Hidden Mall 78: Trends

“I think I’m seeing a trend.”

Liv was staring at her notepad, one pen behind her ear, another in her mouth and a third in her hand. 

Abby glanced at the notebook, but she never could quite figure out Liv’s note-taking system. There was definitely something going on. 

“So it has to do with which stores connect to which malls.  But it’s not, well, something obvious, like ‘anchor stores’ or ‘menswear vs. girls’ clothes.'”   Liv glared at the paper.

Olly slipped in over her shoulder and stared at the notes.  She, no surprise, had no problem reading the mess. “You’re right.  It’s — so some of the stores are definitely dark. They’re not Abby’s favorite stores, are they? Because that would kind of suck.”

“Why would they be — oh.”  Abby sighed. “Because those might be the ones that Evil Abby – or uh, the evilest Abby –“

“You can just call her Evil Abby.  I’m willing to accept the thesis that all surviving Abbies aside from her aren’t evil.”  Olly gave her a smile that was probably supposed to be reassuring. Abby… didn’t feel all that reassured. 

“… Faint praise and all.  Okay. But if I like them, she might like them…” She eyed the stores.  “No, this looks – urgh. It looks more like Vic?”

 “Vic?  How so?”

“Well, like, she loves Abercrombie, she’s always in there, see?  And she really likes Tadfield’s. And there you go, that’s the Record Archive, who still goes there?  Well, Sandy on rare occasion, and Vic.”

“… Okay, that’s..  Uh. That’s really weird.  I thought that we were sure an Abby was behind this.”

“We were sure.  But what if we were wrong?  I mean,” Abby bit her lip.  “I think we need to talk to The Mall again.  I hope… fuck, I hope the mall isn’t lying to us.  ‘Cause if it is-“

They all fell silent, looking between each other.  ‘Via, who had been suspiciously quiet up until now, snorted. 

“You know, I don’t know about your Vic, but can’t you see that?  I mean, remember in second grade, when she did that thing where she kept throwing things so that it looked like it was Abby?”

A shared look said that yes, that had happened in all of their universes. 

“And remember — well, did she ever get you in trouble for cheating off her test? When she cheated off us?”

Another nod.  Yep. Abby wondered if it was the same test, or if Vics were just the same everywhere. Every- verse?

“So – why not?  I mean, I don’t know how she’d do it, but there might be a way.  We’ve encountered some pretty weird stuff.” Olly chewed on her lip.  “Except–“

“Except it’s my Abby, isn’t it?”  ‘Via frowned. “And she’s been a horrible shit all along.  She wanted to be The Abby. She wanted to be — you know. So how, what–“

Abby glowered. “It’s a pretty clever way to make it look like it’s just friends fighting, isn’t it?  Set it all up to be Abby’s fault. I mean, that’s what we were saying. And Vic has always hated us.”

“But that was us,” Liv pointed out.  “Not you.”

“How much did it hurt?” she asked, hating herself for asking.  “I … I mean. She’s hurting Livs, too, isn’t she? Not even counting all the Livs that have died.  If you all are stuck in worlds or trapped looking for your lost Abbies or just… knowing that your Abby died.  I mean. If the situation was reversed – I’d be a wreck. Maybe she’s just multitasking and hurting everyone at once.”  She chewed on her lip. “If it’s Vic.  It might still be an Abby using a Vic.”

“Could they be working together?  Except, no, they never work together.  Except, except,” Olly frowned. “If the Vic in the wheelchair is in charge — if that’s even true — how’s she doing it?”

“… I wonder if the Mall knows.”  Liv looked at the door. “Maybe we should go get dinner and ask some more questions?  Because some of the malls…”

“…Like the Plastics mall…”

“Uuuugh,” Liv and Olly said together. 

“Or that robotic one,” Abby continued.  “So… where does that leave us?”

“Needing a spare Vic?”  Liv made a face. “Or at least to consult with one.  So we’re sure we have all her favorite stores.”

“Ugh.”  Abby couldn’t help but agree.  “… That, and talking to the Mall.  Let’s do that tonight, then go hunt down the wild Vic tomorrow.”

They shared a shudder, even ‘Via.  There were some things that definitely seemed to cross most universes.

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