Same, Same by Gaile Wotherspoon
“Visitor?” the waitress asked.
“Just passing through,” Jared replied. “Nice town you have here.”
“Yes …” she started.
“We like it.” the man at the counter finished.
Jared looked at the waitress and the man. Definitely a family resemblance. Not unusual in a small town off the beaten track. He wouldn’t have stopped if he hadn’t needed more gas for his car.
“You need …”
Jared blinked. He knew of people who were close, finishing each other’s sentences. Had even studied the phenomenon in twins, but hadn’t seen it in people generally. “Must be twins,” he thought.
“No. I’m fine, thanks.” He paid the bill and walked out into the sleepy little town. For a fraction of a second it seemed as if everyone had moved – almost on cue. He wondered briefly if he’d accidentally wandered on to a movie set and the extras were pretending it was a real town. He shook his head.
As Jared sauntered down the street and in and out of shops, it started to dawn on him that almost everyone in town looked the same. Same features, same shape, same height. The men and women could have passed as identical twins. The only variation was gender. He again wondered if he’d wandered into something he shouldn’t have, like a mass cloning experiment, or a robotics test. He shrugged his shoulders, decided he’d check into it when he got back to the office and continued his walk.
On his rambling, he noticed a park, so strolled in to it and sat on a bench. He let his mind drift to work and the last report they’d had. Was it significant? He had no real idea. As his mind sorted through the puzzles of work, he was oblivious to what was going on around him, seeing, but not seeing. When he got up to leave, it hit him. There was no school and no library. Most towns, even really small ones had a school, or the building even if it wasn’t being used. There might not be a library, but there was always a school. He also realized he hadn’t seen any sign of children. He thought perhaps, because it was a small town, they sent their children to the next largest village, only he couldn’t recall seeing one for a long time before he got here.
He returned to his car to get out a map and check for the nearest town. Once again, when he entered Main street, it seemed as if he was on the set of a movie and the director had called “action”. The same people went to the same places they had gone to when he walked to the park. Or at least he thought they were the same people. It was hard to tell. He said hello to a few people he passed, but there was no response. It was as if he was invisible, yet when he went into the convenience store, the man behind the counter spoke to him.
“Just passing through,” Jared said, again. “Nice town you have here.”
“We like it,” finished the woman standing next to Jared. The entire conversation was exactly the same as the one in the coffee shop. The location was different, the roles had been switched, and the clothes the man and woman wore were different, but they and the questions were exactly the same.
“ I imagine the kids in town are on summer holidays,” Jared said, trying to prolong the conversation to see if he was wrong.
The conversation had a definite “programmed” feel to it. Definitely stilted, as if being spoken by rote. He noticed, once again the similarity of features and he was starting to feel slightly frightened. There was definitely something odd about the place.
“You need …”
“No. I’m fine thanks.” He left the store and again was confronted with the sameness. He decided to leave, started the engine, and checked out his rearview mirror, when he noticed there was no one around, yet seconds ago the town had been bustling. He decided to get out of his car and check under the hood as an experiment. Sure enough, once he got out of the car, people started moving again, so he spent a couple of minutes pretending to check everything.
Most towns had their “resident experts” on cars. There were always men, young and old, around that would wander over to chat about cars, problems and life in general. Nothing. No response. No one came over to see if anything was wrong. The townspeople just walked in and out of buildings – on cue.
Jared got back to the city and his work and forgot about the strange little town until some months later, when he was on a business trip. He stopped in the same place, got out of his car and, on cue, everyone in town moved around. This time there was a difference. This time there were children. At least, they looked like children, were the same age as children would be, but they were exactly the same age and size with the same features as the adults.
He got back into his car and left as quickly as he could. When he got back to the city, he made a few calls to people who knew things about that part of the countryside. No one knew of a town at that location. No one had heard about anyone ever living in that area, or of a movie being made there, or of any experiments with robotics. His skin began to crawl and he wondered exactly what he had stumbled upon.
Then he noticed the people he was working with. They all looked alike. They all finished each others sentences. They all moved, as if on cue.