The Know: Preservation by Ed Kurst by Ed Kurst - Read Online

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Summary

John Preston sets aside the easy bullet that would end his certain, lingering death. He now Knows too much. His mind has just returned from a wild ride tens of thousands of years into the past, where he witnessed three primitive humans divining a path to save humankind from a fiery global catastrophe. What John now Knows might cure him but could also require that he shred the very fabric of time and space.

John’s quest for answers thrusts him into the lead role to confront the Consortium, a cabal of eight families with the power to Know the future and the past. Guided by John’s latent Know ability and a seventy-thousand-year-old prophecy, he sets out on a path for his own salvation. Success will mean life. Failure…a cruel doom for all humankind.

Preservation is the first book in the Know Trilogy, which wraps a new theory of space-time, humankind’s evolution, millennia-old conspiracies, and imminent global destruction around a broken man’s redemption, an evil man’s reckoning, and a driven woman’s unique destiny.

Published: Ed Kurst on
ISBN: 9780997363517
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Page 1 of 1

The Know: Preservation

Ed Kurst

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

About this Book

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Maps of New Chernobyl

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Also by Ed Kurst

About the Author

THE KNOW: PRESERVATION Copyright © 2016 Ed Kurst. All rights reserved. You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws.


Editing:

Ebook Formatting Fairies


Cover and Interior Design:

Mallory Rock


The Know: Preservation is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

Created with Vellum

About this Book

John Preston sets aside the easy bullet that would end his certain, lingering death. He now Knows too much. His mind has just returned from a wild ride tens of thousands of years into the past, where he witnessed three primitive humans divining a path to save humankind from a fiery global catastrophe. What John now Knows might cure him but could also require that he shred the very fabric of time and space.

John’s quest for answers thrusts him into the lead role to confront the Consortium, a cabal of eight families with the power to Know the future and the past. Guided by John’s latent Know ability and a seventy-thousand-year-old prophecy, he sets out on a path for his own salvation. Success will mean life. Failure…a cruel doom for all humankind.

Preservation is the first book in the Know Trilogy, which wraps a new theory of space-time, humankind’s evolution, millennia-old conspiracies, and imminent global destruction around a broken man’s redemption, an evil man’s reckoning, and a driven woman’s unique destiny.

To my loving parents, Rosemary and Rod

Acknowledgments

Now I know why authors take the time to thank so many people. Writing and publishing, especially for a first-time self-published author, is a complicated and exhausting activity. You need a wonderful group of people to support you.

I’ve already thanked my parents in the dedication, but I’m going to do it again. Thank you! Without them, I wouldn’t be here or have had a life that prepared me to write a book.

I want to extend my special appreciation to my wife. She was a great source of encouragement as I wrote and rewrote…and rewrote this book. She also served as an invaluable beta reader and contributor.

My brother is the natural storyteller in the family and the person who inspired me to take a shot at this. He was also a beta reader. Don’t let anyone tell you that family simply tells you what you want to hear. Ha!

My content editor is a saint. She read the first draft of this book, bled red all over it, and wrote an extraordinarily diplomatic and constructive ten-page critique. While expertly ripping it to shreds, she also miraculously made me feel good.

Thank you Formatting Fairies for the professional copyediting of my manuscript. Thank you Novel Publicity for turning my vague ideas for a book cover and a website into a beautiful reality and for getting my novel to print.

Chapter One

The Consortium

Ukraine

Do you not lust for the power wielded by the original Families?!

Wolfgang Aleksandr, Head of Family Russia, Chairman of the Consortium, pounded the octagonal table in front on him with a massive fist. Six of the other seven Consortium members flinched despite being present only as holograms. He knew that it had not been his physical movement but their reflexive fear of his mental powers that caused alarm. His ability to control and influence was legendary even among this group, and their reactions pleased him.

Jessica Meda, the only other member of the Consortium physically present, remained composed. As she searched his face, her head tilted, sending a rippling sheen through her long black hair. A small smile graced her strong features as she placed a reassuring hand on his arm.

Wolfgang, perhaps we need to explain the proposal better to our colleagues.

She paused and spread her arms wide. Or maybe there are others who already agree and would like to speak for our cause?

Aleksandr calmed, as he often did under Jessica’s—America’s—subtle influence. Yes, perhaps. Speak, he rumbled, his gaze passing around the room.

