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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 11)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(11) by James Dashner
  • Mark did. At the very least, it made sense to keep a distance from the people shot with darts. Highly Contagious. The words went through his head again and he knew Alec was right. “I understand. I won’t be stupid. I promise. I’ll follow your lead.”

    A look of compassion came across Alec’s face, something Mark hadn’t seen often. There was true kindness in those eyes of his. “We’ve been through hell and back, kid. I know it. But it’s toughened us up, right? We can do what it takes to live through one more challenge.” He glanced up the path toward the village. “Let’s hope our friends are okay.”

    “Let’s hope,” Mark repeated. He tightened the cloth mask around his face.

    Alec gave him a stiff nod—professional again—and started up the hill. Mark pulled himself together, swearing to put emotions aside for now, and followed.

    They’d just crested the hill when the source of the horrific smell came clearly into view.

    So many bodies.

    On the very outskirts of the village, there was a large, simple wooden structure originally meant to provide cover in a rainstorm, then, when more solid buildings were built, to store things temporarily. It had three walls and an open front. A thatched roof had been layered with mud to keep the inside as dry as possible. Everyone called it the Leaner because, despite being pretty sturdy, it looked like it was tilting down the slope of the mountain.

    Someone had made the decision to put the dead in the Leaner.

    Mark was horrified. He shouldn’t have been—he’d seen more dead people in the last year than a hundred morticians of the past would have seen in a lifetime. But it was shocking all the same.

    There were at least twenty bodies, laid out side by side, filling the entire floor. Most of them had blood covering their faces—around the nose, mouth, eyes and ears. And judging from the color of their skin and the smell, all of them had been dead for a day or two. A quick scan revealed that Darnell wasn’t in the group. But Mark didn’t dare allow himself to hope. He pressed the cloth tighter to his nose and mouth and forced himself to look away from the carnage. There’d be no way he could eat anytime in the near future.

    It didn’t seem to faze Alec quite as much. He was still staring at the bodies with a look more of frustration than disgust. Maybe he wanted to get in there, examine the bodies and try to figure out what was going on, but knew how foolish it would be.

    “Let’s get into town,” Mark said. “Find our friends.”

    “Okay” was Alec’s response.

    The place was a ghost town. All dust and dry wood and hot air.

    Not one person could be seen on the paths or in the alleys, but Mark kept catching glimpses of eyes peering out through windows and slats and cracks in the haphazard structures. He didn’t know everyone in their camp—not by a long shot—but he was sure someone had to have recognized him by now.

    “Hey!” Alec shouted, startling him. “It’s Alec. Somebody come out here and tell us what’s happened since we left!”

    A voice responded, slightly muffled, coming from somewhere up ahead. “Everyone’s been inside since the morning after that Berg came. The ones who helped the people who got shot … most of them got sick and died, too. Just took a little longer.”

    “It was the darts,” Alec yelled in reply, making sure everyone within earshot could hear him. “It might be a virus. We got up in that Berg—crashed it about two days from here. We found a box of the darts they shot at us. They could very well have infected the people who got hit with … something.”

    There were people murmuring now and whispers coming from inside the shelters, but no one answered Alec.

    He turned to Mark. “Let’s be glad they were smart enough to hole up in their homes. If there is some kind of virus, maybe that kept the thing from spreading like wildfire. Who knows? If everyone’s been inside and no one else is sick, it could’ve died out with those poor saps in the Leaner.”

    Mark gave him a doubtful look. “I sure hope you’re right.”

    Footsteps cut Alec off before he could respond. They both turned to face the center of the village just in time to see Trina run around a corner, toward them. She was dirty and sweaty, her expression frantic. But her eyes lit up at the sight of Mark, and he knew that his did, too. She looked healthy, which filled him with relief. She was sprinting toward him and showing no intention of slowing down until Alec stopped her.

    He stepped between her and Mark, holding both hands out. Trina skidded to a stop.

    “Okay, kids,” Alec said. “Let’s be careful before we go around hugging each other. Can’t be too cautious.”

    Mark expected Trina to argue a little, but she nodded, sucking in deep breaths. “Okay. I was just … I’m just so glad to see you guys here. But hurry, I need to show you something. Come on!” She waved her arms at them, then turned and ran back the way she’d come.

    Mark and Alec followed without hesitation, sprinting through the main alley of the town. Mark heard gasps and whispers and saw fingers pointing out of the closed quarters they passed. After several minutes, Trina finally stopped in front of a small shack that had been boarded up with three wooden slats nailed across the door.

    From the outside.

    Someone had been imprisoned.

    And that someone was screaming.

    CHAPTER 11

    The screams barely sounded human.

    Trina jumped back a couple of steps when she reached the boarded-up shack, then turned to face Mark and Alec. Tears were leaking from her eyes, and as she stood there taking deep breaths, Mark thought he’d never seen someone look so incredibly sad. Even after all the end-of-the-world crap they’d been through.

    “I know it’s terrible,” she said over the screams of the prisoner. Mark could tell it was a man or boy but had no idea whether it was someone he knew. The sounds were terrifying. “But he made us do it. Said he’d slit his wrists if we didn’t. And it’s just gotten worse and worse since. We don’t know why he didn’t just die like the others. But Lana made sure from the get-go that we were careful. She was worried that there was a chance something contagious was loose. As soon as more people started getting sick, she quarantined him. It happened fast.”

    Mark was stunned. He opened his mouth to ask a question but shut it. He thought he knew the answer.

    Alec said it for him. “It’s Darnell in there, isn’t it.”

    Trina nodded, and a fresh wave of tears poured down her face. Mark wanted nothing else but to hug her, hold her for the rest of the day and night. But all he had were his words now.

    “It’s okay, Trina. It’s okay. You both did the right thing. Like Lana said, Darnell knew they might’ve infected him with something. We all need to be careful until we know whatever this thing is has stopped spreading.”

    Fresh screams erupted from the hut, seeping through the cracks. It sounded like Darnell was tearing his throat apart and Mark wanted nothing more than to cover his ears.

    “My head!”

    Mark turned sharply, eyeing the hut. It was the first time Darnell had used actual words. Mark couldn’t help himself; he hurried over to a boarded-up window with a gap about two inches wide running across the middle.

    “Mark!” Alec yelled. “Get back here!”

    “It’s fine!” Mark replied. “I’m not gonna touch anything.”

    “I won’t be a bit happy if you catch some nasty disease. Not a bit.”

    Mark tried to give him a reassuring look. “I just want to see my friend.” He pressed the cloth tightly against his nose and raised his eyebrows dramatically at Alec.

    The man grunted and looked away. But Trina was staring him down, obviously torn between stopping Mark and joining him.

    “Just stay there,” he called to her before she could make a move. His voice was muffled through the mask, but she heard him clearly enough. She gave a slight nod; then her gaze fell to the ground.

    Mark faced the gap between the two boards of the window. The screaming had stopped inside, but he could hear Darnell whimpering softly now, moaning those same two words every few seconds.

    “My head, my head, my head.”

    Mark took another step forward, then another. The slit was just a few inches from his face now. He cinched the strip of cloth behind his neck, making sure his mouth and nose were entirely covered. Then he leaned forward and peeked in.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire