A book cover, showing a man wearing a hoodie. The title is
Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
7 min read


  • Fiction


  • Ghost story
  • Horror
Content warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Self-harm, Death, Rape, Suicide Attempts, Alcohol Abuse/Alcoholism, Trauma

This is a ghost story. This means it’s a story about bitterness, regret and loss. A story about how sometimes our mistakes come back to haunt us.

This is chapter 10 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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Previous Chapter


I needed to keep going. The two runes I had now applied gave me a measure of safety, but it was only partial. I was OK as long as I stayed awake, but the moment I fell asleep I’d be fucked. Neither of the two runes I now wore would protect me then.

The last ritual… it was going to be the hardest one by far. Pulling my own nail would feel easy by comparison, but I was committed now. I had no choice. The only way out was through.

I put a pair of pruning shears within easy reach and put my left hand on the table. If I stopped to think I’d lose my nerve, so I pushed on. I took the exacto blade and made a vertical cut on my left pinky finger.

Thick blood welled up as the blade bit into my skin, and the pain made me wince. Then, I made two horizontal cuts at the ends of the original cut, forming a big “I” shape.

The pain rose sharply, making it hard to think straight. My thumb still felt like it was on fire, and these new cuts added extra layers of pain. I felt my gorge rise, and I had to stop to take a few deep breaths. Steady, I told myself. You can do it. You can do this… there was no fucking way I could do this.

I really couldn’t do it. I called myself a coward, a pussy, a sorry excuse for a man. I called myself every name in the book, but it was no use. I broke down sobbing. I didn’t want to die. After everything that had happened, after all the shit I’d done, everything I had gone through. It couldn’t end like this. It wasn’t fucking fair. I deserved a fucking break. I deserved a goddamn drink.

RuneMaster could go fuck himself with a cactus for all I cared. There was no way I was going to do this sober. It was a bunch of bullshit. I bet none of these assholes did anything even close to this, without a little something to help them numb the pain. I bet they were laughing their asses off at me suffering here, trying to do their fucking ritual without so much as a shot of whiskey to help me get through it.

I made up my mind. One drink would help me steady myself and take the edge off the pain. I could handle my alcohol well enough that it wouldn’t impair me, so it should not have any negative impact on the ritual. Those guys might not be able to control themselves after a single drink, I sure as fuck could.

I poured myself a small shot. Not a lot, just enough to take the edge off. A deep warmth spread through me, and I sighed as some of the tension drained from my system. That really, really, hit the spot.

I grabbed the blade again and deepened the vertical cut, pushing hard until I felt the tip of the blade scraping along the bone. Good. Painful as all fuck, but good. Sweat was running freely down my face, getting into my eyes. I wiped it away with the back of my right hand. So far for the “easy” part.

The cut was bleeding so heavily that it made it hard to see what I was doing. I’d prepared for some bleeding, but the alcohol was making it worse. Good thing I knew how to fix that. I took a zip tie and put it around my pinky finger, hesitating for a moment. Once I tightened this, there was no going back. Even if I changed my mind half-way through, I wouldn’t be able to get this thing off again. Not without doing some major damage.

Before I had the opportunity to lose my nerve, I pulled it tight. The immediate effect of the makeshift tourniquet was an even bigger flow of blood, but as I tightened it more the flow stopped. I wiped the excess blood away and got back to my grim task.

This second part would be worse. I dug my fingertip into the wound and pulled, opening it wider. Tears streamed down my cheeks, snot ran from my nose, and I realised that the whimper I kept hearing was me. The pain was excruciating, cutting straight through the whiskey. I cursed RuneMaster for coming up with this bullshit, I cursed John for putting me in this situation, I cursed Suzie, and I cursed the whole fucking world in general. I should not need to do any of this, just to have some fucking peace.

All this pulling had exposed the bone, and the sight nearly made me throw up. My right hand was shaking uncontrollably as I took ul the blade again.

This third rune was called “Eihaz”, and apparently it was tied to the world Tree or some shit like that. The short version of it was that the only way to bind this rune was to carve it into bone. In this case my bone. I needed to carve the rune into it and wear it in the pouch around my neck, together with the nail.

There are precious few bones in your body that you can lose without causing permanent disability, so I’d chosen the one that I figured would have the least impact: the middle bone of my left pinky finger. I had originally hoped that I would be able to use just the tip of my pinky, but the bone was too small and fine to carve the rune into. That meant I was forced to use the middle knuckle instead.

I had seriously considered only doing the first half. Carve the rune into the bone, bandage it up, and leave it at that. That most certainly covered the “pain” portion of the requirements.

Unfortunately, RuneMaster had been very clear on this part. It wasn’t just about the pain. There needed to be a sacrifice. Protection did not come cheap, and if I was unwilling to hold up my end, the Tree would not hold up its end either.

I managed to steady my right hand enough to make the two horizontal strokes that completed the mark. I sat down hard on the floor, panting. I had no idea how I was going to complete this one. Scratching that rune into the bone had taken close to everything I had, and I was only halfway done. The last and hardest part was still to come. The offering. The sacrifice. I would need to cut off most of my finger and add it to the pouch. Only then would I be able to sleep safely again. I was so close, yet so far away.

I grabbed the shears. My heart was racing, and my throat felt like I’d been gargling sand. Every instinct in my body protested. The lizard part of my brain baulked at the very idea of cutting off a piece of myself, of causing permanent damage in that way. I would have to override that if I wanted to live.

I put the shears underneath the knuckle, right at the joint, and I gathered all my courage. My hand wouldn’t stop shaking, and as hard as I tried to control my breathing, I was panting like I’d run a mile. I squeezed the shears, they bit into the skin… and that was as far as I got.

I had made it to this point, but actually cutting off a piece of me, that was a whole different level of crazy. I needed all the steadying I could get. I barely felt that first shot anymore. It had dulled the ache in the thumb where I’d lost the nail and fortified me a little, but this was as far as it would take me. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say… so I poured myself a second shot, a much more liberal one this time. There is a reason they call whiskey the Water of Life. Golden warmth spread from my chest outwards, loosening muscles that I hadn’t even realised I’d been clenching. My nerves quieted down, and I could feel my courage rise. I’d fucking show them what I was made of.

The pain in my hand was still there, constantly taking up space in my mind. I grabbed a couple of ibuprofen capsules and tried to swallow them dry. My throat was parched, so I nearly choked on them. I shrugged and poured myself a third shot to wash them down with. I could handle it.

I gave it a few minutes, then I stood up and grabbed the shears, along with the sheet with instructions. No time like the present. One more step, and this nightmare would be over for good. I wanted to put all this behind me and get on with my fucking life. Just one little snip, that was all it took. It was going to suck, but I’d been through worse lately. I could do this.

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