Hello. My name is Jake Fisher. As I record this, I want to make it clear I am of sound mind and judgment, and that the events and happenings I am about to tell you are as close to the truth as I believe them to be. It is now . . . 10:28pm. On October the 4th. The events that I am about to recount took place about seven hours ago.
I’m not sure who I’m making these recordings for . . . Maybe just myself? No. What’s happened to me so far validates my reason for recording this story. And for whoever – or is it whomever? I never know – whatever – for whomever listens to this, I want to reaffirm I’m recording this in my own words, step by step, as it happened to me. To the best of my recollection.
I have no reason to make this shit up.
And at this point, I’m too fucking terrified to make anything up.
I’m sorry about the swearing. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning.
This morning over breakfast, I went to those sites again and . . . somehow . . . they’re all different now. They’re not the same as they were the day before. I’d almost believe I was just wrong or confused when I first looked them up and I have no actual proof of this except for that first recording.
Did someone change those sites? Update them? . . . Because of me? Because of what I found? Because of Ostium?
After spending a lot of time yesterday getting to Ostium, today was a much quicker and easier trip. I called in sick early this morning, and because today is Friday, they’ll just think I had some nasty bug and will be suffering all weekend and be back fresh and healthy on Monday.
I wonder if I’ll be coming back to work on Monday?
I stocked up on sugary goods and one massive cup of coffee that gave a Starbucks venti a run for its money, gassed up, and got on the road.
Oh, and I almost forgot, a set of bolt cutters.
Even though I knew exactly where I was going it still took me almost four hours of heavy driving, and numerous bio breaks. That’s pee breaks for those not up on the jargon. Because of the coffee. Yeah.
Just as the caffeine was starting to wear off and I started getting real antsy, the foliage closed in and I knew I was getting close.
And then I reached Ostium again.
The excitement rose in me like a growing wave and it felt like I was going to catch it just right.
I parked the car in a sort of shady spot. Out of the way. It’s a Volkswagen Mini, so we’re not talking about a lot of car to begin with, plus it’s dark forest green, blending in with the aforementioned foliage.
I’m not really sure why I wanted to hide the car. I guess I was thinking if anyone else showed up, I didn’t want to be spotted, or something. But no one had paid this place a visit since the missionaries were making their first pilgrimages across the state that wasn’t a state yet.
I snagged the last donette and grabbed the bolt cutters, making my way over to the rusty gates, all ready to tackle that shiny new and unusual padlock, and stopped in my tracks. It felt like a long time since I’d been here, but it was less than twenty-four hours at this point. Everything looked the same . . . Except . . . the padlock . . . was gone.
I walked back to my car with an unsettling feeling erupting in my chest, put the bolt cutters inside, locked up and came back.
There was now nothing at all holding the two iron gates in place. Wondering how tough it would be to open these rusty relics, I gave a sturdy push where they touched.
They swung open without a sound, like a pair of welcoming hands.
I sucked in a breath and took my first step into Ostium
It was like any ordinary town and unlike any town anywhere.
I walked slowly down the main street I’d peaked at yesterday, looking at the different store fronts. I knew they were stores because most of them had signs hanging out front advertising their wares within. I hadn’t been able to see them from behind the gate yesterday. Now, when I say signs, I mean the simplest, most archaic form of the noun. It was a plank of wood with a product name engraved into the wood and painted black, though I could hardly tell it was black, because it was so faded looking and old. One said BUTCHER. Another TAILOR. Another COBBLER. One was in French and said PATISSERIE. Then there was BOULANGERIE.
Now I’m not really up on my French, but I thought patisserie and boulangerie were kind of the same thing. I couldn’t actually tell because while each store had either one big rectangular window or a small square one on each side of the door, they were all opaque. Black like it was night inside and I couldn’t see a single thing. I tried peeking through. I even put my face right up to the glass, touching it with my nose. It was cold. Colder than the outside. Colder than it should’ve been. Cold like not following the laws of thermodynamics. Cold like something on the inside was keeping it that cold. Somehow.
There were more stores, as I continued up the street, in more languages. FARMACIA. My Spanish is better than my French and I knew that was a pharmacy. Though just to makes things a little more wacko, on the opposite side of the street was a store with the sign CHEMIST. Yeah, if you don’t know, that’s the British term for a pharmacy.
At this point there was a cross street with more stores to the left and to the right. And there were more languages now. I recognized German and I think Dutch. There were some Scandinavian ones, Swedish, Danish or Norwegian. I heard once they’re all pretty similar.
