Vision of the Spirit Ch. 02bywilderness©
It was time. The sun had fallen below the treetops. To facilitate the appearance of the Vision, the Medicine Man insisted, "You must obey the creed. Enter your Quest as you entered the world."
Tom left the protection of the cave -- completely sober and completely nude.
A hundred yards farther up the game trail, in the middle of a pine thicket Tom found a clearing perfect for the vision ground. Slow and silent, he began the prescribed ritual -- circle the area, commune with the Great Spirit and ignore the discomfort. Become one with nature. Be pure and plain. Seek only the wisdom of the earth…blah, blah, blah. This ordeal may last up to four days. Secretly he hoped the Spirit would show mercy and bring his guide sooner rather than later, wilderness survival really wasn't his thing. 'Maybe I'm not cut out for this. Not enough native blood.'
The unmistakable crack of gunshots, echoing up the valley, broke Tom's weak concentration. Even though they were miles away, he still felt outrageously vulnerable wandering naked through the forest. Motionless, he waited for the next sound, wary as a spooked buck. The silence so complete, it seemed the forest was holding its breath.
Soon the roar of a plane engine increased until it was deafeningly close. He spotted the low flying craft through the dense pine boughs just before it belly-flopped into the treetops. The limbs dragged down the crippled bird, breaking off its wings. The fuselage split in two and the tail section headed off in a new direction. Tom dove for cover. Shards of metal whizzed overhead as the mangled mass hurtled by. The sputtering shriek of the engine stopped with an explosion. He waited cautionary moments before lifting his head.
The cockpit collided with a granite outcrop and caught fire. Unable to go near the wreck, he watched the trapped pilot for signs of life. A wave of nausea wrenched his empty stomach. The hopelessness of the situation brought up the taste of bile. Intense heat drove him back. Rain hissed as it boiled on the molten metal.
"What the hell happened? What kind of fucked up vision is this?" Tom began to search the debris field. There wasn't much left, just miscellaneous junk and three duffel bags. He piled up the black bags and continued through the undergrowth until he reached the tail section -- suspended 10 feet off the ground. Movement to the right caught his eye. Quickly, he pushed through the thick vegetation and then froze in disbelief. A dazed, naked woman stumbled around, mumbling to herself.
When she stooped to pick up a black tee-shirt, Tom asked, "Lady, are you all right?"
A startled scream was the answer. She whirled around to face him. Blood and mud trickled down her rain soaked body. Her stunned expression would've been laughable in other circumstances.
'How do I explain being naked in a forest? On the other hand, why is she naked?'
Her eyes ran down his torso and stopped at his groin. The unnerving effect of her bold stare made his face warm. The last time he'd felt this embarrassed was at the age of fourteen, when his mother caught him masturbating to Playboy.
Finally, the naked woman met his eyes again, and said something strange, "I can't do it now, I don't feel well." Then, she collapsed.
Attempts to revive her proved futile. She might have internal bleeding or a head injury. Those were possibilities he couldn't do anything about, except make her comfortable. As gently as possible, Tom struggled to carry her limp body to the cave. Naked and wet, her slippery skin and dead weight became almost unmanageable.
He laid her on his sleeping bag and rekindled the fire. Safe for the moment, he left to quickly salvage the few belongings. The cave was hot by the time he returned, and the woman's skin had nearly dried. Her cuts had begun to clot and scab over. Throwing the collected luggage into the back of the cave, Tom hurriedly dried himself and pulled on jeans before kneeling next to his patient.
'What do I do now?' He placed a finger on her carotid artery. There was a pulse. She felt warm and alive. Her face looked peaceful. 'Without the blood and dirt she'd be attractive, probably mid-twenties.'
Placing a hand on her shoulder, he gently shook. "Can you hear me, Ma'am? You're safe now. I'm just going to check your wounds." Tom's eyes scanned her arms and legs for evidence of fractures. They were long limbs, long and lithe. "What's your name?" He waited a few moments for any response.
Somewhere in the past, he'd read an article about comatose patients who woke up and remembered people who'd talked to them. The stress and pressure of the situation tapped a nervous vein of adrenaline and Tom felt compelled to explain, "I don't know if you can hear me. My name is Thomas DuBois. You're going to be all right." Tom's eyes wandered over her breasts, passed her bellybutton ring and then stopped on her dark tuft of matted pubic hair. For the first time, he felt responsible for someone else's life, and it scared him. "This is fucked up. I'm out here looking for my guardian-spirit, and instead a naked woman falls out of the sky. This was not an option."
