The maze runner, p.25
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       The Maze Runner, p.25

         Part #1 of The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
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Page 25

 

  “What?” Thomas was shocked—he hadn’t meant it that way.

  “We’ve been bustin’ our butts for two years, and all you can ask is why we’re too sissy to stay out there all night? A few tried it in the very beginning—all of them showed up dead. You wanna spend another night out there? Like your chances of surviving again, do ya?”

  Thomas’s face reddened in shame. “No. Sorry. ” He suddenly felt like a piece of klunk. And he certainly agreed—he’d much rather come home safe and sound to the Glade every night than ensure another battle with the Grievers. He shuddered at the thought.

  “Yeah, well. ” Minho returned his gaze to the Maps in the trunk, much to Thomas’s relief. “Life in the Glade might not be sweet livin’, but at least it’s safe. Plenty of food, protection from the Grievers. There’s no way we can ask the Runners to risk staying out there—no way. Least not yet. Not until something about these patterns gives a clue that an exit might open up, even temporarily. ”

  “Are you close? Anything developing?”

  Minho shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s kind of depressing, but we don’t know what else to do. Can’t take a chance that one day, in one spot, somewhere, an exit might appear. We can’t give up. Ever. ”

  Thomas nodded, relieved at the attitude. As bad as things were, giving up would only make them worse.

  Minho pulled several sheets from the trunk, the Maps from the last few days. As he flipped through them, he explained, “We compare day to day, week to week, month to month, just like I was saying. Each Runner is in charge of the Map for his own Section. If I gotta be honest, we haven’t figured out jack yet. Even more honest—we don’t know what we’re looking for. Really sucks, dude. Really freaking sucks. ”

  “But we can’t give up. ” Thomas said it in a matter-of-fact tone, as a resigned repeat of what Minho had said a moment earlier. He’d said “we” without even thinking about it, and realized he was truly part of the Glade now.

  “Right on, bro. We can’t give up. ” Minho carefully returned the papers and closed the trunk, then stood. “Well, we gotta bust it fast since we took time in here—you’ll just be following me around your first few days. Ready?”

  Thomas felt a wire of nervousness tighten inside him, pinching his gut. It was actually here—they were going for real now, no more talking and thinking about it. “Um … yeah. ”

  “No ‘ums’ around here. You ready or not?”

  Thomas looked at Minho, matched his suddenly hard gaze. “I’m ready. ”

  “Then let’s go runnin’. ”

  CHAPTER 33

  They went through the West Door into Section Eight and made their way down several corridors, Thomas right beside Minho as he turned right and left without seeming to think about it, running all the while. The early-morning light had a sharp sheen about it, making everything look bright and crisp—the ivy, the cracked walls, the stone blocks of the ground. Though the sun had a few hours before hitting the noon spot up above, there was plenty of light to see by. Thomas kept up with Minho as best he could, having to sprint every once in a while to catch back up.

  They finally made it to a rectangular cut in a long wall to the north that looked like a doorway without a door. Minho ran straight through it without stopping. “This leads from Section Eight—the middle left square—to Section One—the top left square. Like I said, this passage is always in the same spot, but the route here might be a little different because of the walls rearranging themselves. ”

  Thomas followed him, surprised at how heavy his breaths had already become. He hoped it was only jitters, that his breathing would steady soon.

  They ran down a long corridor to the right, passing several turns to the left. When they reached the end of the passage, Minho slowed to barely more than a walk and reached behind him to pull out a notepad and pencil from a side pocket in his backpack. He jotted a note, then put them back, never fully stopping. Thomas wondered what he’d written, but Minho answered him before he could pose the question.

  “I rely … mostly on memory,” the Keeper huffed, his voice finally showing a hint of strain. “But about every fifth turn, I write something down to help me later. Mostly just related to stuff from yesterday—what’s different today. Then I can use yesterday’s Map to make today’s. Easy-peasy, dude. ”

  Thomas was intrigued. Minho did make it sound easy.

