The maze runner, p.7
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       The Maze Runner, p.7

         Part #1 of The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
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Page 7

 

  “What?” Thomas laughed. “I don’t believe that for a second. ”

  “Oh, yeah, smart guy? I’ve seen the sucker’s bones. Cut in half like a knife through whipped cream. They keep him in a box to remind future kids not to be so stupid. ”

  Thomas waited for Chuck to laugh or smile, thinking it had to be a joke—who ever heard of someone being cut in half? But it never came. “You’re serious?”

  Chuck just stared back at him. “I don’t lie, Gree—uh, Thomas. Come on, let’s go over and see who’s coming up. I can’t believe you only have to be the Greenbean for one day. Klunkhead. ”

  As they walked over, Thomas asked the one question he hadn’t posed yet. “How do you know it’s not just supplies or whatever?”

  “The alarm doesn’t go off when that happens,” Chuck answered, simply. “The supplies come up at the same time every week. Hey, look. ” Chuck stopped and pointed to someone in the crowd. It was Gally, staring dead at them.

  “Shuck it,” Chuck said. “He does not like you, man. ”

  “Yeah,” Thomas muttered. “Figured that out already. ” And the feeling was mutual.

  Chuck nudged Thomas with his elbow and the boys resumed their walk to the edge of the crowd, then waited in silence; any questions Thomas had were forgotten. He’d lost the urge to talk after seeing Gally.

  Chuck apparently hadn’t. “Why don’t you go ask him what his problem is?” he asked, trying to sound tough.

  Thomas wanted to think he was brave enough, but that currently sounded like the worst idea in history. “Well, for one, he has a lot more allies than I do. Not a good person to pick a fight with. ”

  “Yeah, but you’re smarter. And I bet you’re quicker. You could take him and all his buddies. ”

  One of the boys standing in front of them looked back over his shoulder, annoyance crossing his face.

  Must be a friend of Gally’s, Thomas thought. “Would you shut it?” he hissed at Chuck.

  A door closed behind them; Thomas turned to see Alby and Newt heading over from the Homestead. They both looked exhausted.

  Seeing them brought Ben back to his mind—along with the horrific image of him writhing in bed. “Chuck, man, you gotta tell me what this whole Changing business is. What have they been doing in there with that poor Ben kid?”

  Chuck shrugged. “Don’t know the details. The Grievers do bad things to you, make your whole body go through something awful. When it’s over, you’re … different. ”

  Thomas sensed a chance to finally have a solid answer. “Different? What do you mean? And what does it have to do with the Grievers? Is that what Gally meant by ‘being stung’?”

  “Shh. ” Chuck held a finger to his mouth.

  Thomas almost screamed in frustration, but he kept quiet. He resolved to make Chuck tell him later, whether the guy wanted to or not.

  Alby and Newt had reached the crowd and pushed themselves to the front, standing right over the doors that led to the Box. Everyone quieted, and for the first time, Thomas noted the grinds and rattles of the rising lift, reminding him of his own nightmarish trip the day before. Sadness washed over him, almost as if he were reliving those few terrible minutes of awakening in darkness to the memory loss. He felt sorry for whoever this new kid was, going through the same things.

  A muffled boom announced that the bizarre elevator had arrived.

  Thomas watched in anticipation as Newt and Alby took positions on opposite sides of the shaft doors—a crack split the metal square right down the middle. Simple hook-handles were attached on both sides, and together they yanked them apart. With a metallic scrape the doors were opened, and a puff of dust from the surrounding stone rose into the air.

  Complete silence settled over the Gladers. As Newt leaned over to get a better look into the Box, the faint bleating of a goat in the distance echoed across the courtyard. Thomas leaned forward as far as he possibly could, hoping to get a glance at the newcomer.

  With a sudden jerk, Newt pushed himself back into an upright position, his face scrunched up in confusion. “Holy …,” he breathed, looking around at nothing in particular.

  By this time, Alby had gotten a good look as well, with a similar reaction. “No way,” he murmured, almost in a trance.

  A chorus of questions filled the air as everyone began pushing forward to get a look into the small opening. What do they see down there? Thomas wondered. What do they see! He felt a sliver of muted fear, similar to what he’d experienced that morning when he stepped toward the window to see the Griever.

