‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run



My feet were thrown out from beneath me as a colossal explosion knocked me to the ground. I fell heavily on my back, the sound of thunder engulfing everything around me and the world becoming thick with a veil of smoke. I seemed to scream, but I couldn’t be sure, and I heard Simeon yell out beside me. Rolling over and beginning to choke, longing for clean air, another bomb went off, closer this time. I had barely had time to register this second thunderous roar before I felt the heat crash into me, a solid brick wall of hot air. I had barely made it into a sitting position, but I was knocked back again, my head smacking against the metal floor, feeling every cell on my body boil and singe, sure that at least one of my limbs had to be on fire. Once again I screamed out, rolling over so that my face was pressed into the grating, shielding it from the fire and the smoke. Every bit of exposed skin on my body was burning, and the heat was unrelenting, creeping deeper into my blood. It seemed that I had escaped the worst of the explosion—they weren’t designed to kill, or even seriously injure; just to hinder and scare us, but I could still feel pain stabbing me all over.

‘Jake!’ I could hear Simeon’s voice, distant through the cloud of smoke and debris. He sounded like he could be in pain. Rolling over, I realised my right leg—my good leg—was trapped. Looking up, I could see that parts of the wall had collapsed down on us; purposefully, of course, but painfully all the same. I wrenched the thick slab off of me; it wasn’t particularly heavy as they didn’t want us dying on them, but my right leg now hurt just as much as my left.

‘Simeon?’ It took me a moment to locate him in the smoke that was still dancing around us, beginning to drift away into the air vents, but some of it still lingering. Initially, all I could see was a pile of white rubble.

And then I realised that the white rubble was moving.

‘Sim!’ I cried, limping over to it, unsure which leg needed more care. My right wasn’t too bad; I could still move on it. It was probably just bruised. On the other hand, pain still shot up my left leg from the shin upwards every time I took a step, so I opted to be more delicate with that one.

I heaved debris off the pile, and Simeon suddenly emerged, shoving his arms out, coughing and gasping breathlessly. There was a wide cut in his forehead, which was dripping blood into his eyebrow and round onto his cheek.

‘Come on,’ I said, hoisting his left arm round my shoulder and heaving him up. He cried out, clutching at his side in agony, and I was unsure whether it was because of his earlier injuries playing up, or because of a new, horrific injury.

And then I saw how the part of his shirt just above his right hip, stretching almost up to his armpit, had been all but melted away.

And in its place was an ugly red burn, sticky, with skin peeling off all around it. It was like the injury he had sustained during the gas attack, only on a much bigger and more serious scale. He clutched at it, sinking to his knees and crying out in pain, breathing heavily as he fought back the frantic screams. I had no choice. We had to get out of here. We had to keep moving or the Run was going to claim both our lives.

‘Fu-fuck,’ he moaned, struggling to get up. ‘A-ah! Shit.’

‘We have to get going,’ I said seriously. ‘I know it hurts, but you’re just gonna have to endure it. It won’t be for much longer. We’ll find the way out soon enough.’ I didn’t know whether I believed what I was saying. Nevertheless, Simeon got to his feet with a long, drawn out moan, and staggered towards me. Limping to the end of this path and choosing another at random once we reached a crossroads, we continued on as quickly as we could; which wasn’t nearly as quick as we had been half an hour ago. Simeon moaned and winced with every step, walking awkwardly to try and keep the pressure off the scalding burn in his side. The exit had to be on this level. The traps were too intense up here for it to be lower down.

As if to prove a point, the ground suddenly heaved underneath me, throwing me into the wall with a hard slam. It was a small obstacle, but painful nonetheless. I rubbed my right shoulder, which I had landed on, and stumbled on forwards, getting to the end of this path, Simeon just a few steps behind me.

‘Come on!’ I urged him. I didn’t want to be impatient, but I knew that we were running out of time. A computerised scream close by sent me virtually jumping out of my skin, whipping round to face the nothingness so quickly that I tripped and staggered sideways. I was a mess. Simeon was even worse than me, clutching at his side with the torn sleeve of his shirt, his face pale and now drenched in blood from the wound in his head. When the scream was projected into the Maze, he threw himself round, eyes wide as if in some kind of horrified trance. And we still had so far left to go.

When the scream came again, he reacted even worse.

‘Leave us alone!’ he shrieked, tears of sweat and rage and desperation mixing with the blood that he had now smudged right across his left cheek, leaving one side of his face to look like it had been painted with a thick, red mask. Of course, that only fed the Maze controllers’ sadism, and they played the screams more often—choruses of them, women’s screams, children’s screams, coming from all directions—right next to us, even below us, as though someone was trapped in the metal grating beneath our feet.

