Teresa turned toward him. “I don’t know. Something about before we came to the Maze. Something about us. It’s mostly empty, like I said.”
“You know about the Maze? Who told you? You just woke up.”
“I … It’s all very confusing right now.” She held a hand out. “But I know you’re my friend.”
Almost in a daze, Thomas pulled the blanket completely off and leaned forward to shake her hand. “I like how you call me Tom.” As soon as it came out, he was sure he couldn’t have possibly said anything dumber.
Teresa rolled her eyes. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but most people call me Thomas. Well, except Newt—he calls me Tommy. Tom makes me feel … like I’m at home or something. Even though I don’t know what home is.” He let out a bitter laugh. “Are we messed up or what?”
She smiled for the first time, and he almost had to look away, as if something that nice didn’t belong in such a glum and gray place, as if he had no right to look at her expression.
“Yeah, we’re messed up,” she said. “And I’m scared.”
“So am I, trust me.” Which was definitely the understatement of the day.
A long moment passed, both of them looking toward the ground.
“What’s …,” he began, not sure how to ask it. “How … did you talk to me inside my mind?”
Teresa shook her head. No idea—I can just do it, she thought to him. Then she spoke aloud again. “It’s like if you tried to ride a bicycle here—if they had one. I bet you could do it without thinking. But do you remember learning to ride one?”
“No. I mean … I remember riding one, but not learning.” He paused, feeling a wave of sadness. “Or who taught me.”
“Well,” she said, her eyes flickering as if she was embarrassed by his sudden gloom. “Anyway … it’s kind of like that.”
“Really clears things up.”
Teresa shrugged. “You didn’t tell anyone, did you? They’d think we’re crazy.”
“Well … when it first happened, I did. But I think Newt just thinks I was stressed out or something.” Thomas felt fidgety, like he’d go nuts if he didn’t move. He stood up, started pacing in front of her. “We need to figure things out. That weird note you had about being the last person to ever come here, your coma, the fact you can talk to me telepathically. Any ideas?”
Teresa followed him with her eyes as he walked back and forth. “Save your breath and quit asking. All I have are faint impressions—that you and I were important, that we were used somehow. That we’re smart. That we came here for a reason. I know I triggered the Ending, whatever that means.” She groaned, her face reddening. “My memories are as useless as yours.”
Thomas knelt down in front of her. “No, they’re not. I mean, the fact that you knew my memory had been wiped without asking me—and this other stuff. You’re way ahead of me and everybody else.”
Their eyes met for a long time; it looked like her mind was spinning, trying to make sense of it all.
I just don’t know, she said in his mind.
“There you go again,” Thomas said aloud, though he was relieved that her trick didn’t really freak him out anymore. “How do you do that?”
“I just do, and I bet you can, too.”
“Well, can’t say I’m too anxious to try.” He sat back down and pulled his legs up, much like she had done. “You said something to me—in my head—right before you found me over here. You said ‘The Maze is a code.’ What did you mean?”
She shook her head slightly. “When I first woke up, it was like I’d entered an insane asylum—these strange guys hovering over my bed, the world tipping around me, memories swirling in my brain. I tried to reach out and grasp a few, and that was one of them. I can’t really remember why I said it.”
“Was there anything else?”
“Actually, yeah.” She pulled up the sleeve of her left arm, exposing her bicep. Small letters were written across the skin in thin black ink.
“What’s that?” he asked, leaning in for a better look.
“Read it yourself.”
The letters were messy, but he could make them out when he got close enough.
WICKED is good
Thomas’s heart beat faster. “I’ve seen that word—wicked.” He searched his mind for what the phrase could possibly mean. “On the little creatures that live here. The beetle blades.”
“What are those?” she asked.
“Just little lizardlike machines that spy on us for the Creators—the people who sent us here.”
Teresa considered that for a moment, looking off into space. Then she focused on her arm. “I can’t remember why I wrote this,” she said as she wet her thumb and started rubbing off the words. “But don’t let me forget—it has to mean something.”
The three words ran through Thomas’s mind over and over. “When did you write it?”
“When I woke up. They had a pen and notepad next to the bed. In the commotion I wrote it down.”
Thomas was baffled by this girl—first the connection he’d felt to her from the very beginning, then the mind-speaking, now this. “Everything about you is weird. You know that, right?”
“Judging by your little hiding spot, I’d say you’re not so normal yourself. Like living in the woods, do ya?”
Thomas tried to scowl, then smiled. He felt pathetic, and embarrassed about hiding. “Well, you look familiar to me and you claim we’re friends. Guess I’ll trust you.”
