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Landing Page: The Hidden Mall

Abby and Liv were just trying to get away from their least favorite bully, Vic Carter, when they ducked into the back hall of their local mall.

Now they’re more lost than they’ve ever been, and they may need Vic’s help to get home.


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The Hidden Mall 32: Advice 📝

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Stay Alive

Abby woke to find Old Liv staring at her from the entryway of the tent.  “Trouble?” she mouthed. To either side of her, there was a Liv, sound asleep.

Liv-Old shook her head.  “Just… It always surprises me,” she murmurs, “how young you are. But you’re younger than most of them, I think.  You haven’t been in here long at all, have you?”

“No.”  Abby didn’t want to wake up her Livs.  She considered the way they were all laying and, after a moment, sat up slowly, and moved to the front of the tent, finding that she could sit cross-legged and keep one knee touching each of her Livs. “It’s still weird, sleeping in the mall, for me.  But at least, uh. The robot people gave us a bath?”

Liv-Old snorted.  “Yeah. I went about a month without a bath during my first year or two because I was being squeamish.  Same with food. After a while-” Continue reading

The Hidden Mall 31: Stay Alive 🏹

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Aberrant!

“What do you mean?”  Liv-1 stared at her. “Wait.”

“No.  No…” Liv-2 sounded horrified.  Nauseous. “That means all the moving around, all of the trying to find a door home.  It was useless?”

“Not useless.” Liv-old put a hand on each young Liv’s back and pushed gently. “Look.  All that running around means sometimes you can move more than you think you can. The younger ones, they can’t do it without a partner.  But it’s good. The more you move around the more you know this place.”

“But you’re… how do we get out?  How do we get home?” Continue reading

The Hidden Mall: Aberrant! 🤖

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Say What?

“No, no, “ Abby started, but she had a feeling the ‘bot wasn’t going to listen to her.  “no, not aberrant. Just hungry. We just want something to-”

“ABERRANT.  DESTROY THE ABERRANT BEFORE IT INFECTS ALL.”

“Guys?” Abby squeaked.

“Run.”  Liv grabbed her hand.  Liv grabbed her other hand.  They ran.

Behind them, there were bots grating away about them being aberrant.  Well, about Abby being aberrant.  In front of them, the flow was flawing bright white, almost too bright to see.

Their feet were pounding soundlessly on the floor.  She was sweating in both hands, grips slipping. She was not going to lose Liv.  She was not- Continue reading

The Hidden Mall 29: Say What?💬

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Clean

“Excuse me?”  Abby took a step backwards, reaching for her friends.  “Packaging? I don’t want to be wrapped up any further than I already am, thank you.”

“You will need face masks.  Packaging will now commence.”

A whirr and a soft creaking noise came from the bin where their bags had been.  A few more sounds commenced – ripping, some shaking, and something that sounded like sucking air through a straw.

Then three identical white bags popped out.  They looked clean, they looked like they had everything in them, and they looked more comfortable than the back packs they’d had.

Each of them took one.  The bot, now a sphere again, whirred at them one more time.  “Please take one face mask each and install on face.  Please take one face mask each…”

A tray popped out of the sphere’s side.  They took one face mask each and, after a moment, figured out how to put them on.  They were surprisingly comfortable, and now the three of them were nearly anonymous.

“This is weird.”  Liv-probably-1’s voice came out clearer than it ought to have, but also somehow anonymized.  “Like, we got all our individuality pulled away.”

“On the plus side,” the other Liv pointed out, “we’re clean.  Now if only we’d been fed.”

“The food depot is out this door and to the left.  Please follow the blue line.” The bot was far too helpful.  “You have been cleaned.  You may now pursue food.”

“Do we have to chase it?” Liv-probably-2 muttered.  “Because I’m not all that hungry, but I might still run something down.”

“Please follow the blue line towards food,” the bot repeated.  

“Following,” Abby agreed.  She took both Liv’s hands. If she lost them here, she was never going to be able to pick them out of a crowd.

One of the Lizs glanced sidelong at her. “This is getting to be a habit.” Continue reading

The Hidden Mall 28: Clean✨

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Reunion

It was too awkward, talking to all these people with the faces of people she knew.  Abby rushed through a meal of ridiculous fruit and meat she didn’t want to ask too much about, Chinese-restaurant sauces and a few spices that the person in batik swore up and down would do nothing more than make mystery meat taste more palatable.

It would feel nice to sleep here, but something about the way Vic looked at them, the way Kevin looked at her when he thought she wasn’t looking, the way Greg sometimes looked at Tommy, it made her feel like they shouldn’t be here.  Like it was like looking at ghosts for them. Continue reading

The Hidden Mall: Reunions

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Back the Way They Came

Abby glanced at both her Livs, to find one of them as shocked as she was and the other completely not surprised.

She cleared her throat. “Food?” she asked.  “We can trade some ridiculous fruit.”

“Fruit?”  Kevin leaned forward.  “I haven’t had fruit in-”

“It’s been a while.”  Vic squeezed his shoulder.  “Okay. You have the question-face on.  So. Short version: This is this world’s Kevin.  I’m not this world’s Vic – she couldn’t make it through the doors.  I’m a traveler, but I lost my Sandy, and without her it’s almost impossible to go anywhere, and, besides, this one might be kind of grubby, but nothing here is actively trying to kill anyone.  Um. Usually.” She coughed and looked away. Continue reading

The Hidden Mall ⏳ Rip Van Winkle

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Back the Way They Came

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here: http://www.lynthornealder.com/verses/the-hidden-mall/

Abby stared at the door.  “Hold on?” she asked the Livs.  It won’t go where it did.  Well, nothing had yet.  We can’t go home.  What did Abby want more than anything?  Home?

