Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.
Time frayed at the edges. Sometimes Christopher thought it was day or night, but there was no evidence one way or the other. His body was desperate for some semblance of normalcy. It felt like night when the air was so cold that frost started to form on the metal bed. It felt like day when the lights were so bright that he had to press his hands over his eyes and hope that he wouldn’t go blind.
He entered a new state of exhaustion. He didn’t sleep, he simply lost time. His brain shut down. The banging noise didn’t matter, the light didn’t matter. His body simply did it. It could have been seconds or hours that he was unconscious. He had no way to know.
A soldier brought him a plastic tray of food that he ate without tasting. Reconstituted mashed potatoes? A rubbery piece of meat that might be chicken? It was hard to remember. He ate it all with his bare hands. A half-size plastic bottle of water, swallowed in a single gulp, and still not enough to quench his thirst.
“You came here with two brothers, the deserters. How did you meet them?”
It was a tricky question. The exiles in that old, ruined building were afraid of Razor Mountain. Christopher remembered that. He held no ill will for most of them, although the brothers hadn’t done him any favors.
“I was just trying to find any other people out here,” Christopher said. “I had a map, from the bunker. It showed other buildings. So I tried to hike to them. But I ended up lost and low on supplies.”
Meadows touched the back of his pen to his chin. “And they took you in?”
“They decided to use me as a bargaining chip,” Christopher said. “At least Garrett did, and Harold went along with it.”
“You didn’t want to come here?” Meadows asked.
“You can see how well it’s working out for me,” Christopher said. A staccato squawk of a laugh came, unbidden, out of his mouth.
“You said you wanted to get back home,” Meadows said.
Christopher nodded. “And if anyone out here can make that happen, I guess it’s you. But they seemed afraid of Razor Mountain.”
“They are deserters,” Meadows said. “They have to face the consequences of their actions.”
“Garrett decided he wanted back in,” Christopher said, “and he seemed to think that bringing me as a peace offering would make it all okay.”
“Did he really?”
Christopher thought about it.
“Maybe not. Harold said that he didn’t think it would work. I think Garrett was just desperate and clinging to whatever hope he could find.”
“What about the others?” Meadows asked. “The brothers weren’t alone.”
Christopher took a deep breath. He realized that his eyes were wide. His face betrayed him. His body was a thing not entirely under his control any more.
“You’re protecting them,” Meadows said. “Is that really the strategy you want to take here? Providing cover for traitors?”
“They gave me shelter and food. I’d be dead if they hadn’t.”
“That doesn’t absolve them of their crimes. It’s not your responsibility to defend them.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Christopher said. “I don’t know where they are. It was someplace abandoned. Underground. I’m sure Garrett and Harold could tell you more.”
“That’s not relevant. I’m here to find out what you know,” Meadows said.
When he first woke, on the plane, he had thought for a moment that he was in a dark cave. Why would he think that? Now he was actually in a cave, or at least underground. It felt like a normal building, except that there were no windows. No sun, no moon, no sky or stars. No time passing. No buzzing of airplane engines in the dark that wasn’t a cave.
How did you get here?
“I told you. It was a business trip. A sales trip. I was selling software.”
Did you actually sell anything?
“It’s a new job. I’m new. I’m not very good at it, yet. At least they were nice about it.”
So no. Who are you working for?
“Peak Electric Solutions.”
Who are you working for?
“Look, I told you.”
Who are you working for?
“What’s the fucking point of this? What do you expect me to say? You want me to just make something up?”
I want you to tell the truth. By the way, you have a little blood there, on your forehead.
“I think I hit my head on the table.”
What’s the most blood you’ve ever seen?
Answer the question.
“I guess, I used to get nosebleeds, pretty bad ones, in the winter when the air is too dry. Sometimes it would just go for five or ten minutes. The wastebasket would just be full of bloody tissues.”
“I think so.”
Have you ever killed someone?
Coming back from a sleep-deprivation blackout wasn’t like waking up. It was like one of those movies where someone overdoses and they inject adrenaline directly into the person’s heart. It was being off, and then being on again.
He sat at the table, both jittery and exhausted. The soldier must have come. Must have taken him from the cell and brought him to sit at the table. He didn’t remember it, but it must have happened.
Meadows sat down in the chair opposite him. Had Meadows come in through the door? When?
“How are you doing today, Chris?”
“Is it day?”
“I’m hoping we can have a productive conversation.”
“Hey, that’s great. For that to happen, I’m going to need you to tell me the truth.”
“I keep telling you the truth,” Christopher said. “Except maybe about the deserters, at first, because I feel like I owe them. But then I ended up telling you what little I know about them, anyway. At least, I think I told you.”
“You’re not filling me with confidence here,” Meadows said.
“I’m having a real hard time deciding what is actually happening,” Christopher said.
Meadows sighed and set his clipboard down on the table, snapping the pen under the metal clip.
“I can assure you that this is definitely happening,” he said. “I’m trying to help you here, but you’re not making it easy.”
“Look,” Christopher said. “Look. I’m telling you the truth. What answers are you looking for? If you tell me what you actually want, maybe, somehow, I can help.”
“Chris, I’m not going to give you a free pass here. I’m not going to give you a map of where you can lie and where you can’t. I know more about you than you realize. I know you’re lying, and until you tell me the truth, this will only get worse for you.”
Christopher felt his eyes overflowing with tears. He pressed his palms against them until he saw stars.
“I don’t know what you want. I can’t do this anymore.”
Meadows was standing next to the door. Had he stood up?
“I’m sorry to hear that, Chris. If that’s the case, then we’re going to have other questions to discuss. For example, do we put you in permanent storage, or do we line up the firing squad?”