There once was a girl who lived in a small stone house all by herself. She was quite lonely and quite bored, but the others in her village never came to visit. Instead, they stayed away from the girl, believing themselves to be far, far better than she.
"Her house is much smaller and uglier than ours", they'd say, "and her dresses far cheaper and duller".
"She never goes out and she lives all alone. Sometimes, she keeps her light on all night long. We fear she must be insane!" some said.
The girl, not quite skilled at defending herself, spent her days alone in her home. At night, she liked to sit at her window and watch the dark sky fill with silver stars. One evening as she stared out into the dark, a single curious crow visited her windowsill.
"Hello crow", she said, immediately sensing his friendliness.
The bird pecked about, scanning his surroundings, and it soon became apparent that he had come in search of something.
"Is there something you're looking for, bird? For I'd be glad to help", asked the girl.
At this, the crow hopped into her lap.
"Hello, my queen", the bird squawked, "I've come in search of something shiny. Might you have something for me?"
For a moment the girl thought this an odd request, but she'd never had a visitor before, and she was determined to please the curious creature. Excusing herself, she hastily scoured her home for something suitable. She soon found an item she deemed fitting; a small silver teaspoon from her kitchen. Grinning, she presented the spoon to the crow.
"I hope this will do", she said with delight.
"This will more than suffice, my queen," he replied, entranced by the spoon's reflective glow. "I thank you".
Then, taking the spoon in his beak, he took off.
Every evening since then, the crow visited the girl. The two quickly became friends, and each night as they watched the stars, the girl granted the bird a new shimmering present. One night, she gave him a button. One night, she gave him a key. One night, she gave him a sparkling diamond ring. The friendly creature gratefully accepted these gifts each night before flying away into the dark.
The girl was more than happy to be of help, but always, she wondered where the crow was going with his gifts. One evening, as he stood on her windowsill with a bit of broken mirror in his beak, the girl decided to ask.
"Where do you bring my gifts, crow?" She inquired curiously.
"Nowhere, my queen", answered the crow, speaking a bit strangely with the mirror in the way of his tongue.
And then, quick as a flash of lightning, he was gone.
"Nowhere?" She wondered aloud. The girl deemed it a bit peculiar that her friend would not share where he went.
She thought, perhaps, she'd try asking again the next evening.
When they next met, the girl was almost hesitant to present the crow with the evening's gift. She was a curious girl, and she was eager to know where the crow went after visiting her. She felt she deserved to know where he brought her gifts, after all she had given him. If he could not tell her where he was going, maybe she should not give him anything at all.
"Crow", she said that evening at the window, while handing him a silver necklace, "I really must know where you're going. Where do you take my gifts?"
The crow, taking the necklace in his beak, seemed untouched by the question.
"I've already told you, my queen. I take them to Nowhere."
He then turned to fly away, but the necklace did not lift up. Turning back to the girl, he saw that the end of it was looped around her finger to keep him from taking it.
"What do you mean 'to Nowhere' ?" The girl asked, having his full attention.
"Nowhere is my home, my queen. I take your gifts home."
The girl was quite confused.
"Nowhere is a place?" Asked the girl eagerly.
"Yes, my queen. 'Tis my homeland."
Suddenly, she was filled with excitement and elevated curiosity. She'd never heard of this land before.
"Where is Nowhere? Why, I've never seen Nowhere before."
"Nowhere is very, very far, my queen", the crow responded. "And now I must go, for the others await my return. 'Tis a long trip, my queen."
In all her curiosity, she'd let go of the necklace, and the bird took off into the night.
"There are others there?" The girl said to no one.
Suddenly, she had an idea.
"Crow!" She shouted.
She squinted into the night sky, but the bird was too far out of sight.
"Crow, please come back!"
The girl bolted for the door and unlocked it, birthing herself into the night. She had to find the crow - she wanted to go to Nowhere. She ran through the warm, dark night, through dirt and through grass, and into the trees beyond the village. She ran deep into the thick forest, calling out to the crow, but he was gone. And still, she ran, looking skyward, until the roots were so space and knotted that she fell to the ground.
"Please, Crow," she whispered, "you are my only friend."
She heard a sudden swish in the trees, and the crow came gliding down.
"You should return home, my queen. 'Tis quite easy to get lost in these woods."
"No, Crow", the girl replied. She sat up and patted dirt off of her night gown. "I must go with you! Please, take me to Nowhere. I am so lonely here!"
"I am sorry, my queen", the crow said, "but I cannot grant your wish. You may not come with me."
"I beg you, crow", the girl said, desperate to change his mind. "I hate my home. I am always alone, and the others in my village are so cruel! I don't belong there. Please, crow. I cannot be alone any longer."
"I apologize, my queen. The answer is no."
"Why?" The girl asked gently. Defeatedly. Her pale skin reflected silver, though there was no light under the trees. The branches and leaves kept the moonlight out.
"'Tis not time", the crow answered.
He took off then.
"Goodnight, my queen!" He called down, and then disappeared through the blanket of treetops.
In that moment, the girl wondered for the first time why he called her queen.
