Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

Restless

Three minutes before the Doors close.

Flore can't keep her eyes off Tim's watch. Every time a number changes, she feels like her heart sinks a little more.

Even though she doesn't know any of the two missing Runners, she feels scared and worried.

What if they have gotten lost?

What if they have run into a Griever?

What if they are...

Flore doesn't dare to finish that thought.

She stares into the concrete hallway behind the Doors. It is completely empty, and there's still no sign of Josiah or George.

Tim seems to become more nervous every second; for as far Flore understands, Tim and Josiah are pretty close friends. He doesn't seem to care much about George, though.

Two minutes before the Doors close.

The small group of Gladers that has gathered in front of the Doors, seems to become even more restless. Flore's nervous eyes flash over the boys.

Some of them are fidgeting with their sleeves or biting their nails, among who Newt, which surprises her. Others don't show that they are worried, but judging by the tension in their shoulders and the way they pinch their jaws on each other, Flore can see that they feel exactly the same as everyone else there.

One minute before the Doors close.

Tim shifts his feet and intertwines his fingers, like he is praying. He presses his thumbs against his forehead.

"Please, make it, please, please, just let him make it..."

The muttered words are barely audible, but they radiate misery.

Flore bites her lower lip to keep herself from screaming. She wants to run into the Maze and find Josiah and George and drag them towards the Glade, even though Alby has made very clear that nobody is allowed to do that.

Thirty seconds.

"Come on, come on," Tim mutters, squeezing his eyes shut.

Flore stares into the corridor, as if she can make the missing Runners appear there by only looking. At the moment that the enormous Doors start to rumble – a sign that they are about to close –, someone stumbles into the hallway.

One of the missing Runners.

Where is the other one?

The Runner's sweaty brown hair is sticking to his forehead, and his face is burning red. He looks utterly exhausted, as if he is on the edge of breaking down.

Flore elbows Tim, who looks up from his quiet praying.

"Look," she says to him, pointing at the Runner.

The Slopper's face twists in horror.

"Josiah!" he yells.

The Runner – Josiah, apparently – looks up and takes another step forward.

That is when Flore realizes that something is wrong.

Apart from the fact that Josiah looks like he can pass out of exhaustion every moment, there is an alarmingly large red stain on his shirt. His hands are pressed against his left side.

The Doors start to creak, and, to Flore's horror, slowly start to shut.

Josiah seems to notice that, too, because he pinches his jaws on each other and starts to run. His face twists in pain with every step, but he still moves quite fast.

He is nearly halfway when he trips over something and falls.

A gasp goes through the group.

Why does nobody do something? Flore wonders helplessly, though she knows the answer very well. Because they are scared. Scared for punishment, scared to get stuck out there. Just scared.

All of them.

"Come on, Josiah!" Tim yells. "You can do it!"

The injured Runner struggles to his feet, but his legs can't hold him, and he falls on his knees. He squeezes his eyes shut in pain.

There is only half a metre between the two closing Doors. The realization hits Flore hard; he is never going to make it. He will get stuck in the Maze, and he will die.

Then, suddenly, the time seems to slow down.

Tim stops shouting. He looks into the concrete corridor, and the way he does that, tells Flore that he is about to go in there. She shakes her head, but Tim dives forward, into the Maze. She would swear that he shouts "Shuck the rules!", but she isn't sure about it.

Feeling like her feet are superglued to the floor, Flore watches how Tim lifts Josiah up and starts to drag him towards the Glade. The Doors slide closer to each other every second.

Forty centimetres between them.

Thirty centimetres.

Twenty.

Tim slips through the small space between the Doors, pushing Josiah forward. At the moment that the two Gladers are standing on the grass again, the Doors slam shut behind them.

Gasping for air and completely out of breath, Josiah leans against the concrete wall. Everyone is too startled to move; they all just stand there, staring at the exhausted Runner.

He squeezes his eyes shut, pressing his hands against the wound in his side. While everyone is listening, four unexpected words come out of his mouth.

"I have... killed... George..."

Then his legs collapse and he falls to the ground.

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