‘That’s extraordinary!’ exclaimed Lizzie’s grandfather. He slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand, causing his round, metal-rimmed spectacles to jump down his nose. ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like it.’ His white, neatly trimmed moustache started to quiver with excitement.
‘Like what?’ asked Lizzie, who had been waiting patiently for her grandfather to finish her astrological birth chart.
‘Well, what we have here,’ he said, pointing at a large piece of paper spread out on the low coffee table in front of him, ‘is a picture of the solar system. It shows the positions of the sun, the moon and the planets at the very moment of your birth. These tell us something about your character – head strong and impulsive – which we know already don’t we?’ he chuckled, looking up at Lizzie with a gleam in his eye. ‘It also allows us to see into the future.’
‘How?’ said Lizzie, peering down at the drawing on the paper. It looked like a large wheel divided into twelve segments with a central hub and lots of coloured symbols and numbers everywhere.
‘I can choose any number of points in time in the future and map the position of the planets at that time on your chart. For example, I plotted your 13th birthday – which is tomorrow – to see if anything interesting showed up.’
‘And did it?’ asked Lizzie, suddenly warming to the idea of predicting the future.
‘It did indeed, and that’s why I’m so excited,’ said her grandfather animatedly. ‘In all the charts I’ve ever prepared I’ve never seen Jupiter is such a strange position relative to Aries in opposition to the moon. There’s also an interesting Sun/Ceres combination happening at exactly the same time. This can only mean one thing. A catastrophic natural event is heading this way and it looks like you are destined to stop it!’
‘Don’t believe a word of it!’ Lizzie’s mother shouted from the kitchen where she was preparing lunch. The delicious aroma of pea and ham soup and freshly-baked bread drifted into the living room. She had reluctantly agreed to her father preparing Lizzie’s birth chart and had been listening in on the conversation. She didn’t want her father filling Lizzie’s head full of nonsense.
‘The sequence of events starts on your birthday,’ he continued. ‘You won’t be alone, that’s for sure, which is just as well, because some sort of danger is indicated.’
‘Don’t scare her dad!’ Lizzie’s mum said.
‘I’m just reading what the chart is telling me,’ he replied.
‘I’m not frightened mum,’ said Lizzie. She was annoyed with her mother for being over-protective. I can’t help being an only child, she thought and a girl. It’s not my fault dad died before a little sister or brother came along.
‘Why do you insist on thinking I’m still a child? I’ll be a teenager soon and this is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever going to happen to me! You wouldn’t mollycoddle me so much if I was a boy!’
‘I’m just saying,’ her mother sighed. She was used to Lizzie’s sudden outbursts and had learned not to overreact to them.
‘Oh, and there is one other thing,’ her grandfather continued. ‘A few numbers keep cropping up on your chart, which suggests they are significant – thirteen, of course, which comes first, then eight, seven and lastly five.’
‘Do you think they’re related to how I’m supposed to stop whatever it is that’s coming?’ said Lizzie, looking into her grandfather’s bright blue eyes.
He returned her gaze. ‘You know I think they might be.’
Lizzie dragged her grandfather up from his chair by both hands and did a little jig.
‘I’m so excited! I’m so excited!’
‘That’s enough you two. Come and eat. I’m putting your lunch out,’ her mother yelled.***
It was the morning of Lizzie Chamber’s thirteen birthday.