“‘Via? Olly?” Abby moved to the other side of Olly. “What’s – “
In the grey shadows of the mall, three translucent figures were staring back at them. Two of them were definitely her. The third she didn’t recognize at first, a taller man with a gaunt face and protruding bones.
“Abby?” Olly whispered. “Abby, is that you?”
Abby hoped not. One of the two grey women was missing a good third of her throat. The other one had an axe settled in the middle of her chest. It looked—
It looked horrible.
“It’s not… it can’t be,” ‘Via whispered. “It can’t. You’re too mean for that.” The ghost was reaching for her, the one with the axe. “You’re too—”
Abby grabbed her and yanked her backwards away from the ghost. “Come on,” she suggested. “Left. Left, this way, come on. And upwards. Don’t let them touch you.”
“Why not?” Olly was backing up away from the one with the missing throat. “I mean, they’re, they’re see-through. Are they ghosts, do you think?”
Abby needed another hand. She took Olly’s hand and glanced at Liv, glad her friend was still following along. “I don’t know. They could be illusions. They could be poison of some sort, or ghosts, or something even nastier.”
“I don’t know,” Abby repeated. “It’s just, so many things here are deadly or dangerous, and we know that the mall is trying to kill us. Err.” She cleared her throat. “Me, I guess, but since it doesn’t mind the collateral damage…”
“It’s all right. It’s trying to kill us.” Liv squeezed her shoulder. “So we don’t want to go through them. That makes sense.”
‘Via squeezed tightly on her hand. “It’s… It’s you. I thought, I thought you were undefeatable.” She was barely whispering. “I thought you were immortal. And here you are-”
“’Via, there’s a good chance that’s, if it’s a ghost at all, someone else’s Abby.” Olly turned their line into a circle, stepping in front of Abby so she could wave her free hand in front of ’Via’s face. It was enough, or at least enough for the moment.
‘Via blinked and shook herself. “Right. Right. Okay, where are we-?”
In front of Peony’s.” Liv took a step forward. “Well, what used to be Peony’s. So let’s see.” She seemed more herself than she had been in ages as she looked around, pointedly ignoring the ghosts in front of them.
The third one, she finally realized, was Kevin. Or it had been Kevin. She swallowed hard as Liv said “this way! Onwards and Upwards!”
‘Via snorted – but very softly, softly enough that nobody but Abby heard her. Olly chuckled cheerfully.
“It’s nice to remember being that happy,” she whispered.
Abby winced and tried not to process that too much. This was her friend. Or a version of her, two versions of someone that she’d grown up with and had – was she really that bad in any other world?
“Liv, don’t get too far ahead,” she called, because she didn’t know what else to do. “Ready? ‘Via?”
“I-” ‘Via was staring at the ghosts again. With visible effort, she looked at the hand Abby was holding and then up the arm to Abby’s face. “You’re right here. You’re alive.”
“I’m alive,” Abby agreed. Something they could agree on. “And we’re in a new mall. Let’s see what we can find.”Want more?