Tattoo Ink
by Ken Dean
forum: Tattoo Ink
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Tattoo Ink


       "Tom, are you sure you want to go through with this? You had always said tattoos were silly. Plus, it's permanent once it's done."

       "Emma, we've already been through this. It's just something I decided I wanted to try out," Tom responded from the chair while waiting for the tattooist to return. "Besides, the guys at work who have them said it makes you feel younger."

       "Fine, it's your body." Frankly, she was tired of discussing it.

       Thomas Durkitt was a 45 year-old construction worker who was just looking for a way to feel young again, which was a hard concept to explain to his wife Emma. He had talked to several friends who had received tattoos and how it had made them feel along with the additional attention it drew from various people. Sounded like fun.

       Tom and Emma had been married now for eleven years, a happy marriage with a seven-year-old son, Joey. Tom was a construction supervisor for a large company, while his wife Emma had earned a master's degree in art history before they had gotten married.

       Together they brought home a comfortable income.

       "Everybody ready?" the tattooist, whose name was Ponjin, asked as he entered the room.

       Emma noticed that Ponjin didn't have a single tattoo or piercing. That was a little odd. She had heard that most tattoo artists dabble also, having tattoos done by others. (There are only so many places one can reach on one's own body.)

       "All set here," answered Tom.

       "Okay, do you have a preference as to which arm you want it on? And did you bring a drawing of the tattoo for me to reference to?"

       "Left, and here's the drawing." Ponjin took it and moved over to his work bench.

       "What kind of tattoo did you decide on, Tom?" Emma asked.

       "It's a kanji script. I did a little bit of research before I decided."

       "Don't those scripts and symbols have a certain meaning in Japanese?

       "Yeah, the one I found stands for knowledge. The research I did was to make sure I had the right meaning and wouldn't look like an idiot in case a Japanese person happened to read it."

       "Good idea. Why knowledge?"

       "Just figured I could use some."

       Emma looked over at the tattooist's work area and noticed Ponjin pondering his supplies. He seemed to be mouthing some kind of chant that was barely audible. Strange, she thought. Was he praying? Oh well, to each his own. She had always prided herself on the amount of tolerance she demonstrated towards other people's beliefs.

       "Okay, Tom, let's rock," Ponjin said as he brought his supplies on a cart over to the reclining chair Tom was sitting in.

       "I'm going to draw the outline of the tattoo first, so that we can be sure of where you want it placed. Then if that's okay, I can begin the actual tattooing process. Judging by the drawing you supplied, it shouldn't take more than half an hour."

       "Sounds good."

       Ponjin proceeded to draw the outline as Tom was wondering how much pain this would involve. Shouldn't be too bad though. The people he had asked who already had tattoo experience said the upper arm was one of the less sensitive areas.

       "Okay," Ponjin said, "Stand up by the mirror and check the outline. If that's where you want it to go, we can start."

       Tom looked it over.

       "Excellent outline and the placement is perfect."

       "Thank you, sir. Did you have a certain color in mind?"

       "I don't want it black. Do you have a deep, dark blue?"

       "Absolutely, that's what a lot of customers ask for with this type of tattoo."

       Ponjin donned plastic gloves and began to sort through the supplies on his cart.

       "Okay, here comes the fun part. You said this was your first, right? Let me know right away if there's too much discomfort and we can stop for awhile."

       Ponjin lifted the needle to Tom's upper arm and began to fill in the outlined area. The needle produced a buzzing noise, somewhat like a sewing machine.

       "Wow!" Tom exclaimed.

       "You okay?" Emma asked.

       "Yeah, just felt like an electrical shock at first. Now it just feels like a continuous bee sting, but it's bearable."

       Ponjin added, "That's the normal reaction. Most people find it tolerable."

       He proceeded to fill in the rest of the outline, occasionally stopping to wipe off excess blood and ink to get a clear picture of his working area.

       Emma, being an artist herself, was spending the time looking at the unique prints that Ponjin had above his work area. She was tracing them off to keep since they were so unusual. There was something odd about them. They seemed to tug at the fringe of her memory, but she kept drawing a blank. She would try to do some research later.

       "Okay, Tom," Ponjin said. "You can relax now. We're all finished. You seemed a little tense."

       "It's okay, I'm fine."

       "Good to hear. I've put some ointment on the tattoo along with a bandage. All the care instructions are in this take-home packet. Take care of the tattoo per the instructions and it will last a long time."

       "Thanks, Ponjin. I do appreciate it."

       "Okay, you're all paid up, so you're free to go. Keep me in mind if you want any other tattoo work done."

