Link was dead.
It came as a shock to all of us. Nick and his expedition - which consisted of five other Gladers - left early in the morning to climb the same wall Newt did, with a little help from Alby direction-wise. There was a guttural, emotional scream at around noon that had us all worried for the rest of the day.
And then Nick's expedition came back in the evening, Nick carrying Link's body similar to how Alby had carried Newt's. It was more silent than ever before as people watched the tears stream down Nick's face. The rest of the expedition appeared more haunted than I'd ever seen them.
My hand covered my mouth in shock. Link's head was obviously deformed, with the back of his skull bashed in. His mouth was open in a scream, but they had taken the liberty to at least shut his eyes. Dried blood turned his black hair and tanned face a dark red. Link, the nicest boy I knew. Gone.
"What happened?" Minho asked, breaking the silence. All heads turned to look at him, but he didn't flinch under their stares. His hands were clenched and his jaw trembled. I looked down at his hand and gently unclenched his fist, entwining our fingers together in an attempt to let him know I was there for him.
The Baggers were taking Link's body from Nick when he responded, glassy eyes appearing to see somewhere else. "The ivy doesn't go all the way to the top. It stops about two yards 'til the end, too small to see from below but too big to scale. It was wet from yesterday's storm. The stone was soaked, plants slippery. I had just remembered to tell everyone to tie vines around themselves when Link slipped and fell--"
His throat seemed to close on him, forbidding him to speak any more. Nick shook his head and wiped his eyes. He walked with heavy steps toward the Homestead, swinging the door shut fiercely behind him. The bang echoed in the silence.
We had a memorial that night. Clint had even brought Theo out on a rolling cot the Builders had made, letting him sit up but not stand. His hip would never be the same.
Alby tried for two hours to get Newt to come outside. For the entire two hours, he refused until finally he threw a book at Alby to get him to leave. The second-in-command didn't speak much after that, even though Clint told him not to worry. Newt was just deeply upset and would feel better soon, after the anger passed.
Nick, Alby, Zart, and Clark lit the fire. It was much smaller than our normal bonfires. There was a neat circle of wildflowers around its base - a safe distance from the leaping embers and ash - that were illuminated by the light of the flames in the dying sunlight.
We all gathered around the fire with a strong sense of despondence weighing us down, burrowing into our hearts and making them heavy. It was such a stark contrast to our previous fire that it was almost ironic. Even the most grisly of our Gladers were bowing their heads in respect. Even Gally. Even Alex.
"Tonight we honor Link, who died trying to help us find a way out of his shuck place," Nick said from where he stood in front of the flames. His voice was trembling slightly, eyes blinking hard to prevent himself from crying before he finished. "But we also honor everyone else who has had a piece of their life taken from them. We honor Theo, Newt, and Nadia, all three of whom will never be able to run again. All three of whom will have a noticeable change in how they walk. All three of whom are braver than most of us here tonight."
I felt my eyes widen in surprise and a slight blush heat up my face, though it was barely noticeable with how close I was to the fire. The Keepers were in front, and although Theo was in the back, I could still see him sitting on his cot with Garret affectionately patting his shoulder.