If you grow up in the Bay Area, you’re exposed to a lot of diversity and a number of different languages from around the globe. So while I didn’t know what they meant, I recognized Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. And then there were some Cyrillic ones and a bunch of others that I had no clue about.
I decided to stick to the street I was on, what I thought of as “Main Street,” and continued heading up it. That was when I studied one of the doors for the first time.
I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed earlier, but I did now.
There was a number on the door. It said 24. So I looked at the other doors around me and saw the same thing. Numbers on every one of them. I even started backtracking a bit on the doors I’d missed. The strange thing about them was that they were all random. A 36 here, 42 over there, 82, 65, 99, 4, 104. It made no sense.
I tried to open one of the doors.
I pulled on the handle. It turned down, but unsurprisingly the door didn’t open. This was number 17. I tried pushing, then pulling. I threw my shoulder into it; then gave it a sturdy kick. There was no movement. What. So. Ever.
I knew Ostium wasn’t going to make it that easy for me.
I tried a few others just to be sure it wasn’t just this one door.
They were all the same.
Locked up tight.
So I moved on, crossing a few more streets. I’d moved into what I presumed was a residential area now, as the store signs were gone. Every house was a door in the center with two square windows on either side. The number on the door. That was it. They all looked identical. Some were joined together, others with a small gap. I could probably squeeze myself in between that gap, but I didn’t really want to try it.
I did look up at one point and discover I was drawing closer to the water tower with its rickety looking ladder reaching down to the ground. I could see a small door in its underside, though I couldn’t read the number.
Everything here seemed to have a door.
Given the name of this place, it made sense.
A short while later the houses became more widely separated and grassland opened up before me, still with the street running through it. It led to that town hall-looking building I mentioned from yesterday. There was the clock tower stretching out of it like your cliché phallic object reaching to the heavens, pointing at noon. Or midnight. The witching hour.
But it was a bright, sunshiny day.
I headed up that street and when I reached the door I realized why it had its own street and was separated from everything else.
On the door was the number one.
So I reached out, feeling myself catching that rising surfer’s wave fully now, turned the handle and pushed.
This time the door opened.
The room was bare bones. Four walls. Three doors in addition to the one I’d just opened. The others were all closed. But I didn’t expect much else from a long abandoned town like this. As I’d been walking up the street, part of my mind had been thinking how long this place had been abandoned. Except for the shiny new padlock that had mysteriously disappeared, everything looked downright ancient in Ostium.
And then there was the thing standing in the center of the room.
It was a rectangular wooden table and on its surface was a detailed map of the town, carved into the wood. I walked up to it and actually gasped at the detail. It was a work of art with all the tiny streets, all the individual stores and homes, the grasslands and contours of the town. It was astonishing. The water tower was a little wooden piece sticking out of the table like a thick splinter. But unlike the rest of the room, the carving was spotless and clean, as if it had been carved and freshly varnished just yesterday.
The map carving was also a key: there were numbers on every single building. I cast my eyes up the street I’d come and saw the familiar numbers I’d passed. I found numeral 1 where I was currently standing. I also learned the water tower was 69.
I poured over the whole table, taking in the reaches of the town. There were a lot of buildings here, a lot of numbers. Over a hundred, as I already knew. But there were also open patches of ground with a number in the center. There was no building. So either it was a door standing on its own, or a hole in the ground with a number carved into the earth, or a hidden trapdoor or something. Whatever it was, I was getting excited just imagining what it could be like.
What was the deal with this place?
I started searching on the map and it took me a little while and then I found number 2. I’d passed it on my sojourn over here.
I looked at the three closed doors in the room, one on each wall, just asking to be opened.
I had two choices.
Two BIG choices.
I made my decision and headed out the door, closing it behind me.
As much as my curiosity was begging me to find out what was behind those three mystery doors, I felt the bigger question to answer was whether every door in this place led to the same thing or was it something different? Was it the inside of a store or house? Was it a door that just didn’t open? Was it a door to heaven? Or to hell? To my imagination?
I had to know.
More than what was behind those three doors in the room with the wooden map.
So all my money and hope was on number two.
That sounded wrong.
Alright, I’ve got it.
Monty, let’s have a look at what’s behind door number two?
Yeah, that’s better.
I retraced my steps, heading back down the street that appeared to have no name according to “ye olde wooden map,” just like all the streets in this town.
And then I was staring at a wooden door that looked like every other wooden door in town, except three quarters of the way up was a carving of the number two, paint flaking black like the signs.
