Yadira offered them a place to sleep but seemed not in the least surprised when they didn’t take her up on her offer. She showed them a doorway after that – and seemed more than a bit surprised that they did take that.
“I’m starting to think that it doesn’t matter which door we take,” Abby admitted. “I think it’s more about our, uh, our mindset or something like that. The way we go through the door. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a formula. But -“
“But maybe we oughta just talk to the malls,” Olly finished. “Because maybe the malls can tell us where we have to go.”
“Or kill us,” ‘Via countered. “Or send us in circles. The malls are not our friends. I don’t know why anyone thinks they are! The malls are-“
“The malls, you heard her,” Liv huffed. “The malls, they used to be benign-“
“-or at least neutral,” Olly cut in. “She didn’t say they were-“
“I didn’t say they were friendly,” Yadira agreed, “but I’m not sure they were aware before, either. More like they were sleeping. Benignly neutral.”
“Sleeping.” Abby rolled that one over in her head, “but now they’re awake and being screwed up by – by me.”
Yadira tapped her on the top of the head. “By someone who has the same name and face as you.”
“-but a different set of life circumstances.”
“A different–” She looked between her Livs and swallowed. “What sort of life circumstances that started with me ended up with someone who wants to kill off the rest of – of herself?”
“I think,” Yadira answered gently, “the question may be more, what unique set of life circumstances started with someone who wanted to kill off the rest of herself and ended with you?”
“That — that’s really creepy, you know.”
“Well. You are here, in a hidden mall behind the ordinary mall, in a place many universes from your home timeline, having seen the death of yourself and the specters of the deaths of many. You are being followed not only by your best friend but by two of her doppelgangers. I would imagine that you are growing used to creepy.”
“That doesn’t mean that I like it. I don’t. If you were wondering. I don’t – I-” Abby flailed.
Liv caught her hand in mid-flail. “Let’s find someplace new. We can find something to eat, something to drink, and talk to a mall.”
“That sounds – scary. But it sounds good.” She took a few breaths and then a few more. Somewhere around the twelfth or thirteenth counted breath, one of the other Livs took her free hand. The other one – hopefully it was her and not Yadira- grabbed her beltloop.
“Everyone ready?” she managed.
She got three yeses that sounded all like Liv.
“Good. ” She took the doorknob.
“Safe travels, and remember me fondly.” Yadira patted her shoulder.
“Thank you. I hope – ah – good business and safe – shopping.” She thought about a mall I can talk to, a mall with food and water that I can talk to and turned the doorknob.Want more?