One day, a man found a shell on the beach. Neither chip nor scratch marred the gold-and-ivory spiral which shimmered in the sunlight, dazzling his eyes. He knelt as if entranced, gentle fingers embracing this prize of the beach.
Cradling the shell, he turned his back to the ocean, thinking of how he would cherish this picture of unblemished beauty. But as he walked, it slipped from his fingers, seemingly of its own accord. It fell and shattered upon a rock.
The man cried out and fell to his knees. As he looked at the ruined fragments, a form took shape in their midst, sprouting to the size of a woman. The man gasped as she knelt beside him, smiling with downturned eyes. “Hello,” she whispered.
He studied her gray eyes and short hair, frowning. “You came from that shell?”
“Yes.” Her smile broadened. “How glorious and free it is out here!”
“But . . . but now my shell is ruined!”
The smile faded. “Yes, but it was only a shell.”
“It was the most beautiful shell on the beach.”
“Was it?” She turned away. “Very well; by all means, gather up the pieces.” Then she stood and without looking back, strode toward the ocean until she was lost from sight, leaving the man with nothing but the shattered fragments of her shell.