       They shook hands while Ponjin looked him directly in the eyes. Tom suddenly realized that his eyes had a mesmerizing effect. They suddenly looked so black and deep! He felt himself being drawn into them, like they were the only thing that mattered in the room. He was starting to feel some vertigo, as if falling. He shook his head to break the feeling.

       "Uh, sure Ponjin. I'll keep you in mind." Tom was still a little dizzy from the gaze, but it was passing. Odd, he was having trouble remembering why he was dizzy.

       As they were leaving the shop, Ponjin added, "You folks make sure you think about a return visit."

       "Yeah, sure. We'll definitely keep you in mind. Take care."

       "What was that all about?" Emma asked. "He seemed kind of pushy."

       "Naw, I think he was trying to get us to come back here instead of some other parlor if we wanted another tattoo. I thought his work was excellent."

       "If you ask me, he seemed a little creepy. How does your tattoo feel, anyway?"

       "Kind of a burning, tingling feeling down deep, like it's settling down to the bone. You would think it would just be painful."

       "Yeah, that's a little odd. Well, how does it feel now that you're a tattooed man?" she said jokingly.

       "Not really that much different." Oddly enough, Tom wasn't laughing.


       About a week passed in which Tom took all the precautions for the tattoo per the instructions. It had healed well, and at the end of the week he stopped using the A and D ointment on it.

       "Tattoo feeling okay, dear?" Emma asked as they were getting ready for work on a Monday morning.

       "Feels normal, except there's always been this low-level tingle in the tattoo that hasn't gone away. I thought it was part of the healing process, but it's still there."

       "Could be an infection or reaction, although it looks fine," she said as she was inspecting it.

       "I'll let it go for a while and see what it does."

       "You able to drop Joey at kindergarten?"

       "Yeah, I can make it in time. I'm kind of excited to get to work; I have a bunch of ideas on how to improve our processes."

       "Okay, you two both have a good day, love you both," she said as she went out the front door.

       "You too, Hon."

       "Yeah, double for me, Mom."


       Emma arrived home from work a little later than usual that evening, around 7:10PM.

       "Tom, did you and Joey already eat dinner?"

       "All taken care of, Hon," Tom said as he was sitting in front of the television. "Joey's upstairs watching cartoons."

       Tom seemed mesmerized by Jeopardy, which he didn't usually watch due to frustration over never having any good answers for the questions that were put out.

       Emma sat down on the couch beside him, but he didn't seem to notice. Emma did notice that Tom was getting every answer right, immediately after it was asked. That in itself was amazing, as a full round of Jeopardy would usually humble anyone, except for the trivia superstars in the world. But here he was, spitting them out like so many cheap peanuts.

       "Tom, how are you getting all these answers right?"

       "I'm not sure," he said, taking full notice of her for the first time. "The answers just seem to be right there in my head as soon as the question is asked!"

       Okay, Emma thought, this is amazing! Tom didn't know a lot about most of the categories on the show; much less Art and Literature. And these questions are all trivia; it wasn't how smart you were, it relied on your memory and what you had been exposed to in life.

       "I'm dumbfounded," she expressed as she walked into the kitchen to start to prepare dinner for herself.

       That night everything seemed normal, except that Tom kept fidgeting and woke her up around 2 AM.

       "Tom, what's wrong. Nightmare?"

       "No. I just can't get all these thoughts out of my head. Ideas keep coming to me on their own, things I normally wouldn't have any interest in. I mean, the ideas are fantastic; we could probably get rich on the patents alone."

       "Maybe you should write them down for later use; you never know."

       "Don't need to," Tom answered. "They're stuck in my head like a photographic memory slideshow. I'm going downstairs to get something to eat."

       "Okay, try to get some sleep afterwards."

       "Will do."


       The next day came like any other. The same getting ready in the morning; off to school and work.

       Of course, Emma found herself worried about Tom while working. It's like he was turning into some kind of super genius. She had to giggle as she thought of the famous cartoon Coyote. But this was serious stuff; she found herself wondering if there was something wrong with his mind. Something like the famous book about the idiot that had brain surgery to increase his intelligence but only to crash back to what he was before after a spate of 250+ IQ. The title eluded her; Algernon or something along that line.

       Anyway it was time to head for home. This commercial project was taking up a lot of her time; here it was 8:30 already. Joey greeted her at the door, excited.

       "Mom, Daddy went to get another tattoo and he took me with him!"

       "Tom! What's this about? You got another tattoo?"

       "Mommy, can I get one too? Daddy wouldn't let me."

       "No Joey, you're much too young." Joey walked away pouting.

