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nn5n: scp-4005 The Holy and Heavenly City of Fabled China
SafeSCP-4005 The Holy and Heavenly City of Fabled ChinaRate: 181

SCP-4005, shortly before containment. Photograph found in the possessions of an inhabitant of Cairo, Ziyad Abdullah, who disappeared without trace in the 1970s.

Item #: SCP-4005

Object Class: Safe Apollyon

Special Containment Procedures 01/07/28: Containment of SCP-4005 is no longer possible.

Description: SCP-4005 refers to an indestructible glass mosque lamp, recovered from Cairo, Egypt. Based on the testimony from a number of writers over the centuries, the lamp is believed to have been created in Marrakesh in the 14th century, travelling across Africa and Asia for several centuries before being brought to Cairo in the 1950s.

When an individual stares for several seconds at SCP-4005 while it is lit, they will see images of urban scenes within the fire. These images possess a strong cognitohazardous effect1, causing the viewer to become an SCP-4005-1 instance.

SCP-4005-1 instances are characterised by an impetus to go on a pilgrimage to the city seen within SCP-4005's fire. This involves travelling a great distance on foot, usually to another continent, and entering a specific portal; most often a door, cave entrance, or window. The location travelled to is almost always of some personal or spiritual importance to the SCP-4005-1 instance. Upon entering these portals, SCP-4005-1 instances will disappear.

When interviewed by Foundation staff, SCP-4005-1 instances invariably believe that they will be taken to the city seen in SCP-4005 at the conclusion of their pilgrimage. They claim that all the urban scenes are of the same, single city, supposedly located somewhere within China or encompassing the entirety of China. These scenes have a great deal of variety, and although none are believed to correspond to any known location, they often bear a great deal of similarity to real-world cities. The prominence of this city in SCP-4005-1 instances' narratives and the possibility of its existence based on common features found within them has lead to its provisional designation as SCP-4005-2.

SCP-4005 was discovered in 1975, when it was removed from storage in a Cairo mosque and lit during a full congregation, which resulted in several hundred worshippers being converted into SCP-4005-1 instances. The resulting mass movement of people was noticed by the Foundation, who contained SCP-4005 and detained several hundred SCP-4005-1 instances after a full investigation.

Addendum 1 09/09/2027: The following is a diary written by one Omar ibn Rashid, an Egyptian novelist active in the 1950s. Ibn Rashid disappeared in 1958, approximately 3 years after this diary was written. The entire diary was composed in a series of intricate and complex codes, and has yet to be fully translated. The following pages are translations of what have been decoded thus far.

The past is a lie. It is merely a series of intricate narratives, told by people desparate to make sense of the nonsensical, all hiding some aberrant wrongdoing at the core of the chaos.

I could give you a narrative of my own past, but it would be the same kind of lie. A boy, raised in something approaching but not quite reaching poverty, understanding himself in a cacaphony of competing orthodoxies. A primitive child of a people still becoming whole. A pious boy in submission of God. A future subject of nationalism, throwing off the chains of the past. A pawn in the unending machine of capital.

The man I became was also torn between these movements, moments, screaming matches, and like many of the young, I was enticed by all. Nasser's pan-Arabism intrigued me, but when I saw his salesman's smile as Cairo descended into a slum, I became disillusioned. The Brotherhood's piety seemed to be an antidote, but I soon realised it was a twisted hybrid of the modern and premodern. Communists and nationalists were just playing with their Enlightenment building-blocks in different combinations, pyramids of ancient stone or alienated labour. I felt lost.

Only in the zawiyahs of the Sufis did I find any meaning. The people there could, at times, be just as dogmatic, just as narrow-minded as the rest of them. But when they thought, meditated, threw themselves into union with God could I see some glimmer of something greater. I did not, at the time, realise what it was.

And so, I roamed. My books and poems were never popular. In a heterodoxy of orthodoxies, nobody cared for someone who offered no solutions, only more questions. But they netted me some small, meagre sum, enough to feed and clothe myself. And to indulge my curiosity with the history of far-flung places, and odd curiosities. And that was how I found Aladdin's lamp.

It was getting dark, and the clouds were coloured black against the blue sky. Out in the desert, the sands moved and shifted, swirling odd patterns in the twilight. I was travelling in the Soviet Union, in Samarkand, doing some research for my next book. It was to be a historical novel, set in Timur's Registan. It was to be my masterpiece.

But cloistered in a high-up Cairo flat, I had become uninspired. My comfortable middle-class existence was no training for how to tell a story about khans and sultans, empires and wars. So I resolved to travel, and so travel I did. Stalin was dead, Khrushchev was liberalising reforms, and I had just about enough cash. It wasn't like I had anything else to do other than smoke and argue with Sufis.

Samarkand was just what I needed. The words all fell into place. I felt inspired, happy, free. The city was being destroyed by Soviet monotony but I knew, I knew, that within its streets, its complex zigzags and already-decaying utopias, was some hint of the past. I wrote and I wrote but one thing nagged me: the conclusion.

Timur lies, dying, on the road to Kashgar. His desire to possess the world is quashed. His mind, at once so clever and so feeble, is unable to perceive what is happening to him. But where does his tale end? In one, I gave him oblivion; a suitable reminder of his physical, human frailty. But that was not satisfying; it reduced the unseen to mere facts of atoms, removing all history and concepts and the interplay of different ideas. So I gave him judgement, before God and the hosts of angels. But that made the story too simple, defining his destruction upon some antiquated axis of right and wrong. I stared at them for days, not knowing which one to pick. What I needed was the answer.

And I found it in a cellar. I was staying with an old friend of mine, a Kyrgyz antiquarian from Osh, who wanted to show me his newest acquisitions. He was a strange fellow. At a time when their country's history is being handed down to them by their Russian masters, he was struggling to preserve any hint of a different order, creating his own collection through scattered pieces of a different conception of living. He showed me marvels: manuscripts by al-Kashgari and Khayyam, Ilkhanid miniatures, metalwork in intricate Uzbek and Timurid patterns.

He went to supper, but I stayed down, examining everything. And then I saw the lamp. It was a dusty, unprepossessing thing. I almost didn't give it a second thought, but then I was seized with an odd, romantic thought. I wanted to see this ancient thing lit up again. To transform it from some objet d'art, a thing valued only for form and meaning, into a genuine and living tool of purpose. I found my host's oil, poured it in, and lit the lamp. I gazed at it.

And I saw things.

I saw spires of silken light, scraping the clouds and gleaming like jewels. I saw bazaars of covered domes, in greys and blues deeper and more beautiful than anything in Persia. I saw the shape of twisting sandstone alleyways, of red pagodas fluttering in the breeze. I saw blue mosques placed in timeless conjunctions with sandy squares and aged cities. I saw a city, generations upon generations of a city, a catalogue of history.

I understood at once. This was China, the real China. The one constructed from crude matter was only a mirage, a shadow. This city was the empire at the end of the road, beyond the Iron Gates of Karasahr and the marshes of the Bengal. I knew that I had to see, grasp, hold the thing. I packed my rucksack, bid farewell to my bemused host, smuggled the lamp out and set off on foot. South.

Because the entrance to al-Sin is not in the east, as ancient sages would have you believe, but in the south. I knew instinctively, that in a hallway in Marrakesh, there is an arch that marks the edge of Uighurstan. I know this to be true. It is why I am perched on a cold night in a desert kasbah, writing these words as the wind whips around my robes.

When we see a miracle, it is rare that we perceive it as such. We might be taken aback by some flash, flicker, some odd movement. We will think it a trick, concoct a narrative and subsume it into our conception of events. Our past is a history of lies of this kind; miracles of man explained by recourse to God, and miracles of God explained through the fears of man. Our past is many pasts, swirling concoctions to help us sleep, clashing constantly with one another. A cacophony of false utopias. But behind all of them, distant and hazy, is a true past. And that past was built into a glass lamp.

Addendum 2 07/01/28: The following is an interview conducted by Project Lead Martha Hardcastle with an SCP-4005-1 instance, hereafter referred to as SCP-4005-1A.

Date: 06/01/28

Interviewer: Dr. Martha Hardcastle, Project Lead on SCP-4005

Interviewee: SCP-4005-1A, formerly Dr. Fatima Mahmoud, Level 3 researcher at Site 867.

Location: Site 867, Containment Facility 8B.

<Begin Log>

Dr. Hardcastle: Hello, SCP-4005-1A.

SCP-4005-1A: I should have figured you'd go cold on me quickly, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: Are your quarters to your satisfaction?

SCP-4005-1A: They are, thank you. Not quite as nice as the staff rooms, but they will do in a pinch.

Dr. Hardcastle: What were the motives for your actions on the 17th?

SCP-4005-1A: …I am sorry, Martha. But I had to know.

Dr. Hardcastle: Know? Know what?

SCP-4005-1A: I've always thought that Foundation background checks were getting far laxer.

Dr. Hardcastle: Wh- oh. Oh. Mahmoud.

SCP-4005-1A: Aisha Mahmoud and Rashid Mahmoud. Both disappeared on the same day in 1975, along with the entire congregation of the mosque. I was at home, sick, with my aunt. It must have been hard to find a lot of my early documentation, and Mahmoud is a common surname. Things were more hectic in poor Cairo slums.

