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

Thruhiker: Day 0

We were going to get married, but we didn’t. I’m glad. I’m OK with being somebody’s girlfriend, or even somebody’s lover, but I don’t want to be anybody’s wife.

After my boyfriend moved out, I sold everything. Bought my Osprey Arial AG 55 pack, my ultra-light quilt, a Tarptent, rose-purple Salomon shoes, a few pairs of socks, shorts, t-shirts. Water bottles. Cliff bars. I am ready to go.

I’m hiking the Cross Country Scenic Trail, affectionately known to thruhikers as C2C, corner-to-corner, because it runs from the southeast corner of the nation to the northwest corner.

The trail is 2,055 miles. If I hike 20 miles a day (and the serious thruhikers do upwards of 30), it will take me nearly 103 days. That’s only three months.

I’ve downloaded the Guthook app, so I can scope out the best tent sites and places for water. Hikers post comments, too, so I’ll be able to keep up with the latest conditions.

I guess it’s so millennial to be hiking with a phone. My dad, he hiked this trail when he was a little younger than I am. Of course, he didn’t have a phone, except for the payphones at ranger stations or refill stops along the way.

I don’t have any timeline, except that dictated by the seasons and their weather. I don’t have any place I have to get to, except the next tent site, and the one after that, until I get to the end of the trail.

It can take me three months. It can take me five. It could even take six, but after that, the weather will start to get cold up north.

The point is that it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got my gear. I’ve stocked up on food. I’ve set up my tent in our old bedroom, and I’m sleeping in it tonight, to get used to it.

Tomorrow, when I wake up, I pack my tent, I pack my supplies, and then I leave my apartment. I drop off the keys with the manager. And I’m off. I’m hiking across the country, and I’m leaving all this–all of it–behind.

Author’s note: Hey, what’s this? It’s a new SimLit series! I’ve been inspired by a thruhiker’s blog, Roaming Wild Rosie, which tracks her route along the Pacific Crest Trail (which happened to be one of my dad’s favorite trails and one I grew up hiking sections of). I can’t really take five months away from my job and home to hike the trail, so I thought I’d send a Sim on a trek. Maisie Santos will be traveling by foot from Willow Creek all the way to Brindleton Bay, and in my imagination, that’s from the southeast corner of the Sim continent to the northwest. Let’s say it’s 2055 miles. She’s blogging her adventures on the trail, and I hope you come along for the journey!

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GloPoWriMo: Day 8



“Are you in pain?” asked the Dental Technician Coordinator.

She didn’t think she was.

“We can write a prescription, if needed.”
Before she arrived
the wet-vac system had collapsed
with bang and a fizzle
and a lingering smell of burnt sulphur.

All appointments cancelled.

She’d cleared her schedule
Freed her morning
for the endodontic bur
and the afternoon
for recuperating on the couch.

“We’ll call on Monday
to reschedule.”

And that was
three long days away.

Which left
this morning
and a long drive
along the road
that snaked
across the base
of the mountains.

And that was where,
in a clearing
near the vista pull-out,
verbenas, poppies
and desert zinnias


in spun light
that shot from the sun
through the

veins of the leaves
and petals
and the styles
and the stamens

All that
was left
was the

And it shone
from her hands
and her fingernails
and her solar plexus
and out through her
eyes and mouth

and through
the wings
of the monarch

All that

was left

was the light.

The drill would wait
for another day.

Daily Prompt: Write a poem “in which mysterious and magical things occur,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 7



The Gardener walked with the Breath
along the path between
the back fence
and the prickly pears.

The stalk of a century plant
stretched above them.
“It’s blooming,” said the Gardener.
The Breath exhaled.

“Too bad plants don’t breathe,”
said the Gardener.
“Oh, but they do,”
said the Breath,
“through stomata.”

They walked
under the songs
of mockingbirds.

The footsteps of
a black cactus longhorn beetle
among the fallen
pads of the prickly pear.

“Beetles breathe
through spiracles,”
said the Breath,
before the Gardener
had a chance to ask.

The crossvine
bloomed, too.

They picked
snow peas
for lunch.

“It might be the last
harvest of the season,”
said the Gardener,
tying a straggling
vine to the trellis.
The Breath

“What will you do,
when I am no more?”
asked the Gardener.

“Move on,”
came the reply.

