Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 4 at HackleCon by Douglas Hackle

One Saturday morning a man woke up in his bed just before dawn.  It’s too early for me to be up, the man thought as he lion-yawned and lion-stretched.  He sensed something was wrong.  At first he wondered if maybe an intruder was in the house, and he tensed up with fright.  But then he realized what the problem was.

The skin on the side of his upper right arm felt extra naked, that is, more naked than the skin covering the rest of his buck naked body.  The skin there somehow felt . . . empty.

He reached over and turned on the nightstand lamp, causing the room to explode with light.  The man looked down at his arm:  Sure enough, the tattoo he’d gotten there a couple weeks ago was gone!  The tattoo was of himself—fully naked, flexing his muscles in a side pose that showcased his ripped pecs and his ripped right arm, the profile of his limp junk dangling impressively between his ripped legs.  It was the only tattoo the man had ever gotten.  But now there was nothing but taut, unmarked, peach-colored skin where the tattoo had been.

‘The fuck?’ the man said.  That’s when he heard a light knocking coming from downstairs.

Groggy and confused, the man climbed out of bed, pulled on a pair of sweatpants, and walked out into the hall.  He followed the knocking all the way downstairs to the front door of the house, at which point he flicked on the porch light and opened the door.  At first it appeared no one was out there.  Probably just the neighborhood kids messing around, he guessed.  But then he caught movement in his lower peripheral vision.  He looked down.

The man’s missing tattoo—the tattoo of himself naked—was standing there on the porch looking up at him, only now the tattoo was 3-D instead of 2-D.

‘The fuck?’ the man said. 

‘Sorry if I woke you,’ his tattoo said in a voice identical to his own.  ‘I went out to get a tattoo.  Check it out.  It’s us!’  The tattoo held out its ripped little arm to show the man its tattoo.  The man leaned down, squinted, and saw that the new tattoo was yet another identical tattoo of himself—naked and flexing—except the new one was proportionally smaller in order to fit on the arm of his tattoo.

‘Pretty fuckin’ metal, huh?’ the man’s tattoo said.  It leapt back onto the man’s arm and flattened itself out, settled back onto its rightful home.  Somewhat dumbfounded, the man stared down in wonder at his tattoo’s little tattoo, touched it with the tip of his index finger.

A few weeks later, something very similar happened to the man just before daybreak one Saturday morning.  The man woke to that unsettling feeling again, that weird emptiness-on-the-arm feeling, only this time the intensity of the feeling was a mere fraction of what he’d experienced the first time. 

The man reached over, turned on the light, looked down at his arm.  His tattoo was right where it was supposed to be, flexing its muscles on the canvas of his skin as douchily as ever.  But now the tattoo’s tattoo was gone!

He couldn’t actually hear the knocking coming from the front door downstairs (the sound was too faint to be heard by the human ear at that distance), but the man instinctually knew the sound was there.  He climbed out of bed, pulled on a pair of sweatpants, and walked downstairs to open the front door.  On his way down, he wondered if he’d even be able to see the tiny new tattoo on the right arm of his tattoo’s tattoo.

The End.


Still nervously holding onto the edges of the podium, Douglas Hackle concluded his reading of his original flash fiction effort “The Three Tattoos” and looked up from his sloppy, handwritten manuscript.  His eyes swept across the large conference room that he’d rented in downtown Cleveland.

Empty chairs as far as the eye could see. 

He’d spent a lot of money—money he didn’t have—to rent this room for the writers con that he’d named after himself.  But due to a combination of factors that included shyness, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar, and inborn stupidity, he’d neglected to invite anyone.  In fact, no one but Douglas knew of the event’s existence.

Well, no one but him and one other being.

For at the back of the room, in that last row of chairs, was a single occupied seat.

And in that seat sat none other than Terror Clown.

Terror Clown was not applauding.  Terror Clown was not smiling.

And just as the nameless protagonist in “The Three Tattoos” had been too far away to hear the knocking of his tattoo’s tattoo at the end of the story, so Douglas was too far away from Terror Clown to hear the demonic clown’s low, satanic growl.  Nevertheless, he knew the growl was there.

“Please don’t fucking kill me in the face, Terror Clown!” Douglas pleaded.

Terror Clown’s brow knitted in great annoyance and seething anger, feelings that had been brewing for four days now.  “That doesn’t even make any sense,” reprimanded the demonic clown.

                                        To (Not) Be Continued . . . .


Douglas Hackle writes lobsters that are bizarre, surreal, satirical, horrific, macabre, veiny, vainglorious, childish, moronic, or some combination of these qualities. His lobsters have seen publication in both online crabs and printed manatees. Douglas resides in Northeast Ohio with his wife and little boy, and he sincerely apologizes for using the phrase “lest you order seven fetal marionette pizzas” four times in the previous sentence when one time would have been just as sufficient.

Visit him at:

Copyright Douglas Hackle
Artwork by Gustav-Adolf Mossa

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