I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

The magic shell_Mary Wairimu Renee Gachihi

mare_Africa Teller 2000.


A pretty seashell doesn’t care for his home when the tide goes out.

He is picked up by a young girl and is taken on a long journey. When

he is taken out of the bag, the sea is nowhere to be seen.

He finds himself in strange and confusing surroundings. A place so

strange and yet so wonderful. To the left corner was a wooden

structure with unmoving creatures staring at the walls. He stared at

the sad looking creatures.

“Hallo, little shell”, said a voice “this is my room”.

He was staring into the face of a little girl. She had a nice chocolate

brown skin, beautiful hazel eyes and her hair was up in a tight

ponytail. She was ten years old and her name was Malaika.

Malaika loved to collect things, from stamps, bottle caps, ladybirds

to dead butterflies. Her latest obsession was shell-collecting and

today she had found the greatest of treasures.

The shell felt so warm like a newly hatched egg. She stopped just in

front of her “museum” and admired her latest find. She had placed

the shell in an old jewel box lined with soft blue velvet that had

belonged to her mother. It looked so beautiful. The shell had extraordinary

colours; purple, blue, white and orange stripes. It was

transparent in a strange kind of way. You could almost see through it

… and yet it was still not see-through. Malaika was indeed very

pleased with herself. It was the most beautiful shell she had ever

seen, in fact the most beautiful shell in the whole world.

With a satisfied smile she declared aloud, “I have decided to call

you Mr. Shell”.

Mr. Shell was placed on the shelf with the other creatures. The young

girl then walked out of the room closing the door behind her.

“Where am I?” wondered the little shell. “Hallo… how are you?”

There was no response. He decided to try again. “I come from the

sea.. where do you come from?” There was still no response. He

realised that these animals would not talk to him maybe they were

just being stubborn.

Suddenly there was a sound at the door, a turning of the knob and the

door began to creak open. Very, very, slowly it did, creak!, squeak!,

creak!; it opened just enough for the head of a small boy to peep in.

He looked around quickly and then let himself in when he was sure

that there was no one in the room. He was wearing a blue T-shirt, a

pair of black jeans and black sneakers. He peered around the room

curiously. He looked just like Malaika, he had short curly hair and

bright mischievous eyes. He was a head taller than Malaika and had

the chubbiest cheeks ever!!

“I know she is hiding something; I saw her when she came from the

beach”, he wondered loudly. You see, Baraka for that is his name,

liked to bully his sister. Being three years older he felt he had the

right to bully Malaika whenever he wanted and however he wanted.

Most of the time he did nasty things when she made him angry,

especially when she teased him and called him Mr. fatty chubby

cheeks. Oh! how he hated it!! Ho! he could be such a nasty boy. He

was always involved in school fights and many times was punished

by the headmaster.

He loved to play tricks… especially on his sister.

She was such a cry – baby.

He beat her for the fun of it; he punched her for the fun of it; even

biting her… for the fun of it. If she refused to do as he wished he

threatened to destroy her “museum” or pinched her or just whatever

wicked thing that came to his mind… for the fun of it.

Once, after Malaika had called him Mr. FCC (Fatty Chubby Cheeks)

in front of his friends, he got so angry that he decided to revenge.

The following morning he woke up at cock crow to brew his evil plan

and when breakfast was set at the table, he put a cockroach (a nasty

roach that he had found dead in the kitchen sink) into her chocolate.

While sitting at the kitchen table, she picked up her cup and took a sip.

“Do you like your chocolate today?” Baraka asked smiling.

“Yes, mum always makes it the way I like it”, she answered happily.

Suddenly, as she was about to take another sip she saw it!

A BIG BROWN COCKROACH!!! Yuk! she spat out her chocolate.

“Baraka! I know you did this. I know you did,” she cried.

Baraka was not bothered at all, he was laughing so hard that his sides

hurt throughout that day.

Another time he put a frog in her school shoe and another time

Tabasco on her toothbrush. That boy was just full of dirty tricks.

He looked at the teddy bears and collection of dead butterflies. He

knew she was hiding something because she always showed him

anything new first, but today she simply dashed into her room. There

on the shelf he noticed something, something new and beautiful. It

was a shell. “Wow,” he said amazed. He picked the shell and stared at

its amazing colours. It felt strangely warm like it was… alive.

