Silna remembers how big the lights in the sky were when she was a child. The tall green streak above her looked so still at first, but the lights would slowly shift over time, the immensity of it stunning her into silence. She supposes that was a good thing, as her parents always reminded her to stay perfectly quiet whenever the lights came out. They never liked letting her outside to watch them for long, anaana especially; she always reminded her of the spirits that made up the lights, who had all died bloody deaths and were so lonely. If Silna made any noise, they would hear her, then snatch her up to keep them company before she could even try running back inside.
Silna rarely needed to be told something more than once.
She learned to be careful when anaana died, but she still looked up at the lights when they came. Usually ataata would watch them with her. Sometimes, when they stayed with akkak’s camp, he would stand next to her instead. She’s never been sure if it was to watch the lights or his niece. Either way, she never minded the company.
After ataata gave Tuunbaq his tongue and they left akkak behind, the lights felt different to her. Ataata learned to leave her be, then, as Silna escaped the silence of their tent for the less-stifling quiet outside. The lights were still beautiful, but Silna felt some of the fear that anaana must have felt when she was young. She could swear that they seemed to come closer, the longer she was outside. If she listened closely, she could hear a faint crackling sound, the hairs on her arms standing up when it came. Silna both welcomed and feared the sound. It was better than nothing at all.
Sometimes, when the silence between them became too much, Silna would ramble to fill it up. Even when she knew ataata couldn’t respond. He learned to talk in other ways: a gentle stroke to her cheek, a flick of her ear, a low hum. He braided her hair, sometimes. Ataata was comfort, even in the worst moments.
Ataata is gone now; Anaana was gone a long time ago. Silna was lonely often, when it was just her and her silenced father, but this ache in her chest is worse than anything that she’s felt before. When anaana died in her sleep, Silna still had ataata. Ataata died violently in a strange ship at the hands of strange men, so now Silna has no one but the snow around her and the bright lights above her.
She can feel it, ataata among the spirits who all died such horrible deaths, lighting up the sky. They’re beautiful. Anaana always said that they were lonely; Silna doesn’t like thinking of ataata as lonely. She’s always been compelled to silence underneath the lights, even before she truly understood the weight of anaana’s warnings. And yet, Silna has never felt more compelled to start screaming and shouting, to jump up and wave her arms around, to tell ataata to come back down and hold her like a child again. The lights feel so far away.
The crackling sounds louder than ever.