Chapter 36: Social & Educational
Our massage therapy school let out for the last full week of March, the opening Saturday of it being the day after the Vernal Equinox, therefore the first full day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere.
We’d batted around ideas for months, trying to decide how we’d use this time, looking for an area where we could try out a form of magic we believed would work, but which was simply too dangerous to try in the city.
Apropos of this topic, Kaitlyn asked me one evening, “Did you hear about the piñon blister rust killing off small junipers around Moab?”
“Yeah, but I dunno, Kaitlyn. It’s not good, but it doesn’t feel like the right sort of problem to test this technique on. We could go after that stuff once we prove out the magical theory, but it’s not a great testing ground. Too diffuse.”
Kaitlyn looked annoyed, since this was probably the tenth idea of hers I’d shot down.
While we debated this, Jess was quietly typing away on a laptop propped up on a padded stand, turning her living room recliner into a lazy girl’s workplace.
“I say we call that chair a La-Z-Girl,” Kaitlyn joked, clearly getting tired of my repeated objections, wanting a new topic.
“Yeah, La-Z-Girl is good,” opined Vin.
Seeing the ball teed up before me, I swung fast and hard. “Yeah, we know you love lay-zee-girl. You lay zee girl o’er here, you lay zee girl o’er dere…”
Vin rallied back, “Damn straight I love it. This house’s got La-Z-Girl beds, La-Z-Girl couches…”
Kaitlyn rolled her eyes comically, continuing the series, “…La-Z-Girl lawns, La-Z-Girl showers, and twice now a La-Z-Girl kitchen island!” Kaitlyn then gave a hyperbolic sigh of exasperation with this state of affairs, setting the rest of us off into laughter.
Shortly after our mirth had settled into smiles, I heard Vin mutter, “Thrice.”
Before I could probe that admission, Jess exclaimed, “Hey, you two!” her eyes flicking up from her laptop at Kaitlyn and I then back down to rest on her screen once more, finger stabbing at the screen though we couldn’t see what had her so excited. “I’ve found it! Down by the North end of Lake Powell there’s a new pine beetle infestation. It’s just getting started again with Spring approaching, Winter having stopped it cold last season, but early predictions are that it’s starting fast this year; they’re getting really worried about it. Reports say they expect it to spread like crazy.”
“It’s perfect!” replied Kaitlyn, smiling at her friend. Turning to me, she said, “It’s too long since we saw Kristen anyway.”
She was referring to a park ranger stationed at the Bullfrog visitor’s center on the North end of Lake Powell, one of several such scattered around the huge reservoir, though to Kaitlyn and I, Kristen held a much more important title: third known mage in the modern era.
“You’re right,” I said, “we absolutely have to get down there and resume her training soon, pine beetle or no.”
“Training?” quizzed Jess.
Kaitlyn just looked at me, somehow managing to wordlessly convey ‘You put your foot in it me boyo, you get it out.’
“Ah, not really my secret to spill,” I sighed. “You heard nothing. Nothing!” I said, trying to evoke Sgt. Schultz from the old TV show Hogan’s Heroes. Ramón had introduced us to it over Christmas break, and we’d been watching at least one episode a week online ever since.
“This Kristen girl… She’s another mage, isn’t she?” guessed Jess, incisive as ever.
“Not as far as you know,” I deflected weakly.
“Wow…” she said, staring off into the distance between us, fascinated, not in the least dissuaded from her inference.
In an attempt to shut down this line of investigation, I said, “Kaitlyn, are you sure about the ethics of this? Those beetles are life, too, and unlike with the quagga mussels last year, I don’t think these count as an introduced invasive species. Would it be right for us to eradicate the beetles?”
Before Kaitlyn could answer this, Jess interjected, “Actually, you don’t have to. The pine beetles are overrunning the forest because the trees are being weakened by drought conditions; fix the drought and the beetles stop being a major problem. You two don’t know any rain dances, do you?”