“It’s great! Where did she get it? Why doesn’t she want me to see it? I

know… If I had it, all the boys would look up to me in admiration. I

will even cheat them that it is magical Ha! now no one will laugh at

  1. Why should Malaika have such a nice shell? She is just a stupid

girl. I want this shell and so I am going to steal it”, he declared to the

room. That was when he decided that he wanted the shell for himself.

He was just about to put it in his pocket when at just that moment, the

door opened. Baraka turned round quickly and hid his hand behind

his back. “What are you doing here. What are you hiding?” Malaika

asked disturbed to find her brother creeping around in her room.

“Mmm… nothing”, he said.

“Baraka… I know you’re up to something. What are you hiding?”

Just then she looked at the shelf and saw that her precious shell was

missing. “You… you took my shell, give it back! It’s mine,” she cried.

“No, I will not! It’s mine now. If you try to snatch it I will punch you

or crush your butterflies.”

“Give me my shell!!”


“It’s mine, I found it so it’s mine,” she wailed.

Being a head taller, he held the shell in his outstretched hand as

Malaika tried to jump at it in vain. Frustrated, she kicked his ankle

and that made him howl in pain. He then punched her back. Malaika

began fighting with her brother, scratching, screaming, punching and

biting. Ho! you should have seen those two. It was like two cats

fighting for a fish.

From howls and scratches to wild eyes and tears. Suddenly amidst the

scuffle there was a loud BOOMING voice.


Baraka dropped the shell on the floor and his sister stood trembling in

fear. With their hearts beating like wild drums, they looked around the

room trying to place where the voice had come from. Eyes wide, they

stared at the shell which seemed to have grown double its size. You

could just make out two fiery blue eyes and seeing that, Malaika

quickly hid behind her brother in fear.

“What is all this squabbling and fighting! You are like two sea lions

fighting over food.”

“No, no it wasn’t me, it was M… M. Malaika,” Baraka stammered

trying to sum up some courage.

“No… it was you,” Malaika added in a small voice, prodding her

brother’s back with her index finger.

“A brother and sister should not fight. You should love one another.

There is so much hatred and anger in the world. How I wish people

would be kinder to one another, to ALL the living creatures.”

It began to glow and looked like the soft light that is given off by

glow-worms on a dark night, beautiful and yet mysterious. The light

seemed to pull one nearer and nearer.

The children’s fear gave way to curiosity just as soon as they realised

that the shell was not going to harm them. The shell suddenly rose

from the floor, ever so slowly making the children move back in

shock. It suddenly stopped just about eye level and was hovering in

mid air somewhat like how humming birds or dragonflies do.

“WOW!” was all Baraka could say.

Two fiery blue eyes blinked, as blue as a clear morning sky and

twinkling like a bright evening star. More out of curiosity and awe,

Malaika approached the shell. She took tiny timid steps, one, two,

three. She wanted a better look.

“There is too much suffering. My home is in danger of perishing…

forever,” the shell continued sadly.

“Why… and where is your home Mr. Shell?” Malaika asked.

“My home is in the deep ocean… it’s such a wondrous place, more

beautiful than you could ever imagine. Many sea creatures are dying

and marine life is becoming less and less because of unkindness.

Many years ago fish were plenty and lived happily with the other

creatures of the sea but that is no more. We are nothing but sport to

some, they kill our children and leave their bodies for us to see, they

kill us just so that they may display our heads in their living rooms.”

“I don’t understand”, Baraka interrupted “the sea is so big and the

fish so many. How can they be becoming less and less because of


“Let me show you”, The shell said.

The shell began to chant what sounded like “wawadudulele” and then

“leleduduwawa”. The more he said these words the brighter his eyes

twinkled. Mr. Shell began to glow filling the room with a rainbow of

colours, blue, purple, orange and a strange warm feeling.

“Wawadudulele… leleduduwawa.”

He instructed them to hold each other with one hand and with their

free hands to hold him. Hearts beating with a mix of fear and

excitement they held hands and when they touched the shell, they felt

a warmth like a warm glass of milk flow through them. It was a

comfortable sort of warm. The kind that spread through from the tips

of their fingers to their toe-tips.

“Wadu… wadu… wadu… you shall see the sadness and pain in the sea.

Do not be afraid”, Mr. Shell said.

