The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 19

  Minho pulled up short when he saw Red Shirt in a heap on the ground. “Holy … What happened to him?” He turned his attention to Thomas. “And you? You okay? Did you do that?”

  Absurdly, Thomas felt like laughing. “Yeah, I pulled out my machine gun and blasted him to tiny bits. ”

  Minho’s face showed that he didn’t appreciate the sarcasm, but Brenda spoke before he could come up with a retort.

  “Who killed him?”

  Thomas pointed at the sky. “One of those cop machines. Flew in here, shot him to death, then next thing I know the Rat Man appears on a screen. He tried to convince me that I need to go back to WICKED. ”

  “Dude,” Minho said, “you can’t even—”

  “Give me some credit!” Thomas yelled. “There’s no way I’d go back, but maybe them needing me so much could help us at some point. What we should worry about is Newt. Janson thinks that Newt’s succumbing to the Flare a lot faster than average. We have to go check on him. ”

  “He really said that?”

  “Yeah. ” Thomas felt bad for blowing up at his friend. “And I believe him on this. You saw how Newt’s been acting. ”

  Minho stared at Thomas, his eyes filled with pain. It hit Thomas that Minho had known Newt for two years longer than he had. So much more time to grow close.

  “We better check on him somehow,” Thomas repeated. “Do something for him. ”

  Minho just nodded and looked away. Thomas was tempted to pull Newt’s note out of his pocket and read it right then and there, but he’d promised he’d wait until he knew for sure the time was right.

  “It’s getting late,” Brenda said. “And they don’t let people in and out of the city at night—it’s hard enough to keep things under control during the day. ”

  Thomas noticed for the first time that the light was beginning to fade, the sky above the buildings taking on an orange hue.

  Jorge, who’d been quiet until then, spoke up. “That’s the least of our problems. Something weird’s going on around this place, muchachos. ”

  “What do you mean?” Thomas asked.

  “All the people seem to have vanished in the last half hour, and the few I’ve seen don’t look right. ”

  “That scene at the coffee shop did send everyone scattering,” Brenda pointed out.

  Jorge shrugged. “I don’t know. This city is just giving me the creeps, hermana. Like it’s alive and waiting to unleash something really nasty. ”

  A strange unease crawled up Thomas’s spine and he turned his focus back to Newt. “Can we get out there if we hurry? Or can we break out?”

  “We can try,” Brenda said. “Better hope we can find a cab, though—we’re on the other side of the city from where we came in. ”

  “Let’s try it,” Thomas offered.

  They took off down the street, but the look on Minho’s face wasn’t good. Thomas sure hoped it wasn’t a sign of bad things to come.

  CHAPTER 33

  They walked for an hour and didn’t see a single car, much less a cab. They ran into only a few scattered people, and cop machines let out their eerie hum as they flew by at random. Every few minutes they’d hear a sound in the distance that brought memories of the Scorch back to Thomas—someone talking too loudly, a scream, an odd laugh. As the light faded to darkness, he began to feel more and more spooked.

  Finally Brenda stopped and faced the rest of them. “We’ll have to wait till tomorrow,” she announced. “We’re not going to find transportation tonight and we’re too far to walk. We need to sleep so we’ll be fresh in the morning. ”

  Thomas hated to admit it, but she was right.

  “There’s gotta be a way to get out there,” Minho countered.

  Jorge squeezed his shoulder. “It’s useless, hermano. The airport’s at least ten miles from here. And by the looks of this town we’d get mugged or shot or beaten to death on the way. Brenda’s right—better to rest up and go help him tomorrow. ”

  Thomas could tell Minho wanted to be his usual defiant self, but he gave in without arguing. Jorge made too much sense. They were in a huge city, at night, completely out of their element.

  “Are we close to our motel?” Thomas asked. He told himself that Newt could make it through one more night alone.

  Jorge pointed to his left. “Just a few blocks. ”

  They headed in that direction.

