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from The Brightest Firefly by Dacia M Arnold








Shauna wiped soapy water from the young woman’s slender rib cage, sending skin into goose-flesh chills. Removing the excess ink revealed the sharp illustration of a songbird in a wisp of exaggerated ivy vines. The girl stood from the padded black leather bench and skipped to the mirror, squealing. Shauna shot the girl her best acknowledging smile to be pleasant, but her side burned under her shirt as her skin rose in the same design as the young woman’s tattoo. The pain was as addictive as practicing her art.

Shauna closed the blinds to her tattoo booth and pulled up her shirt. The fresh ink of the same songbird bore a bold contrast to her other tattoos, but the new vibrant colors were a welcome variation from her traditional style. From neck to wrists, art covered Shauna’s body, each work in various stages of fading. For every tattoo she etched onto someone else, the identical image developed in the same place on herself. Unlike her paying canvases, her tattoos faded after a year of being placed, and she never overlapped her art. When ink covered every inch of her body, she waited for her oldest tattoo to disappear before accepting another commission.

Shauna Green was a leader on the New Orleans tattoo scene. Her art was recognizable and sought after for being perfect in design and technical skill. The shop where she rented a booth housed three other capable artists, but none came close to her talent. Kept to herself, hated small talk, and paid her booth rent on time every month; Shauna did not complain even when they raised her rent to twenty-five percent of her commission.

Tattooing was not a job to her as much as an everyday experiment of her strange condition. In the beginning, the first time she put a line into a person’s skin, she felt it immediately. The burn of the needle. She gave enough free tattoos in a week to cover her entire back. Then she got picky, taking smaller commissions on arms and legs. By the time she filled the remaining space on her body, her back was clear. Her body was a revolving canvas.

Big Bobby, the owner of the shop, scouted her and offered Shauna a two-year apprenticeship. The study only lasted two months before clients asked for her work. Big Bobby gave her the booth in the shop's front, and because of her reputation she picked what, where, and who she tattooed, passing clients to other artists. This helped to maintain a positive work environment. That and Big Bobby claimed her pretty face in the window attracted more customers than his grand (massive) physique.

With guns cleaned and her station tidied, Shauna opened the blinds again. A man stood outside looking in on her, but he had not seen her shirt up, had he? With a smirk, he walked away. Curious eyes peered into the window all the time. On the weekends, a group of ...

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