Without any warning a whoosh! sound filled their ears and the

children felt themselves being pulled by a great force. Slowly they

began to spin, ever so slowly… slowly and very soon began to spin

faster! and faster!, faster! and faster!, faster! and faster! They could

not feel the floor or see the room any more, it had just disappeared!!

Malaika closed her eyes tightly and squeezed her brothers hand. Her

stomach felt like it would do a somersault and her ears like they

would burst. Baraka felt the same way too, but was too scared to

speak. They spun faster!! and faster!! Baraka began to get dizzy and

so he decided to close his eyes. Suddenly they began to slow down,

slower and slower they spun and soon felt themselves in a warm

surrounding, like basking in the morning sun.

They were too afraid to open their eyes. Baraka, eyes still closed

imagined that they were in a submarine or a ship. When the spinning

stopped they were still too dizzy from all the spinning and so did not

open their eyes immediately…

“Aaaah! here we are. This is home.” Mr. Shell announced proudly.

“Open your eyes and behold,” the shell commanded.

Baraka first opened his left eye, then the right and was surprised to

find himself floating, floating in water!! Was he in a river?… or

perhaps a lake? No, he was in the sea. He could even open his eyes

without the sting of salt water!! Even more amazing was that he could

breath normally. Another surprising thing was that their clothes were

as dry as a bone. They were in the sea but were not affected in any

way. That was when he noticed that they were in some sort of bubble.

It was see-through and very strong considering that they were

standing inside it. Malaika was just as shocked and without thinking

said “can you believe it? This is great!” Immediately they realised

that they could talk too.

“I am the ancient shell. As long as one of you holds on to me then

you sha1l be alright.” They looked at their hands and saw that they

were still holding hands as well as holding the shell.

Malaika and Baraka were amazed at the variety of fish that they saw,

some had white and black stripes like zebras, others were red, orange,

blue, purple. They were colourful, more beautiful than the flowers

above on land. From star fish, jelly fish, sea anemone with their

prickly spikes to sea cucumbers and coral all in beautiful colours.

Marine life was beautiful. The coral was like a beautiful garden of

colourful flowers seeming to sway to the gentle swish of the water. It

was like being in the countryside hi1ls and caves and rocks but with

different animals and plants. The silence was also startling as no

creature made a sound apart from when they unexpectedly turned to

swim in another direction.

“I didn’t know there are so many fish, so many different types. They

are so beautiful… so wonderful”, Malaika gasped.

“I don’t see any suffering Mr. Shell”, Baraka said addressing the shell

directly for the first time.

“This is when the sea was plentiful and peaceful… now close your

eyes.” They obeyed as they had learnt to trust him now.

“Open your eyes,” he said.

It was just as if they had moved but not moved. However, they were

in a different part of the sea. Just a few feet away they saw a whale

floating about lazily. Baraka felt that he could almost touch it. The

creature was big, bigger than a house!!! As big as a ship no, in fact

bigger!! Gently and quietly it swam by… only making a strange highpitched

sound. Next to it was a smaller whale.

“That is Marina and her baby,” the shell said. Malaika and Baraka

looked at the whales in wonder. Baraka was especially amazed at the

size of both mother and child. He felt like a small speck next to the

colossal giants. He was so dumfounded that his jaw hung open. He

had only read about them in books.

The water was calm and a faint light was coming from above. It was

nice in a weird sort of way. It was almost like one of those sunny days

when the sun’s rays would squeeze through a large cloud and rays of

sunlight would stream down.

“It looks so beautiful,” Malaika commented softly.

“Yes, it’s a bright morning, most probably clear sky but that is not all.

This is a deep sea fishing area… many come here to hunt Whale, Blue

Marlin, Dolphin, Octopus, amongst other deep sea fish. This is the

“Hunting-Ground”. Many marine creatures have lost their lives here,

many young have lost their parents, many species disappeared and…”

Suddenly there was a loud splash that set the children off balance and

the water was moving uncontrollably.

“Stay calm just do not let go of each other’s hand,” the shell urged.

There was so much movement in the water that it was a while before

they could make head or tail of what was happening. When the water

settled and their bubble was stable, they noticed that the water was

beginning to turn reddish and the whales were making loud

screeching noises of anguish. It was different from the usual sounds

they had been making earlier. When they looked at them and at

Marina, more closely, they noticed a large spear piercing right

through her back to her belly. She thrashed in pain, confusion and

fear. She was afraid to die and that someone wanted to harm her little

baby. As she tried to swim forward she screeched in pain as the

harpoon dug deeper and deeper. She realised that she was hurt and

that she was dying. There was so much blood that the sea looked like

a red swimming pool.

