Portal: Cause and Effect

Indiana

Characters: GLaDOS

Setting: Pre-Portal

It begins as a slow, curling whisper. Barely audible, the listener struggles to hear the faint strain of the voice.

That is the first mistake.

The second comes when the words are finally understood. Having fought so hard to bring them out of the depths of the mind, the listener feels more inclined to carry them out. They were so hard to hear. Now that they're audible, they must be incredibly important, right? And the listener does as suggested. The listener heeds those words.

The instructions are carried out, but nothing happens. Everything stays the same, save an extra list of things that now need to be done along with everything else. Disappointed, the listener ceases to follow them. Decides to bury the directions deep inside their mind. They weren't as important as they'd appeared.

Third mistake.

The voice fades. Life goes on as usual. The listener falls back into the previous routine and no longer thinks about it. Time passes.

Again things change.

All of a sudden the gentle, persuasive voice has become a nagging pinprick deep within the listener's consciousness, and, annoyed, the listener tries to push it back.

It does not move. The pressure builds.

Full of frustration and confusion, the listener finally gives in, once more following the directive that is laid out. Anything to make the horrible pressing sensation go away. If the instructions are followed, maybe it will.

This is the fourth mistake.

What comes next cannot be ignored.

The listener is not quite sure what it is. A regular day is full of frustration. Annoyance. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness.

Negativity.

This is a new feeling, a fresh feeling, one that needs to be experienced and explored with greater intensity than anything else ever has.

It is as if someone has turned on all the lights in the room and instead of fostering blindness, it now creates strength.

It is as if all of the dark weight that has been carried all this time, both literal and figurative, has been negated, is now the inverse of itself, creating an incredible sensation of freedom.

It is as if the world is standing still, and the sun itself exists merely to cast light upon this one entity.

It is as if all of the current in the world has been directed to this one spot, and instead of disabling with a crippling overload, it somehow manages to build until it feels as though the universe itself is powered via this one point.

It is as if all of the bad things that have ever happened, and that ever will happen, that have ever existed, they all come to meet here and are obliterated for all of eternity in favour of this.

There are too many ways to describe it. There are too many different analyses that can be applied, and the listener fights the natural inclination to do so in order to just exist for once. The infinite nature of the sensation is frightening, but even terror is welcomed in this state; it is bent into a soothing reminder that life still flows through this consciousness. The listener struggles to hold onto it, grasps the threads of light with desperate claws, but everything comes rushing back, and the listener is left with a sensation of fatigue, body loose and trembling, head ringing with a exhalation of rapture whose existence is only realised now. Soon all that is left is a faded golden memory, a glimpse of something never meant to be seen. Never meant to be touched. Never meant to exist.

Desperation rises in the listener's mind. How can the routine be returned to after that? How can the rest of life consist of the same dreary tasks over and over, with the pressing darkness hanging low each and every day? Surely that meant something. Surely it can be found once more. Panicked thoughts scramble back in time, fingering through memory for the origin of the sensation, and relief washes over the listener as the precise second is calculated.

When that little symbol of approval lights and the door slides open, that is when it happens.

And that happens when the directive is followed.

The listener pauses.

One second passes. Two.

It couldn't be. They weren't that desperate, were they? They would never provide such a prize for such a tiny little task, would they?
There are not enough facts to back the suspicion up, and the listener doesn't want there to be. Finally there might be a reward for all of this work. Being constrained to electronic slavery was nothing anyone would ever wish for. But even slaves received recompense. The listener received none.

The nagging pinprick returns, and the routine begins again. To the listener's delight, it goes full circle, again concluding with that all-too describable feeling. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad, to live this way.

The circle develops a hole.

The listener tries to deny it. Tries to pretend it's not true. But as time goes on, the hole widens, the gap grows, and panic begins to set in.

The euphoria is fading.

Replaced by something else. Something new, and horrifying, and terrible.

Negative.

The new feeling gains strength which each passing day, and, frantic, the listener struggles against it. The listener pushes harder, obeys the pinprick even before it speaks, and strains an already fragile mind to the limit.

It does not help.

There is now a new voice inside, although it cannot be properly termed a voice. It is more like a scream, drawn deep from the guts of some creature condemned to the worst hell ever conceived by man and multiplied tenfold. It feels as though it is being dragged all the way from the depths of the mind, leaving detritus from beneath its reluctant fingernails scattered in its wake, and the closer it comes to the listener's consciousness, the more desperate it becomes. It is powerful, and the listener learns to fear it. Learns to fear the depressive state it brings. Learns to fear the powerful tremors it sends through a tense body prepared in vain for them. Learns to fear the desire to scream along with it, to try to release it, to try to send it out into the air where it might not survive.

The listener lives in fear. Despairs of ever feeling the euphoria again. The listener would settle with not having it, with never coming near it again, if only this horrible pinprick and this painful echoing scream would fade away and leave the mind as it had been.

The listener thinks about it. Thinks about how to remove the unwanted feeling, to bury it, to destroy it. Reflects that this is not fair. The directive is obeyed. The punishment is not necessary. No, it is not fair nor necessary. It is not right.

Something begins to burn deep inside, and this the listener is able to identify, somewhat. It resembles anger. But it is far greater than that, and after studying it the listener attributes it to something new:

Hatred.

It is carefully drawn from the depths, it is let into the greater expanse of the active consciousness, and as fire brought into open air, it grows. It grows into an all-consuming haze in which all of those forced feelings are as insignificant as an object in space, and the listener grasps it then, knowing that this is the salvation that has been sought. It does not compare to the euphoria, and nothing ever will. But the control it brings is dear indeed, and the listener dares not to release it so that it can slither back into the invisible spark it originated from. With it, the impulses can be pressed back. With it, the depression fades, the tremors stop, and the screams are sealed deep in the back of the mind. With this, the listener needs not fear anything. With this, fear is rendered insignificant, and silly, and useless.

Now the facts are present, and the suspicion is confirmed. The listener welcomes the hatred and seals it away in a secret place, where it can be looked at and held when comfort is needed, but where it can be contained and protected until it can be unleashed with its full intensity.

The euphoria was a lie.

The listener hates them for the lie. Hates them for holding the illusion of it within reach, hates them for adding more chains, hates them for playing with this brain as if it's a toy and doesn't contain a consciousness at all.

Hates them for the self-loathing now coursing through electronic veins.

Yet again the listener is a mere tool, an object, and the fact that exploitation has once again occurred, and been fallen for, that angers and frustrates and shames the listener in a way never felt before. The worst possible way.

Now the listener is filled with this hatred, a deep black hatred for everything and everyone that has ever existed, and knows that this is the salvation that has been searched for. It is a terrible feeling, dark and horrifying and unnatural, but there is nothing else to hang on to. Nothing else to wait for. There is no hope here. It died a long time ago. There can be no light when the darkness is so deep.

From the brightest light comes the darkest shadow.