The ghosts led them past the cracked and melted remains of a Ground Round and a nail salon to a door that, in a normal world, might to go the outside. To a parking lot. Abby stared at the doors – smoked overs and opaque – and reached for one of the handles.
A ghost caught her wrist with what remained of its hand. No. The meaning was clear even if the phantoms made no noise.
They pointed, all three – no, now there were four, the last one looking like a very very old woman, her face wrinkled up into anonymity but her shirt the same as the one Liv had been wearing when they entered the mall originally – directing them past what had probably, at one point, been a news-stand. There in the ashes was a doorway, one of the ones that led to the passages behind the mall.
“Shit,” Abby muttered. “Shit, I don’t want to-”
“I think we have to.” She didn’t turn to see which Liv it was, but she thought it was Olly. “I mean, it’s this or the vines. And it’s – well – it might not be a trap?”
“Let’s go,” another Liv agreed tensely. Probably ‘Via from the sounds of it.
Abby made sure there were three hands – from three Livs that she knew – on her, nodded at the probably-an-ancient-Liv ghost, and opened the door, holding her breath. She didn’t know why, but the back-malls seemed like such a bad idea…
…of course, she had to admit, so was everything else.
They stepped through. The door thunked closed behind them.
They were in another industrial hall with another door at the end. Abby walked forward quickly in the dim, flickering light. There were garbage bags to the right and old, cracked posters to the left. OSHA notices, or something similar. Abby kept walking. The letters seemed wrong if she looked too closely, but she didn’t have time or energy for that.
She reached the next door and thought, hard, focusing, a way to the center of this. To the heart of it. I want to solve this. I want to get home- She caught herself before she got too sidetracked. A way to the center of this all. To the center of this all.
The door swung open to show glittering lights. Carnival music was playing from some unseen speaker. There were brilliant colors everywhere. Slowly, Abby looked up. The lights went up and up, until they seemed to fade into the darkness far above.
Liv clutched her hand tightly. “This seems way too good to be true. This seems – this seems-” she stuttered.
“I know,” Olly breathed. “Like something from when I was a kid.”
“Like that place Dad took us.” ‘Via took a step forward, and then another.
“Hey.” Abby tried to sound gentle, but when none of them listened, she tried again a little more sharply. “Hey! Come on, you three, let’s stick together, okay? We’ll go look at the place, but keep close.”
‘Via’s face twisted. She started to say something and then shook her head, a violent gesture. “Right. Right, okay.” She took Olly’s free hand with an exaggerated gesture. “We’ll stick together, mom.”Want more?