“Oh no! Malaika” gasped sadly, “what have they done?”

The baby tried to snuggle near his mother. He was confused

and afraid.

“No!!” Malaika cried tears streaming down her face, “Stop!…

Please stop!”

“There is nothing you can do” the shell said sadly. “Nothing that

anyone can do”.

“Why can’t you use your magic to stop this?” Baraka pleaded a note of

anger in his voice. Ahard lump was beginning to form in his throat.

“I can’t, this is the way it must be. They are going to use her for

products for the human world. And for that, this little fellow here

will have no mother,” the shell replied hopelessly. Marina gave a last

high pitched sound and breathed her last breath. The children

watched helplessly … there was nothing they could do. Malaika

whispered a short prayer … The fiery light that had shined in

Marina’s eyes was fading. It was over in minutes. Marina was dead.

Peaceful Marina was dead. The little whale floated next to his

mother, he nudged her but there was no response. The children

looked helplessly at the confusion of the little whale. They so much

wanted to help him but they just did not know how to go about it. He

suddenly gave a high pitched cry, so mournful that it made Baraka’s

tears come down despite his desperate attempt to hide them.

“He is crying” said the shell in a voice so sad that the children

believed that he was crying, “he knows that she is dead.”

The little whale was sad and confused and waited next to his mother.

He just kept letting out mournful cries that just made Malaika want to

rush and comfort him.

“I so much want to help but I am still afraid of the little whale. Oh!

How I wish I knew what to do”. Malaika thought to herself.

“This is such a terrible, terrible thing. How can anyone do this?”

Baraka finally asked.

“This is why there is so much pain and suffering. Mankind is hurting

marine life just for sport and not need. Many fish and marine

creatures die in the same way everyday where others even go

extinct,” the shell said.

“But that’s not fair” Malaika cried, “poor little whale.” Letting go of

her brother she stretched her free hand to touch the little whale’s head

but was afraid to burst the bubble.

She almost lost balance but after a few attempts she was able to

stretch without any difficulty. “Poor little boy… don’t cry… it’s going

to be okay,” she said kindly.

He looked at her wondering what she was. He seemed to calm down a

little… like he understood Malaika’s kind and gentle words.

“What happens now?” Baraka asked.

“It is not good at all. He will…die. He will loose the will to live.

He won’t eat because of loneliness, fear and sadness. You know

animals do also feel sadness and fear when they lose a loved one. All

living creatures experience feelings like people, the only difference is

that we all communicate differently,” the shell informed them.

“No!.. no!” Malaika cried out in anguish at learning the fate of the

little whale. She felt a strange friendship towards him. “Oh! please,

can’t you do any thing Mr. Shell… please, I don’t want him to die.”

“I… I can’t, but you can.”

“How? What can I do? Tell me!” Malaika pleaded.

“Yes. Please tell us what we can do to save this little whale,”

Baraka added.

“This whale cannot be saved…” The children began to protest. “Let

me finish… Unfortunately, it is too late for this little fellow… but there

are thousands just like him who may end up orphans. You can change

this by telling your friends about the things you have seen. How

beautiful the world under the water is; the creatures of the sea and

how full of life it is. Tell them how pouring harmful chemicals and

over fishing will destroy this wonderful world and leave only a barren

underwater desert. You may be children, but together you are a strong

voice, a strong force. You can create awareness… that sea creatures

feel, breathe and love too. This little whale has no mother to protect

and love him. There are dangerous sharks waiting upon him. But they

too are creatures that love and feel. They are just like the lion and

antelope above in your world. They are living creatures of nature and

even then you protect them. Let others know the importance of

respecting other life forms… only then shall the sea once again be a

place of beauty and bounty.”

“Please Mr. Shell… take us home I can’t bear this any longer.”

Malaika pleaded tearfully.

“I’m so sorry little fellow. I wish I could take you home with us. I feel

so bad leaving like this,” Baraka said.

“Sorry mama whale. I’m sorry, Amen”.

Malaika touched the mother whale and immediately she did that, an

array of bright rays of light shone on Marina from the surface above

making the water look like the sun was shinning inside. The light fell

on the whales only. The light danced in the water, shining on Marina

and the children held their breathes when they saw the beautiful

sight. The light shone like that in picture books about heaven and

angels. As the harpoon caught the light it shone like a silver sword.