       "What possessed you to get another one, Tom?"

       "Just compelled to, couldn't help myself."

       Oh God, Emma thought. He's going to get addicted to these things and be a walking tapestry!

       "And look at this, it's already healed." He took the bandage off and it already looked perfect, as if a week had already passed.

       How was that possible? she wondered.

       "And what kind is this one?" she asked.

       "Why, it's the Flash symbol, one of my favorite comic book characters when I was young."

       "And we're going to stop at this one, right?"

       "I won't promise, Emma. But I will try to hold off."

       "Okay, have you guys eaten yet?"

       "No, just got home about twenty minutes ago."

       "All right, I'll make us something."

       She looked out back and saw the big trash can and realized this was trash night.

       "Tom, could you do me a favor and gather the trash and take the can out front?"

       "Sure, Hon."

       There was suddenly a small pop, with a vacuum feeling that took her breath away a little.
She even smelled something like ozone.

       "Tom, what was that!? Did lightning strike nearby?"

       "No, I didn't hear anything. In fact it was very quiet outside."

       "Outside, you were outside?"

       "Yeah, I gathered the trash and took the can around front."

       "How? I just asked you a couple of seconds ago."

       A chill was starting up and down her spine. She ran to the front door and opened it. There was the trash can by the curb, waiting for pickup the next morning. She went outside to look at it. She touched the handle; it actually felt warm to her touch. She walked back inside. She went over to Tom, who was sitting on the couch.

       "Tom, your clothes smell a little scorched. Do you smell it?

       "Now that you mention it, they do a little. How could that have happened?"

       Emma had a really wild theory, but was afraid to mention it. She also smelled the hamburger burning in the kitchen that she had been cooking.

       "Tom, do something for me please. The hamburgers are starting to burn in the kitchen. Could you go take the pan off the burner for me?"

       "Sure… be right back"

       Tom seemed to blur for a fraction of a second, and then disappeared. Where did he go? He vanished!

       No, he was suddenly beside her talking.

       "These are burnt, Hon. I don't think they'll be any good."

       "Tom, you went to the kitchen and back in what seemed to be less than a second!"

       "That's impossible. I walked there and back. You were sitting on the couch, but then again, you weren't moving after I got up. And the frying pan wasn't making any sizzling noise and the smoke seemed to be hanging in mid-air. That would mean I'd have to be moving at an impossible rate of speed. And when I gathered the trash and took it outside, everything seemed too quiet, as if the world had stopped. What the heck is going on?"

       "I think it's the tattoos, Tom. They seem to relate to how you've able to do these things. The surge of knowledge, the super-speed. Somehow the tattoo transfers its attributes to you. I did some research yesterday on the prints and paintings I saw hanging above the tattooist's work area. Being in Art History I was able to figure out where they had come from. They were representative of an ancient Celtic religion. A religion that believed in the transference of power. And I also saw Ponjin praying over his supplies on his workbench before beginning the tattoo on you."

       "My God," Tom exclaimed. "This is too wild to even believe!"

       "I know, we should go ahead and go to bed, we're both tired and my head is killing me. We can figure out what to do tomorrow, if anything."

       "Okay. I am pretty tired for some reason."

       But Tom couldn't sleep that night. He was either tossing in bed or up pacing around the house, trying to figure out what this all might mean. The alarm went off and he was still awake. Might as well try to go into work and try to act normal. Emma and Joey went off for their daily routines also.

       Emma made sure she left on time to get home. She was really worried about Tom. She was waking up last night about once an hour since Tom was up all night pacing or looking up stuff on the computer. Probably doing research. Who knew what he was looking for or thinking with that snap-to intelligence he had acquired.

       When she arrived home she found a note on the door in Tom's writing telling her that Joey was next door playing with the neighbor kids. Emma went over to pick him up.

       "Joey, where did Daddy go?"

       "He said he was going back to the tattoo guy."

       "Did he say what for?"

       "No, but he was up in my room for a while looking through my action figures. Then he found my comic books. He left in a big hurry Mommy, with all of my Superman comics. Is he going to bring them back?"

       Emma was thinking to her self, 'Oh my Dear God, what has he done?' "I hope he will, Joey,' she said, trying to reassure her son. "I hope he will."

The End





copyright 2005 Ken Dean.

Ken Dean

My name is Ken Dean and I live in Hilliard… a suburb of Columbus, OH.

Previous publications have been The Intelligent Master, Fate, Direct Line, The Gift, The Quickest Way, and Tattoo Ink at Also published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine, the anthology collection Chaos Theory, both from Scars Publications (

You may contact Ken Dean at: