The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #5)(12)


by James Dashner

“Oh.” It came out of Thomas’s mouth before he could stop it.

“Hey there, son,” Leavitt replied, as cheerful as he’d ever been. “We’ve got a big surprise for you this afternoon, and I think you’ll like it.”

Thomas stared at him, suddenly dizzy. Hearing those words had triggered such a strong moment of déjà vu that he thought he might still be sleeping.

“Okay,” he said, trying to hide his discomfort. Any change in his daily schedule was welcome. “What is it?”

Dr. Leavitt had an odd, nervous smile. “We—the Psychs,” the man said through a shifty grin, “have decided it’s time for you to have some interaction with others. We’re, um, going to start you off with Teresa. How does that sound? Would you like to meet her and spend some time with her? Maybe things will go a little better than your first, uh, unofficial meeting.” His smile grew bigger, but it didn’t touch his eyes.

It had been a long, long time since Thomas had felt anything like what burned inside him at that moment. He wanted to meet Teresa more than anything else in the world.

“Yes,” he said, “absolutely. I think I’d like that very much.”

During the walk, that strange déjà vu came over him again, as if he’d made this exact same walk with the exact same purpose before. The man guided him into a small office on his floor, the only furniture a desk with nothing on it, a couple of chairs on either side. The girl named Teresa was already sitting in one of the chairs, and she gave Thomas a very shy smile.

The feeling hit him even stronger than before, almost making him stumble. Everything about the episode—the room, Teresa, the lighting—felt so familiar that it seemed impossible that it was happening for the first time. Confusion clouded his mind.

“Have a seat,” Leavitt said, gesturing impatiently.

Thomas tried to compose himself. He sat, and the man stepped back out into the hallway, pulling the door almost completely shut. “We thought it was time we let you guys have a chitchat,” he said, then added with a quick smile, “Enjoy,” and closed the door. There was another strong wave of familiarity.

Thomas couldn’t stop staring at where the man had been standing moments before, too embarrassed to turn his attention to Teresa. He felt so awkward—a few minutes ago he’d been excited; now he was two seconds from getting up and running away, baffled by the strange rush of feelings. Finally he shifted in his chair, forcing his gaze to flick to her, and found that she was staring at him. Their eyes met.

“Hey.” It was the best he could do.

“Hi,” Teresa replied. She gave another shy smile. A smile Thomas could swear he’d seen at some point before today, in this very room.

But now wasn’t the time to dwell on what might have happened—he had all the time in the world to think about the weirdness later. He motioned around him. “Why did they put us in here?”

“I don’t know. They wanted us to meet and talk, I guess.”

She hadn’t gotten his point—he wondered if maybe that was her attempt at sarcasm. “How long have you lived here?”

“Since I was five.”

Thomas looked at her, tried to guess her age, gave up. “So…”

“So four years,” she said.

“You’re only nine?”

“Yeah. Why? How old are you?”

Thomas wasn’t sure he knew the answer to that question. He figured that was close enough. “Same. You just seem older is all.”

“I’ll be ten soon. Haven’t you been here just as long?”

“Yeah.”

Teresa shifted in her seat, pulled one of her legs under her body and sat on it. Thomas didn’t think it looked particularly comfortable but loved that she seemed a little more at ease. The same was true for him—the more they spoke, the more that disorienting pulse of déjà vu retreated to the background.

“Why do they keep some of us separate?” she asked. “I can hear other kids screaming and laughing all the time. And I’ve seen the big cafeteria. It’s gotta feed hundreds.”

“So they bring your food to your room, too?”

Teresa nodded. “Three times a day. Most of it tastes like a toilet.”

“You know what a toilet tastes like?” He held his breath, hoping it wasn’t too soon for a joke.

Teresa didn’t miss a beat. “Can’t be worse than the food they give us.”

Thomas let out a genuine laugh that felt great. “Heh. You’re right.”

“There must be something different about us,” Teresa said, suddenly getting serious. It threw Thomas a bit. “Don’t you think?”

Thomas gave his best impression of an intelligent, thinking nod. He didn’t want to give away that the idea had never occurred to him. “I guess. There has to be a reason we’re kept alone. But it’s hard to guess what when we don’t even know why we’re here.” He frowned on the inside, hoped it didn’t show on the outside. He’d said the word guess twice, and the whole thing had sounded stupid.

Teresa didn’t seem to think so. “I know. Is your life pretty much school stuff from the wake-up to lights-out?”

“Just about.”

Teresa nodded, then said almost absently, “They keep telling me how smart I am.”

“Me too. It’s weird.”

“I think it all has something to do with the Flare. Did your parents catch it before WICKED took you?”

All the joy Thomas had started allowing himself to feel came to a grinding halt. He suddenly saw his dad, drunk with rage, his mom saying goodbye to him when he wasn’t even five years old. He tried to shut the vision out.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said.

“Why not?” Teresa asked.

“I just don’t.”

“Fine, then. Me neither.” She didn’t seem mad.

“Why are we in here, anyway?” Once again, he gestured at the tiny room where they sat. “Seriously, what’re we supposed to be doing?”

Teresa folded her arms and let her leg drop back down to the floor. “Talking. Being tested. I don’t know. Sorry being around me is so boring for you.”

“Huh? Now you’re mad?”

“No, I’m not mad. You just don’t seem very nice. I kind of liked the idea of finally having a friend.”