Next, it was Tiffany’s turn, along with the ghosts of her mother Alice, Faye and her baby, George, and his mother. As with the previous group of spirits, Furioso led them all to a large lake of blood, the blood of their bodies mixed together.
Again, as with the last group, the ghosts of Tiffany and her victims/victimizers all stood in a straight line before the red lake, holding hands and feeling a heavy dread for what was to come.
In you must go, Furioso said, if you truly wish to end your pain. Just remember that the pain you feel submerged in that lake will feel much more acute. Still, as torturous as it will feel, it won’t last forever, as this pain outside will. When you go in, stay with it, be patient and endure it all the way, as extreme as the pain will feel, and it will come to an end. Keep faith in the ultimate outcome.
All the ghosts looked at the lake with fearful eyes. They took deep breaths, then jumped in together.
Whether their eyes were opened or closed under the surface of the red, they all saw visions of the past; but they experienced the pasts of their victims, as their victims had experienced those painful moments. The experiences were also synchronized, so the victimizers could glean the meaning of what they’d done, by seeing and feeling it done to themselves.
Faye and Alice, for example, were in Tiffany’s position when Faye’s fist came smashing down on Tiffany’s calculator in math class; this vision coincided with experiencing the block of ice dropped on Tiffany’s head in that neighbourhood on the way home from school. As this happened, Tiffany, in her mother’s place, felt the sledgehammer cracking her skull open in the same neighbourhood the same night Tiffany’s ghost killed her mom.
Experiencing the mutual suffering caused all of the ghosts to shudder. I should never have done those things to Tiffany, thought Faye. No wonder she wanted revenge.
My poor daughter went through so much, Alice thought. And I never supported her the way she needed her mother to. True, it was hard for me raising her without Barry, and the heartache of his leaving me had made it impossible to forget every time I look in Tiffany’s eyes–her father’s eyes–still, that gave me no right to take it all out on my baby. In many ways, I got what I deserved. Forgive me, baby.
No, mama! Tiffany’s ghost moaned back to Alice. You may have hurt me and neglected me a lot, but you never smashed anything–ice or a sledgehammer–on my head. The punishment I gave you far outweighed the crime. You did not deserve that, mama! I’m so sorry.
Speaking of cracked skulls, Tiffany next experienced Faye’s newborn baby being thrown to the wooden floor. The baby itself expressed its pain to Tiffany’s ghost in the only way it could, non-verbally, by projecting the feeling onto her.
Oh, my God! Tiffany’s ghost thought. That baby never did me or anybody any harm. How could I have done something so cruel to a defenseless child? I was so drunk on my hatred at the time, laughing at their suffering, that I didn’t see how despicable I was being!
Punish me, Tiffany! Faye moaned. Why punish my baby?
And I laughed as I watched you and your baby die, Tiffany’s ghost thought. I’m so sorry!
Next, the ghost of Tiffany saw the hallucination she’d made Faye see of her baby, with the elephant’s ears, tusks, and trunk. She felt Faye’s shock, as well as the trunk hitting her on the nose, hard enough that it hurt.
My God! Tiffany thought. That was so mean.
She saw the horrified reaction of Brad, Faye’s husband, when the baby was thrown to the floor.
That poor man was made to suffer, too, Tiffany thought in her swelling remorse. He never did anything to me. He didn’t deserve to see his baby die. I made her innocent baby look like a monster, when it is I who am the monster.
The ghosts of George and his mother saw what he had done to Tiffany back in high school: how mean he was to her when he called her “a wimp,” how he hit her on the shoulder with a triple-A battery shot from an elastic band, though aiming at her face as Boyd had done to Alexa, and how he and Faye dropped that chunk of ice on Tiffany’s head.
George! his mother moaned at him. Did I raise you to do things like that? Small wonder she wanted revenge.
I’m sorry, Mom, he moaned back at her.
Apologize to Tiffany, not to me, she said.
Apologize? he said. After what she did to you? My bullying of her wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what she made me do to you.
Dropping a block of ice on her head and leaving her unconscious on the sidewalk was not a minor thing, she said.
It wasn’t major enough to deserve your murder or my suicide in the hospital, he said.
And at that moment, Tiffany was made to experience that moment in the hospital room: him getting the syringe out while feeling his love for his mother, as well as his horror at being forced to make that air bubble in the tube leading into her body; her feeling the terror at helplessly watching her son’s inexplicable murder of her.
His mother never hurt me, Tiffany thought as she saw the air bubble come closer and closer. She never earned my hate. Still, I was so high on that hate that I never contemplated how low I’d let myself sink.
Each ghost was trying to separate itself from experiencing the suffering it had caused the other ghosts, but couldn’t. Each ghost tried to swim away from the others in that lake of blood, but the mixed blood ensured their inescapable togetherness. Swimming away led immediately to being pulled back to the others.
Their identities were merging, as were their pain, shame, and remorse. The ghosts’ moans were crescendoing into screams. They all begged for the pain to end, yet they were each also fearful of losing their individuality.
Eventually, they came to realize that each ghost clinging to its own ego was perpetuating its suffering, and they all came to understand the need to let go.
Though each ghost hated the other ghosts for having caused their suffering, each hated itself even more for having caused so much greater, and needless, suffering. Even George came to accept that it had been his and Faye’s bullying that started the chain of events that led to his mother’s death and his suicide.
Forgive me, Tiffany, he moaned.
Forgive me, George, she answered.
The ghosts all felt themselves melting and merging into the blood, and the red lake evaporated into a hot, pink mist. The mist slowly faded and disappeared.
No more existence.
No more pain.