Kris pondered whether or not she wanted to try to sleep, or, if she was more interested in being awake. She mulled this over, and, admittedly didn’t feel super tired despite the events of the day. Tired mentally, sure, but, not enough to where she wanted to throw herself onto a strange mattress in a strange forest next to a stranger that looked like a literal catwoman.
With a shrug, she walked over and sat down on a chair beside the bed.
Shayla looked thoroughly amused. “Not wanting to sit on the bed, eh? I can’t say I blame you. Wouldn’t feel differently if I were in your shoes.”
Kris rubbed the back of her neck. “I’m still coming to terms with everything. I didn’t expect I’d end up in… I dunno what the hell to call this. An alternate world? It’s strange, and feels like a dream more than reality.”
“You’ll get used to that,” Shayla said. “Eventually, at least. I did - just took a while.”
“What’s it like having…” Kris bit her lip. “You know. The, uh, costume. Or would you call it more of a new body?”
Shayla drummed her fingers on her knees. “It’s… it’s honestly kind of fun. At first, when I put it on, it was weird. Won’t say it wasn’t. To have sharper senses, to be covered in soft fur in most of my body… But I got used to it after, I think, a few weeks? I guess?” She growled under her breath. “Time is so stinkin’ difficult to understand in this damned area. But, yeah, I’d say about that long.”
Kris’ eyes flicked up and down the jaguar woman’s body, noting the fur. She wondered what it would be like to have fur all over her body. She pictured it being super soft, or, maybe getting really hot really fast. Kris was a little baffled at how that would work out - plus, more to clean, right? - but then she got distracted when she saw something. She paused at the exposed midsection and noticed, perhaps for the first time…
“You have a belly button,” Kris said, gawking a bit at the sight of a deep-looking innie navel at the center of Shayla’s stomach. For whatever reason, she’d completely missed the rather obvious divot when she’d looked at Shayla before. “I didn’t even… wow.”
Shayla stared at Kris for a long moment before she snorted. “Well, duh, Kris - I’m still a person like you. Of course I have a belly button. Was born with one, just like you.” She cocked her head to one side, her eyebrows wiggling with mischief. “What the hell did you think, that I lost my belly button?! And how did you not notice when my belly button has been SHOWING this whole time?”
“Well, I mean,” Kris wrung her hands, her cheeks burning with a blush. She looked away, grumbling internally while she heard Shayla snickering across from her. “I didn’t notice until now! I guess I thought since you were covered in fur, I dunno…”
Shayla cackled to herself. “I’m just teasing. Just, you know." She pointed to her stomach, where her navel sat snugly at the center. “Belly button right here, in case you forget I’ve got one still. Never lost it.”
“Yeah, yeah, I see that now,” Kris muttered. She was blushing furiously. “I’m still getting used to you being a talking jaguar person, okay?”
“Ha!” Shayla shook her head, mirth swirling in her eyes. “Yeah, true.”
Kris waited for her blush to subside before she glanced at Shayla in full. “So, you have stronger senses?”
Shayla nodded. “Sense of smell, sense of hearing, sense of taste. To a lesser degree, touch and sight. And reflexes.” She stood up and walked over to a more open chunk of the tree before smirking. “Watch this shit.”
She tensed her body and crouched slightly before performing a backflip - yet it was a smooth, fluid flip, and she managed to flip twice in air, then landed immediately on her feet. She beamed at Kris, who was eyeing the display with astonishment.
“Damn,” Kris said.
“Before I got this body, I never could’ve done something like that,” Shayla said. “My reflexes are heightened, though, and just like what you’d expect from a cat, I always land on my feet. It’s pretty stinkin’ cool, if I do say so myself.” She cracked her neck side to side. “Also got much stronger bones, and stronger teeth. And claws.”
“Guess you’ve got all the benefits you need to survive in a big… forest,” Kris said.
“Eh, I guess so,” Shayla remarked.
“What are the downsides?” Kris asked.
“Sharp senses can be a pain in the ass,” Shayla said as she returned to sitting on her mattress. “Strong smells mess with my nose. Bright lights can make it hard to focus, and if there’s too many noises or scents around, I have to really concentrate to avoid a sensory overload.” She paused to glance at her nails, then flopped down so she was on her side. “And in case you get the idea to ask me, no, water isn’t a weakness. I don’t mind it, and I can swim fine.”
Kris blinked a few times. “Why would I assume you couldn’t swim?”
“I get asked that all the time by others around here,” Shayla said with an eye roll. “Some people forget that these costumes… okay, sure, they give you almost super powers in a way, but, they’re still kind of grounded, you know?”
Kris stared at her in silence.
Shayla sighed. “Meaning, I can still do the things I could before I put it on. I just gained new abilities on top of all I could do.” Her lips curled into a small smile. “It’s been a blessing. Weird and a bit wild, sure, but, a blessing nonetheless.”
Kris nodded slowly as she absorbed this. Her mind raced, of course, as one would when she heard this sort of information. She ran a hand through her hair in silence, soaking the information in.
Shayla suddenly sat upright and eyed Kris, her expression turning curious.
“This might be a little too out of the blue,” Shayla said. “But, I can’t help wondering… Tell me something, Kris.” She paused, her features appearing like she was thinking of how to word her response. Then, her eyes met Kris’ and she gave the other woman a thoughtful look. “What would you say if you had the chance to get something like this for yourself?”
Kris sputtered. “Wh-what…? You mean, like, a costume?”
Shayla nodded. “Would you say yes to that? Or would you decline?”
Kris couldn’t help falling silent. That was a question she’d need to consider.
Written by Hollowpages on 03 March 2020
The end (for now)