This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.
I worked through two more chapter summaries, 35 and 36. Most of the mysteries are now resolved, and we’re approaching the climax.
Christopher meets with the Acting Secretary of Justice in his office, with Cain present. The secretary wanted to meet first thing in the morning. First, he asks Christopher whether “he’s God-Speaker yet”. Christopher explains that he thinks it is more of a gradual transition, and it doesn’t seem to be complete. He’s still missing memories.
The Secretary of Justice says that the patrols have finally captured the last of the exiles, including a young woman who cannot speak. She gave them a lot of trouble, but all the exiles have been treated gently on Christopher’s orders and locked up in a comfortable facility. He suggests Christopher could go observe the conditions and make sure they’re satisfactory. Christopher wants to go talk to them, but his God-Speaker side knows he shouldn’t. He should maintain his anonymity outside this inner circle.
Christopher agrees to go observe their conditions. He has a sudden “spidey-sense” feeling that something’s not right. He takes Cain aside and tells him to call a meeting of the cabinet in 30 minutes, then get a weapon and follow at a distance.
Christopher follows the Secretary of Justice through the mazes of halls that give them access to the rest of the mountain facilities. He hears what he thinks is Cain following, out of sight behind them. The man looks more and more nervous. Christopher probes him with small talk, asking him about family, how he came to the position, what he likes to do in his free time. The man finally stops and breaks down, explaining that he’s part of a trap, planned by Reed.
Even as he says it, Christopher hears footsteps behind him. It’s not Cain, it’s Reed coming at him with a knife. Reed isn’t a young man, or particularly adept, and Christopher is able to disarm him just as Cain comes with an armed MP. The soldier handcuffs Reed. Christopher asks if they actually captured Amaranth, and they confirm that they did not.
They walk back to the cabinet meeting. Christopher is overwhelmed by the feeling that this was all awfully easy. His God-Speaker self is a little smug. Flashes of memory come to him, from the last time Reed attacked him. They arrive at the cabinet meeting as the others are still coming in.
Christopher calmly explains what just happened, and describes what he remembers of the original attack. He questions Reed and the Acting Secretary of Justice in front of the others. The original Secretary of Justice was falsely accused. Her replacement, the Acting Secretary has been under Reed’s sway for years, but is ultimately a weakling looking for easy power. He didn’t have the guts to go through with the plan.
Reed admits that his plan was a poor one, but he had few options, given the circumstances. He thinks it was clever how he co-opted Cain’s spies on Christopher’s plane in order to crash it, but once that gambit failed, what else could he do?
He has no remorse for what he did — he sees God-Speaker as just an autocrat “with fancy toys,” and one autocrat is as good for Razor Mountain as another. Reed’s only regret was that he didn’t have centuries of practice at keeping everyone under his heel. He was never able to consolidate all the power he wanted in God-Speaker’s absence.
For a moment, Christopher considers making a bloody example right in the conference room, but he decides against it, and MPs take Reed and the Acting Secretary to holding cells.
- Resolve 1.1 – Why do the other passengers on the plane disappear while Christopher is asleep? Where did they go?
- They were supposed to be Cain’s spies, but they were actually Reed’s. They left Christopher and jumped out while he was drugged, intending the crash to look like an accident.
- Resolve 4.2 – The passengers and pilot – something about their looks and clothes were slightly off, slightly old-fashioned.
- They were Razor Mountain spies.
- Resolve 31.1 – Why did Reed betray him?
- He wanted power, and he didn’t think God-Speaker was any more fit to rule than anyone else.
- Christopher senses that the final gambit is about to happen, and with God-Speaker getting stronger, he feels excited and prepared for it. It’s shockingly easy to anticipate Reed and stop him. With the betrayal resolved, Christopher realizes that everything is back to the way it was. And he’s miserable about it.
