********************************************Chapter 25: The End of the Beginning
The world stopped.
Light, of the kind that flared at the very first moments of the Universe, was omnipresent. It was old, eldritch light; the light of creation, and of destruction. The Dark Moon above Manhattan had collapsed into a single point of incandescent brilliance that bathed the world in its splendour, and not constrained by any of the Universe’s accrued physical laws, the illumination traversed effortlessly through rock and steel, shining down even underground upon the city’s less lofty inhabitants and the refugees who sought shelter with them.
The beleaguered population of New New York, crouched in the sewers for protection, looked up in amazement as light surrounded them. Morris and Munda gasped fearfully, worry for their daughter’s wellbeing reaching new heights. Bender paused in telling stories to the frightened Cookieville orphans, and Farnsworth forgot for a moment the grief he felt for having lost Mom.
The crew of Planet Express observed the phenomenon with apprehension.
…None but Nibbler could know the full implication. Unnoticed by them all, the little three-eyed creature flickered and then vanished in a flash. Before he went, a smile had spread across his face…
The light continued to illuminate everything, growing in power and seeming to consume all.
For a time, the Universe ceased to exist.
* * *
Three consciousnesses remained intact at the centre of the time-space conflagration: Onespawn, the architect of doom; Turanga Leela, the Other; and Philip J. Fry, the Mighty One.
As the Lance of Fate sliced into Onespawn, temporal energy had flowed through Fry and was channelled by the esoteric matter of the weapon, which then melted away into the nothingness from whence it came, but its awesome power remained. Fry and Onespawn both glowed brightly, and Leela squeezed her eye shut against the glare. It was no good; the light passed right through her eyelid.
“Fry?” she shouted against the roar of each moment in history spinning around them. “What’s happening?”
“Everything at once,” he replied, floating free of her grasp in the sudden absence of gravity. “And at the same time nothing at all.” Leela opened her eye and looked upon him, and her breath caught. Where before had been skin was now only light, brilliant white. It was as if a sunbeam had donned a grubby pair of jeans and a red jacket. The Lance of Fate, finally serving its purpose, had transformed the spontaneously manifested temporal paradox, Philip Fry, into an avatar of the continuum.
“I can see everything, Leela,” said the being she could now only think of as Uber-Fry
. “Every point in time and space revolves around us right here and now. I can touch it all… I can do anything…”
“What… what are you saying?” Leela asked desperately. “Are you a God?”
“I have no idea what I am,” Fry replied, looking at his glowing white hands. “Maybe this is what it really means to be the Mighty One… Nibbler never told me…”
A terrible sound crashed over them, above the screaming energies of the time-space collapse. It was a long piteous cry that reverberated through the aether. Onespawn, massive and shrouded in light, writhed nearby, with vast tracts of its pseudoflesh dissolving and seeming to be drawn away in swirling vortexes of matter rapidly transforming to energy. The last of the Brainspawn race was being recombined back to its origin point.
“No!” the creature bellowed as its quantum field buckled. “I cannot end! I cannot!”
Fry turned in the empty screaming bubble of light that encased them, and regarded Onespawn.
“It’s over,” he said.
“I don’t want to die!” the creature said, with the psychic projection of its voice conveying a pitiful whimper. “I don’t want to lose myself… I don’t want to die
“You won’t!” Fry said. “You won’t die. Nothing ever dies… we all just change into something else… It’ll all be okay… you’ll see. You will live…”
Onespawn’s mass dwindled as more and more of it was stripped away into the quantum recombination. With the last remaining vestiges of its psyche, it posed a question to Fry.
“Why would you fight so hard for a Universe where your fate is not your own… where everything you know is an abstraction?”
Fry hung poised at the centre of everything and looked at the creature as it rapidly faded away; the question left him with nothing to say. “I…I don’t know,” he admitted at last. The giant brain vanished, and from the point of its departure a wave of nothingness radiated out, quantum backlash erupting like ripples in a pond. Fry and Leela were enveloped by the rushing front of unreality, and their awareness of all physicality ended.
Two minds were adrift in the sea of non-existence.
Katey Sagal’s well-rounded voice echoed through the void. “Fry?” she said fearfully.
“Leela?” replied one of Billy West’s varied voices, a thin nasally one.