Dr. Hardcastle: So, what? You wanted to know what it felt like?

SCP-4005-1A: Not at first. I spent years looking for them, everywhere I could. I developed an early interest in the unexplained, in mysterious disappearances, and I was good at what I did, so… when the Foundation offered me a job, I jumped at the chance. Took me a couple of years to find my parents on the database.

Dr. Hardcastle: I… look, for what it's worth, I'm sorry, Fatima. They were already sick when-

SCP-4005-1A: It's OK. It was a long time ago, now. Anyway, I got a transfer here. It wasn't with any design, I just- just wanted to know what had happened. What had really happened. I get that the Foundation does stuff like this- I mean, I have done stuff like this. I… needed some closure, I suppose.

Dr. Hardcastle: Well. Anyway. That still doesn't explain what you did last night.

SCP-4005-1A: I haven't been feeling great, if I'm honest. Recently, I mean. You know about the incident a couple of months back, with the train, and… well, I've been thinking about them, too. My parents, I mean. I read the files, on their interviews. Their desperation to get out, to travel. I don't blame you, but I just- I wanted to know what it was like, to know what they went through.

Dr. Hardcastle: If- we have psych people here. I could have set up a-

SCP-4005-1A: People aren't always logical, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: Right. Right, I know. Well…what did you see in there?

SCP-4005-1A: I lit it, I stared, and… I saw it. The city. It showed me the whole of it, or as much of the whole as can be seen. It is so many things at once, all working in timeless motion of a seamless whole. All who have seen its lantern, their buildings, their cities. Their paradises.

I saw streets of London townhouses, more beautiful and vast, in straight and twisting boulevards all mixed together. I saw dusty prisms like of Turkish houses, their past and present selves all merged together. I saw colonial cities dreamed up by old Americans, with steam over wooden houses and bumpy carriages riding through the streets. I saw concrete blocks rising from the deeps. I don't know how to describe it, Martha. It was- was pure creation. The memories, the histories from a thousand peoples all jumbled up.

Dr. Hardcastle: You saw the whole? What does it look like from the outside?

SCP-4005-1A: You cannot really see it like that. It's… it is so many things at once. An inland city, an external city. A city built around a central plaza, like the colonies of old; but all the central plazas marking different centres. Churches, temples, mosques. Canals, bridges strung from skyscraper to skyscraper. Avenues of decadent sin, falling into one another into a cascade like Kowloon. It is a place where the memories of the thousands who have stared into its light all criss-cross across eternity.

Dr. Hardcastle: You were always purple in your prose.

SCP-4005-1A: It demands purple prose. It is overwhelming.

Dr. Hardcastle: This place cannot exist. It's a fantasy. It makes no sense.

SCP-4005-1A: It makes sense. It makes its own sense, Martha. They stared at me, from atop an iron gate. They planted the image in my head- planted the city in my head. The denizens. The once-human, now creatures making and unmaking themselves tirelessly.

Dr. Hardcastle: That's something we've heard before. A lot of people claim to have some living link to this place, that they carry it with them in the images they saw. That the city maintained a presence inside their heads. I never thought that was very significant, though…

SCP-4005-1A: I know, Martha, I studied the same people you did, but- only now do I get it. When you pass through, you… change. You lose parts of yourself, or they're transformed into something else. The denizens of this place, they're- they live as if in a constant dream, and they've shared that dream with us. One single, unified, shared dream, a wire running through our brains- ahh, I can't describe it. I'm sorry, Martha, I know you want more.

Dr. Hardcastle: Dreams, yes, a shared dream, we hadn't thought of… but this is all nonsense. All lies! There's no city, Fatima. Of that I am cordially certain.

SCP-4005-1A: I… I know it seems unlikely, but-

Dr. Hardcastle: If it is a dream, it is a dream of the unattainable. Maybe that's the joke. Don't you get it, Fatima? You walk through the door to utopia and disappear. Utopia. It's just More's city, eu-topos, no-place. It can't exist. It couldn't. Human nature, the expiration of the body, the thousand natural shocks and all that guff… so much denies it.

SCP-4005-1A: I choose to believe otherwise.

Dr. Hardcastle: And sadly, I can't stop you doing that. I am sorry, Fatima. I really am.

SCP-4005-1A: It's OK.

Dr. Hardcastle: Just one more thing. Why have you not tried to escape? Our other instances have spent most of their containment desperate to get out, to complete this pilgrimage of yours. Why have you not gone?

SCP-4005-1A: Oh, but I already have, Martha. Pilgrimages don't have to be journeys on foot. Mine is entirely different.

Dr. Hardcastle: …Not going to tell me anything else?

SCP-4005-1A: You'll find out soon, Martha. I'm sorry I've caused all this trouble. I really am.

<End Log>

Addendum 3 23/01/28: The following is a selectively curated testing log of D-Class personnel exposed to SCP-4005.

Subject Place of Origin Date SCP-4005 Observations Place of disappearance
D-2188 Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela 09/12/76 Subject observed a series of whitewashed coastal dwellings by a green ocean. Subject saw "a beautiful woman playing a violin to a postal worker." A cave on the Venezuelan coast, near Caracas.
D-3733 Born in London, United Kingdom; raised in Yellowknife, Canada 08/02/79 Subjected reported seeing an "underground London, but somehow wrong." Entrance to SCP-1678
D-3930 Born and raised in Worcester, United Kingdom. 12/11/86 Subject reported seeing a large number of factory workers, emerging from a "pear factory"2. Subject claimed that this represented the perfect way to live, a perfected form of Victorian-era capitalism. The cellar of a London townhouse.
D-2513 Born and raised in Shanghai, China 07/02/92 Reported seeing the entire city; would not elaborate, and spent the rest of the time prior to entering SCP-4005-2 claiming he was the "brother of Jesus" A gateway in Nanjing, China.
D-3380 Born in Shiraz, Iran; raised in Los Angeles, USA 17/01/97 Reported seeing a large palace, with many blue domes on its roof; the body, however, was reminiscent of the Pruitt-Igoe housing developments in St. Louis. The entrance to the Ali Qapu palace in Esfahan, Iran.
D-3043 Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina 11/04/05 Reported seeing a large library which stretched on forever, with "each book being better than the last." Entrance to the National Public Library of Argentina.
D-2508 Born and raised in Marrakesh, Morocco 28/06/14 Reported seeing an old man sitting on a carpet in some form of courtyard. The entrance to a door in Morocco. Agents escorting the subject noticed that the name "Omar ibn Rashid" had been carved into an external wall of the mosque.
D-2072 Born and raised in Podgorica, Montenegro 15/12/25 Subject did not report on sightings. Instead, subject gouged out her own eyes while repeating the phrase "it does not have to happen! I am free! I am free!" A large door made of silicon in a factory in Podgorica.
D-2747 Born in Kashgar, China; raised in Cairo, Egypt 11/07/27 Subject reported seeing large numbers of men, women and children "standing on an iron wall" and "staring at Dr. Hardcastle." The subject did not elaborate on how they knew what these subjects were staring at. Dr Hardcastle reported feeling a sense of profound unease during the experiment. The Iron Gates, a mountain pass in Xinjiang, China, and part of one of the traditional "Silk Road" routes.

Addendum 4 31/05/28: On 30/05/28, several members of Site 867 spontaneously turned into SCP-4005-1 instances. The effect appeared to spontaneously affect members of Site 867 at random; after a few hours, approximately 20% of Site 867's staff had been converted into SCP-4005-1 instances.

The following is an interview conducted by Project Lead Martha Hardcastle with SCP-4005-1A concerning these alterations to SCP-4005's functioning.

Date: 30/01/28

Interviewer: Dr. Martha Hardcastle, Project Lead on SCP-4005

Interviewee: SCP-4005-1A, formerly Dr. Fatima Mahmoud, Level 3 researcher at Site 867.

Location: Site 867, Containment Facility 8B.

<Begin Log>

Dr. Hardcastle: Alright, Fatima, what the hell.

SCP-4005-1A: Hey, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: Don't you- just shut up and tell me what the hell is going on. I don't know who I can trust any more but you were my friend for a long, long time. I want to-

SCP-4005-1A: I… I really am sorry. I know this must be hard. But, you'll see, it's all for the greater-

Dr. Hardcastle: God-damnit!!

Dr. Hardcastle sits down, and breathes heavily for several seconds.

Dr. Hardcastle: The site is on lockdown. Half the staff have been shoved in containment cells for trying to escape. They keep screaming about going on pilgrimage. And a bunch more managed to get away from us, fleeing into the woods. How do I stop this, Fatima?

SCP-4005-1A: I- I didn't- it's not my decision, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: Then whose is it? My job is to contain. That's what I'm good at. So tell me what to put in a fucking box, Fatima. Please.

SCP-4005-1A: You can't. It's begun. I'm sorry, Martha, but it's already over.

Dr. Hardcastle: What is??

SCP-4005-1A: The great pilgrimage. All across the world, person after person, knowing how to last. Coming to the city. Coming to the just kingdom.

Dr. Hardcastle: People still die in the city. You told me as much yourself.