Go away!’ Simeon cried. A sort of wind hit me, hard enough that I staggered backwards, and I turned to see Simeon lashing out at it. The wind became a sort of hurricane, swirling around us, fast, vicious, violent, so that the very air seemed to blur, and I could have sworn I saw images of nightmares within it. The lights dimmed but did not go out completely, and then they were there—projections of some kind; demons, with great, empty eyes and decaying flesh and leering grimaces. Simeon struck out once again, but every time he thought he’d hit one it dissipated and reformed somewhere else, closer to us every time.

And then it all vanished in the blink of an eye. We hadn’t even moved this time. The lights came back on and the nightmares went back to their shady homes.

And then a voice, instead, was cast into the Maze.

Thirty minutes remaining.’

This seemed to knock Simeon back into reality. As the voice disappeared, we turned in silence towards each other.

‘I thought we had longer,’ he said, barely whispering it. ‘Where did all the time go?’

I shook my head grimly. ‘I don’t know. But we’ve got to move.’


On the ground floor, the control room was obvious. There were no windows to look through, and there was one set of large, double doors in each wall, making four entrances in total. Each of those entrances was heavily guarded. We’d spent half an hour walked in a circle right round the ground floor, trying to gauge all our options, trying to search out every possible way in. In the end, we had only been wasting time.

‘What do we do?’ I asked, moving into a quiet corridor, and looking at Rina, hoping for an idea. She just shook her head in despair.

‘I don’t know,’ she admitted. ‘Either we fight our way in or we try to pretend to be scientists, but they’re both long shots. I left the lab coats we borrowed down in the hospital wing anyway.’

‘Then that leaves us with fighting our way in,’ I said. I hadn’t heard anything more about the escapees since the building had been put under quarantine, but presumably that meant that some, if not all of them were still here. I was still glad that we’d freed them, even if they weren’t really helping us, and weren’t likely to actually make it out. At least we’d given them a chance.

The sirens started up again.

‘Oh shit!’ I cried instinctively, looking round and covering my ears with my hands. Hopefully that meant that not all the escapees had been caught yet.


Turning as if in slow motion to my right, I saw four soldiers at the far end of the corridor.

And that was when I realised.

They hadn’t set the alarm off to alert people about the escapees.

They’d set it off because they’d seen us.

‘Run!’ I shrieked to Rina. My stomach plummeted and my body went into overdrive, my heart drumming in triple time. I bolted down a corridor at random, hearing the crashing of guns behind us in amongst thundering footsteps. Voices called over the calamity and the sirens screamed higher and louder than the rest of it put together, creating delirium in the corridors, changing these simple, plain halls into a world of confusion and darkness and nightmares. I charged relentlessly down endless paths, feeling as if I was in the Maze as much as Simeon and Jake were, my hand constantly grasped tight around Rina’s. I wouldn’t let go. I wouldn’t.

A blinding pain shot up my back and I collapsed forward, falling face-first onto the ground, barely able to get my hands out in time to shield myself. I rolled over, screaming out as volts of electricity surged through my nervous system and the world began to blur.

As Rina watched me fall in horror, I noticed a sudden change in her. The fear in her eyes gave way to fire and they burned with anger as she spun, graceful but deadly; a dancer or a gymnast for sure, and aimed the gun she had stolen from a dead guard into the middle of the four soldiers. We didn’t even know what it did, but as I gasped for breath, fighting against the pain that wouldn’t let go of me, she fired repeatedly. A storm of electricity burst from the barrel like a beast being released from a cage and I heard a cry of agony, followed by a second, as two of the soldiers fell. Dragging myself into a sitting position and then to my feet, I swayed unsteadily and then grabbed her by the arm. Reaching and grabbing my gun from where it had fallen on the floor, I readied it in front of me.

And was faced with another.

Rina was breathing raggedly, her gun out in front of her, as a soldier pointed another in her face.

‘Drop your weapons or I’ll shoot,’ said the soldier who was aiming at me.

‘Drop your weapons or I’ll shoot,’ I told him. I knew how much it annoyed people when they realised you weren’t as scared of them as they wanted you to be.

‘You’re outnumbered,’ he said, breathing heavily to get his breath back.

I shrugged. ‘Well, if you think I’m moving, you’re sadly mistaken.’

A sharp bang resounded down the corridor. It made me jump practically out of my skin, and for a moment I expected the worst, but it was the soldier who cried out; not me or Rina, and he staggered forward, falling on his face. The other one, plus a third who had just made it back to his feet, turned to face the other way.

That was a stupid move.

I didn’t care whether it was cowardly to fire at someone when their back was turned; it was their fault for turning in the first place. Rina and I fired simultaneously at the two guards currently on their feet, and they both screamed and collapsed.

Behind them, down the far end of the corridor, were three people. As they moved closer, one of them snatching guns from two of the soldiers, I could see from the grey uniforms and their pasty faces and lank hair that they were some of the people we had freed earlier.
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