Furioso started with the ghosts of Alexa, her parents, Arlene and Jonas Frey, Boyd McAulliffe, his daughter, Tess, his wife, Sharon, Denise Charlton, her husband, Jack Drew, and their son, Jameson.
Come with me, he said to all of them. He flew off, and the group of ghosts all flew off after him.
They reached an area of Hell at the centre of which was a huge, round, red lake. The water looked like blood.
In you all must go, together, Furioso told them. Prepare for the greatest agony you’ve ever felt. Yet remember, this agony will end. Stay with it. Be patient, and endure.
The ghosts shared a collective dread for what they were about to experience. They all held hands in a straight line as they stood before the bloody lake, then they all jumped in together.
After being fully submerged in the red–which really was blood, the blood from all of their bodies from their physical lives, mixed together–the ghosts opened their eyes and saw visions of their pasts, with the sound included, as well as all their other senses. Only one didn’t experience one’s own past…one experienced the past of one’s victims. These moments would fade in and out with the slow movements of the bloody waves.
Boyd’s ghost found himself in that old science classroom during lunch break…only he didn’t see himself aiming a bottle-cap in a slingshot to hit Alexa in the face. Instead, he saw himself in her shoes playing chess, then feeling that bottle-cap hit her just under her left eye.
Just as he was experiencing this sharp irritation, Alexa’s ghost found herself in the bushes, hiding from Tess’s dad. She was Tess this time, and she felt the bullet from his gun hit her, just under her left eye.
They both felt the impact of the projectile hit them at the exact same time, and they both keenly felt the pain they’d caused each other.
In their visions, they both shouted out, “Jesus Christ!” in unison, at the exact same time.
Next, Alexa saw herself in Sharon’s position, walking up to her husband, Boyd, asking where Tess was. Then she felt that other bullet hit her in the face again, just under the left eye.
As Alexa’s ghost experienced that kill she’d goaded Boyd into making, Boyd felt the bottle-cap hit him in the face, in the exact same place again, at the exact same time. He also remembered his shooting of Tess and Sharon, how they were hit in the face at the exact same spot.
He put it all together when he saw a vision of Denise kicking Alexa in that classroom, only he was in Alexa’s body feeling the kicks. He remembered how Alexa and the other two bullied girls, whose names he’d forgotten, all went missing shortly after this bullying incident, all three presumed suicides.
He then saw a vision of being pushed into a mud and slush puddle just outside of their high school, again, him in Alexa’s body; then hearing everyone laugh at him, and feeling kicks in the gut from himself and Denise.
This was all my fault, Boyd thought. If I hadn’t pushed Alexa so hard, she wouldn’t have killed herself, gone to Hell, then made me kill my wife and daughter. We’d all still be alive. Oh, God, I’m so sorry. It was all my fault!
Alexa’s ghost not only watched and felt what had happened to Tess and Sharon, she felt Boyd’s reaction. It hit her hard to realize she’d hurt two people who had nothing to do with her score to settle with Boyd.
My God, Alexa thought. I was so filled with rage at Boyd that I didn’t think of how his daughter and his wife never did me any wrong. How old was that girl…ten? And I made him shoot her in the face with that bullet, and the same thing to his equally innocent wife. He hit me in the face with a bottle-cap, and I thought making him kill his own family, with bullets in the face, was a fitting way to get revenge? That was wrong, way wrong…
Boyd kept ruminating over what he’d done as he felt the presence of the ghosts of his wife and daughter. He felt their pain and they contemplated how his bullying of Alexa, a needless, petty bullying based on envy, led to her suicide and her brutal revenge on everyone he cared about. The whole family just felt the pain and shame shift back and forth among them like the moving waves of that lake of blood.
Alexa’s own pain, guilt, and shame joined theirs. The four of them felt their consciousnesses merge, making the experience of each other’s pain more and more intense and unendurable; yet they had to endure it all to get out of the endless pain of Hell. As they felt each other’s pain grow and grow, each felt his or her shame grow in the same proportion.
Now, as if this pain somehow wasn’t enough, the pain of the ghosts of Alexa’s parents, Arlene and Jonas, was now being added to embitter the pot even more. Alexa’s ghost saw the bedroom of her parents, transformed into that ovoid shape without windows, doors, or furniture. She saw Jonas, lying unconscious on the floor with blood pouring out of his head.
