The following days were quite peaceful compared to all of what happened recently. I was running every morning and evening, fighting with Minho and sometimes Alvi, working in the garden or helping in the kitchen. I was avoiding the infirmary for understandable reasons. And as Doc’ said, I came too often.
Newt was back to being his old self with me. None of us talked about the kiss, but it seemed like all the infirmary nightmare had been forgotten.
There was only 1 person I didn’t feel comfortable around –except Gal’ and his friend, who I was totally avoiding-. Spider.
He kept joining our little group for diner. He was funny and got along well with everyone. It had no reasons, but the discussion we had in the infirmary about Newt was strange. I didn’t think he was lying, but I didn’t want to think he said the truth neither. I could have asked Newt but I didn’t want to re open this past. I was not sure how he would react.
Spider hadn’t made any more comments about that but I could feel his eyes on Newt and I sometimes and it made me feel uncomfortable.
This feeling got back to me for the 100th times and I suddenly turn my eyes on him.
I am becoming paranoid in this small space.
He was in the middle of a conversation with Doc’ and not paying any attention to me.
“Say, how did you guys became runners?” I asked Newt and Minho at dinner.
“Hum I don’t really know. I am a fast runner and Gal’ and Alvi decided to put me in I guess.” Answered Minho.
“That’s it? No test or competition?” I asked, surprised by how easy it was.
“Nope! But if they had put some in place, I would still have won.” Minho said while clapping his torso like a gorilla, making me laugh.
“It also depends on your stamina and memory.” Added Newt.
“What do you mean?” I asked
For the stamina part it was obvious. How would the Runner make it further in the labyrinth if they needed to take a break every 5 minutes? It was the memory part that was making me wonder.
“This is a maze outside, Midget. It means that we don’t know where the bloody exit is. The Runners are trying to figure out a way to escape. But we have to come back and to try all of the possibilities. So the memory …” Newt explained.
“…is the only thing who brings you back to us or to the exit.” I completed, finally getting it.
It made sense. Especially in a maze.
“What does it look like?” I asked, curious.
Newt and Minho exchanged a glance and I grew tense. It seemed like it was not an appropriate conversation to have at dinner.
“Sorry,” I apologized without really understanding why. It seemed the best thing to do.
“Ooooooye! What are you guys doing?” Interrupted Spider.
Even if I was paranoid towards him, right now, I was thankful for his interruption.
He let himself fall to the floor, sitting between Newt and I.
“Nothing much. What’s up?” Asked Newt.
He also looked relieved by the arrival of the Newbie.
“Not much. But I heard that Midget is letting his ass get kicked by Minho every day, without getting tired of it. I had to see if that was true.” Said Spider, a bit too enthusiast.
“Hey I am starting to be able to defend myself!” I clamed outraged.
“Ahahah, in your dreams Midget!” Laughed Minho, before I throw my elbow in his stomach.
“Aaah! It hurts!” He said while rolling on the floor, holding his stomach and laughing without stop. Obviously my attacks didn’t even hurt him.
“Oh come on!” I sighed with a smile. I couldn’t resist Minho’s tomfoolery.
“Oh guys, I had a question!” Said Spider when we all had calmed down.
“With the …I mean with what happened, I heard that you might need a new runner. After all you always run by two and, well, Minho needs a partner right?” He asked lightly.
The atmosphere grew tense immediately. That’s true, Frank, who tried to kill me, was actually Minho’s partner. Which means one spot just open.
Obvious to his surroundings, Spider kept going.
“By the way, what happened to this guy now? Do we have some remedy or do we have to wait for him get better?” asked Spider.
“I’m going.” Interrupted Minho and suddenly taking off.
Frank was his partner. I knew he was feeling guilty even if there were no reasons for that.
I watched Newt who was leaving after him, ignoring Spider and I. He knew how to talk to Minho. I didn’t think I should follow them so I just stayed next to Spider.
“No seriously, what’s going to happen to him? I don’t want to be insensitive, but he tried to kill you after all. If we keep him, who knows what he will do next? I don’t know for you, but I don’t really want to wake up to find him eating me alive.” Asked Spider again.
I shivered, remembering the black and hungry eyes staring at me, the wide open mouth, the teeth ….
“Spider! They will fix it!” I shut him up.
It was a bit too loud to be polite but I couldn’t let him remind me of what could have happened.
“Sorry, I just don’t think that it is a good topic to discuss right now.” I said while standing.
I didn’t feel like being alone but couldn’t stand to stay next to Spider who didn’t know how and when to stop.
Not knowing where to go, my steps naturally took me back to my hut. There were some ligths on so I entered. I cowardly felt reassured by someone’s presence.
I discovered it was Nigel.
“Hey.” I greet him while entering.
He throw a glance at me before going back to his book.
“You have a book?” I said too surprise to get the message that he wanted to have some silence.
“…..obviously.” answered Nigel, laconically.
“How…where…?” I asked.
“It was here when I arrived. There are a few of them all around the camp.” He answered without getting his eyes away of his book.
“Oh….” I just said.
I climbed in my hammock. There were something comforting at the smell of the candle and the sound of pages being turned. Fast enough, the discomfort that was in my stomach since Spider’s question started to calm down.
