Short Story: The Tattoo

Here’s something I put together a few weeks ago in response to another prompt about superstitions. It doesn’t get very far, seems a bit unfinished and is perhaps a little bit predictable, but it did help me dispel a few anxieties whilst I was writing it.

John stood there and stared at me, looking unusually serious as he towered over me. It wasn’t like him. The poised, careful person I had come to know stood there in his neatly pressed suit and tie, raised his eyebrows and said,

“I’m getting a tattoo.”

Still surprised, I laughed nervously. I couldn’t imagine him getting it done, although since he was covered up at all times in sensible clothing he could have had several already and I wouldn’t have known.

“So… when are you getting it done?”

“Today,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “I finally made the decision to get one,”

“Alright,” I responded in a measured tone, wary of any other surprises he might come out with. “Do you need some company?”

“No, it’s okay. A friend is coming with me anyway,” he replied, his polite rebuff hurting as much as they usually did, as was the usual nature of our interactions.

“Anyway, I have to go now or I’ll be late.” He said, and walked off with a hasty goodbye wave.

Later on that day I got a call from another friend. The name Andrew popped up onto the screen, and I picked it up despite my initial hesitation.

“Hi Darling,” came Andrew’s smooth voice over the phone.

“Where are you now?’

“Oh, just out,” was my awkward reply. We chatted, until I remembered the revelation from John that came earlier that day.

“Did you know John is getting a tattoo?”

“Ha! I’ve known a few guys like him. They seem so shy on the outside but they’re actually crazy on the inside.”

I paused over that thought for a moment.

“Hey, if you’re free then why don’t you join me? I’ll text you the address.” Andrew said, not giving me much time to deliberate. I mumbled out a sound of agreement and set off towards the address he sent me.

When I got there, I was surprised to see the shop front of a tattoo parlour called, ‘Get Inked’. Looking through the windows, I couldn’t see much. I sent a message to Andrew to make sure I’d got the right place, who just responded by telling me to step inside and to walk to the back. As I went in, I saw the reclined figure in a chair of someone who appeared to be getting his chest tattooed. Andrew was sat beside the man, holding his hand. The tattoo artist stopped for a moment as I approached. The reclined figure turned around only to recognise me and snatch his hand back from Andrew. Confusion suddenly overwhelmed me. Did John mention that Andrew would be accompanying him?

“…how’s it going?” I said, trying to focus on the artwork that had materialised on John’s chest. It was odd to see him without a shirt on.

“It’s a koi fish, for good luck. John seems to think he’s quite an unlucky person,” Andrew said, seemingly oblivious to the tense atmosphere.

“Oh really?” I said, still trying to distract myself with the artwork. A lone eyeless koi fish with a selection of watercolour scales filled in here and there seemed to be swimming to one side of his chest.

“Where are the eyes?” I asked.

“Those are left to last. It’s said that when the eyes are filled in the tattoo comes to life, so it can’t be done until the very end,” Andrew explained with a satisfied smile. John avoided any eye contact, maintaining a look of concentration. I had somewhere else to get to, so I made my excuses and left. A few days later, it was a late night and I had nothing to do. It had been a while since I’d heard from either John or Andrew, so I started off by calling John to try and drag them out for a drink. John’s phone went straight to voicemail, but I wasn’t as surprised when I started to vaguely remember him mentioning plans with his girlfriend after finishing his tattoo. I picked up my phone again to call Andrew, and waited while it rang. Just as I thought it would also go to voicemail, Andrew’s voice whispered a sultry greeting.

“Hi Darling… I’m actually in bed, so make it quick,”

Just as I was about to reply, I heard another voice.

“Who’s that?” Yawned a sleepy bedroom voice. For a moment, I thought it sounded like John.


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