An excerpt from “Brownsville Gothic” by Ancel K Houchen.
Jason wondered how so many people could fit into such a small space. From the outside “Old Nick’s Tattoo Spot” looked no larger than a NYC subway token booth, yet it swallowed all of fifteen of his men with smooth efficiency. There was just enough room for each of them to find a place to sit leaving one empty seat for Mariah who left them in the care of Casper the tattooist. Mariah had left them strict instructions not to disturb Casper while he was working and to allow him to choose the design, but most of all they were not to leave the parlor until she returned.
Jason was gritting his teeth in an effort to keep from crying out in pain. The needles from Casper’s tattoo gun were digging furrows of agony into the thin skin of his inner arm. When Casper concentrated his efforts in one small area just above his elbow it felt like a vulture was tearing out goblets of flesh.
“Fuck you old man! You’re doing that shit on purpose!” Jason hissed and pulled his arm away so violently it knocked Casper’s black spectacles slightly askew exposing milky white eyes that were cloudy with cataracts. Jason stood up in outrage.
“What the fuck? You’re blind? What’s this shit Mariah has us caught up in? That’s it I’m out!” Jason shouted and headed toward the door.
Casper straightened the spectacles on his face and issued a single command.
Jason’s hand was already on the door knob but when he heard the steel in Casper’s voice he found himself yielding. It was not the voice he would have expected from a frail old blind man like Casper.
“You will sit down and I will finish what I began,” Casper spoke slowly and deliberately leaving no doubt that this was a command not a request. Casper was unaccustomed to having profanity directed at him or having his orders disobeyed. Jason sensed all this but did not care a whit for station or office. He twisted the knob in defiance but Casper heard the tumblers release and the door lock disengage.
“Don’t go out there.” Casper said and Jason thought he detected a trace of fear in his voice this time. Jason looked through the frosted glass of the door and caught a sight that made him withdraw his hand from the knob as if it suddenly turned hot. Shadow images of people were passing by the window. He could not make out specific details, only their malformed silhouettes played against the glass.
The closest one looked like he was wearing an old fashioned top hat and sporting a walking stick but instead of arms there were tentacles in its place. Another passed by with a body that sprouted too many limbs and a crown of polyps was growing out of its head. Something that cast the shadow of a huge cockroach with a scorpion tail scampered across the frosted glass. There was a crowd of nightmare shapes outside, it was a gruesome parade. Jason could bear to look upon it no more and stumbled back into the chair where Casper let a sigh of relief then picked up right where he left off. – AKH