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.”
“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.