audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 10 – Pattern

Woman's face with floral pattern around the eyes
Image by Ronny K via pixabay (edited)

listen:

Of course I know tattoos are permanent.

I grew so tired of those comments by everyone from my mother to well meaning strangers at the supermarket, that I decided to go further. I practically lived in that tattoo shop, getting unique designs from the enigmatic artist. We’d agree on a design and he’d get to work. He never spoke, so I put on headphones and drifted away.

When it came to the last bare patch on my arm, he finally said something.

“I will do this one free. Since you are my best customer.”
“Sweet! I think I’d like—”
“No. I choose. I know what is best for you.”

I shrugged and let him decide, after all ink isn’t cheap and I had a lot of it.
He wrapped it without letting me see. “A surprise for you.”

At home I gasped when I saw it. A woman’s face, so perfect and beautiful in miniature, it was incredible. Everyone commented on it, and I didn’t mind.

Life got hard. I made a wrong turn here and there. Had to change, just to get by. One day I thought the face looked different, but it was just a trick of the light. That night I tossed and turned, a voice stuck in my head reminding me of stuff I’d done. So what, we all have to survive, right?

Gradually the face changed, until it scowled in permanent, terrifying disapproval.

I went back to Spilled Ink but it was gone. Every night the face taunted me with my sins, daring me to do better. When I didn’t listen, she woke the other tattoos up. Flowers turned decayed and nasty smelling. The tiger clawed my back and attacked my lucky rabbit, the stars burned my skin, and the skeleton rattled its bones until sleep was a distant memory. I’d had enough.

I stole enough money to visit another shop. The new artist wouldn’t shut up about the quality and artistry of my ink, especially the face that was somehow beautiful again. I had to pay double for what I wanted, but finally it was done.

I thought covering up would be the answer.

She shouted even louder from behind the crosshatched pattern that obliterated her face. “I can’t see! I can’t see!”

Now I hold a knife to my arm, crying. I want it off me.

She says I’m weak, that I’ll never do it, she’ll never let me forget I blinded her.
“Tattoos are permanent,” she reminds me.

So… how deep must I cut to be sure?


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