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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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Consumer Worldbuilding 

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Hidden Mall 76: Amazed

They got to the garden stage with no serious difficulties – someone measured them for costumes twice, and someone else pinned down one of the Livs – ‘Via – and gave her an interesting make-up job that made her look like a supermodel.  A starving supermodel. 

“All right.”  Abby took a breath.  “We’re going to assume that this whole backstage thing is sort of what it looks like and sort of not.  I.e., it’s part of the Mall and it leads to other malls. Like this.” She gestured at the door. “Because any other assumption is going to make me go stark, raving mad.”  Like the thought that this was all some really fucked up show and there was an exit somewhere.  “Ready?” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 75: Backstage

“Shit, shit-shit-shit, shitty shit shit,” Abby muttered, although she knew that wasn’t going to do any good. “Shit, there’s a demon out there, how do we get – oh!”  She grabbed at hands and flailed at her friends and pulled them back past the pastel tops and the clever sayings and the jeans with the stretch panels to the door marked “employees only.”

“Why is there even stuff in here?” she whispered. “Why do we have stuff in a dead mall?”

That wasn’t the issue, though.  She got them into the back room as the steps got way too close and counted, one, two, three, herself.  “You’re the right Liv- Olivias – right? I didn’t leave one of mine behind?”

“I’m ‘Via.”

“Olly here.” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 74: Progress

The next two days went so smoothly Abby was beginning to believe that things could just, well go smoothly.

They would travel to a Mall, talk to it (if it would still listen or could still listen, which some of them simply couldn’t), and, if they were lucky, get an affirmative answer.

They cleaned out two fountains, did some really nerve-wracking window-washing (the inside roof of a food court), dripped three drops of blood each into a circle, did some intense and obstacle-course-based mall-walking, and fought some wild dogs.  They also filled out surveys, gave out their phone number, and wrapped presents for a couple hours. Continue reading

Hidden Mall 73: Answers

She came out of the shower feeling a little more relaxed and a lot more certain. The Olivias were waking up,and Abby noted that they had found some small wheeled suitcases and packed up all of their purchases — except an outfit laid out for Abby.

Liv knew her tastes.  She smiled and changed while the three stretched and moaned.

“That,” ‘Via muttered, “is the best night of sleep I have ever had.”

“Ditto.”  Olly touched her toes and reached up to the ceiling a couple times. “Wonder if there’s breakfast before we head on.”

“I feel like — I feel like we’re being bribed,” Liv admitted. Continue reading

Hidden Mall 72: A Breather

They turned a corner to a hall they hadn’t been in before to find a Relaxation Center, which appeared to be a series of beds in the back and massage chairs in front.

“Now this,” Abby mutters, “every mall needs.  Let me tell you, when we get out of here, I’m going to get rich — somehow — and then I’m going to build a mall with a hotel attached.  A little one. But attached.”

“When we get out of here,” Olly retorted quietly, “I am never going into a mall again.  I might even avoid strip malls. Shop online. Buy from local boutiques in stand-along buildings.  Although, with all the shopping we just did, I might not need to shop for a few years.”

Abby flopped down on a bed.  “Guys, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m so – so miserable.” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 71: Shopping!

The letters sort of hung on the screen.  Abby thought her eyes might be beginning to blur.

SOME OF YOU ARE MORE DISTINCT THAN OTHERS.

“Good, good.  We all have two legs… wait.  Some of us might have four legs.”  The Animal Farm reference distracted her for a second.  What was it, Four legs good, two legs bad?

I HAVE NOT SEEN AN ABBY WITH FOUR LEGS, ALTHOUGH ONE CRAWLED.

“It was a bad joke.  Ah. If we shop for you, and send you others that will shop in you, will you hold the Abby you first made an agreement with?”

I CAN HOLD HER, AS LONG AS SHE DOES NOT COME INTO THE CONFIGURATION SHE MADE AN AGREEMENT WITH.  

