A Warm Kind of Guy.

The sand all around Ray Brown scorched as if from a thousand suns blasting down upon it instead of just one. Ray sat naked, with his arms wrapped firmly around his knees, and pondered whether to go for a walk.
'Better not.' he said aloud, although there was nobody within a couple of hundred yards to hear him.
Around his feet the sand had begun to crystallise into Trinitite so he rose tentatively, shifted several paces to his right and resumed his previous posture. He had become accustomed to this routine. Things tended to become automatic when you had repeated them every half an hour or so for close to a week.
It had been seven weeks since the accident and two since he had been forced to leave his home and take up residence in the local park. Inside two days of being resident in the park the lush, verdant greens and browns and myriad colours of blooming summer flowers had been replaced by a vast and depressing sea of bright yellow sand and pale green clumps of the glass-like Trinitite. Ray imagined that if you were to look up his location on Google Earth it would appear as if there were a miniature version of the Gobi desert slap bang in the middle of a small town just outside of Birmingham.

Ray Brown had lived a fairly ordinary, but enjoyable, life for thirty eight years before the April day when he turned up for work at his electrical contractors and everything changed. Ray had wanted to be an electrician since primary school, had been a reasonable student and had successfully completed a diploma in Electrical Maintenance and thus became an electrician. Proof if proof were needed that the best way to achieve your goals was to aim low in the first place.
On this particular day the job he had been sent on was about as straight forward as they came, which was the reason he had made such a monumental error. He had been on auto-pilot, thinking more about meeting Elaine for a nice spot of lunch at Nando’s than the consumer unit he was working on. The actual details of the accident were lost to Ray, he could remember opening the consumer unit and reaching for his tools but the next thing he was waking up in hospital several hours later feeling extremely light headed and nauseous. The first signs of the unusual side effect of the major electric shock that had coursed through his body became apparent two days later when he was convalescing at home.
It was mid-morning and on rising gingerly from bed Elaine had ushered him in the direction of the main bathroom where she had prepared him an aromatic, piping hot bubble bath in the large cast iron bath. Ray had settled into the tub with an inflatable travel pillow beneath his head and the latest crime thriller by Mark Billingham in his hands. At some point he had dozed off and the paperback had luckily fallen onto the oak floor beside the bath rather than into the water. He had been bought awake by his wife shouting him from the bottom of the stairs.
‘If you stay in there much longer you’ll be like a human prune.’
‘I can’t have been in that long, the waters still piping hot.’ He bellowed back.
‘Try over an hour and a half love,’ she retorted, ‘lunch will be ready in ten.’
Perplexed by his wife’s claims he plunged his hands into the soapy water, noting that most of the bubbles had collapsed turning the water a murky grey with streaks of miniature rainbows visible in the oily film of the surface. The water was indeed still pleasantly hot and as he lay pondering the effort required to ease himself from the tub he noticed steam begin to rise from all around him. Ray laboured out of the bath and as he reached for his robe the water began to bubble and hiss as it reached boiling point.

Doctor Robin’s tone of voice left Ray in no doubt that he was humouring him in ordering the blood tests and CAT scan. The Doctor had explained that it was to be expected that his senses be a little more acute and sensitive after such a major trauma to his system.
‘Your nerve endings were simply telling your brain that the water was hotter than it actually was.’ explained the doctor.
‘And I suppose I imagined that the water actually started to boil.’ Roy snapped back.
‘Like I said, strange things can happen when the human body experiences a shock to it’s circuitry’ he continued ‘I’m sure the tests will give the all clear and you’ll be back to normal in no time.’

On the walk home Ray decided to pick up some groceries from the supermarket and cook a nice meal to take his mind off the next day’s tests. Once he had managed to wrestle a trolley from the massed ranks of chrome baskets of assorted shapes and sizes, not to mention temperaments, he entered through the electric doors to be confronted by several hundred square meters of retail hell. God he hated these places. All was going fine until he reached the refrigerated section. He was collecting some frozen peas from one of the chest freezers when several cartons of milk in the fridge behind him exploded, spraying boiling milk in every direction like molten lava erupting from Mount Etna. Several spotty goons in dark green uniform, that the store provide to take any semblance of individuality or personality away from its staff, raced towards the scene of the spillage armed with mops and yellow health and safety signs, only to trip and collide with each other when they slipped on the quickly spreading pool of water emanating from the rapidly defrosting chest freezers. Two aisles away corks began to fire from wine and champagne bottles, Ray decided they would have takeaway, abandoned his trolley and headed for the doors.

The next afternoon Ray found himself dressed in a standard issue, puke green, hospital gown with his ass cheeks exposed to the world. The nurse helped him up onto the platform of the Computerised Axial Tomography machine and he listened while she explained the procedure.
‘If at anytime you feel stressed or uncomfortable just raise your hand and we will stop for a little break.’
With the procedure explained, the nurse, a stocky woman in her mid to late forties, left the room and Ray was alone waiting for the machine to begin. Through the intercom system he could hear Doctor Robin’s voice.
‘Ok Mr Brown if you could keep perfectly still for a minute or two the machine will be able to give us a comprehensive scan of your brain.’
Ray kept as still as a bowl of fruit and gave a sigh as the doc gave him the ok to relax.
‘Now I need you to be still for a little longer Ray, as the machine scans the rest of your body.’
After he had dressed and enjoyed a cup of tea Doctor Robins called him into his office to go through the scans the machine had produced.
‘Well I’m pleased to say that there appears to be nothing wrong with the way your brain is functioning, however…’
‘… there is something wrong with me?’ Ray interrupted impatiently.
‘Erm, well, yes. The scan has indicated that your body is giving out an unusually high level of heat.’
‘So, what can be done to cure me?’
‘I’d like you to see a colleague of mine at the university, part of his research concerns the study of exothermic reactions.’
‘You want to send me to be a lab rat?’
‘I’m afraid there is little we can do from a medical stand point as there appears to be nothing physically wrong.’
‘Ok, I guess I’ll give it a shot.’

