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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 25)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(25) by James Dashner
  • “We believe you,” Mark said. “We just want to understand. Please just talk to us, tell us what happened, step by step.” He tried to keep the frustration out of his voice, but he couldn’t. How was he supposed to do this?

    “You’ve made the pain come back,” Jed said tightly, still swaying. His arms were rigid, his elbows sticking straight out as he continued to hold his head in his hands. It looked as if he were trying to crush his own skull. “It hurts so much. I can’t … I have to … You must be from the demons. It’s the only explanation.”

    Mark knew his time was running out. “We’re not, I swear. We’re here because we want to learn from you. Maybe your head is hurting because … you have knowledge that you’re supposed to share with us.”

    Alec dropped his head forward.

    “They came two months ago,” Jed said, his voice distant somehow. “And then the death has come in waves. Taking longer each time. Two days. Five days. Two weeks. A month. And we have people from our own village—people we once called friends—trying to kill us. We don’t understand what the demons want. We don’t understand. We … don’t … understand. We dance, we sing, we make sacrifices.…”

    He fell to his knees, then collapsed to the ground, still pressing his hands against his head. He let out a long, pain-filled moan.

    Mark had reached the end of his patience. This was complete lunacy as far as he was concerned, and there was no way to deal with it rationally. He looked over at Alec, and he could tell by the fire in the man’s eyes that he was ready to take another shot at escape. Their captors were still kneeling, faces lowered in some kind of sick worship of the man writhing in pain. It was now or never.

    Mark was just about to consider his next move, trying to focus over the moans and groans coming from Jed, when new sounds arose in the woods behind them. People yelling and screaming, laughing. Making birdcalls and other animal noises. Accompanied by the crunch of footsteps on the dry undergrowth of the forest, the creepy sounds continued, getting louder as the people got closer. Then, more alarmingly, the noises spread in a circle around the clearing of the bonfire until it was completely surrounded by a chorus of caws and cuckoos and roars and hysterical laughter. There had to be several dozen people making the noises.

    “What now?” Alec said with clear disgust.

    “We warned you about them,” the woman said from where she knelt. “They used to be our friends, our family. Now the demons have taken them and all they want is to torment us, to kill us.”

    Jed suddenly reared up on his knees again, screaming at the top of his lungs. Violently, he jerked his head down, then left and right, as if he were trying to knock something loose from his skull. Mark couldn’t help but scoot backward, crab-walking until the rope around his neck grew taut. The other end was still in the hands of one of the kneeling men.

    Jed let out a piercing, horrific sound that cut off all the new ones coming from the forest around them.

    “They’ve killed me!” he yelled, the words ripping from his throat. “The demons … finally … killed me!”

    His body went rigid, his arms stiff at his sides, and he fell over, a last breath rushing from his mouth. His body stilled, and blood began to seep from his nose and mouth.

    CHAPTER 26

    Mark was completely frozen, staring at Jed’s body lying in an unnatural twisted position. In all his life, Mark was pretty sure he’d never endured such a strange hour as he had since arriving at this camp of madness. And as if it couldn’t have gotten any stranger, now crazy people surrounded them out in the woods, making animal sounds and laughing hysterically.

    Mark slowly looked over at Alec. The man was stunned into silence, motionless as he stared at Jed.

    The movement and noises in the woods continued. Catcalls and whistles and cheering and hooting. The cricks and cracks of footsteps.

    The men who’d been kneeling—and before that beating up Mark and Alec—stood up, looking at their ropes as if they weren’t quite sure what to do with them. They glanced at their prisoners, then at each other, then back at the ropes. The two lines of singers behind them were doing much the same, searching about like someone should be telling them how to react. It was as if Jed had been some kind of link they all shared, and now that it had been severed, his followers were confused and unable to function.

    Alec acted first, clearly wanting to take advantage of the situation. He began fumbling with the rope tied around his neck, finally getting his fingers underneath it enough to work it loose. Mark was scared that would snap the men out of their dazed state and cause them to retaliate, but they actually dropped their ends of the ropes in response. Mark immediately followed Alec’s example and worked at his own noose, finally getting it loose. He pulled it up and around his head until he was free, just as Alec was slamming his to the ground.

    “Let’s get out of this place,” the older man grumbled.

    “But what about their friends out there?” Mark asked. “They have us surrounded.”

    He let out a big sigh. “Come on. We’ll just have to fight our way through if they try to stop us. Leave them to these yahoos.”

    The woman who’d first spoken to them came over, her gait hurried and her face filled with worry. “All we’ve done is try to keep the demons at bay. Nothing more. And look how you’ve ruined our efforts. How could you lead our enemies here?”

    She winced after saying it and stumbled a step backward, holding a hand up to her temple. “How could you?” she whispered.

    “I’m really sorry,” Alec grumbled as he stepped around her and moved toward the fire. There was a long piece of wood that was half in and half out of the roaring flames. He picked up the unburnt side and held the thing up like a torch. “This ought to make ’em think twice before they try anything. Come on, kid.”

    Mark looked back at the woman, who was obviously experiencing head pain, and things began to click into place.

    “I said come on!” Alec yelled at him.

    In that moment, dozens of people came tearing out of the surrounding woods with fists raised in the air, yelling. There were women and men and children, all with the same crazed expression of rage mixed with glee. Mark—sure he’d never seen anything like it—sprang into action, following Alec’s lead and grabbing a log out of the fire. Flames erupted from its tip as he swung it through the air, and he held it in front of him like a sword.

    The wave of attackers crashed into the rows of singers, jumping on them with animalistic cries of battle. Two men leaped into the air and straight into the bonfire. As Mark watched in horror, their clothes and hair ignited. Screams tore from their throats as they stumbled out of the flames, but it was too late. Engulfed and burning alive, they ran out into the woods, sure to set the whole forest on fire. Mark turned back to the chanting villagers. They were being beaten and choked, he was surrounded by chaos—it was too much to take in.

    “Mark!” Alec screamed from nearby. “Not sure if you noticed, but we’re being attacked!”

    “Please,” a woman cried behind Mark, “take me with you.”

    He whipped around to see the lady who’d ordered them beaten, and almost burned her with the end of his torch. She seemed transformed, meek. But before he could respond they were suddenly in the middle of what seemed like a thousand-person fistfight. Mark was pushed and shoved. To his surprise, he realized that it wasn’t just the new people versus the old. Many of the attackers were actually pummeling each other—he saw a woman fall into the fire, her screams filling the air.

    Someone grabbed Mark by the shirt and yanked him to the side. He was just about to rear back with his weapon when he realized it was Alec.

    “You have a knack for trying to get yourself killed!” the man yelled.

    “I didn’t know where to start or what to do!” Mark countered.

    “Sometimes you just act!” He let go of Mark’s shirt and they took off in the same direction—up the slope, away from the fire. But there were people all around them.

    Mark swung his torch in front of him as he ran. But then someone tackled him from behind; he dropped the burning log and landed facefirst in the dirt. An instant later he heard a thump and a cry of pain and the body flew off of him. He looked up to see Alec bringing his foot down from a kick.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire