The Song Of Sqia'lon Seven, by Jon Brain

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Have you ever heard music in the winter trees in your home? I have.

When winter comes on my world, the trees freeze solid. It's not all that cold, but my forest is different from your forest. It's a very old forest, and many of the trees died many years ago. When I look out my bedroom window, I only see the once proud husks of those trees. In summertime, I sometimes worry that they might catch fire and go ablaze. There is so much kindling in that old forest. But it hasn't burned yet.

In wintertime, the storms come. They always start with rain. Rain that tilts down sideways and coats the entire forest with clear water. Rain is how it begins. But you see, it's much colder down here in the valley than it is in the sky. That's what my Papa told me in the old days. He said that's why the rain all turns to silver glass when it lands all about the forest and coats the all the trees as if they were so many candlesticks dipped in wax. Silver, clear wax.

And you see, after it rains, the winds drop. They turn to a small breeze that barely ruffles the stray hairs about my face and the fur that lines the outside of my hood. That's when the most wonderful thing happens.

Have you ever blown over the lid of a glass water bottle? Do you remember the sound? How it hummed below you? How the sound reverberated through the empty glass shell, bouncing into itself over and over until it gathered itself together and clawed out of the neck and up to your ears? Do you remember what that sounded like? Now, can you imagine that sound, but coming out of the empty shell of a hollow tree frozen by the rains? Can you hear the deep, soulful hum of the tree as it mourns the passing of its forest long ago? Can you imagine the way the sound waves shake the entire forest and disturb the icy shards still coagulated to the dead branches and pine needles,covering them like a second set of bark? The light twinkling sigh of ice shaken loose from the trees? The soft clink as it shatters against the ice coating the ground beneath?

I can.

Because I've heard it.

Only the hollow trees make the music. I found every one of them. Each has its own name, and there's a spirit in every one of them. There's Papa Nathan, who's the biggest and oldest of all of them. He was a great thick Red Oak in his day, but he fell in half and got chewed out by beetles. His voice is a majestic, rumbling bass that shakes the very earth. And Mama Gina is a Sqia'lon Maple. She's the mama because her voice harmonizes with Papa's so well. Papa sings a low-low G, and Mama sings a low A. Then there's Peter, he's the nice son who sings a low D. Alice is a shy cousin. She only sings every once in a while. She is an E. Papa has two brothers who try to follow his G, but they're both a little bit flat. I try not to tell them, so as to not hurt their feelings.

And then there's Uncle Ian. I don't know what's wrong with him. Like Alice, I don't hear him very often. But when I do, the song changes. He sings very loudly, and it's a nasally, discordant note. I finally realized that it was a C#. Maybe, if you know music you can hear the chord in your head. It isn't pretty when Uncle Ian sings. He has a fine voice on his own, but it clashes so with the rest of the family. I wish he wouldn't.

When I found Papa, he welcomed me into his family. I feel so at home with him and the others in the wintertime, when they're singing. Sometimes I visit them all in a single day, except Uncle Ian of course, and sometimes I spend all day with just Papa or Mama, because they're the closest ones to my cabin and the ice does become difficult to manage. And I listen to the music fill the forest with life.

I visit them in summertime too. They don't sing then, and most of the trees around them are dead. But I still visit them, and talk to them,and tell them about myself. I especially do that in summer when they can't sing back to me. It's the very least that I can do, since they're all so kind to me in the winter.

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