They quit spelling words when it hurt too much to talk. Stanley’s throat was dry. He was weak and exhausted, yet as bad as he felt, he knew that Zero felt ten times worse. As long as Zero could keep going, he could keep going too.
Stanley took hold of Zero’s forearms and pulled him upright. Then he stooped down and let Zero fall over his right shoulder. He stood up, lifting Zero’s worn-out body off the ground.
As he lay face down in the muddy ditch, he didn’t even know if he’d ever get up again. He didn’t know if he’d even try. Had he come all this way just to . . . You need water to make mud!
Zero’s “confession” seemed to bring him some relief. The muscles in his face relaxed. As he drifted into sleep, Stanley softly sang him the song that had been in his family for generations.
A wave of terror rushed over him when he saw the compound—the tents, the Wreck Room, the Warden’s cabin under two oak trees. The fear made him dizzy. He took a breath, summoned his courage, and continued.
“That’s the one,” he whispered, pointing out the hole where he had found the gold tube.