Heavenly Bodies in the Hot SpringsbyMatthewVett©
One thousand, eight hundred, and seventy-one visible stars danced above his head in the sky, circling about, scintillating, putting on their constant ballet for all those below. Not for the first time, he wondered at how many intelligences he was staring. Millions? Trillions? Or perhaps it was zero.
Would they ever visit? And if they did, what would have propelled them across the distant stars to this small, blue marble? Curiosity? Greed? Loneliness?
Kyle always found himself getting philosophical on these long nights alone in the mountains, waiting for his camera to finish absorbing the few photons available, travelers from distant stars, in order to get a good shot. He checked his watch: a large, older analog model, with a few small areas of radium-energized phosphorous paint providing enough sickly green light to read it in the near total darkness of the new moon. Anything brighter, and he risked ruining the work of hours.
It was time.
He pressed the small remote in his hand, designed to prevent him from jostling his camera, and stood up off the cold, uncomfortable ground. The shutter quietly whirred, the noise overwhelmed by the nocturnal insect orchestra. He wrapped his arms around himself and walked over to the tripod, attempting to return some warmth to his body. While he had worked, a brisk autumn evening had descended into a wintry night.
He began to wonder whether he'd be able to sleep outdoors after all as he checked the digital camera's display. He smiled at the result of the exposure; it was perfect. The stars' motion was captured perfectly, and beneath, the foliage-covered mountains were just visible. In the summer, these mountains were carpeted in verdant green, but as the nights got longer, the leaves had changed colors, turning them into a dazzling rainbow of reds and oranges and yellows and browns.
A white speck appeared on his display, then another. He looked up into the sky. Snowflakes tumbled down from the heavens above. He stood for a moment, watching them, considering his options. Sleeping outside was definitely out of the question now. He had passed a small inn on his way up that couldn't be more than a fifteen minutes walk from here. He took out a compass and used his camera's display to light it well enough to see. He had been walking approximately to the south, so it should be...there! Aha! He saw a faint orange light, nearly hidden by the forest.
He packed away his things into his hiking backpack, took one last wistful glance at the stars, and headed into the woods. He took out a small flashlight to guide him, its bulb covered in red cellophane so that its light wouldn't spoil his night vision. Fortunately, there was a desire path through the woods that went where he needed to go, and he kept to it until he was nearly at his destination. The light flickered between the tree trunks, and he could now see that they were the flames of lamps outside, hanging from the edge of the inn. He turned off his flashlight and approached closer.
As he did, the trees suddenly ended at the edge of a slope, revealing a grove of bamboo surrounded a large, steaming pool just outside the hotel: a hot spring. How had he missed this earlier? What a lucky find for him, and just the thing for a cold night like tonight. From the bamboo to the edge of the water were mostly smooth, grey stones, with a small pathway leading towards a door to the wooden building nearby. A few bonsai juniper trees stood scattered and alone, their gnarled branches giving them an ancient, venerable appearance out of proportion to their size. Floating amongst the steam were small torches on the water, barely bigger than tea candles, providing a primal, flickering illumination to the scene. Already, the snow was transforming the area, covering the stones in a carpet of pure white.
He rustled through his pockets, where only a few crumbled dollar bills awaited him. He knew his bank account was similarly desolate at the moment. Well, at least these photos would bring in some spare cash, and he probably had a check already waiting in his mailbox from that job he had done last week, but that didn't do him much good now. Surely, the owner would allow him to spend the night in exchange for some labor, wouldn't he? But suppose he didn't...
Wouldn't it be better to be warm and out of luck than cold and out of luck? He might as well use the hot spring first. If the owner wouldn't let him work for his room, he deserved to be taken advantage of, anyway, he reasoned.
It was late; he doubted whether anyone would be coming out to use the bath at this hour. He was about to take his first step out of the woods when the wooden door creaked open. He hid himself behind a large oak tree and waited.
