I ushered the four pre-rock stars across the narrow road toward the truck. The buildings on either side of us darkened the road, peppered with a thousand windows and a thousand eyes ready to stop us. But the truck had gone through the portal. It had somehow! That key information in my back pocket piqued my confidence.

 “Won’t someone tell me what the bloody hell is going on?” Ringo hissed from behind us.

“I’ll explain everything once we’re safe,” I whispered. “We just have to get out of here in this truck.”

“What? All five of us crammed into the cab at once?” George asked.

“No, you guys will be hidden in the back,” I said, bouncing on my feet. “C’mon, let’s go!”

The Beatles exchanged worried looks between themselves.

“You’ve done it before,” I reassured them.

 “What does she mean by that?” Paul whispered harshly to John.

“Just trust her,” John said, turning Paul around by his shoulders. “We don’t have much time.”

The driver unloaded the last box and then left his truck unattended as he spoke to the plump shop owner accepting the delivery. He took off his cap and wiped his brow.

I gave the signal and we snuck around the side keeping an eye on the driver. John held the doors of the meat truck open and turned to the other boys.

“Alright. In you go, then.”

“Now, hold on just a minute!” Paul grabbed John by the elbow. “I’ve followed you this far, but this all seems very wrong to me. Stealing a working man’s truck like this, it’s no good.”

Down the street The Cavern doors burst open with a loud crash and Thorne hobbled out holding his gun.

 “After you, George.” Paul gestured to the open truck.

“Much obliged,” George said, piling into the back.  

Ringo stepped in, still as confused as ever of having casually breezed into a perilous getaway. John tried to follow them, but I yanked him by his shirt collar.

“Wait, not you,” I said. “I need someone to drive the truck.”

His eyes widened. “I’ve never properly learnt to drive, Em. You’ll have to do it.”

“I’ve never driven a car in my whole life!”

We stared at each other in shock for a minute or two, until my IND buzzed sharply.

I grabbed him and ran to the right side of the truck where there was no steering wheel. I opened the door and not so politely shoved John all the way over to the driver seat. In the rear-view mirror, I watched Thorne pull a helpless motorist out of their car and get in.

“Start the car! Go!” I said shutting the door behind myself.

John whimpered to himself, started the car and hit the gas.

We rolled down the street at the same pace as a bicycle. Maybe slower.

“John! Drive! Get out of here!” I yelled.

“I’m trying! I’m trying! I’m trying!”

The car made a series of crunching sounds as John slammed repeatedly on the gas, still we went no faster than fifteen miles per hour. Thorne was closing in on us.

“Let out the clutch mate!” Paul yelled from the back.

John pumped the clutch and shifted gears. The truck pitched forward with the forced momentum. A collective loud bang came from inside the truck as three young bodies slammed against the wall.

“Oy!” Ringo yelled, followed by a string of expletives that I couldn’t hear over the roar of the accelerated truck.

John now had more of the speed but navigating the narrow Liverpool streets wasn’t an easy task. Thorne caught up quick and bumped into the back of the truck. More expletives sounded from the boys.

A police officer was directing traffic ahead at a roundabout. He whistled for us to stop. John didn’t stop.  He whistled harsher. John didn’t slow down.

“Clutch mate!” Paul yelled again.

John took a deep breath closed his eyes and blew into the roundabout. The cop dove out of the way, with screaming staccato whistles as he went. A car honked and veered as Lennon cranked the wheel and fishtailed into a lane.

Thorne followed after, nearly knocking over the same policeman who had barely gotten back onto his feet. He swerved sharply around an elderly couple in a Buick and got on our tail.

“Go to the dock!” I cried. “The portal is across the river at New Brighton!”

“Cars don’t swim yet, Em,” he said. “We’ll have to go to the Birkenhead tunnel.”

John made another turn past the irate policeman, starting a second lap around the roundabout.

“There! To Birkenhead!” I cried, pointing to the exit sign as it sailed past. “You missed it!”

John growled as we made yet again another turn on the roundabout. Thorne was still hot on our trail trying to get around the side of the car. The policeman ran for the blue telephone booth across the way.

“Right… There!”

John pulled the steering wheel, starting to exit one turn too soon.

“Not that one! The next one!”

“Grr! Em!” John wrenched the steering wheel around and flew over the sidewalk into the next exit. More thuds, bumps and expletives sounded from the boys in the back. Thorne got off on the too-early exit and slammed his breaks so hard they screamed.

We swung around and dashed for the Birkenhead tunnel. Right into the log jam of motorists in line to pay their dues at the toll bridge. John slammed on the breaks which choked and stalled the engine stopping us just before we crashed into the car in front of us. Thorne’s breaks squealed as he came to a sudden stop somewhere in line behind us.

“Oh, come onnnn,” I urged the other cars under my breath as Thorne opened his door.

