A Future History

It’s always in the last place you look. It isn’t very surprising, really, when you consider that you stop looking as soon as you’ve found whatever it is you’re looking for. Love, the Meaning of Life, your car keys. Whatever it is you’re after, you’ll find it eventually – even if they took it away from you – even if they demanded your innocence, if they stole your childhood or your favourite pair of socks; it’s always waiting to be reclaimed, in the Lost Property Office of St. Pancras station.

There is a little known secret, about the naming of St. Pancras station – other than the initial focus on the fact that someone had appeared to misspell the word ‘pancreas’ – it wasn’t named after the bodily organ that was renowned as a fad in Victorian London. This cathedral of the Railway God was erected to praise him, and the name of a fourth century martyr was the name of the surrounding parish – nothing is mentioned about the bodily organ. The belfry of this monstrous edifice contains the once ubiquitous clock face, so central to the worship of the Iron Horse, its ringing chimes mingling with the others stretched out above both slumlords and the gentry, contained originally along the length and breadth of the British Isles. Its deafening voice echoes out a call to prayer from those red-brick minarets, chiming every fifteen minutes, announcing the arrival of yet another of the servants of the Rail God, another Iron Horse.

The cult of the Iron Horse spread across the world at an aggressive speed, navigating across worlds both New and Old in its steely grasp, until the donning of pocket- and wrist-watches became commonplace – tokens and superstitious symbols identifying the wearer as an adherent of the Rail God and his Father, Chronos, the King of Time. As the tendrils of their worship embraced the world, the crinkling of maps and of paper tickets no longer satisfied the gods – and worshippers began to leave votive offerings along the various and ever multiplying lines of their devotion. Simple things, things that reflected their daily lives: forgotten spectacles; second-hand copies of Chekov anthologies, tattered and frayed; wallets, emptied and pillaged by those in the upper echelons of worshippers – the now infamous ‘Muggers’.

All of these offerings would – in time – find their way to the local temples, discovered by those of the ‘Conductor’ or ‘Cleaner’ classes, sent back to the treasure troves of their local branches of the Lost Property Office. After being examined by the priesthood (the ‘Station Masters’, who would remove those items not considered worthy of the Rail God – item such as designer sunglasses and laptop computers), these items would be sent further along the rails, the diaspora being collected together in vast halls of offering before eventually arriving in the grand hall of St. Pancras.

Everything can be found, in the last place you look. The Station Master is a bitter man, long since twisted by his inherited role as the Guardian of the Tracks. Beg of him and you may see, however briefly, the splendour of Chronos and the Iron Horse. Beg of him and you may find the object of your desire, but it will never be returned. Beg of him, and you will become the next living sacrifice in this temple of the shuddering tracks.

 

This story is a history of the late 19th and early 20th Century, as it is taught in the late 28th Century. An era of trains, planes and automobiles, the history of our times rewritten and misunderstood by generations of novelists, political commentary writers (propagandists) and the new illiterati. The story was inspired by the current delight in personal ignorance (someone had a ten minute argument with me before admitting she didn’t know much about what she was arguing – her ‘reason’ “I don’t read because I’m not old like you!” She is around ten years younger than me) the prompts come from Steph at BeKindRewrite and from 3WordWednesday with Crinkle, Demand and Navigate. Sorry I know this one was pretty weird…

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12 thoughts on “A Future History

  1. marc nash says:

    This really works for me as a Chinese whisper of history & legend handed down through time. Loved the notion of the red brick minarets & the clock that regulates the ‘seasons’ of the train travel. I think the only jangle was the tone of the building’s symbology itself being austere, but the lost property items being a bit more flighty & less reverenced. Maybe if they were more strictly presented as religious icons, relics and sacredotal, I’m not sure, it’s your call. But I did enjoy this.

    Marc Nash

    • I’m glad you liked it, I thought the idea of non-important items being considered holy relics could serve as a commentary on archeology, who says that the things we find were in fact important to the people who devoted them (or in this case left them on the train?) But I think I understand what you mean, now that I’ve started to reply to your comment – what you are saying is that the items, although disposable to us (Chekov disposable – the horror!) would be viewed as vitally sacred to us by the future historians and the treatment reveals my flippancy toward them.

      Is that what you’re saying? Thanks for the advice!

  2. TheOthers1 says:

    Not weird, just different. I was thinking it was a social commentary, but perhaps I read too deeply. Again, not weird only different.

    • It is also a social commentary on the voluntary ignorance of this day and age. Who would read Chekov when Masterchef is on the tele…probably everyone here would I suppose, but us readers do not make up the majority (well, cheaper second-hand books for me, I suppose!)

  3. Sheilagh Lee says:

    I love this.It’s very like a myth.

  4. Shen Hart says:

    This was such an interesting and well done take on things. I loved the descriptions and understanding of the various roles and happenings.

  5. Old Egg says:

    This is not weird but beautiful. I loved the catalogue of faulty and fantastic memories that made this piece such a delight to read. How sad it is some people do not have the will to read, to allow the mind to visit places they cannot imagine or be thrilled by letters on a page. Wow! I said when I read this.

  6. Chris don’t apologize because this is such a finely wrought piece and while your explanation of it’s genesis helps me appreciate it even better, this stands on its own as well. Loved it – thanks for waking me up on a Sunday.

  7. Fan-freaking-tastic as always Chris. You have a magic way with words in this one. Great rhythm.

    I might offer one suggestion, if you allow it. On a very few occasions the tone becomes something more farcical/humourous (car keys, pancreas) and maybe that manages to pickpocket some of the mystique of the piece.

  8. Fascinating. I love it. And reminds me yet again that I need to purchase and read The Motel of the Mysteries…

    Funny thing it, it’s not so very far from the truth. Time has a hold on all of us.

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