I’m starting a new story – I think I’m at the end of expansions, which bork my games whenever they come out making stories and legacies nearly impossible without a great deal of jimmy-rigging which I suck at – but life has thrown me a curve ball. I shall explain. Island Paradise came out. I was panting with excitement (or very nearly so) as I downloaded. As I clicked Play, the unthinkable happened. My computer died. NOOOOOOO!!!!!
Procrastination has it’s good side, however, as my old computer was still sitting in my closet, having been spared from the recycle heap by virtue of my laziness, which I had not considered a virtuous trait until now. There is nothing really wrong with this computer, other than the fact that it despises running Sims 3. Apparently, ‘life sucks’ holds true for computers too. The computer had a trick of its own, however, by lagging and stuttering like mad which only served to drive me slightly insane. Score one, computer. Remember that, as it won’t happen too often. (Crosses fingers.)
My concession to this sputtering laggard of a computer? Reduction of graphics settings. Sigh. That isn’t the end of it. Nooooo, I also have refrained from re-downloading store purchases, so only in-game items will be used, which I will strive to view as a challenge to my creativity. So, if you can handle wanting to claw your eyes out, please continue reading.
Meet Farrah Hong. Why Hong? I don’t know. That’s what came up when I rolled the little dice and I figured what the hell. I’m thinking it’s a Pacific island chain and therefore Asian names would not be out of place, although I admit Japanese or Korean surnames would be more realistic. But since it’s Sims and not real life, it’s whatever.
Farrah comes from a fairly well-to-do family, which may very well be at the center of her troubles. Money came easy, friends came easy, school came easy – challenges have been few and far between for Farrah. Complacency didn’t sit well with her parents, however, who, having worked hard all their lives to attain some measure of financial comfort, felt their daughter would do well to capitalize on her relative ease of learning and ability and actually DO something. Their adamant refusal to continue subsidizing her lifestyle after Farrah flunked out of college… twice… resulted in Farrah having to face a few harsh realities. The first being, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The second being, not being able to pay your rent means having to live wherever. In Farrah’s case, this means her mother’s old houseboat.
The furniture was cobbled together and the wood was pitted and peeling in places, and Farrah felt a bit ill-used. While she didn’t feel fortunate to be living in the old junker, the furniture and the hull were basically sound, at least she hadn’t seen any evidence of leaks, she wasn’t camping or relying on friends for a roof either. She didn’t think she’d be inviting any of her old friends to this… this… she dreaded saying it… this houseboat. She, Farrah Hong, was living in a houseboat. She’d never thought of herself as shallow or vain, but it was a blow to her pride and she felt a surge of anger at her parents. Couldn’t they have let her just come home? No, they had to exile her to this… this… death trap.
The anger didn’t last long, though. Farrah knew, although she would never admit it, that she had been slightly out of control. Partying all night, missing classes and sleeping all day. She’d tried to pay someone to take her finals and had been busted. She had meant to do better, really she had, but keeping up with her sorority sisters had been her downfall. She couldn’t really blame her father for being so angry – that had been expected. Her father was full of bluster and she had known she’d be in for a very long-winded lecture. But her mother’s anger and disappointment had hurt. She had expected her, of all people, to understand. But her mother hadn’t understood. And here she was, in this squeaking barely-sea worthy, barnacle and splinter-encrusted thing.
Eating her breakfast, Farrah thought back to the conversation that had changed her life.
“Mom! I don’t understand. You didn’t go to college and do all the things you’re trying to force ME to do. Isn’t that just the tiniest bit hypocritical?” Her mother had looked at her, saddened by the lack of maturity she was seeing. “My dear,” her mother told her softly, “you forget – University wasn’t an option for me. It’s only recently that a college education has been possible for any of us. Do you really think I wouldn’t have jumped at the opportunity if I could have? I don’t understand you. You don’t see the world as a place full of adventure and excitement – a place where amazing things can happen. You see it as a place that owes you something just because you want it. That’s our fault, I guess – we didn’t make you work for it. We wanted you to not have to struggle and fight for every little thing, but maybe that’s something you need to do to become a mature adult.” Becoming restless and unable to meet her daughter’s eyes, Farrah’s mother began circling the room, rushing her words. “Your father has decided we will no longer pay for your apartment or your living expenses. You’re cut off.” Farrah had been shocked into silence. Pressing her advantage, Farrah’s mother continued. “From now on, you will have to make your own way.” She was crying, yes, but she meant every word. “Good luck, sweetheart.” With that, Farrah’s mother had left the room, leaving Farrah stunned and struggling to figure out what she was going to.
She had sold her jewelry and artwork, the high-end electronics and even some of the furniture to raise the money needed to fund a move from a high-rise apartment in Bridgeport to… anywhere. She knew her parents had expected her to crawl back to Sunset Valley and struggle under their watchful eye, but Farrah had been so angry at what she perceived as her parents’ betrayal that she had refused to even consider returning to her hometown. Besides, the gossip-mill in Sunset Valley was a powerful, never-ending machine. Everyone knowing she was returning with her tail between her legs wasn’t something Farrah very much wanted to do. And so she had moved to the Islands. It was far away from family – a new beginning where no one knew her and wouldn’t think “oh there goes Farrah – can’t even get going to school right” whenever she passed them on the street.
