And there it was. Those footsteps again. The shadows of their echoes rebounded through his mind. His heart raced. Then there was silence. A slow drip-feed of emptiness. He fell to his knees, those words burning through his memory. Then with them his vision began to float through a tear filled world. The next moment an icy grip surrounded him, a vice of burning cold. There was no focus and his eyes began to blur through darkness. This void was a comfort, within there was nothing but death, this he knew was certain. Footsteps again, but the world was already gone. Death, a comfort, a victory. Footsteps closer still. His jacket flapped over him, the wind manipulating it around his body. A sigh. Footsteps. Then Silence.
A bell. Its chime shattering his very core. His eyes were drawn skyward, the rain reflecting the grey sky through a million liquid prisms. He cursed the gods, not that he believed in them, anything but curse himself.
Another chime and his eyes focused. 11:00AM. He was going to have to hurry. Muttering to himself, he moved against the flow of the crowds. Breathing deep, he quickened his pace, his head low. No need to look up, he could see all he needed from the pavement beneath him. A thought flashed across his mind. That girl. There was something.
As if deaths hand was laid across his shoulder, he felt the hairs trying to escape his body. He froze. His hand on the doors handle. It was those eyes. The rain continued to pour, and above, the heavens waged war on the sky.
Harvard. Two weeks at the university and Sam still didn’t know his way around. He often wondered whether the labyrinth-like nature of grounds and corridors was meant as a test. The harsh fluorescents of the lights which led in every direction pierced the soft blue of his eyes. Conspiring against him, working in tandem with his brain to concoct a world tearing migraine, he could feel it coming. Nothing he could do about it though, as he absent mindedly rubbed his rough fingertips against his throbbing temple.
He stepped through the doors and moved quickly, as a trail of rain which had begun running from his short auburn hair eventually reached the end of his nose. It irritated his face ever more so. He growled to himself lightly. Sucking air into his cheeks he blew it upwards, sending the droplet of rain into oblivion. The students around him were scurrying about, chatting, and laughing. It built up a deafening wall of unintelligible crap, a background which bared no consequence. That’s his words coming through my mouth again.
“Mr. Shepard!?” A voice came from behind him.
Sam kept walking whilst he ran his hand through his hair, a nervous tick he’d picked up at some point even he couldn’t remember. Turning down the corridor to the left he stopped at a large oak door. The Polished brass hinges and door handle were complimented by a large plate. [Professor Shepard]
Quickly, without knocking, he checked the handle, it moved down and the door lurched forward. He stepped inside and closed it quickly behind him. Breathing heavily he surveyed his new surroundings. There was nobody in the room. The entire wall he was now facing was being used as a bookcase, filled with historical volumes and first editions. Leather bound diaries and papered yellowed with age were spread out of the desk to his left. He turned and walked across the room, reaching the table. He looked to the floor, finding a chair lying on its back. Rolling his eyes, he bent at the knees and picked it up, putting it back on four legs.
Knock! Knock! Knock! A heavy fisted thud rang through the room, causing Sam to wince and his heart rate to spike. Had someone seen him come in here? He hadn’t been very careful at all. It’s the damned headaches. He really was getting sloppy. He looked around the room for somewhere to hide, his eyes darting to every corner of the room. They’d caught him, there wasn’t anything he could do now, but take the punishment.
“Come in” He said through gritted teeth, maybe a little harsher than he had meant it.
The door swung open, and Will Townsend filled the doorway. His glasses steaming up, with the change of temperature. Will was six foot two and built of straw. Through a dark navy sweater up to his neck, and a tailored blazer across that, you could see how fragile the boy was. That’s what he was. A boy. Not yet a man, his facial features still fresh as the days his mother used to bathe them. Not the faintest hint of stubble. Deep hazel puppy dog eyes, magnified by the designer glasses which helped with his long-sightedness.
“Hey Mr. Shepard I need to talk to you about the assignment? Are you busy?”
Sam stepped back and sat down at his desk. His hands clasping at the old wood, his fingertips grazing the grain. He looked up through the hair covering his eyes; he flicked it slightly so he could see the boy in front of him.
“Of course Will. How did you find the question?” Sam asked, tilting his head slightly.
“Mm…it’s not that I don’t understand the concepts...just sometimes I can’t help but wonder what the point is? I find myself researching and writing and it all means nothing. I’m never going to meet a raptor or operate on a triceratops...im wondering if im on the wrong course” Will stuttered. His face red. His hands by his sides rolling in and out fists.
Sam rolled his eyes.
“Me too kid.” He said quietly. Raising his hand to the bridge of his nose, pinching it and screwing his eyes together.
“History is more than about the physical world. Even if you don’t take into account the material evidence paleontology provides us with. There’s so many things it can tell us about the world we’re still living in, and without searching into its past, what the hell are we going to do about our future? Just because neither you, nor I, or anybody, will ever meet a prehistoric species, doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. Your never ‘gonna meet the president or operate on him, but I’m pretty fucking sure he’s gonna have some big parts to play in your life” With the last line, he ran his fingers through his hair again.
“Mm I just don’t know Mr. Shepard” He said, squirming.
“That’s fine. At least you’re admitting it. Go on then.” Sam pointed towards the door.
“So? Er..ahem..What do you suggest?” Will continued.
“Getting out of my office Will” Sam flashed back, sharply. A little voice in his head told him he was being harsh. He curled his lips up into a wry smile.
“oh..oh…kay” Will said, spinning on the spot and started towards the door. Confusion spiked throughout his brain. Questions circled him. Had Mr. Shepard told him to change major? Or stick with it and change his perceptions. He has a nagging feeling Mr. Shepard didn’t care.
A voice came from behind him.
