In the year of our Lord, 1587, a celebration filled the spring air for the good people of Roanoke Colony. Winter had been unyielding once again, and the menace of war with the Spanish had severed much-needed replenishment of goods and supplies. They were England’s earliest endeavours at the establishment of a permanent settlement in the Americas, and alone were they; alone and isolated. Tested was their resolve of heart and faith in God. Eventually, the days grew longer, and the last of the snow had melted away. Come spring, none of the one hundred and seventeen colonists had perished and in fact, the valiant people were thriving and prospering in this brave new world.
Memories of hardship and trials were absent from tongue and thought this warm day. Today was about triumph and victory. The rugged and savage land had not overcome their determination of will and manifestation of destiny. Today was a day of honor, heralded with a feast in which all would take part from tables placed outside along the town’s edge. It was a time to congregate and make merry with their brother and neighbor. Offerings of thanks would be given to God and cups of wine would be raised to the Queen. Men bellowed in laughter; women giggled amongst themselves and children ran and played throughout the settlement. All was good in the world that day.
A little boy’s voice sang out from the tree line of the forest that sat East of town. The voice of Caleb called out, “Mummy! Mummy! I caught him! He is mine! I caught him!”
At the sound of her son’s voice, Priscilla’s lips thinned with irritation. “Once, could not a single day come to pass in which the little waif would not cause me embarrassment?” she thought to herself.
Priscilla felt a mixture of guilt and disdain every time she looked upon the child, for she had married young into the Oakenshaw family and not for love, but for necessity. Plucked from the busy streets of Cambridge, by her adventurous husband, she despised Richard for the life he chose for her. Given the fact that he did not even have the courtesy to remain among the living long enough to ensure his expecting wife could escape this savage wilderness. In bitterness, she alone bore the responsibility of parenthood.
She held fast to the belief that never had there been a more disobedient child than Caleb. As the boy grew from an infant, he became such an odd and unusual child. No interest had he in the goings on around him and mostly dwelt in an inner world of his own making. Other than frequent outbursts of tantrums, little emotion was shown or shared by Caleb. Was it her fault that bonds of motherly affection did not form, thought Priscilla?
She did not turn or even acknowledge the callings of the voice and continued her duties of setting the tables and conversing with the other women. She ignored the curious glances over her shoulder and the looks of pity that fell upon her.
A scream arose from the crowd. The murmurs of talk and conversation instantly came to a halt. All attention had come to rest on the forest’s edge.
With a hop and a skip, the child-like figure broke through the tree line and onto the grassy field that separated the colony from the forest’s edge. It grew near with long, proud skips through the grass. The people saw what approached. Mothers grabbed their children and men stood fast to protect their family.
It was sickly pale and emaciated. Skin drooped and hung loosely from its bones, forming striations of sagging flesh that swayed to and fro. Ropy, white hair clumped together upon its head. Patches of shiny, red flesh glistened in the sun where hair had been torn from root. The eyes stretched wide and protruded from its skull and held the consistency of soup or pottage gone cold. It gazed absently past the horizon with cloudy blue and white pupils that were large and dilated. As it approached, the putrid smell of its ravaged flesh intensified.
Once reaching the town’s edge, the creature continued its hopping from one foot to the next, “I caught Him! He’s mine! He’s mine! I won’t give Him back! He’s mine! He’s mine! He’s mine!” it chanted. The small creature held its two gaunt arms high above its head with hands cupped together, much like how a child would hold a butterfly caught in mid-flight.
Another scream pierced the air, and others gasped for realization had come crashing down on all who bore witness. It fell heavy on their hearts and filled each with dread. For despite its deformities and gruesome appearance, this was no spawn from Satan’s seed. There was no doubt to the impossible truth; this, in fact, was their very own Caleb.
The sky above the forest darkened, and clouds of the deepest purple, blue and green spilled out from a single point in the heavens. It bled out from the firmament like a stab wound and gathered in ominous shapes and formations. The clouds poured out with such force; it gave the appearance of a vast body of turbulent water churning above the forest. Luminescent flashes of green and white glowed from within. The silence was stunning as the clouds continued to bubble and boil.
The expansion of clouds soon quieted and came to a stop. All was still, but the air was electrified with the anticipation of the approach of something. A loud crash of thunder rolled out of the heavens frightening the masses. The echo of its rumble lingered in the air until it slowly faded, then another clap boomed overhead. Panic gripped the people for this was no thunder that roared overhead, this was different. The low, mournful tone was too profound to be of nature’s making. No, it held the likeness of darkness and resemblance of dread at the arrival of war sounded from great trumpets. Trumpets, like those spoken about in scripture, that would herald the end of days.
Magnificent, splendid objects lit the air and burst through the clouds. So bright were they that no true form could be discerned of its body. Only rings within rings of light did they have in appearance, but the large span of wings that outstretched from its back was unmistakable.
A legion of creatures of light hovered in the sky and began to descend on the small settlement. Pillars of fire ignited from the beings. One, then two, then three, five, ten, fifty and so on. As they approached, the purpose and nature of the fire became understood. The fire sat upon a hilt and was the blade of a sword of flames.
Caleb stood before the crowd of people, as they cowered and looked at him with disgust. He held his hands firmly clamped around something that did not want to be trapped. A thick red and black fluid poured and seeped out from between his hands and fingers. It fell to the ground in ropy strands and began to smoke upon contact with the grass.
The fluid formed tendrils and burrowed into the hands and arms of Caleb, yet he took no notice. The tendrils moved sharply as it penetrated the boy’s hands and forearms. It traveled and spread underneath the hands and arms of the boy’s skin like a branch of veins.
Within the boy’s cupped hands, an inhuman scream shrieked loudly. Moans and wails continued as it violently jerked the boy’s hands to and fro, up and down, side to side, but Caleb’s grip held fast and unbroken. Brilliant beams of light exploded from the child’s hands as the thick substance began to foam and pour out from between his fingers in greater amounts.
Those unfortunate souls who had looked directly into the light were paralyzed from the flash. Their heads snapped upwards toward the sky, and their mouths opened wide with a sound of a loud death rattle. Wider and wider their mouths opened without stop until a sickening “snap” was heard from their jaws dislocating. With a stiff and rigid body, they remained frozen in place until their eyes bulged and shot high into the air, landing on the ground with a sickening “plop.”
The beings of light took formation on the green, grassy field just outside of the settlement. The rings of light that obscured its body were not soft and curved ribbons and streams. They were jagged and pointed halos of razors and blades. These were creatures of war and death.
Those who remained and had not fled behind the town’s high, yet feeble wooden wall gasped in terror and awe at the creatures of light. Between them danced the jubilant Caleb, still chanting his words, “He’s mine! He’s mine!” Now insane and blind; his entire body interwoven with the wiggling, bloody tendrils that entered and exited his skin, orifices, mouth, ears and eyes.
One of the creatures of light came forward and glided toward Caleb. It hovered over the small boy, and a beautiful melody began to flow from the being. Caleb immediately stopped and listened intently to the sound. Was this how these giants communicated? The people watched as Caleb cocked his head to the side and appeared to find the melody soothing and pleasing.
The unfortunate spectators fell to their knees in despair from disbelief as three words emerged from the harmony of the song coming from the lips hidden behind the illumination of holy light.
Caleb slowly held his cupped hands out in front of him to offer up what he held. Blood flowed in streams over his face. His hands were bloody pulps of mass, no longer useful digits of touch and grasp. As the giant creature approached, a mischievous grin of a naughty little boy formed on his lips through the wiggling root-like fingers writhing from within his mouth. He said with a low hiss, “You can’t have Him, He’s mine! If I can’t keep Him, then you can’t have Him either!”
Caleb slapped his hands together, crushing whatever he held in the space between his palms. A deafening scream of agony rung loud and the reddish, black fluid sprayed out with such force, it coated both men and creatures of light. The substance ate away both flesh of men and auras of light immediately upon contact.
With flames from swords raised high and the war cry of pure angelic hatred and rage, the creatures of light charged into the settlement of Roanoke Colony.
In the year of our Lord, 1590 the first of the delayed supply ships arrived upon the shores of Roanoke Island to find not a single living soul. In its three-year absence, no evidence of war, famine or any other possible reason for the colony’s complete disappearance could be deduced. Instructed were the people, to leave a marking in the form of a Maltese cross to signal any who would come for them that misfortune had fallen on the town. Instead, only the random word “CROATOAN” was discovered scribbled on a discarded plank of wood.
What had once been a thriving settlement of sturdy, thatched-roof cottages of one and two story habitats was no more. The first presence of the English Empire in the New World, shown through the efforts of these one hundred and seventeen people, had left no mark, or clue of the fate that befell them. A crudely built fort surrounding the former settlement was all that gave a hint of the past presence of the colonists. And upon a post of wood, bleached white as snow and surrounded by Earth dead and burned black was found to hold the only clue that remained. Scorched and carved deep, a single word of three letters could be seen. No meaning was known and remains a mystery to this very day.
Carved were the letters “CRO.”