We have to stay close together, he told Teresa. Let them do the fighting—we have to get through that Hole. He felt like a coward, but he knew that any fighting—and any deaths—would be in vain if they didn’t get that code punched, the door to the Creators opened.
I know, she replied. Stick together.
“Ready!” Minho yelled next to Thomas, raising his barbwire-wrapped club into the air with one hand, a long silver knife in the other. He pointed the knife at the horde of Grievers; a flash glinted off the blade. “Now!”
The Keeper ran forward without waiting for a response. Newt went after him, right on his heels, and then the rest of the Gladers followed, a tight pack of roaring boys charging ahead to a bloody battle, weapons raised. Thomas held Teresa’s hand, let them all go past, felt them bump him, smelled their sweat, sensed their terror, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make his own dash.
Just as the first sounds of boys crashing into Grievers filled the air—pierced with screams and roars of machinery and wood clacking against steel—Chuck ran past Thomas, who quickly reached out and grabbed his arm.
Chuck stumbled backward, then looked up at Thomas, his eyes so full of fright Thomas felt something shatter in his heart. In that split second, he’d made a decision.
“Chuck, you’re with me and Teresa.” He said it forcefully, with authority, leaving no room for doubt.
Chuck looked ahead at the engaged battle. “But …” He trailed off, and Thomas knew the boy relished the idea though he was ashamed to admit it.
Thomas quickly tried to save his dignity. “We need your help in the Griever Hole, in case one of those things is in there waiting for us.”
Chuck nodded quickly—too quickly. Again, Thomas felt the pang of sadness in his heart, felt the urge to get Chuck home safely stronger than he’d ever felt it before.
“Okay, then,” Thomas said. “Hold Teresa’s other hand. Let’s go.”
Chuck did as he was told, trying so hard to act brave. And, Thomas noted, not saying a word, perhaps for the first time in his life.
They’ve made an opening! Teresa shouted in Thomas’s mind—it sent a quick snap of pain shooting through his skull. She pointed ahead, and Thomas saw the narrow aisle forming in the middle of the corridor, Gladers fighting wildly to push the Grievers toward the walls.
“Now!” Thomas shouted.
He sprinted ahead, pulling Teresa behind him, Teresa pulling Chuck behind her, running at full speed, spears and knives cocked for battle, forward into the bloody, scream-filled hallway of stone. Toward the Cliff.
War raged around them. Gladers fought, panic-induced adrenaline driving them on. The sounds echoing off the walls were a cacophony of terror—human screams, metal clashing against metal, motors roaring, the haunted shrieks of the Grievers, saws spinning, claws clasping, boys yelling for help. All was a blur, bloody and gray and flashes of steel; Thomas tried not to look left or right, only ahead, through the narrow gap formed by the Gladers.
Even as they ran, Thomas went through the code words again in his mind. FLOAT, CATCH, BLEED, DEATH, STIFF, PUSH. They just had to make it a few dozen feet more.
Something just sliced my arm! Teresa screamed. Even as she said it, Thomas felt a sharp stab in his leg. He didn’t look back, didn’t bother answering. The seething impossibility of their predicament was like a heavy deluge of black water flooding around him, dragging him toward surrender. He fought it, pushed himself forward.
There was the Cliff, opening out into a gray-dark sky, about twenty feet away. He surged ahead, pulling his friends.
Battles clashed on both sides of them; Thomas refused to look, refused to help. A Griever spun directly in his path; a boy, his face hidden from sight, was clutched in its claws, stabbing viciously into the thick, whalish skin, trying to escape. Thomas dodged to the left, kept running. He heard a shriek as he passed by, a throat-scorching wail that could only mean the Glader had lost the fight, met a horrific end. The scream ran on, shattering the air, overpowering the other sounds of war, until it faded in death. Thomas felt his heart tremble, hoped it wasn’t someone he knew.
Just keep going! Teresa said.
“I know!” Thomas shouted back, this time out loud.
Someone sprinted past Thomas, bumped him. A Griever charged in from the right, blades twirling. A Glader cut it off, attacked it with two long swords, metal clacking and clanging as they fought. Thomas heard a distant voice, screaming the same words over and over, something about him. About protecting him as he ran. It was Minho, desperation and fatigue radiant in his shouts.
Thomas kept going.
One almost got Chuck! Teresa yelled, a violent echo in his head.
More Grievers came at them, more Gladers helped. Winston had picked up Alby’s bow and arrow, flinging the steel-pointed shafts at anything nonhuman that moved, missing more than he hit. Boys Thomas didn’t know ran alongside him, whacking at Griever instruments with their makeshift weapons, jumping on them, attacking. The sounds—clashes, clangs, screams, moaning wails, roars of engines, spinning saws, snapping blades, the screech of spikes against the floor, hair-raising pleas for help—it all grew to a crescendo, became unbearable.
Thomas screamed, but he kept running until they made it to the Cliff. He skidded to a stop, right on the edge. Teresa and Chuck bumped into him, almost sending all three of them to an endless fall. In a split second, Thomas surveyed his view of the Griever Hole. Hanging out, in the middle of thin air, were ivy vines stretching to nowhere.
