A book cover, showing a man wearing a hoodie. The title is
Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
6 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 3 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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Previous Chapter


I sipped my drink and took in the decor. The place had been modelled on Greek temples, but instead of the pristine marble that most people would associate with that, they’d tried to go for authenticity. This meant that everything was done up in garish colours, giving it a cheap and almost sleazy feel. In reality, this place probably cost a small fortune to rent out.

The stripper was doing her utmost best to put on a show, but I could tell she hadn’t been doing this kind of thing for very long. She wasn’t very good at it yet. Her movements were just a tad uncertain, and you could tell that she was trying really hard to be sexy, but somewhat unsure of what that actually entailed.

Not that John noticed any of it. The poor guy was red-faced and obviously hugely embarrassed, but he tried not to show it. He caught my eye, and I raised my beer at him, giving him a wink and a thumbs-up. He smiled back and seemed to relax a little.

The bachelor party had been a bit of a mixed bag so far. It was mostly John’s college buddies, most of whom had been giving him a hard time about marrying his sweetheart from back home. Little did they know.

I was very obviously the odd one out. Most of them wore shirts that cost more than I paid in rent. I just tried to keep to myself. John did his best to make sure I didn’t feel too left out, and he kept telling stories about the stuff we used to get up to. I could see them rolling their eyes when he wasn’t looking. I felt them looking down their noses at me. They poked fun at John for his small-town upbringing, but at least he’d left and gotten a degree. I wasn’t afforded the same grace. They didn’t openly show their disdain, but it was palpable.

The stripper made a big show of gyrating in John’s lap, taking off his belt and pulling him close to her. When she pretended to want to kiss him, he turned his cheek to her, and for a moment, the showmanship was gone. I could clearly see the vulnerable girl underneath.

In that moment, she saw John as he really was, and I could see her falling for him a little. In the blink of an eye, the mask was back in place, but for one brief moment, I had seen her dreaming of what could have been if only the world had been different. I considered talking to her after the show. Letting her know that I’d seen her. That I understood. I quickly dismissed the thought. Nothing good would come of it.

She laughed, and it sounded genuine. She planted a big kiss on his cheek and ended the show, giving us all a good eyeful.

Everybody cheered with raised beers and some wolf-whistles. John got up from the chair and put his belt back into place. He announced that he really needed to pee now, and one of his buddies shouted, “Happy wanking!” as he walked to the men’s room.

The guy that had just shouted nudged me with his elbow and turned towards me. We’d all been drinking, but this one obviously couldn’t hold his liquor. His speech was slurred.

“So, what do you think of all this? I imagine this must be very different from what you’re used to?”

The words themselves were innocent enough, but I could hear the sneer underneath them.

“Oh, we have plenty of strippers where I’m from.”

I just knew that the next thing out of his mouth would be bad before he even spoke. I could tell by the look on his face, by the way his buddies perked up.

“Oh, I’m sure… but how do you tell which ones are not related to you?”

I had known that something like this was coming, but it still felt like I’d been punched in the gut. My eyes shot fire at him, and before I knew what I was doing, I’d answered his emotional gut-punch with a very physical one. He fell to his knees and proceeded to puke on the floor.

I was about to dive on top of him when I was grabbed from behind. John.

“What the fuck happened here?”

Puke-face was wiping his chin, and glared up at John.

“Your fucking piece of shit low-life friend attacked me out of nowhere. What the fuck were you thinking inviting him here, anyway?”

John gave him a hard look.

“Fuck you, Eugene. I know you, and you’ve been up to your usual bullshit all night. Out of nowhere? I think your mouth wrote a big check, and this time it actually got cashed. This party is over.”

I was staying at their new house, so John and I shared a taxi back. Once we were in the back seat, I turned to him.

“Why do you even hang out with those guys? They’re assholes.”

“Yeah, I know. Believe it or not, they’re the least assholish of the bunch. You need to know people, have connections. It’s the only way to get anywhere in this life.”

Despite the alcohol, his face had turned pensive as he spoke. But then he grinned, and pulled me closer to him.

“Doesn’t mean I’m going to stand for them messing with my oldest buddy. I know who my friends are.”

The day of the wedding passed in a blur. I tried to blame the sick feeling in my stomach on the hangover from the night before, but the moment I saw Suzie in her wedding dress, all pretence was out the window. The dress wasn’t ostentatious, quite the opposite. It was simple and elegant, reaching fully to the floor. For a second, I was surprised that Suzie had gone for something that traditional, but then I caught a glimpse of her feet. Suddenly, the whole ensemble screamed “Suzie”.

Underneath that lovely traditional dress, she was wearing sneakers. Pristine white sneakers, carefully hidden from view, but sneakers nonetheless.

My heart felt like it wanted to simultaneously jump in my throat and shrink into a little ball. She looked so happy. So radiantly fucking happy. I looked at John, and he was beaming too. These two people, so dear to me. So happy and in love. I wished I could feel happy for them. I wished I could be the friend they deserved. The supportive friend. The friend who didn’t feel like he was dying inside, right now. The friend not having his heart torn out by their joy and happiness. But I wasn’t that friend. I could never be him.

I was going to be the friend that put on a brave face, and I’d go to the bar for another round. Hoping to numb myself. Hoping to not feel, to never feel anything again, since that would still be better than feeling like this. I managed. I put on a happy face. I congratulated everybody.

After it was over, I went home and ignored John’s calls for 2 months, claiming to be busy.

Next Chapter

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