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“Is he asleep?” Thomas whispered, trying to avoid the real question that had popped in his mind: He’s not dead, is he?

“I don’t know,” Newt said quietly. He walked over and sat in a wooden chair next to the bed. Thomas took a seat on the other side.

“Alby,” Newt whispered. Then more loudly: “Alby. Chuck said you wanted to talk to Tommy.”

Alby’s eyes fluttered open—bloodshot orbs that glistened in the light. He looked at Newt, then across at Thomas. With a groan he shifted in the bed and sat up, his back against the headboard. “Yeah,” he muttered, a scratchy croak.

“Chuck said you were thrashin’ around, acting like a loonie.” Newt leaned forward. “What’s wrong? You still sick?”

Alby’s next words came out in a wheeze, as if every one of them would take a week off his life. “Everything’s … gonna change…. The girl … Thomas … I saw them …” His eyelids flickered closed, then open again; he sank back to a flat position on the bed, stared at the ceiling. “Don’t feel so good.”

“What do you mean, you saw—” Newt began.

“I wanted Thomas!” Alby yelled, with a sudden burst of energy that Thomas would’ve thought impossible a few seconds earlier. “I didn’t ask for you, Newt! Thomas! I asked for freaking Thomas!”

Newt looked up, questioned Thomas with a raising of his eyebrows. Thomas shrugged, feeling sicker by the second. What did Alby want him for?

“Fine, ya grouchy shuck,” Newt said. “He’s right here—talk to him.”

“Leave,” Alby said, his eyes closed, his breathing heavy.

“No way—I wanna hear.”

“Newt.” A pause. “Leave. Now.” Thomas felt incredibly awkward, worried about what Newt was thinking and dreading what Alby wanted to say to him.

“But—” Newt protested.

“Out!” Alby sat up as he yelled, his voice cracking with the strain of it. He scooted himself back to lean against the headboard again. “Get out!”

Newt’s face sank in obvious hurt—Thomas was surprised to see no anger there. Then, after a long, tense moment, Newt stood from his chair and walked over to the door, opened it. He’s really going to leave? Thomas thought.

“Don’t expect me to kiss your butt when you come sayin’ sorry,” he said, then stepped into the hallway.

“Close the door!” Alby shouted, one final insult. Newt obeyed, slamming it shut.

Thomas’s heart rate quickened—he was now alone with a guy who’d had a bad temper before getting attacked by a Griever and going through the Changing. He hoped Alby would say what he wanted and be done with it. A long pause stretched into several minutes, and Thomas’s hands shook with fear.

“I know who you are,” Alby said finally, breaking the silence.

Thomas couldn’t find words to reply. He tried; nothing came out but an incoherent mumble. He was utterly confused. And scared.

“I know who you are,” Alby repeated slowly. “Seen it. Seen everything. Where we came from, who you are. Who the girl is. I remember the Flare.”

The Flare? Thomas forced himself to talk. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What did you see? I’d love to know who I am.”

“It ain’t pretty,” Alby answered, and for the first time since Newt had left, Alby looked up, straight at Thomas. His eyes were deep pockets of sorrow, sunken, dark. “It’s horrible, ya know. Why would those shucks want us to remember? Why can’t we just live here and be happy?”

“Alby …” Thomas wished he could take a peek in the boy’s mind, see what he’d seen. “The Changing,” he pressed, “what happened? What came back? You’re not making sense.”

“You—” Alby started, then suddenly grabbed his own throat, making gurgly choking sounds. His legs kicked out and he rolled onto his side, thrashing back and forth as if someone else were trying to strangle him. His tongue stuck out of his mouth; he bit it over and over.

Thomas stood up quickly, stumbled backward, horrified—Alby struggled as if he was having a seizure, his legs kicking in every direction. The dark skin of his face, which had been oddly pale just a minute earlier, had turned purple, his eyes rolled up so far in their sockets they looked like glowing white marbles.

“Alby!” Thomas yelled, not daring to reach down and grab him. “Newt!” he screamed, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Newt, get in here!”

The door was flung open before he’d finished his last sentence.

Newt ran to Alby and grabbed him by the shoulders, pushing with his whole body to pin the convulsing boy to the bed. “Grab his legs!”

Thomas moved forward, but Alby’s legs kicked and flailed out, making it impossible to get any closer. His foot hit Thomas in the jaw; a lance of pain shot through his whole skull. He stumbled backward again, rubbing the sore spot.

“Just bloody do it!” Newt yelled.

Thomas steeled himself, then jumped on top of Alby’s body, grabbing both legs and pinning them to the bed. He wrapped his arms around the boy’s thighs and squeezed while Newt put a knee on one of Alby’s shoulders, then grabbed at Alby’s hands, still clasped around his own neck in a chokehold.

“Let go!” Newt yelled as he tugged. “You’re bloody killin’ yourself !”

