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She’d been thinking about it for a while, but reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finally stirred her to action.   Today Harm got a tatt.   Simple symbol carved painstakingly into the small of her back.   Writing on flesh, the body as art and billboard and easel and meat slab.   Chinese character she’d had picked ages ago: its secondary meanings are luxuriant, profuse and exuberant, which are ways Harmony already wears herself.

Its primary meaning is her adage but also perhaps a curse and a promise when you consider who her best friend is.

It reads “Die Young“.

She made me come with her.

Nails digging into the flesh of my arm, as the dude punctures neatly and tirelessly into her skin.   People get so much more upset when I do that – vampirism as the ultimate involuntary tattoo, perhaps.   The sight and smell of blood and ink is unsettling: I keep slipping smoothly into vicious delicious fantasies where the tray of needles and vials go flying, and the screams don’t last for long before I turn the whole studio into my own bloody artwork.

Instead, we talk while he works.   Harm thinks it is to distract her.

“You’re gonna have this when you’re an octegenarian you know, Harm.   There, in the fucking nursing home, with a bunch of elderly citizens also with piercings and blood-red tips.”

She screws up her nose at my stab at her latest hair creation.

“I’ll still be able to kick all their asses.   And yours, you fucker.   When are you getting a tatt?”

“Oh – I’ve had dozens.   But I prefer being on the other side of the puncturing.”

“Dickhead.   Fuck this hurts.   What are you going to proclaim yourself to the world with, then?   Scarification is an ancient ritual, you know – rite of passage, remaking, rediscovering yourself, making your mark, all that shit…”

“Oh – I’ve now got a permanent record.   It made a mark.”   And I wiggle my missing finger at her: still recent enough to tingle and itch, new skin clean and healed but still a scar on a body virtually unblemished for half a millenium.   The injury is not skin deep.

Harm is quiet for a minute, lying on her belly under the drill of the needle, holding my hand between hers as she examines again the cut-off point.

“Guess it says a lot really, doesn’t it?   About you.   Without words.   The silent question.”   She winches and releases me.

“Fucking stupid thing to have happen though, right?   Not exactly what you want to announce to the world.”

She’s got that right.   I look along at the small bloodied patch she has demanded be stapled into her, then away when I catch the dude’s eye.   Intent on his work, he notices, and grins, and asks:

“Squeamish about blood then, are you, kid?”

I draw in a deep breath of the organic crimson and copper, and smell the broken surface of death and desire, and feel what’s actually getting under my skin here.

“Nah, man.   Not in so many words.”





  1. Great Post!!! Will recommend it to all my mates getting tatts for the first time, so true, all of it. You’re a great writer, as always.

    (now I want a new tatt, I love the pain and the blood…..)

  2. “…and smell the broken surface of death and desire…” is a piece of art which should go into the history of literature, actually.

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