It was a long walk home, and it was almost dawn when the girl reached her house. Her skin was caked with dirt and her long hair was tangled with twigs, but upon returning she immediately fell into her bed and slept for a long, long while. She woke at nightfall, but for the first time since they'd met, the crow did not visit. So that night, the girl did not watch the stars come out.
The crow did not come the next night, or the night after that. Even more nights passed, and the girl, deeply saddened, thought he'd never visit again. It was her fault, she decided. She'd tried to follow the crow home, without being invited - she'd spoiled their friendship. She had to be the one to blame.
Almost as if a punishment were in order, the girl gave up stargazing. She went to bed at dark every evening, and no longer was her light on all night long. She tried not to think about the crow, but often the shiny glint of a button or a spoon would catch her eye, and she'd be reminded of her old friend. Almost every time she slept, she dreamt she'd gone to Nowhere. In her dreams it was a beautiful land; a dark land where the stars were always shining.
One stormy night, as the girl dreamt of Nowhere, something knocked against her windowpane. It was a soft knock, and the girl stirred, but she did not wake. Once again, there was a soft knock, but she slept, still. Then suddenly, a massive roll of thunder burst from the heavens, shaking the entire village. The girl jolted awake with such force that she rolled off her bed and onto the floor. As she stood up there was another clap of thunder, even louder that time, and she covered her ears. And then came a flash of lightning so bright and strong that it illuminated the whole night sky, revealing a shadow of something on her windowsill. Something in the shape of a crow.
"Crow!" The girl exclaimed, rushing to the window.
She threw the windowpane up, snatching up the bird. Rain poured in, soaking the floor, and she clutched him to her chest. He was cold and wet.
"Hello, my queen", he said.
"I've missed you, Crow", said the girl, setting him down on the ground beside the puddle of rain. She pushed hard on the window and it shut, loudly. "Why have you come in such a storm?" She asked.
"I'm sorry it's taken so long, my queen. But we're ready now. 'Tis time."
She sat down on the floor next to the bird. She leaned against the wall.
"It's time?" She asked. "Time to go to Nowhere?"
"Yes, my queen", said the crow.
The girls eyes gleamed with excitement, a kind of glow the crow had never seen before.
"'Tis a long trip, my queen. We should set off now."
The girl stood, and for the first time, led the crow to the front door. The rain was starting to let up a bit, and a thick mist had settled over as far as one could see. The two headed towards the trees and deep into the dark forest. The girl feared they'd be lost, but the crow knew his way best in darkness. And together, they traveled through the black night, weaving through the forest, running over grassy hills, and leaping past the round, silver moon. The journey was long and far, but the two did not tire. The bird flew seemingly directionless through the mist which followed them through the night, but the girl stayed with him, trusting he knew the way. And finally, they came to a small clearing in the woods, surrounding a single black tree. The air was clear in front of them, and the fog hung back with the taller trees that curled over them, creating a dome around the clearing.
"We're here", said the crow.
The girl scanned their surroundings again.
"I thought there were others here", she replied.
Her eyes flickered with wonder, but behind them intense fear stalked. She had come very far, and she'd never be able to find her way back alone if she needed. She stood in what seemed like nothing but a treeless patch in the forest, almost alone. What if Nowhere wasn't what she expected? What if the crow had been dishonest?
"Yes", said the crow, "stay quiet."
She listened. The crow perched atop her shoulder and called out into the night.
Suddenly, the ground shook. It began to expand, elongating and unraveling into a wide, flat plane of grass. The lone tree grew and grew, reaching so tall it scraped the night sky, and out of it came a murder of crows. The girl smiled.
"Welcome, our queen!" The crows exclaimed in unison.
And out of Nowhere came more creatures; a herd of deer, a pack of wolves, a flock of doves. A fox, a bear, a rabbit. A swarm of honeybees, an owl, a badger. And all of the animals appeared silver under the moon, their fur and feathers reflecting its light. The night was suddenly illuminated by a crowd of fireflies, and the girl could then see the intricate work of the spiders that draped the land in beauty. They had decorated for her. One dropped down from its bit of web above her, and it landed gently in her hand.
"Pleased to meet you, my queen", it said.
The night was so beautiful, the girl could not help but smile a wide, sparkling smile. The stars shined like she had never seen before, covering the sky like silver freckles. The ground was scattered with puddles of silver, as if it had just rained, but the sky was far too clear for there to have been a storm in Nowhere. And the animals had formed a sort of audience around her, and the crow, who had disappeared from her shoulder, flew towards her from the tree. There was something shiny in his beak.
"For you, my queen!" He called to her.
Fashioned from spoons and buttons and jewelry, mirrors and shiny keys, all gifts from the girl, was a crown. The crow swooped down to place it atop her head. The animals howled and chirped and growled, buzzed and cawed, hooted and squealed. They stomped their feet on the ground and beat their wings together, all in appreciation of their newly-crowned queen.
The girl looked around her and laughed, in awe of the land she now ruled. A land where she would not be lonely and not be mistreated. A land where she would be cherished and in turn would cherish those who she ruled. A land where everyone knew her beauty, where everyone knew love, and peace.
"Thank you, crow", she said, running her fingers over the crown on her head.
And under the forever-shining stars, surrounded by love and beauty, the queen of Nowhere smiled.