But she saw everything through her mother’s eyes instead of her own. She also felt her mother’s hunger. She saw the large carving knife and fork by Arlene’s feet on the floor; she picked them up.
Oh, no, Alexa thought. I’m about to taste my father’s flesh.
She looked down at Arlene’s stomach and saw it open into an empty black hole. She went over to her father’s body with overwhelming dread.
As she was experiencing this, Arlene’s and Jonas’s ghosts were in Alexa’s place, feeling the pain she’d felt from their lack of love or compassion for what their daughter had been through.
My God, Arlene thought. I really was a bad mother.
Me, too, Jonas thought. Arlene and I were so caught up in our own personal frustrations that we never took a moment to consider what she’d been going through. She was being bullied, and we blamed it all on her. We didn’t give her the emotional support she so desperately needed. No wonder she went crazy and killed us.
Alexa was tasting the bloody flesh on her father’s arm. She wanted to vomit, but she couldn’t. This was far too extreme a punishment to give Mom and Dad. What’s wrong with me?
Denise saw herself in Alexa’s body in that classroom, looking up at Denise kicking her. She saw herself getting pushed into the mud and slush outside of their high school. She felt Alexa’s humiliation. She felt the kicks to her gut.
As she was experiencing Alexa’s pain, Alexa’s ghost was in Denise’s home with the baseball bat, approaching Jameson. She brought the bat down on the boy’s head. The cracking of it on his skull coincided exactly with one of Denise’s kicks to Alexa’s gut. Both of them experienced each other’s pain, and Denise understood how the one caused the other. Alexa realized that her revenge was far worse than what had caused it.
Revenge made me into a monster, Alexa thought. That boy didn’t deserve that. Nor did Jack.
I did a lot of bad things in my life, Denise thought. Maybe Jack and Jameson didn’t deserve what happened to them, but I deserved it.
Mommy? Jameson’s ghost called out to Denise. Why did you kick that girl? Why did you make her hate you enough for her to make you kill Daddy and me?
His words caused a pounding pain inside Denise.
Alexa, in Jack’s body, just then felt the knife plunged into his gut.
What my wife did to you was bad, Alexa, Jack’s ghost said to her, but why did you have to punish Jameson and me as well as her?
These words cut into Alexa.
I’m so sorry, she said to him.
The consciousnesses of all of the ghosts–Alexa, Boyd, Tess, Sharon, Denise, Jack, Jameson, Arlene, and Jonas–were all merging into a huge mass of life experiences, memories, pain, hate, and remorse. They were truly suffering together, feeling compassion. Yet the pain only grew more and more torturous.
Boyd, for example, contemplated Alexa’s suffering from her parents’ emotional neglect for the first time. He’d never imagined how her own mother and father could have had such a callous attitude to the pain of the daughter they were supposed to love.
He’d only ever thought of his wounded pride, his envy of her getting into the Grade 8 gifted class, when he hadn’t been accepted into it. He now realized that we all too rarely consider the suffering of others; we’re usually focused just on our own.
Daddy, Tess’s voice called out to Boyd. Why were you so mean to that girl when you were a kid? What did she ever do to you to deserve that?
Hearing these questions stung in her father’s mind. He remembered Alexa, back in that science classroom, asking him, “What did I do to you to deserve that?” (the bottle-cap in the face) He remembered his answer to her: “You kept living.” Yet, when she was no longer living, she ended up being so much worse to him and his family. Her continued living, without his bullying and with more loving parents, would have spared his family’s lives.
All of the ghosts were feeling this kind of regret as they contemplated each other’s memories, a result of the continued merging of their nine consciousnesses. Individuality was fading. A collective moaning, wailing, and screaming in pain grew in loudness. Feeling each other’s traumas, more and more vividly with the merging, as if the traumas had been their own, was getting unbearable. Still, they knew this was the only way out of Hell.
Soon, there were no longer nine ghosts, but just that mass, that red blob of wailing pain. Then the redness dulled from its original fiery glow, dimming to a dull grey-red as the wailing did a slow decrescendo.
Finally, the grey blob started to fade away as the moans became barely audible, to not at all audible. The blob vanished.