SCP-4005-1A: But their creation doesn't. Their creation lasts there for an eternity. Falling into ruin and then out again, just to see what it looks like in different colours. It is a gift. There, we can be happy, free, able to turn our needs and desires to other things because the city has lifted us up. We don't have to be afraid any more. It is a gift.

Dr. Hardcastle: You keep saying that, Fatima, every time I come in here, but there are a thousand places that promise the same. Alagadda, the Tangential Frontier, the Whisper King and his Army of Nightmares. All I see is children looking in the mirror and throwing themselves on the rocks, hoping there was water below. Diving into oblivion. Into the eel's fucking maw. At least yours a prettier death, I'll grant you that.

SCP-4005-1A: Don't talk about it like that.

There is a pause for several seconds.

Dr. Hardcastle: Oh, just- give me something, Fatima, something.

SCP-4005-1A: I can't. I'm sorry. Even if I wanted to, and I don't, there's nothing I can do. The city was constructed by people, just people, and now it's calling them to it. It's time, time the world was changed, time the whole edifice was cast aside. Imagine not having to worry, every day, about who you are. About what you are. Imagine being in a place where it all makes sense. Where we don't have to waste our lives on the struggle.

Dr. Hardcastle: The struggle is what lets us create.

SCP-4005-1A: Does it? Are tortured geniuses so clever because they are tortured, or are they geniuses despite the torture? Nobody ever asks that, do they? None of you have ever wondered if maybe, just maybe, geniuses are made to suffer by people, and that we'd see a lot more of them if people like us didn't lock them in cages, didn't make it so that people could only express beauty through pain. We can make the just kingdom, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: There's no such thing.

SCP-4005-1A: There is. There absolutely is. We are taking this world back, Martha. We are creating justice. We are giving people what they deserve: a real chance. A world that really is theirs for the shaping, and which won't be ripped away from them. Mankind doesn't stink, but it has a hell of a lot that's wrong with it. We'll remove the need for vice. We'll stop them wanting to be evil. We'll do it with kindness.

Dr. Hardcastle: You sound like some student activist. Don't you know that all these dreams are doomed to fail? I'm older than you, Fatima. I've seen the world burn and shake and tremble. All my dreams are dust, and yours will be too. Or you will.

SCP-4005-1A: You're so jaded. Just because you've failed doesn't mean I will. We're making a world where people can be people. Where we can all be free, all create, all liberated from the crushing burden of their chains!

Dr. Hardcastle: Oh, listen to you! I have seen a thousand people like you. Standing up on barricades, shouting about what you want. If this world really is made by us, it'll be just as bad as everything that's gone before it. It'll be blown apart, its creations scattered! I can't believe you. How do you know that this lamp really is showing you a city, huh? How do you know it's- that it's not just some ancient god, luring you in with promises and lies to consume, imprison, enslave you?

SCP-4005-1A: I don't. But I have enough trust to try. What's the point, Martha? What's the point in this endless grind, this normalcy the Foundation is so desperate to protect? Why not try to change the world? Why not have a little chaos? Because you're so frightened of becoming another Manna that you can't concieve of a better existence. The Foundation had everything. We'll take that and give them back the gift of a better life. You want to know what's going on? I'll tell you. al-Sin has become a myth again. By hints of shadows, by word of mouth, by any recognition at all, it'll spread like a virus. There's a better world out there, Martha! In the kingdom at the end of the road. In the justice at the end of all islands.

Dr. Hardcastle: …This interview is over. Restrain her.

<End Log>

Addendum 5 02/06/28: The following is another set of decoded entries from Omar ibn Rashid's diary.

The present is a lie. It is a series of moments we try to give context to, but the context is being erased and written all around it, leaving only the confusion of the throng.

I have never thought much of pilgrimages before now. The religion of my country has always had one, vast one, the yearly Hajj; it has had shrines to sufis and other holy men scattered across its lands to which people flock. These may be fewer every year, but they still hold power. But I, bourgeois and modern as I am, never thought much of them. They seem like a frivolous pursuit for those determined to show off their piety in social and conventional ways.

I know better now. The pain, hungry, fever of a pilgrimage is not there for the sake of vanity of mindless flagellating asceticism. It is there as part of a journey, a journey which changes you. It makes you better. I walked across the world, one step in front of another. It was hard, at times, but slowly it became routine, and then enjoyable. There was something real about it, something so human. I begged and sold and bartered my way across Persia, Syria, into Africa, and to the city of my youth.

It was there I left the lamp. I had, in moments of despair, filled it with oil and lit it, to stare again into my heart's desire. I saw the streets and houses, the palaces. I saw kings who existed not as people but as props. And I saw an old man, laughing like a little child as he wandered the endless streets of China.

