Author’s note: Guys, this one gets a little dark, even for this setting. If you want to skip it, let me know and I’ll DM/email you a summary. Content warning is for description of formerly-alive people showing their methods of death.
They could keep walking, Abby realized, but they weren’t going to get away from spirits, not in this mall.
They circled a fountain – not just dried up but choked with detritus, the abstract statue in the center chipped and broken – and nearly ran into – or through – another ghost, this one looking like a single Sandy with two heads, both Sandy and both grey-faced and blue-lipped. The nooses around both necks were squeezed tight.
“This is…” Abby thought it was Olly who was retching but it might have been Liv. “This can’t be – it can’t be real deaths. Real ghosts.”
“Why not?” ‘Via’s voice was dark, almost amused. “Why not be the place where all the ghosts of this stupid place come to die? Maybe it’s hell. But if it was hell, there ought to be – there.” She pointed with her free hand. “A Vic. That bitch. I wish I’d never stopped her from punching Abby.”
“H-” Abby closed her mouth. Not her. “That never happened,” she mused instead. “Liv-?”
“No. No, there was that one time when you got in between Vic and me and you blocked her punch with your lunch bag, remember?”
“I think the whole school remembers. That was a mess.”
“It must be after the split,” Olly offered. They were all staring at the two-headed Sandy and at the Vic ‘Via had pointed out, dripping blood from both ears and looking far too not-grey for the general situation.
“You don’t think she’s actually living, do you?” Abby whispered, as if that would help.
The ghost opened her mouth.
What looked like rivers of blood poured out of her mouth.
“Crap, I hope not,” Liv muttered. “Can we – can we keep going?”
“Let’s do that.” They made it to the stairs by passing by three more ghosts, each of those more creepy than the last. None of them seemed to be interested in getting too close to their little group of living people, but they didn’t move away, either. Other than the Vic, they might have been completely oblivious to their presence.
At the top of the stairs, there were even more ghosts. The mall was almost at what Abby thought of as a normal population density – except they were all very dead.
The first group they encountered, gathering on the bridge between the two sides of the mall, were all emaciated. They all looked like strangers, but then again, Abby wasn’t sure she’d recognize even herself at that weight. She clung tighter to ‘Via and Olly and kept moving – to the left, and towards another stairway, this one inexplicably (probably something to do with moving traffic towards the most stores) only being one flight tall.
The ghosts got closer and closer together, clumps of people who seem to have died in awful ways – a group who were still wearing vines all around them, a group purple from some sort of poison, a series that had probably been hanged back where Hung-Vic had been – until they reached a group they couldn’t get around.
Abby had been purposefully not looking for familiar faces, but when she came to this group, she couldn’t have if she’d wanted to.
They looked like they had all been immolated. How they were still standing had to do more with ghost physics than anything logical – likewise the floor and the stores around them, which were burned husks of their former selves, the stink of melted plastic still in the air.
Abby tried hard not to breathe. She looked at the group, but they were completely blocking their route.
She was going to have to either backtrack and try another route, or go through them.
She looked at the gathered Livs, hoping one of them had an option. Hoping one of them would have a brain flash and come up with some good third option.
‘Via was twitching, Olly was shaking, and Liv was hugging herself.
Abby sighed and stared hard at the burned ghosts until they didn’t look like people anymore, but more like obstacles in her path. She could do this.Want more?