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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 22)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(22) by James Dashner
  • “How’re you doing, Deedee?” he asked. The girl was sitting with her legs crossed under her, staring at a spot on the ground. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

    She shrugged and gave him a half grin.

    He realized she might be worried about her role the next day. “Hey, listen, you don’t need to be scared about tomorrow. There’s no way we’re going to let anything bad happen to you. Okay?”

    “You promise?”

    “I promise.”

    Trina leaned over and gave the girl a hug. If there’d been any doubt before that Alec and Lana had given up the battle on people getting close to each other—much less touching—they were washed away. Neither one of them said a word.

    “This is all grown-up stuff,” Trina said to the girl. “Don’t you worry, okay? We’ll put you somewhere safe and then all we’re going to do is try to talk to some people. Nothing else. Everything is going to be perfectly fine.”

    Mark was just about to add to Trina’s words of comfort when he heard a noise off in the distance. It sounded like someone singing.

    “Do you hear that?” he whispered.

    The others perked up—especially Alec. His eyes snapped open and he sat up straighter.

    “What?” Trina asked.

    “Listen.” Mark held a finger to his lips and tilted his head toward the distant voice.

    It was faint but definitely there. The sound of a woman singing some type of chant, not as far off as he thought at first. Chills ran up his skin—it brought back the memory of Misty singing as she began to succumb to the illness.

    “What the hell is that?” Alec whispered.

    No one answered; they just kept listening. It was high-pitched and lilting, would almost have been pretty if it didn’t seem so completely out of place. If there really was someone out there singing like that, well … that was just weird. A man joined in, then a few other people, until it sounded like a full-blown chorus.

    “What in the world?” Trina asked. “Is there some kind of church out here or what?”

    Alec leaned forward, a grave look on his face. “I hate to say this, but we need to check that out. I’ll go—you guys stay here and keep quiet. For all I know this is some kind of trap.”

    “I’ll go with you,” Mark said, almost blurting it out. He couldn’t stand just sitting there. Plus, he was madly curious.

    Alec didn’t seem so certain. He looked at Lana and then at Trina.

    “What?” Trina asked him. “You don’t think we womenfolk can handle ourselves? You guys go—we’ll be perfectly fine. Won’t we, Deedee?”

    The little girl didn’t look so well; the singing really seemed to have freaked her out. But she nodded up at Trina and tried her best to smile.

    “Okay, then,” Alec said. “Come on, Mark. Let’s go check it out.”

    Deedee cleared her throat and held her hands out as if she wanted to say something.

    “What is it?” Trina asked her. “Do you know something?”

    The girl nodded vigorously, still with a mask of fear, then burst out talking—saying more than she had in all the time since they’d found her. “The people I lived with. It’s them. I know it’s them. They turned weird, started … doing things. Saying trees and plants and animals are magic. They left me because they said I was … evil.” She broke into a whimper on the last word. “Because I got shot and didn’t get sick.”

    Mark and the others looked at each other—things had just gotten weirder.

    “We better take a look, then,” Lana said. “You need to at least make sure they’re far enough away from us, or not heading our way. But be careful!”

    Alec nodded, seeming anxious to go check it out. He lightly slapped Mark’s shoulder and was about to walk away when Deedee said one last thing.

    “Watch out for the ugly man with no ears.”

    She leaned into Trina’s shoulder and started sobbing. Mark looked at Alec, who shook his head not to press the girl. He gestured to Mark, and without a word, the two headed out into the forest.

    CHAPTER 23

    The singing didn’t stop as they marched through the woods. They tried their best to be quiet, but every once in a while Mark would step on a twig or fallen branch and break it, the crack of wood sounding like a little bomb in the relative silence of the forest. Alec gave him a sharp look each time it happened, as if such an act were the single dumbest thing a human had ever done.

    All Mark could say was “Sorry.” He tried his best to step carefully but he seemed to be drawn to things that made terrible noises.

    There was almost no sign of sunlight left as they crept among the trees, closer and closer to the chorus of creepy chanting. The trees became standing shadows, ominous and tall and pressing. Almost as if they leaned toward Mark no matter where he was standing or walking. And it was harder for him to stay quiet, which drew more reproachful glares from Alec. At least he couldn’t see the expressions as well in the dark. He kept moving, following the old bear’s lead.

    They’d made their way through the woods another few hundred yards when it became obvious that there was a source of light up ahead. It was orange and flickering. A fire. A big one. And the volume of the singing had gotten louder and louder. As had the … intensity. These people were really getting into whatever it was they were doing.

    Alec crept up to a fat, old tree and squatted behind it. Mark was right at his back, doing his best to keep silent. They knelt side by side with plenty of room to spare.

    “What do you think about the things Deedee said?” Mark whispered.

    He must’ve said it too loud, because the man gave him his standard Be quiet look, just visible in the faint light. Then, in a soft voice, he spoke back. “This could very well be the people who left her behind. And they sound like they’ve got scrambled eggs for brains. Now try not to make any noises, would ya?”

    Mark rolled his eyes, but Alec had already turned away and was leaning forward to peek around the edge of the tree trunk. After a few seconds he faced Mark again.

    “I can’t make out all of them,” he said, “but there’s at least four or five yahoos dancing around that fire like they’re trying to call back the dead.”

    “Maybe that’s exactly what they’re doing,” Mark offered. “Sounds like a cult to me.”

    Alec nodded slowly. “Maybe they’ve always been that way.”

    “Deedee said they called her evil. Maybe the virus or whatever it is has made them a lot worse.” A cult with a disease that drove them even crazier. That sounded fun. “Gives me the creeps and I haven’t even seen them yet.”

    “Yeah, we better get closer. I want to get one last glimpse, make sure they’re not something we have to worry about.”

    They bent low and inched out of their hiding spot, slowly walking from tree to tree, Alec checking each time to make sure it was clear to move on to the next one. Mark was proud of himself—he hadn’t made a loud noise in quite a while.

    They continued until they got within a hundred yards or so—the singing was crystal clear and the shadows from the flames circled and flashed in the canopy of branches above them. Mark squatted behind a different tree from Alec this time and leaned his head out to take a look down the long slope.

    The fire roared, at least ten feet wide with its tongues of flame licking far up into the air, almost threatening the lower limbs of the trees surrounding it. Mark couldn’t believe how these goons were risking burning the whole forest down. Especially with how dry everything still was in the aftermath of the sun flares.

    Five or six people were dancing and gyrating around the bonfire, throwing their arms up and bringing them down again, bowing toward the earth and then shuffling to the side, where they started all over again. Mark half expected them to be wearing crazy robes or be flat-out naked, but they wore simple clothes—T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, shorts, tennis shoes. A crowd of a dozen or so others were lined up in two rows on the other side of the fire, singing the weird chant that Mark had been hearing. He didn’t understand a word of it.

    Alec tapped him on the shoulder, making him jump.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire