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Thomas was horrified by the whole affair—he couldn’t help feeling responsible even though he’d never done anything to provoke Ben.

How was any of this his fault? No answer came to him, but he felt the guilt all the same, like a disease in his blood.

Finally, Newt stepped up to Alby and handed over the end of the pole he was holding. Thomas could see the strange attachment now. A loop of rough leather, fastened to the metal with a massive staple. A large button snap revealed that the loop could be opened and closed, and its purpose became obvious.

It was a collar.


Thomas watched as Alby unbuttoned the collar, then wrapped it around Ben’s neck; Ben finally looked up just as the loop of leather snapped closed with a loud pop. Tears glistened in his eyes; dribbles of snot oozed from his nostrils. The Gladers looked on, not a word from any of them.

“Please, Alby,” Ben pleaded, his shaky voice so pathetic that Thomas couldn’t believe it was the same guy who’d tried to bite his throat off the day before. “I swear I was just sick in the head from the Changing. I never would’ve killed him—just lost my mind for a second. Please, Alby, please.”

Every word from the kid was like a fist punching Thomas in the gut, making him feel more guilty and confused.

Alby didn’t respond to Ben; he pulled on the collar to make sure it was both firmly snapped and solidly attached to the long pole. He walked past Ben and along the pole, picking it up off the ground as he slid its length through his palm and fingers. When he reached the end, he gripped it tightly and turned to face the crowd. Eyes bloodshot, face wrinkled in anger, breathing heavily—to Thomas, he suddenly looked evil.

And it was an odd sight on the other side: Ben, trembling, crying, a roughly cut collar of old leather wrapped around his pale, scrawny neck, attached to a long pole that stretched from him to Alby, twenty feet away. The shaft of aluminum bowed in the middle, but only a little. Even from where Thomas was standing, it looked surprisingly strong.

Alby spoke in a loud, almost ceremonious voice, looking at no one and everyone at the same time. “Ben of the Builders, you’ve been sentenced to Banishment for the attempted murder of Thomas the Newbie. The Keepers have spoken, and their word ain’t changing. And you ain’t coming back. Ever.” A long pause. “Keepers, take your place on the Banishment Pole.”

Thomas hated that his link to Ben was being made public—hated the responsibility he felt. Being the center of attention again could only bring more suspicion about him. His guilt transformed into anger and blame. More than anything, he just wanted Ben gone, wanted it all to be over.

One by one, boys were stepping out of the crowd and walking over to the long pole; they grabbed it with both hands, gripped it as if readying for a tug-of-war match. Newt was one of them, as was Minho, confirming Thomas’s guess that he was the Keeper of the Runners. Winston the Butcher also took up a position.

Once they were all in place—ten Keepers spaced evenly apart between Alby and Ben—the air grew still and silent. The only sounds were the muffled sobs of Ben, who kept wiping at his nose and eyes. He was looking left and right, though the collar around his neck prevented him from seeing the pole and Keepers behind him.

Thomas’s feelings changed again. Something was obviously wrong with Ben. Why did he deserve this fate? Couldn’t something be done for him? Would Thomas spend the rest of his days feeling responsible? Just end, he screamed in his head. Just be over!

“Please,” Ben said, his voice rising in desperation. “Pllllleeeeeeeeease! Somebody, help me! You can’t do this to me!”

“Shut up!” Alby roared from behind.

But Ben ignored him, pleading for help as he started to pull on the leather looped around his neck. “Someone stop them! Help me! Please!” He glanced from boy to boy, begging with his eyes. Without fail, everyone looked away. Thomas quickly stepped behind a taller boy to avoid his own confrontation with Ben. I can’t look into those eyes again, he thought.

“If we let shanks like you get away with that stuff,” Alby said, “we never would’ve survived this long. Keepers, get ready.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Ben was saying, half under his breath. “I swear I’ll do anything! I swear I’ll never do it again! Pllllleeeeeee—”

His shrill cry was cut off by the rumbling crack of the East Door beginning to close. Sparks flew from the stone as the massive right wall slid to the left, groaning thunderously as it made its journey to close off the Glade from the Maze for the night. The ground shook beneath them, and Thomas didn’t know if he could watch what he knew was going to happen next.

“Keepers, now!” Alby shouted.

Ben’s head snapped back as he was jerked forward, the Keepers pushing the pole toward the Maze outside the Glade. A strangling cry erupted from Ben’s throat, louder than the sounds of the closing Door. He fell to his knees, only to be jerked back to his feet by the Keeper in front, a thick guy with black hair and a snarl on his face.

“Noooooooooo!” Ben screamed, spit flying from his mouth as he thrashed about, tearing at the collar with his hands. But the combined strength of the Keepers was way too much, forcing the condemned boy closer and closer to the edge of the Glade, just as the right wall was almost there. “Noooo!” he screamed again, and then again.

He tried to plant his feet at the threshold, but it only lasted for a split second; the pole sent him into the Maze with a lurch. Soon he was fully four feet outside the Glade, jerking his body from side to side as he tried to escape his collar. The walls of the Door were only seconds from sealing shut.

With one last violent effort, Ben was finally able to twist his neck in the circle of leather so that his whole body turned to face the Gladers. Thomas couldn’t believe he was still looking upon a human being—the madness in Ben’s eyes, the phlegm flying from his mouth, the pale skin stretched taut across his veins and bones. He looked as alien as anything Thomas could imagine.

“Hold!” Alby shouted.

Ben screamed then, without pause, a sound so piercing that Thomas covered his ears. It was a bestial, lunatic cry, surely ripping the boy’s vocal cords to shreds. At the last second, the front Keeper somehow loosened the larger pole from the piece attached to Ben and yanked it back into the Glade, leaving the boy to his Banishment. Ben’s final screams were cut off when the walls closed with a terrible boom.

Thomas squeezed his eyes shut and was surprised to feel tears trickling down his cheeks.


For the second night in a row, Thomas went to bed with the haunted image of Ben’s face burned into his mind, tormenting him. How different would things be right now if it weren’t for that one boy? Thomas could almost convince himself he’d be completely content, happy and excited to learn his new life, aim for his goal of being a Runner. Almost. Deep down he knew that Ben was only part of his many problems.

But now he was gone, Banished to the world of the Grievers, taken to wherever they took their prey, victim to whatever was done there. Though he had plenty of reasons to despise Ben, he mostly felt sorry for him.

Thomas couldn’t imagine going out that way, but based on Ben’s last moments, psychotically thrashing and spitting and screaming, he no longer doubted the importance of the Glade rule that no one should enter the Maze except Runners, and then only during the day. Somehow Ben had already been stung once, which meant he knew better than perhaps anyone just exactly what lay in store for him.

That poor guy, he thought. That poor, poor guy.

Thomas shuddered and rolled over on his side. The more he thought about it, being a Runner didn’t sound like such a great idea. But, inexplicably, it still called to him.

The next morning, dawn had barely touched the sky before the working sounds of the Glade wakened Thomas from the deepest slumber since he’d arrived. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, trying to shake the heavy grogginess. Giving up, he lay back down, hoping no one would bother him.

It didn’t last a minute.

Someone tapped his shoulder and he opened his eyes to see Newt staring down at him. What now? he thought.

“Get up, ya lug.”

“Yeah, good morning to you, too. What time is it?”

“Seven o’clock, Greenie,” Newt said with a mocking smile. “Figured I’d let ya sleep in after such a rough couple days.”

Thomas rolled into a sitting position, hating that he couldn’t just lie there for another few hours. “Sleep in? What are you guys, a bunch of farmers?” Farmers—how did he remember so much about them? Once again his memory wipe baffled him.

“Uh … yeah, now that ya mention it.” Newt plopped down beside Thomas and folded his legs up under himself. He sat quietly for a few moments, looking out at all the hustle-bustle starting to whip up across the Glade. “Gonna put ya with the Track-hoes today, Greenie. See if that suits your fancy more than slicin’ up bloody piggies and such.”

Thomas was sick of being treated like a baby. “Aren’t you supposed to quit calling me that?”

“What, bloody piggies?”

Thomas forced a laugh and shook his head. “No, Greenie. I’m not really the newest Newbie anymore, right? The girl in the coma is. Call her Greenie—my name’s Thomas.” Thoughts of the girl crashed around his mind, made him remember the connection he felt. A sadness washed over him, as if he missed her, wanted to see her. That doesn’t make sense, he thought. I don’t even know her name.

Newt leaned back, eyebrows raised. “Burn me—you grew some right nice-sized eggs over night, now didn’t ya?”

Thomas ignored him and moved on. “What’s a Track-hoe?”

“It’s what we call the guys workin’ their butts off in the Gardens—tilling, weeding, planting and such.”

Thomas nodded in that direction. “Who’s the Keeper?”

“Zart. Nice guy, s’long as you don’t sluff on the job, that is. He’s the big one that stood in front last night.”

Thomas didn’t say anything to that, hoping that somehow he could go through the entire day without talking about Ben and the Banishment. The subject only made him sick and guilty, so he moved on to something else. “So why’d you come wake me up?”

“What, don’t like seein’ my face first thing on the wake-up?”

“Not especially. So—” But before he could finish his sentence the rumble of the walls opening for the day cut him off. He looked toward the East Door, almost expecting to see Ben standing there on the other side. Instead, he saw Minho stretching. Then Thomas watched as he walked over and picked something up.

It was the section of pole with the leather collar attached to it. Minho seemed to think nothing of it, throwing it to one of the other Runners, who went and put it back in the tool shed near the Gardens.

Thomas turned back to Newt, confused. How could Minho act so nonchalant about it all? “What the—”

“Only seen three Banishments, Tommy. All as nasty as the one you peeped on last night. But every buggin’ time, the Grievers leave the collar on our doorstep. Gives me the willies like nothin’ else.”