Out of the door walked a woman, wearing nothing but a smile and two towels, barely visible against her pale, milky skin. She had wrapped one around her hair, hiding all but a few strands of vermillion hair that fell across her face, and the other around her torso. He wondered whether she could see him, but he felt secure in his hiding place. He set down his backpack and decided to wait. The light would prevent her from seeing him in the darkness, and he could watch her invisibly until she left and he had the hot spring to himself.
She scanned the spring and smiled broadly. She had been curious and hadn't been able to silence her wonderings. She had almost hoped that there would be someone here, someone to give her an excuse to chicken out and return to her friends, but now she that she really was alone, she just had to try it. She walked along the path to the water's edge. Steam rose from the water, infused with sodium bicarbonate from its trip from deep within the earth. She dipped a toe tentatively into the water, testing the temperature. She looked left, she looked right. She was alone.
In a single, graceful motion, she removed the towel from her body with both hands, letting it drape behind her body against the stones as she slid into the bath. Kyle's eyes widened at the sudden and all-too-brief sight of her nude body as it quickly submerged out of view. Had he really seen that? She was delighted, oblivious to her audience. Her smile beamed. She giggled giddily, obviously loving the experience. She took another glance around, as though she were afraid of some invisible voyeur, but no, she was alone and naked and free! She splashed the water playfully, gently nudging aside one of the floating torches, sending it on a slow course to the middle of the pool. She removed the towel covering her hair, revealing a mane of fiery hair, closed her eyes, tossed back her head, took a deep sigh, and lowered herself into the water up to her chin.
Kyle's hand reached down to his crotch. His cock stiffened as he watched this nude angel frolic in the water. The thought of her naked, so close, yet hidden from sight, caused his cheeks to smolder. She looked so peaceful, so vulnerable... He couldn't help but imagine what lay beneath the water. She had entered the water so quickly, so suddenly, that he hadn't had the chance to get a good look at her body, but even from here, he could tell that her face was beautiful: soft and warm, with the slightest bit of plumpness. Her strawberries-and-cream complexion was reddening from the heat. Soon her pale skin would be the color of a delicate rose.
The water was steaming away the stress from her very bones. She had always wanted to try a real hot spring before, and when she had learnt of this resort, she had insisted that she and her friends visit. She was just glad that she had managed to get a bit of alone time while the others were settling in so that she could experience the hot spring by herself, naturally, the way mankind had been meant to enjoy the water. She squirmed in pleasure. Hot water soaked her muscles. The bubbles rising from the earth caressed her like an old lover, lavishing her with attention. She felt as though she could just melt into the water itself.
She sat up straight. The water lapped at the underside of her breasts. Kyle had a perfect view now of her pearish breasts, pert and proud. Her areolae and nipples were small and pink. As she adjusted herself, making herself comfortable, her breasts jiggled entrancingly. He stroked his hard cock through his pants as he stared at her exposed body. She dabbed at her forehead, dewed with sweat, and sighed deeply in contentment, completely without shame or modesty as she innocently displayed her body to all creation.
His hand moved faster and faster. His cock burned against his thigh. Its rigid outline was visible through the thin fabric of his pants as he silently pleasured himself, hidden from view as he watched her bathe. Guilt pricked at him, but this was an experience never to be repeated: the opportunity to watch a woman bathe outdoors just for him. His hand brought some relief to his growing arousal, but he craved more. His pleasure rose, building up deep inside him, growing inside of his manhood as he continued to rub. His breathing grew deeper. He was focused entirely on the bathing beauty, her warm smile, her gorgeous breasts, her candid nudity...
She stood up. He froze. Had she heard him? Had she seen him? No, she was simply collecting her towel. Between her thick thighs was a small, crimson triangle. He watched, hypnotized, as she slowly wrapped the towel around herself, destroying his fantasies. Her divine curves now lay hidden beneath artificial fabric. She tucked the tip of the towel between her breasts, turned around, and walked back to the door, her hips swinging pendulously as she walked. Her firm, wet bottom hugged the fabric of the towel, giving a perfect impression of her round ass as she left. The door closed.
