They came from a country where there was no day, only night. People learned to do things in the dark. They could build a house, give birth to children, and make supper, all in the dark. They knew each other from what their hands could touch and from the sound of their voices. Cows went to the barn to be milked at the same time every day, whether or not there was sunlight. Birds sang in a dark dawn and fluttered into the black sky. It was a world of demons, and everyone kept their windows shut. People barely spoke to one another. They trusted no one, for trust in the darkness is the one thing that is all but impossible.
There was a pale flickering in the distance. They thought they were imagining it, the way a man in the desert imagines a lake, but no, it was there, scattered in the distance, as if the stars had fallen from the sky. They journeyed toward the light with baskets and nets so that they might collect it, but after all their work, a piece was missing, and without it, they still couldn't see. People could hear the last light's song in some faraway place. It was a song that reminded them of a time when the world was bright, when hope was everywhere, when birds filled the sky.
They sent a young girl into the forest no one had dared to enter before. If they lost her, they lost her. There were a hundred other girls her age. If she disappeared, they would send another. She had a crust of bread, a cage, and a rope. She followed the song over the mountain. Far away, she saw what they needed, a golden bird, the last piece of light. She knew she must catch the bird and trap it, but it was too beautiful and she couldn't bring herself to trick it with crusts of bread. She called to it and when it came to her she saw everything they had lost and everything they could gain. This golden bird could make the world whole again. All she had to do was place it inside the cage.
But she let the bird fly away. If someone had been with her, they might have tried to stop her, but she was alone and she did as she pleased. She wasn't like a hundred other girls. She had a mind of her own. She wanted to watch the bird light up the sky, free, in the air. She wanted to see the beauty of the world. People said that she never came back, but she did. They couldn't see her, even though she was there in their midst. Those people collecting light in baskets and bushels year after year would not understand that the light cannot be captured. It must come to you. You must open your window, you must fall in love, you must have faith, you must believe in miracles.