The Similars (The Similars #1)(8)

I hadn’t noticed, but she’s right. The person who named the Similars—whoever that was—must have wanted them to have another tie to who they came from. Who they were copied from. Even their names are a reminder that they share DNA with another person.

Speaking of Pippa, Headmaster Ransom introduces Pru’s Similar—Pippa Gravelle.

“I know she’s your clone, but I’m still amazed by how much she looks like you,” I say, a little awed.

“If I bothered to wear makeup or brush my hair,” jokes Pru. She offers her Similar a thumbs-up and a wave.

Next up is Similar number four, a replica of Archer de Leon. As Archer’s Similar inches his way up to the podium, I catch sight of Archer’s friends clapping him on the back, which strikes me as odd. Archer didn’t do anything to become the DNA sample for another person, but that’s nothing new. Archer gets accolades in life for simply existing.

Archer’s Similar is named Ansel, and though he has his original’s good looks, that’s where the resemblance stops. Ansel shuffles awkwardly to stand next to Mr. Park. He turns his back to us as he recites the Darkwood pledge, which he mumbles so softly we can’t hear a word of it. He’s clearly shy, or at least suffering from stage fright. Either way, it doesn’t help that most of the girls in the chapel are giggling at the sight of him. I’m not surprised. Even America’s brightest female students get weak-kneed in Archer’s presence. Why would it be any different with Ansel, who’s equally handsome, albeit slightly awkward?

Headmaster Ransom introduces the next Similar, and I squint to get a better look. Blond hair. A familiar, symmetrical face… It’s Madison, only not. So Madison was telling the truth. She has a clone. But didn’t Madison say that her Similar wasn’t coming to Darkwood? That her family had paid the Similar to stay away, because if she attended this school and the public found out about it, it would be political suicide for Mrs. Huxley? Then again, Ransom said he’d be introducing six Similars to the school, not five. From the look of things, Madison’s clone has matriculated at Darkwood after all.

I turn to stare at Madison the original and catch the betrayed look on her face. Madison jumps to her feet. Tessa grabs her by the arm, pulling her back down to their pew. My gaze returns to Madison the clone. Headmaster Ransom introduces her as Maude, and although she wears Madison’s same tight-lipped expression, her eyes—they’re different. Hollow. Almost wounded. Yet she has a fierce and determined stance. When Maude takes her oath, she’s confident. She doesn’t smile, not even a little.

Pru whistles through her teeth. “I feel bad for her. Maude probably had no idea that her original is, well, kind of a bitch.”

Maude leans down to accept her key, and I wonder what it must be like to be her. What must it be like to be any of these clones, their very existence an experiment, only to be deposited here at Darkwood for what can only be described as a strange social experiment in itself?

“And now,” Headmaster Ransom continues, “our final new student. Welcome to Darkwood Academy, Levi Gravelle. Please come forward to accept your key.”

“Where is he?” Pru murmurs. We crane our necks to get a better view of the figure moving toward the podium. I can’t make out much from this angle. Nothing about his size or stature jumps out as being remarkable. He’s about average height and has longish hair, which covers what I can see of his face. I squint to get a glimpse of his features when Pru tenses beside me. She grabs my arm and squeezes hard—too hard.

“Ow,” I whisper, turning to look at her. “Why are you…?”

She looks shocked. Stunned. Like she’s seen a ghost. I turn back to the front, confused.

The boy leans down, accepting the key that Mr. Park is placing around his neck. I can’t make out which student he’s a copy of. Brown hair, medium build—he could be a clone of any number of boys in the junior or senior class. It isn’t until he straightens that I see his face.

And it’s Oliver’s.


The Similar— the one with Oliver’s face—recites the oath, pledging his allegiance to Darkwood Academy. He shakes Ransom’s hand, followed by Mr. Park’s. He smiles at both of them, and Mr. Park snaps the metal box shut. I watch all of this happening, but it’s like I’m looking through the wrong end of a lens. I see it unfolding, but I do not believe it.

The boy is Oliver—only he is not. He is, and he isn’t. I find myself trying to make sense of that. I can’t.

The Similar has Oliver’s chin. He has his floppy bangs, his familiar nose, his cocky smile. He has every feature that Oliver has—had.

Only none of the memories. None of the stuff of our lives, the stuff that made us us. This boy has none of it; he knows none of it. Because Oliver is dead, and this, most definitely, is not him. This person is a shell of my best friend. The same on the outside but not within. He won’t know that Oliver and I spent our eighth-grade year watching every movie on the AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films list, starting with Citizen Kane and ending with Ben-Hur. Or that we used to put mustard on our popcorn. He won’t know that Oliver understood me so well, he never had to ask how I was. This guy won’t know any of it.

Oliver has a clone.

It’s impossible. And yet, here this kid stands, in front of me, as real as the rest of the Similars.

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