“Hah!” I barked out in a laugh. “No, Jess, we haven’t tried to control the weather yet. We’ll put that on our ever-growing list of things to try, but probably pretty far down it; that sounds like a great way to wreck a lot of peoples’ days all at once. We’ll have to get a lot more skilled before we can manage to produce a net increase in world happiness with weather magic, I think. Doesn’t matter in this case: Kaitlyn and I have other means to strengthen those trees besides just making it rain.”
“Like what?” Jess asked.
“I told you earlier that Davie and I can have sex continuously and indefinitely, up to the point of physical collapse, right?”
“We usually don’t have a good reason to go that far. It can be a whole lot of fun, but beyond a certain point, it really becomes a means to some more desirable end. When we let our orgasms build up together like that, their combined strength increases the longer we let it build, and this correlates directly to the strength of the magic pulse we release when we finally let go.”
Our young friends sat there silently letting the scope of the idea expand into their brains, doubtless imagining future magical feats for us to attempt.
After a time, Kaitlyn interrupted their thoughts, telling them a few of our old stories, ones that had resulted in little desert gardens.
“You broke a boulder off a cliff that way‽” Vin interjected at the end of one of these tales.
“Yup! We had a threesome with the planet that day resulting in a gigantic tripartite simultaneous orgasm.”
Jess breathed, “You’re not shitting us, are you?”
It was more a statement of wonder than a question, so we just shook our heads slightly, and Kaitlyn added “Nope.”
“Right, new plan you two,” she proposed briskly: “You want to do that again, you do it somewhere far away from my house’s foundation, ’kay?”
Kaitlyn and I smiled and began planning our Spring Break trip down south. Five hours’ drive away oughta be safe enough.
“So, Davie, do you think the Vernal Equinox is an especially powerful time for magic?” Kaitlyn asked as we were driving down to the Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.
I thought about this, then opined, “I doubt it. If the relative tilt of the Earth to the sun has any effect on magic, I’d expect it to be at the Solstices when there’s the greatest imbalance in the forces, and then primarily because of the extra insolation in each hemisphere’s summer in turn. Just like a solar panel, we’ve got to be able to do something with that energy peak.”
“All right, let’s plan something for the Autumnal Equinox,” she proposed.
After we came up with a plan, I observed, “One test won’t do it. The word data is far more common than its singular form — datum — for a reason.”
“Sure, we can revisit the Vernal Equinox next spring, too.”
I pressed her, adding, “And the Solstices.”
“The summer one’s easy: we’ll just go camping or something. But are you sure you want to try sex magic in the dead of winter, too? I mean, yeah, we could magic up some insulating air blankets, but I’d rather just use some regular old cloth blankets, thanks.”
“No problem, babe: let’s do it in New Zealand! We can role-play naked elves again, only Tolkienesque ones this time as we visit all the shooting locations from Jackson’s LoTR movies!”
“You are such a nerd,” my wife teased. “Maybe someday,” she added wistfully, then returned to our reasoned argument. “All that air sloshing around in the atmosphere around the Solstices, that’s got to be pretty powerful stuff. Isn’t it why the Spring winds blow so hard and we get so much rain in the early Fall? Energy exchange across the equator?”
“You might be right,” I agreed.
“Too bad we missed it.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Vernal Equinox; I checked, and the exact moment of it was yesterday at about eight thirty. I had my nose in an anatomy book preparing for our visit to the cadaver lab at the time. Bleh!” she added, sticking out her tongue and scrunching up her nose, looking like Calvin being faced down by his dinner vegetables.
That trip was the school’s idea of a good way to teach us anatomy bone deep, though of course they had no way of knowing that Kaitlyn and I could have taught this portion of the class from memory, having seen each others’ insides at a detailed level many times now. The main value in the class for us was in learning what each part of the body did, how it could malfunction, and so forth; where all the bits were in relation to each other, that we had down cold.
Thinking about Kaitlyn sitting at her desk at school the moment nighttime and daytime achieved parity yesterday, I said, “Yeah, I don’t think our anatomy teacher would have appreciated us stripping down there in the middle of the classroom yesterday to work out whether magic was especially strong just then.”