To his right, Africa and Sumeria, both equally powerful members of these ruling elite, were silent.

The elderly China conferred quietly for a few seconds with a stunningly sensual young woman seated next to him, India. Then he spoke softly. We are essentially neutral in this matter but recommend caution.

Aleksandr bunched his fists and ground his teeth. Such an equivocal answer from China was a not-so-subtle rebuke. He leaned forward, felt the shirt stretch tight across his broad back.

Aleksandr knew his heavy browed features could be frightening, his golden-brown eyes seeming almost to shimmer in the darkness of the overhang. Even Jessica recoiled at the vile thoughts that billowed out from his mind. Seeing her reaction, he mastered himself.

In a low, firm voice, Aleksandr stated, Our Enhancer project, our means to tap almost infinite power, nears completion.

He flung his hand outward in a broad, sweeping gesture. It will boost all of your abilities to see the future and influence the past, without match in the modern world. As a group we will be able to change history, and both anticipate and shape the future. Why not extract our full reward, become as gods among the rest of the planet’s rabble?

The dimly lit room went quiet once more. Only America was nodding in assent. Across the table from Jessica sat Europe, a middle-aged, paunchy man with balding pate.

Angry at the lack of support for Aleksandr’s proposal, Europe spat, "I for one agree with Aleksandr! My forebears were Roman emperors, conquered the world. I am tired of being snubbed by Western bourgeoisie, being treated as a money-grubbing merchant despite the fact that I hold their fortunes and futures in my hands. I inherited my Family’s full ability and require no enhancement, unlike many around this table. Only the board-imposed mandate of anonymity hampers my ambitions."

He stood and shook his bunched fists in the air. Spittle flew from his holographic mouth. His voice rose an octave and quavered with emotion. I deserve overt acknowledgment and accolades, not simply the spoils garnered from behind the scene. I have the right to publicly command fear and respect from these pretenders. I demand we make this change even if Aleksandr’s ambitious Enhancer fails.

Europe looked around, realizing the spectacle he had just made, and sat his holographic form down. He made two swishing motions with his hands across the solid top of the table and finished in a low voice, You have my support.

Africa, stolid as an obsidian statue, did not break his silence, but his expression spoke to agreement with China and India. Sumeria’s reaction remained unreadable, his visage hidden by the hooded cloak of his region’s traditional garb.

Aleksandr rubbed a broad hand across his forehead and cast a welcoming glance across the table to one of the original Families, inviting her to comment, to add her much respected wisdom to advocate his position.

Australia appeared as an elderly, small-statured Aboriginal. She was dressed in plain, everyday housewife’s garb.

Her presence to some was at times unsettling, born of a reputation of knowing too much detail of the distant past. No one understood how she could speak authoritatively on times that predated the Families’ first contact in Mesopotamia. She even espoused firsthand knowledge of actions dating back to the dawn of humankind.

Australia narrowed her eyes, her expression now filled with disgust at Europe’s naked display of greed and cruelty. In a scolding tone entirely appropriate for a centenarian, she chastised the entire group. Patience! We are not here to squabble about territory, profit or old grievances, no matter how well-documented or deeply felt.

She paused to spear Europe with her eyes. Long ago we agreed to the enormous expense of the Enhancer project because it is the only means to reverse the genetic drift that has dissipated our Families’ ancestral abilities. We are finally on the verge of success, and now this proposal? What Russia, America and Europe are promoting is fraught with danger. It would be a fundamental change in how the Consortium interacts with the world, how visible we will be, how we intend to survive or thrive in the future.

Sweeping the entire group with a dark stare, her voice now carried a winter frost. We all know the history of those Family Heads, convinced of their superiority, their apparent godhood. Hitler, Genghis Khan, the self-proclaimed god-kings of Egypt and Göbekli Tepe… All believed they could manipulate time without consequence, stand proud above normal humans. In the end, either humanity at large or the Consortium itself had to stop them, costing us decades and sometimes centuries to recoup our position in the world. Keep in mind when you vote today what the perceived rapture of overt control may cost us all in the end.

Aleksandr clenched his jaw and glared at her. Clearly he had misread Australia, but he sat motionless and held his tongue.

