The maze runner, p.38
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       The Maze Runner, p.38

         Part #1 of The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
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Page 38


  “So … Thomas,” the boy said through a huge bite of mashed potatoes. “Who am I nicknamed after?”

  Thomas couldn’t help shaking his head—here they were, about to embark on probably the most dangerous task of their lives, and Chuck was curious where he’d gotten his nickname. “I don’t know, Darwin, maybe? The dude who figured out evolution. ”

  “I bet no one’s ever called him a dude before. ” Chuck took another big bite, and seemed to think that was the best time to talk, full mouth and all. “You know, I’m really not all that scared. I mean, last few nights, sitting in the Homestead, just waiting for a Griever to come in and steal one of us was the worst thing I’ve ever done. At least now we’re taking it to them, trying something. And at least …”

  “At least what?” Thomas asked. He didn’t believe for a second that Chuck wasn’t scared; it almost hurt to see him acting brave.

  “Well, everyone’s speculating they can only kill one of us. Maybe I sound like a shuck, but it gives me some hope. At least most of us will make it through—just leaves one poor sucker to die. Better than all of us. ”

  It made Thomas sick to think people were hanging on to that hope of just one person dying; the more he thought about it, the less he believed it was true. The Creators knew the plan—they might reprogram the Grievers. But even false hope was better than nothing. “Maybe we can all make it. As long as everyone fights. ”

  Chuck stopped stuffing his face for a second and looked at Thomas carefully. “You really think that, or you just trying to cheer me up?”

  “We can do it. ” Thomas ate his last bite, took a big drink of water. He’d never felt like such a liar in his life. People were going to die. But he was going to do everything possible to make sure Chuck wasn’t one of them. And Teresa. “Don’t forget my promise. You can still plan on it. ”

  Chuck frowned. “Big deal—I keep hearing the world is in klunky shape. ”

  “Hey, maybe so, but we’ll find the people who care about us—you’ll see. ”

  Chuck stood up. “Well, I don’t wanna think about it,” he announced. “Just get me out of the Maze, and I’ll be one happy dude. ”

  “Good that,” Thomas agreed.

  A commotion from the other tables caught his attention. Newt and Alby were gathering the Gladers, telling everyone it was time to go. Alby seemed mostly himself, but Thomas still worried about the guy’s mental state. In Thomas’s mind, Newt was in charge, but he could also be a loose cannon sometimes.

  The icy fear and panic Thomas had experienced so often the last few days swept over him once again in full force. This was it. They were going. Trying not to think about it, to just act, he grabbed his backpack. Chuck did the same, and they headed for the West Door, the one leading to the Cliff.

  Thomas found Minho and Teresa talking to each other near the left side of the Door, going over the hastily made plans to enter the escape code once they got into the Hole.

  “You shanks ready?” Minho asked when they came up. “Thomas, this was all your idea, so it better work. If not, I’ll kill ya before the Grievers can. ”

  “Thanks,” Thomas said. But he couldn’t shake the twisting feeling in his gut. What if somehow he was wrong? What if the memories he’d had were false ones? Planted somehow? The thought terrified him, and he pushed it aside. There was no going back.

  He looked at Teresa, who shifted from foot to foot, wringing her hands. “You okay?” he asked.

  “I’m fine,” she answered with a small smile, clearly not fine at all. “Just anxious to get it over with. ”

  “Amen, sister,” Minho said. He looked the calmest to Thomas, the most confident, the least scared. Thomas envied him.

  When Newt finally had everyone gathered, he called for quiet, and Thomas turned to hear what he had to say. “There’re forty-one of us. ” He pulled the backpack he was holding onto his shoulders, and hoisted a thick wooden pole with barbwire wrapped around its tip. The thing looked deadly. “Make sure you’ve got your weapons. Other than that, isn’t a whole lot to buggin’ say—you’ve all been told the plan. We’re gonna fight our way through to the Griever Hole, and Tommy here’s gonna punch in his little magic code and then we’re gonna get payback on the Creators. Simple as that. ”

  Thomas barely heard Newt, having seen Alby sulking over to the side, away from the main group of the Gladers, alone. Alby picked at the string of his bow while he stared at the ground. A quiver of arrows hung over his shoulder. Thomas felt a rising tide of worry that somehow Alby was unstable, that somehow he’d screw everything up. He decided to watch him carefully if he could.