Kaitlyn quirked one corner of her mouth up, then said, “I’m half tempted to say I should have done it anyway. It’d just be me getting my priorities straight, Davie. This massage and anatomy stuff, that’s just one course within my overarching area of study: magic.”
“This plan is working, Kaitlyn: you are becoming a healer,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, you can be fairly clever at times, my guru,” she told me, leaning over a bit to stroke my thigh.
In that way, we used the drive time down to Bullfrog educationally and amiably.
And we didn’t even get naked once, the whole way down.
I know, I know, you’re shocked at this. Is what it is, though.
“Kaitlyn, Davie!” shouted Ranger Kristen Nemo as we drove up a dirt and gravel path towards her small single-wide trailer, set well back from the dirt road that functioned as a residential side street in the tiny unincorporated community. It was even more isolated than our house, not another trailer to be seen anywhere on the crinkled landscape visible from her plot of unadorned desert.
We heard her greeting clearly over the car’s heater fan and through the rolled-up windows. It can get cold out on the high desert, even here in early spring.
We emerged from this warm cocoon into a whistling wind that threatened to summon the ghost of Sergio Leone, towing along a spectral mic and tape deck like Jacob Marley’s chains, the master filmmaker intent on collecting background sounds while waiting for his rebirth, timed for the resurrection of the Spaghetti Western genre.
“Welcome back!” Kristen greeted us. “Let’s get inside where it’s warm.”
She led us into her small trailer, not much larger than a luxury motor home though notably scant on the luxury. “It’s home,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders as we sat on her living room couch.
“Looks like living light on the land to me,” I said approvingly.
“Cozy,” my wife commented.
We then began to chat about Kristen’s solo explorations into magic. We’d taught her as much as we could in the few days’ we’d been out here as part of our honeymoon trip last year, but we’d had to leave, abandoning her without a local teacher. Kristen was coming along much slower than Kaitlyn had but also much faster than me, since knowing that a thing could be done spurred one to try things one would not when one did not even know that the thing was possible. As the first mage in the modern era, I’d been badly held back by not having a teacher, needing to claw the precious secrets of magic from Gaia’s silence over a span of years, secrets that Kaitlyn picked up from me in a few months.
We’d exchanged a few phone calls with Kristen since leaving here half a year ago, but long-distance phone calls are no way to learn magic, not even if the student takes the phone outside and puts it on speakerphone far enough away that it doesn’t interfere with her magic. Yeah, we tried that once. It’d largely been a waste of time, so we gave up on the idea. Nature mage training is almost entirely centered on the “show me” school of pedagogy.
The bottom line is that Kristen was still only about as skilled as Kaitlyn had been a few months into her education under me: usefully competent but still far behind where she’d have been if one of us had been here with her as her teacher full-time. We were here partly to make up some of that gap.
There was one area of magic in particular where she was still stuck at flat zero, entirely unable to progress without help.
As with the Alexanders, I let Kaitlyn guide the delicate initial parts of this discussion.
“Kristen,” my wife began, “this is more than a social visit, and it also isn’t purely an educational one. We want to broach a rather personal matter with you, something both social and educational. More than either, really.”
Kristen looked critically between us, speaking low to herself, “Social, educational and personal?” She thought a bit, then asked sarcastically, “What is this, the birds and the bees?”
The surprise of her accidentally incisive guess busted us up in laughter.
“What?” Kristen demanded, a quirky smile on her face. “Have I invited a pair of nine-year-olds into my home?”
My wife, settling and smiling, said, “You’ve actually guessed it, right on the nose. We want to talk to you about sex and magic.”
Head cocked to the side, Kristen asked, “You’re not being figurative, like great sex can be magical; you literally mean sex and magic together, right?”
My wife explained our plan to Kristen, delicately easing this near-stranger into an idea predicated on a deeply personal interaction with the two of us. We were fairly nervous about proposing it, but we believed we had to if this plan was to work at all.
