The Seven Ages of Elena. A flash fiction.

This week I must again thank Icy Sedgwick for another great photo promt.

Icy's photo prompt

Matryoshka dolls

This story was written rather quickly and may not be as polished as it might have been. Does it show too much?

Incidentally, my news of first publication last week is even better then I thought. Flashquake are putting my story forward for the Pushcart prize. This is very exciting and I will of course keep you posted.

In the meantime, on with this week’s #fridayflash. (Take a look at the other great stories by writers participating in the weekly event).


The Seven Ages of Elena

Elena’s first attempt to end her life was interrupted by an insistent knocking on the front door.

Her primary instinct was to ignore it so she remained in position, lying on the kitchen floor with her head inside the oven. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on dying. When the knocking started again, Elena’s determination withered like a failed soufflé; she pulled herself out of the stove and switched off the gas. Obviously it wasn’t enough that everyone tried to offer advice on how to live her life, how to get over Sasha, how to dress to impress; no, now they were trying to interrupt her efforts to bring it all to an end.

‘This had better be bloody important,’ she muttered, making her way to the hallway.

On opening the door, Elena found only a parcel sitting on the step. She peered along the empty street. Delivery firms never waited these days, she thought. What if she’d been out? Or on her holidays? Whatever this was could have been sitting there for weeks in all sorts of weather.

There were no markings on the parcel so Elena pushed it gingerly with the tip of her slipper; you couldn’t be too careful. What if it were a bomb planted by an evil terrorist organisation? Or Sasha’s mother?

Elena picked up the box and went inside. Forgetting about her suicide attempt for the moment, she searched the sides of the parcel for markings. There were none; not even a delivery address. She placed it on the table and considered her options. Realising that there were only two (open or not open), she grabbed her kitchen knife and sliced through the parcel tape. The brown paper fell away revealing an old-looking wooden box; an aroma of wood smoke and honeyed tea wafted past her nose as she slid back the lid.

‘I know that smell,’ said Elena, before it mingled with the still-lingering gas, dissolving a fleeting memory from her childhood.

She looked into the box; lying on a bed of soft straw was a wooden Russian doll. A Matryoshka doll.

‘Well I never,’ said Elena, turning the doll over in her hands. She was colourfully painted and her face smiled brightly with blushing cheeks; grey hair poked out from beneath a pretty headscarf. There was something familiar about the face, but Elena couldn’t put her finger on it. She tried to separate the two halves, which appeared to be stuck.

 Placing the doll on the mantel piece, Elena considered who might have sent it. Her parents never sent gifts in the mail, preferring to turn up unannounced bearing criticism and raised eyebrows and most of her friends had disappeared at about the same time as Sasha; those who remained weren’t likely to have left a set of antique Russian dolls on the doorstep.

Throughout the rest of the day, Elena’s despair and dark feelings were replaced by a nagging curiosity; each time she walked past the doll she tried to think who it reminded her of, but couldn’t place it.

 Waking the following morning with the same dread feeling of hopelessness, Elena’s mind turned automatically to the sharp kitchen knife sitting in its block. As she was considering which room to cut her wrists in, (a tiled room like the en-suite would be easier to clean), a rattling commotion drifted up from the lounge.

‘Now what?’ said Elena, climbing out of bed. She wrapped herself in her dressing gown and stomped down the stairs, halting in the living room doorway. Where yesterday on the mantelpiece had been the single doll, was now the entire set: seven brightly painted dolls arranged in ascending height and age. All, except one, bore the identical cheerful and very familiar face. The fourth largest wore a woeful look of sadness. Elena’s shocked eyes surveyed the dolls. That they depicted the same woman was clear; even the baby’s tiny painted eyes were the same as those of the largest and oldest. Elena turned to the fourth doll, staring into its pained face.

‘You’re me,’ she said, suddenly understanding, ‘you’re all me.’

 Elena reached out and picked up the fifth doll. Carefully, she opened it and placed the fourth, with its sad, lonely eyes, inside its slightly older self.

‘There,’ she said, ‘that’s better.’

Elena’s dreams that night took her to a warm parlour. She sat at a table facing the wood stove. An old woman, who was stirring honey into her tea, looked up briefly and smiled.

‘Babushka,’ whispered Elena, ‘my Babushka.’

© flyingscribbler 2011

13 comments on “The Seven Ages of Elena. A flash fiction.

  1. Hello Flyingscribbler
    I loved it. So clever using the Matryoshka Dolls. For me it depicted the depths from where your feelings and emotions stem from and the recognition of ones own inner self. Brilliant could have read more 🙂

  2. John Wiswell says:

    What a nice way to turn her around! Get the living-self out of her external ending-self.

  3. Steve Green says:

    I really like the concept at work here Justin.

    I don’t know if it was supposed to be, but I found this quite amusing too, the matter-of-fact way she contemplated her suicide methods, and anger at being disturbed. 🙂

  4. adampb says:

    Great concept to work with and done well, even if it is not as polished as you would have liked. Liked how it wasn’t sombre or macabre, just matter-of-fact.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  5. FARfetched says:

    I think you did her thoughts pitch-perfect — even though she was attempting suicide moments ago, now she’s worried about the box containing a bomb. I can see people doing that.

    Interesting thought, how each of the dolls represents an age… and that she’s to have as many years of happiness as she did before the incident with Sasha.

  6. Helen says:

    Well I loved the piece, and if this is not your polished I think perhaps I should give up writing…. It read very well at least to my eyes and I wouldn’t have known that it was a first draft.

  7. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I love the thought processes on display – the annoyance at being disturbed, the various asides about Sasha. Glad to see she gets some peace after all.

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