“Kid. You’re bright. Read this, and if afterwards you still don’t see the valuable nature of history. Then ill happily talk through your other options for Majors.”
Will stepped forward towards the large imposing desk. Sam sat behind it, his broad shoulders filling a deep green buttoned down shirt. Will cast his eyes across Sam’s features, the blue of his eyes shone out in defiance from his brooding look and stubble covered jaw. Not groomed in such a way, it was just another result of another sleepless night. Will wasn’t great at determining age by just looking at someone, but he guessed that the man in his vision was in his late thirties. Most certainly one of the youngest professors at Harvard.
Sam reached down into the second draw down on his right and pulled out a thick leather bound journal. The leather was gently faded and the string tied across its breadth to keep it together was taut from the sheer volume of pages kept between the covers. He placed it in front of himself on the desk, before reaching down and again and pulling out a copy of ‘A brief history of time’ handing it over to young Will, with a wry smile.
Will turned the book over in his hands confused.
“Err. Thanks Mr. Shepard” He said. As he Stepped backwards and placed his hand onto the door handle. He had the strangest feeling he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He quickly pulled down the handle and stepped out into the brightness of the hallway.
Sam ran his fingers lightly across the twine of string which ran across the front cover of his journal. The fibers felt coarse against his fingertips. Un-twirling the knot left the cover free to open, and he opened the book, flicking through the pages. Sketches and annotations flashed across his vision, sparking with his brain. Teeth. Vertebrae. Skeletal diagrams punctuated with his own brand of narcissistic skepticism and undeniable brilliance. This journal represented a million miles of travel and a dozen generations of research. Flicking through the pages he came to a page with a thick scrolling wall of text. No sketches, just word after endless word. The heading read; The Ending?
Sam hurried through the wide corridors, not something he was inclined to do, but if he wanted to keep his position at the university, and all the possible avenues of research it opened up. He was going to have to keep lecturing the young minds that stared up at him. He was already feeling the wanderlust. He felt as though his feet were in quicksand, that he was being drown by the quickly rising torrents. He longed for the taste of African air, the sweet warm comfort that enveloped him. Or the sharp burning pleasure pain of oxygen deprivation of the Himalaya’s. He stared down at his palms, following the deep crevasses which swirled and flowed around them. Punctuated with scars. He closed his hands into light fists, feeling his nails against the smooth skin. He longed for dust and sand and snow. In his minds eye a herd of wilder beast rambled past, certain in their goal, eat..sleep..live. In reality what surrounded him was a veritable plethora of misery. From the deepest thinking paradoxical pro-life philosophers, to the super rich Orange County daddy’s girls there wasn’t a single student of interest. Often he’d despair for the future of America.
Step follows step, tip tap tip, his soft leather loafers clapped against the polished stone floors. A quick left turn, followed by another to the right. It had only been a couple of weeks, and Sam could already do the 15 minute walk from the comfort of his office, to the door of the lecturing hall, with his eyes shut. This was probably a good thing, as though his actual eyes were open, Sam’s body was on autopilot. Within his mind’s eye, he pawed over manuscripts and scientific texts. History and science walked hand in hand down a romantic promenade in his mental vision. You could have one without the other, as to explain one, the other has to be understood. On any given day you could find Sam within his office, volumes spread out beneath him. From Steven Hawking to Paul Sereno and Neil Shubin, he fed words into his mind, poured words into himself, urged on by an uncontrollable thirst. Like a vampire, he craved the sweet nectar of knowledge, and without it, his mind felt weaker. From the outside world, to look upon, Sam Shepard is unassuming. Attractive perhaps but neither tall nor short, no distinct style to speak of. You could easily mistake the man as being just another run of the mill professor. From the inside of his mind however, there was no mistaking that the man was a genius. Fireworks sparked constantly. White hot burning fire.
Passing by the history department’s cafeteria, the door swung open. The smell of expensive coffee and freshly baked muffins filled his nose. A fog passed over his thoughts, as he felt his stomach rumble lightly. He reached out to grab the large handle to the café when the sound of the radio crashed against his ear drums. Some socialite tramp, reality TV star was having a baby…and this was world news. There was that despair again. He let the door close. The taste of coffee in the air subsided and he turned, walking on.
He swore to himself, an equation on the tip of his mind was pushed over the edge by the impossibly unimportant news fingering at his mind. Then he was at the door. Large. Oak. He looked at the lock. It was sturdy. The old wry smile flashed across his lips. He pulled the door towards him and stepped slowly into the room.
The auditorium was full, as far back as he could see. Every seat filled with another eager or forced journalist mind. Sam scanned the rows as he stepped towards the lectern. Well, this was definitely a surprise, his mind flashed back to Will. Word must have been spreading quickly.
It certainly had. For the last few years, the historic, scientific and religious communities had been outraged, perplexed and spellbound by a series of journals which had been delivered to Harvard. Never signed they were produced and reproduced throughout the world in almost every spoken and unspoken language. Advanced universe questions were given their answers and once thought impossible mathematical equations were solved and explained. Steven Hawking described the author as the single most important mind of the human species. Every television network in the world guessed at the identity of the genius.
Though Professor Sam Shepard had only been at the prestigious university a short time. There was just something in the way he spoke. He seemed to be able to delve into the information the journals were uncovering. Views on his blog had flashed up from the low thousands to almost a million a day, and with each day, more and more questions came. About the implications of the theories; Could faster than light travel be truly possible? Is travelling through time really possible through the controlled creation of dark matter? What did this tell us about God? Every level of science would need to re-examined. Lately the questions had little by little started to include the idea that perhaps Sam was the Clark Kent to the creators Superman. Had he wrote these things?
Sam coughed, it echoed through the microphone.