Kyle lay in wait a while longer, panting, waiting to see whether she would return, but after a few minutes, he decided she was gone for good. His cock still strained against his pants, but he decided against satisfying himself just yet. He wanted to suffer his arousal a little longer, spend a little longer at the edge of orgasm before he would allow himself that bliss. He walked down the small slope and slipped between the bamboo stalks, carrying his backpack through. He stepped onto the stone and surveyed the scene.
The only sound was the bubble of the hot spring, a soft susurrus of white noise that in other circumstances could have lulled him to sleep. The woman had left her hair towel on the snow covered rocks. He hurriedly undressed, hiding his clothes on the far side of a rock, and wrapped the towel around his waist. It was short, but serviceable. He stepped into the water, and lowered his body into the heat inch by inch, until he was up to his chest.
The warmth entered his body, driving out the cold. He stretched his limbs, tensing his muscles, holding them, and then released with a grunt, groaning in satisfaction. He cracked his neck, leaning his head from side to side. Slowly, the stress of everyday life was leeched from his body by the water.
But he couldn't relax, not entirely. Temptation nipped at his psyche. She had tried it, hadn't she? She had looked like she had enjoyed it, too. A floating flame drifted near him and he batted it away, trying to maintain his concentration. It couldn't hurt, could it? What if he got caught? His towel would be right there; he could slip it back on before he was seen. Did he dare risk it?
He reached beneath the water and removed his towel, sliding it out from underneath him. Steam poured off of it as he lifted it into the freezing air. He placed it down neatly behind him, folding it into a small square. He felt...free. He exhaled deeply. His heart raced. He was naked outdoors. He bit his lower lip, trying to suppress his smile, but it was no use. The water softly enveloped his entire body, he felt so primal and natural, alone, outdoors, just him, the water, the snow, and the fire. He felt like he was at the birth of the world, when the elements were first divided and mankind was young and naïve. He stared at the cascading snowflakes, watching them silently drift and dance like leaves until they reached their final destination.
The pool was just barely deep enough to swim in, but he slowly stroked across its breadth. The contrast between air and water was invigorating, rejuvenating. He stood up, steaming, allowing the cold to reclaim his body briefly, before submerging himself once again, surrendering to the heat, and his skin tingled and buzzed in delight. He laughed.
But as he sat down to rest, he heard a familiar giggle. The redhead was returning? Damn, his adventure had come to an end. He went to grab his towel. His hand grasped only cold powder.
Where was it?
Where did he leave it?
The ground was covered in white. Through the snow, it was invisible. He cursed himself for getting caught up in the fun, for losing track of where he had left it. His teeth tingled, his face and chest burnt as he frantically brushed aside the snow, looking for his towel. There it was! He waded towards it as time ran out.
The door's handle squeaked. He froze. He gauged the distance between himself and the towel, but it was too far. He'd be halfway there by the time the door opened. He could only surrender. He quickly submerged his lower half, where it would be well hidden by the darkness and the water. He would simply wait her out, and once she left, he could get dressed and see about a room.
The handle turned. The door opened. She had company this time: behind the redhead walked three other women, still too engrossed in their own conversation to yet notice him. The four of them all wore identical white towels wrapped around the torsos, just barely covering enough of their thighs and behinds to render them decent, while hugging their curves tightly enough that little was left to the imagination. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
One of the women suddenly noticed Kyle and paused, her reaction drawing the others' attention to him. "Oh, I'm sorry, we thought the bath was empty. I hope we're not bothering you," spoke one of them, a tall Japanese woman, her long, sleek, raven hair cascading down her chest.
"No, no, not at all," Kyle chuckled nervously. "The more the merrier. Feel free, the water's great," he said, waving his arm across the pool. He possibly could have asked them to leave, but had they been offended, what would have happened next? A talk with the manager? Kicked out in the middle of the night? Better to act natural for now, and wait.
The four women made their way to the opposite end of the bath from Kyle, right next to his discarded towel. A weight hit his stomach; his last chance at getting dressed inconspicuously was now gone. He had hoped they would choose a different spot, allowing him to slip the towel under the water and around himself when they were distracted, but now, even that option was closed off to him.
