“It’s like he’s in a trance, doctor,” Patricia cried. Tears streamed down her face as her son sat beside her in the sterile, cold examination room.
“See if you can follow my light with your eyes, Timothy,” implored Dr. Morton. His small mag-light was like a bumblebee picking out a nice spot for lunch on a flower, darting from one of Timothy’s eyes to the other. But Timothy’s eyes were focused sharply on the clock at the far end of the room.
Tick, tock, tick, tock, his eyes followed the almost sweeping motion of the second hand. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
“It’s only getting worse, Doctor,” wailed Patricia. “He used to be like this maybe two or three times a day. Now it’s all day, every day. He’s six years old! He should be running and jumping and playing!”
Timothy probably would have taken offense to what his mother was saying. No one “should do” anything, he would think. But he could not think. All he could do was follow the tick, follow the tock, follow the tick, follow the tock, and it wasn’t until he was forcibly dragged from this room that he would be able to stop.
“Well, Mrs. Green,” said Dr. Morton, “I’m afraid it’s exactly what I feared.” Patricia’s hand tightened around Timothy’s as Dr. Morton delivered the verdict. “He has IFS.”
Patricia’s desperate screams could be heard from miles away. Out in the waiting room, the nurse had to quell the fears of the other parents waiting as they too tightly gripped the hands of their stone-faced children.
Dr. Morton placed a hand on Patricia’s knee and found the thin line between being caring and seeming overly friendly. Tears dropped from her face and onto Timothy’s arm, but he didn’t feel them because all he could see or feel or hear was tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock…
IFS, or Intense Focus Syndrome, was first diagnosed in 2018. Soon, as clusters of cases began to form in the early 20’s, it became clear that this new genetic mutation was it’s own neurological disorder, and strangely, it was closely linked to health care access and divided sharply along socioeconomic lines.
It didn’t take long to find the link. The one thing that these kids with IFS had in common was that at least one parent and at least one grandparent had been diagnosed with ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder. In addition, the same parent and grandparent, in each case, had also been prescribed the amphetamine-based drug Adderall or a sister drug such as Focusin, Successor, or Attentrex.
It was a long car ride home from the doctor’s office. Tears continued to roll down Patricia’s cheek and into her mouth, where they tasted like a blend of fear, anger, and salty guilt.
Timothy’s eyes were focused on the speedometer as it hovered between 38 and 39, it’s orange glow moving from side to side, so gently, so gently.
He was so still sometimes that Patricia would stop breathing so she could listen closely and make sure that he still was.
It all made sense now: The parent-teacher conferences where Ms. Dixon would tell her that he had done one project so well but everything else all semester so poorly. His inability to watch movies. The fact that he only ever ate one of the food items on his plate.
Hoping to drown out her thoughts, Patricia turned on the radio. Timothy did not notice, of course.
And then, like a bugle from heaven, a commercial changed everything:
“Does your child suffer from IFS? Are you worried about their future? Are you worried that you will have to care for them forever? Well, worry no more. Help is on the way. Modern science has created the cure: Distracterall. Yes, Distracterall will help your child lose focus, become more inattentive, and regain the youthful exuberance we all knew and loved as children. Don’t let IFS rule you. Distracterall. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.”
Timothy’s eyes maintained their focus, but now the orange glow was pushing into the 50’s. Patricia was wasting no time.
Distracterall was first sold by Ginny Sumter Clark, a major pharmaceutical brand that came to preeminence in the late teens. With IFS as a new national concern, now affecting 1 in 3 children under the age of twelve, the government helped push Distracterall through all it’s trial stages quickly. Some fringe groups said the government was putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound, but the general public rejoiced as the parks were once again full of laughing, screaming children.
By 2021, Distracterall became the most prescribed drug of all time, edging out Lipitor, and was soon followed by slew of copycat drugs: Funtex, Confusor, and Playallax. By 2022, 7 out of 10 children were on Distracterall or one of it’s generic counterparts. With the social stigma attached to parents with IFS kids, most parents put their children on these meds even if the diagnosis wasn’t clear. If their doctor didn’t say their child had IFS, they would go to another doctor and instruct their child to sit “even more still” this time.
Four weeks had passed since Timothy has started taking the Distracterall. He sat at the dinner table, playing his GeoPad with his visor on. He was playing a new game where he could virtually fight ultra-realistic space invaders and with the updated GeoPad visor his mother had just given him, he was able to control his avatar’s movements completely with his thoughts. This left his hands free for eating and whatever else kids like to do.
Patricia could remember a time, not long ago, when she would ask Timothy about his day at school and he would just be staring blankly at the residue of the dressing as it slowly made it’s way down the sides of the glass salad bowl, but this was much better. He was doing things. He was playing.
“How was your day at school?” asked Patricia.
“Mom. I’m busy. I’m on a way high level. Stop distracting me.”
Patricia smiled. Her son was cured!
The year was 2041 and Timothy was sitting by his daughter, Viv, in the doctor’s office. Her eyes darted from place to place.
“She can’t seem to really ever be present anywhere,” said Timothy. “I don’t know how she’s feeling. Sometimes I’m not even sure she knows how she is feeling.”
Viv had hopped up from her seat and was playing drums on the scale with a couple of tongue depressors.
“This has been popping up more and more lately,” said Dr. Pitesky. “It is actually quite similar to an ailment that had it’s heyday at the end of the last century. We thought it was gone, like polio.”
Viv was seeing how many cotton balls she can stuff into her cheeks.
“There was a drug that treated this before and we do have an updated, much more powerful formula. It should clear this right up,” said Dr. Pitesky.
Viv was using a stethoscope to hang from the coat rack.
“Well, let’s get her on that right away. What’s it called?” asked Timothy.
“It’s called Adderall. It’s quite effective.”
Six weeks later Timothy took a deep breath as he sat at the park with Viv. She sat totally still, calmly and quietly beside him as all the other kids ran amok.
“She’s so well behaved,” he thought. “Her future will be bright.”