Written by Franziska Siragusa, illustrated by John Arcus.
Paulina and Mikombe are best friends. They live next door to each other in the English countryside. Mikombe has recently arrived from Africa and the two of them became great friends immediately; it was as though they had always known one another. Paulina is fascinated by Africa. In her mind it conjures up images of exotic fruit, vibrant colours and wild animals.
The girls are walking home from school.
‘Mikombe, why don’t you come and sleep at my place tonight? It is Friday, so tomorrow we are off school. I am sure my mother won’t mind.’
‘Let’s go and ask our mothers,’ says Mikombe, running along, excited by the idea.
Their mothers agree. They have become friends too and are very pleased that the girls get on so well.
It is evening now and the girls are getting themselves ready to go to bed. They are in Paulina’s large bedroom. She has her very own wooden bunk bed which is great for when friends stay over. The open window invites a gentle evening breeze.
‘Mikombe, look how clear the sky is! I can see millions of stars. Look at the full moon shining right into the room!’
Mikombe joins Paulina at the window. ‘What is that?’ she says, indicating a shiny, moving light in the sky. Paulina can see it too now. Funnily enough, the light seems to be approaching her house! It is getting nearer and nearer. Paulina wonders whether it is a spaceship! Paulina loves the idea of seeing a spaceship.
‘I think it might be a spaceship! ‘she says.
‘A spaceship? Do they exist?’ asks Mikombe.
The question answers itself, because a spaceship proceeds to land in the garden. Paulina rushes to climb out of the window. She is so excited by the spaceship that she can’t wait to see it up close. Mikombe hesitates at first, but then follows her friend.
A door opens, and to their surprise a little boy, his skin dark like Mikombe, steps out of the ship. He is wearing a vibrant turquoise tunic, decorated with geometric symbols and spirals. A high golden crown rests on his head, and his slim body is surrounded by a glowing light. He bows his head and says in a kind voice:
‘Paulina and Mikombe, I am deeply honoured to meet you.’
The girls look at each other astonished. The boy is talking to them as if he knew them, and what’s more, as if they were very important! ‘My name is Taziel . I would like to invite you to travel with me to a distant place where time doesn’t exist. I have something very important to show you and I promise to bring you back before anybody notices that you have gone.’ His smile is warm and inviting, and he seems very wise even though he is just a boy. Paulina doesn’t hesitate for a second. She loves the idea of an adventure! She pulls her friend along and they board the space ship together with the strange little boy. The space ship takes off and they travel out into the cosmos. They are in the midst of stars and planets, travelling across space and time.
The space ship is landing now. Paulina can’t wait to see what’s out here. She is a natural explorer. They step onto the ground. They are in a most beautiful landscape. There is green everywhere and the ground is fertile. The plants are healthy and absolutely stunning. There are big flowers of the most amazing, vibrant colours all around them. The temperature is warm and pleasant, and the sun is shining brightly high up in the sky.
The boy is trying to get their attention. ‘Paulina, Mikombe; let me tell you where we are. We are in Africa.’
‘What do you mean we are in Africa?’, asks Paulina.
Mikombe adds, “Africa doesn’t look like this, Africa is all dry and hot and….’
The boy holds up his hands to stop them. ‘Let me explain’, he says. ‘We are in the Golden Age of Africa. This is what it was like when it first became populated by people from distant universes.
Paulina and Mikombe listen with astonishment. The boy carries on: ‘I would like you to meet one of my friends. Don’t be afraid though, my friend is a lion. He is called Petriel. I am just calling him now telepathically.’ A few seconds later, a beautiful, enormous white lion is coming towards them. He reminds Paulina of Aslan, the beloved lion from the Narnia Chronicles. Although, she has to admit, this lion is even more spectacular than Aslan. He is literally glowing with a golden light!. Petriel, just like Aslan, now speaks to Paulina and Mikombe, with a wonderful deep voice.
‘My dear children, thank you so much for having undertaken this important journey. You are here on a mission. There are important things here for you to learn and it will be your task to pass on the knowledge you acquire to other people when you get back to your world. Please know that I love you very much.’
Paulina and Mikombe are very touched by these words. They feel very important. They also feel a great love for this special lion and they feel very strongly the lion’s love for them, just as he said. Petriel carries on talking:
‘Beloved ones, please follow me, it is time for you to meet some of the other inhabitants of Golden Africa’. Petriel leads them through an exquisite land. Everything is beautiful, the large trees, the flowers, the colourful birds and animals. In the trees they can see monkeys climbing from branch to branch happily chattering away. Then they arrive at a garden, where the inhabitants are working. The inhabitants look just like Taziel, the boy who brought them here. Dark, slim, with tall golden crowns on their head, and surrounded by glowing light. As soon as they see Paulina and Mikombe, they all come running towards them, to welcome them. They are delighted by the girls’ arrival and they are literally jumping with joy. It looks as if they had been expecting them.