Sumeria finally broke his silence and stood, a full two meters tall. The cryptic Family Head of a region covering the entire Middle East and northern Africa was dressed in Bedouin garb. His thin, ascetic features remained mostly obscured by the kufiya. Not even Aleksandr knew his true identity.

He nodded his hooded head toward China, India, and Africa and spoke in a rich deep voice. Some of you are wavering in resolve or incapable of decision—he motioned in an oddly respectful manner toward Australia—while others would nobly lecture us about what has been rather than what could be. No matter. It is clear that positions have firmed, so let us dispense with further discussion.

Aleksandr acknowledged Sumeria’s recommendation by calling for a formal vote. The proposal to step from behind humankind’s seats of power and rule directly with their abilities failed. Russia, America, and Europe were the minority.

Then we are adjourned, he announced sharply.

The hologram images flickered, then winked out.

Aleksandr pulled his chair closer to Jessica, sat down and placed a rugged, meaty palm on her thigh. Though I had hoped you were wrong for once, your advanced Knowledge of this meeting played true.

She leaned in to him and put one hand on his broad chest. Yes, dear Wolfgang. And though the specific outcome of our plans is hidden from me by the many trying to influence them, I do Know the project will go forward in the coming days. Have we not prepared for this eventuality?

He ran a hand through his Caesar-cut white hair. We need only the key data from the American government’s linear accelerator project. I have already dispatched our agents to procure it and then destroy all that they have built.

Chapter Two

The Know

Houston, Texas

I didn’t need the Know to realize my time was short.

My attention was focused on the ten views displayed on the video screen at the opposite end of the long conference table. I mentally ticked off the key participants: three executive VPs, the five refinery managers, two chemical plant managers, and a half dozen key facilities, technology, and planning experts from the seven sites. Some were normal, conscientious people. Some used their massive egos to rule fiefdoms of self-interest. Planning the twenty-billion-dollar petrochemical complex in India a few years ago was simple compared to this project.

My boss, the lead facilities engineer—Craig—and the lead cost engineer were in the room with me. My friend Craig had poked fun at me a few minutes before. John, keep it simple, yeah? Explain so we non-geniuses can understand.

Asshole. I had punched him in the shoulder. That was Craig’s way of telling me I was a wordy bastard.

The low buzz of conversation ended as I convened the session. Thanks for taking time out of your day to attend this project review. We’re here to discuss the results of the feasibility study to meet the requirements of the new EPA rule 2035 covering refining and chemical facilities in the US. I’ll get to the bottom line on capital investment first so we can get sticker shock out of the way…

I delicately traveled the path of each of their thoughts into the very near future to determine what they would think, how they would respond. I could also delve into an immediate past I’d never experienced. I thought of it as an expanded view of the present, or now, rather than time travel. Physical distance never mattered. Knowing their needs and desired outcomes for the project allowed me to tailor my general presentation with supplemental handouts, something that drove my boss nuts.

But I had to be judicious with this technique. Too many prescient manipulations made the future cloudy and unpredictable even to me. Finally all the lines of disagreement dissolved. The intersection of common ground became evident, and I had them all.

I wasn’t weaving a spell or anything, and my motivation wasn’t self-aggrandizement. I saw it as an efficiency, clearing the way of unnecessary prejudices or hidden agendas. I did it for the good of all the dedicated people working on the project, none of whom needed a divided management to make their job more difficult.

But using even this little bit of Know had exacted its penalty, as evidenced by the fact that I felt like I was going to die. What bolstering of stamina and strength I had received from my cocktail of drugs this morning had gushed out of my body like blood from a severed artery. But I had planned for this and turned the cost and schedule section over to the technical experts.

I slumped as inconspicuously as possible into my chair. As I rested, my mind drifted, remembering other versions of the Know I had exhibited growing up.

I’d had this ability to Know things ever since I could remember: the number of pennies in a sideshow jar, where lightning would strike, the lost combinations to some school lockers. It wasn’t always predictable or controllable or, therefore, all that useful. As I had grown up, I understood better what information to trust, how to engage it somewhat at will. But it was an experience during my first week at college that had taught me a lifelong lesson about my Know.

I’d been having fun in a poker game, predicting outcomes of the hands out loud. Stupid, naïve kid that I was, I hadn’t put together the fact that I was dealing while doing this. Well, Lloyd concluded I was cheating, and it was pointless to tell him I simply I Knew it.

