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.”