Although the forest we planned to heal was small even by Southwest Utah desert standards, the scope of the problem was vast on the scale of active power we’d wielded up to now, both in terms of overall area and power per unit area.
We’d done magic on both scales before, but only one at a time, never both together. Our mage communication experiment over Christmas Break had stretched much farther than the longest dimension of this small forest, but that day Kaitlyn and I had only affected each other. On other occasions, we’d improved the health of areas of land much as we planned to do again today, but only over dozens of meters in radius at most. Even with our improved capacity, knowledge, and technique, it was likely that Kristen’s participation was absolutely necessary to this plan.
Knowing the risk, Kaitlyn was painstaking, persuasive, and patient with this explanation.
An hour later, with dozens of questions answered Kristen said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
Kaitlyn grabbed her up into a hug and said, “Oh, thank you, thank you! I’m certain you won’t regret it.”
Kristen guided us miles out into the nearby forest, out where the pine beetle infestation was most acute, way out beyond where tourists generally roamed. The last vehicle we saw was half an hour gone now, back the other way toward civilization.
Standing at the edge of the small forest, I said, “All right, Kristen, the first thing to do is pick up all the trash.”
She looked like the victim of a bait-and-switch scam, her mouth slack. Heatedly, she exclaimed, “You want me to what‽” her eyes demanding the answer to the same question.
I could see her point: we’d brought her out here with talk of kinky three-way mage sex, and now that we’d arrived, we were turning her out as a trash collector!
My wife rescued me. “Kristen, what we have to do out here requires that we deliver a tremendous amount of magical power directly into the land. You know what tech does to magic. Every small bit of trash out here is technological in nature, so it’ll be in our way, grounding out some amount of that power. If there’s enough trash, it will either restrict how far out we can reach or it will weaken the effect of the spell if we end up overreaching, wasting our effort.”
I added, “Fortunately, this area is pretty remote, so there shouldn’t be too much of it around. Also, Kaitlyn and I have made a lot of progress in this area, having had to clean up some of the tourist-trashed areas around Moab.”
The revelation that we’d done this ourselves before mollified her, so she replied, “All right… What’ve we got to do?”
“First, strip,” Kaitlyn ordered. “We’ll leave everything in the car, hide the keys over there under that rock,” she said, pointing, “and then hike out a ways into the forest, check for trash, pick up what we can, and move on. We should have the area cleared in an hour or so.”
We got naked, filled up on water, and took only one lightly technological artifact with us, a small drawstring bag we’d sewn from the homespun cloth, tied with a hempen rope.
For our first foray into the forest, we didn’t go very far, knowing the trash concentration would be highest here on the forest edge nearest the road.
We got into a three-pointed star arrangement, heads together, legs pointed outward at 120 degree increments, then taught Kristen how to sink down into Gaia, flowing out into the space around us, feeling the surrounding natural elements and from that how to recognize the unnatural elements, then how to move the earth surrounding the trash to carry it in towards the center of our magical starburst so we could gather it all up at once.
We then moved further into the forest, about twice as far this time, expecting to find less trash, thus needing less effort to drag it all in. Somehow, our powers amplified beyond what we could do in aggregate alone, balancing our unequal skill levels around the starburst and then pushing further outward than I — the strongest of us three — could reach magically alone.
I began to wonder what a really big group of mages could do?
But no, concentrate on the task, Davie!
With the trash bag hung on a nearby tree branch and our attention focused down on the ground, we were able to ignore its minor tech interference. It was above us, our magical attention focused downward, so it did not interfere with our work.
As Kaitlyn predicted, we swept the small forest clean in about an hour. “There!” she exclaimed, holding the filled trash bag high. “Doesn’t that feel wonderful? Working magic, hiking nude, sunning, and cleaning up the forest, all on a cool early spring afternoon?”
“You know, you’re right, it does!” said Kristen, standing in a rounded X pose, legs far apart, arms stretched upward, bowed backward to offer her chest to the sky.
“It’s not something we do very often,” I told her, “and I wish we didn’t have to do it even that often, but it is worthwhile and good. Yet, it is just a preparation step. Now to the real work.”
Kristen relaxed from her stretch, standing straight, attentive.
“Now, what we’re going to do is hang this bag up high and stretch our awareness out over the whole forest, with three goals. One, it’s just a nice thing to do, kind of like touristy sight-seeing, except that you become the forest, and it becomes you. You will know this forest better than any other you’ve ever served in as a ranger, Kristen.”
The ranger gave a little frisson of anticipation at that but said nothing, so I resumed, “Two, we’re double-checking our cleanup work: we’ll know if we missed anything within our working scope, and together we can drag it in to the center now that our path to it is unobstructed by tech interference.”
Kristen nodded, so I went on, “Three, we’re going to check out the status of the pine beetle infestation. In a sense, this is the unhappy inverse of point one: by becoming the forest and knowing it intimately, we will know the damage from both beetle and drought, so we will be able to heal the forest, it being part of our own body by that point.”
My wife nodded agreement and said, “Let us begin.”
The three of us lay back down naked on the ground and urged Kristen’s magical sense to stretch out to the forest’s borders with us, miles out from our center point. We found no more trash; we’d collected it all.
And with that, Kaitlyn and I merged with Kristen, then with Gaia. Through the bond, we said, «We’re one now. Do you feel it? You, me, us, together with the forest?»
We replied, «Yes, we feel the tall trees, the dry pine needle carpet, the fallen pine cones, the cryptogamic soil crusts, the desert grasses, the sagebrush, the sandstone rocks, the cliffs, the spires. We feel the wind whispering over it all, through our branches, over our collective body. We feel the squirrels, the toads, the lizards, the birds, the ants.»
«And yes, there are those annoying beetles! They’re eating the trees, but they’re just doing their beetle thing; they aren’t evil. Our trees would fend the beetles off if we were not so drought-stricken.»
«Necessary water and nutrients are available below, but we cannot lift it all with regular magic! It’s all too heavy, too far down. We will have to use sex magic to lift it all.»
That was the last thought we had in words. Everything from that point on was pure feeling. Our mouths found things to kiss: other mouths, nipples, bellies, flanks, hips, thighs. They caressed our feet, our calves, our ears. As we moved, our mouths caressed our genitals, raising our tension, yet never pushing it to the point where we might let go into orgasmic release.
Some time later, measured by the progress of the sun across our forested body, our genitals began to merge, thrusting, frotting, and pumping. Mergers and alliances, dominances and submissions, couplings, decouplings, and re-couplings.
Higher and higher we pushed, yet we knew we could not complete this soon; we needed to raise far more power than we held right now, and so we went on, edging our collective body towards the point of orgasm and back, bumping the border forward, retreating, and bumping it again, inching it higher and higher.
When we took a break about an hour in to allow our erectile tissues to relax and refresh themselves, we saw that the sun had moved again, becoming orange and hazy on its approach to the horizon. Our body had started to chill in places. In the center, our collective body was warm, even sweaty, but the edges of our forest were cooling. No matter: we could keep the center warm with activity for many hours to come. Later, we could magic up some trapped-air blankets.
And so our cycle of edging and resting continued, our body’s physical power and water reserves sufficient for several hours more work, if need be.
We began to know the forest even more deeply, feeling its power and its unease in equal turns. We learned where the healing effort was most needed and what direction health lay in. We were almost ready now, needing only to finish gathering enough power to do a useful amount of work.
And so we continued edging, our orgasm micrometers away, a barrier as strong as a mountain range interposed, preventing us from slipping across accidentally. That achieved, we began slamming hard up against the barrier, shoving the barrier higher and higher, increasing our magical capacity by jumps now.
As the sun slipped below the horizon, the barrier stopped moving. We’d gathered all the power we could: continuing our edging served no more purpose other than to dehydrate and tire our collective body.