I felt myself smirk as I reached out and tried knocking.
No one answered. No surprise there. Figured it was worth a shot.
So I turned the handle and pushed.
The door . . . opened.
Unlike opening the first door where I could see inside, with the walls and the doors and the table in the center, here I was greeted by blackness. A dense blackness that had no give, no depth. It was like when I peeked in one of the windows: a night to end all nights, as they say.
I was pretty terrified at this point, and it still gives me goosebumps now, thinking about it.
I had another choice then: to either go through and risk facing whatever was on the other side, or close the door and go back to my job and normal life, and say goodbye to everything Ostium.
My life didn’t exactly flash before my eyes, but I thought about a lot of things in quick succession: past events in my life, memories, highs and lows, and the immense risk I was currently facing.
I was at the edge of the precipice, and I couldn’t see if there was a sturdy, stable bridge to cross, or a rickety wooden one, or just a drop into darkness. I didn’t know if I stepped off the edge I wouldn’t just fall . . . forever.
Not a single soul on the planet knew I was here. I could disappear and that would be it. No one would ever know.
And that was when I said fuck it and stepped through.
The first thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t in Ostium anymore.
I was surrounded by big trees and lots of hanging branches. It was colder than where I’d been. A lot colder. But I could tell they were different trees to what I’d seen driving to Ostium. They were actually unlike any kind of tree I’d seen before. So I was definitely in a different place.
I took two steps forward and the ground felt mulchy and squishy beneath my feet. I think they call it loam: that spongy layer of dirt and leaves and twigs and whatever else.
I turned around and looked back at the doorway.
The way back wasn’t black, but showed the street in Ostium where I’d just stepped through.
The door was hanging open into this place, wherever this was.
But there was no door frame, no wall that the door was attached to.
It was just a door shape with the open door, standing there on the ground, on its own, attached to nothing.
It was really freaky.
I stepped around it and from behind I was able to look through the open doorway, not seeing anything of Ostium.
I was pretty relieved I hadn’t been killed in some horrific way passing through the doorway, but I was still terrified.
Where the hell was I?
I walked back to the doorway, wanting to be able to see Ostium and be comforted knowing it was still there. Then I looked around me and saw a hundred yards ahead a wooden palisade forming the wall of a settlement. It looked like something out of a history book.
That was when I started to wonder if I wasn’t just in a different place . . .
But a different time.
I sucked in a brave breath and headed towards the wooden wall made of solid tree logs all lined and lashed together. I saw there was an opening a little further along. I looked back at the open door, still in plain view. I could still see the opposite side of the street in Ostium with another door and another number, though I couldn’t make it out from where I was standing. It was comforting.
A necessary comfort.
I headed over to that opening in the wall, wanting to see what was on the other side of it. Was it another place like Ostium?
There was a big tree standing just outside the wall. It looked like some kind of oak, real thick and probably hundreds and hundreds of years old. Someone had carved something into it. Three letters: C – R – O. CRO
Something lit up my mind. A minute spark way back in there. This meant something to me, but at that moment I had no idea what.
I needed to learn more to find out.
I stepped into the opening and surveyed a small town from centuries ago. It looked early American, like before the United States was an established country. In the colony days, maybe even before that. Simple wooden houses of varying sizes. A fire pit between two of the houses with just ashes. Nothing had burned there in some time.
I took a few more steps into the hamlet, doing a full 180 and looking from the wall on my right to the wall on my left.
I saw another carving, this time on one of the logs forming the sturdy wall.
I walked up to it and read the single word.
It wasn’t English.
I ran my fingers along the letters.
Suddenly, I knew exactly where I was.
For the first time in my life I slapped my hand over my mouth, stifling a scream.
The eight letters were carved clearly.
I was on an island in North Carolina.
The year was sometime between 1587 and 1590.
And I was looking at the settlement of the abandoned, lost colony of Roanoke.
That was when my heart leapt into my throat, and I turned and ran as fast as I could.
I was half convinced the door was going to be gone and I was just going to find an empty grove of trees and be trapped in the sixteenth century.
But it was there and my heart fell back down into my chest.
I ran through, grabbing the handle on my way in and slamming the door behind me.
On the other side I felt the familiar and now very comforting buildings of Ostium surrounding me.
The roughshod road.
I started giggling which turned into a raucous laughter that wracked my body, tortured my lungs and throat, and left me crying and dizzy.
My dying echoes of laughter were pretty creepy.
