Knocking. That was the first thing Michael heard. He kept his eyes closed and tried to go back to sleep, he was too tired to deal with whoever it was—his mom probably. Michael groaned and snuggled more into the soft blankets. Maybe she’d stop if he didn’t respond. It never worked in the past, but maybe today was his lucky day. A sudden thought protruded into his mind. This wasn’t his bed. It couldn’t be, he didn’t feel like he was laying on a literal rock. Michael ungracefully shot out of the bed flopped onto the floor with a loud thud. Ow. Michael sat up and took in his surroundings...everything was blurry. Great. Where were his glasses? Michael stood up and barely made out the shape of a nightstand next to the bed despite the darkness of the room. Michael stumbled his way through the dark, managing to only bump into the furniture/wall thrice along the way. He ran his hand along the smooth, wooden surface and miraculously found his glasses folded neatly as if they were carefully placed there. He put on the black, thick-framed glasses and every suddenly became clear.
The room resembled a small, cheap hotel room complete with a generic desk, tall lamps, plastic-looking plant in the corner, wall lamps, mass produced wall-paintings, and, of course, a microwave and fridge. The walls were a bland tan color, there were no windows to look outside from, and the carpet was flat and uncomfortable. How’d he get here? He tried to recall, but his mind was blank. More knocking. He almost forgot there was someone here. Maybe they could help him...hopefully. Michael rushed to the door and whipped the door open and his brain crashed.
Standing just outside the door frame was a slightly shorter (by an inch or two) and lanky figure with an arm raised to knock on the now-absent door. Michael hesitated to call this figure human. The figure looked human, but not quite. His pale skin was heavily freckled and he had fluffy, cocoa brown hair that seemed to fly everywhere—undoubtedly human features; however, long, thick wires ran from his back and connected him to a railway above, and his eyes were nothing more than black screens with projected cobalt irises. Did Michael forget to mention he was also suspended in the air? Upon first glance, he seemed awkward and timid as he sharply returned his arm to his side and began fidgeting around. His thin frame slightly curled in on himself shyly while hesitating to make eye contact.
“Hello.” The teen(?) greeted, “Sorry for waking you, but-but it’s really important, I swear! Well, uh, my name is Just Every Robot Ever Made Yadda yadda yadda, or JEREMY for short.” The boy—now JEREMY—gestured to his left clavicle area on his monochrome, circuit-patterned shirt where his name was neatly printed, “And, uh, how do I say this? I need to get you out of here, like, right now.”
“Wait, what!?” Michael yelled, now a lot more confused than before. This was not how he expected this would go, but here he was, “Who are you? What are you? Where am I?” he sharply asked, his anger justified by his confusion and fear.
JEREMY became more panicked, “I-I know this is all overwhelming, but please c-calm down, o-ok?” Jeremy pleaded. Michael didn’t answer and held a suspicious look, justifying hesitant to trust someone who he just met, “Please.”
Michael stared deep into JEREMY’s eyes, searching for some sign of an ulterior motive, but Michael instead found a desperate and pleading look. It was clear he was being genuine, “Alright.” Michael agreed.
JEREMY’s eyes practically lit up at his response, “You probably have a million questions right now. I can’t answer all of them since we’re kinda on a time limit, but I can answer some of the basic ones now. Right now, we are in Aperture Science, one of the world’s most prestigious and innovative research facilities. Well, until it fell apart, that is. I won’t go too in depth, but they basically did a bunch of cool science stuff. As I said before, I’m JEREMY and I’m one of the AIs that run that facility, o-or at least I was supposed to. Right now everything’s falling apart and—you know what, I’ll explain more on the way, we need to get going.”
JEREMY suddenly shot forward into the room, following the short track of railing that trailed into the room until the end where a panel in the ceiling opened up. JEREMY was then raised into the opening before it closed behind him. Immediately, the room harshly shook, causing Michael to fall onto the floor. Without a minute to breathe, the room swayed back and forth briefly as if it were dislodged before shooting up like a rocket, causing an irritating screech to claw into the teen’s ears. Michael stood up and tried to keep his balance as the room moved with some success.
“Just as a head’s up: I’ve, uh, never done this before, so you might want to hang onto something.” Michael heard JEREMY’s voice echo from every corner in the room. There was probably a speaker system hidden somewhere.
“To what?” Michael asked sarcastically, not knowing whether or not JEREMY could even hear him.
“I-I don’t know, just...something.” JEREMY responded. So JEREMY could hear him. Almost on cue, the room jerked to a stop and Michael fell forward, “Sorry, I’m trying to get my bearings. This place is a literal maze, and there isn’t much room to move around.”