He squirmed in the water, trying to think of a solution, but nothing came to him. At least they weren't near him. They hadn't the slightest inkling that he was secretly naked just inches below the water. He tried to relax in the hot water, the bubbles still tenderly massaging his muscles, still caressing his body intimately, but he couldn't. He kept looking at the women out of the corner of his eye, hoping they would tire of the bath and return inside.
In a less risky situation, he'd be happy for the female company. All four of them looked stunning, like goddesses bathing naturally. Only their towels ruined the illusion, and he couldn't help but imagine what would happen were they in the same situation as him, nude in the night, exposed to him. His cock stirred beneath the water. He wanted desperately to finish what he had started earlier while spying on the redhead, but he couldn't, not with them so close. Instead, he indulged his fantasies, wondering what treasures lay hidden beneath that thin fabric.
He so distracted himself that he didn't notice the soft splish of one of the women making her way over to him. She sat down next to him with a loud splash that finally caught his attention, and he found himself staring into the emerald green eyes of the redhead on whom he had earlier been spying. Her smiling face was dotted with freckles, which extended all the way down to the edge of her towel, and possibly beneath. He pulled back defensively, intensely aware of his vulnerable state. Her body nearly brushed against his naked form as she leaned in slightly to introduce herself.
"Hello there. You look awfully lonely all by yourself. I hope you don't mind a bit of company. My name's Sisi. What's yours?" she asked in a warm Celtic accent, her head titled to one side.
"K-Kyle," he stammered, trying to keep his eyes above those full, luscious breasts that he knew so intimately. "It's very nice to meet you."
"Likewise." She leaned back against the stones and let out a deep sigh. A small torch floated near them. "So how did you end up here? It's pretty isolated out here, don't you think? Are you a local?"
"No, no. I like it isolated. I'm kind of used to it, to be honest. I'm an astrophotographer."
"Really? That's so interesting. Most of the ones I've met use telescopes for it. I don't think there's any around here, though. Do you just use a camera?"
"Pretty much. It has a pretty heavy-duty set of lenses, but mostly I take pictures of the stars and planets and other heavenly bodies." His eyes glanced downwards briefly to her cleavage. "So you'd be perfect for a shoot someday... I can't do distant galaxies or anything, but there's plenty of beauty to be found in the visible sky. I can't be too near the city, though, or the light pollution will ruin the shot, so I come out here to work. I can get some great exposures, especially with the clear mountain air. This is my first time here, though, but I'm glad I came. The hot springs are wonderful."
"Aren't they, though? That's why we're out here. I've always wanted to try a real hot spring, so my friends and I went on a little trip to celebrate the end of the school year."
"Oh, you're in college?" he asked.
"Graduate school. Do I look that young?"
"I'm not very good at judging the age of anything younger than a few billion years, unfortunately. But I can say that you look almost definitely younger than the moon."
She giggled and slapped his arm. "You're terrible! So, you're all alone out here?" she asked, scooting closer to him and his secret.
"Y-yeah. Uh, I'm just used to working alone, I guess."
"Well, that's too bad. Onsen are meant to be enjoyed in company. Do you want to join us? There's always room for one more."
"Uh, I would, but this is really the perfect spot. I wouldn't want to move. It's alright, though, you can go back to your friends and leave me here. I've got the stars to look at. It's practically paradise for me here."
"Oh, that's alright. We'll just come join you, then," she suggested.
"No, that's okay—"
"Ayaka, Irene, Desiree, come and join us over here! It's the perfect spot!" Sisi called out to her friends. Kyle watched in silent dread as the three women waded over, still talking and laughing, before surrounding him, fencing besieging him. He had no way out now. He tried to retreat into himself, keeping his body as far from each of them as he could without getting too close to the next. "This is Kyle. Kyle: this is Ayaka, Irene, and Desiree," she said, indicating each of her friends in turn.
All he could manage was a quiet "Hi," barely audible above the murmuring bubbles of the hot spring. The women greeted him warmly and took their seats in orbit around him. His teeth tingled. He squirmed as far away from them as he could, trying to burrow into the walls, trying to hide his nakedness as best as he could, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. He was trapped.