The maze runner, p.35
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       The Maze Runner, p.35

         Part #1 of The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
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Page 35

 

  Everything came crashing back into his mind. The Glade, the Grievers, the stinging needle, the Changing. Memories. The Maze couldn’t be solved. Their only way out was something they’d never expected. Something terrifying. He was crushed with despair.

  Groaning, he forced his eyes open, squinting at first. Chuck’s pudgy face was there, staring with frightened eyes. But then they lit up and a smile spread across his face. Despite it all, despite the terrible crappiness of it all, Chuck smiled.

  “He’s awake!” the boy yelled to no one in particular. “Thomas is awake!”

  The booming sound of his voice made Thomas wince; he shut his eyes again. “Chuck, do you have to scream? I don’t feel so good. ”

  “Sorry—I’m just glad you’re alive. You’re lucky I don’t give you a big kiss. ”

  “Please don’t do that, Chuck. ” Thomas opened his eyes again and forced himself to sit up in the bed in which he lay, pushing his back against the wall and stretching out his legs. Soreness ate at his joints and muscles. “How long did it take?” he asked.

  “Three days,” Chuck answered. “We put you in the Slammer at night to keep you safe—brought you back here during the days. Thought you were dead for sure about thirty times since you started. But check you out—you look brand-new!”

  Thomas could only imagine how non-great he looked. “Did the Grievers come?”

  Chuck’s jubilation visibly crashed to the ground as his eyes sank down toward the floor. “Yeah—they got Zart and a couple others. One a night. Minho and the Runners have scoured the Maze, trying to find an exit or some use for that stupid code you guys came up with. But nothing. Why do you think the Grievers are only taking one shank at a time?”

  Thomas’s stomach turned sour—he knew the exact answer to that question, and some others now. Enough to know that sometimes knowing sucked.

  “Get Newt and Alby,” he finally said in answer. “Tell them we need to have a Gathering. Soon as possible. ”

  “Serious?”

  Thomas let out a sigh. “Chuck, I just went through the Changing. Do you think I’m serious?”

  Without a word, Chuck jumped up and ran out of the room, his calls for Newt fading the farther he went.

  Thomas closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall. Then he called out to her with his mind.

  Teresa.

  She didn’t answer at first, but then her voice popped into his thoughts as clearly as if she were sitting next to him. That was really stupid, Tom. Really, really stupid.

  Had to do it, he answered.

  I pretty much hated you the last couple days. You should’ve seen yourself. Your skin, your veins…

  You hated me? He was thrilled she’d cared so much about him.

  She paused. That’s just my way of saying I would’ve killed you if you’d died.

  Thomas felt a burst of warmth in his chest, reached up and actually touched it, surprised at himself. Well … thanks. I guess.

  So, how much do you remember?

  He paused. Enough. What you said about the two of us and what we did to them…

  It was true?

  We did some bad things, Teresa. He sensed frustration from her, like she had a million questions and no idea where to start.

  Did you learn anything to help us get out of here? she asked, as if she didn’t want to know what part she’d had in all of this. A purpose for the code?

  Thomas paused, not really wanting to talk about it yet—not before he really gathered his thoughts. Their only chance for escape might be a death wish. Maybe, he finally said, but it won’t be easy. We need a Gathering. I’ll ask for you to be there—I don’t have the energy to say it all twice.

  Neither one of them said anything for a while, a sense of hopelessness wafting between their minds.

  Teresa?

  Yeah?

  The Maze can’t be solved.

  She paused for a long time before answering. I think we all know that now.

  Thomas hated the pain in her voice—he could feel it in his mind. Don’t worry; the Creators meant for us to escape, though. I have a plan. He wanted to give her some hope, no matter how scarce.

  Oh, really.

  Yeah. It’s terrible, and some of us might die. Sound promising?

  Big-time. What is it?

  We have to—

  Before he could finish, Newt walked into the room, cutting him off.

  I’ll tell you later, Thomas quickly finished.