  “Hold on!” Alby yelled, silencing everyone. “Just hold on!”

  “Well, what’s wrong?” someone yelled back.

  Alby stood up. “Two Newbies in two days,” he said, almost in a whisper. “Now this. Two years, nothing different, now this. ” Then, for some reason, he looked straight at Thomas. “What’s goin’ on here, Greenie?”

  Thomas stared back, confused, his face turning bright red, his gut clenching. “How am I supposed to know?”

  “Why don’t you just tell us what the shuck is down there, Alby?” Gally called out. There were more murmurs and another surge forward.

  “You shanks shut up!” Alby yelled. “Tell ’em, Newt. ”

  Newt looked down in the Box one more time, then faced the crowd, gravely.

  “It’s a girl,” he said.

  Everyone started talking at once; Thomas only caught pieces here and there.

  “A girl?”

  “I got dibs!”

  “What’s she look like?”

  “How old is she?”

  Thomas was drowning in a sea of confusion. A girl? He hadn’t even thought about why the Glade only had boys, no girls. Hadn’t even had the chance to notice, really. Who is she? he wondered. Why—

  Newt shushed them again. “That’s not bloody half of it,” he said, then pointed down into the Box. “I think she’s dead. ”

  A couple of boys grabbed some ropes made from ivy vines and lowered Alby and Newt into the Box so they could retrieve the girl’s body. A mood of reserved shock had come over most of the Gladers, who were milling about with solemn faces, kicking loose rocks and not saying much at all. No one dared admit they couldn’t wait to see the girl, but Thomas assumed they were all just as curious as he was.

  Gally was one of the boys holding on to the ropes, ready to hoist her, Alby, and Newt out of the Box. Thomas watched him closely. His eyes were laced with something dark—almost a sick fascination. A gleam that made Thomas suddenly more scared of him than he’d been minutes earlier.

  From deep in the shaft came Alby’s voice shouting that they were ready, and Gally and a couple of others started pulling up on the rope. A few grunts later and the girl’s lifeless body was dragged out, across the edge of the door and onto one of the stone blocks making up the ground of the Glade. Everyone immediately ran forward, forming a packed crowd around her, a palpable excitement hovering in the air. But Thomas stayed back. The eerie silence gave him the creeps, as if they’d just opened up a recently laid tomb.

  Despite his own curiosity, Thomas didn’t bother trying to force his way through to get a look—the bodies were too tightly squeezed together. But he had caught a glimpse of her before being blocked off. She was thin, but not too small. Maybe five and a half feet tall, from what he could tell. She looked like she could be fifteen or sixteen years old, and her hair was tar black. But the thing that had really stood out to him was her skin: pale, white as pearls.

  Newt and Alby scrambled out of the Box after her, then forced their way through to the girl’s lifeless body, the crowd re-forming behind to cut them off from Thomas’s view. Only a few seconds later, the group parted again, and Newt was pointing straight at Thomas.

  “Greenie, get over here,” he said, not bothering to be polite about it.

  Thomas’s heart jumped into his throat; his hands started to sweat.
What did they want him for? Things just kept getting worse and worse. He forced himself to walk forward, trying to seem innocent without acting like someone who was guilty who was trying to act innocent. Oh, calm it, he told himself. You haven’t done anything wrong. But he had a strange feeling that maybe he had without realizing it.

  The boys lining the path to Newt and the girl glared at him as he walked past, as if he were responsible for the entire mess of the Maze and the Glade and the Grievers. Thomas refused to make eye contact with any of them, afraid of looking guilty.

  He approached Newt and Alby, who both knelt beside the girl. Thomas, not wanting to meet their stares, concentrated on the girl; despite her paleness, she was really pretty. More than pretty. Beautiful. Silky hair, flawless skin, perfect lips, long legs. It made him sick to think that way about a dead girl, but he couldn’t look away. Won’t be that way for long, he thought with a queasy twist in his stomach. She’ll start rotting soon. He was surprised at having such a morbid thought.

  “You know this girl, shank?” Alby asked, sounding ticked off.

  Thomas was shocked by the question. “Know her? Of course I don’t know her. I don’t know anyone. Except for you guys. ”

  “That’s not …,” Alby began, then stopped with a frustrated sigh. “I meant does she look familiar at all? Any kind of feelin’ you’ve seen her before?”