John started the engine, ducked around the line of cars and pulled up to the window of the only lane that was closed. The toll operator leaned out the window with a frown under his bushy mustache.

Thorne leapt back into his car to follow us. When the other motorists saw our truck in the other lane, they too tried to jump behind us, nearly knocking into an erratic Thorne and honking at each other.

“You’ll have to go around son,” the toll booth operator said to John. “This gate is closed.”

“Right, sorry. It’s just we’re a bit tied down at the moment. Car chase and time travel stuff. Very serious business.”

“Eh?” The operator reared his head. “What’s all this about? How old are you? Is this even your truck?”

Ringo’s voice piped from behind. “This isn’t even me band.”

The operator’s mouth seemed to drop to the street at the mysterious passenger voice from the meat compartment. John banged on the back of the cab with the side of his fist.

A shot rang and echoed as it pinged the side mirror of the truck. The operator leapt into his booth in fright.

“Ope. Sorry. Gotta go. See ya.” John accelerated and smashed through the flimsy arm of the gate.

Lennon sped into the tunnel, shifting correctly for once.

The lights on the Birkenhead tunnel swished past one after another. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. John messily wove in and out through cars so sharply it made me feel sick. Or maybe the stress of what was happening made me feel sick. Either way, I was holding a churning puke.

Thorne was a much better driver than poor John learning to shift in a meat truck and he caught up to us with ease.

John swerved in front of a double-decker bus that honked loudly at him. “Where is the portal Em? I don’t know where I’m going!”

“It’s off the cliffs just beyond the funfair.”

“Oh, brilliant. Would’ve been a whole lot easier if we had gone then.”

“Hindsight, Lennon.”

A familiar sound filled and echoed through the tunnel. That old European siren. WEE OH. WEE OH. WEE OH. Red and blue lights flickered on the tunnel walls.

“Uh, oh.”

“Is that for us?” George asked from the back.

“Keep. Driving.” I told John.

PING. A bullet punched a hole through the middle of the windshield. John yelped. 

“That one nearly had my name on it.”

I leaned my head out the window and yelled. “Dammit, Thorne! Don’t you know ‘assassination requires a healthy dose of subtlety’?!”

Thorne sped up and re-aimed his gun. I reached over and grabbed the steering wheel, jerking it hard.


We veered into a separate tunnel on the side. The truck lost control and slid until John could regain control with the steering wheel again. But it was too late. The quick and sudden turn had killed the engine and sent us spinning and sitting backwards.

We heard brakes screech loudly from the tunnel. Car lights approached as Thorne spun around and drove head on through the stream of traffic toward us.

“Where does he think he is? America?”

“Just get us out of here!”

John turned the key into the ignition and straightened the car. A loud rev burst into the side tunnel followed by the growing sirens in pursuit.

We rushed through the tunnel and out the side exit into the sun. Four men in business suits cross the road in a line right in front of us. I covered my eyes and screamed as John cranked the wheel and turned sharply.

There was a significant crunch and thump that threw us forward. John’s glasses knocked off his face and clattered to the floor. Suddenly, we were on the pier.

“Em, my glasses!” he said leaning over the steering wheel. “I can’t see!”

“Oh, John!”

Pedestrians shrieked and ran. One man with a bulldog on a leather leash almost didn’t make it and had to pull his dog out of the way at the last split second.

The same crunch and Thorne had followed us onto the pier. Two more crunches and the cops followed close.

John squinted desperately as he drove. I leapt to the floor to feel for the glasses with my hand. A woman screamed from outside and the truck swerved, throwing my head into the bottom of the dashboard. I may have had an armor mod, but my head still throbbed and the welt from the bullet stung under my collarbone.

“Em! Help!”

I felt the plastic frames under my fingertips, grabbed them by the lenses and hopped up by John. I tried to stick them on his face but somehow jabbed him in the eye instead.

“Watch it!” he yelled.

“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t know how these work! We don’t have them in 2109.”

“They sit on your nose, it’s not brain surgery.” He grabbed the glasses, flicked them open with one hand and put them on.

Around the bend, a tall and menacing shadow came into view. A dark structure akin to the Eiffel Tower loomed over the colorful attractions of the fairground.

“There’s the Ballroom Tower and the fair!”

“But how do we get to the portal?”


Right in front of our path was a giant cement barrier marking the end of the board walk and the beginning of a sharp drop into the sea. John twisted the wheel and dodged the barrier but not soon enough and scraped the side of the truck.

We crashed through a wooden fence right into the fun fair. The dense crowd of fair goers shouted and parted as the meat truck slammed into a tent. The canvas ripped off and draped across the windshield. More people screamed as Thorne in the second car careened into the fair. One of the cops didn’t quite get the sharp turn and the Wee Oh of his siren crashed with a sad groaning “woop”.

The tent canvas completely covered the windshield and sounds of crashing and gasping were all around us.

“Get it off, Em!” he yelled.

