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 shower.

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 that morning.

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 coloring.

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 conversation."

"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 experiment.

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.