• "One-in-a-million chances occur nine times out of ten" - Terry Pratchett

    Stars; billions of tiny lights, millions of other worlds, hundreds of galaxies. If we focus on one particular star, zoom towards it, into the galaxy, into the solar system; if we zoomed right to earth, you looked at Britain, Scotland, Doraway, and to a particular house on Chester Street, you might see Hannah Essilton, aged 14, climbing out her bedroom window, with a ruck-sack on her back.

    The sky's clear tonight, thought Hannah. The storm should be starting soon...Yes! A flash illuminated the darkness, followed by a growl of thunder. A wind picked up, blowing through the trees. The clouds moved in. This is why Hannah had got up in the middle of the night; the Orange storm.
    "Right" murmured Hannah, "Lets get some pictures"
    She pulled out a camera from her bag, and started shooting. Euphoria soared through her, adrenaline pumped into her heart by the heat of the storm around her.
    Suddenly the Lightning struck. It seared through her body, clawing at her mind, blinded she heard the thunder roaring in her ears and then... She opened her eyes. She was surrounded by water. Her lungs filled with fluid, panic washed over her, she kicked her legs furiously, her chest ached, her lungs cried out of oxygen, she had to reach the surface, she scrambled upward, every muscle in her body cramped up in protest, she couldn’t see, she couldn’t hear. Her legs gave in. Her mind went blank, and everything stopped.
    Shouts, screams, footsteps, splashing. Someone grabbed her and dragged her to the waters edge, she rolled over and coughed up the water in her lungs. She wanted to lye here forever on this... she let her hand explore ground around her, it wasn’t grass, it wasn’t dirt, it didn’t feel man-made, she didn’t know what it was. She lifted her head and looked around. She was surrounded be people, they were all staring at her. She blinked. She blinked again. They weren't people; they were...they were something else. They looked human, until you looked properly.
    They were tall, really tall. They had hair, of sorts, it looked more like grass. She glanced at the ground. Their skin (or at least a skin-type substance stretched over their frame that stopped all their organs falling out) had a purple tinge to it and had patterns across it; a very a faint yellow outline of fire, or water, she couldn't tell at this distance.
    She stood up, slowly. Most of the, for want of a better word, "people" were keeping a fair distance away but one of them was standing closer to her. It was just as tall as the rest, but looked a bit wider.
    "Alrac! What did you just do?! What are you doing!?"
    A shout from the assembled crowed made Hannah jump, she looked around.
    "Stay away from it, Alrac!"
    She located the speaker. It was one of the creatures, slightly smaller than the rest, and its grass-hair stuff was black, Hannah had a feeling that it was a He.
    "I'm fine Retep!" said the one called Alrac. The voice sounded female, but she couldn’t be sure. “You worry too much! It's tiny! What could it possibly do?
    Alrac stepped closer, and said very slowly and carefully
    “Where . Did . You . Come . From?”
    Hannah frowned and stepped back, unsure whether to answer.
    "Do . You . Speak . Hsilgne?"
    “What's Hisleg?” asked Hannah, confused.
    A shocked whisper flared in the crowd, then died away.
    “Did you hear that? It speaks. What is it?”
    Alrac giggled.
    "Hsilgne, not hisleg"
    "Hisge" Hannah tried, glancing around, distracted by the whispers.
    "Nearly, Hisil-"
    "Alrac!" hissed the thing entitled Retep, "Get away from it!"
    Hannah frowned. She had a feeling that "Retep" wasn’t going to trust her as easily. "Shut up, Retep, you're scaring it!"
    Alrac turned her attention back to Hannah.
    "Now, I'm not going to hurt you. My name is Alrac, what's yours?" she asked
    "My -" Hannah licked her lips, "my name's -" she cleared her throat, "my name's Hannah" said Hannah.
    "Well, Hannah," said Alrac warmly "how did you get into Lartnec Lake?"
    Hannah glanced behind her, and took a deep breath.
    "I don't know.”
    A muttering started in the crowd. Retep stepped forward, grabbed Alrac's hand, and tried to pull her back. Alrac shook Retep's hand away.
    "Hannah, do you know where you are?” she asked kindly.
    Hannah looked around her. There was tall building in the distance, maybe a mile away. Trees surrounded them and she could see park benches dotted here and there, she could hear a fountain running somewhere.
    “No” said Hannah.
    Retep stepped forward, pushed Alrac behind him and grabbed Hannah's forearm. His grasp hurt.
    “What are you!?” he spat at her.
    “What do you -” started Hannah.
    Retep twisted her arm in a direction it probably shouldn’t go. Pain shot through her.
    "Retep! stop it, you're hurting Hannah!”
    Alrac tried to get around Retep, but one of the things darted forward and pulled her away.
    “GET OFF, DIVAD!” she yelled, wriggling and twisting, trying to get away.
    Hannah watched as the only friendly face in this place was taken away.
    “Right!” hissed Retep. “What are you?!”
    “Let go!” Hannah whined “You’re hurting me!”
    “Where did you come from?!” yelled Retep.
    “Scotland!” tried Hannah, what did this thing want? “Let GO!”
    “Where is “Scotland” ” Retep reached forward and grabbed her hair.
    “What are you?!” He pulled and twisted and pulled some more. Hannah screamed in pain.
    “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” she cried.
    “INFORMATION!” shouted a voice from the crowd.
    “LET GO!” Hannah tried to pull away, and received a blow to the side of the head.
    A gasp came from the crowd. The whispers rippled through it.
    “ A human?!" "No, can’t be." "Not in Rothin…”
    Retep's eyes widened. He let go of her as if he’d received an electric shock. He looked at her as if she was something sticky he had just trodden on.
    Alrac came running forward, pushed Retep out of the away and pulled Hannah to her. Her eyes were bright with rage.
    “Are you ok Hannah?” she asked, Hannah could feel her shaking, but her voice was steady, and defiant. The big one called "Divad", emerged from the crowd, bent double. Hannah buried her face into Alrac's chest, much as she had done with her mother, when she was little. Tears stained her face.
    “What did he do?” asked Alrac. She gently pushed Hannah away, and stepped towards Retep. The sound echoed through the surrounding trees. Retep staggered backwards, his hand on his cheek. His eyes glowed with pain, but it seemed to be inner-pain, not coming from his face.
    “Alrac…” He seemed unable to say any more. Alrac turned back to Hannah. She placed a hand on Hannah's shoulders, and led her away. Hannah looked up at her friend. Tears ran down Alrac's face too.

