Ivan Ray's Obsession
Ivan Ray Payne was a typical nerd in school, but back in the 1980's when it wasn’t cool to be a nerd. He was small and frail with dark hair and had too many zits to fit on one little face. Of course, glasses and a poorly funded wardrobe supplied mainly by hand me downs from his much more social and beefier in stature, older brother. Life in school was tough. Ivan Ray was periodically bullied by the jocks in school. His brother fell somewhere between being a nerd himself and just not cool enough to hang with the jocks and had trouble standing up for his little brother. His unsuccessful attempts left him turning his head to his little brother’s daily fair share of abuse. Ivan Ray wanted to be cool; he wanted to hang with the jocks. He didn’t want his brother to have to feel guilty over not providing proper protection for him. Yet, he was angry that his brother fell short on his behalf.
Ivan Ray’s father was very distant. He was the janitor in a mental institution. His mom frequently made fun of his dad calling him the brain surgeon drop out. When she met Ivan Ray’s dad, he was in medical school with sparkling dreams of being a successful neurosurgeon and promises to her of a lavish life. His mom had a tough life and came from a family with a history of depressing circumstances and the promises of happiness appealed to her. Once, Ivan Ray, his brother, and his mom visited Mrs. Payne’s brother who was in the very mental institution where Ivan Ray’s dad worked. It was this visit that intrigued Ivan Ray and he vowed to become a brain surgeon to please his mom where his dad had failed. His uncle seemed perfectly normal, just every once in a while it was as if his brain was like a toy racecar that flew off the track during conversation. Ivan Ray felt he could study the brain and fix the problem that afflicted his uncle and many others. After all, he thought, many products that have been invented have been improved. Why shouldn’t the brain be the same? Ivan Ray believed that the human brain just needed a little tweaking so that people occasionally wouldn’t go off the track like his uncle.
When high school ended, no one was happier than Ivan Ray. His brother graduated and had moved onto the police academy. Ivan Ray thought that this was due to the fact that he had tried to “police” his brother’s bullies for over a decade and failed and that this was overcompensation. His brother met a girl in the academy and they got married. She wasn’t exactly what Ivan Ray found attractive. In fact, she reminded him of his bullies with her burly stature and surly personality. But Ivan Ray tried to not be judgmental and express his distaste with her. In fact, Ivan Ray held everything inside. He held inside all of his pain from being bullied, his pain for his dad who tolerated his mom’s tormenting comments and the social pain of having never even kissed a girl yet, at age of 23 years. However, despite his hardship he was accepted into Harvard for pre-med on a scholarship due to his “nerd” grades. His mom was ecstatic for two reasons, the close proximity of their home to the college and the delight of his future in the medical industry. It was his choice and goal in an effort to not disappoint her in the way his father did. In his junior year at Harvard, Ivan Ray could easily see how his father fell short. Pre-med was not easy, especially not at the most prestigious school in the country and his grades showed it. However, he continued on with his work and even took part in school funded medical research. His mother was elated and would boast to anyone who would listen.
Still deprived of even a kiss, Ivan Ray had overcome that deprivation on his own time with questionable sites on the internet. Still much of a loner and not at all social, his roommates always seemed to move out shortly after moving in. He was getting close to graduation and was asked to stay on as a medical researcher at the university. Ivan Ray never talked too much to the other 3 students selected to stay on as research faculty during work hours, but with the good news of being the few selected as permanent researchers for the duration of the project, a celebratory happy hour was coordinated and to his surprise, Ivan Ray was invited. He never went out. Socializing was nonexistent for him. He was so strange to begin with that adding alcohol was like putting a hat on a peacock, it made a strange situation stranger and was just unnecessary. Two drinks in and no social skills to speak of, Ivan Ray was more than ready to leave. He decided to take a long walk and went off campus in pursuit of clearing his head from the social challenge. He cut behind a path and saw his brother’s police car tucked into a corner behind the tennis courts and dumpsters at the local park. He walked over to say hi to find his brother making love in the back seat to a woman that was definitely not his wife. His brother looked up to meet Ivan Ray’s wide eyes. Ivan Ray took off running.
