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.
.... There is more of this story ...