Night Train Gazette

The Guitarist King of Lethargia

November 25, 2023 by Murky Waters
Illustrations by Stephen Smith

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In the beginning there was a small white room with a guitar amplifier in the middle of it. The amp was an Omnitron 5000, a one-of-a-kind model which preceded the existence of the entire universe. It was about two feet high and contained two 10-inch speakers. Next to the amp stood a custom Flying V guitar with a purple metallic finish and chrome trim. Through the room's doorway walked a long-haired man known as Simba, wearing tight leather pants and a lacy white shirt. He turned on the amp, adjusted a few of the knobs, picked up the guitar and slammed out a thunderous power chord, swinging his hair around for dramatic effect. As the chord sustained, the amp emitted luminescent clouds of tiny stars which floated and swirled around the room. Simba commenced to play a lightning-fast guitar solo such as no mortal man has ever heard. The star clouds were ushered by the sound through the door into the void of space and began to form the structure of a majestic palace around the white room. Simba grimaced as his rapid riffing actuated the formation of giant towers, walls, rooms of all sizes, tiled and hardwood floors, staircases, balconies, skylights and windows.

Simba plays a guitar solo which creates the whole universe

Floating spots of light began to appear throughout the palace. They grew in size until they formed the shapes of the stylish and attractive people who would populate the castle city. Beneath the palace, which would be known as Lethargia, a mountain materialized and became the city's resting place. At the bottom of the mountain, terrain began to appear and extend in all directions, and eventually formed the sphere of the planet Terah. Outward in a spherical wave from the planet, the star systems and galaxies of the universe began to take shape until the wave of creation reached an infinite distance. Simba's guitar solo blazed up to a squealing high note which sustained for a full glorious minute and a half. Satisfied with his performance, he turned down the volume knob, wiped the sweat from his brow, and placed the guitar back on the stand. He then exited the white room and proceeded to the auditorium, knowing that was where the other newly created citizens of the palace would receive their orientation from the Central Authority, the supercomputer that was technologically integrated into all areas of the palace so it could function as the city's leader and advisor.

"Welcome, Lethargians," a pleasant woman's voice said, "to your wondrous mountaintop home created by our benevolent guitarist king. Everything you could need or want is here. The only thing that is asked of you is that you have a good time, do what you like, socialize, and celebrate the awesomeness of Lethargia, the city of perfection. Of course, there are a few laws that need to be followed here, but we won't bore you with that now. You can find that information in a PDF file located in your brain storage card which can be verbally or mentally activated."

After the orientation, the new citizens got to know each other and celebrated all night. All around the palace music played, colorful lights shined, and delicious food was served. People danced at rock concerts and in nightclubs, played glow-in-the-dark pool, drank copious amounts of synthetic hangover-free alcohol, and took lots and lots of selfies with their communication devices. The next day they were enthralled by their first robot football game.

In the weeks and years and centuries that followed they began to discover their own individual interests and talents. Each person was free to work as little or as much as he or she liked. Some residents sat in the park all day, striking up occasional conversations with passersby. Some worked on artistic or scientific projects which were usually never completed. Others habitually shopped for clothes. Style was very important in the mountain city. It didn't matter so much what you did there as long as you looked good doing it. The Lethargians were potentially immortal, free from all aging and sickness, although not indestructible. For this reason, reproduction was extremely rare and had to be approved by the Central Authority.

Centuries after the creation, a city-dweller named Mizak went on an information-gathering expedition to the valley below the mountain with some fellow Lethargians. For most of their lives they had heard rumors about the people who lived there and were eager to investigate. It was said that the valley people were descended from Lethargians who had left the city long ago, against the wishes of the Central Authority. They had shortened life spans because of their increased distance from the life-sustaining Omnitron 5000, and so had to reproduce regularly in order to prolong their population. Lacking the mountain city's food-synthesis technology, they also had to learn to grow and gather their own food. It was decided long ago that the outsiders would never be allowed back into the city because of the extreme cultural differences and because there simply wouldn't have been enough room and resources for all of them.

Before leaving on the expedition, the group were given a warning by the Lethargian Council. "The outsiders are not civilized, their ways are different from ours. For your own safety, you should not engage in conversation with them." The team landed their metallic egg-shaped craft in the dried remains of a field and set out on foot for a nearby town. From behind a large rock formation, they spied on the townspeople from a distance with high-powered binoculars. There was a group of wooden buildings that appeared to be the town center; and a few people wearing drab, worn-looking clothes were wandering around. Also, there were a couple of dogs, a few kids playing, and a horse pulling a carriage. Mizak told the others he wanted to go into the town for just a few minutes, and after some arguing they begrudgingly agreed to let him go.

Mizak in Yondervale

He made his way toward a group of people who were gathered on the front porch of one of the buildings with a sign that read "Yondervale General Store." They saw him approaching in his white expedition jumpsuit and boots and came down the porch stairs to see what was happening. They stood waiting and spoke softly to each other as he walked closer.

"Hello, My name is Mizak. I'm here with an expedition group from the city of Lethargia," he said, motioning toward the faraway mountaintop.

They stood silently for a moment and Mizak wondered if they could understand his language. An older woman with long grayish-brown hair stepped forward. "Hello, my name is Averia. We welcome you to our town. We haven't had any Lethargian visitors here in many generations. There is a lot for us to discuss."

Mizak strained to understand her words. Her accent was foreign and strange.

"Yes, discussion would be beneficial. We are curious to know what life is like here in the valley."

Three young children ran over to join the group. One boy laughed and pointed at Mizak and said, "He looks funny!" A man with a brown wide-brimmed hat turned to the boy and replied, "Hush! Mind your manners!"

Averia continued. "Times have been hard for us here lately, but we do the best we can. Many townspeople have moved away. There's a food shortage. We buy what we can from nearby villages. The shipment we expected last week still hasn't arrived. None of us have eaten in two days."

A little girl in a bluish-white dress approached Mizak and asked him if he could bring them some food. The others looked at him silently, waiting for his response. He hesitated and then said, "Yes, I think I can. We have plenty to eat in Lethargia." The group began to smile as they heard this news. Mizak's communication device began to beep. After reading an angry message from the expedition leader, he told the town residents he had to leave, but promised he would be back soon with some food for all of them.

After returning to the city, Mizak sought out Simba and found him standing near the Council Hall with his girlfriend Barbitua, who regarded the approaching man with a blank expression. Mizak greeted Simba and then explained what happened on the expedition. "I would like to request council approval for an immediate food-delivery mission to Yondervale," Mizak said. Simba replied slowly, "Contact with the valley dwellers is discouraged, as you know. Their lives are difficult and always have been. But still, I understand your concern. The next council meeting starts in 30 minutes. I'll inform the other members of your request. Meet me here an hour from then."

Mizak sat down on a bench next to an ornate water fountain and waited, still feeling disturbed by what he had learned in Yondervale, not wanting to believe people outside the mountain city would be allowed to starve. He began to think about what kind of food he could take them and others ways the Lethargians could help. After a while Mizak looked up and saw Simba returning. "I told the council about your visit to the valley. They are very concerned about the conditions you found there. We will be meeting again soon to discuss possible solutions to the problem. The council requests that you refrain from any further visits to the valley until we reach a decision."

"The people there can't wait much longer," Mizak protested. "They have no food." Simba smiled and put a hand on Mizak's shoulder. "Don't worry so much. It's in our hands now, we'll take care of it soon, I promise. By the way, there's a concert tonight. Five different bands and mine will be headlining. An awesome time will be had by all. You should find a lady friend and attend," he said, giving him a wink as he walked away.

After a few minutes Mizak made his mind up. He wasn't going to wait. He walked to one of the city's large automated kitchens and arranged for the robot cooks to prepare food for a private party. After it was prepared, the trays of food were shrink-wrapped and loaded onto anti-gravity delivery carts. Mizak led the procession of floating carts out of the kitchen and through a series of corridors until he reached the aircraft bay. He loaded the food into the same craft his expedition team had used earlier that day. A curious onlooker approached him and asked where he was taking the food. Mizak replied nervously that he was delivering it to an expedition team. The questioner simply replied, "hmm," and walked away.

After instructing the delivery carts to return to the kitchen, Mizak boarded the small ship and sat in the pilot's seat. He told the computer he wished to return to the area he had visited earlier that day. The craft rose up gently, then proceeded forward out of the large aircraft bay doors. A few minutes later it landed in the center of Yondervale. A crowd of people quickly surrounded the machine in awe and happy anticipation as he emerged from the door with the first tray of food. He handed it to the nearest person to him and then unloaded the rest of the trays, handing them off one by one. The food was taken to the town cafeteria building, unwrapped and set on tables. There were sandwiches, roasted chicken, casseroles, miniature quiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, chips, cookies and pies. To drink there was tea and punch. Plates and glasses and silverware that hadn't been used in a while were brought out of the cafeteria's kitchen.

As the hungry people began to partake of the feast, Averia approached Mizak. "Thank you so much," she said and hugged him. He received many more hugs that day, along with numerous handshakes and pats on the back. After dinner they gathered on the porch of the general store while the sun was going down. Two men brought out acoustic guitars and played songs while the others sang along. As Mizak was enjoying the moment he saw a group of people in the distance approaching the town.

As they got closer, Mizak recognized them because of their white expedition suits. There were ten of them, holding devices he had never seen before. The singing stopped as Mizak slowly walked down the steps and waited for them to arrive. The citizens of Yondervale followed and gathered behind him. The Lethargians stopped 30 feet in front of them and Simba, the group leader, called out to Mizak and waved him over to talk.

Lethargians in their expedition suits

"Mizak," he said with a smile, "perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough earlier. You were advised to avoid contact with the valley-dwellers for a reason. Contrary to what you may believe, Lethargia doesn't have the resources to feed everyone outside the city. These people chose long ago to separate themselves from our city and the Omnitron 5000. As a result, they have short lives, crude technology, and struggle like animals to survive. We understand that you are concerned about the welfare of these people, but they are defective. Does their hunger cause you so much anguish that you must disregard our authority to feed them?"

Mizak said nothing. He could see a look of genuine contempt in the long-haired man's eyes. Simba continued. "The council has made its decision. We will end your misery along with theirs. Your dematerialization will be instantaneous and painless."

With those words Mizak suddenly understood what the devices were that the Lethargians were holding. Before he could turn around to warn the crowd behind him of their impending doom, Simba pressed the trigger of his dematerializer and Mizak disappeared in a split second. The valley people gasped and began to yell in protest. Averia cried out, "What did you do to him?" The Lethargians raised their weapons and sent a shower of light beams into the crowd, dematerializing eight of them. The remaining people turned and ran. A few of them got away.

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"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...