The research laboratory of Professor Richard Monroe was nothing like Ray had been expecting. He had imagined something from a 1950’s horror movie with strange coloured liquids boiling away in an intricate system of interconnected test-tubes, vials and flasks. Instead there were two simple wooden work benches of about four metres long. One wall was completely shelved, filled with research books and equipment. Another was dominated by a giant white board covered with formulae and equations that may as well have been Latin as far as Ray’s understanding went. If the lab wasn’t what Ray had been expecting the professor was every inch the stereotypical mad scientist he had been anticipating. Monroe had a thick bushy beard and unkempt hair with more than a hint of silver streaked though them. A pair of thick rimmed reading glasses hung round his neck on a Nylon cord.
‘Mr Brown, I presume? Pleased to meet you. Tom has told me all about your extraordinary case.’
‘And you believe you might be able to help me?’
‘I’d certainly like to try, if you are willing. Allow me to tell you about my research here,’ the old man gestured towards two sofas situated in the corner of the room either side of a drinks machine. Over a cup of barely drinkable, machine produced, coffee the professor explained that his research was concerned with altering an animal’s genetic make up to enhance their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions. Ray had queried how this was relevant to his situation and the scientist had gone on to explain a series of experiments utilising electricity to fire the synapses and nerve endings of the animals.
During the next month Ray subjected himself to all manner of experiments that the professor suggested, but success was limited to say the least. They managed on a couple of occasions to manipulate Ray’s condition to boil a saucepan of water at will or melt plastic balls but they made no progress in actually determining the cause of the ability or indeed reversing it. Then came the incident at home and he had made the decision to seclude himself away in the park.

It was a Saturday and Ray settled in front of the television to watch Liverpool take on Man United in the early kick-off on Sky. It gave Ray a welcome diversion from thinking about the experiments. The match was a tense, tight affair when deep into first half injury time Gerrard picked up the ball in midfield and raced towards the united defence before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the goal.
‘Get In!’ Ray exclaimed, jumping from the seat and pumping his fists in excitement. Then Elaine screamed.
Ray raced into the kitchen to find his wife pressed up against the wall, as far as possible from the steaming clump of molten glass and plastic that had formally been their double-glazed uPVC kitchen window.
‘I’m so, so sorry sweetheart.’ Ray said before racing out of the house and heading towards the sanctuary of the park.

Ray shifted position once more and waited for the professor. Hopefully today he would bring better news. The range of his exothermic expulsions had increased daily but had levelled out at about fifty yards three days ago. A perimeter of sentry guards had been set up by the authorities to keep the public away and there was a Tannoy system in place for communicating with him. An hour or so later a familiar voice rang out from the speakers.
‘Morning Ray.’
‘Hi prof, please tell me you have a solution for me today,’ the desperation was clear in Ray’s voice.
‘I have something in mind, but it is extremely hazardous.’
‘I’ll try anything, I’m desperate.’

The equipment arrived in a bright titanium cabinet dropped into the park by helicopter and included a set of instructions from the professor. It took about an hour for Ray to construct the lightning conductor and attach himself to it, then he sat down and waited for further word from Monroe. At dusk the Tannoy issued a high pitched whistle and his voice rang out over the desolate park.
‘OK Ray, is everything set up?’ he enquired.
‘Yep. When’s the storm forecast to hit?’
‘If the government’s meteorologists are right it should be imminent.’
The rain started to fall heavily fifteen minutes later. Once the thunderstorm commenced Ray rose to his feet and stood next to the conductor. Suddenly there was a loud crack, like a giant bull whip, and a silvery blue bolt of heaven sent electricity fired down from the grey clouds, hit the metal pole, coursed down it and into Ray’s body and propelled him forty yards across the sand covered park. For Ray the world went dark.

Ray awoke several days later in a field hospital that had been set up in the park. There were a posse of white-coated people milling around his bed but only one he recognised.
‘Hi Professor’ he said, voice croaky, hardly recognisable as his own ‘am I still alive?’
‘ Very much so’ the professor said smiling ‘we ascertained with thermal imaging that your body temperature had returned to normal and were able to set up this facility and give you a full health check.’
‘So am I free to go home?’ Ray said sitting up in the bed.
‘Absolutely, your wife is waiting for you in the field office and there are clothes for you to wear in that trunk.’ He said pointing towards a non-descript steel locker.

Ray dressed quickly and emerged from the medical tent to discover his wife waiting for him outside flanked by Doctor Robins and Professor Monroe. After shaking the two men firmly by the hand Ray wrapped his arms around Elaine and whisked her into the air planting kiss after kiss onto her face.
‘Come on, I’ll give you two a lift home’ said Doctor Robins.
‘Thank you, but I think I’d like to walk home. Appreciate the parts of the park I didn’t ruin.’
With that they parted, the two gentlemen headed back towards the temporary hospital and Elaine and Ray headed for the picturesque unaffected areas of the park. As they walked along the banks of the stream they talked about plans for the future, maybe moving house, definitely taking a long holiday. Neither of them noticed the stream turning to ice behind them as they walked on hand in hand.

Copyright © 2007 by Ross Warren