Razor Mountain — Chapter 21.3

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

Is there a difference between thinking and speaking? I’m not sure. Sometimes I only think, and the words come out into the air. Meadows can hear the thoughts. He answers them. Asks more questions. There are always more questions, even if a lot of the time they’re the same questions.

He’s lying. He doesn’t know anything. He’s just hoping that if he pushes me enough I’ll say something that will prove he was right all along.

Is he lying? He knew things about my job, about my family. Things I didn’t tell him.

Did I think them? He can hear the thoughts.

I’m sitting at the table, and then I’m sitting in my cell. They make me get up and run around the halls. Endless, empty gray hallways. But then I’m jogging in my cell.

I eat something, but I don’t know what it is.

Have you ever killed someone?

“Yes.”

Tell me.

“We used to go to the beach on these family trips. It was a long car ride. He wouldn’t shut up. I was so sick of him by the time we got there.”

Who?

“My brother.”

Does he have a name?

“Yes.”

Well?

“I think I was mad, too, because I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I took swim lessons, but I still wasn’t very good. He was a natural. He could swim circles around me, literally. It’s hard, the first time you realize your younger brother is better at something than you are.”

You were jealous.

“Maybe. I was too young to really examine how I felt.”

What happened?

“I think I just wanted to get away for a while. But it was stupid. I went out into the water, like he wouldn’t be able to get me, out there.

“When he came out, he was worried about me, and that made it even worse. I was tired and bad at treading water, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was too far out. By the time I realized that, I couldn’t make it back by myself. I was so damn ashamed that I needed his help.”

You wanted to get him back for that?

“No. I was only ashamed at first, and then something clicked in my head, the kind of thing that our parents were always telling us when we fought, about how we should rely on each other. I thought if we could just get back, things would be different. We could help each other instead of just fighting all the time.”

What happened?

“We didn’t make it back. He was too small to carry me. He shouldn’t have had to.”

I asked you if you’ve ever killed someone.

“It was my fault. I was just a kid. I didn’t know things like that could happen in real life.”

Are you kidding me? Do you think this is a joke?

“No. Do you?”

The stainless steel table was in the snow now. They must have moved it.

It was cold, but it felt good to be outside again. The harsh wind was cut by the bright sunshine. Christopher felt the warmth of it on his face. It was hot, actually. Hot, and running down his cheeks. He touched it gingerly.

Blood. Sticky on his hands. Blood running down his face from his ears.

He opened his eyes. He was sitting in the corner of the cell. The banging sound pounded him like a physical force. He held up his hands. They were clean.


They’re arguing again, downstairs in the kitchen. The voices rise and fall, one male, one female. Why do they think he can’t hear them?

Of course, he’s withdrawn. What do you expect when he goes through something like this?

It’s a formative point in his life. He just needs time. Jesus, we all do.

What if he needs more than just time?

Like what?

He opens his eyes and sees his own fists pounding against the bars. They fall to his sides and he sinks down. The stone floor is so cold.

There’s an engine deep in his chest that is slowing down. It’s been running his whole life, and he never noticed it until now.

Maybe it’s okay to just stop, to let go. Maybe dying would be a relief. No more pressure, no more fighting.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad, what happened. It’s just something that happens. It’s peaceful.

Christopher lay down on the floor of the cell. This time, he didn’t black out. He felt a velvety darkness enveloping him. It was a warm blanket. Whatever happened, everything would be okay.

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Author: Samuel Johnston

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

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