She can’t see him. Not yet. But the sounds of him are all around her: the clicking and tapping at the tank, the swish, swish of water. Like the little noises of the eddies in the water off the balcony of the Transcontinental Hotel, all those years ago – the sound of something vast, moving beneath the surface unseen.
Etta Perrault squints and takes a step closer to the tank, her fingers drumming against the smart pencil skirt that had seemed like such a good idea for her first day.
(You should wear something you can run in, her new boss had grunted, by way of greeting.
That’s nice, she’d chirped to his retreating back. That’s a good talk we just had.)
It’s quiet for a long, long while. She’s never seen one of them, not up close. But she wouldn’t have thought it would be quite so easy for one of them to hide.
She’s been there ten minutes before he finally sweeps by. And even then, all she sees is the ridge of his spine, sliding through the water.
“Hi,” Etta breathes through the rush of a laugh. Her throat feels hot, getting this barest hint at the size of him, but not from fear. “Hi there, Specimen 10.”
A low keen sweeps through the room, low enough to echo in her bones, and that warmth curled around her chest surges through to the rest of her, like a knot she’d never noticed had begun to uncurl.
“Yeah, buddy,” she whispers. “Kind of a mouthful. Want me to think of something else?”