Razor Mountain — Chapter 14.2

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

“Tell me, Christopher, how do you like living in Minneapolis?”

“What?”

“Do you like Minneapolis?”

Christopher shrugged.

“I guess so.  It’s too cold in the winter and usually pretty miserable in the summer too. But I wouldn’t want to live somewhere like California or Nevada where they don’t have real seasons.”

“That’s it?”

“Fuck, I don’t know!” Christopher said, getting to his feet and knocking the chair back. “Why does it matter how I feel about Minneapolis? I’ve been lost in the woods for weeks. I just want to go home and drink a Coke and buy a big steak and, I don’t know, call my parents and friends and tell them I didn’t die in a horrible plane wreck a week into my new job.”

“Sit down, Chris.”

He stared at her.

“It’s Christopher.”

“Sit down, Christopher.”

He sat.

“How do you feel about America?”

“Jesus. I love it. It’s worked out pretty well for me.”

“That’s it?”

He picked at his lips where they were chapped and flaking.

“What do you want me to say? I grew up in America, and it seems like a better option than a lot of other places. I have a good job, when it doesn’t almost kill me. All my friends are here. The politics gets worse and worse every year, but my day-to-day is pretty good. At least it was before this all happened.”

“Christopher, what do you know about the U.S.S.R.?”

He stared into her eyes. Her face was blank.

“Probably not as much as my history teachers would like? I think it was the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Russia and a bunch of countries around Russia. Communist. A lot of people died when they changed their whole economic system. They helped us win World War II, then we had a few decades of the Cold War where we hated each other. Everyone piled up nukes on both sides, once or twice there was almost a global atomic war. We had a space race and America got to the moon. Eventually the U.S.S.R. fell apart. Now it’s just Russia trying to recapture their faded glory.”

“To your knowledge, have there ever been any nuclear strikes against America?”

Christopher blinked.

“No. Not unless you count the tests where we did it ourselves, out in the desert or on islands. Something like that.”

She leaned back in her chair.

“Alright, I think that’s enough. Let’s start over. Who do you really work for?”

Christopher put his face in his hands.

“I already told you, I work for Peak Electric Solutions. In Minneapolis. Look it up. Call them and ask them about me.”

She pulled her gun from its holster and set it gently on the table, resting her hand on it.

“I don’t have a lot of patience right now, Christopher, and I don’t think anything you’ve said so far sounds very believable.”

He leaned back in his chair.

“I don’t know what you want from me or why everyone here is so worried about me, but everything I’ve told you is the truth. It sounds crazy to me too, and I lived through it.”

“You tell me the truth,” she said, “and you tell me about your extraction point. I’m willing to make a deal.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Christopher said. “I was hoping this would be my extraction point. I just want to go home.”

“If you don’t cooperate, you could spend the rest of your life in that closet across the hall,” she said, “although that might not be very long.”

“Do you want me to make something up? I told you the truth, about everything. If you want more details, I can give you as much detail as you want. Or at least as much as I remember. I’m not lying.”

“Alright,” she said. “Let’s get into details. Back on the plane, when did you know you were going to crash? Were there other passengers?”

“Ah,” Christopher said. “Yeah. Sure. I guess I should probably just start every sentence with ‘I know this sounds crazy, but…’”

There was no clock in the room, but Christopher felt like he had been talking for hours. He repeated his story twice more, including all the details that came to mind. He explained the empty plane and missing passengers. He gave her the seemingly random code that gave him access to the bunker. He thought that talking through his story might give him some sort of epiphany, but it still didn’t make sense to him. It didn’t sound any more believable to him with the additional details.

The corporal listened with her unreadable expression, occasionally interjecting to ask questions. Halfway through the second telling, she took out a canteen and poured two glasses. Christopher half-expected alcohol, but it was just water.

When Christopher had finished his second retelling, the room fell silent. Ema had stood and was pacing along one side of the room. She came back to the desk and sat down. She sighed deeply.

“I hate to admit it, but I don’t think you’re lying. I don’t have the slightest idea what the hell happened to you or why you ended up here. And unfortunately for you, I doubt you’re any better off with us than you were before.”

They sat and looked at each other. Ema yawned.

“Can you please tell me something about where we are and what’s going on here?” Christopher asked.

“I suppose,” she said, “but I’m exhausted. You can ask the others. I need to think.”

She led him out of the room, back down the hall to the central area. There were still several others still there—two at the table, playing cards, and several more sitting or laying on cots that had been set up.

“I don’t think he’s a threat,” Ema announced to the group at large, “but I don’t think he’s going to be much help to us either. Feel free to make your own assessments.”

Christopher stifled the urge to groan, imagining a dozen more of these people interrogating him. However, he saw Amaranth sitting in the corner, and she gestured to him. He walked over, trying not to look over his shoulder. He felt the eyes of the others on him.

She scribbled in her notebook and held it up to him.

Sleep?

He nodded gratefully, and she gestured to one of the cots. He lay down with his back to the room. He knew they were watching him.

He really was exhausted. The cot wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it was no worse than sleeping in the tent had been, or the hard bunks in the bunker. Christopher felt his mind still racing with everything he had relayed to Ema, and everything he had seen here, but he was too worn down. The ideas were fractured and disorganized, like glassware shattering in his brain. He couldn’t hold on to any idea for more than a few seconds.

Despite feeling frantic and frustrated only moments before, he soon  found himself falling into feverish, hallucinatory dreams.

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