The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 22


  They were about ten feet away from Newt when he suddenly spoke in a loud voice that echoed off the dark walls of the bowling alley. “I told you bloody shanks to get lost!”

  Minho stopped and Thomas almost ran into him. Brenda squeezed Thomas’s hand, then let go, which was when he realized how much he’d been sweating. Hearing those words come out of Newt somehow let him know that it was over and done. Their friend would never be the same—he had only dark days ahead.

  “We need to talk to you,” Minho said, moving a couple of feet closer to Newt. He had to step over a skinny woman lying on her side.

  “Don’t come any closer,” Newt answered. His voice was soft, but it was full of menace. “Those thugs brought me here for a reason. They thought I was a bloody Immune holed up in that shuck Berg. Imagine their surprise when they could tell I had the Flare eating my brain. Said they were doing their civic duty when they dumped me in this rat hole. ”

  When Minho didn’t say anything, Thomas spoke up, trying not to let Newt’s words overcome him. “Why do you think we’re here, Newt? I’m sorry you had to stay back and got caught. I’m sorry they brought you here. But we can break you out—it doesn’t look like anyone gives a klunk who comes or goes. ”

  Newt slowly twisted around to face them. Thomas’s stomach dropped when he saw that the boy had a Launcher clutched in his hands. And he looked ragged, like he’d been running and fighting and falling down cliffs for three days straight. But despite the anger that had pooled in his eyes, he hadn’t been taken by madness quite yet.

  “Whoa, there,” Minho said, taking a half a step back—he barely missed stepping on the lady at his heels. “Slim it nice and calm. There’s no need to point a shuck Launcher at my face while we talk. Where’d you get that thing, anyway?”

  “I stole it,” Newt answered. “Took it from a guard who made me … unhappy. ”

  Newt’s hands were shaking slightly, which made Thomas nervous—the boy’s finger hovered over the trigger of the weapon.

  “I’m … not well,” Newt said. “Honestly, I appreciate you buggin’ shanks coming for me. I mean it. But this is where it bloody ends. This is when you turn around and walk back out that door and head for your Berg and fly away. Do you understand me?”

  “No, Newt, I don’t understand,” Minho said, the frustration in his voice escalating. “We risked our necks to come to this place and you’re our friend and we’re taking you home. You wanna whine and cry while you go crazy, that’s fine. But you’re gonna do it with us, not with these shuck Cranks. ”

  Newt suddenly jumped to his feet, so quickly that Thomas almost stumbled backward. Newt lofted the Launcher and pointed it at Minho. “I am a Crank, Minho! I am a Crank! Why can’t you get that through your bloody head? If you had the Flare and knew what you were about to go through, would you want your friends to stand around and watch? Huh? Would you want that?” He was shouting by the time he finished, and was shaking more with each passing moment.

  Minho didn’t say anything, and Thomas knew why. He himself was trying to find words and coming up empty. Newt’s glare shifted to him.

  “And you, Tommy,” the boy said, lowering his voice. “You’ve got a lot of nerve coming here and asking me to leave with you. A lot of bloody nerve. The sight of you makes me sick. ”

  Thomas was stunned silent. Nothing anyone had ever said had hurt so much. Nothing.


  Thomas couldn’t think of any possible explanation for the statement. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

  Newt didn’t respond, just kept staring at him with hardened eyes, his arms shaking, his Launcher pointed at Thomas’s chest. But then he stilled and his face softened. He lowered the weapon and looked at the floor.

  “Newt, I don’t get it,” Thomas persisted quietly. “Why are you saying all this?”

  Newt looked up again, and there was none of the bitterness that had been there just seconds earlier. “I’m sorry, guys. I’m sorry. But I need you to listen to me. I’m getting worse by the hour and I don’t have many sane ones left. Please leave. ”

  When Thomas opened his mouth to argue, Newt held up his hands. “No! No more talking from you. Just … please. Please leave. I’m begging you. I’m begging you to do this one thing for me. As sincerely as I’ve ever asked for anything in my life, I want you to do this for me. There’s a group I’ve met that are a lot like me and they’re planning to break out and head for Denver later today. I’m going with them. ”

  He paused, and it took every bit of Thomas’s resolve to keep quiet. Why would they want to break out and go to Denver?