‘Finally you are here! Welcome Paulina. Welcome Mikombe. We are so pleased!’ say Taziel’s parents, who look much like him.
Paulina and Mikombe are thrilled by being greeted in this way, they feel so welcome, and as with the lion, they feel so loved and valued.
Petriel turns to Paulina and Mikombe and says, ‘girls, there is some work to do now. We are all going to do some gardening’. Indeed, on the ground there are a number of seedlings that need to be planted. ‘It is very easy’, says Petriel. ‘First dig a little hole, then take the seedling, and carefully, with love, put it into the ground. Then gently, with love, cover it with some earth. Next, you need to gently breathe onto it. Sounds easy enough.’
The girls get started. Mikombe is very keen on gardening. She follows Petriel’s instructions. First she digs a little hole, then takes a seedling, puts it into the ground with love and covers it with earth. She then gently breathes onto the plant. Something amazing is happening:
‘Paulina, look, it is magic! The plant is growing before my eyes. Isn’t this wonderful? I can’t believe it!’
Paulina now has a go too, and the same miracle occurs with her little seedling.
The inhabitants of Golden Africa, whilst carrying on working, smile bemused at the girls’ joy of what they have just experienced. Everybody carries on working until all the seedlings are in the ground.
Everybody is standing up now and holding hands, including Paulina and Mikombe. The inhabitants of Golden Africa are looking up to the sky. One of the elders seems to be doing some kind of magical invocation. Paulina and Mikombe are looking up too. A wind is now blowing. It is bringing a raincloud right over the garden patch where they have just been working, and blocks the sunshine. Rain starts falling, gently watering the ‘magical’ plants which have been put into the ground with much love. After a few minutes it stops. The wind blows the cloud away again and the sunshine returns.
Paulina and Mikombe are absolutely amazed, it dawns on them, that if everybody would plant in this way, the world as they know it could change for the better. There would be plenty of food for everybody.
Petriel is watching them as they ponder over what they just witnessed. He explains:
‘The people of Golden Africa work together with cosmic beings, and they make use of the elements, air, earth, water, and fire, to grow plants. Did you see how they made use of ‘air’ to help the plants grow? Did you notice how much they honour and respect the earth into which they put the plants?. Have you seen how the wind blows for them and how they rain falls because they asked for this to happen? Did you see how the sunshine makes the plants grow strong and healthy?’
‘Yes, Petriel,’ Paulina replies, ‘we have seen it, but surely this works only here, because this is a magical place!”
‘I will tell you a secret. The spirits of the inhabitants of Golden Africa are still around in modern Africa. They are waiting for people to ‘wake up’ so that they can transmit their wisdom to them.’
‘ How can we help them to ‘wake up’ and transmit the wisdom to them?’ asks Mikombe.
‘I have an idea.’ says Taziel. ‘Why don’t we take a large bag of magical earth with us, and on our return journey, we fly over Africa and drop bits of magical earth onto each country. Surely this will help people wake up!’
‘What an excellent idea’, says Petriel. ‘That way you can accomplish your mission. Don’t forget though, when you get back to your home, to tell as many people as you can how important it is to honor and respect nature and the elements, and that when cooperating with them, miracles can happen.’
‘I promise’, says Paulina, ‘we will tell everybody when we get back home. I will tell my teachers and my parents. Maybe my mum, can write about it. That way, the knowledge gets spread.’
‘Petriel, you can be sure that I will tell everybody when I go on holiday to Africa this summer’, says Mikombe.
The people of Golden Africa are waving good-bye as Paulina, Mikombe and Taziel step into the spaceship with a huge bag of magical earth. They are flying out into the universe across time and space. As they come closer to Earth, Taziel flies towards Africa. They are flying low across the land. No one can see them because it is dark. Over every country the children are dropping fine, magical Earth.
They are starting in the North of Africa, making their way down to the South. They make sure that magical earth gets dropped over every single country. In the dark, Paulina and Mikombe can just about make out the figures of the Spirits of the inhabitants of Golden Africa. They are waving to the girls and thanking them for the great work they are doing to help Africa and Earth. Finally they have reached the last of the countries, South Africa. They drop off some earth here too and then head back North to England. When the space ship lands in the garden of Paulina’s home, they embrace their new friend.
‘You will come back to see us again, won’t you?’ they both say, trying to hold back their tears.
‘You bet,’ he says, waving good-bye. Pauline and Mikombe quietly climb back into their bedroom, into their beds.
They are exhausted and as soon as they close their eyes, they fall into a deep sleep.