As Thomas hears the sound of the Doors closing for the day, Alby appears to release him from the Slammer. Alby looks much better than the day before. Thomas is still unnerved after their conversation the day before.
Alby tells Thomas that he is already beginning to forget some of what he was remembering yesterday. He is sure something started choking him, and that is why he doesn't want to discuss what he saw. Alby tells Thomas that in his visions he saw Thomas helping the Creators. This news hits Thomas like a truck. How could he be helping them?
Alby continues, hoping that the Changing doesn't plant real memories, only fake ones. Alby's memories of the outside world are not pleasant. Alby is also suspicious of the serum and the Changing. There is something fishy about them. Thomas wants more details about what Alby remembered but Alby won't risk getting choked again. He sends Thomas off to get some dinner.
Frypan has prepared steak and potatoes especially for Thomas's release, signaling his ongoing support for him. Thomas eats an appreciated meal and then heads to the Deadheads for some seclusion and sleep. The blankets someone had left for him are still there. He lays down and begins to think about the Maze.
The Runners have been searching it for two years and yet have found no exit. Statistically, this makes no sense to Thomas. There must be something they are missing. Thomas remembers that tomorrow he will begin his training. He decides he won't quit until he finds a way home.
Minho wakes Thomas before dawn and motions him out to the Homestead by flashlight. Minho leads him to a back corner of the Homestead and pulls out a key, unlocking a small storage closet. Thomas is anticipating a large weapons cache, but instead the closet contains running shoes. Minho tells Thomas that these are their most important supply. He finds a pair that fits Thomas's big feet. He also gives Thomas a plastic wristwatch. "Put it on and never take it off. Your life might depend on it." Being a runner will require him to know the time at any moment. Thomas is eager to get going.
Minho tells him he'll look like an idiot out there without any water, food, or weapons. Thomas follows Minho into a small room with a trapdoor. In the basement below there's a hidden weapons cache. Minho explains that the weapons are kept there so people like Gally can't get them. Only a few have keys to the weapons. Minho orders Thomas to select a few sharp knives and get moving so they can get breakfast and spend some time in the Map room before heading out.
After breakfast Thomas has his first glimpse of the Map room. He is somewhat disappointed to find it is a very simple room containing little more than a few tables and stacks of paper. Eight trunks also line one of the walls. Minho grabs a sheet of paper and begins drawing what looks like a tic-tac-toe board. In the middle square he writes "GLADE". The remaining eight squares comprise different sections of the Maze. Minho explains that eight runners go out each day with the Keeper, each assigned a different section of the Maze. Every day a section is mapped. Over time, the Gladers were able to discern that the Maze repeats a pattern of movement about once every month, however they have never seen an exit. Still, they have never given up, which gives Thomas some comfort.
Minho asks if Thomas is ready for his first day as a Runner. Thomas says that he is. "Then let's go runnin'."
The two boys enter Section 8. Thomas follows Minho, observing his skills and tactics as a Runner and map maker. Minho makes notes here and there, citing what has changed from the day before. As he turns a corner he takes out a knife and cuts a piece of ivy off the wall, throwing it on the ground to mark his path like Hansel and Gretel. He asks Thomas to take over for a while so he can learn the skill.
After about three miles they stop for a break. Thomas begins guzzling water. Minho tells him to ration it and save some for later. Thomas asks Minho about the Griever that stung Alby, the one that they had thought was dead. Minho explains that it was lying completely still one minute and then came to life when Alby kicked it. Thomas is intrigued. He asks Minho where the Grievers go and have they ever followed them.
Minho smirks at this. "Man, you do have a death wish, don't you?", he teases. They pick up and move on, but Thomas is still intrigued about the Griever. Something about it doesn't feel right.
The boys make another stop to rest. Thomas spots a Beetle Blade in the ivy. He asks Minho about them and why they have the word "WICKED" written on them. Minho says they have never caught one and don't know what the word might mean. Probably something just meant to scare them, he guesses.
Thomas notices something else on the wall: a plaque. He reads the following words on it: WORLD IN CATASTROPHE: KILLZONE EXPERIMENT DEPARTMENT. Minho has no idea what it means but says the plaques are all over the Maze. They push on but Thomas can't get the words out of his head.
They reach the last dead end of the day. It's time to turn around and head back. Thomas is frustrated to hear this. He wishes to stay and explore a bit more. Minho dismisses the idea. People willing to send Grievers after them aren't going to give them an easy way out. Thomas asks what the point is of searching the Maze then. Minho tells him that there has to be an exit somewhere.
The boys return to the Glade and go to the Map room to record their day's work. After that, a quick dinner and Thomas returns to his favorite sleeping spot in the Deadheads. Being a Runner has already lost its glamour, after only a single day.
As he begins to drift off to sleep, Teresa's voice reverberates inside his head. "Tom", she says, "I just triggered the Ending."
Thomas wakes to a weak, dim light. He thinks he must have woken early, before dawn, but then he hears shouting. As he studies the sky beyond the canopy, he sees it is a dull gray instead of the pale light of morning. Looking at his watch he sees that it is a full hour past his mandatory wake time. The sky is simply gray. The sun has disappeared.
