The artist was a master, and over the years she and he had developed a rhythm that raised his art to its highest level.  No mechanical buzz disturbed the calm of the small room; his was an ancient technique.  There was only the sound of her even breaths and the light song of chimes moving gently in the wind.
When she’d reached her deepest level of meditation, he began.  The point pierced her delicate skin on each exhalation, and excess ink and blood was wiped away as she inhaled.  There was no room for wasted movement in the dance of breath and skin and ink; his hands were steady and sure, his concentration complete.
The tiny design, which would have taken an hour at the most for an artist with modern tools, was completed in just over two hours.  As the final drop of ink was tapped into her skin the air hummed with the energy of what they’d created.


The Chinatown sidewalk teemed with people as she left, each one hurrying to their appointments and responsibilities.  No one spared a glance for the slender woman walking at an unhurried pace, in her summer dress and light sweater.
The master’s art – the precise placement of each design based on diagrams and texts penned centuries before Hippocrates had written his oath – was not meant to be gawked at or commented on.  Only her doctor, with his sorrowful eyes and skeptical mind, knew they existed.  He didn’t understand, and he certainly didn’t believe, but as hope waned he hadn’t discouraged her.
Eight years later – seven more than she’d been promised – the disease that ravaged her body was caged.  Not gone, not forgotten, but held in abeyance…its power mitigated by the indelible marks of ancient ink.
This post is in response to a prompt from Write On Edge write a story of only 300 words or less, about a tattoo.  I’m fascinated by the ancient tattoo techniques, and by the combination of acupuncture and tattooing.  Thank you for stopping by…please let me know what you think in the comments!

12 thoughts on “Ink

  1. I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the tribal tattoo phase – it seems absolutely silly to have these ancient marks made by modern instruments, without any of the meaning behind them (“it just looked cool, bro.”)

    This, though – well, it's good to know that there are others out there who appreciate “the craft,” and the tradition.


  2. Wow, your post gave me chills at the end. I love it! And I love that the tattoo wasn't done with a machine the modern way-I've always been so intrigued by the ancient techniques.


  3. Galit & Nachur – Thank you very much!

    John – I'm with you on that. Also, the Japanese characters that people don't bother to research. When I got my tattoo I designed it myself because I wanted it to mean something, not just be (as Jimmy Buffet puts it), a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.

    Jenna – Thank you!

    Tina – I'm a little too cynical to believe in an absolute cure…but I do believe our bodies can do amazing things that can't always be explained.

    Alison – Thanks! Chills are good! I watched a documentary a while back on Japanese tattoing and Polynesian techniques. It was amazing to watch the detail emerge!


  4. OH! Wow… I LOVE it! Fascinating topic! I learned as I read, which I LOVE to do!

    You use of description was masterful, and I loved the balance of this sentence: “The point pierced her delicate skin on each exhalation, and excess ink and blood was wiped away as she inhaled.”

    And your word choice here: “dance of breath”.

    A pleasure to read!


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