Thomas could see the muscles in Newt’s arms flexing, veins popping out as he pulled at Alby’s hands, until finally, inch by inch, he was able to pry them away. He pushed them tightly against the struggling boy’s chest. Alby’s whole body jerked a couple of times, his midsection thrusting up and away from the bed. Then, slowly, he calmed, and a few seconds later he lay still, his breath evening; his eyes glazed over.

Thomas held firm to Alby’s legs, afraid to move and set the boy off again. Newt waited a full minute before he slowly let go of Alby’s hands. Then another minute before he pulled his knee back and stood up. Thomas took that as his cue to do the same, hoping the ordeal had truly ended.

Alby looked up, eyes droopy, as if he was on the edge of slipping into a deep sleep. “I’m sorry, Newt,” he whispered. “Don’t know what happened. It was like … something was controlling my body. I’m sorry….”

Thomas took a deep breath, sure he’d never experience something so disturbing and uncomfortable again. He hoped.

“Sorries, nothin’,” Newt replied. “You were trying to bloody kill yourself.”

“Wasn’t me, I swear,” Alby murmured.

Newt threw his hands up. “What do you mean it wasn’t you?” he asked.

“I don’t know…. It … it wasn’t me.” Alby looked just as confused as Thomas felt.

But Newt seemed to think it wasn’t worth trying to figure out. At least at the moment. He grabbed the blankets that had fallen off the bed in Alby’s struggle and pulled them atop the sick boy. “Get your butt to sleep and we’ll talk about it later.” He patted him on the head, then added, “You’re messed up, shank.”

But Alby was already drifting off, nodding slightly as his eyes closed.

Newt caught Thomas’s gaze and gestured for the door. Thomas had no problem leaving that crazy house—he followed Newt out and into the hall. Then, just as they stepped through the doorway, Alby mumbled something from his bed.

Both boys stopped in their tracks. “What?” Newt asked.

Alby opened his eyes for a brief moment, then repeated what he’d said, a little more loudly. “Be careful with the girl.” Then his eyes slid shut.

There it was again—the girl. Somehow things always led back to the girl. Newt gave Thomas a questioning look, but Thomas could only return it with a shrug. He had no idea what was going on.

“Let’s go,” Newt whispered.

“And Newt?” Alby called again from the bed, not bothering to open his eyes.


“Protect the Maps.” Alby rolled over, his back telling them he’d finally finished speaking.

Thomas didn’t think that sounded very good. Not good at all. He and Newt left the room and softly closed the door.


Thomas followed Newt as he hurried down the stairs and out of the Homestead into the bright light of midafternoon. Neither boy said a word for a while. For Thomas, things just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

“Hungry, Tommy?” Newt asked when they were outside.

Thomas couldn’t believe the question. “Hungry? I feel like puking after what I just saw—no, I’m not hungry.”

Newt only grinned. “Well, I am, ya shank. Let’s go look for some leftovers from lunch. We need to talk.”

“Somehow I knew you were going to say something like that.” No matter what he did, he was becoming more and more entwined in the dealings of the Glade. And he was growing to expect it.

They made their way directly to the kitchen, where, despite Frypan’s grumbling, they were able to get cheese sandwiches and raw vegetables. Thomas couldn’t ignore the way the Keeper of the cooks kept giving him a weird look, eyes darting away whenever Thomas returned the stare.

Something told him this sort of treatment would now be the norm. For some reason, he was different from everyone else in the Glade. He felt like he’d lived an entire lifetime since awakening from his memory wipe, but he’d only been there a week.

The boys decided to take their lunches to eat outside, and a few minutes later they found themselves at the west wall, looking out at the many work activities going on throughout the Glade, their backs up against a spot of thick ivy. Thomas forced himself to eat; the way things were going, he needed to make sure he’d have strength to deal with whatever insane thing came his way next.

“Ever seen that happen before?” Thomas asked after a minute or so.

Newt looked at him, his face suddenly somber. “What Alby just did? No. Never. But then again, no one’s ever tried to tell us what they remembered during the Changing. They always refuse. Alby tried to—must be why he went nuts for a while.”

Thomas paused in the middle of chewing. Could the people behind the Maze control them somehow? It was a terrifying thought.

“We have to find Gally,” Newt said through a bite of carrot, changing the subject. “Bugger’s gone off and hid somewhere. Soon as we’re done eating, I need to find him and throw his butt in jail.”

“Serious?” Thomas couldn’t help feeling a shot of pure elation at the thought. He’d be happy to slam the door closed and throw away the key himself.

“That shank threatened to kill you and we have to make bloody sure it never happens again. That shuck-face is gonna pay a heavy price for acting like that—he’s lucky we don’t Banish him. Remember what I told you about order.”

“Yeah.” Thomas’s only concern was that Gally would just hate him all the more for being thrown in jail. I don’t care, he thought. I’m not scared of that guy anymore.