Well, what were they going to do? She took Rick by the arm and steered him with them, leading him towards their escape. “If this is a trick…” she muttered. She didn’t finish the sentence, because she wasn’t quite sure what she’d do if it was a trick. She had one hand on Liv, one on plastic-Rick, and they were in a mall full of plastic people.
They walked as stiffly as they could towards a back door, Rick getting stiffer and stiffer the closer they got. By the time Liv pulled the door open, Liv being the one with a free hand, Abigail practically had to drag Rick into the behind-hallway.
Here it was bright and shiny, no grey, no bare wiring, nothing. It was as if the mall continued into the behind-space, which made Abigail more than a little concerned. “Sit down,” she told Rick. He sat, stiffly, the way her dolls had sat, their legs sticking out. She looked at the back of his neck.
There it was, just inside his hairline, a tiny little thing that looked plastic. Abigail dug in her purse until she found her tweezers.
She didn’t need to tell Rick to hold still; he wasn’t moving at all. Still, she was careful as she pulled out the little thing.
Rick twitched, shuddered, and fell over, his whole body shaking with spasms.
He was making such a scene Abigail almost missed Liv trying to sneak off. She grabbed her friend by the arm. “So. Do we try to rescue other people here?”
Liv twitched. “I want to see the beavers!”
“Liv, first things first, okay? First. There are people here who are stuck with these things in their necks. Do we try to take them out, do we find the source of the problem, or do we go for a doorway and not worry about them?”
“This place ins’t real anyway!” Liv tried to pull away. “I want to go back to the nice place, with the bookstore!”
“I want to go back, too, Liv.” Abigail tried to sound patient. She wasn’t feeling very patient. “But, first. This place. Plastic people. Do we help them?”
That seemed, finally, to get through. Liv looked at Rick, who had stopped twitching and was trying to sit up. “What if he was, uh, special? Too stubborn or something?’
“Thanks,” Rick snarled, and then paused, staring at them. “Wait. I saw you. You were like the rest of us. And then you went off…”
“I don’t want to know,” Abigail put in quickly. “I really don’t. That wasn’t us, or, at least, it was a different us. There’s passageways, uh, behind the mall, and we’re just trying to get back home. It’s a long story. Anyway, CAN we help people? Do you think?”
“I think I have to try,” he mumbled. “It was my girlfriend who got us into this. Well, I thought she was my girlfriend. I guess she was as plastic as all the rest of them.” He made a face. “So I can help, yeah. Come on, I know where the controller station is. And you have those tweezers.”
“What about going home?” Liv complained. “What about the Beavers?”
“We’ll get there, Liv. But – this is the Narnia thing to do, right?”
Rick laughed. “Nerds,” he laughed, and then, more gently, and a little surprised. “Hunh. That’s why you helped me. Nerds.” This time he said it with affection.
“Nerds,” Abigail agreed, not so much tired as resigned. “That’s us, Rick. Come on, let’s find the White Witch and destroy her.”
Live considered that, looked over at Rick, made a face, and nodded. “It’s the nerd thing to do. Rick, if you shove me into a fountain again, I’m feeding you to the evil clowns.”
“Evil clowns?” He actually looked worried. “I thought the plastic people was bad enough. There’s evil clowns, too?”
“Different mall,” Abigail explained. “Come on. We still have to get back home before Liv’s mother picks us up, and that’s a long way away by any measure.”
“You nerds are weird,” Rick complained. “Come on, this way. I’ll get you in.”
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