Razor Mountain — Chapter 4.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with a new chapter published every week. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

When Christopher woke, light was streaming from the slats in the ceiling. He felt as though he had slept for days, though he had no way of actually knowing. As far as he could tell, there were no clocks of any sort in the bunker.

The long rest felt necessary, but the uncomfortable bed had done nothing to ease his battered body. If anything, all of his aches and pains had settled in and gotten comfortable. In some places they were less acute, but deeper. It made Christopher worry that he was  damaged in ways that wouldn’t properly heal without medical attention. His right knee and ankle especially ached in the joints, and jolted him as he got to his feet.

He realized there was no proper place for bathing in the bunker, but he stripped down and ran enough water in the little sink to wash with a bar of soap from the store room. Once he was somewhat clean and had gingerly washed his various scrapes and the crusty gash down his calf, he started to get dressed again. Then he thought better of it and did his best to scrub his filthy clothes in the sink. He laid them over the backs of the steel chairs and sat down to wait for oatmeal to cook in the weird little oven. He felt awkward, sitting naked, even though he was completely alone. He wondered if there might be security cameras hidden around the place. If so, they had already seen all of him that there was to see.

Sitting with nothing to do for a few minutes, he suddenly began to remember bits and pieces of dreams from the night before. They were  faded and half-forgotten, but he remembered hiking through the snowy forests and mountains. He had the vague sense that there were others following, but he never turned around to see them.

When he remembered to check on the oatmeal, it had already boiled over and was in the process of burning. He did his best to clean the hot box, wiping with a rag and scraping with a spoon, slightly singeing his forearm. The entire bunker reeked of burnt oats. He ate the unburnt portion directly from the little saucepan. As he ate, he opened the notebook to a fresh page.

“Alright, what do you remember?”

He thought back to Anchorage. The flight from Minneapolis had been dull. He had a seat near the back of the plane, in the zone that combined the smell of the bathroom with the maximum possible engine noise. If he had ever had the hint of a thought that regional sales would be glamorous and exciting, he had been disabused of it.

He had a layover in Anchorage, just under two hours. Long enough to be tedious, but not enough to do anything or go anywhere beyond the dull beige-tiled corridors and uncomfortable seating of the airport. He had browsed emails and art websites while he waited.

Boarding the flight to Fairbanks had only been interesting because Christopher had never flown on such a small plane. He was used to taking the boarding bridge onto large planes, not scanning his ticket and walking out onto the tarmac. He had paid more attention to the plane itself than the passengers that boarded with him. He closed his eyes and tried to remember them in as much detail as possible.

There was a man, younger than him. He had been on the plane already, in one of the rear seats when Christopher stepped on. He remembered the back of the man’s head. Dark brown hair, almost black. Parted, and a little greasy. He remembered the elbow on the aisle armrest: a brown coat with leather patches on the elbows. An oddly old-fashioned look for somebody young.

There had been a woman, maybe a little older than Christopher, who came aboard after him and sat in a seat near the front. Her hair was platinum blond, a color that might have been natural or dyed, or perhaps a slightly darker shade naturally verging toward an elderly white. It had been wrapped in a bun.

Christopher wasn’t sure if he had seen either of their faces. If he had, he didn’t remember them. He remembered the pilot, who had helped him stow his luggage and get to his seat with as few words as possible. An older man with white hair mostly covered by a white pilot’s cap with a black plastic brim. The man’s face had been creased and grim; the sort of face that wanted to get things done with a minimum of fuss.

Since the small plane had been a new experience for Christopher, he hadn’t thought much of it. Looking back, it was a little odd. The plane seemed relatively new, especially compared to some of the other small planes at the airport. It seemed strange that they’d fly it with only three passengers. They couldn’t be making much money on a flight like that. The tickets had been dirt cheap, which he assumed was the reason his company travel site had recommended them. The name of the airline had been something generic: something like Fairbanks Air Taxi.

Christopher ran through his memories step by step, making small notes and sketches of the plane and what he remembered of the passengers. He wished he had paid more attention to his ticket, but he couldn’t remember his flight number or be sure he even had the name of the airline exactly right.

He had a flash of memory: the woman in the front seat had gotten up at some point. He specifically remembered her bumping into him as she moved down the aisle. A sharp pain in his arm. He still couldn’t envision her face. Had she gone to that awkward little toilet in the back, with nothing but a curtain to shield it? He thought he would remember if anyone had used that. He couldn’t remember anything more about the incident.

As he thought about it, he remembered feeling groggy and nauseous when he had awoken alone on the plane. He had felt off-balance and had a hard time focusing. He had felt sick. Or drugged.

The idea seemed absurd on its face, but everything after that moment had been so insane that it didn’t seem any more far-fetched than any other possible explanation.

He flipped to a new page and titled it “What is going on?” He began a bulleted list, then laughed aloud as he read it back to himself.

  • A crazy accident
  • Something supernatural
  • Someone trying to kill me
  • It’s all a dream

The insane thing was that he honestly wasn’t sure which option was the most likely.

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