The element called Davie was supine on the ground in the middle of the forest, hips bucking rapidly. The one called Kaitlyn was mounted on Davie’s shaft, her vagina milking the shaft rhythmically, calling through it to the seed banked nearby. The one called Kristen had her knees hooked over Kaitlyn’s shoulders, her core pressed against Kaitlyn’s mouth, her tongue rapidly oscillating Kristen’s clitoris. The mouths of Kristen and Davie were locked together in a passionate kiss, breaking only for deep breaths and animal pants before diving into one another again.
And so it was that the tripartite mage body writhed in an upright nearly equilateral triangle. As one, the collective decided: Now!
Element Davie: “Guuuuuwwwaaaaahhhhh!”
Element Kristen: “Yeeeeeaaaaaaaiiiiigggghhh!”
Element Kaitlyn: “Aaaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!”
And we lifted. Up came the water, up came the minerals. Xylem and phloem, we replenished the trees, bushes, and grasses.
The beetles ate on, unaware that their own time of completion had arrived. The trees would conquer for a while now instead.
We woke shivering in the night, a blanket of stars and deep black sky over our three-part nude body, no other cover over us.
One element of the group stood, stretched, and fetched down the trash bag, the technological detritus instantly cutting that element off from access to magic. Fortunately, we were alone in a remote forest and under cover of night besides, so we did not need magical concealment from onlookers. It wanted protection from the elements, though that need would not become acute soon.
Though we had been asleep for hours, it was not quite long enough to recover our senses of individual identity. Our hours-long postcoital nap had frayed the weave of our rapport, so we expected to relearn the meaning of “I” again soon. We decided that it would take another few hours to become three fully independent individuals again.
We shivered. We could not reasonably sleep through the night here. It would probably get down to forty degrees Fahrenheit just before dawn, so unless one of our elements stayed awake to maintain a magical blanket for the whole group, we would need to find shelter from the night’s cold.
I? Yes, I, Davie, wanted to drop an insulating air blanket first over myself, then over my two lovers, but I could not, carrying the trash sack as I was. I needed to get moving, to get back to the car, so I caressed both of my lovers awake, waiting patiently as they stretched, rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, and brushed pine needles and desert sand off their bare nubile bodies.
“Time to go,” I said. Cut off from the rapport link as I was, I could not tell whether they agreed that this was so, but they didn’t argue the assertion, just stood and wordlessly hiked back with me to Kristen’s car.
I? Yes, I, Davie, wanted to drop an insulating air blanket first over myself, then over my two lovers, but I could not: I realized I was the group element now carrying the trash sack. I needed to get moving, to get back to the car, so I caressed both of my lovers awake, waiting patiently as they stretched, rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, and brushed pine needles and desert sand off their bare nubile bodies.
I remembered the back roads well enough to navigate them even in the dark, my facility with spatial geometries up above the ninetieth percentile, the last time I’d been tested, so the women remained silent, clearly still in some amount of rapport with each other. I felt a slice of it still myself, even inside the car. We’d bonded too powerfully tonight for the link to be easily broken.
As we drove, we passed around two large water bottles we’d brought, draining both, still saying not a word. We felt what we needed to communicate, and that sufficed.
Later, our Kristen element was fumbling in a pants pocket while we sat in the car parked in our — her! — dirt and gravel driveway, searching for the trailer home’s keys, being on a separate ring from her car keys.
It occurred to us that pants were an awkward sort of bag to hold keys in, but then we remembered the designed purpose of pants. “Irrelevant,” we decided. “We don’t need pants right now, we only need the keys. The car is warm, and no one is around to demand that we hide our bodies away from them.”
The rural desert highway we used briefly to hop from one desert backroad network to another was empty, being 3am at the time, according to the dashboard clock.
We got quickly out of the car, stepped quickly across Kristen’s small slice of desert landscape in the cold pre-dawn spring air, then waited on the small front porch while she fumbled with the door keys. My hands were occupied by the trash sack, Kaitlyn’s by a bundle nearly equally as useless to us at the moment, our clothes. Dressing for the brief crossing of Kristen’s front yard was more effort than it was worth given that we’d soon be together in our host’s bed, under her covers.