I leaned out the window and reached for the canvas. The tent edge was flapping wildly in the wind and I barely grazed it with my fingertips. I had finally grabbed it when suddenly the truck smashed through a planter box. The bump knocked the canvas off but also knocked me further out the window. The glass of the window dug into my hips, as I was face to face with the rolling tire.

Thorne took another shot at the truck and the bullet dinged against the metal siding.

I hoisted myself back into the cab of the truck and huffed a lock of hair off my face.

“Gee thanks for the help,” I said to John.

“I don’t dare take my hands off the wheel!”

“I could’ve rolled to my death!”

“If I take my hands off the wheel you will.”

We exited the funfair on the other side of the Tower Ballroom and around the coast to the cliff where the portal secretly hung in the sky. Thorne followed us. The police followed Thorne. An old man in Wellingtons stood on the beach, puffing his pipe, and calmly watched the parade of frantic drivers.

“There, there! Turn!” I yelled.

Another whip of the wheel. The Beatles in the back were complaining less and less, I hoped John’s desperate driving hadn’t knocked them all unconscious.

We drove up the hill the truck straining with the sand and the grass. Thorne followed and at least two other cop cars, their lights whirling and spinning. I activated my IND to get the exact coordinates for the portal.

“Alright, stop!” I yelled. The car came to a jolting halt. “Now back up a little.”

“I- uh…”

John shakily put a hand on the gear shift, keeping an eye on the fast-approaching Thorne. He started backing up.

“Okay! Stop, stop, stop!” I yelled.

Another slam of the breaks.

“Right here! Perfect!”

“It didn’t work, Em!” he yelled. “We’re still here! Where’s the portal?”

“Yeah…” I grabbed the steering wheel and yanked it a full 90 degrees. Twisting the wheels until they faced the edge of the cliff.

“Are you completely mad?!” John asked.

CRUSH! We both jolted forward. In the side mirror I saw the hood of Thorne’s stolen car crumpled under the bender of the truck. Then his door opened, and he got out, gun in hand.

“Get down!” I took John by the shoulders and pushed him further into his seat. “Drive! Drive!”

Thorne power walked to the driver’s side. I climbed into John’s seat and sat right on his lap. I put my foot on the lever thingy that I assumed was the gas. The truck, still in reverse, whirred against Thorne’s car, the wheels sinking into the muddy hillside.

“Make it go forward!” I screeched, grabbing John’s hand, and trying to get him maneuver this machine I didn’t understand.

“You mad woman! You’ll kill us all!” he said resisting me, pulling, and fighting.

As Thorne got to the window I laid my entire body across John covering at least the most vital parts.

“Get off!” Thorne yelled at me gesturing with his gun.

I opened the truck door and smacked Thorne’s arm. Ping! A bullet, which I hoped was the last, shot through the roof of the car.

A megaphone sounded from behind. “Lower your weapon! The lot of you, get out of the car!”

I kicked the gun out of Thorne’s hand, and it clattered to the floor of the cab. He growled and grabbed me by my shirt sleeve.

“John drive! He’s going to kill you!”

Finally, John shifted the truck and inched slowly to the edge of the cliff.

Thorne kept pace, jogging next to the car pulling me by my shirt. I tried to roll the window up on him, but it was one of those stupid hand cranks that I had to wrench around while struggling out of his grasp.

“Stop! Get out of the car!” The megaphone shouted at us.

“John! Go!”

He shut his eyes tight and shifted again. The car sped toward the cliff. Thorne couldn’t hold on. He dropped off the car and rolled behind us. Closer the edge of the cliff came into view. My stomach pitched, as I hoped to Galactica that the portal would catch the entire truck. And not just half of us.

“No, no, no, no, no!” John screamed, each ‘no’ more panicked than the last.

The wheels sailed off the edge and we were in free fall. The last thing I remember was a half a yelp from John, cut off by a blinding light.

Again, the feeling of slow motion. John’s arms raised slowly to the roof by his wrists. Everything inside the car seemed to float up with us. Papers from the floor of the truck. A hot dog bun from the fair. The weight of three more Beatles that I couldn’t see.

My neck slowly cranked to the left. Where in the void and the light and the space I saw myself. A fresh nervous self. Mid jump, clutching to the straps of a parachute with Thorne at my side.

Clunk! Smash! The wheels hit the hard floor of the sterile travel room. I slammed on the brakes, but it wasn’t in time. We skidded, fishtailed, and slammed into the wall.

A low blaring alarm rang and scientists from all around ran for us. I saw Thorne sitting on the edge of the hood. He wore an entire padded suit like what a crash dummy would wear. He wasn’t chasing us anymore, he was calmly undoing the strap from his helmet.

John lay limp against the driver’s seat, his neck stretched back. I didn’t even know my heart could beat any faster, but when I saw him, I really thought that he hadn’t made it. No one had ever brought a live person through the portal before and I wasn’t sure if it were possible to live through that.

