“Hh. Hhhhhh. Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..aa?”
The whirr of computer system fans. The faint hum of electromagnetic signals just beneath the ear. And a sound like -- the sound of a human. Subsisting. Collapsing.
In the residence room, projective surfaces lit up - on the room divider, on the workstation screen, on the refrigerator, on the windows. From each one, Kris’s face looked out, as though through a window. He raised a hand and felt the surfaces of his virtual visage with virtual fingers, testing to see if it felt as he remembered it should. And then he realized he really had a very poor recollection of what he actually looked like, and so it was pointless to look too carefully.
“Hello?” he asked, voice tumbling hesitantly out of the workstation speakers. “Are you still here?”
The human sound fell immediately to silence.
“Don’t be afraid,” he continued. “I understand. I want to help.”
Many, many seconds passed. With agonizing slowness, the Anna lookalike poked her head out from beneath the workstation desk, eyes glazed with pain and disbelief.
“Yes, it’s me. From the video you saw. I’m older, but it was me. And I think I understand.”
“hhhhHHH?” A broken sound, organic gears grinding in protest. Something vital was missing.
“You startled me because - because you look just like my sister. I don’t think you are - like, I don’t think you know the things she knows, or her memories, and maybe you’re not like her at all in your personality. But - whether this place is just in my crazy mind, or really the future - you come from her, in some way. From us. Whether you’re reincarnated, or this is just a colossally weird genetic thing, I don’t know - but I know that somehow we’re connected.
“And I know that you know it too. And that’s why that video scared you. You saw yourself in us, and it was scary, and just seeing it made you realize that the world around you is a lot weirder than you thought it was. And you don’t know what to do about that, and you don’t know what to do next.
“I know what that’s like. So I thought, maybe I could help. Do you want to come out of there?”
The faux Anna looked at him with eyes huge with awe and dilated with pain. She seemed on the verge of asking a question, when a sound from outside pulled all of her attention away and froze her question into a grimace.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Kris asked.
“No, no. No, no,” she sing-songed. “Now the Little Ones. The Little Ones are coming.”