However, considering the bottom 12 in each of the 25 groups received zero points, I consider it an honor to have finished in the points at all. Advancement to the semi-finals is a combination of the first and second heats. The top five in each group advance. My chances are slim, but I wasn't about to drop out without giving it a try.
On Friday, November 1st at 11:59 EST the new prompts dropped. This time it was 1000 words incorporating:
Horror/Tattoo Parlor/High Heels
And here is what I came up with . . .
“Hey, that hurts.”
The girl squirmed under my needle, nearly spoiling my freehand line. Even though annoyed, I was patient with her. She’s one of the shining ones.
“Sorry, sweetheart, but you know what they say about sex and tattoos?”
“No, what?” The tilted head was meant to be world-wise and flirtatious. Instead, she looked like a Disney princess.
I whispered, “The deeper it goes, the longer it lasts.”
The giggle and blush confirmed my assessment. Turning back to the rose on her shoulder, I applied the needle to her skin. A drop of her blood oozed from a thorn. Reverently, I dabbed it with my fingertip and felt the sensual energy as her blood snaked along the black inked swirls of my finger before disappearing into the Mandala on the back of my hand.
Her life force trilled up my arm before dead-ending in a salty metallic taste. All these years and that thrill never got old.
Finishing the shading, I harvested another droplet before saying, “It’s finished.”
I held the mirror so she could admire her new tattoo. The vibrant bloom erupted from her creamy skin. Yes, it was skill. Yes, it was the ink I blended by hand. But, there’s one ingredient that no other tattoo artist could match. I imbued every design with a touch of my immortality. All I asked in return was the blood they willingly shed.
Her radiant smile warmed me as much as her blood. I take only a tiny bit of life from the innocent, even though it’s like sipping sunbeams. For girls like this, the design is always simple and pure. I didn’t want to hurt them, even when they were willing to give more. Their trust was my sacrament. For the darker souls, my work was more intense. Each of my clients gets the ink they deserve.
“No, you’re perfect.” Before she could answer, I launched into the aftercare instructions required by law, even though it would heal before she awoke.
As she floated down the sidewalk, I embraced the mellow glow that always accompanied a good tattoo. As I put my used gun on the counter to sterilize later, I thought I could see the glow of her life on the needle.
The bell over the front door interrupted my reverie.
Disappointed in being interrupted this late, I prepped an excuse as I headed out front.
My disappointment evaporated. Racehorse ankles erupting from a pair of sky high heels morphed into legs looking like tanned, sculpted stone. Scarlet hair framed tip-tilted green eyes.
“Well, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re gorgeous, so what brings to my humble studio?”
The dazzling smile was as different from the college girl as a puppy is from a snarling wolf.
“I need you to finish my ink.”
“I don’t do repair work. You’ll have to take your regrets elsewhere.”
“I think you’ll want this job.”
She dropped her trenchcoat. The scarves wrapped around her hips and breasts suggested more than they hid and exposed a melange of disconnected tats. I saw scales, feathers, and tribal patterns that made mine look almost quaint. Pivoting on one stiletto, she turned and I saw an incomplete pair of leathery wings etched into her back.
“This won’t be cheap.” The words were out before my caution could pull them back.
“It never is.”
I was committed. Fitting my largest bore needle into my spare gun, dark thoughts, old thoughts raged.
We eat well tonight.
Draping herself across my work table, she said, “The heels?”
“Leave them on.”
The moment my needle touched her, I knew. I knew, but I didn’t stop. Soon, the edge of her left wing stood out in stark relief. Unable to resist any longer, I rubbed the Mandala, the lens that focused me, into her blood. Fire raced up my arm, threatening to erupt from every pore. Instead of the pleasant copper tang, there was a ripping pain and a hot gout of blood from my nose.
My blood dripped onto her skin and immediately raced along the veins of her wings, turning them scarlet. She arched and a ripple coursed across her back.
“Continue. Finish the job.” Instead of her earlier purr, her voice was guttural.
“And if I don’t?”
“Then your good long run will end badly.”
I looked at her tattoos. There were hundreds of hours in the fine work. Some of it looked very old.
“How long have you been doing this?”
“Not your concern artist. Did I ask you the same?”
“The others before you were weak. They could only lay the fire, not kindle it. They didn’t have enough life. You’re the one I need. Finish the work and I’ll give you things you never imagined.”
I laughed. “I have a good imagination.”
I dipped the needle and touched it to another line. Her blood ran freely and sought my hand. Another sledgehammer to my head and more of her veins ran with my essence.
Losing track of time, my world was reduced to pain and blood as I worked on her quivering rippling skin. One wing was nearly free when a passing siren ruptured my trance. Catching my reflection, I saw that instead of black, my hair was laced with gray. Wrinkles latticed my cheeks.
This bitch is killing me.
I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t tired of living, and I was damn tired of this. Then I saw it. The other gun. I hadn’t imagined it. The needle was glowing.
This could work.
Ignoring her whimpering, I swapped out the guns.
“Just a second, darling, a little change of plans.”
“Hurry,” she said, her voice little more than a snarl.
I didn’t dip the needle. I applied it, still coated in the blood of my angel from earlier today, and waited to see if it delivered my salvation.
I wasn’t disappointed. As always, every client gets the tattoo they deserve.