Hidden Mall 87: The Final Steps

Something was just a little too — a little too easy. 

Abseil put her hand over the mouthpiece.  “Someone – guys, get someone watching the front door.  Get the mall to close the doors if you can,” she murmured quietly,.   She didn’t want to lose her comfort here. She didn’t want to be left on her own, but —

But she had a responsibility.

Olly and Kevin stayed, arms tight around her, as she went back to the phone. 

“What do I win?” she repeated.  “You can’t bring them back, can you? The malls can’t restore dead people. They can’t give back Grandma Liv’s years spent here. They can’t heal. They can’t fix the hooks through Vic’s shoulders or any – any of it.  The way we’re all – every one of us – going to wake up in terror for years because there’s not a damn person out there that we can tell that we were trapped in a weird inter-dimensional mall because of a fucked-up high school rivalry.

“No,” she continued.  “No, I’ll tell you what.”

She had a sick feeling that this was all a distraction, but on the other hand, Vic had never been a great liar, never been all that good at theatre.  Vic was really scared. 

“I’ll tell you what I win, you miserable bitch.  I win knowing. I win you telling me.”

“Telling-” The girl’s voice broke.  “Telling you what?”

Someone shouted in the front of the store.  There were some thumps, the sound of a gun going off – just once, just one bullet – and Abseil looked back at the phone. 

“Telling me why the hell you have a problem with me.  Junior year.”  Abseil snarled it. “We’re in our junior year of school.  I met you in pre-K.  And there has never been a time when you didn’t have an issue with me.”

“I’m not – not your Vic. You know that, right?  My Abby is dead. I watched her die. Your Vic – no clue.  But I don’t know if this is hard concept for you or something, but I’m not that one.”

“I figured you probably weren’t.  But you teased your own Abby, right? You hated her.  I have only encountered a couple that didn’t. So what’s your problem?”  Abby leaned harder into Olly’s arms. There was shouting at the entryway to the store. She should be there. 

“You really don’t know.”

“If I knew-”  Abseil put her head down on Kevin’s shoulder. “Look, if I knew, I wouldn’t ask. That’s just asking for trouble.  But I don’t know. I’ve never known.”

“You were fun.”  Vic snorted. “You were easy.  You were this cute little kid and you were awkward as hell and everyone was making fun of me one day for this stupid hand-me-down shirt and there you were, building a tower out of legos, and all I had to do was point, and everyone left me alone.  And you cried, like a baby.  It was so easy.”

Abseil cleared her throat. “I remember that.  But your surrender failed, I’m afraid. She was going to cry (like a baby). She was going to scream. 

She had to get her people out of this safely. 

Olly squished her tight and Kevin rubbed the back of her head.  

“A surrender can’t fail, you idiot.  I give in. I surrender. You win.”

“Nice distraction.  But it’s not like I’m in this alone.”

She thought about that lego tower – and how Liv had been right there with her, working on a flying buttress. 

“That’s the problem.  It’s not like I’ve ever been in this alone.”

She hung up the phone.  “Thank you, Mall. What’s the next step?”

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