Thomas finds most of the Gladers gathered around the entrance to the Box, pointing up at the sky. The sun's disappearance has thrown the day's routine into chaos. Thomas finds himself less concerned than the others. He is even a bit embarrassed to see them so panicked. The sun obviously hasn't disappeared. That would be impossible. Their sky must be artificial, something fabricated by the Creators. The sun that had shown down on them for these two years must also have been fake. Everything about the Glade must also be fake. Thomas can't explain how, but knows it must be true.
Minho runs up and grabs Thomas. It seems their routine has not been altered. Minho surmises that the desperation level has just gone up. If there is no more sun plants and animals will not survive for long. They eat a very quick breakfast and are on their way.
They encounter a Griever before long. Minho grabs Thomas and they duck against a wall. Minho takes a peek and sees the Griever just sitting there, much like the one they thought was dead. Minho turns back to take another peek and sees that the Griever has gone. He takes off after it, Thomas following behind, unsure of this strategy.
They pursue the Griever for ten minutes, finally coming to the hall that ended at the Cliff. The Griever charges toward the edge and disappears from sight.
Minho is sure that something is going on at the Cliff. Three times they have seen Grievers go over the Cliff edge. It seems that this is how the Grievers leave the Maze. Thomas believes that if the Grievers can leave like this, so can the Gladers. Minho suggests they test Thomas's hypothesis first.
Minho gathers a few rocks and pebbles and the two boys begin tossing the rocks into different areas of the gray sky. All the rocks fall into the gray abyss until one of Minho's rocks disappears. Minho wonders how they missed that before, but the spot is quite small, only a few feet square.
They turn back with plans to inform Newt and Alby of their discovery. Thomas wants so bad to stay in the Maze overnight but Minho stresses the importance of what they have found. They return to the Glade. Minho goes straight to the Map room, surprising Thomas. Doesn't he want to tell Alby and Newt first? Minho states that they are still Runners and still have a job to do. Minho walks Thomas through making a map, giving him instruction and criticism along the way. Minho shows him the rest of the maps collected over the years. Thomas is sure he is missing some obvious clue as he looks over them but Minho pulls him away to go see Alby and Newt.
They step outside the Map room as Alby and Newt come running up, looking concerned. The supplies didn't come up through the Box today as expected. Minho explains what he and Thomas found. They wonder if there is some way to block the Griever Hole, as they have come to call it.
Their conversation is cut short by a commotion from the Homestead. Chuck runs over to tell them that Teresa is awake. She is speaking to him, telling him to come get her before she forgets everything she has recalled so far. She has one more thing to say to him. "The Maze is a code, Tom. the Maze is a code."
As the novel passes the halfway mark you will notice an accelerated pace in the storytelling as the plot becomes more action-oriented. These chapters mark a somewhat procedural turn in the story as Minho and Thomas embark on an investigative mission. Despite Thomas's hero status, it is Minho who takes on a mentor role in these chapters, steering Thomas's racing mind toward completing and learning the basic tasks of being a Runner.
This marks something of an initiation for Thomas, another common feature of the hero myth archetype. It can also be argued that Thomas's true initiation was his heroic night in the Glade. Here, he follows and studies Minho's behavior in the Maze, marveling at his sharp memory and running stamina. Minho's experience in the Maze also serves to provide information to help propel the story forward. Thomas asks a great deal of logical questions, examining every possible angle when considering a problem. Minho's experience allows Dashner to dispense with certain possibilities immediately, saving time while also giving the novel a logical basis.
Sharp readers may already have guessed that WICKED is an acronym and that Thomas and Minho actually discover what it means while examining the plaque they find. Minho dismisses the plaque's relevance but Thomas is intrigued. Although it does seem unlikely that no one would have put the two together after spending two years in the Maze, the introduction of the plaque into the story only serves to heighten our anticipation and the mystery of the Maze.
The manufactured reality of the Maze begins to unravel the next day when the Gladers notice that the sun has mysteriously disappeared, replaced by a dark gray sky. Thomas is the first to realize this means that much of what they have taken to be real in the Maze is entirely fabricated. While this frightens the others, it actually gives Thomas hope. Once again we see that Thomas remains calm and collected while the others panic. His courage remains intact.
Minho's reference to Hansel and Gretel can be interpreted as an allusion to Thomas and Teresa. The two share a bond unlike any other and can be seen as collectively trying to find their way out of the Maze and back home. Although this is the motivation of all the Gladers (except for Alby as we shall see), it is Thomas and Teresa who will guide them there.
The game-like nature of the Maze continues as the Gladers discover that the supply deliveries have stopped. They are now faced with little choice but to mount a massive escape attempt as they will eventually run out of food. In many ways the Glade has been the largest factor in keeping them imprisoned. Because they always have a safe place to return to, they haven't had a reason to be desperate to escape. After two years they have essentially made no progress.
Minho and Thomas's discovery of a secret exit over the Cliff confirms what Thomas had always suspected. The way out is the way through. To escape the Maze they must enter the Griever Hole and once again descend into the underworld to face the monster. That is the only way to their salvation.
These chapters feature a good deal of foreshadowing. From the discovery at the Cliff to Thomas's doubts about the reality of the Glade to his attempt at deciphering the maps, Dashner lays the groundwork for events to come.