"Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it?"
The computer dipped out of the ceiling like an inverted spire, a stalactite tangle of wires and steel. It dominated the sparse room that contained it, as if demanding the attention of all who entered. It had drawn Chell's eye from the moment she had caught a glimpse of it from the long hallway leading into the final chamber.
Chell had approached with paranoid caution, grim fantasies of the contraption maiming or murdering her playing over and over in her head. Everything else had been a trap, why not this?
But when she had entered the room nothing had happened, beyond the computer speaking. It was almost amusing, with the panic that had gripped the thing when Chell had shown her first bit of defiance, and she'd expected the computer to be some tiny desktop somewhere quaking in fear at the power of a mighty human. Instead, it was a massive construction that seemed like it could squash her like a bug.
Needless to say, Chell kept close to the doorway, and far away from the computer. Still, from inside the room, she had a better look at the thing. The spindling figure that emerged from the mainframe above resembled an upside-down human in some vague manner. No face, merely a single eye, and several bulbous circles sticking out at odd angles. Not to mention an endless supply of wires. Its 'arms'- if they could be called that- seemed attached at their ends behind its back, leaving the impression of someone restrained by a straitjacket.
The LCD's bolted on the mainframe didn't help with this impression, as it blazed across hundreds of strange images, like reflections of schizophrenic thoughts. Now that she looked, as implausible as it seemed, the damn thing was rocking back and forth with rhythmic consistency. Much like an agitated mental patient.
"Because despite your violent behavior," the computer continued, "the only thing you've managed to break so far is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that, and we'll just call it a day."
It occurred to Chell that one of them was insane, and a sudden terror gripped her at the idea that it might not be the computer. All the other test subjects had cracked up, why not her? She began backing away, clutching the portal gun to her chest, ready to turn and run away, back into the facility. She could find another way out she could- her back hit the closed metal door with a thump, and she knew it was locked. There was no way out.
"I guess we both know that isn't going to happen. You chose this path, now I have a surprise for you."
Oh God, Oh Christ, what now? Chell hunched to the floor, back still pressed against the door, curling up around the gun, head bowed to her chest, eyes closed so tight. She was so tired, so frightened… She felt like a child awakened by a nightmare, trapped shivering in the dark night with no one to comfort her.
"Deploying surprise in five..."
Jesus. She just wanted to go home…
She'd never done anything to deserve this…
She wasn't a bad person…
There was the sound of a hatch opening, and some type of piston or gear moving for several moments, and then silence.
"Surprise deployed." The computer prompted.
Chell opened her eyes, giving a tentative glance around the room. Then she saw it, and gaped. The world seemed slow, unreal; there was a strange thrumming in her head, like a drumbeat in her skull. No, it was a noise, a strange repeating stuttering sound.
…It was the computer. Laughing.
It took several moments for Chell to come to terms with what she saw, all the while the computer laughed, content with its own wit. The hatch had delivered a small table.
Upon it, illuminated with a single lit candle, sat a cake.
Without warning the computer stopped laughing. "You should see your face, you look so stupid."
There was a pause. Then the monitors flickered to black, and then changed to an image of Chells face, which was contorted into a mess of surprise and disbelief. "That's you! That's how dumb you look!"
The computer returned to its laughter with a childish glee.
Chell simply stared, silent. The smell of the cake was tempting, and she ravenous, but… Her eyes wandered up to the computer, in a strange and almost humanizing display it was jerking and rocking along with its laughter.
The laughter died out after a couple moments more, and the rocking slowed to a halt. "You can eat it you know. It's not poisoned or anything. It is part of a required test protocol that test subjects receive a surprise party with cake upon completion of the test, although, it's usually posthumously."
Chell said nothing, her eyes darting back and forth between the computer and the cake.
Disconcerted by the silence, the computer continued. "I suppose it's not much of a party, since I'm the only one here and I'm still going to kill you. Really it's you fault though, because you murdered your best friend the companion cube and were planning on murdering me. You really aren't good with making friends, you know that, right?"
Chell wanted to shout, wanted to rage, the stupid machine had tried to kill her first. She wanted to run up and start stuffing the cake in her mouth. She wanted to do so much, but she was still afraid, still trapped against the door, still frozen in silence.
"We're both stuck in this place. There's no way out. Look, maybe I can use lasers to inscribe a line down the center of the facility, and one half will be where you live, and I'll live in the other half. We won't have to try and kill each other, or even talk if we don't feel like it. And if we do feel like it maybe I can teach you to be more likable and a better friend. Hello? Are you listening?"
Chell had closed her eyes, a sickening feeling building in her, a realization like a wave of nausea. The terrible truth that fed her paranoia, the reason she and the computer would be down here, alone together, forever separated by their vast differences and terrible loneliness until one of them murdered the other.
"You could start being more likable by saying something, and then you could have some cake and tell me about how it tastes. You could also tell me how good a job I've been doing running this lab all on my own. Like how I told you how good you did on the test, you could learn a lot about being likable from me."
Chell opened her mouth, and then closed it. Fear, paranoia, she would never be able to shake it, she would always suspect- damaged, both of them, snapped like twigs…
"You don't…" She began, her voice croaking from disuse and dehydration. "You don't understand. This place… This place it isn't a laboratory. It's not even a prison. It's an asylum."
For once, the computer had nothing to say.