Out of the Dark Wood Ch. 01byflatliner©
He climbed above the tree line and into the late afternoon August sunlight. The Blue Ridge lay arrayed before him like a sleeping woman under rumpled sheets. Here a jutting hip, there a soft shoulder, she was in repose after a stolen hour of lovemaking. Or so he could imagine. The fresh air and stimulation of hiking in the forest always touched the primal. His thoughts turned to elemental things. Like hunting down a frisky woman and taking her under the shadow of an ancient pine on a spongy bed of needles.
His last girlfriend called him the 'hiking hard-on'. His randyness often was obnoxious to her, sometimes not. Once they'd rutted standing up against a tree after taking shelter there in the rain. It was an exceptional act for her but he was like a dog and having once found a morsel he looked for it the same place every time. Sharon was always fending off his lusting paws and just got tired of it. Sexual romps weren't her idea of a day in the woods.
She'd been accepted to graduate school anyway and was soon back in New England. That frigid landscape suited her. Here in summertime Virginia he continued to hike, alone for now, and tried to turn his thoughts to higher things. Like his own studies. Like the migratory patterns of Red Shouldered Hawks and his indifferent grades. How was he to graduate and get a decent job without being top of the class, or, to be honest with himself, middle of the class? He loved being outdoors. He loved animals. He loved Red Shouldered Hawks, even, but he wasn't a scholar. Rather than observing and reporting on the mating habits of these beautiful creatures he'd want to be mating himself. He had a hard time staying one remove from what he was studying, using the part of his brain that labeled, catalogued and listed things. Instead he found himself wanting to be one with them.
It was a handicap to his academic career. Perhaps he should take a couple of years off and go back to school when he could be more mature about it. But he knew that if he quit he'd never come back. Whatever advantage his degree was going to be in finding a job he was going to have to focus on finishing and take a grab at the first rung of some kind of career ladder. That was what was expected of him, anyway.
Being up in the clean air and bright light of the mountains helped to clarify his thoughts. Or if not that, then his feelings. He got depressed thinking about his situation back on the grounds of the University, but from the perspective of a mountaintop it was almost impossible not to feel elation. He looked to the west over the Shenandoah Valley and beyond to the Alleghenies. As on many late summer afternoons he could see thunderheads building on the horizon. By the evening they'd be towering over this ridge, lightning and rain likely. He turned his course down off the exposed, rocky spine of the mountain toward the side trail that, according to the map, wound down past some waterfalls in the cooler, damp shade of the oak forest below.
He walked down, feeling the rubberiness in his legs, and dropped deeper into the cavern of the trees. Here it was still and quiet. He could hear his blood pulsing in his ears and beyond that the occasional bird chatter. The wind high above did not disturb the silence down here. Occasionally his trained ear heard a hawk keening as it glided northward far above him, catching the thermals coming off the ridge top. As the trail angled closer to a small stream running through a crease in the mountain he could hear the gentle gurgling of the water in the granite boulders of its bed.
He began to smell that particular aroma of loam and dampness. There was something intensely female about it. Deep green moss burst in soft, round pillows in and around the rocks. The rotting trunks of long fallen trees were draped in moss and fiddlehead ferns stretched their slim green stalks upward toward the filtered light, slowly unfolding their tight-wound heads. Life dug its tendrils deep into the Earth and exploded in slow motion toward the sun. The vitality of it stirred him. It never ceased to inspire awe in him, nor horniness. He wanted to celebrate by stripping and running naked in the wonder of it. The impulse was very strong.
But he felt silly doing that alone. A little too self-conscious to burst out in a spontaneous happy dance and a communion with the fecund mother Earth. He was horny enough to find knotholes appealing but, though he might be a tree-hugger, he was not a tree-fucker. On the other hand if there were someone special to get naked with, that would certainly be an entirely different matter. He was uncomfortable in his aloneness only for lack of physical companionship. Mostly, a bad day in the mountains was better than any good day at school. Trying not to disturb the cathedral of the trees he kept on down into the shadows. Let the wild things go about as if he was one of them. As he wished it could be.
