A Shell by the Sea

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Set your story in a silent house by the sea.... view prompt

25 comments

Inspirational Suspense Thriller

(Content Warning: Blood, Gore, Some mild language.)


For Kelly, may your chosen path bring you happiness and excitement!






Near Sycamore Beach, on a lonely isolated cove, lies a silent house by the Emerald Sea. The sparkling waters are filled with rainbow fish and magical coral reefs that transcend one’s imagination. Shelby knew it well, for this is was her home. The radiant sunlight was a warm delicacy that lifted Shelby’s spirits, and she needed that more than anything.


There was a rush of magnetic energy that wrapped the beach in a snug blanket. It helped Shelby forget about a lifetime of open wounds that never seemed to heal. Her broken heart wasn’t just cracked; it was shattered, fractured into a million pieces. Shelby was a lost soul forgotten in the winds of change, for the one man she loved was gone forever, lost in the thralls of another.


One day, a warm, humid breeze tickled Shelby’s soft scarlet flesh and ruffled her white dress like a wispy cloud. Her black hair thrashed against her steely blue eyes and clung to her angular face like a sticky cobweb. The golden shore was her only path forward, and she cared not for the annoyance of mother nature.


Shelby’s feet flowed through the sand like a steady stream of water racing towards the ocean. That sweet release was the true meaning of freedom, but like all things in life, that honor never comes without a price.


Suddenly, a jolt of pain bit Shelby’s right toe causing a single tear to spill from her left eye. Searching through the sand, she found a white seashell the size of her hand, rugged in its appearance yet charming in its splendor. It had a kingly crown on one end and a sharp jagged tip on the other. A true treasure. 


The exoskeleton trembled in her hands as if by some magical force, not knowing whether this strange person was a friend or foe. Shelby puckered her soft lips and gently kissed the rugged ridges. The vibrations stopped, and she felt an instant connection with it. She raised the seashell to her ear and heard the sound of a distant ocean calling her name. Shelby could see it in her mind and wanted to go there. A wave of mystical sensations washed over her body, and at that moment, she knew what needed to be done. It was coming home with her.


Shelby marched home, eager to show the shell its new home. She thought her new trinket would look amazing, resting next to her bonsai tree, and it was indeed the right choice. It sparkled and glowed in the green bowl, giving birth to an elegance that words could not describe.


The house itself was thunderously loud in its silence. There were no distractions of any kind to deter one’s mind from the peaceful zen. The walls, ceilings, and floors were all white and bare. Space was abundant, and Shelby only possessed things that were needed to sustain her life. She had no need for materialistic things that most people acquire in life. She only needed time to discover who she was and what she wanted to do with her life.


At forty-one years old, most people have things figured out, and Shelby did for the most part until her abusive boyfriend, Jeff, broke her heart by cheating on her. When his deception was discovered, he tried to strangle her. The rope burns on Shelby’s throat were a constant reminder of his murderous intentions.


She gave her all for Jeff’s needs and made every sacrifice imaginable so that he could be happy. Shelby greatly desired to be an artist and was quite good at painting life-like landscape paintings. On the verge of a mental breakdown, Jeff needed her attention, so he begged her to devote more time to him. Without a second thought, Shelby gave up her dream and never looked back.


In the end, it didn’t matter how much she gave to Jeff; it was never good enough to satisfy his selfish longing for attention. Shelby gave so much of herself that she was beginning to fade away. She could no longer survive in his world and managed to muster enough courage and strength to run away. She had to save herself.


Now, her new isolated home was a sacred palace of self-discovery and healing. 


On her own, Shelby discovered joy in simple things, like walking on the beach, watching the tide come in, and staring at the stars above. Despite this overwhelming happiness, she couldn’t find the inspiration to paint anymore. Being surrounded by this beautiful scenery would be an artist’s dream, but that part of her soul was damaged beyond repair.


All wounds heal in time, and this too shall pass.


Going into town for food was a nuisance because every passing man would flirt with her. She had no faith in men anymore and only saw them as parasites. Shelby didn’t want a life devoted to someone else. She wanted a life where she could exist.


For her own peace of mind, Shelby purchased enough food and supplies to last a month at a time. She didn’t have to worry about money because when her parents passed away, they left everything to their only daughter. It was enough to last Shelby the rest of her life, and Shelby was thankful for that. It was the last gift from her loving parents, but she was truly alone with their passing.