  “I don’t expect you to understand, but I can’t be with you guys anymore. It’s gonna be hard enough for me now, and it’ll make it worse if I know you have to witness it. Or worst of all, if I hurt you. So let’s say our bloody goodbyes and then you can promise to remember me from the good old days. ”

  “I can’t do that,” Minho said.

  “Shuck it!” Newt yelled. “Do you have any clue how hard it is to be calm right now? I said my piece and I’m done. Now get out of here! Do you understand me? Get out of here!”

  Someone poked Thomas’s shoulder and he spun to see that several Cranks had gathered behind them. The person who’d jabbed Thomas was a tall, broad-chested man with long, greasy hair. He reached out again and pushed the tip of his finger into Thomas’s chest.

  “I believe our new friend asked you people to leave him alone,” the guy said. His tongue snaked out to lick his lips as he spoke.

  “This is none of your business,” Thomas replied. He could sense the danger, but for some reason he didn’t care. There was only room enough inside him to be sick about Newt. “He was our friend way before he came here. ”

  The man slicked his hand over his oily hair. “That boy’s a Crank now, and so are we. That makes him our business. Now leave him … alone. ”

  Minho spoke before Thomas could respond. “Hey, psycho, maybe your ears are clogged with the Flare. This is between us and Newt. You leave. ”

  The man scowled, then brought up a hand to show a long shard of glass gripped in his fist. Blood dripped from where he held it.

  “I was hoping you would resist,” he snarled. “I’ve been bored. ”

  His arm flashed out, the glass slicing toward Thomas’s face. Thomas ducked toward the floor and reached up with his hands to deflect the blow. But before the weapon hit him, Brenda stepped in and swatted the guy’s hand away, which sent the glass shard flying. Then Minho was on him, tackling the Crank to the ground. They landed on the woman he’d stepped over earlier to get to Newt, and she screamed bloody murder, started flailing and kicking. Soon the three of them were entangled in a wrestling match.

  “Stop it!” Newt yelled. “Stop it now!”

  Thomas had been frozen in place, crouching as he waited for an opportunity to jump in and help Minho. But he twisted around to see that Newt was holding his Launcher in shooting position, his eyes wild with fury.

  “Stop or I’ll start shooting and not give a buggin’ piece of klunk who gets hit. ”

  The man with the greasy hair pushed his way out of the melee and stood up, kicking the woman in the ribs as he did so. She wailed as Minho got to his feet, scratches covering his face.

  The electric sound of the Launcher’s charge filled the air just as Thomas got a whiff of burnt ozone. Then Newt squeezed the trigger. A grenade smashed into Greasy Hair’s chest and lightning tendrils enveloped his body as he fell screaming to the ground, writhing, legs rigid, drool foaming out of his mouth.

  Thomas couldn’t believe the sudden turn of events. He looked at Newt with wide eyes, glad he’d done what he had, and happy he hadn’t aimed the Launcher at him or Minho.

  “I told him to stop,” Newt half whispered. Then he aimed the weapon at Minho, but it was shaking because his arms were. “Now you guys leave. No more discussion. I’m sorry. ?

  Minho held up his hands. “You’re going to shoot me? Old pal?”

  “Go,” Newt said. “I asked nicely. Now I’m telling. This is hard enough. Go. ”

  “Newt, let’s go outside. …”

  “Go!” Newt stepped closer and aimed more fiercely. “Get out of here!”

  Thomas hated what he was seeing—the complete wildness that had taken over Newt. His whole body trembled and his eyes had lost any hint of sanity. He was losing it, completely.

  “Let’s go,” Thomas said, one of the saddest things he’d ever heard himself say. “Come on. ”

  Minho’s gaze snapped to Thomas, and he looked like his heart had been shattered. “You can’t be serious. ”

  Thomas could only nod.

  Minho’s shoulders slumped, and his eyes fell to the floor. “How did the world get so shucked?” The words barely came out, low and full of pain.

