Chapter no 11

The Maze Runner

It looked as if Ben had recovered only slightly since Thomas had seen him in the Homestead. He wore nothing but shorts, his whiter-than- white skin stretched across his bones like a sheet wrapped tightly around a bundle of sticks. Ropelike veins ran along his body, pulsing and green—but less pronounced than the day before. His bloodshot eyes fell upon Thomas as if he were seeing his next meal.

Ben crouched, ready to spring for another attack. At some point a knife had made an appearance, gripped in his right hand. Thomas was filled with a queasy fear, disbelief that this was happening at all.


Thomas looked toward the voice, surprised to see Alby standing at the edge of the graveyard, a mere phantom in the fading light. Relief flooded Thomas’s body—Alby held a large bow, an arrow cocked for the kill, pointed straight at Ben.

“Ben,” Alby repeated. “Stop right now, or you ain’t gonna see tomorrow.”

Thomas looked back at Ben, who stared viciously at Alby, his tongue darting between his lips to wet them. What could possibly be wrong with that kid? Thomas thought. The boy had turned into a monster. Why?

“If you kill me,” Ben shrieked, spittle flying from his mouth, far enough to hit Thomas in the face, “you’ll get the wrong guy.” He snapped his gaze back to Thomas. “He’s the shank you wanna kill.” His voice was full of madness.

“Don’t be stupid, Ben,” Alby said, his voice calm as he continued to aim the arrow. “Thomas just got here—ain’t nothing to worry about. You’re still buggin’ from the Changing. You should’ve never left your bed.”

“He’s not one of us!” Ben shouted. “I saw him—he’s … he’s bad. We have to kill him! Let me gut him!”

Thomas took an involuntary step backward, horrified by what Ben had said. What did he mean, he’d seen him? Why did he think Thomas was bad?

Alby hadn’t moved his weapon an inch, still aiming for Ben. “You leave that to me and the Keepers to figure out, shuck-face.” His hands were perfectly steady as he held the bow, almost as if he had propped it against a branch for support. “Right now, back your scrawny butt down and get to the Homestead.”

“He’ll wanna take us home,” Ben said. “He’ll wanna get us out of the Maze. Better we all jumped off the Cliff! Better we tore each other’s guts out!”

“What are you talking—” Thomas began.

“Shut your face!” Ben screamed. “Shut your ugly, traitorous face!” “Ben,” Alby said calmly. “I’m gonna count to three.”

“He’s bad, he’s bad, he’s bad …,” Ben was whispering now, almost chanting. He swayed back and forth, switching the knife from hand to hand, eyes glued on Thomas.


“Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad …” Ben smiled; his teeth seemed to glow, greenish in the pale light.

Thomas wanted to look away, get out of there. But he couldn’t move; he was too mesmerized, too scared.

“Two.” Alby’s voice was louder, filled with warning.

“Ben,” Thomas said, trying to make sense of it all. “I’m not … I don’t even know what—”

Ben screamed, a strangled gurgle of madness, and leaped into the air, slashing out with his blade.

“Three!” Alby shouted.

There was the sound of snapping wire. The whoosh of an object slicing through the air. The sickening, wet thunk of it finding a home.

Ben’s head snapped violently to the left, twisting his body until he landed on his stomach, his feet pointed toward Thomas. He made no sound.

Thomas jumped to his feet and stumbled forward. The long shaft of the arrow stuck from Ben’s cheek, the blood surprisingly less than Thomas had expected, but seeping out all the same. Black in the

darkness, like oil. The only movement was Ben’s right pinky finger, twitching. Thomas fought the urge to puke. Was Ben dead because of him? Was it his fault?

“Come on,” Alby said. “Baggers’ll take care of him tomorrow.”

What just happened here? Thomas thought, the world tilting around him as he stared at the lifeless body. What did I ever do to this kid?

He looked up, wanting answers, but Alby was already gone, a trembling branch the only sign he’d ever stood there in the first place.

Thomas squeezed his eyes against the blinding light of the sun as he emerged from the woods. He was limping, his ankle screaming in pain, though he had no memory of hurting it. He held one hand carefully over the area where he’d been bitten; the other clutched his stomach as if that would prevent what Thomas now felt was an inevitable barf. The image of Ben’s head popped into his mind, cocked at an unnatural angle, blood running down the shaft of the arrow until it collected, dripped, splattered on the ground….

The image of it was the last straw.

He fell to his knees by one of the scraggly trees on the outskirts of the forest and threw up, retching as he coughed and spat out every last morsel of the acidic, nasty bile from his stomach. His whole body shook, and it seemed like the vomiting would never end.

And then, as if his brain were mocking him, trying to make it worse, he had a thought.

He’d now been at the Glade for roughly twenty-four hours. One full day. That was it. And look at all the things that had happened. All the terrible things.

Surely it could only get better.

That night, Thomas lay staring at the sparkling sky, wondering if he’d ever sleep again. Every time he closed his eyes, the monstrous image of Ben leaping at him, the boy’s face set in lunacy, filled his mind. Eyes opened or not, he could swear he kept hearing the moist thunk of the arrow slamming into Ben’s cheek.

Thomas knew he’d never forget those few terrible minutes in the graveyard.

“Say something,” Chuck said for the fifth time since they’d set out their sleeping bags.

“No,” Thomas replied, just as he had before.

“Everyone knows what happened. It’s happened once or twice— some Griever-stung shank flipped out and attacked somebody. Don’t think you’re special.”

For the first time, Thomas thought Chuck’s personality had gone from mildly irritating to intolerable. “Chuck, be glad I’m not holding Alby’s bow right about now.”

