The Miranda House

This is my first attempt at a ghost story.  It may go into my short story collection, but I’m not sure just yet.  It probably needs more editing, but at least it’s an attempt.

“You are going to fucking love this place, Walls.” Kelly had just about screeched over the speaker phone as he barreled south. He had been on the road for the better part of three days, taking I-95 from New York to Florida , before switching to Interstate 10 to Louisiana. He’s spent the better part of three days on the road, stopping in small town along the way on his way to some remote rental house . He smiled, shaking his head , then remembered that she couldn’t see him.

“You said that last time.” He chided and could picture her rolling those big brown eyes of hers in exasperation.

“But this one is really the best. I mean what is the most haunted city ever?”

“Paris.” He mumbled and see her close her eyes an count to ten. He was the only person on the face of the earth who could frazzle Kelly Sanderson- Phillips. As a teen ager, he’d made her her scream and stomp into her bedroom on many occasions. As an adult, she had learned better coping skills, so she treated him like an imbecile.

“In the U.S. , smart ass. New Orleans, of course and this house is epic. It is the best possible place for you to finish your latest novel, Walls. ” She squealed and he couldn’t help laughing. He could picture her, standing in her clean white kitchen, the doors to the patio open as a late summer breeze blew through the space. Outside the kids would be playing either in the yard or the pool, while her husband watched over their brood. She would be barefoot, her crop brown hair tousled as she prepped dinner. Her home always smelled of fresh bread and she always had a smile on her face, even when she was angry. Right now, he knew that she was bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. That was one of the things he loved about her.

“Is that my sister or my agent speaking?” He chuckled.

“Both. Your agent because that book was due on my desk two months ago and I can’t stall for much longer. Your sister because the story that goes with the house is fucking bananas.” She said. “Perfection in the sickest, most twisted way possible. It’s called Mirañda House and it has a gruesome, gothic romantic history.”

“Sounds interesting.” He said. He still had more than an hour of drive time before he reached his destination.

“Do you know who the Los Isleños are? Of course you don’t because you only read your own books. Anyway, they are descendants from the Canary Islanders, and they had large settlements in the south in the early seventeen hundreds . Anyway, one of their settlements was in St. Bernard Parish right outside of New Orleans and the house was built by one of the earliest settlers, Andrés Mirañda. He built it for his youngest daughter Ana-Lucia.”

“Sweet,” He mumbled.

“You would think,but it turned into a nightmare. So, as the story goes, Andrés came to the states to get settled, building a cattle farm before sending for his wife Julia and two young sons, Tomás and Juan-Andrés. By the time they reached New Orleans , Andrés was a very rich man. He had built a huge house, had working staff and farmhands living on the property and was super rich and popular. It was wonderful, a regular freakin Southern fantasy land. By all accounts they were blissfully happy, Julia gave birth to two more boys Jose and Don-Julio. But she longed for a little girl.”

“Of Course,” Walls grumbled only to be shushed again.She also was not a fan of his commentary.

“Anyway, she miscarried a bunch of times and delivered three stillborn daughters. She went to doctors and priests and healers looking for a reason, but they had none. There was no reason why she shouldn’t have been able to have a healthy baby girl. Finally, she was informed by one of the servants- read slaves- that she was cursed. The servant, Magda, was a priestess of Santeria and gave her a healing potion that was to fix everything. Magda said that it was powerful magic and that Julia would have to promise something to the spirit world in exchange. So you know what she did, right?”

“She agreed?” Walls mumbled.

“Of course she did. I never found out what was promised that part is sketchy, but Julia did get pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was stressful, she was sick the entire time and had strange cravings for raw seafood, like oysters and fish, and she ate hot peppers by the bushel and drank red wine like water.”

“Good Lord,” He whistled.

“Yea I know. Talk about what a pregnant woman is not supposed to eat. Despite all of that, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl with thick dark hair and pale amber eyes that they named Ana-Lucia. It was said that she was so beautiful that she stole the hearts of her father and brothers instantly, and that she stole her mother’s breath. Julia died suddenly a month after Ana-Lucia was born. She was found in the baby’s room in a rocking chair, a smile on her face, dead. Ana-Lucia was still suckling at the breast of her dead mother, gruesome, huh?”

