“What’s bloody wrong with you?” Newt asked.
Thomas’s heart was racing. He felt the thumps in his skull. Acid boiled in his stomach. “She’s … she’s freakin’ talking to me. In my head. She just said my name!”
“I swear!” The world spun around him, pressed in, crushing his mind. “I’m … hearing her voice in my head—or something … it’s not really a voice….”
“Tommy, sit your butt down. What are you bloody talking about?”
“Newt, I’m serious. It’s … not really a voice … but it is.”
Tom, we’re the last ones. It’ll end soon. It has to.
The words echoed in his mind, touched his eardrums—he could hear them. Yet they didn’t sound like they were coming from the room, from outside his body. They were literally, in every way, inside his mind.
Tom, don’t freak out on me.
He put his hands up to his ears, squeezed his eyes shut. It was too strange; he couldn’t bring his rational mind to accept what was happening.
My memory’s fading already, Tom. I won’t remember much when I wake up. We can pass the Trials. It has to end. They sent me as a trigger.
Thomas couldn’t take it anymore. Ignoring Newt’s questions, he stumbled to the door and yanked it open, stepped into the hall, ran. Down the stairs, out the front door, he ran. But it did nothing to shut her up.
Everything is going to change, she said.
He wanted to scream, run until he could run no more. He made it to the East Door and sprinted through it, out of the Glade. Kept going, through corridor after corridor, deep into the heart of the Maze, rules or no rules. But he still couldn’t escape the voice.
It was you and me, Tom. We did this to them. To us.
Thomas didn’t stop until the voice had gone for good.
It shocked him when he realized he’d been running for almost an hour—the shadows of the walls ran long toward the east, and soon the sun would set for the night and the Doors would close. He had to get back. It only peripherally hit him then that without thinking he’d recognized the direction and the time. That his instincts were strong.
He had to get back.
But he didn’t know if he could face her again. The voice in his head. The strange things she’d said.
He had no choice. Denying the truth would solve nothing. And as bad—as weird—as the invasion of his mind had been, it beat another date with the Grievers any day.
As he ran toward the Glade, he learned a lot about himself. Without meaning to or realizing it, he’d pictured in his mind his exact route through the Maze as he escaped the voice. Not once did he falter on his return, turning left and right and running down long corridors in reverse of the way he had come. He knew what it meant.
Minho had been right. Soon, Thomas would be the best Runner.
The second thing he learned about himself, as if the night in the Maze hadn’t proved it already, was that his body was in perfect shape. Just a day earlier he’d been at the end of his strength and sore from top to bottom. He’d recovered quickly, and ran now with almost no effort, despite nearing the end of his second hour of running. It didn’t take a math genius to calculate that his speed and time combined meant he’d run roughly half a marathon by the time he returned to the Glade.
Never before had the sheer size of the Maze truly hit him. Miles and miles and miles. With its walls that moved, every night, he finally understood why the Maze was so hard to solve. He’d doubted it until now, wondered how the Runners could be so inept.
On he ran, left and right, straight, on and on. By the time he’d crossed the threshold into the Glade, the Doors were only minutes away from closing for the night. Exhausted, he headed straight for the Deadheads, went deep into the forest until he reached the spot where the trees crowded against the southwest corner. More than anything, he wanted to be alone.
When he could hear only the sounds of distant Glader conversations, as well as faint echoes of bleating sheep and snorting pigs, his wish was granted; he found the junction of the two giant walls and collapsed into the corner to rest. No one came, no one bothered him. The south wall eventually moved, closing for the night; he leaned forward until it stopped. Minutes later, his back once again comfortably pressed against thick layers of ivy, he fell asleep.
The next morning, someone gently shook him awake.
“Thomas, wake up.” It was Chuck—the kid seemed to be able to find him anywhere.
Groaning, Thomas leaned forward, stretched out his back and arms. A couple of blankets had been placed over him during the night—someone playing the Glade Mother.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“You’re almost too late for breakfast.” Chuck tugged on his arm. “Come on, get up. You need to start acting normal or things’ll just get worse.”
The events of the previous day came crashing into Thomas’s mind, and his stomach seemed to twist inside out. What are they going to do to me? he thought. Those things she said. Something about me and her doing this to them. To us. What did that mean?
Then it hit him that maybe he was crazy. Maybe the stress of the Maze had driven him insane. Either way, only he had heard the voice inside his head. No one else knew the weird things Teresa had said, or accused him of. They didn’t even know that she had told him her name. Well, no one except Newt.
And he would keep it that way. Things were bad enough—no way he’d make it worse by telling people about voices in his head. The only problem was Newt. Thomas would have to convince him somehow that stress had finally overwhelmed him and a good night’s rest had solved everything. I’m not crazy, Thomas told himself. Surely he wasn’t.
