Gaia, A Novel (First Few Pages of Rough Draft)

I’m 100% extroverted, so you get this novel-in-progress. Feel free to give me comments. Can’t promise you I’ll use them.

a novel by Shelton Bumgarner

all rights reserved

Chapter One

Jackson Coleburn, 28, sat down on the wooden bench before him and began to unbuckle his belt. He had done a lot of crazy things for a story, but this topped them all. But the curiosity in his newspaper’s circulation area was so intense when it came to the Gaia Collective, that he was willing to essentially strip down naked for the chance to speak to its leader.

He was the first to admit that it helped that Gaia was extremely easy on the eyes. In fact, to say she was beautiful was pretty big understatement. Gaia was a stunner. At the thought of her beauty, he felt a rumble in his libido that scared him.

As he took his clothes off, he reviewed the different strategies he had decided to employ to prevent any embarrassing manifestations of his physical attraction to Gaia. He was going to think about sports scores, the weather, anything, to prevent an erection. If he suddenly got one, he was going to excuse himself abruptly and just cool it in private until he could compose himself.

Jackson had a lot of questions he wanted answered. He felt the Southside Virginia community was expecting him to end a lot of the mystery that sounded the Gaia Collective.

Having an erection during an essentially nude interview was his worst nightmare.

In fact, he that very thing had been the source of seemingly endless debate between himself and his second command, Marlee, at the newspaper where he was editor, The Old Free State.

Marlee was aghast the he would accept the conditions set by the Gaia Collective for him to interview Gaia. Marlee thought that Jackson’s interest in Gaia bordered on obsession and that he should stay away from her.

“She’s bad news, Jack,” Marlee said before he left for the meeting. “She reminds you of Anna and you know how that ended up. Just do the interview and leave her alone. No good will come from you getting involved with her.”

Jackson at the time had just rolled his eyes and ignored her.

He was not obsessed with Gaia. But he did find her fascinating he simply could not figure her out. Everything he had learned about her up to this point made her someone he wanted to talk to. He had to try to figure out what made her tick.

At the time, Marlee — an attractive blonde with short hair in her mid-30s — had just made one of her grotesquely funny faces and slowly turned away from him, her decrepit old chair creaking as she did so.

Jackson was down to his underwear when he noticed music playing quietly in the background. It sounded like the instrumental version of a very bad pop song. Besides being the editor of The Old Free State, he was also a DJ at a large club in Richmond about 40 miles away from the newspaper’s coverage age of Lunenburg County.

It was a unique situation, to say the least, but Jackson had been a DJ while an expatriate in Seoul for about five years and he could not get it out of his system. In fact, it was because of his DJing that he was having this interview at all.

He had been working at Lee’s Retreat a few weeks ago when he had noticed someone in a loose, colorful robe staring at him intently.

It had taken him a moment to realize it was none other than Gaia.

Gaia was the subject of a huge amount of controversy and attention in Southside Virginia because the Gaia Collective had suddenly materialized in the Dundas region of the county and pushed through a 100 acre facility past county zoning. For all intents and purposes it was a small village unto itself, totally independent from the surrounding area.

Jackson realized he was feeling pretty stressed and the he needed a stiff drink. Jackson understood that to some people he would be considered a high functioning alcoholic. But he got the newspaper out every week and he only drank heavily on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. And maybe Thursday and Friday if he felt weak.

He often felt weak.

He ran his hands through his brown hair, adjusted his black, circular glasses and waited. He took a very deep breath and slipped off his boxers.

He folded his clothes in a neat pile and put the in a small locker.

Jackson put on a very loose, very open robe that left him quite exposed. He had hopped the Gaians would allow him to at least wear boxers, but when he suggested it, he could tell from their eyes that they would have none of it.

He opened the door to the room and looked around.

Indeed, everyone walking around was in various stages of undressed. There was a mixture of ages walking around and Jackson tried to avoid making eye contact with anyone. He did note that there were several stunning women walking around and the idea of an erection came, again to the forefront of his mind.

