Mosaic of Tattoos

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Mosaic of Tattoos

This is the second story in the “Stories from Under the Golden Roof” series. This story contains some dialogue in Dutch, translations of the Dutch dialogue is included. The Dutch has not been edited. Any errors are entirely the fault of the author.

Thank you to NChanta, Antagonee, and Patricia Montclair for their comments and suggestions!

Chapter 1 — Yoga Class

Wade had no idea what a strange night it would be for him when he stepped into the yoga school that night. It had been a long week of ten-hour days because of a huge rush project When a colleague suggested going to the Mountain Mandala yoga school to unwind, Wade thought that sounded like a great idea and agreed to meet her there. He should have gotten a clue as to how this night would be different from the others from how everything was moved around from the last time he had been there. Even the teacher was different, but he was so mentally exhausted that he hardly noticed.

“Hello, I’d like to sign up for the class at seven,” Wade said to the dark-haired woman behind the desk.

“10 Euros, please.” She reached out an arm covered in tribal designs and Indian gods to take the money Wade proffered her. “Thank you. Have you been here before?”

“Yes.” It had been a few weeks since he’d last come due to time and money.

“Name?”

“Sprakwyn, Wade Sprakwyn.”

“Do you need a mat or water?” the woman behind the counter asks.

“I do need a mat. I have water.”

“You’ve been coming here for a while, I see. Would you like a membership?”

“No, money’s a bit tight right now. You know how that is.” The regular work he had hoped for had finally come around, but it barely paid enough for rent and food. It would probably be at least a year before he started earning enough work to make a decent living.

“Yeah, I do.” She bit her lip and tapped her black fingernails on the counter for a second. “If money’s tight, we can always use more volunteers around the studio. You help clean up or manage the front desk and in return you get a big discount on classes. That’s how I got my start.”

“How many hours would that be?”

“It depends on your schedule. Most people do just two or three hours per week.”

“Let me think about it and get back to you.”

“Sure, take your time. The mats are in the basket beside the door.” She smiled at him.

Wade stretched out on his yoga mat. He breathed in deep and the scent of jasmine filled his nose. The instructor’s volunteer offer was interesting, but with work still up in the air, Wade wasn’t sure when he would be working. Still, if it meant a discount on classes, then he could still go for a while longer at least. What he really needed was to earn some extra money. Then he could go as often as he wanted. Well, mostly.

At the patter of bare feet next to him Wade opened his eyes expecting to see his work colleague, but rather found himself looking at two girls, one blonde and the other with blue hair, from behind who were standing in a free area in front of him.

“Wat is dat?” The blonde pointed to something in the blonde girl’s hands. “Geef me het” What language they were speaking? It’s not German, but he was able to understand most of it.

“Wat ben jij brutaal!” The blue-haired girl sulked and then let loose with a string of words that he didn’t understand.

He could always do freelancing again. It paid well as long as you can got an hourly project but wasn’t regular work.

“Ik kann mezelf checken,” The blue-haired girl gazed towards the mirror at the front of the room.

The problem was, he could never get hourly translation work. He’d have to expand his search to include regular writing jobs.

“Wat doen we nu?” Huh? Do they have to do something different now?

I’m not staring at her ass, I’m admiring her posture,’ Wade told himself after class started and they flowed through several rounds of Sun Salutations. His eyes were drawn to the blonde’s bright green booty shorts which stretched across the top of her ass in downward facing dog. He was genuinely impressed with how her thighs stayed parallel to the ground through the warrior flow sequences though. In Warrior II, the muscles of her legs twitched and lengthened like a horse’s as she pulsed up and down on her supporting leg. She must be as strong as a horse too with that definition.

The hardest pose of the class was Bird of Paradise. These birds lived in the jungle where they have abundant natural resources and could thus afford their color and elaborate feathers, the instructor explained before she demonstrated how to get into the posture. “Einatmen und aufstehen, ausatmen und richten das hochgehaltene Bein auf, easy easy, (Inhale and stand up, exhale and straighten your raised leg, easy, easy)” she breathed to the students’ nervous laughter.

With his hands clasped around his raised leg, Wade wobbling on his supporting leg and despite the screams bahis firmaları of protest from his hamstring, he slowly straightened his leg that he had pulled his hamstring climbing out the window of his burning coffeeshop months earlier. Oh, it’s a mating posture! He couldn’t straighten his leg as much as some of the others but, he was happy that it got as straight as it did.

