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 15 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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15

we spent the next several hours talking. he formally introduced me in the chatroom as a new member, and he vouched for my having passed the tests and sworn the oath. he also added me to a list, so i’d be notified when the room moved to a new location, which apparently happened often.

finally, he taught me their signal to recognize each other without needing to pull up their sleeves: three fingers pointing upwards, forming something of a “w”. personally, i thought it looked a bit silly, but i had to admit it was distinctive without immediately screaming “secret signal”.

it was late in the evening by the time i went home. runemaster had explained the ritual to me in great detail. it involved several steps and required some ingredients that would probably be hell to obtain, but that wasn’t what occupied my mind right now. it kept coming back to the two ingredients that gave the rite its name: heart and bone.

suzie’s heart and john’s bone.

i needed a suitable location to perform the ritual since i couldn’t very well do it at my place. i wandered aimlessly for a while, but then i got lucky. shithole’s famous industrial past meant that there were a lot of old abandoned factories and warehouses. some of them had been repurposed, but many were just empty and had been left to rot.

i happened upon an old warehouse with a huge door, large enough to admit trucks. it looked thoroughly abandoned, grass growing through cracks in the concrete. the door was held closed by an old rusty padlock and chain.

cutting the lock was easy enough, and once inside, i found that the place was filled with old-style wooden shipping crates and cardboard boxes. some of the crates still contained rotting straw, but everything of value was long gone. that was fine by me. all i needed was space and isolation.

it was perfect. i’d be able to draw the rune circle here in peace, and i had no connection to the place. even if someone were to wander in, they wouldn’t be able to trace it back to me as long as they didn’t catch me in the act.

that was the easy part. now for the rest.

getting to john’s bones would be a challenge, but i figured i could pull it off. i knew where they were, and while the hole was deep, a good rope ladder should be enough to get to them. he’d been dead long enough that i didn’t expect him to be too gross. by now, his bones should be pretty clean. i would need to retrieve them, grind them up somehow, and store them for the next step.

suzie’s heart, that was a different matter. apart from my moral trepidations about killing her, simply getting her to the warehouse was going to be a major obstacle. at least she was no longer in the hospital. after her condition had shown no improvement for several months, she’d been moved to a long-term care facility. she was breathing on her own but showed no signs of awareness. she was fed through a tube, and for all intents and purposes, she was a vegetable. it hurt to think of her that way. my beautiful, bright suzie.

the one thing i had going for me now was that the sons would have my back. i wouldn’t be facing this alone. it made me feel conflicted. i was used to being on my own, taking care of my own shit. i had learned from an early age that relying on other people just meant inevitable disappointment. that, or you found out that they’d had a hidden agenda all along. either way, the only person i knew i could always count on was me.

hospitals tended to have actual security, but the long-term care facility only had the nursing staff. if i were to just walk in, grab suzie, and walk out again, nobody would really be able to stop me. however, i’d have the police on my ass in minutes. i needed something more subtle.

when i brought this up in the chatroom, someone suggested i’d pretend to be an orderly, taking her to the hospital for a check-up. that was a bit uncommon, but if i managed to sell the story, it shouldn’t raise too much suspicion. i just needed to be convincing. one of them, very conveniently called ambulanceman88, turned out to be a paramedic. he wasn’t able to bring the ambulance without drawing suspicion, but he was willing to come with me while wearing his uniform. that should lend some credibility. he had a spare uniform i could borrow. the plan was that the two of us would go in, put her onto a stretcher, get her into the back of my car, and then he and i would part ways.

i had hoped that he’d help me with the ritual itself, but he was very clear: this was between me and wodan. i was on my own for the actual ritual. the sons would help me prepare, but they wouldn’t get involved.

once i got her to the warehouse, i’d have to put her in the middle of the circle, burn the right herbs, say the invocations, and then… my mind recoiled at the rest. i forced myself to think through the steps. in a way, her current condition was perfect. if she’d been awake, it would have been near impossible to do what needed to be done.

i needed to keep her heart beating for as long as possible, right until the end. i’d pretty much be performing an autopsy, but with her still alive. it involved making the typical y-shaped incision, then cracking her sternum using the same garden shears i’d used on my pinky, and finally opening her ribcage by bending the ribs outwards.

then, the final step. if i had done everything right, her heart would be exposed, but still beating. i then needed to put my hands over it and press down hard, smothering her heartbeat while invoking wodan’s name. only then could i cut out her heart.

finally, i would need to consume part of it. your heart is pretty much all muscle, so you’re not going to have an easy time just taking a bite out of it. luckily, that wasn’t required.

the ritual called for boiling the heart in water, mixed with honey, some more herbs, and the ground-up bone. i then had to drink the mixture to hopefully be rid of john forever.

i shuddered at the image of having to cut out suzie’s still beating heart. i knew she was never going to wake up. she might as well be dead already. i was just finalising the process. if what runemaster said was true, and she really was stuck between worlds, i might actually be helping her. she might be grateful.

i kept telling myself this, but i couldn’t bring my gut to believe it. it knew one simple truth: i was about to murder the only woman i’d ever truly loved. rationalise it all you want. it wouldn’t change a damned thing.


it took a while to collect the things i needed, but i managed to get everything, including a decent rope ladder. i’d been afraid i’d need to fabricate it myself, but after some digging, i found one online. i prepared the warehouse as far as possible, so everything was ready for the first next of the plan. it was time to head out to the hole.

after some deliberation, ambulanceman88 had grudgingly agreed to help me collect john’s bones. my foot had gotten a lot better, but trying to get john’s bones by myself still felt like a huge risk. he obviously wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but he was bound to help me now that i was a son.

i picked him up on a street corner, and he introduced himself as geoff. he was a heavy-set guy with a bushy beard and long hair that was combed back to hide the beginning of a bald spot. he wore old jeans and a faded sabaton shirt, with a multitool clipped to his belt.

as he got into my car and buckled his seat-belt, my phone rang. i looked at the screen, but i didn’t recognize the number. i let it ring. i wasn’t in the mood to talk to some telemarketer right now.

i was about to drive off when my phone dinged with a voicemail notification. that was odd. they generally didn’t leave messages. curious, i dialled my voicemail, and the message played.

“hi, this is deborah, suzie’s mum. i know we haven’t spoken in years, but i thought you should know. suzie has been showing signs of waking up. she’s moving a little bit, and yesterday, she even spoke a little. it was only a single word, but she kept repeating it over and over again. it was your name. please call me back.”

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