Chapter 5: A Brewing Storm
The sound of the gates dragging open woke Irene and she couldn't understand how she slept through the noise the day before. She got up just as the first rays of the sun peaked from behind the walls of the maze. The advantage to getting up early was that there was hardly anyone to be wary about when it came to the morning routines. She made a face when she realized she's still in the clothes she arrived in, and mentally put that issue in the back of her mind as something she should bring up with Nick.
When the Kitchen came into view, she could also see that Frypan was already waiting for her, and 4 others behind him already working. He greeted her and handed her the apron in his outstretched hand. Irene couldn't understand how someone can be so cheery so early in the morning. Frypan put her to work immediately, starting from basics like beating the eggs and washing fruits and vegetables, and explaining to her their daily schedule at the same time.
The Cooks worked the longest hours. Each morning, they had to get up the earliest to prepare breakfast for everyone and packed lunch for the Runners. Then they had to get lunch ready, and later dinner. At the end of the day, they had to collect the crops from the Track-hoes and meat from the Slicers. Just as Frypan finished explaining the work set out for her throughout today, Irene saw the figures of the Runners approach. Two stood out to her. Minho, who wore the same harness day and night, and Newt by his side. Both of them carried a small backpack with them.
"Good morning Irene," Newt greeted her. Ever since their talk last night, Newt has started calling her by her actual name. It was a nice change.
"Morning Newt, morning Minho," Irene returned, retrieving the breakfast plates from Frypan and handing the two their breakfast.
"Morning Greenie" Minho smirked; taking the plate and ignoring the glare she sent his way. Irene didn't understand how he had the energy to be irritating this early.
"Ignore him. The shank's just jolly because he can finally run by himself again today." Newt explained as the two of them sat down close to the Kitchens where Irene was laying out more plates.
"And you don't have to take up two sections, which is why you aren't out there already. It's a win win for both of us." Minho argued back, stuffing scrambled eggs in his mouth.
Irene watched the familiarity in their interactions and listened as they exchange remarks back and forth, all the while, still preparing the breakfast for the hoard of boys that are just starting to wake. The Runners, Irene counted eight, returned the empty dishes as they grabbed the sandwiches, water bottle, and apple that Will, another Cook, had set out for them.
Newt turned around to smile goodbye to Irene as he met up with a waiting Adam and pointed him towards the North Gates. She faintly made out the words "two" and "smallest section". The Runners separated into pairs; two at each gate. Then as if a starting pistol sounded, all of them sprinted into the maze at once.
Before Irene's mind could wonder off to the mysterious and terrifying maze, the rest of the boys had started to gather for their first meal of the day. Irene dutifully handed it to them. Several boys even greeted her a good morning with a smile although she wasn't sure whether it was because of the food or the fact that they were getting use to having a girl around.
After breakfast, a boy who looked no older than twelve came and took the dishes to the wash bins unquestioningly and started to clean them. Just as Irene was about to approach him to help, Frypan came up to her.
"Let him do it" he said, "He's a Slopper, his job is to clean."
"That's not really nice to leave all the cleaning to him," Irene said, frowning.
"It is what it is," Frypan responded with a shrug, "There's a balance. Even the worst jobs needs to be done."
The tone signified the end of the conversation. Irene wondered whether it was a requirement for Keepers to know promptly when to shut someone up. Frypan then sent her to wash and slice the tomatoes and lettuce for the sandwiches for lunch.
The day passed quickly as lunch passed and the Cooks had to get ready for dinner. Irene seemed to be doing nothing but washing, cutting, and handing out the food. Frypan and Will seemed to be the only two to handle the actual cooking, with two others portioning off the food and the last one prepping the ingredients like her.
The food was ready just as the sun began to orange, signaling sunset. Irene noticed that the Gladers doesn't seem to be running to line up for food like lunch, but rather all gathered at the North Gate. The rest of the Cooks seemed to notice too, and all of them quickly approached the growing crowd.
Frypan pushed his way to the front where Nick, Alby, and Newt were standing, as well as some other boys whom Irene assumed were Keepers. It seemed that Irene was so engrossed with her work that she didn't notice that the Runners had returned for the day. As she strained to get a good look at what exactly caused the commotion, she heard whispers of Grievers and "another one". Finally, she pushed her way to Minho, who was standing directly behind Newt. He had a worried look on his face that Irene has yet to see him display.
"What's going on?" Irene asked, but Minho ignored her. She repeated the question again a bit louder and giving him a little tap on the shoulder. That seemed to startle him out of his trace.
"Adam's not back yet." Minho explained, all sarcasm and humor gone. "He was due 10 minutes ago and the gates are about to close."
Several boys were now shouting out Adam's name towards the open gates but no one dared to step a foot further from where they were standing.
"What happens if he doesn't return?" Irene asked.
"The Grievers will most likely get to him, if they haven't already." Minho explained again.
"Get to him?"
"Yeah. No one has stayed a night with the gates closed and lived to tell it."
Irene recalls the whirling and clicking she hears at night; so loud it was impossible to tune out. Then remembered the bright boy she saw yesterday, being dragged off of by the creature that made the sound and prayed that he was just around the corner. But as if to spite her, the noise started and the gates begin to close. Irene can't seem to tear her eyes away, staring so hard almost as if she's willing Adam to magically appear and make it in the nick of time.
But of course, her prayers weren't answered as the mechanism locked in place; sealing the fate of a teenage boy. Irene can't help but feel that there's something that she's missing, just tingling at the back of her mind. Something about the current situation that didn't sit well at all with her. But before she could dwell on it further, she felt a tug on her arm and looked to see Minho dragging her in the direction of the Kitchens. She wordlessly followed.
The rest of the night was quiet. There were murmurs here and there but there wasn't a single Glader that didn't feel the gravity of the situation. As Irene settled to sleep, she noticed that Minho was already in his hammock, staring at the trees above him and lost in thought. Again, she heard the clicking and whirling in the background, wondering about Adam.
The next morning, Irene got up along with the rest of the Gladers. It seemed that the daily routine was put on hold as everyone waited for the North Gate to open. With the picture that the whispers of the others painted in her head the previous night, she didn't expect there to be anything to discover. But again, she was proved wrong; because on the floor of the maze, lays the pale and lifeless form of Adam.
Hope this chapter was more interesting. Things will start to pick up from here!
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