At home, in his dorm, he sat alone very shocked, first off to see the act of sex in real life, it seemed different than the things he saw on the internet, and second to see his brother committing adultery. It was not long before a knock on the door brought his embarrassed brother into his room.
“Hey, Ivan Ray, I want to talk.” His brother Kevin nervously asked.
Ivan Ray was so uncomfortable he just said “Don’t worry about it.”
“I know I can trust you right?” Kevin asked.
“Of course.” Ivan Ray said.
It was left at that but his brother showed at his dorm again the next day telling Ivan Ray about a home that was a “sheriff sale” and how he could help Ivan Ray acquire the home for less than 3,000 dollars. It was a big, older home, not in good shape, but not bad. In no time, Ivan Ray was a home owner, making his mother, who did not own a house until she was 34 with two boys, even more proud. The home was an unwritten promise to be quiet.
Ivan Ray, however, still felt guilty though and was really worried about how the incident would affect his relationship with his brother and sister in law. The best thing for him, he thought, was to concentrate on work. There was no graduation celebration for him. He got a hug and kiss from his mom and was lucky to get a “congrats” from his somewhat envious dad. After graduation, his hours at work were increased due to his new availability before his admittance into med school. But every time a research project was folding another would appear and Ivan Ray would stay on. He spent over two decades as a researcher. Life seemed very simple to him, never taking any risks. He had a steady job, and rising bank account. He avoided his family, and was very alone trapped within his projects and the laboratory. It was a life of solitude.
Although he never made it to med school, his mom was happy as his title could be exaggerated and often large companies would fund the projects he worked on and she could name drop as well. The current research project was really coming together. Its purpose was to study an apparent mystery disease that was somewhat newly discovered among athletes and others who suffered multiple concussions due to their careers. Families of these individuals donated their loved ones’ bodies to science to support research for this mysterious disease that affected their family member’s personalities, ways of speaking, and even daily interactions.
Whenever the bodies came in, Ivan Ray sometimes sat for hours just admiring them. He had longed to be friends with this elite breed of men in high school and he could hardly believe that the same type of men were now ready to be completely manipulated right in front of him. He wanted to ask if they could look into these men’s brains for what made them feel superior to nerds like him. He was still very bitter over the experience with the jocks at his school. Ivan Ray threw himself into the project. Day in and day out he was at the facility performing tests and dissections. Due to his consistent presence and his very quiet nature, he was considered a fixture of the room and sometimes primary researchers would discuss classified information in his presence without realizing he was listening. Many times, they discussed a new drug that when injected in the brain becomes sort of a liquid band aid. It sought out “bad” cells and killed them while supporting the healthy cells. It was thought to end epilepsy and similar diseases and would make brain surgeries easier for the patient to recover from. The research team also was working on an educational “chip” for the brain. They had created many prototypes and planted them into the donated brains and used the liquid band to aid in the healing process. Ivan Ray always watched closely and returned to his home each night to document all that he learned. Even if he wasn’t watching, he was listening to the researchers around him. He had to listen as the top researchers often called for his help. He was their top gopher and he cleaned after each procedure and set up the next. He was trusted and did not mind staying late as he had nothing else to do. Many nights, he was left to close the laboratory alone. However, there was something about the project involving athletes that was triggering all sorts of emotions within Ivan Ray. The torment from these types of boys for over a decade had played havoc with him. He kept it all inside for so many years and now it was as if a slow leak had sprung. Ivan Ray had been stealing research equipment for months and was creating a mini lab in his private home! He had a plan. He wanted to beat the researchers and implant a brain with an educational chip and use the liquid brain band aid with hopes of creating a super intelligent athlete - someone like the boys that bullied him, but also someone who would be his friend. He felt if he created this person they would like him and be his friend.
