I’m pretty big into Ink (yeah, I said ‘Ink’–deal with it) and have more than a few custom pieces. Even back in the day I would never dream of starting with a full sleeve as Dean MacAllister reminds… – Jim
The Flesh Trade
The Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building was humming on a crisp autumn morning.
Day 2 of the annual Rites of Passage Festival had begun and moments after the doors opened the hall was full of people stalking the aisles between the booths. Nordic heavy metal boomed over the speakers, but before long it was drowned out by a large buzzing cacophony, as hundreds of tattoo guns were put to use simultaneously.
Ferret walked through the foyer doors, a large grin across his face. He had always wanted to attend this event, but his unreliable mates pulled out at the last minute every time. They bailed on him again that very morning, but he’d decided to go anyway. To Ferret, getting some ink was the ideal way to show everybody that he was changing, maturing. That he wasn’t same kid they all thought they knew, but a man.
He walked up to the booth and paid the admission. The girl there smiled at him, her face full of piercings, and attached his fluorescent green wrist band.
“Have a great time today!” she said.
“Cheers. Will do,” he replied. Ferret showed the wrist band to a security guard, who nodded, letting him past into the main building.
His heart pounded with excitement. He chose an aisle and began browsing. Every booth he passed seemed busy. Half-naked customers sat on chairs or lay on massage tables, as the artists outlined their stencils. The variety amazed him, from tribal patterns to Yakuza koi-fish, classic sailor icons to photo-realistic images. Artists from around the globe displayed their flags and pictures of previous works. From Korea to Brazil, Mexico to South Africa, every corner of the world seemed to be represented. The one thing Ferret struggled to find, however, was an empty booth. After some time searching, he spotted a bored-looking woman at a table and nervously approached her.
“Are you free to do a sleeve?”
She looked up at him and sighed.
“Did you make a booking?” she asked, her jaw working some gum.
“I didn’t realise you needed to,” he said, embarrassed.
“So let me get this straight; you just turned up here today expecting a world-class artist to have at least six hours spare to do a piece on you and you didn’t think you needed to book ahead?”
Ferret’s heart sank. He grimaced.
“I guess I didn’t really think this through.”
“Ya think? Good luck with that kid.”
He moved on, shoulders slumped. Each aisle seemed the same, booths occupied by customers that had booked in advance. One or two artists were available for walk-ins, but they were only doing small tattoos; Asian symbols, butterflies and things of that kind. The more booths he passed, the more desperate he became. The more time that passed, the less likely that he would get his ink done.
Ferret walked down the last aisle and noticed that the booths began to evolve. He saw UV tattoos highlighted with black lights. Scarification. Subdermal Implants. The artists were no longer piercing tongues, but splitting them. No longer tattooing arms, but eyeballs.
Then he found it.
A red tent with a sign: Walk-ins Welcome!
He entered and was greeted by a large, tattooed, bearded man.
“Do you do sleeves?” Ferret asked.
“Sleeving? Absolutely! Sit down,” the man said, motioning to a black barber’s chair.
Ferret obeyed. The tent was dimly lit and smelled like disinfectant. There weren’t any photos displayed for him to choose from.
“I just want to get my left arm done. I’m not really sure about style or anything.”
“Leave it to me. Just take off your shirt. That’s it. Do you want it from the shoulder down to the wrist? Yeah? Not a problem. Now I’ve just got to jab you with this. Excellent.”
“Is that for the pain?”
The bearded man laughed.
“There’s no point doing this if it’s painless, is there? No, that’s to prevent infection. You have some cash?”
“Yeah, I brought around a grand.”
“Hmm, that’s a little light, but we can work something out later. Okay. I just have to strap your legs in like this. Good. Now I have to strap your wrists too. And this goes around your chest. Don’t want you moving around during this, do we?”
“Uh, I guess not.”
“Alright, now I’m just going to pop in this ball-gag, like so. Can’t have you making too much noise. We’ll get complaints. I’ll just bring over my tools.”
The man wheeled over a small table. On top of the table was a tray, displaying a wide arrange of scalpels and tweezers. He put on some black nitrile gloves and picked each one up, spraying them with alcohol. Ferret started breathing hard, his eyes opened wide with terror.
A tall, pale, lanky man limped into the tent. He looked at Ferret with surprise. Ferret yelled at him for help, but the gag silenced him.
“What’s this then?” he asked.
“Trevor! Just in time. This little guy is a champion! Not a single piercing or tattoo on him and he wants to jump straight into sleeving. Can you believe it?”
“Serious? Can I watch?”
“Sure, but sit over there. I’m about to start.”
The bearded artist picked up a scalpel and held it to the light. Ferret shook his head and let out a muffled scream.
“Relax young man. I’m a professional.”
He slid a bucket under the armrest with his foot. Holding the scalpel like a pen, he carefully pressed it into Ferret’s shoulder, running it carefully along to the armpit.
