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21 Tattoos is a tale of inner struggle. Dr. Derek Hollinger, a celebrated plastic surgeon, struggles with his moral ambiguity. With no life outside of his medical practice, he is withdrawn from social life and unable to make lasting connections. His past as a child, being savagely beaten by a group of thugs and left for dead in the street, haunts him.
As he grows older, his moral orientation becomes more twisted. He distances himself from the outside world and devotes himself to his profession at the cost of his personal life. His only interactions are with his employees and patients; he wants nothing to do with having personal relationships. Trusting others is difficult for him and he has no desire to try again after being hurt both physically and emotionally in the past.
The childhood brutal attack has left him emotionally stunted, and at the age of thirty-nine, he finds himself coping with the emotional capacity of a fourteen-year-old boy. Time has not healed all wounds; instead, he found his deepest fears and insecurities etched onto his skin for the world to see.
His solitary world where he lives in comfortable wealth includes all the trappings of success- a lavish car and a luxurious penthouse to name a few. The safe environment he has created for himself through his celebrity status as a successful doctor is unexpectedly shattered. He does not have any close friends or even an intimate partner—he had never felt the need for either. Until now.
Dr. Derek Hollinger has now found himself on an unexpected personal journey when his body is completely covered in tattoos; he must not only figure out how they came to be but what they mean and how to get rid of them.
His once flawless life, he believes maybe shattered because of the rantings of a mysterious old woman, who caused him to wake up completely covered in tattoos. Now he must find a way to erase these markings before he loses everything.
This could lead to severe consequences. People are not ready to accept him. He now contradicts a widely accepted belief system. He is now being punished for being different, not part of the main construct of what a prominent plastic surgeon should look like.
Covered head to toe in tattoos, he is looking for a common understanding and cohesiveness that might give him a sense of a new identity. As an individual who stands out, he is looking to belong but finds himself excluded from the mainstream. In complete opposition to his previous existence, he now violates the social boundaries that society has constructed.
He sets out to uncover the truth by piecing together his past and searching for the elderly woman who might be a shaman. He connects the event of their brief encounter to when the markings appeared. He had assumed the tattoos on his body were the result of a curse, but he is beginning to see they symbolize something much deeper.