The Builders—without their leader, Gally, who was still missing—were ordered to put up barricades at each open Door; they obeyed, although Thomas knew there wasn’t enough time and there weren’t materials to do much good. It almost seemed to him as if the Keepers wanted people busy, wanted to delay the inevitable panic attacks. Thomas helped as the Builders gathered every loose item they could find and piled them in the gaps, nailing things together as best they could. It looked ugly and pathetic and scared him to death—no way that’d keep the Grievers out.
As Thomas worked, he caught glimpses of the other jobs going on across the Glade.
Every flashlight in the compound was gathered and distributed to as many people as possible; Newt said he planned for everyone to sleep in the Homestead that night, and that they’d kill the lights, except for emergencies. Frypan’s task was to take all the nonperishable food out of the kitchen and store it in the Homestead, in case they got trapped there—Thomas could only imagine how horrible that’d be. Others were gathering supplies and tools; Thomas saw Minho carrying weapons from the basement to the main building. Alby had made it clear they could take no chances: they’d make the Homestead their fortress, and must do whatever it took to defend it.
Thomas finally snuck away from the Builders and helped Minho, carrying up boxes of knives and barbwire-wrapped clubs. Then Minho said he had a special assignment from Newt, and more or less told Thomas to get lost, refusing to answer any of his questions.
This hurt Thomas’s feelings, but he left anyway, really wanting to talk to Newt about something else. He finally found him, crossing the Glade on his way to the Blood House.
“Newt!” he called out, running to catch up. “You have to listen to me.”
Newt stopped so suddenly Thomas almost ran into him. The older boy turned to give Thomas such an annoyed look he thought twice about saying anything.
“Make it quick,” Newt said.
Thomas almost balked, not sure how to say what he was thinking. “You’ve gotta let the girl go. Teresa.” He knew that she could only help, that she might still remember something valuable.
“Ah, glad to know you guys are buddies now.” Newt started walking off. “Don’t waste my time, Tommy.”
Thomas grabbed his arm. “Listen to me! There’s something about her—I think she and I were sent here to help end this whole thing.”
“Yeah—end it by lettin’ the bloody Grievers waltz in here and kill us? I’ve heard some sucky plans in my day, Greenie, but that’s got ’em all beat.”
Thomas groaned, wanting Newt to know how frustrated he felt. “No, I don’t think that’s what it means—the walls not closing.”
Newt folded his arms; he looked exasperated. “Greenie, what’re you yappin’ about?”
Ever since Thomas had seen the words on the wall of the Maze—world in catastrophe, killzone experiment department—he’d been thinking about them. He knew if there was anyone who would believe him, it would be Newt. “I think … I think we’re here as part of some weird experiment, or test, or something like that. But it’s supposed to end somehow. We can’t live here forever—whoever sent us here wants it to end. One way or another.” Thomas was relieved to get it off his chest.
Newt rubbed his eyes. “And that’s supposed to convince me that everything’s jolly—that I should let the girl go? Because she came and everything is suddenly do-or-die?”
“No, you’re missing the point. I don’t think she has anything to do with us being here. She’s just a pawn—they sent her here as our last tool or hint or whatever to help us get out.” Thomas took a deep breath. “And I think they sent me, too. Just because she was the trigger for the Ending doesn’t make her bad.”
Newt looked toward the Slammer. “You know what, I don’t buggin’ care right now. She can handle one night in there—if anything, she’ll be safer than us.”
Thomas nodded, sensing a compromise. “Okay, we get through tonight, somehow. Tomorrow, when we have a whole day of safety, we can figure out what to do with her. Figure out what we’re supposed to do.”
Newt snorted. “Tommy, what’s gonna make tomorrow any different? It’s been two bloody years, ya know.”
Thomas had an overwhelming feeling that all of these changes were a spur, a catalyst for the endgame. “Because now we have to solve it. We’ll be forced to. We can’t live that way anymore, day to day, thinking that what matters most is getting back to the Glade before the Doors close, snug and safe.”
Newt thought a minute as he stood there, the bustle of the Glader preparations surrounding both of them. “Dig deeper. Stay out there while the walls move.”
“Exactly,” Thomas said. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And maybe we could barricade or blow up the entrance to the Griever Hole. Buy time to analyze the Maze.”
“Alby’s the one who won’t let the girl out,” Newt said with a nod toward the Homestead. “That guy’s not too high on you two shanks. But right now we just gotta slim ourselves and get to the wake-up.”
Thomas nodded. “We can fight ’em off.”
“Done it before, haven’t you, Hercules?” Without smiling or even waiting for a response, Newt walked away, yelling at people to finish up and get inside the Homestead.
