“Oh, my God,” I whisper, mostly to myself as my body tries to catch up with my brain and my new-found realization.
Slowly, my eyes finally dart back to Kitty-Cat’s now puzzled ones.
“W-What’s wrong?” she asks, her voice still dripping with desire but marred with hints of apprehension as well.
“It’s…it’s you, isn’t it?” I say, blinking slowly as my high suddenly comes crashing down.
I’m not sure whether the look on my face says I’m confused or spooked—though I feel a whole lot of both right now—but either way, she obviously doesn’t find it comforting.
She tries to pull her hand away but I hold it firmly in mine, still observing all the lines of her palm; vertical, horizontal, and diagonal, paralleling and intersecting with each other. Contours merging and curving like elevation points on a geographical map. Micro ridges and furrows etched into her soft skin. More prominent lines across the bends of her knuckles and the center.
I recognize all of them.
I remember all of them.
Oh, fuck me.
“W-what…what are you talking about?” she says, clearly confused and embarrassed now that the heat of the moment is quickly slipping away.
“Fuck, I don’t believe this…” I let go of her jaw but still hold on to her hand firmly, running my own palm over my face before pinching the bridge of my nose as I struggle to get some clarity.
She frowns, obviously concerned. “What? Is there something on my hand?” she tries pulling it away again with the same outcome as her first attempt.
I look her squarely in the eyes, feeling certain she’ll laugh her pretty head off at what I’m about to tell her.
“Look, this is going to sound kind of nuts…” I begin, unsure of how exactly to phrase this without sounding like a complete lunatic and potentially creeping her out. “Okay, it’s going to sound really nuts, but…I think…actually, I’m pretty certain that your hand prints are on the ocean floor of the Atlantic.”
And then more silence.
I’m not exactly sure what reaction I expected from her, but I know it’s not this.
Most of the lust-filled haziness is quickly dissipating, leaving us both far more sober than I think either of us cares to feel at the moment.
Several seconds go by, and the unmistakable smell of fear begins to creep into the atmosphere, replacing her previously intoxicating scent.
It’s different from the fear she felt earlier. Now, it’s heavier, laced with anxiety, the emotion permeating her dark eyes.
“You know?!” I blurt before I can stop myself. My tone is accusing and I know it, but I’m unable to veil my shock.
She doesn’t say anything, utter confusion flooding her face. She just keeps looking at me, but I can tell her mind is somewhere else.
“How did your prints get there?” I demand, pushing her for an answer.
She swallows nervously at the question, but still says nothing.
I breathe out a sigh, realizing I’m not going to get anywhere by scolding or intimidating her. I try to be more encouraging as I ask again, “Do you know something about the Atlantic’s disappearance?”
Her eyes widen at the question, clearly surprised that I know about what happened to the ocean. And her expression instantly confirms that she knows about it, too.
That much, I’m sure of.
My voice grows a tad bit panicked despite my attempts to conceal my worry and keep calm, but given the circumstances, I suppose freaking out is to be expected.
Still, I try my best to remain composed in order to avoid getting her worked up and even more scared, gently placing my hand on the side of her face again, cupping her cheek in a show of good faith and to calm her.
To calm us both.
“Look, Kitty-Cat,” I say, looking her squarely in the eyes, my voice lower, pleading. “You need to tell me if you know anything about what happened with the Atlantic.” I run my thumb across her cheek, slowly grazing her skin back and forth, hoping the action will mellow her out and help her trust me again. “If you know anything about any of it, please just tell me, sweetheart. I promise you, I can help if you just—”
A loud, thunderous sound rolls out of absolutely nowhere and startles us both, making her jolt and forcing me up in a leap as my eyes dart around frantically, searching for its source.
Before I can even process what just happened, it sounds off again, louder this time, in rapid, almost continuous successions.
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG.
Then I realize what’s going on.
“Oh God, this again?” I mutter under my breath, remembering her loud alarm clock interruption from last time. What I’m not prepared for, however, is an even louder, angry voice of what I can only presume to be a human man cracking through the atmosphere in a series of barks.
“Tilton!” he shouts, his brash voice punctuating the relentless banging. “Tilton, open this damn door! It’s time to pay up!”
My eyes bulge inside my sockets, my brain spinning in my head, trying to process what I’m hearing.
A-are…are you fucking kidding me right now?!
My head whips back to Kitty-Cat, my brows furrowed, eyes narrowed, and mouth contorted into a frown.
“What the fuck is that?” I ask incredulously, feeling like gutting the owner of the voice for interrupting us, and in such a rude way, no less.
She looks even more exasperated than I. “My fucking landlord,” she says with more than a hint of bitterness, her voice strained and raspier than usual.
I quickly remember that she disappeared as soon as the alarm had gone off before. Right after a disruption.
Like this one.
Another bloom of panic sets into my chest as I reach for her hand, tripping over my words.
“W-wait, wait! What’s your name?”
“Tilton!” the other man’s voice storms again.
She looks at me, eyes wide and slightly frantic, laced with a sense of desperation, as if she knows she’s about to vanish again.
“M-my…my name is—”
But before she can get it out, she’s gone.
Fuck me to the goddamn moon and back.
Damn it, how the fuck could I let this happen again without getting her name?
“Shit!” I curse loudly, running a hand through my hair as I feel utter frustration creeping its way back into me.
The banging and yelling of the man who’s apparently her landlord ceases, as well.
I kneel on my bed as deafening silence surrounds me, staring into the sheets beneath me where she was just a second ago, now bare and empty. However, the memory of the male voice that came through unexpectedly resurges in my mind, and what he said resounds in my head again and again.
That’s what he called her.
That might be her last name.
Good god, I finally have a lead!
Maybe my luck isn’t so bleak after all.