In an instant Shadow and I were standing in a bustling building that looked very much like the IDIOT office. I peeled the gum off of us and threw it in a wastebasket.

Shadow dragged me along the corridors, gazing at the doors. Most of them had an "OCCUPIED' sign up, and I assumed we would keep walking until one said 'EMPTY'.

In the meantime, I was really confused about the way this YODELgum worked.

"Shadow," I panted, for he was moving very quickly. "How is it that we came to the right place when I blew the bubble."

Shadow slowed down, then turned to me. "Trans-Time-Space- Other-Dimensional-Universe gum is very effective when you can picture in your mind exactly where you want to go. If you don't have any place in particular in mind, however, you could end up at the Trans-Dimensional Gate, which is what happened to you before. And I might add, the reason why amateurs shouldn't dabble in YODELing, because as you know, they'll try to take your soul before you enter the Gate."

"But, wait. I didn't have this place in mind," I pointed out. "I've never been here before."

"Sure you have," Shadow insisted.

"But I don't remember being here," I affirmed.

"You're here now, right?" Shadow chuckled.

"Uh, yeah," I admitted, hesitantly.

"Well, when you step into Eternity, things get a little confusing, especially where Time is concerned. You can jump back and forth so that your past is your future, and your future your past, and quite frankly, time really doesn't have any meaning anymore."

Shadow saw the confusion in my face and gave me a pat on the back. "Don't worry about it. It'll make sense, eventually."

He pointed at the door we had stopped in front of. The sign said 'Empty' and we stepped inside.

Shadow flicked on the light switch, and there in the middle of the room was a giant rectangular-shaped clock.

Shadow nodded approvingly. "Should do the trick rather nicely." Then he asked me for the Tryptic.

I handed it to him and he stuck it in a slot in the side of the clock.

"OK, all set."

"For what?" I asked, but I wasn't sure I really wanted to know.

"Well, we're going to Time-Split ourselves. We can't possibly check out all these paths, as I've mentioned. So the Time-Splitter ODU YODELs us along one path, then takes us back one instant before we YODELed, then ODU YODELs us to another path, etc. I think the Tryptic will be splitting us into..." He turned a few knobs, "312 paths."

"But how can there be more than one of us at any one time?" I was really confused, now.

"Let me try again. It has to do with Time, George. You ODU YODEL out of here and you can spend all of eternity somewhere far away, then be back before the instant is over. By turning time back an instant each time, the Time-Splitter takes you to before the instant when you ODU YODELed and sends you somewhere else, creating another reality where another you exists..."

I still wasn't getting any of it. Shadow chuckled. "I told you George, don't worry your little head about it. We'll all meet back here starting an instant after the time we enter the Time-Splitter."

"I...I don't think I like this whole thing," I stammered, backing towards the door.

"Well, you've done it before, George."

"Look, don't start that again."

"Really, you have. Remember when you leaped through the Trans-Dimensional Gate? Well, you sent quite a number of yourselves all over the place. That's why that fingerprinter got so many different readings on you. And plus, I noticed some of them on the Tryptic."

I just shrugged. "Whatever. When do we go?"

"Whenever you're ready. Just step in this door..."

He opened it and we both stepped inside the clock.

I heard a loud "CUCKOO" chiming somewhere inside my head. Then a door opened up near the top of the clock, and Shadow and I rolled out and landed on the end of a diving board.

"Jump!" Shadow commanded, and we both leaped into the air.

The next thing I knew, the clock was "CUCKOO"ing, and we rolled out on the diving board again. But this time when we jumped, we landed in front of the Time-Splitter.

I tried to shake the Deja-vu feeling out of my head as I watched Shadow pull the Tryptic out. "So how come we jumped out?" I shrugged.

"We're done," Shadow chuckled.

I blinked my eyes. "What do you mean?"

But Shadow motioned for me to be quiet, and pointed to one of the lines on the Tryptic. It was blinking like crazy.

"OK, the first of us is coming back," he said.

