The Similars (The Similars #1)

The Similars (The Similars #1)

Rebecca Hanover

For Mom and Dad

   For Ethan

The Similars

I don’t actively want to die. Not all the time.

If it weren’t for my father, then sure, I’d consider it. He may not be my favorite person in the world, and I am definitely not his, but I don’t relish the thought of him standing at my gravesite, hunched over my coffin, racked with sobs. I only think about dying sometimes—like now.

We’re almost at Hades Point. In approximately two minutes and thirty seconds, the black Lorax I’m riding in will carry me past the infamous cliff’s edge where, historically, twelve students at my school have plummeted to their deaths. I’m not afraid of the point, but maybe I should be. It’s deep—Grand Canyon deep. A gaping mouth in the ground that swallows kids who can’t handle Darkwood Academy. That’s the boarding school I go to in Vermont, where I’m starting my junior year. It’s where I spent my first year and sophomore year, too, before the thing that happened. But more on that…never.

“Approaching Hades Point!” trills a merry voice, invading my thoughts. You’d think a driverless vehicle would guarantee a person some peace and quiet, but no. When the Lorax picked me up at the Burlington airport two hours ago, the operating system forced me to select a name for its virtual driver. I’d rejected the suggested monikers and typed in one of my own choosing: Misery.

“This is Misery, your friendly chauffeur!” the voice had immediately chirped at me. She hasn’t stopped to take a metaphorical breath since.

Misery continues her assault on my ears. “If you look to your left, Miss Chance, you’ll see we’re passing Hades Point, one of the most scenic spots on campus!”

Sure, Misery. I take in the precipitous drop as we round the bend. If by “scenic,” you mean deadly.

I stare at Hades Point laid out in the distance like a casket. I picture them, all twelve students who tumbled over. I’ve thought about jumping. I’ve dreamed of flying through the air and knowing my life would soon end. After what happened, who could blame me? Within hours of my best friend’s death this summer, I had faced an onslaught of emotions so intolerable, I felt like a foreigner in my own mind. Grasping for some semblance of order, I began naming my different moods. Example: “A Zombie Just Ate My Body,” which is like being frostbitten and stun-gunned and about 94 percent dead inside. At least that one is bearable, unlike “Get That Serrated Knife Out of My Chest,” which is as painful as it sounds. I spend entire days walking around with the sensation that somebody stabbed me in the chest and the knife is still inside. Conveniently, there are pills I can take for these afflictions, pharma hybrids that make my life more tolerable. I slinked out of my psychiatrist’s office last month, a prescription tube clutched in my fist.

I slide a pill out of my pocket and swallow it dry, then press my cheek to the cool glass window. Sometimes feeling things makes you remember you’re alive. And sometimes that is too much to handle.

As we leave the point behind and embark on the last leg of our journey to Darkwood, I imagine it: Stopping the car. Stepping out. Walking toward the edge of the point. Closing my eyes as the wind whips me, and then, without any fanfare, letting go. Ending it. Just like Oliver did back home in California. In his room. Where I found him—

“Approaching Darkwood’s main campus!” Misery’s voice jars me out of the memory. “Established in 1927 by Cornelius Seymour, Darkwood Academy has remained a bastion of intellectual integrity for more than a century—”

“Thank you,” I interrupt, pressing my mother’s ancient tortoiseshell-framed glasses to the bridge of my nose. “I got it.”

“Sorry, Miss Chance. I—!”

“Emmaline,” I interrupt again. “But you can call me Emma.”

“Big day, isn’t it, Emma? Back to school! Seeing friends and starting classes. And, of course—the Similars!”

“Sorry.” I shrug. “I’m just not worked up about a couple of DNA copies of some teenage prepsters.”

“But, Miss Chance!” Misery sputters. “Have you been watching the feeds? People haven’t been this excited since astronauts landed on Mars!”

“Dash,” I whisper into my plum, the “everything” device I keep strapped around my wrist so I won’t lose it. “Can we turn her off?”

The voice of my genial virtual assistant rings out from the tiny screen on my wrist. “Your simulated chauffeur cannot be muted,” says Dash. “But if you would like, Emma, I’ll happily report her as spam.”

“That won’t be necessary. But thanks.” I sigh, settling back into my seat and trying to ignore Misery’s never-ending monologue. It’s not like Misery’s wrong. The Similars are major news. They’ve been making headlines for weeks, ever since they arrived in the United States this summer and it was announced that they’d be attending Darkwood Academy, right alongside the kids they were originally cloned from. It’s no wonder the whole country is transfixed. Six students at Darkwood Academy are about to sit in class next to their clones, who share their exact DNA, but who they only recently met for the first time. The old me would have shown more interest in the Similars, would have been buzzing Oliver about them nonstop, eager to hear him dissect each new piece of information about their curious upbringing and unlikely existence. But these days, I only care about one thing: keeping the feeling of the serrated knife at bay.

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