Fertility specialist Ralph Volkov, MD, was sitting in his office on his well-deserved lunch break when he heard his phone ringing. He was taking a big, almost inhuman bite out of his Rueben sandwich stuffed with sauerkraut, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and corned beef when he put it down and pressed the button to his office phone.
"Ralph speaking," he said with a mouth full.
"What?" The receptionist on the other end could not understand him, his mouth was so full.
"Hold on." Ralph's mouth was still full, and it took him a long thirty seconds to chew and swallow that part of his sandwich. Now, he was speaking clearer. "Yes?"
"Are you on lunch, Dr. Volkov?"
"Yes, I am. Is this urgent?" he questioned sternly.
"Not really, but the Vanderbilts are here and seem adamant to see you," the receptionist on the other end said.
"How long have they been waiting?" Ralph took his can of Pepsi that came with his lunch and cracked it open, sipping it as he listened to the receptionist on the other end.
"Five minutes, just about."
"Alright. I'll be done in another ten minutes to take them for their 2:30 appointment," Ralph mentioned.
Thus, ended the brief correspondence between Ralph and the receptionist. He rushed to eat, but it did not bother him knowing full well he had a stomach of scrap iron. He kept his Pepsi on the desk, taking one more sip before going to the bathroom and washing his hands thoroughly. He also wiped his mouth of any food residue that may have come from the sandwich. The light rod above the bathroom sink adjacent to his office was flickering on and off, and when Ralph looked in his reflection, he could see himself. He had been starting to age well, with slightly graying black hair, blue eyes, and a defined jawline with stubble. He was quite handsome for a man of thirty-eight. Ralph was six-foot-three of stocky muscle underneath his white lab coat, which he had to use a paper towel and water to remove dressing from before ending his lunch break and going to retrieve the Vanderbilts from the waiting room.
Ronald and Lisa Vanderbilt, distant members of the prominent railroad-owning dynasty, were ushered to sit down in the upholstered seats facing Ralph's desk, where he sat and looked at them both. They fit the usual description of his patients – older, trying to conceive but having failed numerous times, and coming to him as what seemed like a last resort after seeing other fertility specialists. Ralph clasped his hands on the surface of his desk professionally. Lisa, a woman around the same age as Ralph, was very attractive with blonde hair and blue eyes with a heart-shaped face. Her hairstyle was very typical for the time – a short feathered coiffure with a light fringe and height to the crown of her head held in place with copious amounts of hairspray. Ronald, her husband, seemed older than her, at least in his mid-forties with thinning light brown hair, horned-rimmed glasses, wearing a tweed suit with a distinctive red tie. He started to speak first out of the two.
"Good afternoon, Dr. Volkov," he said, "I appreciate you seeing my wife and I."
"It's no problem at all. You are both looking to conceive?" he asked, taking a pen that had been laying on his desk and starting to fill out a form on a clipboard he had prepared just beforehand.
"Yes," Lisa mentioned. "We have tried for the last seven years, with no luck."
"You came highly recommended," Ronald added. "We have been to three different doctors in that time. I seriously wonder if they have done more harm than good."
"Well, what sorts of things have you done?" Ralph asked.
"Uh…" Lisa thought for a moment, "everything. Positions, diets, supplements, procedures even."
"What procedures?" Ralph was writing everything down that he could to assess their situation.
"Ovulation induction," Lisa began, "a doctor in Dallas tried to artificially put Ronald's seed in me. Did not work."
"Was it because they missed the window?" Ralph asked, "or because there is an underlying medical condition for either of you?"
"No conditions," Ronald said. "I am healthy, and she is healthy. We have our physicals every year and they are thorough. Nothing has been found to determine why we cannot conceive."
"Well, that is good news," the specialist said.
"Why is that?"
"Because if they do not find anything wrong, there is still a chance for you," Ralph said, looking at Ronald, "but I don't want to get your hopes up. Sometimes these things happen beyond our control. I do want to have you both checked out once more by one of our own physicians here at the practice, and if there is still nothing found, we can go ahead and do a procedure."
"What are you suggesting?" Lisa asked, reaching over to touch her husband's hand on the arm of the other chair.
