Abby woke the next morning feeling very well-rested and a little confused. For a moment, looking up at the ceiling of brambles very close to her, she couldn’t remember where she was or how she’d ended up here. Her bed was cozy and warm, and there was Liv next to her – and Liv, which was a little strange, but-
Everything came rushing back as she sat up. She huffed tiredly – her body might not be tired, but her mind was. They were – they were in a rabbit warren of some sort, that was right. And they’d settled down for the night. She looked at the Livs. They were sleeping very nicely, cuddled up next to each other. She wanted to let them sleep. Continue reading
They scrambled on hands and knees through the doorway, one of the Livs making squeaking noises of distress until they were well through, until the other one took a machete to the last hand grasping for them and all three of them swung the door shut.
This likely saved them some headaches, as when Abby looked up above her head, she realized that they had come in just under a mass of briers and as they settled in, the briers closed behind them.
Abby swallowed nervously -but there was a path opening in front of them.
And the floor, which might have been uncomfortable to crawl on if it had been an ordinary mall floor, was instead something soft and just a little bit squishy, like cork.
“Onward,” Abby decided. “Come on, maybe we can find a rabbit.”
There was no “up” to choose, but after a little while, there were a couple left and right turns. Abby took the left the first time but at the second one, one of the Livs made a noise of complaint.
“Tired,” she pointed out. Abby had to agree with her. Continue reading
The pathways got narrower the next level up – not that the stairway itself, individual treads held up by nearly-invisible cables, wasn’t a nightmare in and of itself – and shakier, and then they had one more stairway to go up, the ceiling looking like a pincushion of cables above them.
The last stairway was right next to a series of bodies, hung by the neck and looking like halloween decorations more than people. One of them was wearing Abby’s favorite shirt, but it wasn’t her. Couldn’t be her. She was right here. She held a Liv’s hand and swallowed around bile.
The body closest to the stairs moved. Not the Abby, a stranger, a hand reaching out towards Liv.
Liv darted away, retching. “It was dead,” she whispered to herself. “It’s dead.”
They all stared off into space for a moment, thinking – or at least Abby was – about being betrayed by one of their own, by someone who looked just like their best friend, the boy they liked – or themselves. Abby broke the silence, unable to stand contemplating that any longer.
“So what about the pendant -” She meant to scoop one of them out of her neckline, but both of them tangled together. “The woman at the first booth, the one Liv sold a regret to, she gave me this.” Continue reading
Abby swallowed against the intensity of Vic’s voice and forced herself to be strong. “Is it you, then? Because the only thing that wanted to hurt me before I came in here was you.”
Vic gave her a level, cold look. “I don’t know how it was in your reality, but in mine, that is complete BS. Sure, I gave you shit. But who gave you the black eye in eighth grade?”
Abby shuddered. “Alec Harden.”
“I thought so. And that rumor about you and Tem Brenner, that wasn’t me. That wasn’t even Tem, which I could almost see. No matter how lame you are, you’re still a step up for that piece of trash.”
Abby snorted. “You said the same thing. I mean, in my world.” Continue reading
They made it into the health-food store with nothing breaking under them and nobody insulting anyone else. The way the day had been going, Abby was going to take that as a victory.
The store had clearly been picked over, but there were still a few sports drinks and chewy meal-replacement bars on the shelves, as well as some smaller containers of protein powder. While they ate – first making sure Vic-starving got something into her stomach – Vic tried to explain things. Continue reading
They looked at the map for a minute. Well, Liv and Abby looked at the map, while Liv tried to explain Vic-French and Vic to each other, leading to Vic (Abby was mentally labelling her Vic-bitchy, but she’d probably be bitchy if she was left hanging to die from a freaking air mall, too) snapping, “Yes, there are many of us, I get that. The question is, why is she here? We don’t even like you.”
“Because-” something in the tone suggested that the Liv answering questions was probably Skinny-Liv, but Abby barely checked anymore, “-we need as many of us as possibly. We want to take on whatever’s killing Abbies.” Continue reading
The walkway dropped, stopped, and shifted. Abby grabbed tightly to both sides of the walkway and started moving as quickly as her rocky footing would allow. “Hurry,” she gasped. “¡Arriba, Arriba! ¡Ándale, Ándale!”
That was not going to help, but it was all she could think of at the moment. She pitched herself off the walkway and onto another square, this one seeming much sturdier. As soon as she landed, she scrambled to get out of the way for her friends and hauled herself to her feet.
Liv was off the falling bridge; Liv was almost there. She lept, turned, and grabbed Vic, catching the last girl as she leapt from the dropping walkway.
“We.” Abby panted. “Need.”
“-to get out of here,” Liv finished. “Hey, we found the map.” Continue reading
Author’s note: apologies for my French.
She wasn’t sure if having an idea had been the best, well, idea, since every idea here involved those damn hanging walkways.
But it was better to do something than to sit here and wait for death or worse.
Slowly, they inched out onto the walkways, one Liv in front of her, the other Liv behind her and Vic behind her. They were heading for the center of the mall. Every mall Abby had ever been in – at least, every mall she’d been in before this mess – had sported a map near the middle, as well as near most major entrances and near any fountains.
She’d be happy for a fountain now, but more important for her was a map.
Or just to be down from these damn walkways.
“Oh. Oh, don’t look. Any of you. Ne pas – look-ey? Regardez! Ne pas regardez. No. It’s horrible.” Continue reading
Abby bit her lip and repeated herself. “We have to explain things to her. And then, if it’s not what she wants…”
“Do you think we could find her a way home?”
“It’s not like we can find our own way home – or even out.”
The first came from one Liv, the second from the other. They were starting to sound identical. Which, Abby supposed, made a certain amount of sense.”
“She has to know.” Abby sighed. “I think we might need her, but we can’t just, well, force her to come along.”
It was too late already for that, she knew. And if Vic-French could help them defeat the mall…
Still, she should have said something two malls ago and she was going to make sure she said something now. She turned onto a new bridge and made her way, step by careful step, over to the edge of the mall, such as it was.
It took longer than it ought to have to get to the “store,” which happened to be, from the looks of things, some sort of tunic and … leggings? maybe? store. There were only a few pieces of clothing left, hanging from wires or dropped on the floor.
But there was a floor. Continue reading