It was dark and warm and it smelled like dirt. I was falling. Slowly. Or maybe so quickly that it seemed slow. The air was completely still; quiet to the point of being eerie. You know that old phrase 'can't see one's hand in front of their face'? It was exactly that, and I wiggled my fingers above my nose to emphasize. Although who exactly I was emphasizing to, I hadn't a clue. At any rate, I was still falling, and oddly, I didn't really care. I was going to land soon enough, and everything would be just fine.

A distant murmur caught my attention. It seemed deafeningly loud in the silence, so it was a bit hard to miss. I cupped my hands around my ears, straining to make out the words. The sound gradually got louder, but no clearer, until it was all around me, impossibly loud and powerful. I clamped my hands tight against my head, trying to block out the awful noise. I just wanted to fall, here, in silence, forever. Why not? It was peaceable enough. Maybe I could -

"Alice!" The sharp cry jolted me awake and I sat up, heart pounding in fright, eyes wide. My mom stood at the open door, lips pursed, one hand raised to strike the wooden surface again.

"What?" I snapped, rather cross at being awoken so suddenly.

"Your alarm's been going off for ten minutes now."

I glanced at the alarm, precariously perched on the edge of my overflowing bookshelf, and slammed my hand down on the snooze button, effectively stopping the beeping. Running a hand through my messy bed-hair, I gave my mom an embarrassed smile. "Sorry."

She rolled her eyes, turned around, and motioned at the ceiling. "Breakfast's ready."

"In the ceiling?" I asked innocently. She ignored my quip. "Fine. What is it?"

"Waffles."

"Aw, again?" I whined. "That's boring. Why can't we have pizza?"

"Because pizza isn't a breakfast food."

"It could be."

"No." My mom proceeded to walk away. I crossed my arms and glared after her for a moment, then scrambled out of bed, kicking various art supplies out of the way as I walked towards the closet. Pulling open the doors, I stared at the dresses dangling from several electric blue hangers. I was like one of those people in cartoons; look in my closet, find ten identical outfits hanging neatly in a row.

Not really, although it would be fun to try that sometime. I grabbed my favorite dress and quickly changed into it, smoothing the crumpled blue surface flat afterwards. Sitting back down on the bed, I pulled on a pair of striped, knee-high stockings, then coupled them with identical elbow-length fingerless gloves. I topped the whole ensemble off with a hat, then rushed out of my room and up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time.

Mom was already sitting at the table, halfway into a waffle. She sighed when she saw me. "That outfit again?"

I plopped down on a chair next to her. "Why not?" I said brightly, pulling the plate of waffles towards me. "You done with the waffles?"

"Why not." She rested her chin on her hand and watched me smother the waffles with butter. And as I like to make sure my food is thoroughly dead before I eat it, I proceeded to drown them in syrup. "Better hurry." I twisted around in my seat to look at the clock, alarmed. Ten minutes to go. Stuffing half of a waffle in my mouth, I gave her a thumbs up.

Fairly confident that I'd broken the world record for fastest waffle-eating, I raced to the bathroom to brush my teeth, then raced out again, slipped into my shoes, grabbed my backpack, and charged out the door.

"Bye!"

"Have a good day."

I ran down the sidewalk, hair flying, backpack thumping rhythmically against my spine. The bus idled just ahead, and a stream of kids flowed into it. I fancied that the bus was some sort of monster, swallowing children one by one. They would languish in its belly until a hero came to save them. Namely, me. Skidding to a stop in front of the doors just as the last of my schoolmates vanished inside. A boy, one I hadn't seen before. Must be new. I tried to calm my breathing as I entered the bus, trying not appear too frazzled as I scanned the interior of the automobile for a seat. Spotting one near the back, I edged down the aisle and claimed it.

The bus ambled forward. I watched the scenery outside flash by, resting my head against the window. Not the most comfortable position let me tell you. Here I was, trapped inside the belly of the beast, along with all of the other captives. My sword gone, my shield broken; the only hope for me was-

"Good morning." I jumped a bit, startled out of my daydreams. Someone had sat down on the seat next to me. It was the boy, the one I've never seen before.

"Morning."

He leaned his head back on the seat and closed his eyes. I shifted a bit awkwardly, unsure of what to do. In the end I scooted a bit closer to the window, throwing him furtive glances from my position of relative safety. He was, without a doubt, the strangest boy I'd ever seen. His hair was brown with pink and purple streaks running throughout it. He wore a striped, long-sleeve shirt of the same coloration, and his nails were painted black.

He opened one eye - amber - and looked at me. I immediately flushed, embarrassed that I'd been caught staring at him. The boy opened both of his eyes at sat up, flashing me a pointed grin. It was a bit unnerving, to be honest.

"So…are you new?" I asked, trying to break the silence.

"Not really, no. You're newer than I am." He said, still grinning. I blinked.

"Excuse me? I've been going to this school for years. And I've never seen you before today."

"Oh, were you talking about school? I thought you meant general existence."

"What?"

"You know. In terms of existence, I've been around a lot longer than you."

"Okay, then." I said slowly. This boy wasn't making a lot of sense. Let's try and steer this conversation back to reality. I thought to myself. "What's your name?"

"Haven't got one."

"What do you mean? You don't have a name?"

"Not really, no." He repeated his earlier phrase. "Everyone calls me by what I am. I'll get a nickname occasionally. That's nice. Something new, you know?"

"No, I don't."

"You're just as slow as the first one," he drawled. I sat up straight and crossed my arms, affronted.

"I don't care to be insulted."

"It's not an insult. It's the truth, you know."

I tugged on a lock of my dark-brown hair and sighed in exasperation. "Whatever. So what can I call you?" He thought a bit. Still grinning. "And can you stop that?"

"Stop what?"

I motioned at my mouth. "That. Smiling."

"No, not really. I can't help it. It's what I do. And you can call me…CC."

"CC? What's that stand for?"

The bus lurched to a halt in front of the school, and kids began filing past us. He stood up and winked at me. "You'll find out." I watched him walk down the aisle, dumbfounded.

Somehow I had the feeling it was going to be a weird sort of day.