Chapter Eight: The Wind of Change
"So soon?" Paul snorted, catching his fingers in a buttonhole. "I thought I'd never get out of here!"
A shadow passed over John's face.
"We all thought so too," he murmured truthfully, his voice too low for Paul to hear. "And we still do."
Paul, oblivious to John's musings, knotted his tie and yanked on his shoes. Giving his pants a final tug into place, he grinned cheerfully and said,
"Well, come 'long now!" He started whistling, feeling absolutely wonderful. He had never felt so damn good in his life, he reckoned, then smiled at the thought.
He headed out the door, his things in hand and John on his heels.
John turned to close the door, his eyes scanning the white room: sunlight, brightness, emptiness. A vacant bed, the sheets turned down. He couldn't help feeling a bit cheery that the room no longer held his friend.
But a queer sense of foreboding pulled at him and slowly, but steadily, began to fill him with dread.
It is going to begin.
Paul stopped humming and looked around.
He was alone.
Can you hear me, Paul? It's going to begin soon.
"Who are you?"
You needn't worry about that; it is quite irrelevant. All you need to know is that it's going to begin soon. Very soon.
"What's going to begin?"
Your mission, of course. You need to tell your friends.
"Tell them what?"
'It is going to begin.' Your mission will begin. And as it begins, everything will be set in motion.
"What in the hell are you talking about?"
It will all be explained. I will say one last thing at parting: You and your friends have the past, present, and future in your hands. Choose your roads wisely. You will not be able to correct what choices you make. There is more than you know at stake.
Whatever had been speaking to him left him now and he was truly alone.
There is more than you know at stake.
The words echoed in his mind.
He ran inside to call the others.
"He's better," John replied distractedly, pulling off his scarf and unbuttoning his coat.
His wife Cynthia looked at him, doubt in her eyes. If Paul was better, then why was John acting like this?
She stopped his trembling fingers and finished unbuttoning the coat herself.
"John, tell me the truth," she said, taking off his coat and looking into his eyes. "Is he...?"
John collapsed on the sofa, a hand to his eyes as if he had a headache. Cyn sat with him.
"God, I don't know, Cyn," he said. "The doctors said he was fine and released him, but I don't think he's ready yet."
"Well, if the doctors said---"
John shook his head firmly. "They don't really know, Cyn. He hasn't fully recuperated yet---he needs another month or two, I think, but he's been in there so long...Brian wanted to get him out of there as soon as possible because of all the death rumors flying around. We're due to make another tour in about three weeks and I don't think Paul will be physically ready to handle it."
"Do you think there's also a problem with him---mentally?" Cyn asked softly, full of worry for Paul, who was also her friend.
John sat up and faced her.
"He's not insane, if that's what you mean. He isn't a bit off 'is rocker, but I think the pressure will be too much for him---I'll be stuck playing nursemaid again."
He essayed a feeble grin, but it disappeared before it reached his face.
"There are things going on---I think he is the center of it all. He's not causing it, whatever it is, but I think it is causing his illness."
"What has been going on?" she asked.
John took a deep breath and would have told her, but the phone rang. He got up and got it.
"Hello?" he said.
"John, it's Paul."
"What's up, mate?" John said, casting an apprehensive glance at Cyn.
"Look, I know this sounds really crazy, but someone---or something----was here just a bit ago, talking to me."
"What's so crazy about that?"
"I couldn't see who it was, but I don't think it was a person."
John sucked in a sharp breath.
Paul went on, "It told me that I have to tell you this: 'It is going to begin soon.'"
"What's going to begin?"
"Our mission, it said."
"Bloody hell," John sighed. "Did it say anything else?"
"Yes. It said that the past, present, and future was in our hands. It---it even alluded to our dream, John. It said, 'Choose your roads wisely. You will not be able to correct what choices you make. There is more than you know at stake.' I've said it over and over to make sure I'd got it---that's exactly what it said."
There is more than you know at stake, John's mind repeated.