“Where are we?” Katey asked.
“Nowhere,” Billy said. “And I think the better question would be – who
“I’m scared Fry…”
“Don’t be. We’ll see our way through this. We always do… together.”
“I want to touch you… I can’t feel anything.”
“Hmm.” There was a flicker in the dark, like a match struck on a moonless night. “Let’s see what I can do about that,” said Billy West.
Reality began to cascade around the two minds as if a floodgate had been opened. In six seconds, the Mighty One created the heavens and the Earth, and saw that it was good…
* * *
The sound of a whistling kettle found its way into Leela’s dream, and she turned over, burying her face into the soft pillows. It was warm and comfortable, and the noise of someone moving about in the kitchen of the cosy one-bedroom apartment evoked a sense of contentment in her, even as she dozed lightly. Wait, what
? An edge of confusion undercut that contentment, and she roused at last, opening her eye and looking around the homely little bedroom with its high window where ornamental keepsakes sat on the sill in the morning light.
It appeared familiar, and oddly she seemed to remember the history of each item. The chipped old wardrobe they’d found at a yard sale… while the dresser had once belonged to Fry’s mother… Fry
? She looked at the bedside table and saw their wedding photo as if she’d looked at it a million times before, the lines of both their faces etched into her brain. She surged upright in the bed as a disorienting sense of unreality shot through her. Wasn’t I just… somewhere else?
Fry pushed through the door suddenly, wearing a dressing gown and carrying a tray with mugs of ground coffee and a pile of blackened toast.
“Goooodmorning, my love,” he said extravagantly, with a wide grin.
“Hey baby…” Leela said uncertainly. “You made breakfast?”
breakfast,” Fry clarified, setting the tray down beside her. “But the coffee’s drinkable.” He crunched a piece of the burnt toast between his teeth with a grimace and rolled back into bed beside her.
Leela sipped her coffee and looked around. There was something troubling. She was happy, but at the same time an inexplicable concern lurked beneath the shadow of consciousness. Grasping it was like trying to nail jelly to a wall.
“I think I had a strange dream,” she said. “But I don’t remember what it was about…”
“It’s alright,” Fry murmured quietly. “It’s finished now. We don’t have to think about it again.”
“We?” Leela frowned at him.
Fry leaned across and kissed her on the neck, and she sighed, relaxing against him. “We’re still going to Coney Island with your parents today, right?” he said.
“My parents?” Leela looked confused. “But how…?”
Just then, a scruffy-looking brown dog scampered in and leaped up onto the bed, trotting around and wagging his tail happily.
“Hey there, Seymour,” Fry said, scratching the mutt behind the ear.
“Fry, get him off the bed,” Leela said automatically. “I told you I don’t like finding his hair all over the blanket…” She paused. “…Did I?”
“Okay, okay,” Fry said, shooing the dog away. “I’m gonna shower and get ready.” He kissed her on the lips, and she returned the kiss, wondering why it felt so amazing to be able to do so without fear or guilt – after all, she’d done it a million times before… hadn’t she?
When he was gone, she looked at the gold band on her ring finger, and tried to remember back to their wedding day. They had been wed, she knew that… but exact details were difficult to pin down…
It was as if everything that had happened in her life before waking up that morning was obscured by a heavy mist. Only vague shapes were discernible.
“What’s going on?” she asked herself.
When Fry and Leela left the apartment later that morning, Leela paused for a moment on the stoop looking around in wonder at the quaint brownstone buildings of Georgetown, Brooklyn, and antique wheeled vehicles that lined the streets. There were no flying ships or tube-lines marring the brilliant blue sky, and not a single owl could be seen – instead there were birds she recognised as the long-extinct pigeon perched on the building’s concrete façade.
“We’re in the twentieth century?” she said in confusion.
“1995, or there about,” Fry replied. “I’d have gone for the height of culture and style – 1982 – but I couldn’t remember enough to put it all together.”
?” Leela looked hard at him.
“Come on, let’s go and see if Bender’s fixed the old ‘Mighty One’ yet. I bet he’ll find some way to charge us an arm and a leg.”