Drawn knife, threat to take a pound of flesh… I ran out, my good buddy Bill following me, and we barricaded ourselves in our dorm room. To get out, Mr. Bill, as I called him, made a bedsheet rope so we could climb out the second-story window. I was first over the ledge, a knot unraveled, and bam, I was on the ground with a broken leg. Mr. Bill never stopped apologizing.

Perhaps it was my small-town values or maybe the unpredictability and worry about collateral damages as a result of using my ability, but after that I pretty much stopped using my Know for personal gain. The final deterrent…? Well, that was the viral infection a year later, after which any significant use of my ability left me exhausted for days. The legacy of that same illness was likely the reason I was now tethered to an IV each and every day of my limited life.

Craig gently poked my ribs with his elbow, bringing me back from my Know-origins reverie, and whispered urgently in my ear, John. Hey, John! Couple of minutes and you’ll be up again.

I could tell by his expression that I must look awful. He didn’t seem surprised when I leaned over and quietly said, I’m done for. You wrap it up. Just use Appendix C to get the plant managers on board.

Before he could respond, I stood, teetered a moment, and then walk stiff-legged out of the conference room. It felt like I was carrying Mt. Rushmore on my back. I didn’t care anymore, not about anything: this meeting, my job, life.

I had to lean on the walls of the hallway to keep myself upright, had to stop halfway back to my office, panting as a shot of burning, stabbing pain lanced through my knee joints. I barely slogged the rest of the way.

After closing the door, I fell against it with a dull thud, my legs trembling with the effort of standing. I took two deep breaths, stumbled forward and collapsed into the chair behind my desk.

God, I was tired, and now my skin was starting to feel like it was burning, the slight breeze from the ventilation ducts in the ceiling brushing the nerves raw. The fentanyl patch I was wearing wasn’t enough. If I didn’t get ahead of the pain, it would soon progress from this agony to crippling.

Cold sweat was dripping down my face and sopping my armpits. My breathing became sharp and shallow. I popped two ten-milligram Vicodin, chewed, grimaced at the bitter taste, and swallowed. I considered a third but remembered I’d just upped the dose on my fentanyl patch. The pain would soon subside, at least to a tolerable level.

A sharp knock at the door jolted me from my stupor. The clock on my desk said two hours had passed. In burst Craig, all smiles. John, buddy. The presentation was a success. Everything’s approved. You have to come with me to sign the final papers. He paused a moment, obviously seeing my haggard expression. Hey, really, you have to come. Let me help.

I pushed his well-intentioned hand away. I was no one’s burden. Despite the illness, I could damn well get up and walk by myself.

I hated others treating me as an invalid. Worse, I had worked really hard during brief periods of remission to stay fit, so at over six feet, I didn’t look that sick, yet. Some were suspicious that my malady was all in my head. The rest just pitied me. Shit, any of these reactions pissed me off.

But Craig never insisted on something if it wasn’t important.

I can make it. Just walk slowly, huh? I shambled after him to the large conference room.

When we got there, he opened the door. To my astonishment, he half pushed me into a dark room.

Surprise!

The overhead lighting blinked on, and I was nearly blinded by half a dozen camera flashes. The place was packed full of smiling and applauding people. On the big mahogany table were presents and a huge cake. Across the back wall hung a banner exclaiming, Congratulations on Your Retirement!

My mind was still a fog of drugs, and the pain was still scraping at me, but I did my best to slap on a smile and look pleased. Twenty-plus years of hard work and an early retirement on an extra-generous pension, for most people a dream.

All I could think was, Well, they won’t have to pay that pension for very long. I wasn’t hanging around for the full month of physical degradation and agony I knew was coming.

I managed to make the rounds for twenty minutes, listening more than talking. With all the pain meds in me, intelligent thought was pretty much beyond my capability. Then there were some speeches, funny gifts, and more milling about. All nice, I guess, my old friends showing up. But right now, I really didn’t give a shit. I wanted to lie down and take more drugs.

Besides, I was never going to see any of them again, not in this life.

Craig saw through my mask. He extricated me from the crowd and walked me out of the room. John, so many people wanted to wish you well, and you’ve been refusing any kind of send-off. But if I’d realized just how bad you were today, I’d have canceled.

