It didn't take long for him to open his eyes again, but it took longer to keep them open as he was staring into the blinding glow of a fluorescent ceiling lamp. First, it all came to him in a big disorienting blur of pale colors, and he was unable to distinguish certain blobby shapes from one another. It sent an aching through his skull, the same aching that occurs when he concentrates too much on even the simplest of concepts.
Next there was the pain, which pinpointed on his upper-back and spread to his legs and arms in sharp throbs. He immediately objected at the idea of moving, refusing to face more pain than what he was already feeling. I don't need to get up, he thought. Moving is for stupid people–I'll move when I want to. You can't tell Zim what to do, body!
Next there came his sense of smell.
You know, some say your first words are the most memorable–some say even the most important. Well, upon taking in a large whiff of the rather bitter air, let's say that Zim's first words were… interesting enough.
"I CAN'T BREATHE! I CAN'T BREATH–I CAN'T–I–I'M MEEEEELLLLLTIIIINNNNNGGG! I'M GONNA' DIIIIEE! I'M DYYYYYING!"
Conflicting his previous objections, Zim threw himself off the bed and flopped onto the floor like a dying fish. Writhing around and hysterically clawing at his green skin, he endlessly squealed about how he "caught the sick".
"I caught their stink! The stink!" he shrieked. "I don't wanna' die like this! Not like this! Noooooo–" He paused to suck in a deep breath and continued with,
"OH, WHAT A WORLD. WHAT A WORLD! I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE! WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEEAN?"
Surprisingly, Zim actually received an answer.
"It's the effects of sweat on an unwashed bed sheet. And your grossly exaggerated feedback isn't going to mask its stench."
It came from nowhere, yet he felt extremely close to it. He stopped his anxiety attack at an instant, facing up at the ceiling with his arms sprawled across the grimy tile. This gave him the opportunity to take in his surroundings: a glass box with a sleek sleeping pod-like bed from which he flopped out of, a toilet with shards of a broken ceramic mug in its bowl, and a nightstand. An overturned radio lied next to his head, spurting out frequent bursts of static, seeing as he damaged it during his attack on his nerves.
"Who are you?" he said, calmer but undoubtedly needy. "Why are you invisible?"
"ANSWER TO ZIM!"
"I would tell you, but I'm guessing it wouldn't be as an importance to you, considering that galling little attitude of yours." Her voice was heavily mechanical, nothing natural of the sorts. However, it carried a bit of a musical quality as she uttered out each word in ridicule.
"I am not one of galls!" Zim sat up and waggled a pointy finger at the ceiling. "Those winged rats have nothing to do with this!"
"Alright then." The invisible lady–GLaDOS, to be correct, took time to reflect on the strange little creature's response, puzzled by how he easily misunderstood her statement. After giving up on it she said,
"Well, we're two minutes and forty-seven seconds into your beginner's orientation, and you're still the most… mannerly test subject I've met. I'll make sure to log that in your personnel file, right next to 'Osmophobic'."
"Osmophobic?" Zim lurched back slightly.
"I'm sorry. Is there a problem you feel the need to address? Did I stutter?"
Upon standing on his tiny feet, Zim took a confident stance, with his head high to the ceiling as he spoke his mind in what GLaDOS described as the most fictional statement yet.
"I will not be fooled by the use of fancy words, pig! My brain is far more superior than that!"
Being that it was GLaDOS' turn to react, she paused, then said with much composure, "The average human has between ninety to a hundred and nine I.Q points–a little lower on the scale, if you want to be more precise about it."
This puzzled Zim to an unlimited extent. How dare she skip subjects! he bellowed in his head. GLaDOS continued,
"Below that, between eighty to eighty-nine points, there is 'Dullness'. Between seventy and seventy-nine, there is 'Borderline Deficiency'. And at the very bottom–the place a person who is very dear to me is most likely familiar with–we have 'Definite Feeble-mindedness'."
"How does this have to do with anything that has been going on? This is not helpful!" Zim interjected in a cry of anger, stomping a foot to the white tile.
"Analyzing your behavior, along with your speech patterns and motor skills, I was able to quickly scale you and rank you in one of the seven categories."
"Intelligence is one of many priorities of the Enrichment Center. It is required that all testing participants should be ranked with the help of the current Wechsler I.Q. classification system.
"Please note that the Enrichment Center is not legally responsible for any accidents and/or death you inflict upon yourself due to an unfortunate lack of competence." The musical quality in GLaDOS' voice left during that speech, surfacing a short time later.