Imagine it is the 14th century, in Christian years; the 8th in ours. Don't think of it as time travel, or thinking about the past; think of it as a present which once was, and might be again. For the people of this earlier time, our recent past is their future. They have an entirely different notion of time, too, for which events in both our pasts happened differently, and can take on very different meanings. This is the present; just the present in another context. Other times never really die, they are merely locked away where we can never see them.

There is an emir, living in a citadel. The citadel is in Marrakesh. Once, this city was the seat of Almoravids and Almohads, but they are long gone now. It is surrounded by walls of ochre, which give the city its nickname: the Red City. It is beautiful under the summer sun, but its beauty is the beauty of the past. Of course, we know that the city would reach great heights again under the Sa'adis, but this emir does not know that. To him, he simply rules over an old and decaying city, while the Marinid seat in Fez is coated in glory.

At night, he has bad dreams. As he sits within the citadel, he tosses and turns. He loves his city. He loves its walls, its madrasas, its citadel. He loves its green places, courtyard houses, bright-coloured handicrafts. The walls upon walls upon walls, winding in ways incomprehensible to some but making perfect sense to its inhabitants, their mahalle neighbourhoods and family streets aligned in an order of utmost security.

His city is dying. He sobs, as the nightmares come of its fall, of armies of Berbers, Malians or Franks storming across the Maghreb and not even stopping to loot. He wants an answer, a solution. He wants his city to last forever.

One day, a traveller comes. He has come from the kingdom of al-Sin, far away even to the farthest fringes of the dar al-Islam. China, he knows, is where all the beautiful things come from. Once on campaign, he was shown a beautiful miniature from the work of Rashid al-Din, the Mongol vizier who died when he was a child. They had faces like the moon and colours that weaved with one another. He had seen their handiwork, trailing down the Pax Mongolica and into the bazaars of Morocco.

The traveller tells him similar stories. He tells him of Kubla Khan, of the thousands of nations in subservience to him, of the palace of Khan-baliq and the sprawling market of Khanfu. Red padogas which glinted in the light. A kingdom without beginning, and apparently without end.

The emir was transfixed. He wanted it. He wanted all of it. Marrakesh might fall, but he could glimpse a city like no other, where nothing ever ended, where milk and money poured from the mountains. He could not see a way to transform Marrakesh, but the very knowledge of this mythical place's existence was enough. He could not travel to the east himself, being an old man with too many duties, but he was desperate to see the cities regardless.

In Marrakesh, there was an alchemist. His name was known to the emir, but it was always dark, clouded. This man had few scruples and few pleasantries. The emir came to him, hidden, disguised, and requested that he make him something. Something that would allow him to see, for one single instant, the entirety of al-Sin.

The alchemist nodded, and set to work. He took glass, metal, bound them together. He infused in them strange symbols and devices. He made it beautiful. He placed oil in it. He gave it to the emir. The emir lit it, and stared into the flames, and as he gazed transfixed, the alchemist left, not daring to look at his own creation.

Because the alchemist had lied. He had no idea how to see across the oceans and mountains. So he did something else. He created a world, and let the emir pour his own vision into it. What the emir saw was not al-Sin, but the contents of his mind being brought to that city. It was created by him. It was part of him, and he was part of it.

But it was not enough for the emir. He was transfixed, maddened. He saw utopia. Under the cover of darkness, he left his citadel, with only a robe, some food, and some water. He was never seen again.

Inside the lantern, inside the city, a thousand different presents exist. The particularities of each moment, caught in this great accident, this mirror to an emir's mind. We, his humbler successors, have never managed to shape the city as he shaped it merely by a glance into flame- it was designed for him. But we have followed in his footsteps. We have found our routes to China- for all travel to China, for the people of Morocco, was necessarily hard, necessarily a pilgrimage. And once inside, we have altered and changed and shaped the city beyond what would have been imaginable to the alchemist, to the emir. His heavenly al-Sin, his twisted Marrakesh, is real. It is perfect. It is possible. All it requires is belief, and the effort of our twisted feet.

Addendum 6 20/06/2028: The following is a log of attempts to contain SCP-4005.

