. “No doubt you were tortured by some master who wouldn’t listen to you. I bet everything disappeared around you, leaving you to come here and show me, and make me feel worse!”
The owl said nothing. Its lack of any kind of reaction to Fry’s outburst made him laugh. He pulled up a chair and sat down, staring at it, wondering what it could mean by saying “Nevermore.”
The seconds ticked by on the giant digital clock outside, and all the while Fry stared into the owl’s burning eyes. He felt as if they were staring into his very soul, burning a hole in him to reveal the spongy and bruised and beaten soul that just barely survived on a single heartbeat. Fry could feel the owl reading his story, and learning about everything that had happened to him, and learning of how Leela would live again never more.
Then Fry jumped out of his chair. That was it!
“You bastard!” said Fry, as he tore up the apartment. “You have come here to torment me! Some god has sent you to tear at my heart again, hasn’t it! You wretch! You little viper! Damn you! What did I do?! Why are you doing this to me? Just get rid of my memories then! If it’ll end my pain then make me forget the one whom angels name! Make me forget Leela!!!”
“Demon! Stupid spawn of the Robot Devil! How can there be no end! How can I leave my pain behind! Tell me—please!”
“Please! In the name of whatever gods that be, at least tell me that Leela is all right! Let her be at peace in Heaven! Tell me she’s okay! I beg of you!”
“Then let that be your last damned word, Demon! Get back to Hell where you belong! Get back to the eye of the storm, the fiery pits, the raging seas! Destroy yourself as you so rightly deserve! Leave me to my pain, damnit!”
Fry fell to his knees and screamed. The room began to spin around him. The broken furniture and smashed TV, the splintered doors and scratched floors, the torn curtains and his torn clothes, began to distort themselves before his streaming bloodshot eyes. His matted sweaty hair fell down in his face, his eyes rolling in his head.
It was unbearable! His pain was too much! Why did Leela have to die? Why couldn’t it have been him! He should have died!
“It should have been me!”
And the Raven, never flitting,
Still is sitting—still is sitting,
On the pallid bust of Pallas
Just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming
Of a Demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming
Throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow
That lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!