Shelby didn’t dwell on that depressing fact but thrived on it. She found strength in her isolation and loved being free. The silent house by the sea was an extension of Shelby’s livelihood. It was a part of her soul because it belonged to her, and no one could take that away.


It was hers.


That thought brought a smile to Shelby’s face while she lay in bed. The moon was shining bright, and the waves were splashing in. Listening to the quiet whispers of nature’s lullaby, Shelby’s gaze fell upon the seashell glistening softly in the blue light. She thought it was a little silly that this particular find caught her attention because there were a million shells on the beach, but there was something special about this one. She could feel it.


The following day, Shelby walked along the beach with a smile etched on her face. The salty air was refreshing, and the bubbling waves kissed her feet like a long-lost lover returning home from sea. She threw her arms up to stretch and inhaled deeply. Exhaling all of her stress, she felt alive like a newborn Angel feeling the sun's warmth for the first time.


A high-pitched squeal hacked its way to Shelby’s ears. She narrowed her eyes, held her hand up to block out the sun, and noticed a bird trapped in a black net a few feet down the beach. Shelby ran as fast as she could to help the poor creature. Getting a closer look, the seagull was tangled in a mesh wire that the fishermen used.


Its white feathers had patches of red throughout, and was frightened beyond belief. Shelby sat down and tried to untangle the net, but this only scared the seagull more.


“Calm down, little one. I’m only trying to help.” 


The bird had no idea that she was trying to help and cawed louder. The fishnet was a hot mess littered with trash. An aluminum beer can was attached to one end of the net, and Shelby quickly grabbed it. Ripping it open, she now had something to cut the netting with.


The cutting proved difficult, but little by little, it was working. The seagull flocked with reckless abandon and chirped for its life. With every snip, Shelby was getting closer to freeing the bird. She managed to cut away enough of the net to free the bird, but it still couldn’t fly away. The bird's feet were twisted in the net.


“You poor thing!” Shelby uttered. “If you will give me a chance, I will cut you loose.”


She carefully placed her left hand around the seagull and brushed its feathers. The bird instantly calmed itself but was still trembling. With her free hand, Shelby slashed away at the mesh until the bird's feet were free. For a moment, she thought the bird was going to take flight, but it remained in her hand. 


Shelby lifted the bird ever so slightly to get a better look at its injuries. Nothing was broken as far as she could tell. There was a sparkle in the seagull’s eyes, and its heartbeat was thumping super-fast. An instant connection was made.


Lifting the bird to the horizon, Shelby whispered, “You’re free now, little one. Fly away.”


The seagull pounced in the air with an excellent assist from Shelby. It flapped its wings like a bat in the night and took flight.


“Yes! Fly away, my friend.” 


At that moment, a solemn tear fell from Shelby’s cheek, and butterflies exploded in her stomach. She had connected the pieces with what happened to her own life. She was trapped just like the little seagull, and now she was free. She took it as a special message from the Gods that she had made the right choice.


In her bliss, Shelby headed back to her silent house, so she could prepare some breakfast. Images of toasted jelly flooded her thoughts, but she came to a sudden halt after seeing a red Dodge Viper parked near her home.


Oh my god, please don’t be him…

How did he find me?

Please don’t be HIM! 


The front door was ajar, which only added to Shelby’s fright. Someone was in her house. Her first thought was to run for help, but the town was miles away. She had to deal with this herself. Great freedom never comes without a price or a fight.


Shelby clenched her stomach and tensed her muscles as she stepped through the door. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck were erect, and goosebumps erupted along her skin. Everything looked the same as before with no signs of an intruder, but then why was her door opened, and whose car was parked outside?


These questions needed answering, so she continued her search.


Shelby explored the entire house but found nothing. Something just didn’t feel right, like a foreign body invading your cells. She marched over to the window to have a better look at the car. Perhaps someone was waiting there for her?


Peering out the window, Shelby devoured the Dodge Viper with her hungry eyes, but she didn’t see anyone. She didn’t notice the dark shadow creeping up behind her. The intruder’s footsteps betrayed their presence, and Shelby’s ears darted back like a mouse hearing a predator.


Turning, she saw Jeff with a menacing scowl upon his face. He was wearing black pants and a white buttoned dress shirt. He was gripping the same rope that he had strangled her with before. Shelby’s eyes popped, and before she could scream, Jeff pushed her across the room. She crashed into the end table, causing the bonsai tree to shatter upon the floor. The white seashell spun like a twirling top.


Jeff towered above Shelby, scowling. “I knew I would find you eventually. How dare you leave me!!” 


“H-how did you find me!” she stuttered.