I fell to the ground, trying to get a hold of myself.
I know now it was shock and fear.
It was either laugh or cry.
After I’d caught my breath and regained what I could of any sanity, I headed back to the building with door number one.
I pulled on the handle, wondering for a half second if it was a one-use deal and now it was sealed forever from me.
But it turned and the door pushed inward.
I stared at the table with the map carving. Then at the three mysterious doors.
The yearning curiosity wasn’t there anymore.
I was exhausted, both physically and mentally.
The town and its many doors and secrets held within had been here for years, probably decades. Possibly centuries.
That was a thought for another day.
But they would keep another night and tomorrow I would return.
Right now I needed to get away from Ostium for a bit. I needed to recharge and recover.
Harrowing. That was the word for today. The whole experience from opening the gate to now had been harrowing.
I closed the door and walked back down the street.
The gate was still ajar as I’d left it. I closed it behind me, saw my car was undisturbed.
I got in and headed home, not listening to any music, not stopping a single time until I made it to my assigned parking spot and then went in through my front door.
I thought a lot on my drive home.
I’d never be able to look at an ordinary door the same way again. I was pretty sure of that.
I collapsed on the couch and then crashed and slept for three hours.
I woke up groggy. Made some coffee and dinner. It woke me up and satisfied my raging hunger.
I felt like I’d done something strenuous today like a heavy gym workout, or played basketball for hours, or run a marathon. But I was doing better.
That’s when I sat down and recorded all this.
What does it all mean?
What is Ostium?
Why did I find it?
Why did I find it?
Did I find it?
Was I chosen to find it?
What’s special about it?
What do the numbers mean?
Is there a significance to each one? To each door?
That first door is obviously some kind of home base and I have a feeling I might know what’s behind one or more of those doors inside the room. My spidey-sense is telling me living quarters.
I don’t know.
Was I really in Roanoke?
Was it really 1587?
Thinking back on it now, it seems like a very far away thing, a hazy memory. I’m sure if I were never to return to Ostium, doubt would begin to sow itself within me and I’d eventually think it all some strange dream.
I know. It could’ve been something else too. A recreated settlement to show tourists the way things were.
But see, the thing is I know something about Roanoke. I did a paper on it in a college US history class. I was fascinated by it. You might even say obsessed. The paper ended up being over ten pages long and for a lower division course, that’s pretty darn good. I laid everything out: how it was all started by Sir Walter Raleigh. How the first settlement began. How John White who was a friend of Raleigh’s help set up the colony of 115 souls, including White’s granddaughter, Virginia Dare, who was the first English child born in North America.
How White had had to travel back to England in 1587, leaving the 115 colonists on Roanoke Island. He’d wanted to come back sooner with supplies, but bad weather had prevented him from going. Then the Spanish Armada attacked England and he wasn’t able to get a ship. In 1588 he’d hired two vessels to bring supplies but they’d been captured, the valuable cargo seized.
In 1590 he was able to hitch a ride on a privateering expedition that agreed to drop him off at Roanoke on the way. He arrived on August 18, what would’ve been his granddaughter’s third birthday.
When he got to the settlement he found not a single person there. 90 men, 17 women and 11 children vanished without a trace.
The only clues were the carving of CRO in a tree outside the settlement and the word CROATOAN on a fence post inside the settlement.
I know they’ve recreated fortifications and reproductions of what the settlement of the lost colony was like.
But this hadn’t felt like that at all. This had looked too real. The details in the buildings and fire pit and other things I’d seen around the settlement.
Just the smell of the place. It smelled . . . Authentic.
No. The more I think on it, the more unsettled yet certain I am I was in Roanoke in 1587.
I feel it to be true.
So then I have to ask myself: if Ostium sent me there, through this door . . . Why? What was I supposed to get out of it? Was I supposed to stay there longer, look for clues, a possible solution to what happened to the colonists?
There’s never been any conclusive evidence.
Since Ostium has suffered a similar fate to Roanoke – at least that is what it appears to be – am I to try to solve this mystery and therefore come a step closer to solving the bigger mystery of Ostium?
I simply don’t know at this point.
It’s all too much. And a lot of it is too fantastic to accept.
But I know what happened to me today. I know it was real.
And what will I find behind door number 3?
Another empty town?
What I do know is this: tomorrow I’m going back to Ostium again.
I can’t stop now.
I won’t stop now.
I’m going to see what’s behind those doors in the clock tower, and then I’m going to see what’s waiting for me behind door number 3.
[End Credit Music]