“Shit, shit-shit-shit, shitty shit shit,” Abby muttered, although she knew that wasn’t going to do any good. “Shit, there’s a demon out there, how do we get – oh!” She grabbed at hands and flailed at her friends and pulled them back past the pastel tops and the clever sayings and the jeans with the stretch panels to the door marked “employees only.”
“Why is there even stuff in here?” she whispered. “Why do we have stuff in a dead mall?”
That wasn’t the issue, though. She got them into the back room as the steps got way too close and counted, one, two, three, herself. “You’re the right Liv- Olivias – right? I didn’t leave one of mine behind?”
“This is the Liv you came in with. Ginger candy and that book lady,” Liv added.
Abby breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
“Okay, so this is probably not a-“
“Aaaaa-beeeeeee.” The crashing was way too close. Maybe in the store next to theirs. “Commme out and diiiiie.”
She grabbed the door handle, made sure she had all three hands on her, and plunged through.
They came out in a concrete hallway. She shut the door firmly behind her and held her breath.
“Okay.” Abby looked at the door. The sign on it, small and worn, said Demon stage. “Well, that’s helpful.” She gestured with a hand clasped with – she looked – Olly’s hand. “Let’s see where we are and if it has a central security center we can talk to.”
“I’m sorry I convinced the demon to come out,” Olly whispered.
“Ols. Ols, it’s okay.” Abby patted her shoulder. “It’s fine. None of this is your fault, is our faults. There’s an evil mall, that’s all. All right, let’s see where we are, okay?”
She made sure she had three Livs one more time and then headed carefully, almost tiptoeing, down the back hall.
“On stage in five!” someone shouted from behind them. They turned; there was a man with a clipboard coming towards them. “Are you my extras?”
“No? No, we’re not,” Abby stammered.
“Then get off my stage. Go on, hurry, get where you’re going. I’ve got a flood I’ve got to run in five – four minutes and you are in the way.”
“Can you point us to – can you point us to the garden?” Liv asked nervously.
“Babylonian, White Witch, or Victorian?”
“Victorian,” she stammered.
“You’ll have to hit costuming. It’s to the left, though, go that way, hurry, I’m in a rush, and then turn left when you get to the big gap. Go on. Hurry, or I’m putting you in the water.”
They hurried, rushing down the hall until they reached a place to turn left.
“Was that -” Olly turned to look behind them. They couldn’t see anyone anymore.
“I have no idea. Garden?” ‘Via eyed Liv, who shrugged.
“I dunno, it was the first safe thing that came to mind. We didn’t want to end up where he was, in a flood, right?”
“Right.” Abby said it the same time as Olly. ‘Via just nodded.
“Are we…” Olly looked around slowly. “Is this really – I mean – is it a backstage for the horror movie that is the mall? I mean, is that even possible? Or is this just another horror movie?”
“I.. I don’t know,” Abby admitted. “I think we’d better treat it like both. I mean, we ought to be careful with it, and we ought to not try to break the illusion, and we ought to get out of here. Garden sounds like a decent place to find our way out of, at least.” She sighed. “Guys, what if – what if this was all a horrible idea?”
“Going into the back of the mall?” ‘Via stared at her. “I think we determined that a long time ago.”
“No, no, I mean, yes, yes, it was, but no.” Abby flapped her hands. “What if this was a horrible idea?”
“Abby.” Liv’s voice was firm, a sort of firmness Abby didn’t remember hearing all that often. “If you are going to get maudlin, I insist you wait until we get back to base and I absolutely swear if you beat yourself up for having a plan, I am going to tie you to a bed and make you watch movies until you relax and remember that you’ve kept us all alive more than once. Okay?”
Abby huffed. “Okay,” she muttered. She wasn’t going to admit that the whole tie you to a bed and watch movies thing sounded pretty all right to her.Want more?