Out of the nine guys at Dillan’s bachelor party, I’m the only one left alive. And I don’t know how much more time I have.
Dillan was a friend from my highschool days. We weren’t close, but we hung out when all our other friends were busy. I was happy to hear he was getting hitched to his girl Heather, they were good for each other. When he asked me to join him and a few of the other guys for drinks, I happily accepted. One last crazy night before he said I Do.
We’d all gotten pretty buzzed when Mickey threw out this brilliant idea:
‘We should all get tattoos!’
I’d never gotten a tattoo before, but I was probably one of two guys who hadn’t in the group. Mickey in particular was covered in ink, full sleeves on both arms and he had proudly shown off the progress made on one over his ribs- the inked outline of a Kraken. He and his artist were going to start putting in color in two months.
Like I said, I’d never been inked, but I was in awe. And to my drunk brain, getting a tattoo with the guys sounded fantastic. And whadya know, just down the street there was a parlor.
Unfortunately, they didn’t tattoo people who weren’t sober. The guy was incredibly patient, just pointing to the sign and saying if we wanted to get a tattoo after our hangovers, he’d happily help us out. The only one to get cranky about this was Derek, Mickey ended up dragging him out by the ear as the idiot cussed out the artist. Yeah, the artist said that all of us would get inked if we wanted except for Derek. Genius move, Derek.
When we were all on the street again, talking about getting more drinks, that’s when she just… appeared.
I didn’t hear her walk up, although I’m not sure how, she had heels that could put a man’s eye out. The only reason we even knew she was there was because she cleared her throat. I whipped around and she was like two inches behind me, way too much in my personal space for me to be comfortable. I yelped and slipped on some slush, landing on my ass. Everyone laughed but she just sighed and helped me to my feet.
She was wearing a puffy green coat and black skinny jeans, but even with her skin mostly covered I could see ink on her neck. Half her head was shaved and I saw three piercings in her exposed ear, not to mention the several on her face- eyebrows, septum, lips, this girl had it all.
“So, Phillips says you’re too drunk?” She grinned and chuckled pleasantly. “I’m Lacey. Come on, I’ll take you to my shop. I think I can work something out.” She turned around and started walking down the street.
Mickey whistled. “… She’s so fucking hot,” He murmured.
“You hear her though? Tattoos, man! Plan’s back in action!” Derek whooped and took off down the street after her.
Sober I realized how sketchy this was, but drunk me was just excited to get a tattoo. So I followed the herd. Like a moron.
The girl led us down a few side streets and took so many turns there is no way I could find my way back. But finally she led us down the side of a building and down a set of stairs to a metal door with one word stamped on it:
“Come on in, boys,” She grinned and opened the door.
It actually wasn’t nearly as sketchy looking inside. I expected no ceiling, maybe one chair that reeked of mildew, but it was a legit tattoo shop. Pictures were all over the walls of the shop’s previous works, and there was another woman with firetruck red hair and huge gauges in her earlobes texting away in one of the leather chairs.
“Hey, Barb, we got customers,” The woman shrugged off her coat and threw it on the rack, revealing that she was only wearing a tank top and yeah- she was covered in ink. From the chin down it was just a myriad of pictures.
“Kay, Lacey,” Barb got up and glanced over. “Sooo, y’all gonna be matching or…”
I glanced over at Dillan, who nodded. “I’m getting married in two days, we’re just out partying!” He said, trying to sound bold.
Barb just smirked. “Cute. All right, I’ll take the bachelor, Lacey, mind taking the shrimpy guy? I think he’s a fainter,” She nodded at me and I was offended but only had a moment for that because Lacey grabbed my hand and yanked me to the chair.
She took a seat next to me and smiled, and I suppose she was quite pretty, although I wasn’t sure how old she was. “It’s gonna be fine, dude. Your first tattoo?” She asked. I heard Barb talking with Dillan quietly about what he wanted everyone to get.
I nodded. “Yeah. Never been really into them, but why not, right?” If I really regretted it, I’d just get it lasered away, I reasoned.
“Just remember to breathe,” She looked up at Barb, “Did he decide?”
Barb nodded and lifted a pic in the air of a symbol that looked like two triangles next to each other, a dot in the middle. Lacey giggled.
“Oh, love that choice! All right, buddy, where do you want it?”
I chose my upper arm. After that, everything kinda blurs together. I don’t even remember pain, I just remember stumbling out the door feeling kinda nauseated and trying to get an Uber.
I woke up the next morning, my arm hurt like hell, and I had fifteen missed calls from the guys last night and twenty one texts in the group text. Although my head was pounding, I managed to make out the point-
‘Dude, where tf is Mickey?’
‘his girlfriend said mickey didn’t make it home last night did any of you see where he went’
‘GUYS THERE WAS AN ACCIDENT LIKE TWO BLOCKS FROM COVEN DUDE GOT PANCAKED BY A SEMI TRUCK’
‘What the FUCK was it Mickey’
‘they literally cannot tell who it was the guy was in pieces’
Jesus Christ. My arm ached and I didn’t even know where to start with these texts. I popped some pain meds and called Dillan. He didn’t answer, so I tried Derek. When there was no answer, I had a bad feeling starting to form in my stomach.