Christopher sits on a private balcony as the sun sets, looking out over the beauty of the mountain valley. He’s not really a drinker, but he drinks something he found in God-Speaker’s rooms – he thinks it’s whiskey.
God-Speaker’s memories are washing over him like a flood, as though the memory of his own murder was a blockage, and now that it has broken loose, everything else is rushing in behind it. He remembers conversations with his wife. He didn’t realize it at the time, but she was trying to gently nudge him toward being less selfish, toward accomplishing something good in the world. She was trying to help him overcome his pathological fear of death.
Christopher thinks that that the world would be better off without God-Speaker and Razor Mountain. He watches the stars come out and thinks about her. He thinks about his parents and his brother.
Slightly drunk, he walks the back-halls of Razor Mountain to Cain’s room. It’s very spartan. Christopher pulls a chair up to the old man’s bed and stares at him. Cain wakes, and is oddly calm to see Christopher there.
Christopher asks him why he worked so hard to bring God-Speaker back. Cain explains that he has seen God-Speaker at work. He knows God-Speaker constructed this place out of nothing, and is the best caretaker of it. To him, it’s a utopia.
Christopher asks if Cain would still trust him if all of Razor Mountain was just a safeguard for God-Speaker’s immortality. Cain says yes. Even if that is true, good things have come from it. Christopher suggests that Cain is every bit as brainwashed as the ordinary inhabitants of the mountain, and he might think differently if he had lived in the outside world. Cain explains that he has seen plenty from the outside world, and it seems like they have plenty of problems out there too.
Christopher feels that God-Speaker is exhausted from this endless cycle, but also trapped by it. What’s left of Christopher is no longer afraid of death. He’s afraid of living forever. He realizes that he’s trying to justify the choice he knows he has to make – not for others, but for himself.
Cain asks if God-Speaker is almost back. Christopher says “almost.” Cain suggests that Christopher will feel better when he’s “back to himself again.”
- What is Christopher going to do?
- With the external conflict against Reed resolved, Christopher is overwhelmed by his own internal conflict: Christopher vs. God-Speaker, acceptance of death vs. fear of death. He tries to use Razor Mountain and Cain to justify his desire not to become God-Speaker and go back to the status quo. Ultimately, he realizes he will have to find that justification inside himself.
- I decided to combine what were previously Chapters 39 and 40 into this single chapter. They’re both about Christopher working out this final conflict between himself and God-Speaker.
- I came to a pretty important realization while revising this chapter. Christopher doesn’t stop God-Speaker at the end of the book to be the savior of Razor Mountain. He does it for himself. His conflict isn’t about overcoming external challenges anymore. It’s about overcoming his own fear of death. He has to learn to accept the time he had, and stop being trapped, effectively immortal but utterly miserable.
Christopher goes to the artifacts’ chamber. He feels himself teetering on the edge between Christopher and God-Speaker.
He throws his mind back through time, in the same way he has trained “oracles” to send warning messages to his past self when things go wrong. Once he starts the process, he feels relief. There’s no going back now.
He goes back thousands of years. The hollowing of the mountain is reversed in high-speed. The population dwindles. The technology devolves. He returns to the scene where God-Speaker first entered the Razor Mountain caves (mirroring the language of Chapter 16, and Christopher’s half-dream at the beginning of the book).
Christopher enters God-Speaker’s mind, a much stronger voice than the first whisper of the artifacts. Where God-Speaker previously jumped across a crack, Christopher distracts him and trips him up. He falls deep into the mountain, where his body is shattered. He’s surprised to feel no pain, only numbness. Death is peaceful for him. Maybe he glimpses something beyond.
The artifacts are left to whisper alone, in the depths of the mountain.
- Christopher has made his choice, now he just has to execute it. He stops God-Speaker from entering this eternal cycle, and accepts his own death. In the end, Christopher and God-Speaker are both at peace.
I worked through the chapter summaries for what is now chapters 37, 38, and 39. The expanded second draft outline for the book is done!