For a time the crystal given him by the Gruff sisters made Patton feel great, like he was master of his own fate. He was Master and Commander of the SS Patton. He was so energized he started attacking projects around the house that he didn’t like doing, like taking out the trash and contacting target companies for his job search. He even cleaned the dark corners of the kitchen where the sprites hid. He spent the weekend cleaning the winter debris up from the yard.
On Sunday he noticed what seemed to be an unusual number of small animals scurrying among the bushes and leaping between the still bare branches of the walnut trees around his house, but every time he looked there wasn’t anything there that he could see. He wondered if he were starting to hallucinate again.
That night he had another strange dream. He dreamed he was walking into the Gruff sisters’ bedroom, except it was dominated by a round waterbed on an enormous black platform. There were lights on the dance floor guiding him like an airplane in for a landing on the waterbed, accompanied by music from Saturday Night Fever and a flashing disco ball. His leisure suit glowed, and the witches danced him up to the bed. He sat down, lay back on the bed, and fell down an endless shaft toward the Chamber of Secrets. He woke drenched in sweat, the echos of unheard laughter ringing in his ears.
Come Monday morning the headache was back, and the crystal had turned rose colored. He went to visit the witches.
“Today we will start developing your sense of Touch.” Patton heard the different emphasis when Elaine said Touch, the capitalization coming through in her voice.
“Somehow, the way you say that makes me think you’re talking about more than what I feel when something brushes against my skin.”
“That’s because I am. Consider: The skin is the largest organ in the body, and contains millions of nerves and sense receptors. You already know it can feel subtle touches like a feather or the stroke of someone’s hand, and it is sensitive to hot sunshine and the chill of a nearby block of ice. It has receptors for pain, too, and can distinguish the rake of thorns from the bite of a mosquito.”
Yvonne picked up the lecture from Elaine. “Scientists have learned a lot about how we sense things by focusing on how the brain processes signals from the skin, but they seem to have forgotten about gut feelings. It’s only recently that they’ve recognized that after the brain the largest concentration of nerves is in the gut, and they have yet to discover that senses are connected there as well as to the brain.”
Elaine seemed a little miffed by Yvonne’s interruption, and resumed her lecture. “What we are going to do is open up your sense of Touch, so that you are more sensitive to the world around you and can properly interpret what you feel. A big part of this will be sensing and interpreting auras. In order to help you with the learning process we’d like to merge each of our auras with yours. It is through this merging that our teaching methods work best.”
“Merging auras? Is that anything like merging souls?”
Margaret spoke up this time. “Don’t worry, we won’t touch your soul. For one thing I doubt you could deal with what’s in mine. No, merging auras gives each party insight into what makes the other tick, and enables us to communicate better, but we won’t see any of your deep dark secrets or even what you’re thinking. It’s more of an exploration of your essence.”
“Yes. If you agree, Yvonne will get you started,” said Elaine. “She is the one of us who is best able to explore unknowns such as you are.”
Patton was still doubtful, but he had to trust someone, and these witches had been helpful so far. He closed his eyes, gathered his courage, and said, “Yes, I’ll do it. What do I have to do?”
“Come with me,” said Yvonne, and she led him into a small bedroom. It was painted in cheerful colors but otherwise sparely decorated, with little evidence of whose room it was. She went over to window and drew the curtains shut, then lit a candle on the dresser. “We must start by getting undressed,” she said, and stated unbuttoning her blouse.
Patton’s eyes went wide. “You mean me?”
“Yes, silly! You wouldn’t expect to learn to see by wearing a blindfold, would you? You clothing is like a blindfold to your sense of Touch. You must take it off if you want to learn to sense things with your skin.” She dropped her blouse to the floor and came over to him, reaching up to start unbuttoning his shirt.
Patton had always considered himself to be reasonably self-confident, but in truth he was awkward around women. He could deal with it by ignoring their sex, but bare breasts threw that defense completely out the window. He was petrified. He couldn’t do this! No!
Yvonne was clearly sensitive to his fears, but rather than backing away to give him the space for his denial she reached up and pulled him down into a kiss. Hesitantly at first, Patton responded, slowly reaching up to place his hands fearfully on her naked back, cursing himself all the while. He could be intimate with a woman, but only if she took charge and made the first move, and he hated himself for that. Why couldn’t he ever approach a woman and show his interest in her? Whatever! He surrendered himself to the kiss.
A few minutes later he found himself sitting naked on the bed, which was covered with silk sheets. Not satin, or some sort of polyester imitation silk, but the genuine article. It felt absolutely wonderful beneath him, much better than the cotton he had been forced to wear since the magic infected him. He was beginning to relax.
Yvonne, now also naked, went over and switched off the lights, leaving the room lit only by the candle on the dresser. “I want you to focus on the candle,” she said. “If your eyes must be open let them be captured by the bright motion of the flame. It is better to leave your eyes closed, focusing instead on what you feel.”
He felt the bed shift as Yvonne sat next to him. Her breath was warm on his ear as she murmured, “What is your gut telling you? Let it relax and open up to sensations from outside your body.” She started massaging his shoulders, her hands pulling the tension out of his body. Without his even being conscious of it he found himself stretched out on the bed with Yvonne lying next to him. Each touch from her sent tingles through his body that he struggled to understand. As the amount of contact between their two bodies increased so did the sensations, and comprehension began to form in his mind. Her gentle guidance led him to experience who she really was down deep.
For Patton, merging auras with Yvonne felt like walking on an open prairie in spring. He experienced wide open spaces, with warm sun shining on him from a cloudless sky, a gentle breeze sending waves crossing the plains, brushing his cheeks and filling his lungs with the warm promise of new life and new adventures just beyond the horizon. The ground beneath his feet was spongy with centuries of loam through which life crawled and oozed, only to burst forth in the grasses of every kind, from the fine fescues, to the taller saw grasses scratching his calves, their harsh edges fraying into brittle strands, to the corns and sunflowers stretching for the sunshine overhead.
The life surrounding him was not just plants, either. Insects buzzed and thrummed all around him, providing a constant midtone of sound punctuated by cicada’s shouting to one another, their cries building to an ear-splitting thrum that slowly dies away only to be answered by another one of the big-voiced bugs from another direction. The high notes of the chorus was provided by birds darting through the prairie, keeping watch from the higher grasses or zipping after the bountiful insects.
The bass line of the prairie’s music was more felt than heard, the far off thunder of thousands of beasts on the move. There was great power there, off in the distance now, but it could turn and come close at any time. Such power could overwhelm and trample any enemy or predator that attempted to disrupt the harmony of her soul. Yvonne had an open, sunny nature, true, but anyone who dared mess with her was in for a rude surprise.