Razor Mountain — Chapter 14.1

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

Christopher had never had a gun pointed at him before, but within seconds of entering the maintenance room several of the people in fatigues had guns drawn and aimed near his feet. Amaranth immediately interposed herself between Christopher and the others and began gesturing vigorously in some sort of sign language. It was clear by their blank looks that some of the people didn’t understand her, but two or three of them seemed to be following along.

The people whispered to each other in their little cliques, and one man broke off from the card game and disappeared through the door on the far side of the room. Christopher stood, hands up, and waited for someone to decide what was to be done with him. Eventually, Amaranth directed him to an old wooden chair against the wall near the group playing cards.

After a few minutes of awkward silence where Christopher felt like some sort of zoo exhibit, the man who had gone out came back through a side door. Behind him was a woman with her black hair in a tight braid that fell to her waist. She had chevrons on her shoulder, and a few of the others saluted when she came into the room. Christopher wondered what the circumstances were where people in the military were allowed to have long hair. He had a vague sense that everyone got their head shaved in boot camp, and he thought it had to remain short after that, but several of these people had longer hair or beards.

Where everyone else in the room had been content to watch him from a distance and whisper amongst themselves, this new woman walked directly up to him. She had a jingling ring of keys hanging from her belt, and a sidearm holstered at her other hip.

He stood as she approached, slowly and with his hands clearly visible. He wasn’t sure what the protocol was. Should he salute?

She looked him over without speaking, the muscles around her mouth twitching. Then she turned to Amaranth and motioned in sign language. The gestured conversation went back and forth, and Christopher was unable to follow. He tried to stay calm and be patient, knowing that his safety probably depended on it. Finally, the woman held up her hands to Amaranth, as though asking her to pause. She turned back to Christopher.

“Come with me.”

She pointed to Amaranth, then to the man who had brought her. She led the way back through the side door. Christopher followed, with Amaranth and the man following behind.

The door led to a short hallway. There were several doors, some of them open. They had labels etched into the wood: B5, B4, B3. Some of the doors were left ajar, and Christopher could see what looked like dark, disused offices.

Christopher suddenly wondered about the lights. They were simple circles of frosted glass, set into the ceiling every few feet. The color of the light reminded him of sunlight, but he thought it would be impossible to somehow reflect sunlight this far down underground.

The woman with the long black hair stopped in front of one of the doors, “B2C,”  and located a key on the keyring to unlock it. She opened it up and gestured for him to step inside.

It was a closet. The floor was dirty, and the discolored and scraped olive paint on the walls showed where furniture or something else had once rubbed against the walls. Now it was a just a bare room, barely larger than an elevator.

He stepped inside, and the man stepped in after him. As the man shut the door, Christopher caught a glimpse of Amaranth and the woman going into an office across the hall.

“Sit,” the man said. His tone was more a suggestion than an order.

Christopher sat in the corner, facing the door. The man stood next to the door, arms crossed over his chest. He had no weapon, at least that Christopher could see.

Minutes went by. The man seemed content to just sit and watch Christopher.

Christopher began to wonder if he had made a mistake by not speaking up. These people were treating him like he was some kind of danger, when he clearly wasn’t.

“Can you tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

The man shook his head sadly.

“Just try to be patient. They’re going to talk for a bit, then the corporal will talk with you.”

Christopher sighed.

“I’m just a guy who got lost. I’m a sales person. My plane crashed. I was never meant to be here. I’m just trying to find a way to get back home.”

The man held up a hand.

“You need  to be quiet and wait patiently, understood?”

Christopher nodded. He rubbed his palms against his closed eyes. He was so tired. Even here, after all this, he could fall asleep. He let his head tilt back against the wall.

He wasn’t sure if he had dozed off when he heard a knock on the door and it opened again. The woman stood there. He saw Amaranth pass by behind her.

“Stand up, come on,” she said.

Christopher got up, and she gestured that he should go through the door across the hall.

“Thanks, Harold,” she said to the man as he came out behind. “And try to keep the gossip to a minimum until we get this sorted.”

“Sure,” he said.

Christopher realized as he stepped into the room that it wasn’t really an office. It was just another, bigger storage room masquerading as an office. A long folding table had been set up at one end, with an office chair behind it. A pair of beat-up metal folding chairs were set in front of the “desk,” and a pair of wooden benches had been set up in the opposite corner.

She closed the door behind them, then walked past him to sit in the office chair while Christopher looked around. After a moment, she gestured to the folding chairs.

“Take a seat.”

Christopher sat.

“What is your name?”

“Christopher Lamarck.”

“Christopher, my name is Ema. I’m the boss here. I’m going to ask you some questions, and you’re going to answer.”

“Sure..”

“You should know that I have no reason to trust you, and my goodwill is going to depend entirely on how honest I think you are.”

Christopher shook his head.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m just trying…”

Ema held up a finger.

“What did I say?”

Christopher sighed. “You’re asking the questions and I’m answering.”

“Good. Now who are you, what is your job, and where are you from?”

“I’m Christopher Lamarck,” he said. “I’m a salesperson for Peak Electric Solutions. I’m from Minneapolis. Well, the suburbs.”

“And why are you here?” she asked.

“I was on a sales trip. Visiting three of the power companies we work with up here.”

He paused to think. It felt like such a long time ago.

“I…I flew into Anchorage, then down to Homer. I spent a day there, and then I was supposed to fly to Fairbanks. But the plane…the plane crashed.”

“What kind of plane was it?” Ema asked.

“I don’t know. It was small, maybe ten passenger seats?”

“How did you survive the crash?”

“I jumped.”

“You jumped out of a plane? While it was flying?”

“Well, I think it had slowed down, and it was low, and I landed in the water. And even then it hurt like hell. I almost blacked out when I hit the water.”

She looked unimpressed.

“So you somehow managed to survive jumping out of a plane by landing in freezing cold water?”

Christopher took a deep breath.

“Yeah, I remember thinking how ironic it was that I would survive the jump and die of hypothermia. I got to the shore and I was freezing. But there was this…door I found,. It opened into some kind of bunker. It was heated. I just kind of collapsed inside.”

Ema’s index finger tapped quietly on the edge of the table. Christopher looked up from his hands to her face.

“Look, I know it sounds crazy. Well, it sounds crazy to me. Maybe it makes sense to you, since you’re out here in…whatever this place is. I found the bunker and I was able to avoid freezing to death. There was food and water and heat. I was there for weeks. I made a signal fire. There was some kind of old military radio that didn’t seem to work properly.”

She held up a hand again.

“And how did you get here?”

“There was a map. It had different points marked on it. I figured nobody was coming to find me, so I had to go try to find someone. So I hiked toward the points on the map. It honestly didn’t go that well. Then I was camped out one night and someone started shooting at me. Amaranth found me. I guess she had been following me?”

“Who was shooting at you?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

Ema rubbed her temple.

“What happened after that?”

“I left all my supplies at that camp and she marched me through the forest all night to get to this place.”

“And here we are,” Ema said.

“Here we are.”

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