“Nigel…” I asked.
“Hum?” He mumbled.
“What happened to Frank?” I asked fixing the roof above me.
Only the silence answered me for a while.
“He got outcast.” Nigel answered softly, understanding I was not asking how he turned like this but what happened since then.
“Outcast?” I repeated, not sure what he meant.
“There is no remedy. Once you have the venom in you, you slowly change into a killing machine, only walking for human flesh. There is no way to get them back. We tried.” He said, pained, remembering old memories.
“When you were at the infirmary, they throw him into the Maze, before the door closed.” Nigel explained again.
“Wh…. You mean he is out there? Alone and in the middle of this grievers?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“He is not Frank anymore. He is not human. He will kill anyone coming close to him. The only thing we can do is to leave him a chance to find the exit and find help out there. That is all we can. This is mercy.” Nigel said, his face emotionless.
But at the same time, there were so much pain in his voice that I couldn’t even protest. We both knew that he will never find the exit in his state, only the grievers. Maybe it would be mercy, but that will be the end of him.
Strangely enough, I couldn’t get a lot of sleep that night.
Tired of turning in my hammock, I stood up. The sun was starting to rise anyway. I grabbed my shoes and went for my usual run. It was unusually hot outside and soon enough I got all sweaty. The effort was taking all of my attention and emptying my mind, which was the best I could hope for after that night of thinking of Franck. My body was protesting but I didn’t listen and start running. My stamina was better than before but I needed more than building my body right now. I didn’t want to stop running for a while.
I didn’t react when a familiar presence got next to me.
“You’re quite early today.” Greeted Newt, running next to me.
“Yay, didn’t get a lot of sleep.” I said without slowing down
We kept running in silence.
“How is Minho?” I asked.
“He is ok. It was just not a good memory.” He answered evasively, summing up last night pretty well.
“Yay, tell me about it.” I said while slowing down.
We slew down until we were walking. My body hurt everywhere, but it was a good pain, it made me feel in control of all the muscles in my body and satisfied. Now I would kill for a shower to finish the process.
“Want to go to the lake?” I asked.
“What?” Newt jumped off surprise and his cheeks grew red.
“Ha? What sort of reaction is that?” I laughed. “I will keep these clothes and change in new ones after you perv’! “
“I’m not a bloody p….” he grew red.
“Come on, let’s go!” I said, grabbing the clothes I left on the grass when I started running.
It was hot and we still had a good hour before anyone started to wake up anyway. I needed this. Without waiting for him, I rushed to the lake.
I threw my clean clothes on the rocks next to the water, took off my shoes and socks and hesitated. I said I will keep my clothes but who will go in water with a pant and tee shirt? Come on, underwear will be a perfect swim suit and anyway, I had bandages all over my torso. Not that there were much to see anyway. Without thinking more, I took off my pant and tee shirt and threw myself in the water.
The cold water slapped my body all over. It was delicious, making me feel all refreshed and brand new. I stayed under the water for few seconds before getting back to the surface to gap some air. I laughed, just happy of that moment of relaxation.
I observed Newt arriving between the trees. He was not red anymore.
“I can’t believe you are doing this.” He sighted again.
“Oh come on, I did it a hundred times since I’m here. I need to have fun too!” I protested.
“What if someone come?” Newt asked, worried.
“Nobody come at that time.” I explained. I knew that for a fact since it was the only time I could enjoy the lake since my arrival here.
“Yay except us.” He smirked, showing he found my reasoning totally stupid.
“Even if someone come up, I will go hide behind the trees and wait until they leave.” I explained, trying to reassure him.
“What a bloody excuse is that?” He clearly didn’t bite my excuse.
“Come on! Let me just relax ok? It had been a long time since I last come here.” I said without mentioning it was since Frank. He got it anyway.
“Can’t believe you.” He sighed.
Newt started to take his shoes off.
“Yay!” I said victorious, clapping my hands.
“Turn around.” He said.
“Turn around!” Newt repeated.
“What? Come on Newt, I am living in the middle of men. And they are not really bashful. I saw more than I wanted.” I said, surprised that he was prude.
“Never mind, turn the bloody heel around!” He shouted at me.
“Ok ok mylady!” I joked before turning my back to him
I heard him taking off his clothes. Even if I was pushing him, I felt my cheeks burning. I let my body go to the water until it reached the top of my cheeks. A splash noise echoed.
“Can I turn now?” I asked with sarcasms, hiding my real feeling.
“Yay. And just so it’s clear, I still have my underpants!” He exclaim before I could say anything.
I just laughed and turn back before splashing some water to him.
“Wha…you’re looking for a fight?” he shouted.
I just threw more water at him.
“Bloody Hell, no way you’re winning that one!” he shouted, laughing.
We started to fight each other, throwing water in every direction. I couldn’t stop laughing. It had been an eternity I didn’t had fun like this. Out of breath we finally stopped and just chill out, swimming and splashing.
“Newt….” I started.
“Hum?” he asked, totally relaxed now.
“I want to be in.” I said.
“In what?” He asked, looking at me puzzled.
I took a deep breath, it was not going to be easy.
“I want to be a Runner.” I said.