Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 06 - "Falling"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

no Hollywood ending

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-11-28 - Updated: 2008-11-28 - 1450 words - Complete

It seemed a shame to put his filthy clothes back on after such a long, refreshing shower, but he had anyway. His socks smelled bad even after they dried out, a recipe for instant athlete’s foot. Just add water. Shades had done what he could to clean up, and at least he looked better than he had last night.

On his way out of the hotel, he hid his backpack underneath his jacket, glad he had ditched his workbooks last night; pissed-off teachers would be the least of his worries if he ever made it home. He would just say that he lost them in the woods, ruined in the storm. In the same spirit, he had also trashed his dorky-looking DepartMart uniform, and planned to use the same story there. After all, they would be but minor details in the story he had to tell.

As he searched the mall, he counted down the minutes until The Crossfire Gang began its final showing. Though his ill-portentous dream about John dominated his memory, still he worried about Amy for some reason he couldn’t quite place. At least until he recalled that whatever was happening last night was happening as far away as Somers, that he and John might not be the only ones exploring strange new places this morning. Still, his inner skeptic asked him what she would think, how long she would wait for him, if she even had an inkling of what happened to him…

Stood up on our first date…

Somehow he doubted this would be a Hollywood ending, with he and Amy miraculously making it to the theater in time. According to his watch, he had all of about thirty-four minutes until the final showing. With a heavy sigh, he collapsed into another pew in this cavernous cathedral of consumerism.

This place that seemed to have no end, as if someone had thrown a roof over an entire city. He had avoided the guards so far, but was still nervous about what lengths they might go to to get him. To that end, he tried to make sure he saw them from far enough away that he could keep his distance while still acting casual. So far, he had not recognized a single store name or brand name anywhere. After a while, he just shrugged. It was to be expected, being in another dimension and all.

While in the shower earlier, he had an epiphany of sorts, and he concluded, Of course I couldn’t find an exit! I was running around on the umpteenth floor!

Thought he could beat the System, but of course he was wrong. The first obstacle he faced was even finding a ground floor. He wandered and wandered, only to find that the levels were numbered differently from one section to the next. His greatest enemy, though, was the sheer scope and scale of this place; no matter how far he walked, upstairs or downstairs, he had yet to come upon the same place twice.

In his explorations, he turned up various architectural motifs that made him feel as if he had just walked through nearly a dozen malls. Not a single familiar store name, nor a single familiar face. Nor a single exit.

There weren’t even any marked on the directory maps he found along the way.

Most of the time, though, his thoughts revolved around his dream from this morning, and its grim implications. Even without that creepy dream, he still felt horrible about what happened to John. After all, he was the one who dragged him into this mess, and not knowing what happened to him was driving him to distraction. Even the knowledge that the experiment’s effects might span the entire Flathead Valley did little to console him.

All it did was make him glad as hell Mom was out of town— out of state, even— that night. That at least he didn’t have to worry about her, too.

On top of that was the argument that really wasn’t an argument about whether or not Amy was waiting somewhere, arms folded, foot tapping impatiently. Guilt trip or dread premonition, either way, what it came down to was that he was really worried about her. The fact that he couldn’t find anyone else he recognized was only a source of further anxiety; as little as he knew about other dimensions, there was no telling where anyone else who disappeared last night might have wound up.

In addition to finding out if anyone else from his world was here, he needed to find a way out of this creepy mall. Only by escaping could he hope to continue his search for his friends. Or, if he actually found anyone here, would they have any chance of finding a way to get back to their own world.

After a short while, he got up, a new plan popping into his head rather abruptly in the midst of his mental replay of last night. Wondering why he hadn’t thought of it before, he headed for the nearest hallway junction, keeping his eyes peeled for a certain sign. He had seen plenty of symbols that were just the same as on Earth, or at least similar enough that it didn’t matter, and sure enough, at the next intersection, he spotted the familiar silhouette phone handset, though here it was superimposed over a green background.

Wasting no time pondering such trivialities, he pounced on the nearest unoccupied phone. Glaring at it for a moment for demanding more than twice as much of his dwindling change supply as any pay phone he had ever seen, he shoved in his quarters, at first relieved to hear a dial-tone. Hoping his luck would hold out, he tried John’s number first, wishing desperately his friend really did make it home last night.

Even as he tried to figure out what to say if John’s parents answered, his jangled thoughts became even more so as an automated operator interrupted them.

“WE’re SORry, but THE numBER you HAVE diALed is FORbidDEN on THIS netWORK,” a jarring mash-up of feminine sound-bytes informed him, “Please STAY on THE line WHIle YOU are REdirECTed…”

That freaky, stilted speech brought him to a grinding halt, reminding him of just where he was, and giving him an ominous new perspective of what he was dealing with. Sweat poured between his shoulders, like the sands of an hourglass as whole seconds ticked by, holding his breath with an inexplicable fear of letting that thing hear his voice. He glared at the phone for a long moment, and he was just about to slam it and try calling the number Amy gave him, when a new voice broke in, causing him to gasp in growing alarm.

“Please state your name, followed by the name of the party you are trying to reach,” a flawless BBC-English voice ordered, “and we shall send our personnel to assist you…”

Shades dropped the receiver, numb with horror. At first it was all he could do to make his neck move, looking about the immediate area. Seeing no guards encouraged the rest of his muscles to start cooperating again as he rigidly about-faced from the phone and walked away, not even bothering to hang up as the voice droned on almost inaudibly. Just left it dangling there, hoping whatever personnel “they” sent would lock on to the pay phone, not him.

No longer even caring about his wasted money— as short on change as he was, he would gladly trade every penny of it if it drew his pursuers in the wrong direction.

Even as he made his way down the corridor, he could imagine security guards converging on that location, and knew he didn’t want to be anywhere near here when they arrived. Nor did he want to know just what kind of assistance they were planning to render, as he strongly doubted it would involve seeing John or an exit to this creepy place. All he could think of to do was just keep walking, and try not to look as shaken as he felt.

Not until he was a considerable distance, in what now looked like a completely different mall, did he dare to relax. And even then, he felt as if he had just narrowly escaped what he was now certain was a dangerous mistake on his own part.

His legs were still stiff from last night’s misadventure, so after giving them a short break, he resumed his search, noting that he now had a mere twelve minutes until the show started.
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