  “No. Nothing. ” Thomas shifted, looked down at his feet, then back at the girl.

  Alby’s forehead creased. “You’re sure?” He looked like he didn’t believe a word Thomas said, seemed almost angry.

  What could he possibly think I have to do with this? Thomas thought. He met Alby’s glare evenly and answered the only way he knew how. “Yes. Why?”

  “Shuck it,” Alby muttered, looking back down at the girl. “Can’t be a coincidence. Two days, two Greenies, one alive, one dead. ”

  Then Alby’s words started to make sense and panic flared in Thomas. “You don’t think I …” He couldn’t even finish the sentence.

  “Slim it, Greenie,” Newt said. “We’re not sayin’ you bloody killed the girl. ”

  Thomas’s mind was spinning. He was sure he’d never seen her before—but then the slightest hint of doubt crept into his mind. “I swear she doesn’t look familiar at all,” he said anyway. He’d had enough accusations.

  “Are you—”

  Before Newt could finish, the girl shot up into a sitting position. As she sucked in a huge breath, her eyes snapped open and she blinked, looking around at the crowd surrounding her. Alby cried out and fell backward. Newt gasped and jumped up, stumbling away from her. Thomas didn’t move, his gaze locked on the girl, frozen in fear.

  Burning blue eyes darted back and forth as she took deep breaths. Her pink lips trembled as she mumbled something over and over, indecipherable. Then she spoke one sentence—her voice hollow and haunted, but clear.

  “Everything is going to change. ”

  Thomas stared in wonder as her eyes rolled up into her head and she fell back to the ground. Her right fist shot into the air as she landed, staying rigid after she grew still, pointing toward the sky. Clutched in her hand was a wadded piece of paper.

  Thomas tried to swallow but his mouth was too dry. Newt ran forward and pulled her fingers apart, grabbing the paper. With shaking hands he unfolded it, then dropped to his knees, spreading out the note on the ground. Thomas moved up behind him to get a look.

  Scrawled across the paper in thick black letters were five words:

  She’s the last one.

  Ever.

  CHAPTER 9

  An odd moment of complete silence hung over the Glade. It was as if a supernatural wind had swept through the place and sucked out all sound. Newt had read the message aloud for those who couldn’t see the paper, but instead of erupting in confusion, the Gladers all stood dumbfounded.

  Thomas would’ve expected shouts and questions, arguments. But no one said a word; all eyes were glued to the girl, now lying there as if asleep, her chest rising and falling with shallow breaths. Contrary to their original conclusion, she was very much alive.

  Newt stood, and Thomas hoped for an explanation, a voice of reason, a calming presence. But all he did was crumple the note in his fist, veins popping from his skin as he squeezed it, and Thomas’s heart sank. He wasn’t sure why, but the situation made him very uneasy.

  Alby cupped his hands around his mouth. “Med-jacks!”

  Thomas wondered what that word meant—he knew he’d heard it before—but then he was abruptly knocked aside. Two older boys were pushing their way through the crowd—one was tall with a buzz cut, his nose the size of a fat lemon. The other was short and actually had gray hair already conquering the black on the sides of his head. Thomas could only hope they’d make some sense of everything.

  “So what do we do with her?” the taller one asked, his voice much higher pitched than Thomas expected.

  “How should I know?” Alby said. “You two shanks are the Med-jacks—figure it out. ”

  Med-jacks, Thomas repeated in his head, a light going off. They must be the closest thing they have to doctors. The short one was already on the ground, kneeling beside the girl, feeling for her pulse and leaning over to listen to her heartbeat.

  “Who said Clint had first shot at her?” someone yelled from the crowd. There were several barks of laughter. “I’m next!”

  How can they joke around? Thomas thought. The girl’s half dead. He felt sick inside.

  Alby’s eyes narrowed; his mouth pulled into a tight grin that didn’t look like it had anything to do with humor. “If anybody touches this girl,” Alby said, “you’re gonna spend the night sleepin’ with the Grievers in the Maze. Banished, no questions. ” He paused, turning in a slow circle as if he wanted every person to see his face. “Ain’t nobody better touch her! Nobody!”
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