Thomas was happy with the conversation—it had gone about as well as he could’ve possibly hoped. He decided to hurry and talk to Teresa before it was too late. As he sprinted for the Slammer on the back side of the Homestead, he watched as Gladers started moving inside, most of them with arms full of one thing or another.
Thomas pulled up outside the small jail and caught his breath. “Teresa?” he finally asked through the barred window of the lightless cell.
Her face popped up on the other side, startling him.
He let out a small yelp before he could stop it—it took him a second to recover his wits. “You can be downright spooky, ya know?”
“That’s very sweet,” she said. “Thanks.” In the darkness her blue eyes seemed to glow like a cat’s.
“You’re welcome,” he answered, ignoring her sarcasm. “Listen, I’ve been thinking.” He paused to gather his thoughts.
“More than I can say for that Alby schmuck,” she muttered.
Thomas agreed, but was anxious to say what he’d come to say. “There’s gotta be a way out of this place—we just have to push it, stay out in the Maze longer. And what you wrote on your arm, and what you said about a code, it all has to mean something, right?” It has to, he thought. He couldn’t help feeling some hope.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing. But first—can’t you get me out of here?” Her hands appeared, gripping the bars of the window. Thomas felt the ridiculous urge to reach out and touch them.
“Well, Newt said maybe tomorrow.” Thomas was just glad he’d gotten that much of a concession. “You’ll have to make it through the night in there. It might actually be the safest place in the Glade.”
“Thanks for asking him. Should be fun sleeping on this cold floor.” She motioned behind her with a thumb. “Though I guess a Griever can’t squeeze through this window, so I’ll be happy, right?”
The mention of Grievers surprised him—he didn’t remember talking about them to her yet. “Teresa, are you sure you’ve forgotten everything?”
She thought a second. “It’s weird—I guess I do remember some stuff. Unless I just heard people talking while I was in the coma.”
“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter right now. I just wanted to see you before I went inside for the night.” But he didn’t want to leave; he almost wished he could get thrown in the Slammer with her. He grinned inside—he could only imagine Newt’s response to that request.
“Tom?” Teresa said.
Thomas realized he was staring off in a daze. “Oh, sorry. Yeah?”
Her hands slipped back inside, disappeared. All he could see were her eyes, the pale glow of her white skin. “I don’t know if I can do this—stay in this jail all night.”
Thomas felt an incredible sadness. He wanted to steal Newt’s keys and help her escape. But he knew that was a ridiculous idea. She’d just have to suffer and make do. He stared into those glowing eyes. “At least it won’t get completely dark—looks like we’re stuck with this twilight junk twenty-four hours a day now.”
“Yeah….” She looked past him at the Homestead, then focused on him again. “I’m a tough girl—I’ll be okay.”
Thomas felt horrible leaving her there, but he knew he had no choice. “I’ll make sure they let you out first thing tomorrow, okay?”
She smiled, making him feel better. “That’s a promise, right?”
“Promise.” Thomas tapped his right temple. “And if you get lonely, you can talk to me with your … trick all you want. I’ll try to answer back.” He’d accepted it now, almost wanted it. He just hoped he could figure out how to talk back, so they could have a conversation.
You’ll get it soon, Teresa said in his mind.
“I wish.” He stood there, really not wanting to leave. At all.
“You better go,” she said. “I don’t want your brutal murder on my conscience.”
Thomas managed his own smile at that. “All right. See you tomorrow.”
And before he could change his mind, he slipped away, heading around the corner toward the front door of the Homestead, just as the last couple of Gladers were entering, Newt shooing them in like errant chickens. Thomas stepped inside as well, followed by Newt, who closed the door behind him.
Just before it latched shut, Thomas thought he heard the first eerie moan of the Grievers, coming from somewhere deep in the Maze.
The night had begun.
Most of them slept outside in normal times, so packing all those bodies into the Homestead made for a tight fit. The Keepers had organized and distributed the Gladers throughout the rooms, along with blankets and pillows. Despite the number of people and the chaos of such a change, a disturbing silence hung over the activities, as if no one wanted to draw attention to themselves.
When everyone was settled, Thomas found himself upstairs with Newt, Alby and Minho, and they were finally able to finish their discussion from earlier in the courtyard. Alby and Newt sat on the only bed in the room while Thomas and Minho sat next to them in chairs. The only other furniture was a crooked wooden dresser and a small table, on top of which rested a lamp providing what light they had. The gray darkness seemed to press on the window from outside, with promises of bad things to come.
“Closest I’ve come so far,” Newt was saying, “to hangin’ it all up. Shuck it all and kiss a Griever goodnight. Supplies cut, bloody gray skies, walls not closing. But we can’t give up, and we all know it. The buggers who sent us here either want us dead or they’re givin’ us a spur. This or that, we gotta work our arses off till we’re dead or not dead.”