Let me get right into it. Although the common assumption would be that a person with six cylinders would be sturdier and more productive than a person with only one, you may be surprised to find that a one-cylinder person is superior in every way to anyone with a lesser number of cylinders. The need for more cylinders to perform at one’s required levels of production indicates deficiency, a shortcoming of some sort or another, a deficit. Three is beta, two is beta-alpha, and anything below three isn’t worth categorizing. Great, now that we have that sorted out, we can meet Mr. Gabriel.
“Mr. Gabriel,” said Captain Alfonte. “Now that you have had your six cylinders cleaned and well-oiled and, as much as possible at least, enhanced, are you ready to continue with your next ‘mission,’ even though it’s incredibly dangerous and dim-witted, not to mention expensive and even more impossible than your previous so-called ‘missions?’
Mr. Gabriel sat on the cold slab of the table while doctors and mechanics hovered around his torso, unplugging cords and adjusting pressure-handles before closing the metal door which resembled the skin of his torso when shut and locked.
“Captain Alfonte,” said Mr. Gabriel. “Retirement has been good to me. So have these extra cylinders. I can feel my body becoming more able than it has ever been before. As you have seen, I can now, thanks to proper modification, conquer feats never even expected of me during my career, feats that even you, with the necessity of just your lone cylinder, would be weary of attempting.”
Now just to be clear, most everyone needs cylinders, but only the very least capable people require six. Mr. Gabriel, however, is of the belief that the addition of cylinders, granted an expensive addition, affords him the abilities of a person with only one cylinder, a person such as me. Before his retirement, Mr. Gabriel required only two cylinders to keep up with what was expected of him. It should also be noted that most of his colleagues only required one cylinder, and so were weary of giving him too many tasks for him to handle. After retirement, however, he went about searching high and low for doctors and droids indecorous enough to perform the operation of additional cylinders, believing somewhat backwardly that the addition of cylinders will work in reverse to the understanding of men requiring fewer cylinders are indubitably superior to those requiring more.
He at first attempted and nearly pulled-off one such ‘mission’ with the addition of one cylinder by hiking a fourth of the Appalachian trail, though this task was not without difficulty. Droids and doctors accompanied him throughout the hike, camping beside him, checking oil levels, begging him to rest when his cylinders, in need of maintenance, put too much stress on his own body. While he did manage to accomplish his goal in pushing his body further than it could have gone without the addition of a cylinder, it was not without serious risk to his health and his cylinders. Yet, despite what he thinks, one of lesser cylinders would have performed the task much more quickly and without such supervision. Many would say it could be done more efficiently by a person of lesser cylinders.
“Mr. Gabriel,” said Captain Alfonte. “While we’re allowing you to perform your next so-called ‘mission,’ I insist on reminding you one last time that the addition of your new cylinders, though technically making your capabilities closer to those of a one-cylinder person, does not ensure that you will be victorious today. I implore you to remember your hike up Everest shortly after the addition of your fifth cylinder and the risk that you posed not only to yourself but to the safety of the party required to escort you to the top and back.”
Mr. Gabriel nodded once again. “Retirement is a beautiful thing, Captain Alfonte. I do hope you enjoy it sometime soon.”
Our plane cranks off with its many moving parts humming and shaking and gains the appropriate altitude for Mr. Gabriel’s ‘mission.’
“Mr. Gabriel,” Captain Alfonte shouts. “You hardly made it down the mountain with five cylinders.”
“Retirement is a beautiful thing, Captain Alfonte. It is thrilling to be released of tasks required of you and to instead perform great feats in which you conquer that which you could not before. With proper modification, of course.”
With the door open and ripping in wind, Captain Alfonte shouts into Mr. Gabriel’s ear, “You know that we don’t accept any responsibility for how this pans out, and that we explicitly laid out the risks of this so-called ‘mission.’”
Mr. Gabriel knocks on the panel securing his cylinders in place under the guise of the metal latch that’s disguised as his torso. “Yes,” he yells. “Go to hell,” he yells.
The six-cylinder man then jumps from the plane and is scooped up by the tumult of atmospheric wind and the harsh tug of gravity.
Captain Alfonte closes the door of the plane and says to the crew, “Anyone out to prove themselves such as Mr. Gabriel is perhaps not in need of more cylinders but a grasp on reality and their limitations within it. Further, I might add that even I, a Captain in need of only one cylinder who can yet perform better than other one-cylinder people, can’t successfully fall from a plane without the need for a device that would put me safely on ground. Don’t bother calling the receiving crew.”
Through their binoculars, the receiving crew sees the trail of smoke from the six-cylinder man’s fast approach to earth. They communicate via walkie talkie that the black smoke from the torso of the descending figure is irregular and that they should take rescue actions. Captain Alfonte responds on channel four that that all is going according to plan, please ignore the smoke.
Joe LaFata is an MA candidate in English at the University of Illinois Springfield with a focus on Digital Publishing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine and Bindweed Magazine. He is also the creative nonfiction and hybrid editor at Uproot.