Flatlanders

Status

Pitch

1-page synopsis

first 10 pages

Status

5/8/21: Began submitting to agents.

5/20/21: Finished final edit.

Pitch

As if traveling through a dozen bewildering dimensions wasn’t challenging enough for young theoretical physicist Mickey Haiku, he has the additional challenge of embarking on this weird odyssey as a pregnant female.

Mickey Haiku has an unquenchable desire to make contact with another dimension. His reclusive hermit-like existence in an off-campus basement apartment near Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois – which he shares with a fellow graduate student, a laptop, and a large blackboard – is shattered when a being from a higher dimension contacts him. At first she is only able to speak his name, but soon her ghost-like image appears before him. As Eden becomes more real as she probes further and further into Mickey’s dimension, she helps him complete the computations necessary for him to enter her dimension.

The fateful day arrives for Mickey to crossover into a different dimension, but of course it doesn’t go as expected. The portal they open between their dimensions is not powerful enough for anything physical to pass through, only each other’s consciousness – Mickey’s into Eden’s body in her dimension and Eden’s into Mickey’s body in his dimension. While Mickey is stunned into inaction by what has happened, especially after learning the body he inhabits is pregnant, Eden gets to work right away. This was her plan all along, since only from Mickey’s dimension can she enlarge the portal they have opened enough for physical objects to pass through. Her dimension is crushingly overcrowded, so she plans to make available the wide open spaces of Mickey’s dimension for her people to invade and overwhelm with their superior numbers and technology.

Only there are other players in a higher dimension intent on preventing this from happening. They aid Mickey in his struggle to stop Eden and save his dimension. Yet there are still other players from still other dimensions, each intent on their own strategy, who thwart both Eden and Mickey. They send the two of them on a wild odyssey through many more weird dimensions on a quest to save all the dimensions. For Eden and Mickey it’s a long strange trip back to their homes, and back into their original bodies.

This grand tour of higher dimensions relies heavily on relativity, particle physics, quantum mechanics, string theory, and the theory of multiple worlds. But this is not a dry science tome. It is an inventive manic romp through the imagination, guided by a two brilliant people who become each other, beginning as adversaries, but not too adversarial since hurting the other would mean harming their own body, whose antagonistic relationship develops into each caring deeply for the person in their own body, which means caring for their own selves. Confusing? Yes, exceedingly. And then there is the ticking clock of the impending birth of Eden’s baby (which Mickey would have to give birth to). And don’t forget about the mathematical haiku.

1-page synopsis

This science fiction novel of 116,700 words is a light-hearted romp through the extra dimensions we share our planet with.

Mickey Haiku is a theoretical physicist graduate student at Northwestern University. While attempting to reach extra dimensions that string theory predicts exist, he comes into contact with Eden, a scientist from another dimension attempting the same thing from her side. They manage to open a small portal just big enough for their consciousness to pass through. Which means Mickey goes into Eden’s body in her dimension and Eden goes into Mickey’s body in his dimension. Mickey has no idea how this has happened and is totally lost, while this was planned by Eden. Her dimension is crushingly overpopulated, and from this lower dimension she will be able to blast open the barriers between the dimensions that will allow her people to pour into Mickeys dimension and overwhelm it with their superior tech and numbers. Only there are people from higher dimensions who want to stop her, so they help Mickey thwart her plan. They succeed, but it doesn’t go as planned. Beings from an even higher dimension have their own strategies. They send Mickey and Eden off on a wild odyssey through many higher dimensions. Such as the dimension Hellades (a mix of Hell and Hades), an underworld realm. Such as a dimension in the subatomic world of quantum mechanics. One on a world far in the future where people have migrated into the seas. A spiritual realm of monsters and ghouls. A world run by robots where people are their pets. A world ruled by plants. A spaceship carrying the surviving remnant of the human race to a new planet. A world decimated by a pandemic where an intelligent virus has evolved. And what they believe to be the highest dimension in the Himalayan mountains. Of course, there are other hidden dimensions they become aware of.

At the beginning Mickey is easily duped by Eden. Yet antagonist Eden is not a villain, she is doing what she believes is best for her dimension. Their competition turns intense as each tries to stop the other in order to protect their own dimension. They are then forced into an antagonistic alliance as they try to get back home. After going through many adventures together, they are attracted to each other, and their relationship is finally consummated. By the end when they are back in their own bodies they realize they each must return to their own dimension, so they try to set each other up with who they believe will be their best match. Yet Mickey has a trick left up his sleeve that allows them to stay together.

The people in Mickey’s dimension all have doubles in the other dimensions. Mickey’s twin in Eden’s dimension is her ex-husband Mick, while Eden’s twin in Mickey’s dimension is a cleaning woman at Northwestern, Edie. Mickey’s roommate George is Eden’s brother, Priscilla is a good friend in both dimensions, and so on. Also, Eden is pregnant at the time Mickey possesses her, and he has to deal with that. Mickey’s laptop, which he calls Hypatia, is a major player in the story. Also, he likes the electronica music of Tricep, and mathematical haiku (of which I have already secured written permission to use). 

first 10 pages

Flatlanders

Part One

From a Distant World Close By

1.

No manuscript is as impressive as a chalkboard smothered in mathematical calculations. This chalkboard was massive, at least a rectangular meter by a meter and a half. Its black surface was covered in scribblings done in white chalk that to an untrained eye appeared to be a foreign language, or one long forgotten. Here and there a familiar numeral emerged amid the entanglement of exotic symbols. A faint white blur of erased previous inscriptions existed beneath the bold white markings, much the way evidence of previous civilizations underlie the present-day world. On the tray at the bottom of the board were several well-used erasers and an array of white chalk nubs.

            The small room, a little over two by three meters, contained little else. There were two worn torn easy chairs, a coffee table, and several folding chairs folded up against a wall. The bare wooden floor sported no rugs, the bare pale walls no paintings or pictures or posters or banners. There was one window, but it was so securely blindered and heavily curtained that the time of day, or night, was indeterminable. Also, the room was poorly-lit. There was a spotlight clipped to the chalkboard illuminating the work. The rest of the dim room was clean, in a sense. There were no food wrappers or drink cans or other detritus about, but then no janitorial effort had been squandered, either. Orderliness is revered by mathematicians; cleanliness, not so much.

            About the easy chairs. They both were adorned with stickers. On one were images of cartoon mice, such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Jerry (of Tom and Jerry fame), and Fievel Mousekovitz. On the other easy chair was a quote:  ‘George is in the engineering department. He is not the engineering department. He is merely in it.’

            In the middle of the coffee table sat a laptop. Affixed to and nearly covering its lid was a sticker of a woman clad in a classical robe of antiquity. Although the laptop itself was nicked and coffee-stained, the glossy brightly-colored image appeared new. The laptop was open and music emanated. Electronica tunes blended seamlessly one into another and echoed about the hollow space.

            Before the chalkboard stood Mickey Haiku. Late twenties, short (a little more than one and half meters) and skinny, brown hair of no discernable cut, wearing too-long pants rolled up at the cuffs and cinched tight with a too long belt, a once-white coffee-stained short sleeve button up shirt, and paper-thin double-knotted tennis shoes. As for his face, there was a hint of whiskers upon the lower half of a round pasty glob. Weak eyes squinted behind heavy industrial-strength glasses.

Mickey stood before the chalkboard studying the computations. There was a footstool for him to reach the uppermost regions of the board. At the moment he was squatted down examining the bottom.

“Mick.”

Mickey froze. Raised his head and looked around. No one else was present. He unsquatted and paused the electronica on his laptop. Total silence. He backed the track up and replayed it then listened closely. There was nothing in the music that sounded like someone saying his name. He paused the music once again and walked to a closed door and listened. No sounds from the other side. Mickey opened the door. In the small dark room a form could be seen bundled up in a short bed. “George?”

“Mmphh?”

“Are you talking in your sleep?”

“Not now.”

“I thought I heard something.”

“Are you having another nightmare?”

“I could be.”

“Then wake up and leave me alone.”

Mickey backed out, closing the door. He looked around the room. Shrugged. Then returned to the chalkboard to squat where he had previously squatted.

2.

That afternoon Mickey walked out the door of his brownstone apartment building onto a city sidewalk. It was an overcast chilly day. He had donned a faded Chicago Bulls cap and pulled on a torn and stained light jacket that retained a faded ‘Pi’ logo from Aranofsky’s movie. His laptop was clutched at his side.

Turning the corner of his building, Mickey walked down a narrow alley. A human form was huddled on the pavement beneath cardboard and sheets of plastic up against the side of his building. Mickey stooped before it. “You doing okay, Ralph?”

A well-weathered stub of a head poked out from the plastic. “What happened to Gauss?”

Mickey glanced at the laptop he carried. “I had a dream about Hypatia.”

“Dreams can be tricky, Haiku. You never know where they come from.”

Mickey fished a McDonalds gift card from his pocket and handed it to Ralph. “Go  buy something hot to eat. Get indoors for a while.”

Ralph pulled the gift card inside his sheltering plastic. “Thanks, Haiku.”

Mickey walked back out of the alley then continued several blocks to a small park. Passing a number of empty benches, he came to the one he had tagged. It was emblazoned with a famous formula – 6.62607004 x 10-34 m2 kg/s. Mickey sat and opened his laptop. The faces of the most-tapped keys were worn off, and the entire keyboard was dusted in chalk. His Mathematica program was open, and the exotic symbols on the screen matched the symbols that had been on his chalkboard. Joggers passed by, elders limped by, kids ran by, mothers pushed strollers by, scooters and skates and skateboards and bicycles rolled by. Mickey ignored all, squinting at screen after screen of computations.

“Mickey.”

Mickey jerked up to look all around. No one was near him, or paying any heed to his form slouched down into the bench. But it had been louder than last time, and this time he had discerned a feminine lilt. Only there were no women nearby.

Mickey rubbed his furrowed forehead to push back on an emerging headache. He clenched eyes and lips, massaging with one hand while keeping a firm grip on the laptop with the other. Did the boulders banging together inside his skull cause him to hear a woman call his name, Mickey wondered? Or did a woman calling his name bring on the boulders? These headaches were a recent development. They had begun about the same time as his wild nightmares. And both were getting worse.

3.

Mickey sat at a desk in an empty classroom on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, thirty-two kilometers north of Chicago. His laptop was open, and he was poring over his work. He had changed clothes at this point, but you couldn’t tell it. His thin hair remained as tangled. With the usual grimace on his countenance it was difficult to tell if he was suffering a headache or not.

“Mickey Hi.”

“Who are you?!” Mickey bellowed, looking all about the empty room.

Only it was no longer empty. A female form stood before him. Mickey jumped to his feet, yet kept a protective hand on his open laptop. Was this form real? A fiction from his worsening nightmares? Or the phantasm that had been calling his name?

The female form spoke. “I’m sorry.”

She didn’t disappear, so she was probably real. As he focused on her, he saw a janitorial cart behind a young woman dressed in jeans and tee shirt, with her hair tied up in a bright red scarf. Which caught his eye. He stepped up for a closer look at it.

The woman backed away, keeping the cart between them. “I thought this room was empty.”

The bright red scarf was emblazoned with stark black numbers and math symbols. He motioned to the faded symbol on his jacket hanging on the back of his chair. “Pi.”

She touched the scarf, smiled.

“How many places is it solved to?” Mickey asked.

The woman shrugged. “It was a present from my mother.”

“Did you call my name?”

“I don’t know your name.”

“Did you say hi to me?”

The woman backed toward the door, pulling her cart along behind. “I can come back later.” She backed out.

Mickey searched all the corners of the room. No one else was there. He collapsed into his chair, propping elbows on knees to grasp his lowered throbbing head. Why did the voice coincide with such headaches? Or did the headaches bring on the voice? Chicken or egg? Stupid question; the egg preceded the chicken by hundreds of millions of years.

4.

Mickey stood in the living room of his apartment looking from his open laptop on the coffee table to the crammed-full chalkboard. On the screen of his laptop was mathematical haiku – Base Eight In The Spring, by Dor Abrahamson:  ‘I wrote a poem with/Seventeen syllables/Did I count right?’. Tricep played an electronica mix behind the poetry. Mickey shuffled from foot to foot to the soft beat of the music as he repeated the last line of haiku over and over. “Did I count right? Did I count right? Did I count right?”

“Forty-two.”

Growing accustomed to immaterial voices, Mickey forced himself not to overreact. He continued shuffling from foot to foot and repeating his mantra, “Did I count right?”, while looking around the room. As always, no one was present. But the headache was. He stopped shuffling to rub his temples. Yet even this didn’t immobilize him. This he was getting used to, also.

Finally, he focused through blurry headachey eyes on the chalkboard. Locked onto an equation. He carefully approached the board. Chalk marks could be squiggly, they were shape-shifters, could change their meaning in the blink of a sleep-starved eye. He zeroed in on the equation. Was that an empty spot? Black not scribbled over in white? Was there enough space? To inscribe? Two numbers? His nose was nearly touching the board. His trembling fingers picked up a sliver of chalk, barely a trace of chalk, and slowly, cautiously, scrunched the two numbers upon the little bit of bare black, forcing them to fit. Four. Two.

Mickey withdrew his nose. Mouthed the number. Forty-two. Studied the equation. He stepped back, scanning the section of computation the equation was a part of. He stepped back further to scan the entire chalkboard. Mickey began shuffling again, only more so than just from foot to foot; this could almost be recognized as dancing. He began chanting. “Forty-two. Forty-two. Forty-two.”

Mickey danced across the room to a closed door. “George! George!” Mickey flung the door wide.

“No.”

“Forty-two!” Mickey danced into the dark room.

“Shut up.”

“Forty-two!” Mickey danced up to the bed.

“Get out.”

“Forty-two!” Mickey danced around the bed.

The bundled covers stirred. “I’ll kill you.”

“Forty-two!” Mickey stopped dancing. “Get up.”

A fuzzy head emerged. “What time is it?”

“I have no idea.” Mickey leaned in close. “I’ve got something to show you.”

“What?”

“Forty-two. Arise and prepare to be astounded.”

“Forty-two what?”

“I don’t know. But the answer is forty-two.”

“The answer to life, the universe, and everything?”

“Could be. Come check my math.”

Fifteen minutes later, George, wearing only undershorts, sat in the easy chair with the quotation affixed to it. Even in an irritable daze, he appeared exceptional. Early thirties, ruggedly handsome, his large muscular frame thickly-matted with dark hair, while thick wild hair and full beard adorned his head. But there were conflicts. His eyes squinted, like Mickey’s. His skin was sickly pale, like Mickey’s.

Electronica still played on Mickey’s laptop. Mickey restrained himself from dancing, yet seemed to quiver like Jell-o. “It’s forty-two? Right?”

George turned from the chalkboard to glare at his roommate. “You pulled me out of bed in the middle of the night…”

“It’s not the middle of the night.”

“Beyond the middle of the night…”

“It’s almost morning.”

“For this bad joke?”

“It’s not a joke.” Mickey pointed to the chalkboard. “Do the math.”

“You’re an idiot.” George stomped back into his bedroom.

Mickey followed George into the dark room and flipped on a light. This cell of a room was about half the size of the living room. A narrow single bed, a chest of drawers, and a nightstand were the only furnishings crammed into it. No ornamentation whatsoever. Only books and journals and magazines and folders and binders and notebooks and loose-leaf computer printout scattered everywhere. George moaned as he collapsed into the narrow single bed.

Mickey pursued him. “I didn’t do an inverse operation. I didn’t start with forty-two and work backwards.” George yanked up the covers and turned away. Mickey hurried around to kneel at his side. “My equations just spit the number out.” George rolled over. Mickey hurried around the foot of the bed to kneel before him again. “I’ve been working on this for years.”

“For decades, centuries, millennia, millions of years.”

“If you examined my work you wouldn’t mock.”

“The only thing I’m examining are the backs of my eyelids.” George closed his eyes. “Cut the light off as you leave.”

“This changes everything.”

George opened his eyes, glancing at the table lamp next to him. “Or I smash the lamp.”

“The higher dimensions are within reach now.”

“Over your head.”

“Mickey Haiku triumphant!” He resumed dancing, and recited a mathematical haiku poem (‘Monstrous Moonshine’, by Francesca Arici) – “ ‘unexpected connections/symmetries and monstrous representations/are one under the moonshine’.”

George reached for the lamp.

“That lamp is only a hologram,” Mickey declared. “Like everything else.”

“Want to test that theory?”

Mickey danced toward the door.

“Didn’t think so. You’re a theoretical physicist. You don’t bother to test.”

Mickey turned back at the open door. “I’ve rocked the world. And George Hammerstein sleeps.” Mickey cut the light off and walked out.

A deep sigh of disgust issued from the darkness.

Mickey closed the door, as demanded. He touched his forehead, and smiled at the realization there was no headache. Must be the adrenaline. To continue his celebration, he  resumed dancing and recited another mathematical haiku (‘Heisenberg’s Relations’, by Francesca Arici): “position and momentum/possess a non trivial commutator/uncertainty relations.”

  

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