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The Mall
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The Mall

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Author: Sarah Lotz
Louis Greenberg
Publisher: Corvus, 2011
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Dark Fantasy
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Synopsis

A deliciously terrifying mash-up of horror, fantasy, thriller and satire: Saw crossed with Fight Club, with an extra shot of adrenaline!

Dan is an angsty emo-kid who works in a deadly dull shopping mall. He hates his job.

Rhoda is a junkie whose babysitting charge ran off while she was scoring cocaine. She hates her life. Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down.

Plummeting into the earth in a disused service lift playing head-splitting Musak, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. They finally escape, but something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is a café called McColon's selling lumps of bleeding meat?

Just when they think they've made it back to the mall, they realize the nightmare has only just begun...


Excerpt

Chapter 3

RHODA

I’ve pulled up my hood as a precaution, but we don’t meet anyone as we head down towards the mall’s delivery entrance. We wander past an empty truck, a few wooden crates, cardboard boxes and an abandoned forklift, a crumpled box of Rothmans on the seat. Dan walks slightly bow-legged in front of me, dawdling almost. I think about elbowing him in the spine so that he’ll get a move on, but decide against it. I don’t want to push my luck.

He stops and points towards a pair of thick metal doors cut into the side of the windowless building.

‘Through there,’ he says.

‘After you.’

‘What? Why do I have to come?’

‘Just go.’

He pushes against the doors. ‘Locked,’ he says. ‘It’s after hours. See, we can’t get in.’

Fuck. There’s no way I want to go back through the mall again, but there’s a keypad next to the door, and Dan is avoiding looking at it.

‘Why do I think you know the combination?’ I say.

‘I don’t!’ he whinges.

‘Dan, Dan, Dan,’ I say, now almost enjoying myself. ‘What am I going to do with you?’ I pull out the knife again and click it open.

‘Okay, okay!’ His fingers tremble as he keys in the number. I file it away for future reference. 1-2-3-4. Always the same. ‘You need help,’ he says as we push through the doors and into a narrow brick-lined corridor. ‘Psychiatric help.’

He trudges ahead, and I reach into my pocket for another pinch of blow.

‘Where now?’ I say. The corridor snakes off in opposite ways. I’ve lost all sense of direction, so I can only hope he isn’t going to do anything stupid, like lead us straight to the security office.

‘This way.’

He takes the left-hand fork and we head deeper into the gloom. The corridor reeks of oil, concrete dust and a faint trace of rotten meat. Clearly this is the part of Highgate Mall that the customers never get to see, and it’s as basic and stripped down as it gets. There’s not even a ceiling to mask the workings of the air-conditioning system; massive silver pipes and insulated wires loop from the ceiling like spilled metal innards. We push through another set of those heavy black doors, and he strides on confidently.

‘What happened to your face?’ he says without turning around.

‘Fuck you.’

He shrugs. ‘Just trying to be friendly. You’re not from here, are you?’

‘What’s it to you?’

‘What’s with the accent?’

‘What’s with the questions? Let’s just find the kid, get out of here. You’ll never have to see me again.’

‘Okay.’

The ceiling is even lower here, and I have to shrug off the beginnings of claustrophobia, which isn’t helped by the effects of the blow.

I open my mouth to speak ‘You sure you—’

He whirls around, and before I have a chance to block him, his elbow rams into the side of my face. Pain explodes in my cheekbone, and I reel back and slam into the brick wall.

Fuck!

He’s haring back the way we came, and the bastard’s quicker than I would have expected. Blocking out the bright bloom of agony and the taste of blood in my throat, I race after him. I round the corner, then slow to a jog.

He’s slamming his body into the heavy black doors, punching and kicking at them like a toddler. He’s practically howling in frustration.

‘Hey!’ he shouts at the top of his lungs. ‘Hey! Help! Let me out!’

He pushes against the doors again, but it’s clear that they’re not going to give.

Slowly, eyes wide with panic, he turns to face me. I am going to fucking kill him.

* * * * * * * *

Chapter 4

DAN

It’s near eleven and we’re in Woolworths. It closed at nine; the display windows are quarter-lit and only a few downlighters around the periphery of the shop are kept on. The perfume counters are lit up from inside, and the spotlights under the mannequins shine up their skirts. The mirrors at the perfume counters reflect them jaggedly and the mannequins look on, watching their own humiliation from a thousand angles.

I never liked mannequins. Their dead eyes, their peeling skin, their pert little nipples, hard as the rest of them to the touch.

Scarface is hurrying me on. ‘Come on, come on,’ she keeps saying.

‘You think I want to hang around here? In fact, this isn’t my idea of—’

‘I said come the fuck on!’ she screams and shoves me in the back. ‘Shut up!’

‘Okay,’ I say.

I’m going to show her that the child is gone and then I’m going home. This is how this evening is going to go. And you know what they say when you’re getting held up or hijacked or whatever. Just co-operate and it will be over.

We navigate our way along a line of light-impaled mannequins into the food section. Scarface looks around nervously, as if she’s being followed. In an empty shop. Here was proof of what I’d heard about drugs: delusions and paranoia. She hasn’t stopped sticking her powdery fingers in her mouth since she found me in the parking lot.

I knew the scary bitch was on drugs. Cocaine, heroin, tik, whatever it is. But while I’m bigger than her, she’s faster than me, and vicious. I can still taste puke in my mouth, and my stomach fucking hurts. It’s the first time I’ve been beaten up since high school, and never so seriously. I thought she was going to kill me when I tried to run, but I think she realises that she needs me to get her through the mall. I don’t know what she expects to see once we get there. That kid’s long gone.

She’s forced me to bring her through the Woolworths delivery entrance instead of back through the mall, so now I have to take her the long route through the store. But with any luck the silent alarm was triggered as soon as we came in, and the cops are on their way right now.

You know, if she wasn’t so aggressive I might actually want to help her. All she wants, after all, is to find that boy she’s lost. I’m just glad she’s put away the knife.

‘What the fuck are you waiting for? You’re not going to try—’

‘Give me a break, okay. I’m trying to figure out where the back exit is.’

‘Try there,’ she orders, pointing out a door with a small window and an electronic keypad.

‘Nah, cash office. We’re looking for the coldroom. That’s the door that opens out to our corridor.’

She pulls her hoodie further over her head so that I can barely see her face any more.

‘What are—’ I start, then notice the red-spotted security camera over the cash-office door. Fuck. Do I act like a criminal and rip a coat and a cap off the nearest hanger or do I act innocent?

Wait a minute. I am innocent. I’ve been kidnapped by this drug-addled crazy woman. When they see the tapes, they’ll know exactly what happened. I look straight at the security camera and make a fearful face in Scarface’s direction. I wonder if anyone is monitoring the cameras now.

Again she smashes me in the back, right in my kidneys. ‘Good try, Danny. Your Oscar’s in the mail.


Excerpt courtesy of Books LIVE: The internet newspaper for SA books.

Copyright © 2011 by Sarah Lotz

Copyright © 2011 by Louis Greenberg


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