“What happened?” Nia murmured to Rachel. Rachel turned to face Michelle and Nia. Nia had once again recovered her mask, hiding any emotional conflict. A lump formed in Rachel’s throat, making it hard to talk or swallow. But she knew she had to tell them. They deserved to know.
“She-she sacrificed herself for me,” Rachel said. There. She’d said it. Two pairs of stunned brown eyes stared back at her. Realization crept on her. She had killed Amy. It was her fault Amy was dead. If she’s noticed the button before, pushed it a second before, Amy would be still alive, hugging her two friends in relief, hugging the rest of the remaining girls, leading them down this dark corridor. Tears spilled out of the corners of her eyes. “It’s my fault she was dead.” The story came tumbling out. The last word. The button. The Grievers. Amy’s pause in shooting to point out the button. Her agonized scream. “It’s my fault she’s dead,” She repeatedly miserably. “I killed her.” She tensed, waiting for an angry rebuke, a punch, something.
“No you didn’t,” Michelle said firmly. Rachel looked up. “She sacrificed herself for a reason. It was her own choice. You didn’t tell her to. Don’t blame yourself. What matters now is that you make it count. Don’t go dying soon.” Rachel finally gained control of her tears and nodded, wiping her streaming eyes on her sleeve. Nia nodded in agreement.
“It was Amy’s choice.”
They entered a room, nothing in there but a series of screens sitting on desks.
“What is this?” Michelle asked. A large screen was glowing, showing a picture of Amelia.
Full Name Classified
Property of W.I.C.K.E.D.
Appearance: Blonde hair, grey eyes, tanned skin, slim build, 5’4
Current Status: Dead
Summary: Subject displays admirable leadership skills despite youth and is mature. Serves as positive role model for other subjects. Tends to sometimes be sarcastic but good at hiding emotions. Courageous, excellent intelligence above standards, kind, sympathetic. Is tough when needed.
Brain Functions: Depressed. Constantly having suicidal thoughts. Desperate to escape the Maze. Hides how she feels as to not affect others.
Notes: If survived, Subject B3’s role in the second stage would have been the Glue.
“Depressed? Suicidal thoughts?” Michelle stared wide-eyed at the screen. Nia was doing the same. Both wore expressions of disbelief and puzzlement on their faces. This was news to them. “She...never told us.”
“Well, it does point out that she bottled up her emotions,” Nia said.
“Let’s move on,” Harriet said. They took one last glance at the screen and kept moving.
They entered a huge room. On the other side of it were glass panels. Behind each of them was a man or woman, dressed in white, staring at them unemotionally.
“What are they doing?” Aris mumbled to Rachel. Rachel shrugged.
“Are those the Creators?” Michelle asked. Nia nodded, and a mask of rage Rachel had never seen before settled on Michelle’s face. “You killed my friend! You killed our friends!” She screamed. “We should just kill the lot of you and see how you like it! Or at least punch you in your ugly shuck faces!”
Secretly, Rachel partially hoped that Michelle would punch them when footsteps rang out. It was a woman, accompanied by a girl who wore an overly large sweatshirt, the hood up, keeping her face hidden.
“I would expect more maturity from someone who just completed the Maze Trials.” Her tone was demeaning. Michelle clenched her fists, and was probably about to dive at the woman in a rage, but Nia grabbed her arm.
“No. Don’t! We don’t know what they might do.”
The woman nodded, as if approving the wisdom of Nia’s interception. “Welcome back. Over two years, and so few are dead. Amazing.”
Rachel felt her mouth drop open and her face redden is anger.
“Excuse me?” Nia said, her voice tight with rage.
“Everything has gone to plan. Although we expected a few more of you to give up along the way.” She glanced at her companion, then took off the hood. The girl looked up, her face wet with tears. Every Glader drew in a disbelieving breath.
“What’s she doing here?” Harriet asked sharply.
“You’re all safe now. Please, be at ease,” The woman said, ignoring the question.
“Beth,” Nia said. “What’s going on?”
The girl looked at Nia for a second, then shook her head, not responding. She was acting strange. Worse than before. What was going on?
The woman nodded. “One day you’ll be grateful for what we’ve done with you. I can only promise this, and trust your minds to accept it. If you don’t, then this whole thing was a mistake. Dark time.” She paused, then stepped back. “There is, of course, one final Variable.”
