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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Kill Order (Chapter 49)     
  • The Kill Order(Maze Runner Prequel #0.5)(49) by James Dashner
  • The floor creaked with every step he took.

    “Stop and listen for a sec,” Alec said behind him.

    Mark stilled his body and strained his ears. Other than the distant sounds of the chaotic dance taking place down the street, he couldn’t hear a thing. The house was silent.

    “Let’s go top to bottom,” Alec suggested.

    The stairs proved to be too broken to manage. Mark gave up after his foot went completely through the third step.

    Alec motioned toward a door that seemed likely to lead to the basement. “Bag that idea. I don’t hear anything up there. Let’s check it out down below, then move on.”

    Mark carefully removed himself from the stairs and went to the basement door. He gave Alec a confirming look, grabbed the handle and jerked it open. Alec swung his weapon into the gap in case anyone attacked, but nothing happened. A rush of moist, noxious air swept up and over Mark, and he gagged. He had to cough and swallow a couple of times to keep himself from throwing up.

    Alec decided to go first this time, stepping through the doorway and onto the landing. He reached back and pulled his flashlight out of his pack, clicked it on and shined it down the steps. Mark leaned in to see dust motes dancing in the bright beam. Alec was just putting his foot forward to start down when a voice rang out from below.

    “C-c-come any closer and I’ll l-l-light the match.”

    It was a man’s voice, weak and shaky. Alec glanced back at Mark with a questioning look.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Mark caught movement, at the bottom of the steps and gestured toward it with his weapon. Alec shined the light down there to reveal the person who’d spoken, who’d just appeared out of the darkness. He was trembling top to bottom and soaking wet, his dark hair matted to his head and his clothes dripping. Little puddles were already forming on the floor. The man’s face was starkly pale, as if he hadn’t left the basement in weeks. His eyes squinted against the brightness of the flashlight.

    At first Mark wondered if the man was just sweating profusely. Then he wondered if maybe the guy had some kind of busted pipe or groundwater down there. But then he caught a whiff of gasoline or kerosene—some kind of fuel. And then he noticed that the guy had things in his hands, holding them tight to his waist. In one, he held a rectangular box. In the other, a single match.

    “Take one more step and I’ll light it,” the man said.

    CHAPTER 54

    Mark wanted to turn and run, but Alec hadn’t moved yet. He just stood there with his weapon aimed down the stairs at the man with the match.

    “We didn’t come here to hurt you,” Alec said carefully. “We’re just looking for some friends of ours. Is anybody else down there?”

    It seemed as if the man hadn’t heard anything Alec had said. He just continued to stand there, trembling and dripping with fuel. “They’re scared of fire, you know. Everyone is scared of fire, no matter how far your mind has gone. They don’t bother me down here. Not with my matches and gasoline.”

    “Trina!” Mark called out. “Lana! Are you guys here?”

    No one responded, and the man with the match wasn’t fazed by the outburst. “It’s your choice, my new friends. You can take a step toward me and I’ll light the flames that’ll take me away once and for all. Or you can go on your merry way and let me live another day.”

    Alec was slowly shaking his head. He finally started to back away from the steps, pushing against Mark until they were both in the hallway again. Without a word, Alec reached out and slowly closed the door until it clicked softly. Then he turned toward Mark.

    “What kind of world has this become?”

    “A really sick one.” Mark was feeling it, too. Something about seeing that guy doused in fuel, holding a match. For some reason he just seemed to sum things up. “And I doubt its end will be so happy for us. All we can do is find our friends and make sure we die on our own terms.”

    “Well said, son. Well said.”

    Mark and Alec quietly exited the first house and moved on to the next.

    The sounds were louder now. In a crouching run, Alec and Mark had made their way to the home across the street, planning to follow a zigzagging route. A few stragglers noticed them and pointed but moved on quickly enough. Mark hoped their luck would hold and no one would give them too much thought. Although the shiny weapons were bound to ruin that plan.

    They’d just stepped up to the porch of the next house when two small children came running out. Mark’s finger was twitching on the trigger, but relief washed over him when he realized the advancing figures were only kids. They were filthy and had that strange distant look in their eyes. They giggled and ran away, but as soon as they disappeared a large woman came stomping out, screaming something about brats and threatening to tan their hides.

    She didn’t seem to notice the two strangers until after she’d yelled for a few good seconds, and then she only gave them a disapproving look.

    “We’re not crazy in this home,” she said, her face suddenly red with anger. “Not yet, anyway. No need to take my kids. They’re the only things keeping the monsters away.” There was a vacancy in her eyes that chilled Mark to the bone.

    Alec was visibly annoyed. “Look, lady, we don’t care about your kids and we’re certainly not here to cart them off. All we want to do is have a quick look in your home, make sure our friends aren’t in there.”

    “Friends?” the woman repeated. “The monsters are your friends? The ones that want to eat my children?” The vacancy was suddenly replaced by a stark terror that darkened her eyes. “Please … please don’t hurt me. I can give you one of them. Just one. Please.”

    Alec sighed. “We don’t know any monsters. Just … look, just move aside and let us in. We don’t have time.”

    He stepped forward, muscles tensed, ready to use force if necessary, but she scrambled away, almost tripping onto the dead weeds of her yard. Mark looked at her sadly—he’d assumed the monsters were the infected people down the street, but now he realized he was wrong. This woman wasn’t any more right in the head than the last guy they’d found, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she really did think monsters were living under the beds.

    Mark left the woman in the front yard and followed Alec inside only to be stunned by what he saw. The interior looked more like a back alley from one of the worst parts of New York City than a suburban home. Pictures had been drawn—with what looked like black crayon and chalk—all over the walls. Dark, terrifying pictures. Of monsters. Things with claws and sharp teeth and vicious eyes. They were messy, as if they’d been done in a hurry, but some had vivid details. Enough to make the hair on Mark’s arms stand up.

    He gave Alec a grim look and followed the older man past them, to the stairs to the basement, and went down, weapons held at the ready.

    They found more children below—at least fifteen, maybe more. And they were living in filth. Most of them were huddled together in groups, cowering as if they expected some horrible punishment from the new arrivals. They were all dirty and poorly clothed and, by the looks of it, starving. Mark hardly registered the fact that the people he was looking for were nowhere to be seen.

    “We … we can’t leave them here,” Mark said. He’d let go of his weapon, and it hung from the strap on his shoulder. He was dumbfounded. “There’s no way we can leave them here.”

    Alec seemed to sense he wouldn’t be able to make Mark budge on this. The soldier stepped in front of him and spoke gravely.

    “I understand what you’re saying, son. Where you’re coming from. But listen to me. What can we do for these children? Everyone in this godforsaken place is sick, and we don’t have the manpower to get them out. At least they’re … I don’t even know what to say.”

    “Surviving,” Mark said quietly. “I thought surviving was all that mattered, but I was wrong. We can’t leave these kids here.”

    Alec sighed. “Look at me.” When Mark didn’t, Alec snapped his fingers and yelled, “Look at me!”

    Mark did.

    “Let’s go find our friends. After that we can come back. But if we take them now, we’ll have no chance. You hear me? Absolutely zero.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire