The Island: Prologue
The Honorable John Quincy Adams
United States Minister to Russia
Dear Mr. Adams
I have just now received your curious correspondence from Russia, which took close upon two months to reach me. Perhaps Russia should more diligently oblige itself to emulate the postal service created by the late Doctor Franklin, one what would ensure the timelier arrival of missives. But I digress.
You enquired after the progress on that island off the coast of Virginia. Alas, there is nothing substantial to report in the area of artifacts save for a curious and tragic anecdotal instance what, whether or not related to the island, had transpired thirty five years ago in the autumn of 1775.
One of the laborers seemed to have been afflicted with a feverless ague, one what inspired him to attack his family back on the mainland at the end of his labors. His poor wife and children were peacefully sitting at the family table eating their dinner when a Mr. Augustus Abernathy, father of one of the two discoverers of the island, suddenly but calmly arose from his chair, picked up a club and beat his entire family to death, including his oldest child Erasmus.
In spite of the catharsis of swift justice in the form of the wretch being hung for his heinous crime, this, as you can imagine, had plunged the entire village into inconsolable grief and any and all efforts to extract anything useful from the island in the way of treasure, artifacts, et cetera, had been immediately and forever suspended.
Again, I have no idea if this senseless and wanton slaughter was connected in any way to the island but I had regrettably come to the conclusion the elders of the village had arrived at a sensible action. Investing what little I had was a folly I have not repeated. Whatever is buried beneath that island perhaps ought to remain buried.
In a chilling post scriptum, it ought to be mentioned what in less than five years, the entire village’s inhabitants, as with Roanoke Island in the late 16th century, vanished seemingly from the face of the earth, its reasons remaining shrouded in mystery. However, the surrounding Indian tribes in the ensuing generation or two have featured half breeds sporting Caucasian features in their physiognomies, supporting my personal theory the surviving inhabitants fleeing from heaven knows what were absorbed by the indigenous peoples. At the site of the abandoned village was but one word that remains undecipherable as it was and carved into a door, written in the same alien script as the flagstone and branch at the island’s excavation site.
It is perhaps no coincidence that during the third year of my presidency a mass grave containing the bones of several hundred humans was unearthed upon the reservation sold by the Nansemond tribe. You might know, sir, the Indians do not bury their dead in such a disrespectful or expeditious manner.
As for those artifacts, when I’d learned of the mysterious fate of the village, I was obliged to bury them beneath my property here on Monticello.
The more I set my mind to thinking on it the more I am convinced perhaps the people responsible for the original excavation were not trying to raise whatever is down there but were attempting to bury it.
My dear Mr. Adams, I think it unnecessary to say here that while I have devoted the entire sum of my existence to the pursuit of knowledge, I have attained enough years to know there is knowledge that is better left untouched. Think of the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, perhaps the best parable extant on the corrosiveness of forbidden knowledge.
This is why I cannot fathom the Russian monarchy’s belated interest in this tragic affair, nor how Alexander I and the House of Romanov had even learned of it. I must prevail upon your kind discretions and beg your forgiveness when I ask you to tell St. Petersburg not a word of what I have told you and to feign ignorance. Furthermore, I must ask you to divulge the contents of this letter to not one soul, in public or private correspondence nor in private discourse.
Your father enquires after your health and well being and frequently complains he does not hear from you often enough. Please remand my kindest thoughts and affections to Louisa.
Your humble and obedient servant,
Monticello October 27, 1810
And so the latest ordeal of Joe Roman, latter day descendant of the Romanovs, begins in The Puppet Children. Enjoy.