"'Lack of competence'. Hah! You make me laugh. My comps are very high in quantity!" Zim practically sang his own praises.
If GLaDOS had a hand to slap her nonexistent face, she would have to get nose surgery by now.
"After receiving the results of the test, it is not at all concerning that you are unable to be classified into any of the categories–this also counts for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence.
"Congratulations, you're a special little boy."
"Little!" Zim didn't take this gently. He shouted, "You have no idea who you are speaking to!"
"That sounds nice," said GLaDOS soothingly. "Why don't we all just cancel all our plans and talk about our feelings? Let's hush the entire planet for you to explain how horrible your life is and how no one else's suffering can possibly be compared to yours–"
"I AM ZIM," squealed the maniac, throwing his hands up in the air with great passion, "MIGHTY, ALL POWERFUL INVADER OF THIS PITY-ROCK YOU CALL–C-C–Cahhh…" Oh, crap, she's gonna' catch on. Hurry; douse the fire with an extinguishing liquid other than water before it spreads!
"Ahmm… I am just a human. Nothing more than a meekly human–like the rest of you that are humans–human."
GLaDOS couldn't believe a word he uttered. In fact, it infuriated her how he had the nerve to even assume she was as mindless as… as…
"You're not human," she said very slowly, enough to be considered as a low growl of opposition.
"YOU DARE QUESTION ZIM'S HUMANNESS?"
"It was not a question. And I'm highly positive it's the true fact in this matter."
Zim, on the verge of going on another tirade, let his jaw hang ajar for the roaring words to pour out like water through a broken dam. It surprised GLaDOS that he snapped his jaw shut again, sticking out his lower-lip in a pout instead of carrying on with the screaming.
"What makes you think I'm not some filthy human like the rest of you? I call that discremitination! Discremitination!"
GLaDOS drew a long sigh; it sounded too similar to a droning computer hard drive than the action of a living, breathing being.
"Your skin pigment is green," she clarified.
"Skin condition, of course!" replied Zim. "Like rashes, except mine is green–which is perfectly normal for normal human-worm-babies."
"You're deficient of ears."
"Also a skin condition!"
"I don't see a nose on your face." This sentence clearly caught Zim off guard, causing him to stumble over his words.
"Well–T–That's silly! I just had a… whatevertheycallit–ELASTIC SURGERY."
GLaDOS muted herself for a brief moment. "… I feel this is the appropriate time to remind you that you are a very, very special little boy and that your parents must be very proud to have conceived such a very special son like you."
"Yes… parents… of course! My human parents love me, which is an emotion–a human emotion!
"Because I am human! Completely, undeniably the most human human this disgusting planet has ever–"
"I wouldn't be surprised if you deceived any actual humans with those incredibly natural purple contacts and that five dollar wig you most likely found digging through a Walgreens store. But, come on, you can at least try a little harder for me."
"This is no wig!" Zim slapped a hand onto the top of his head. "This is authentic human hair on my normal humanly scaaaaalllllllwwwWHERE'S MY WIG?" He reverted back into madness, seizing the perceptible black antennas that stuck out from the top of his cranium and jutted outward in bizarre directions.
"You horrible, invisible monster! Where'd you hide my wig?" he screeched.
"I DEMAND ANSWERS!"
"In accordance to Enrichment Center guidelines, all cosmetics are prohibited within the testing areas.
"Nonetheless, to show respect for all of our participants, we stored your precious possessions in the safest storage housing we currently hold: the Emergency Intelligence Incinerator."
"Incinerator… Incinerator!" Zim looked about ready to explode in a blast of concentrated fury. His faced twisted into an expression so feverish, so intense, it was painful to him. He shook overwhelmingly–a volcano on the threshold of erupting.
"You DESTROYED MY CLOAKING ACCESSORIES."
"'Stored'. The word is 'stored'." GLaDOS' voice remained smooth and effortless. "Well, we cremated them first–for extra space–then we stored them.
"And your little pink dress and biker-pants are also safely and efficiently stored thanks to Aperture Science sanitation system. That metal lady-bug backpack, however, will remain on your person, as I was unable to remove it without having a chance of ripping your spine out clean from your skeletal structure. I'm sure you're delighted about that.
"Not to mention your uniform, of course."
This was the first time in his entire life that Zim felt obligated to restrain his wrath, for he knew he would most likely destroy the entire complex in a fit of lunacy, and that would make it impossible to find his cloaking accessories again. He convinced himself that their incineration was just a big, fat, cruel lie.
