By Tim Boiteau
“Would you change the station, pal?” Joseph asked the cabbie as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” jangled out of the radio.
He was still shaking from the fight. Of all things, the argument had been about this song—well, not this one in particular, but all that fab nonsense. Irene had caught The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show the evening before. “That’s what I want!” he’d exclaimed as they sat in the man’s seedy office. “That energy, swarms of girls shaking their tokuses.”
“I can’t imagine a worse hell than having to listen to that garbage,” Joseph had said.
“Well, the hordes disagree with you, sonny. If you want to keep your gigs at the Jive Lounge, you’ll deliver—‘Hold the Hand,’ ‘She Loves Me’—all the hits.”
The conversation quickly devolved into shouting and cursing, and somewhere in that blur the Knaves had lost their regular paycheck.
“Hey, pal, you hear what I said?” Joseph leaned towards the cabbie.
Then, his cigarette dropped from his lips.
The cabbie was staring blankly into the Monday morning traffic. Lobster-blue spaghetti was wriggling out of the radio, engulfing his arms.
Joseph bolted from the cab, clutching his guitar, mind reeling.
He smelled smoke and saw his tartan scarf was burning, the cigarette lodged inside. He ripped it off and flung it onto the salted sidewalk. After stamping out the burgeoning flame, he looked back towards the cab, but it had already turned onto Broadway.
Behind him in an automat window, two girls wearing horn-rimmed glasses sat giggling at him over coffee and donuts.
I should eat, he thought. Calm myself down.
“Square meal; no hallucinations.”
In the automat, he slid his tray down the counter, grabbing a Danish and coffee. As he made his way to a table, he noticed the mirror along one wall. His face was haggard, chalk-white.
Sat down at a table and contemplated his food. Nibbled the Danish. Not bad.
Then the song rang out—“She Loves You.”
“Christ!” He clawed at the table.
One of the girls was hopping back to her seat from the jukebox, her friend singing along.
Then the blue spaghetti surged out of the speakers, thousands of strands weaving together into a nebulous mass.
Joseph stumbled out of his chair.
The creature divided, five pseudopods jetting outward. The noodles consumed the girls, flooded into the middle-aged cashier’s face, and shattered the machines in back in pursuit of the cook. A wriggling arm surged towards Joseph, but at the last second, he swung his guitar and knocked it off course. Cobalt gunk splattered across the walls and floor, and the squirming mass slid to the floor, thrashing there.
He pounced towards it and swung his guitar, pulverizing the thing and shattering his axe. Turned to see if he could help the others, but…the spaghetti had vanished. The window of one of the automat machines was smashed; he could make out the man behind it in his paper hat going about his business. The girls sat with their donuts and coffee, staring out the window. One of the cups had spilled, dripping onto the floor. The cashier—
It was no longer the cashier. It was one of them—the Fab Four.
The John-ganger was staring at him. Joseph backed up towards the dead mass on the ground and saw the girls swivel on their stools. They were both Fab, both Paul-gangers.
The cashier and girls stood, approached slowly, the song still piping out of the jukebox—a barrage of “yeah yeah yeahs.” A George-ganger circled around from the back.
“Don’t come any closer,” Joseph warned.
They paid him no heed, shuffling forward, blocking his escape. A wriggly mass swarmed out of one of the Paul-gangers, but when it latched onto his arm, it corroded, becoming orange and brittle. The Beatle-gangers gaped, confused. Using this unexpected distraction, Joseph charged forward, sprinting towards the door, ripping a few tenacious bits of rotten spaghetti from his arm.
“I think I’ve figured it out,” Joseph panted. “The music must have opened some sort of gateway to another world.”
After fleeing to Bill’s apartment, he felt even tenser than before. Through the closed windows, the city was eerily quiet, the only sound from a distant radio drifting in from the kitchen.
“That’s wild,” the drummer of The Knaves said, spreading cream cheese onto his bagel. “Want one? They’re fresh.”
“Bill, you’re not listening,” Joseph said, pacing before the couch, trying to recapture the clarity of thought he’d achieved while sprinting there. “It’s happening. Right now. Outside. They’re assimilating everyone!”
“Wait…” Bill frowned, biting into his bagel. “How do I know you’re not one of them?”
“Do I look like a Beatle to you?”
“No, but then how did you survive?”
“Maybe it needs a host with a compatible brain, someone that likes The Beatles. That’s why I knew I should come here—is that your radio?”
“Go cut it off. It’s not safe.”
Bill obeyed the lead guitarist’s command. “Irene called after your little kerfuffle,” he shouted from the kitchen. “Guess he wanted to talk to someone with some sense.”
The radio died.
Joseph spun around. An idea had just occurred to him: What if they used music to fight it? They could blast records out into the streets—something atonal, maybe.
“I convinced him to give us another chance.”
“Another chance,” Joseph whispered, sliding towards the stereo, rummaging through Bill’s records—then his hands froze.
At the top of the stack, four half-shadowed boyish faces stared back at him: Meet the Beatles!
“What?” He backed away.
“Figured we could learn a few of their hits.” A Ringo-ganger approached from the entrance to the kitchen. More Beatles were climbing in through the kitchen window. “We’ll have to change your taste in music.”
It bent over and picked up the record.
“Listen to it a few thousand times, you’ll start hearing how fab it really is.”