She wanted to feel safe, and to have a warm place to sleep and a real meal.  She wanted to see sunlight and feel it on her face.

She opened the door. Continue reading

The Hidden Mall: Back the Way They Came ↩️

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Circles

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here: http://www.lynthornealder.com/verses/the-hidden-mall/

They turned back, retracing their steps.  Past the Tome Home, past the little shop where Liv had traded in a regret for a necklace.  Back towards the hallway, where it had first looked all bright and colorful and shiny, where it now looked covered in cobwebs, grey, and awful.  Back through the narrow door and into a cold concrete hallway, covered in pipes.

They were all holding their breath.  They were moving slowly, as if they were afraid what they would see.  She was holding on to both Liv’s hands tightly.  She didn’t want to lose either of them.  She didn’t want to know what happened if they got split up here, here where it had all began. Continue reading

The Hidden Mall: Circles 🔘

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: Normal

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here: http://www.lynthornealder.com/verses/the-hidden-mall/

🔘

“One minute.  Just one minute, and then we can run.”  She was being ridiculous, and she knew it.  No, she was being suicidal.  But she had to know.

She pulled the bag from the skeletal hand and passed it to her Liv, who took it as it it was on fire, holding it with two fingers by the end of a strap.  Then she pushed aside a bunch of the vines in one rough shove.

The vines wanted to crawl back in, pulling back around the body, pulling back around Abby, but she grabbed what she was looking for – the chain of the necklace around the corpse’s neck – and pulled hard. Continue reading

The Hidden Mall: Normal ⛲

First: The Hidden Mall – a beginning of something
Previous: The Hidden Mall: Ropes & Vines

The Hidden Mall has a landing page here: http://www.lynthornealder.com/verses/the-hidden-mall/

Abby and skinny-Liv slept in beds bracketing Liv-1, who had been tied down probably more thoroughly than she needed to be.  Abby had thought she’d have trouble falling asleep – a strange bed, a strange world, and with no idea what might be out there – but she was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.

She woke to a streak of light coming over her eyes from a window far overhead.  The vines seemed a lot closer than they had been the night before, but they hadn’t made it over her or – she glanced over – to the Livs’ beds, and both Livs were there.

And awake, too.  “I have to pee,” whined Liv.  “I mean, I really  have to pee.”

“Let’s see how good the bathrooms are here.  I seriously need a shower,” Abby sighed, “but that’s not happening any time soon.  How are you feeling, Liv?”

“Other than having to pee?”  Liv considered. “I want to see the Beavers.  But it’s not.  Um.  it’s not urgent. Peeing is urgent.  And eating.”

“So we can’t tell,” Skinny-Liv mused, “if she’s getting better or if the compulsion is just overridden by biological compulsions.  Come one.” She unbuckled all the restraints and dropped them in her bag.  “So, Abby, you found something that wasn’t trying to kill us, in terms of settings.  Not bad.”

“it’s still a ruined mall, though.  I mean, like you said, thy planted kudzu, and it’s going everywhere.”  Abby tidied up the area, not sure, as she did it, why she was doing it.  “Everyone have everything?”

“We slept in the mall,” LIv whispered.  “We slept in the mall.  In a dead mall.  That’s kind of weird.”

“Yeah, but everything is weird right now.  Here’s the ladies’ room.”

“What, do you think some guy is going to walk in on us?”  Skinny-Liv wrinkled her nose.  “Never mind, it’s probably a mess.  Men’s rooms usually are.”

“I want to go home,” Abby admitted in a small voice.  “I can’t, I mean, I don’t know how to get us there.  So uh.  I’m gonna do things as normally as I can.”

It was hard to pretend to be normal when they picked big fruits off of a kudzu to eat for breakfast, or when they wandered out into the mall and bathed in a big fountain.  They took towels from housewares and picked up a bigger backpack and a little camp stove and propane tank in sporting goods, cooked some of the fruits, and made a lazy circuit of the mall.

They had almost decided this mall was a benign one when Skinny Liv made a choked sound.  At first, Abby thought they’d come back around to where she’d left her bag, but no.  They were next to a Cinnamon Hut; they hadn’t gone by one of those yet.  And that backpack was too worn to be hers.  Too… She took a step forward.  It had the same patches.  It had the same broken zipper with a twist-tie.  It had

a semi-skeletal hand holding onto it, emerging from the vines.  The hand had bones showing through flesh; it was definitely no long alive.   Abby, driven by something between horror and curiosity, moved forward.

“Abby… don’t.”  One of the Livs pulled at her arm.  “Abby, you don’t want to-”

“I want to.  I – people keep telling me I don’t want to know, but I do.  If all of me but me have died, I want to know how.  I want to know why.  I want to know if I’m gonna fall over from a brain tumor in twenty minutes and leave both of you alone in here, and, if so, who’s going to help you?”

“Abby?”  Something about the voice told her this one was her Liv.  “Abby, I can take care of you, too.  It doesn’t have to all be on you.  Do you want – do you want me to look?”

Yes.  “I can do this.  I think I can do this.”  She used a towel she was still carrying to push aside the vines a little at a time.  They writhed and reached for her, grabbing at her.  “And if Abby is here, what happened to her Liv?”

“Probably ran off.  It’s – when something is eating your friend and you can’t stop it and she tells you to run, when it starts to eat you, too… We’re cowards, Abby, sorry.  Her Liv probably grabbed the nearest back door and ran.  And Abby? We should, too.  We should go, because those vines are acting a lot more energetic now.  We should go.”


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