And no one would laugh at a girl who wanted to be a treasure hunter. There were plenty of treasure hunters on Isla Paradiso – she was simply one among many. Her spoon paused halfway to her mouth as she day-dreamed of being a heralded explorer – an adventurer extraordinaire. Smiling at the picture of being bombarded by confetti at her very own Sim-tape parade for discovering a new species or island or SUNKEN TREASURE, she at her breakfast before tidying up the old rust bucket in preparation for a day in the water.
Farrah had spent the last couple of months sitting in her little houseboat musing over her misfortune of having parents who just didn’t understand. She may have continued her pity party forever if it hadn’t been for the Simmy Springer show she had watched, where parents unloaded their anger at their ungrateful children and had them sent to camps to learn the value of being independent. Watching the episode had been an uncomfortable experience as she heard those kids saying what had just recently come out of her own mouth to her parents. She cringed at how they sounded and recognized something in herself she wasn’t terribly proud of. She hadn’t been upset enough to actually make a vow to change or anything – but it had been sufficient to motivate her to at least learn snorkling, and thereafter, scuba diving. She had had to admit that being a treasure hunter actually called for some skills and set off to learn them. Besides, the money she had gotten from the sale of her jewelry and other items was nearly gone and she had lost the desire to try to wheedle the money out of her mother. She didn’t want to be one of those kids any longer.
As a beginner diver, Farrah was confined to the least dangerous dive areas around the Islands, but even these held some danger.
It had taken her a while to adjust, but Farrah felt mostly comfortable swimming near the large sharks that called the warm waters home. She had learned that unless a diver did something foolish, the huge fish usually let the divers be. She still kept an eye them, though, never quite trusting the intelligence she seemed to read in their eyes. If they were as intelligent as they seemed on occasion, Farrah didn’t think it was a sense of morals that kept the predators at bay. She wasn’t sure what it was, and she didn’t really want to find out. Whatever it was, she just hoped it held so long as she was in the water.
The diving spots drew quite a few divers, the locals enjoying it just as much if not more than the tourists. This spot wasn’t really known to the tourists, being off the main island and nowhere near a resort, so Farrah was fairly confident that her fellow divers wouldn’t inadvertently create a shark incident.
Although more divers usually meant more sharks.
Most of the locals were well-versed in human-shark interactions and behaved when in the water. Even so, there were a few reports of shark attacks every year, although Farrah noted they were rarely fatal, which she found very odd. Granted, shark attacks occurred all over Simworld, and many times the human victim survived. Just as often, however, they didn’t. Farrah didn’t know why the predators didn’t seem to attack fatally near these islands, but she was pretty certain it wasn’t mermaids with shark-calling powers, as the locals insisted. While she wasn’t above listening to a tall tale on a lazy afternoon at the local hang-out, had actually enjoyed hearing the legends and the songs, no sane adult believed in such stories and Farrah had begun to tire of their earnestness and attempts to get her to admit to the possibility of such beings. She wasn’t a tourist, for pete’s sake, and she didn’t understand why the locals insisted on telling these stories as fact rather than legend. She imagined they had taken bets on how gullible she was and were just waiting for her to be taken in by a particularly enticing story so they could all have a good laugh. Farrah wasn’t swayed, however, and she continued to pay great respect to the sharks whenever she saw them, hoping that would be enough.
She did find herself praying to the local divers’ god, Azul. According to the pieces of legend Farrah had heard, Azul was supposed to take mermaid form to help out stranded divers or those that needed help. Farrah didn’t believe in the diver’s mermaid god, but had no problem adopting the brief prayer that the locals insisted they chanted every morning after eating. She thought it had more to do with keeping them at the table longer and out of the water, avoiding cramping as food was digested than it did with any actual god, but she found herself chanting it anyway, feeling at one with the locals who swore it was their daily ritual and insisted they wouldn’t even attempt diving without it having been said.
Bowing her head slightly, she chanted the centuries old prayer. It wasn’t in Simlish, and she had no idea what she was actually saying, but she had been assured it called on the Ocean Goddess, Azul – asking for her protection while swimming in her waters by the locals who had taught it to her. She smiled a bit at the superstitious nature of it, but it couldn’t hurt, so she shrugged and said it anyway.
And then started her daily dive. The Bistro had had a job posted to bring in some squid. She hadn’t seen any squid on any of her dives, but she was anxious to try again. Selling collectables was income, sure – but she needed more than just survival and completing the jobs the Bistro posted was something of a local competition as well as being a source of regular income. Farrah wanted to prove to herself and her parents that this wasn’t yet another hairbrained Farrah scheme. She knew she could make a career of this if she could just hold out until her first, real find.
