Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge for May 17th was a doozie. The challenge was to a pick a stock photo from one of these weird, bizarre 50 Completely Unexplainable Stock Photos No One Will Ever Use and write a 1,000 flash using the photo as inspiration.
I went for photo No.27 (Mona Lisa tongue tats).
Johnny Gets A Tattoo
Mikey said this would be easy money, and I know Mikey is full of shit like a bank is full of zombie sharks, but I was desperate. I’d lost my job at the plant and one of the aforementioned undead fish was threatening to foreclose and I figured, hell it’s not drug running, right? So it can’t be that bad.
It turns out ‘bad’ runs on a scale, kind of like the Richter scale, except this one measures ‘How Fucked Up Are Things Really?’
And it turns out that Things were Really Fucked Up.
The Mona Lisa tattooed on my tongue wasn’t the half of it. That measured somewhere around ‘Things Are Getting A Bit Fucked Up’ on the scale. No. It was the ginormous albino meathead currently tenderising my torso like he was preparing steaks for the grill that tipped me to the top of the HFUATR scale. I’m calling it the Hoff-You-Ater scale because acronyms have to make a word, right? Like NASA and fucking FUBAR.
‘Johnny, where’s the picture?’ The voice belonged to a thirteen year old cheerleader and I looked around for her, hoping she could maybe rescue me, until I realised it was coming from him. Disquieting didn’t cover it.
I wanted to stick my tongue out and show him, but I figured he’d take that the wrong way so I tried to tell him but my tongue was still AWOL from the novocaine and so I sounded like a Vietnamese on pot:
‘In mah mow.’
He sighed, a disappointed-mommy sigh, like when you get caught stealing a cookie before they’ve cooled. Oh you little reprobate you, what am I going to do with you, hmm?
I could pretty much guess what fish-white mommy-dearest over there was going to do with me, and it didn’t involve being sent to my room without supper.
I was supposed to have the picture on the inside of my thigh. I’d carry it through Customs, invisible to the body scans. Piece of lemon drizzle cake, right? Meet the greeter on the other side, take a comfy ride to wherever, and some (frankly incomprehensible) gizmo would vacuum up all the nanos the picture was made from and – hey presto! – topper-than-top-secret government files would be in the hands of an Evil Criminal Mastermind. Or whatever. Maybe it was nekkid pictures of Beyoncé. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. Either way I’d have my five thousand bucks.
Obviously, it didn’t go like that. The nano-tattooist said some shit about Customs getting wise and needing a different place to put the speckly little babies. I think the Mona Lisa was his idea of some kind of artistic fucking license. Mutant Paper Albino pulled my pants down as soon as I got into the car, saw there was no tattoo, punched me several times about my person, and hauled me into some kind of Saw-Meets-Hostel abattoir, complete with rusty hooks and chains. Except I was pretty sure that was not rust.
The pale horseman of the Johnny-ocalypse perched on a stool and cleaned his fingernails with the tip of a very large knife. I always wondered why the bad guys did that in movies. Turns out, it’s because it’s fucking intimidating, that’s why. He held the knife up and turned it this way and that, so it flashed in the light, and I reckoned this guy felt about his knife like a trophy wife felt about her diamonds. (Mine. Pretty.)
I didn’t want that knife anywhere near my tongue. And that’s the only reason I licked my shoulder, I swear to God. I had some stupid idea that I could just wipe the nanos off my tongue like a bad-tasting guacamole. Which was stupid, right? I mean, if they could be wiped off that easily, I would have swallowed them when I took a swig of water (okay, two pints of beer) at the airport. Right?
So I licked my shoulder, because that’s the only part of my body I could reach with my hands chained to a fricking chair, while he was busy admiring the diamond-edged sharpness of his knife-as-phallic-replacement.
I looked down to see a perfect imprint of the Mona Lisa on my shoulder and at first I thought ‘Yay! My tongue is saved!’ and then I thought ‘He’ll probably cut my arm off now’ and then I thought ‘…what in holy hell?’ as the Mona Lisa began to smile. A real smile. A shit-eating grin, in fact. And then she sank into my skin, faded, and was gone.
I started to feel rum a few seconds later. Like my body was a bug zapper and all the mosquitoes in Florida had decided to come investigate (Blue light! Blue light! Zzzt!). I started jerking and the albino looked up from his Zen contemplation of his Johnny-Killer and glared at me. Then his eyes widened comically. And it was comical. He went from a squinty-pink-eye to a wide-eyed anime character in, literally, the blink of an eye.
‘What the fuck?’ He rose slowly from his stool, took a step backwards, and blanched.
It’s not pretty, seeing an albino blanch. He went from paper-white to the slimy patina of raw cod that’s been left on a windowsill for a couple of days.
I looked down at myself and, to be fair to the albino, I probably blanched too. Something was going on under my clothes, and I’m not talking bedroom-rodeo-something. My body was … undulating. I stared down at my stomach and I truly thought I was having a John-Hurt-in-Alien episode and so I panicked, in a way that only the thought of an alien female with teeth just inches from your manly bits can make a guy panic. I surged to my feet and the chains binding me to the chair blew apart, just disintegrated.
The albino and I looked at each other for what felt like an eternity. I didn’t consciously go for him. I just launched myself at him with the intention of I-don’t-know-what … and he turned to run. But I was fast. I moved like quicksilver and I hit him in a horizontal tackle and … I went straight through him. Knife. Hot butter. Howdy-doody.
Skin and sinew and blood and bone and organs exploded all around me. I came out the other side and landed on my feet like a cat, not a spot of blood on me. A steaming mess of red gore littered the floor, though, with an albino head at one end, a twitching foot at the other, and an arm over to one side. His eyes kept blinking for a couple of seconds, as if he couldn’t believe that was all that was left of him. I sympathised with him, I truly did.
I bent down and plucked the big knife from his dead fingers and looked at my reflection in the blade for a long time. Dark speckly bits swirled in the whites of my eyes and I watched until they became completely black.
I felt the Mona Lisa smile as I walked away.