Then the smaller door on top opened with a loud "CUCKOO" and out rolled Shadow and me.

The other-me and other-Shadow leaped into the air and landed in front of us.

I stared in disbelief.

This happened 310 more times, and each time, Shadow and I came out of the clock and began explaining about the adventures that had befallen us.

It was too much for me. After about the third me walked out of the clock I felt a little faint, and Shadow suggested I take a nap. He'd take the reports and wake me when one of the us's had found Mary.

I couldn't sleep. I watched dumfounded from the chair as Shadow (the one that had been with me the whole time) listened to the Shadows and me's as they spoke about fantastic adventures and bizarre sights they had seen. And I wondered why I didn't remember any of it, if those were all really me.

After each report, Shadow erased their path on the Tryptic by adjusting a few knobs. And still we kept coming out of the clock.

The me's and the Shadows walked around sipping punch, and it was kind of crowded, but every moment or two a few would "pop" and just disappear. Shadow informed me that they had reached the "present" and thus no longer exist. I shrugged in disbelief, but occasionally crazy images would flash through my mind, as if I were remembering wild adventures that happened to me long, long ago.

After a while, Shadow waved his hand for me to come over to him. I excused myself past several me's and stood by Shadow's side.

"OK, we're getting near the end. Apparently someone is sending us on a wild goose chase. That's why there are so many probability paths. One set of us found a pumpkin, but it turns out it wasn't the right one."

"How do you know?"

"Well, you brought a magical frog you found on some planet or other, and when the frog kissed the pumpkin, it turned into its original form -- a 16-ton, 8-headed monster. Look, I saved the picture on the Tryptic. I presume this is not Mary."

"NO! That's definitely not Mary."

"Well, actually, it is Mary. But not your Mary."

Shadow turned a few knobs. "See this path?" he pointed. "The 62nd us went that way. Eventually we found that Mary. Turns out some other universe is filled with pumpkin planets, one of which is named Mary. But the only thing living on it was a caterpillar which had been alone, eating its way out of the planet for the past 6 billion years. Of course we brought it to another planet named George, and there was another caterpillar there, and they got married and lived quite happily, eating that pumpkin planet together for the next 6 billion years."

Shadow sighed. "Gee, I just love a happy ending, don't you?" Then his face got serious, and he turned to the clock and scratched his shadowy head. "I can't understand what's keeping that last us."

I looked around the room. All the other us's had gone.

"A lot of us said something about someone trying to catch us. But something saved them all in the nick of time, and they were able to get back. It must be that darned Time-Catcher. He's always after ODU YODELers who haven't given up their souls."

Then the door on the Time-Splitter opened up. "CUCKOO" it sounded, and another Shadow popped out and dove in front of us.

"Hi!" he swallowed, gasping for breath.

"Where's George?" my-Shadow demanded.

"Time-Catcher's got him" the 312th Shadow sighed.

Then he told us what had happened. He and George had found Mary and were just about to find the way to turn her back into a woman, when the Time-Catcher grabbed them both.

"George distracted him and hid Mary somewhere, then he told me to get help. I got here as fast as I could," the other-Shadow sniffled.

My-Shadow looked concerned. "I guess George and I will have to go in after them."

I didn't know what to think. When the 312th Shadow had said that they had found Mary, I was ecstatic. But now this Time- Catcher guy had them, and it all sounded so hopeless.

"Don't look so sad," the other-Shadow smiled, patting my head. It all works out just fine. After George was caught, I ODU YODELed a little too far into your future, and I had quite a nice cup of decaf with you and Mary, and she wasn't a pumpkin anymore, and you were both quite happy."

I really didn't understand all this time stuff, but I wanted to believe this other-Shadow, and I couldn't help beaming.

"Well, let's go get her, Shadow!" I roared.

Shadow-312 turned to my-Shadow and put his arm around him. "You weren't there in George's future," he sighed. "George just had his old lifeless shadow back."

Shadow shrugged his shoulders. "That's OK. I didn't expect it to last forever."

