“You will be the greatest tattoo fairy that ever lived.” The words echoed in Grindlespit’s mind as she twinkled into the mortal world, teeth bared, hovering on hair-thin wings over the writer’s bed. Those words had grated at her since the prophecy was first made, filling her belly with a feeling like barbed wire.
She loved her art, adored every second of biting patterns into the skin of sleeping humans. But being destined to be great felt like cheating. Worse, it felt like she had been cheated, robbed of the opportunity to become something on her own terms.
Pulling a pot of graveyard grey ink from her belt, she sank her needle thin teeth through its seal. As colour filled the tubes in her teeth she contemplated how best to execute this job. The writer had wished for some obscure superhero, and then left her shoulder exposed as she slept. A heroic stance near the top of the arm was the obvious use of the space, but Grindlespit wasn’t great because she did obvious. Something more dynamic was called for.
She floated down onto the duvet, light as a feather. A sprinkle of pixy dust anaesthetised the sleeper – there was nothing worse for art than a wriggling canvas – and then Grindlespit set to work.
The vision in her head was flowing, vibrant, full of life and energy. It should have been a delight to create, each bite a tiny addition to her body of work. But instead she felt more miserable each time her teeth sank into flesh. She wanted to create art, not to be trapped and defined by the visions of others.
Missing the seal, her teeth ground against a pot of scab brown ink. She sank into the duvet, head in hands, wings fluttering, and sobbed. Was she only doing this because it had been destined? Or was she doing what she loved? Was it both, and she could never have satisfaction without giving in to the will of the universe?
The agitated twitching of her wings turned into a frantic buzz. She hurtled into the air, unable to think straight, flapping from place to place. She landed on a desk in the corner of the room, kicked an eraser into the waste bin, flung a pencil on the floor. Picking up a pile of the writer’s chaotic notes, she gnashed at it with her teeth, staining the paper with hundreds of tiny bitemarks.
At last her rage subsided and she sank back down, the paper trembling in her hands. The mess she had made was almost beautiful, a jumble of shapes and colour. Not a tattoo, but still art, a work for which she had never been destined.
The smallest of smiles fluttered in Grindlespit’s heart. This was the way. She could still create without bowing to prophecy. She could be her own artist.
The air twinkled as she faded from the room.
The writer woke groggily and looked down at her arm. Half a face had appeared on the skin. It looked vaguely familiar.
“What the hell?” she gasped.
* * *
This story was inspired by regular reader Glenatron, who suggested I should write something about destiny, and by a brief conversation on Twitter with Jennifer Williams. Its weirdness is all my own.
And if you enjoyed this, my collection of short fantasy stories By Sword, Stave or Stylus is free on the Kindle this weekend, starting on Saturday. Why not try some stories that Writerbees Book Reviews said ‘take wordsmithing and storytelling to great heights.’