He was determined not to grow aroused because of Gaia’s beauty. He quietly vowed to himself he would not let it happen.

Gaia, 31, looked at herself in the large mirror in front of her. She was wearing a sheer, diaphanous outfit that left absolutely nothing to the imagination , She wore a leafy crown and a wide-range of cryptic henna tattoos that covered her glistening body. One of the women in her retinue — wearing a similar outfit — softly powdered Gaia’s nose.

Another woman brushed Gaia’s long raven hair with a brush. Gaia’s hair reached down to her breasts, ending with curls that touched her dark, quarter-sized areolas.

Despite herself, Gaia felt a bit of excitement about the upcoming interview with Jackson. She casually browsed a tablet device in her lap that contained everything she ever wanted to know about Jackson Coleburn. He was a man of many talents and seemly equal number of personality flaws.

Gaia knew Jackson had a borderline obsession with her. She had spies all over Lunenburg County — many of them lovers — and she was flattered by his interest. She had waited until just the right moment to finally allow him to talk to her.

She knew all about Jackson’s personal life. The drinking. The womanizing. The woman in Seoul who’d broken his heart. The more she read, the more the liked Jackson.

Jackson had barely graduated college, in large part due to his drinking problem. Jackson had maintained a solid C- grade point average during the duration of his four years in college.

Despite his flaws, Gaia did find Jackson physically attractive.

She smiled at that thought and how she’d come to him while he was DJing in Richmond. The two of them had been circling each other in very wide orbits in the Lunenburg County community and she decided to strike on her own terms.

She broke her usually stoic countenance at how nervous Jackson had been when she spoke to him and then bought him a blowjob shot.

He had blushed beet red at the suggestion, but had gamely done the shot with her. She remembered he’d been wearing a blue visor on his head and a T-shirt that read “South Korea’s Got Seoul” on it with a map of the country on it.

Jackson had been like a little puppy dog when he pressed her for an interview. He had surprised her when he suggested they go on a date as well — she didn’t know he had it in him — but she initially demurred.

But something about his smile and twinkle in his eye was enough to wear her down. She was willing to give him a chance, if nothing else. Though as a matter of pride, if nothing else, she demanded he come to the compound on summer solstice and adhere to their “clothing optional” dress code for the event.

At the time, she almost teased him and said she wouldn’t do it unless he made it through the entire interview without having an erection, but she caught herself.

She was not unaware of her power over men. She knew Jackson was smitten with her and it wouldn’t take much for her to cause him quite an amount of embarrassment.

Gaia got up from her seat and quietly psyched herself up for the upcoming interview with Jackson.

It was shaping up to be interesting, if nothing else.

Jackson was escorted to a palatial throne room of sorts by an essentially nude, attractive woman who could not have been more than 25. He tried to keep his eyes away from his escort’s tight, high posterior. He felt some pretty basic rumblings deep within his libdio, but successfully managed to prevent any physical manifestations.

The moment Jackson was in eye shot of Gaia the two of them locked eyes. Something passed between instantly that neither one of them fully understood the significance of at the time. In later years, when this meeting was recounted in the history books, it took on mythical proportions. But the actual event was rather mundane.

Gaia was sitting rather casually on her white marble throne. Jackson’s mouth dropped at the sight of her, though. Whatever she was wearing was colorful, sheer and gave him a complete view of her supple, sevelt body. There were cryptic designs all over her tan body that left him curious. She got up out her seat and walked briskly towards Jackson. Her expression was completely stoic.

While her face was expressionless, Jackson searched her eyes for something that even he could not quite understand. Her eyes were telling him something he struggled to understand. Just as he thought he understood what he was seeing, he had lost it again.

When shook hands, her grip was surprisingly strong for a woman. Jackson found himself sizing her up. She was tall for a woman and had a swimmer’s build. She was completely emotionless, but definitely had a twinkle in her eye that a man could easily fall for.

