(A story by Cheri Brown for the 2016 Life In A Kilt Podcast “Kilt of Horrors” episode.)

Lily-Rose Wither always hated her name.

She felt like she should have been named “spinach” or “lettuce”. With a last name like “Wither”, why would you choose the name of a flower? At least wilted spinach made a good salad. A wilted or “Withered” flower was only good for compost… Sometimes Lily felt like she was only good for compost.

Until Lily was 18, that is. She decided, at her age of consent, she would get a tattoo. She had a friend draw a lily and a rose, intertwined. It WAS an obvious choice, but she thought it was better than getting her boyfriend’s name tattooed somewhere on her body. She was a least adult enough to know he wouldn’t be in her life forever. But he was better than the compost heap for now.

Lily walked into the tattoo parlor feeling confident. Ok, maybe a little scared, but only because she didn’t know anyone else with a tattoo. She had no first-hand knowledge of the experience. No one to tell her if it would hurt, or be worth it… When she walked in, she was mostly ignored. The people behind the counter didn’t even register that someone had walked in. They were too busy gossiping about a party the night before. They couldn’t have been much older than Lily, but they were already painted and pierced in a way that the upper class would find offensive.

There were a few patrons there as well. They all looked at Lily at the exact moment she felt she could no longer back out. She made her way to the counter and asked to speak to someone about some “body art”. She had heard it put that way before and wanted to sound “experienced”. A very disinterested young man rolled his eyes and told her he would be back in a minute, then disappeared through a door to who knows where.

When he returned, he was accompanied by an older woman. At least in her fifties, which to Lily seemed ancient. But the woman seemed kind and Lily was glad to not be talking to a man of that age. It would feel too much like talking to Grampa.
The woman introduced herself as Vera. Vera was black haired and of light complexion. She was finely, if not a little too prolifically, thought Lily, painted. Painted from fingertip to shoulder with the most wonderful faces. Faces of unnamed people. People Vera may no longer know the names of, if she ever really had. Lily examined them, a little too closely, for some time, before she finally spoke up.

“Hi. … I’m Lilly. I had a friend draw something for me. Do you think I can get it …. Um…. Tattooed on me?”

Vera said, “Well, I should hope so. I also hope it’s well drawn. I really don’t like putting poorly drawn art on pretty young ladies.” She smiled a wide and comforting smile, making Lily feel at ease and a lot more willing to permanently transform her very own skin.

Several minutes later, Vera was prepping Lily’s skin for the procedure. “Tattooing is an art, as well as a responsibility’” explained Vera. “We always take the best precautions to avoid infection and to make the experience a pleasant one.” She smiled wide and openly, making Lily feel very comfortable.

After the experience, painful as it was, Lily was thrilled with the results. The tattoo was clear, concise and exactly what she wanted. Lily felt very free…. Adult…. Invigorated. But she didn’t know what to do with those feelings. She hugged Vera, told her she hoped very much to stay in touch, and left; excited to show off her new “body art”.

In the three years that passed, Lily became not only more accepting of her name, but very happy that she had a fun way to make people guess it. “Let me show you a picture”… was all she had to say when someone asked her name. A lot happens in three years and Lily felt much less like wilted compost and much more like a beautiful, confidant young lady… albeit a rather rowdy one.

Lily enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new things every chance she got. One of her favorite things was to follow the Scottish punk bands around her region. She liked the men in their kilts and she liked the other women that liked men in their kilts.

One night, she ran into an old friend, Beth, at a pub where a kilted punk band was playing near her childhood home. The girls were excited to see each other and decided to drive up to the neighborhood they had grown up in.

It was still pretty early and when they passed the tattoo parlor, all the lights were on inside. Lilly had the great idea of getting new tattoos to commemorate their renewed friendship. When they walked in, however, the place felt very dirty. It was much different than Lily remembered. As distant as the people seemed back then, the place itself had been very cozy… As had Vera.

Lily asked to speak to the woman who had given her the only tattoo she had. “No one called Vera works here. No one named Vera has ever worked here.” As she left, Lily hoped she had just had the name wrong, but really didn’t think it was possible.

Lily and Beth decided to head back to the bar but on the way there, Lily’s car started to act funny. Sputtering and stalling out. Once it finally died, they began walking, not wanting to stay on the side of the road in the dark. Especially with nothing to drink. They were capable young ladies and they would get back to the bar or back to town one way or another.

After a good 20 minutes of walking along the dark 2 lane highway, a car slowed and finally stopped in front of them. Beth was cautious, but Lily Rose knew they would be ok if they just kept their gumption up. They jogged up to the old four-door and saw it was driven by an older lady. The lady was in her 70’s at least. She was very kind and offered the girls a ride. “How about I get you two home?”

Beth’s response was “How about you just get us to a phone and we go from there?”

They were back in town within minutes, but the tattoo parlor was the only place on the street with lights still on. They parked and the girls followed the elderly lady in, thinking they would make a phone call and be on their way. When they walked in, the place had transformed once again, into a grotesque place of horror and disgust.

The girls were instantly considered fodder for the taking by the repugnant men and women who were in attendance. The girls were groped and grabbed at. Their clothes were ripped, their skin scratched. As they turned to run, the elderly woman blocked their path. “You’re here now and safe from the rot of the compost. Why not stay?”

Beth managed to get free and flee through the door, but Lily was held fast. The elderly woman was much stronger than she appeared. She and Lily struggled as the rest of the room descended upon them.

Lily felt as though she were being assaulted at every angle, touched by people she couldn’t even see, her skin was on fire. She started to understand that she was being tattooed on every inch of her bare skin. She began to see the tattoos appear faster than possible. They were all tattoos of flowers. Lilies, poppies, petunias, snapdragons, azaleas, and roses….

The last image in Lily’s life was that of an arm. An arm tattooing the skin on her neck. The tattoo was painful and bloody. The arm in control of the tattoo gun was covered in faces. One of them was Lily’s…

© Cheri Brown. All Rights Reserved.