"Have you heard of something called IVF? It is a relatively new procedure," Ralph explained.
"That is not natural," Ronald disagreed. "It just seems wrong."
"With all due respect, you are seeing fertility doctors, such as myself, who are and have been trying to help you conceive, Mr. Vanderbilt," Ralph replied, raising an eyebrow. "This field is not holy and 'natural'. Without medicine, I doubt you would be alive standing here, so without something like IVF, you may not ever conceive. Do you understand?"
"I have read about it, but I'm hesitant, as is my husband." Lisa gulped, trying to stay calm. "Wasn't the first test-tube baby born a while back?"
"I'll correct you, if I may. IVF does not result in a test tube baby," Ralph said, smirking and shaking his head. "And yes, a success story came out of the UK in '78. Louise Brown was born with IVF."
"How does it work, Dr. Volkov?" Ronald asked. "I… still am quite nervous. What if this does more harm than good?"
"Like every medical procedure, there is risk," Ralph said. He stood up from his chair and paced back and forth, and the Vanderbilts watched him speak, explaining in layman's terms how IVF worked. "You see, it involves removing your eggs, Lisa, and fertilizing them outside of the body and then putting them back into you so that you are pregnant."
"We… don't expect twins," Ronald chuckled. "A son would be just fine."
"I don't care much, as long as our baby is healthy," Lisa said, looking at her husband.
"How many eggs are you going to remove?"
"You will first get fertility medication that makes you produce more eggs than you otherwise would naturally. From you, Ronald, we would need a sperm sample. If you have your physical examination and we find that your sperm is not strong enough to fertilize an egg, then we may need a donor."
"I refuse," Ronald spat.
"Mr. Vanderbilt, you didn't let me finish," Ralph cut it, putting his hands up slightly with the hopes of calming the reluctant patient. "As I said, sometimes this happens. I will not guarantee either needing your sperm or that of a donor, but the procedure is three steps. Follicular aspiration, when we harvest some of Lisa's eggs. Then fertilization, which will either be the mixing of your eggs and sperm in a petri dish or the direct injection of healthy sperm into Lisa's healthy eggs. The fertilized embryos will be monitored for a few days to ensure that they are growing properly. Lastly, embryo transfer. Lisa will be pregnant."
Ronald and Lisa looked at each other pensively, and Lisa nodded with understanding. Next came the big question – they were Vanderbilts, after all.
"What are we looking at for costs?"
"Roughly $12,000," Ralph said outright.
"Per cycle?" Lisa asked.
"Money is not a problem," Ronald said brashly. He sighed reluctantly, and his wife chimed in to do the convincing in case the information from Dr. Volkov was not enough.
"Ronald, maybe we should try it!" she said with a smile. "I know, it doesn't seem natural, but he is right. We have done everything else pretty much. I just…" Lisa broke down crying. "I want a baby, and…I-I know you do, too. This has been so hard for us as it is, and it may be our very last chance…" She sniffled, and Ralph extended to his patient a clean tissue, which she took and wiped her eyes. "I'm not getting any younger, and no offense, neither are you."
Ralph nodded at the two and smiled: "so, you've decided to go through with the procedures of IVF?"
"Yes," Ronald sighed.
"I definitely do," Lisa agreed.
"Terrific," Ralph smiled, as the Vanderbilts got up and shook each of their hands, informing them of their appointments the following week for their preliminary check-ups. Paperwork came with the territory, and Ralph was determined that his well-to-do patients would conceive.
Ralph had overstayed at the clinic, and by 5:30 that afternoon, he was driving down a street not far from his work in his 1983 beige Pontiac. The sun was barely setting, but he could still make out the shape of a young girl on the side of the road who was standing on top of a moving skateboard. Ralph pulled over to be closer to the sidewalk, slowing down to catch her attention. Seeing her face, he rolled down the window and she looked over at him.
"Lavinia, why are you still out?"
Lavinia, Ralph's daughter, was fourteen but did not look like the typical teenaged girl with teased, sprayed hair and neon colors. Her hair, at least what could be seen under her baseball cap, was blonde, tousled and only reached her shoulders. She was wearing a navy pullover with a collared shirt underneath, a pair of acid washed blue jeans and white Reebok sneakers with two Velcro straps at the ankles. The only thing feminine about her appearance was her face – a semi-round face shape with fair skin, steel gray eyes, straight eyebrows, and full pink lips. He watched her kick her skateboard up straight, holding onto one end of it as she spoke.
"Well, dad," she began, "I waited for 45 minutes outside the school for you to pick me up. You never showed up."
"Doesn't give you permission to roam the city like this. Get in the car, it's not safe out here," her father ordered, reaching across the passenger seat to open the car door. Lavinia shook her head.
"Dad, I'm fourteen. I'm not a baby."
"You're my daughter and my responsibility, now get in this car," he ordered more sternly.
The teenager took her skateboard under her arm and plopped her behind into the passenger seat, shutting the door before she put her skateboard in the back seat and rested her elbow against the open window, looking out the window as Ralph started to drive back onto the road. Ralph, taking a sharp sigh, focused his eyes on the road but tried to engage with his daughter.
"So… Lavinia? Don't you think it's time you made some friends?"
"Just…" She shook her head with annoyance. "Let's go home."
"You spend too much of your time alone. It isn't healthy," Ralph suggested.
"Why should I make friends with girls who are snotty bitches that I have nothing in common with?"
"Watch your language!" Ralph snapped.
"I'm serious, dad." Lavinia shook her head, watching out the window at the road signs as they were coming out of the city and into the main suburban area. "My only friend moved away and since then, I've had nobody. Not that I want for anybody, either. High school's gonna suck."
"That's right," Ralph nodded, "ninth grade this fall."
"Don't remind me."
Ralph and Lavinia got out of the car the moment he parked in the driveway. The sun had gone down quite a bit since he picked his daughter up, but their home was a three-bedroom bungalow with pale yellow siding and white, carved wooden accents. The façade was highlighted by a veranda and a set of white wooden stairs with railings leading up to the front door. Lavinia, grabbing her skateboard from the back seat, went to the mailbox to see if there was anything there. She did not expect anything except for bills and paperwork for her father, but what she found confused her – junk mail perhaps? It was a glossy brochure that was flashy and read Camp Redwood.
Ralph smirked and looked at the brochure that Lavinia had been holding up and gestured her to come into the house as he unlocked and opened the door. She went in and put her skateboard standing up near the door and watched her father take a seat on the couch with the brochure.
"I sent for this, for you," he said.
"Dad, summer camp? Really? I'm not five years old. I'm too old for that crap," Lavinia stated with annoyance.
"No, no, you misunderstood me," her father shook his head, opening the pamphlet and pointing to a phone number on the bottom of the third panel. "Here. The number."
"I sent for this because I think it's about time you worked, start to earn your own money," Ralph mentioned.
Lavinia was confused, raising her eyebrows: "uh… dad? I'm fourteen. Is that even legal?"
"With my permission? Yes."
"Oh…" Lavinia nodded and took the pamphlet. "Uh… so, what would I do?"
"Probably a camp counselor position. You'd be like a role model to the campers," Ralph explained.
"I don't want to deal with kids," the girl said with annoyance.
"Hey, when I was still living in New York, I worked at Uncle Peter and Uncle Vlad's delicatessen. I was about your age and made good extra money. This would be a good experience for you. You're already independent, and I am proud of that. So, put it to use here. You'll do great, I'm sure," Ralph told his daughter.
"At least someone is proud of me," Lavinia muttered, plopping back down on the sofa and putting her hands in the pockets of her jeans.
Ralph got up and casually tossed the brochure on the coffee table, going into the kitchen and washing his hands. Being in the medical field, he was so used to washing his hands thoroughly, but he was distracted by a faint glow in the window above the sink. The curtains were drawn back, and clear as day, he could see a moon only half full glaring down at him. He took in a sharp sigh, gritting his teeth and letting out what sounded to be a faint, but guttural purr that faded into a growl. He kept at making this sound for a few moments, unable to control himself, as though under a curse or controlled by an unknown force. His eye blue eyes were fixed on the half-moon in the sky, even as he heard his daughter coming into the kitchen.
