The Hidden Mall: 👭 Pairings

They ran through the smoky halls, looking behind them for the source of the rumbling, looking ahead of them for Rue 21.  They were dodging obstacles they could barely see in the haze, looking for flames they couldn’t see, and holding hands, Abigail so she didn’t lose yet another Liv – Liv, presumably, for the same reason.

Neither of them saw what grabbed them and pulled them through a door.  But as the floor shook and shook and something outside crashed, Abigail decided that whoever it was, was probably a friend.

She wiped her eyes, turned around, and saw two Livs and Vic Carter.

She turned to her side.  Liv, skinny-and-clean Liv.  The one on the left there, that was probably her Liv – she was wearing the same clothes, at least.  The one on the right was clinging close to Vic Carter and staring at her in horror.

She took three measured breaths. “Liv?”

The one on the left and the one next to her answered at once. “Yeah?”

“That’s Vic Carter, right?”

“Of course it is!” Vic’s-Liv was indignant.  “What, do you have a problem with her, Abigail?  She just saved your life!”

“I see that.  Um.  Thanks.”  She gave Vic a nervous smile.  “Yeah, I got that.  I’m just – what happened to your Abigail, then?”

“‘My’ Abigail?  Probably wondered off.  Fell into a fountain or something.  Why would I care?”

“…Oh.”  She swallowed.  “This will take some getting used to.  Liv, my-Liv, are you okay?”

“They grabbed me.”

“She means,” Vic put in, “that she was about to run into a burning store and we stopped her.  Looks like one of the ones who got something bad along the way.” Vic flapped her hand. “You’re probably the tenth pair we’ve seen, although you’ve got to have gone far if it’s a Liv-and-Abigail pairing.  Around here, they’re mostly Abigail-and-Sandy or Liv-and-Vic.”

Sandy Aeronson was one of Vic Carter’s least objectionable cronies. “I… see….”

“You don’t, yet, but that’s okay.  You’ve only run into Liv-and-Abigail pairings so far?”

“’Pairings’ makes it sound like we’re a couple,” she complained weakly.

“Nah, nothing that trivial.  Looks like… in every universe we can find, someone entered the Mall Behind the Mall.  What happened next varies.   But in a lot of them, someone dies.  I’m thinking from what I’ve seen, in a lot of them, both people die.”  Vic frowned.  “I still haven’t figured out if it’s malice or just negligence that sent us all here.  And I’m not in my home mall, we’re not, but we set up camp here, because the further we got, the weirder it got.”

“You set up camp in a burning mall?”  Abigail was still trying to process the idea of Vic Carter knowing the words negligence and varies, much less being friends with Liv.

“It’s only burning over there.  It’s not burning on this end, and the fire never makes it over here.  It’s like it’s on some sort of loop.  Anyway.”  Vic shrugged. “We’ve saved five Livs, two Abigails, and one Sandy.  No, three Sandies, I forgot about that weird Sandy-Sandy pair.  You’re the first three we’ve seen.”

“I grabbed out for Liv’s hand,” Abigail explained.  “And I got two.”

“Ha.” Vic laughed.  “That happens.  So, look, I can’t tell you how to get home, but I can tell you what not to do.  Don’t let Liv – or anyone who took the candy or bought anything or wrote in the book or, what was the other one, oh, drank the potion, don’t let them open the door.   If that’s all of you, I can open a door for you and not go through.”



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