They'd shown up when he was twelve years old. The drawings, done in marker that he couldn't possibly wash off, no matter how hard he tried. Jake didn't want a soulmate. His mum didn't have one so he didn't want one either. He didn't care that blanks didn't get the good jobs and that people didn't like them, he didn't care because it would mean he was like his mother. So he tried and tried and tried to get the neon pink house with the bright green grass and yellow windows off of his arm, but no amount of soap could scrub it away. He knew that this was what other people considered "normal" but to him it was anything but. He'd rather be blank. Soulless, as some people put it. Jake had a habit of punching those people. The drawings kept showing up, none as childish as the first one. Instead, they were elegant swirls and patters up and down his arms. On his thighs, his hands, his knees, one time even on his face. He cursed his soulmate for that one.
When he was fourteen, another person showed up with math formulas carefully written in a neat handwriting curling around the patters, as if they were afraid of crossing them. This person was math formulas and history facts and practicing mandarin, and Jake was sure it was someone else, because he'd seen both happen at the same time. Seen the small "sorry" when the writing had accidentally run into a drawing. Not only was he not blank, he had two soulmates. His mum was happy for him, but he could see something in her eyes that seemed off.
At sixteen, the drawings and facts were joined by messy personal notes. Things to remember, like buying birthday presents and going to concerts. Sometimes it was chord progressions or lyrics that Jake couldn't find online. The new person seemed to get along well with the first. The drawer had started adding on to the lyrics sometimes, and the maths person corrected a faulty chord in a sequence, and shit, Jake was actually considering joining them. The three of them had taken to talking on their forearms in different colours. The first one, who said his name was Sam, always used a pink gel pen. Andy used a simple blue pen and Felix wrote in black. Jake had sat on his bed many times, a red pen hovering over his skin as it itched to make contact, to reach out, to let them know he was there.
He managed to fight the urge until he was eighteen years old and he'd finished high school. The other three were going to the same university he was. He knew that because they were the reason he'd enrolled there too. He was gonna be paying off his debts for the rest of his life, but it was worth it. "I'm also going." Was what he wrote before flinging his pen across the room and letting sleep take over. He could feel their ink on his skin as they freaked out, but he didn't care much anymore. Let them freak out, it was their turn.
He was twenty when he finally met them. He'd seen them around campus, but he wasn't ready yet. Hadn't been ready. He was meeting them, and nothing could stop him anymore.