Hidden Mall 59: Nice Abby. Good Abby.

Abby took ‘Via’s hand and put it on her hip, curling the fingers around her belt loop, and squeezed until ‘Via  held on of her own volition. She took Olly’s hand with her left hand and held on to Liv’s arm with her right hand.  

“Close your eyes,” she told all three of them.  “Keep them closed. We’re going to walk forward now, everyone all set?  There we go, forward, forward.”

She shut up as she came nose to nose with the first ghost, closed her own eyes and took two steps forward.

It felt like a ghost of fire touching her skin – like the memory of sensation without the pain or the heat, just a strange flickering touch.  She moved forward as one of the three – Had to be Olly, the sound was coming from her left – yelped.

“Are we-” came a voice from her right. Liv.  

“Almost done. I’ve got this.  Just keep swimming, right?”

“I don’t want to think about swimming,” ‘Via complained.  “Although I miss baths.”

“We’ve been lucky so far.” Baths.  That was good. Talk about something safe, something mundane. “Fountains, mostly.  There was that place with the satyr.”

“I wish we could have stayed there,” Liv admitted. “It was pretty.  I mean, I’d like to get home, but it – urgh.  Urgh, like lube all over – it seems like we’re on this grand adventure and we’re only getting the cruddy parts.”

Abby forced herself to open her eyes again as Liv complained about lube.  She was walking through a burned ghost at that moment, a version of herself that had – the fire mall.

“Keep going,” Abby urged.  “Eyes closed. I’ve got you.  I know what you mean, Liv.”

“Is nobody going to ask why she knows what lube feels like all over?” ‘Via didn’t quite sound like she wanted to ask, either.

“I figure that’s the sort of slumber-party talk we do in private,” Olly put in.  “Anyway, do we have to keep our eyes closed still?”

“Couple more steps.  This is – trust me, okay?”

“You know, I actually do.” ‘Via sounded like she was shaking her head.  “That’s nuts. But I do. You’re not gonna walk us off a ledge, are you?”

“Of course she isn’t!” Liv beat Abby to it.  “Why would she do something like that? This is nice Abby.”

“Besides,” Olly pointed out, with somewhat more cynicism, “she needs us to keep going.”

“One of us,” ‘Via countered.  “Two of us are spares.”

“No.  Come on.”  Abby hurried ahead.  There were only three more of the burned things between them and the next stairway, and the last thing she wanted was to spend more time looking at burned things that might have been people she used to know.

She stepped through the last burned husk and heard something like a splash.  Olly clutched her hand hard. Water? Water, shit, that could be the sharks.  It could be something else, too, she reassured herself.

“Okay, we’re past that.  Now we’re turning left again and then there’s stairs.  Here we go.”

Abby turned them onto the bridge and found herself face to face with herself.

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