"Did you call George and Ring?" he asked. "Yeah. Ringo got a bit quiet and George wrote down what I said."
In spite of himself, John was amused.
"Did it say when?" he asked, bringing the conversation back to the subject.
"Soon. Very soon."
"Lovely," John muttered. "Soon could be right now or next week! Did it even hint at a time?"
"No. You seem rather eager to go on this trip."
John snorted. "I ain't exactly eager, mate---I just don't want to be caught with me pants down. That's all."
Paul laughed. "This all seems somewhat of a trip. Just missing the colour."
It was John's turn to laugh. He changed the subject. "How are you doing, Paul?"
"I'm doing fine, John. Stop worrying yer bloody head about me!"
"I---" John stopped, unsure if he should go on.
"Really, John luv," Paul said, but this time seriously, "I am feeling rather well. I think I'll be all right."
"You know there's a tour in three weeks, right?"
"A tour?" Paul was appalled. "I should've just stayed in the hospital!"
John laughed. "No use fightin' it---we would've had to do it eventually."
Paul was quiet. "Maybe you're right to worry, John. Maybe I'm not ready to be out of the hospital yet." There was a long pause. "Too late now."
John heard the sadness in his friend's voice.
"Too late to go back, perhaps, but not late enough for you to just relax and laze about. You just take it easy for awhile, Paul. You'll be fine by the time of the tour." He changed the subject again. "Listen, let's get everyone together. Your house. We'll sit around and try to figure all this out."
"All right, then. Tomorrow at noon?"
"I'll be there. G'night, Paul."
"Good night, John."
George grabbed Paul in a huge hug. "How's it goin', mate?"
"Great, thanks. You?"
"Well, are we gonna wait all day for ya, or are you going to come in here?" John called out from Paul's living room.
Paul grinned and led George in.
Ringo smiled up at George and they all sat.
"John," Paul prompted.
"Yes sir!" John threw back a smart salute. Then he got serious. "Mates, I'm sure you're all aware that we've got some kind of mission. It's going to begin soon and I'm also aware that you have all had some clues or whatever given to you after we took Paul home from the hospital. Ring, you first."
"Make sure you wrap up," his wife Maureen told him, knowing he wanted to be alone. "Here. Take this with you." She handed him a scarf.
"Thanks, luv," he said, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. He tied the scarf around his neck, buttoned his coat and walked down "the Nature path." It went into a thicket of tall trees and dense plant life.
The sun was setting and mist curled out onto the path. Ringo strolled in, noting that it was quite warm in the thicket.
There was a point where the thicket opened up and became a field, bordered by another thicket on the other side. It was quite warm by now and Ringo looked up at the sky, expecting to see the sun just a little ways up in the sky still. He was startled---the density of the thicket had kept him from realizing that the sun had long since set and the first stars of the night were already peppering the sky.
Two stars, quite large and glowing with a steady deep blue light, caught his attention. He studied them, feeling in his bones that there was something odd in the air.
You, Mr. Starkey.
His head swiveled 'round, but there was no one there. He looked back up at the two stars and found that their light had suddenly changed: it was a bright, blinding bluish-white now.
Mr. Starkey, please close your eyes and look up at the stars.
Ringo didn't think anymore; he simply did as he was told.
But when he closed his eyes, the stars' light had brightened again and he could see them even though his eyes were shut tightly. The breeze, which he could hardly feel before, picked up slightly and seemed to be full of music. Scenes flashed in his mind: Paul and John on the phone, George sitting in his backyard, himself in an empty field.
That is what you are all doing now.
The scenes changed. John was facing someone---a girl?---and was obviously furious. Paul facing someone---it was a girl, the same one John had been facing---and talking very kindly and softly. Ringo tried to flip the scenes in his mind so he could get a glimpse of the girl's face, but the scenes wouldn't change for him to do that. He could only see her hair---an inch or so past her shoulders, thick and dark. Then the scene changed again and George was standing in the midst of a strong wind and bright, beautiful colours, his arms outstretched, with some kind of round medal in his hand and an expression of pure happiness on his face. Ringo smiled.
And this is what is going to happen.
That's it? Ringo couldn't help thinking. All the stuff we've been through and we get to see John being pissed, Paul being nice, and George being happy?
No, that is not it, Mr. Starkey. There is a lot more. More than you need to know at this point.
His eyes opened and the stars were now "normal." They twinkled distantly once more.
"Ring, don't feel that way. None of this is your fault and you couldn't have known that they---whoever they are---could hear your thoughts." Paul looked earnestly at Ringo.
John and George nodded in agreement.
"George?" Paul prompted again.
"With pleasure, Paulie dear."
Finishing the sandwich, he got up to walk it off. But unlike Ringo, he did not take off down a path---he simply paced back and forth, going over the encounter with the Mysterious Voices and reciting the poem to himself.
True faith is rewarded.
"Huh?" George looked around like Paul and Ringo before him, but also like them, saw no one.
You shall find what you are looking for.
"Are you a Mysterious Voice?"
He sensed no emotion whatsoever in the response:
You may call me that if you wish. What I am, sir, is none of your concern. You have bigger tasks at hand to think about.
"Sorry," George mumbled, flushing.
Why do you apologize, human?
There was emotion now: disdain.
"That is not your concern," George shot back pluckily.
The Voice surprised him with an airy chuckle.
You are quite right, Mr. Harrison. I beg your pardon. But back to business: your friends John and Paul will call a meeting. This you must go to. You must tell them that it is going to happen at anytime. There is no way to speed up the time. It will happen anytime now, anywhere.
And he could feel that the Voice's presence was no longer in his backyard. It was gone, but he could see a brief brightness in the sky.
"No, mate, nothing a'tall," John replied. "All right. Stick all these messages together and see what you can come up with."
After a long silence, Paul said, "Not much."
"Well, you've got something. Let's hear it," John said.
"George has a lot more faith than we do and he'll be rewarded. John, you'll probably have a grand ol' fight with the girl when she comes and I think that she and I will be friends. It's going to happen anytime---right now or tomorrow or whenever. But it's going to happen and we can't slow or speed that fact."
"Pretty much a summary, but not too bad," John said.
"There's not much we can do about this whole situation, so we might as well enjoy normality while we've got it," George said.
John tipped his head back and roared with laughter.
"'Normality?' That coming from you! Screaming fans, pushy reporters---quite normal! George, you're a riot!"
"John?" Cyn murmured sleepily. "Please stop moving."
John lay still, his eyes wide open. He was hot and sweaty and very restless. He got up and saw Cyn reaching blindly for the blankets he'd kicked off. He pulled them on her and kissed her, saying, "Can't sleep---don't worry."
He looked in on his son Julian and then went down to the kitchen, looking for the sleeping tablets Cyn had just bought. He couldn't find them so he settled for a cigarette and went to the sunroom, watching the rain come down in sheets.
"Oh, c'mon George, don't be a drag. Relax. Nothing's going to happen except for us having a good time!"
George looked at the party room's high chandelier and smelled the good food.
"All right," he said, resigned. He walked over to Mick Jagger, who had a joint in his hand. "Where is it?"
Mick pointed to a jar on one of the far end tables and George trotted over there and rolled one for himself. He watched his wife mingle with the other guests as he sat on the stairs, alone.
"I wonder what the others are doing," he said to himself. "But I don't think they're sleeping."
The rain pounded harder and the wind grew stronger. There were lights in the sky, but they were only visible to...certain people. The lights circled two houses in Weybridge, a dark home on London's Cavendish Avenue and a party hall in central London. One blinding flash and then the rain abated and the wind was nothing. And then, the lights were gone.
The storm was over.
But it was the first of many to come.
Copyright 2000 and beyond: Lissa Michelle Supler/Strawberry Sunshine
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