Michael halfheartedly glared at the ceiling, but that quickly ended when the room continued along its path and sharply jerked left, causing the bed to shift forward and the drawer to the nightstand to slide out of its socket and onto the ground, spilling its contents. The sudden noise redirected Michael’s attention only to see his headset and MP3 player carelessly tossed onto the floor. Michael immediately picked them up and placed his headset on their proper place around his neck and stuffed the MP3 player in the pants pocket of his orange jumpsuit he’d apparently been wearing, the familiar weight of the thick cord draping across his chest was comforting in some weird way. It was familiar. The teen began to look around for his actual clothes: mainly his red hoodie, which was a gift from his mom and had been lovingly covered in patches over the years. He figured if the rest of his stuff were there, then his clothes would be somewhere around too, but after a quick scavenge, there was nothing.It was a bitter feeling, he absolutely refused to wear the annoying jumpsuit; it was thick, heavy, hot, and the material was highly uncomfortable. However, it seemed like he had no choice. As a solution, he unzipped the top half of the jumpsuit, peeled it off, revealing a Aperture-brand tank top then tightly tied the long sleeves around his waist like a belt. A large crash reminded Michael of his current situation, the far wall crumbled apart like a cracker. Its pieces fell to who knows where and it metal framework quickly collapsed on top of each other. A distinct pile of rubble and furniture was beginning to pile up against the metal beams.
“Are you alright?” JEREMY asked, a sense of urgency in his voice.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” Michael responded.
“I can’t control certain parts of the facility, so I have to squeeze the room where I can. We’re almost there, I promise, but it’s still going to be a rough ride.”
Michael took a moment to look out the open wall, properly revealing the facility in all its glory. The first thing that came to mind was that it was HUGE. Large shipping crates were piled high while giant clear tubes ran all over the place and the facility stretched so far out of sight that the horizon was nothing more than blurry fog. Rust and time aged the walls and corridors unkind, paint was peeling back and an abundance of flora took over the place. The facility seemed lost to time. Curiosity got the best of Michael, he crept over to the broken wall and looked down. After seeing the seemingly endless abyss below, Michael appropriately screamed and scampered away from the pit of death. He decided he did NOT want to die that day.
“Oh, you looked down, didn’t you? I should’ve warned you about not to do that. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” A faint ‘thunk’ punctuated every ‘stupid’ JEREMY muttered. Michael presumed JEREMY was hitting his head.
“Hey, It’s alright. I’m still here, aren’t I?” JEREMY seemed to have hesitantly accepted this statement, “Now, if you don’t mind me asking, HOW DID I GET HERE!?”
A brief spout of silence followed, as if the AI was thinking, “Well, if you didn’t sign up for to be a test subject, then I don’t really know. There’s a lot of possibilities and so little data. I may be an AI, but there’s only so much I can do with that, Michael.”
“I don’t remember introducing myself.” Michael prompted.
“I have access to all personnel files. Yours is quite strange, actually. There’s not much in it besides your name, some basic information, and a picture. I can’t even tell how long you’ve been here.”
“Why not!?” Michael demanded desperately like it was his next breath.
“I-I’m sorry, but my internal clock’s broken. Your induction date’s also missing, it’s one of the main reasons why your file is so strange.” JEREMY was clearly trying to deescalate the situation.
“Sorry…” Michael muttered like a scolded child, unease and guilt brewing in his stomach. He felt bad for snapping at the AI, but he was scared a the moment and desperate for answers.
JEREMY’s voice pierced his thoughts, “So, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I found a way to get you onto the test track. Bad news is that I need to physically override a wall. And by physically override it, I mean ramming the room against it until it breaks.”
The room slowly and carefully turned right, revealing a wall with ‘Loading Dock’ and an arrow pointing down painted in bulky, yellow letters. It felt like those last few moments on the first hill of a roller coaster, the anxiety, the suspense. He could practically hear the clacking of a metal track in his head. The room stopped for a moment and sharply shot forward, hitting the wall with tremendous force, but it only managed to crack it. Michael was violently thrown onto the floor while the pile of rubble fell out of the room and into the abyss below. The relaxation chamber was now barren. There was only a moment’s break before room slowly backed up. Michael griped the carpet in a meager attempt to prepare for the impact. The room shot forward again, which provided enough force so the wall completely fell apart and revealed a strange, white room below.
“OK Michael, next you need to get in there and try to find something called a portal gun. We’re going to need it to get you out of here. The gun’s name’s self-explanatory. Also, don’t worry about breaking your legs, your boots will break your fall, so don’t take them off...ever. Listen, I can’t follow you right now, but I’ll meet up with you up ahead. Good luck.” JEREMY explained, leaving an uncomfortable quiet following soon after.