Ivan Ray had become obsessed and he was sure that his plan would work. When he had enough supplies to complete his experiment, he knew all he needed now was a fresh body. He contacted his brother to come for a visit. His brother was nervous as he thought that Ivan Ray was calling him in regards to catching him with another woman again. Despite the first incident, he did not give up on his adulterous ways. However, he was actually relieved when he was just asked by Ivan Ray to deliver a fresh body.
“What in the world are you up to? Are you serious?” Kevin asked.
Ivan Ray quickly responded “Did I ask questions about what you were doing when I caught you with another woman?”
Knowing that Ivan Ray held him in a precarious position, he just asked when he would need a “fresh body” by. Ivan Ray said he needed it within the next two days and it needed to be male. Everything had to be perfect for this to work. Ivan Ray stole additional chips and the liquid drug just in case and hoped that his brother would have the body shortly after. At this point, Ivan Ray had fully submerged himself into his project not only with equipment but with tons of notes from years and years of observing. His mini lab had turned into quite a large one that took up his entire basement and part of his first floor which could be hidden at a moment’s notice with closing a door if visitors ever showed, but none ever did. He was ready. He was nervous. He knew he needed to calm down but he knew the only way to do that was to get his experiment over with. It had been a couple days since he had heard from his brother and so he called him.
“Holy shit, I can’t believe you called me today.” I can get you six corpses tonight if you want!” Kevin blurted out.
Six? Ivan Ray was ready to object and then a pause and a smile, “I will take them all.” He added in a sure voice.
Caught off guard, Kevin asked, “You want them all? Really?”
Ivan Ray asked how and his brother reminded him that they were under a “no questions policy”. Ivan Ray’s heart was beating out of his chest and he blurted out “Yes, bring them as soon as you can! They’re all men right?
“Yes”. Kevin responded.
“Perfect” said Ivan Ray.
He started preparing for the six imminent brain surgeries. He really hoped the liquid Band-Aid would work so that everything would be a success. The product would cut the operation time in less than half because of its healing capability he could leave certain parts to naturally heal. He checked his caffeine supply and made a pot of coffee and knew he was going to be up all night before going to his research job. The bodies arrived. His brother shuffled them in as if he had stolen bodies many times before. Ivan Ray watched him and for the first time ever he was very shocked and impressed with his brother’s villain like character.
“You’ve sure changed”. Ivan Ray quietly mumbled.
“Shut the fuck up.” His brother let his unhappiness with the situation be known. He wasn’t sure of his brother’s mental whereabouts and felt extremely nervous getting into the situation but also felt obligated by his mistake that Ivan Ray was exposed to.
Once his brother left, Ivan Ray began his brain surgeries. He gained access to classified information at work by overhearing the password to the information storage site and used that to aid him along with his notes. Ivan Ray happened to be in the research lab one night when one of the bodies suddenly came back to life due to overcompensation of the liquid Band-Aid. He overheard Dr. Harms say that it was due to the injection spreading to other cells in the body and repairing them in the same way they repaired the brain cells making the body able to physically move instead of just being mentally active. The doctor and his fellow researcher agreed to keep the finding as a secret to themselves as a larger profit would come if they presented the miraculous side effect alone.
They gave the experiment an antidote and agreed to simulate the reincarnation at a later date when they could be given more credit. Ivan Ray firmly believed that he was more prepared to handle fully functional super humans than them.
