Ink

by Alpheus Williams

I walk through customs and security checks, an old man with a walking stick. Safe as houses, safe as a bank, old, unarmed and harmless. The immigration officer kindly welcomes me home.

It’s been a long time, sir.

Indeed it has.

I rent a car at the airport. Things have changed. Traffic runs bumper-to-bumper with a back drop of mountains draped in smoke haze and smog. Millions of people live this everyday. Too busy surviving the endgame to fix the now game. It’s sad.

But it’s okay. I’m here to help. I bring liberation and renewal. Cool, huh?

I drive to Carlsbad down the coast between L.A. and San Diego. It’s a nice place, but it used to be nicer. The traffic has left me edgy.

I rent a unit close to the beach so I can walk along the promenade in the mornings and breathe the winds that travel the world.

There are so many crows. They squawk and cry out and fly in and out of the palm leaves high on the trunks overlooking the city and the beach. I like crows, survivors, but I miss the sweet notes of songbirds, larks and mockingbirds. They don’t seem to be around anymore and I wonder how many have noticed. People walk their dogs on leads. I like dogs, but I wonder what happened to the coyotes and bobcats. The condors and brown bears have disappeared long ago, along with the wolves and the tule elk. People walk and jog along the road that borders the beach. Many have earbuds in their ears, wired into elsewhere.

It saddens me, along with the apartments and mobile homes and homeless squeezed in together to feel the breeze of a dying ocean. Destined to the fate of battery hens. Do they miss the birdsong as I do or are they content to plug their ears with wires and play make-believe?

The silver head of my walking stick burns through the palm of my hand. Folklore got it right. Silver and my kind don’t mix. But pain teaches control and respect and I am no longer slave to the moon.

A man pulls up in a large, rumbling Hummer one morning as I walk along the promenade. Queries my limp. There’s no room for an answer. He can’t stop talking about his own leg, his drug abuse and being born a Catholic in a family of eight children, strayed from God, became addicted to drugs but was reborn and saved. Exchanging one addiction for another. He told me his whole boring life in the space of traffic light change. He looks at me as if we’re brothers and quotes the ridiculous:

The Lord breaks the legs of those He wants to keep close to the fold.

He grins as if his withered limb is a blessing. He’s in insurance, gives me his business card. Big mistake. I find him later as the moon fills the sky. I’m not a raving, thoughtless, compulsive killer. It’s not about hunger or the moon. It’s about other things.

He answers the doorbell. Looks puzzled, then recognises me. Big, shaky smile. I morph in front of him, sweep him into the foyer, eat his face, paint the walls with him, having a hell of time. His wife enters the room, screams. I try to get the words around my dripping fangs and lolling tongue, not to worry because it’s Wednesday and I don’t eat women on Wednesday. She doesn’t appreciate the levity.

Her husband is dripping from the walls. It’s been fun, I say, leaving her screaming and pulling her hair. Sorry. I can’t help but laugh. I mean, really, the guy was an asshole. I tell her to get rid of the Hummer and buy something more environmentally responsible, an electric car or hybrid perhaps. Like her husband, she’s too busy with her own shit to pay attention. These people, it’s always about them. I shake my head. I can tarry no longer. I have serious business the following day.

It only takes a scratch and soupcon of the virus to become like me, and I have buckets of the stuff in my stock of tattoo inks. The best reds, whites, and blues money can buy, and I’m selling cheap.

I give my card to the distributor. He’s shady and slimier than snot from a snail, but he covers every tattoo parlour on the Southern California Coast accessing all the military bases, outlaw motorcycle clubs, drug cartel underlings, smitten lovers and other aficionados of body art.

I play an easy mark, feign outrage when he haggles my price but I sell to him anyway. After all it’s not about the money and I have buckets of the stuff.

Hell, I am the stuff.

I am liberation. Time to set free the hoards.

Semper fi!
Death before Dishonour!
Mom!
Winged skulls and love hearts!
De opresso liber!

I chuckle. Interesting times ahead. Man, things are really going to pop come the next full moon. I would love to stick around and watch, but I have loads more ink and a serious market opening in Asia. I must be gone.

Busy busy busy.

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