Daily Prompt: Write “out a list of all of your different layers of identity… These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 6


Full On Human
(For Yugyeom)

in love


with a Korean pop star with moon eyes and a laugh that tricks the scariest dark burr out from the undercoat of awkward shyness so I can laugh, too, and maybe–

He has
this way of looking
up at the sky with his eyes closed yet he sees all that can be seen and more as it rolls through him like quicksilver to shoot out in bright stars of love when he opens his eyes–

I want to feel that, too,
with my neck stretched and my face at the moon and my eyes closed and my heart so


It’s not
his rubberband legs, his white arms, the veins in the back of his hands, his eyelashes, his front teeth when his smile cracks, his hair–now blond, now black, now red, now white–

that aesthetic

it’s not his green sweater, either, the one with the yarn coming unraveled over his collar bones…

or his choker

It’s that
smiles for real when he walks with his fans and he cries for real when the hyung play a prank and he plays the best jokes when you forget to look and when his friend talks to him even on live-stream with thousands of aghase in Cleveland and Bangkok and Rio de Janeiro watching, he




like really listens and his eyes ask, “how do you feel,” “are you okay”


we want a friend like that.

the true maknae

and so

the oldest living aghase

Daily Prompt:  “Write a poem that stretches your comfort zone with line breaks,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 5



Of course the skin of water

is smooth,

before the trout breaks the surface to fly

out for a moment to see

what the dry world looks like through spheres built for the refraction

of light through stream,

but when it pierces

the meniscus it opens its

mouth in dry air

and o! it burns ah! not the air but the colors: yellow, orange, and red.

말간 눈을 한


동공에 살던 은빛 비늘이여

오늘은 눈이 내린다

목에 하얀 수건을 둘러놓고 얼굴을 씻겨주던

가난한 애인이여,

외로운 천체에

성스러운 고요가 내린다

나는 눈을 감는다

손길이 나의 얼굴을 다 씻겨주는 시간을

(Original poem: The Snowy Night – Moon Tae-Jun)

Daily Prompt:  “Write a poem that… reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph [I’m using a screenshot from one of my Sims games]. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know… Ignore any accompanying English translation. Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually ‘about’ your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 4



Free day,
I walk to Santa Teresa plaza,
in search of warmth

of a stucco wall
radiating sunlight

Sunlight refracting through
the scale of chitin on
a Mexican bluewing

Wing of a mourning dove–
a whistle and a whir–
wind on my face

Face of a quarter,
round and hard in my pocket,
pressing against my thigh, a ring

Ring of the trumpet
in the mariachi band
bouncing over the wall

Wall of sweet lemon
perfume from the field of verbena
to drown me,  and I…

I won’t be spending
my spare change today.
All I want is free.

Daily Prompt:  “Write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like ‘beauty’ or ‘justice,’ but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns,” from Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 3


Album Titles for Boy Band

(You make me) Feel
Like a unicorn, baby

the Grace

(Of the beautiful)
Paper sky

Eat it!
the Dance
the Day
the End of Night

My maknae

Oppa aegyo
Come on, hyung.

Let me be
(Your bias)

Daily Prompt: Write “a list poem in which all the items are made-up names,” from Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 2


Blue-Green Landscape on a Canvas

This rough skin
beneath the oil and varnish
has nothing: No opinions. No voice.

But also, no worries. No cares.

I have one long black care,
that snakes across you

Dashing your empty space
with a fragment that remembers
what you were

When you were empty without me.

The representation of an illusion–
what light seems to be
when it bends
through space.

Phthalo beside cerulean,
I wrap around your cares, soothing,
through what I seem to be.

What is this talk of

Don’t you see?

We simply are!


Life is this.

And more.
And less.

Daily Prompt:Write a poem that plays with voice,” from Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 1



One word
to end it.

The lie was that
we would love forever.

The conclusion, simple.

Suds in a sink–
maybe one day
I’ll forget
that word, “No,”
and with the grime,
my shame,
down the drain.

Then I’ll discover
my secret:

In solitude hides my pleasure.

Daily Prompt:Write a poem that is based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

Author’s note: I’m participating in GloPoWriMo, a poem a day to celebrate April as National Poetry Month! You can join, too! Just check out the Na/GloPoWriMo website to find (optional) daily prompts. Whether you’re a practiced poet, or, like me, an inexperienced poet, if you take part, at the end of the month, you’ll have 30 poems under your writer’s belt! 🙂 Let me know in the comments below if you join in (with a link, please), so I can enjoy your poems!

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