Sea Change

Participant Veteran January 2021 - Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge

This is my entry for the January 2021 Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, hosted by LisaBee. Please check the official January 2021 Challenge webpage to find all the month’s entries, as well as a poll where you can select your top three “Readers’ Choice” entries. Happy reading!

Clarissa standing in the dark

Clarissa Thalassa had been given a choice: she could be made redundant and collect unemployment or she could retire early and collect a pension. She chose the pension.

It wasn’t much, by hometown standards, but it was enough to support her if she moved to someplace less cosmopolitan. She found a beachside community, not yet fashionable with eco-tourists, where she could rent a tiny off-the-grid home for a quarter of her monthly pension.

Clarissa reading in a small room

The cabin wasn’t much more than a kitchen with a divider to mark off the tiny study and sleeping nook. But every wall held a window and every window held a view.

Clarissa at the table by the window

The hardest part had been leaving without proper goodbyes. Before her network account was closed, she emailed everyone she’d worked with closely, those who would notice when they emailed her with a task and received, instead of confirmation of task complete, a message-undeliverable error.

She felt canceled.

Her mind had all these synapses that no longer had a function. Thursday: she should be preparing to post the agenda for the Board meeting. Every tag needs an end-tag. PDFs must be accessible; videos closed-captioned. Don’t forget the alt tag for every image.

But now, none of this was her responsibility, and her mind, instead of buzzing, held gaps of quiet space.

She filled the gaps by repairing things–or trying to: the old tub beside the out-house; the rickety railings on the stairs to the roof-top deck; the pump for the well.

Clarissa fixing the bathtub

It didn’t really work. Things stayed broken.

Her mind still felt busy. She had an odd sense of guilt, too. She wasn’t working twelve-hour days. She wasn’t working at all. Her efforts, what efforts she could think up, didn’t really benefit anyone. They just filled time.

Clarissa digging in the sand

She could dig through every pile of sand on the beach, and there would still be more piles, and none of it will have made a difference, like her career, which had ended, and all the tasks that now fell to someone else.

She gave up trying to make sense of her days, trying to fill them with something productive. She let sleeping synapses lie. She felt the stillness of her mind.

Sometimes, she swam in the bay, and though she’d swum competitively back oh-so-many lifetimes ago, she seemed to swim faster now, as if the energy previously used by all those now dormant synapses charged, instead, through her muscles, propelling her like a fish or a dolphin.

Clarissa swimming

Somehow, days passed. The patterns in the sand began to make sense, and she could read the passages of turtles, seabirds, and tides in them. She learned where to dig for shells, which estuaries accumulated trash after a storm, so she could go and clean them up, and what the scents in the air meant–what it smelled like when the tide was coming in, when a storm approached from the south, when the frangipani bloomed.

One night, the air thrummed with electricity and orange smoke rose from the volcano across the bay.

The volcano at night with firey clouds

She dreamt of swimming that night.

Clarissa with a mermaid tale

She felt more free in the water than ever.

Clarissa the mermaid leaps out of the water

A high whistle, and her heart soared, like you feel when you see your beloved. A blue dolphin swam directly to her and nuzzled her.

In dreams, you can experience a love that is as close as two souls can get: that is how she and the dream-dolphin felt.

Clarissa the mermaid talking with a dolphin

The volcano sat quietly the next morning, and the sky shone clear in the dawn.

Her old world continued on, as if she didn’t exist. And the new world spread its bays and beaches before her, welcoming.

Clarissa painting

Different days, different shores, different mind. She didn’t belong in the old world, anymore.

She belonged, if anywhere, here.

Clarissa looking over the horizon

Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge: April 2019

Fool’D

A potted plant, a stack of books–such a simple still life. In an apartment with $20,000 Dekton counters, solid maple cabinets, full spa, home gym, and million dollar views, how was it that Don’s favorite amenity was this simple display?

He made the plan to move in with Mac to escape the complications of living in a desert mansion with his then-girlfriend and her two grown daughters, both hotter than peppers. Too friendly, too complicated. Big mistake. Much drama.

He’d passed Mac a few times in the foyer when leaving her neighbor Lily’s apartment in the city, on his quick exits before Lily’s husband returned. Of course, he couldn’t move in with Lily. Her husband. Duh. But Mac had a spacious apartment across the hall. He could tell, from the way she turned to look at him, that advancing a “relationship” from introduction to move-in status would be piece-of-cake.

For a man like him, fooling an inexperienced woman to believe that he really cared for her required no more effort than taking out the trash and putting a new liner in the can.

A few dates, and he was spending the night. A few nights, and he was ready to suggest the move-in. He took her, sweet nature-loving girl like her, on an island picnic to bring it up.

On the ferry ride over, when he’d planned on reviewing his conversational strategy, he got caught up in watching her. Her broad face opened into a smile as the bay winds rushed past. Those eyes! What was that shining through them?

“You look–” he began, when they sat to rest during their island stroll, “you look like a fresh marsh!” Face-palm. Had he said that?

She giggled. “I’ll take that as a compliment!”

“That’s how I meant it.”

She wasn’t like other girls. Oh, she was different.

“What do you want, babe?” he asked.

“Do you mean, like, really?”

He nodded.

“Like my dream? My dream is, well. My dream has to do with my paintings. One day, I will paint something, and when someone else looks at it, they will feel what I felt when I created it. Does that make sense?”

It did. He wasn’t sure how, or if it were even possible to feel the same thing that someone else felt, at the same time, or at a different time.

His experience had always been that what he felt was different from what anyone else, a woman, especially, ever felt. He could pretend they felt the same thing, but that was about it.

She brought up moving in first, and he balked. It was supposed to be his idea. And now that he really wanted it, he wasn’t so sure he should go through with it. Could it be that simple?

That was three months ago. He stopped seeing Lily, even though she lived across the hall. Not difficult at all. He forgot about the Calientes’ drama. Easy as pie. He watched Mac paint. He worked out. He looked out the window. He got a job in a restaurant.

In some moments, he discovered that what he felt was what she felt.

Maybe he was getting old. Maybe he was a sucker for shining brown eyes. Maybe he was just tired of feeling alone.

Maybe, all these years, he’d been a fool to chase after fast pleasure, other women’s wealth, and adding notches to his belt, when what he’d really wanted, all this time, was to feel what somebody else did, something simple and domestic.


Author’s Note: This short story was written as part of the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, organized by LisaBee at the Sims Forums. Readers are invited to read all the entries, and vote for their top three choices in both categories (novice and veteran), for a total of six votes. Any vote that doesn’t contain three for each category (six total) will not be counted–so if you want to vote, please be sure to read all the stories and vote for three Novice and three Veteran stories! You’re in for a treat with this month’s submissions! Happy reading!