On the screens to the left, the shops slid together until there was no escaping them.  Abby gulped.

“Which configuration will you hold her in?”

CLEVER.  The screens all flashed for a moment, the images jiggling.  ALL CONFIGURATIONS EXCEPT THE ONE WITH WHICH THE OTHER ABBY MADE THE AGREEMENT.

“Okay.”  Abby relaxed.  “You must like us.”

YOU ARE PLEASANT BEINGS. WE HAVE AN AGREEMENT.  WHEN YOU ARE DONE SHOPPING, GO TO THE VERANDA EXIT AND THE DOOR WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET TO THE NEXT MALL YOU NEED TO GET TO AND HOW TO GET HERE WHEN YOU NEED TO.

“…This is really possible?”

Abby barely registered the credit cards dropping on the desk in front of her.

MANY THINGS ARE POSSIBLE IF THEY ARE NEEDED.  THIS IS NEEDED. I WILL HOLD THE OTHER ABBY IF SHE COMES HERE.  SHOP. EAT. REST. MOVE ON.

Abby picked up the credit cards.  “Thank you.”

THANK YOU.

“Okay girls, let’s shop.” She found herself smiling, giddy, ready to whoop.  She had a magical credit card and a whole mall to play in. She was going to enjoy it.

An hour later, they flopped in the food court, their table laden with food and bags all around them. ‘Via had been the hardest to coax to shop; she had spent too long in the malls and too long bitter.  In the end, Olly and Liv had done it by trying on things and showing them how they’d look on her.

A doppleganger would be nice for shopping, Abby mused.  Shopping and knowing what I’m thinking and so many other things.  “If only the other me wasn’t evil,” she muttered out loud.

Olly shot her a look.  “You can’t help that, you know.  You can only be yourself. You can’t do anything with the way they are.”

“I know.”  She sighed.  “I’m being stupid.”

Liv shot her a look.  “Which definition is this?  Like mooning over a jerk, or being ridiculous and not telling the teacher when you’re being bullied, or-“

“Oh.”  Olly blinked.  “Jealousy.”

“Well…” Abby sighed.  “Yeah. Something like that, I think. Like I said, stupid.”

“Your Abby has flavors of stupid?” ‘Via leaned forward, looking curious, chewing on a chicken wing.  The food had come without any apparent people, the same way every store had taken their credit card. “And – acknowledges it?”

“What?  I’m a human being.  And Liv is my best friend.  I mean, Liv has seen me through all sorts of stupid — even before this.”  She leaned in closer to her friend.

“This wasn’t your stupid.”  Liv was suddenly really quiet.  “This was totally my stupid.”

“I mean, to be fair, I think it was, uh, technically my doppelganger’s evil.” She poked at her food.  “I mean, the mall would’ve been interesting but safe otherwise, I think – I mean, if we can believe what anyone tells us.”

The thought was depressing.  The whole thing was depressing. She sighed a little, then realized what she was doing and tried to shake herself out of it.

“It’s not your fault, you know.  You’re really trying. You’re trying to take care of us, which is – it’s weird, and I like it, but it’s good. And you’re doing your best to come up with an answer instead of just finding a place to hunker down.” ‘Via leaned over and very awkwardly hugged Abby.  “You didn’t do this. Just because she had your face didn’t mean she was you.”

“Thanks.”  She hugged ‘Via back, surprised that it actually did make her feel a little better.  “Thanks, guys. I’m sorry, I dunno what came over me.”

“Well,” Olly pointed out, “the whole stress of being stuck in a horror movie?  I mean, that’s not the most cheerful thing.”

“And finding out -”  ‘Via trailed off. “Anyway, it’s not surprising, really.  It’s okay to be a little upset, you know. It’s human.”

Abby poked at her food a little more.  She was getting really tired of food court food, but even saying it seemed ungrateful – it could be man-eating fruits or no food at all, after all.

“Just try to eat a little,” Liv coaxed.  “And then we’ll figure out a place to rest before we head on.”

