Here There Be Monsters... and Fashion

August 24, 2014: Joan receives her first undeniable encounter with the supernatural, courtesy of Samira. Undeniable in the moment, yet forcibly forgotten in memory. Talk of fashion, however, is well-remembered.
Bronx Zoo

Upon entering, one first encounters the Sea Lion Pool, and beyond that a triangle of exhibits which host lions, monkeys and elephants. To the east past the lake and Bison Range are five oval aviaries joined by ramps. The aviary enclosures simulate different climates and areas of the world, ranging from swamps, savanna and tropical rain forests; right down to the rain storms.

To the west lies the Aquatic Bird House, which is home to the zoo's penguins, as well as the DeJur Aviary and the Rare Animal Range. Also found in this area is the Children's Zoo which consists of farm animals, a beehive, as well as pony and camel rides. No adult is granted admittance to the Children's Zoo unless accompanied by a child.

These are not all the exhibits, as the Bronx Zoo also boasts a large Reptile House, the Great Ape House and a special building called World of Darkness, which is nearly lightless and features nocturnal creatures under a dim red lighting.

All of the enclosures are arranged according to continent, and most have a speaker-box which can be activated by a little plastic elephant-shaped key; available for purchase at the zoo's entrance.


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Samira Bastet Joan Jackson

Despite it being a Sunday evening, there is a bit of activity in the offices of the Wildlife Conversation Society. Specifically, the Finance Department is in a bit of a whirlwind due to internal auditing. So it is that Joan finds herself finally leaving the office at nearly eight o'clock at night. To prevent the day from being a complete bust, she ambles through the Bronx Zoo, taking the long way to the subway. With a wry grin, the hefty young woman pauses before the polar bears — she is certain they recognize her by now. "Hey, guys, what's crack-a-lackin'? I know, I know, I shouldn't work over the weekend, but you know how it is when the CFO wants something done. You don't have to get on my case about it." Chuckling, she continues along, following the winding path toward the large cat exhibits.

The zoo happens to be one of Samira's favorite places to hide in plain sight. With Kostas having been detained, relocated, or just plain gone — however one cares to look at it — the vampiress has been finding that she doesn't need to lurk around the house as a protective panther every day. Instead, Hastings has given her a little more freedom to roam the city. It allows her to gather information, and enjoy the sunlight in a way many of her kind cannot.
Now that night is descending upon the city, however, she's determined to grab a quick bite before heading back to the estate to see if he is in need of anything. It doesn't take much for her to make the leap out of the designated area to land upon the path. She's always amused by the fact that no one seems to really notice if another tiger happens to be in the enclosure, and by the fact that at least one of the cats always attempts to follow her exit. The only reason she's able to make the leap is due to her preternatural speed and strength, even in the form she's in.

Although the path is lit, the shadows caused by the sun's absence dot much of the walking area and far more of the enclosures. After offering similar chit-chat to the lions as she did the polar bears, Joan's graceful, but heavy, steps take her toward the tigers. She squints, peering into the area a bit before declaring, "You're all hiding way in the back, aren't you? How am I supposed to say hi to my cute little cub buddies? Lord help me, a sista can't catch a break today!" As loud and bombastic as though she were in the midst of a party, the cocoa-skinned woman continues moving around the large enclosure before suddenly stopping. Peering into the darkness, wariness suddenly envelopes her. A born-and-bred New Yorker, she knows full well to take heed when her instincts indicate danger nearby. Her hand slips into her pocketbook, wrapping around a can of pepper spray. "Who's out there? I'm armed, so don't tryin nothin' stupid."

That's new.
Slowly, Samira wanders her way toward the front of the enclosure. Sunday evenings are usually quiet, especially once the sun goes down. Which means the female voice she's hearing must belong to someone who works in one of the buildings.
A snarl of warning is released as she allows herself to step onto the lit path. Stopping in the center of it, she lifts a paw and licks it — almost daintily.

Joan blinks once, twice, then tentatively smiles again. Fear spikes her scent in equal measure with relief. A 600-pound predatory feline has escaped its enclosure and could rip her to shreds in seconds, but at least it's not a rapist. A girl's gotta have her priorities in line. The hand cradles around the pepper spray in her bag slowly crawls about to find her smartphone. As best she can, she tries to activate the unlock code so that she might be able to at least attempt to dial 911. Thank goodness the thing is on vibrate. Her free hand comes up in the universal sign of surrender, her warm voice turning soothing. "Hey, pretty kitty, how did you get out? Are all your friends still inside?" She dares another glance at the tiger exhibit, fear raising at her inability to see any of them.

The scent of fear hits the air, and the tiger leaps. Landing squarely in front of the woman on the path, the tiger begins to circle her. Almost calculatively.
There is a change then, as she reaches the backside of the woman. It may go unnoticed, but there is no longer a predatory feline breathing down the woman's neck. Instead, there is a soft touch to the shoulder attached to the arm holding the phone before the phone is discarded to the side. It lands on the grass, screen down. Samira may be a bitch, but she's not going to destroy the woman's point of contact with the world. Not yet.
"It's quite simple, really. I jumped. Do you really think cooing at a large cat is going to get it to stop from attacking you? I'd think that it would have likely lashed out before doing anything else."

The phone is on the grass, Joan's gaze following, before the startled woman has the slightest chance to process the very human-feeling touch on her arm. Then the tiger /talks/ to her from behind. She screams even louder than she speaks, which is feat bordering the supernatural in and of itself, and jumps as she spins around. The hand that previously held the phone is now pressed against her heart and she begins murmuring, "Lawd Jesus, my eyes deceive me!" It takes a moment before her shaking hand manages to make the sign of the cross over her chest and forehead. Then, barely whispering, she asks in terror, "What are you?"

"I would say a very cold woman, but as the night is chill and doesn't bother me anyhow, a rather comfortable one." Samira runs her finger along the woman's neck, able to not only see the pulse as the heart races, but feel it as well, she has to be careful not to let her fangs pop. It's rare to see such true fear these days, and the hunter in her relishes it.
"The correct question to be asking here, darling, is what were you thinking, trying to calm a jungle cat rather than turning and running the other way? I should think most New Yorkers would have snapped a selfie, then ran as far away, as fast as they possible could before worrying about calling for help. Unless that's what you were attempting to do?"

Joan snorts derisively. "What kinda fool takes a picture of herself instead of dealing with the situation? I'm not the type to run. Besides," she gestures toward her rather full figure. "I'd never get away. The only choice I had was to try to keep the tiger — you — calm and call for help. Common sense." Although her defense mechanism permit her to have a semi-normal conversation, she does not sound like her usual, confident self. Furthermore, her scent still stinks of fear. "Listen, if I interrupted your… whatever you were doin', I'm sorry. I don't even believe what I think I saw. Maybe I'm tired and overworked. So how about you go your way and I go mine and we'll just chalk this up to some Twilight Zone shit, okay?"

"Don't ask me, darling. I'm not the one with an Instagram account showing duckfaces and selfies every five minutes." Samira doesn't see the point in plastering her face everywhere.
Letting her finger linger on the pulse point for just a moment longer, the fashion designer smirks.
"Is that what you think it is? Some Twilight Zone shit?" She sounds exceedingly amused. "What is it that you think you interrupted?"

"Last I checked, tigers turning into people isn't exactly par for the course. The Twilight Zone deals with everything outside the norm. And this…" Joan points to herself, the strange cat-person, then back to herself. "Ain't normal. Anyway, I've got some porkchops thawing in the fridge that I've been looking to cooking up all day long. I wouldn't want to miss that, now would I?" Nervous humor peppers her speech, almost as though she cannot stop it.

"Of course you wouldn't, darling." Samira grins again before putting herself directly into the woman's personal space. "Though who said a tiger turned into a person? I don't see any tigers around here, do you?"
Her right hand sets on the woman's shoulder to stabilize her, while her left lifts her chin until their eyes meet.
"You didn't see a tiger," she says firmly, weaving the glamour over the woman. "Simply someone who got lost after hours, and you were kind enough to walk with them out of the zoo to the subway."

Joan's deep brown eyes lock with the lighter hue of Samira's. Unblinkingly, she nods slowly in agreement. After a moment, she blinks, then suddenly smiles warmly at the other woman. "Honey child, you're lost? I'll help you out of here. Do you know which train you need or which hotel you're staying at?" She moves to place an arm around Samira's shoulders to guide her along the path. "I'm Joan. What's your name?"

It's a good thing that Samira is as old as she is, otherwise she'd laugh at the situation. In reality, she's fairly certain they at least look the same age.
"I'll be fine. If you could just help me out of the zoo to the nearest station? I need to take the number 6."
By far, Samira isn't done messing with the woman, but for tonight, it may just do. "It's Sami."
There's a slight pause, and a glance down at the phone. She could tell the other woman that it's there, but she doesn't bother.
"I just lost track of time, admiring the large cats. Their fur generally has such intricate patterns, and I do love using them in my designs." She pauses again, pretending to consider. "The patterns, not the fur."

The endearment would have been used unless the other woman appeared to be at least a decade older than Joan, but that's just one of her quirks from her upbringing. That, and her general loquaciousness. "They /are/ pretty, although they seem to be a bit shy tonight." Why did she say that? Confusion causes her brow to wrinkle momentarily, then it is gone as quickly as it arrived. Eyes alighting, she asks, "You're a fashion designer? Do you design for more endowed figures like mine?" The comment refers to more than her chest, as she is generally large, although curvy. "I'm in the market for something new and glamorous, just to treat myself, you know?" What lost phone? She is likely to notice when she looks in her purse to get her wallet for her Metrocard anyway.

"We have a wide range of sizes," Sami explains. It's the truth. Size isn't an issue for her, but she knows it's a big deal for a lot of women. Her designs are extremely complementary to each body type.
A business card is extracted from inside her bust line, simply because she can't exactly carry a purse with her when she's in cat form, but likes to keep things handy. "Give the shop a call and they'll set up a fitting time for you. If you're looking for something particular, one of my assistants can take down your criteria and I can design something."
Glancing behind her toward the cage, she grins. "Maybe they spotted something we haven't. I've heard that felines are particular to seeing things that are beyond the human eye."

Joan eagerly accepts the card, looking it over as she guides the other woman toward the zoo exit, which is not far from the exit by the 6 train station. "Giiiiirl," she exaggerates the sound. "That sounds like it's out of my price range. But a woman's gotta treat herself right. Am I right?"

Without waiting for an answer to that, she nods and hums appreciatively to her companion's last comment. "Mmmm-hmmmm, preach, sistah. My Nana had a cat for the longest time. One day, he wouldn't leave her side, just kept staring at her. She went to the doctor, even though she felt fine, and it turns out she had breast cancer. The doctors were able to save her because it was caught so early, all because of Mister Tito." Puckering out her lower lip, she shakes her head sadly. "Damn shame he got hit by that bus a few years back."

"It quite possibly is, but if you want something bad enough, arrangements can be made. Payment plans. Perhaps an offer to model it before you take it for yourself. It's all just a matter of how my assistants perceive you, and how you let them." Though Samira will be quite sure to put the name on file. It will be easy enough to find a woman of Joan's description on public record if she's working at or with the zoo.
"Keep that in mind. Some cats are extremely brilliant, and they do like to be reminded of that from time to time." If the cat was hit by a bus though, it was either ready to go, or it wasn't smart enough to stay out of the way of moving vehicles. Samira tends to think it was the former. Cats do try to hide themselves or disappear when they're ready to go. Unlike dogs.
"I'll see you around, Joan. Just remember, every woman deserves to be spoiled. Whether it's by themselves, or by a benefactor."

Respect and appreciation fill Joan's expression as she nods to the enigmatic woman. Letting out a loud laugh, she notes, "I don't need a /man/ to get what I want. But if one wants to spend his money on me without expecting something in return, who am I to argue?" All too soon, they are mere feet from the sidewalk, where the bright subway sign indicates the 6 train (among others) can be found. "It was great meeting you, Sami. I'll give your girls a call first thing tomorrow morning. Take care of yourself, girl!"

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