After about a mile the stream was strong enough to have some volume and the grade began to level out. The steep sides of the draw cast shadows across the streambed and his path. But that was welcome on a steamy afternoon in August. He had no need to wear the t-shirt he'd removed and tied around his head as he climbed the east side of the ridge that morning. He soon found a campsite on an elevated area where others had leveled a tent spot and dug a fire pit. He'd be safe here if the stream rose from the expected thunderstorm.
Pitching the 2-man tent and tossing his rolled up sleeping bag inside was a simple matter and he quickly had his camp ready for the night. He traveled light. What little food he'd brought he pulled up into a nearby tree to keep it out of the paws of the black bears. He gathered some dry wood and filled two plastic garbage bags for later. If he didn't use them, he'd leave them for the next campers. He liked to leave a campsite better than he found it.
Now he needed to find that waterfall and take a dip to clean off the sweat and dirt of the trail. In shorts and Teva sandals and with his t-shirt tied around his head he followed the trail past an elbow in the stream where house-sized boulders shouldered the water into a narrow ravine. Picking his way on slick stones he crossed the freshening stream. He heard the drumming of the waterfall before he could see it, climbing around a jumble of rocks and downed trees. The trail nearly disappeared as it wound through the deadfall that the stream had piled up on the rocks at the top of the falls.
Easing his legs over a last rock and looking down he was brought to an abrupt stop. Below him in the deep green pool were two women, naked as the day they were born, paddling languidly in the cool water. Obviously they hadn't seen or heard him. Yet. He pulled back out of sight, both embarrassed and excited. What to do?
He could just go back to his tent. No way. He could shout to get their attention. But maybe that would scare them. Surely they didn't expect someone to walk up on them. They might think he was dangerous. It could be awkward at least and a lawsuit at worst. He didn't really have enough information to form a decision. Clearly he should gather more facts before taking action.
So he slowly eased himself up to the edge of the rocks and peeked over again, lying prone to minimize his exposure. Dappled sunlight fell onto the scene below. Within the circle of stones that edged the pool the two women floated like autumn leaves. They both had bright red hair that fanned out in the water around them and reached nearly to their round white asses. One moved to the side and pulled herself up on a rock. The other continued to doggy paddle. They seemed to be talking but he couldn't hear them. He noticed their clothes piled neatly a bit further away. Off in that same direction the trail seemed to resume its path down the mountain.
He couldn't see any gear but maybe they had a camp, like his, safely away from the water. At this height it was difficult to see the women clearly but from what he could see they were young and shapely, full in the right places, pinched in others. The seated one threw her head back laughing and he saw her dark-tipped breasts bounce. The other rolled in the water and revealed a thick red bush at the 'v' of her scissoring legs. They had tan lines that showed they didn't get out in the sun much; at least not in bathing suits. The tan stopped just above their knees and elbows. The rest of them was bright white. They seemed perfectly at ease, like dryads in an English Oak wood.
He, however, was lying on a boner.
Which only complicated his situation. He certainly wouldn't come tripping into their pool party with a bulge in his shorts. Resting his chin on his crossed arms he gave the issue more thought. He tried to gather more information, but the women, besides being naked and beautiful and lolling deliciously in the pool, yielded up little in the way of additional facts. He supposed if he were more intelligent or perceptive he might deduce more from the evidence. Maybe they were students, too. Could be sisters. Could be through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Could be hookers on vacation!
As the afternoon waned a shaft of sun cut across the mouth of the defile and fell on a flat rock just downstream from the pool. Both women moved to it and lay on their backs in the sunlight. He could see now that they weren't exactly alike though they both shared the bright red hair at head and crotch. One was a little thinner and taller than the other. This information did not noticeably advance his decision-making. The taller one had her arm thrown across her eyes and he imagined he could see the water drops glistening in her pubic thatch as her leg splayed out to the side. Was her pussy smiling at him?
He turned his gaze to the other. She was pointing right at him. Her mouth was open; she was yelling! She poked her companion and brought her attention to him. Damn! Caught! Both women quickly covered themselves and leapt up. They ran haltingly across the rocks toward their clothes. He jumped back but took a quick look again. One was shaking her fist at him and clearly yelling something although he still could not hear.
Embarrassed, he hightailed it back to his tent. He was sorry he'd spoiled their sunbathing. He was sorry he hadn't thought of a way to meet them before pissing them off. He was sorry he couldn't just watch them naked for the rest of the day.
