“You’ve always been a coward.”
The voice – her own voice – chased Abby as she walked quickly down the mall hallway. She knew where she was going. She knew she had her Livs with her, and several others, some Sandies. No Kevins, no Vics. Not yet.
“If I have always been one and you know it -” Abby looked over her shoulder but kept walking; kept walking, kept walking. She could tell in her gut that it was important, but she also knew she didn’t want this other Abby to follow her. “-then it’s because you’ve been one too. We’re all the same at the root, aren’t we?”
That was so different from what she’d been telling her Livs that she expected ‘Via to yell at her. Instead, ‘Via smirked at her and, to her other side, Olly squeezed her hand.
“You’re full of bullshit! I’m nothing like you!”
“And you know nothing about me.” Continue reading
“Attention mall Shoppers! Our Sidewalk Sale starts at the Burlington Coat Factory wing and continues down to the Sears wing. Hurry over to get the best sales!” The intercom continued to cheerfully advertise a sale to its “shoppers.”
A few of the people behind Abby-and-Vic jumped or shifted uncomfortably. One of the ones with a gun aimed it at the intercom but didn’t fire.
“You heard the – mall.” Abby found she was grinning. Why was she grinning? This was mad. It was insane. “There’s a sale going on. Come on, ladies.” She turned and headed for the Burlington Coat Factory wing. Continue reading
There were people in the mall. That was the weirdest part; this mall had been empty as long as they’d been using it as a base. From the sounds of things, it had always been empty.
But right now there were nearly thirty people standing in front of the central fountain – well, one of them was sitting, looking definitely unconscious. Four were unidentifiable in white suits much like the mall with the robots had provided. A bunch looked ragged and dirty, too thin and too hungry. Some of them had satyr hooves and one of them was definitely a centaur. Abby heard Liv whimper and wondered if she was whimpering about the centaur or something else.
To the right, a handful were dressed like SWAT, face masks down and weapons pointed at Abby. And then, in the middle, were seven different Kevins, all of them in chains. Continue reading
EVERY MALL HAS ITS OWN POWERS. EVEN A NORMAL MALL LIKE THIS ONE HAS SOME MAGIC TO IT.
“So a mall could give someone the power to mind-control someone else?”
IF SOMEONE IMAGINED IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA FOR A MALL, THEN YES. ANY MALL SOMEONE IMAGINED CAN EXIST.
Abby swallowed. “I really, really want to say nobody would say that was a good idea for a mall to be able to control your mind, but shit, Shit, I can think of so many ways that might happen. People wanting to stop violence, so they start with ‘the mall doesn’t allow violent thoughts.'” Continue reading
“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.” Continue reading
“Security office.” Abby nodded slowly. “Right. Stick with the left hand rule? Anyone got paper to write down where we’re going?”
“Oh, I do!”
While Liv rustled in her bag, Olly patted Abby’s shoulder. “It wouldn’t be our home,” she murmured, “yours or mine. It might not even be a home. And if this world’s Abby and Liv came back…”
“I know…” She did know, that was the thing. She knew — but it would still be out. “It’s just…”
“Got it!” Liv produced a notebook with a magenta-and-lime unicorn on the front. “Okay, here’s bed, bath, beyond, B-B-B, and then, oh no, Hot Topic… and we’re going this way and… all good!”
Abby found herself smiling. Liv really was a good friend – a great friend. It was hard to remember how close they’d been, back before they’d gotten trapped in an endless set of malls, but maybe that was just – just because they were both closer and strangely further apart now. Continue reading
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
“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?”
“Olly here.” Continue reading
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
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