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

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18

I’d only been driving for a few minutes when the first fat raindrops struck my windshield. I looked at the sky and saw that it had turned a dark, leaden colour. The wind had also picked up, shaking the tree branches. It looked like we were in for some deeply foul weather. In a way, it felt like a fitting background for the ritual.

Doubts kept nagging at the back of my mind. Would I be able to do the ritual at all? And if so, would it work? I tried not to dwell on them. It would just have to work. I was out of options.

In the backseat, Suzie was still mumbling softly. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but the effect was deeply unsettling. I seriously doubted that any of it was good. The rain intensified, and I cranked the wipers up to their highest setting. They were dry and cracked and didn’t do a great job of keeping the windshield clean. I should have replaced them ages ago, but well… new wipers cost money.

I looked in the rearview mirror. Nothing. No police or Sons in sight. So far, so good. I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths. Trying to calm down. I’d been running on straight adrenaline ever since the nursing home, and it was starting to take its toll. My limbs felt heavy, and a deep exhaustion took hold of me.

I was so fucking tired. My brain felt like it was filled with thick molasses. It made it hard to think. I needed my wits about me, but my brain was just a big jumbled mess. I really couldn’t afford anything else going wrong. All my margin for error had been used up, and then some.

The plan had changed so much that large parts of it were just big question marks now. Like what I was going to cook the heart in. How I’d make sure the circle wasn’t going to be washed away in this rain. I shook my head. I really couldn’t afford to let myself be sidetracked by that right now. If I stopped to think, I’d never start moving again. I’d just sit there and let John do his worst. I would need to figure it out on the way, hoping for a stroke of good luck. Surely I was due for something to go my way by now?

For now, my priorities were simple. Retrieve John’s bones from the Hole, get to the beach, and take it from there.

My reverie was broken by a blaring horn. Frantically, I looked around and saw a car right next to me, close enough for our side mirrors to touch. I realised it had been trying to overtake me. As it was pulling past me, I’d drifted into the left lane. I yanked the wheel hard to the right, only just managing to avoid a collision. The driver flipped me off, and I could see him shouting at me. I didn’t need to be able to hear him to get the gist of what he was saying.

I breathed deeply and tried to get my racing heart back under control. My eyes went back to the rear-view mirror, and somehow, I knew what I’d see even before the view confirmed it. There was John, sitting in the backseat. He paid me no attention at all. Instead, he was looking down at Suzie with a mixture of love and deep sadness on his face while gently stroking her hair.

The rain intensified to a heavy downpour, hammering down on the roof of the car in a dull roar. I could hardly hear myself think from the noise. Visibility was down to almost nothing now. Still, I recognized where I was. The fields where John had stalked me. Before the Sons, before the rituals, before everything had gone to shit. Back when I still thought it was all just in my head. It felt like ages ago.

The drainage canals were struggling to keep up with the torrent of water coming down, and they’d probably be overflowing soon. Trees were planted at regular intervals at the side of the road, but my headlights were able to illuminate maybe two trees ahead before the rain obscured the view. I eased up on the accelerator, keeping an eye on John. He was still completely focused on Suzie.

I tried to stay as still as I could. I didn’t want to draw his attention. I figured I’d slowly, slowly, ease off on the speed and let the car coast. Then, I’d wait out the rain.

Suddenly, John looked up, and his eyes met mine in the mirror. His face was no longer inscrutable. Now, it was filled with anger. The next moment, he was gone from the mirror. Confused, I looked around, only to find him right next to me in the passenger seat. I startled, and somehow, I found my foot stomping down on the accelerator.

John’s hand shot out and went right into mine. I felt myself pull the steering wheel hard to the right. The last thing I saw was a tree brightly illuminated in my headlights, coming towards me at high speed.


I woke up, feeling like I was suffocating. All I saw was white, and for a second, I wondered if someone was pushing a pillow into my face. My feet were freezing, and my teeth chattered uncontrollably. Then, fragments of memory started to come back. The tree. John. Somehow, I’d managed to avoid hitting the tree head on, but I’d still grazed it. Slowly, the details started to become clear. My feet were in freezing water, and the car was tilted forward. I must have landed in one of the canals. It wasn’t deep enough to fill the car with water to more than knee-height, or else I would probably have drowned.

I freed myself from the airbag and looked dazed into the back seat. The shock had thrown Suzie from the seat itself, and she was now lying in the space behind the front seats. For a second, I thought she was dead. I saw all my chances of getting rid of John dashed for good. Then, I heard her mumble, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I managed to untangle myself from my seat belt. Shakily, I got out of the car. Suzie looked mostly unharmed except for some bruises. The water didn’t reach up to where she was, so she hadn’t even gotten wet. She had gotten lucky, for the same reason drunk drivers are often unharmed. Being completely relaxed and limber had allowed her to just absorb the impact without getting too badly hurt.

The hood of the car was completely submerged and still making clicking noises. This car wasn’t going anywhere without a tow truck. Even then, it was most likely destined for the junkyard.

What now? I couldn’t leave Suzie here while I went to get the bones. If a car came by, they’d almost certainly stop to investigate. They’d find her, and everything would be over. My only option was to take her with me and put her somewhere safe.

Slowly, a plan formed in my head. I needed her at the beach, and in this weather, nobody in their right mind would go there. I thought back to when John and I would hang out there, how we’d take shelter in the old wooden pavilion. It would be the perfect spot to leave her for a little while.

I was certain that it would be completely deserted right now. It was a little out of the way, but it could work. She’d be safe and dry there, and I’d have a chance to collect the bones.

Yes, that would work. I’d stash her there, get the bones, and then return to wait out the rain. Once it had stopped, the wet sand would be perfect to draw the circle in. OK, that settled it.

I grabbed my backpack from the trunk, along with a roll of ziplock bags. I filled the ziplock bags with the ingredients I’d need, eyeballing the amounts. I just hoped Wodan wasn’t a stickler for exact measurements. I also grabbed the rope ladder and stuffed it into the backpack. Then, finally, I hoisted Suzie onto my shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

The rain soaked us in seconds, and I immediately started to shiver again. I could feel Suzie starting to tremble as well, so I wrapped her in my jacket, best I could. The rain plastered my hair to my scalp, and it made my T-shirt stick to my skin. Already, I could feel the first few icy streams of water starting to run into my underwear.

I started walking, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Soon, this would all be over. Very soon.

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