Lauren Campbell sighed, her French homework was meant to be in the following morning, and she had not made a start on it. She opened her exercise book, and stared at the blank page. Lauren wrote the date at the top of the page, 25th May 2006, and then realized that she would have to rewrite it anyway. The date should have been written in French. Lauren was finding it difficult to concentrate, her parents were having a blazing row downstairs. Her mother's voice sounded shrill and exasperated, her father's deeper voice was full of anger, and resentment. Lauren turned on the radio to block out the noise. Seconds later there was the sound of a door slamming loudly. Lauren guessed that her father had gone down into the basement, where he had built his own laboratory.
Her father, John Campbell, was an astrophysicist, specialising in quantum physics. Much of his research was carried out in his especially designed lab, and he spent a considerable amount of time in there. Lauren had noticed that since her parents had started rowing, he was spending longer and longer in his lab, his own private kingdom.
Lauren ignored the background hum of the radio, and strained her ears to listen. The house had suddenly become very quiet. At first Lauren could hear nothing, but she slowly became aware of a faint sobbing sound, and she realized that her mother was crying. Lauren closed her French text book, and crept downstairs. She pushed the living room door open anxiously. Her mother was slumped in the armchair weeping softly, and unaware that anyone had entered the room.
"What's wrong, Mum?" Lauren asked gently.
Her mother, Susan Campbell, wiped her tear stained face with the back of her hand, straightened her back, and ran her other hand through her dishevelled hair in an attempt to look as if she had not spent the last ten minutes crying.
"No ... nothing, dear," Susan Campbell replied hesitantly.
And then with more composure. "Would you be a good girl, and switch the television on."
Lauren walked over to the television set, and pressed a switch. The black and white picture flickered to life. It was the News.
"I don't want to watch that, it's too depressing. What else is on?" her mother asked.
Lauren picked up the copy of the Radio Times, which was lying on the coffee table, and leafed through it.
"There's a film on BBC 2, and Coronation Street on ITV," Lauren exclaimed.
"What's the film?" Susan Campbell inquired.
"Um, it's 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'," Lauren read from the TV listings.
"I don't like science fiction," her mother sighed.
"It's a very new film. It only came out in 2001. I didn't get to see it when it came out at the cinema, and I've been waiting for it to come on TV for ages," Lauren said hopefully.
"Okay, let's watch that then," Susan Campbell agreed.
Lauren sat down with her mother to watch the film, and soon became totally engrossed in the story. By the time she had remembered about her French homework, it was much too late to do it.
The next day Lauren arrived at school five minutes late with a sense of dread. She had French for a double period straight after registration, and she was dreading Mr. Hughes' reaction when he found out that she had not handed in her homework. Mr. Hughes was very strict when it came to completing work on time. Lauren was sure she would be getting a detention as a result of her failure to complete her work the previous evening. However, when Lauren went into her French class, she found her teacher to be in a rather good mood, and as a result, he overlooked Lauren's lack of homework.
"Just don't let there be a repetition of this, Lauren," he said sternly.
The rest of the morning went by fairly uneventfully, and at lunch time Lauren met up with her boyfriend, Mike. Mike was a year older than Lauren, and even though they had been going out for over six months, she still could hardly believe that he had chosen her over some of the older, and prettier girls in his class. Lauren quite often felt that Mike was the only good thing in her life. The atmosphere at home had been dire for more than a year, with constant arguments and squabbles. Being with Mike gave her something to look forward to. She thought that she was quite lucky to have met him when she did. Mike had only moved to their school in Surrey quite recently. Eight months before he had been living in Manchester with his widowed mother, then she suddenly, and unexpectedly met someone new, and the whole family moved south to Surrey.
"Are you coming over this evening to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing at my place?" Mike asked.
"Yeah, okay. I'll be over after tea," Lauren replied.
Mike loved astronomy, and anything to do with space travel, and was very excited by the moon landing. This would be mankind's first manned mission to the moon, and Mike could hardly wait for it to happen. Lauren was a little less thrilled by it all, but she would still be going over to Mike's place that evening to watch it.
After school that evening, Lauren completed her homework, and ate her tea as quickly as she could. She then went upstairs to her room, to change out of her school uniform, and into her going out clothes. She wanted to choose something nice, and pretty for her date with Mike. After several changes of outfit, she finally settled on a pretty, pink cotton blouse, tied at the waist, black peddle pushers, flat 'ballet' shoes, and bobby socks. She put her long, dark hair up into a pony tail, and stared back at her reflection in the mirror. She was pleased with the overall effect. Lauren was just about to apply some makeup, when she heard a loud bang coming from the basement. It was so loud that the floor shook with the vibrations. Lauren rushed down the stairs two at a time, and ran down into the basement. She entered the laboratory, expecting to find her father in there, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Lauren glanced around the lab. She could see the three huge pieces of machinery that made up her father's computer, there was also an odd looking contraption that Lauren did not recognize. Lauren gasped in amazement as she approached the middle of the room. For there before her was a large, swirling vortex. It looked like the inside of a tornado. Lauren approached the vortex, and as she did so she could feel it pulling her towards it. She tried to step back away from it, but its gravitational pull was too strong. Lauren felt herself being sucked into the swirling centre of the vortex. At the centre of the vortex the swirling ceased, and it became still, but the stillness only lasted a fraction of a second, and then the swirling sensation started again. Suddenly the vortex pushed her forward and out. Lauren landed with a bump back on the floor of her father's laboratory. Her head was still spinning, and she felt momentarily confused. After a few more seconds her senses slowly returned to her. Lauren glanced around the room. All of her father's lab equipment and machinery was gone. The room was completely empty. There was no trace of her father's laboratory. Lauren felt very confused, she suspected that something extremely strange, and serious had just happened, but as yet she did not know what it could be.