The Flat Man's Guide to The Galaxy
By: Molly Liu

Julia's POV:

I kissed someone.

We were walking down the street. He asked me once before if he could take the next move, holding my hands or more. He said he was always bad with timing.

I said I can help out. And then I asked him: "Can I take your hands?"

He laughed and said sure. So, I reached out and held his hands, fingers crossed. It was wet and big, his hand.

I got tired, so we sat on the branch we found on the street. He asked to kiss me again, and I said ok.

His lips were parted, eyes were open. They were small lips, and they were soft. We adjusted our positions and sucked on each other a little bit. After the fifth or sixth time, I pushed him away, saying that I needed to breathe.

It was our first date. And I was 17.

Robert:

The aliens were everywhere. It was the end of all. You can't get out of your home. You can't go on the street. And when something like this happens, you gotta breathe.

"Uncle, let me in." The nephew thing was downstairs, smiling and yelling. What he didn't know was that he would never be able to step in my home again. Ever.

"OK, just go in." My daughter, Julia yelled back. I took one step forward, covered her mouth, and pulled her back from the window.

"Did you leave the door open?" I cursed, "I told you never leave the door open, and nobody is coming in!"

"I didn't leave the damn door open." She pulled my hand away and spit, but her face was pale. But the nephew thing had already disappeared from the street and entered the apartment building.

Our whole family held our breath. My wife Rebecca hugged her belly tight, and Julia turned away from me.

Some small, kitten steps from the front door. The sound of something heavy being pushed open. Singing and humming. Gentle knocking on the bedroom door.

"Uncle? Let me in." The youthful voice sounded so pure and unbearable.

Time is paused. The door remained locked.

"You know that you're paranoid, right? I'm just here to deliver some dinner from my mom. Auntie, Julia? Please let me in."

After 10 minutes, the alien placed a roasted turkey before the bedroom door and left.

I dumped it in the trash. This is the second time it does this. I dumped it below all trash so the neighbors would not notice like the last time they did.

Julia:

Once again, I snuck out of the apartment and entered the street. The street is covered with ashes, just because the government said smoke can cast out the aliens. My dad said its nonsense.

"The only key is to never let them into your house." he said. I wanted to say it was an apartment.

But before I went, there was one thing I needed to do. I sat down under the apartment door and watched my body transform into liquids, and then through the door, transform back.

Today is the second date. I thought about what would happen. I kind of dislike him, but I wanted to experience things other girls have experienced too. So even though his hands were too big, his muscles were too much, and his hair was too thick and black, I was still going to hold his hands.

After that, I was going to go back, let myself into the apartment, transformed to liquid under the apartment door, and return home after I transformed back.

Robert:

"It's possible," The TV said, "that this alien disease is transformed through sex. That means, if you had sex with an alien attached person accidentally, you will become one of THEM. They're like parasites, you know? Enters the human body through holes and transforms you. And then you start talking nonsense like…"

"Don't ever go out again." I turned off the TV, pointed to Julia, "I know you have been sneaking out. Crawling under my eyesight, huh? Don't go out unless you want to become one of them."

"You always said we are the less, the vulnerable, but if the aliens are everywhere on the street like the government said, why don't they just rule us?"

"Sit down," I heard myself talking, but it sounded like bubbles under the water, distance and unclear, for I know a speech was coming, "I will show you why."

I opened the notebook, which is full of graphs and tables, "I calculated. Since the dinosaur, to the Egyptians, every 3000 years, he will kill off the dominant species on earth, possibly this universe, until what remains fits his heart. Now, we are developing special talents like telepathy, the one I have, dream prophecy, the one your mom has, and transforming, the one you have. Your baby brother Paul, he will have talents too. By the time humans own ultimate special talents, our doom is …"

"So what? God doesn't like our superpower? They proved that God didn't exist years ago…"

"Not God," I heard my flat voice; my heart was pumping and my mouth felt bitter, "The Flat Man.

And he is sending out these aliens to kill us."

She looked at me, paused for a second, and laughed. I laughed too. We laughed so hard that we couldn't catch our breath.

We know about The Flat Man, since when, 17 years ago? Now it has become a bitter joke, pretending not to know it.

"I really wished we could go out." She said quietly, "If we managed to get through these 3000 years."

Paul:

It feels warm inside the cocoon, an island in the dark. His heart is thumping steadily, and the amniotic fluid was tender. The womb is his support. His ship. But one day he is going to get out of there. He just didn't know yet. All children leave their mom.

He puts his hand to his mouth and giggles. He doesn't feel like an "I", or that he is living in the past; it's always present to him as he always has the power to transpose into universes.

What is this universe (0)? He dives into it. It is filled with dark energy, and a fat guy made of it lies within the universe, a huge body consuming the light of the sun, the quality of air, everything that is made of light energy, the energy he senses with eyes and fingers, not mind.

"You're not the one I ‘m looking for." he thinks. "What is the fun being in a universe where the darks just consume the light to keep everything dark, and you're the darkness itself?" In one universe (1), he and Julia are twins and they both have the power to transpose. But he won't understand that now, what he does understand is that he wants comfort and joy, and this universe is too cold.

He dives into another universe (2), where he is an only child, and his parents are named Ye and Liu after their grandpas, and they're all original Chinese without talents. Ye, his mom, drives him to school using a motorcycle every day, and she drives fast.

He pushes his face to his mom's green jacket and feels the hushed wind that brushes through the city road. There are so many things in this universe, he makes a note of returning which he will forget within seconds and dives away with the image of his mom's lip as a thin line as she cooks him two eggs for breakfast in his mind.

He dreams of being inside another womb (3). Inside a psycho rabbits.

"How is it going," He talks to the rabbit, "still devorando un hijo?"

"None of your business." The rabbit turns her ass to him.

"They say you like carrots," He says, "How about carrots?"

"Bullshit. I like carrots." The rabbit continues eating on the grass.

The stars that rotate in the sky, one of them becomes him. He feels dizzy. The wind brushed through his flaming body, adding up to the flame.

Suddenly he is in a spaceship. It was kind of like the womb he was in before, but chiller. His sense all reduces to the smallest amount. He feels like a caption, but he is the only one on the ships so either way.

"I love you," His twin sister, in another universe, said to him, blurry, "now tell me you love me back."

"You are just saying that to win the line back." He concentrates on fumbling on the console on the front of the ship.

"It's so dark there. You are running out of resources. When would you leave?" His sister says.

"After the bodies run out." He responded.

"Dumb ass." She pulls a face. The bored look is gone though.

The dream stops. He is alone in the womb. His heart is still thumping. The water feels warm.

He's just going to give it one last try.

Here. This is the universe (3) he's been looking for. He is a whale, happily swimming in the ocean. He rises, brushes through tons of water, feels the coldness, saltiness, and heaviness on his back, and reaches the blue, warm surface on the top. The blowhole opens up, spilling out a rainbow. The mist floats above his head, and the water covers his body back under the surface. He opens his mouth, and the secrets of the sea swim in.

This is the universe he likes.

He dives deep and disappears soon after.

Rebecca (When 17):

Mom, I love you. You love me too, I know, even though your love is hard and you don't know how to love me.

When I was little, in our country villa, you told me: "People in our height ought to have resonance with only a certain amount of people." What you mean is that do not play with people with different skin colors unless they live in a castle higher than ours; do not talk with boys with shiny fingers; spend your whole life waiting for a prince charming to come should be your life purpose.

"If you sleep with anyone before that, I will break your leg."

You don't know me, you think I am a pretty daughter, both in mind and body, but you don't know me.

When I was 13, I walked down the city street and saw the thing.

It was lying right at the street, all black and small, cowering on the corner, silence.

It looked strange. Was it the leftover of an alien? Trash that falls out of the trash car?

"Here." He passed, handing over a scarf to it. It opened up its shell. It was an homeless alien, sitting on a street full of cocaine, used condom and waste, receiving the old scarf, before retreating back to its shell.

"What the hell are you looking at?" That's your first reaction when you hear it, "Stop talking and shut up. Do you want to marry them? Thieves and beggars? You want them to propose to you?"

You don't know, that's the first time I have delusions.

He is not a thief, nonetheless.

You remember a month ago, I went into delusion and had my accident in the bathroom? You made a comment I can never quite forget. You said that what I said is untrue and suggested my father not to believe me after I told you I was suffering from delusion because of my special talent(Yes, that is a thing), and that I think I am going to have a baby.

This is not a suicide note or a makeup note. This is to explain why I'm leaving with this stranger. He is nice, good to me, and he loves me despite my mental issues and believes in my talent.

I love you.

Paul (talking with The Flat Man):

"Are you going to resolve the future war yourself?" He says, "The war human rises against you, light and dark Matter conversion, because they're scared that they might die, which will eventually destroy all of them?"

The Fat Man's heavy eyelashes shutters and opens. An eye-full of pupils looks directly at him.

"If not, how are you going to protect yourself? If you do want to protect yourself, you can trap yourself in a different time so they can never reach you. But you don't wanna do that, right?"

The Fat Man blinks.

"All the aliens you send. Human fears that you send them out to kill them, but they're just messengers, and the message, the nonsense they said, about everything has to keep balance, that this is all destined, for the balance of the dark and light matter, so that all universe can remain stable until they reached their end and restarts, is true.

Every 3000 years, the light matter becomes too much, so some of them convert to dark matter, and after the convection, new life can be born. It happens every 3000 years since the beginning of universes and will continue to happen until the restart."

The meat under the Fat man's chin crumbles together.

"And you're just an agent to deliver this."

The Fat Man nods again. Under his head, the stars rotate and send out fabulous white light.

"How are you going to do it then?"

The Fat Man paused. A while after, the Fat Man opens the big hand and touches his fingertips.

Paul (talking to "imaginary friends"):

He is talking in his head. All the friends exist in his mind, his eyesight, his sense. They're real to him.

"I'm going to fix this," He tells the stranger in the street sadly, who looks at him strangely, shakes his head and walks away; "fix here," the fire-spitting dragon pats its face and hiccups; "fix the universe I'm in." The five-headed man nods.

He looks at the other him in another universe, who will be tossing a ball to a white soft wall and catching it when it bounces back in the future, "I shouldn't ask you this. The other universe, can you fix that? Fix your universe?"

The other him nods. They all nod.

"We're leaving together then."

Julia:

I had a dream. In my dream, I was 13 and walking on the street with you, which can't happen in reality, because you are always so intent about getting out home, and you hugged my shoulder. I was short, wore small shoes, sucked up snots, and reached out to hold your hands.

"Is he real?" After much gibbish, I asked you, "Dad, is The Flat Man real?"

"He made every idol statue of every religion maximize, stand up, everywhere was a disaster brought by this event, so that he can prove to us that Gods don't exist. After this, the aliens came and replaced humans. They still had the same shell, but their spirit changed. Before this we didn't give a damn about science, so we couldn't defend ourselves now; we paid."

"But if we do care about science, the cobalt bomb would have already been invented and earth would be doomed."

"The Flat Man is still going to destroy us. Maybe by making us all die suddenly, or by making aliens kill or replace us all. All this is like a dream of his, he can add or subtract things in the dream, or even end the dream at a thought. All these can even happen unconsciously," His eyebrows are tightly knitted, "After Doctor Hawking died, our knowledge about him remains still."

"Did Hawking say it's a guy?"

"He did. He left audio about him, and we identified it through computers, found out that he named him The Flat Man."

"Dad, how did mom and you get together?" I asked.

"She was an uptown girl who looked really nice when she smiled. I like her a lot, and swear that if not her I will marry no one." You said.

What you didn't tell me is that she didn't even mention your name to a single party of her divorced parents, and after four months of your dating you made her pregnant, and then you elope together.

I wiped out the tears when I woke up. You're still sleeping on the bed.

I had prepared. Before this third date, I am going to reject him, telling him despite all the fondness, he is a friend. And that I only used him for kisses. He is going to hug me, and we're going to cancel our date and say goodbye. I would go back to the apartment, feel hard to breathe, sit down and watch myself transform into liquids.

Ever since I'm a child, the one about aliens has always been the priority of our family. I have never had the chance to go out, to live. And when I had it, I didn't feel like cherishing it as well. You Trapped in a cage, you are so desperate to get out that you become a part of it, and when you finally have the chance to get out, you ended up chasing the thing you don't know what it is.

I turned back at the door, looked, imagined you said:" go," and then walked out. 

Robert:

Back when we were 17 when Rebecca was crying in the bathroom from another mental breakdown, I told her we are going to be together and we can make everything better, and there she agreed to run away with me, telling me that we are going to have a baby.

But I don't know how to love them. Ever since the date I married Rebecca, The Flat Man has been the center of our life. I don't let them go out and only leave home for work. The intent was to protect them, but we ended up all exhausted.

In her life, her mother did the same thing. She doesn't let her make contact with anybody in the real world, for class standard. I am doing the same thing to Julia, for some ridiculous thing called protection. Maybe one day all of these can stop, but I don't feel like having the key to all these.

If everything passes, and we can climb up the waterdog mountain, all four together, setting up tents under the blue stars, lying down under the cool wind, how beautiful would it be?

Family:

The day it came, the endpoint of this 3000 years, they were sitting around the empty dinner table. Both the apartment and the home were locked, no aliens could come in; parents have turned on their superpower, ready to take their kids and leave if anything happened.

The clock was ticking. The time was about to come. Robert stood up from his chair, stopped in front of the black window, folded his arms. Julia looked down at her hands.

"It's going to be fine. Everything." Rebeca said. Her hands were shivering.

"Oh, come on," Julia said, and before her father gave her sights of disapproval, she hugged her mother the first time since she was 15. Rebecca laughed, with some tears in her eyes.

Under Julia's arms, Rebecca's belly shines out white light. Outside the window, inside every room of every family, big and small, all the mothers' swelling belly shines out white light.

Julia and Rebecca didn't see it with their closed eyes.

Paul (The Flat Man):

He feels like swimming upwards and ready to grasp the one breath. There is a tornado of light in the center of the universe where everything used to be dark.

He is going to become a part of that holiness, and Robert, Rebecca, and Julia will become that too, all will. In a way, it's the future him, the new births, that end his present life, but he doesn't feel like dying, he is just going to be alive as The Flat Man. The Flat Man, other than a single figure, is more like a concept of the universe: it's all the deaths. All deaths will become him; and all will die, every 3000 years, again and again, to give out new births.

Paul giggles. It feels peaceful. What was he worried about before? He forgets. He opens his eyes and disappears into the night skies.

The End

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