SHE WAS AT SCHOOL. Paige needed to find all of her things before the bus
left. She only had a few minutes to clean out her locker and get out the
front doors before the bus left for its route without her, and if she
didn't get a ride home, it might be hours before her parents were done with
work and had a chance to pick her up. She only had one notebook left, but
as she grabbed it, papers went flying everywhere, and she knew she needed
to gather them, but she didn't have time.
Paige's eyes opened, and she realized that it had only been a dream. None
of it had been real- she didn't even ride the bus anymore. She'd had a car
of her own for nearly a year now, but she still had the stressful missing-
the-bus nightmares occasionally. At least she didn't have them often;
they'd plagued her sleep when she'd still ridden on the bus.
Suddenly, her alarm began beeping. It wasn't uncommon for Paige to wake up
a few minutes before her alarm went off; she'd been waking up at the same
time every morning for the past three months. As irritating as it was to
wake up at 5:30 in the morning when school didn't even begin until 8:30,
Paige wouldn't have given up basketball for anything. It was her favorite
sport, even with its early morning practices.
As she stretched and tried to get herself more awake, alert, and ready for
the day, Paige noticed something odd. Her room was full of light, and she
hadn't even crawled out of bed yet, yet alone turned on her lights. It was
coming from the window- the entire sky was pink. But that didn't make any
sense; Paige had been getting up early long enough to know that the sun
didn't rise until she was already at school and warming up for practice.
Paige shook her head and decided not to worry about it. It was too early
to think, and she had to get ready for school. She rolled out of bed and
fell to the floor. She landed on a shoe, and the sharp pain in her back
was enough to jar her to awakeness, or at least enough for her to climb to
her feet and walk to the bathroom. Nothing woke her up better than a hot
Once she was dressed and was putting her hair into a high ponytail for
practice, Paige had already decided that the odd lightness in the sky had
been due to the fact that spring was coming, and days were getting longer.
That didn't really explain why the sun had suddenly begun rising early
instead of gradually making the change, but she really didn't want to think
Her entire family was still asleep and in bed when Paige crossed the yard
to her car. The sky had grown darker since she'd awakened, and Paige
wondered if a storm was coming while she put her key into the ignition,
then backed out of her driveway. She was irritated to find that over the
weekend, the gravel roads outside her house had been resurfaced, and there
were no tracks for her to drive on. She would have to drive slower than
she usually did to avoid flying off the road and into one of the ditches.
While the sky grew progressively darker, Paige flipped on her headlights,
and flipped through the stations of her radio, searching for some country
music to listen to. It was nearly impossible for her to find anything
other than commercials and pop music, so she finally settled for a morning
talk show. She turned onto the paved road that lead to her school, and
accelerated while the man on the radio said, "So then, I told the lady that
it was ridiculous for her to charge me extra, and she told me it was
company policy. Can you believe that, Abby?"
"Well, that's how companies make their money, Joe," replied the woman on
the show. "Now, I had a similar experience to yours, only in my case . . .
. " The woman trailed off, and for a few moments, there was no sound
coming from the radio, then the man asked Abby if she was alright, and she
answered, "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that the sky just turned the oddest
shade of pink, and dawn isn't supposed to be for another hour."
Paige had only been half-listening before then, but when she realized that
the people on the radio had noticed the same strange coloring of the sky as
she had, she turned up the volume, just as the man laughed nervously and
said, "Right, the Martians are going to invade any second. Anyway, we'll
put on some new music for you, and when we come back, we'll take callers."
A country love song came onto the radio, but Paige wasn't interested in
hearing music anymore. So, something strange was going on. The station
she listened to was broadcast from a semi-large town about forty miles from
Paige's house. The sky was pink there as well, but they'd only noticed it
recently, whereas in Paige's case, the sky had returned to its normal, dark
The mystery remained in Paige's mind all morning. While nearly all of the
girls on Paige's basketball team were dedicated players and tended to focus
on the game, she was hoping at least one of them would have noticed the
strange lights. Most of them, however, were more interested in gossiping
about all of the couples at school, and while Paige was usually interested
in hearing about those sorts of things, she was focusing too hard on the
odd things she'd seen that morning to even care about what the others said.
On her way to her first period class, she collided with a boy in the hall.
