Hidden Mall 77: Afterwards?

“Security office.” Abby nodded slowly.  “Right. Stick with the left hand rule? Anyone got paper to write down where we’re going?”

“Oh, I do!” 

While Liv rustled in her bag, Olly patted Abby’s shoulder.  “It wouldn’t be our home,” she murmured, “yours or mine. It might not even be a home.  And if this world’s Abby and Liv came back…”

“I know…” She did know, that was the thing.  She knew — but it would still be out. “It’s just…”

“Got it!” Liv produced a notebook with a magenta-and-lime unicorn on the front.  “Okay, here’s bed, bath, beyond, B-B-B, and then, oh no, Hot Topic… and we’re going this way and… all good!”

Abby found herself smiling.  Liv really was a good friend – a great friend.  It was hard to remember how close they’d been, back before they’d gotten trapped in an endless set of malls, but maybe that was just – just because they were both closer and strangely further apart now. 

She shook herself.  “Okay, this way. ‘Via, keep an eye out for any strange landmarks or anything that seems to move that isn’t, you know, a person.  Olly, can you keep your eye out for dangers? I’m going to be seeing if there’s stores we haven’t encountered often, and Liv is going to be making the maps.”

Maybe she should have have ‘Via look out for dangers, but, on the other hand, ‘Via was already a little jumpy.  They headed down the hallway, sticking close together and trying not to get too distracted by the pseudo-Victorian in many of the store windows. 

Hot Topic had an amazingly good display – startlingly good until it moved, revealing itself to be two very pretty goth people in what might have, Abby supposed, been their day wear.  She waved and gave them a thumbs up, hoping that the gesture didn’t mean something rude or awful here. 

One of them waved back, so presumably  they weren’t offended. 

“It’s- it’s tempting,” Olly murmured.  “We’d all look so pretty like that.”

“As if we don’t get made enough fun of in school?” ‘Via countered. 

“Hey, people don’t make as much fun of the goths.  They’re scared of them.”

“Okay, having people be scared might be a pleasant side-effect…”  ‘Via smiled a little unpleasantly. 

“…We’re going to end up back in their world being the creepy triplets, aren’t we?” Olly muttered.  “I mean — I guess we could try to find our way back to my world or your world-“

“No, thank you.  I mean, not only will everyone blame me for Abby being gone, but it’s kind of a shitty world.”

“Ouch.”  Olly wrinkled her nose.  “So — I mean, our options are go home with them, and be the creepy triplets of all having the same name, or go find our own place where, uh.’  She cleared her throat. “… How many worlds did Liv and Abby go into a mall and never come out? How the hell do they explain that?”

‘Via gave her a strange look. “People disappear all the time. Just two more missing kids.  Manhunt, maybe. Posters. Eventually, everyone forgets.”

“That’s… dark.”  Liv squeezed Abby’s hand tighter.  “But I don’t – I – you guys should come home with us, okay?  I mean, it’s your choice, if you want your own world, I won’t push too much.  But you should come home with us.”

How had they ended up here? “First,” Abby reminded them quietly, gently.  “First we have to find our way out. Then – then, definitely.  We’re a team, guys. We’ll work it out, okay?”

The two shared a look.  Abby had a feeling they’d be talking it over later, probably out of earshot of Abby or Liv.  And that — she had to allow that was fine. They got to choose their own life, more or less, as much as any of them did.

“Yeah.”  Olly rolled her shoulders.  “Yeah, first we have to find a way out of here.  And first we need to get to the security office.  I think it’s this way.”

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