“So all the people who have come through here,” Abby swallowed. She was feeling very parched again, as if the ghost mall had taken longer to get out of and taken more out of her than she’d guessed or anticipated. “All of those people, and only three of them were us. Where did the rest of us go?”
“I think you know-” Yadira stopped herself again with a small huff. “The practice of being obscure is a hard one to break. I apologize. I think that many, many Abigails have died, and that while not as many Olivias have died, many have been stranded.” She paused, and then admitted, so softly that Abby could barely hear her, “That magic is new. The fact that only pairs – and only specific pairs – can travel the malls is very new. So much has happened since the curse came down. It’s changed everything about this place, and none of it for the better.” She looked between them solemnly. “How did you come to this particular place?”
“Ignoring advice we’d been given,” Abby admitted.
“Following the ghosts,” Olly put in. “They seemed to have a good idea of where we should go.”
“The – oh. oh, that place.” Yadira put both hands over her mouth. “I am sorry you had to see that place. It’s not a good one.”
“It’s better than the hung place.” Liv twitched. “Or the one on fire.”
“Oh, dear, you really have seen some of the worst places, haven’t you?”
“Some of?” Abby’s mouth was dry. She couldn’t tell if any of it was panic, or if it was just plain thirst.
“Well, without going through a list of all of the bad places I know or all of the bad places you’ve been, we’ll say some of. There are some nice places, even now, but some of those simply hide the rot or the danger better-“
“We found a couple of those,” Olly put in grimly.
“I’m sure you have. And some of them are only dangerous to, say, you, travelers, because they are battening down the hatches and trying to survive this, ah, this mess.”
“Mess.” Abby made a face.
“It’s a mild word for it, yes, but it’s at least somewhat accurate. So. You have come here. This is a good step, on the quest I believe you’re on. The next steps will be harder, but I can offer you a few things to make them – if not easier, more possible.” She took in a long breath. “But I will also understand if you distrust anything that comes from me.”
“Why – why did ‘up and left’ work but the ghosts sent us somewhere else?” Liv leaned forward, frowning. “I thought the directions – ah. The directions we got from ‘old-me’, I thought we could trust them. But then the ghosts, they told us something different, and we ended up here.”
“Up and to the left, down and to the right, both of those will indeed get you someplace. The question becomes: where is it that you truly want to end up?”
Abby shared a look with all three of her Livs and cleared her throat. “Where the Abbies are dying.”
“Where the one who’s killing them is, you mean.”Want more?