Chuck was looking at him with eyebrows raised.
“Sorry,” Thomas said as he stood up, acting as normal as he could. “Just thinking. Let’s eat, I’m starving.”
“Good that,” Chuck said, slapping Thomas on the back.
They headed for the Homestead, Chuck yapping the whole time. Thomas wasn’t complaining—it was the closest thing to normal in his life.
“Newt found you last night and told everyone to let you sleep. And he told us what the Council decided about you—one day in the cell, then you’ll enter the Runner training program. Some shanks grumbled, some cheered, most acted like they couldn’t care less. As for me, I think it’s pretty awesome.” Chuck paused to take a breath, then kept going. “That first night, when you were bragging about being a Runner and all that klunk—shuck it, I was laughing inside so hard. I kept telling myself, this sucker’s in for a rude awakening. Well, you proved me wrong, huh?”
But Thomas didn’t feel like talking about it. “I just did what anyone else would’ve done. It’s not my fault Minho and Newt want me to be a Runner.”
“Yeah, right. Quit being modest.”
Being a Runner was the last thing on Thomas’s mind. What he couldn’t stop thinking about was Teresa, the voice in his head, what she’d said. “I guess I’m a little excited.” Thomas forced a grin, though he cringed at the thought of hanging out in the Slammer by himself all day before he got to start.
“We’ll see how you feel after running your guts out. Anyway, as long as you know old Chucky is proud of you.”
Thomas smiled at his friend’s enthusiasm. “If only you were my mom,” Thomas murmured, “life’d be a peach.” My mom, he thought. The world seemed to darken for a moment—he couldn’t even remember his own mother. He pushed the thought away before it consumed him.
They made it to the kitchen and grabbed a quick breakfast, taking two empty seats at the big table inside. Every Glader going in and out the door gave Thomas a stare; a few came up and offered congratulations. Other than a sprinkling of dirty looks here and there, most people seemed to be on his side. Then he remembered Gally.
“Hey, Chuck,” he asked after taking a bite of eggs, trying to sound casual. “Did they ever find Gally?”
“No. I was gonna tell you—someone said they saw him run out into the Maze after he left the Gathering. Hasn’t been seen since.”
Thomas dropped his fork, not knowing what he’d expected or hoped for. Either way, the news stunned him. “What? You’re serious? He went into the Maze?”
“Yeah. Everyone knows he went nuts—some shank even accused you of killing him when you ran out there yesterday.”
“I can’t believe …” Thomas stared at his plate, trying to understand why Gally would do that.
“Don’t worry about it, dude. No one liked him except for his few shuck cronies. They’re the ones accusing you of stuff.”
Thomas couldn’t believe how casually Chuck spoke about it. “Ya know, the guy is probably dead. You’re talking about him like he went on vacation.”
A contemplative look came over Chuck. “I don’t think he’s dead.”
“Huh? Then where is he? Aren’t Minho and I the only ones who’ve survived a night out there?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I think his buddies are hiding him inside the Glade somewhere. Gally was an idiot, but he couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to stay out in the Maze all night. Like you.”
Thomas shook his head. “Maybe that’s exactly why he stayed out there. Wanted to prove he could do anything I can do. The guy hates me.” A pause. “Hated me.”
“Well, whatever.” Chuck shrugged as if they were arguing over what to have for breakfast. “If he’s dead, you guys’ll probably find him eventually. If not, he’ll get hungry and show up to eat. I don’t care.”
Thomas picked up his plate and took it to the counter. “All I want is one normal day—one day to relax.”
“Then your bloody wish is granted,” said a voice from the kitchen door behind him.
Thomas turned to see Newt there, smiling. That grin sent a wave of reassurance through Thomas, as if he were finding out the world was okay again.
“Come on, ya buggin’ jailbird,” Newt said. “You can take it easy while you’re hangin’ in the Slammer. Let’s go. Chucky’ll bring ya some lunch at noon.”
Thomas nodded and headed out the door, Newt leading the way. Suddenly a day in prison sounded excellent. A day to just sit and relax.
Though something told him there was a better chance of Gally bringing him flowers than of passing a day in the Glade with nothing strange happening.
The Slammer stood in an obscure place between the Homestead and the north Glade wall, hidden behind thorny, ragged bushes that looked like they hadn’t been trimmed in ages. It was a big block of roughly cut concrete, with one tiny, barred window and a wooden door that was locked with a menacing rusty metal latch, like something out of the Dark Ages.
Newt took out a key and opened it up, then motioned for Thomas to enter. “There’s only a chair in there and nothin’ at all for ya to do. Enjoy yourself.”
Thomas groaned inwardly as he stepped inside and saw the one piece of furniture—an ugly, rickety chair with one leg obviously shorter than the rest, probably on purpose. Didn’t even have a cushion.