I grabbed him by his shirt and shook him, until finally he let out a loud shuttering breath and opened his eyes.

“I went out,” he said quietly.

I couldn’t help but laugh and pulled him in for the hardest smooch I’ve ever given anyone.

“We did it,” I got out frantically. “I love you!” The door opened wide and a team of travelers snatched me away from John


The next morning, I awoke in Mendips and stared at the ceiling for a good, long while. Would I still have to come back to this room after I was married? Or would we run away together and skip the country. Everything had happened so fast and we hadn’t made any real plans. Now we would have to figure things out under the watchful eye of trigger-finger Thorne.

I pulled the covers off and swung my legs over the bed. Anxiety filled every inch of me, but there was nothing left to do besides get ready for my elopement with John Lennon. 

I picked through my 1950s clothes. Everything was so ugly and dumpy. The only one I could think of was the one red dress that I had already worn for John several dozen times. I ached for this gown I had in 2109. Custom fitted iridescent fabric, body tight all the way to the knees and then puddled into this gorgeous train. It even had these LED-infused sequins that sparkled off and on in the dark. Wearing that to the 1958 registrar’s office would have absolutely blown John’s mind to little bits.

The thought of him never seeing me in that gown made me feel so disappointed and heavy that I slung that red dress over my head and didn’t even bother to smooth it.

Under my clothes in my suitcase were stacks of time-appropriate cash. I didn’t know where we were running off to after the elopement, so I took each stack and stuffed them into my purse. Best to have too much than not enough.

Worry lines and dark circles splotched my reflection in the mirror. Not at all how I had imagined my “big day”. Or my “future groom”. I had a funny little spark inside of me. A tickle of happiness. I really did love that boy. And now that he was in on the secret, everything would be alright, wouldn’t it?

I clenched my purse a little tighter, hoping that John was going to be able to keep up the act for the rest of his life.

The happiness flickered off and my stomach churned. What was I doing? Committing fifty years of my life to staying here? Living as an eternal teenager, watching my husband grow old and die without me? I would be wearing weird pointy bras for another fifteen years or something. Ugh. I missed my iridescent dress. I missed that dress.

I miss drinking a paper can of Shorty-Hash. I miss the ceramic cat that used to sit on my desk. I miss feeling clean. What happens if one of my body modifications breaks? What if Thorne decides things aren’t working as well as he thought and he comes around to kill John? Would he always be in danger? What would happen to Paul and George? Would Ringo be okay?

I left my room. Each step was a reality into 1958. How could I spend fifty years here building a whole life with John and then poof back to the future expected to start an entirely new life?

I knocked on his door. My chest in knots.


Silence. No time for a groom to sleep in on his wedding day. I checked my shoulder for Mimi and opened the door.


My face dropped. He was gone. I stared at his room in disbelief. We were supposed to be heading to the registrar’s office right then. Maybe things hadn’t gone like I had hoped. Maybe Thorne knew all along. 

Then I saw on his bed a second empty spot. Where his Gallotone Champion Acoustic usually sat. Missing. Ice ran through my veins.

I tore down the stairs, frightening the gray cat off his usual step. I dashed from room to room searching for my fiancée until finally, I found Mimi cross-legged in the front room with a cup of tea.

“Do you know where John is?” I asked frantically.

She gave me a disapproving eye. “I thought you would know,” she said.

I relaxed. Her coldness reflected all the disapproving of a guardian with a teenager about to get married. “Is he getting the license?” I guessed.

Her disapproving eye blinked into confusion. “He left an hour ago with that McCartney boy. Going to some silly audition in town.”

I think every ounce of blood drained from the top of my head to my feet. “What?” I asked hoarsely.

“He didn’t get my permission of course,” she huffed. “I’d have told him not to waste his valuable time.”

I couldn’t respond. My knees went weak. Thorne had promised he would be watching every moment of the day. He had just seen John essentially leave me at the alter for the very thing I told him not to do. But why? I didn’t understand. I thought I had explained everything so well. And now he was going to get shot. My John was going to die.

I stumbled out the front door. I was closer to The Cavern than Thorne. I could beat him there.

I hardly looked at the stranger’s car I jumped into.

“Take me to The Cavern downtown! As quick as you can go!” I yelled.

“Now hold on a minute young lady,” said the driver, a bristle-mustached man in a black hat.  I turned my purse and let the cash rain into his lap. He cleared his throat. “The Cavern you said, alright.”

We took off. I calculated how many precious minutes we were ahead of Thorne. Not more than five or six. Why had John done this? Did he have it in his mind the whole time to ditch the wedding? My heart would have been broken if it weren’t beating like wild out of my chest. Please, Galactica, don’t die. John, please don’t die.

Before the car could roll to a complete stop, I swung the door opened and bailed, then dashed through a crowd of young men tuning their instruments and smoking cigarettes.

