As Stephon walked down the cobblestone street of the small town where he lived, he couldn’t help but marvel at the simplistic beauty of it all.
“Hi, Stephon!” a little girl shouted as she ran by to go play with some friends.
“Hi, Isabella!” Stephon replied, continuing his walk to the store.
He smiled as he walked, being greeted by everyone as he passed.
Stephon had retired to this small, secluded town years before and quickly fell in love with the surrounding landscape of hills, trees, and a long river that went across the entire landscape. It was all very picturesque.
“Hello, Stephon!” Sam, the merchant greeted him as he walked into the store.
“Hello, Sam,” he responded. “How are you today?”
“Ahh, blessed as always,” Sam replied. “Did you see Isabella out there. That girl is so full of energy. She wears us out.”
They both laughed.
Sam was an interesting character. Immigrated from Iceland and made his home here in the states as a merchantman in a small store.
Stephon loved everyone in the town. He knew them better than he had known anyone else in his life. He had known a lot about his other friends throughout his life, but there were always parts of their lives that was hidden.
That wasn’t the case in this town. Stephon knew every aspect of their lives, which made them even more endearing to him. He felt a sense of protection over them, like a parent over their children.
Isabella was by far his favorite. She was so full of life, energy, and beauty. She had become a true representation of how people should be.
Stephon talked to Sam as Sam collected the items that Stephon requested. Sam talked about his wife, Rebecca, and how happy they were with their lives there.
He collected his things, said his goodbyes, and left the store.
The sun was shining just as bright as it did every day. He couldn’t have picked a better place to retire.
Back at his house, he put down his supplies and then almost immediately collapsed.
Darkness overcame him, and when he opened his eyes, he saw that it was now night time.
He stood up and felt a tightness in his chest. He knew he was getting closer to death, but he hadn’t realized how close he truly was.
He struggled to get to his study, and when he made it, he sat at his desk, staring at his ongoing writing project. He wanted to finish it before he died.
After staring at his last novel for a bit, he stood up and carefully made his way to his bedroom. He needed to rest some more.
A knock at the door woke him.
He grudgingly got up and walked to the front door.
A smile instantly appeared when he opened it to find Isabella standing there, in her adorable summer dress.
“Isabella, don’t you look beautiful today,” he stated.
She curtsied and said, “Thank you.”
They both smiled and Stephon instantly felt better.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
“Papa wanted me to come get you,” she replied. “There’s a strange man at the store.”
Stephon was surprised. No stranger had ever wandered into the town. This place was completely isolated from the rest of the world and not on any maps. That’s why he had chosen it.
“A stranger?” Stephon asked perplexed. “Where did he come from?”
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “Papa just asked me to come get you.”
“Okay, okay,” he answered unsure. “Run along and tell your papa that I will be down shortly.”
Isabella curtsied again and then ran off.
Stephon went to his study.
Sitting at his desk, he began shuffling through the pages towards the end. Not finding what he was looking for, he composed himself and headed towards the store.
As he walked down the street, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
He tried to understand how a stranger could have found this town without knowing where it was located.
Sam and the stranger both turned to look at Stephon when he walked into the store.
“Can I help you?” Stephon asked, politely and curiously.
“I hope so,” the stranger replied. “I seemed to have gotten lost and I can’t seem to find my way back.”
As Stephon approached, the man reached out his hand and introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Nick,” the man said.
“Stephon,” he replied taking the man’s hand.
Nick showed Stephon the map, hoping he would be able to show him where he was.
Stephon only glanced at the map and then back at the man.
“How did you arrive?” Stephon asked.
The man put the map to the side and said, “I was out hiking here.”
He showed Stephon on the map.
“I was following the path, when something caught my eye, so stepped off the path to see what it was.”
“And what was it?” Stephon asked.
“It turned out to be that little girl, Isabella,” Nick explained. “I called out to her, but she must not have heard me. I followed her to see where she came from. I thought she might be lost. There isn’t any homes or businesses out here, so I was wondering how she had gotten so far out here. I didn’t hear or see any parents with her.
“I tried to keep up with her, but she was too fast. I was carrying all my camping equipment.
“Finally, I found myself in that open field over there,” he pointed in the direction he had come from. “I saw her just as she entered the town, so I headed in to check the place out. I’m a writer, so I’m a curious person by nature.
“After I walked around a little bit, I tried to leave. I just wanted to get back to the trail so I could mark it for later, but when I entered the tree line, I couldn’t find the path. I started to panic, so I was glad when I found this place again. And here we are.”
Nick looked at Stephon, who seemed to be deep in thought.
“You’re a writer?” Stephon asked, surprising Nick.
Nick had expected a different response.
“Can you help me get back?” Nick finally asked.
Stephon returned back to the conversation and said, “I’ll be happy to help. It’ll be dark soon. How about you stay the night and tomorrow we’ll get you back.”
Nick was obviously confused. It was a bright sunny day outside, but when Nick turned to confirm that, he could now see it was dusk.
He looked at his watch, and it confirmed that it was indeed early evening, though he couldn’t think how he hadn’t noticed the time slip away.
“I’d be happy to host a fellow writer at my home,” Stephon said.
“You write too?” Nick asked.
“I do,” Stephon answered. “I wrote a half dozen novels before I retired.”
“What’s your pen name,” Nick asked.
“My pen name is my real name. Stephon Alexander,” Stephon stated.