  They ran for a short while before they reached an intersection. They had three possible choices, but Minho went to the right without hesitating. As he did so, he pulled one of his knives from a pocket and, without missing a beat, cut a big piece of ivy off the wall. He threw it on the ground behind him and kept running.

  “Bread crumbs?” Thomas asked, the old fairy tale popping into his mind. Such odd glimpses of his past had almost stopped surprising him.

  “Bread crumbs,” Minho replied. “I’m Hansel, you’re Gretel. ”

  On they went, following the course of the Maze, sometimes turning right, sometimes turning left. After every turn, Minho cut and dropped a three-foot length of ivy. Thomas couldn’t help being impressed—Minho didn’t even need to slow down to do it.

  “All right,” the Keeper said, breathing heavier now. “Your turn. ”

  “What?” Thomas hadn’t really expected to do anything but run and watch on his first day.

  “Cut the ivy now—you gotta get used to doing it on the run. We pick ’em up as we come back, or kick ’em to the side. ”

  Thomas was happier than he thought he’d be at having something to do, though it took him a while to become good at it. First couple of times, he had to sprint to catch up after cutting the ivy, and once he nicked his finger. But by his tenth attempt, he could almost match Minho at the task.

  On they went. After they’d run awhile—Thomas had no idea for how long or how far, but he guessed three miles—Minho slowed to a walk, then stopped altogether. “Break time. ” He swung off his pack and pulled out some water and an apple.

  Thomas didn’t have to be convinced to follow Minho’s lead. He guzzled his water, relishing the wet coolness as it washed down his dry throat.

  “Slow down there, fishhead,” Minho yelped. “Save some for later. ”

  Thomas stopped drinking, sucked in a big satisfied breath, then burped. He took a bite of his apple, feeling surprisingly refreshed. For some reason, his thoughts turned back to the day Minho and Alby had gone to look at the dead Griever—when everything had gone to klunk. “You never really told me what happened to Alby that day—why he was in such bad shape. Obviously the Griever woke up, but what happened?”

  Minho had already put his backpack on. He looked ready to go. “Well, shuck thing wasn’t dead. Alby poked at it with his foot like an idiot and that bad boy suddenly sprang to life, spikes flaring, its fat body rollin’ all over him. Something was wrong with it, though—didn’t really attack like usual. It seemed like it was mostly just trying to get out of there, and poor Alby was in the way. ”

  “So it ran away from you guys?” From what Thomas had seen only a few nights before, he couldn’t imagine it.

  Minho shrugged. “Yeah, I guess—maybe it needed to get recharged or something. I don’t know. ”

  “What could’ve been wrong with it? Did you see an injury or anything?” Thomas didn’t know what kind of answer he was searching for, but he was sure there had to be a clue or lesson to learn from what happened.

  Minho thought for a minute. “No. Shuck thing just looked dead—like a wax statue. Then boom, it was back to life. ”

  Thomas’s mind was churning, trying to get somewhere, only he didn’t know where or which direction to even start in. “I just wonder where it went. Where they always go. Don’t you?” He was quiet for a second, then, “Haven’t you ever thought of following them?”

  “Man, you do have a death wish, don’t you? Come on, we gotta go. ” And with that Minho turned and started running.
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  As Thomas followed, he struggled to figure out what was tickling the back of his mind. Something about that Griever being dead and then not dead, something about where it had gone once it sprang to life …

  Frustrated, he put it aside and sprinted to catch up.

  Thomas ran right behind Minho for two more hours, sprinkled with little breaks that seemed to get shorter every time. Good shape or not, Thomas was feeling the pain.

  Finally, Minho stopped and pulled off his backpack once more. They sat on the ground, leaning against the soft ivy as they ate lunch, neither one of them talking much. Thomas relished every bite of his sandwich and veggies, eating as slowly as possible. He knew Minho would make them get up and go once the food disappeared, so he took his time.

  “Anything different today?” Thomas asked, curious.

  Minho reached down and patted his backpack, where his notes rested. “Just the usual wall movements. Nothing to get your skinny butt excited about. ”

  Thomas took a long swig of water, looking up at the ivy-covered wall opposite them. He caught a flash of silver and red, something he’d seen more than once that day.