He must have been a freshman, because she didn't recognize him, and she
knew most of the other students in the school. The freshman class was the
only one in which she hadn't bothered to learn at least everyone's name
yet, but the boy she'd run in to must have known her, because he said, "Oh,
sorry, Paige, I didn't see you. Here, let me help you."
The boy began to quickly gather Paige's books for her, as if the collision
had been his fault. He must have been a freshman, because no student from
any other class would have bothered to be so polite. Paige stopped the boy
as he reached for one of her pens, and said, "Don't worry, it was my fault.
You go ahead and get to class, I can get my things for myself."
The boy apologized, but Paige wasn't sure what for. He quickly stood and
blushed, and Paige, finally gathering everything she owned together, also
rose to her feet and would have continued to class, but the boy was
standing in her way. Paige was going to step around him, but he said,
"Well, it was nice running into you. I mean, not literally, I'm sorry I
made you fall, but it was nice seeing you, Paige. I hope I haven't been
too much of a trouble."
Confused by the boy's strange words, Paige said, "Don't worry, I crash into
people all the time." The boy blushed harder and smiled at Paige with a
very shy look on his face. "It was nice seeing you, too," Paige said
quickly, unsure of what else to say, and quickly walked past him and
hurried into the science room, only moments before the bell rang.
The odd behavior of the boy was even stranger to Paige than the strange
lightening of the sky, and while she was supposed to be setting up for a
lab, she talked to her friend, Emma, who was a member of the yearbook and
therefore had to know who everyone was. Paige described her encounter with
the boy in the hallway, then explained what he looked like.
"He's a really short kid, with blonde hair," Paige said. "It's really
blonde, almost like he bleached it, only it looks natural. And he's really
skinny. He seemed pretty shy when he was talking to me, and he was really
polite, but that might just be because I'm a senior and he was worried I'd
beat him up or something."
"That sounds like Tyler," answered Emma, setting up a scale to weigh a
sparkly blue rock. "He's a freshman, and like you said, he's really shy.
It's practically impossible to get pictures of him for the yearbook,
because he always looks away whenever he sees anyone with a camera. I'm
amazed he said more than three words to you, let alone an entire
"Well, I did run in to the kid," Paige said. The science teacher was now
handing walking around the room to make sure the experiment was set up
correctly, and pouring a blue liquid into test tubes for the students who
were ready for the next step. "He acted like he thought it was his fault.
I kind of feel bad, because I had to go to class, and he might have thought
I was angry or something."
"Tyler's a good kid, and he doesn't hold grudges," Emma said as the science
teacher approached with his blue liquid. "It's not like he's going to
expect you to be angry at him from now on. But if he avoids you, don't
take it personally, he just gets nervous around people."
"If he's so shy all the time, how do you know so much about him? I know
you yearbook people have to make sure you get pictures of certain people,
but I don't think you'd know so much about every shy kid in school." Emma
didn't reply right away, because the science teacher had approached their
lab area, and was examining their set up.
After he'd approved their work and given them their allotment of blue
liquid, Emma finally replied to Paige's statement. "Tyler and my little
brother used to hang out a lot," she said, holding up her test tube to look
at the liquid through the light before beginning the next part of their
Paige was going to reply, when the math teacher burst through the door.
She had a wild look in her eyes, and when she realized that the students
were all looking at her, she announced, "I thought I should tell you about
what's happening. There's some sort of hold up in Washington D.C.; it's
all over the news. They think there's a terrorist attack coming."
The room was suddenly filled with exclamations- everything from gasps of
surprise or fear to a shout of, "Why don't the police shoot those terrorist
bastards?" from one of the boys near the back. The science teacher quickly
hurried to the front of the room and raised his arms as a signal for the
students to quiet.
"I know that you are all probably surprised by this news, but this is a
classroom, not your home, and we have work to do," the students began to
protest, and after a few seconds, he gave in. "Make sure you clean up your
work area," he said. "Clean out your test tubes and get everything put
away, and I'll turn on the news."
The students did as they were told, chattering excitedly about how similar
this incident was to what had happened when the World Trade Center had been
attacked on September 11, 2001. With a slight shudder, Paige remembered
that she'd been in science as well when she'd hear about those events.
Everyone watched with a morbid fascination while the teacher flipped
through the channels of the television mounted on the wall of his room.
Paige forgot about all her previous worries as they found a news channel,
and a news anchor explained what was happening, and gave everyone in the
room new worries to be concerned with.