Erased

The city’s elders told Bobby that the way to escape from the drawing was to “Cut through the skin to the edge of the blood flow. There mark thyself.” When he asked them if they meant tattooing, they nodded but said nothing more.

What a strange notion, thought Bobby – drawing on yourself within a drawing. Did that mean that you became more a part of the drawing or less so?

There were no tattooists in the city. No one spoke of it. It was a forbidden art, forever taboo. Then why did the elders mention it to him? Maybe like corruption and murder, or a sweet tooth, it was allowable to some.

He brought needles and ink and asked Naomi to tattoo him. She was too squeamish to do it, and impossible to persuade, but said, “I don’t mind if you do it to me though.”

“You want me to tattoo you? Are you sure?”

“I’ve been to Diya’s house lots of times. We make henna patterns on our arms and hands. It’s lucky.”

Bobby showed her the needles again. One of them had to try it, but he would prefer it to be him. “But this is different. It will hurt you. Do you really want me to do it?” She nodded.

Naomi was remarkably tough. Maybe it was a result of her being in the drawing. She didn’t flinch. Bobby started with a single red flower, and then filled a meadow, which was in a beautiful valley, with a river running either side. There was a white mountain at one end of the valley and a dark one at the other, seeming equals yet opposites. The rivers were teeming with salmon and trout, and the forests were filled with coyotes, deer and bears.

“I feel like I’m home,” she said.

She wasn’t though, her physical location was the same, but she was somewhere else spiritually. She had become the archetypal goddess whose body is the world.

Within the drawing Naomi and Bobby were influential beings. People thought of them as manifestations of the Ancestors Aqu and Pani, so their deeds were observed and copied. Rather than singers, sportswomen, or salesmen, people emulated the Ancestors. They were the ultimate role models.

Whereas before, mutilation was seen as a sin, now it was embraced enthusiastically. Everybody was decorated with tattoos, including priests and leaders.

However Naomi’s tattoos soon began to fade. Maybe it was the effect of early sun-exposure, or her picking away scabs – Bobby told her not to, but she couldn’t resist – or simply Bobby’s lack of skill. When people saw that her tattoos were disappearing, they also began to get theirs removed. The tattoo industry largely disappeared.

They remained however on gladiators, slaves and soldiers – to prevent their escape and desertion. Prisoners were also marked for life here; there was no forgetting of crimes. Gangsters took pride in the markings they’d received in prison, and added to them, creating complex codes. A tear meant you were a killer. A trail of tears, a mass murderer. Livestock continued to be tattooed rather than branded, which was considered cruel.

There were also uses in the field of medicine. Tattoos allowed precise alignment of instruments during medical procedures. These cut through the skin to the edge of the blood flow, and then went deeper. Maybe that was the only way to escape the drawing.

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