“Hey, you can’t go in there,” one of them said to me as I thrust through the door of The Cavern.

Inside was nothing but a set of concrete narrow steps leading into the dark club. I scurried down them one foot after another, skipping as many steps as I could. Then I skid around the corner.

The main room was a giant and dank cellar with a great domed ceiling and a small stage raised only a couple of feet off the ground. The entire place was so muggy and hot that even the greyish bricks were sweating. One table had been set up in the audience and sat two men with greasy comb overs writing on papers and clearing their throats. 

“Be with you in a moment, lads,” one said.

I spun around the room until I saw the Quarrymen, leaning against the wall with their guitars at their sides. John had on an upturned leather jacket and his thick-rimmed glasses, when he saw me, he narrowed his eyes and turned away. 

I shook my head in disbelief.

“John!” I hissed as I walked up to him.

He flickered his eyes at me with that heavy dipping brow. His mouth a flat little line.

“What are you doing?” I asked through my teeth.

“What does it look like?” he asked dryly.

“Excuse us,” I said to Paul and George, grabbing John by the elbow and pulling him to a secluded corner. “Are you kidding me? What is going on with you? We’re supposed to be getting married right now.”

He crossed his arms tight.

“Couldn’t sleep last night,” he said shortly. “Everything got me to thinking. Really thinking.”

He was speaking in harsh little jabs. Not the kind of nice little voice you would have for your doting bride on your fake but also maybe real wedding day.

“I don’t understand—”

“You know everything about me. And my life, right? Front to back,” he said, arms still crossed tight.

“John.” I shook my head and gestured that my IND was recording. He glared at me with narrow brown eyes.

“Did you know that my mum was going to get killed by the off-duty policeman?”

Good, holy Galactica. I stood there as dumb as ever, trying to put two words together.

“Did you know?” he pressed again.

I rubbed my lips together, thinking of what to say. Nothing I could think of would sufficiently appease both John and Thorne. If I played dumb, John would explode. And he was very good at exploding. Although, if I explained things to John over my IND, Thorne would be livid and there would be no hope of talking him out of the kill.

John’s honey brown eyes were shimmery. I hated when they shimmered like that. I had lied too many times to him already.

“I tried to save her,” I said.

Those shimmery eyes flashed with anger.

“See?” he said. “Because all this time, I thought I had this nice little imaginary friend named God that I could blame. Or the policeman. Or even myself. But instead, I find out, that someone knew that this horrific thing was going to happen. And yet, it happened. That’s a crock of shit right there.”

“I really did try to save her,” I said, the words clawing out of my throat. “I tried! But Thorne wouldn’t let me go. He said he would have killed you if I went!”

“So, let him then,” he said, through angry tears. “You should have… you should have let him.”

He wiped his nose with the sleeve from his leather jacket and tried to walk away, but I stood in his path.

“He pulled a gun on me!” I said, my voice was high-pitched and strained. “I used my technology to call the house, but it was so weak. Mimi didn’t hear the phone ringing until Julia had already left.”

“It’s a lie.”

“I swear!”

“Why should I believe anything you say? Hmm? You’ve done nothing but lie to me from the beginning.”

“This isn’t a lie!” I said. “He’s going to shoot you if you step on that stage!”

“We’re ready,” the same man from before called from the table.

John shoulder-checked me as he moved for the stage. I grabbed ahold of his arm, keeping him back.

“Wait, no! Don’t!” I yelled as he pulled from my grasp. I stomped my foot.

Then to my horror, he hopped onto the stage to join Paul and George.

“No drummer?” the club owner asked.

“Don’t need one,” John said slipping under his guitar strap. “Yet.”

I clawed down my face. I had to stop this audition from happening. I had to get these kids to safety somehow.

“Alright then…” The owner checked the sheet on his clipboard. “The Quarrymen?”

“The name’s outdated,” John announced rolling his sleeve. “We’re going by The Beatles from now on. Gotta feeling about that name,” he added while giving me a dirty glare from behind his glasses.

Paul and George both gave each other an incredulous look but seemed like they were too focused on the audition to debate the name change.

My IND hiccupped. I blurted a cuss word under my breath.

 “Alright, lads, whenever you’re ready.”

 With a nod the three put their fingers to their guitars and began playing In Spite of All the Danger.

I had to do something, and I had to do something quick. A power chord ran from the stage to the back of the room. I squinted to find the outlet or power source. Maybe one of those old-timey boxes where you could flip a switch. The underground cellar club was too dark. I felt along the wall with my hands, frantically tracing the bricks hoping to find where that dang power chord ended. My shin knocked into a bucket with a sharp pain. I looked down to see a pail full of rags and old squeeze bottles. PCMX cleaner. I stopped in my tracks. That was a close one.

 Loud and angry footsteps echoed from the staircase.

“John!” I screamed, but to no avail, the game was up.

 “Stay right where you are!” Thorne barked.