“I’m just play—”

“Shut up, Chuck. Go to sleep.” Thomas just couldn’t handle it right then.

Eventually, his “buddy” did doze off, and based on the rumble of snores across the Glade, so did everyone else. Hours later, deep in the night, Thomas was still the only one awake. He wanted to cry, but didn’t. He wanted to find Alby and punch him, for no reason whatsoever, but didn’t. He wanted to scream and kick and spit and open up the Box and jump into the blackness below. But he didn’t.

He closed his eyes and forced the thoughts and dark images away and at some point he fell asleep.

Chuck had to drag Thomas out of his sleeping bag in the morning, drag him to the showers, and drag him to the dressing rooms. The whole time, Thomas felt mopey and indifferent, his head aching, his body wanting more sleep. Breakfast was a blur, and an hour after it was over, Thomas couldn’t remember what he’d eaten. He was so tired, his brain felt like someone had gone in and stapled it to his skull in a dozen places. Heartburn ravaged his chest.

But from what he could tell, naps were frowned upon in the giant working farm of the Glade.

He stood with Newt in front of the barn of the Blood House, getting ready for his first training session with a Keeper. Despite the rough morning, he was actually excited to learn more, and for the chance to get his mind off Ben and the graveyard. Cows mooed, sheep bleated, pigs squealed all around him. Somewhere close by, a dog barked, making Thomas hope Frypan didn’t bring new meaning to the word hot dog. Hot dog, he thought. When’s the last time I had a hot dog? Who

did I eat it with?

“Tommy, are you even listening to me?”

Thomas snapped out of his daze and focused on Newt, who’d been talking for who knew how long; Thomas hadn’t heard a word of it. “Yeah, sorry. Couldn’t sleep last night.”

Newt attempted a pathetic smile. “Can’t blame ya there. Went through the buggin’ ringer, you did. Probably think I’m a slinthead shank for gettin’ you ready to work your butt off today after an episode the likes of that.”

Thomas shrugged. “Work’s probably the best thing I could do.

Anything to get my mind off it.”

Newt nodded, and his smile became more genuine. “You’re as smart as you look, Tommy. That’s one of the reasons we run this place all nice and busylike. You get lazy, you get sad. Start givin’ up. Plain and simple.”

Thomas nodded, absently kicking a loose rock across the dusty, cracked stone floor of the Glade. “So what’s the latest on that girl from yesterday?” If anything had penetrated the haze of his long morning, it had been thoughts of her. He wanted to know more about her, understand the odd connection he felt to her.

“Still in a coma, sleepin’. Med-jacks are spoon-feeding her whatever soups Frypan can cook up, checking her vitals and such. She seems okay, just dead to the world for now.”

“That was just plain weird.” If it hadn’t been for the whole Ben-in- the-graveyard incident, Thomas was sure she would’ve been all he’d thought about last night. Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to sleep for an entirely different reason. He wanted to know who she was and if he really did know her somehow.

“Yeah,” Newt said. “Weird’s as good a word as any, I ’spect.” Thomas looked over Newt’s shoulder at the big faded-red barn,

pushing thoughts of the girl aside. “So what’s first? Milk cows or slaughter some poor little pigs?”

Newt laughed, a sound Thomas realized he hadn’t heard much since he’d arrived. “We always make the Newbies start with the bloody Slicers. Don’t worry, cuttin’ up Frypan’s victuals ain’t but a part. Slicers do anything and everything dealin’ with the beasties.”

“Too bad I can’t remember my whole life. Maybe I love killing

animals.” He was just joking, but Newt didn’t seem to get it.

Newt nodded toward the barn. “Oh, you’ll know good and well by the time sun sets tonight. Let’s go meet Winston—he’s the Keeper.”

Winston was an acne-covered kid, short but muscular, and it seemed to Thomas the Keeper liked his job way too much. Maybe he was sent here for being a serial killer, he thought.

Winston showed Thomas around for the first hour, pointing out which pens held which animals, where the chicken and turkey coops were, what went where in the barn. The dog, a pesky black Lab named Bark, took quickly to Thomas, hanging at his feet the entire tour. Wondering where the dog came from, Thomas asked Winston, who said Bark had just always been there. Luckily, he seemed to have gotten his name as a joke, because he was pretty quiet.

The second hour was spent actually working with the farm animals

—feeding, cleaning, fixing a fence, scraping up klunk. Klunk. Thomas found himself using the Glader terms more and more.

The third hour was the hardest for Thomas. He had to watch as Winston slaughtered a hog and began preparing its many parts for future eating. Thomas swore two things to himself as he walked away for lunch break. First, his career would not be with the animals; second, he’d never again eat something that came out of a pig.

Winston had said for him to go on alone, that he’d hang around the Blood House, which was fine with Thomas. As he walked toward the East Door, he couldn’t stop picturing Winston in a dark corner of the barn, gnawing on raw pigs’ feet. The guy gave him the willies.

Thomas was just passing the Box when he was surprised to see someone enter the Glade from the Maze, through the West Door, to his left—an Asian kid with strong arms and short black hair, who looked a little older than Thomas. The Runner stopped three steps in, then bent over and put his hands on his knees, gasping for breath. He looked like he’d just run twenty miles, face red, skin covered in sweat, clothes soaked.

Thomas stared, overcome with curiosity—he’d yet to see a Runner up close or talk to one. Plus, based on the last couple of days, the Runner was home hours early. Thomas stepped forward, eager to meet him and ask questions.

But before he could form a sentence, the boy collapsed to the ground.

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