Medical Device

A triangle of snow marks the gap in the french doors leading to the motel room’s balcony. Madison is sitting on the bed with her nose in an adventure novel while I stare out the window. The weather has changed from “heavy snowfall” to “blizzard” to “storm of the century.” I’m glad we’re indoors rather than braving the weather in my Ford Fiesta.

My cell phone rings; I pick it up without bothering to look.

“Hello, Justin; how’re things at the office?”

“I’m not at the office, Britt; I just got home. Where are my kids?”

“Everybody’s safe, Justin.”

“That’s not what I asked. Where are you?”

“I dropped Hannah and Jake off at Mom’s. Maddie’s with me, out of reach of your goons from ‘Health’ Canada and their mind-control devices!”

“It’s not mind control, it’s a medical device.”

“An experimental medical device!”

“We’re not going through this again, Britt. Play your game if you want, but make sure Madison is back in time for school on Monday. I mean it!”

Justin hangs up on me. He used his pull in the government to get 12-year old Madison enrolled in the clinical trial of the Sleepwalker device, a headband that’s supposed to suppress her telepathy. Madison says it’s like being partially deaf, and I believe her. After all, I’ve been hearing thoughts since I was her age. It totally screwed up my adolescence.

“Aunt Brittney, your moping is distracting me.”

“Sorry, dear. Dealing with your dad just gets me so frustrated.”

“I know. But he’s just doing what he thinks is best, same as you are.”

She’s a remarkably forgiving kid. But I guess knowing people’s intentions as they talk to you makes it easier. I brush her hair back from her eyes and she smiles. This kind of tender moment is easy with Madison; we really do have an unspoken bond.

An intense thought rises through the floor. It’s a young couple, and they are definitely in the mood.

“Maddie, we’re getting out of here.” I will not expose her to any of this!

“Why, what’s … eeew!”

She jumps for her backpack while I grab our coats. But rather than grab it and run she’s digging into it.


“Just a second. Have you got a screwdriver, Auntie?”

Why would I have a screwdriver? “Will a dime do?”

“I guess. Give it.”

The couple below are getting up to steam. I’ve overheard sex before; to me it’s just disturbing. Madison looks like she’s about to vomit. She pulls out the Sleepwalker Device, finds a screw on the inside of the headband and cranks it around three-quarters of a turn. Then she rams the thing onto her head and breathes a sigh of relief.

When we make it to the car I relax a bit. Distance and the blizzard have cut back on the emotions I’m hearing.

“Maddy, I thought you hated that thing. You said it dulled your mental hearing.”

“Sometimes not hearing is a good thing, Auntie. Let’s go home.”

Nodding, I start the car and pull out onto the highway, heading back toward Mom’s.


Originally posted to Writer's Digest.