    Hannah opened her eyes. Where am I? she thought. The ceiling above her was unfamiliar. It had strange patterns across it, and she was sure she had seen them before ... then it all came flooding back to her, the storm, the lighting, the lake, Retep. She tried to sit up, but pain shot through her arm, she gasped and let herself fall back into the soft, cushions of a sofa.. What if I can't get back?... No, she told herself firmly, don't think about that. She detangled her self from the blankets, sat-up and swung her legs out in front of her. She looked around the room.
    From what she could tell in the darkness, the walls were yellow, there was two armchairs, with patterned throws over them. The sofa she was sitting on had the same pattern of throw on it. A small coffee table sat in front of her, on it was a tray with a pot of tea and some toast. The tea was cold and over brewed, but it woke her up, the toast had a kind of jam on it, but she could not recognise what kind, it was purple-red with dark seeds, it was sweet with a bitter undertone.
    She got up and went over to a pair of curtains, peeking out she saw a skyscraper opposite, she looked down, she felt dizzy how high she was. Suddenly, she couldn't see out the window, everything was foggy. As quickly as it had come, the cloud passed and Hannah could see again.
    She spun around at a knock at the door. It opened a crack and a sliver of Alrac's face was visible. Hannah walked across the room and Alrac opened the door fully.
    That day Hannah saw things she had never even imagined of. The world she was in was a lot like her own but at the same time completely different. It was a mix of futuristic and historic. There were no cars on the roads, but what was equivalent to a horse and cart. Instead of a horse there were great bird-like creatures with scaly heads and legs. They flew, so in one way this world had futurist "hover cars" but on the other they didn't even have cars yet. Everybody hand little black sticky pads stuck on the backs of their hands.
    "What are those black things on everybody's hands?" asked Hannah, pointing to a black star on Alrac's hand. Alrac looked at her surprised that she didn't know.
    "Oh, you wouldn't know about the power would you?" she exclaimed, Hannah shook her head.
    "They power ... everything, they take a little of your body heat, every half hour, and use all the collected heat to power the city. You're fined if your found without one". Hannah looked at her one hand with concern. Alrac laughed at this.
    "I doubt whether they would fine you Hannah, it would be like fining a rare and exotic plant" she laughed.
    Days passed. A week, two. Where-ever Hannah went, she was gawked at, like a dangerous animal. "Rare and exotic plant"? More like hazardous and deceitful animal thought Hannah, as she and Alrac came out of a shop called "Ymmij's Quality Wares", followed by the eyes of about a dozen of the things. The shop sold things Hannah had never heard of: little black beetles that you ground up and used as a spice; packets of a kind of dried leaf; large pink meats with names like "Huner" and "Gare" or "Krop". House's were both old and new; Some had thatched roofs. Yet others, like Alrac's home, were blocks of flats, great soaring buildings with lots of glass. And the parks. They were Hannahs favourite, the smallest was a square mile of green, and blue, and flowers of all colours, Hannah couldn't recognise any of them. There were a few which looked like daffodils but were enormous, and had red centres with orange tips all along the edges.
    After just over a month, Hannah began to worry, would she ever get home? She posed this question to Alrac over pasta and bolognese. Alrac avoided Hannah's eyes.
    "Well...the thing is that - I'm sure everyone would want you to go home - but ... well we don't know really how you got here in the first place so..." Alrac's voice trailed off. Since the rest of Rothin had found out that Hannah was living with Retep Doelcm's fiancée, Alrac Rennit, there had been mobs outside the door. So neither Hannah nor Alrac could go outside, and they were running low on supplies, none of Alrac's friends could get past the rabble to bring stuff in either. When she began again it could hardly be heard above the shouting outside.
    "You might not be able to go back ..."
    Hannah's stomach contracted, she felt cold all over, very aware of the sweat all over her that the heat of the kitchen had produced. It was the same thought Hannah had been fighting for weeks, ever since she had seen the reaction things in the park when they found out she was human. And here Alrac was thinking it too. Alrac looked at her across the table, she reached out and took her hand, Hannah looked up at her.
    "I'm so sorry, Hannah... " her voice was soft, almost motherly. In the last month Alrac's bump had grown considerably, how long are Namu's pregnant for? wondered Hannah, watching Alrac's hand retreat across the table to her bump. Alrac had told her that's what she was after Hannah kept accusing her of being a "thing". Something occurred to Hannah then, just before she was here, she was on her roof. And suddenly she remembered. She got struck by lightning. Hannah's heart dropped like a stone in the sea. Lightning never strikes twice.

