‘Reach inside yourself,’ the monk chanted slowly, his soothing tones drifting effortlessly through the temple. ‘Find your inner calm.’
‘Ow! Son of a—’
I gritted my teeth in pain as the tattoo needle stabbed into my skin again and again, ignoring the withering looks from the disciples all around me.
‘Find your inner calm, friend,’ the monk at the head of the temple said, kindly.
‘Easy for you to say,’ I glared. ‘You’re not getting tattooed by a sadist!’
The acolyte standing over my back with the traditional tattooist needles didn’t say anything to that, but I’m sure his inner serenity was rolling its eyes at me.
‘Pray, friend,’ the monk stood up and walked towards me on bare feet. ‘Why did you come to our holy place, if not for this ritual?’
‘I didn’t know it was going to hurt so much,’ I complained.
‘Pain is merely the last vestige of the inner shadow, wrenching itself free from your body,’ the monk bowed his head and clasped his hands together.
‘No, pain is the nerves in my skin telling me I’m being butchered by an amateur!’
The monk cracked an eye open and raised an eyebrow at me.
‘I assure you, Zhong is one of our very best. He has, in fact, tattooed me on several occasions.’
‘An honour,’ Zhong bowed his head at the monk, who reciprocated the respectful gesture.
‘Well, he’s not as good as any of the tattooists who design inks in Brisbane that I’ve been to,’ I frowned, getting to my feet. ‘They’ve never made me hurt so much I’ve seen God.’
A low rumbling went throughout the room. Even the ever-composed monk widened his eyes slightly.
‘What?’ I frowned. ‘I’m not allowed to leave.’
‘Please, leave if you feel you must,’ the monk gestured for the door. ‘But before you do… would you share more of your holy experience?’
‘My holy what?’ I looked around, confused. ‘Oh, that, it was just an express—’
‘What does the face of God look like?’ a woman next to me asked, eyes wide.