After the mom dig, Abby was half tempted to let ‘Via go do her own thing, but it wasn’t like it was the first time Liv – or someone like her – had called Abby mom after all, and it probably wouldn’t be the last (if they survived this mall). She held firmly to the hands she had, images of Liv and that awful candy coming back to her.
“If this is an actual carnival, I am going to shit myself,” Olly muttered. “What is with this place anyway? All the backstage stuff and-” She flailed with her free hand.
“What if it started out benign?” Liv posited, “and then you know, something happened to it to shift everything dark.”
“I don’t know, that place that bought regrets never seemed very benign to me.”
“But, I mean – why not?” Liv sounded sad and young again in the face of ‘Via’s scorn. “I mean, what’s wrong with not regretting things?”
“Because regret is how you learn. If you don’t remember that putting your hand in the fire was a bad idea, you’re going to do it again. They’re taking your experience, your pain, the stuff you earned.”
“I earned my happiness too!”
“Did you? Because some of it got handed to you by chance of which universe you were born into, it sounds like. Your dad didn’t die. Your Abby didn’t betray you.”
“‘Via.” Olly’s voice held warning. “Stop it. Maybe – maybe her Abby is -“
“I don’t remember that store, do any of you?” Abby pointed with the hand clasped with Olly’s and took a couple steps forward quickly.
“Which one? We went to the book store… oh.” Olly tilted her head. “That’s pretty. ‘Vapors and Mists’ No. I don’t remember anything like it.”
The convenient distraction was a very small store lodged between the book store and a leather vendor of some sort. Its sign was made either of letters drawn like they were floating on a transparent background, or actually was made of floating letters. Strange odors came from the place.
Even though it had been a very useful way to change the subject, Abby was regretting bringing it up already. “I wonder what other stores we haven’t seen?” she tried. “This place is like… the backstage mall that started them all or something? It seems more awake, more alive – hello?” A woman had stepped out in front of her, effectively blocking her path. Abby squeezed her friends’ hands and took a step backwards.
“Oh, don’t be afraid!” The woman had wide blue eyes and a voice like a song. “I heard you say ‘others,’ that’s interesting. You’ve seen other places like this, then”
Abby blinked. How long had it been since she’d talked to someone that didn’t know? Probably the robot place, but she’d never been sure about them. “I, ah, yes. Two other places like this. We’re not – not interested in buying anything. Or any freebies, either,” she added, taking another half-step backwards.
“Oh? You definitely have been someplace like this before. And learned something.” The woman’s gaze sharpened. “How interesting. And what about selling something?”Want more?