Chapter Ten: And So, Good Morning
He fell onto the floor, legs entangled in the sheets. He opened his eyes groggily and started to get up, but he banged his head on the coffee table.
"Cyn, what's this bloody table doing in here?" he growled, getting to his feet.
But Cyn wasn't there. Neither was their bedroom. He was in what looked like Paul's living room and he had fallen off the sofa. He shrugged. Paul often let him stay the night when he was too drunk or high to get home.
He went to the kitchen, noting that George was asleep in another sofa. Ringo was snoring in a chair---a wooden chair, too; he was going to have one hell of a sore back when he got up. Paul was curled up in some blankets in his easy chair, the kind that were big and soft and reclined.
Something important tickled at his memory, but he refused to give into it. He entered the kitchen and was going to start a pot of tea, but the kettle was already set on the stove and five cups of tea were already on the table. Paul had company, then. He seated himself and sipped his tea, wondering where he had been the night before. Some party, he supposed, but he hadn't had much to drink---no hangover. It didn't really matter anyway.
He finished his cup just as someone came in through the kitchen's backdoor, which opened out onto the backyard.
"Would you like another, John?"
It was Paul.
The Aurora had begun to fade and as it did, the wind grew in intensity. It seemed to swirl in one place, in a long oval shape, mist gathering. The wind made this shape very clearly---and then the wind's outline deepened and became a beautiful, magnificent pool of swirling, wavy blues.
**This is the Timepool,** the female Voice had told them. **This will take you to where you need to go, everytime. Take care, my loves. We'll be in contact with you later on.**
And then had come the words that still echoed in their minds from Paul's telling of them. But this time, it was the male Voice who spoke them:
**There is more than you know at stake.**
George nodded and John and Ringo both looked at each other, with a little shudder.
Each of them helped pick up Paul and then they walked into the Pool and all of its calm-water beauty.
"Another cuppa---sure, Paul." They were going to have to find something to call these doubles!
"Here," Paul No. 2 said, handing him a clean cup with tea and a slice of lemon in it.
"So who're you?" John asked when the double sat.
The double looked puzzled. "You know who I am, John."
"Yes, I do. You are a Might-Have-Been, correct?" His tone was a bit icy.
Paul No. 2's eyes narrowed.
"What d'you know about the Might-Have-Beens, John Lennon? If John Lennon you are."
"That's me," John replied with a cheeky wink. "Me, I don't know much. I'm---" he thought of a good way to keep them out of trouble---"I'm a Might-Have-Been, too. Got blasted into the wrong time with the others out there."
Paul's double relaxed and nodded. "Yes, I thought so. All of the real Beatles' Might-Have-Beens have been messing with the Timepool to get into Real Time. You know that, of course."
"Yeah, sure," John replied, keeping his face expressionless but listening hard.
"I got one of my own Might-Have-Beens a week ago---he'd gotten drunk and then the Timepool opened and he fell in. Silly sod." Paul No. 2 laughed. "And a month before that, one of the George Might-Have-Beens ended up in me bathtub. He had tried opening the Pool himself---stupid thing to do."
"Why?" John asked.
"Because you don't know what time you'll end up in. None of us Might-Have-Beens can open up the Timepool properly. The forces above put something on it, I believe. They don't want us in Real Time. I don't really care about getting there; my existence as a Might-Have-Been is quite fine. So how did you get here, mate?"
"Oh, you know. The usual way," John lied.
To his surprise, Paul No. 2 started laughing, hard. "I haven't heard that in quite some time!" he wheezed. "I thought that everyone was smart enough not to do that anymore---"
John was bewildered, but played along. "Oh, well, couldn't help it. I was on something and---it just happened."
Paul No. 2 laughed even harder, tears streaming out of his eyes. John relaxed a little. He'd obviously said the right thing!