A tingle on his cheek made him turn to look. Slotted brown eyes were watching him. When they locked with his, she closed them once again, moistened her lips and said in a tired voice, "I don't know. You look like a guardian angel to me."
Softly, he asked, "Hey, how are you feeling?" while folding the sleeping bag over her.
"About as good as I look, probably." Her eyes opened wide and stared at the ceiling. "Where's Toby?"
"I'm so sorry. He… didn't make it out of the plane." The eyes closed and tears ran down her cheeks. Tom struggled with comforting words to say, and decided to remain silent. After a few minutes of thoughtful meditation, he said, "I'll make a signal fire. There'll be a search plane as soon as you're missed."
"Don't!" The abrupt command startled Tom. Her eyes flashed wild with panic. She glared at him, and in a hoarse whisper declared, "The only people who'll be searching for us are the ones who shot Toby." She grabbed his wrist with frenzied strength. "We've got to get out of here before they find us."
"Who are, 'They'?"
"I don't know, but they're killers!"
He patted the hand that was retarding the circulation to his own and tried to calm her. "No one will be coming up the mountain until tomorrow, so get some rest."
She let go and scratched at the crusty blood on her temple.
"How 'bout I boil some water and you can clean up a little. The last thing we need out here is an infection."
With a pitiful whimper, she rolled away, "I don't care anymore. My life is a fucked up mess. I'd be better off dead. It should've been me, not Toby."
"I'm sorry about your boyfriend, but if his spirit is here, I'm sure he's thrilled you survived. It's a miracle."
"My boyfriend? Toby wasn't my boyfriend. I hardly knew the freak. But he didn't deserve… this." She rolled back to witness his confusion, and declared, "If his spirit is anywhere, it's burning in hell, just like mine will be."
Time to change the subject. "What's your name? I'm tired of calling you, 'Hey Lady'," he said, smiling.
Closing her eyes, she said for no apparent reason, "Call me whatever you want. Just leave the money on the dresser," and then rolled away again. The sleeping bag quivered as she trembled inside.
"What?" No explanation followed. Her incoherent remarks and unresponsiveness might indicate a concussion. Soothingly, he said, "I'll call you, Willow."
"Willow? That's a stupid name. Why Willow? If you call me Pussy Willow I'll scratch your eyes out."
A little annoyed, he answered, "If you don't like it then tell me your real name, Weeping Willow."
No response. Tom boiled water. When it was ready he grabbed a clean bandana and then, armed with the steamy pot and a bar of soap, sat next to her. Deciding she wasn't in any condition to know what was best, Tom soaked the cloth, rubbed on a little soap and gently dabbed crud away from the side of her face. She ignored him, but the shivering stopped after a few minutes.
"There, that sides finished. Only a couple scratches. They'll be gone in two weeks."
Silently, with eyes closed, she rolled onto her back. He continued to lave her face.
"You should try to stay awake in case you have a concussion." Pausing a moment, he said, "Open your eyes. Let me see your pupils."
In the dim light, the black dilations nearly filled the mahogany irises.
A clinical mind, devoid of emotion, is what Tom needed but did not possess. It was exciting to lift the witch's mask and find Sleeping Beauty beneath. And, as the filthy facade came off, she seemed to relax, like an evil spell had been broken. Her face was now spotless, so he continued lower and cleansed her neck and shoulders. He worried about the painful sting as soap met abrasion, but Weeping Willow never complained.
When Tom had finished washing her shoulders, he refilled the pot with clean water, returned, and said, "Turn over and I'll wash your back."
"You're a kind man, Tom," said Willow, as she rolled over inside the bag.
Pulling aside the flap until her back was exposed to the waist, he continued the sponge bath. "Tomorrow morning, if you're feeling up to the walk, we'll head out. It's at least a two day trip," he said, while washing a rather large scratch across her lower back. Her body flinched when he touched the sore, but she didn't make a sound. "You're pretty tough, for a girl."
She laughed for the first time. It was a hard-bitten, short bark. "And you're pretty gentle, for a guy." One dainty hand reached back and threw off the cover. "Don't stop there. This is very relaxing. You must be a massage therapist in the real world."
Tom smiled, and said, "No, I'm just naturally gifted."