Date attempt begun Percentage of population converted into SCP-4005-1 Description of attempt Results
04/06/2028 0.00004% Full lockdown and quarantine of Site-867 Attempt failed. SCP-4005-1 instances reported in population of nearby towns, which rapidly spread to other towns and cities nearby.
07/06/2028 0.3% Removal of all known SCP-4005-1 instances to remote site in northern Canada; attempt to track down remaining instances, presuming all are still in the vicinity of Site 867. Attempt failed; generation of SCP-4005-1 instances random and worldwide.
09/06/2028 2.5 Large-scale attempt, using a wide variety of technological and anomalous means, to track down and kill SCP-4005-1 instances while simultaneously conducting research into methods of immunisation. All tracking and immunisation attempts failed.
11/06/2028 12.5 Immediate shutdown of all modes of transport worldwide. Large-scale checkpoints, curfews and population control enforced. Immediate termination of any suspected SCP-4005-1 instances. Activation of Broken Masquerade protocols. Attempt initially successful, but SCP-4005-1 instances quickly began using alternate portals to enter SCP-4005-2.
14/06/2028 20.6 Immediate removal of all known human populations away from possible SCP-4005-1 instances. Attempt failed; SCP-4005-1 conversion has become random and capable of appearing even in isolated populations.
15/06/2028 38.5 Use of SCP-2000 Request denied by O5-Council
16/06/2028 57.9 Ritual sacrifice to [DATA EXPUNGED] Request denied by O5-Council
18/06/2028 89.6 SCP-3799 Request denied by O5-Council, who also demanded the immediate reclassification of SCP-4005 as Thaumiel and the embarkation of Dr. Hardcastle and remaining personnel at Site 867 on a pilgrimage. This was countermanded by Dr. Hardcastle.
19/06/2028 99.9 Destruction of last non-infected human via suicide Attempt interrupted by SCP-4005-1A. Interview log concerning these events can be found in an addendum below.

SCP-4005 has been reclassified as Apollyon.

Addendum 7 29/06/2028: The following is a log of an unscheduled interview between SCP-4005-1A and Dr. Hardcastle.

Date: 29/01/28

Interviewer: Dr. Martha Hardcastle, Project Lead on SCP-4005

Interviewee: SCP-4005-1A, formerly Dr. Fatima Mahmoud, Level 3 researcher at Site 867.

Location: Site 867, Quarters of the Site Director.

<Begin Log>

SCP-4005-1A: Hello, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: What do you want? Spit it out.

SCP-4005-1A: To see if you are alright. I am your friend.

Dr. Hardcastle: You have new friends now. Not running off with them?

SCP-4005-1A: They're my brothers and sisters in pilgrimage. They're not my friends. And, anyway, I'm not finished here yet.

Dr. Hardcastle: There's nobody left. They're all gone. All of them. My husband was laughing and smiling as he left me with the children. "We'll see you soon", he said. But he won't. I'll never go. Never.

SCP-4005-1A: Why not?

Dr. Hardcastle: Because there is no utopia! There is no perfection, no change, just an endless struggle! How would it even work, anyway? A city that's everyone's perfect city? What about the people who hate cities?

SCP-4005-1A: They create green spaces in its centre, so vast that they never see the rest.

Dr. Hardcastle: How's it even a city, then, eh? That could describe a whole country.

SCP-4005-1A: Because each park is surrounded by the buildings, constructed in such a way that they can only be seen by those who should see them.

Dr. Hardcastle: And who decides who should?

SCP-4005-1A: The city does. Whatever works for each person. Whatever they want.

Dr. Hardcastle: This is not true utopia. A true utopia-

SCP-4005-1A: A true utopia, Martha, is a place where people can coexist and all be happy. It is not heaven. It is something more real.

Dr. Hardcastle: I'll trust in the real world, thanks.

SCP-4005-1A: Who defines what is real, and what is the lie? The distinction is only in your head, Martha. You are remarkable. The only people even capable of resistance were those who understood the anomalous, understood what was happening to them, but they all saw the light eventually. But you, Martha, you soldier on regardless. You just can't see any beauty in what's going on. You can't even accept the idea that maybe the world could be better.

Dr. Hardcastle: The world's not getting any better. You're just running away. Cowards! You're all cowards.

SCP-4005-1A: The thing you don't get is that it's not a cognitohazard, Martha. It's free will. We saw something beautiful and we wanted it. We're going on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages aren't always safe, especially since there's only so much food to go around. We cross the land on only our feet, until we find the place we are meant to go. All across the world, nations walking on.

Dr. Hardcastle: Except you.

SCP-4005-1A: My pilgrimage is you, Martha.

Dr. Hardcastle: Wh- what's that supposed to mean?

SCP-4005-1A: That my pilgrimage is convincing you to go.

SCP-4005-1A opens the door.

SCP-4005-1A: There it is. My Iron Gates, my pass to Kashgar. But it will only open if you come with me.

Dr. Hardcastle: I am not going with you.

SCP-4005-1A: The city, Martha, is divided into districts, each forged by a single person-

Dr. Hardcastle: I'm not listening, I'm not listening, I'm not!

SCP-4005-1A: -and each district converges on a central point. Never mind the impossibility; physics is only a convention of this universe. The form of the city- the way is is percieved- that is what makes it. The same place can seem totally different depending on the image of space and its absence which we form. And at the centre lies the answer.

