A book cover, showing a man wearing a hoodie. The title is
Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
4 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 9 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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Previous Chapter


I’d told myself I’d do the first rune, and only if it worked would I even consider doing the other two. Cutting into my skin was one thing. The other two would require a lot more.

Still, if your only two choices are pain and death, it tends to change your perspective. Pain it was.

I put the knife within reach and took out the rest of the items. I’d found a small leather drawstring pouch on Etsy that could be worn around your neck. It was perfect for what I needed to do. I put it on and opened the drawstring.

I remembered the instructions:

“The second rune is Algiz, the Elk rune. The elk is always aware. It senses danger, even when it can’t see it. It will keep you safe from danger sneaking up on you. It symbolises the Elk’s antlers, with which it fights off its foes.

Obviously, you don’t have antlers, but the closest thing on your body is your nails. That is where this rune needs to go.”

The hunting knife was much too big and clunky for this rune, so I took an exacto blade and carefully scratched the rune into my left thumbnail. The large vertical stroke was easy enough, but the two arms were harder to do. I had one chance to get this right. If the lines didn’t meet exactly, it wouldn’t work.

I was so deeply focused that I nearly jumped when I heard the voice in my ear:

“None of this will work, you know. It’s useless. You’re just deluding yourself.”

I looked around to see where the voice was coming from, but I didn’t see him. It was clearly John, but he didn’t show himself.

I finished the rune and grabbed a pair of pliers. Meanwhile, the words continued.

“Give up. It’s no use. The world is better off without you. Suzie might never wake up because of you. It’s probably for the best if she doesn’t. If she ever does wake up, she would have to face what you have done. You’ve let her down, and you’ve let me down.”

The words hurt me more than I could have imagined. Each sentence felt like a dagger plunged into my flesh. A heaviness came over me. Maybe he was right. Maybe this was no use.

“Your father said it from the start, and though I never believed it until now… I think he was right. Look at what you’ve done. Everywhere you go, you just cause misery and pain.”

I shook my head, trying to rid myself of his voice. I let out an angry scream, trying to drown it out. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I screamed, I still heard him more clearly than I did my own voice.

I took the pliers, gripped my left thumbnail, and pulled as hard as I could. It hurt like nothing I’d ever felt before, but the nail wouldn’t budge. It felt more likely that I’d tear it in half than pull it loose this way.

Meanwhile, John kept talking, kept telling me to give up, how much better it would be to leave all my troubles behind.

Bitter blackness tried to engulf me. A feeling of deep hopelessness overtook me. I pictured taking the hunting knife and just cutting my throat with it. To bring an end to all of this. I was so tired. I had fought this for so, so long, and I just wanted peace. I wanted to rest, to just…. no. No!

This wasn’t me. This was him. His voice, luring me into some kind of trance. He couldn’t attack me head-on, so he was trying something else. It wouldn’t work. I was not going to go down without a fight!

In an act of desperation, I grabbed the knife and put the point under my nail. I pushed as hard as I could, and the blade slid underneath, cutting into the soft flesh under my nail. I screamed from the pain, sweat pouring down my back. I pushed until the tip of the blade was almost at the cuticle and then wrenched it upward. With a nauseating sucking sound, the nail came loose.

John’s voice had reached a fever pitch, and I felt my resolve weaken. The blade was already in my hand, and the image of me cutting my own throat or plunging it deep into my heart kept intruding in my mind’s eye. The only thing keeping me present was the intense pain in my hand.

With the last of my will, I grabbed the pliers and ripped the nail off. I recited the invocation as well as I could, and I stuffed the still bloody nail into the pouch around my neck. I drew the string, and abruptly, John’s voice went silent.

It worked. I sat down hard against the back of the couch and sat there cradling my left hand. I tried to slow my breathing. Two down, one to go.

Next Chapter

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