Razor Mountain — Chapter 8.1

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

Christopher woke up aching and parched, with vague memories of dreams where he was trudging eternally through an empty field of snow. He got up, shirtless, hobbled into the main room of the bunker and drank a glass of water in a continuous series of gulps. He refilled it and sat in one of the uncomfortable chairs. His gear from the test excursion lay damp and disheveled by the hatch. He only vaguely remembered disrobing and throwing himself into the bed.

He looked down at the paunch of his stomach and his slightly flabby arms. He hadn’t been in great shape to begin with. He worked at a computer. He sat in meetings. He watched movies. But being out here—chopping and hauling wood, pulling the sled, hiking with a heavy pack—it was building muscle and trimming fat. He was used to eating out more often than cooking for himself, and the dismal array of apocalypse-ready food available in the bunker had really curbed his caloric intake, despite his significantly increased activity.

His body was sore, and he was obviously dehydrated. He had pushed himself harder than he had realized over the previous day. His knee was bothering him, a sign that he needed to go easy on it, lest he end up undoing whatever healing had been done. Overall, he didn’t feel too bad. It gave him some confidence that he was capable of making the journey to the next dot on the map.

If there was one thing that he had learned, it was that he had to be well-prepared. He had the gear he needed. He just had to take his time, expect to make progress more slowly than he would prefer, and give himself extra time for things like setting up camp. He would need to make sure to drink more frequently, and perhaps snack more to keep his energy up.

The other concern was weather. It had been perfect, clear and sunny, on his test excursion. That could easily change. He had no forecasts, no weather app that he could consult. More broadly, he knew that it was mid-November, and it was only going to get colder. The longer he put things off, the more difficult and dangerous any travel would be. He felt like an animal trying to get its last-minute scavenging done before being trapped in some underground burrow for the winter.

“You could wait,” he said to himself, an admission of what he’d been thinking all along.

He could wait out the winter. He could wait indefinitely, until someone showed up to ask him what the hell he was doing here. Assuming that anyone actually would show up. Assuming the food would last. It was tempting. It was so much easier. Like being a child, hurt and lost, just sitting down in some corner and waiting for a parent, any competent adult really, to figure out what had happened and set everything right.

He imagined his parents, who by now had probably been told it was very unlikely that their only remaining child would ever be found alive. Imagined their long, cold winter, thinking he was dead.

Christopher took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He finished his second glass of water and set about making another dull breakfast. He would be prepared. He would take precautions and be safe. It wasn’t a trek across Alaska; just a few miles. The worst outcome would be following the map and finding nothing. Then he would have to more seriously consider staying put for a while.

He didn’t go out to chop wood that morning, and he didn’t light the signal fire. He would rest and recuperate. He examined the map again, sketching an expanded version of his little corner as accurately as he could in the notebook. On his expanded map, he marked the route that seemed to make the most sense, based on the contours of the terrain. He also marked places that might be good landmarks to check his progress against and make sure he was going in the right direction.

With his route planned, he emptied his pack and unfurled the tent to dry out. Then he set about restocking his supplies. If the weather was still good, and his leg felt strong, he could leave tomorrow.


Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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