The Haunted Stars
Even today, nobody is completely certain exactly what the Collapse is. Physicists believe that it is another dimension, one far older than our own that is going through what could be a Big Crunch, with the Universe contracting in on itself. Others think that it’s not a dying dimension, but a dimensional graveyard, a brane wherein dimensions descend to upon their collapse.
Philosophers and theologians believe that it is Hell that we’ve stumbled on to, or Purgatory at the very best.
The truth is probably a little bit of both.
Many have taken to calling it the Collapse, others call it the Crunch for short. But while this is scientifically interesting, its importance to humanity is more utilitarian. For every point in the Collapse correlates to a point in our Universe, but the distances between these points are much, much shorter. Therefore, traveling 1 lightyear in the Collapse before exiting would bring you out into our dimension 100 lightyears from where you started. For obvious reasons, this made interstellar travel feasible for humanity, and allowed for a golden age of human expansion into the galaxy.
Of course, it did until alien life was discovered somehow alive in the void. Unfortunately, it was hostile, and incredibly numerous, attacking any ship that they come upon. Because of this, the Collapse has become largely off-limits to humans.
In the years since alien life was discovered (or, more accurately, discovered us), ships traveling through the Collapse had an additional issue. D-Drives, which enable the dimensional transition, have started to attract various extradimensional vermin that slip through the weakened space/time fabric that surrounds the drives. If a crew is still daring enough to travel through the Collapse despite the external threats, they must still remain vigilant to internal infestations. There are tales of crews that neglected this threat, and were overrun by terrible creatures that were able to slip in through the heavily weakened space/time fabric, like hounds ripping through a bedsheet.
Physically, the Collapse is an infinity of vacuum, as far as any human sensors have been able to discern. No stars, planets, or even particulate matter has ever been discovered (aside from the hostile Eldritch creatures, that is). For this reason, many spacers have nicknamed it “the Long Dark” or “the Abyss.”
Psychically, the Collapse for some reason not fully understood as of yet, effects the majority of humans in disturbing ways. While in the Collapse, the human mind creates hallucinations, sometimes from memories, sometimes from nightmares, and always only in your peripheral vision. Few enjoy their time in transit, and readily volunteer for suspended animation as an alternative. Even stranger, are those that are gifted the Sight: blind men or women who, while in the Collapse, are able to “see” the topography of our Universe.