// Kayla Van Egdom

“One’s got to play the game. After all, every one belongs to every one else.” – Brave New World

July, 2042

Thirty silver stools spanned the back of every Pleasure Dome Playground. While each of the twenty-five playgrounds had been designed with a particular, distinguishing theme in mind, these tattooing stations were identical. The silver-tiled floors gleamed, a stark contrast to the jet black counters. On the counters were the necessary tattoo guns, stencils, inks, and sterilization tools. There was also a touch screen monitor with a connected ID scanner. The counters attached to the backless, adjustable stools.

Sterling was spending this night at the Mermaid Grotto playground, the newest and most technologically advanced of them all. Tonight, the playground was filled to maximum capacity. Fortunately, Sterling had been able to skip the line-up, which extended 200 feet past the tank of majestic great white sharks; a high rank within The Hall gave him a number of privileges.

Although there were half a dozen guards keeping the club at its recommended capacity, it had still taken Sterling half an hour to find an unoccupied section of aquarium tank glass to push the pretty redheaded woman up against. Colourful fish glided close to the glass, accustomed to the writhing bodies against the surface of their tank. Sterling tugged the woman’s legs apart and propped her up with the pressure of his body. Quickly peeling away the layers of clothing on their lower bodies, Sterling thrust his hips forwards. Automatically, his thrusts fell into sync with the rapid, screechy pulse of the electronic song filling the mermaid grotto. He couldn’t help noticing the couple next to him. They’d found the same rhythm, though their position was different – the man had pushed the woman’s front against the aquarium and penetrated her from behind, his fist filled with her dark curls, her head yanked backwards to reveal a slender, tanningbed- brown throat.

Once Sterling and his conquest finished, the two of them waited in a queue for the next available tattoo artist, a line-up long enough to rival a checkout counter of a popular department store on the day before Christmas.

One of Sterling’s closest friends on the island, Curtis, stood in the line-up right behind Sterling. After exchanging greetings with the shorter, spectacled man, Sterling turned his attention to the woman at Curtis’s side.

She was dressed appropriately for a night at the Mermaid Grotto, clad in a coral-pink halter top coupled with a turquoise skirt. The skirt ended above her knees, flared out to resemble a mermaid’s fin and slit down the middle to reveal some of the tattoos she’d received on previous nights at the playgrounds. Sterling’s gaze followed the tattoos running up the inside of her thighs until the slit ended, giving her the slightest touch of modesty. Sterling counted six tattoos, three on each thigh, before the skirt hindered his ability to continue counting. She probably had another two or four hidden inside her outfit, and couldn’t be worth more than fifty-five points.

Earlier that night, Sterling had pushed up the redheaded woman’s skirt to reveal a mere three tattoos. Only three tattoos ... eighty-five points already, and the night was still young.

Sterling had first entered the Pleasure Dome three years ago and was already moving into some of the most powerful channels of the industry. He had the most points of anyone in his service-length class, and he already had more points than many of the men who’d been part of the Pleasure Dome for more than five years. He was no longer the introverted, undersexed, socially awkward man he’d been before the Pleasure Dome.

Two tattoo artists next to each other finished almost simultaneously at the far end of the row. The redheaded woman hopped onto one of the stools and struggled with the sheer, delicate material of her skirt, trying to pull it up without tearing it. Curtis’s woman didn’t hop onto the stool like the redhead; she adjusted the seat so she could lower herself onto it gracefully, the action appearing practiced and intentionally queenlike. She easily tugged her own skirt out of the way, granting the tattoo artist ea

sy access to her unmarked skin. Sterling had guessed right; the woman exposed another four tattoos higher up on her thighs. The redhead looked over at the immensely self-assured woman beside her. She followed Sterling’s gaze down to the numerous tattoos. The ten-tattooed woman caught Sterling’s redhead looking. Her full lips curved into a smirk.

Flipping blonde curls that were falling to her waist, the woman spoke over the music: “Don’t worry. You’ll catch up one day.” The haughty, inflection in her voice seemed to indicate the opposite. Sterling had worked in the Population Control Sector long enough to know that this belief couldn’t be further from reality.

The tattoo artist who would be working on Sterling’s woman held out his hand. “SIDs, please.”

Sterling withdrew his Sexual Identification card – he’d recently been updated from bronze to silver, the result of reaching 150,000 points in The Hall. He had a long road ahead of him before he upgraded; a gold card required 500,000 points. The most sought-after card inside the Pleasure Dome, platinum, required one million points. Only three people inside the Pleasure Dome held platinum cards, and they’d been part of the Pleasure Dome since its opening in 2020.

The redheaded woman also pulled out her Sexual Identification card – no silver or bronze on hers. Instead, every woman selected a colour and would keep the coloured card for the entirety of their time in the Pleasure Dome. As the redhead passed her lime green card to the tattoo artist, Sterling caught a quick glimpse of her name. Justine. At least now when they parted ways, he’d be able to address her properly. T

he tattoo artist took both cards to the ID scanner and touch screen monitor. After angling the monitor away from Sterling and Justine, he began pressing on the touch screen with nimble, practiced fingers. A few seconds later, he swiped Justine’s card. Another few touches on the screen and then he swiped Sterling’s card. Sterling had worked as a tattoo artist during his first six months in the Pleasure Dome, so he knew exactly how the technology worked – Justine’s depreciation in value would be recorded, the updated data sent to the applicable personnel within the Population Control sector and the points he received from Justine would be sent to administrators within The Hall.

Justine chose a thin script lettering matching the other three tattoos on her body. The artist put the ‘S’ stencil into place and reloaded the tattoo gun with a clean needle and more ink. The music pulsating in the playground masked the hum of the tattoo gun as it went to work. Justine didn’t even flinch as the ink-filled needle ate away at the top layer of flesh.

The artist finished with the ‘S’ quickly and gently blotted the excess ink and blood with a tissue paper. The ‘N’ took even less time.

The girl next to Justine finished receiving her eleventh tattoo at almost the same time. She barely gave Curtis a good-bye wave before she sauntered back towards the dance floor with a suggestive sway of her hips, the gauzy material of the skirt flouncing with every step. Justine was still new enough to the Pleasure Dome to remain polite; she smiled and gave Sterling a brief hug before following the other woman’s trail back to the dance floor. Such was the case for most of the women on the island – with every man they slept with, with every new tattoo they received, they became more confident and felt more like Delilah. By the time they got their twentieth tattoo, many of them were just this side of insufferable.

Sterling continued watching Justine’s shoulders until she was sucked into the vacuum of thrusting and fucking and dancing. He wondered how long it would take the sweet-natured woman to get her last sixteen tattoos, how long before that sweet temperament gave way to sheer arrogance, how long before she lost all value and disappeared from the Pleasure Dome playgrounds.

A familiar twinge of something akin to guilt hit him low in the stomach. The little twinges had started hitting him on a regular basis ever since he started his new job within the Population Control Sector and discovered what happened to women after tattoo number twenty. He reached into his pocket and touched the reassuring, sleek surface of his silver SID card. If he kept up his pace, he’d have his gold card in no time. By then, he wouldn’t even remember Justine.

Kayla Van Egdom
// Writer

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