A book cover, showing a man wearing a hoodie. The title is
Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
7 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 8 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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Previous Chapter


So the runes had been a bust. Or had they? I remembered John’s initial expression of disgust, the way he had disappeared right after seeing them. They must be doing something.

I looked at my arm. The skin was a deep red and covered in dirty white blisters. It hurt like all hell. This was the first time John had actually hurt me. It felt… deliberate. Like the runes had offended him or caused him enough discomfort to want to make sure I wouldn’t do it again. Maybe there was something to it, after all.

I gritted my teeth and logged back into the chat room. I told them what had happened. I described the way John had reacted to the runes and that they had obviously not been enough to stop him.

There was some debate going on as to why it hadn’t worked, and the general consensus was that the sharpie had not been enough. There were some suggestions to try a tattoo or even a brand.

Then, one guy spoke up. He hadn’t actively participated in the discussion so far. He went by “RuneMaster”. Personally, I thought the name sounded a little try-hard, but I noticed the way everybody else went quiet when he spoke up. They obviously respected him despite the hokey name.

“That won’t work. There is no power in an ink drawing and barely any more in a tattoo or brand. In fact, only one of these runes is meant to be applied to skin at all. The others need to be bound in different ways.

You say this ghost is capable of possessing you and has come close to actually killing you?”

I confirmed this.

“Then you will need actual power. These runes aren’t simple drawings. They are symbols connected to greater forces. You will need to bind them to you in the proper way if they are to protect you. Each will require a different type of pain and sacrifice. You will bleed, and more than that, if you want to stand any chance of surviving this. Power at any price also means that nothing worth having is ever obtained without a cost.

So, how much are you willing to sacrifice to get rid of this ghost?”

I told him to go fuck himself. This was going way beyond what I had bargained for.

He replied:

“It’s your choice and your funeral, brother. At this rate of escalation, I’d say you have a week left at most. You’ve angered him now, so I seriously doubt that he is going to start taking it easy on you, all of a sudden.

How would you prefer to die? As a warrior, facing your enemy with whatever it takes? Or as a mewling coward, hoping he will go away on his own?”

The words hit me like a slap in the face. For a moment, I thought I heard my dad talking. Telling me what a failure I was. That I was a sorry excuse for a man. I felt myself flinching involuntarily, expecting the violence that would always follow.

I took a deep breath and steeled myself.

“Tell me what I need to do.”

I had everything ready. I collected some branches from an ash tree, and I had a big hunting knife with a wicked point. I had found it in a little shop somewhere, and it was the closest thing to an actual weapon that I could get my hands on.

RuneMaster had explained to me that a kitchen knife or pocket knife would not do. It needed to be something made to draw blood and take life.

I took a deep breath, gathering my courage. I longed for a shot of whiskey to steady me, but he had been adamant that I should be absolutely sober for this.

I went over the instructions in my head.

“The first rune is Teiwaz. It is Tîw’s rune. He’s a warrior god. Blood and scars are his trade. You’ll need to carve it into your skin, where your heart is. Cut deep enough to draw blood and make sure that the scars will become permanent.”

Earlier, I had taken part of the wood from the ash tree and burned it until there was nothing but ashes left. Now, I took a large wooden bowl and put the ashes in it. I gently stirred them with a small twig from the same tree. Next was the painful part. I held my left hand over the bowl and drew the edge of the knife over my palm. A sharp sting went through my hand, and blood welled up. I quickly squeezed my fist closed and tried to make sure all the blood landed in the bowl.

Using the twig, I stirred the blood and the ashes until I had a thick muddy paste. Now for the next step. I’d practised the required invocations, breaking my tongue over the unfamiliar vowels. I had been worried that I would make a mess of it, but they assured me that it was the effort and intent that mattered. It wasn’t about perfect linguistic performance, it was about showing respect by addressing the Gods in their own tongue, to the best of your ability.

All the prerequisites had been taken care of. I needed to do this thing. If I waited too long, the mixture of blood and ash would become useless from exposure to air.

I stood in front of the mirror, knife in hand. I looked at my bare chest, seeing the lines in my face and the dark circles underneath my eyes. The past few months had left deep, visible marks on me. I figured adding a few more wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Teiwaz isn’t hard to draw. Most runes aren’t. They were meant to be carved or scratched into wood or rock. I put the tip of the knife on my chest, over my heart. Slowly, I drew the tip straight down. At least, I could properly reach this spot and use my right hand to do it. I gritted my teeth and winced at the sharp pain. Thick drops of blood ran down my skin, tracing paths of a deep ruby colour.

I drew the two downward lines, completing the arrow-shaped mark. OK, so far so good. I put the bowl in front of me and grabbed my notes. While carefully reciting the invocation, I took a handful of the ashes and smeared it into the wound.

The pain was instantaneous. It burned as if I’d rubbed a mixture of salt and acid into the wound. I had been warned about this. I needed to endure the pain, and keep going. If I stopped, screamed, or faltered in the invocation, Tîw would deem me a coward and refuse his protection. I needed to bear this, the way a warrior would.

I completed the last line, so the whole rune had been filled with the ashes. The pain receded to a dull ache. I felt a warmth spreading through me. A sense of strength. Something was definitely happening.

I looked up into the mirror, and all the relief I had just felt immediately vanished. Right there behind me, I saw John.

I turned around to face him. He gave me an even stare, his eyes finding the rune on my chest.

Frustrated, I yelled at him.

“What the fuck do you want from me, John? Why can’t you just leave me alone? I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, I just want some fucking peace!”

His eyes became sad, and he took a step towards me. He tried to reach out, but it looked like he ran into an invisible wall. At the same time, I felt the rune heat up. It didn’t burn me, but I could feel it radiating heat outwards. If this had been a cheesy movie, it probably would have glowed.

Nothing that spectacular happened here. Just a steady stream of warmth. Looking at the way John reacted, I would have thought it was a raging inferno.

His face was twisted into an expression of pain, and it looked like he was fighting to stay afoot in an invisible storm. He dropped to one knee and looked at me. His expression was hard to read, as if he was feeling a lot of things all at once. There was anger and pain there, for sure, but also sadness and pleading. Then, suddenly, he was gone.

That settled it.

Up until now, I hadn’t been sure if I’d be able to go through with the rest of the ritual. The price was high, and I hadn’t been convinced it would work. This was indisputable proof that this shit was real. The rune had activated when John appeared and had pushed him away.

I remembered what I had been told:

“Tîw is strong and noble, a true warrior. But… he faces his foes head-on. This means his rune will only protect you from what you can see.”

So, John could no longer get to me if I saw him coming. But, that was only half the battle. The next step would be much, much harder.

Next Chapter

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