Reading Sundays: SHADES OF UNREALITY (Part 6), a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Between us sat a table made of some substance like glass, for I could see the carpets on the floor through it. I regarded it dubiously. Would it shatter if I placed a goblet of mulled wine on it? I was dying for some refreshment, but I had to put that thought aside as Augustus continued to speak.

“Scooba washes floors, and Roomba cleans the carpet. They both work automatically.”

“What means automatically?” I asked.

“It means you don’t have to do anything.”

I frowned. I had never heard that word before, yet it described my life perfectly.

“I never had to lift a finger whilst I lived all those years ago,” I observed. “I was a Great Lady.”

“You never did a hand’s turn in your life,” spat Pandora.

My cheeks warmed. “I like not your tone.”

“Robots are smart,” observed Augustus, giving Pandora a look. “Scooba and Roomba do their work without bumping into objects. Let me show you Roomba.”

I shivered. I must be in a Necromancer’s Castle. Was he evil or good? He must be mightily powerful if he could make animals speak, and inert objects move around the room. When was he going to materialize? What would he do to me once he appeared? Prickles of unease wound their way from the back of my neck, down my spine, and along my arms, as my stomach clenched into a cold fist.

While these thoughts stirred in my mind, Augustus opened a small door in the wall of an entryway and brought out an object shaped like a large platter, such as we would have employed to serve peacock, or boar, at one of our great feasts. However, this thing that was supposed to move around objects squatted on the floor quietly.

“It goeth not,” I remarked. “Is it dead?” [Continued next week.]