Nehe, a white swan, glided over the ebony waters of a pond in Cork, Ireland. Her webbed feet swished gently beneath her body. Ripples spread leisurely across the water as she bobbed her head, extending the curve of her long neck.
Her form passed over the reflection of the full moon, and she lifted her head to look at the real thing. Way up in the night sky, with stars like sugar crystals, the moon's eyes stared at her expectantly. It knew her intentions, her desires to experience a new life.
Closing her eyes, she continued to swim across the pond and thought, I want to be human. Upon opening her eyes, she saw a sparkling haze surround her, like a puff of glittery exhaust. Magic swirled within those sparkles and flowed along her feathers. Her webbed toes separated, her legs elongated, her wings transformed into arms, and a lean torso sprouted out of the water. Her feet touched the bottom of the pond, and she walked with human legs.
No more was she a swan, but a young woman with alabaster skin, black eyes, and pure-white hair that reached to her hips. She wore a white silk dress and carried a coat of feathers in her arms. Emerging from the cloud of glitter, she stepped out of the pond onto grass. Her swanskin was the only way she'd be able to return to her rightful form, so she hid it beneath a rose bush.
Free from her bonds, she danced among the woods with a gracefulness she never possessed when she had wings. She swung around tree trunks and skipped along dirt paths. The moon guided her wherever she went.
She spent the night romping, enjoying her newfound independence. Each breath that filled her human lungs was intoxicating. She wanted to continue her fun, to explore the rest of the world, but the dark hours started to turn to light. She hurried back to her pond. While wadding back into the cold water, she donned her feathers and morphed back into a swan. With a heavy heart, she swam to the far end of the pond where her family crowded together in their slumber.
The next night she slipped away again and shed her swanskin to delight in the life she craved. She hid her feathers beneath the same bush as before and ventured farther into a world she didn't know but secretly coveted. She did this every night for several moon phases.
Coming home one dawn, she encountered a black swan waiting for her in the center of the pond. "Welcome back, Nehe," the black swan greeted her.
"Zhay, what are you doing here?"
"Following you." She stretched her black neck in authority. "I know what you've been doing."
Nehe lowered her head in shame.
"I don't blame you, Sister. I've done the same thing, and countless other swans have too, but it is dangerous. You have to be cautious. It would be wise if you never turned human again."
"But my heart yearns for it."
"You must desist. Swear to me you will."
Trying to hide her sorrow, Nehe promised Zhay a promise she would soon break.
Once more, she snuck out of the pond, out of her feathers, and went on an adventure. All of her wild running and play exhausted her though, so she returned to her pond to retrieve her coat, but it wasn't where she had left it. She checked the other bushes nearby and came up empty. Frantic, she scurried along the edge of the woods, searching for a single feather to point her in the direction of her coat.
Tears blurred her eyes. Without her coat, she would never be a swan again, she would never be able to go home, and she would never see her family. She couldn't believe how foolish she had been.