I leaned against the hallway wall, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Hey, no problem. I licked my lips, mouth cotton-dry. Thanks, really. Means a lot to me. But I gotta go while I still can. Make some excuse, huh? You’ve gotten good at that for me lately. I smiled weakly.

Sure, sure. Um, I can drive you—

No!

Geez, do I look that bad? I probably do, but fuck it, I’m gonna drive home on my own power.

Craig knew when to back off, so he left me and headed back to the party. I didn’t even bother to get my briefcase, just took the elevator to the ground floor and trudged to my parking spot. I adjusted the rearview mirror, my normally dark blue eyes looking a washed-out gray.

Even this early in the afternoon, Houston highways could freeze into one massive metal and concrete parking lot. I preferred the back roads that wound through the warehouse and small business districts. After two years of commuting, I could do it on autopilot.

Halfway home, I heard a loud hum, just within reach, simultaneously at the low and high limits of hearing. It started to fill in with a roaring, hissing static. The cacophony of sounds rapidly intensified until I could barely make a conscious decision. This escalation had happened on occasion, presaging a Know, but it had never been this deafening or lasted this long.

My vision suddenly filled with sparkles. Anticipating a seizure, I spun the wheel to get off the road and then lost control as the vehicle launched off a curb and barreled into an abandoned parking lot. Just as the world disappeared into a vast gulf of nothingness, I saw a brick wall rush at me, and I slammed on the brakes.

Chapter Three

The Great Migration

Not in Houston, Texas

Am I dead?

I couldn’t hear, touch, move. Bodiless, my consciousness careened down a corridor of utter blackness. Yet there was something there, something my mind was connected to in a way that had never happened before.

Falling into this endless spinning void, I began to thrash around in a panic. At the same time, my heart raced in exhilaration and anticipation. I slowed and then paused in the uncertain darkness. It was as if I was standing on tiptoe at the edge of the Grand Canyon in the dead of night, arms spread wide, waiting for the whipping winds to lift me into flight or potentially cast me into oblivion.

All that separated me from familiar reality was a transparent black membrane. Beyond, tall grasses waved on a moonlit plain, eventually breaking against thickening scrub brush and a forested area. I pressed my consciousness against the fragile boundary and pushed through.

On the edge of the forest, primitive humans spoke in low, guttural voices. I was drawn inexorably to the eldest at the gathering and entered her mind. I was still myself but also simultaneously viewed, felt, and watched from within her at this gathering. Her present, her experiences, her thoughts were now mine.

Immediately sensing my presence, she pushed me gently but firmly to a mental arm’s length and silently commanded, ‘Traveler, observe.’

She is ancient, sitting cross-legged on the ground, shifting uncomfortably, edging a little closer to the warmth of the fire pit. Her limbs are bony. No meat or muscle is left to cushion her from the hard-packed dirt. Seamed by hundreds of fine crisscrossing wrinkles, her skin is burnt brown by long years in the sun. She is the oldest tribesman within memory of the three clans, having seen four generations birthed. Tril, like a bird’s call, is her name.

Her language is more rudimentary than a modern human’s, but this merging I have as the Traveler allows me to understand all. Her mind is anything but simple. I sense her consciousness overlaps an almost limitless domain, the same expanse of black nothingness I crossed to come to this place and time.

Eyes closed, she contemplates the future she Knows, a great doom so very distant in time. I can feel the burden of this knowledge within me. This Know is the reason she has brought the group together. These events, though far away from her time, are also dangerously close if she and her companions are to affect the outcome.

The others’ bodies are in shadow, their faces only dimly visible in the light, their hands casting fuzzy shadows as they gesticulate while they speak. They all wear pieces of skin only at their loins. Scraps of bone or feather hang from their necks or are wrapped around their wrists.

Tril has been meeting and talking with them since earlier in the day. For the first time this evening, she sits quietly, listening to the others debate. She opens her eyes, dark blue, almost black, like no others I have ever seen. She casts them overhead to the lights in the sky.

She lets down her guard. Or has she come to trust me more? I draw closer to her mind.

It is such a clear night sky, the stars scintillating against the blackness. I sense Tril believes this is a good omen. Through her I can smell the acrid scent of the burning wood and hear the crackle of the fire. The ever-present background hissing of the sand blowing through the distant scrub mixes with the rustling of dry leaves right above the wooded campsite. Occasionally the sounds of a predator’s cough and a prey’s terrified squeal punctuate the night.