  Hurry! she said, then was gone.

  Newt had walked over to the bed and sat down next to him. “Tommy—you barely look sick. ”

  Thomas nodded. “I feel a little queasy, but other than that, I’m fine. Thought it’d be a lot worse. ”

  Newt shook his head, his face a mixture of anger and awe. “What you did was half brave and half bloody stupid. Seems like you’re pretty good at that. ” He paused, shook his head. “I know why you did it. What memories came back? Anything that’ll help?”

  “We need to have a Gathering,” Thomas said, shifting his legs to get more comfortable. Surprisingly, he didn’t feel much pain, just wooziness. “Before I start forgetting some of this stuff. ”

  “Yeah, Chuck told me—we’ll do it. But why? What did you figure out?”

  “It’s a test, Newt—the whole thing is a test. ”

  Newt nodded. “Like an experiment. ”

  Thomas shook his head. “No, you don’t get it. They’re weeding us out, seeing if we’ll give up, finding the best of us. Throwing variables at us, trying to make us quit. Testing our ability to hope and fight. Sending Teresa here and shutting everything down was only the last part, one more … final analysis. Now it’s time for the last test. To escape. ”

  Newt’s brow crinkled in confusion. “What do you mean? You know a way out?”

  “Yeah. Call the Gathering. Now. ”

  CHAPTER 49

  An hour later, Thomas sat in front of the Keepers for the Gathering, just like he had a week or two before. They hadn’t let Teresa in, which ticked him off just as much as it did her. Newt and Minho trusted her now, but the others still had their doubts.

  “All right, Greenie,” Alby said, looking much better as he sat in the middle of the semicircle of chairs, next to Newt. The other chairs were all occupied except two—a stark reminder that Zart and Gally had been taken by the Grievers. “Forget all the beat-around-the-bush klunk. Start talking. ”

  Thomas, still a bit queasy from the Changing, forced himself to take a second and gain his composure. He had a lot to say, but wanted to be sure it came out sounding as non-stupid as possible.

  “It’s a long story,” he began. “We don’t have time to go through it all, but I’ll tell you the gist of it. When I went through the Changing, I saw flashes of images—hundreds of them—like a slide show in fast forward. A lot came back to me, but only some of it’s clear enough to talk about. Other stuff has faded or is fading. ” He paused, gathering his thoughts one last time. “But I remember enough. The Creators are testing us. The Maze was never meant to be solved. It’s all been a trial. They want the winners—or survivors—to do something important. ” He trailed off, already confused at what order he should tell things in.

  “What?” Newt asked.

  “Let me start over,” Thomas said, rubbing his eyes. “Every single one of us was taken when we were really young. I don’t remember how or why—just glimpses and feelings that things had changed in the world, that something really bad happened. I have no idea what. The Creators stole us, and I think they felt justified in doing it. Somehow they figured out that we have above-average intelligence, and that’s why they chose us. I don’t know, most of this is sketchy and doesn’t matter that much anyway.

  “I can’t remember anything about my family or what happened to them. But after we were taken, we spent the next few years learning in special schools, living s
omewhat normal lives until they were finally able to finance and build the Maze. All our names are just stupid nicknames they made up—like Alby for Albert Einstein, Newt for Isaac Newton, and me—Thomas. As in Edison. ”

  Alby looked like he’d been slapped in the face. “Our names … these ain’t even our real names?”

  Thomas shook his head. “As far as I can tell, we’ll probably never know what our names were. ”

  “What are you saying?” Frypan asked. “That we’re freakin’ orphans raised by scientists?”

  “Yes,” Thomas said, hoping his expression didn’t give away just how depressed he felt. “Supposedly we’re really smart and they’re studying every move we make, analyzing us. Seeing who’d give up and who wouldn’t. Seeing who’d survive it all. No wonder we have so many beetle blade spies running around this place. Plus, some of us have had things … altered in our brains. ”

  “I believe this klunk about as much as I believe Frypan’s food is good for you,” Winston grumbled, looking tired and indifferent.