Jeff laughed. “It wasn’t hard. With a lot of patience and a little luck, you can find anyone!” He paused, wrapping the rope tightly around his hands. “No one leaves me. NO ONE!!” 


“Leave me alone!” Shelby cried. “What about your girlfriend? She can’t cut it anymore? She’s not good enough for you either?” She knew she was pressing her luck with those condescending questions, but she didn’t care.


Jeff smirked. “You mean the girl I was screwing behind your back? She’s dead.” 


“What?!” 


“You heard me. She’s dead, and I killed her with this rope.” Jeff held the brown string up, and Shelby could see patches of blood throughout. “You are the only one to get away from me.”


Jeff crept towards her like a snake ready to strike, and Shelby clawed away as best she could. Her left arm was broken, and her ankle was sprained. Tears welled up in her eyes, but the adrenaline rush prevented her from feeling the pain. She was numb and couldn’t feel anything but trepidation. 


Shelby looked up at her tormentor with bloodshot eyes. Was this the end? Is this where my journey ends? A lifetime of regrets flooded her mind, and she was reminded of precious moments unfulfilled. Things that she always wanted to do but could never experience. Like finding true love or perhaps having a child.


Jeff stooped over with a devilish blood-thirsty grin carved on his face, ready to pounce. This was his moment of redemption, and the fleshy gourmet was delicious and tantalizing.


“It’s time to die!!” 


Jeff’s hands were red from holding the rope so tightly. As he got closer to Shelby’s throat, a white blur flew between his legs, causing him to fall face first. It was a white seagull, the same bird Shelby had saved earlier. This was the only moment Shelby had to save herself.


Jeff rolled over to compose himself, and at that exact moment, Shelby grabbed the seashell firmly in her hands and rammed the sharp tip into Jeff’s right eye. She was showered with a thick burst of warm ichor, and the white walls were splattered red.


“Agh!! You stupid bitch! Look what you did to me!” Jeff cried.


Shelby rose to her feet and stumbled over to Jeff, who was wailing on the floor. He was in agony and shock, much to her delight.


“I don’t belong to you! No one does, you self-righteous pig!” 


Jeff locked eyes with Shelby, not expecting this turn of events. At that moment, Shelby stomped down on the seashell, causing it to penetrate further into Jeff’s skull. The shell punctured through his brain with a crunch, killing him instantly.


The seagull was gone, and Shelby was left standing alone. There was strength to be found in her isolation, and this moment of terror would prove to make Shelby unstoppable. 





Several months later...


The sun shone brightly as Shelby carefully applied the finishing touches to her new masterpiece. A dove holding a white seashell soaring above the Emerald Sea.


The white seashell was resting on her palate, stained red with Jeff’s blood. A constant reminder of her salvation. As she gazed upon it, she decided that she didn’t need it anymore.


She opened the window and let the soft, salty air blow through her hair, and smiled. She grabbed the seashell and heaved it out towards the ocean. The warm water washed away the blood leaving behind a magnificent treasure. It did not belong to anyone and was free to live the rest of its days in the wild.



Near Sycamore Beach, on a lonely isolated cove, lies a shell by the sea.





The End





Daniel R. Hayes

November 12, 2021 04:47

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25 comments

Graham Kinross
10:02 Nov 24, 2021

Great payoff to the build up here. Another awesome story. Keep it up.

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Daniel Hayes
14:31 Nov 24, 2021

Thanks Graham, I really appreciate it :)

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Graham Kinross
14:44 Nov 24, 2021

No problem. That’s what we’re all here for.

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Chris Holland
06:09 Nov 18, 2021

Enjoyable read and the build up to the suspense and then the relief of a peaceful conclusion.

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Daniel Hayes
06:36 Nov 18, 2021

Thank you Chris! I'm so glad you enjoyed this story. It was slightly different in tone than my other work, so it makes my day to know you liked it!! :)

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Shea West
15:50 Nov 17, 2021

I know this was a suspense/thriller, but there was a softness to it that I don't usually see in your writing. I dig it when writers are fluid in their ability to go from sheer horror to a delicate lead up to crushing a shell into someone's brain😂 You've got an exceptional eye for this genre Daniel, and I respect it so much. Honestly... I wished she would've called him a fucking pig instead😂😂 but I've got a mouth on me. So there's that. Well done! I love reading each new piece you create, you just get better and better.

