Razor Mountain — Chapter 12.2

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

Christopher jumped up from the fallen log that he had rolled up next to the campfire. He dove into the shadows of the surrounding trees, out of the firelight.

From the sound of gunfire in the distance, the shots had come from the direction of the broken mountain peak. That was the one direction where there was a clear view into the clearing where he had set up his tent.

Silent seconds ticked by. The fire still crackled merrily. The tantalizing smell of the half-cooked rabbit still hung in the air. It lay across the makeshift scaffold of sticks and twine, just above the tips of the flames. Without Christopher to rotate the spit, it would soon begin to burn.

A speculative shot hit the base of a birch just a foot to the right of Christopher’s head, leaving a flap of papery bark hanging loose. Christopher rolled again, further from the fire and the clearing.

He tried to think. He had packed a rifle, but it was on the sled and he had no idea how to find a target. The idea of shooting at someone, even someone who was shooting at him, turned his stomach.

Everything he had brought with him was in the clearing, in the tent or backpack or sled. He had even taken off his coat while he sat by the fire. It lay on the fallen log. If the shooter really was as far away as they seemed, he could easily escape under the cover of the thick forest in the dark. But how far would he get without the coat or his supplies?

A whistle cut through the air. It sounded close. Christopher scanned the shadows at the opposite edge of the clearing. There was a crouched shape there. As his eyes focused on it, a tiny white light flashed at him three times. In those momentary flashes, he could see the faint outline of a person.

It was too much. After weeks alone in the woods, it felt like the world was crashing down on him all at once.

He saw the shadow flit around the outer edge of the clearing, moving toward him quickly and soundlessly. He instinctively scuttled backward into the woods, too frantic to make it onto his feet. The shape crouched next to him, and the light came on again. It was a flashlight, one of those big, serious, black metal flashlights that police sometimes used, probably because they could be used as a weapon in a pinch. It had a hand cupped over the illuminated end, glowing pink and letting only a sliver of light out.

In that sliver of light, Christopher saw a girl in green and brown camouflage fatigues. Her brown hair was pulled back in a tight, short pony tail. She looked young, maybe a teenager. A rifle was slung over her shoulder, the barrel poking up behind her left ear.

She said nothing, but motioned toward the clearing, the fire and his supplies. Then she slashed a hand horizontally in two quick chops and shook her head.

Don’t go that way. Got it, Christopher thought.

She pointed to him, then to herself, then swept a down-pointed finger in a half-circle, pointing across the clearing. She was saying they should both go around the clearing, outside the firelight, and continue to the east. She turned off the light and motioned for him to follow her, both of them just shadows in the trees again.

Christopher was grateful for the direction, the opportunity to not have to make a decision for himself. He clearly didn’t have enough information. It hurt to think about leaving all of his supplies behind, but the idea of going back into the clearing to get them was absurd.

The girl moved much faster than Christopher. She ran ahead silently, then waited for him to catch up before taking off again. When he caught up to her a second time, she put a single vertical finger to her lips. He was obviously being too loud for her.

He raised his eyebrows, shrugged and put his hands out, palms up, in the universal silent gesture for, What the hell am I supposed to do? I’m not a ninja like you.

The whites of her eyes flashed in the darkness as she rolled them and kept going.

They continued for what felt like only a few minutes. Christopher had a hard time guessing how much time had passed. It was long enough that the adrenaline started to fade and he began to shiver without his coat. She stopped and took off a backpack, much smaller than his. She pulled out a thin blanket and handed it to him. He wrapped it around his body. He saw a sizable sheathed knife and a handgun in the bag. The girl took out a dirty, bent, pocket-sized notebook and a pencil.

She turned the light on again, setting the illuminated end into the snow to limit the light it gave off.

She scribbled on the notebook, then held it close to the light.

Who are you?

He reached out for the pencil, but she pulled it to herself as if it was a precious thing. She wrote again.

You can talk. I can’t.

She raised the light a little, then tilted her chin and pointed to her neck. Several vertical scars ran along her trachea.

“Oh,” he said. “I didn’t know.”

She shrugged and pointed at her original question on the page.

“My name is Christopher,” he said. “I…I was in a plane crash a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to find people. Trying to find a way to get home.”

How did you survive?

“The crash, or afterward?” he asked.

She nodded.

He thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to put it all into words.

She wrote again.

Don’t lie.

He blinked. “I’m not. I’m just not sure how to describe it. It all sounds ridiculous to me. I can’t imagine how it sounds to someone else.”

She waited.

“I jumped out of the plane, before it crashed. I landed in water. Somehow, I didn’t break myself in half, although my knee has been pretty screwed up since then. I think I was probably pretty close to hypothermia, but I found…a door, a hatch in the side of a cliff. And inside, it was warm. There were supplies and beds and running water.”

She stared into his eyes for a moment, then nodded as though satisfied. She wrote in the notebook.

Come with me.

“Where are we going?”

Her pencil hovered over the page for a few seconds.

Maybe we can help each other.

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