Author's Notes: Okay, so I play this MUD (multi-user-dungeon), which is an online text-based game. Lensmoor is the name, and I've played it on and off for over eight years. Requires a bit of backstory, so....

My main character is named Seishirou Salcha. I wrote this piece in-game as a response to a contest run by one of the goddesses. The contest was to write a story on the subject of time and transformation, which is this goddess's domain.

Seishirou used to be a selkie. Selkies are aquatic seal-people (think a seal furry) with the ability to breathe underwater, among other things. They are very, very tied to the sea, as much as the selkies of our folklore are. Seish completed a difficult quest to become a more advanced race (one of many you can chose) called a 'knaeli'. Think mischievous lucky leprechaun for knaeli. They're energetic and are supposed to abandon all reserve when they become said race. Seishirou, however, had a different experience...

If you're looking for a MUD to play, or don't know what a MUD is and are curious, please drop by Lensmoor and give it a try! We have a huge world with very helpful players and a friendly yet non-invasive staff. Go to for details ( port 3500).

Breathe

A Transformation story by Seishirou Salcha

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Breathe.

The water floods into your lungs and the pain begins to spread. The world, distorted by swift, cold currents, suddenly snaps into sharp focus. There is a ringing in your ears, and you are reminded of Okeshir and how the surface-dwellers of the city must have screamed as she sunk beneath the waves. You know, suddenly, how they must have felt.

You are drowning.

Don't breathe!

And yet, even as you slowly sink, the cold water cushioning your head while it presses against your nose and mouth to suffocate you, the realization comes slowly. A chill seeps through your sternum, overpowering the sensation of ice water filling your lungs.

The chill is a realization.

Breathe, and find pain.

The ocean does not want you any longer.

When the ocean has been your home for over six decades, the shock of rejection numbs your body from your heart outward. You don't even notice that you haven't been able to feel your arms or legs for the past ten seconds, or that your lungs have ceased to cry for air, or that the deepening shadows weaving through the coral are due to your sight dimming away rather than a cloud covering the sun somewhere far above you.

Abandoning your form changes you. It does not always transform you.

The decision to become a knaeli was a difficult one, for my heart has always been with the Sea. Breathing was slow and easy. The cool, salty liquid filled my lungs, infusing life and clarity. It thickened the sounds around me, deepened them the further I dove. The Sea is a world in which you can fly without any fear of falling; a world with perils and wonders so unlike the surface's that it seems as though it belongs to another plane entirely.

That was my home. And when I chose to abandon my old form, the Sea chose to abandon me.

You have changed, it said to me in response to each struggling breath, and you are no longer one of us.

But change is not the same thing as transformation. A change is cutting your hair, wearing new clothes, losing an arm, going blind...or adopting a new body. Sometimes the mind changes with the form. Sometimes the magic seeps in so very deeply that where before you possessed merely an affinity for the attributes of the other race, now it is as though you had never been anything else. That is a transformation: where your mind and your essence flow along with the change.

But sometimes part of you holds back and refuses to die. Refuses to be reborn, because it cannot let go.

When I abandoned my old form, my form is the only thing that I wound up abandoning. I was a knaeli in body and ability once the spell took hold. But I opened my eyes in the aftermath to find that my sight was still impaired, and that my heart still longed for the Sea.

There is a spell that will adapt your lungs to breathe water as well as air. It is a simple spell, and easily obtained. But it was not the mere fact that I had lost the ability to breathe underwater that caused me such pain. It was the significance of that loss.

Being a knaeli is about abandoning your reserve and your inhibitions. As I was drowning, slowly being crushed by the the sudden hostility of my world, I realized that I had not done this. My transformation was not complete.

Time.

It was like overcoming an addiction. Once you realize that it's killing you, you ease away. Never abruptly, for the shock will rip you apart from the inside. But slowly, steadily, letting the moments age the bonds till they fall away without you noticing their passing.

Eventually, you will be free.

Each time I crossed the Sea between the continents by way of the trade vessels, the ache of what I had lost etched away at my heart. I would gaze down at the water and see its depths veiled from my sight, cold and silent. And yet, I also began to notice the reflection of the sky mirrored in silvery crescents in the swell of the water's surface. I began to look upwards.

Each time, the ache lessened.

Mysteries exist everywhere: in the depths of the jungles and forests, over dunes and through desert mirages, and beyond snowstorms as wild as a god's fury. I have always known this. It is because of those mysteries that I became a traveller. But it wasn't until I learned how it feels to drown that I was truly forced to face the world in its entirety.

In time, everything changes. That little piece of you that refuses to let go will loosen its grip, and you will finally be able to stop looking back.

I use the spell now. It adds another change to temporarily counter the one that was first made to my lungs. But the second, countering change only confirms the fact that the first is finally a complete transformation.

I can still dive beneath the waves and explore the mysteries that lie below. The water chills my bare skin and sends me into shivers, but it no longer bothers me to know that I must rely on magic to swim where I used to float effortlessly. Those days are in my past, and I gave gone beyond them.

Transformation slips in moments, inexorable and liberating.

No longer tied to the Sea, I am finally free to breathe.