Roanoke Colony was swallowed up by America.
Children laughed while sleek spring pulled back winter. One morning they ran into the arms of the trees. It was not the pied piper who sang sweet imaginary tunes to draw them in and it was not the natives. It was America. The children did not come back.
Search parties were organized and the men and women slipped too into the forest to look for the children. Limbless creatures waited in the swamps for them. America waited in the swamps for them.
America had seen the future. She was young and she was free, and She did not like the chains people like these would throw on her. She saw the black smoke-puffs from diesel locomotive dragons and She saw the paper people in their cynical cocoons of glass and steel. She saw the death of every god, including herself. She saw blue and gray brothers who died on bayonets. She did not like it. And She saw a way to stop it.
She wove a lilting song. She swallowed up Roanoke Colony.
One man had stayed back in the colony. He knew what was happening, but there was nothing he could do. He accepted it. Becoming one with America was to be a newcomer there forever. The streets were always painted gold and you never had to pay the rent. The man could see glimpses of what was to come, too, but he saw good things along with the foul. And so he waited for America to come.
He wrote one word on a tree, an explanation to the people he knew would come later and wonder.
When She came to him, he was sitting peacefully and witing for her. He wanted to see Her first.
She was young and She was beautiful. She was every part of every person who had ever stepped on her shores with gleaming eyes and seen the rest of life played out on the silver screen, every dream and every city and every wide expanse of nothing. She was a country like a woman and She was a woman like a country. He could see the fire running under Her skin like wild flesh under thin sheets. Like the dreams of new Americans.
She didn’t say anything as She walked towards him. He hadn’t expected her to. He saw the plants that sprung up in Her footprints as she walked, saw flashes and voices of what was to come in them. She was glowing stronger now, it was almost time–
America took his hand and everything She had seen, everything she knew went into him. He screamed. He had not seen all the pain and all the broken dreams before. He had not seen the final disillusionment that was death in America. But he felt the new dreams of new immigrants intoxicate him. That was his drug. That was America’s drug.
He became Her. He became a part of Her as everyone else did. And when he did, he left nothing behind but his skeleton and the word he had written on the tree. America strode away into the forest and never came back to Roanoke Island.
They say that later, some of the Indians in that area had the icy blue eyes of Europeans. They say that sometimes you could hear the children of lost Roanoke laughing on sleek spring mornings after the winter. Those were shadows. Not the oldest shadows, nor the first people to be swallowed up by America, but the last innocent ones.