Archive for tattoo


Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2012 by javedbabar

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.



Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie had framed the drawing she’d found by the side of the road. It looked good on her office wall but the colours seemed to be fading, so she’d put it behind her desk, out of the sun. She kept banging her knees on the frame though.

The frame was also causing problems elsewhere. Since the drawing had been bounded by a black wooden strip, covered by glass at the front, and board at the back, things had changed for the people who had created it – Sophie and her uncle Bobby.

One day Naomi said, “Uncle Bobby, things don’t feel right here. Recently I’ve been feeling trapped. I don’t know why. It’s making me sad.”

“I’m feeling the same way, Naomi. I remember being freer, and travelling wherever I wanted to. Now I feel that we’re stuck in this city. Every day is the same.”

They were no longer able to move in and out of the picture. The frame had created a physical barrier that was impossible to cross. It had also created a mental barrier – to leave the drawing was inconceivable – and a spiritual one – there was no other existence possible, no past or future worlds.

Naomi said, “Maybe we should try to think of a way out. Can we do that?”

Bobby wondered where this talk would lead. He didn’t want to disappoint his niece, so should be careful. There’s nothing worse than a sad little girl. But then he thought, she is already sad, so why not go with her idea and try to change things?

He said, “Sure, let’s try. Let’s decide what we want to do, and then make a…”

She interrupted, saying, “I don’t want to be here. I want to be somewhere else. But I don’t know where I want to go to. I don’t know where else there is.”

“Okay,” he said. “Why don’t we make a mind map? It’s always useful to write things down.”

She wrote the word escape at the centre of the page. Then she joined it to freedom, imagination, desire, will and pleasure.

“That’s a good start,” said Bobby.

She looked at him desperately. “But it’s not changing anything,” she said.

“When I was your age, I loved different languages and scripts. Shall we try some other ones?” She nodded with enthusiasm.

“Okay, I know some letters in an ancient writing system called cuneiform.” He wrote the symbols for dream and vision.

“And here are the Egyptian hieroglyphs for beauty and joy.”

Then he drew astroglyphs for the sun, moon and stars. “Should we go to another star or planet?” Naomi looked amazed, but then looked sad.

She said, “I like all the languages, but they haven’t changed anything. We’re still here.”

The next day Bobby consulted the city’s elders. They said that there was indeed another world beyond this one, but to reach it you must engage in body modification. Between this world and the other world was a permeable layer, accessible by imagery. They repeated ancient words, “Cut through the skin to the edge of the blood flow. There mark thyself.”

It seemed that the way out of the drawing was more drawing.

Train Spotters

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by javedbabar

The railway station had been closed for years, but there was always something going on there. Mack had seen it operating as a Greyhound terminal, FedEx office, coffee shop, massage parlour, deli, toy shop, beauty salon, and art studio, and whatever the business, it was always called The Station. The only thing it didn’t do was operate as a railway station. How stupid, he thought.

The funniest thing was that the same small man always worked there. Regardless of the business, there he was. Mack wondered whether he was the owner trying different ways to make money, or a long-suffering employee being made to change jobs annually. Mack hadn’t much need to courier documents, have a Fairtrade Shiatsu massage, or buy crazy sculptures, but if he ever went in there for something the man was super friendly. He felt a kind of kinship.

Mack also noticed that however hot the day, the small man never wore short-sleeves. This was kind of strange. Ok he was indoors mostly, but even there it got sweaty. He didn’t even roll up his long-sleeves.

Mack was small for his age and got bullied at school. He hated being there, so spent his free time hanging around town by himself, often near the railway tracks counting trains. Though passenger service was no longer operational, there were still regular freight trains, and occasional tourist trains. The freight trains had dirty diesel locomotives and up to a hundred container-cars. The tourist trains had shiny engines and a handful of glassy cars, plus one with a clear plastic bubble filled with grinning idiots waving.