After two more calls I got a response from one of the guys I barely knew, Toby. He was Dillan’s cousin and was just in the state for the wedding.
“Hey man, I’m sorry for calling so early-” I was cut off by Toby quite quickly.
“I was starting to think you fucking dropped off the edge of the earth, dude! You okay?”
I groaned. “Maybe? Tattoo hurts, but that’s normal I think. Was the guy last night Mickey?”
“I think they managed to ID him from some of the tattoos… I’m sorry man, I know he was a friend, I didn’t really know him but… god.” I heard Toby quietly gag. “From what I understand, he was just smashed. The driver said it was like an explosion, guy’s gonna need some therapy. Um, wedding’s today, are you going to-”
“Hell no.” I felt two seconds from hurling. “I don’t wanna upchuck on the bride and I didn’t really get an official invite. You have a good time.”
I hung up and ran to the toilet to puke my guts up. I swore I was never going to get that drunk again as I crawled back into bed with a bottle of water to sip from.
I woke up again about an hour later to my phone going off. I managed to grab it and answer it on the fourth ring.
“We fucked up! Holy shit, I think I’m gonna be sick again, oh my god, oh my god-”
I could barely recognize the voice as Derek, he sounded so hysterical. “Slow down, what the fuck happened?” I said as I sat up.
“… Dillan blew up.”
My immediate response was to snicker.
“What are you saying? Did he open his mouth to say I do and blew chunks all over Heather’s face?”
“No, I’m saying that Dillan opened his mouth to say I do and literally fucking exploded.”
I laughed again, although it was forced this time. “Really funny dude. What the fuck are you talking about?”
The next thing I heard was Derek start to sob. Like, legitly bawl his eyes out. The bad feeling from earlier returned ten fold.
“He’d… he’d been complaining about his tattoo all morning, it was getting itchy, and Toby just said it was healing, so just don’t touch it. Middle of the ceremony, he just opened his mouth before his eyes just bugged out and he grabbed his chest… and that’s all she wrote. It was like someone set off a bomb. Blood and guts just. Everywhere. Heather passed out, Toby took off running and when I went to go find him, it was the same thing. Blood everywhere. Oh my god, we’re going to fucking die. Those bitches put a curse on us or something, we’re all gonna fucking die!”
I looked down at my arm and slowly peeled off the bandage covering my tattoo. It looked innocent enough. Just a few simple black lines.
I heard Derek gasp.
“I… I don’t feel so good, it’s getting really itchy…”
I heard a gurgle before Derek screamed, only to be cut off by a disturbingly wet splatter and the phone dropping to the ground.
I ran to the bathroom to puke again.
I tried calling all the other guys. Only two picked up, Mark and Reece. Mark had been at the wedding and seen the whole damn thing, Reece had been sick in bed like I was and had slept through all the phone calls and texts. We agreed to meet up at Reece’s place.
I sorta knew Mark, we had a single class together when we went to highschool, but I only met Reece last night. I rolled up my sleeve to show off my tattoo, which had yet to itch but every little twitch had me thinking ‘this is it, I’m gonna go kaboom’.
We all sat in Reece’s kitchen while Reece was messing around with something on the counter. Mark legitimately whimpered as he showed off his tattoo on his chest. My blood ran cold when I realized the ink itself was starting to turn crimson. “I think it’s like a timer, the closer to red, the closer to… oh god, we’re so fucked,” He said, running his hand through his hair.
“You’re not going to fucking die,” Reece said, turning around. I yelped as I saw a knife in his hand.
“Jesus Christ, what are we doing with that?” I asked.
“Not we, you two.”
Reece sighed as he pulled down the neck to his turtleneck to show off the damned tattoo. “Listen, if it’s the tattoo making us blow up, then just get rid of the tattoo. I don’t know if I can skin my neck without actually killing myself, but you two stand a chance.” He sat down and continued sharpening the kitchen knife. “I’ll help you first, Parker. You’ll probably scar, but this means you won’t be dead, right?”
I swallowed as I stared at the sharp knife before I shook my head. “Shouldn’t you do Mark first?” I asked.
“I think we still have time, and I’ll feel better if I fuck up on your arm than I would if I accidentally stabbed Mark in the chest.” He gestured for my arm. “Faster we do this, the faster it’s over with. Gimme your arm.”
Jesus Christ, I felt time stop as I slowly offered my arm to this stone faced guy. Reece positioned the knife just above the tattoo before the knife went down.
The worst pain lit up every nerve on my arm and I screamed. Mark had to hold me down as Reece to slice off my skin to stop me from accidentally punching Reece. It was like someone was burning me alive.
I passed out sometime during this and when I woke up, I was surrounded by blood.
Not my blood, both Reece’s and Mark’s. Sometime when I was unconscious, they’d both blown up. It was like someone stuck them in a blender and then splattered them all over the walls. Even their clothes were in tiny little bits.
And to make matters worse, the tattoo isn’t gone. It’s penetrated all the way through my skin to my muscle… maybe even my bone.
I can’t tell how much longer I have, but I’m not going out without a fight. I’m sharpening more knives, I got some vodka out of Reece’s kitchen and I’m prepping myself for what I have to do. I will probably die doing this, but I will definitely die if I don’t do this.
If the tattoo is on my arm, then I guess my arm will just have to go.