All over the Universe there are echoes of evidence. There are scars. There are even a few eye witnesses - though their memories are clouded and often contradict each other. But no one ever seems to really know the truth about the man that turns the Universe. The man that winds the cogs of time and holds the structure of reality in his hands. He is full of secrets and power; a frightening combination. He is the shadow man, and this is the quest to find him.
The grass was smoking. High above, in the inky blackness of the midnight sky, a small white-blue light flickered and then vanished. At that precise moment, a heavy wind blasted through the large empty field, blowing the leaves loose from the autumn trees. The smoke swirled upwards into a small tornado before dissipating slowly, blending into the surroundings.
Within a few moments the gale began to subside and the trees stilled. The leaves settled on the earth, captured by the sticky damp mud that coated much of the field. The only memory of the strange occurrence was a small patch of singed grass that sat directly under where the white-blue light had been. Also, if someone placed their ear to this scrap of turf, they would hear a faint whistling sound. It was similar to the sound wind made as it rushed around buildings, but had a distinctly purer tone and a varying pitch that seemed to harmonize with itself. It was a lonely, distant sound that made one feel insignificant and immeasurably small. Some said it was the voice of the Universe. Though that wasn't entirely correct, it wasn't far from the truth.
Close by, animals began to go about their normal business. The coming and going of what had been contained in the white-blue light had startled them, but the event was quickly fading from memory. It was, after all, something they couldn't comprehend. Animals, like humans, tended to forget anything which didn't fit with their simplistic picture of the world. A few sheep bleated with pleasure as they resumed their normal routine. A middle aged couple - both farmers - slipped into a deep sleep in unison, quickly forgetting the brief flash of blue light that had illuminated their bedroom moments before.
A mile or so away, two humans were running.
"We were so close," said the younger male angrily to himself, pounding the mushy fields in frustration. He wore tight faded blue jeans and a loose grey hooded top. The jeans, a little too long for his small frame, were coated with thick mud from the knee downward and were frayed from dragging on the floor. In other circumstances he would have been irritated by the smelly dirt that streaked up his clothes, but his mind was focused. If he had been running barefoot on hot coals he wouldn't have batted an eyelid.
His companion, a slightly older woman, did not respond. It was unclear whether she had ignored him or simply hadn't heard. She was also totally absorbed by her thoughts, her eyes pinned on the field ahead where the jet of light had once been.
She vaulted over a high rotting fence with ease, brushing her dark brown hair quickly out of her eyes. Before they had begun on this excursion she had scraped her hair tightly into a high pony tail. But they had been running at this pace for a while now. Sweat was pouring down her face and in her side a stitch steadily burned.
The man was finding it tougher. Unlike the female, he had not been interested in going to the gym or playing sports. He had been happy with his TV nights: take away from the Chinese down the road (they did the best chicken fried rice in existence, the man was sure of it) and whatever TV episodes were on that night. He followed a lot of programmes - anything that wasn't soaps or romance. And on the odd occasion that there wasn't some sort of TV series on he'd pull out an old boxset and have a TV marathon, accompanied by a lot of junk food and fizzy coke.
They reached the field where the light had been. The area now had an oppressive, eerie calm. It felt hollow, and the two humans could sense an echo of something, but it was indefinable and unclear. Their pace quickly slowed to a jog, then a walk, before they stopped moving completely. Almost a minute passed where neither of them spoke. It was like the area had the ability to stop you functioning for a little while - it halted your thoughts and made you wait.
Wait for what?
"It's..." the man paused, peering down at the singed patch of grass, "Weird."
In other circumstances the woman would have retorted with a sarky comment. She didn't appreciate pointless conversation. But here it was difficult to manage to say anything, never mind anything meaningful.
"Yes," she answered, her voice sounding steadier than she felt, "We were very close this time."
She bent down and touched the burnt patch of grass. It was stone cold - no different to the temperature of the grass surrounding it. But it seemed to thrum - just a little.
The man also, tentatively, placed his hand on the grass.
"You feel it?" she asked him.
He nodded, "It's like... a heartbeat. A very faint one."
There was silence for a few minutes as they held their hands to the grass, crouched over awkwardly. Their breath was misty in the cold autumn air, but neither of them noticed it. They were still hot from running and they had other things on their mind.
"It's fading," said the man, looking at the woman for agreement.
She stood up, wiping her hands down her trousers, "Of course."
He followed suit and also stood, peering around the landscape they now found themselves contained in.
"Do you think we'll find him?" The man had let the question slip out. He hadn't meant to - he knew how much unanswerable or vague questions frustrated his companion.
The female only looked at him. Yes, the question irritated her. But it also hurt, because she longed to know the answer. At least if she knew if her quest was impossible she could stop searching. She could stop chasing. It was an addiction - the only thing on her mind, day and night. Quite frankly, she wanted an end to this, even if it was a bad one.