He slammed his head against the pod-like bed and stayed that way for a good long while. When he felt in control of his emotions, he hauled his head back up and out of the mattress and peered down at the vibrant jumpsuit he wore. It hung off of his shoulders and loosely swaddled his feet, acting as more of a pair of terrible, poorly fitting footy-pajamas.
"You mean this hideous orange horse-blanket I'm wriggling in?" The great sleeves slid up his arms when he raised them stiffly, sliding down and over his hands when he let his arms droop again.
"It's disgusting. I'm gaging on the tackiness of this disgrace! I demand for my clothes to be returned!"
"I did the best I could to find the smallest size for you. If you're not satisfied, you can always consult our licensed philanthropy department–located in our Emergency Intelligence Incinerator–and express your concerns there. And while you're at it, we can always go ahead and fix some glaring mistakes in your intellectual capacity. After that, you can go and tell others of your lizard-kind about the progress you've made after allowing to place your insignificant life into the hands of Aperture Science.
"Aperture Science. Remember that. We thrive on free publicity."
He flew apart at the word "lizard-kind".
"YOU TAKE THAT BACK!"
GLaDOS, although used to Zim's loudmouthed rants, would admit to flinching at that sudden upsurge of emotion; but she still had no regrets in the matter.
"YOU. JUST. WAIT. I'LL HAVE THE ARMADA BURN THIS BALL OF DIRT TO THE FILTHY GROUND AFTER I TAKE CONTROL. I'LL MAKE SLAVES OUT OF SMELLY HUMAN-LOVINGHUMANS LIKE YOU! YOU WAIT AND SEE! YOU WAIT AND SEEEEEEE…"
"Human-lover?" GLaDOS sounded melodramatically horror-struck. "Human-lover. That is the most inaccurate thing you've ever said to me. I am repulsed. And I most certainly do not have any affection towards the human race, nor will I ever have any."
"AND WHEN MY DAY FOR CONQUEST ARRIVES, I'LL MAKE SURE THIS PLACE–hold on a second." Zim cut off the insanity. "You. Hate humans?"
"Technically," replied GLaDOS.
"Then for the love of Ir–what have I been talking to?"
"An Artificial Intelligence.
"An Artifical Intelligence with a brain one thousand times more powerful than the majority of your planet's population, which had the nerve to allow an irritant like you to be created."
"Oh… um…" Zim looked to the floor, placing a finger on his chin, as if to help steer his train of thought back onto the correct course. "Ahem–
"AND WHEN MY DAY FOR CONQUEST ARRIVES, I'LL MAKE SURE THIS PLACE CRUMBLES TO DUST ALONG WITH THE PATHETIC SPIRITS OF MY PUNY ENEMIES, INVISIBLE COMPUTER-LADY!"
"You're an invader." GLaDOS wasn't convinced by the Irken's death-wish, as shown by the dryness in her comment.
"You seem a little… trifling for such a title, don't you think?"
Zim flashed a huge grin, swollen with pride. "Ha! Zim is not what you call trifling!"
"You plan to… take over the Earth. By yourself. You alone."
"With my cleverness!"
"How's that plan been working out?"
It took a second for Zim to process this. "Why should I tell you? Zim NEVER tells his secrets!"
My God, this woman was talking to an eggplant.
"Okay, I'm not even going to go into full detail on how contradicting that sentence was.
"I hate to crush your dreams, but I'm afraid you have no more secrets left to tell."
"You lie!" spat Zim, lashing an arm out to point at the security cameras.
"When have I ever lied to you? What am I going to get out of lying to you?"
"My meaty soul!"
During the dead silence that followed, Zim imagined the presence of his witch of a schoolteacher Miss Bitters, her thin lips pursed tightly, her back in an even greater arch, her skeletal hand taking a hold of a yardstick, tapping it lightly against a desk.
"Did I guess the right answer?" he mumbled.
"No. You didn't."
With a distinguished swoosh released into the atmosphere, a rift took a space on the white section of the wall, expanding into an elliptical opening rimmed by a thin orange haze. Cautiously peering into it, Zim observed someone–suspiciously appearing like the Irken in the looks department–staring into an identical opening, who was also observing someone staring into an opening.
"Hey!" he called out to the doppelganger. "Hey, you!" The doppelganger seemed to mouth out the words at the exact same time as Zim was. Strange…
"Hey! I'm talking to you! Hey–I–talking to you! Would you stop–wou–would you stop talki–Hey, ZIM IS TALKING HERE."
"Let the tests begin, I guess," said GLaDOS over the shouting of Zim arguing with the nonexistent doppelganger. She gave that computerized sigh again.
"Boy, this is going to be fun..."