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


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.”

The full ending is now live on Patreon:


I hardly slept at all, wallowing in misery the entire night. A ton of bricks had dumped on my shoulders. Dr. Thorne would murder one of them if I didn’t suck it up and stay here. But then, how would I keep him from killing them anyway? They were all so damn talented. And so damn ambitious. It was impossible to keep them away from music.

I felt empty and trapped. Like it would never happen, and that this timeline was meant for them to die. And if they were going to die, I would rather not be around to see it or hear about it. Julia was enough for me.

Everything was so dismal that I didn’t want to leave my bed. I didn’t want to talk to John. But I didn’t want to leave. And I didn’t want to create any other excuse for Thorne to load those bullets.

The window cast a soft early morning sun patch which crept along the floor until it was a blazing afternoon square on my wall. For hours everything had been eerily quiet. And then the front door wooshed open from below.

“Where have you been?” Mimi scolded loudly enough for me to hear.

“At Paul’s,” John said softly. I sank into my bed and pulled the covers to my mouth. Hearing his voice physically hurt. I missed his stupid voice.

“You should have telephoned,” she snapped.

There was a strained pause. My ears throbbed to hear his reply. He interrupted her frustrated sigh with a mumbled, “Sorry, Mimi”. Then footsteps drudged up the stairs.

I tensed in my bed, pressing my covers so hard against my mouth that my teeth cut into my bottom lip. I held my breath waiting for the familiar creak of his bedroom floor.

Instead, there was a knock at my door. A slow and penitent rhythm.

A shadowy silhouette of two shoes stood at the wide gap underneath the door. I flopped my head onto my pillow to stare at the ceiling. I didn’t want to see his face. It just made everything so much harder. My eyes were starting to water again. I sniffed it away.

There was another sniff from John. The silhouette underneath grew as he slid against the door and sat on the ground.

A folded piece of paper slid underneath the crack and knocked into the foot of my bed. Creased right down the middle. My name scribbled on the front in cursive. My full name. Emmeline.

The crisp letter sitting non assumedly on the floor. John’s backside still darkened the gap underneath the door. The curiosity got to me and I plucked the folded paper off the floor.

Inside was a doodle of a little man with big cartoonish tears dripping from his face and forming an ocean. The only words written were “I’m sorry. – John.”

I whimpered. My shoulders dropped. Why did he have to come around all sad? It didn’t make the decision any easier for me. I closed my eyes tight and took a breath. I left my bed and opened the door. John scurried to his feet to face me.

“Em,” he said, his voice reminded me so much of when I had brought him a dinner plate at Julia’s funeral.

“What do you want, John?” I asked.

He looked past me and directly at my luggage open at the foot of my bed. “Are you leaving?” he asked.

I shrugged. Not exactly out of coldness, but because I really didn’t know.

John’s eyes dropped to the ground. “I’ve been to Paul’s,” he said. “He explained to me that there’s nothing going on between you.”

“You should have trusted me. Not run away to check in with Paul when I could have told you what was happening,” I said. How could I do this? How could I get after him for not trusting me when all I ever did was lie to him? I held my poker face as guilt jabbed me in the stomach.

“No, you’re right. I know, you’re right. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” He shrank down as if he were shriveling inside of himself.

“And…” I swallowed. “That other guy is just my boss. It’s an internship through the College of Art. Not at it.”

“I’m sorry, I should have guessed,” he said.

 More lying. More deceit. I felt sick. Every part of my soul ached to tell him the truth. How I was trying to save not only his life but the life of his best friend.

“I really love you… but I won’t be with anyone who treats me like that,” I said. And that was the truth.

He had those same teary eyes he wore at the pub. “I won’t, ever again, Em. I swear. I’ve never done anything like that before. I— I don’t know where my head’s at. I haven’t been right since my mum died.”

This grim feeling oozed into my mind. My fault. My fault for not saving his mom. My fault for drafting it into my proposal. My fault for actively trying to ruin his life since I came up with the idea.

“That’s not an excuse,” I said, adding to myself in my mind, “Glass wall, glass wall, glass wall.”

“I know. It’s not,” he said with a quiver in his voice. “But I can change. Whatever you want, I’ll do it. I will. Anything you want. You have me. I’ll be whatever you want me to be, Em. Because without you, I’m nothin’ besides.”

