The translation module had malfunctioned and as a result we had ended up in the place they call the Gnarf-World system which is somewhere in Fornax. The Gnarf-World system deserves a special mention in any compendium of strange and unlikely planetary systems because of the unusually high level of dark matter that is found there, which – as is well known – tends to distort the laws of physics in a number of rather unpleasant ways. The Gnarf-World system is also more commonly known simply as ‘the Hole’ because the only reason you’d ever go there would be if your matter transmitter went wrong and sent you there by mistake. Or maybe they call it the Hole because if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself there the chances are practically zero that you’ll ever come out again. It’s some kind of reason like that, anyway. It all comes down to the same thing in the end.
The Gnarf-World system is made up endless versions and reversions of the same basic planet – Gnarf itself. Gnarf orbits a localized fault in the space-time continuum that happens – by some fluke – to function as a kind of probability lens that refracts anything passing through this particular area of space into an infinite number of virtual echoes, just as sunlight is refracted into a rainbow when it passes through lots of raindrops. That might sound rather wonderful but ‘wonderful’ is the one thing that the Gnarf-World system is not.
The Gnarf-World system is – when it comes down to it – an endless series of copies of something that would have been far better off never having been copied in the first place. The system is made up of any number of bootleg copies which are so full of glitches and faults and major formatting errors as to make them virtually uninhabitable. Corruption has set in in a big way in the Gnarf system and it’s not political corruption I’m talking about either (although there’s plenty of that) but something far more sinister. The type of corruption I’m talking about here is the corruption of reality itself.
The people here seem friendly enough, I’ll give them that. On the surface, at least. They give the impression of being jovial and easy-going but somehow this impression never quite convinces. It’s got something to do with their eyes – there’s something unpleasantly blank about them. Their eyes are like buttons on a coat – not unfriendly and yet not friendly either, just kind of button-like. They just regard you in this button-like way the whole time, no matter what.
You can meet versions of yourself here too and that’s never a pleasant experience either. They’re invariably up to no good and I get the sense that they could actually turn out quite nasty, if they got the chance. Possibly even murderous. To call the Gnarf-World system a stagnant backwater is to paint too attractive a picture of it. It’s not just that you can’t help knowing that nothing interesting or new will ever happen here (since everything’s a copy of something that wasn’t worth copying in the first place) – it’s more the sense of subdued horror that seems to permeate everything. It’s like something you ate but wished you hadn’t…
Anyway, that’s the Gnarf-World system. There you have it. I feel like I’m an expert and I’ve only been here two and a half weeks! Mind you, that’s Gnarf-Time I’m talking about here which is a pretty funny sort of thing. Sometimes it gets stretched out beyond all recognition and at other times it collapses in on itself like an accordion playing some sort of mad tune. A minute can echo disconcertingly around the place for hours and a week can be gone before you even get out of bed. Every now and then time splits in two and joins up later. Perhaps sometimes it splits up and doesn’t ever join up again – you wouldn’t know if that happened. There’s lots of stuff going on here that you wouldn’t know about.
It’s not quite as bad as I’m making out, I suppose. Almost as bad, but not quite. There’s one way of getting out. I know I said there wasn’t but that isn’t strictly true – there is this one chance of escaping. All I need to do to avail of this chance is to locate and bring together all of the seven original crew members – and I use the word ‘original’ advisedly here. If I can do this we stand a chance of reversing the process that brought us here and getting back to the real universe again. But all the crew members have got to be originals, not duplicates (including me, of course) and that’s the problem. I was just about to say that this is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack but actually that doesn’t come anywhere close. Everything here in the Gnarf-World system gets duplicated over and over again so you can see how ridiculously hard this is going to be. I don’t even have any way of knowing if I’m the original me, when it comes down to it. How weird is that? This is crazy stuff. Its insane. I mean, you’ve got to Gnarf really, haven’t you?