When the doors to the cage crank open, Beau can only remember his name and age. But he's not alone. He is surrounded by other boys and girls who welcomed him to the Zone, an encampment at the core of a daring, fatal maze.
Like Beau the Zoners don't know how or why they came there. All they know is that every morning the walls of the Maze slide back revealing a jungle of death...



2. Chapter One


I began my new life crouched down, cuddling my knees to be precise. Stale, dusty air and darkness surrounded me.

 Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath me. I fell to the side at the sudden movement and shuffled backwards on my hands and knees, drops of sweat beading on my forehead, despite the cool air. My back struck a hard metal wall; I slid along it until I hit a corner of the room, i pulled my legs tight against my body, hoping my eyes would soon adjust to the darkness.

With another jolt, the cage jerked upward like an ancient lift in a mine shaft.

Harsh sounds of chains, like the workings of old steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning my stomach. I wanted to cry, but no tears came; I could only sit there, alone, waiting.

My name is Alex, I thought.

That... That was the only thing I could remember about my life.

I didn't understand how this could be possible. My mind functioned without flaw, trying to calculate my surroundings and predicament. Knowledge flooded my thoughts, facts and images, memories and details of the world and how it works. I pictured snow on trees, running down a leaf-strewn road, eating a cheeseburger, the moon casting a pale glow on a grassy meadow, swimming in a lake, a busy city square with hundreds of people bustling about their business.

And yet, i didn't know where i came from or how I'd gotten into the mysterious lift, or who my parents were. I didn't even know my last name. Images of people flashed across my mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of colour. I couldn't think of one person i knew or recall a single conversation.

The room continued its ascent, swaying; I grew immune to the ceaseless rattling of the chains that pulled me upward. A long time passed. Minutes stretched into hours, although it was impossible to know for sure because every second seemed an eternity. No. I was smarter than that. Trusting my instincts, I knew I'd been moving for roughly half an hour.

Strangely enough, I felt my fear had whisked away like a swarm of gnats caught in the wind, replaced by an intense curiosity. I wanted to know where I was and what was happening.

With a groan and then a clonk, the rising room halted; the sudden change jolted me from my huddled position and threw me across the hard floor. As I scrambled to my feet, I felt the room sway less and less until it finally stilled. Everything fell silent.

A minute passed. Two. I looked in every direction but saw only darkness; I felt along the walls again, searching for a way out. But there was nothing, only the cool metal. I groaned in frustration; my echo amplified through the air, like the haunted moan of death. It faded, and silence returned. I screamed, called for help, pounded on the walls with my fists.

I backed into the corner once again, folded my arms and shivered, and the fear returned. I felt a worrying shudder in my chest, as if my heart wanted to escape, to flee my body.

"Someone … help … me!” I screamed; each word ripped my throat raw.

A loud clank rang out above me and I sucked in a startled breath as I looked up. A straight line of light appeared across the ceiling of the room, and I watched as it expanded. A heavy grating sound revealed double sliding doors being forced open. After so long in darkness, the light stabbed my eyes; i looked away covering my face with both hands.

I herd noises above-voices-and fear squeezed my chest.

"Look at that shank."

"Looks like a Klunk in a t- shirt."

"How old is he?"

"Dude it smells like feet down there!"

"Your the Klunk, shuck face."

"Hope you've enjoyed that one-way trip, greenie."

"There ain't no ticket back, bro."

I was hit with a wave of confusion, blistered with confusion. The voices were odd, tinged with echo; some of the words were completely foreign - others felt familiar. I willed my eyes to adjust as i squinted toward the light and those speaking. At first I could see only shifting shadows, but they soon turned into shapes of bodies - people bending over the hole in the ceiling, looking down at him, pointing. 

And then, as if the lens of a camera had sharpened its focus, the faces cleared. They were all teenagers. Kids. Some of my fear melted away, but not enough to calm my racing heart.

Someone held out there arm for me to be pulled up. I hesitated, but after a moment i took the hand and jumped. The world seemed to spin, a swirling mist of faces turned into a blur of colour and light. The chorus of voices had grown silent, but someone spoke as they yanked me over the sharp edge of the dark box. And I knew I'd never forget the words.

"Nice to meet ya, shank," the boy said. "Welcome to the Zone."










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