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

Categories

  • Fiction

Tags

  • 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 11 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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11

I put the instructions within easy reach and picked up the shears. I’d tested them on a thick branch earlier, and they had cut cleanly through. My finger really shouldn’t pose much of a challenge.

I could properly feel the effects of the whiskey now. I wasn’t drunk or even tipsy, but I did have a noticeable buzz going. My hands felt steady now, so if I didn’t think too hard, I’d probably be able to pull this off.

I felt John’s eyes on me before I saw him. He was on the other end of the room, staying well outside the range of the runes. The look he gave me was pure anger and disgust. He looked me in the eye, slowly shook his head, and then blinked out of existence. One moment he was there, the next he was gone. I’d had enough of his damn head tricks, I was doing this. One snip, and I’d be rid of him forever and not a moment too soon.

I became aware of a weird tingling sensation in my arms. It felt like pins and needles, and my muscles started to twitch involuntarily. Shit. This could not be good.

The sensation deepened, and both the paper and shears dropped from my hands. I was unable to hold on to them. I saw my hands opening and closing in front of me without me doing it. John. I strained to regain control, willing my hands to ball into fists. John fought me, and I stood there frozen, locked in an internal battle for who got to be in the driver’s seat.

A thick sheen of sweat formed on my forehead, and I felt a vein pulse as if I was trying to lift something way too heavy. I fought with all my might to resist, but I could tell that John was gaining ground. My hands flexed a few times, and then suddenly, both hands moved. I found myself staring at two raised middle fingers. Yeah, fuck you too, John.

The pins and needles sensation subsided, but I found that I had zero control over my arms. My legs were still mine, but my upper torso felt like an alien thing. I could feel myself moving, but I had no control at all.

I watched helplessly as my hands unbuckled my belt and pulled it from my pants. I had an idea what was coming, and it wasn’t good. Panic rushed through my brain, making it hard to think. Meanwhile, my hands buckled the belt again so that it formed a loop, and they were now raising that loop over my head. I tried to duck my head away, but pain shot through me as my left hand roughly grabbed my hair and yanked my head back. At the same time, my right hand shook the belt loose, and put it around my neck.

The inside of the belt was rough, untreated leather. When John looped it again and pulled it tight, the friction took off a good portion of skin. I felt blood dripping down my neck onto my chest. It made me cry out in pain, but I noticed that for a moment, John’s control seemed to falter. It only lasted an instant, and then it was back again. Immediately, the belt pulled tighter around my neck.

Breathing became impossible, and I felt the pressure in my head rise as the circulation was cut off. I was struggling so hard that it took only a few seconds for dark spots to start to appear in my vision.

A thought occurred to me. Just now, when he pulled the belt and the inside had scraped open my skin. His control had wavered for a second. Could it have been the pain?

Without taking time to think, I brought my right foot down hard, on the toes of my left foot. For a moment, I saw stars between the black spots. The pressure on the belt subsided for a merciful half second, just enough for me to get a gulp of air inside my lungs and dose of fresh blood to my brain, before it tightened once again.

My left arm felt different… I tested it, and yes! I had control! It wasn’t much, but it was something. My right hand was still fully John’s, and he kept pulling with all his (my!) might.

Trying to make the most of what little control I had, I used my left hand to grab my right wrist. I tried to pull it close to my body, hoping to release some of the tension on my neck. It was no use. John made me hold my arm out wide, and I couldn’t get any leverage on it.

My vision was rapidly growing darker again. Maybe John’s control would weaken if I lost consciousness, but I didn’t want to bet on that. The moment I blacked out, he’d probably get full control. There was no telling where I’d wake up then. If I’d wake up at all.

I needed to act now. Either, I completed the ritual in the next minute, or I’d be dead meat.

I felt around for the shears with my left hand, hoping that John would be too focused on keeping the belt tightened to try and stop me.

After what seemed like minutes, but was probably just a few seconds, my fingers closed on the cold metal. I knew I was going to have exactly one shot at this.

For a moment, I considered stabbing myself with the shears in a bid for more control, but I had no guarantee it would work. I needed to complete the ritual. That was my best bet. But how? I had thought through the steps of this ritual, but I had never considered not having the use of my right hand.

My eyes raced around the room, looking for something that could help. My place was a fucking dump, and a lot of loose crap was cluttered about. None of it would help… except… an idea formed in my head. It was a long shot, but it might work.

I thanked providence that I’d opted for the type of shears that were kept open by a spring. I managed to get them positioned so that I was holding them with my pinky wedged between the blades. One handle was pushed against my chest, the other pointed outwards. Now, it just needed a big push.

My vision was fully black around the edges, and I felt dizzy and light-headed. My brain kept trying to wander away from this plan, to just go to sleep. I gritted my teeth. I would have taken a deep breath if I had been able to. My lungs were burning and screaming for oxygen. The belt was cutting into my skin, slick with blood from where it had opened me up. One push, that was all it took.

With the last of my strength, I ran straight at the wall, ramming the handle into it. The blades cut deeply. Pain bolted through my hand and shot up my arm. That did it. The pressure on my neck lifted, and my right arm was mine again. John’s control was broken for now.

The ritual wasn’t complete yet, there was one more step.

The shears had failed to completely cut through my finger, so it was dangling miserably by a little strip of tendon. I wrapped my T-shirt around my hand to catch the bleeding, though the make-shift tourniquet seemed to be doing its job. Almost there.

I tried to pick up the shears to cut through that last little bit of tendon, but my hand was shaking so uncontrollably that I kept dropping them. Finally, I gave up and with a grunt of deep annoyance, I took the T-shirt away. I stuck the dangling part into my mouth and bit down hard. Human teeth aren’t overly sharp, but we can exert a lot of bite force when we need to.

I held out the little pouch and spat the finger into it. I put it around my neck, grabbed the paper, and said the final words. Shaking, I sat down on the floor with the bottle of whiskey. It was over. I made it. I raised the bottle for a long drink but stopped halfway to my mouth. Instead, I took a long hard look at it.

That bottle had damn near gotten me killed, almost allowing John enough control to fuck up the ritual. I was done drinking. With a feeling of disgust, I threw the bottle at the wall. It exploded into fragments, leaving behind a light brown stain and a lingering smell of cheap alcohol.

My eyes closed of their own volition. Exhaustion overcame me within seconds. Right then and there, I had my first undisturbed sleep in a long, long time.


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