Written for the Writer's Cramp Challenge 8/29/19. An 846 word story.
| An Abundance Of Maggies
Maggie was early. She had aimed to arrive five minutes before the time of her appointment, but clearly she made a massive misjudgement. There was a whole thirty minutes to fill before her allotted time. Half an hour in which she knew her anxiety was going to sky-rocket.
The outer office door was open. She slipped inside and walked over to the reception desk. It, like the room itself, seemed to be deserted. There was nothing she could do apart from take a seat and wait, Maggie decided.
She sat and took out her phone, checked the time it displayed with the clock on the wall, then put it back in to her bag. The waiting room was painted a pale grey, with a few framed prints. There were no magazines there to distract herself with, no speakers playing insipid radio programs. There was quite simply nothing but Maggie and the silence.
When the door opened and another woman walked in, Maggie just gave her a quick glance. The newcomer was unnerving. Not only did she seem to be dressed in exactly the same clothes as Maggie, but her physical appearance bore a striking resemblance too.
Trying not to catch the woman's eye, Maggie watched through her peripheral vision. Just like she had done herself, the woman removed a phone, looked at the clock on the wall then placed it back in to her bag.
Starting to feel unnerved, Maggie got to her feet and walked over to one of the prints. It was a water-color scene, much better viewed from a distance than close up. She tried not to notice when the other woman also got up to examine a picture.
Both were seated when the door opened once more to admit another woman. Maggie almost gasped out loud. It was another replica of herself; clothes, appearance, mannerisms, gait. Both she and the previous clone took surreptitious glances as Maggie number three removed her phone, checked it with the clock, then replaced it in her bag.
Perhaps the similarity would end there. But no, this new woman took to her feet and walked over to examine the very same picture that Maggie, herself, had done. Maggie could feel her heart-rate increase. A cold sweat formed on her forehead and the back of her neck. She clasped her hands together in her lap, willing the trembling to be unnoticeable. A quick peep at Maggie number two showed that she was none too comfortable either.
If only the receptionist would turn up, Maggie thought. At least that would bring some sort of normality to the scene. The door opened and Maggie, along with number two and number three, all turned towards the door.
It was not the receptionist, but yet another look-alike who mimicked the motions. How could they possibly have known what to do. Number four was followed by number five. There were only five seats so now the waiting room was full to capacity. Each of the Maggies' had to sit beside another. No one said a word; in fact, nobody hardly dared to even breath.
Maggie looked at the clock. The other four women followed suit. Just four more minutes before her appointment time, and still there was not even a sign of an employee. It was like sitting inside one of those fun-house rooms, Maggie thought, where there was nothing to see other than more images of herself. These ones were not distorted though, which made the experience even more unnerving.
Finally, there was a sound coming from behind one of the firmly closed doors. Maggie braced herself, clutching her bag and planting her feet firmly on the floor. She was sure to be the first one called in, and yet the other four women were copying her movements, readying themselves to stand and walk.
At last the door opened and a face popped out. Honestly, by that stage Maggie would not have been surprised if she had come face-to-face with herself, and it came as somewhat of a relief to see that of a middle-aged man. She fought back the urge to leap up and hug him, for surely that would have ruined her chances of getting the job.
"Maggie Simmons," he said, looking at her. "Would you like to come through?"
Strange how he had not even noticed a waiting room full of replicas, she thought. Surely it could not be that common to find five identical women sitting in reception, all at the same time.
They all got to their feet in what looked to be choreographed synchronicity. Maggie five merged in to Maggie four, who in turn merged in to Maggie three. By the time she had reached the door, there was no sign of even one of the others.
The man ushered her into the room and closed the door. There was a few seconds of silence while he took his own seat before he looked Maggie straight in the eye and asked: "What makes you think you are the right candidate to work for Virtual City Developments?"