He loved hearing the warning bells at the level-crossing, seeing flashing lights, and watching barriers go down. That meant five more minutes away from school. While drivers dozed, sent texts, or made calls, Mack watched the rail cars fly by – each a daring colour, a mysterious container on a great adventure. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum.

One day at the crossing, waiting for a freight train to pass, Mack did a double-take. Was that a passenger car in amongst the freight cars? A regular passenger car, not a glassy tourist one? He hadn’t been paying attention and it was too late now. Maybe it was just a fancy-painted freight car, or had clever graffiti.

The next day he looked more closely. It was hard to stay focussed with so many cars going by. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. They sort of dazed you.

Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Mixed colours overwhelmed.  Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Fifty blue cars together entranced. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Either way they affected your attention, delving into your imagination. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum.

Mack remained alert though. He stared straight ahead and didn’t miss a car.

Yes! There it was! A passenger car with passengers in it! They didn’t grin or wave though; they were busy working and talking, and looked like regular commuters – how was this possible? Mack went to find the small guy, but he was busy polishing a red steel sculpture, sort of like an alien. He decided to ask him next time.

Mack watched the trains very carefully every day after that. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. He counted the cars, and checked and matched them, noting their size, markings, speed, and direction. He felt less desire to go to school than ever.

Then one day, Mack felt a shadow fall across him. Uh-oh! Was it his Principal? “I see you like trains,” said the small man from The Station.

“Em, yes I do,” said Mack. He was suddenly nervous.

“I grew up here when they still ran passenger trains. I was totally obsessed by them. I thought I’d leave Lucerne as soon as I grew up, and imagined all the places I’d travel to. But they shut down the service, and I never went anywhere.”

But there’s still passenger cars!” said Mack. “I’ve seen them! There’s one in the middle of each train. I don’t know where they come from or where they’re going, but there’s passengers in them – I’ve seen them!”

“How do you know that?” said the small man with mock surprise. “Have you been train spotting? You know that’s not a cool thing to do. What would your friends say?”

Mack suddenly felt like crying. He turned away and said, “I don’t have any friends.”

“Don’t worry, kid. You’ll soon be making some new ones. I was a loner like you when I was young, and still am, but I am part of one of the world’s greatest communities.”

Mack was scared. He blurted out, “I’ve seen how you never wear half-sleeves. You must have tattoos. Are you a gangster or a Hell’s Angel?”

The small man was amused, and not angry at all. “My community is much older, and much greater than those. Look.” He rolled up his right sleeve. Running along it were tattooed railways tracks – endless rails and regular sleepers, his muscles providing ballast, his fingers tracing rolling stock. “I am a member of the Occidental Rail Brotherhood, ORB, founded by Periander. Have you heard of him?” Mack shook his head. “Periander built the Diolkos, the world’s first public railway, in Ancient Greece. It was a limestone trackway running from the stormy Aegean Sea to the sheltered Ionian Sea. A hundred men hauled ships on wheeled vehicles along parallel grooves. The Diolkos saved much precious cargo and thousands of lives. By running The Station, I proudly serve Periander.”

“The passenger cars among the freight trains, who rides on those?”

“We do. Our Brotherhood has branches worldwide. We’re always travelling on business. As well as the Greek systems, there were Egyptian systems – how do you think the Pyramids were built? And the Indian Chakra system, and Chinese chi meridians are railway systems internalized.”

Mack said, “But you want to travel, so why don’t you? You can.”

“Someone must run The Station. I can’t abandon it.”

Mack felt a jolt in his heart, and said, “I could do it.”

The small man said, “Do you mean that?” Mack nodded. The true work of the Occidental Rail Brotherhood was accomplished by spiritual passion, which provided the rhythms of their lives, and the means by which their journeys to distant destinations were fuelled. “Then you must be initiated. It will mean one year of much pain.”

“What do I have to do?”

“I will change this place into a tattoo parlour and we will begin immediately.” The crossing points of this world must be left open. He was pleased to have found The Station’s next keeper. He would ink him, and then be free to go.