Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

Awful Lie

Tim gets jerked out of his sleep by the sound of someone knocking on the door. He didn't even know that he was asleep; he must have cried himself to sleep.

"No!" he shouts to whoever dares to disturb him. "Leave me alone!"

"Tim, it's me," a muffled voice says from the other side of the door. "It's Dave. Please, open up. It talks easier."

Growling, Tim gets to his feet. His back hurts from sitting against the wall all night.

Even though he'd rather be left alone, he is curious about what the Runner wants to tell him. He opens the door.

"What is it, Dave?" he asks, rubbing his eyes.

The other boy shuffles his feet.

"We found Josiah," he begins, but the look on his face shows that it isn't good news.

Tim wants to shake him.

"He isn't dead, is he?" he asks, a horrible fear starting to flow into his body. "Is he?"

Dave swallows difficultly.

"There was a dead boy with him," the Runner says. "Victor, the Greenie. I'm not sure if Josiah is dead, too."

The following couple of minutes pass in a blur. Tim didn't even take the time to put on his normal clothes; he just dashed through the Glade, in his pyjamas, grabbed Clint by the arm and pulled him into the Maze. The older Med-Jack didn't even ask what was going on – he probably could feel that it was bad and that they needed his help.

Dave is running in the front, because he knows the way. With every step, Tim's anxiety and fear grows.

What if Josiah is dead?

He doesn't dare to think about it, so he puts the thoughts out of his head as well as he can and tries to focus on the running, even though he doesn't have to; he is running so fast that he catches up with Dave every now and then.

When they are in the Maze for about twenty minutes, Dave stops. Tim hears him gasp, and he wonders if he even dares to look.

"We're there," the Runner says, looking paler than first.

Tim peeks over Dave's shoulder, and the sight makes him want to burst out in crying.

Two limp bodies are lying next to each other, one of them small, one of them painfully familiar. They are both lying in big puddles of blood. The small boy – this must be Victor – is lying on his back, his stiff fingers clawing at the knife that is sticking out of his chest. Blood is dripping from his mouth.

Tim fights the urge to throw up.

He doesn't dare to look at Josiah.

What if he looks like that, too?

But his eyes involuntarily go to the muscular boy, and new fear makes its way into Tim's head.

Josiah is lying on his side, facing them. His eyes are closed. Half of his face is covered in dried blood, but the visible part is alarmingly pale, because of the blood loss. His shirt, that used to be spotless white, is now dark red.

Tim sniffs, on the edge of crying, as he sees Josiah like that. The usually strong and confident boy is now lying on the ground, dying.

That is when Tim gets pulled out of his frozen fright. He pushes Clint, who is still trying to catch his breath, towards Josiah.

"What are you waiting for?" Tim yells at him, his voice breaking. "Do something!"

The Med-Jack holds up his hands in a gesture of peace.

"Relax," he mutters as he kneels down by the injured boy.

Tim sees that he holds two fingers against Josiah's throat. For a moment, it is completely silent.

"His heart is beating," he then says, making relief flow through Tim's body. "But it's really slow."

Clint gestures at the two other boys. "We need to roll him on his back. Help me."

Dave and Tim walk towards him. Tim grabs Josiah's shoulder, as careful as possible – he doesn't want to hurt him even more.

"Okay, one, two, three," Clint says, and on three, the boys roll Josiah on his back. A horrible splash sounds as the unconscious boy lands in the blood.

Clint frowns.

"Dave, can you get me that knife?" he asks, pointing at the knife in Victor's chest.

The Runner pales, but nods. A couple of seconds and a shivering growl later, he comes back with the blood-covered weapon in his hands.

Clint nods and takes the knife from him, cleaning it with his sleeves. Then he cuts Josiah's shirt open with one simple movement. Tim is too worried to find it amazing.

Carefully, Clint peels the once-white shirt off Josiah's body. What is under the shirt is simply said a ravage.

Stab wounds are scattered across Josiah's whole body, and his chest is alarmingly dent in. Clint frowns again.

"Broken ribs," he then says, using that doctor-tone that both Med-Jacks use sometimes. "I don't know how many. Stab wounds, blood loss... He didn't get stung, though. Odd." He looks up. "I'm going to bandage him here, and then we'll need to get him back to the Glade."

Tim nods, mentally trying to contact Josiah because he doesn't dare to say the words out loud.

Hold on, Josiah.

Hold on. We're going to get you back to the Glade, and then everything is going to be all right.

He doesn't even know if he believes it himself. Then he adds something he is sure about.

I love you.

Tim watches in silence as Clint bandages Josiah's chest and stands up.

"We'll need to carry him," the Med-Jack says, seeming not too happy with the idea.

Dave sticks a finger in the air, as if he is in a classroom and Clint is the teacher.

"Maybe I can go back to get some people with a stretcher," the Runner offers. "Then we don't have to carry him all the way back to the Glade."

"Yeah, good idea," Clint says. "But please hurry; I'm not sure for how long Josiah can hold on."

Dave nods and sprints away, in the direction where they just came from. When he has disappeared from their sight, Clint turns to Tim. The expression on his face is sad and pitying, and Tim has – for the second time that day – the feeling that the boy doesn't have good news.

"Tim," the older Med-Jack says, looking down at Josiah. "I hate to tell you, but... Josiah probably isn't going to make it. He has lost so much blood... Maybe he'll stay alive, but I don't know if he's ever going to wake up again."

Tim bites his lip until he tastes blood. He doesn't want to cry, not here, not now, but he can already feel the tears in his eyes.

Josiah maybe won't wake up again.

Maybe he'll even die.

And if he dies, he'll die thinking that I don't love him, but that's the most awful lie in the entire world. I love him with my whole heart, and it'd destroy me if he dies.

He swallows difficultly, unable to speak, because he knows that his voice will break as soon as he says only one word.

"I know that it's hard," Clint says, sounding lost in his thoughts. "But maybe you shouldn't lost hope. Even after being a Med-Jack for more than one-and-a-half year, even after not being able to save at least ten Gladers, I still believe in miracles."

But Tim would swear that when the Med-Jack smiles at him, the smile looks more like a grimace.

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