Sure they'd be hightailing it down the mountain he made his way back toward the tent as the approaching evening darkened the sky. Reaching the ford of the creek he stopped to get cleaner. He stripped out of his shorts and sandals, waded into the cool water and gingerly dug his toes into the gritty sand between the rocks. After soaking and wringing his t-shirt he used it to wash himself. It felt good to have the moving water lapping against his tired thighs and to scrub off the grime of the hike. He sluiced his chest, rubbed down each of his arms and used the t-shirt to clean his back. He relaxed as the water ran down over his tired muscles, dripping from his close-cropped hair. It was a pleasure to be naked and clean. Thoughts of the two wood nymphs kept him half-hard.
He was standing with his right arm stretched over his head, his left pulling the t-shirt low across his back when he heard a woman's voice behind him.
"Hold it right there!"
He turned slowly to his left toward the voice. Over his shoulder he saw a redheaded woman approaching with a rifle. Aimed at his back. A few paces behind her another woman stood with a branch held like a bat at her shoulder. What the fuck!? His first reaction was of disbelief. His second, fear. He held the stretched t-shirt as he carefully turned.
"You alone?" the woman asked. Her eyes were narrowed, her breathing fast. She was scared, too. It wouldn't do to make any sudden moves.
"Yes, ma'am, " He said, reverting to a nearly forgotten politeness. He noticed that she and the other one were wearing shorts and t-shirts that accounted for the tan lines he'd seen before. And good hiking shoes. An interesting detail to notice when someone is pointing a gun at you, he thought.
"You get your jollies watching naked women bathing?"
The obvious answer was, "Well, hell, yes." But he considered that an impolitic reply under the circumstances and so decided abject apology his best strategy. It worked with other women most of the time anyway. Why not now?
"Sorry, ma'am, I didn't mean to scare you. I was walking down to swim myself and didn't want to disturb you. I couldn't decide what to do. I was just about to go back to camp when you caught, er, noticed me watching." He could see he'd at least sounded normal to her.
"Annie, go check his camp." The one with the gun, the shorter one, pointed with the barrel toward his tent on the high ground. Annie forded the creek 50 yards above him and, wielding her club, cautiously circled his tent. As he and the gun toting woman stood waiting a distant rumble of thunder underscored the tension.
"Looks like a one-man camp up here," shouted Annie. She returned on the trail and now he stood in the buff between the two thoroughly at a loss. The women were clearly eyeballing him as he stood there dripping. He slowly lowered his arms and brought the t-shirt around to cover his privates.
"Keep your arms up, Lumberjack," the shorter one said, grinning. "Check his pants for ID, Annie."
She crept down and pulled his shorts from the rock he'd spread them on, ripped the Velcro at the rear pocket and rifled his wallet. Another roll of thunder sounded, closer this time.
"Jackson Elliot. Student ID. University of Virginia." Annie looked questioningly at the gun-toter, who was slowly lowering the rifle as her eyes traveled down his body. She didn't seem shy about looking at him in the nude. As he was thinking about the shoe being on the other foot, she said, "Jackson? They call you Jack? I pegged him right, callin' him Lumberjack, huh, Annie? How's it feel to be gawked at, Lumberjack?"
Just then the rain started, a staccato beat on the leaves far above at first, but then suddenly a cold shower. Lightning flashed and thunder followed loud and fast. The storm he'd seen earlier was on them. Their tableau was ruined as each reacted to the drenching. Annie looked to the other one for direction and Jack grabbed his pants. He hauled himself out of the stream and, hopping awkwardly, got his shorts on.
The women were rapidly getting bedraggled in the rain. The steaming August afternoon was turning chilly in the air forced down by the thunderstorm. The stream had been a welcome respite from the heat but the cold pounding of the rain was soaking their clothes.
"You stand still!" the short one yelled, but Jack turned and started up the trail.
"I'm going in the tent. I'm harmless to you and there's no sense in standing here getting wetter." Soon they wouldn't be anything but drenched anyway but his reaction to the situation was to run for cover even if it was just a nylon tent.