He awoke to the sound of the rooster that crowed every sunrise at a nearby farm. His eyes opened and felt sore and tired as if they never closed. The last time he saw the clock was at 5:45 am and it was now 6:10. He smelled the smell of dried blood. He had cleaned as best as he could but the smell endured. He thought “oh, that’s the blood.” Then “oh my God, what have I done?” He sat up and looked at the 6 bodies lying on the lounge chair gurneys and their bandaged heads. He slowly crept over to them. Looking for any faint sign of life and saw none. Disappointed and relieved at the same time. Panic set in! How would he get rid of these dead bodies that more than tampered with? He didn’t think that far. He would have to call his brother again. He was imagining Kevin telling him that his favors are outweighing his dirty secret. Ivan Ray jumped in the shower scrubbing extra hard as to remove his bad behavior. Late for work or missing work was unacceptable in his world. In 27 years, he had never been late or missed a day of work. Often he was sent home when illness was evident. He arrived 5 minutes late and was terrified for more reasons than his tardiness. When he was asked if everything was ok, it was a big clue to calm down or face the consequences of suspicion. It was truly the longest day ever. His concentration level was zero as he only could think of the surgeries that he performed the night before and the evidence at his home. He had never appreciated quitting time before and sometimes was sad when it was time to leave. On this day, he had never appreciated the clock striking 5 pm so much. He arrived that night sneaking in his own home as if a burglar was waiting for him. Actually six were, not really...no heart beat yet but he thought he saw an occasional toe wiggling or maybe it was his imagination and lack of sleep. He called Kevin. “Come and get these bodies. I’m afraid.”
His brother asked, “What are you afraid of, them coming alive or you getting caught with six cadavers?” He was laughing. “You’re an idiot little bro.” It was definitely clear that Ivan Ray’s favors were outweighing Kevin’s slip up. Now Kevin had control of the situation again. “I can’t get there until tomorrow night.”
Ivan Ray pleaded “NO! Please I messed up. Please help me.”
Kevin stood firm, “I’ll be there at midnight tomorrow night.”
Ivan Ray hung up and was furious. He lit candles to cover the new odd stench. He felt like a security guard keeping an eye out watching the clock tick. He dozed off. He fell into a deep sleep having been so tired from the trauma unit experience the night before. He woke to a cough, still so tired when he completely woke up he questioned whether it was his cough or, God forbid, one of the guys. At this point he felt like he died and was in hell. HE was so tired, still and in disbelief of his surgical actions. He rose and headed toward the coffee pot. He was making coffee when he thought he heard another cough. He turned slowly. He saw more wiggling toes and fingers. He walked over and realized they all were twitching and wiggling in some capacity. “Holy fuck! Oh shit! My God. Help me.” All the nerves in his limbs were mimicking the twitching he was watching. He looked down at his body and his hands were shaking out of control then he looked at the clock, it was 5:30. He began searching frantically for his phone knowing, without a doubt, that he would have to call off work for the first time ever. The fear subsided almost as fast as it came on and Ivan Ray was overwhelmed with a nurturing sense. These are my babies, he thought. I created these men with intelligent brains and athletic mental history. As each hour passed, more and more twitching put life into their still, cold bodies. Slowly, he heard possible faint heart beats. Like a nurse in the infirmary he ran back and forth caring for each creation. There were three Caucasians and three ethnically ambiguous males of possibly Anglo and Latino descent. They were all probably 20 something and he needed new clothes for them. He had to call Kevin and he knew it. “What? Are you kidding me? You’ve lost your mind.” Kevin was shouting through the phone.
Ivan Ray shouted back. “Stay calm. I need clothes! Stop at the Goodwill. Help me or else.” He hung up and was white as a ghost.
Two hours later he freaked when he realized he forgot to call his work to report he was taking the day off. In the middle of a panic attack he called and he reported that he was really sick …. thinking to himself that it was not in fact a lie.
“Oh Ivan Ray we are so sorry to hear that. Please get better. Let us know tomorrow if you are coming in.” his co-worker responded with sympathy.
Ivan Ray took a second to acknowledge the ease of that deed and thought, “Oh geez that was easy”. I can’t believe I never did that before and quickly he was brought back to reality as a knock at the door brought in a hysterical Kevin.
“Where are your Franklin monsters, bro?”
“Follow me.” Ivan Ray mumbled “I just heard the first consistent heart beat.”
“Sure you did. I’m going to take you to Mom’s house after I get rid of the bodies. Ok?”
Ivan Ray said nothing and just stepped aside so Kevin could see the wiggling twitching bodies.
