Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism, violence, autistic meltdown
Like most mornings, Kolchais woke slowly. Eir thoughts moved sluggishly, fighting their way through a haze of pain. Ey reached out, confused, and felt a warm spot next to em.
Lefeng. Always up and active as soon as possible.
Kolchais rolled over and buried eir head in the blankets, enjoying the spicy musk scent Lefeng had left behind. The scent followed em back into soft morning dreams.
Sometime later, ey woke again and crawled out of bed. Kolchais stretched carefully, watching eir body’s reaction and deciding that today would be a bad day. Lefeng had brought a walking staff into the city, but Kolchais had never seen em use it. Instead, it had rested next to the door of the seasonal shelter since they had finished building it. Hoping Lefeng wouldn’t mind, Kolchais picked it up and tried walking a few steps. The support helped.
Kolchais hobbled outside and blinked against the sun, trying to see where everyone was.
Chotaikytsai and Chestef were easy to find — ey were building a small hut in the back corner of the compound. Kolchais vaguely remembered Chotaikytsai talking about getting some ground birds to keep for eggs and meat. The birds were nasty and loud but would keep bugs out of the garden and eat any rodents they could catch. Kolchais wasn’t sure they were worth it, but such matters were a decision for the grandparents.
The Spinner was up and squatting by the fire pit. Ey rocked slowly, ignoring the bowl of food someone had left for em. Tsouchm, Lefeng, and Paiokp were working on the family’s new home, doing the delicate work of weaving the wall sections around the doorway.
Kolchais shuffled towards the firepit to check on the Spinner and get some food. Ey was just squatting down when the knocker outside the gate sounded. To Kolchais’ relief (but not surprise), Lefeng went to answer the knock. Ey returned a few moments later carrying a small staff wrapped round with wool. Whoever brought it stayed outside the gates, most likely a messenger.
Hopefully, not someone Kolchais had once known… with an effort, ey wrenched emself away from thoughts of messengers and family. Ey forgot the messenger to focus on what ey had brought —
Lefeng brought the wool to the Spinner. That was no surprise, but the Spinner responded to seeing it. Ey moved for the first time since Kolchais woke up. In moments, the wool was set to eir spindle, and the spindle was spinning. As the wool twisted between eir fingers, the Spinner began crooning. The croon was a quiet, monotonous drone, barely loud enough for Kolchais to hear. It should have been annoying but instead, it was soothing.
Kolchais had heard it before — the Spinner crooned to emself almost all the time, and Kolchais had disregarded it as another oddness of the Silent Spinners. It was so constant ey had forgotten it was there. Its return made em realize how disturbing the Spinner’s silence had been.
Kolchais smiled and looked at Lefeng to see if the protector had noticed. But Lefeng was looking at eir staff on the ground by Kolchais.
“I’m sorry,” Kolchais said, “I should have asked…” but Lefeng was shaking eir head, seeming surprised.
“No. A staff is meant to be used. It surprised me to see it here. But it has been sad to see it each day leaning against a wall. If it helps you, I am glad.”
Lefeng’s mountain dialect was much stronger than usual, making Kolchais think there was some meaning ey didn’t understand. But ey recognized the gift Lefeng offered. “Thank you.”
What was left of the morning passed quietly. Kolchais did not try to help with the house. Ey stayed by the fire pit listening to the Spinner and thinking.
At midday, the others gathered around the fire pit. Normally, they only ate together in the evening. But today, it felt right.
A few minutes after everyone settled, the Spinner stopped crooning. Before Kolchais could worry, the Spinner started singing — a quiet song about the sound of the spindle being the sound of the world being created. After a few verses, Chotaikytsai joined in, mostly singing, sometimes humming if ey lost the pace of the words.
The song sounded odd to Kolchais. The rhythm was very different from the running songs of eir own family or the instrument-backed songs of the musician families that busked the markets. But ey could see how the rhythm and pattern of it fit the rhythm of the Spinner’s hands on the spindle and wool. And the words were fascinating.
The song ended, and in the quiet, they could hear the sh-sh-sh- sounds of the spindle echoing the melody.
After a moment, another voice — Lefeng — began to sing. This song too was unlike any Kolchais had heard. Lefeng’s voice shifted with each line as if ey were two different people. The song itself was a silly song that repeated itself often. Paiokp joined in, picking up one of Lefeng’s voices, but not the other. Then Lefeng dropped those lines, letting Paiokp sing them alone.
It was a conversation, Kolchais realized: Lefeng’s voice led and Paiokp’s responded. It was a story! A story about a farwalker near-adult who thought ey could catch the sun in a bucket of water and stop the bright months from coming.
When they finished, Tsouchm started a song. After that, Chestef in a shakey child’s voice sang a song of eir lost family.
Singing… it was a private thing. A family’s songs were shared only with their most trusted friends and, sometimes, extended family.
They were family.
In time they would make new songs, but for now, it was right that they share the songs of their childhoods.
When it was eir turn, Kolchais shared a good memory from eir childhood — a song of wind and running eir Baba had taught em while they worked the family garden together.