Voidthrall Condition in Orion's Echo | World Anvil


Voidthrall, also called Fifth Madness or God's Curse and medically termed hyperspace overexposure withdrawal syndrome, is the condition of insanity that befalls those who have spent too much time directly observing the reality of hyperspace. It is incurable, and causes the victim great emotional distress because of the simple fact that no organic mind is naturally equipped to process reality as it exists in five dimensions.


Voidthrall is the result of observing one's motion through hyperspace, resulting in the inability of the mind to fully comprehend the sensory information of the fifth dimension. Within the shifted resonance state of hyperspace the mind can, to some extent, process the nature of fifth-dimensional reality, as the neural connections made to do so utilize the extra dimension. However, upon the return to the fourth-dimensional resonance state, these connections are inaccessible, leaving only the impression of a greater understanding and the burning itch to know something just beyond reach.


Voidthrall is easily recognized as eldritch madness, an obsession with the inherently unfathomable. The afflicted are haunted by echoes of things they cannot imagine without the bone-deep humming of a ship's hyperdrive, unable to make use of this knowledge, yet still plagued by memories of a far greater truth. The longer the afflicted have gazed into the abyss, the more desperate they become to regain their comprehension of the incomprehensible.


Unfortunately, the only effective treatment able to soothe those who pathologically seek the unknowable truth is further exposure to hyperspace. This can be done in a controlled setting by projecting a small-scale resonance shift field around the affected individual to let them access the lost neural pathways, but they must be placed in a sensory deprivation tank; observing four-dimensional constructs in fifth-dimensional space worsens the condition. Small-scale field projectors are expensive and difficult to maintain, meaning most instances of this treatment are administered by the Order of Saint Mercurion, who build this equipment for their studies. In fact, care of those afflicted by God’s Curse is typically overseen by the Order, as they are among the only beings who are able to naturally understand the reality of hyperspace through decades of training and study.


If left to their own means, beings afflicted with Fifth Madness will invariably exacerbate their condition by spending more and more time within and observing hyperspace -behavior typical of obsessive insanity. In the worst cases, the afflicted eventually become comatose due to overworking their minds.


The various starfaring civilizations have developed methods of preventative training to lower the risk of voidthrall in their starbound crews, and over the centuries the most effective of these practices have been adopted into general spacer culture. These training regimens typically instruct spacer cadets on how to safely conceptualize fifth-dimensional space from a fourth-dimensional perspective. However, a tried and true method of lessening the mental impact of hyperspace is simply to not think about it, and most certainly to consciously avoid looking into it. Blindfolds are a common solution.


When a spacefaring civilization first discovers hyperspace travel, voidthrall follows shortly after, manifesting in the early test pilots after too much time spent in the fifth-dimensional resonance state. It is often seen as nothing more than an occupational hazard, similar to the chief space phobias (claustrophobia and kenophobia), and resistance training is not developed until the true cause of the problem becomes apparent. The first recorded case among humans was, in fact, Saint Mercurion themself, though the context of this particular instance is muddled by three thousand years of intervening time.
Mental illness
Obsessive insanity
Combination of neurological malformation and cognitohazard exposure
Chronic, Acquired
All species, especially visual-reliant species


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