Inkedskin (5-14-18)

[CW] Write a fairytale in the style of a superhero origin story. [Link to post.]

“Hey.” Johnathan Strauss jumped awake, instinctively grabbing his faded green duffel bag. The voice belonged to an elderly woman that poked his chest to wake him. “You’re going on two days here, time to move along.” She gestured towards the exit of the bus station. She handed him a white business card with the name “Mike’s House” and an address printed on it. “You can go here if you’ve got nowhere else. They get a lot of veterans,” she said and nodded at his uniform. Johnathan accepted the card, then stood. He nodded at the woman with a faint smile of gratitude. 

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” He hoisted his bag over his shoulder then moved towards the exit. A chill ran down his spine as he stepped out into the cool night. It was the middle of January, but Johnathan did not bother checking the time on his way out of the bus station. He had nowhere to be, it didn’t matter. He walked several blocks before he pulled the card out and checked the address. 

“I should’ve asked her how to get there,” he mumbled to himself with a chuckle. Johnathon was in an unknown city without a penny to his name. His few relatives died while he was at war, so he had no place to live to get back on his feet. He rode the bus as far as his last dollar took him. He kept walking. On the next block he passed a man leaning against the side of a tattoo shop named “Devil’s Ink”. The tattoo shop was closed, so Johnathon knew it was late. The man nodded politely as Johnathon passed and he took a long drag on his cigarette, causing the end to glow a brilliant orange. That was enough of an opening for Johnathon to turn around.

“Excuse me, sir. Do you know the way to Mike’s house?” Johnathon dug into his pocket and presented the card to the stranger. He did not move to take it, but stared at Johnathon. 

“You don’t wanna go there. You’re better off staying with relatives,” he said with a low gravelly voice. Then he took another deep puff, but turned his head to avoid blowing smoke in Johnathon’s face. The soldier laughed.

“Yeah, if I had relatives I would. Can you point me the way, please?” he asked the man again. The stranger pulled the half finished cigarette from his mouth and dropped it on the floor. “Got nowhere else to go? C’mon into my shop, I got a lotta respect for you boys in green. Let’s get you fixed up.” Without waiting for a reply the man turned around and opened the door to the tattoo shop. He held it open for Johnathon, and encouraged him to enter first. Johnathon did not like the idea of sleeping in a room full of strangers, so he stepped into the shop. 

Johnathon looked around at the tattoo parlor, but it looked like every other one he’d been in. Flash art on the walls, glass display cases showing off the piercing jewelry, barber’s chairs and a folding screen at the back to give some privacy for more intimate tattoos and piercings. The owner pointed to the best chair, it only had two holes in the red pleather. 

“Have a seat, let me grab something from the back.” He walked past Johnathon, so the soldier sat down on the suggested seat. After a minute the man came back. Johnathon took a good look at him for the first time. He wore a heavy dark green trench coat. He was a pale man with a black pointy goatee at his chin, and every visible inch of skin, including his head and face, covered in tattoos of some sort. He held a small container of red ink and a heavy looking book. He pulled up a rolling stool in front of Johnathon and sat down. 

“It’s early, so I’ll get straight to business. If you don’t like what you hear,” the owner handed Johnathon a folded sheet of paper. “Here’s a map to Mike’s house.” Johnathon unfolded it to take a look, then decided it looked enough like a map to make him comfortable. He nodded.  

“I’m a devil. Not THE devil, just a lesser one. But, I do the whole bargain thing.” Johnathon flinched, he nearly jumped up to head out the door. But he managed to keep calm enough to stay and listen. “Unfortunately as a weaker devil my bargains are more like bets. I bet you that you can’t do something. If I win I get your soul. If you win you get whatever you want.”

“What’s the bet?” Johnathon asked. He leaned forward on his seat. The devil shook his head.

“Nope, first you gotta decide what you want. Then we build the bet around that. So tell me soldier boy, what do you want?” 

“I want to never have to worry about money again,” Johnathon knew that much. He considered the opportunity. If this guy really was able to make a magical deal, he could do a lot more than just money. “And super powers. I want super powers and money.” The devil chuckled. 

“Ah, super powers.” He nodded. “Yeah that one’s becoming more popular recently. No problem. Here’s the deal. I tattoo you right now. Then for seven years you come back every year. You have to walk through town to get here, you can’t Uber yourself to my front door. If you make it till the 8th tattoo you win.”

“What do you mean if I make it?” 

“Well there’s a few stipulations of course. It’s no fun if it’s that straightforward. I get to choose what the tattoo is, and where it’s placed.” The devil shrugged with a smile. “Obviously I’m going to go for the face to make it difficult for you. Now since this is just for the bet, if you get all eight you can wipe them clean. Also, you won’t have any super powers yet, but you need to live.” The owner stood up and removed his green jacket. “As long as you have this on, you’ll have money and credit cards in the pockets. But take it off once and it’ll break the spell. You won’t lose the bet, but you’ll be out of money. You can shower with it on, but people usually just skip showering because it’s not like you can get clean anyway. If you win you can choose a super power. If you fail to get the eighth tattoo I get your soul.”

“So I get unlimited money for seven years as long as I keep this coat on? And I have to walk here to get my tattoo every year? That’s easy enough, with all that money I can just stay inside and hang out on the internet.” The devil nodded with a crooked smile.

“Ohhh yeah. You won’t get lonely at all. So, wanna get a tattoo?” 

“Let’s do it.” The soldier stuck his hand out and shook the devil’s hand. 


Note* for the curious. This is based on the fairy tale: Bearskin. 

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