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Thought Train

Thought Train

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No Rest for You.

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First published in 2011, tonight’s reblogged story is a chilling tale of dreamscape detective work.


It was a Tuesday morning in early June when I was called to investigate a curious incident by the sea. A hotel had been thrown into disarray at five in the morning by what could only be described as a herd of stampeding Rhinos. Luckily most of the patrons had been asleep at the time on the first floor and above. Only the night porter had been injured and taken to the local hospital with a broken arm and bruising down his left side. Aside from shock and nerves, most of the guests and staff were in good health but the proprietor could not be found.

This incident in itself would seem curious enough to most if it wasn’t for the fact that exactly seven minutes after the beasts had filled the ground floor spaces of the hotel causing countless damages, they had disappeared without any trace of exit or…

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Ode to Fustat.

ode to fustat

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This story is based on a monologue I wrote for my final year at university. I hope it goes some way to explaining the odd title of the site for you. At the time I was exploring a lot of themes around the notion of beginnings and endings when I came across a quote by, (I think,) Baudrillard or maybe Chandler describing how an entire civilisation can be rediscovered from a small piece of found pottery. I wanted to explore how in life someone could lead an inconspicuous life but in death they could become significant.

  • UAMC

On the 23rd of February 1987 a star exploded in the Large Magellanic cloud. For the next few days it became one of the brightest objects in the Southern Hemisphere and hung low over the skies of North Africa.

Several days later the body of a man was found in a small patch of sheltered ground some forty kilometers to the south-west of Al Fayum. The story of the discovery caused a stir in the area. The man was presumed to be British. No passport was found and no other identifying details apart from a hand written poem and some marks that had been made in the dry ground at the side of the body, presumably by the dead man.

There had been trouble with violence towards tourists and the Cairo authorities, fearing a drop in the economy, called in the British Embassy officials to handle the investigation. A commission was given and the following report outlines the 4 stages of the investigation into the identity of the man who became referred to as Mr. X.

Part 1: The Detective’s Theory.

The detective’s theory hinged on the discoveries the Egyptian Authorities had made, namely a piece of stationery from the Ramada Renaissance hotel with a poem written in English. They found that no one had ever seen the man before and no one could verify his identity. The team in charge of the investigation tried to establish if the man had travelled from the hotel into Cairo. and then out to Al Fayum. They checked the symbols that had been written in the sand. They were a combination of Hieroglyphs and Arabic:

The hieroglyphs translated as: “From the temple of the Crocodiles they came. Beyond the land of two rivers. One remained and one returned.”

The Arabic as: “Under the stars, the dust. After the dust, the stars. 1987”

After translation they managed to formulate the theory that Mr. X had visited Crocodilopilos and had been taken into the desert by one of the guides there. There was no evidence of this at any of the sites and no one could prove anything beyond that the paper came from the hotel and the message referred to Crocodilopilos.

Part 2: The Archeologist’s Theory.

The investigation commissioned by the British Embassy was a little more detailed when it came to analysing the evidence. They managed to determine that the marks had been made by Mr. X who had been trying to leave some clue to his demise. They also looked more closely at the poem written on the hotel stationery.

A detective…

…loses his notes…

…due to the angle…

…and velocity…

…of the wind.

The wind is caused by a high-speed train,

Going too fast because it was late,

Late because of a fault on the line,

Faulty because of a rushed repair,

Rushed because of the Need for time,

Taken away by an accident,

Caused bby a woman who fell on the tracks,

Whose reason is lost as he loses his notes,

(Whose reason is lost as he loses his notEs.)

They were taken by the emphasis on some of the letters. There was evidently some form of code in place. After some very basic cryptography, they deciphered that the highlighted words formed a grid reference: 28°52’40.84″N by  30°31’22.18″E. The reference led them to the steps of the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in the Wadi Natrun near Al Fayum. It is a small and ancient Coptic monastery with a small but growing population of Coptic Christians. They carried out an extensive investigation at the site, something the authorities were uncomfortable with but the monks were welcoming and helpful. Mr. X had visited them 3 months prior to his body being found. He had left no name or indication of where he had been and he was malnourished and uncared for.

He was particularly interested in their Limestone tablets which held most of the holy writings of Saint Samuel. Many of these were housed in the dry cellars of the monastery. After a week of investigating, a panel was discovered that proved something of a problem it seemed to contain a mixture of Coptic, Hieroglyphic and Latin markings. The panel, made of gold leaf pressed onto the surface of an over sized limestone tablet, showed a map of the Nile. It marked the three pyramids at Giza, the temple at Crocodilopilos, the Large area of water at Al Fayum, the monastery and, surprisingly the location Mr. X had been found, marked with an X and the year 1987.

They enlisted the help of the Coptic Society. Wheels were now moving in the Egyptian Government when the investigation had moved to the monastery. There was unrest in the muslim community who had always been quick to find a reason to rise against these small communities. Archeologists from the Coptic Museum in Cairo examined the tablet and the panel and discovered that it pre-dated Coptic Christianity in Northern Egypt. It was, by all accounts, unique. Something never seen before.