Rachel focused back on Beth. The girl’s entire body trembled, her face stark white, making is wet, red eyes stand out like bloody splotches on a paper. Her lips were pressed together, the skin around them twitching, as if she were trying to speak but couldn’t.
“Beth?” Rachel asked, trying to suppress her hatred.
“They’re..controlling..me. I don’t-” Her eyes bulged, and she put one hand to her throat, as if she was choking. “I-have-to.” She choked out. Then she stilled, her body calming and relaxing.
It was like Michelle in bed in the Glade, choking herself after she went through the Changing. It was the same type of thing. What did it mean?
Rachel didn’t have time to think about it. Beth reached behind herself, pulling something long and shiny from her back pocket. It was a wicked-looking dagger, gripped tightly in her hand. With unexpected speed, she reared back and threw the knife straight at Rachel. The blade windmilled, and it was as if someone were controlling her too. She was aware of what was happening, but she couldn’t move, couldn’t dodge the blade, although she tried, although she could have. Then, with a sickening thunk, it slammed into her chest. She suddenly gained control of her body again and screamed, falling to the floor.
“Rachel!” Aris shouted, pulling the girl’s shaking body into his arms. “Rachel!”
She shook uncontrollably, bleeding, wetting Aris’s hands. Her eyes had rolled up into her sockets, and blood started to trickle out of her nose and mouth.
Then she stopped convulsing, and stilled. Her eyes slid back to her normal state, focusing on Aris, desperately clinging to life. “Aris…”
She completely stilled, life draining from her eyes. Her body slackened, went limp, her eyes staring lifelessly at the ceiling.
Rage exploded into Aris, something he’d never felt before. He dove at Beth, screaming, trapped her under his body, and began punching. He wasn’t sure whose screams he heard-his or Beth’s or the Glader’s behind him.
He beat her, releasing every bit of rage he’d ever felt, releasing his rage for his best friend, releasing his rage for everyone who’d suffered, releasing his rage for all of the other girls who’d died. Countless others. Ivy. Hat. Cleo. Vicky. Amelia.
Then Harriet and Sonya were dragging him away, and he could feel the hatred pouring out as he stared at Beth. Then it was gone. Grief consumed him.
“No!” He started to sob. “No!”
Nia put her hand on his shoulder, but he shook it away.
“She was my best friend!” He screamed, his voice laced with something that sounded like lunacy. “My best friend!” Then he cried, cried like he’d never done before, his racking sobs echoing. Michelle bent over him, silent tears streaming down her face, and he knew that she was feeling what he was feeling-but for her Amelia, not Rachel. Her own fallen best friend. She wrapped her arms around him.
He finally pulled himself together, reeled all of his emotions back in painfully. He did it for the girls, because for all of their sakes, they needed to move on.
The woman broke the silence. “All things happen for a purpose,” she said. “You must understand this.”
Aris opened his mouth to give an angry retort, but never got the chance. A commotion broke out from the entrance in which the woman had come. She visibly panicked, her face draining of blood as she turned to the door. Several men and women in grimy jeans and soaking-wet coats burst in, screaming and yelling words to each other. They waved guns-some rifles, others pistols. Aris watched as they tackled the woman, pointing their guns at her, shooting. Then she lay dead, a bloody mess.
A man ran up to the Gladers. His face was young, but full of wrinkles.
“We don’t have time to explain!” He called. “Just follow me and run like your life depends on it. Because it does.” The man motioned to his companions, and they sprint back to the exit.
“Let’s go!” Harriet started running after them. They didn’t have any other choices but to follow. They exited the building, Aris enjoying the rain. Suddenly, a woman slammed into him, knocking him to the ground.
“Gonna save us all!” She cackled at him, spit flying from her mouth. “Gonna save us from the Flare!”
The man tossed the woman off Aris, cocked his gun at her. “Stay down or I’ll shoot you!” He turned to Aris. “Go! Run!” Aris scrambled to his feet, so scared that his body shook, and ran to the bus, climbing on. The man leapt in, climbed into the driver’s seat, and started it up. the bus started to roll forwards.
“Wait!” Aris shrieked. The woman, her eyes lit with lunacy or terror-Aris couldn’t tell which- was standing in front of the bus, her mouth open. But no one heard or listened to him, and us the bus lurched as it slammed into the woman’s body. Then the driver gunned the engine, and plowed forward into the rain-swept night.