“Abs. Abseil. Abigail Abseiling Abs!”
Abby blinked. She looked at Olly, trying to keep Evil-Abby in her view still. “Olly?”
“It’s not real. She’s not real, it’s okay, it’s okay, she’s not real. Look, Abs, okay? Just look.”
Abseil made herself look. The Abby hadn’t moved. She still didn’t move. She was — taller than Abseil? No, standing on a short plinth.
She was a statue?
“Waxworks,” Liv muttered. She squeezed Abseil’s hand tightly. “It’s a statue. Like a historical rendering? Mall — right?”
“THIS ONE IS WAX. THERE WAS NOTHING TO BE FOUND OF THAT ONE, BUT CAMERA IMAGES PROVIDED SUFFICIENT TO RECREATE THE EXPRESSION AS YOU TOLD HER SHE WAS PATHETIC. THE ROUNDABOUT MALL HOPES YOU ENJOY OUR NEW DISPLAY. WE BELIEVE IT WILL BE QUITE INSTRUCTIVE FOR OTHER SHOPPERS, AS WELL AS ANY OTHERS WHO DECIDE THAT THEY SHOULD ATTEMPT TO CORRUPT THE MALLS.”
Abseil blinked. She took a step back from the wax Evil!Abby and considered it. She took a breath. “Is there -“
“PUSH THE BUTTON. IT IS INTERACTIVE.”
“I – okay. Okay.”
She didn’t see a button immediately; Liv pointed it out. It was on the wall, right at a height where even a child could push it. So she did.
The wax sculpture did not move. Abseil wasn’t sure she could handle it if it had. But the voice that came from it was surprisingly realistic.
“I’m the only Abby. You’re just a corpse that hasn’t stopped moving yet. Look at all these Livs. All these Vics. All these clones of each other. And once you have a second one, why do you need the first? There’s dozens and dozens of them, and none of them matter, because they’re like plastic dolls on a shelf. If you break one, you just pick up another one.”
And then another voice: the same voice, but different. “You want to be the only Abby. How [bleeep] lame is that? You can’t figure out how to be unique enough, you have to be the only one remotely like you. That’s ridiculous.”
The cuts – other than the bleep – were so seamless that Abseil, if she had not been there, would not have been able to tell that it had been cut at all. It kept the feeling of her words well enough; she didn’t object.
“Am I?” She didn’t know who she was asking. Maybe the Mall.
“Ridiculous?” Olly bumped a hip into her. “Only once in a while. And we love you, so we really don’t mind.”
“No – well, that’s good to know,” she admitted. “Thanks. But I meant, am I, am I the only Abby? It seems lonely.”
“THE MALL – THE LARGER ORGANISM THAT IS ALL THE MALLS, NOT JUST THIS FRANCHISE, THE ROUNDABOUT MALL, HAS BEEN LOOKING. WE HAVE NOT FOUND ANY OTHER ABBIES.”
For a moment, the mall sounded like a person again.
“WE ARE SORRY. WE WILL KEEP LOOKING.”
Then the moment was gone, and the mall was back to its “Mall Announcements” voice. “IF YOU CONTINUE ON, YOU WILL SEE TO YOUR LEFT THREE OTHER PERPETRATORS OF THE MALL CONTAMINATION.”
“Three?” Abseil walked on, curious despite herself. “There was- oh.”
A storefront had been split into three – you had to call them cages, nothing else seemed right. There was a little area in the back where someone could sleep, and the front was a solid plexiglass wall. “Like a zoo,” Liv whispered.Want more?