The mating posture of the urban hipster. Of course, for most of the other yogis, the elaborate, colorful feathers were replaced by elaborate and colorful tattoos. A phrase a word on the inside of someone’s arm. A tribal design on the upper or lower back. Even a whole poem on someone’s waist. He stumbled, but didn’t crash, onto the mat as he lowered his leg to the mat. The girl in the bright green shorts had quite a few tattoos: most of them were phrases, with a few images here and there; though, without his glasses he wasn’t able to make out much detail.

She narrowed her eyes at him over her shoulder before she clasped her arms under one leg before she stood up straight on the other. When she brought her leg down, the blonde girl stumbled. She tried to catch herself on her friend but fell backwards. Wade caught her before she hit the ground. In the darkness of the room, the light glinted off the sheen of sweat on her breasts, pushed up by her low-cut sports bra. “Hey, afblijven! (Hey, hands off!)” she hissed.

“Alles in Ordnung?” The instructor glanced over at them from across the room where she was helping another student.

“Ja, alles in Ordnung,” Wade replied as the blonde girl recovered her balance and returned to her spot.

After class, Wade went to back to the back of class for a spray bottle to wipe his mat down. Out the corner of his eye he caught the blue-haired girl point at him and nod as she talked with her friend. When he got back the blonde girl stood up and extended her hand. “Hoy, hou is jouw naam?”

“Mein Name ist Wade.” He shook her hand, his breath still ragged from the class. His eyes slipped from her bright blue eyes down to her tank top.

“Mij naam is Inge. Vind je mijn titten lekker?’ she asked after his eyes slipped down to her chest a second time.

“Lekker? Ich hab’ sie noch nicht probiert. Sie sehen aber gut aus. (Tasty? I haven’t tried them. But they look good.)”

She cocked her head, her lips curled into a light smile, “Deutsch?”

“American.”

The blue-haired girl whispered into the blonde’s ear who replied in that strange language he couldn’t quite place. Where had he seen those full lips and shapely nose before? The violent guttural g’s marred an otherwise lyrical sentence. All Wade understood was that she said something about a bar and a Schlagerei, was she about to go fight in a bar?

“You are an expert of varieties of written German, yes?” Inge asked after her friend left.

“I help translate texts written in some German dialects, yes.”

“I have some lines in German, but I can’t read them. Would you be able to help?”

“How do you know it’s in German then?”

“I have a monster on my back.”

“A monster?” What kind of woman was this who walked around believing that she had a monster on her back and gets into fights in bars? Though, the two weren’t necessarily unconnected.

“Yes. It will be easier if I just show you.” She started to turn, paused, then faced Wade again. “Gewoon niet staren naar mijn aars de hele tijd dat je in de klas deed,” Inge stuck her tongue out at him and turned her back to him and lifted the bottom of her sports bra up and the scribbled lines written between her shoulder blades slid into view.

“What is that?” Wade pushed his up the bridge of his nose and stepped in closer. He felt the heat from her body and smell her sweat, mixed with the jasmine scent from the mat cleaner spray, as he stepped in closer. Gradually he made out that the dark scribbles on her skin that looked like someone wrote the letter “u” in cursive over and over again was actually a line written in Fraktur. A word appeared to him from the among the nearly identical strokes, then another, enough to make out the letter to recognize the poem it came from. “Are you a fan of Kleist?”

“You can read it?”

“Yes. I’m a little rusty with Fraktur, but I can make out what it says. That’s a poem from Kleist. Why do you have it?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” Inge pulled her bra down. “I have several such tattoos. I was hoping you could help me figure out what it all means.”

Chapter 2 — Mysterious Writings

A deep rumbling from distant gears and engines reverberated from inside the dark concrete and iron tunnel to the right of where Inge stood. A strong gush of wind brought the smell of old rubber and water on concrete blew through the tunnel and blew Inge’s shoulder-length blond hair across her face. She fingered her cellphone and stared into the tunnel where two, glowing yellow lights peered out from the darkness. The rumbling kaçak iddaa grew ever louder, and the eyes grew larger. Then, the subway itself, white top with a rust-red bottom, burst into the light of the terminal. Air-breaks squeaked in protest as the subway halted in front of them and the doors slid open with a gentle “sh.”

“Steigen Sie nicht mehr ein” the soft voice over the intercom commanded, after Wade and Inge had gotten into the near empty car. Ah, they even have iambic pentameter in German, Wade smiled to himself at this recognition. A figure in a black trench coat held onto a rail near the opposite end of the car followed Wade with their eyes as he sat down in a seat facing the direction the train was going to go in. He hated to ride trains backwards.

Wade watched a bead of sweat slowly run down Inge’s check from where she sat across from him. What was he doing here? He wasn’t sure he wanted to be around someone who talked about fights and monsters long enough to find out, but he needed to find out what that language was. “So, if you didn’t choose that tattoo, how did you get them?” Wade asked when they were both sitting by themselves in the train car as it zoomed through the dark city.

“My father was a professor of translation and philosophy. He was trying to solve a puzzle by a German philosopher for years and he’d left all kinds of notes.” Inge took off her jacket and showed him the tattoos on the insides of her arms, even one on her collar bone. “He died under mysterious circumstances before he could solve the riddle.”

“What happened?”

“We’re not entirely certain. He was last seen leaving a department end-of year party. The next morning, he was found floating in a canal. He’d been getting weird calls for a while and started to think someone was following him. We thought he was just getting a little paranoid. But now…”

“Now, you think he might have been right?”

“Yes, exactly. When Amsterdam flooded after the big storm collapsed the remaining dams, I tried to salvage his notes, but I couldn’t carry everything, so I got them tattooed to remember him. I got most of them translated, like this one.” She pointed to a line along the bottom of her rib cage, Die Kuh ist iiber der moon gejumpt which was below a crescent moon. “They’re all dialects of German or languages related to German. This one’s in English,” she points to another line along her collarbone in English. “There’s even one in Dutch. But there are two that are in some other alphabet that I can’t read. I thought you might be able to help.”

“Are those people who were after your father after you?”

“I hadn’t heard anything since he died. Then, after I came here and started to make progress with the messages, I got a weird text messaging, saying they were after me too.”

“Did you go to the police?”

She shook her head. “I don’t have anything other than a strange voicemail from an unknown number. They have bigger problems to deal with anyway.”

“Hmm,” Wade surveyed the empty car and grimaced. It sounds dangerous.”

“Please. I’m all out of ideas. I’m so close to the answer. There’s just this last clue is left!”

“What’re you hoping to find?”

“Dad kept mentioning there was a treasure to be discovered. Some relic of the philosopher that people had been searching for. I don’t know what it is, but it must be valuable. He was very famous. Whatever it’s worth, I can split it with you!”

Wade considered her offer: rent was due next week. It would be nice not to cut down on food to pay for rent this month. “OK. I’ll help, but I can’t promise anything.”

“There are two of them.” Inge raised her shirt up to right above the bottom of her sports bra. Wade came in closer. Close enough to smell the vanilla from her body lotion, fresh from her shower. Hebrew letters scrawled over the image of a man flying upwards. He put his hands on her warm and firm waist. She wriggled under his cold hands. He leaned in even closer. The words were so small and in the dim light it was hard to make them out. The train lurched to a halt and Wade fell in between Inge’s breasts for a second, before she pushed him away. His hand slid down the middle of her taut stomach, over the little ripple where her bellybutton.

“Well,” Wade sat up to meet Inge’s searching gaze after she pulled her shirt back down over her trim stomach. “It resembles Hebrew, but ff the other sentences all are from languages related to German, then this might be Yiddish.”

“Can you read it?”

“Not off the top of my head. It’s been a while since I read any Yiddish that wasn’t transcribed. If I had a copy of the Yiddish alphabet I could do it.” Wade pulled out his phone. “Let me see…Ah, here! Yiddish-English dictionary! It’s a little too unclear for Google, I’ll do this by hand. Let me see the tattoo again.” Wade took a picture with his phone, after a few minutes he transcribed the phrase onto a piece of paper.

“What does it say?”

“Nothing, it’s just gibberish. kaçak bahis Maybe I mixed some letters up.”

“Wait! Isn’t Hebrew read the opposite that we read? Maybe you need to flip everything around.”

“That’s right! How could I forget?” Soon both Inge and Wade gazed down at the now right-facing: nisht geshtoygn un nisht gefloygn.

“Didn’t climb and didn’t fly. What does that mean? It’s a reference to something but what? And the symbol…Where have I seen that before?” Wade tapped the screen where the larger letter sat below the mysterious line.

The train lurched again, this time Inge fell against Wade. She braced herself with a hand against his firm chest. Wade enjoyed the view of Inge’s cleavage and black sports bra from the open gap at the top of her white blouse. Inge met his steamy gaze before sliding her eyes down to his chest while she ran her hand up and down between his pecks. “Vind je me leuk? Do you like me?” She asked again after a pause. The puffs of breath of his neck and the lick of her tongue on his ear sent shivers down Wade’s spine.

“Ja.”

She pecked him on the cheek, then on the lips. He kissed her back. She leaned up and nibbled on his ear. Wade turned his head towards the window: Clouds rammed up against and then spilled over the mountains outside the train window. Inge worked from his ear and down his neck.

“What language are you speaking?” Wade gasped at the sensation of Inge licked over his neck.

“Dutch,” she sighed into his ear and grazed her teach along her neck one centimeter at a time. She caressed his neck and along jaw line with her soft lips. The stubble of his chin scratched when he pressed his lips, a little dry, against hers. She let his tongue trace her lips twice before she opened her mouth and slid her tongue out to swirled around his.

The jerky movements of the dancing man on Inge’s bicep as she stroked his chest caught Wade’s eye. Where have I seen that before? Her waist writhing under his hands, screamed for his attention, but the image of the dancer kept gnawing at him. “Now I remember where I saw that symbol!” Wade forced himself to pull away from Inge. “I saw something similar from the Golden Roof remains at the museum!”

“The original is right by the next stop.”

Chapter 3 — Golden Roof

rA few side streets away from the center of the Old Town, the former glory of the old ruin, were still perceivable. The tiles that hadn’t fallen off were so rusted and covered with grim as to be almost unrecognizable, but a little bit of gold reflected off the tiles from the light of street lamps. The reliefs of the king, queen and their courtiers peaked out of their small wooden frames some cracked or warped. Other were so faded as to be almost invisible. But the shadows of the original scene remained.

“Hmm, well, that dancing guy resembles the one tattooed on your arm. What do the others talk about?”

“Hm, jumping, jumping, competition. Wait, what’s this?” She pointed to a line right below her belly button about how the king has to decide who to reward for bravery.

“This character stands for king in Hebrew. That symbol is also on the panel, right above the guy with the crown. A couple of your tattoos are also on the building here. I wonder…” Wade reached out and pressed on the symbol. The letter panel gave in when he pressed it. Surprised, Wade yanked his hand back, a bit of the gold-colored paint came off on his hands. The panel with the king’s crown extended outwards. Wade caught the piece of wood, before it hit the ground.

“The other lines are about how the king can’t make up his mind, so his advisor does, the advisor then kills the king and then becomes the king. So, the whole thing starts over. To break the cycle, you have to acknowledge a truth no one wants to and remake the symbol that was broken. When the symbol is remade, the original cry or echo comes forth and the cycle is broken.”

“If the king can’t make a decision…?” Wade mused.

“…then his advisor will.” Inge finished the sentence. “Look! Now the panel with this guy’s head is open!”

Indeed, a courtier now had a hole, the same size as the panel from the former king, where his face used to be. Careful not to break any of the other panels, Wade placed the panel with the king’s crown in its new place.

Nothing happened.

Wade met Inge’s raised eyebrow with a shrug of the shoulders. Nothing else about the monument had changed. Wade pushed the block with the crown in further, but it wouldn’t budge. “Wait! The symbol for king is a tattoo, so is the dancer on your bicep. Where is he?”

“Here!” Inge pointed below the king at a dancer arched backwards like he was about to limbo.

“Do you have any other tattoos that aren’t words?”

“No, just those two. Do you think…?” Inge pressed against the dancer’s head, which gave way to her push. A wooden latch fell behind the panel as the panel below the advisor swung open on rusty hinges to reveal a dark hole.

Inge shown a flashlight from her phone into the hole. A small golden apple glowed in the light. She reached inside and picked it up. It was about the size of her hand.

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