“Bender?” Leela looked bewildered, but went along with Fry as he sauntered along the footpath. The summer sun had begun to increase in strength, and on a street-corner a group of children played beneath a fan of water from an opened fire hydrant. They laughed and jumped about, and waved happily at Fry and Leela as the couple walked past. That isn’t right
… Leela looked back at them. None were gasping in horror, throwing up, or pulling faces at her back. Her prominent mutation had gone completely unnoticed. She opened her mouth to ask Fry about it, but he appeared blissfully happy, so she stayed silent.
On the next street was BS Mechanical Workshop, with the B and S standing for Bender and Scruffy. Since Scruffy seldom did any work, and Bender never paid him, it was really a one robot operation. A robot… in the twentieth century… bound to be an oddity, but like Leela’s eye he had failed to draw attention.
“Hey, I fixed up the oil leak and rear suspension problem on the Mighty One,” Bender said, stepping out of the garage section with a grease-rag in his hand and a grubby bandanna wrapped around his head. “One of the pistons was misfiring as well, so I took care of it. That’ll only triple the price. You keep running that old beast, it’s gonna put my kids through college.”
“You have kids?” Leela said in shock.
“Well, by kids, I of course mean my gambling and alcoholism,” the robot replied. “And by ‘put through college’ I mean ‘pay up now or I’ll sell your bike for scrap’.”
Fry paid the robot, and Leela walked into the garage. Her mouth fell open in amazement. A pristine, beautifully-preserved 1939 Norton 500 motorcycle stood gleaming in the middle of the workshop. She walked around the ancient machine, trailing a hand over the chrome and leatherwork.
“This is ours?” she said in wonder.
“It’s yours,” Fry replied, strolling over and handing her a helmet and leather jacket. “I’m just a passenger.”
“Fry…” She looked at him. “Philip… is all of this… real
“I don’t know, Leela,” he replied. “You’d have to find a definition before I could answer that. What’s real?”
Memory bubbled up inside Leela’s mind, fleeting and uncertain; a giant brain… a blazing figure of light. “Did you… did you do something?” she asked him. “Did you make
“I did.” Fry nodded. “Memory and dreams made solid – the best of every world. Come on, let’s go for a ride.”
In a daze, Leela donned her helmet and jacket and got on the bike. Fry climbed up behind her, holding onto her waist. She kick-started the old beast and they motored noisily out of the garage and away down the street. Golden sunlight bathed the city, and people on the street smiled for no reason. Now that she knew, Leela realized the sanitized and over-polished nature of the world around her – glowing bright with friendliness and goodwill.
She sighed and gunned the old Norton up through Kensington and into one of the entrances of Prospect Park. She turned onto the grass and switched off the old bike, sitting for a moment and gazing at the rolling meadow. After a time, she kicked the stand down and climbed off, walking away for a short distance. Fry strolled behind her silently, giving her time to think.
At last she turned to him, looking earnest. “This is just another fiction, isn’t it?” she said. “As wonderful as it is here… as beautiful as this life seems, it’s no different from those books…”
“But I’m the writer now,” Fry said, thumbing his chest. “And this is no less real than our own world.”
“Whatever our world is, Fry, it’s ours
“And it’s brutal and unfair, Santa Claus is homicidal, people die, and giant brains try to destroy everything.” Fry sighed and gestured at the verdant fields of the park. “Here we can have everything we ever wanted – my family is here, alive, your parents live aboveground… there aren’t any alien invasions or disasters… and I have my Delta wave – I’m smart now. We can live ‘happily ever after’, in the time and space beyond the words ‘the end
’, beyond the influence of any force but our own will – for eternity if we want, there’s no time here eating at us, making us wither away… no Nielsen Ratings undermining us. We can stay like this forever…”
“Forever?” Leela repeated, gently taking hold of his arm. “What good is eternity if we don’t have today
? You can’t make life what you want it to be by simply throwing it all away and building something unreal from your imagination. That’s not what life is – the mountaineer doesn’t conquer the mountain by blowing it up. Life is what you make from what’s been given – sure, it’s hard and rough and sometimes not everything goes the way we want it to, but that’s all part of it. We keep moving forward, and we do it together.”
Fry stared at her for a long time, his face unreadable. “And what if Onespawn was right?” he asked finally. “What if we’re just puppets?”
“You really believe that?” Leela asked with a little smirk.
