Razor Mountain — Chapter 21.1

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

The sergeant sat across from Christopher and studied his clipboard silently, flipping between several different pages. Then he looked over the top, into Christopher’s eyes.         

“We have the same name, you know.”

Christopher blinked.

“Excuse me?”

The sergeant lowered the clipboard and used his pen to tap on the name badge. It said “C. MEADOWS” in white engraving on the brown badge.

“Sergeant Chris Meadows,” he said.

Christopher took a deep, slow breath. After being imprisoned and tortured, he had not expected his captors to subject him to tedious small talk.

“I go by Christopher,” he replied at last.

Meadows raised the clipboard again.

“I’ve been chatting with the two deserters who came in with you. I think we both know that they have no idea what’s going on, but I still got some useful information about you out of them. And, of course, I have other means at my disposal for finding things out. I know an awful lot about you Chris, and by the time we’re done here, I will know everything. You can make it simple, or you can make it complicated, but we’ll get there eventually. The only difference will be how unpleasant it is going to be for the both of us. Your level of cooperation will have an impact on what eventually happens to you.”

Meadows waited expectantly.

“Okay,” Christopher said.

“Let’s do a little thought experiment. Take a good look around this room. This could be where you spend the rest of your life. Now, that might not be very long, but it could also be a very, very long time.”

Christopher shook his head. “You don’t need to threaten me. I’ll tell you everything I know. Strap me into the lie detector. Do whatever you need to do.”

Meadows smirked, and it was not a pleasant expression.

“We don’t need your permission, Chris. And I don’t need to threaten you. I work in facts. These are the facts about what is at stake here. If you’re smart, you’ll tell me the facts that I ask of you. I will evaluate what you say against my other sources, and I will determine if you are telling the truth. If you lie or omit things, those will be marks against you. Do you understand?”

Christopher took a deep breath. He felt like his lungs weren’t providing him enough air. The weight of his body was hard to hold up.

“I understand.”

“That’s fantastic,” Meadows said. “Let’s start with Alaska. How did you come to be here in our fine state?”

Christopher told him about the flight from the small town of Homer, about waking up alone, and the frantic minutes leading up to his terrifying jump. His instinct was to leave out the parts that made no sense, but he didn’t dare. Instead, he told the story exactly as he remembered it, without embellishment or commentary.

Meadows stared across the table intently, occasionally looking down to jot something on his paper, but never showing emotion or commenting. He let Christopher tell the story up until the point where he crawled out of the lake, found the hatch, and somehow guessed the code.

Christopher paused and took a deep breath. The lack of feedback from Meadows was almost worse than immediate skepticism.

“That seems like a good place to stop for the moment,” Meadows said, “as it does answer my initial question. Now think back through your story and tell me if there’s anything you left out.”

“Just the facts?”

“Just the facts.”

Christopher thought.

“When I tried to open the door, I wasn’t thinking very straight. I assumed I was going to die, but I thought I might as well try to guess the code. I was going to enter my birthday, but I fat-fingered it.”

“What’s your birthday?”

“November 11, 1983.”

Meadows shook his head a fraction of an inch.

“The code, I mean.”

“111183.”

“And what did you enter, instead?”

“122199. I wasn’t actually sure what I entered at the time, but I figured it out after a little trial and error later on.”

“Interesting,” Meadows said. “Those numbers are quite different.”

“I was freezing to death,” Christopher said. “My hands were shaking.”

Meadows eyed Christopher.

“You certainly look rough around the edges, but you have all your fingers and toes, don’t you? And your entire nose. I think you weren’t quite so bad off.”

“Well, it felt like it at the time,” Christopher mumbled, trying not to sound petulant.

“Let’s back up,” Meadows said. “Where did you come from, before you came to Alaska? Where do you live?”

“I have an apartment in Minneapolis,” Christopher said. “Or at least, I did.”

“Oh, what happened to it?”

Christopher shrugged.

“I don’t know. I just assumed I’ve been declared dead by now. It’s been weeks.”

“Ah,” Meadows replied, no sympathy in his voice. “You lived alone then?”

“Yeah.”

“And where did you grow up?”

“Same general area. Suburbs.”

“Family?”

“My parents and my brother.”

“Older, or younger than you?”

“…younger.”

For the first time, Meadows face betrayed some hint of emotion, the faintest narrowing of the eyes.

“You hesitated.”

“My brother was three years younger. He was adopted, if that matters.”

Meadows shrugged.

“Does it?”

Christopher wasn’t sure what to say. He shook his head.

Meadows wrote for several seconds.

“You said your job brought you here.”

“Yes. It was supposed to be a sales trip. I just moved into a new position at work. Sales for northern North America.

Mostly Canada, Alaska, and a few of the north-most states.”’

“And where were you going, specifically?”

“Golden Valley Electric Association.”

“Anyone in particular who was expecting you?”

Christopher pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I don’t remember.”

“What about where you came from?”

“I…I stayed at the motel in Homer. I visited Homer Electric. I met a few people. I only really remember first names. There was Phil, Lisa…Sandy, I think.”

Meadows nodded, writing. Then he clicked his pen and stood.

“I think that’s enough to start with,” he said. “Someone will be along shortly to bring you back to your cell.”

Christopher blinked. “That’s it?”

“For now.”

“Look, I’m willing to tell you whatever you need to know.”

Meadows held up a hand.

“Be patient, Chris. We’ll get there, in time.”

“Can I please just sleep?”

“We’ll talk again soon,” Meadows said. He turned sharply on his heel and walked to the door. He didn’t even glance back as the door closed behind him.

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Author: Samuel Johnston

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

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