He flashed his gun around the room. The two club owners at the table stood and threw their hands in the air.

Paul and George both dove to each corner beside the stage. John didn’t, he hugged his guitar to his chest with a pale expression. I would have said, ‘I told you so’ if I wasn’t so horrified or sick.

What could I do? I couldn’t overpower him; he had the body armor same as me. No cop would be able to stop him. It was happening, right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

I felt helpless and angry. Angry at Thorne for being so set on termination. If only we were in the year 2109, he’d have no power to gun people down like this.

Suddenly there was a light from the entrance stairwell. A young kid with a pair of drumsticks hopped into the doorway.

“Have Rory and the Hurricanes already auditioned?” Ringo asked, then as soon as he saw Thorne with the gun his eyes bulged. “Sorry, wrong room,” he whispered and backed away.

I closed my eyes and slapped my forehead. Are you kidding me? Of all the worst possible timings ever.

“You!” Thorne pointed his gun in Ringo’s direction. “Get over here.”

Ringo clutched his drumsticks and slowly walked toward the stage with the others. Well, now he had all four of them.

Thorne turned his gun at the owners. “You two. Leave. I have no need to disrupt your timelines.”

The chairs pitched and squealed as the owners fled The Cavern with their hands above their heads. I bent down and carefully plucked one of the squeeze bottles from the bucket.

“All of you,” Thorne barked at them. “On stage. In a line.”

I leapt in front of Thorne’s gun. The cold barrel pressed hard into my chest.

“Em, don’t!” John screamed from the stage.

“Move!” Thorne shouted at me and tried to push past me, but I grabbed the gun by the barrel and held it in place, nestled into the body armor on my chest.

“No,” I said firmly. “I couldn’t save Julia, but I can save the boys.”

Thorne curled his upper lip in fury. “You’re rogue,” he said.

“You’re right.”

I pulled the bottle of cleaner from behind my back and squirted four or five good shots right into his eyes.


POP. The gun went off right into my chest. The bullet clinked onto the ground between my feet. The armor had stopped it, but it still hurt. Like when Que and I used to play Astro Shooters with those rubber balls that would 3D print on demand. Galactica. It felt just like that.

I stumbled, dizzy from the PCMX. The gun clattered to the floor, followed by the loud thump of Thorne’s body.

I braced myself for the hard floor, but instead found myself in a pair of warm arms.

“Em, hold on, hold on!”

I shook my head trying not to inhale any more of the PCMX. I could see Thorne twitching and reaching for the gun.

“Get out of here, we have to get out of here,” I said as loudly as I could muster.

As well as I can remember, the boys helped me up the stairs and out of the building. The dank Cavern faded but the adrenaline carried me through. When I awoke, I was half lying on the pavement, half in John’s lap. His hand was rattling my chin. The other boys circled around and leaned in.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I reassured them by pulling the neck of my shirt so they could see the welt of the bullet that had not penetrated me.

John’s face relaxed in complete relief. “I thought I lost you,” he said with a wavery voice.

I grabbed him by the opening of his leather jacket and pulled him in close. “I told you so.” There. Now I could say it.

“I’m sorry, Em. I didn’t—” He ran a hand through his hair so panicky he almost knocked his glasses off. “I’ll marry you! I won’t touch another guitar again, I swear!”

The other boys exchanged confused and uneasy glances.

I swallowed painfully. “It’s too late,” I said.

“What do we do?” George asked. “Should we go for a policeman?”

I sat up on the sidewalk. The Cavern was four or five buildings away, where we had left Thorne’s twitching body.

“He’s like me. He can’t be killed,” I said, rubbing the purple welt on my chest. “And I can’t hide you forever. He’ll spend the next fifty years hunting you down.”

I cupped my chin with my fingers. There was only one place I could take them that would stop Thorne from trying to kill them. One place that would secure a timeline without The Beatles. It’s true, I was rogue. Nothing was off the table. Including this.

I had to take all four of them through the portal.

“The only way you can all be truly safe is if I take you back home,” I said.

“Well, who’s to say he won’t follow us straight to America?” Paul asked.

“No,” I said. I raised my brow at John. “All the way home.”

His mouth parted in shock. “How?” he asked.

Then I saw it. The unmistakable grey hood of a meat truck puttering down the street. The driver stopped to unload boxes from the back. The car idled with the keys still in the ignition. My eyes widened. I knew those headlights. I knew that front grill. I had seen it before.

“That’s how,” I said, pointing to the truck.


Well, if I thought I had wrecked the mission before, I had no idea how much worse things could get. I had gone from plan A to plan B to plan F. But the timeline had split. There was no denying that. And there was no going back.

The screen of my IND retracted and shut off.

“John,” I said.

He backed away from me, crawling on the ground. As freaked out as ever. Which, I mean, yeah. Who wouldn’t be? There was no earthly explanation for a video to be projecting from someone’s body in the year 1958.

