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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium

A short story inspired by the Beatles song, 'Eleanor Rigby',

Submitted: March 16, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 16, 2018




It had been a long and tiring journey, one that involved endless hours in a queue on the motorway due to road-works… with no evidence of any actual road-works, just miles and miles of coned off tarmac, resulting in a frustrating crawl.

When the sat-nav announced their arrival, they stared at the guest house in disbelief. Finally their nightmare journey was over, but what greeted them was a large dismal, run-down property with peeling paintwork and overgrown gardens. On a battered front door, a sign read ‘The Retreat’.

“Well it had good reviews on Trip Adviser,” Evie stressed.

“Well it’s only for a night,” Dan encouraged. “Plus it’s just a short drive away from Caswell Castle. Maybe if we’d booked up sooner, we might have stood a chance of getting a room there.”

“That’s it… blame me!”

“I’m not blaming you, just stating a fact. We’re here now, so let’s make the most of it. Look, we’re both tired, it’s somewhere to sleep and there’s a pub down the lane where we can get something to eat.”

After parking the car on a small gravelled area, they pulled out their bags and walked towards the front door. “If it was a bright sunny day, it might not look so gloomy,” Dan remarked, reaching for the bell.

The door creaked open to reveal a wiry, elderly lady with short, spiky bright red hair. Her small wizened face was plastered in a thick, orange layer of make-up that had congealed in a web of deep wrinkles, like a hideous mask.

She extended a clawed hand and smiled, revealing a set of overly large, pearly white teeth, at odds in her shrivelled face.

“Welcome to The Retreat, I hope you enjoy your stay. My name is Eleanor.”

Evie noticed how her teeth jiggled up and down as she spoke.

As they entered a large, dark hallway a black cat crept stealthily across the parquet floor… the smell of cabbage lingered in the air.

From an antique desk on which stood a brass bell, Eleanor produced a leather bound book. “Just need to check you in.”

She picked up a fountain pen. “Names?”

“Dan and Evie Williams,” Dan replied.

Her dark, beady eyes met his. “Is that Mr and Mrs?”

“Err… yes, of course?”

She smirked. “That’s what they all say. Your secret’s safe with me.” She tapped the side of her nose, knowingly.

“What brings you to these parts, apart from the obvious, if you know what I mean?”

“We’re here for the wedding of our friends at Caswell Castle.”

“Oh, I actually do a bit of cleaning there, mainly clearing up the rice and confetti that guests throw. It’s become a really popular venue.”

She picked up a long metal key. “Let me show you to your room.”

They followed her scrawny form up the stairs, which she mounted with the agility of a teenager, and along a narrow landing. A tabby cat appeared from no-where, weaving around her legs. She scooped it into her arms. “This is Oscar… as you have probably gathered, I’m a cat lover. I only rescued him a few days ago, but he’s already getting along famously with the others.”

Stopping at room number six, she set Oscar on the floor and unlocked the sturdy, wooden door. “Will you be staying for dinner?”

“Oh… err, no thanks. We’re not hungry… stopped for a meal on the way,” Evie volunteered.

“Breakfast is served at eight thirty sharp, but if you need anything, you know where I am.”

“Do we?” asked Dan.

“Yes… just ring the bell on the desk in the hall.” Eleanor handed the room key to Evie, then marched off with Oscar at her heels.

Evie sneezed. “That’s great, with my allergy to cats, trust me to find a place that’s over-run with them.”

“Actually this isn’t bad,” Dan remarked, bouncing on the king sized bed. “It might be a bit old fashioned, but it’s a nice big room.”

Evie opened the door to the en-suite. “Marvellous, now there’s no sodding shower, just a toilet and hand-basin.”

“Evie, we’re here for a night. What’s the big deal? Come on, let’s go to the pub for something to eat.”


“Where are you staying,” asked the barman, pulling a pint of lager.

“Just down the road at The Retreat.” Dan took the proffered pint.

“Eleanor Rigby’s place eh? Don’t know how she still makes a living, desperately needs up-dating… you’re probably the only guests there. She’s an eccentric old girl and that face… some joke it’s a mask she keeps in a jar by the door.”

Evie choked on her drink. “I think they might be right.”

“Menus are on the tables, sit yourselves down and I’ll be over to take your order. I’d keep away from Father Mackenzie, he doesn’t like being disturbed.”

“Why, what’s he doing?” Dan asked.

The bar-man leaned in closer. “He’s writing a sermon that no-one will hear.  No-one goes to the Church any more, except for Eleanor. Couple of weird loners if you ask me.”

Evie and Dan glanced at the elderly, white haired man hunched over a table, writing furiously… a half drunk pint of beer at his side.

Dan yawned. “After that journey from hell, all I need is something to eat and a good night’s sleep… at least the bed’s comfy. What time do we have to leave in the morning?

“The ceremony starts at ten thirty so there’s no rush. We can enjoy a leisurely breakfast before setting off.”

After a tasty meal and a shared bottle of wine, on their return, they soon fell into a deep sleep.

All of a sudden, Evie woke up. She crept into the en-suite and stared into the wall mounted mirror. Her eyes were itchy and swollen, like slits in her face and she sneezed repeatedly.

“What’s wrong?” called Dan.

“Must be the cats… can’t stop sneezing and my eyes are swollen.”

“Come back to bed, try and get some sleep.”

Dan switched on the bedside light. “You look awful, have you got something you can take.”

“No, didn’t occur to me.”

“Can you hear that?” Dan sat up, trying to locate the source of the noise.”

A rhythmic pounding was coming from a room directly above them, accompanied by appreciative squeals of delight. “I don’t bloody believe it, that’s all we need at three in the morning. Well if we can’t sleep, we might as well …”

“Don’t even think about it.” Evie sneezed, coughed and rubbed her eyes… an itchy rash now beginning to break out on her arms.

They lay awake for what seemed an eternity while the action continued, changing in pace from time to time, until they feared the ceiling would collapse.

“Well, the old girl could be right… I reckon they have got to be on a secret, dirty week-end. You’ve got to admire their stamina.”

“You’re only jealous,” Evie said, as she tried to scratch the skin off her arms.


“Just look at the state of me… I can’t face people looking like this, I need to get to a chemist before the wedding. Dan, let’s get out of here now.”

“You sure look scary. What a night… yeah, let’s go.”  

They gathered together their belongings, thundered down the stairs and rang the bell.

When Eleanor appeared, closely shadowed by several cats, a look of concern crossed her orange mask. “What happened to your face? My dear, you look awful.”

“I have an allergy to cats.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I couldn’t imagine life without cats, they’re such wonderful creatures.”

Dan interrupted. “Can we just have our bill, Evie needs to get to the chemist. Oh, and you need to tell your other guests…”

“What other guests?

She handed Dan the bill. “You were my only guests.”


At that moment, Father Mackenzie crept slowly down the stairs, his face drained of colour and his grey eyes tired and hooded.

Eleanor’s beady eyes lit up. “See you at Church on Sunday Father.”


© Copyright 2019 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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