The only time that I can sneak into the bathhouse is in the midnight, when everyone is in their beds asleep, when the hot water stops running from the mouths of the marble lions around the bath pool so the water is cool enough, and when I am all alone. As I lay myself into the water, my waist below joints, I can feel my legs mingle together, wrapped with another skin so tight, and covered with fish scales in the color of aqua that glimmer under the moonlight through the window. Then from the tips of my toes expand an enormous fish-like caudal tail. Here is the only place that I can reveal my true form. Though my movement seems bound, it is in fact the time when I actually feel free.
It was not until by my age of four did my body started to have this kind of transformation when I was put into the water. I remembered Mother nearly fainted, and she assumed that she must be cursed to have given birth to such an inhuman creature. Since the day after, my parents looked at me in a disgusted way as if I were a demon which would bring adversity to this house. Father imprisoned me in a small cabin near a pond in the forest—they segregated me, still kept me secretly, for no one would wash their dirty linens in the public. They fed me everyday just to keep me alive, but that was all they did. They believed that if I died, the evil spirit of mine would remain and took revenge. I knew I was no longer loved, and I knew that they were waiting, waiting for the chance to drive me out. Father and Mother never worried about that I might escape away due to my inability of speaking. My words were aerial, merely fricatives or nasals to them, so they deemed me a dull nuisance. However, they never knew that everything got reversed in the water.
Under the limpid surface, I speak and sing, clearer than ever, to the little creatures living in the water, and sometimes I listen to the symphony of the flow or to the melodies of the bubbles. In addition, I hear a dim voice from far distance summoning me. As I grow older, the voice becomes more lucid.
On the last day of my 9th birthday, I left the cabin which I had lived for five years. It was a frosty dawn, Mother covered me with a black velvet cloak with her hands shivering, pushing me into the carriage. Before the horses started to run, I had a glimpse at Mother. Her hollow eyes were filled with blood capillaries, probably with some tears rolling, and a slight smile jerked on her face from time to time. She must be tired, I thought, really tired of taking care of me, and glad that she had finally sent me away as she had planned for so long.
It was a long journey, though our speed was fast. It was almost noon when we drove near the urban. Father murmured some words which I could not understand to himself. The carriage then stopped in a dusky alley, and the coachman, Father, jumped off and knocked on a hidden door which, from my point of view, leaded to another great jail—the palace. Father had a small talk with the...