The words stabbed Thomas, and he could only imagine how Minho felt.
“Show us where he is,” his friend ordered curtly.
The guard held up his hands. “Did you not hear what I just said?”
“Your job’s not done,” Thomas insisted. He was with Minho one hundred percent. It didn’t matter what Newt had said—if they were this close, they were going to talk to him.
The shorter guard shook his head adamantly. “No way. You asked us to find your friend and we did. Give us our money.”
“Does it look like we’re with him yet?” Jorge asked. “No one makes a dollar until you get us all together.” Brenda didn’t say anything, but she stood next to Jorge and nodded to show her support. Thomas was relieved that everyone was on board to go to Newt despite the message he’d sent.
The two guards didn’t look happy at all, and they whispered back and forth, arguing.
“Hey!” Minho barked. “If you want that money, let’s go!”
“Fine,” the guard with the mustache finally said. His partner gave him an exasperated glare. “follow us.” They turned and headed back in the direction they’d come. Minho was right on their heels, and then everyone else.
As they made their way deeper into the compound, Thomas kept thinking things couldn’t get worse, but they did. The buildings were shabbier, the streets dirtier. He saw several people lying on the sidewalks, their heads resting on filthy bags or wadded-up pieces of clothing. Each one of them stared at the sky with a glazed expression, a look of oblivious glee. The Bliss was aptly named, Thomas thought.
The guards marched ahead, sweeping their Launchers left and right at anyone who got within a dozen feet of them. At one point they passed a ravaged-looking man—his clothes torn, his hair matted with some kind of black goo, skin covered in rashes—as he fell on a drugged-out teenager and started beating him.
Thomas stopped, wondering if they should help.
“Don’t even think about it,” the short guard said before Thomas could get a word out. “Keep moving.”
“But isn’t it your job to—”
The other guard cut him off. “Shut up and let us handle things. If we meddled in every squabble and catfight we saw, we’d never be done. We’d probably be dead. Those two can sort out their own problems.”
“Just get us to Newt,” Minho said evenly.
They continued, and Thomas tried to ignore the gargled scream that suddenly rose behind them.
Finally, they reached a high wall with a big archway that led to an open area full of people. A sign at the top of the arch proclaimed in bright letters that this was the Central Zone. Thomas couldn’t quite make out what was going on inside, but everyone seemed busy.
The guards stopped, and the one with the mustache addressed the group. “I’m only going to ask once.
Are you sure you want to go in there?”
“Yes,” Minho answered quickly.
“Okay, then. Your friend is at the bowling all ey. As soon as we point him out, I want our money.”
“Let’s just get moving,” Jorge growled.
They followed the guards through the arch and entered the Central Zone. Then they stopped to take it all in.
The first word that popped into Thomas’s mind was madhouse, and he realized that it was almost literally true.
Cranks were everywhere.
They milled about in a circular area several hundred feet across that was bordered by what had apparently once been shops and restaurants and entertainment venues. Most of them were run-down and closed. The majority of the infected didn’t seem quite as gone as the matted-hair fell ow they’d seen out in the streets, but there was a frenzied air about the groups of people. To Thomas, everyone’s actions and mannerisms seemed … exaggerated. Some people were laughing hysterically, a wildness in their eyes, as they slapped each other’s backs roughly. Others cried uncontrollably, sobbing all alone on the ground or walking in circles, faces in their hands. small fights had broken out everywhere, and here and there you’d find a man or woman standing still and screaming at the top of their lungs, faces red and necks corded.
There were also those who huddled in groups, arms folded and heads snapping left and right as if they expected to be attacked at any second. And just as Thomas had seen in the outer rings, some of the Cranks were lost in the haze of the Bliss, smiling as they sat or lay on the ground and ignored the chaos. A few guards walked around, weapons held at the ready, but they were vastly outnumbered.
“Remind me not to buy any real estate here,” Minho quipped.
Thomas couldn’t bring himself to laugh. He was filled with anxiety, and he desperately wanted to get this over with.
“Where’s the bowling all ey?” he asked.
“Over this way,” the shorter guard said.
He headed to the left, sticking close to the wall as Thomas and the others followed. Brenda walked beside Thomas, their arms brushing with every step. He wanted to take her hand, but he didn’t want to make any move that would call attention to himself. Everything about this place was so unpredictable he didn’t want to do anything he didn’t absolutely have to.
Most of the Cranks stopped their feverish activities and stared at the small group of newcomers as they approached and walked past. Thomas kept his gaze lowered, scared that if he made eye contact with anyone, they might get hostile or try to talk to him. There were catcalls and whistles, lots of crude jokes or insults thrown their way as they kept moving. They passed a dilapidated convenience store, and Thomas could see through the open windows—the glass was long gone—that almost all the shelves were empty.
There was a doctor’s office and a sandwich shop, but no lights shone in either one.
Someone grabbed Thomas’s shirt at the shoulder. He spun to see who it was as he swatted the hand away. A woman stood there, her dark hair messy and a scratch on her chin, but otherwise she seemed somewhat normal. Her face was drooping in a frown, and she stared at him for a moment before opening her mouth as wide as it would go, revealing teeth that were in good shape other than looking as if they hadn’t been brushed in a while, and a tongue that was swol en and discolored. Then she closed her mouth again.
“I want to kiss you,” the woman said. “What do you say, Munie?” She laughed, a manic cackle that was full of snorts, and ran her hand lightly down Thomas’s chest.
Thomas jerked away and continued walking—he noticed that the guards hadn’t even stopped to make sure nothing bad happened.
Brenda leaned closer and whispered to him. “That might’ve been the creepiest thing yet.” Thomas just nodded and kept going.
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14||Chapter 15||Chapter 16||Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20||Chapter 21||Chapter 22||Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
|Chapter 25||Chapter 26||Chapter 27||Chapter 28||Chapter 29||Chapter 30|
|Chapter 31||Chapter 32||Chapter 33||Chapter 34||Chapter 35||Chapter 36|
|Chapter 37||Chapter 38||Chapter 39||Chapter 40||Chapter 41||Chapter 42|
|Chapter 43||Chapter 44||Chapter 45||Chapter 46||Chapter 47||Chapter 48|
|Chapter 49||Chapter 50||Chapter 51||Chapter 52||Chapter 53||Chapter 54|
|Chapter 55||Chapter 56||Chapter 57||Chapter 58||Chapter 59||Chapter 60|
|Chapter 61||Chapter 62||Chapter 63||Chapter 64||Chapter 65||Chapter 66|
|Chapter 67||Chapter 68||Chapter 69||Chapter 70||Chapter 71||Chapter 72|
|Chapter 73||Book 1: Maze Runner||Book 2: Scorch Trials||Book 3: Death Cure||Prequel: Kill Order|