Selah was aiming for reckless, not stupid. Though maybe those two went hand in hand. Especially when it came to spontaneous trips to the tattoo shop. She didn’t know what came over her. Maybe it was the break-up last week with her boyfriend or the fight with her best friend about said boyfriend- it didn’t matter. She welcomed change.
She was expecting to go with a cute daisy on her wrist or a bird on her ankle, but things did not go as planned. Her internet browser led her to a tattoo shop a couple miles from her house that she never remembered seeing before. Arriving at the tiny shop, only one skinny woman with black, frizzy hair and dark eyes, sat behind the counter tattooing an older gentleman.
Waiting her turn, Selah opened a booklet showcasing artwork offered on the table. A symbol on the first page immediately caught her eye. Selah never thought she’d choose such a design, with all its swirls and dots, but she was drawn to it. Suddenly there was nothing else she could have wanted more. The woman finished the tattoo in twenty minutes and Selah felt the pain was easier to handle than anticipated.
Leaving the tattoo shop with a wrapped forearm, she felt great about her impulsive trip.
Selah laid down for bed that night and the experience played over in her mind. Selah said few words to the tattoo artist and couldn’t remember the artist saying much in return. At the time, it seemed natural, but now, she felt weird about the whole ordeal.
Earlier while cleaning the tattoo, she felt just as attached to it as when she saw it in the book, but now that she wasn’t staring directly at it, she became confused. Selah couldn’t even remember asking the artist what the design was or its meaning.
For all she knew, the symbol meant something offensive. Opening the traitorous internet browser, she spent an hour before bed researching the design and came across nothing familiar.
It was permanent and there was no going back now, she thought grimly.
Her dreams were wild. Filled with beady-eyed monsters that sucked out brains with long silver tongues and fed off fear. She woke drenched in sweat and when she looked down at her tattoo that next morning, she swore the pattern had changed.
Selah couldn’t believe her eyes. Surely she’d imagined it differently, but the pattern seemed to grow more intricate and almost double in size. Something that used to be the size of a dollar coin was now almost the size of her palm. Surely she wouldn’t have agreed to get it that big.
Maybe she was going crazy. That had to be the case. Besides, she knew little of tattoos- this being her first one. Maybe the healing process changed them. Maybe her nerves had gotten to her and the tattoo hadn’t really changed at all. Selah had to remind herself again that it didn’t matter. The symbol was permanent now so the more she’d learn to accept it, the happier she’d be.
Selah went about her day as usual. At work, her friends commented on her tattoo, saying they liked the ‘unusual piece’ and asked what it meant to her. Selah had little answers and found herself trying to cover it up as much as possible to avoid talking about it further.
Selah laid back in bed after another day passed and her mind flew back to getting the tattoo. She suddenly remembered the tattoo artist’s crooked smile when she pointed to the symbol in the book. The smile, feeling genuine in that moment, started to twist in her mind. A knowing smile. A sinister kind of smile.
The memory made her skin crawl.
That night, she was plagued with the same nightmare. Monsters with silver tongues sucking brains. Only this time the monsters were her friends and they smiled at her. Knowingly.
Selah thrashed awake, and once again, noticed her tattoo had doubled in size. It was taking over her entire forearm. The pattern repeated itself, the lines stretching past her elbow slithering up her arm.
Panicking, she threw on a pair of shoes and raced out of the house. After parking her car, she thrust open the door to the tattoo shop. Her mouth gaped at the familiar man at the counter. The same man who was previously getting tattooed when she’d arrived the first time.
“I need to speak to the woman artist.” Her words came out fast and shaky. She didn’t even get the woman’s name- something was definitely wrong.
Did the woman drug her? What was in the ink?
The bald, older man frowned at her. “I own the shop. No woman works here. I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong place.”
Impossible. It was all impossible.
Selah explained what the woman looked like and how she had saw him getting tattooed. The man swore no other tattoo artist worked there and he had never seen Selah before and she must be mistaken. He looked at her like she was insane when she said the tattoo changed and grew overnight.
He offered no resolutions. “Get it removed. That’s all the advice I have.”
Selah left the shop the same way she entered. Crazed. Scared. Defeated. She didn’t know anything about tattoos, but she knew something was happening to her. Something she couldn’t control.
She skipped work that day and sat parked outside the tattoo parlor until past midnight. Trying to catch a glimpse of the woman and the man in a lie, but saw nothing. The woman never came and the man left that night alone.
A month went by and the tattoo stretched around her chest and down her fingers. Selah hadn’t been to work in two weeks. One night she found herself at her ex-boyfriend’s apartment, her silver tongue wet with his blood. She could taste every memory. The ones with Selah’s best friend were most delicious.