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
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
Abby didn’t think her mouth could get any dryer, her throat and more choked, but that phrase – that idea – where the one who’s killing the Abbies is – made her feel like her mouth was full of sand.
She tried to clear her throat and found herself coughing instead. Liv fumbled in her bag until she managed to press a water bottle into Abby’s hands. “Here, here. Why didn’t you – here, drink.”
Abby sipped the water slowly. “Yes – thank you, Liv.” She sipped more. “I want to find the Abby that’s killing the rest of us.”
Shit, was that secret information? Was I not supposed to say that? Continue reading
“So all the people who have come through here,” Abby swallowed. She was feeling very parched again, as if the ghost mall had taken longer to get out of and taken more out of her than she’d guessed or anticipated. “All of those people, and only three of them were us. Where did the rest of us go?”
“I think you know-” Yadira stopped herself again with a small huff. “The practice of being obscure is a hard one to break. I apologize. I think that many, many Abigails have died, and that while not as many Olivias have died, many have been stranded.” She paused, and then admitted, so softly that Abby could barely hear her, “That magic is new. The fact that only pairs – and only specific pairs – can travel the malls is very new. So much has happened since the curse came down. It’s changed everything about this place, and none of it for the better.” She looked between them solemnly. “How did you come to this particular place?”
“Ignoring advice we’d been given,” Abby admitted. Continue reading
Abby was about to step in front of her friends when she found ‘Via stepping in front of her. “You leave her alone. We’re not selling anything, we’re not buying anything, we’re not giving anything. We’re just passing through. That’s it.”
“Oh,” the woman clucked, “but I have information. And I am willing to give it in exchange for something – if you have something you want to sell me.”
“That sounds-” Now Olly, too, was in front of her “-a lot like buying something, and we don’t want to do that. Not here.”
“And that’s wise. It is always wisest to never take anything that seems like too good a deal at the moment. So let’s see. Well, or too dear a deal, of course. If you want information-“ Continue reading
After the mom dig, Abby was half tempted to let ‘Via go do her own thing, but it wasn’t like it was the first time Liv – or someone like her – had called Abby mom after all, and it probably wouldn’t be the last (if they survived this mall). She held firmly to the hands she had, images of Liv and that awful candy coming back to her. Continue reading
The ghosts led them past the cracked and melted remains of a Ground Round and a nail salon to a door that, in a normal world, might to go the outside. To a parking lot. Abby stared at the doors – smoked overs and opaque – and reached for one of the handles.
A ghost caught her wrist with what remained of its hand. No. The meaning was clear even if the phantoms made no noise. Continue reading
They turned around. Abby forced herself to look at the bodies in front of her.
The ghosts. They weren’t corpses, they might just be illusions. This place had certainly given them enough of those already – fakes and shames and traps.
The one that looked like Vic was gesturing to them.
“I – Vic doesn’t even like us,” Liv protested.
“But we don’t like her either,” Abby countered, “and that hasn’t stopped us from saving her life. Or anything else, you know?”
“This can’t be a good idea.” Continue reading
Abby took a step backwards, and another, until ‘Via caught her. “Easy,” ‘Via murmured in her ear. “It’s okay.”
She forced herself to look at – at herself. Except dripping wet and dripping blood from what remained of a leg, leaning on a Liv who was dripping both water and blood, too.
“The – the sharks.” She worked her throat. “Remember? And before that, the fire. This is – this is all the deaths we could have died. It can’t be. We can’t have died this many times.”
“We could have.” ‘Via shifted a little. “I mean. It’s not — I mean. We don’t know how many malls there are. We don’t know how many of them anyone came through. We don’t know if the mall just generated new versions.”
“Some of the malls were fake. Who told us that?” Liv frowned. Continue reading
Abby took ‘Via’s hand and put it on her hip, curling the fingers around her belt loop, and squeezed until ‘Via held on of her own volition. She took Olly’s hand with her left hand and held on to Liv’s arm with her right hand.
“Close your eyes,” she told all three of them. “Keep them closed. We’re going to walk forward now, everyone all set? There we go, forward, forward.”
She shut up as she came nose to nose with the first ghost, closed her own eyes and took two steps forward.
It felt like a ghost of fire touching her skin – like the memory of sensation without the pain or the heat, just a strange flickering touch. She moved forward as one of the three – Had to be Olly, the sound was coming from her left – yelped. Continue reading