The World Machine by SeanMartin ()
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“FREE UNICYCLE. Experienced riders ONLY!” — and I thought, I haven’t ridden one in years, but I certainly knew my way around one. It might be fun to try it again. So I got in touch, and the guy agreed to bring it over that afternoon.
He was right on time, lazily making his way through the crowds and traffic with a skill I’d never seen before. An older man, about sixty, but still an excellent rider. He slowed down when he saw me and began making lazy loops around me as we talked. First, he wanted to make sure I could see him. Of course, I can, I replied, and all he did was nod his head. Then he stopped and jumped off — and the moment he did, the ‘cycle started to softly beep. “Don’t worry about that; just get on — let’s see how well you do.”
Well, you never forget how to ride one of these things, and it all came rushing back in muscle memory. I tried a few tricks, and he shook his head, “It doesn’t go in reverse, only forward. That a problem for you?” It wasn’t: I just loved riding the thing. Satisfied, he nodded, “Okay, it’s yours.” — and then he disappeared into the crowds. I stopped and got off, and the thing started to beep again, from this small box just under the seat. At the same time, I got a text with a pdf, telling me to get on and ride: more information would follow. So I did, and dang me if it wasn’t like I was completely invisible to everyone and everything: crowds, traffic, all of it somehow just magically wasn’t there when I came riding through.
Then the message came. It seems I’d been enlisted into a group of elite unicyclists whose job it was was to apply tire to ground to keep the earth spinning. Seriously? I thought. I hopped off to read more: there were over 200 of us, around the globe, whose constantly forward motion made sure the earth continued to spin properly. We are all tiny yet necessary gears in a World Machine. We were allowed breaks for sleep and the occasional call of nature, but that was it: the rest of the time we were to just ride. No one can see us, and yet there we are, passing like the wind through people and cars and everything else. If too many of us stop at the same time, the earth shrugs to a momentary halt: that’s that cold wind you sometimes feel for no apparent reason. As such, scheduling sleep has to be coordinated to the half-minute… by whom, I don’t know. They too simply do their job, in invisibility. That beep is a reminder that I’m not doing my own. So I got on and rode. For some reason, it felt right.
Since then, I’ve learned there are probably more than our 200: after all, someone — or something — has to cover the vast expanses of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Whoever or whatever drives that part of this, no one knows, yet they have to be down there for this operation to work at peak efficiency. I’ve also learned there are other, far larger ones whose rides keep the earth moving about the sun. Some riders claim to have seen them — gigantic beings with cycles whose enormous tires grab the very ground and push it onward. I’m not sure I believe them, and yet I know I should: something must be doing that, I suppose.
Even more monstrous ones keep the sun in motion as it travels through the galaxy. I don’t even want to think of the scale needed for riders like that. And yet even they must be dwarfed by those who spin everything up to the very universe itself. All of us, great and small play our part: gears and drives, tiny and gigantic, a clockwork system without which everything would come to a crashing halt of universal destruction.
At the same time, I am now of an age where I must find a replacement, someone younger, more adept and stronger than I. We circulate out of service around the age of sixty, and I am now a year or two beyond that. So, the other day, I posted my own ad: “FREE UNICYCLE. Experienced riders ONLY!” I’ve received a reply. Let’s hope it’s a good one.
Image Comments (6)
perpetualrevision () 7:54PM | Sat, 18 April 2020
Love the light and shadows! And no, I will not be replying to that ad!!