  They were a block away when Jorge pulled up short, holding one hand in the air and putting a finger to his lips with the other. Thomas stopped dead in his tracks, alarm suddenly tingling through his nerves.

  “What?” Minho whispered.

  Jorge turned in a slow circle, scanning the area around them, and Thomas did the same, wondering what had suddenly made the older man so apprehensive. Darkness had completely fallen, and the few streetlights they passed barely put a dent in it. The world Thomas could see seemed made of shadows, and he imagined horrible things hiding behind every one of them.

  “What?” Minho whispered again.

  “I keep thinking I hear something right behind us,” Jorge replied. “Whispering. Anyone else—”

  “There!” Brenda shouted, her voice like a crack of thunder in the silence. “Did you see that?” She was pointing off to her left.

  Thomas strained to look but saw nothing. The streets were empty as far as he could tell.

  “Someone was just coming out from behind that building, then jumped back. I swear I saw it. ”

  “Hey!” Minho yelled. “Who’s over there?”

  “Are you crazy?” Thomas whispered. “Let’s get inside the motel!”

  “Slim it, dude. If they wanted to shoot us or something, don’t you think they would’ve done it by now?”

  Thomas just sighed in exasperation. He didn’t like the feel of this at all.

  “I should’ve said something when I first heard it,” Jorge said.

  “Maybe it’s nothing,” Brenda responded. “And if it is, standing around won’t help. Let’s just get out of here. ”

  “Hey!” Minho yelled again, making Thomas jump. “Hey, you! Who’s over there?”

  Thomas smacked him on the shoulder. “Seriously, would you stop that?”

  His friend ignored him. “Come out and show yourself!”

  Whoever it was didn’t respond. Minho moved like he was going to walk across the street and take a look, but Thomas grabbed him by the arm.

  “No way. Worst idea in history. It’s dark, it could be a trap, it could be a lot of terrible things. Let’s just get some sleep and keep a better eye out tomorrow. ”

  Minho didn’t put up much of an argument. “Fine. Be a wuss. But I get one of the beds tonight. ”

  And with that they went up to their room. It took forever for Thomas to fall asleep, his mind spinning with the possibilities of who might be following them. But no matter where his thoughts wandered, they always came back to Teresa and the others. Where were they? Could that have been Teresa out on the street, spying on them? Or had it been Gally and the Right Arm?

  And Thomas hated that they’d had no choice but to wait a night before checking on Newt. What if something had happened to him?

  Finally his mind slowed, the questions faded away, and he fell asleep.

  CHAPTER 34

  The next morning, Thomas was surprised at how rested he felt. He’d tossed and turned all night, it seemed, but at some point he must have gotten some deep and recharging sleep. After a long, hot shower and breakfast out of a vending machine, he was ready to face the day.

  He and the others left the motel around eight o’clock in the morning, wondering what they’d find in the city on their way to check on Newt. They saw some people here and there, but far fewer than they’d seen during the busy hours of the day before. And Thomas didn’t notice any strange noises like the ones they’d heard the previous night during their long walk.

  “Something’s up, I’m te
llin’ ya,” Jorge said as they made their way down the street in search of a cab. “There should be more folks out and about. ”

  Thomas observed the few pedestrians around him. None of them would look him in the eye—everyone kept their head down, often with one hand holding their surgical mask to their face as if afraid that a sudden wind might blow it off. And they walked with a hurried, frantic gait, almost jumping out of the way when another person got too close. He noticed a woman studying a poster about the Flare just like the one he’d read the day before while being escorted by Red Shirt. It brought to mind that memory he hadn’t been able to grasp—it was going to drive him crazy.

  “Let’s hurry and get to the shuck airport,” Minho muttered. “This place is giving me the creeps. ”

  “We should probably go up that way,” Brenda said, pointing. “There have to be cabs around those business offices. ”

  They crossed the street and headed down a narrower one that passed what looked like an empty lot on one side and an old, dilapidated building on the other.

