Locked Out

Push me once, I forget. Push me twice, I forgive. Push me thrice, I forsake.

— Elsamit saying

Angela Llop.Sant Joan de Caselles Canillo Andorra.flickr

Photo credit: Angela Llop

Mavita shuffles past the Sambaran church, the sun shining on its welcoming door. She remembers when she could go in that door. Before they decided women cannot profane the main chapel.

They can enter the free school, of course, and the charity kitchen. To do their duty there, while the men discuss important matters.

Services are starting. Mavita hobbles faster. Behind the church, women mill about, whispering, anxious.

The door is locked.

They wait. Surely someone inside will notice.

Mavita tries to sit. A young woman holds her elbow, helps her.

Someone knocks, gently.

Nobody comes.

Someone goes around front, but nobody is outside to ask.

Mavita hums softly, an old hymn. She wonders why they don’t sing that one anymore. Then she remembers. It mentions Elsanami, Sambar’s wife.

Mavita clears her throat. The others turn to her, respectful. She suggests they hold the service themselves, here in the alley.

Several women gasp. Women are not allowed to lead prayer.

No longer allowed, Mavita corrects them. They once did. Not so long ago.

But what would their husbands say? Their fathers? Their sons?

So Mavita suggests they do something even more dangerous.

They talk.


For any of you trying to keep track of Eneana’s religions, the Elsamit are a sect that broke away from the common Sambaran church, arguing that Sambar’s wife Elsanami should be worshiped alongside her husband, as they claim she once was.

I’ve been taking a break from flash fiction challenges a bit this week, focusing on work and on my novel — but I missed everyone too much to stay away too long.  This one’s submitted for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction writing challenge. Thanks as always to Al Forbes for hosting, and for providing the original photo prompt, below!  To see the other stories or to submit your own, click here.


Photo credit: Al Forbes, A Mixed Bag



25 thoughts on “Locked Out

  1. Beautiful storytelling as always. The whispering and the potential danger that is about to befall the women is hovering in the air around in the atmosphere you created there. My own personal rant: Why is is so darn easy for us to visualize gender discrimination, even in another land? What if it could be curly-straight hair divisions hair or people who can roll their tongues versus those who can’t, or those who are left handed being the better people, or something else? Or can the MEN be locked out because only the potential sacred bearers of Life itself can be allowed into the sacred spaces? I am feeling snarky against gender discrimination today and wishing it were not so darn prevalent all over the darn planet. Thank you for allowing me to vent here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! You’re always welcome to rant to me, Heather. And you never have to apologize about being snarky about gender discrimination! Yes, it’s easy for us to imagine because we see it all over our real world and our real history. I do include other kinds of discrimination in Eneana–none of my societies are completely free of prejudice or bias, because that just wouldn’t be realistic. (And as a fellow sociologist, I know you wouldn’t let me get away with that.) But yeah, the biggies are gender, race, religion, and class/caste. Not so much about curly hair (thank goodness, for me).


    • Thanks, Al! I have a half-started novella about the origin of the Elsamit sect, focused on the woman who ends up founding it, that goes into tons of more detail But it’s fun to write little snippets to show how these momentous cultural changes are experienced and aided by everyday people, like Mavita.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I like this story. It is very good. Getting to see this culture from the women’s point of you. Religion should not just change like that because the men decide it should. It should be based on the religions gods and their teachings whether the gods were a man or/and a woman. I am Christian so, this is very out there for me as I’m not Catholic and don’t believe in worshipping Mary. Although, I can relate in the fact I don’t believe only men should be pastors. I think if woman feel called they should be Pastors too. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Amanda, glad you liked it! I should clarify that I’m not trying to make any statements about real-world religions when I’m writing about Eneana’s (totally fictional) religions, although obviously my own feelings about patriarchy and sexism will come through in my portrayals. And this religion is quite different from Catholicism. Sambar’s wife Elsanami is acknowledged to be a goddess in her own right (not a human, like Mary). The traditional Sambaran origin story says that she and Sambar created the world together, although various sects differ on how much credit she gets for being an equal participant versus being blamed for mucking it up. They all agree, however, that Sambar is the father and husband, and thus in charge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a real challenge in developing a new religion, that there are only so many ideas or combinations that make sense, and it’s hard not to sound like a religion from the real world. Especially if you’re talking about a “father god” — we have too many of those in the real world not to have *some* overlap!


  3. You really are building a complete world through all these wonderful stories. It’s elements like this gender discrimination that give this world a ‘real feel.’ I feel like you’re writing about another country in this planet with a its own societal rules and mythology. It’s cool to see how a mistake creates the spark that begins a movement. Such things have happened in our history enough times. Loved the story, Joy! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eric! It’s great to hear that it sounds realistic, and that there’s a cumulative effect of all these little stories, building up to a better understanding of the world — which was my not-so-secret plot all along. This particular episode isn’t the spark that changes things, though. It’s one of those countless moments among the everyday people whose names never get into the history books. It might change things for these women and for their village, though, and probably makes them more open to hearing about the new sect when those rumors come.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and hopefully women’s rights will keep making more and more progress, but only if we recognize the problem and keep working to fix it. As I said in an earlier comment, if I didn’t include sexism, racism, etc. in my fictional world, it sadly would not seem realistic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this story, Joy. You’ve managed to convey a lot of information about the religion and subservient role of women in your world in such a short piece. You also tell us much about Mavita’s character and the physical difficulties she endures in her old age. A really engaging read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Millie, I’m so glad this one worked. Although note that this isn’t true for the whole world — just for those parts where this particular religion is dominant (which if I had a map and a timeline, I could show you).

      Liked by 1 person

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