On The Road to Peacetopia
A Better World Kids Adventure
by Robert Alan Silverstein
(not yet illustrated)
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Chapter 1.
Ancient Legend

Ahmed couldn't wait for this week's BetterWorld Kids Club meeting. He kept thinking about how thrilled the other kids would be when they heard about the amazing thing he'd discovered.

Finally the day arrived, but just a couple of minutes before the meeting, his father called upstairs for him to take his dog Falafel out for a walk. Ahmed had been so excited that he'd completely forgotten about her all day. Falafel couldn't wait a minute longer!

Ahmed tried to hurry Falafel along but he was sure that she was taking her time visiting every tree on the block just to punish him for making her wait so long. Finally she decided to stop torturing him, finished her business and raced him home.

Ahmed dashed up the stairs and quickly grabbed his laptop. He typed in the BetterWorld Kids Club web address, pressed enter, and instantly found himself transported INTO cyberspace.

"There you are, Ahmed" everyone exclaimed as he materialized in the multicolored cyber-void.

"Hi guys, sorry I'm late," Ahmed gasped, out of breath. He wanted to tell everyone right then and there about his wonderful discovery, but he was the Club Secretary and he knew that everyone was waiting for him to officially log the meeting in on his laptop.

They called the meeting to order and went around the circle sharing about things that had happened to each of them since their last meeting.

Everyone had something to tell, and some of the stories were pretty exciting. But Ahmed didn't really hear any of them. He was too excited about his news and he thought he would explode before it was his turn. Finally, all eyes were on him.

"Guys, I found the most amazing thing on the Internet," he burst out.

Sunanda and a few of the other kids chuckled. "You always do, Ahmed," Sunanda said, laughing.

It's true. All the kids knew that Ahmed spent quite a bit of time googling 'peace' for interesting new things that are happening around the world.

"No really, guys. This is THE most AMAZING thing. I found this ancient document about a legendary place called 'Peacetopia.'"

Quite a few eyebrows raised. "Peacetopia … like Utopia …?" Erin asked.

"Exactly!" Ahmed exclaimed. "They found this incredibly old document all about this legendary place where people live in peace with each other, with nature and with all living things."

"Sounds good, Ahmed," Jamal agreed. "When did this place exist?"

"Well, according to the commentary I read at the end of the posting about this document, no one knows if it was in the far distant past, or if it is someplace that's coming in the future …"

"Huh?" Johnny and José said at the same time. That didn't make sense to them, or to any of the other kids, either.

"But the document had a kind of road map that showed how to get there," Ahmed added quickly.

That definitely piqued the kids' interest - they loved taking cyber-road trips. "Let's go there for today's meeting!" Solomon shouted. All the kids agreed.

Ahmed smiled proudly. This was going to be the best adventure they'd ever shared. He just knew it. He tapped a few keys on his laptop, looking for the website on his saved 'favorites', but he couldn't find it. It didn't faze him at all. He quickly typed 'Peacetopia' into the search engine. The webpage he was looking for still didn't come up.

All the kids watched patiently over his shoulder. Even the Wikipedia page seemed to have been removed, with no explanation why. Ahmed wasn't one to give up easily, but he couldn't think of what else to try. He looked up disappointedly and a little embarrassedly at his friends. "I don't understand…" he started to say, when suddenly there was a flash of light and a loud clap of thunder off in the distance.

Everyone's mouths fell open. That had definitely never happened during any of their cyberspace BetterWorld Kids Club meetings!

They looked around, staring into the cyber-void, noticing all too well that the amazing colors they knew and loved here in Cyberspace seemed to be fading fast.

"Uh, guys," Michiko whispered. "There's a web address typing itself onto Ahmed's computer!"

Ten pairs of eyes stared down at the computer.

"Peace Wizard!" the link invited.

Ahmed looked at everyone. "I do remember a Wizard in the legend," he said slowly. "Should I press enter?"

Ten heads nodded, slightly hesitantly.

Just as Ahmed was about to press the ENTER key, there was another blinding flash and an even louder clap of thunder. The echo lasted so long that the BetterWorld Kids' ears were ringing.

Finally Ahmed noticed that the ringing sound was coming from his laptop. It was the low battery beep. "Uh oh," Ahmed gasped. In his excitement the last few days, had he forgotten to charge his battery?

The BetterWorld Kids watched in horror as the laptop ran out of power and shut off. Just as it did, the last of the colors around them went out and they were plunged into total darkness.

Chapter 2.
The Peace Wizard?