They were both looking kind of glum.

"Hey, you guys, listen. If Shadow-312 was having a cup of coffee with Mary and me, then that means that you were there with me, right, Shadow?" I blurted suddenly. I don't know where it came from, but it just popped into my head.

"You know, George is right!" Shadow laughed.

We all felt a lot better after that. The two Shadows were talking to each other as they studied the Tryptic, while I fidgeted and couldn't wait to get going.

"First, Shadow-312 is going to go back into the Time- Splitter."

"OK," I nodded.

"See this faint line," Shadow pointed. "That's his path."

I noticed it went everywhere on the screen. But it wasn't blinking like the other lines did when there was an incoming or outgoing other-Shadow or other-me.

"You know, you're right. That's really odd," the Shadows agreed when I pointed it out to them.

"But as near as we can figure, this Shadow-312's got to go back into the Time-Splitter to throw the Time-Catcher off. Something distracted that old Time-Catcher and saved all the other-Georges and other-Shadows, and as far as we can tell from the Tryptic, it's not you and me, so it's got to be Shadow-312, right?"

"Makes sense," I agreed. For some reason, this time stuff was really starting to come together in my head.

"This is the path Shadow-312 and his George-312 originally took to find Mary. We have to follow it to catch up with them."

Then we were waving goodbye to Shadow-312 as he walked toward the door of the Time-Splitter.

I sneezed, and Shadow turned to say "Bless you," and when we looked back the 312th Shadow was gone. We hadn't seen the door open up, and I could swear I saw him pop in mid-air before he reached the door, but I wasn't totally sure.

Then the next instant the clock "CUCKOO"ed and what looked like Shadow-312 popped out and jumped off the diving board, landing in front of us. Of course, I figured I was mistaken about him not entering the Time-Splitter. He had obviously forgotten something and headed back, so I dismissed the doubts from my mind with a shrug.

Shadow-312 whispered something to my-Shadow, who pulled out the Tryptic and made some adjustments, and then put it back into the Time-Splitter.

This time I saw Shadow-312 step inside the door. A second later the clock "CUCKOO"ed and he walked out of the top door, dove off the diving board and disappeared.

I figured we'd better get going too, so I stepped toward the Time-Splitter door. But it suddenly swung open and a hairy hand reached out and grabbed the Tryptic out of the slot and disappeared back inside.

"The Time-Catcher!" Shadow warned, and he pulled me away.

"But he's got the Tryptic. We'll never get Mary!" I gasped.

"Don't worry, George. Shadow-312, or at least I assume that was 312, although something seemed very different about him when he came back again..."

Apparently Shadow had had his doubts as well.

"Anyway, he came back to warn us," Shadow was saying. "I changed the settings on the Tryptic. The Time-Catcher will have no idea where any of the Georges or Shadows will be going."

"But the Tryptic...how will we know where to go without it?" I cried.

"Don't worry, George. I memorized the path exactly. I've got it all under control."

"But don't we need the Tryptic to go into a Time-Splitter?"

"Yes, but there's no need to go through it again. We only have one path to follow. Besides, it would be extremely dangerous to go back into a Time-Splitter, now. They're all hooked to a central terminal, and the Time-Catcher has surely sounded the alarm. They'll be keeping an eye out for us now."

"You mean we're wanted men?" I sighed.

"Wanted man and shadow, anyway," Shadow laughed.

I failed to find the humor in our predicament. Things were starting to look hopeless again, if you asked me. "So how can we YODEL to all the places we have to go? I only have one piece of gum left!"

Shadow put his arm around me. "Don't look so glum, silly. We're going to get you a YODELcar, George. What do you think of that!"

"A what?"

"Just blow a bubble already; we've got a lot of ground to cover.


Trying Every Path
( Chapter 30- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)

Next chapter
Back to Main Menu


Buy the paperback edition of

290 pages, paperback
$4.79 at Amazon.com

99 cent Kindle Edition

Illustrated edition of


99 cent Kindle Edition