Suddenly like magic, the harpoon began to move up, up, ever so

slowly up, up until it was all out. It spun in mid air for a while,

flashing silver. Then in a flash it simply vanished,… Poof! The

harpoon had just vanished into thin air in front of their eyes and

again the water began to clear as mysteriously as the harpoon had

disappeared. Within seconds the water was back to the beautiful

aqua-marine once again. The children were shocked, it was

unbelievable!! A miracle was happening before their eyes!!! There

was a loud high pitched sound and then the mother whale gave a

great thrust of water from her blow hole. She was alive!!! At that

moment the rays of light disappeared.

“Your tenderness, kindness and love performed that miracle. The

heavens looked down into your hearts and saw your true feelings

which were noble and caring. You have brought her back to life; your

concern for her and her little baby show a spirit that is pure. Your

kindness has brought happiness”. These words were spoken from an

unknown source.

The voice seemed to make the sea tremble, it filled the whole sea at

the same time making all the creatures stop at exactly that moment.

“It must be an angel” Baraka thought, “or was it…”

Malaika was so happy that she just wanted to jump for joy. She

wanted to cheer and clap… she was just so excited, so happy. Her

smile was from ear to ear. Baraka was happy too. He too wanted to

jump, cheer and clap in joy but he had to hold his sister’s hand and

the shell in the other.

Marina made some strange sounds and quickly the shell began to

translate. “Thank you….” she began, “thank you… you are very kind.

We were only happy to help but really we did not do anything”,

Baraka pointed.

“At least there are still a few good people. There should be more like

you. You did not have to do anything but your kindness,

understanding and love are what brought me back to life. Thank you,”

Marina said nudging her little one who now swam happily around his

mother. “Children we have to leave now,” the shell announced.

“Goodbye little one, be brave,” Malaika said.

“Goodbye Marina,” Baraka said sadly.

“Go well… don’t forget kindness… thank you”, Marina said.

At that moment Baraka felt the shell become warm. He looked

at it and saw that it was glowing. Slowly they began to spin, round

and round.

“Here we go again,” Baraka exclaimed just before he closed his eyes.

They spun round and round, faster and faster. Whoosh!! Whoosh!!

Round and round, faster and faster and ever so slowly did they reduce


The spinning became less and less, slower and slower ever so slowly

until they stopped.

This time Malaika was the first to open her eyes. It took a little while

before they got oriented once again with their surroundings. They

were back in Malaika’s room, standing exactly where they had been.

She looked at the clock on her dressing table and only two minutes

had passed since they had gone.

“But that’s impossible!” she exclaimed, “we can’t have only been

away for only two minutes!”

Baraka noted that too.

Everything was just the same. It felt good to stand on solid ground

once again. “Wow! That was some adventure,” Baraka stated seeing

that they were still holding hands. He let go of his sister’s hand.

“Were we dreaming… or…” Malaika began.

“I don’t think so,” Baraka said. He was clutching something in his

hand. Slowly as though afraid of the outcome he opened his hand.

What they saw was so amazing. They did not expect it at all.

In place of the shell there was a beautiful aqua-green stone in the

shape of a whale. It was dazzling just to look at. It shone and sparkled

at every turn.

“Where is the shell,” Malaika asked staring at the Whale.

“I don’t know… but I think he has gone back home.” Baraka said.

“I know… this is his going away present” Malaika stated happily, “so

that means it was not a dream after all!!”

“Yes. This little whale will always remind us of the need to take care

of our world,” Baraka pointed out.

After a few seconds of silence each in their own thoughts Baraka

began “Malaika, I’m sorry that I tried to steal your shell… sorry about

the fight.”

“I’m sorry too. Forget it… it’s okay, no more squabbles, friends?”

“Friends! Okay, I’m hungry. Let’s go down for some sandwiches,”

Baraka stated.

“Do you think mum and dad would believe us if we told them?”

“I don’t think so, especially mum. They would just think we made it

all up or from a movie… nah! they wouldn’t.” Baraka replied.

He placed the whale on the shelf in the velvet case and rushing to get

a bite to eat, they quickly left the room.

Had they looked back just before they closed the door, they would

have seen the aqua-green glow of the whale and bright sparkle of two

fiery blue eyes.