The BetterWorld Kids huddled together in the darkness not really sure what to do. Their adventures often got pretty exciting, and once in a while seemed a little scary, but they never really worried much. They knew nothing bad could happen to them in cyberspace because Ahmed's browser was set to allow only cybersafe sites. But now Ahmed's laptop wasn't working and they had no idea what to expect.

They panicked. "HELP!" They shouted in at least half a dozen languages.

They had no idea who they were hoping would hear them and rescue them. They had no idea what might possibly happen next.

They definitely didn't expect a window to open up in the darkness above them.

But that's what happened, although it turned out to be really more of an empty picture frame than a window. Golden light seemed to spill through the frame into the emptiness like a splash of paint.

The BetterWorld Kids really didn't expect a Wizard to stick his head through the window/picture frame and peer around.

But that's what it looked like. And he was definitely not a painting.

They stared up at the old man. His gaze was piercing and determined. His face looked serious with an ageless wisdom. But his eyes sparkled with a kindness that made the kids feel at ease.

"Shto eta?" the wizardly-looking old man whispered, peering out into emptiness. His serious, all-knowing expression melted a little at the edges until he seemed almost frail. "Did someone call?" he hesitantly whispered again, in Russian, but somehow magically the kids all understood exactly what he was saying. The old wizard sounded more afraid than the kids felt.

"We're down here!" the kids called together and the old man blinked, as if he had never really expected to hear a reply. Slowly he gazed down at the kids, and as he did so, the picture frame tilted with him.

"Oh, my," the old man gasped. "You're really there. I… I thought I'd only been imagining you," he whispered. He thought a moment. "But then, maybe I still am." He shrugged. "Nevertheless, we must get you out of the void," he said a little more loudly, speaking to the kids this time. And he reached out his hand towards them.

As the old man reached, the frame lowered towards the kids, so that in a moment it was low enough for them to climb over the edge.

The old man gazed into their eyes and he was smiling. "Well, won't you please come in," he said invitingly, and he stepped away from the frame to allow them room to climb inside.

One by one the BetterWorld Kids pulled themselves up over the ledge and found that they were indeed climbing out of a large blank, stretched canvas. Each of them hesitated a moment, but when they saw the spectacular mountains that faced them, and the clouds of every color in the rainbow hanging over them in delicate wisps, they eagerly stepped down onto the grassy ledge that overlooked the amazing scene, and stood next to their friends, unable to stop staring in wonder.

Ahmed was the last of the BetterWorld Kids to climb over, and he clutched his lifeless laptop under his arm and stared like all the others.

"Thank you so much for joining me here," the old man laughed. "I didn't get any painting done today, but this is certainly the most pleasant of daydreams… What a wonderful surprise!"

One by one the children tore their gaze away from the beautiful scenery and turned to the old man. "Are you the Peace Wizard?" quite a few of them blurted out at once.

The old man's eyes sparkled with laughter and he chuckled a deep, warm laugh. "In my daydreams sometimes I wish I were," he said playfully. But then suddenly, he blinked in surprise as he remembered something and his face had a far-away-quizzical expression. "I think that might be it!" he mumbled through his smile.

Absently, he turned, grabbed the empty canvas and folded up the easel. Still staring off into space, he grabbed the box of paints on the ground, and then walked quickly up the wildflower-lined path behind them.

The BetterWorld Kids looked at each other questioningly, took one last glance at the rainbow-colored mountains, and then hurried after the old man. As they raced along, trying to keep up with him, they whispered quietly to each other about this strange place in which they seemed to have found themselves.

The path wandered through groves of tall, lush trees, until up ahead in a clearing, the kids saw a charming cottage, with a beautiful garden out front surrounded by a natural-looking fence of tree limbs and twine. The old man was heading directly for it. When he reached the gate, he opened it quickly, hurrying towards the cottage. The gate slammed shut just as the children reached it.

The kids hesitated just a second and then entered through the gate. They hurried up the walk and watched the old man disappear into the cottage.

The door stood ajar, but the kids weren't sure what to do. Should they just go inside? "Hello…" they called, but there was no reply. Just a muttering from inside as the old man was talking to himself.

"Hello…" they called again, a little louder. More muttering greeted their ears.

"He did leave the door open for us," Ahmed volunteered. Since he had gotten them into this mess, he figured he should take responsibility for the next step in their adventure, even if it did seem to have been turning into a rather strange misadventure.

As the kids stepped inside they saw the empty canvas and the paints and easel lying on the floor in the foyer. "Hello," they called again as they poked their heads through the foyer into a dimly lit, but warmly glowing hall.