“This is some kind of joke? How can this be?” Kevin turned white instantly.
Ivan Ray handed him a stethoscope and said “The second one in from the left has a steady heart beat and appears to be breathing.”
Kevin moved in slowly attaching the stethoscope to his ears and peering at Ivan Ray. He listened then pulled away and looked up. “God forgive us.” Tears rolled out of his eyes. “Ivan Ray I delivered DEAD bodies! How is this happening?”
“It is a new drug. It was created to help the brain heal after surgery but it slowly enters the entire body, healing everything.”
Two months passed. Ivan Ray missed 5 more days of work. Kevin became a reliable source of help making deliveries to Ivan Ray daily whenever and whatever he needed. Ivan Ray had six male, intelligent, friends who loved him. They played Wii, Play Station, watched the news, played ping pong and pool with him.” Occasionally they went out in the backyard to play horse shoes, volley ball, and basketball. They always won!
Kevin and Ivan Ray wanted to see if other people would notice anything odd about them. They wanted to see how their creations would interact with other people. They agreed that Kevin could stop with his partner, JB Smales. He was an African-American rookie to the force replacing Kevin’s partner who retired after 35 years. The visit did not go well. The guys were very hostile toward the new guest, possessive, like a mean dog guarding his home. Ivan Ray and Kevin could not figure this out. They were dumbfounded. The guys were not talking either, just said they didn’t like him in their home. Ivan Ray always told them not to leave the house when he was at work but now he was worried and also worried about visitors who may arrive unannounced. Kevin came up with the idea of introducing them to women. Hoping their softer demeanor may be a better choice for blending them socially, Ivan Ray agreed. Kevin brought his wife and her more feminine sister to see Ivan Ray and his creations. It was the complete opposite. The guys clammed up. It almost seemed like they were afraid of women. Kevin took the ladies home and called his brother.
“Lil bro, You raised them to be shy just like you.” He laughed a little too much.
Ivan Ray was worried. Everything went perfect but there was this little problem, their social skills. They understood Ivan Ray’s computers inside and out and fixed any problems he had. Maybe they had spent too much time on the internet. They understood high levels of history and math. They were masters at gaming, very athletic in the sports they were exposed to. But there was something odd about their socializing. Kevin brought over his sister in law’s son. He was a biker and followed Kevin there on his Harley with his leather jacket and boots. Kevin was very unsure about how it would go. They loved him. They asked to see his bike. Was it because it was mechanical? It would be one of the few times they went outside in the front of his home. Ivan Ray had taken them out for walks one at a time but never all together. Now they all stood outside all together talking with Kevin’s nephew. Everything seemed so normal. They just couldn’t understand the guys’ problem with Kevin’s partner and their awkward shy behavior around ladies. The next day at work, Ivan Ray couldn’t stop thinking about his friends and what was bothering them or haunting them from a previous life. He stopped on his way home from work to get snacks and soda for later that night. The guys loved watching sports and the Patriots were playing at 7 that night. Once home, he put the snacks away and soda in the fridge. He called out for the guys. “Hey where are you guys?” He listened and heard nothing. His smile faded. “Guys?” Ivan Ray began his searching through the house only to find nothing. He frantically looked outside in the yard, the shed, and down the road. He called his brother. “Dude, they’re gone.”
“What? You have to be kidding. We have to find them.” Kevin’s voice erupted.
Kevin arrived ten minutes later and they drove for hours looking for the guys, checking all over the house as well. Nothing! There was absolutely no sign of them.
“Ok,” Kevin said, “Let’s stay calm.”
Ivan Ray looked dead, white as a ghost and trembling. Kevin said “What do we know?” Let’s sit here and gather all we know and try to figure out where they would go.”
Ivan Ray slowly responded “They have no money. They are extremely intelligent. They are strong and coordinated. They tend to be shy with women and are sociable but not with everyone. They definitely have a temper as we saw with your partner. Something can make them very, very mad. Oh, and every weapon in the house and in the shed- is missing.”