“What?” Nick asked, excited. “I’ve read all your work. I knew you retired, but you also fell off the face of the earth. Everyone was saying you had died, though your publisher would never confirm it.”
Stephon smiled. “Not dead, at least not yet.”
They both chuckled.
“Just retired to this special little town,” he explained. “Come up to the house, and I’ll tell you what I’ve been working on and all about how special this town really is.”
“Uh, yeah. Of course,” Nick said. He was in total awe of one of the greatest writers of his generation.
They didn’t say much on the way to the house. Stephon just let Nick enjoy the beautiful scenery.
While Nick marveled at what he saw, Stephon studied him.
Once they arrived, Stephon gave Nick the grand tour of his house.
Nick’s favorite room was the study. In it was three walls of bookshelves filled to the brim with books. It was a writer’s heaven.
Adjacent to the window was a desk. A writer’s desk. A roll top desk with an old typewriter in the center. On either side of the typewriter was two stacks of paper. The right side was blank paper, and the left, the pages he had typed.
Stephon stood by the door while he let Nick wonder around the room, periodically taking a book off the shelf to study it.
After Nick had admired everything along the walls, it was time to ask the big question and Stephon was prepared.
“So, what is the big project you are working on?” Nick asked.
Stephon decided to answer the question with one of his own.
“What is it that a writer does?” Stephon asked.
Perplexed, Nick answered, “Tell stories.”
Stephon nodded and added, “And how do we do that?”
This question gave Nick a little more pause.
Unsure of the right answer, Nick shrugged.
“I don’t blame you,” Stephon said. “That’s a hard question, but I will tell you the answer.”
Nick listened intently.
“We create,” Stephon stated flatly.
Seeing the confusion on Nick’s face, he elaborated.
“In order to tell stories, we create worlds, people, challenges. We create heroes and villains. When we create people, we give them a history, personality, passions, and everything in between. Through our story, the readers cheer with every victory, and mourn every loss.
“When you get to the very core of what a writer is, he is a creator. The very God of the men and women in his stories.”
Nick could only stare in wonderment.
And then Stephon took on a more solemn look.
“Which brings me to this place,” he said.
Nick only stared, unsure what he meant.
“The reason you can’t find your way out of this place, is because it doesn’t really exist,” he said.
He gave Nick a moment to absorb what he had just said.
“Here, take a look,” Stephon said, leading Nick to his desk. “Read this.”
He pulled out the chair for Nick and pointed to the pages he had written on the left side of the typewriter.
“I’ll be in the living room when you’re ready,” he said and walked out of the room.
Nick was dumbfounded when he emerged into the living room a few hours later.
“How about I show you around the town,” Stephon said.
“But it’s nigh…” Nick started, but when he looked out the window it was midday again.
Wearing a warm smile, Stephon simply said, “Come on.”
He led Nick outside, holding his arm so he wouldn’t trip while he looked at his surroundings with new eyes.
Every person they passed in town, Nick felt like he knew everything about them. People said hi to him, and he mostly could only wave back.
“Hi Nick!” Isabella said as she ran up to greet them.
“Hi Isabella,” Nick replied, seeing her in a different light. “How are you doing today?”
After reading Stephon’s story, he now knew that Isabella was created in memory of Stephon’s granddaughter, who had died at birth. He had created her here and she had grown up into this adorable little girl who stood before them.
“I’m wonderful,” she said. “I’m glad you’re finally here.”
“Finally, here?” Nick asked, confused.
Even Stephon seemed confused.
“I guided you here,” she said flatly.
Nick was thoroughly confused.
“I left the pamphlet in your kitchen, I put the sign up at the entrance of the trail, and I made you followed me here once you had arrived,” she explained.
Nick knew what she was talking about.
When he was looking for trips to take to stoke his creativeness to write, he had a pile of brochures and maps, but he remembers one stood out from the rest. It was on top of the pile and was almost word for word of what he was looking for in a destination.
When he had parked the car and was trying to decide what trail to take, it looked like the original sign had been damaged, and a temporary one shoved in the ground. It was called Emily Trail, which filled him with a sense of wonder. The map didn’t show that trail name.
“Emily was your daughter,” Isabella stated. “You lost her in that car accident with your ex-wife.”
Nick stared at her, confused but not afraid.
“You’ve never bee the same, and you’ve spent all your time trying to find something that would ease the pain. A new story, a new place to live, even death.
“But you don’t have to be alone anymore. Here, you can create Emily from your memory, and she can grow up here, like me.”
Realization dawned on Stephon. He turned to look at Nick.
“I’m dying,” he said plainly.
Nick turned to look at him.
“I’ve been afraid to die, because I was afraid of what would happen to this wonderful place I created. What would happen to Isabella.
“You must carry on. You must ensure the story never ends here.”
Nick was trying to take it all in. He wanted to tell them they were crazy. He wanted to run. He wanted to….stay.
Tears filled his eyes as he broke down.
The funeral for Stephon was beautiful. Everyone that existed in that town had shown up to say their farewells and give him a proper burial under a grand oak tree.
Before he died, Stephon got to meet Emily, who was the same age as Isabella and her new best friend.
On his tombstone was engraved, “Stephon Alexander. The Creator”.
Nick typed the last sentence with tears in his eyes.
Satisfied with the ending, he stood up, took a moment to watch Emily and Isabella playing outside the window, and walked out of the study to enjoy every minute of the rest of his life with them.