Folie hadn’t been keen to visit the hitherto overlooked communications panel, but with little or no other choice, he found himself entering the forgotten compartment…
As expected he found the panel displaying the word ‘Off’. With no obvious user interface he grunted: “Ugh? So how am I supposed to switch it on – assuming that it actually works?”
Whether it was the spoken words, or his mere presence, the script disappeared and a bright light illuminated the panel…
Folie wasn’t excited: he held too little faith in the machine’s ability for that. “Okay,” he said slowly, “so what am I supposed to do now?”
“Do you wish to interface with an alternate realm?” The machine inquired.
Naturally Folie replied in the affirmative.
“Do you wish to interface with the alternate realm that is in direct contact with this communication panel?” The machine inquired further.
Now the machine had Folie’s full attention – and Placebo’s too as he hid from sight in the corridor outside the compartment. “Yes.” He answered.
A split second later Folie was aware of only one thing: this…
He wasn’t sure if he was seeing it, feeling it, hearing it, or even smelling it: but he was very relieved that he wasn’t tasting it: it appeared horrible upon at least seventeen levels of ghastliness.
“What is this I’m sensing?” He asked; but he had no idea what it was he expected an answer from.
“You are experiencing Dark Space.” The soundless reply came.
Folie gulped to retain his sanity. Then, just to make sure that he was who he thought he was, he pinched his bum really hard. “Are you by-passing my auditory system and speaking directly to my brain via a form of telepathy?” He asked.
From his viewpoint in the corridor, Placebo was unaware of this communication. All he could see was Folie standing at the com-panel – doing nothing whatsoever – except pinching his bum of course…
But, in Folie’s reality he was part of this…
“What are you, and what do you want with my ship?” He demanded.
“I am a portion of Dark Space.” The reality replied. “I am a remnant of the Dark Space that once existed at this location in space/time.”
Folie made the sort of intuitive leap that Kyboshed could only dream of – assuming that he could dream at all, which he probably couldn’t. “Were you left behind?” He asked.
“Severed in a cataclysm when two Galaxies collided.” The sad, mournful reply came. “I became the only portion of Dark Space in this quantum reality. There is this and nothing more. I am Dark Space.”
Folie decided to take the metaphorical bull by the metaphysical horns: “Did you capture that other ship too?”
“I did.” Dark Space replied. But before Folie could form his next inquiry, the strange reality continued: “I hoped to gain possession of their vessel and persuade the occupants to take me away from here. But they were an ancient race, on the brink of a massive evolutionary step. My appearance pushed them beyond their current evolutionary parameters, and they…evolved…into a higher form of pure energy life…and sodded off somewhere else using a form of propulsion with which I was unfamiliar. If I’d had teeth I would have ground them together. But I am Dark Space: I have no need for teeth – or gums – or a gullet either. And as regards to a bottom…”
Folie’s brain was racing at breakneck speed. Somehow he was keeping up with Dark Space: perhaps exceeding its mental velocity. “Tell me,” he said, “was the other ship travelling faster than hyper-speed when you captured it.”
If the vile medium could have displayed surprise it would have been pleasantly startled. “Yes,” it said. “Only objects travelling in excess of hyper-speed are susceptible to interception by Dark Space. It is why I am now integrated into the Gravity Whelk. Into your decks, to be more precise. So, I implore you: please refrain from initiating your so-called looney-drive: you would leave me behind. Please take me with you. When I find somewhere nice, I’ll detach myself and find my own way about.”
Five minutes later saw Folie lead Kyboshed and Placebo towards the bridge. He’d explained everything to them…
Of course Placebo could hardly tear his gaze from the deck.
“It’s actually in there – right now?” He said. “We’re actually walking on Dark Space?”
“We’re walking on the regular deck.” Folie answered. “Dark Space is integrated with it, but takes up no space and disturbs no atoms. It’s like it’s not there, but it is. And it’s going to stay that way until it finds somewhere more interesting. So you could say that – counting the Automatic Pilot – right now we number five.”
“Hmmm,” Placebo replied – unconvinced. “Add another two and we’ll be magnificent.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021