Ruxi (Sophia Xu), ME’23
Once upon a time, there was a small town near the sea. People in the town loved the sea, the kids loved swimming in the sea, and people enjoyed fishing at the sea. In the town, there lived a girl named Diana. Her family was very poor. Her parents went to the sea every day to fish, but they could barely keep the family from starving. She sold fish with her parents during the weekend as well. Her little brother was only four years old, crying from hunger constantly.
One day, she came home from class and saw her parents there.
“You’re home! You must be very tired right, Diana? Come drink this tea that I made especially for you and go take a nap.” Her mother handed the tea to Diana.
“Aren’t they usually back home at around eight? Why are they back so early?” Diana thought to herself. “Why is she being so nice to me? She never made tea for me before.” Diana took the tea, wondering what her mother was thinking.
“What are you waiting for? Just drink it and take a nap!” said her mother. Diana drank under her mother continued stare. She went to her room and took that nap. She laid down, felt very dizzy, but didn’t fall asleep right away. Within a few minutes, she realized that she couldn’t move or open her eyes. She heard the door open and felt something forced down her throat. She felt even more dizzy. She heard someone saying “ Sold by her own mother for 40 gold coins. Put her in the main display.”
Diana was shocked, asking herself, “What are they talking about? Sold?” before falling unconscious.
When she finally woke, she knew that it was all true.
There are fish around her. Some of them look strange; there are creatures such as a crab with four claws, an octopus with human hands, and a fish with two heads. “What are those creatures? I never saw these creepy creatures before!” Her eyes widen in horror as she strains to get away from these creatures. After getting as far as possible, she starts to calm down and looks around. She finds herself in a huge water tank. Outside, there is a large hallway with other small water tanks around. Inside, those creatures are staring at her. “Is this an… aquarium?” she asks herself, “and why can I breathe in the water?” She tries to move; however, she finds out that she doesn’t have human legs anymore. Under her belly, there’s a giant fish tail, moving as she imagined herself moving her legs. Finally, she realizes that she has become a mermaid.
“Look! We have a new member here! She is a mermaid!” said a fish with three eyes. “Are you a real mermaid? Or you got poisoned and became a mermaid?” Looking at the fish talking in front of her, she was so shocked. Why are there fish with three eyes? Why can fish talk? Am I crazy? “You must think you are crazy right? This is an underwater aquarium built by people of the land. We were just normal fish before but got caught and fed with the pill they made. Now I have three eyes and David’s got human hands,” said the fish, pointing at the octopus next to him “And by the way, my name is Justin. We are trying to find the antidote and return to the palace under the sea. Can you help us?”
Diana looks around at the other fish. She sees hope in their eyes. She does not know them, and she does not know about the palace under the sea. She wants to go back home and ask her parents why they sent her here. She does not want to help them, but if that can help her go back to her normal life as a normal human, she would be glad to. She nods, thinking about what to do next. The fish cheer and treat her as their savior. Some try to find sharp stones that could break the glasses, and others go around, telling still others from different tanks that they finally found a mermaid to help them go back to normal and escape from this horrible underground prison.
After living in the aquarium for a while, she learned more about this place. Its owners were businessmen investing in a new formula that could transform creatures. The aquarium was a showcase for them to attract potential investors. The scientists who worked in the aquarium must know the formula for the antidote. In the morning, they put all the creatures on display so that visitors around the world could see what their formula could do. At night, they put them in the same tank so that staff could clean the smaller tanks. It would be the perfect time for them to communicate with each other.
All the fish went out to look for the antidote. David, the octopus, sneaked out in the morning as he was one of the few that could move on land. He went to the staff room and found out that the scientists were mixing different hydrophytes to make pills. He told the others about this: “I saw them working with some circular green leaves. It might be the antidote. I also took back some pills I found on the floor; maybe we can try them out.” David gave the pills to Diana who did not want to take any by herself unless it was the correct one. “Justin, could you please try this first? If that’s the correct one, you will be able to go back to normal. You will be the first one!” Diana gave Justin the pill. “Absolutely! You are our savior, I will be glad to do whatever you say!” Justin ate the pill, but nothing happened. Then the others took the pills. Of course, none of them were the antidote; some of the fish got worse than before and others even died. As time passed, the creatures in the aquarium started questioning Diana – was she the actual savior? Or was she here to kill them?
Finally, after many attempts, the correct antidote was found: a green leaf hidden under a stone in an abandoned water tank. She let the crab take the antidote. He went back to normal – two eyes, eight legs, and two claws. Diana was so happy. “Give me the antidote!” grabbing and gobbling it, “I can finally go back to normal life! I don’t need to talk to fish and crab anymore!” She took the sharp stone that Justin had given her, broke the glass, and went out. The fish scales on her body began to fall off. The end of the tail split into her feet and then two legs. Diana pinched her legs. They were a little weak, but she could still barely walk. All the other fish didn't even get a chance to transform back to normal before they died flapping on the floor. The closer she got to the exit, the more dizzy she felt. “Why? Is it the pill? Or the aquarium? I’m so close, so close!” Diana screamed in her mind. When she finally reached the exit, she passed out. “What a selfish girl!” was the only thing she heard before she fainted.
Diana awoke to find herself in a huge water tank surrounded by fish.
“Look! We have a new member here! She is a mermaid!” says a fish with three eyes, “are you a real mermaid? Or you got poisoned and became a mermaid?”