There is a pause of several seconds.

Dr. Hardcastle: The… answer?

SCP-4005-1A: An emir from Marrakesh. That's all there is, and I don't deny it. At the centre of the road, through all the streets, the city's heart is a single Moroccan courtyard wrapped in four walls. And in it is an emir, who smiles.

Dr. Hardcastle: …Why does he smile?

SCP-4005-1A: Because he knows that there is good in this world, Martha. Because he knows that there is an answer. That mankind can improve its own lot. That his city will never die, because his city is a Marrakesh in the stars, a fable of al-Sin. He is happy because he believes.

There is another long pause.

Dr. Hardcastle: All my life, I never believed in anything. Not God, not man, not creations, not… and all I've ever done is lock things in boxes to stave off death for another day. And never dared dream that we could change it. Never dared to hope.

SCP-4005-1A: It's our lot to be bound to a wheel that spins eternally. Come with me, Martha. Come and smash the chains. Come and be free.

<End Log>

Addendum 8 02/07/2028: The following is a third set of decoded entries from Omar ibn Rashid's diary. SCP-4005's translation and decoding team insisted, shortly after becoming SCP-4005-1 instances, that Dr. Hardcastle preserve these in the Foundation database. Dr. Hardcastle acquiesed to their request shortly after she accepted the fact that she had become an SCP-4005-1 instance.

The future is a lie. It is a desperate hope projected by desperate men onto the fog they cannot see, only for it all to collapse within the inevitability of oblivion.

When I think of my country, I see many futures. I see the completeness of various tyrannies, of Nasser or the Brotherhood or the liberals or the fascists or the Marxists or whatever else springs up. Each of these knows what the past is, an endless system of nation, faith or class. Each of these knows what the present is, a series of problems to be fixed. And each of these knows what the future is, a series of dystopias or utopias spiralling into an inky void.

And behind this all, Cairo grows, like an engorged monster that has no control or energy. A mass of people, emerging from ancient communities and lured by the bright lights of the city. Cairo seems to be a system, a unified, singular thing that makes sense and provides answers, but this is a lie. All cities are chaos, dependent upon their surroundings. They are defined by being not the country, just as the country is defined as being not the city, but they bleed into one another. Streets, squares, markets percieved one way by one angle are seen completely differently by another. The view from above, below, in the street and from the distant plain, alter the system. Make it stranger.

And history is just the same. The events are just the building blocks. The infernal cacaphony of motivations, understandings, paradigms we slip into it, to define trajectories of time, swirl and alter and change. An endless scream of orthodoxies all bound together. All things subsumed into a system which, by subsuming all, negates itself. Past, present, future; all lies, tattered ideology imposed upon an unwilling past. All is lies. All is nought.

But deep within our buried hearts, deep in our inner convictions, we all share the desire for something better. Something more whole. My entire life has been defined by false truths, enough to make a man weep that nothing will ever move. But perhaps there is a history which is not a lie. A history defined not by the wants of the present but by a comprehension of the struggle of the poor, the fables of the believer, the thousand incontrovertible narratives clashing with one another to create a glorious, beautiful whole.

What if Cairo's endless concrete blocks were transformed? Arabesques and murqanas sweeping over their windows and walls, twisting against one another in patterns of infinity. The people inside raised from their squalor to become princes, to become heroes, to become saviours. Instead of the endless fluctuating chaos, a world governed by narrative, purpose, movement, with everyone swimming in a beauty of their own devising.

I understand them, now. I understand the ideals that beat in men's hearts. There is a city, on a hill, through a door, under a cave. It is a city born from a long and tired pilgrimage; and when that pilgrimage is over, it becomes a maze of dark streets, each opening onto one another, a labyrinth of different histories all rubbing up against one another. Istanbul bleeds into Beijing bleeds into Tenochtitlan, each vaster and more terrible than their earthly counterparts.

You walk through the chaos. You walk through the families, as they cook meals over antique braziers and construct prisms of lights, refracting and refracting until they negate themselves. The many districts all focused, endlessly, on a singular point, because all of them are variations on that singular point. You push through the fog, through looming tower blocks at dusk, through sand-swept moorish palaces, through twisting Zulu kraals and mud-spun mosques of Timbuktu, through the eyes of African residents and European dreamer.

In the centre of the web, at the perfect location of cosmic time, the crossroads of the city, lies a palace. It does not look grand. It does not look like anything special; just a red house in Marrakesh. And in it is a courtyard. And inside that is a grey-faced emir, who is smiling, just smiling, sitting on the ground and smiling at a sun that washes over a city that will never die. And he smiles because he knows that utopia is possible, if one only steps, inch by inch, into their own creation.

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