He held out his hand for another shake, and she took it, holding on for a long time. A chill swept through Thomas that was surprisingly pleasant.
“All I want is to get back home,” she said, finally letting go of his hand. “Just like the rest of you.”
Thomas’s heart sank as he snapped back to reality and remembered how grim the world had become. “Yeah, well, things pretty much suck right about now. The sun disappeared and the sky’s gone gray, they didn’t send us the weekly supplies—looks like things are going to end one way or another.”
But before Teresa could answer, Newt was running out of the woods. “How in the …,” he said as he pulled up in front of them. Alby and a few others were right behind him. Newt looked at Teresa. “How’d you get here? Med-jack said you were there one second and buggin’ gone the next.”
Teresa stood up, surprising Thomas with her confidence. “Guess he forgot to tell the little part about me kicking him in the groin and climbing out the window.”
Thomas almost laughed as Newt turned to an older boy standing nearby, whose face had turned bright red.
“Congrats, Jeff,” Newt said. “You’re officially the first guy here to get your butt beat by a girl.”
Teresa didn’t stop. “Keep talking like that and you’ll be next.”
Newt turned back to face them, but his face showed anything but fear. He stood, silently, just staring at them. Thomas stared back, wondering what was going through the older boy’s head.
Alby stepped up. “I’m sick of this.” He pointed at Thomas’s chest, almost tapping it. “I wanna know who you are, who this shank girl is, and how you guys know each other.”
Thomas almost wilted. “Alby, I swear—”
“She came straight to you after waking up, shuck-face!”
Anger surged inside Thomas—and worry that Alby would go off like Ben had. “So what? I know her, she knows me—or at least, we used to. That doesn’t mean anything! I can’t remember anything. Neither can she.”
Alby looked at Teresa. “What did you do?”
Thomas, confused by the question, glanced at Teresa to see if she knew what he meant. But she didn’t reply.
“What did you do!” Alby screamed. “First the sky, now this.”
“I triggered something,” she replied in a calm voice. “Not on purpose, I swear it. The Ending. I don’t know what it means.”
“What’s wrong, Newt?” Thomas asked, not wanting to talk to Alby directly. “What happened?”
But Alby grabbed him by the shirt. “What happened? I’ll tell ya what happened, shank. Too busy makin’ lovey eyes to bother lookin’ around? To bother noticing what freaking time it is!”
Thomas looked at his watch, realizing with horror what he’d missed, knowing what Alby was about to say before he said it.
“The walls, you shuck. The Doors. They didn’t close tonight.”
Thomas was speechless. Everything would be different now. No sun, no supplies, no protection from the Grievers. Teresa had been right from the beginning—everything had changed. Thomas felt as if his breath had solidified, lodged itself in his throat.
Alby pointed at the girl. “I want her locked up. Now. Billy! Jackson! Put her in the Slammer, and ignore every word that comes out of her shuck mouth.”
Teresa didn’t react, but Thomas did enough for the both of them. “What’re you talking about? Alby, you can’t—” He stopped when Alby’s fiery eyes shot such a look of anger at him he felt his heart stutter. “But … how could you possibly blame her for the walls not closing?”
Newt stepped up, lightly placed a hand on Alby’s chest and pushed him back. “How could we not, Tommy? She bloody admitted it herself.”
Thomas turned to look at Teresa, paled at the sadness in her blue eyes. It felt like something had reached through his chest and squeezed his heart.
“Just be glad you ain’t goin’ with her, Thomas,” Alby said; he gave both of them one last glare before leaving. Thomas had never wanted so badly to punch someone.
Billy and Jackson came forward and grabbed Teresa by both arms, started escorting her away.
Before they could enter the trees, though, Newt stopped them. “Stay with her. I don’t care what happens, no one’s gonna touch this girl. Swear your lives on it.”
The two guards nodded, then walked away, Teresa in tow. It hurt Thomas even more to see how willingly she went. And he couldn’t believe how sad he felt—he wanted to keep talking to her. But I just met her, he thought. I don’t even know her. Yet he knew that wasn’t true. He already felt a closeness that could only have come from knowing her before the memory-wiped existence of the Glade.
Come see me, she said in his mind.
He didn’t know how to do it, how to talk to her like that. But he tried anyway.
I will. At least you’ll be safe in there.
She didn’t respond.
The next thirty minutes were an eruption of mass confusion.
Though there had been no discernible change in the light since the sun and blue sky hadn’t appeared that morning, it still felt like a darkness spread over the Glade. As Newt and Alby gathered the Keepers and put them in charge of making assignments and getting their groups inside the Homestead within the hour, Thomas felt like nothing more than a spectator, not sure how he could help.