It has been a long time since these clans were on cordial terms. Only she remembers the last time such a council of Elders occurred.

The other two clan leaders had not been interested in the meeting at first, and getting them to meet in person had tried even her legendary patience. To gain their attention fully, she had used her status as Eldest to bully them. Such a scolding she had not given them since they were both children generations ago. With a small inward smile, she realized once again that simple age was a most effective weapon in her arsenal.

She tells them again of the great doom. The Fiery Catastrophe will come. This I Know. But their faces are stony. Squarely facing her companions across the dimming campfire, she asks sternly, Do you doubt my Know?

The elder of the two men, Nok, has seen her ability. He looks away from her stare and responds with a casual wave of a knobby, arthritic hand. No.

The younger, athletic man shrugs but also shakes his head side to side. Resh is giving some little bit of grudging acceptance. Yet he appears not to understand fully what she has told them or why he should believe her.

Seeing their response, she presses harder. My Know speaks more strongly to me than any time in my life. We must act or perish.

I see this garners more attention, and as Nok is about to speak, I feel an irresistible force grasp me. Pfft! I am cast into the air like a handful of sugar-sand, then drawn to Nok like finely powdered metal is pulled irresistibly to a strong magnet. I am bound to him, yet still separate.

I am now viewing from Nok’s perspective. I know he is closest in age to Tril, having seen three generations. She was at his birthing years ago. I can feel his brow wrinkle, can feel the arthritic pain from crooked hands and swollen knuckles.

His skin is a natural nut-brown and a patchwork of wrinkles. As he stares across at her, through his eyes I see the ancient female I had just inhabited moments before. Flat-breasted and bony, covered with sparse, patchy white hair, she is a person not far away from the last sleep. Yet she still has fire behind her eyes and a keen intelligence. When she gazes at Nok, her stare cuts through him like a fine flint spear. She seems to look past him into the emptiness beyond the lights in the distant night sky. This troubles him.

He asks, "What is your meaning, Tril? Your clan will die?"

When she does not immediately respond, he presses further, dread leaking into his feeble, high-pitched voice, "All three of our clans will perish?"

Calmly, with the confidence of her Knowledge, she responds, No, my old friend. I Know that everything will cease to be.

The time of the Great Death! Nok gasps, and his head jerks back.

Nok brings Knowledge of the far-past to the talks. He now relives the last great catastrophe that befell all the People. It was a desperate fight for survival that almost removed them from the Land. I feel him revisit this Know in his mind, and it leaves both of us cold and empty inside. In parts of the world, a whole generation of the People scavenged like vicious animals and ate their old and sick. His feelings press down as if he is shouldering the full weight of a hundred-year tree.

Before he can say more, I hear a sound in my mind like that made by a giant feline predator, back arched and spitting and hissing defiance. I am once again flung out, pfft… I am now bound to Resh, and his almost superhuman vitality surges into my mind. I would do anything to feel this way again!

A slight sound catches his attention. He snatches a nearby spear and whirls around, back to the fire pit, crouching, the spear’s point slightly elevated. I feel his fear, his exhilaration. Resh moves with agility and speed, heavy muscles rippling with anticipation. When he realizes that the sound is only that of a clansman walking too close to our camp, he relaxes again, sits back down between the other two and fingers the necklace of Great Cat teeth strung around our neck, reminders of his greatest kills. He is his clan’s Know-leader as well as their lead hunter.

I look across the glowing coals. Through his eyes, I see two very old people and feel his disdain. Resh’s Know reveals an incredibly detailed skein of the near future. His roots in the now are so strong, he believes death will never catch him.

He pounds his chest with one large fist and in a deep, booming voice challenges Tril. Nok may Know a similar time, the Great Death. I do not. I am of the here and now. Tell me once again. Defend your Know to me, what it means to us in the now.

As he finishes his last sentence and before Tril can speak, once more, pfft…I am hurled outward, an omnipresent observer. Now I understand. I have Traveled through the void to the African savanna tens of thousands of years ago. The time that Nok remembers, which almost doomed the fledgling Homo sapiens species, was the Toba volcano mega-eruption that occurred over seventy thousand years ago. These three clans that now gather are one of the few enclaves of people from which all modern humanity descended.