Ferret tried to struggle, but was tied down tight. Tears and sweat ran down his face. Blood ran down his arm into the bucket.
“OK. I think we’re ready. I’ll try to do this as quickly as possible, like a band-aid. One. Two. Three!”
The man grabbed Ferret’s skin with two pairs of tweezers and began to peel.
Dean MacAllister is a mammal that lives in Melbourne, Australia. He is a seasoned world traveller, scuba diver and avid lover of writing and reading fiction. He has been previously published in multiple magazines and writing competitions worldwide, including EWR, WWC, Weirdbook and his first novel ‘The Misadventures of a Reluctant Traveller’ is now available on Amazon. For more of his works make sure you check out Deanmacallister.com
Sporespawn, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
Sporespawn was thriving. The Mars colony had become more efficient and better at finding and using native resources with the Martians’ influence. The native creatures were a dust-borne sort, essentially existing as microscopic eggs in stasis waiting for new hosts to infect until opportunity presented itself. These particles could exist in a state of torpor for centuries, millennia, perhaps even longer. It was unclear how ancient some of them were, and the alien humans had no way of calculating this. When the humans had first arrived on the planet they hadn’t even realized the dust they were breathing was alive, nor could they discern that it was infectious. Not until it was too late anyway.
The humans who had been involved in the Martian terraforming effort had all eventually become Incubators and succumbed to becoming a part of Sporespawn. Over several generations, the terror of the situation had subsided and the colonists had acclimated to their new role as host bodies for the Martian creatures. It wasn’t all bad, the Martians looked out for their Incubators and kept them safe until the Spawning, and the period before then was 40+ years long. So an infected person could live a relatively full life in that span, even including having children of their own. And since the humans were infected and became Incubators at a very young age, typically around 5 or 6, they never really questioned their roles, merely following along like sheep until the slaughter.
Plus, the native Martian creatures were much better equipped instinctively to handle all of the chaos that the hostile-to-humans environment threw at them. The alien humans had struggled just trying to survive in the settlement, let alone make much progress, until enough of them had become Incubators to make better sense of their circumstances. And it wasn’t as if they didn’t get to make any decisions in their lives at all, more like the guardian angel on their shoulder whispering in their ear (or that little voice in their heads that belonged to the Martian creatures inhabiting their body) was much more involved in their lives, its presence increasing the more mature the Martian beings residing within became.
Fetsch was thirty-nine. She had lived a full life in Sporespawn, working from when she was just 7-years old to plant and harvest potatoes in the still relatively harsh conditions of the roundhouse, an area designed specifically to grow food. The voices in her head had grown louder and more insistent in recent years, and as always she was persuaded to obey them. She could not remember a time before her guardian angels had whispered in her ear, protecting her from pending dust storms and helping her to survive the blackouts when they happened. They taught her how to get everything back online quickly and maintain tight control of all of the atmospheric conditions in the controlled habitat. She trusted them with her life, and they seemed to have her best interests at heart. And her Elders had always taught her to mind the guardian angels; she always did as she was taught.
Now that she was an Elder herself, she had retired from potato farming and was in charge of taking care of the younglings, including her own daughter, now 4 years old, and the baby. She was lactating and nursed those who needed it. As Fetsch had grown older, she began to work harder at taking care of the younger members of the society, helping them to master agriculture and teaching them the trade, just as her Elders had modeled when she was young. It was, after all, the natural order of things. At about six years of age, after becoming one with Sporespawn, the children would finally start learning how to survive in this difficult land by shadowing the adults and doing what they could to help out.
But at this point Fetsch couldn’t even remember which children were her own amongst the throng of infants and toddlers. In fact, she couldn’t remember much of anything, really; her existence was drowned out by her migraines. Recently the headaches had worsened considerably, and her visibly throbbing temples drowned out much of her memory and awareness. Her skin was stretched so thin as to appear transparent over her bulging forehead, which pulsed and convulsed of its own accord. Red tendrils wormed their way beneath the surface, edging towards the surface and causing it to swell further.
Fetsch remembered seeing other adults like this as they were nearing the Spawning. She knew that eventually their heads burst open, spewing forth a cloud of particulate among the children in their care. She knew that this was also her fate. And yet, she found it strangely comforting, knowing that her life would end as part of the ongoing cycle towards the continuation of Sporespawn. For this was also a part of the natural order of things, and her guardian angels ensured her that her Spawning would fulfill the needs of the colony and provide for generations to come. She could think about little else as she played amongst the children, her mind becoming more and more infantile as the pressure throbbing inside her brain grew. She looked forward to the end, when everything would go black and the headaches would finally subside. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too terribly much longer.
If you want to read another of my stories prominently featuring Mars dust, please follow these links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of Cozmik Debris (and it’s later conclusion here on Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades).
Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails
This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).
This Is What We Get for Eating Poop
The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.
The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.
You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:
Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…
So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.
So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.
This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.
And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…
And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.
This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.
So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…