He tried not to ogle her svelte, naked body.

“So nice to meet you, again, Jackson,” Gaia said. “We are faithful readers of The Old Free State here in the village.”

“Thanks,” Jackson said. It was growing more and more difficult not to eye her body by the moment.

“I know you’ve got lots of questions,” Gaia said. “We here at the Gaia Collective pride ourselves with being as transparent and open as possible. If it’s ok with you, I’d like to take you on a tour of the facility as part of the interview.”

The two of them were close enough that Jackson could smell what he assumed was Gaia’s perfume. The smell was so unique and compelling that he could not help himself.

“I love your perfume,” Jackson blurted out suddenly.

He felt Gaia flinch ever-so-slightly next to him.

“I’m not wearing any perfume,” she said. “It’s kind of warm out, so if anything you’re just smelling my natural body odour.”

Again, Jackson and Gaia locked eyes and Jackson chuckled nervously. He scrambled mentally to find something to divert attention from this sudden awkward situation.

“Um, first of all, I think folks want to know a little bit about where the Gaia Collective got all its money from.”

Gaia was silent for a moment and seemed to be weighing her answer carefully.

“Many talented people have come to be associated with the Gaia Collective and one of them sold an app to one of the major social media networks and we found ourselves with more money than we could ever imagine. The app was a location-based service designed to help you meet people at music events, but it is now used to meet people in general.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jackson said. “I remember now. I’ve heard about that app. I don’t use it, but I know a lot of people who do.”

Jackson’s mind was overwhelmed with Gaia’s beauty. His eyes struggled not to roam her body, but he was determined not to get an erection, so he focused on her long, lustrous brown hair instead.

He decided to divert his attention from Gaia altogether to take in the Gaia Collective Village. The facility was surprisingly large for something that had sprang up virtually overnight. He winced at how many meetings he had gone to over the construction of the village. Lunenburg County residents were deeply worried about the ideology of Gaianism and generally the residents of the county had come to believe it was some sort weird sex cult.

All the buildings were made of wood and there was an elaborate system of pathways that criss-crossed the grounds. The paths were made of crushed gravel and were lined with small rocks.

Jackson tried his best to walk in tandem with Gaia, so he would be behind her and risk having the opportunity to look at her derriere. He was close enough to her, however, that her earthy, musky funk drifted over him. The smell was erotic on a basic level and he again felt the rumblings of his libido deep within his psych.

He began to think about his taxes. Taxes. Taxes. Taxes.

He and Gaia were now in front of a large crowd of people, none of whom were wearing much, if any clothing. They were sitting down, repeating in unison what a speaker in front of them was saying. Every once in awhile, they would raise their hands and wiggle their fingers when prompted by the man addressing them. When the crowd noticed Gaia there nearby, a wave of smiles burst throughout the assembled.

“What’s this all about?” Jackson said.

“This is an example of the principles of Gaianism at work. All decisions have to be done by modified consensus. In other words, nearly 90 percent of people have to signal their agreement with something using ‘spirit fingers.’ Additionally, we use the ‘people’s microphone’ to make sure everyone understands what is being said.”

Jackson grimaced and for once, his mind wasn’t on preventing an erection. Something about this setup turned him off. He didn’t like it at all. He considered himself an individual and this business of subsuming the personality of the individual to the collective will just wasn’t his scene. He felt intense distaste for the whole concept.

“But doesn’t this prevent any leadership from developing at all?” Jackson said. “Or is that the point? The point is to eliminate the possibility that someone might challenge you for power?”

Gaia faced him, smiled and touched his hand. Jackson flinched and felt something akin to a spark the moment he felt her soft skin.

“Oh, dear Jackson,” Gaia said quietly with a smile. “ We don’t see things like that. Gaianism is about being in tune with nature in the context of the collective. There are no leaders here. I am not the leader of Gaianism. I simply set the example. We all strive to work together to live together in peace and harmony.”

