It's time. I'm getting the Planescape tattoo.
For a long time, I've been impressed with the tattoos on Platter's Planescape site. After years of wondering if I really want that tattoo, I've decided that waiting almost a decade to decide is probably long enough. I do want it. I've found a beautiful version of the artwork, here:
About the tattoo
The graphic is called the Symbol of Torment. You might think to yourself, "What an unlovely thing to get tattooed onto your skin." However, it's not unlovely, at all. The backstory is tremendous, and those who know it will admit that it can be life-changing to experience it.
The quick of the story is this. Think of it as a fairy tale or parable. Long ago, there was a man who was the most vile, selfish, power-hungry man in all of history. He was not merely a jerk. He killed thousands, broke apart families, used women and discarded them, and did it all in the most horrific ways possible. When he realized that he had become the most evil man in history, he knew that his afterlife would be one of utter torment. So he found a witch, and asked her to make him immortal. The witch loved the man dearly, for although he was cruel, he was handsome beyond compare. And so even though the witch did not know how true immortality worked, she found a way to cheat death, and used a ritual to place that power within the man.
Over the millennia that followed, the man died thousands of times. Every time that his body sustained enough damage to kill him, he found himself awake, hours later, with no memory of what had gone before. Soon, he forgot his own identity. In his many lifetimes, he was a lunatic, a saint, a cheat, a hedonist, and a killer. He compounded the mistakes of his first life, so that soon even the gods took notice of his villainous immortality. And they made something happen. He began to remember.
He woke up in a morgue, and he could still picture his death from mere hours before. He set out to learn who he was, and why he had been damned with undeath. Over many lifetimes, he retraced his steps though history. He witnessed the effects of his actions -- entire family lines wiped out, the course of nations changed. He met the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of those he had murdered. He began to try to set things right. He apologized to those he met. He did good deeds for those who needed it. And then he met the one woman he never expected. He found the witch.
The witch made a terrible confession. To grant the man immortality, she had stolen the souls of the living. Every time he had awakened from death, someone else had been killed in his place. Even as he spent lifetimes trying to make things right, he was killing the innocent with his mere existence. Finally, he understood the depth of his sin. He understood how deeply he had unraveled the weave of life, and he knew that at long as he struggled against the justice he deserved, the universe would remain horribly out of balance. Overwhelmed with regret, he knew it was time to face that which he feared the most. It was time to accept his fate -- the only righteous and true end to a fearsome unlife.
And so, together he and the witch conspired to reunite the man with his mortality. Willingly, he accepted his mortality and the consequences of his decisions. Finally ready to face the afterlife like a man, he walked into the Grey Wastes and was seen no more. As his life ended, other lives began to flourish.
And that is the story told upon the Symbol of Torment. The final rune, the small twist that looks something like a double helix, is the Symbol of Hope. As one line fades into oblivion, another one grows strong, mortality and humanity intertwined, the balance restored.
Where do we go from here?
Now my job is twofold. First, I need to find the best tattoo artist in northern California. Second, I need to start learning about how to care for tattoos, as I intend mine to have color, and I do not want the color to fade or bleed. If you have any suggestions, let me know.