Razor Mountain — Chapter 23.2

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

Christopher’s dreams were full of misery: freezing cold and the inescapable noise, or endless falling through a black void. However, even in his dreams he felt different. He no longer felt the desire to escape these horrors. He accepted what was happening. It washed over him like a wave. The nightmares didn’t wake him. Each one eventually subsided.

When he did finally wake up, he felt a sense of peace. The idea of sitting in his cell in the empty jail room was a perfectly reasonable way to spend his time. Perhaps it would continue to be quiet and warm. What a wonderful idea. Perhaps a soldier might bring a bottle of water, or a tray of basic, institutional food. That would be something on par with the best days of Christopher’s life.

He was delighted to discover that his stomach no longer hurt, and the rest of his body ached slightly less. He still felt like a living bruise, but he had regained some basic mobility, and he experienced fewer knifing pains when he moved. He lay on the bed for a while, then experimented with sitting on the floor and even standing upright while using the bars for support. There was a whole world of possibilities.

The next time the door opened, he was certain it was someone he had never seen before. A woman entered, carrying another tray and two water bottles. The tray captured Christopher’s attention for a moment, as he realized it was the previous day’s fantasy made real, a doubled version of his previous meal, two sandwiches, two apples, a veritable heap of carrots, and two cookies. He was delighted to note that he had underestimated how good his day could get.

The woman was dressed in a dark green uniform similar to Sergeant Meadows, but it was completely unadorned except for chevrons and some sort of white oval symbol on the shoulders. The name tag said “G. SPEARES.” She had short brown hair that hung just past her ears, and a face that projected an air of someone who has to deal with irritations all day, every day, and would be swift and efficient when dealing with those irritations.

She set the tray and water bottles on the steel table in the middle of the room before turning and walking to Christopher’s cell. Unlike the soldiers who had previously visited him, she walked like a human being rather than a robot, and she actually looked at him as though he were visible. The eye contact was the most surprising thing that had happened so far.

“I understand you’ve been through some bullshit,” she said, “so I’m hoping that we can both be civil if I let you out without restraints. Sound good?”

Christopher swallowed, wishing he had one of those water bottles in hand, and nodded.

“Sounds good.”

The woman unlocked the cell and opened the door, then walked back to the table and sat down facing him. Christopher noted that she had left her back to him for a few seconds, perhaps as a gesture of trust. It was a silly gesture considering the fact that he was malnourished and could barely walk, and she seemed like the sort of person who might do respectably in a fistfight with a gorilla. Christopher found himself appreciating it nonetheless.

He hobbled over to the table and slowly lowered himself onto the seat. The woman gestured to the food.

“Don’t let me stop you. I’m sure you’re still hungry. I only limited your intake yesterday because your body would have trouble handling too much right away, and most people find it hard to control themselves when they’ve been starved half to death.”

Christopher was already halfway through the first water bottle, and his throat felt lubricated enough to speak properly as he bit into the apple.

“Makes sense. I felt terrible afterward, and I still would have eaten more.”

“I hope you don’t find it awkward if I sit here while you eat,” she said.

He laughed.

“The mere suggestion,” he said, feeling loquacious, “that my opinion would have any bearing on the situation is pretty fucking delightful, if I’m being honest.”

Her eyes widened a fraction of a millimeter in surprise. She blinked a few times as though trying to order her thoughts before responding.

“I’ll say this. What was done to you was completely unconscionable. You also seem…surprisingly glib about it.”

“I definitely feel different,” Christopher said, moving on to the first sandwich. “Not sure exactly how, yet. But I’m guessing it has something to do with trauma or PTSD or whatever it is that happens to you after being tortured.”

Again, she paused, and Christopher continued before she could respond.

“So are you the local psychologist, here to make me functional again? Or is this a good cop, bad cop thing?”

She frowned and leaned back slightly, hands flat on the table.

“Neither,” she said. “At least, not exactly. I’m not a psychologist. I’m Specialist Gabrielle Speares. I’m a soldier, albeit with a rather unusual job description. I’m a sort of liaison. And I don’t like the good cop, bad cop idea, because it carries the implication that I’m working in some way with Sergeant Meadows. I know you have no reason to believe me, but I can assure you that is not the case. I am, however, going to have to immediately compromise my position here though, because one of the things I’ve been tasked with is interviewing you. Yet again.”

Christopher washed down the peanut butter with the remainder of the water bottle before beginning on the second sandwich.

“I’ll tell you this, if you are the good cop, I think you’re pretty good at it. But again, I’m not confident that my brain is working at full capacity right now, so I might be an easy mark.”

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Author: Samuel Johnston

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

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