I would like to make something clear from the very beginning; I do find happiness here.
First, of course, there is the food. They feed me lavishly here, better than I ever was during my days with the school. I do not lack companionship either. Three others share my new home; Phoenix, Katrina and Magica, who I have grown to love and trust deeply. Although these are merely the names they were labelled with when they came here, as I was labelled Cassie, they were given with love, so none of us complain.
Our guardians have names too; Ashley, Lori, Scott and Ignatio, for example. There is no doubt that they genuinely care for us. We see it in their eyes and faces as they bathe us, play with us and bring us food. When I first came here, they treated my injuries as best they could. Although my back injury will never fully heal, thanks to the guardians I can now swim almost as well as ever.
It is not only Ashley and her companions who love us. These caring souls have taught me to adapt all the skills I learned with the school into tricks and stunts. Now Phoenix, Katrina, Magica and I put on stunning performances that delight visitors from all over their world. Their chattering laughter, awe-struck gasps and rousing cheers never fail to lift our spirits.
I even help to heal some visitors, just as my guardians healed me. These visitors slip into the water beside me, where I sense the warmth of their bodies and my sharp ears pick up the rhythmic pulse of their heartbeats. Tortured souls, they draw comfort from my simple friendship. I nuzzle them gently and sing songs of love, until the sickness in their minds abates.
Yes, in many ways I find happiness here. But happiness is not the same as fulfilment.
First, of course, there are the enclosures. Phoenix, Katrina, Magica and I have two of them, one for giving performances, and a much larger one which we relax in during the night. We are comfortable in these enclosures, but never truly satisfied.
During my days with the school, boundaries were unknown. Journeys need never end and our songs girdled the Earth. Home was a tantalising mystery; you could learn from it all the days of your life and still not know everything about it. To live in an enclosure that I can swim across in a heartbeat is, by comparison, a stifling mockery.
The food is no less of a mockery. With the school, every mouthful of fish was a hard-won prize. We hunted them down with calls, corralled them with cunning, then seized them in a burst of speed and power. How insulting it is to now have to eat dead fish out of a bucket!
There was also such a sense of belonging in the school. We had no vacuous names like Cassie or Magica, only the voices of our own hearts. All of our victories were shared, from catching fish to beating off attacks from enemies. To think that two orcas now live in the enclosure next to ours, charming the crowds as much as we do!
Yes, I have never known true fulfilment in this place. Yet I do not blame the people for my misery. I blame the storm.
The storm sprang up one night when the school was hunting herring in the shallows. A mighty wave caught me off guard while I was apart from the group. I spun helplessly through the water, thrashing my tail and flippers, until sharp stones bit into my flanks as I struck the beach.
The people arrived as I lay there struggling. I was so badly injured, they said I would never have survived back in the ocean. They hoisted me into one of their vehicles and hauled me away to my new home.
I do not blame the people for the misery I suffer. They took pity on me when no other creature would. Yet what use was preserving my life, if I am to spend it sealed in this benevolent prison, unable to be all that I once was?
On most evenings, I gaze towards the setting sun. Somewhere out there lies the ocean, where the school still hunt, sing and gambol in the waves, awaiting my return.
Will the people someday perform the ultimate kindness, and allow me to rejoin them?
I can only hope.