Children, trapped inside a bombed mall, find a way outside to an unfamiliar world.
Status: First draft not complete. Completely plotted in the detail that my brain requires. Just needs me to sit down and finish writing the thing.
“Let’s go shopping,” said Teresa, a bubbly teenage girl with long, wavy brown hair and rich brown eyes. “I need something new to wear. Maybe some new shoes.” Teresa smiled, a dreamy faraway expression in her eyes.
Willa sighed. “You’ve seen everything there is. There isn’t anything new. There won’t ever be anything new. There hasn’t been anything new since, well, forever.” Willa hated trying on clothes and picking out what shirt went with which pants. She hated the charade of trying to be fashionable when clothing was so irrelevant. She’d much rather just wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. Life was much simpler that way. Besides, she mused, it was far easier to fix things when she wasn’t worried about getting her clothes dirty. She was a tomboy. She accepted that long ago.
“So what? It’s fun. And it gets us away from them,” she said, indicating the younger girls giggling in the corner of the classroom.
“Yeah, I’ll give you that. Is your homework done?”
“Finished it during class. We need something more challenging.” Teresa tapped her hot-pink coated nails on the desk.
Willa packed her books away in her book bag. “Yeah, but there’s only so much Audrey can do with the lot of us. It’s not like she has the resources.” She tossed her bag over her shoulder and said, “Let’s go. And while we’re out, why don’t we stop by the bookstore and pick something out?”
Teresa flashed a grin at Willa.
Teresa and Willa ambled down the concrete corridor, the back access hallway for the mall. Deliveries used to be made through these, Willa figured, but that was long over. They came to a door marked, “Be et on,” the other letters faded with gouges streaking through them. They opened the door, the lock long since broken, and Teresa looked around. Teresa, Willa knew, had more clothes than anyone else she knew. But then, Willa knew that wasn’t saying much considering the only people she knew were the other children and her teachers who were stuck in this bombed hole.
While Teresa looked through the clothing, Willa wandered to the front of the store. There wasn’t much to see through the rolling grille doors that separated the store from the rest of the mall, just chunks of concrete, twisted steel, and shards of glass from the broken skylights above. The mall had been bombed a decade earlier, or so the theory went. None of them knew for certain, nor were they likely to ever know. Radios and television didn’t work after that, but Willa didn’t know if it was because no one outside the mall broadcast radio and television anymore, or if it was because the thick concrete walls of the mall, necessary for the harsh winters in Edmonton, made it impossible for anything to get through.
She looked up at the top of the security doors, wondering what the sky looked like. The debris in front of the security doors was so deep she couldn’t even see the sky from here. In some stores, they could catch small glimpses of the sky, but nothing more.
Willa wondered again why, in all this time, no one had come to rescue them. Everyone had their own pet theory, but with no communication with the outside, that’s all they were. Willa wondered if the rest of the world was dead or dying and couldn’t spare the energy to look for her and the rest of the kids. She’d come to terms long ago with the certainty that her parents, and those of all the rest of the kids, were long since dead. Them, and everyone else who worked in that lab underneath the submarine ride. Given that the lab was a secret, and so was the daycare that tended the employees children, it wasn’t that surprising if no one came to rescue them because no one knew they were even there.
She remembered that day well, the last time she’d seen her parents. They were fighting. Again. They’d fought a lot ever since her mother had been promoted to Lab Supervisor while dad was still a technician. His ego didn’t take it well, she thought. But at least, even as they dropped me off that day, they still loved each other and me. So how bad could it be?
“What do you think of this shirt,” asked Teresa.
Willa turned to her best friend. In truth, Teresa was her best friend by default. There weren’t many to choose from in their small group. At least Teresa wasn’t that bad, she thought. “I thought you hated that shirt. That’s what you said last month,” she said of the white shirt with the blue and black Egyptian hieroglyphs.
“I dunno. I think it’s kinda cute.” Teresa held it up in front of her and looked in the mirror. “What about it with these shorts?”
Willa thought they looked like shorts. “They’re okay.” She turned to the security grille and tried to remember what the mall looked like before it had been bombed. Of course she’d been in it hundreds of times, shopping with her mom or dad or with them dropping her off in the daycare before they went to work, but she wondered how accurate her memory was after all this time? She remembered a pond with gold fish – Japanese, maybe? – that were over a foot long, an incredible site to her then. She’d heard stories about a man swimming naked in the goldfish pond in the middle of the cold Edmonton winter one night who’d then run outside to escape mall security. From the stories she’d overheard, it was -30 or 40 Celsius that night. Made it easy for security to catch him. Willa giggled at the thought. How could people be so dumb?
The mall had very few windows to the outside, but had an abundance of skylights overhead that caught the bright sun even in the coldest of winter days. It also meant that they had no way out unless they could dig their way through a caved-in concrete wall and all its accompanying debris.
Willa wanted a way out.
“Aren’t you getting anything?” Teresa’s voice shook Willa out of her thoughts.
“Nah. I’m fine. Let’s go to the bookstore.” Willa wanted something new to read, a new diversion.
“Honestly, you could stand to spend a bit more time on your appearance. It would help, you know.”
“Help how? There’s no one here to notice. Remember?” Willa was losing patience. This conversation had repeated itself with increasing frequency as of late.
“We won’t be stuck here for ever. Someone will find us,” Teresa said, smiling as she twirled in the middle of the store.
That was the last straw. “Enough. Teresa, alright? Enough. We’re never getting out of here. No one’s coming to save us. We’re stuck here until we die. Don’t you get it?” Willa hated herself when she yelled, especially when it didn’t do any good. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get mad at you.” Teresa’s hunched shoulders shook and Willa could hear Teresa stifling her sobs. Willa put her arms around Teresa. “I’m sorry. I’m impatient and irritable today. Just ignore me, please.”
Teresa hiccoughed. “It’s okay. You’re right. It’s just that it’s so hard to give up hope. I keep thinking that today, someone will find us.” Teresa wiped the tears from her eyes. “Are we ever getting out of here?” Teresa plastered a smile on her face. “We’ll just have to make our own good luck, won’t we?” Teresa didn’t sound at all certain, thought Willa.
“Yep. We’ll have to find a way out of here,” she said. I wish I had an idea how or where, she thought.