The king frowned as he observed the villagers below in quiet contempt. They were gathered near the base of his tower around a raging bonfire and conversed over a sparse yet merry dinner. They were happy, despite the poverty they shared. Their ignorance made the king furious.
The throne room was empty save a body sprawled across the floor. A series of man-sized capsules lined the west wall. Only two were functional, the rest had been welded shut and smeared over with black tar.
Pink mist gathered within one and hummed softly as it took the form of a human, first with bone and muscle, then with flesh and blood. A young naked man stepped from the tube and kneeled before the king.
“I am thirsty,” said his Majesty. “Ergo, get me some water.”
Ergo nodded. He put on a tattered robe hung on the wall and made to exit. The king’s voice boomed.
“And bring me stones.”
Ergo wavered. He sighed and faced the king.
“Your Majesty? Why must you hit them with stones?”
“Because it is of no consequence.”
“But they suffer.”
“They suffer now. I end the suffering. Ergo, bring me stones.”
Ergo bowed in silence and disappeared. He returned with a cup of water and a wheelbarrow of stones and placed them at the king’s side. His Majesty clapped with callous pleasure and punched a button on the wall. The great window opened to the dark, draping sky.
The wind nipped at their faces, forcing Ergo away from the ledge. The king held his place, frozen in disgusted contemplation. He leered and spit. The wind delivered his saliva into Ergo’s eyes, who shuddered.
“A stone,” he said. His palm was open and waiting.
Ergo hesitated. He looked from the king to the peasants below and back again. To be enjoying a hot meal by the fire only to blink out of existence as a massive rock crashed through his skull…
“A stone,” the king demanded, “or throw yourself over, and end my suffering.”
Ergo lifted a stone, paused to study it. Its surface was coarse and flawed, withered into imperfection through eons of indifferent stillness. He closed his eyes and clenched the rock. Then he struck the king from behind, toppling him forward. The king flailed through the bitter wind until the tower battlements impaled him.
The servant smiled through a stream of tears. Behind Ergo one of the working tubes began to generate the familiar pink mist. A youthful voice filled the vacant throne room.
“Ergo,” the voice said. “I am thirsty.”