Jenny MacGregor lived on a farm with her Mum and Dad. She didn't have any brothers or sisters, but she had a pet collie dog called Biscuit.
One night there was a very fierce storm. There was thunder and lightning and lots and lots of rain. There was more rain than anyone could ever remember falling at one time. In the morning Jenny and Biscuit went for a walk and beside a hill they found a spaceship.
Before the storm it had been hidden by soil and small trees but all the rain had caused a mudslide and washed everything off the spaceship. It must have been there for a long, long time, Jenny thought. She had never even dreamed there might be anything like a spaceship on their farm.
Then she wondered if there might be anyone inside it. She went and looked to see if there was a doorway or an entry hatch. Biscuit walked beside her but he didn't seem alarmed by the spaceship. Jenny thought that was a good thing. If there had been a bug eyed monster lurking inside Biscuit would have known it. Dogs were smart like that. But he didn't seem to mind it, so she wasn't frightened.
She walked all the way around it and she found an entry hatch. It looked just like a big round hole with a sliding lid. What's more, it was wide open.
Jenny was scared then but Biscuit wasn't. He sat and looked at the open entry hatch and he barked a couple of times. Then he ran right into the spaceship. Jenny called for him to come back but he didn't. She waited for a couple of moments and then he barked from inside.
It wasn't a scared bark, or an angry one. It was a happy bark so she knew everything was all right. She thought she might follow him but then Biscuit came running out again.
There were two people with him.
They were tall, taller even than Jenny's Dad, and their skin was pale green. They both had long white fluffy hair on the tops of their heads. When she looked carefully at their hands she could see they had five fingers and two thumbs on each hand. There was short fuzzy white hair on their hands. But they still looked like people, and she wasn't frightened of them.
Actually, they seemed to be afraid of her, and she could see they were scared of Biscuit, even though he was being friendly and not trying to bite them. He was wagging his tail but she was sure they didn't know what that meant.
Well, if Biscuit wanted to be friendly then she was sure she could be too. "Hello," she said. "Can you understand what I'm saying?"
The two alien people looked at her and then at each other and then back at her. One of them went back inside the spaceship and came back with a little shiny silver box. The alien lifted the box up close to its face and said, "Hello. Can you understand what I'm saying?" It sounded just like Jenny's voice.
Jenny looked at it and blinked. Then the alien pointed to her mouth and to the little box. She looked at it and nodded.
"I suppose that means you want me to talk some more. I wonder if that will help us to understand each other? My name is Jenny MacGregor and this is my pet dog Biscuit. I think your spaceship has been here for a very long time. It was hidden under all the soil but last night there was a tremendous storm and the rain washed all the mud off it. Is that enough?"
The two aliens looked at her and at each other and one fiddled with the little box. It seemed to have some controls on the side of it. Jenny hoped it really was for helping them to understand each other and wasn't a weapon or something awful like that.
Then the one who was fiddling with the little box spoke to her.
"Hello, Jenny MacGregor. My name is Kateela and this is Ventash. You are right about our ship being here for a long time. We were part of a fleet but something went wrong in our stardrive and we knew we were going to have to land on this planet. We put our ship on automatic pilot and went into stasis.....suspended animation. Is that what you call it?"
Jenny nodded. She had seen lots of films and some TV shows about outer space and had also read lots of books. Maybe that was why she wasn't as frightened of the two aliens as some of her friends might have been.
"Is there still something wrong with your spaceship, or will you be able to fly it again?"
Ventash and Kateela looked at each other.
"We have been looking at the stardrive and the navigation system and we are sure we can repair it now. It will be easier to fix now when our ship is grounded than when it was in flight. Then maybe we can catch up with all the rest of our friends." They both looked very sad. "The automatic systems on our ship should have woken us up as soon as it was safe. But something went wrong with them and so we have been in suspended animation for much longer than we had intended to be."
"Do you know where they were going?" Jenny asked. She thought, but was too polite to say, that it sounded as if their spaceship wasn't exactly the most reliable.
"Our planet was going to be destroyed by an asteroid. Everyone packed up all their things and we started to travel to another planet. There were many thousands of big ships and millions of little ones like ours. And yes, we all knew where we were going. Our scientists had found a suitable planet with nobody else living on it."
"Millions?" Jenny blinked. "Did everyone on the planet leave?"
"Yes. We had to. If we had stayed behind we would have died when our planet was destroyed."
"Are you two the only ones on board this spaceship?" Jenny asked. Kateela smiled at her.
"No. There are the two of us and also our young one Loriska. She is still asleep."
"In suspended animation?"
"No, she woke up when we did. But she is very small and needs to sleep more than we do." Ventash and Kateela talked to each other then in their own language and Jenny didn't understand a word of it. Ventash went back inside the ship and Kateela turned to Jenny.
"We have to see if we can fix our ship. Then we will go on and find the planet our people settled on. It's been such a long time that we won't find anyone we knew. But we will find their descendants, and they will still be our people."
"All right. I'm going home now. I wouldn't be of any help to you and I'd probably get in the way. I know Biscuit would. But I'll come back and see you later on. Is there anything I can get for you?"