My heart pricked at that one. A big fat crush of a prick, that I couldn’t shake off. I stared at him hard with my hand on the door. His eyes weak, curled into himself as if I were about to bludgeon him to death with a frying pan or something. I hated seeing him like this. I hated myself, mostly.

“Please,” he whispered.

“I need someone stable,” I said.

“I’ll do anything,” he repeated.

Wait a minute. My posture straightened. What did he mean he’ll do anything? Was that anything anything? Because if he really meant that…

“I need a ring,” I said.

He rattled his head in surprise. “What?”

The idea unfurled right before me. The dawn after a moonless night. This wasn’t the end. I could salvage this mission.

“I can’t stay here in Liverpool unless I’m engaged… And I can’t be engaged to a starving musician who wouldn’t be able to provide for me. I need someone stable with a stable job.”

His eyes shifted as his mind whirred and struggled to compute the change of events. Good sign, he didn’t immediately start yelling at me. Bad sign, he didn’t immediately agree to it. Nothing but a shocked silence.

“So, if you really love me then… I’m sorry, John. It’s me or the band,” I said abruptly and then shut the door on him.

The silhouette of his feet remained under the crack of the door. I pressed my ear against the smooth wood. But there was nothing. Not a sound. No shift inside my rib cage. No split in the timeline.

The feet under the door stayed for a long time, shuffling, and acting unsure of what to do. Then finally after what felt like forever, the shadow left.

My ultimatum hung heavy in the air. The timeline hadn’t split, but what did that mean? Maybe he hadn’t made his choice yet. Or the timeline was still careening down the original path. But I couldn’t be sure where that path was going. He told me at the fair that he loved me. He seemed sincere. He seemed sincere when he came to the door.

My lungs were burning, and I finally exhaled. I wasn’t sure. I probably scared him off for good. But Thorne didn’t know that. And if nothing else, the ultimatum had bought me some time. I had a chance at a proposal now. A chance at taking John away from music and away from Paul. I could talk Thorne into setting the mission back on track. Keep everyone safe.

I waited for the sun to set before leaving for Thorne’s hotel. No way was I going to chance running into Stu again. As the last rays were settling behind the rooftops, I quietly slipped downstairs and out the kitchen door.

No sign of John.

I walked for a long time. In my stupid, stupid fifties heels. Why would they do this to women? Why did they hate women so much? Ugh. After a while, I took the heels off and walked on the sidewalk in my stockings. They got wet within the first two minutes and I stepped on at least five hundred icky cancer sticks.

I barged my way into Thorne’s room without knocking. I held my chin high, hoping to bluff the most confident of expressions.

“Things are underway,” I said shutting the door behind me. My hands trembled as they released the doorknob, and I hid them under crossed arms. “Soon we’ll have the marriage proposal and no more Beatles.”

He watched me with a dark and haunting look.

I sat on his bed with my arms crossed tight. “At this point, we just have to wait for him to make a move.”

“It’s over, Emmeline,” he said suddenly. “The mission is over.”

I tightened my lips against my teeth. “What do you mean?”

“He’s not giving up his friendship with McCartney,” Thorne said with a blank expression. “He’s not giving up music and he’s not proposing.”

“You don’t know that,” I said. “He hasn’t decided yet.”

Thorne took a paper off the table and tossed it furiously onto the bed covers.

“What’s this?” I asked without daring to uncross my arms.

“A request form to audition for The Cavern,” he said in a gruff voice. “He left with Paul shortly after speaking to you and filled this damn thing out before I intercepted it.”

I examined the paper on the paisley bedcover. Sure enough. John’s handwriting. Tomorrow morning 10 AM. Quarrymen. Signed John Lennon, Paul McCartney.

“I can stop the audition,” I said my throat constricting. “I can still get him to choose me instead.”

“He won’t choose you. I know that. You know that,” Thorne said with a sneer. “I think you’re forgetting that I can feel when the timeline splits just the same as you.”

My shoulders tensed, pulling my entire torso with them.

“So?” I asked with a choking voice.

“So, the timeline didn’t split,” he said blankly. “He didn’t choose you.”

My chest rose and fell quickly. “He hasn’t made his choice yet. You have to give him more time.”

“It’s over, Emmeline. It’s done. You know what you have to do.”

My nose stung and twitched, and I pushed it away with my anger. “I don’t have to do anything. I need more time.”

“No more time. No more chances. You need to decide tonight,” he said. “Who will be eliminated, McCartney or Lennon.”

The breath collectively knocked out of me.

