An Excerpt from Tattoo

The motley assortment of beings congregated just below us in the shade of the multilevel garage. Concrete spirals of cars and oil-stained walls towered over the group like a Goliath. Most of the creatures were human, and one was a scraggly poodle dog that danced impatiently about an older woman’s feet, wanting desperately to be held. The timid one, now known as Jane, lifted the dog and held it to her chest. The ever so subtle wag of a tail indicated the beast’s happiness, and Jane scratched behind one of its ears.

We stood above the company, our presence unknown to those who argued and planned below. Some subconscious force moved me toward my companion as though her presence was a comforting hearth. When I did, her arm brushed mine. I couldn’t help but look down and compare our arms side by side. Mine was rough and chiseled. Volcanic ash and scarred flesh. Hers was perfect, a pristine specimen like the rest of her. She was a vision with her mane of red, curly tendrils dancing in the breeze—her ivory skin, her firm and curvaceous body. An angel of a woman contrasted against my brute ugliness.

Those sparkling eyes narrowed as she concentrated on the gathering below. A millennium of knowledge flooded those deep pools of hers. I could get lost in them, but there was a danger there too. One could drown in eyes like that and never see the light of day again.

“Stop it,” she said abruptly.

“Stop what?”

“Don’t be coy. It doesn’t suit you. You are just as beautiful as I. And, after all, what does it matter to ones such as we?”

“It doesn’t,” I snapped. I hated when she peeked in my head that way.

The long, breezy gown she wore was her favorite. It was truly a part of her like her own hair. We wore no disguises here. No one could see us. We could be ourselves wholly, even if it was not fashionable for this time. I wore my uniform bound about my waist, leaving my skin exposed, pocked and scarred for all to see. The flesh on my torso and neck would remain forever scorched in my natural state, my black skin edging into hard lines of gray and cinder. Many scars covered my body, but the largest, the one that still hurt regularly, ran straight across my abdomen with all the violence of a lightning bolt. I could still smell electricity when I touched it.

“It’s beautiful, your scar,” she remarked gently. “Things like that are lovely. Reminds you that you are different, unique in all the world.”

“It never feels beautiful.”

I snorted a little at the musing of a woman who had no scars of her own.

Soon, the collection below us had made a plan and set off on their way, hoping no one would see or hear them. It was dangerous, what those small people had done, what they had decided. Little did they know the two beings on top of the parking garage had heard every sentence they had uttered and all the ones they had not.

“They are going into hiding,” I said.

“Yes. A good plan, I think,” she replied.

“Shall we help or hinder?”

“I think neither.”

I looked at her with an obvious question in my eyes. My face was always serious even in confusion. She almost laughed at the comedy of my expression. As it was, all she did was smile. The feeling of patronizing humor never did sit well with me, not from her. Of course, she used it all the time. Why did I fall prey? Why did I love it so?

“So you believe our intervention here is at an end?” I asked.

“For now, I think so.”

“She only has five followers.”

“Yes. An insane mother, a youth savant, a protector, an artist, and an atoning man.” She counted them off on her delicate fingers.

“Sounds like you’ve birthed a brand new arcana for the girl. It doesn’t seem like enough. The last time there were more.”

“The last time was different in a lot of ways,” she said with a smile.

This is an excerpt from Tattoo, a novella by Michelle Rene.

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