After a brief swipe across her round buttocks, Tom moved down her muscled legs. There was a new tightness in his chest when he breathed and it sprang from his old internal conflict. The struggle to stay detached from his libido was getting harder, like his cock.
To counteract his lecherous thought pattern, he asked, "What do you do in the real world?"
After a long pause, Willow answered, "I'm an actress."
The delayed response set off alarm bells, 'Danger, important information being withheld.' He said, "Really? In Hollywood?"
"Las Vegas. I'm an… independent contractor. When parts open up, I apply."
"I see." He dabbed a nasty scratch on her right calf, "With these legs, you must be a dancer too. I hope you don't scar easily."
Without warning or feigned modesty, Willow rolled over. "You think I have nice legs?" she asked, and began stroking her sable braid of hair, like an old comforting habit.
The sudden turn of events rattled Tom. If he maintained eye contact, and ignored her from the neck down, he should win an Oscar for his first role as a leading man.
What would Tom Hanks say? "Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything inappropriate." Although inappropriate thoughts bounced in his head like a Ping-Pong ball on steroids.
"That's okay. In my line of work appearance means everything. My looks are my bread and butter. When I loose them I'll have to wait tables or mop floors." Willow flipped the braid off her shoulder, placed her arms along her sides, and said, "I'm so tired. Would you please do my front, too? It feels so… soothing."
Tom thought, 'I wonder how many roles she got on the casting room couch.' Aloud and in an even tone, he managed an indifferent, "Sure."
His hands trembled slightly as he wrung out the washcloth. Those dark eyes burned into him as he began to wash her clavicles and slowly move downward. Several welts and cuts marred the contour of each breast and required extra-special care. Tenderly, he ministered to each one. The nipples swelled -- became tight and erect. He felt the same way between his legs.
"Tom, I don't remember much about the crash but I remember seeing you, naked. What was that about?"
The heat rising in his face proved impossible to control. "It's just a part of a Blackfoot ritual. I was right in the middle of my Spirit walk when you crashed."
Willow arched her back, and moaned, "Mmmm, that feels so nice."
Tongue-tied, he just smiled, completed the boob job, and re-soaked the cloth before returning it to the sensitive skin of her abdomen. He followed her gaze to the walls and ceiling.
With a hint of sarcasm, she said, "You have a nice cave here, Tom. Did you decorate it yourself?"
"No, I discovered it by accident," answered Tom, and then, in an effort to distract his mind from the inner thigh his fingers washed, he proceeded to tell his Vision Quest story. He rambled on about how there must be more to life, something was missing from his soul, and maybe he could find it within his Indian heritage. "So, here I am today. And what a weird and fatalistic trip it's been."
When the story and the sponge bath ended Willow's eyes were closed. His erection had subsided. Tom felt pride in his self-control. "All done," he said, and covered her up. "I'll be right back."
"When you're done jerking off, I'd like to borrow a shirt."
The comment felt like a kick in the groin. She opened her eyes and caught the stunned look. "Hey, I saw your hard-on. And, believe me, I'd be disappointed if you didn't get one."
Nearly shouting, he said, "I'm going out to take a piss and get more firewood, and that's all!"
"Whatever… But I know you'll think of me when it's in your hand."
Tom stormed out. "What the fuck is the matter with her!"
The rain had stopped and the clouds had broken up. The twilight cast dim shadows and marked the dark path to the cliff. The dappled landscape stretched below under the glowing cobalt sky. Tom unzipped and struggled to pull out the swollen penis. Standing on the brink, he wanted to piss on the world, but Willow's body and the power of suggestion proved too much to overcome. "Damn it!" He had to unbutton his pants to push it back in.
Mad at himself for being weak, Tom marched to the crash site. Near the tail section he found her black tee-shirt but nothing else. Dry wood was scarce. The search mission became a failure just like everything else on this Vision Quest. At least he'd calmed down enough to urinate. His bladder thanked him in a sigh of relief.
Back at the mouth of the cave, he paused in the shadows to peek inside. The sleeping bag was empty and the contents of his backpack lay in a pile on the sandy floor. Deeper within, bent over one of the black bags, Willow's ass glowed white beneath his green flannel shirt.
A hushed, "Oh my God," reached his ears as she dropped the bag.
Silently, Tom moved behind her. The contents of another black bag had her undivided attention.
