The Hidden Mall: Back the Way They Came ↩️

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Circles

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here:

They turned back, retracing their steps.  Past the Tome Home, past the little shop where Liv had traded in a regret for a necklace.  Back towards the hallway, where it had first looked all bright and colorful and shiny, where it now looked covered in cobwebs, grey, and awful.  Back through the narrow door and into a cold concrete hallway, covered in pipes.

They were all holding their breath.  They were moving slowly, as if they were afraid what they would see.  She was holding on to both Liv’s hands tightly.  She didn’t want to lose either of them.  She didn’t want to know what happened if they got split up here, here where it had all began.

There it was.  The door they’d come in.  She shifted her hands, making sure Liv-2 had her hand on her shoulder so she could open the door.

Bright light assaulted them.  Noises, crowds.  She held her breath.  It looked like a mall.  She couldn’t see anyone, just a stretch of the bright, clean floor.

“Oh, look who they let out of their cages!”  Sandy’s voice – Sandy? – sneered at them from just inside her line of sight.  “Didn’t I tell you two worms to stay away from me?  Oh, wait, now there’s three of you.  Even better.”

“Three of them, two of us,” purred a voice that was – yeah, that was Sandy again.  “Sounds like good odds to me.”

Abby stepped out of the doorway against her better judgement.  “This isn’t home,” she muttered, hoping she could be quiet enough that nobody but the Livs heard her.

No such luck.

“Not home?  What gave it away, moron?”  Sandy – the one nearer to her – sneered at her. “Was it the funny names on the signs?  Or the way everything has to be a lot cleaner than whatever sewer you three crawled out of?  Or was it just that we can’t go home?  I mean, really, you think you’d have figured that out by now.”

“No,” purred her companion, who looked like this surprisingly sultry Sandy, words that Abby had never thought would go together.  Not that bitchy and rude was really what she thought of as Sandy, either.  “They’re too slow for that sort of thing.  That requires thought.”

This was nothing at all like Sandy normally acted.  “You two didn’t eat the candy, did you?” she asked.

“Of course I did,” sultry-Sandy purred.  “Why wouldn’t I? It was fun.”

“What did you mean,” Abby kept on, this time to the mean-girl Sandy, “about not being able to go home?  I mean, she added quickly, “obviously a lot of the doors just lead to more of the wrong malls, and some of them are pretty deadly.  But how do you know we can’t go home?”

“You know,” sultry-Sandy sad slowly, “this is the first living Abby we’ve seen since-”

“Yeah.”  The other one cut her off.   “Yeah, it is.  How’d you manage that, Abby?”

“Not eating the candy, not writing in the book, not uh…. well, mostly being careful and hitting people who messed with us over the head.”  She wasn’t sure where that last part had come from; on the other hand, she didn’t really mind sounding a little menacing right now.  “Oh, and running.  So how do you know we can’t go home?”

“Because none of the doors lead any closer to home.  They all lead further and further down the rabbit hole.  And everything starts to get strange and then something – ulp – eats you. Or your best friend.  Which I’m betting one of your Livs can tell you all about.  Are you starting a harem?  I see a lot more living Livs than Abbies.  You might be able to get a collection going. On the other hand – there’s got to be a reason that there’s so few Abbies left.  Maybe the Livs are knocking them off?  I might watch your back and sleep with one eye open, if I were you.”

“You know, I’ve encountered an actual decent Vic.  But I don’t think I’ve encountered a decent Sandy yet.  Have fun, you two.”

“Is it incest if it’s yourself?” hissed one of the Livs.  “Because I’m pretty sure those two are -”

“Come on.  Back in the door with us.”

“It won’t go where it did,” one of the Sandies called.  “They never do.”

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