Meg Murry tosses and turns in her attic bedroom on a dark and stormy night.
She can't sleep because she is thinking about all that seems wrong in her life. She doesn't fit in at school, her high school teachers have threatened to drop her down a grade due to her poor academic performance. Worst of all, her father has been missing for many years and no one has heard from him. Meg hears her family's big black dog Fortinbras barking downstairs. She worries that a stranger may be skulking around the house. The teenage girl suspects the tramp who, according to local rumors, recently stole twelve bedsheets from the constable's wife, Mrs. Buncombe. Meg dismisses her fears as silly and calms her nerves by making herself some cocoa in the kitchen. She is surprised to see her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace waiting for her at the kitchen table. Meg notes that Charles seems capable of reading her mind. Mrs. Murry soon joins her children, and tells Meg that she has received a call from Mrs. Henderson, the mother of the boy whom Meg had beaten up at school that day. Meg tells her mother that she hates being an "oddball" at school. She wishes she were more ordinary like her twin younger brothers, Sandy and Dennys. Mrs. Murry tells Meg that she needs to practice moderation, and learn the importance of finding a "happy medium". Charles says he has spoken about Meg's problems with his friend Mrs. Whatsit, though he does not tell who this woman is. As Charles is making sandwiches for his mother and sister, Fortinbras begins to bark loudly again. Mrs. Murry goes outside to find the reason behind commotion. She comes back with Charles's mysterious friend Mrs. Whatsit, who looks like an eccentric tramp in wet clothes. Mrs. Whatsit explains that she loves nights in such wild weather, but tonight she has been blown off in the storm. Charles asks her why she stole bed sheets from Mrs. Buncombe's house, confirming Meg's doubt that Mrs. Whatsit is the neighborhood tramp. Mrs. Whatsit removes her boots and dries her feet and then suddenly says "there is such a thing as a tesseract". She then hurriedly goes out of the door. Mrs. Murry, standing still at the threshold, is stunned by Mrs. Whatsit's parting words.