Reading Sundays: SHADES OF UNREALITY (Part 4), a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

He must be talking about the children that own these toys. What were their names? I always pride myself on my ability to remember the little one’s names, they get so upset if one forgets them. But Roomba and Scooba? What strange names to bestow on children. Poor little things.

But the bear hadn’t finished. What a talkative toy he was.

“When she’s switched them on, you take off for the nearest spot out of reach,” he remarked.

I had no idea what he was talking of. But that cat twitched her tail, and grimaced.

“They un-nerve me. Ugh! I cannot bear the touch of their sensors. And those funny noises they make aren’t natural. If Roomba and Scooba can glide off to Whitehall and beep for their rights, why not us?”

Where were we? The only clear thing I understood is that we must be somewhere near the Palace of Whitehall, which is in London. I was back in the Land of England, but ’twas very strange, scarce recognizable from when I left it. Where were the servants scurrying around? The guards? Where were the wall hangings, and the elaborate furniture? Most of all, where were the fireplaces with their roaring fires? Truly, I found myself in a strange place. But I had to pin down my wandering thoughts, for the conversation was heating up. As I stood between them, moving my head from side to side as if watching a game of shuttle-cock, these two strange beings began to argue.

“We’re not robots,” declared the bear.

“We’re animals, Augustus,” said the cat. “We should have rights too.”

“We’re not animals, Pandora,” remarked Augustus. “Do we bleed, when we are pricked?”

“Why does having blood matter?” demanded Pandora the Cat.

Augustus the Bear ignored her. “You’re not quite real,” he declared rather foolhardily, for Pandora looked as if she were on the verge of throttling him. Then she said something that amazed me.

“I must be real,” she declared. “I have ideas. What about Duchess Cecylee? Is she real? I thought she was just a figment of the imagination of our companion, who writes historical novels…[Continued next week.]