“Okay, okay.”  She ate every soggy vegetable and managed three breaded chicken bits.  She should’ve done a sub. That would have been smarter. But no, she’d gotten General Tso’s chicken, because it always made her feel better.

Under normal circumstances.

Which was not what they got to see anymore…

She shook herself.  “Okay. I’m good. Guys?”

“Hold on.” Via dug in her bag and passed over a premixed shake of some sort.  “Here, you drink this. I’ve got a few and they ought to go down easy enough.”

It tasted sort of like liquid chalk with a little chocolate flavor, but it did go down easier than the chicken.  Abby muttered her thanks. She wanted to move on; she wanted to sleep. She wanted to find her other self and punch her; she wanted to believe that there wasn’t really someone who had her face who’d done all this.

She wallowed another miserable noise with another mouthful of shake.  Olly hugged her again, and that just made her made more stupid noises.

“All right,” Olly murmured.  “Let’s find a place to sleep.  Then we can worry about the world – worlds – in the morning, okay?”

Olly could steer.  Abby let herself be directed, her eyes half-closed.  

Want more?

Hidden Mall 70: Better than Others

The stores moved behind them.  Abby tried not to turn around, but found herself peeking.  She could see the Little Panda grind to a halt halfway between the Little Italy and the Subway.

She turned back to the security office, feeling absurdly guilty. “They wouldn’t move when there were people here.  They don’t like being looked at.”

“I’m not sure if that’s more or less creepy,” Olly admitted.  “It makes them like Weeping Angels that are… shopping.”

Abby took a breath. “I am not thinking about that right now.”  She opened the door to the security office, half expecting to be hollered at by some guard who had been watching — well, not the mall, clearly.

There were cameras; there was a door.  There were control boards like a sound room.  There was a chair. But there was nobody in there. Continue reading

Hidden Mall 69: L-Space 📚

Abby shuddered.  We are in a horror movie.  “We – we really are.  Okay. This way, towards the security office, and let’s hope that it’s still there when we get there.”  She started walking, pulling her friends closer and wishing idly that she had more hands.

Better not wish that when I’m going through a door, she mused, or I might end up with four arms or something.

They walked straight down the middle of the hall.  Nothing in front of them was moving or changing, but they could hear something shifting behind them.   When they reached an intersection, Olly toed the line of tile between the two halls. “Look. It’s a slider.  The whole mall is like one of those puzzles.”

“Shopping in here must have been a challenge,” Abby mused.  “Imagine going in the changing room and coming out in a different store?”

“Heck, trying to find where your mom parked the car.” Liv snorted. “Or  — well, anything else. Where’s the food court?” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 68: Sensible 🏷️

For a heart-stopping moment, Abby thought they were back home.

The mall looked normal.  It looked right.  The signs were in the right places, the stores looked normal; even the music sounded right.

“Where is everyone?” Liv whispered.

Abby turned slowly in a circle, moving all of her friends with her.  “Where is everyone?” she repeated.  There was – there was literally nobody around.

“No corpses,” ‘Via pointed out.  “That’s a plus.”

“No anyone,” Olly added.  “Not sure that’s a plus or a minus.” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 67: Dormant Malls 💤

Yadira offered them a place to sleep but seemed not in the least surprised when they didn’t take her up on her offer.  She showed them a doorway after that – and seemed more than a bit surprised that they did take that.

“I’m starting to think that it doesn’t matter which door we take,” Abby admitted.  “I think it’s more about our, uh, our mindset or something like that. The way we go through the door.  Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a formula. But -“

“But maybe we oughta just talk to the malls,” Olly finished. “Because maybe the malls can tell us where we have to go.”

“Or kill us,” ‘Via countered.  “Or send us in circles. The malls are not our friends.  I don’t know why anyone thinks they are! The malls are-“

“The malls, you heard her,” Liv huffed.  “The malls, they used to be benign-“ Continue reading