  “Shouldn’t someone give a pep talk or something?” Minho asked, pulling Thomas’s attention away from Alby.

  “Go ahead,” Newt replied.

  Minho nodded and faced the crowd. “Be careful,” he said dryly. “Don’t die. ”

  Thomas would have laughed if he could, but he was too scared for it to come out.

  “Great. We’re all bloody inspired,” Newt answered, then pointed over his shoulder, toward the Maze. “You all know the plan. After two years of being treated like mice, tonight we’re making a stand. Tonight we’re taking the fight back to the Creators, no matter what we have to go through to get there. Tonight the Grievers better be scared. ”

  Someone cheered, and then someone else. Soon shouts and battle calls broke out, rising in volume, filling the air like thunder. Thomas felt a trickle of courage inside him—he grasped it, clung to it, urged it to grow. Newt was right. Tonight, they’d fight. Tonight, they’d make their stand, once and for all.

  Thomas was ready. He roared with the other Gladers. He knew they should probably be quiet, not bring any more attention to themselves, but he didn’t care. The game was on.

  Newt thrust his weapon into the air and yelled, “Hear that, Creators! We’re coming!”

  And with that, he turned and ran into the Maze, his limp barely noticeable. Into the gray air that seemed darker than the Glade, full of shadows and blackness. The Gladers around Thomas, still cheering, picked up their weapons and ran after him, even Alby. Thomas followed, falling into line between Teresa and Chuck, hefting a big wooden spear with a knife tied at its tip. The sudden feeling of responsibility for his friends almost overwhelmed him—made it hard to run. But he kept going, determined to win.

  You can do this, he thought. Just make it to that Hole.


  Thomas kept a steady pace as he ran with the other Gladers along the stone pathways toward the Cliff. He’d grown used to running the Maze, but this was completely different. The sounds of shuffling feet echoed up the walls and the red lights of the beetle blades flashed more menacingly in the ivy—the Creators were certainly watching, listening. One way or another, there was going to be a fight.

  Scared? Teresa asked him as they ran.

  No, I love things made out of blubber and steel. Can’t wait to see them. He felt no mirth or humor and wondered if there’d ever be a time again when he would.

  So funny, she responded.

  She was right next to him, but his eyes stayed glued up ahead. We’ll be fine. Just stay close to me and Minho.

  Ah, my Knight in Shining Armor. What, you don’t think I can fend for myself?

  Actually, he thought quite the opposite—Teresa seemed as tough as anybody there. No, I’m just trying to be nice.

  The group was spread out across the full width of the corridor, running at a steady but quick pace—Thomas wondered how long the non-Runners would hold up. As if in response to the thought, Newt fell back, finally tapping Minho on the shoulder. “You lead the way now,” Thomas heard him say.

  Minho nodded and ran to the front, guiding the Gladers through all the turns necessary. Every step was agonizing for Thomas. What courage he’d gathered had turned to dread, and he wondered when the Grievers would finally give chase. Wondered when the fight would begi

  And so it went for him as they kept moving, those Gladers not used to running such distances gasping in huge gulps of air. But no one quit. On and on they ran, with no signs of Grievers. And as the time passed, Thomas let the slightest trickle of hope enter his system—maybe they’d make it before getting attacked. Maybe.

  Finally, after the longest hour of Thomas’s life, they reached the long alley that led to the last turn before the Cliff—a short corridor to the right that branched off like the stem of the letter T.

  Thomas, his heart thumping, sweat slicking his skin, had moved up right behind Minho, Teresa at his side. Minho slowed at the corner, then stopped, holding up a hand to tell Thomas and the others to do the same. Then he turned, a look of horror on his face.

  “Do you hear that?” he whispered.

  Thomas shook his head, trying to squash the terror Minho’s expression had given him.

  Minho crept ahead and peeked around the sharp edge of stone, looking toward the Cliff. Thomas had seen him do that before, when they’d followed a Griever to this very spot. Just like that time, Minho jerked back and turned to face him.

