Penance – A Flash Fiction Story by Calum Kerr

He works in an office. He hates it. He hates everything about being there, including the people. He makes no secret of it. They don’t much care for him either. He returns home to his flat in the evening. He steps in through the door and takes off his jacket, his tie, his shirt, his shoes, his trousers, his socks and his boxers. He pushes his shoes to one side with his foot, then he hangs up the suit and the tie, and dumps the rest in the basket. Then he walks through to his bedroom. He sits cross-legged at the top of his bed and picks up the box which lives on his bedside table. He places it between his legs, wiggling to accommodate it between ankle and cock. Then he tilts back the lid and reaches inside. He takes out the bottle of thick black ink, and the needle on a stick. He unscrews the top of the bottle and lays it upside-down on the lid of the box. There are rings of ink where he has done this before. He dips the needle into the ink and then takes it out again. It drips as though bleeding ichor. He counts to three under his breath, waiting for the last black bead to drop back into the bottle, and then he takes the needle and feeds it into the skin of his thigh, deep enough to stain, then withdraws it, ready to dip again. Stab by stab, dot by dot, he inks a name into his flesh. It is the name of someone he has upset, someone he has hurt, someone he has wronged. It might have been something he said or did today, it might have been thirty years ago. He doesn’t care. It is the name which needs to come next, the one which fits in the gap between all the other names that cover his body. It is the name for today.

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