Jackson barely heard these words, he was so suddenly aware of the state of genitalia. He was now well on his way to becoming erect and his robe was wide open. He turned away from Gaia quickly and thought frantically about how to hide his state from her. The only thing he could think of was using his notepad as a shield.

“Is everything ok, Jackson?” Gaia said with honest concern in her voice. “Did something I say upset you?”

“No, no, no,” Jackson said. “I have a lot on my mind. This interview is really important to me and want to make sure I don’t screw it up.”

“Jackson, you’re not….” Gaia said with a pause. “um….having trouble with your manhood are you? If you are, it’s ok. Gaians accept our sexuality and we’d be fools not to understand that today’s nudity might not cause…um…some embarrassing situations.”

Gaia touched Jackson’s shoulder in an effort to force him to face her, but feeling her fingers on his body only made his erection more obvious. He put his notepad firmly in front of his crotch, took a deep breath and turned around.

“Um, Gaia, if it’s cool with you, I’d like to take a quick break. Is there, like, a bathroom or something I could go into for a moment.”

Gaia’s stoic mask dropped and she smiled broadly. She looked at one of her assistants standing nearby.

“Come with me, Mr. Coleburn,” the assistant said. “We’ll help you out.”

Jackson soon found himself in a bathroom, splashing cold water on his face and staring down at his manhood, waiting for it to settle down.

This was going to be more difficult than he thought.

Gaia waited quietly in a windowless room.

She tapped her fingers on the table in front of her and leaned her head on one hand.

Men, she thought.

Men and their erections, she thought with a smile. She further reflected on how often times nudity is empowering to women while it’s embarrassing to men.

The door opened and Jackson came in, this time flaccid and with a serious look on his face. It seemed as though he has splashed an abundance of cold water on his face.

“Are you better now, Jackson?” Gaia said, breaking her usual stoic countenance again. She did this way more with Jackson than she did with most men. She didn’t know what to make of it.

“So, Jackson, you have more questions?” Gaia asked as Jackson sat down at the table and got himself situated.

He nodded silently and tapped his Sharpie on his notepad.

“Ok, I guess one thing I want to know is what’s with the nudity today?” Jackson asked. “Why that? Why today?”

Gaia knew this question was coming.

“Once a year, we feel it’s best to return to our natural state as closely as possible. Humanity was naked for thousands of years and since we want to be in tune with nature as closely possible, it makes sense to at least try once a year.”

Jackson wrote all of this down furiously.

“Tell me a little bit about the ideology of Gaianism,” Jackson said. “What exactly does it mean to you?”

Gaia eyed Jackson and felt like toying with him a little bit. She placed her hand on his softly and patted it. She made sure to arch her back just a little so her bosom was more noticeable. She could tell from Jackson’s countenance that he was taking note.

“We believe through technology we can return to a pure state of living in tune with Mother Nature. We believe a technological Singularity can be achieved sooner rather than later and as such we believe the next stage in human development will happen anytime now.”

Jackson’s head was down as he furiously wrote all of this down.

He stuck the top of his Sharpie in his mouth as if he was deep in thought.

“I know what the technological Singularity is, but my readers probably don’t,” Jackson said. “Explain it to them from your point of view, if you would.”

Gaia looked intently at Jackson and shimmied ever-so-slightly so her breasts jiggled a little bit. Again, Jackson obviously noticed this. His eyes grew as large as saucers and he blinked slowly a few times.

“The Singularity to we Gaians is the point at which technology will change exponentially, so fast that humanity society can’t keep up. Some pretty miraculous things are going to happen and the Gaia Collective is hard at work doing the hard work to make the Singularity a reality.”

Jackson flinched.

“Wait, what?” Jackson said. “I thought you guys were just a bunch of New Age hippies. Now you’re telling me you’re doing research on the Singularity. What gives?’

Gaia slowly ran her hand down the side of her chest. She was determined to make him squirm if he wanted the answers to questions like this.