“Nauseating.” He agreed, picturing the blue tinted features of a young smiling woman, her bare breast in the mouth of a healthy, pudgy faced little girl with large amber eyes. He wondered if the milk had soured or if the child had simply sucked the life out of her mother. It left a nasty taste in his mouth as bile rose in his throat.

“I know, makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. I mean could the milk have gone sour?” She echoed his own thoughts. “Yuck, ecck, bleck.”

“Are you done?” Walter asked once Kelly began to dry heave. “I’m half way across Mississippi and you still haven’t gotten to the alleged good part.”

“Sorry. Anyway, Ana-Lucia grew up to be a very pampered and very lovely little girl. She was a champion equestrian but she excelled in the water. She would take her horse to the lake and spend hours in the water. Everyone thought she was sweeter than honey, polite and gentile. Her mother’s maid Magda doted on her and treated her as if she were her own, and she kind of was. Magda never had any children. Until she hit the dreaded ‘tweens, adolescents seemed to wake something up in her and things began to happen.”

“What kinds of things?” Walter asked, his interested suddenly piqued. He had to admit, this story had begun to intrigue him slightly. After days on the road listening to talk radio and what seemed to be the same ten songs on top 40 radio, Kelly’s meandering tale was a welcomed distraction. He didn’t know if was his sister’ excited retelling or simply his enjoyment listening, but the miles seemed to be flying by as he crossed Northern Mississippi and headed south.

“Do you remember that movie, The Bad Seed? “ He did. It had been one of his favorites for years. The story was of a pretty little girl, who was the picture of sweetness but deep down was a sociopath and murderer. “Well Ana-Lucia was a cross between the kid from that movie and that little boy from The Omen. Anyone who crossed or disappointed or just disagreed with her would have an accident. When she was about five, her nanny punished her for disobeying a rule and the next day, the girl took a tumble down the grand staircase and broke her leg. She was the first, but as the years went on there were more accidents. One of the maids was scalded with boiling water, though none was boiling at the time.A farm hand who’d innocently teased her was mauled by dogs, another fell from his horse and broke his arm. The servants gradually began to avoid her, making themselves scarce whenever she was nearby, whispering about her. They believed that whatever Magda had given her mother had cursed the child with an devil spirit. Magda, of course, was the only one who wasn’t afraid. At least until the thing with Tomas.’

“The brother?” He asked.

“The oldest brother, the one she idolized. He was much older than her and she saw him more like a father than a brother and he treated her as if she were the most precious thing in the world. Tomas was a gentle, kind heart soul and he was closer to Magda than any of the other boys. When his mother died, he had been heartbroken and Magda had taken care of him, spending time with him and his baby sister, treating them as if they were her own children. He was the light of her life, many said. She was most proud of the man he had become. When she was twelve or thirteen, Tomas had gone to Puerto Rico to take care of business for his father. When he returned months later, he brought a young beautiful…wife. Ana-Lucia hated the girl immediately. She felt as if this girl had stole her brother’s affections,he no longer had time for his baby sister. When the wife became pregnant, Ana-Lucia was devastated. She locked herself in her room for days. The pretty young wife, whose name was Bianca, tried to comfort the girl, telling her that they would be like sister;s and that she would be an aunt. But Ana-Lucia wanted none of that. Three weeks later, they found Bianca who was six months pregnant, dead. She was found in her bed, her face blue, just like Julia. Only her lungs were full of lake water. She hadn’t been near the lake since her arrival. No one knows what really happened, but Tomas never looked at his baby sister the same way again. He returned to Puerto Rico and never came back. Not even when his father died.”

