Zach and I had been walking for some time when I realized I’d never seen this part of the forest before. Nothing looked familiar. Every tree seemed dark and menacing. And where was the path leading to my house? Suddenly nervous, my heart began to race.
Zach kept talking.
“I can’t believe Mrs. Davis expects every kid in class to write a story,” he complained. “And I can’t believe YOU’VE already written yours! What am I going to do? I don’t have anything to write about. Nothing exciting ever happens to me.”
“Um, Zach,” I said, stopping, “don’t look now, but I think we’re lost.”
“Lost?” Zach said, looking around. Then a huge grin spread over his face. “Cool!” he yelled, digging through his pockets. “Maybe we are.”
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking for this,” he said pulling out a small black compass. “I’ve always wanted to use it,” he added, checking the dial. “Come on!” He started walking off through the trees.
I followed him.
Fifteen minute later we were still lost.
“Figures,” I grumbled, kicking at a stone. “I knew it wouldn’t work.”
“Why are you complaining?” Zach growled. “You’ve already written your story.” He stopped so abruptly I bumped into him.
“Be careful,” I said, staggering.
Suddenly the ground started to shake, heaving up and down like a ship at sea. Caught off balance I fell to the earth, squeezing my eyes shut as I clutched at the shifting soil. What was going on?
Slowly the ground stopped moving. Everything grew still.
I opened my eyes. Instead of grass and dirt, I was lying on a cold stone floor. I flinched as a drop of water landed on my hand. “What happened?” I asked, sitting up.
“I don’t know,” Zach answered. “Where are we?”
I couldn’t answer him. I could only look around at the small dark room and dripping stone walls. There was no window, just a wooden door, and the cold air made goose bumps rise on my arms. The only light shone from a candle resting on a rickety table, covered with all sorts of parchments. A man stood by the table, holding a quill pen, and staring at us in surprise.
“Who are you?” he asked, startled. His chains clanked as he stepped towards us.
I scrambled to my feet, standing next to Zach. “I’m Mark,” I said, “and this is Zach. Where are we? How did we get here? And who are you?”
“I do not know how you come to be here,” the man replied, “but I am called Paulos, and this is my cell.”
“You mean we’re in prison?” Zach asked.
“Great,” I groaned, thumping the all-too-solid wall with my fist. “I must be losing my mind.”
“At least I won’t have to write that story,” Zach said with a shrug.
Paulos looked at us with interest. “You are writers?” he asked.
“Well, I would be,” Zach said, “if I ever had anything to write about.”
“Have you sought knowledge?” Paulos asked.
Zach stared at him, puzzled. “From who?”
Paulos grabbed a piece of parchment. “Look at this,” he said, handing it to Zach. “It took much time and patience to form those words, for writing is a difficult skill. It is never truly mastered. There is always something to be learned.
“But a writer bereft of ideas,” Paulos continued, shaking his head, “he struggles more than all. Like a man who is lost, he wanders aimlessly, accomplishing nothing.”
“Boy, do I understand that,” I said, while Zach glared at me.
Paulos smiled as he looked at us. “Then learn something new. Discovering an idea is what makes writing an adventure. Ideas do not immediately appear. Often we must ask for them. Then, when they come, they burn like a spark of fire, setting the mind ablaze and the fingers racing across the page. The very best ideas,” he added, “are those that God inspires.”
“And what are you writing?” I asked.
“A letter,” Paulos replied, “to my dear son, Timothy.”
“Wait!” I cried. “I know who you are. You’re….”
But then everything started to fade. Paulos’ face disappeared, the prison vanished, and suddenly we were back in the forest.
In the distance dad was calling my name.
“Let’s get home,” Zach said, starting to run. “I’m ready to write my story. It’ll be about these kids, lost in a forest, who end up in prison and….”
Smiling, I followed him home.
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