“What are you, Em?” he finally got out. “You’re not human.”

I shushed him. “John, look I—”

If I told him the truth, for once, I might be able to help him. This might be the only way to truly get him to hang up his guitar. But I had to do it quick before Thorne noticed my camera off.

“It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to tell you the truth. The entire truth. The song that I played for you, the one about this place, Strawberry Fields Forever? … It’s not my song. It’s your song. You wrote it… In 1967… John, I’m from the future.”

John stared at me, motionless from the ground. I grimaced and held my hands by my sides.

“You’re bloody crackers!” John sprang off the ground to run away.

“Wait, listen to me!” I said. “I’m trying to save your life.”

I reactivated my IND and the garden lit up with a soft blue glow. I opened a small clip, The Beatles playing live on the Ed Sullivan show. When John heard his own voice he stopped and turned, ultimately entranced by the technology presented before him. There he was on the screen. Older, but still him. I knew from the look on his face that he had no choice other than believe me.

“Tell me everything,” he said.

I gave him the quickest run-down of Beatles history that I possibly could. Going through every major success and album that I could think of. It was a lot. A lot. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time to explain everything.

I pulled up a few pictures to show him. Ending with the Bed-In for Peace with Yoko. The same image that had given me the idea for the mission in the first place. John leaned forward examining every detail of it.

“You’d think after that many albums I could afford more than granny specs from the National Health,” he said his face close to the screen. He pointed to Yoko. “And who do I marry then?”

“Yoko Ono. You really loved her.” I scrunched my brows together. “I mean, you will love her… I mean you would have loved her.”

“But get a load of future me, Em! Look at them whiskers!” He put his hands on his knees, his nose practically touching the holograph. “If this is my honeymoon, how old am I when I finally get married? Fifty?”

“Um,” I shut off my projection. “Sometimes it’s best not to know too much about your own future.”

John slapped his knees and stood. “Alright, fine, I’m not that interested in me self anyway. Tell me more about the future! I want to know about it all. Is everyone a walking television set, or just you? Are you more machine than human?”

“It’s a little device that was installed when I was a young child,” I said making it as brief as possible. “I have other devices and body modifications too. Everyone has things like this in the future.”

“What else is there?” he asked, his eyes shining. “Have we made contact with things and beings from other planets? Have we finally ended war?”

“Okay, hold on,” I said, calming him down. “I don’t have a lot of time and I need to explain why I’ve been sent here.”

“I have a million and more questions.”

“I know,” I said. “But tonight, I have to leave it at The Beatles.”

“I can’t believe it! The Beatles! Six number one songs in a single year?” he said, excitedly and spun a full circle on his heels. “Masters of the British Empire! Ha! I’d like to hear what dear Mimi has to say about that one. Look where my guitar gets me then. You were wrong about that one! Weren’t you, Mimi?”

“John,” I tried to cut in, but he was floating away on cloud nine.

“To think of that! Us? Kids from Liverpool of all places! And we did this!” He put his fingers to his lips, a wild gleam in his eye. “How much money do we make from all that success? I bet we’re close to millionaires, am I right?”

  “Uh, well…” I chuckled.

“Do we become millionaires, Em?”

I took a breath in. Not sure if I wanted to let him know or not. He froze waiting for my reply.

“You are worth more money than The Queen herself,” I said.

John’s smile dropped. In fact, he dropped. Right onto the grass, in shock.

“But you can’t have it, John. You have to give it all up.”

“What? Why?” he asked softly.

“I’ve been sent back in time to create an alternate timeline without your band,” I said. “If you don’t give it up on your own, you’ll be killed.”

I explained to him that he was now in an alternate universe, created to study the absence of his impact. I told him that if he couldn’t leave his band he would be killed for the study. Then I briefly touched on David Mark Chapman and how he would only live twenty more years if he pursued music.

He sat still and quiet for a while. It felt like an eternity. I knew that my camera was still off, and Thorne would begin tracking me any minute.

“That’s why you were trying so hard to get me to forget about music,” he finally said. “Is that why you were trying to start a romance as well?”

My heart stung. My eyes were still puffy from bawling earlier and I couldn’t believe they had any tears left to clog my ducts.

“Yes,” I said. “I was sent to wed you away from your music career.”

“Well, that explains a lot.” He nodded to himself. “None of the feelings were real then? Not even at Brighton? Just a wee little bit?”

“A wee lot little bit,” I said, my throat constricting. “I wasn’t trying to fall for you, but I did. I really couldn’t help myself.”

“Me neither,” he said with a slight chuckle.

I shut my eyes, too afraid to say what had to be said. “The only way to stop my mentor from coming after you is if you marry me.”


“I know it’s boring and it’s not a life with music. But whatever! It could be great! We could fake it together and you would live past forty! And you know, we could do whatever we wanted! We could travel to Aruba or anywhere in the world. It doesn’t even have to be real. We could fake through it—”

“I’ll do it,” he said.