Farrah loved being underwater. The bubble and hiss of the oxygen tanks soothed her and the necessary slowness of movement when a human ventured into this underwater world never ceased to capture her full attention. It was a marvelous place, filled with life and a beautiful softness that blunted the endges of everything. The plants swayed back and forth as they would if moved by wind, the utter silence eerie and complete. Even the rusting anchor on the ocean floor had an alien beauty to it even though there was nothing alien about it. But down here, surrounded by vegetation and coral and silence, it seemed otherwordly somehow; as though it hadn’t been created by Sims and deposited on the ocean floor through misfortune or chance. As though it had always been there -as though it belonged exactly where it was. Farrah smiled at her own silliness. How could an anchor belong on the ocean floor? Wasn’t that a sign something had gone horribly wrong? She shook her head and continued her search for squid. She was never going to earn any money if she became enchanted by her surroundings and spent her day thinking fanciful thoughts instead of finding squid!
Farrah examined every nook and cranny she could find, but no squid. She found a couple shells the tourists would snap up, even a nautilus shell which would fetch a few more simoleons than normal. but no squid. Farrah saw a flash of red in the water and swam quickly to investigate. She wasn’t entirely certain what color the local squids might be, but it was something she hadn’t seen before and so she eagerly attempted to follow it. Please let it be squid, she thought. She had been down a couple of hours and knew she didn’t have much more time in the water. She stopped and looked around, searching for some idea of where the creature had gone.
She saw what she thought was a fin and a flash of something red near the rocks and she quickly moved toward it – or as quickly as a Sim could move underwater, which wasn’t terribly quickly at all – but when she arrived at the spot, she didn’t see any sign of whatever had caught her attention. But she did see this.
Farrah was stoked and all thoughts of squid flew out of her head. That was a cave!! There were plenty of stories of things that went wrong in caves, but Farrah reasoned, those usually involved dry caves suddenly filling with water. Since this one was already full of water, she figured half the battle was already won. She resolutely ignored the seaweed that looked like tentacles coming out of the entrance to the cave and swam through, hoping it wasn’t a very large cave. If it was, she was going to have to get more supplies before attempting a thorough investigation. Underwater lights and rope for a start. But the cave was quite small, with an entrance on the side wall, which Farrah swam through, thinking her adventure had ended before anything adventurous had happened. So much for thinking.
Farrah didn’t know where she was, but it certainly wasn’t the area she had started in. The floor was littered with the debris of ships, spread out all over the place. It appeared to Farrah to be something of a ship graveyard and she wondered how and why all these wrecks had come to be here. It must be a dangerous part of the ocean and a niggling doubt that she was in waters above her diving abilities was a caution to her excitement at where she had found herself. Past the wreck-filled crevice she had found, the ocean floor was a seaweed jungle, becoming murky after only a few feet. Farrah wasn’t certain she wanted to explore too far from the wrecks littering the ocean bottom. She was equally uncertain she should stay in an area that had claimed so many ships.
She also knew she had only found a couple shells today and that wasn’t going to pay her slip fee. Watching that she stayed within the general area and didn’t go too far from the cave that had brought her here, Farrah thought a quick look around would be all right, and then she would head back through the cave, and home. Her mind wandered, as she wondered how to mark the cave so she would be able to find it again. She had dived in those waters before and never come across the cave so she wasn’t certain of her ability to find it again. As she wondered how heavy a sunken anchor may or may not be, she spied something on the ocean bed.
Among the ruins of a large sunken ship, Farrah found a chest. A treasure chest? How could there be a treasure chest just sitting here out in the open like that? Wouldn’t someone have found it before now? Certain she was about to open an empty chest, Farrah swam toward the chest eyeing it for sabotage or a trap. It would be just like the locals to set something up out here for the uninitiated to stumble upon, ensuring weeks of laughter at the gullibility of new divers.
Farrah couldn’t believe her eyes. If this was a set-up by the locals, it was a helluva job. There were old coins and a few gems, as well as a few other things that disintegrated as Farrah put her hands in the chest to collect it all. She was so excited. Her first find!! She looked around as she stuffed the treasure in her diving belt. She wondered yet again how it was that this chest was just sitting out here in plain view; how had it escaped discovery? she wondered. She didn’t stay to second-guess her good fortune – after all the coins and gems were quite obviously real and not a trap for the unwary set out by the locals for their own entertainment as she had originally suspected. This was real treasure. After scooping it all up, Farrah turned around and headed straight for the cave and home.
Later that evening, while at the Bistro enjoying a quiet cocktail, Farrah again wondered how it was she had discovered a “hidden” treasure that had been out in plain view on the ocean floor for any diver to find. She wondered what the rippling fin and flashes of red had been that led to her discovery of the cave. She thought about it all as she stared out at the waves. She didn’t understand what happened today – she didn’t begin to understand it. And she had an uneasy feeling as she made her plans to dive again tomorrow – this time to discover the mystery of the cave.