Back in Hell, Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany had all achieved their revenge on everyone who had hurt them badly enough to deserve getting the grief that they had all given.
The three girl-ghosts hit their enemies far harder than they had been hit themselves. They were beyond satisfied in that regard.
Yet, their own pain hadn’t subsided.
It had only grown worse…much worse.
The melting and decay of their ghostly apparitions was now at such an advanced stage that the three no longer had humanoid forms. There wasn’t even a distinction between any of the three of them anymore.
They were hill-like blobs of melted flesh that oozed into and mixed with each other.
The ghosts of all their victims–still with human apparitions–were there, too, facing them with expressions that were a mixture of hatred, gloating (over the three girls’ ugliness), and revulsion.
Furioso appeared between both groups.
So, he said. Everybody is here at last.
This pain is unbearable, Alexa said in a raspy voice.
I don’t regret having my revenge, Megan said in a similar voice, but I feel worse now than I did before.
Is there no way to stop this pain? Tiffany asked, also in that voice.
No, Furioso said. There is no way that is easy. No way that will give you comfort. There is only pain for you all, from now on, forever and ever.
Then why did you goad us into getting revenge on all of them over there? Megan asked, pointing to the mass of victims behind Furioso. You said we’d get relief through our revenge. We feel no such relief at all.
I never said your revenge would ease your pain, he said. Only that you’d feel satisfaction, a brief pleasure, in making those poor souls on the other side share your pain. And you got it.
But now, with them all looking at us with so much malice in their eyes, Alexa said. It feels like they’re all going to resume their former bullying on us.
Yes, Tiffany said. They all hunger for revenge on us.
We can see it in the eyes of their apparitions, Megan said.
How could you lure us into a situation with even more suffering than the kind we’d started out with? Alexa asked. How could you take advantage of us like that, as vulnerable as we were?
Well, I am a devil, Furioso said, shrugging. Did you really expect anything better than this? You’re in Hell. Here, hope is to be abandoned forever.
What benefit do you get by deceiving us with thoughts of revenge? Megan asked. Damning all their souls with ours?
The same benefit that you get, he said. By bringing down here more and more souls, by passing the pain off to others, I feel a relief…if only a temporary one. People on Earth do it all the time. They, your bullies, did that to you, for that very same reason.
But our pain feels so much greater now, Tiffany said.
Yes, it always feels worse and worse, Furioso said with a sigh and a frown.
Then what good is that temporary relief through passing pain on to others? Alexa asked.
Because the pain worsens regardless of whether you pass it on to others, or not, he said. Temporary relief, by causing others’ grief, is the closest thing to happiness that the damned can ever hope to have in Hell. Is there anyone else on Earth you’d like to afflict, for a brief taste of satisfaction?
NO!!! all three girl-ghosts shouted together.
Then I’m afraid that there’s nothing that can be done for you, he said with a shrug. You’ll just have to stay here and suffer, without any kind of relief, even temporary relief.
Wait! Megan shouted. You said before that there’s no way to stop this pain…no way that is easy. No way…that will give us comfort.
That’s right! Tiffany shouted. So, there is a way.
A hard way, but a way, at least, Alexa said.
Well, yes, but you won’t like it at all, he insisted.
We don’t like our situation here at all! Alexa said.
Yeah, what difference will it make? Tiffany said.
Tell us what this hard way is, Megan said.
If it will get us out of Hell, we’ll do it, Alexa said.
You’re talking about enduring a pain far more acute than you are experiencing now, Furioso said.
But the pain will all end, right? Megan asked.
It will end because you, as individuals, will end, he said.
That’s fine with me, Tiffany said. We originally wanted to end our lives, anyway. We hated life because all we did was suffer in it. Existence is only suffering for us, on Earth, or here in Hell. So wiping out our existence means ending our pain. It’s nirvana, basically.
That’s true, Furioso said, but prepare for an ordeal you could never even imagine.
We’re in Hell, Alexa said. Where there’s no hope of ever feeling happiness again. This is the ultimate ordeal. How much worse can anything else get?
You’ll find out, he warned.
Tell us, Furioso! Megan said. What do we have to lose?
What do we have to do to get out of this? Alexa asked.
You really won’t like it, girls, he said, shaking his head.
TELL US, DAMN YOU! all three melting ghosts shouted.
He let out a sigh. Look at all those ghosts behind me, he said, gesturing to the girls’ victims. All those damned souls that you hate so much, and who now hate you. You must let go of your hate. Let go of your pride, and love them. Feel compassion for them, and for the suffering you’ve caused them.
WHAT?!!! all three girl-ghosts shouted together in disbelief.
Yes, he insisted. That’s the only way out of here. To end your suffering, you must endure far greater suffering. That’s the paradox of salvation.
The three ghosts were speechless. They mulled the matter over in a collective sulk.
What will be even harder, he said, is that you must allow yourselves to feel the very pain you caused them. You must suffer with them, for that is what compassion means.
The three melting spirits continued contemplating this solution to their problem in miserable silence.
It is your decision, he said. Either go through this ordeal, or be trapped here forever, continually melting until you’re an unconsolable puddle.
Could this be a trick? Tiffany wondered. He tricked us before with the revenge idea.
It sounds like too shitty a solution to be a trick, Megan said. If it were a trick, he’d make it sound more enticing.
As I said, it’s your decision, he said.
If we have to pity those bitches and bastards over there, Alexa said, why not have all of them experience this with us? Have them pity us, too.
Yeah! Tiffany said. It’s only fair. Then they can escape Hell, too.
They’ll ultimately benefit, too, Megan said. Since we’re supposed to be sympathizing with them, we’d want to help them, too. Also, they’ll know the pain they caused us, and they’ll understand why we wanted our revenge. And their hate will change to pity and remorse. I think that could be really satisfying for everyone.
Very well, Furioso said, then he turned to face all of those ghosts on whom the three girls had avenged themselves. All of you, who have had your lives ruined by these three! You don’t wish to remain in this infernal prison forever, do you?
No, they said in a weary sigh.
You heard me explain the only way out of this suffering? he asked.
Yes, they all moaned together.
Then swallow your pride as the girls must do, let go of your hate for them, as they must let go of their hate for you, and join them in this collective outpouring of compassion, he said.
With the most lethargic of reluctance, the mass of ghosts nodded.