My IND jabbed me with a buzzing hiccup. Dread washed over me. He was coming to kill John.

“Listen, we can make it out of this okay, but we have to act fast!” I said taking him by the elbow and moving him to a darker spot in the field. “When I activate my camera, you have to propose to me. And make it sound convincing enough to stop Thorne! Tell me that you’re going to give up music forever. Then we have to part ways. Don’t be around me until I know you’re safe. I have a tracking device on me, so I don’t want you anywhere near me.”

“I don’t…” John stammered.

“Okay, I’m going to count to three and turn on my camera,” I said.

“Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on, on, on!” He grabbed my wrists. “How am I supposed to ‘make this sound convincing’? I can’t do that. I can’t act at all!”

“Nice try,” I said. “You’ve been in six motion picture movies. Now hold still, I’m going to count to three.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “I’m dead nervous,” he said to himself.

I held up three fingers. “One… Two…”

I pointed at him. Which made him laugh right at the same time I activated the camera. I gave him a stink eye. This isn’t a joke John, this is a bullet through your brain.

“Em, can I ask you something?” He still trailed a giggle although the tips of his fingers were trembling as he brought them to his chest.

What is it, John?” I could tell that my acting was no good either. My voice was all high and wispy. I held my breath and hoped that this would be believable enough.

“Let’s get married, Em.”

There was this awkward pause in the field. Crickets chirped. John leaned his head forward as if he were prompting me for my next line on stage.

“That’s not a question,” I said.

“True,” he said with an eye roll. “But if it were to be a question. What would your answer be?”

“I would say yes,” I said and smiled at him. “If, of course, you agree to give up your band.”

“Whatever you want, Em. I’ll get a bank job and turn thirty-five tomorrow if you’d like. Buckle down and be a Brummer striving for the rest of my life.”

“Don’t be sarcastic,” I said through gritted teeth. Pointing at where my IND was actively recording him.

“I’m not,” he said, fully in character now. “We’ll marry as soon as we can. I’ll get the things together. Tomorrow at ten o’clock. We’ll go down to the register office.”

My eyes bulged. Tomorrow? He was really playing the whole nine yards.

“Great,” I squeaked. “10 o’clock tomorrow.”

My leg muscles twitched, preparing to run far away from John so that Thorne wouldn’t have a way to track him.

“And Em,” he called after me before I could leave. I turned to face him in the dark field. “I’m real on that, if you are,” he said in a low soft voice.

Little electric currents ran into my fingertips. I searched his face for hidden meaning, but all he gave me was a quick little nod of his head. I returned the nod and then flew on my heels to find Thorne. I had to get to him before he got to John, or that would be the end of everything.

I quickly scaled the red iron fence. The scratches that I had gotten before were nothing compared to the careless bumps and bruises that were now forming on my knees and shins.

Where could I find Thorne? There had to be a way I could reverse track him. I was just about to activate my IND when a voice boomed through the dark alley.

 “I wouldn’t use that in public, if I were you,” Thorne said as he moved toward me wearing a dark trench coat. “You should know better to be more careful. John could have seen you using it at any time.”

  My heart leapt. He hadn’t figured us out.

“And I shouldn’t have to remind you about turning your camera off.” Thorne towered over me. “Once is a terrible mistake. Twice is a terrible offense. Your camera was off more than three times as long as it should have been.”

“I turned it off because John came to the field,” I said, trying to hide the quaver in my voice. “After he apologized, we ended up, you know… wanting privacy.”

“That’s a dangerous situation. We’ve been through this,” he said. “I’ll have to write a report on this once we’ve terminated the subject and sent you home—”

“John proposed.”

Thorne was unamused by the exciting news. “Why’s that?”

 “He was so sorry about what happened. He vowed to give up his music for me. Surely, you felt the timeline split.” I gulped. “The mission was a success. We elope tomorrow morning.”

“And that’s what you want?” he asked, his face unmoving. “You want to be married to an abusive and unsuccessful man, spending the next fifty years discouraging him from his one true passion?”

“Well, jeez, when you put it like that…” I mumbled.

“What about McCartney?” he asked sharply. “You said he was a threat.”

He was a threat. Musically of course. His songwriting talent unmatched now that John was out of the way. Plus, not to mention that he would probably start a new band with George.

“Don’t worry about Paul,” I said, worrying about Paul. “They won’t be able to audition tomorrow and Paul will give it up once John is gone.”

“This is what you really want.” Thorne pressed, like the annoyed father pushing his own agenda onto a stubborn child.

“Yes,” I said, my whole chest tightening. “I want to marry John. I want to go forward with the mission I came here to do.”

Thorne’s mouth tightened. He scratched at his bristly chin.             

“Fine,” he huffed. “You’ll marry tomorrow. But you will not at any point turn your camera off again. I’ll be watching.”

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