Dust Devil Six

Ann James
6 min readMay 21
Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

“My grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf

So it stood ninety years on the floor

It was taller by half than the old man himself

But it weighed not a pennyweight more.”

My Grandfather’s Clock

“St-St-Stephanie, are you th-there?” Jorge called out, knocking at the door of Stephanie’s residence in the Virtual Reality Interactive Cinema. While he waited, he rubbed his thumb across the photo he’d kept in his wallet for years. Their dad had taken it at the mini-golf place in Reno. In the picture he was a toddler surrounded by three older children — his sister and two Indian boys, one Stephanie’s age and one much older. An enormous statue of a genie stood at the entrance. Although he’d been only two years of age, Jorge remembered saying, “Look! A genie.” He didn’t stutter back then.

Jorge knocked again and opened the door to Stephanie’s residence. He found her sleeping on the living room couch. He gently covered her with a blanket and left the room.

At the controls of V-RIC, he reprogrammed the date of his virtual reality dream. No longer wishing to visit the moon of Jupiter, he flipped over the photograph and entered the date into the controls: April 29, 1995.

Unknown to him, only an hour earlier, at the end of another 24-hour battle for her identity against AlIce XI, Stephanie had completed entering the data for the virtual reality dreams of the participants, and her own. Back to a single perfect day. The day she met Dave.


Always a sound sleeper, Stephanie had never before woken up at 1:50 a.m., in the moment of her paralysis. But tonight was different — the night before the V-RIC Grand Opening. She stared at the ceiling of her room. AlIce XI stared back. Her lips unmoving, she communicated with Stephanie telepathically. I have moved your V-RIC experience to Room 3 of the Baker Hotel. You must be there in time. I’m going to take your place on the V-RIC. It’s very dangerous to be near it tomorrow — I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. Just do as I say — Room 3, Baker Hotel. There isn’t time to activate a doppelganger for your brother, but I promise I’ll keep him safe.

Ann James

Her writing muse lurks in the volcanic hills amidst mustangs, marmots and jackalopes. While hiking with her dogs, Ann stumbles upon stories of dark humor.