Smoke plumed up from the eastern horizon as we drove north along Goose Lake's western shores. Josiah fretted upon seeing it, sticking his head clean out the window and screaming back at me over the roaring wind as we clipped along, yelling whether the town had gone up. I told him to tuck his damn fool head back in the car and stop his worrying. From the angle, the smoke originated from somewhere deep over the hills and into the brush flats that rolled out into far eastern Oregon.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Damn sure I'm sure. Now get back in here and sit tight," I said.
The dirt roads up from the lake wound through the countryside. Not once did we see another living soul, neither driving along nor toiling in the fields along farms that were either abandoned or whose owners cowered out of sight. I had never seen anything like it before and neither had Josiah, because when I glanced over his head was back out of the window, whipping front to back, staring as long as he could at the driveways and small tracks between fields to prove to himself that things had truly gone quiet.
When we left the farmland and hit Highway 140 it only got worse. Road was never exceptionally busy, but you could expect a steady trickle since it was the main line through the woods between Lakeview and Klamath Falls. But empty? I flipped on the radio and turned through, but was met by silence across the dial. I cranked the volume until the car's stereo hummed and popped with static, but there was still nothing so I switched it off.
"Ain't no one here," Josiah muttered.
"I'm starting to see that," I said.