I tried to free myself, but Aki just tightened his grip, dragged me over to a table in the corner, and forced me into a chair. Hiromi left the room. She returned carrying a long wooden box with strange swirling symbols burned into the lid. Not knowing what to expect escalated my anxiety. I pushed back my seat and stood up. Aki forced me to sit back down and pushed my chair so far up to the table that I could barely breathe.
Hiromi sat down next to me, on the left side of the table. Aki reached down, pulled up my left sleeve and directed me to stretch out my arm. I complied, until he moved to the opposite end of the short table. Hiromi lifted the lid and busied herself spreading out a silky black strip of material embroidered with gold mandalas. She appeared to be chanting something under her breath, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
She set out small plastic squeeze bottles of what appeared to be murky ink. Hiromi uncapped one. I calmed down, seeing that it was tipped with a nozzle rather than a needle, but still refused to extend my arm again. Aki stood, reached across the table and grabbed my arm. When I tried to pull it free, he yanked on it hard stretched it so forcefully that I cried out and submitted to having it extended. His pleasant smile became a sneer. Hiromi watched our power struggle with amusement. I looked on helplessly, as she began applying the dark liquid to my skin.
“What is that stuff,” I asked suspiciously.
Hiromi didn’t appear to hear me. She was murmuring something under her breath as she squeezed the bottle, painting intricate symbols onto the underside of my forearm. It didn’t hurt, so I relaxed. Maybe she would let me go home, if I let her finish. Then, I could just wash it off. Plum’s warning came back to me. She had called Hiromi a sigil witch. I had no idea what that meant and realized belatedly that I should have asked, instead of worrying that Plum would make fun of my ignorance.
Before long, the underside of my forearm was covered with an elaborate pattern. Forgetting my earlier trepidation, I was admiring her handiwork when my arm began to tingle. It started out as a faint sensation, which gradually increased in intensity until it stung. I tried to reach over with my right hand wipe it off, but Aki grabbed my hand and pinned it to the table. Hiromi paused with the nozzle against my skin, giggling unpleasantly.
“We can’t have you smearing the sigils, before they’re dry,” she teased.
“What is this stuff?”
“Don’t worry Patricia. It’s just henna. It’ll wear off in a week…three months tops.”
“Three months! Get it off of me Hiromi! I don’t want to walk around with a henna tattoo for three months.”
“Oh don’t worry Patricia, you won’t be around that long,” she said cryptically.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Hiromi leaned forward, intently gazing into my eyes, hatred blazing out at me. I felt her make one last stroke against my skin, as she snarled “excitant!” The sting became a red hot burning sensation racing up my arm. It burned my shoulder and shot up my neck. Like a lit fuse on a stick of dynamite, there was an explosion of white hot pain in my head and then everything went black.