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Daniel Hayes
15:58 Nov 17, 2021

Thank you so much Shea! I agree that this story had a softness to it, I'm glad you noticed that. Also, believe it or not I was going to add that exact line, but I know a lot of readers on here don't like the curse words, so I try not to go overboard with that. I really appreciate your wonderful comments, thanks again!! :) Oh, I have always respected your writing ever since I started on here, so it makes my day to here you say that! Thanks again :)

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Shea West
18:03 Nov 17, 2021

Well, trust that I will always welcome a good ole fashioned bad word! Your compliments flatter me, I don't deserve them. But THANK YOU!

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Daniel Hayes
21:08 Nov 17, 2021

Hahaha, well, everyone deserves compliments, especially when they're true :)

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Lee Kendrick
14:43 Nov 17, 2021

A very vivid, descriptive story. The atmosphere was powerful and three dimensiona! A very enjoyable read! Best of luck with your writing

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Daniel Hayes
15:16 Nov 17, 2021

Thank you so much, Lee. I'm glad you liked it. I really appreciate the comments and I look forward to reading your stories! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
18:24 Nov 16, 2021

At this point, for "Content Warning" -- Reedsy should just have a "Daniel Hayes" category. Brilliant, per usual. The alliteration with the -s sound (the sibilance) in the closing paragraphs pushes your carefully crafted mood/atmosphere all the way to the close. Delicious...

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Daniel Hayes
18:34 Nov 16, 2021

Ugh... I know, that would be so much easier, and less words to type... lol :) Thank you. I'm so glad you liked this story. I was actually happy with the way this one turned out, which is unusual for me because I always feel like I could do better with every story. I'm glad you found it tasty! :)

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Tristan Ryan
02:21 Nov 16, 2021

I really enjoyed this story. It felt realistic and very meaningful. I hope to read more from you.

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Daniel Hayes
07:06 Nov 16, 2021

Thank you so much Tristan, I really appreciate those wonderful comments!! I can't wait to read your story :)

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M.R. Zeener
06:07 Nov 15, 2021

What an exceptional story. Made me feel all the emotions attached to it.

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Daniel Hayes
06:12 Nov 15, 2021

Thank you so much!! I'm really glad you liked it :) Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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Kelly Dennison
00:29 Nov 15, 2021

Daniel, this is everything...

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Daniel Hayes
01:25 Nov 15, 2021

Thank you, Kelly. I'm so happy you liked this story. It took me a little longer to write, and I didn't know if I could get done in time, but I think it turned out great, and I'm really proud of this one. Thank you so much!!! :)

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Francis Daisy
20:15 Nov 13, 2021

I loved how the seashell became meaningful and followed her through her healing path. Figuratively and literally. Somehow this ending seemed more abrupt than your other endings. "Several months later..." just didn't feel like your other stories. Your descriptions made me feel like I was on a beach and want to put my toes in the sand, but alas, I am more likely to have my toes in snow!

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Daniel Hayes
22:07 Nov 13, 2021

Hi Francis, I know what you mean. It's getting really cold here in WV, I bet snow is coming soon. The ending was a culmination of her journey, and due to the dreaded word limits, I had to move it along and I think I added enough to get the point across. The whole story felt different to me, and I didn't have much time to get it done, but I did, and I'm proud of this one. I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you so much!! :)

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Francis Daisy
03:15 Nov 14, 2021

You are one of my idols on Reedsy, so if I offended you, I sincerely apologize. I absolutely adore your writing and your descriptions and how I feel like I am right there inside the scenes. That is so exciting to hear that "this whole story felt different" as I have only experienced this once or twice. (Much like when you hear the ping of a golf ball on your tee shot and you just know it is going to be a good drive or it's going to shank left and hit the trees). Take care and stay warm.

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Daniel Hayes
03:22 Nov 14, 2021

Hi Francis, you didn't offend me at all.... Not sure why you thought that, but it's all good ;) Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. I look up to you too, because you're such a great writer and you make me want to continue writing these stories. I hope you stay warm too :)

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Keya Jadav
06:15 Nov 12, 2021

Wowzers! Another brilliant story of yours with excellent descriptions (Especially in the former part). I liked how Shelby found a new meaning in such a little thing like when she saved the seagull. Also, how every good deed summed up at the end. I loved it!

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Daniel Hayes
06:54 Nov 12, 2021

Keya!!! Thank you so much! You know I'm so glad I got this story done on time. It's been a very busy week, and I didn't know if I could get it done. So, to hear that you loved it means an awful lot. It felt a little different from my other stories, but I think it still has my classic style... lol :) Thanks again, it means a lot :)

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