  “I’m sorry,” Newt said, and there were tears streaming down his face. “I’m … I’m going to shoot if you don’t go. Now. ”

  Thomas couldn’t take it for one more second. He grabbed Brenda by the hand, then Minho by the upper arm, started pulling them along toward the exit, stepping over bodies and winding his way through the blankets. Minho didn’t resist, and Thomas didn’t dare look at him, and could only hope that Jorge was following along. He just kept going, across the lobby, to the doors and through, outside into the Central Zone, into the chaotic crowds of Cranks.

  Away from Newt. Away from his friend and his friend’s diseased brain.


  There was no sign of the guards who’d escorted them there, but there were even more Cranks than when they’d entered the bowling alley. And most of them seemed to be waiting for the newcomers. They’d probably heard the sounds of the Launcher firing and the screams of the guy who’d been hit. Or maybe someone had come out to tell them. Whatever the case, Thomas felt as if every person looking at him were past the Gone and hungry for human lunch.

  “Look at these jokers,” someone called out.

  “Yeah, ain’t they pretty!” another answered. “Come to play with the Cranks. Or are you on your way to joining us?”

  Thomas kept moving, making his way toward the arched entrance to the Central Zone. He’d let go of Minho’s arm but still held Brenda’s hand. They marched through the crowd, and Thomas finally had to stop meeting peoples’ gazes. All he saw was madness and bloodlust and jealousy carved onto countless bleeding and mangled faces. He wanted to run but had the sense that if he did the whole crowd would attack like a pack of wolves.

  They reached the arch, went through it without hesitating. Thomas led them down the main street, crossing through the rings of dilapidated houses. The ruckus of the Zone seemed to have started up again now that they were gone, and eerie sounds of crazed laughter and wild screaming followed the group on their trek. The farther they got from the noise, the less tense Thomas felt. He didn’t dare speak to ask Minho how he was. Plus, he knew the answer.

  They were just passing another set of broken homes when he heard a couple of shouts ring out, and then the sound of footsteps.

  “Run!” someone yelled. “Run!”

  Thomas came to a stop just as the two guards who’d abandoned them came careering around the corner. They didn’t slow but ran toward the farthest ring of the town and the Berg. Neither of them had their Launchers anymore.

  “Hey!” Minho shouted. “Get back here!”

  The guard with the mustache looked back. “I said run, you idiots! Come on!”

  Thomas didn’t take time to think. He sprinted after them, knowing it was the only choice. Minho, Jorge, and Brenda followed close on his heels. He looked back to see a cluster of Cranks chasing them, at least a dozen. And they seemed frantic, as if a switch had been flipped and every one of them had reached the Gone at once.

  “What happened?” Minho asked through heavy breaths.

  “They dragged us away from the Zone!” the shorter man yelled. “I swear to God they were gonna eat us. We barely escaped. ”

  “Don’t stop running!” the other guard added. The two of them suddenly peeled off in another direction, down a hidden alley.

  Thomas and his friends continued toward the exit leading to their Berg. Catcalls and whistles rose from behind them, and Thomas risked another glimpse back for a better look at their pursuers. Torn clothes, matted hair, muddied faces. But they’d gained no ground.

  “They can’t catch us!” he yelled, just as the exterior gate came into view ahead of them. “Keep going, we’re almost there!”

  Even so, Thomas ran faster than he’d ever run in his life—pushed harder even than he ever had in the Maze. The thought of getting caught by those Cranks filled him with horror. The group made it to the gate and passed through it without pausing. They didn’t bother to close it, just ran straight for the Berg, its hatch opening as Jorge pushed the buttons on his pad.

  They reached the ramp and Thomas ran up it and hurled himself inside. He turned to see his friends sliding to the floor around him, the ramp squealing as it started moving upward to close. The pack of Cranks chasing them would never make it in time, but they kept running, screaming and shouting nonsense. One of them reached down and picked up a rock, hurled it. The thing fell twenty feet short.

  The Berg rose into the air just as the door sealed shut.

  Jorge hovered the ship just a few dozen feet in the air while they gathered their wits. The Cranks were no threat from the ground—none of them had weapons. Not the ones who’d followed them outside the wall, at any rate.
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