With his hands still wet and the water still running, he closed the curtains that hung on the window above the kitchen so fast that it made Lavinia wonder what on Earth her father was doing. She raised her eyebrows and walked past the archway and slouched forward.
"Dad, what the hell is going on in here?"
"Uh…" Ralph took a moment to compose himself and dry his hands on the kitchen towel hanging from one of the handles on the counter drawers. Lavinia looked at him even more, only to notice he was sweating profusely. "I think… we should order a pizza tonight."
"I-I don't feel like cooking, and… I bet you don't either," Ralph repeated with a nervous smile. "Go take a twenty from my wallet, okay? Order uh…" He sighed, "whatever you want."
"Aren't you having any?"
"Uh…" He gulped, "m-maybe not right now. I feel a bit… tired."
"Are you sure you're okay? You look like shit, and I could have sworn I heard you-"
"Nah, I was just frustrated! Work has been so stressful," said Ralph with rapid fire. "I... just need rest. Just… go do what I told you, okay?"
Lavinia threw her hands in the air and walked out of the kitchen – "fine."
She walked out, and as he heard the rotary phone dialing in the living room, he opened up the fridge and took out the carton of milk, an a few other containers of leftovers to access a half-full plastic bag buried intentionally among the other food the Volkovs stored in their fridge. He put everything back carefully, as to not attract his daughter's attention, but all he heard was her ordering the pizza over the phone.
"Hey, are you delivering? I'd like to place an order, paying with cash."
Ralph continued to put things back until the carton of milk was placed last, closing the fridge and getting his plastic bag in his grip. He slowly made his way out of the kitchen, and into the living room in order to get to his own room. He could hear Lavinia placing the order.
"A medium pepperoni, please? How much do I owe you?"
There was a pause and Ralph started to speed up his walking, even though his daughter was looking in his direction the entire time he was in her presence.
"10? Okay, see you in thirty." She hung up the phone and looked at her father. "Dad, what do you have there?"
"Oh, nothing. Just… hot water bag… f-for my stomach," he said nervously.
She rolled her eyes: "are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, now can I rest please?"
There was a silence: "goodnight."
As soon as Ralph reached the master bedroom, he closed and locked the door and sat on his bed, rapidly opening the plastic bag to reveal strips of raw steak that he gathered on his palm and shoved into his mouth. He took delight in the gamey, sinewy texture of the uncooked meat and the juicy blood within the flesh, but in a way, it also repulsed him. This was not normative eating behavior for any human being – it was a wonder how he did not test positive for parasites, he had thought in the years with these strange cravings. It was very much like a heroin addict getting their fix – he did not want to, but he had to. Once the strips were gone, he took out an uncooked rib-eye steak with a large bone, which he used to eat it like one would a turkey leg. His teeth even bit into the gristle and rind of the meat, tearing it off the bone in an almost inhuman manner with bite sizes that would make the average person choke to death. He chewed as best he could before swallowing every last morsel. When the bone of the rib-eye was stripped, he instinctually made sure nothing went to waste and gnawed on the last slivers of meat that clung to the bone until his teeth and jaws started to hurt. He put the bone back in the plastic bag and laid on his side, taking deep breaths as he felt his stomach digesting the raw contents.
Twenty-two years living like this, he thought. It is a wonder how I have done so much with this thorn in my side. I just hope the camp hires Lavinia, so she can make her own money… in addition to being safe from me.
Hey folks! I am back with a new fanfic for AHS: 1984. I saw the premiere and LOVED IT! I think the overall theme is a great idea. After all, a lot of slasher films came out then.
Those of you curious about the face claims for Ralph and his daughter Lavinia, they are Tom Welling (who appeared in Smallville) and Morgana Davies (Terra Nova, anyone?)
As always, leave a Review if you liked it/have suggestions, and be sure to Follow and Favorite! This will be up on Wattpad hopefully very soon with a cover and all that. Stay tuned, and thank you for your patience for my newest story! It feels good to write again.