Paul No. 2 clapped him on the back and tried to calm himself, but chuckled at intervals as he drank his tea. John wished he knew what was so funny---what was "the usual way"? But he didn't dare ask---he had no idea how Paul's double would react if he found out that John wasn't a Might-Have-Been but the real thing.
"Have any of the real ones come in through the Timepool?" John had given up on being subtle long ago.
Paul No. 2 looked at him, surprised. "Goodness, no," he answered. "Not through here. My John, George and Ringo have had Might-Have-Beens come through, but never the real thing."
"Well, I suppose everyone in their different times have different way they would deal with the real ones. What's yours?"
"Oh, I don't know." Paul No. 2's eyes looked past him. "I don't want my life to change. I don't experiment with the Pool. Neither do any of the others. We're happy the way we are. We wouldn't do anything except inform the proper authorities, I guess. I really don't know. What would you do?"
John wanted to be as honest as possible. This Paul was being pretty open about all of this and he should be truthful in return for that.
"I don't know either. I know that we're happy the way we are and we don't want to change either. But we may have to," he said, thinking of the real Paul.
"Well, if you don't want to change, why mess with the Timepool?"
"I don't know. Maybe we just got restless. But I think it was more to help a close friend of mine."
There. That was as close to the truth as he was going to get.
"So what choice did your Beatles make to become Might-Have-Beens?" he asked, changing the subject.
"We are The Beatles if they had just stayed with pot and had not done anything else." Paul No. 2 actually seemed sort of proud. "What about you?"
"We are The Beatles if they had---" Crap. He couldn't think. How could he lie about being the real thing? But then he had a nice vague reason:"---if they had decided to experiment, as a group, more with the---religious stuff."
"And how is it?" his companion inquired, genuinely interested.
"Life with that choice."
"Oh. Quite interesting, actually. But it gets a bit---worrying at times." This was said with the thought of Paul sleeping on the easy chair.
He was also surprised with the both of them---they were talking very properly. Maybe it was because they were only acquaintances and not the real friend/brother of the other.
"Well, I'm going to get started on breakfast," Paul No. 2 said. "If you and your friends want to shave or whatever, feel free."
"Thanks," John said, draining his cup once more and putting it in the sink on his way out into the living room. Ringo was sitting up against the side of the sofa rubbing his eyes and George was just beginning to stir. Paul was still sleeping, but was buried further within the mound of blankets.
"Top o' the morning to ye, me laddies," John greeted them. "Whew, this is one nutty place."
"Hmmm?" Ringo asked.
"Oh, nothing really. Just one of Paul's doubles is in the kitchen fixing all of us breakfast. Nothing unusual, you see."
"!!!" was what came from Ringo and George.
"Paul's double?" George asked.
"So we're in a different time now?" Ringo demanded.
"You c'n bet yer britches on it, sonny," John said, laying back on the sofa. "Lord, what a mess we're in."
"What, John?" George asked.
"You might as well ask! Paul's double thinks we're Might-Have-Beens and the story stays that way, hear?"
"We've gotta find out what to do, I guess....This is all starting to really get to me." John closed his eyes and massaged his inner temples. "How's Paul doing?"
"If you mean your Paul, he's all right," said Paul No. 2, coming in with the breakfast trays. "How 'bout a bit of brekky?"
George and Ringo's mouths must have dropped to the floor. John leaned back and laughed, wondering if he had looked so stupid when he'd seen the double. The double laughed as well.
"Yes, I know it's weird seeing two Pauls," the double said, smiling. "I looked pretty goofy when another John Lennon fell in through the Timepool when my John and I were having a songwriting session. Quite a story."
George, after recovering from the initial shock, thought that this Paul was somewhat different from theirs; maybe it was in his manner of speaking.
They had breakfast right there and the real Paul came out of the mound of blankets, his hair rumpled and tousled in every-which-way, making him look quite young.
"Good morning," he said cheerfully and then coughed. His eyes were out of focus, John could see.
