I will tell the story of Chree, and how she lost her family, but first let me tell you about the Soul Kind. The Soul Kind have intelligence like we do, but that’s not what they call it. They call it the Soul. They have never met other creatures on their world that have Souls, and that is why they call themselves Soul Kind. It’s kind of like how we humans call ourselves Homo sapiens: The Wise Human. We have named no other creatures sapiens except ourselves just like Soul Kind have named no other creatures Soul. If Chree met you, she might think you smelled bad, but she would still tighten her cords and cables in glee at having met another creature with a Soul.
There are two more important things to know about the Soul Kind. The first is that they don’t make tools the way that we do. We make tools from things that we pull up from the ground or things that we chop from trees, but the Soul Kind can’t. If they try, their Thorn Mothers disapprove and slurp the Soul Kinds’ tools up with their tongues and spit them out. Instead, the Soul Kind make tools from something very, very different.
And that brings us to the second important thing about Soul Kind: they don’t die the way that we die. When we die, we disappear from this world and leave our families behind. Our bodies turn to dust and go back to the ground. But when a Soul Kind dies, they stay in their world and stay with their families. Their cables and cords wiggle apart from one another, but remain intact. And before a Soul Kind dies, they give of their bodies to their daughters and sister, aunts and mothers, and these parts of their body live on as “spirits.” Then they make these body parts into all kinds of useful tings. Spirits: that’s what Soul Kind call their tools. And Soul Kind love the spirits of their departed family even more than when they were alive.
If Soul Kind saw how we treated our tools, our spirits--- like a hammer or a screwdriver--- they would be very confused. “How can you simply create family from things you find on the ground?” they might pluck. “Why do you not cuddle with your spirits? How can you leave them places, cold and alone and in tool boxes? They are not simply things to be used, but things to be loved.” They would look at the vast civilization that we have made, filled with our instruments--- our spirits--- and be bewildered by the fact that we could ever still feel lonely.
This all might seem strange to you. Frightening even. But consider how sad you would be if your grandmother died. How much you would miss her and wish that she were with you. She would feel very distant from you. But now imagine, instead, that you are Soul Kind. If your grandmother died, she wouldn’t be further away from you. She would be closer. Wherever you were, wherever you went, she would go with you and help you on your way. Her cable sheath could warm you like a blanket on cold nights. You could use her grasping cord like a whip, or wield one of her springing cords as a sling shot so that you could hunt the many delicious creatures that skitter across the land. And if you still felt lonely--- if you still missed her--- you could pick up her speaking cords and pluck lullabies in her voice. You would be a very lucky Soul Kind indeed if she gave you her voice. A Soul Kind’s voice is the most treasured spirit one can receive.
How mighty a Soul Kind is, how much they were loved by their families, can be measured by how many spirits they carry with them. How many tools they have to wield, given to them by the Soul Kind that loved them. Every Soul Kind, young and old, is wreathed in the spirits of their family, and it gives them a kind of comfort that you and I could never know. But this is where Chree’s story becomes sad, for Chree cannot carry spirits of her own, because her family and Thorn Mother were eaten by The Gorger, that terrible beast of infinite size and appetite. Chree's body is naked and bare. If another Soul Kind were to give her a spirit upon their death, it would slowly whither away and turn to ash in her grasping cords. Unlike other Soul Kind, Chree can only make her tools, her “spirits,” from things that she digs up from the ground or cuts from the trees. She loves the spirits that she makes, but sadly, they can't love her back.
Maybe some people would think that living like a Soul Kind--- and not like a human--- would be scary. But to Chree and those who know her, the great tragedy of Chree's life is that she is not enough like Soul Kind, and too much like you and like me.