  Minho leaned into Thomas and half whispered, “Dude, I’m a little shucked in the head right now. I’m scared of what we’re gonna find with Newt. ”

  Thomas was scared, too, but didn’t admit it. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s fine for now. ”

  “Good that. And the cure for the Flare’s gonna fly out of your butt any second. ”

  “Who knows, maybe it will. Might smell funny, though. ” His friend didn’t seem to think that was very humorous. “Look, we can’t do anything until we get there and see him. ” Thomas hated sounding so insensitive, but things were hard enough—they couldn’t assume the worst.

  “Thanks for the pep talk. ”

  The empty lot to their right contained the scattered remains of an old brick building, weeds filling every square inch. A large section of wall stood right in the middle, and as they passed, Thomas noticed movement on the far side of it. He stopped, and instinctively put a hand out to halt Minho as well. He shushed him before he could ask what was going on.

  Brenda and Jorge noticed and froze in place. Thomas pointed at what he’d seen, then tried to get a better look.

  A shirtless man had his back to them, and he was hunched over something, digging with his hands like he’d lost something in the mud and was trying to find it. Oddly shaped scratches covered his shoulders, and there was a long scab crossing the middle of his spine. His movements were jerky and … desperate, Thomas thought. His elbows kept popping back like he’d torn something loose from the ground. The tall weeds prevented Thomas from seeing the focus of the man’s frantic attention.

  Brenda whispered from behind. “Let’s keep moving. ”

  “That guy’s sick,” Minho whispered back. “How’s he loose like this?”

  Thomas had no idea. “Let’s just go. ”

  The group started walking again, but Thomas couldn’t tear his eyes away from the disturbing scene. What was that guy doing?

  When they reached the end of the block, Thomas stopped, as did the others. It was clearly bothering everyone as much as it was him—they all wanted to get one last look.

  Without warning, the man sprang up and turned toward them; blood covered his mouth and nose. Thomas flinched and stumbled back into Minho. The man bared his teeth in a nasty grin, then held up bloody hands as if to show them off. Thomas was just about to yell at him when the guy bent back over and returned to his business. Thankfully they couldn’t see exactly what that business was.

  “This would be a good time to go,” Brenda said.

  Icy fingers crawled along Thomas’s back and shoulders—he couldn’t have agreed more. They all turned and ran, and they’d gone two blocks before they slowed to a walk again.

  It took another half hour before they found a cab, but they were finally on their way. Thomas wanted to talk about what they’d seen in the empty lot, but he couldn’t put it into words. It had sickened him through and through.

  Minho was the first to speak about it. “That guy was eating a person. I just know it. ”

  “Maybe …,” Brenda began. “Maybe it was just a stray dog. ” Her tone made Thomas think she didn’t believe it for one second. “Not like that’d be okay, either. ”

  Minho scoffed. “I’m pretty sure that’s not something you’re supposed to see during a nice leisurely stroll through a quarantined city in the middle of the day. I believe Gally. I think this place is crawling with Cranks, and soon the whole city’s gonna start killing each other. ”

  No one responded. They stayed silent the rest of the way to the airport.

  It didn’t take long to get through security and back outside the massive walls surrounding the city. If anything, the staff they encountered seemed thrilled that they were leaving.

  The Berg was right where they’d left it, waiting like the abandoned shell of a giant insect on the hot and steamy concrete. Nothing stirred around it.

  “Hurry up and open it,” Minho said.

  Jorge didn’t seem fazed by the curt command; he pulled his small control pad out of his pocket and pressed some buttons. The ramp of the cargo door slowly pivoted down, hinges squealing, until its edge landed on the ground with a grating scrape. Thomas had hoped to see Newt come running down that ramp, a big smile on his face, glad to see them.

  But nothing moved inside or out, and his heart sank.

  Minho obviously felt the same way. “Something’s wrong. ” He sprinted to the door and ran up the ramp before Thomas had a chance to react.
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