As soon as I complete this thought, I am drawn back into Tril’s cavernous mind. She replies to Resh, I Know of two great events coming in the distant future, and they will occur far from this land. I see them looking forward and also view them looking back.

Her two companions’ faces screw up in confusion. I see this, am also confused, and somehow urge Tril to explain further. Seeming to receive my message, Tril speaks again.

I see with my own Know and at times with the eyes of others far away in the future. I am bonded in a strange way with the minds of three others. One, an old man, head full of white frazzled hair and a mind full of strange symbols and markings, often helps me understand what I am seeing. The second is too distant for even me to view, only a hazy, floating outline. The last is a younger though fully mature man. He Travels through time, is with us even now, and will greatly affect the outcome.

With this statement, for just an instant, I can feel her mind merge with mine. She has been aware of my mind-hopping. Her consciousness seems limitless in power and scope. Images, instructions, pass to me too quickly to grasp, trapped below my conscious threshold. Then a calming, reassuring touch and the encounter is gone, our thoughts still intermingled but mine under my control once again.

Nok is nodding, but Resh’s reaction is more substantial. His face seems to pull in upon itself, and he averts his gaze. His large hands clench and unclench several times, his shoulders hunch, and a slight shiver runs through his muscular frame. His hard gray eyes cast about, beset by doubt, afraid of something he cannot use his physical prowess to overcome.

He peers back at us once again. He is here, now, listening, watching? A ghost?

No, not one of the dead, but yes, a spirit of sorts, she answers quietly.

Resh shakes his head of curly black hair and rubs his arms as if scraping off some sort of imaginary slime. He appears to gain control of his emotions, so she continues to describe her Know.

The People must survive two great calamities. The first has already begun and will soon affect the Land. A great cold descends upon us. It will bring snow and ice to much of the world, higher than a man’s height times the number of days in a year. The minds of these future men tell me it will also cause deserts to form where there are now lush hunting grounds, lands to appear where there is now water.

Bah! We give respect to you, Elder, but you now treat us as fools. I have hunted far and wide, seen this snow and ice. It cannot cause what you describe. Why should we believe? Resh stands, spear in hand planted firmly in the ground, obviously considering leaving.

Her answer is simple and direct.

Join us.

And with those words, she fixes Resh with her eyes, mind reaching out to his, and he sees what she and I Know. Visions of the glaciers descend southward from the Arctic through Europe, North America, and Russia. Marshlands to the north of this campsite turn to desert. Islands across the world spring into being as the ice sheet sucks water from the oceans.

With gasping breath, Resh collapses to the ground and then scrambles to face her once again, Nok coming to his aid. Eyes still wild, his breathing gradually quiets as he cowers on the ground. Finally recovering more fully, he sits again at the fire, Nok a few feet away.

Never have I seen such. You honor me with your vision, with your Know. I believe what you say of the death by cold.

She sits unmoving, then nods her head in acceptance.

Good. Take heart. If we act soon, the People can escape this doom. But now I must tell you the worst of my two Knows. I see fire come from the sky. It will strike our world like no other force in our People’s memory. It will cause a catastrophe that makes the Great Death you have Known, dear Nok, seem as a warm breeze on a summer day. Not only all the People but also all the animals large and small on the land or in the sea may perish. Not a green plant may live after it befalls the world. The land itself could be destroyed. Such is my Know of the Fiery Catastrophe.

Nok and Resh exchange terrified glances, especially Resh after his recent experience with our minds. All that can be heard is an occasional pop from the dying fire and the sighing of the breeze in the trees above. It is Nok who breaks that silence.

Can these men from the future not tell you more? Can they not help you find a path? Can your Know not glean a way for the People to survive?

No…maybe.

Resh nearly bellows with frustration, Maybe! Why tell us of a death we cannot escape? Of what value is such a Know of the future?

"Not all Knows must come to pass. There is perhaps a way, but it is a long and deadly road. Great determination and even more sacrifice will be required, and there is no guarantee of success. And, we must embark upon this journey now even though the Fiery Catastrophe will not descend upon the Land for more generations than there are days in a year."

She struggles briefly and then stands, her back still straight despite her years. The fire flares, casting a giant shadow of her form against the trees behind her. She opens her arms wide to the sky as if beckoning her companions to follow her to the stars.

"We must spread our People across this world, far beyond this place, to give them a chance to survive. We must find a way to preserve and then strengthen