“No, but would it matter? Maybe the puppeteers are having their own strings pulled as well. Do we care? What difference does it make to a puppet to know the world is a stage? The world is what we have, it’s what we know. The world makes us, we don’t make it – we just live in it because it’s a part of us.”
“You’d give up paradise?” Fry asked her. “You’d prefer the grime and the toil?”
toil.” Leela leaned close to him, smiling sweetly. “I wouldn’t give it up for all the antique motorcycles in the world.”
Fry watched her, and a smile slowly spread across his face, then he was laughing hard, with tears streaming down his cheeks. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight, spinning around.
“I love you so much Leela,” he said. “You’re the Other alright. I guess this was your role – to persuade me, to make me see the light. You did – you’re right. Thank you.” He held her by the shoulders and looked into her glistening eye.
“What happens now?” she asked him.
“Now I put things back the way they were,” Fry said. “That’s my
role – what Nibbler knew I’d do, with your gentle push.” He drew her close and kissed her. When they broke apart, Leela noticed that the parkland around them was quickly fading to white, all colour and detail bleaching away.
“So I’ll see you… on the other side?” she asked.
Fry looked uncertain for a moment. “I hope so,” he said. “Not really sure how this is gonna go. It won’t be easy – a lot of damage was done, and it’ll take a lot to set things right again.”
Leela was suddenly frightened. “Fry, what are you saying?” she asked.
His eyes began to glow. “Putting it all back together is easy in theory,” he said. “I’m a difficulty though, because technically I shouldn’t exist – temporal paradox and all. I have no place in time, so returning me to the timestream is like trying to staple one page from a book into the middle of another book and making it seem like it fits in the story…”
“But Fry…!” Leela gasped desperately. “I didn’t know… please, you can’t…”
“It’s okay,” he said. Now they stood alone in blank whiteness, Fry becoming intangible slowly. “The present is a point too small to hit, so I’ll aim for the past.”
“What do you mean?” Leela said, reaching for him. Her hands passed straight through.
“Go to the place where we first met,” Fry said, his voice sounding distant. “If I can… I’ll meet you there again.”
“Wait!” Leela called, but he was gone. The whiteness pressed down upon her and then exploded outward. Time and space abruptly inflated back into existence…Futurama
returned from hiatus…
* * *
…and with a crackling boom the quantum conflagration above New New York collapsed on itself in a blinding flash and vanished – Onespawn and the Dark Moon had gone. The sky over the damaged city was suddenly clear, and a lone figure floated down as gently as a feather on the breeze toward the top of Momcorp tower.
Unseen energies lay the sleeping form of Turanga Leela down upon the ground that had somehow been scattered with rose petals. She opened her eye and looked up into the azure sky.
“Fry?” she said uncertainly, sitting up and glancing around. There was nothing to answer her but the small eddies of wind that swirled around the top of the building. She looked up, willing him to appear, but knowing he would not. Tears began streaming from her eye.
“It isn’t fair,” she murmured to herself.
“What is fair and what is right are seldom alike,” said a strange voice from behind her. It was deep, yet melodious, rich and full. She turned around to see, where before there had been nothing, a strange creature floating above the concrete with no apparent means of levitation. It was pale green, with slender limbs and a long tail. Its oversized head bore three eyes that glowed like emeralds. There was a sense of serenity radiating from it; a rightness.
Leela knew what it was instinctively.
“Nibbler?” she said.
“No longer,” the creature replied. “What was sundered and undone is now whole. The two made one. Brainspawn and Nibblonian together, coherent. We now realize the full potential of our nature…”
“What about Fry?” Leela asked tearfully.
“He is not here. Not yet,” the BrainNibbler said. “But hold him to your heart and await. He is part of you, as we are all part of each other.” The creature began to ascend into the air, and suddenly there were thousands more of the same. The BrainNibblers floated up into the sky; unified, majestic. Godlike.
“We thank you,” said the being that had once been Nibbler and Onespawn. “The life and love of beautiful beings such as humanity gives us hope. Live in the light of truth and forever aspire to be all you can. Farewell.”
As Leela watched, the beings vanished into the sky, toward whatever strange destiny awaited them. She was left standing alone, hugging herself against the chill wind.
********************************************(Note: no, it isn't quite finished yet.)