The Tattoo Artist

tattoo, ghost story, blog post

By Vogler from Wikimedia Commons.

As a tattoo artist, Jilly had met many “unusual” people, but this particular repeat customer was the most unique.

Jilly shivered as the tall lean woman floated through the parlor door and sank immediately into Jilly’s “design” chair.

“Hi!” Jilly greeted with a nervous wave of her hand. Usually blunt and confident, Jilly’s demeanor changed when this client appeared weekly.

Jilly began again: “This is your 13th appointment.”

“Yes,” the lady agreed with a gentle lilt to her voice. Her face was etched with soft wrinkles, accentuated with wide pale blue eyes.

Jilly continued: “You paid me up front for a deluxe tattoo 3 months ago, but I think I owe you. Each week all you’ve asked for is one letter in a circle. Nothing deluxe about that.”

The woman rolled up the right sleeve of her gossamer-like white blouse and surveyed the almost closed circle on her upper arm. “This is exactly what I want,” she whispered.

Jilly shuddered, remembering the first day the woman visited her tiny shop, skin pale as milk accentuated by her white ensemble of blouse, palazzo pants, and lacy, ghost story, blog post

“Begin a circle with the letter “n” in lower case,” the woman had requested in a voice so soft Jilly had to lean in to hear while also inhaling the scent of lavender and lemon.

“How large a circle?” Jilly asked.

“Big enough for 13 visits, one letter each time,” the woman answered. She crossed her legs and added, “He’s here, you know.”

Jilly looked around. No one else was in her little space except for a rather large spider weaving a web on the pole lamp.

The woman was quiet on every other visit, which suited Jilly fine. She preferred her own company, particularly after Lars died a year ago from a horrific motorcycle accident. Jilly didn’t need to tattoo her skin with grief – a scar was already formed in her heart.

ghost story, tattooOn the ninth visit, as Jilly colored in the requested “f,” Jilly broke their mutual silence by asking, “If I may, what is your name?” She’d hoped to figure it out as the circle lengthened, but she could get nothing out of: “noyebmorf.”

“Iam,” the woman said.

“Ian?” Jilly asked.

The woman paused as if seeking patience, then said, “No. Iam.”

Now, four visits later, Jilly pricked and painted in the final letter – “d.” When she was finished, she opened her cash register to return part of the payment, but Iam’s eyes sunk deeper as she shook her finger back and forth and turned to leave. “No. Your work is superb. But when you’re ready, he is here.”

When the door closed, Jilly raced back to her notebook, where she’d written each letter from the tattooed circle.

n o y e b m o r f m a i d

And then Jilly shouted out with disbelief yet hope – “LARS!”

What did Jilly decipher from Iam’s tattoo? 

tattoo, ghost story

The first reader to guess correctly receives a free copy of one of my books, either The Right Wrong Man or Twin Desires.


136 thoughts on “The Tattoo Artist

  1. I’m too late with the solution, but I’ll add my tidbit. When I taught college, a few of my students thought I should get a small ankle butterfly tattoo. I passed on the suggestion. No tattoos for me.

    Great storyteller you are, Pam! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Must admit–I had to read the comments to get the solution to this fascinating read. Apparently the brain is somewhere “beyond”, ha ha. Too focused on the I am to twist it into Ian!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t see it until I looked at the circle. Of course, I’m contrary, so rather than everyone else’s version –I saw “from” first, and read it “from beyond I am.” The Yoda version. Haha!
    I’m with Marian–no tattoos for me, though both daughters have them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting! Jilly’s shiver shows this woman was scary…reminds me of witches from Shakespearian era! My hope is that you would say more about this lady and her obsession with tattoos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like how you always want me to continue one of my fictional stories, Balroop. Thanks for being so engaged and interested. I also get a sense of an “old soul” Shakespearean witch visit here. Hmmmmm.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. An extremely captivating story that had me hanging onto each word, but I have no idea where to begin with deciphering the tattoo! If I ever get a tattoo, I’m going to Jilly’s studio. She seems very honest and caring! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • This post was very timely ~ I spent the day studying psychic phenomena (clairaudience, claircognizance, clairsentience, and clairvoyance).

        The message was “easier” to decipher than you thought it would be because FROM was front & center. I worked forward and backward FROM that. If those key letters had been OMBEY . . . we all might have been STUMPED for longer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • haha. I thought I was being too obtuse, but not with this group of readers, for sure. And you had extra – extrasensory powers in deciphering, considering your recent studies (which sound FASCINATING)

          Liked by 1 person

    • Just being able to write a creative story shows me that I’m improving, Molly (or at least my brain is) 🙂 Glad to hear (read) that you are past the corner and on the thruway again. I’m getting there….

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Tattoo Artist ~ Pamela Wight #shortstory | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  7. The letters read in reverse – I am from beyond. However, what isn’t clear is why would this woman have this message tattooed on HER arm if it’s only a one-time message for Jilly? (Or does it disappear after Jilly is in touch with Lars? Hmmmmmm …. 🙂 )

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    • I love your ruminations. Why is the tattoo on the woman’s arm? Well, she IS the one from beyond. Maybe she visits others with the same message, now inscribed on her arm for a fast “roll up the sleeve” lesson. ….? 🙂


  8. That was a great post-Pam…I must admit, I did not get it on my own. Congrats to the first person who saved me because I would have gone nuts trying to figure this out…

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha. I go crazy with word puzzles too. You should have seen me trying to figure out how to write up this one – and use the circle graphic. The woman who guessed it – first thing – lives in Europe and saw it before those of us in the US did. And…. she guessed it right away. Sigh. She’s a former creative writing student of mine when 15 years ago when she lived in the U.S So, quite a treat from me to see her winning here.


    • You’re a great puzzler twister figure-it-outer, Jane. Next time you’ll just have to get up earlier to get in there first (tough for those of you in the west coast time zone). 🙂


    • I was so glad that “Jilly” arrived as I began to write. Proof that my concussion is healing (either that, or that I’m weirder than ever). Ha. I prefer your word: Clever. Thanks, Kate.


    • Yay for Ben, anyway. I showed the post and circle to my guy before I posted it, and he didn’t have a clue. :-0 (But then, when I wrote the post called WHAT A NERD, he didn’t know it was about him until he saw the photo at the end). Gotta love it – he’s such a sweet engineer (and supports my writing, even if he doesn’t always “get it.”) 🙂


  9. This was a lovely narrative, Pamela. I didn’t get it right away but the others in the comments were very helpful. I think we are all from beyond, from somewhere, and we are each other’s energies. I like how the customer was sort of like an enigma, revealing herself bit by bit as the sessions went on. She and Jill seemed to be from two different worlds…and no matter how different we each are, there’s every chance we’ll come together. Brilliantly written 🙂

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    • Looking back at the circle now, I can see MAID FROM BEYOND” too. That would work best if it was MADE FROM BEYOND. 🙂 Thanks for enjoying my story. Much fun to write. I’m sure I’ll get back to Jilly at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Totally love this ghost story, Pam!! Such suspense and then the end – I couldn’t decipher it, lol! Luckily I came quite late to the party and being far too curious I quickly had a look at the other comments.😉

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  11. Fun story… I believe those who have gone before us hang around sometimes. I feel my dad’s presence and when I was younger, I always knew when my grandmother was near. I wish I had read this the day you posted, I knew what it said immediately! Congrats to the reader who figured it out! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great comment on those who sometimes stay behind to surround us. The reader who figured it out (first one to comment!) lives in Germany, so she had a heads up on readers in the U.S. What’s even neater, she had taken my creative writing classes over a decade ago when she was an au pair. She’s now a mom of three. How neat is that? 🙂

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