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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 24)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(24) by James Dashner
  • Mark stared at her, his mind spinning. He had a sudden feeling of foreboding. The more this woman spoke, the more he felt it. “Deedee told us that the darts came from the sky. We saw the dead bodies in your little settlement. The same thing happened to us. All we’re trying to do is find out why.”

    “That girl brought the evil upon us. Her evil ways led to it. Why do you think we left her behind? If you’ve rescued her and brought her near to us, then you’ve done something more horrible than you could dream.”

    “What is this load of horse crap?” Alec finally choked out. “We’ve got bigger problems than you can dream, lady.”

    “You need to let us go,” Mark quickly added before Alec could say anything more. The man might have been the toughest guy in their group, but he was the last choice to be a negotiator. “We’re just trying to find a safe place to live. Please. I promise we’ll just walk away. We won’t tell anyone about you and we won’t bring Deedee anywhere close if you don’t want us to. We can take care of her.”

    “It saddens me how little you grasp,” the woman responded. “Truly.”

    Mark wanted to scream but forced himself to stay composed. “Look, let’s take turns explaining things to each other, then. Would that be fair? I want to understand. And I really, really need you to understand us. Can you just talk instead of treating us like animals?” When she didn’t respond, he grasped for something to keep the conversation going. “So … how about we start from the beginning? How we got to these mountains.”

    She had a wide, vacant look in her eyes now. “I always believed that the demons would try to be nice when they came for us. You tricked us into bringing you down here, tying you up. So you could be nice and trick us again. Demons. All of you.” She gave a stiff nod to one of the men standing near Mark and Alec.

    The man drew his foot back and kicked Mark in the ribs. Pain exploded in his side and he cried out, unable to help himself. The man kicked him again, this time in the back, right in the kidney. A deep ache washed through Mark, and tears stung his eyes as he cried out even louder.

    Alec protested. “Stop it, you sorry son of a—” His words were cut off when one of his captors reached down and punched him in the face.

    “Why are you doing this?” Mark yelled. “We’re not demons! You people have lost your minds!” Another kick pierced him in the ribs, the pain unbearable. He balled up, wrapped his arms around himself. Prepared for the continued onslaught, knowing he had no chance of escape.

    “Stop.”

    The word rumbled through the air from the other side of the fire, the deep, bellowing voice of a man. The men beating Mark and Alec immediately jumped back from them and knelt down, their faces lowered. The woman also got to her knees and looked at the ground.

    Mark, still wincing from the pain, straightened out his legs, trying to see who had spoken the simple but effective command. He caught movement through the flames and followed it as a man stepped into view and approached him. When he was within a few feet, he stopped, and Mark’s eyes traced a path from his booted feet, up his denim-clad legs, his tight plaid shirt, to his face, which was hideously scarred, almost inhuman. It made Mark want to look away, but he didn’t let himself. He matched gazes with the disfigured stranger, staring into those piercing, wounded eyes.

    The man had no hair. And he had no ears.

    CHAPTER 25

    “My name is Jedidiah,” the man said. His lips were yellow and malformed, twisted to one side. He had a strange lisp, and there was a … tonelessness to his voice. “But my followers call me Jed. You will call me Jed, because I can see that you’ve been mistreated and you are now my friends. Is this understood?”

    Mark nodded, but all Alec did was grunt something unintelligible. Defiant to the end, the old soldier had sat up when their attackers had ordered the two of them to lie on their backs. But the men who’d been beating them just moments earlier were all kneeling as if in prayer. Mark sat up, too, hoping there would be no consequence. If anything, Jed looked pleased.

    “Very good,” the man said. “It looks like we’re finally making some kind of peace.” He walked over and sat down between them and the fire, the flames at his back. Their flickering light made the outline of his head appear wet and glistening, almost as if it were melting all over again. Melting. That was what Mark had concluded had happened to the poor guy.

    “Did the sun flares do that to you?” he asked.

    Jed chuckled for a few seconds, but there was nothing pleasant or cheerful about the sound. More like disturbing. “It always tickles my funny bone when someone refers to the demon plague that way. When it occurred, yes, I thought it was merely a celestial event that happened to take place in Earth’s path. Coincidence. Misfortune. Bad luck. Those are words that went through my head at the time.”

    “And now you think it was big bad demons raining from the sky?” Alec asked, his tone making it clear what a crackpot idea he thought it was. Mark shot him a glance and felt awful. Blood covered the man’s face, and welts and bruises had already appeared from the brutal beating he’d been given.

    “It’s happened twice now,” Jed replied, showing no sign that he’d noticed Alec’s sarcasm. “Both times it came from the heavens—once from the sun, once from the ships. We think they may visit annually, to punish us for becoming lax and to remind us of what we need to become.”

    “Twice … sun and ships,” Mark repeated. “So the sun flares and then the darts from the Berg?”

    Jed’s head snapped right and left, then focused on Mark again. What in the world?

    “Yes, twice,” the man said as if what he’d just done was totally normal. “And again, it both saddens and humors me that you don’t see the importance of the events. It means your mind hasn’t evolved yet to be able to see them for what they really are.”

    “Demons,” Mark said, almost rolling his eyes before he stopped himself just in time.

    “Demons. Yes, demons. They burned my face, melted it into what you see today. That way I can never forget my calling. And then came the little arrows from the ships, filled with their hatred. It’s been two months now, and we still mourn those who lost their lives that day. It’s why we build the fires and sing the songs and dance the dance. And we fear those from our village who decided not to join us. They work with the demons, undoubtedly.”

    “Wait, two months?” Alec asked. “What do you mean, two months?”

    “Yes,” Jed replied slowly, as if talking to a confused child. “We count the days solemnly, every one. It’s been two months and three days.”

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Mark said. “It couldn’t have been that long. It happened to us just a few days ago.”

    “I don’t like it … when people doubt my words,” Jed said, his tone changing drastically in the middle of his sentence. It suddenly turned threatening. “How can you sit there and accuse me of lying? Why would I lie about such a thing? I’ve tried to make peace with you, give you a second chance in this life, and this is how you repay me?” His voice had risen in volume with every passing word until he was shouting, his body trembling. “It … it makes my head hurt.”

    Mark could tell Alec was about to explode, so he quickly reached over and squeezed his arm. “Don’t,” he whispered. “Just don’t.” Then he returned his attention to Jed. “No, listen, please. It’s not like that. We just want to understand. Our village had the … arrows from the ships rain down on us less than a week ago. So we assumed the same about you. And … you said that people died the day it happened. We saw bodies of people who seemed to have died more recently. Just help us understand.”

    Mark had the feeling that there was some important information to be learned from these people. He didn’t think the man was lying about the time frame. There was something here.

    Jed had raised his hands to place them where his ears should’ve been on his head and was slowly swaying from side to side. “People died right away. Then others later. More suffering as time passed. More dying. Our village split into factions. All the demons’ work.” He started moaning, almost chanting.

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