The Devil On Your Shoulder / by AB Mann

Harbinger hadn't intended on dismantling his room with the powder blue walls that look sea dark under half moon's light. He didn't intend on tipping over furniture or ripping pages out of journals or throwing clothes in piles around the floor. Harbinger hadn't intended on giving into entropy so thorough that it would manifest itself so plainly in his surroundings.

He had only expected the entropy to stay contained in his head where it could not affect others. Such is the difficulty with chaos magic, it has a mind of its own. And if that mind resides in your own mind, it cannot help but insinuate itself into your own neurons, your synapses, your ion stream and disrupt everything to a microscopic level. One improperly formed vesicle and the whole system comes crashing down.

It's the smallest things like these that manifest problems like your furniture turned on end. And now he has to clean it up.

"Just lie down. This is as it would be, Harbinger; do not worry."

Entropic voice. Harbinger can feel it like it is sitting there on his shoulder. It's breath is pungent with sea salt and brine and it seeps into his ear bones, up into his mind, leaving little salt trails between axons.

Harbinger doesn't want to sit down. Harbinger wants to clean but his limbs are heavy, the effort is hard like walking against the current.

"It's ok, child." The voice washes over him. The sea brine voice holds him up, buoyant, and carries him back to his bed. The mattress lies askew, sheets half off and fabric threadbare showing portals to cold, hard metal."Lie down. It's all you need with such heavy legs. I can hold them up for you"

Harbinger thinks about standing, about walking forward, showing effort.

He lies down on the askance mattress, floating uncomfortably on an a pool of springs and broken thread. In the half moon light, the trees outside blow tentacular shadows over him, the floor, the walls. They move with an eerie calm, like water at the edge of the ocean waves ebbing and condensing into a placid, mirrored sheet.

"Look into the ocean, Harbinger. Even it grows calm. Let that ease take you." Harbinger closes his eyes and feels the voice's weight on his shoulder. His body, chilled from the bare metal, gives way to the cold wash of the words and he looks out over the vast waterscape. He can feel the cold about him, see the waters still and he lies back into it The brine hardens around him and all is unmoving under a vast, tenebrous sky.


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The idea for this tattoo is rooted in the above vignette taken from a particularly bad moment in my teenage depression. The devil on my shoulder always felt like a rising tide in a dark, eerily calm ocean who's vastness easily outstretched my understanding of it. It was omni-present and wrapped around me in a cold numbness.

Since getting my neurotransmitters in order, a year ago I realized that the voice of my first devils had changed in character. While still there, the alacrity with which it could take hod and carry me out to see was diminished. It was both more distinct among all the junk that still floats on my head but has a character now that better enables me to pick it out.

This is good as it it shifts the balancer of power. Or at least gives me a two-masted schooner rather than a dingy with a hole in the hull.

Ridiculous as to sounds to the neuro-typical, I missed the voice. Devastating though it was, it was always there and absolutely a part of who I was and who I have become despite its best intentions to let me drown in its brine. I felt the need to enshrine it.. maybe entomb it so that I could place a certain kind of physical barrier between us.

The best way I can give flesh to the existential dread and horror that is living with depression is the selfsame worry created by HP Lovecraft in his Cthulhu Mythos. His prose as always created in me the right sort of melancholy that gives me pause to this about me, my place in the world, and the evil out there that would consume me whole without an inline of remorse.

But. But it is not in the typical manner that I see it, both that horror and my own l'il voices. Now, the character has become absurd. Its words identical to those from my childhood but the true character revealed - I no longer give the voice credence beyond a short acknowledgment of their existence and a dismiss pat on the head.

The resulting image can best be described as "Ralph Steadman draws Cthulhu" which brings with it the gonzo view of the world. Gonzo, a writing style to which I aspire, holds the world at arms length and describes it with a certain drugged feel that represents well how I intellectualize when store-bought neurotransmitters do, even if I don't think they actually result in a manifested self-blind madness in a person.

No, the devil on my shoulder is both absurd and close. In that it will aways be there but its so much easier to let it lie.

The image is Cthulhu crawling out of some dark blackness inside of me and sitting atop my shoulder with tentacles wrapping and crazy eyes looking out. The first session was al the line work for him, the portal, and the eldritch symbols that bear him forth. The red will be filled in as will his head and the portal in a subsequent session. Right now the art feels right and I'm looking forward to the finish.

I'll leave with one last observation I had the day after session one. The tattoo is huge. I takes up my whole left shoulder, arm, and a good piece of my back.

I did not expect it to be so big but that, too, is an apt metaphor for the out-sized effects our darkest voices can have over us.

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