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David KraueterI couldn¹t take myself away from it. I wanted to see what happened next.
—(David Kraueter, author of Radio and Television Pioneers)
Rudy Styne, reporter for Modern Times wakes up one morning to a foreboding dream which comes true later in the day. Having never had a psychic experience before, the metropolitan decides to research the topic for an ...
Rudy Styne, reporter for Modern Times wakes up one morning to a foreboding dream which comes true later in the day. Having never had a psychic experience before, the metropolitan decides to research the topic for an article for his magazine. He interviews Egyptian superpsychic Abdullah Manu, visits an avatar in Bhutan, and also uncovers a Eurasian plot to topple the West by infiltrating the country with cybernetic soldiers, in part, so that they can murder Western parapsychologists.
Rudy and his hip girlfriend, Chessie Barnsworth, meet up with amiable neurophysicist, Dr. Imo Bern, at an international symposium on psycho-tronics in Italy. To his dismay, the journalist discovers that the young doctor is an associate of the notorious ex-KGB agent, Georgi Boshtov, who he suspects is in charge of this grisly Eurasian crusade.
Rudy uncovers more details, and be-gins to suspect that Abdullah Manu may be their ultimate target. In his attempts to alert the West, Rudy must now contend with the great skepticism of the American establishment, as he finds to his horror that he himself may become their next victim.
New York City
The rhythmic clang thwacked his slumbering brain, jostling the man into a semi-awakened state. Groping the darkness, past the alarm clock, his hand settled on the telephone, which rattled in its cradle until he fumbled it to his ear.
"Rudy, are you OK?" A voice sounded uneasy on the other side of the line.
He blinked at the red clock numbers as they came into focus: 5:42. "Chess, is that you?" Stunned, he sat there trying to clear the cobwebs. "One second, babe, give me one second." Why had his girlfriend called at such an ungodly hour?
"I'm so glad you're there. I just had this terrible dream that you were run down by a creepy grocery van. I'm so relieved you're all right. It seemed so real....Is Vermont still on for the weekend?"
"Are you kidding, absolutely not. Our relationship is over."
"Great, it will be good to get away. Be careful today, hon." Chessie hung up the phone with a smile. She was looking forward to their getaway.
Rolling out of bed, waking man stumbled into the bathroom to adjust the shower. It was another work day, a Tuesday to be exact. As he waited for the dribbling water to slowly warm, he listened to the occasional truck clatter over a patch of cobblestone which lay at the base of his building. Gazing up, the 34-year-old man stared at yet another irrepressible roach scamper along the top of the tile, a quarter inch from the ceiling. "Jeeze," he mumbled, as he grabbed the back end of a razor, and stood upon the toilet seat to crush the bastard vermin. Disgusted, he reached for a Kleenex to scoop up the slimy mess and flush it down. He pushed aside the plastic curtain to step gingerly into the still cool spray. God, he hated the plumbing in this place, he thought, as he washed away the night and thought about Chessie's odd call.
Grabbing yesterday's towel, Rudy turned the radio on to listen to the news. Something about jazz and an Alaskan airplane crash and two dead congressmen. He heard no more, as he stopped quickly to fix some stale toast and reheated coffee as still in a daze he gazed drearily into the murky gray which clung like a cape over the predawn skyline; and before he knew it, the metropolitan reporter was down the stairs and outside, dodging a yellow cab to cross the street to catch the downtown local. Rudy waved hello to Carl, the grocery man's son, who was just emerging from his bright white delivery truck, when suddenly the rattle of dull green-paneled van could be gleaned screaming dizzily down the shiny cobblestones. Rudy caught Carl's eye turn to horror. Brakes jammed as the delinquent van skidded before impact. Carl's body lay smashed, sandwiched between the two now silent vehicles, his package of groceries scattered, the dreams of his father shattered.
Two Years Ago
High in the Hindu Kush, along the Baroghil Pass, Chi Jhenghis enjoyed milking his father's shaggy yak herd in 50° below zero weather. Even as a small child he had loved the extreme cold, the smell of frozen shrubs, the crisp lingering echoes and stinging shivers of chilled winds. Alone in the frozen crystal barn, the Tajik youth rhythmically tugged on the animal's firm pink teats as whitish gray fluid squirted into his rusted metal pail. Concentrating on his job, Chi did not hear the snow-crunching footsteps approach until his eye caught the long shadow growing under the barn's wooden saloon doors. They swung open as he heard his grandfather's voice.
"Chi," grandpa said, "hurry up, or you'll miss your mother's blood pudding!" The old farmer's head remained in shadow as the backlit sun cast yellow shafts through his rugged woolen-hooded parker. He smiled deeply, his 80-year-old eyelashes glistening with melted snowflakes in the dawn light; the breath of each word hovered in misty rainbows as grandpa moved forward in a steady bowlegged flow.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Both men froze as the shrieking scream of a lone timber wolf pierced the air. There had been reports of six villagers missing within the last three weeks. Many of the old women blamed it on animal spirits; but the old man sensed a different presence. A descendant of Genghis Khan, who ruled the region in the 13th century, the elderly Mongolian could smell the evil of deeper danger, human head hunters, modern technological warriors who had overrun his country these past score years.
"Chi," he said, his manner changing as swiftly as the wind, "prepare for the shadow of our Great One. Hurry along before your pudding turns to ice." He grabbed the youngster by the protective collar and huddled him back to the house.
Chi's mother, father, two brothers and four sisters had already started nibbling dried strips of squirrel meat as he and grandpa entered the warm kitchen. Father added more coal to the cast iron stove.
"Burrr," Mother Jhenghis said. "Close that door and bring yak's milk here. You must have our cool blood pudding son, before hot potato soup. We don't want your teeth to cold crack from the bite of winter's chill." She smiled broadly revealing a full set of saw-toothed incisors. The children giggled gleefully.
Mother Jhenghis reached into their live food cage and grabbed a squirming squirrel firmly by the scruff of its neck. As she held the chubby rodent over the milk pail with her left hand, her right clasped their sacred dinner knife. Plunging the blade in under the chin, she slit through to the pulsing aorta and heart. Bleeding red juices drained into the sloshing milk, as one of the sisters stirred the now pink coagulation with a brown wooden spoon. This was the family's favorite breakfast, a rare treat for midwinter.
Bang! A shot exploded, splintering open the front door as four armed Ukrainian soldiers smashed their way in, and forced the family against the back wall. Still holding their food bowls, three of the four sisters shook in unison by the clan's live food cage as the remaining squirrels tore around it in a maddened pace. Father and Grandpa Jhenghis turned squarely to face their enemy.
"Come here," one of the soldiers motioned to Chi and his two brothers. The trooper whipped his rifle across their behinds as he separated the boys and started them for the door. "Recruits," he mumbled, pointing his weapon at Mr. Jhenghis' face, which scowled grimly in return. Grandpa reached for the sacred knife. Ukrainian weapons spit forth, disgorging the old man with six lead slugs. Red gobs sputtered from the heart wounds as grandpa shuddered briefly.
Avoiding the eyes of the family, the commander threw back the youngest son, handcuffed the older two and marched them out onto the cold tundra. A transport vehicle rolled into sight as black army boots kicked the brothers on board. Chi Jhenghis tried fruitlessly to get one last look at his home, but he would never see his family again.