She got her intended result. Jackson ran his hands through his hair, sighed, took his glasses off and rubbed his face. He put his glasses back on and made a weird face.

“Yes. The Gaia Collective is actively doing research to make the technological Singularity a reality. As I mentioned, we have at our disposal more money than you can possibly imagine, we’ve decided to use the money to make the world a better place. A significantly better place.”

“Huh,” Jackson said. “Just huh.”

“Ok, Jackson, enough business,” Gaia said. “How about that date. We can chat more over Korean food. When would be a good time?”

Chapter two

Gaia slammed Jackson’s body against the door of the Richmond apartment that she used whenever she visited Richmond as she kissed him passionately. The two were intoxicated, having drunk two bottles each of the Korean liquor known as soju. Gaia was something of a lightweight — she didn’t drink very often — but she had known what she was getting into before she had agreed to the date.

The Gaia Collective’s research on Jackson had indicated that by the time he finished his first bottle of soju, he’d be making passes at her.

And, just as he finished the first bottle, Gaia had felt Jackson’s hand on her thigh. Instead of pushing it away, she had grabbed it with her own hand and patted it. She was feel pretty good herself and she was looking forward to the night ahead.

The two of the had spent much of the date discussing the nature of Gaianism over dinner.

“But what exactly is a Gaian?” Jackson had said, leaning in so close that she could feel the warmth of his breath.

“A Gaian is someone who wanted to live in absolute harmony with nature,” Gaia said, her words slurring just a little bit. “A Gaian knows that technology will allow for that goal to be achieved in ways we never imagined possible. Soon, very soon, we will have the technology to establish a new age of human existence…”

Jackson grew visibly frustrated with this answer.

“But what does that mean?” Jackson said. “How are you going to specifically make that happen?”

Even in her drunken stupor, there were things she could divulge at this point.

“Oh, shut up and kiss me,” she said.

Jackson did just that. The kiss was long and wet and when they finally finished they looked at each other with new eyes. Something special, something magical had passed between them and their fates were now intertwined

So at this point, they were so drunk that they were more concerned with how much they could touch each other in public without making fools of themselves.

Gaia left little to chance, so she knew all Jackson’s moves. So, it was both comical and endearing when he suggested they go to the restaurant’s noraebang, or singing room, after dinner

But this time they were both totally wasted and the suggestion was pretty much just an excuse for the two of them to be alone in a dark room.

The moment the door to the small noraebang closed, Jackson was all over her. His hands went to the most obvious of places, as did hers. Though she was drunk, Gaia was clear headed enough to know what she was doing. She wanted Jackson, the alcohol just was making things far less awkward.

After a while, the two broke their embrace and Jackson picked up the mic to sing a song. Jackson sang exactly the songs her research said he would ding — Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You,” and Aerosmith’s “Crazy.”

But at this point she didn’t care, the songs were effective and she felt a genuine connection to him.

Before they knew it they were staggering to her nearby apartment.

Once the door was open, they quickly took their clothes off. They slipped beneath the sheets of her bed and faced each other. Jackson kissed Gaia passionately and whispered, “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Gaia had to resist a chuckle. It was such a sweet, old fashion question that she struggled to believe that anyone even asked such a question anymore.

And, yet, something about the honest, earnest expression in his eyes was enough. She nodded her agreement and rolled on top of him.

Jackson awoke the next morning to the smell of coffee. He put his boxers on and rubbed his head as he padded into the nearby kitchen. Gaia was wearing an open robe that made it obvious she had declined to put her underwear on.

For a moment, Jackson’s mind struggled to comprehend that such a stunning woman was in his presence. He grabbed her butt and gave her a deep kiss as she handed him his morning coffee.

Jackson’s mind raced with the possibilities. His mind was so fried from the huge amount of sex they’d had the night before that he could barely put any thoughts together.

He reviewed what they had done during the course of the night and silently whistled at their mutual performance.

I guess dreams really do come true, Jackson idly thought.