A new theory came to light, Mr. X was now an explorer, a smuggler perhaps, looking for some kind of treasure in the desert. He had been given clues as to how to find this treasure and followed them. There was still a suggestion that someone had worked with him but if they had been with him in the desert it was now unclear. The more evidence that was being unearthed, the less they seemed to be sure of who or what they were dealing with. A murder or an accidental death. An excavation was started around the area his body was found.

Part 3: The Astronomers Theory.

Several months went by and work on the excavation were brought to a close. The panel, now housed at the Museum in Cairo had been discussed by experts around the world. Carbon dating showed that the tablet dated back to 300 years prior to the birth of Christ. The image had been displayed through electronic networks, news broadcasts and magazines. It wasn’t long before more experts and would be experts started to formulate their own opinions and theories. It was a young astronomer from an observatory to the north-east of Cairo who discovered that the panel contained a completely different meaning. The panel was not only a map of the desert, but a reflection of the stars in the middle and southern hemispheres.

Most people are familiar with the alignment of the Pyramids at Giza reflecting the Belt of Orion and the Nile following the line of the Milky Way. The panel reflected much more than this. The temple at Crocodilopilos marked the position of the Dog Star Sirius, Al Fayum corresponded with the Large Magellanic Cloud. The most exciting discovery was the alignment of the small sheltered patch of land marked  X1987. Not only did this show the place where Mr.X had been found dead, but now it seemed to correspond with the Supernova1987. A picture and a story became clearer.

The new theory suggested that the man had visited the Hotel in Alexandria and travelled via Crocodilopilos to The monastery of Saint Samuel, he had spent some time viewing the limestone tablets held in the cellars before discovering the gold leaf covered tablet with the map. The timings are important here because at some time during the day of the 23rd of February, he must have left the monastery and headed out into the desert following the directions on the panel. As the sun set and he neared his final destination, he would have seen the supernova emerging above the horizon.

Part 4: The Philosopher’s Theory.

Apart from the few small scraps of evidence that suggested what could have happened and left gaping holes in lots of theories about ancient languages and mathematical and astronomical predictions, the commissioned investigation was still no closer to establishing what had happened to Mr.X. Had he been murdered? If he had taken his own life, why?

Mr. X provided the coordinates and the locations the “Why” was missing. My own theories perhaps go some way to uncovering some of this. When I think of the moment when he would have discovered the Supernova and it reflection cast into the surface of the desert around him, the significance of the dying star would not have been lost. He was a man of symbols and meaning. He had travelled this far so he had to be. He would have also been aware of the fact that when he looked into the sky, he would not simply be gazing into a mirror in space but a mirror in time. The light from the Supernova had taken nearly 170,000 years to reach the earth, long before humanity had established any reasonable kind of civilisation.

The stars and the ground, the past and the present all existing in the same place at once. Symbols and meaning colliding over and over with each other. I see him considering his affinity with the situation and considering his place in the symmetry. There would have to be a death, it would be the only way he could live for ever, immortalised in the light of the dying star above him. I consider that he simply laid down to die. The autopsy showed as much.

There had been no struggle. The rock which had fallen onto his head had been lodged above him with a stick which, when ready he had simply knocked away. Sweet oblivion with very little pain. I wonder if he had considered what he wrote and how long he had pondered on his final words. He spoke of dust and stars and stars and dust, a clear reference to the formation and the death of stars.

I believe Mr. X created a new life for himself, one created by others where he no longer needed to be present. Perhaps now we think more about him than we ever did when he was alive. All we will ever know for certain is that he died in a small dip in the dry shifting sands of the Egyptian desert on the 23rd of February 1987, under a Magellanic Cloud.

Thought Train

Photo credit: gladtobeout from

A detective…

…loses his notes…

…due to the angle…

…and velocity…

…of the wind.

The wind is caused by a high speed train,

Going too fast because it was late,

Late because of a fault on the line,

Faulty because of a rushed repair,

Rushed because of the need for time,

Taken away by an accident,

Caused by a woman who fell on the tracks,

Whose reason is lost as he loses his notes,

(Whose reason is lost as he loses his notes.)

The Rhino House

This incident in itself would seem curious enough to most if it wasn’t for the fact that exactly seven minutes after the beasts had filled the ground floor spaces of the hotel causing countless damages, they had disappeared without any trace of exit or sound of retreat. Local inspectors were at a loss to find an answer to this strange outlandish problem and, hearing I had some expertise in the field, had sent a car immediately.

The large Edwardian building stood on the headland looking out over the sea and the beginnings of the estuary that ran inland to the south. It was a curiously shaped building. A courtyard greeted new arrivals but then led them around the building to a balcony overlooking the main patios and gardens where a huge set of glazed ironwork doors opened outwards. From the balcony, the walkway could be followed around the entire building still rising until level with the first floor. On the inland side of the hotel the walkway continued, running along the top of a wall which joined what seemed to be a working farm and windmill to the hotel. The wall, unbroken and towering nearly twelve feet high and at least six feet thick gave the whole arrangement a linear and military ambiance.