  “What’s the deal with those beetle blades?” he asked. They seemed to be everywhere. Then Thomas remembered what he’d seen in the Maze—so much had happened he hadn’t had the chance to mention it. “And why do they have the word wicked written on their backs?”

  “Never been able to catch one. ” Minho finished up his meal and put his lunch box away. “And we don’t know what that word means—probably just something to scare us. But they have to be spies. For them. Only thing we can reckon. ”

  “Who is them, anyway?” Thomas asked, ready for more answers. He hated the people behind the Maze. “Anybody have a clue?”

  “We don’t know jack about the stupid Creators. ” Minho’s face reddened as he squeezed his hands together like he was choking someone. “Can’t wait to rip their—”

  But before the Keeper could finish, Thomas was on his feet and across the corridor. “What’s that?” he interrupted, heading for a dull glimmer of gray he’d just noticed behind the ivy on the wall, about head high.

  “Oh, yeah, that,” Minho said, his voice completely indifferent.

  Thomas reached in and pulled apart the curtains of ivy, then stared blankly at a square of metal riveted to the stone with words stamped across it in big capital letters. He put his hand out to run his fingers across them, as if he didn’t believe his eyes.

  WORLD IN CATASTROPHE:

  KILLZONE EXPERIMENT DEPARTMENT

  He read the words aloud, then looked back at Minho. “What’s this?” It gave him a chill—it had to have something to do with the Creators.

  “I don’t know, shank. They’re all over the place, like freaking labels for the nice pretty Maze they built. I quit bothering to look at ’em a long time ago. ”

  Thomas turned back to stare at the sign, trying to suppress the feeling of doom that had risen inside him. “Not much here that sounds very good. Catastrophe. Killzone. Experiment. Real nice. ”

  “Yeah, real nice, Greenie. Let’s go. ”

  Reluctantly, Thomas let the vines fall back into place and swung his backpack over his shoulders. And off they went, those six words burning holes in his mind.

  An hour after lunch, Minho stopped at the end of a long corridor. It was straight, the walls, solid, with no hallways branching off.

  “The last dead end,” he said to Thomas. “Time to go back. ”

  Thomas sucked in a deep breath, trying not to think about only being halfway done for the day. “Nothing new?”

  “Just the usual changes to the way we got here—day’s half over,” Minho replied as he looked at his watch emotionlessly. “Gotta go back. ” Without waiting for a response, the Keeper turned and set off at a run in the direction from which they’d just come.

  Thomas followed, frustrated that they couldn’t take time to examine the walls, explore a little. He finally pulled in stride with Minho. “But—”

  “Just shut it, dude. Remember what I said earlier—can’t take any chances. Plus, think about it. You really think there’s an exit anywhere? A secret trapdoor or something?”

  “I don’t know … maybe. Why do you ask it that way?”

  Minho shook his head, spat a big wad of something nasty to his left. “There’s no exit. It’s just more of the same. A wall is a wall is a wall. Solid. ”

  Thomas felt the heavy truth of it, but pushed back anyway. “How do you know?”

  “Because people willing to send Grievers after us aren’t gonna give us an easy way out. ”

  This made Thomas doubt the whole point of what they were doing. “Then why even bother coming out here?”

  Minho looked over at him. “Why bother? Because it’s here—gotta be a reason. But if you think we’re gonna find a nice little gate that leads to Happy Town, you’re smokin’ cow klunk. ”

  Thomas looked straight ahead, feeling so hopeless he almost slowed to a stop. “This sucks. ”

  “Smartest thing you’ve said yet, Greenie. ”

  Minho blew out a big puff of air and kept running, and Thomas did the only thing he knew to do. He followed.

  The rest of the day was a blur of exhaustion to Thomas. He and Minho made it back to the Glade, went to the Map Room, wrote up the day’s Maze route, compared it to the previous day’s. Then there were the walls closing and dinner. Chuck tried talking to him several times, but all Thomas could do was nod and shake his head, only half hearing, he was so tired.
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