"Good morning yourself, sir," Paul No. 2 replied, just as cheerfully. "I trust you rested well?"
Paul looked confused, hearing his own voice out of nowhere. His vision was, for some reason, quite blurry and he couldn't see much except for vague images of the people sitting in the living room.
"It's part of the mis---experiment, Paul."
Paul understood. "You'll have to explain to me later," he said. "I only caught some of it last night." He rose to use the bathroom, knowing the house instinctively.
"Uh, Paul?" John said, "we aren't exactly in your house. We---fell in the Timepool---" Not that Paul would know what that meant, John reflected.
"Not now, John," Paul replied. "Nature calls."
John was highly amused and settled back on the sofa to eat. Paul would be all right for now.
Paul No. 2 was watching the real Paul's retreat out of the room and then looked back at his plate, picking at his eggs.
"This is really good," George said, not having had anything to eat since the party---and then not really having much more than pot, even though he had strangely come off it..."Thanks, Paul's double," he said, squashing the thought.
The double laughed and said not to mention it, but when the real Paul came out asking for something, was directed to where to find it and had left the room again, the double again looked troubled.
George was in a great, light mood, but he also wanted to talk about the mission. He couldn't, because of the double, so he just chatted with Ringo, who also wanted to talk about the mission and this free feeling inside him, but couldn't, for the same reasons.
But John had caught Paul No. 2's look.
"What's wrong, man?" he asked.
Paul No. 2 gave him a funny look and seemed to stare through him.
"What is wrong?" John asked, more seriously this time.
Paul No. 2 sighed. "I suppose you don't know about your Paul's condition then."
John's eyes opened wide.
"You know? Tell me!"
"One of my other friends told me about the thing that's wrong with your friend. See, the Timepool's been screwed up for awhile and the Might-Have-Beens are Traveling. Sometimes, it happens that a Might-Have-Been replaces another Might-Have-Been, killing that person. They want you to make the choice that made them Might-Have-Beens---say you were going to buy a red car. You had to choose between an old one or a new one. You chose the old one. When you made that choice, a Might-Have-Been was born and lives the life of the choice you didn't make. Some of them get really pissed about it and try to take your life."
"What's this got to do with our Paul?" John demanded.
"Since the Timepool is screwed up, the past, present, and future can be altered---in bad ways. Your friend can't handle the jumble of times---Time is out of step with itself and Time is what is killing him. Unless the Real Ones set it right, or the Higher Powers, Time's gonna be a bit messy for awhile. Can I---go on?"
John nodded furiously.
"He'll either die of the Time disharmony---your friend is in tune with Time, you see---when you play too hard on a loosely-strung guitar, what happens?"
"It's kind of like that for him. Either the Time thing---or a Might-Have-Been trying to get his life. He'll---go, and that's the truth. Unless it's all set right, which I doubt." His tone softened on seeing John's pained look. "Look at it this way, mate. He'll be better off."
"I know that," John growled. "But I don't him 'off'! I want---"
"---him to get better." Paul's double sighed. "He may, he may not. There's no promise."
"Well, we thank you for the food and for putting us up," John said, standing. "We'll be on our way."
Paul No. 2 nodded understandably, but then said,
"If you do lose your Paul---which I hope to God that you do not---he still lives. You know that, correct?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" John demanded, his tone sharply thin.
"The real Paul will still live, as you are Might-Have-Beens. So Paul will still live. It is only when the real Paul dies that all his Might-Have-Beens die. You could visit another Paul through the Pool."
"No," John said. "No, I couldn't. None of them would be my Paul; don't you see? It would be like seeing a ghost. And," he added, kicking George and Ringo to their feet and taking the real Paul (who had just come back in) by the elbow, "there wouldn't be any Pauls for me to see."
They walked out the door and John slammed it, but not before he could see the double's expression.
He was white.
Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, etc.: Lissa Michelle Supler/Strawberry Sunshine
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