  “Oh, no,” the Keeper said through a moan. “Oh, no. ”

  Then Thomas heard it. Griever sounds. It was as if they’d been hiding, waiting, and now were coming to life. He didn’t even have to look—he knew what Minho was going to say before he said it.

  “There’s at least a dozen of them. Maybe fifteen. ” He reached up and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “They’re just waiting for us!”

  The icy chill of fear bit Thomas harder than ever before. He looked over at Teresa, about to say something, but stopped when he saw the expression on her pale face—he’d never seen terror present itself so starkly.

  Newt and Alby had moved up the line of waiting Gladers to join Thomas and the others. Apparently Minho’s pronouncement had already been whispered through the ranks, because the first thing Newt said was “Well, we knew we’d have to fight. ” But the tremor in his voice gave him away—he was just trying to say the right thing.

  Thomas felt it himself. It’d been easy to talk about—the nothing-to-lose fight, the hope that just one of them would be taken, the chance to finally escape. But now it was here, literally around the corner. Doubts that he could go through with it seeped into his mind and heart. He wondered why the Grievers were just waiting—the beetle blades had obviously let them know the Gladers were coming. Were the Creators enjoying this?

  He had an idea. “Maybe they’ve already taken a kid back at the Glade. Maybe we can get past them—why else would they just be sitting—”

  A loud noise from behind cut him off—he spun to see more Grievers moving down the corridor toward them, spikes flaring, metal arms groping, coming from the direction of the Glade. Thomas was just about to say something when he heard sounds from the other end of the long alley—he looked to see yet more Grievers.

  The enemy was on all sides, blocking them off completely.

  The Gladers surged toward Thomas, forming a tight group, forcing him to move out into the open intersection where the Cliff corridor met the long alley. He saw the pack of Grievers between them and the Cliff, spikes extended, their moist skin pulsing in and out. Waiting, watching. The other two groups of Grievers had closed in and stopped just a few dozen feet from the Gladers, also waiting, watching.

  Thomas slowly turned in a circle, fought the fear as he took it all in. They were surrounded. They had no choice now—there was nowhere to go. A sharp pulsing pain throbbed behind his eyes.

  The Gladers compressed into a tighter group around him, everyone facing outward, huddled together in the center of the T intersection. Thomas was pressed between Newt and Teresa—he could feel Newt trembling. No one said a word. The only sounds were the eerie moans and whirrs of machinery coming from the Grievers, sitting there as if enjoying the little trap they’d set for the humans. Their disgusting bodies heaved in and out with mechanical wheezes of breath.

  What are they doing? Thomas called out to Teresa. What are they waiting for?

  She didn’t answer, which worried him. He reached out and squeezed her hand. The Gladers around him stood silent, clutching their meager weapons.

  Thomas looked over at Newt. “Got any ideas?”

  “No,” he replied, his voice just the tiniest bit shaky. “I don’t understand what they’re bloody waitin’ for. ”

  “We shouldn’t have come,” Alby said. He’d been so quiet, his voice sounded odd, especially with the hollow echo the Maze walls created.

  Thomas was in no mood for whining—they had to do something. “Well, we’d be no better off in the Homestead. Hate to say it, but if one of us dies, that’s better than all of us. ” He really hoped the one-person-a-night thing was true now. Seeing all these Grievers close up hit home with an explosion of reality—could they really fight them all?

  A long moment passed before Alby replied. “Maybe I should …” He trailed off and started walking forward—in the direction of the Cliff—slowly, as if in a trance. Thomas watched in detached awe—he couldn’t believe his eyes.

  “Alby?” Newt said. “Get back here!”

  Instead of responding, Alby took off running—he headed straight for the pack of Grievers between him and the Cliff.

  “Alby!” Newt screamed.

  Thomas started to say something himself, but Alby had already made it to the monsters and jumped on top of one. Newt moved away from Thomas’s side and toward Alby—but five or six Grievers had already burst to life and attacked the boy in a blur of metal and skin. Thomas reached out and grabbed Newt by the arms before he could go any farther, then pulled him backward.
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