Kateela shook her head.
"Thank you, but no. Our ship can make food for us and we have everything on board that we will need to repair the ship. I hope we can get going again soon. We seem to have been in suspended animation for a long long time."
"Um," said Jenny, "what would you call a long long time?"
"Maybe a thousand of your years. Our planet had years about the same length as yours."
"Oh dear, that is a long time." Jenny waved goodbye and walked back to her house. Her mother and father were sitting down having lunch. Jenny got a glass of fruit juice and a sandwich and sat down at the table with them.
"Mum, Dad, there's a spaceship down beside the hill past the dam. There are some aliens in it who have been in suspended animation for about a thousand years but they think they can fix their ship and take off again later on."
"Yes, dear," said her father.
"WHAT??" said her mother.
"There is a spaceship - "
"Yes, I thought that was what you said." Her mother looked at her. "Really?"
Her father just rolled his eyes. "Really, Jenny, you read far too many silly stories." Then he got on with his lunch. He didn't believe in spaceships, or aliens, or anything like that.
Jenny and her mother looked at each other and sighed. Some people just didn't even want to think about such things. When her father had finished his lunch he stood up and put his plates on the sink.
"I have to go into town and collect some stuff. I'll see you both when I get home." He kissed them both and went out muttering under his breath. "Spaceships! Aliens! I dunno."
Jenny's mother made herself another cup of coffee. She drank it, but while she was doing that she made Jenny tell her all about the aliens and their spaceship. Jenny knew that her mother believed her, even if her father didn't. Jenny didn't think he'd believe her even if she took him and showed him the spaceship down by the hill past the dam. She didn't think he'd believe her even if she introduced him to Ventash and Kateela. Some people just didn't believe such things possible. Jenny loved her Mum and her Dad, but she knew what he was like.
After Jenny's Mum had finished her coffee she stood up.
"Now, let's go and see your aliens." She gave Jenny a quick hopeful look. "I don't suppose one of them is Han Solo?" Jenny's Mum was a big Star Wars fan. She had seen the movies when she was younger and now she had the videos. Oh, and she liked Harrison Ford, too.
Jenny and her Mum and Biscuit walked down the hill and when they got to the spaceship Jenny called out.
"Kateela! Ventash! I've brought my mother to see you."
Jenny was really very proud of her Mum. She didn't scream or faint or go into hysterics like some of the other kids' mothers would have. She just smiled brightly at the two aliens and held out her hand.
"Hello. I'm Jenny's mother. My name is Anna. I'm pleased to meet you."
Ventash and Kateela just looked at her until Jenny came closer and showed them how human beings shook hands to greet strangers. They were fascinated by their hands. They had two thumbs and couldn't imagine how anyone could manage with only one thumb and four fingers.
Then Biscuit, who was really a very well trained dog, sat up and held out his paw to the two aliens, who laughed and then shook it, looking carefully at his paws. There had been creatures like dogs on their planet, Kateela told Jenny. But they had been much bigger and had been used for carrying people and goods. Some had been taken in one of the large spaceships to their new planet.
When Jenny told her mother there was also another alien, a young one, she wanted to go into the spaceship and see her. Jenny's mother loved children but Jenny was their only child. She picked Loriska up and cuddled her and the little alien snuggled up to her and started to make a sound just like a cat purring, but much louder. Ventash and Kateela looked at each other and looked proud of their baby. Jenny was more interested in the spaceship controls. She asked Ventash to show her what they were all for.
Their spaceship was going to be able to take off very soon, they told her. They had been working on the repairs and were going to be able to follow the rest of their fleet. But they would never see their friends again, the two aliens said sadly.
When they found the planet their people had gone to they would be a thousand years late arriving. Kateela and Ventash wondered if the descendants of their people would remember how they came to be there. They hoped so, but even so, they would have a lot of catching up to do. Many things would have changed, and it would be a new planet to get used to as well.
"Just think, Jenny, how our world has changed in a thousand years," her Mum said. "If people from a thousand years ago came here now they wouldn't know the place."
Jenny frowned. It was hard to imagine what Kateela and Ventash would find when they reached the planet their people had settled on. She hoped they would be happy. But how would she feel, she wondered, if she travelled a thousand years into the future where none of her friends were around, just their great great great many times grandchildren? Whatever happened, Kateela and Ventash were in for an interesting time. It would be much easier for Loriska, who was really only a baby.
Jenny and her mother stayed for a while, until Ventash and Kateela told them that the ship was fully repaired and that they would take off as soon as they could. Their stardrive made them able to travel very fast and it shouldn't take long to reach their new planet. They were excited at the thought of catching up with their people again. Or at least, with the descendants of their people.
After tea that night the MacGregor family all sat outside on the front verandah. Jenny had a glass of milk while her father drank a can of beer and her mother sipped a glass of wine. Jenny's Dad looked at them both and smiled.
"Spent the afternoon down looking at your spaceship, did you then?"
Jenny and her mother looked at each other. Then they both looked up at the stars and smiled.