The Hidden Mall Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

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Abigail had her doubts about following the strange person through the back of the spices-and-herbs store, but Liv seemed definitely enchanted by the whole thing.


“Well, as I said, not literally. We don’t have any Animals here, not of the sort you’d find in Narnia or Oz. It’s just not the right environment for them, and nobody but the Raccoons and the Magpies really enjoy shopping, anyway. Oh, and the Corvids, of course. Can’t forget them.” The person pushed aside a beaded curtain, opening up a narrow wood-paneled hallway. “This area isn’t open to everyone, but I see that you’ve already met Tinaia, and that gives you some special leeway.”

Abigail shared a look with Liv, or tried to, but Liv was staring down the hallway. So, “leeway?” she asked, and hoped their guide would give some sort of useful answer.

“Oh, there’s always halls within halls, worlds within worlds. You read the tales of Narnia, so I assumed you knew. Everything is like an onion and a TARDIS: More and more, and bigger on the inside.”

That made very little sense, but considering the way they were having, Abigail decided not to complain too much. She kept an eye on Liv instead.

“So where are we going, then?” Liv persisted, even as she stuck close to their guide. “Down another layer of the onion?”

“More, and yet less, less, and yet so much more. Here.” The person swished aside another curtain, this one heavy and velvet. “Here you are. Have fun, and remember me when you come back around.”

That sounded a little ominous to Abigail, but Liv was already darting through the door. She followed, with a hasty and uncertain “thanks” aimed at the spice proprietor.

Liv had stopped a few steps inside the curtain, and Abigail could understand why. The floor was covered in a myriad of carpets; the walls were covered in bookshelves with more bookshelves jutting out at right angles. And in the middle, at a writing desk with a dip pen and a large book, a blue woman was sitting, writing.

She looked up when she noticed Liv and Abigail staring. “Oh, I see. Anto brought me some more company, mmm? Anto likes to do that. Well, then, come on in, don’t linger in the curtain letting in the mundane. You have three choices. You can take a book, make a book, or leave a book. But all three of those are going to have consequences and prices.”

“We don’t…” Abigail touched her bag. “Oh. I have a schoolbook and a copy of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. I could leave one, but … there’s a price for leaving something?”

“There’s always a price for leaving something.” The blue woman had gone back to her writing already. “The question is, can you pay it?”

Part 5:

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