August 18

The Lost Colony

 

Imagine what it felt like to be John White in 1590, returning to Roanoke Colony after an extended absence, and finding it abandoned.

Walk with him through that early American settlement, a place where he once lived and governed, as he finds no signs of life save for an unidentifiable human skeleton, and a mysterious word carved into a tree.

What happened to his wife and daughter and three-year-old granddaughter?  In total, 115 people had disappeared.

Now flash forward to the present.  Drive your car past a familiar church and gas station, ride deeper into the town you used to call home.  Consider the mid-day hour, which might explain the lack of other cars on the main street.  It’s a between-meal time, and most residents are at work or attending school — explaining the empty local eateries, the lack of pedestrians along downtown sidewalks.

But as you keep driving it occurs to you — as it must have occurred to John White centuries earlier — that the silence, the emptiness, is unnatural.  Yet, like him, you cling to possible explanations:   an event enticed residents to gather outside town, perhaps to observe some unexpected holiday, to commemorate a local hero, to attend a popular concert or sporting competition.

The longer you drive, the weaker such explanations seem.  There should have been an attendant at the gas station outside town.  The fast food restaurants, at the least, should be open for off-time patrons.

One car.  One car should have driven past by now.

You dread finding a human skeleton.   You dread whatever mysterious word might be carved in the trunk of a tree or painted on the side of an abandoned building.

Because this isn’t the first place you’ve visited this month.

Every town you’ve driven through is empty.  You are John White, and the entire world has become the Lost Colony of Roanoke.