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There was once a man who stole a shell from the Sea. Enamored by its beauty, he took it from the sand and grasped it in his fingers. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Gold wrapped the long spiral and it was flecked with silver. How magnificent this shell was, the man thought. 

He ran back to his wife, waiting up on the sandy dunes. “My dear wife,” he said, “Look what I have found!” He displayed the shell, but did not hold it out too far, for fear she would touch it. 

“Oh, how breathtaking” she gasped. “Do you think there is more?” 

The man’s eyes widened with greed. “Hurry,” he said, making his way back towards the ocean. The man’s wife followed. 

“We must search before the sun sets, my dear,” the man said, beginning to wade into the water. 

“You stay. With the shell,” the wife offered. Her husband nodded, almost too eager to be alone once again with his shell. 

The Sea was calm, almost flat. The man’s wife dragged her legs through the water and was able to get up to her shoulders quickly. 

She looked down through the soft waves and saw a glitter of gold. She believed it to be a shell, the most beautiful shell in all the oceans. The shell she needed to find. So she dived beneath the water to collect it. 

She was just about to grab the shell before the water swayed and swirled around her feet. It began to tug at her hair. She decided to abandon her quest and swim up to the surface. But just before she reached the top, her chest tightened. Water poured into her lungs and there she drowned. The ocean took pity on the woman and spared her soul from death. It rose from the water, dressed in a lavish watery robe. Walking gracefully over the water’s surface, the man’s wife stepped hesitantly towards her husband. 

The salty wind of the ocean spoke to the man, its voice earnest, From us you stole our beauty, and so we took yours. Return our treasure, and she will be restored. 

The man wept as he saw his wife, or the ghost of her, hovering above the water. And yet, he refused to part with his precious shell. He slipped it into his pocket and secretly vowed never to give it up. “Tomorrow I will return,” he promised his wife. “I will bring an even greater treasure!” 

The next day, the man returned with a satchel of silver coins. “Take this treasure and free mine!” The man shouted to the Sea. He dumped the silver into the water, but the tide slowly washed them in. The man sunk to the ground. He looked at his wife, near the horizon, her glowing spirit above the water. “I will return tomorrow, my love, I promise you freedom.”

The next day, the man returned with a teapot made of the finest china. He heaved it into the ocean only for it to be shattered and swept back in. Today he did not cry, but repeated he would return the next day to free his wife. 

He did, in fact, return the following day. He brought a roll of the most delicate silks and cloths. Like the days before, he threw them to the Sea. He screamed when they were washed in once again. He left without a word. 

He did not come back to the next day, but journeyed across the land in search of a treasure great enough for the Sea. He collected gold, silver, jews, gauntlets, and pearls. 

Weeks after, the man returned to the beach, with his riches. His wife was hovering above the surface, her eyes still hopeful and wide. She smiled when she saw her husband approaching the water. She hoped he would finally give up his shell. She believed he had finally learned. She would be free! He began tossing all the treasure to the Sea, their splashes towering high. She wanted to scream at him! You stupid ass! Your shell! Throw the shell to the Sea! 

Each time an item hit the water, they were carried, broken and battered, back to the shore, each moved faster than the other. He howled and scratched at his face. “Damnit! What do you want?” He screamed. The waves were silent, lapping gently at the soft sand. 

“You know what it wants, husband,” his wife said. Her voice was serious; she was tired of his games. “Return the shell to the Sea.” 

“I-I can’t. The Sea demands treasure, and my shell...my shell…” The man stumbled over his words, looking for an excuse. 

“I have waited. I’ve waited far too long,” his wife sobbed, her voice quivering. “I can’t do it anymore.”                    

 She let out a final breath and sunk into the water. Her ghost was finally freed from the chains to the water. The Sea welcomed her and let her soul rest at its depths. She knew that she was not the man’s treasure anymore. His shell was. 


The man turned gray staring at the Sea. For years, he sat, tormented, driven mad by the loss of his wife. His precious shell weighted heavy by his side. Sometimes he would take it out and gaze at it for hours upon hours. But most of the time, he was afraid that if he removed it from his pocket, it would be taken by the Sea. 

He never blamed himself for the death of his wife, he only blamed the Sea. Now his bones creaked and his back hunched. His eyes almost blind, his vision blurry from glaring at the horizon for days on end. His face hollow, skin thin, covered in dark sunspots. 

Death was surely near. The man knew. He did not want to part with his shell, not even in death. So, with his fragile legs he stood from the sand. He shuffled into the tide. It lapped tenderly at his feet. Slowly, with his shell clutched to his chest, he waded through the water, just as his wife did all those years ago. Even before he was fully under the surface, the Sea took him. The Sea was very kind to the old man, letting him sink into the water slowly, without pain or suffering. As a single breath left his cracked lips, the man with the stolen shell hung to his treasure, never letting go. 

March 14, 2020 03:57

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1 comment

Pamela Saunders
23:48 Mar 16, 2020

Just like one of the classic old traditional tales, but a new one. Well done :)


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