Willow shrieked and spun around. Packets of money tumbled onto his feet.
She punched his shoulder, hard. "Don't do that!"
"What's all this?" With a quick scan of the ground, he counted eight stacks of twenties. "How much money is here?"
Panicky, she stroked her braid down the front of the shirt, and wailed, "I don't know, I don't know. But someone's going to be looking for it and I don't want to be here when they find it!"
Her hands sliding over the thick rope of hair, the furrowed brow, anxious eyes, the glimpse of cleavage inside his shirt, long bare legs, her helplessness, her fear itself, triggered a powerful reaction. Tom grabbed her shoulders and shouted, "Tell me what the fuck is going on!"
"Ow, you're hurting me!" When his grip remained firm, she finally confessed, "Toby flew in here to make a drug buy. Whoever was waiting tried to doublecross him. But we got away… almost."
Tom let go of her, went to the fire, and started kicking dirt into it. "Put the money back in the bags. I'll take them to the plane. Maybe they'll be satisfied with that, and they won't care what happened to you."
Without argument, Willow did what she was told and dragged the three bags to the entrance.
"Stay quiet," he said, and left.
Ruthless people kill for money. Afraid these people were on horseback, and already close by, Tom crept to the crash site, wary of every shadow. Luck was on his side for a change and he spread the bags amongst the debris without incident.
When he returned to the cave and began to camouflage the entrance, Willow tapped on his shoulder. "I have to pee first."
He said, "Okay."
She didn't move. "Do you have any toilet paper?"
"Oh, right. I'll get it." When he handed her the roll she still didn't move.
Sheepishly, she said, "You have to come with me. I'm afraid," and dragged him by the arm. "Find me a safe spot."
Off the trail, behind a bush, he found a secluded nook. "How's this?"
"Great." Immediately she lifted the shirt and squatted.
Tom turned away.
"You can watch if you want. Some men like to."
Disgusted, Tom said, "Why the hell did you say that? Why do you want to put those thoughts in my head? Don't you have any sense of modesty?"
The sound of splashing liquid stopped before she answered. "I'm sorry if I've offended you. I just don't like feeling worthless. And I don't want you to think I'm ungrateful for what you've done for me."
"You're a strange woman, Willow. All you have to do is say, thank you."
She took his arm, and said, "Thank you."
As they walked, she explained, "Men always expect more. Don't lie and say you didn't. I know you thought about fucking me. Admit it. I saw the bulge in your pants."
"Why are you trying to manipulate me? Stop messing with my head. I'm on your side. We're in this together. And just because I think something doesn't mean I expect to get it."
"Yeah, well, people change sides all the time. You have to make yourself useful in this world if you're going to survive. If you need something, you have to trade something to the man who has it. It's basic supply and demand economics."
"Be careful, Willow," Tom tapped her chest, "That heart of yours is going to turn to stone."
Without another word, she entered the cave and Tom covered the entrance. It was pitch black inside. "Do you need anything?"
"Are we just going to sit and wait all night?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Get in the sleeping bag with me."
Tom fumbled around until he found the flashlight. "I'll put on more clothes and stand guard."
"Are you sure?"
"Shine the light over here. I can't find the zipper."
In the bright spotlight, Willow sat naked, lazily searching for the zipper. "I hope this doesn't bother you, but I can't sleep with clothes on. They're too confining." Slowly the bag sealed around her and she laid her head on the wadded flannel shirt. She pulled her braid over her shoulder and began stroking it again. It was a girlish affectation, but the sensuous motion touched him despite being an obvious phallic ploy. "Goodnight, Tom."
"Goodnight." He focused the beam on his pile of clothes that were once neatly folded in the pack. The temperature was dropping. It was going to be a long uncomfortable night.
"You want to open the whiskey?"
"It looks like it was a present."
"A friend of mine gave it to me."
"Is she pretty?"
"So, you're being faithful to her. That's sweet."
"Hardly. She's married to someone else." As soon as the words left his mouth he felt doomed.
"I guess you're not such a choir boy after all."
"No, I guess not."
"Then what's the problem? I promise not to bite." A few moments of silence, and then she continued, "I'm not going to be able to sleep if you're out there freezing to death. Come on! The patient needs some more of your bedside manner, Doctor DuBois."
He smiled and whispered to himself, "Fuck it," and peeled of his clothes. "Open up. I'm coming in."