The hotel, dwarfing all of it’s companion buildings stood four floors high. Wooden shutters painted blue opened out to welcome the warm afternoon summer sun and keep out the winter evenings. A central staircase with an enormous skylight gave a wonderful light to the building and inside the decoration was somewhat colonial and dated. Palms and ferns grew from tall containers that hinted at the far east. Guests came here for the peace and quiet and the wonderful views and walks that the hotel made available. I arrived on site in the late afternoon as some of the braver, long standing guests were having tea in the conservatory. All credit to the establishments amazing staff who, with the aid of drapes and table cloths, had brought some semblance of normality. Two uniformed policemen were on hand to give assurance to the guests and await the possible return of the owner.

The guests, a retired Army Officer, a widowed Baroness and a School Mistress were playing bridge with one of the sergeants. A large bottle of brandy stood on a serving trolley to one side, half emptied for medicinal purposes. They all stood when I entered, expecting news that would make sense of the night time surrealism. After introducing myself, I spoke to one side with the card playing sergeant first.

“It’s not good sir. The way they describe it makes it sound like the end of the world. They all woke up around ten to five to hear thunder, but it just got louder until they heard the scream of the night porter. By that time the ground floor was full of Rhino’s. The Major over there reckons on counting at least twenty five head sir. ‘Says he wishes he had his old rifle, ‘would have taken a couple of ’em out…”

I listened to the briefing from the young sergeant extracting the relevant and guessing the parts he forgot. Whilst I listened to the guests who added very little to the evidence, I kept thinking about the wall. I could not find any reason for it. Talking with Hotel staff did not help. I searched for clues that the farm and mill were part of an older sea fort but none of them had worked for longer than two seasons and had never heard any history.

As the late afternoon drew towards the evening, I decided it was time to investigate the farm and mill closer. I walked past the farm gates and spied an old woman sitting in a barn with no teeth. She beckoned to me to come forward and speak with her. Thinking I might find out a little more about the strange wall, I stepped forward as a number of geese emerged and surprised both of us. I smiled and the old lady showed me both of her remaining teeth, yellowed and soon to join their companions. Through lisps and mispronounced words, the woman quizzed me.

“Is he back yet?”

I assumed she meant the owner and shook my head.

“You’ll be speaking to my husband then, he’s up in the mill.”

I was confused. I had no idea who this woman was and had not intended to speak with her husband. Perhaps she was being old fashioned. I gave her a puzzled look and enquired who her husband might be.

“He’s the miller of course. Have you not wondered yet how we get those big sails to keep turning?”

She gestured vaguely towards a small door near the point where the mill and the wall joined. I hesitated and then, seeing sincerity in her eyes, walked towards it and entered. The door opened onto a small and confined spiral staircase which rose beyond the level of the wall and brought me out onto the flat roof of the mill. leaning against the rail, looking out towards the sea stood an old man in a slightly dishevelled tweed suit.

Standing next to him I looked out across the sea and forgetting my manners. Embarrassed, I asked if he was the miller and introduced myself. He smiled a completely toothless smile and gestured to the view.

“It’s a grand one that view. Better than any you’ll get from that monstrosity over there. I suppose you’re here about last night. I wondered when one of you police folk were gonna get round to talking to me.” He pulled out a pipe and began to stoke it with tobacco.

I suddenly became aware of how remarkably far from the ground I was and that I was standing on the top of a windmill and the circular roof was made of stone. The words of the old woman came back to me about the sails. They were turning very quickly and yet there was practically no wind.

Lighting his pipe he continued, “These Rhinos. I’ve never seen ’em myself, but the master of all this. He’s been doing some strange things in the quiet seasons. Lots of digging and building when there’s no one around. Last night I happen I saw him coming up this way. I stayed up some time but I never saw him come down again.”

The sun was low in the afternoon sky and the Hotel would be serving an evening meal soon. I glanced at my pocket watch to see that it was only ten minutes from five. Then I felt it.

We both grabbed the rail as the whole of the circular roof began to turn. Somewhere a bell was ringing. Mechanisms were moving wildly and loudly beneath our feet. The Miller seemed shocked and afraid, his eyes searching wildly for an explanation, but we held on as we were turning from the east to the south. I didn’t doubt that he also thought of the fate of the owner. Something beneath our feet came together with a loud crack and the roof came to a sudden halt. A rumbling started from the base of the windmill. It travelled invisibly along the length of the wall towards the Hotel.

As the motion of the roof stopped, the horror of what was happening hit me. Paralysed, I listened to the sound of smashing crockery and high pitched screams, men shouting and the angry snorting of huge beasts. My mind reeled to make sense of things as I noticed the young sergeant escaping through the main entrance, an enormous wound in his side, pain written clearly across his face. I could only imagine the scenes of carnage inside the building as we, the Miller and I, stood fixed to the spot watching. We were powerless to help.

I felt myself sobbing, my lungs dragging at the air trying desperately to breath. The ground below the rail, far away swam in my vision. Still I had no answers to this mystery beyond the mechanics of tragedy. Where was the owner? Why were Rhinos somehow powering a windmill?

Such are my memories of the Rhino House and the long walks along the shores It took to finally heal me of it’s horrors.

See more Short Stories by Supernova1987 at:
Short Stories

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