Author’s note: apologies for my French.
She wasn’t sure if having an idea had been the best, well, idea, since every idea here involved those damn hanging walkways.
But it was better to do something than to sit here and wait for death or worse.
Slowly, they inched out onto the walkways, one Liv in front of her, the other Liv behind her and Vic behind her. They were heading for the center of the mall. Every mall Abby had ever been in – at least, every mall she’d been in before this mess – had sported a map near the middle, as well as near most major entrances and near any fountains.
She’d be happy for a fountain now, but more important for her was a map.
Or just to be down from these damn walkways.
“Oh. Oh, don’t look. Any of you. Ne pas – look-ey? Regardez! Ne pas regardez. No. It’s horrible.”
“We still have to tell her,” Abby muttered. But first, she really, really wanted that map. “Liv, what aren’t we looking at?”
“I, uh.” Liv-in-front gulped. “Look. I know we’ve seen you dead before, but this is, uh. This is all of us. It’s pretty – it’s pretty bad. I like, half want to know what happened here and half want to run away screaming. And the ‘run away screaming’ is sort of winning.”
“Okay. We’ll get that map, then we’ll see if there’s something edible, and then we go up, left, and out, fast as we can, okay?”
“You know,” Liv-behind mused, “this place might be a good-”
“No. no, we’re just not going to-”
“Est-ce que tous les centres commerciaux sont comme ça?”
“Are all the malls – No. Non.” Liv-behind sounded a little shaky on that. “No, there’s been a lot of -” she shifted into French again and Abby stopped listening.
She didn’t look. She didn’t really want to see what there was that she was, well, not-looking at. She wanted to get to the map, she wanted to get some food, and she wanted to get somewhere where the footing was less horrible and more pleasant.
She stepped carefully from one bridge to another at a platform just big enough to hold the four of them. She could see something that looked like a map and a courtyard-like social area ahead. She could also see a few more bodies hanging here and there, which wasn’t really encouraging her in the least. But if she just looked at the map. The map. She could get there if she didn’t get distracted.
“Um.” The Liv in front of her gulped. “Um. Okay. Now I’m worried. Because that’s the second me I’ve seen, and that’s Sandy. Two of her. Good god, how many of us are there? How many people – how many iterations – if there aren’t all the worlds – oh god.” She leaned over the edge of the walkway, causing the whole thing to shift precipitously the other way, and vomited.
Abby bit her lip and held her friend’s hair. “Easy. Easy. This has to be some sort of – maybe not a trap, but the sort of thing designed to get a reaction? I mean. We don’t know they’re real… for whatever real means here. We don’t know that they were ever alive people.”
It was grasping at straws, and she knew it. They’d met iteration after iteration of all of them. Every single one had been a real, alive person — except the Abby corpse. Every single one of them had been a person.
“This place is really trying to—” Liv’s complaint spiraled up into a scream as the walkway shifted and dropped down under them.