Earlier, Minho and a couple of Runners had pulled out ropes of ivy and knotted them to vines still attached to the walls. They’d then tossed the loose ends over the Cliff, until they hit the Griever Hole, where now six or seven vines ran from the stone edge to an invisible rough square, hovering in the empty sky, where they disappeared into nothingness.
It was time to jump. Thomas hesitated, feeling one last moment of stark terror—hearing the horrible sounds behind him, seeing the illusion in front of him—then snapped out of it. “You first, Teresa.” He wanted to go last to make sure a Griever didn’t get her or Chuck.
To his surprise, she didn’t hesitate. After squeezing Thomas’s hand, then Chuck’s shoulder, she leaped off the edge, immediately stiffening her legs, with her arms by her sides. Thomas held his breath until she slipped into the spot between the cut-off ivy ropes and disappeared. It looked as if she’d been erased from existence with one quick swipe.
“Whoa!” Chuck yelled, the slightest hint of his old self breaking through.
“Whoa is right,” Thomas said. “You’re next.”
Before the boy could argue, Thomas grabbed him under his arms, squeezed Chuck’s torso. “Push off with your legs and I’ll give you a lift. Ready? One, two, three!” He grunted with effort, heaved him over toward the Hole.
Chuck screamed as he flew through the air, and he almost missed the target, but his feet went through; then his stomach and arms slammed against the sides of the invisible hole before he disappeared inside. The boy’s bravery solidified something in Thomas’s heart. He loved the kid. He loved him as if they had the same mom.
Thomas tightened the straps on his backpack, held his makeshift fighting spear tightly in his right fist. The sounds behind him were awful, horrible—he felt guilty for not helping. Just do your part, he told himself.
Steeling his nerves, he tapped his spear against the stone ground, then planted his left foot on the very edge of the Cliff and jumped, catapulting up and into the twilight air. He pulled the spear close to his torso, pointed his toes downward, stiffened his body.
Then he hit the Hole.
A line of icy cold shot across Thomas’s skin as he entered the Griever Hole, starting from his toes and continuing up his whole body, as if he’d jumped through a flat plane of freezing water. The world went even darker around him as his feet thumped to a landing on a slippery surface, then shot out from under him; he fell backward into Teresa’s arms. She and Chuck helped him stand. It was a miracle Thomas hadn’t stabbed someone’s eye out with his spear.
The Griever Hole would’ve been pitch-black if not for the beam of Teresa’s flashlight cutting through the darkness. As Thomas got his bearings, he realized they were standing in a ten-foot-high stone cylinder. It was damp, and covered in shiny, grimy oil, and it stretched out in front of them for dozens of yards before it faded into darkness. Thomas peered up at the Hole through which they’d come—it looked like a square window into a deep, starless space.
“The computer’s over there,” Teresa said, grabbing his attention.
Several feet down the tunnel, she had aimed her light at a small square of grimy glass that shone a dull green color. Beneath it, a keyboard was set into the wall, angling out enough for someone to type on it with ease if standing. There it was, ready for the code. Thomas couldn’t help thinking it seemed too easy, too good to be true.
“Put the words in!” Chuck yelled, slapping Thomas on the shoulder. “Hurry!”
Thomas motioned for Teresa to do it. “Chuck and I’ll keep watch, make sure a Griever doesn’t come through the Hole.” He just hoped the Gladers had turned their attention from making the aisle in the Maze to keeping the creatures away from the Cliff.
“Okay,” Teresa said—Thomas knew she was too smart to waste time arguing about it. She stepped up to the keyboard and screen, then started typing.
Wait! Thomas called to her mind. Are you sure you know the words?
She turned to him and scowled. “I’m not an idiot, Tom. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of remembering—”
A loud bang from above and behind them cut her off, made Thomas jump. He spun around to see a Griever plop through the Griever Hole, appearing as if by magic from the dark square of black. The thing had retracted its spikes and arms to enter—when it landed with a squishy thump, a dozen sharp and nasty objects popped back out, looking deadlier than ever.
Thomas pushed Chuck behind him and faced the creature, holding out his spear as if that would ward it off. “Just keep typing, Teresa!” he yelled.
A skinny metallic rod burst out of the Griever’s moist skin, unfolding into a long appendage with three spinning blades, which moved directly toward Thomas’s face.
He gripped the end of his spear with both hands, squeezing tightly as he lowered the knife-laced point to the ground in front of him. The bladed arm moved within two feet, ready to slice his skin to bits. When it was just a foot away, Thomas tensed his muscles and swung the spear up, around, and toward the ceiling as hard as he could. It smacked the metal arm and pivoted the thing skyward, revolving in an arc until it slammed back into the body of the Griever. The monster let out an angry shriek and pulled back several feet, its spikes retracting into its body. Thomas heaved breaths in and out.
Maybe I can hold it off, he said quickly to Teresa. Just hurry!
I’m almost done, she replied.
The Griever’s spikes appeared again; it surged ahead and another arm popped out of its skin and shot forward, this one with huge claws, snapping to grab the spear. Thomas swung, this time from above his head, throwing every bit of strength into the attack. The spear crashed into the base of the claws. With a loud clunk, and then a squishing sound, the entire arm ripped free of its socket, falling to the floor. Then, from some kind of mouth that Thomas couldn’t see, the Griever let out a long, piercing shriek and pulled back again; the spikes disappeared.