The Hidden Mall ⏳ Rip Van Winkle

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Back the Way They Came

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here:

Abby stared at the door.  “Hold on?” she asked the Livs.  It won’t go where it did.  Well, nothing had yet.  We can’t go home.  What did Abby want more than anything?  Home?

She wanted to feel safe, and to have a warm place to sleep and a real meal.  She wanted to see sunlight and feel it on her face.

She opened the door.

It looked, for all intents and purposes, exactly like where they’d come from.  Cold concrete hallway, covered in pipes.  A door that you could almost miss if you weren’t looking for it – or running terrified, she supposed.

They stepped into the ruins of the shops, the ceiling falling down, the sunlight shining through here and there.  Ad the other end of the hall, down past where the Tome Home’s sign had been, a fire sent the smells of cooking meat towards their noses.

“This is…”  Liv-1 looked pale.  “We keep getting further in the future.  Are we Rip Van Winkle?”

“No beard,” Liv-2 joked.  “I mean-  well, no beard.”

“The woman in the bookshop said we’d get home in a reasonable amount of time.”  Abby shook her head. “I’m not sure I believe her, but she did.  So where are we?  And, while I’m asking questions, do we go check out the food?”

“Depends on how hungry you are.” Liv-2 spoke with a tone that suggested experience.  “Because it’s probably not beef, I can tell you that.  On the other hand, it probably won’t kill us, and there might be information.”

“Let’s check it out.” Liv-1 was sounding more like herself.  “I like the idea of information that doesn’t come from a Sandy.  Or, uh. A Vic, let’s be honest.  I mean, there have to be other people in here, right?”

“There might not be.”  Liv-2 sounded thoughtful, but she was still wandering with them towards the flickering fire.  “I mean, we’re seen other people, but they’ve always been part of the world we’re in, right? Except the Vics and Sandies.  And us.”

“And us,” Abby repeated, thinking again of the dead Abby in the vines.  “I wonder how many of us there are?”

“Shouldn’t it be as many as there are possible worlds?” Liv-1 tilted her head. “At least originally?  I mean… if this is a doorway between worlds.  I liked the place with the ponds a lot better.”

“The place – oh, Narnia.”  Abby huffed quietly.  “I don’t think we’re going to end up in Narnia.  And I know the guy promised you beavers.  But I think he only meant people that would be helpful.  Which, I suppose, we found Vic.”

“Vic Carter is not a beaver.”  Liv-1 wrinkled her nose.  “Not in any universe.”

“All right, I can’t really argue with you on that one.  She’s definitely not a good beaver.”

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Liv-2 muttered.  “If we see munchkins, I’m running away.”

“Wasn’t that fauns?” Liv-1 countered.  “You run away a lot.”

“Shut your face.”  LIv-2 wrinkled her nose.  “I smell burning feathers.”

“Well, beggars can’t be choosers, and all that.”  Abby lowered her voice.  They were nearly to the fires, which were revealing themselves to be barrels with flickering flames within. “And let’s be honest, we’ve got some spare magic fruit but that’s about it, and I’m not sure that really counts as a meal.”

“Kind of makes you wonder what happened there, though, doesn’t it?  The whole mall taken over – but the food is super filling and nutritious and didn’t make us si…” Liv-2 reached around Abby and grabbed Liv-1.

Abby wished she’d grabbed her, too. “You.”  The person next to the closest barrel was definitely the one who had given Liv the ginger candy. “You.

The person’s four layers of clashing batik were faded and dirty, their had had gotten scruffy and shaggy, but it was definitely them.  They held up both hands.

“I might have, but it wasn’t to you.  You haven’t been here long enough for it to have been you.  It was another one, and I don’t remember your face.”

“Abby?”  A voice that Abby barely remembered came from the shadows, and then another one.  Three figured stepped out of the shadows.  Kevin. Kevin and Tommy and their friend Greg.  She would know Kevin’s Roman nose and those green eyes anywhere.  And he was dressed like he’d been when they’d school – whenever that had been – although his grunge also looked the worse for wear.  They all did.  “Abby, what are you doing down here?  And… Liv?

“What?”  From the back, a voice Abby was getting way too familiar with snapped.  “What is it this time?”

“Her,” the person in batik murmured.  “Her, I accept that I did something to.”

“Keep it down.  You’re going to get the Things attention if you keep shouting.”

“What is this, a school reunion?”  She held Livs’ hands tightly as Vic Carter came out of the shadows behind the barrels.

“Oh.  Vic scoffed.  “Travellers.  Well, pull up a barrel, have some pigeon – taste like chicken! – a La Chinese condiments, because they last forever.  Kevin, we’ve been through this.  It’s not her.”

“It can’t be her,” he muttered.  “I watched her die.  but -”

“And then you watched her die again.  So let’s feed this one and send them on their way so we don’t have to watch her die again, how’s that?”

“Food,” Kevin agreed.

Want more?

One thought on “The Hidden Mall ⏳ Rip Van Winkle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *