The next two days went so smoothly Abby was beginning to believe that things could just, well go smoothly.
They would travel to a Mall, talk to it (if it would still listen or could still listen, which some of them simply couldn’t), and, if they were lucky, get an affirmative answer.
They cleaned out two fountains, did some really nerve-wracking window-washing (the inside roof of a food court), dripped three drops of blood each into a circle, did some intense and obstacle-course-based mall-walking, and fought some wild dogs. They also filled out surveys, gave out their phone number, and wrapped presents for a couple hours.
In between, they visited the Shifting Mall, where they would shop a little, eat, and sleep again before heading out to do the same thing again.
The third mall on the third day of this turned everything on its head.
“I think this is a dead one,” ‘Via whispered.
It was empty, some of the store grates closed, a few mannequins lopsidedly waiting behind glass for the next bright fashion of twenty years ago. The halls were dusty, although there were a few sets of footpaths through the dirt. The fountain made a sick noise, like it was still trying to pump. The surviving lights flickered sickly.
“We should try, anyway.” Abby wasn’t sure about that. She could see where there was a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They could go back to “their” mall and try somewhere else. They could grab another door and see where that led them.
“All right.” Olly thumped the map display until the light flicked on. “Okay, it looks like we want to go this way—”
The PA system was full of static and cracked a whine at the end of the transmission, but that was definitely, definitely someone crooning her name.
“A-a-beeeee.” The transmission cleared up slightly before popping into loud, ear-splitting static.
Abby found herself surrounded by Livs.
“There’s — fffzt — left. sbat — surprised. Fzzt — more.”
Someone shoved her, hard, a second before a lighting fixture fell to the ground where she had been. The floor buckled and heaved, tossing them towards a defunt knife store which, improbably, still had knives, all of them pointing towards them.
She grabbed for an arm, a leg, anything. She managed to get ahold of someone’s ankle and someone else grabbed her other wrist. She got a foot hooked on a ledge of tile and caught them all as they tumbled closer and closer to the knife store.
The floor shifted and bounced again and they fell downwards, the knives falling after them. Abby curled around herself, around the nearest Liv, protecting her face, protecting her friend.
A yelp from another Liv came at the same time as a sharp pain in the back of her calf. The floor shook again and they all started falling — this time towards the railing overlooking a two-story drop and a spiky rusted metal statue.
The railing held them, but it was creaking and moaning ominously. Abby grabbed onto the railing and began to pull herself upright. Her left calf screamed with the movement, but it was going to have to wait.
Below them, the fountain was bubbling. “It wasn’t doing that before,” ‘Via creaked. Abby thought it was ‘Via.
She pulled herself towards the corner. “Door. We need to get to a door, all right? Any do — not the closest two doors,” she corrected. “If I was setting a trap for me, I’d make the first door be trapped too.”
“You think this is—” one of the Livs grunted, grabbed Abby’s shoulder, and struggled as the floor shook.
“Hey!” call probably-another-Liv “Mall! You’re giving horror malls a bad name! You don’t work for anyone, do you? You’re — you’re a demon, aren’t you?”
The floor settled. The four of them sprinted for the safety of the closest store that wasn’t selling knives. Abby was leaving a trail of blood. She was going to have to do something about that soon.
Crystal and glass — no. Already half-broken. Lead paperweights — “Who in hell has a lead paperweight store in a mall?” Abby muttered.
But the store two past that was a pillows and blankets store. Just as the floor shuddered and quaked and heaved again, they darted into it.
They landed against the pillows with a huff and a whimper
“Is that what you want to do?” Olly shouted at the mall. “Really? Come on, you’re sentient. There’s a demon in there who wants to come out and—”
“Olly? Ixnay on the out-ay,” Abby muttered.
The shuddering stopped. They all moved slowly towards the front of the store; Liv and ‘Via had wrapped themselves in the plushest feather beds at hand.
The floor started shaking again, a thumping ka-bump ka-bump, pause, ka-bump, ka-bump.
“Okay, I see a door across the hall. We don’t want that one. Let’s run down to that, mmm, maternity store. One, two, now.”
They dashed across the hall in a chain of hand-holding and sprinted around the kiosks — crystals and mercury; cleaning products, bleach, ammonia; talking dolls — and past a pet store full of screaming animals. The thumping was moving slowly, but still coming closer and closer to them.
They landed in the maternity store against a pile of shirts. Abby swallowed a yelp and put her hand down to her leg.
“A-a-a-beeee,” growled a deep voice, so deep it seemed to make her teeth rattle. “A-a-a-beee.”Want more?