    That night Hannah couldn't sleep, she lay on the sofa in Alrac's living room, tossing and turning. The conversation of that evening running through her head. "You might never go home...well we don't really know how you got here in the first place...might never go home...don't know how you got her in the first place...never go home...how you got here...go home...got here...home" And there was the added weight that she had ruined Alrac's relationship with Retep. She didn't belong here, and she definitely could not live here. She made up her mind, she had always known that she couldn't stay. She got up, wrote a note to Alrac and put it on her pillow. She walked to the door, and slithered out into the hallway. It was very dark in the corridor, the lights were motion sensors to "save energy", the light blinked into life, and Hannah crept down the stairs. When she reached the lobby, she could hear that the mass of people outside had dispersed. She slipped out, silent as the quiet before the storm.
    As Hannah stood by the side of the lake, she thought about the note she had left for Alrac, and how absurd it was. How would this get here home? She knew it would never work, but even so, she felt drawn to the lake. It was the one through which she had entered Rothin, and it was the one through which she hoped to leave. The sky was clear, but it was the kind of clear that Hannah had seen before the orange storm.
    She waded into the pool. The water was cool, and fresh, and somehow it washed away all her doubts. The wind picked up, the first drops of rain tasted of danger, the spicy tang of excitement. After five minutes the sky was alight with the sparks of something about to happen, something wonderful, something magnificent. The wind roared, the rain pounded. A mass of suppressed energy - released in a sudden burst of incandescence leaving an imprint of light on the retinas of the eye. The thunder was like an old friend to her ears. Oh, the times she had stolen out of her bedroom window to watch the sky, the crackle of thunder, the flare of the lightning as it scorches the heavens. Lighting will strike twice, and this will work...

    Luckily for Hannah, lightning does, out of a one in a million chance, sometimes strike twice.