Razor Mountain — Chapter 26.1

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

After his conversation with Speares, Christopher had expected that things would happen fast, good or bad. Instead, his comfortable confinement continued for two more days without any communication. He had food and a good bed, and the view of the street below, but he began to wonder if he would continue to trade one prison for another for the rest of his life. The bunker, the holding cell, the slightly dingy apartment: a never-ending limbo, waiting for some sort of final judgment.

When he fought back the existential weight of the situation, he knew that his basic circumstances were objectively better. In the bunker, he had been surrounded by the beauty of nature, seemingly free from any signs of civilization, but there had only been a handful of moments where he was really able to stop and appreciate that. The sheer loneliness, and the question of whether he would ever see people again, had made the landscape feel too desolate.

He was just as much a prisoner here, below the mountain, but the trappings of civilization surrounded him. The apartment could have existed in hundreds of other cities, apart from the view. And the view allowed him to look out over the rooftops of the neighborhood, and the place at the end of the road where it opened out into the central chamber of the city. People walked the streets, coming and going, having conversations. He was trapped for the moment, but no longer felt alone. There was some emotional value in simply being near people.

Beyond that, and in spite of Specialist Speares’s warnings, he had hope that his situation might still improve. He had been wildly optimistic when they had last talked, although that had been tempered by the intervening days with no visits and no news.

There was another way he felt changed, one that he was only just beginning to understand. When he woke inside the bunker, he had been gripped by absolute fear, and he had lived for weeks, maybe months, with those black claws wrapped around his heart. But, somewhere along the way, they had begun to loosen. By the time he was released from the interrogation room and Sergeant Meadows, they were gone. Having been a risk-averse person most of his life, he had the strange feeling that he had made his way through circumstances more difficult than he had ever imagined, and that he was capable of more. An unreasonable fatalism had gripped him, and it made him think that circumstances had guided him to this time and place for a reason, though he couldn’t articulate what it might be.

He was sitting in his place by the window, half-reading a ragged paperback of Stranger in a Strange Land he had found in one of the cupboards, when he saw Speares walking down the street. She looked preoccupied, flipping through her notebook as she walked, passed his door before she paused in the street and realized where she was. Then she looked up and saw him. He raised a hand in silent greeting, and she responded with a tight smile and a nod. Then she snapped her notebook closed and walked through the front door.

He waited for her knock at the door and said, “Come on in.”

The door opened and Speares stepped inside. She closed the door and paused as though unsure whether to enter any further.

“I was beginning to wonder if you’d forgotten me,” Christopher said. He had intended it as a lighthearted greeting, but as soon as he said it, he wondered if he might just sound bitter.

“No,” Speares said. “You’ve actually been the focus of quite a bit of debate.”

“Am I still in administrative limbo?”

“No,” she said again. “I think things have been resolved. It turns out that Sergeant Meadows had some connections to call on as well. He’s been fighting to keep you locked up. He made a variety of…interesting claims about you.”

“Like what?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. The man doesn’t care about anything except his own hide and ambitions, and I think that’s been exposed now. With any luck, he’ll face a court-martial. But even if he doesn’t, I think he’s likely to stagnate in some forgotten corner of the city.”

“So what happens now?” Christopher asked.

“Exactly what I thought was going to happen a couple days ago,” she said. “You’ve got a meeting with the Secretary of Energy.”

Christopher frowned. “Why?”

Speares shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea. He seems to be the one who took an interest in you, but I’m not in a position to know what exactly that is.”

“What does the Secretary of Energy do?”

Speares pointed up, at the light fixture above the entry way.

“He keeps the lights on. Manages the electric generation, the heat, the distribution, and probably a hundred related things I’m not aware of.”

“Huh,” Christopher said. “We might actually have some things to talk about. My job dealt with that kind of thing too. Before I vanished, never to be heard from again.”

“For some reason, I don’t think he’s going to be asking you to consult on the city electrical grid.”

“Hey,” Christopher countered, “you said I was probably stuck here for good. Maybe it’s a job interview.”

Speares smiled. “So when you got your old job, was it the CEO of the company who interviewed you?”

Christopher made an irritated face. “Fair point. So when is this meeting?”

“As soon as I take you over there,” Speares said.

“You’re really trying to keep me on my toes, huh?”

Speares sighed. “I realize it’s frustrating to not have any idea where you’re going and when, but it’s out of my hands.”

“No, that’s fine. I was getting bored in here anyway.”

She gestured to the door. “Shall we?”

“Hold on,” Christopher said. “Let me just gather my things.”

She stared at him as he looked around the bare room, first left, then right. He grabbed the grubby novel from the table.

“Guess I’m ready.”

Speares frowned. “You sure you weren’t employed as a professional comedian?”

“You’re the one running the background checks.”


Author: Samuel Johnston

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

2 thoughts on “Razor Mountain — Chapter 26.1”

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