He scrambled up the slope to the tent, tried to wipe his feet and dove in the mosquito-netting door of the tent. He turned to zip it and looked into the barrel of the rifle.
"Move back, Jack," shorty growled. The two wet women pushed into the tent dragging red Virginia clay with them.
"The gun is not necessary," Jack said, jammed into the low end of the tiny tent while the women struggled to sort out their arms and legs and keep him on the defensive. It was comical. Like a game of Twister, but with bullets. Then the gun went off, blowing a neat hole in the sidewall of the tent just inches from Annie's head. All three froze, both women with a look of horror, Jack cringing, thinking he'd been shot.
"Oh, God, Annie!" cried the other woman, dropping the rifle. Jack snatched it up and lunging between them threw it as far as he could out into the rain. He fell back and the two women launched into an embrace, bent over in the small space. They sobbed in each other's arms. Jack slowly unclenched and felt his breathing slow to something like normal. The rain slowed outside as the rumble of thunder receded.
After a few minutes of mumbling into each other's red hair the women, too, relaxed. Annie started to laugh.
"You didn't need to ruin the rifle. There was only the one bullet," she said, panting.
"Well, the rifle was totally unnecessary and now you've shot up my tent. And covered the floor with mud." In his reaction to being shot at Jack was not entirely able to form a cogent argument. This didn't happen to him every day.
The shorter one said, holding out her hand, "OK, let's call it even. We've all had a good scare and we're soggy as drowned kittens. I'm sorry. My name is Cheryl."
They shook hands. Tentatively, as could be expected under the circumstances. But the tension was clearing. The discomfort of their situation was becoming the paramount issue. Three strangers who'd caught each other in the buff, soaked by the cold rain, nearly shot, now trapped in a fragile tent in a thunderstorm as night quickly fell. They could hear the stream roaring nearby. It had become a torrent in the rain.
Jack, coming back to his senses, noticed the effect the cold rain had on their t-shirts. Rock hard nipples, for one. Goosebumps on their arms, too. Printed on Annie's nicely stretched shirt was; Equestrians Do It In Leather. He was beginning to shiver sitting there cross-legged in only his shorts.
Cheryl craned her neck at the door of the tent. "It looks like we're not crossing that creek any time soon, Annie. It's halfway up to the tent now. Likely to get higher."
Jack did a mental inventory of his supplies, most of which were up in the pack in the tree. "We're going to need a fire, but the rain's got to let up first. I've got a flashlight I can give you to get you down to your camp."
"We don't have a camp. We rode our horses up to the falls for the day," said Annie. "I'm worried about Gantry. He's my gelding."
"Gantry and Mudge'll be OK, Annie. They were tied high enough. Anyway, if they get loose they know the way home. We're not going to go stumbling around those falls tonight with or without a flashlight. We're going to need to stay here." She looked apologetically at Jack. Though he noticed her eyes tended to wander over his chest and lower as she talked.
He caught her eye and saw something unfamiliar there. Something knowing and hungry, amused and assured. The woman who recklessly used a rifle but didn't run from a perceived threat was looking at him appraisingly. The possibilities were beginning to dawn on him, too. There was a stirring in his groin. His shorts were developing a tent of their own. Cheryl, clearly was not unaware of this. She smiled. Annie looked back and forth between the two. They all were only inches apart in the tent.
"I'm getting really cold," she said through gritted teeth, hugging her suggestively sloganed chest.
As the light failed, Jack cleared his throat and moved to crawl out the door. Rubbing past them he was keenly aware of their earlier nakedness. And his own.
The rain had mostly passed. He stood under the dripping from the trees and looked up. He could just see a deep blue sky beyond the black netting of the trees. Night was falling. The summer heat was seeping back in to the air. Tree frogs and cicadas began to fill the night with love song.
He pulled down the pack and used the matches to start a fire with the wood he'd bagged earlier. Jack passed the flashlight into the tent. He could see the women's silhouettes and hear them talking while he worked. He caught a giggle or two. After a few minutes of fanning and strategic blowing he had a good blaze going. He dragged some larger deadwood close to dry while the fire built.
Soon the women crawled out into the light of the fire. "Ooo, that feels good, LumberJack," said Cheryl, "This boy's got some boy scout skills!"