The old man's muttering continued from down the hall. They stepped slowly inside passing several pleasant rooms - a sitting room, kitchen, dining room, all furnished modestly with antiques, old leather bound books on shelves and in piles on tables, and beautiful paintings on the walls that wonderfully captured the beautiful scene they'd witnessed outside, and many others like it.

Near the end of the hall they passed an open doorway into the largest room of all - what was undoubtedly the old man's studio. More of the beautiful paintings were everywhere - there were hundreds of them. Many were in various stages of completion, and the kids found themselves entranced, unable to turn away.

"Yes!" the old man exclaimed, quite loudly from the room next door. "Yes, of course, that makes perfect sense, now!" He was laughing excitedly.

The kids tore their gaze away from the paintings and saw their host in what was obviously the Library. There were books in all of the rooms, but here they covered every inch of the walls and there were stacks piled high all around the room. The old man sat leaning over a book and paintbrush strewn desk over to the side. He was intently poring over what looked to be a large, old cracked piece of parchment paper.

"Hello, sir," the BetterWorld Kids whispered from the doorway, afraid they might startle the old painter.

But they could have yelled and he still wouldn't have heard them as he ran his finger over the parchment and paused between contented mumblings to giggle like a child. "Yes, yes…" he laughed.

The kids crept softly forward and peered over the old man's shoulder at the parchment which was ornately decorated with a swirly writing none of them could understand.

"That's the ancient document I saw on the website!" Ahmed suddenly exclaimed quite loudly as he poked his head through his friends.

The old man turned around suddenly and his eyes grew wide when he saw the children standing around him. "Oh my, you're still here …!"

The kids fidgeted uneasily. "This is quite a daydream," the old man said, smiling. "Oh dear, where are my manners. Please accept my apologies my friendly apparitions, for my inhospitableness. Oh, dear me," he said looking around the room, "the place is a mess, isn't it. Anna … my dear wife, is away … in America, in fact, giving a talk about the Society…and her latest book … and … oh my, my manners … Would you care for a cup of tea? Oh please, do sit down … but I guess there isn't really any place here to sit, is there … but please do tell me why you're here, I'm sure it must be important or you wouldn't still be here… This is indeed quite a vivid daydream. Perhaps I should be writing it down, shouldn't I…"

The old man rummaged around amongst the cluttered pages on the desk and smiled when he found a red leather bound book with gold lettering on the cover.

"Nicholas Roerich" the children read.

"You're Nicholas Roerich?!" José exclaimed.

"Why… yes, I am…" the old man admitted with a smile as he stopped scribbling in the journal, pushed it away, and turned towards the children.

The name didn't mean anything to the other kids, but José was really excited.

"Wow … Mr. Roerich … you created the 'Pax Cultura' symbol!"

Nicholas Roerich involuntarily jumped in his seat. "How… how did you know that?" he gasped, staring at José. I just daydreamed that up yesterday … I … I haven't even put it into any of my paintings yet, as I'm planning on doing …"

José smiled. "They will be wonderful paintings, sir."

"This is most unusual…" Mr. Roerich, mumbled. "Even for one of my daydreams…"

"What's the 'Pax Cultura' symbol?" the other kids wanted to know.

Mr. Roerich was too lost in thought to speak, but José knew exactly what it was and was only too happy to tell everyone. "Pax Cultura is Latin for peace culture or culture of peace'" José began. "It's a symbol that Nicholas Roerich created to be flown over any cultural building like museums…"

"EXACTLY! Nicholas Roerich gasped, as he stared at the children. "That's exactly what came to me yesterday. I'm going to put the symbol in many of my paintings. I'm hoping that countries will adopt it, in case there's another war."

José sighed sadly. "There will be more wars, but all of the countries in the Americas will sign the Pax Cultura treaty!"

"They will?" Nicholas Roerich exclaimed in excitement.

"Yes, but unfortunately most people will never know about your wonderful symbol," José sighed.

Everyone seemed a little sad. Especially Mr. Roerich.

"But, UNESCO will create a whole culture of peace program," Sunanda piped up.

"Yes," Erin exclaimed. "And they'll name the first decade of the new millennium the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and nonviolence for the children of the world."

"The new Millennium," Roerich whispered with a faraway look in his eyes. And then his eyes widened and his attention lunged back to the ancient parchment. "Why, that's what this part is about…Hmmm…" he muttered as he probed over the text. "Yes, the last Peace Wizard who will lead humanity onto the final leg on the Road to Peacetopia will emerge at the beginning of the New Millennium …"

to be continued...





Not yet illustrated.

© 2004-2014 Robert Alan Silverstein
Better World Kids logo by Vineet Siddhartha

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