  “Why would I make this up?” Thomas said, his voice rising. He’d gotten stung on purpose to remember these things! “Better yet, what do you think is the explanation? That we live on an alien planet?”

  “Just keep talking,” Alby said. “But I don’t get why none of us remembered this stuff. I’ve been through the Changing, but everything I saw was …” He looked around quickly, like he’d just said something he shouldn’t have. “I didn’t learn nothin’. ”

  “I’ll tell you in a minute why I think I learned more than others,” Thomas said, dreading that part of the story. “Should I keep going or not?”

  “Talk,” Newt said.

  Thomas sucked in a big breath, as if he were about to start a race. “Okay, somehow they wiped our memories—not just our childhood, but all the stuff leading up to entering the Maze. They put us in the Box and sent us up here—a big group to start and then one a month over the last two years. ”

  “But why?” Newt asked. “What’s the bloody point?”

  Thomas held up a hand for silence. “I’m getting there. Like I said, they wanted to test us, see how we’d react to what they call the Variables, and to a problem that has no solution. See if we could work together—build a community, even. Everything was provided for us, and the problem was laid out as one of the most common puzzles known to civilization—a maze. All this added up to making us think there had to be a solution, just encouraging us to work all the harder while at the same time magnifying our discouragement at not finding one. ” He paused to look around, making sure they were all listening. “What I’m saying is, there is no solution. ”

  Chatter broke out, questions overlapping each other.

  Thomas held his hands up again, wishing he could just zap his thoughts into everyone else’s brains. “See? Your reaction proves my point. Most people would’ve given up by now. But I think we’re different. We couldn’t accept that a problem can’t be solved—especially when it’s something as simple as a maze. And we’ve kept fighting no matter how hopeless it’s gotten. ”

  Thomas realized his voice had steadily risen as he spoke, and he felt heat in his face. “Whatever the reason, it makes me sick! All of this—the Grievers, the walls moving, the Cliff—they’re just elements of a stupid test. We’re being used and manipulated. The Creators wanted to keep our minds working toward a solution that was never there. Same thing goes for Teresa being sent here, her being used to trigger the Ending—whatever that means—the place being shut down, gray skies, on and on and on. They’re throwing crazy things at us to see our response, test our will. See if we’ll turn on each other. In the end, they want the survivors for something important. ”

  Frypan stood up. “And killing people? That’s a nice little part of their plan?”

  Thomas felt a moment of fear, worried that the Keepers might take out their anger on him for knowing so much. And it was only about to get worse. “Yes, Frypan, killing people. The only reason the Grievers are doing it one by one is so we don’t all die before it ends the way it’s supposed to. Survival of the fittest. Only the best of us will escape. ”

  Frypan kicked his chair. “Well, you better start talking about this magical escape, then!”

  “He will,” Newt said, quietly. “Shut up and listen. ”

  Minho, who’d been mostly silent the whole time, cleared his throat. “Something tells me I’m not gonna like what I’m about to hear. ”

  “Probably not,” Thomas said. He closed his eyes for a second and folded his arms. The next few minutes were going to be crucial. “The Creators want the best of us for whatever it is they have planned. But we have to earn it. ” The room fell completely silent, every eye on him. “The code. ”

  “The code?” Frypan repeated, his voice lighting up with a trace of hope. “What about it?”

  Thomas looked at him, paused for effect. “It was hidden in the wall movements of the Maze for a reason. I should know—I was there when the Creators did it. ”

  CHAPTER 50

  For a long moment, no one said anything, and all Thomas saw were blank faces. He felt the sweat beading on his forehead, slicking his hands; he was terrified to keep going.

  Newt looked completely baffled and finally broke the silence. “What are you talking about?”

  “Well, first there’s something I have to share. About me and Teresa. There’s a reason Gally accused me of so much stuff, and why everyone who’s gone through the Changing recognizes me. ”
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