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

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Previous Chapter


So, how do you go about finding pagans? Turns out that it’s both much easier and, at the same time, much harder than you’d expect.

A quick bit of online searching showed me that there were roughly a zillion different neo-pagan groups, all of whom claimed to be part of some ancient tradition. If you looked a bit more closely, you noticed that most of them went back to the 60s at best.

I’d heard of Wicca, but instead of the type of witches I expected, they mostly turned out to be a bunch of tree hugging vegan hippies.

I found a whole bunch of talk about how to welcome spirits into your home, how to make them feel welcome and loved, but precious little about getting rid of homicidal ghosts.

The deeper I dug, the grungier the kind of sites I visited got. I started out looking at sparkle-filled Instagram posts, but soon ended up on early 2000s style forums, which in turn led to IRC chat rooms. I hadn’t even heard of IRC, but apparently, it was some ancient nerd thing from the dawn of the Internet. The fact that most people these days hadn’t even heard of it made it perfect for those wanting to keep a low profile.

I don’t even remember how I ended up there, but at some point, I found myself in a room run by a group of guys calling themselves the Sons of Wodan. I was ready to dismiss them as a bunch of neck-bearded keyboard warriors, but some of the things they discussed caught my interest. They actually seemed to be on to something.

Where the Wiccans had been vehemently against any type of use of blood, these guys seemed to take a more pragmatic approach. Their motto was “Power at any price.” Blood was a source of power, and if you had a ritual that needed power behind it, then why fuck around with just candles and happy thoughts?

I saw them discuss where Crowley had gotten it right and where he’d been full of shit. I also quickly picked up that they seemed to have an unhealthy fascination with the Nazis, and their occult practices. Honestly, that didn’t make much of a difference to me. They could be full-blown puppy-sacrificing satanists for all I cared. I needed help, and these guys seemed to be the only people able and willing to help me.

When I gingerly explained my problems, they listened. I felt heard for the first time in a long time. I ended up spilling way more of the story than I had intended to tell. I felt safe here in this anonymous room, where the only name they knew me by was Mechanic555.

They gave me three runes of protection. Normally, you would place these around the entrance to your home, often by carving them into the doorposts.

There was one problem with this: it wasn’t my home that was haunted. It was me. There was some debate on how to best apply them. Someone suggested I draw them on my arms using a sharpie. I was deeply sceptical, but also figured it couldn’t hurt to try. None of them seemed to want my money, and it didn’t look they were trying to scam me in some other way either. They just believed in this shit, and they were willing to help me.

I got a thick sharpie and drew the runes on my biceps in the way they had shown me. I’m right-handed, so the ones on my left arm came out a hell of a lot better than the ones on the right, but I managed to get them on. I went to sleep, wondering what would happen.

For a few nights, nothing happened at all. This wasn’t unusual, but it gave me a little bit of hope that this might work.

On the fourth night, I got a visit from John. I had been deeply asleep, and I woke up from the unsettling feeling of being watched. I opened my eyes, and there he was. Right in his usual spot at the foot of the bed. Unsure what to do, I took off the old T-shirt I was wearing. His eyes widened at the sight of the runes, and a look of deep disgust crossed his face. The next moment, he was gone without a trace.

For the next few weeks, John didn’t show. I reapplied the runes every morning, carefully tracing them with the sharpie, making sure they were crisp and clear. The ones on my right arm kept coming out more sloppy than the ones on the left, but they seemed to work. I breathed easier.

Then John came back.

I had woken up in some very dangerous situations before, but I’d never been aware of how I got there. Six weeks after I first put on the runes, I woke up in the middle of the night. John was there, staring at me. I tried to turn on the light, but my arm wouldn’t move. I tried sitting up: nothing.

My whole body felt paralysed, like I was pinned to the bed. Unable to do so much as flinch. John walked up close and reached out his hand. He ran his hand over my cheek in a gentle gesture, so completely at odds with the situation. Something you would do with a child or a lover. Kind, loving almost?

Then he was gone, and I did move to a sitting position… but it wasn’t me doing it. My body moved on its own. It was like watching a movie filmed from someone else’s perspective. I was a passenger in my own body, unable to do anything but watch. This must be how John put me in dangerous situations, except this time, he intended me to be present for the ride. I watched helplessly as I walked into the kitchen, grabbed the kettle, and filled it with water. What the hell? Was John craving tea from beyond the grave? I stood frozen as the kettle boiled, and then I saw myself grabbing it by the handle and putting it down right in front of me.

He made me take off my shirt, exposing the runes. They looked a bit faded from the day. Especially the one on the right had suffered. Still, they were present and recognizable enough. I started to get a very uncomfortable suspicion, which quickly rose to alarm as I watched my own hand reach out to grab the kettle and raise it with painful slowness.

I wanted to scream, to do something, but my body wouldn’t obey me. John was at the wheel, and all I could do was watch. I saw the kettle rise, and position itself directly above my left bicep. I pleaded with John inside my mind, begging him to stop, but it was no good. The kettle tilted towards me, and a flow of scalding water touched my skin. The pain was immediate and horrific. My arm felt like it was on fire. Every nerve ending was screaming. I needed to cool it, but I was still frozen in place. The tap was within reach if only my hand would work.

I screamed internally, unable to make any sound over a low whimper. As the last of the boiling water ran over my skin, it finally became too much to bear, and I blacked out.

I don’t know how long I was out, but I woke up on my kitchen floor. My arm was a fiery red, covered in angry blisters. I wouldn’t be drawing any runes there any time soon.

Next Chapter

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