“No, I can’t just make that choice—”

“Eliminating one of them is going to alter this timeline, so you need to tell me who is behind the success of The Beatles.”

“I don’t know,” I said my voice shaky.

“You do know,” he snapped. “You know who it is. You know who has to die.”

“No one! I mean, neither of them! No one is more talented than the other.” I felt desperate like a rodent trapped by a cat in an alleyway.

“Then is it George? Or maybe it’s this Ringo. Tell me who has to die, Emmeline.”

“I can’t— I don’t know.”

“Tell me who has to die, or I will eliminate all four of them.”

“No, you can’t! They’re just kids!”

“Then tell me who has to die!” Thorne yelled.

“John!” I heard myself shout. Then a dark silence filled the rest of the room.

Thorne’s posture relaxed.

I hung my head. “I know it’s John… Not because he’s the most talented… but because he’s the one who will never give it up.”

“Then it’s time to finish the mission,” he said.

I leapt off the bed and gave Thorne a piercing glare.

“I HATE you,” I said, pushing each and every sound of the word so he would feel it. Feel it driving right into his malicious mind. I shoved past him and out the door, slamming it behind myself and running down the stairs so roughly the entire stairwell echoed like a war drum.

Dashing down the street, I could no longer contain the intense choking sobs that were creeping up on me. I cried. A real, hard, ugly cry. Loud and uncontrollable. At least one small family stared at me as they passed.

“What’s the matter, dearie?” the woman asked me.

I was so overwhelmed and overran that I pushed past. My footsteps picked up speed. I was running but everything seemed to be moving around me in slow motion.

Trapped at every turn. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just leave John to die, but how could I stay? I couldn’t salvage what was. Obviously, he would not give up his music and I would only get more attached before having to kill him. It was toxic. Everything about the situation. I wanted to run away back home, but I couldn’t.

So I ran to the next best place. The place that had most felt like home since I had been there. Strawberry Field. Outside the big iron gate, I took my heels off again. My stockings were covered in cigarette butts, leaves and at least one prickly thorn.

Thorne. He was a thorn. A big fat thorn.

Thinking of him, made me cry harder. He would kill those teenagers no problem. He would put them all in a shallow grave by the river. The imagery made me sick. I had gotten to know them. Hear their voices in person. Talk to them about their dreams. Kiss John…

I grabbed ahold of the iron gate with both hands, grunting as I hoisted myself and climbed to the other side. The night air made the iron that much colder. I let go a little too soon, landing hard on my feet and almost knocking over. Shutting my eyes tight, I leaned against the gate and stuck my hands into the pockets of my jacket. There I found a folded piece of paper.

I pulled John’s neatly folded note from my pocket and held it in my shaking hands. The note he told me was only for bad days. Wow. If there were ever a bad day, I would say this takes the cake. I sighed from the top of my chest. Not daring to open the contents.

Reading that note would do nothing for my emotional glass wall. But, fine. I was obviously beyond that now.

I unfolded one side. Then the other. Slowly exhaled and turned the paper to see what John had written at the fair.

On the other side of the flyer was a sketch of a girl kneeling with her arms lovingly around the neck of an angry tiger. A boy watched with a big grin from behind the barrier, half a dozen hearts around his head.

Beneath that, he had scribbled a couple of lines.

            A cheetah has spots,

            A tiger has stripes,

            And I have a girl,

            Who fits me just right

            I love, love, love you!

  • John

That was the secret message? I thought it was going to be some profound words of advice or something. I let out a laugh. But as soon as the air rushed in from that laugh it turned into a sob.

I pressed his poem against my chest. “John. No. No.”  

I wandered aimlessly into our secret garden. The garden that he took me to. That’s where I collapsed. My eyes were soggy and swollen and I was too exhausted to cry anymore.

I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. Whatever. I was drowning and I didn’t care anymore. Time to sink underneath the waves.

“Play Que’s videos,” I commanded my IND. It lit up and projected the screen right in front of me. The video of us playing at Big Bear appeared, lighting the entire garden around me.

Not more than a few seconds into the video and I was jolted by a distinct feeling. A pulling inside my chest. The tug of war between the two rib cages.

 I bolted up. What had happened? The timeline split somehow. But what? What was it? I scanned the garden until I found what had caused the split.

John sat not too far away from me, his eyes wide, staring at me and my activated IND with a frightened look.

Oh. My. Galactica.            

“System override, camera off!”