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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 16)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(16) by James Dashner
  • CHAPTER 16

    Mark shook Trina awake and scrambled to his feet, pulling her up with him. The Toad was definitely sick, and he was standing just a few feet from their camp. They didn’t know anything about this sickness, but that only made it scarier. Trina seemed disoriented, but Mark didn’t relent, half dragging her to the other side of the dead coals of their fire from earlier that night.

    “Alec!” he shouted. “Lana! Wake up!”

    As if the two were still soldiers, they were on their feet in three seconds. But neither of them had noticed the visitor yet.

    Mark didn’t waste time explaining. “Toad. I’m glad you came, that you’re safe. But … are you feeling sick?”

    “Why?” Toad asked, still on his knees. His face was only a shadow. “Why did you leave me like that after all we’ve been through?”

    Mark’s heart was breaking. The question had no good answer. “I … I … we tried to get you to come with us.”

    Toad acted as if he hadn’t heard. “I have things in my skull. I need help getting them out of there. Before they eat my brain and start heading for my heart.” He whimpered, a sound that seemed to Mark more like it would come from an injured dog than from a human.

    “What symptoms are you feeling?” Lana asked. “What happened to Misty?”

    Mark watched as the Toad raised his hands up and pressed them against the sides of his head. Even his silhouette was creepy doing such a thing.

    “There … are … things in my head,” he repeated slowly. Deliberately. His voice was laced with anger. “Of all the people on this forsaken planet, I thought my friends of over a year would be willing to help me get them out.” He got to his feet and began to shout. “Get these things out of my head!”

    “Just calm down there, Toad,” Alec said, the threat clear in his voice.

    Mark didn’t want the situation to explode into something they’d all regret. “Toad, listen to me. We’re going to help you however we can. But we need you to sit down and stop shouting. Screaming at us won’t help.”

    The Toad didn’t respond, but his figure seemed rigid. Mark could tell his hands were clenched into fists.

    “Toad? We need you to sit down. And then tell us everything that’s happened since we left the village.”

    The guy didn’t move.

    “Come on,” Mark pushed. “We want to help. Just sit down and relax.”

    After a few seconds, Toad obeyed, collapsing to the ground in a heap, lying there like he’d been shot. Several moans escaped him as he shifted, rocking back and forth on his side.

    Mark took a deep breath, feeling like the situation was back under some kind of control. He realized that he and Trina were standing right next to each other, but neither Alec nor Lana seemed to have noticed yet. Mark took a few steps forward, to the side of the fire pit, and sat down.

    “That poor kid,” he heard Alec mutter behind him, thankfully not loud enough for the Toad to hear. Sometimes the old man said exactly what he was thinking.

    Thankfully, Lana’s nursing instincts won out and she took the reins of the conversation.

    “Okay,” she began. “Toad. It seems like you’re in a lot of pain. I’m really sorry about that. But if we’re going to help you, we need to know some things. Are you feeling well enough to talk about it?”

    The Toad continued rocking and moaning softly. But he answered. “I’ll do my best, guys. I don’t know how long the things in my head will let me do it, though. Better hurry.”

    “Good,” Lana responded. “Good. Let’s begin from the second we left you at the village. What did you do?”

    “I sat at the door and talked to Misty,” the Toad said in a tired voice. “What else would I do? She’s my best friend—the best friend I’ve ever had. I don’t care about anything else. How can anyone abandon their best friend?”

    “Right. I understand that. I’m glad she had someone to be there with her.”

    “She needed me. I could tell when it got bad for her, so I went in and held her. Held her to my chest and hugged her and kissed her forehead. Like a baby. Like my baby. I’ve never felt so happy as when I held her, watching her die slowly in my arms.”

    Mark squirmed in his seat, sickened by the Toad’s words. He hoped Lana was able to learn something about what was going on.

    “How did she die?” Lana asked. “Did she have a lot of pain, like Darnell?”

    “Yes. Yes, Lana. She had a lot of pain. She screamed and screamed until the things left her head and crawled into mine. Then we put her out of her misery.”

    The forest seemed to fall deathly silent at that last remark, and Mark’s breath froze in his lungs. He sensed Alec moving behind him but Lana shushed him.

    “We?” she repeated. “What do you mean, Toad? And what’re you talking about when you say things crawled into your head?”

    Their friend pressed his hands against his head. “How can you be so stupid? How many times do I have to tell you? We! Me and the things in my head! I don’t know what they are! Do you hear me? I … don’t … know … what they are! You stupid, stupid kid!”

    A wail escaped from his mouth, inhuman and piercingly loud, rising in pitch and volume. Mark jumped to his feet and took a couple of steps backward. It seemed as if the trees shook with the sound exploding from the Toad and every last creature within a mile fled to safety. There was only that one awful noise.

    “Toad!” Lana yelled at him, but the word was lost in the shrieking.

    The Toad was seesawing his head back and forth with his hands as he continued to scream. Mark looked at his friends even though he couldn’t really see their faces—he had no idea what to do, and neither did Lana, evidently.

    “That’s it,” he barely heard Alec say as the man moved forward and past Mark, bumping him along the way. Mark stumbled, then got his balance, wondering what the former soldier had planned.

    Alec walked straight at the Toad, then grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him to his feet, dragging him deeper into the woods. The screams didn’t stop, just became more hitched and sporadic as he sucked in breaths and struggled to break free. Soon they were lost in the shadows of the trees, but Mark could hear the scraping of the Toad’s body along the ground. The sound of his wailing faded as they got farther away.

    “What is that man up to?” Lana asked tightly.

    “Alec!” Mark yelled after him. “Alec!”

    There was no response, just the continued cries and shouts of the Toad. And then they ceased, abruptly. Cut off as if Alec had thrown him into a soundproof room and slammed the door shut.

    “What the …,” Trina breathed behind Mark.

    Soon there were footsteps marching back toward them at a determined pace. For a second Mark panicked, thinking the Toad had somehow broken free and hurt Alec, gone completely insane, and was coming back to finish off the others. Thirsting for blood.

    But then Alec appeared out of the dark gloom of the trees, his face hidden in shadow. Mark could only imagine the sadness that must have been stamped in his features.

    “I couldn’t risk him doing anything crazy,” the old man said, his voice surprisingly shaky. “I couldn’t. Not if this has something to do with a virus. I … I need to go wash myself in the stream.”

    He spread out his hands before him, looking at them for a long moment. Then he marched off toward the brook nearby. Mark thought he heard him sniffle just before he vanished back into the trees.

    CHAPTER 17

    After all that, they were supposed to go back to sleep. Dawn was still hours away.

    No one said a word after Alec had done … whatever he’d done … to the Toad. Mark thought he might explode, so confused was he by what had transpired over the last half an hour or so. He wanted to talk. But Trina turned away from him when he faced her. She slumped to the ground and curled up with a blanket, stifling some sobs. It broke Mark’s heart—they’d gone several months without tears, and now it was happening all over again.

    She was an enigma to him. From the beginning she’d been stronger, tougher and braver than he ever was. At first it had embarrassed and shamed him, but he loved it in her so much that he got over it. Yet she also wore her emotions on her sleeve and wasn’t scared at all to let them all out in a good cry.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire