"Center of the Universe" by Maneesh J.

A 2019 Young Writers Flash Fiction Contest Honorable Mention

The astronauts looked out from the window of their spaceship at the bloodred world below them. All but one. While the others stared at Mars, their future home, one astronaut was gazing further.


At the stars, remembering.

“See that? Every dot is a star.”

Her father had taken a silver sharpie, drawing dots all over a black balloon.

“The balloon is the universe.”

“I don’t get it, Papa. The universe is flat?”

He ruffled her hair and laughed. “That’s ‘cause we haven’t blown it up, silly! Now watch. This is what happened. Long, long ago, there was the Big Bang.”

He took a deep breath and blew up the balloon, holding onto the end to keep the air in.

“Then the universe got bigger.” He blew it up some more. “And bigger, and bigger. Now it’s so ginormously huge that even if we went as fast as light, we’d never have enough time to cross from one side to the other.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”


She paused, thinking. “Papa, where are we on the balloon?”

He smiled. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t?”

“Nobody knows,” he replied. “But it’s not where we are that matters. It’s what we do with it. You know what I think? I think we’re right in the middle of everything.”


As the astronauts left from the window to prepare for their descent, she lingered behind. The stars were so much closer now, yet somehow they had seemed brighter back then, on those warm summer nights when her father had taken her stargazing.

Her father, an astronomer, had always dreamed of going to space.

He had passed away, but the dream lived on with her.

“Can you see me now, Papa?” she whispered. “I want you to know, you were always the center of my universe.”

author photo

Maneesh J. is an average guy who enjoys spending his free time doing boring but satisfying things, such as reading, programming, practicing martial arts, or just sitting outside on the back patio. He will be a senior in high school starting this August, and he's both excited and terrified by that. Occasionally, he puts a few words together and calls it writing. By repeating this process enough, someday, he hopes to finish a novel or two.