I walked along the beach, my best friend by my side. The evening was cool and breezy, the water stretching before us seemingly endless. Who would sail through those waters tonight? Where would they go? Overhead the sun was setting, the goldens and reds and purples filling the sky with excitement, readying it for the night.
I suddenly noticed something lying in the sand, rolling in the surf. Interested, I walked over to investigate. It was a bottle–an old-fashioned bottle, with a stopper. I picked it up and lifted it to the light. A rolled up piece of parchment nestled inside. I beckoned over to my friend, who walked over to join me. “Look at this.” I lifted up the bottle to show her. “A message in a bottle!”
“Wow, I wonder where it came from.” She pointed at it. “Open it and let’s see what it says.”
I pulled out the stopper and stuck my fingers down into the neck of the bottle. I was surprised to see the paper was dry. Sliding the paper out, I unrolled it gently. It was supple and clean–it looked like it hadn’t been in the bottle for long. The message was written in black ink, like it had been written in a hurry, the letters scrawled across the page.
“I’m trying to leave this island, I’ve been here much too long. I came here on my adventure, but I got lost along the way. I’m searching for a new story, can you help me? My address is the little hut in the corner of the island, the one with the colorful red flowers by the door. My name is Izz. Just sail straight towards the horizon, and you’ll find us. We live on the Isle of Lost Heroes.”
I lowered the paper and turned to my friend. “The Isle of Lost Heroes? What does that mean? Doesn’t that sound made up?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’ve heard of that place.” She stretched her finger towards the setting sun. “It’s way over there, very far away. In most stories, the hero makes it back from their adventure. But not always. Sometimes, they get lost along the way. And sometimes, they make their way to the Isle of Lost Heroes. Watching, waiting for another writer to come by and include them in their story.”
I frowned. “I wonder how many of them make it off the Isle.”
“Not many.” She shook her head. “So many of them lose their identity along the way, or they never knew who they were in the first place and they find themselves wandering. Sometimes they just fade away before the end of their story. So many that never really get to tell their tale.” We sat in silence for several moments.
I stared into the distance as I thought. “I don’t want that to happen to my heroine. So often I wonder if I’ve given her what she needs. If I’ve given her the tools to find her way home. To stay away from that place…” I trailed off. I was still trying to find my own way with writing, with defining my characters, to keep them from getting lost in that giant ocean of words.
“Just the fact that you know the isle exists… it’s enough to keep her from sailing into it. As long as you’re there to guide her, she’ll make it home.”
I nodded, and we continued our slow walk down the beach. I looked back again at the horizon, and thought about the characters that never really got to tell their tale. Only time would really tell if my heroine would be one of them.