Autumn (and Winter, et al) are from Stranded World.
Winter – the season, not her brother – left Autumn stuck in one place, this year not just in a single town, the way she often spent the colder times, but stuck in the town’s tiny inn, the snow actually pressing the doors shut.
She’d spent the first day sitting in the tavern down stairs, drawing, playing online when the spotty wi-fi was working, and working on her very messy accounting. The second day she’d spent half hiding in her room, and the other half helping the also-stuck cook-and-owner clean the kitchen top to bottom. The third day, when it was clear that the snow really wasn’t going to let up, they’d both crawled out a second-story window, jumped off the porch, and started shoveling their way down to the ground.
When they’d gotten the door clear and most of the inn’s sidewalk, and after they’d taken a break for cider and cheese, they dug across the street to the Library. The Librarian, eighty years old if she was a day, had been subsisting on biscuits and tea. She was so grateful for the rescue that she let Autumn check out whatever she wanted, on the theory that it wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway.
The inn-cook, no older than Autumn, had said, over and over again, that this was the worst winter he could remember. When the Librarian said it, too, it pricked Autumn’s curiosity.
She read ancient newspapers while munching on onions rings and chicken wings, helped the inn-cook shovel to the grocery and then to the grocer’s house, read until she fell asleep, and read over breakfast. When she and the inn-cook had re-cleared paths that had gotten a foot of snow overnight, she headed up to the highest place she could reach – the Library’s cupola – and started looking. Looking.
She drew the patterns she wanted on her arms: the weather, which was generally mild, with inches, not feet, falling at once. The people, who were generally stoic and tended not to leave town much (except Autumn, and others like her, who came and went with the seasons). The anomaly, snow past her hips and still falling.
And when she was done, her arms and chest bare to the frigid air and covered in snowflake patterns, she opened her sight to the Strands.
And fell down, nearly blinded. “Oh.”
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