“Then, there was the other brother, Jose. He was not as keen on dotting on his baby sister as she got older. He thought of her as a spoiled brat and told their father that he should not spoil her so much. When she begged and begged her father to buy her a new horse, a new Arabian or something, Jose put his foot down. He said that she already had three horses and did not need another. There father conceded and within hours of that little victory, Jose was trampled to death by a stampeding bull. The bull that killed him, was one of the most docile creatures on the ranch and one of Jose’s prized bulls. No one could figure out why it charged and figured something must have spooked it. His skull was crushed in front of his wife and young son.”

“Jesus,” Walter whispered more to himself.

“ Yea. But it gets weirder and worse. When she was sixteen, she met and fell in love with a man named Antonio de la Fuenta Garza. He was older , suave sophisticated and rumored to be some sort of criminal, he was know to associate with gamblers and pirates. Anyway, he spotted Ana-Lucia at some ball and he did everything in his power to woo her.”

“Woo her? Who says woo?” Walter laughed.

“I do. Shut up and listen. Antonio proposed to Ana-Lucia and as a gift to his precious daughter, he built-”

“The Miranda House.”

“Yes. A gorgeous house on the edge of the lake she loved so much. It was isolated, one road but it was fantastic. She and Antonio were married and had this huge party that went on well into the night. The next morning, Ana-Lucia,and her new husband set off for their new lives in the new house. It was hell from the beginning for her. On their first night in their new house, Antonio raped and brutalized his new bride. It was a vicious attack that left Ana-Lucia bed-ridden for days. He would leave for days at a time, returning home drunk and smelling of other women, even bringing prostitutes and criminals to the house. He would have loud parties and spend money, a regular douche. But Ana-Lucia loved him because when he was good, when he wasn’t drinking and whoring he was wonderful and charming, showering her with gifts and attention.”

“Why didn’t something mysterious happen to him?” Walter asked.

“She loved him. She wouldn’t hurt him. Until she got pregnant and miscarried. Turns out, ol Antonio slipped his wife a little more than the big D at night. “

“Must you?” Walter sighed.

“I didn’t say dick. I know who you get when I say dick or cock or boner…”

“Okay, okay stop it. No man wants to hear his baby sister talk like that cut it out. Get back to the story.”

“Fine,” Kelly sighed. He could hear shifting, the sounds of children running through the room, their laughter fading as they moved past her into another part of the house. She yelled for them not to run in the house, but could tell by her exasperated sigh that she had been ignored. “Anyway, he’d given her a disease. I’m not sure which but most likely syphilis, and the doctors told her she was sterile. Antonio, being the major dick he was, left her after the news and continued partying in New Orleans with his whores and criminals. Ana-Lucia’s father and brothers begged her to leave and even threatened to have him killed, but she refused. Te servants said she would just sit in her room, rocking back and forth in the looking out over the lake, seeing nothing. Even Magda, who hadn’t really forgiven her for what happened to her brothers’ tried to get her to leave, but she refused. She did , however , leave the room. She would swim at night, spending more and more time in the soothing waters of the lake. The servants said it seemed to calm her and make her lucid almost like a new person, but as soon as the sun rose, she would be back in that chair, rocking. “

“So, a few months pass and a storm comes rolling in from the Gulf. Antonio has returned by this time and he has moved in a bunch of whores and his unsavory friends and they hole up at the house,eating, drinking, fornicating ready to ride out the storm. Andres sends word that they should leave, since the house is unprotected from the storm and that Ana-Lucia is too fragile to be so isolated. Antonio says he won’t leave and neither will Ana-Lucia, she is his wife she stays where he is. The servants, on the other hand-bolt.”

“As they should.” Walter agreed.

“So the storm rolls in, the city floods, buildings are destroyed. But as soon as its over, Andres and his sons go to check on Ana-Lucia, but the road is washed away. It’s another three days before they can get through to the house and what they find is a blood bath. They find that someone had gone through the house and slaughtered every person in the place. It said it looked as if someone had taken a machete to everyone in the house, except Antonio. They find Antonio the same way they found Bianca, in bed, soaking wet, his lungs full of water. Ana-Lucia was no where to be found, only a nightgown was found on the shore. They think she killed everyone in the house and then swan into the lake to die.”

“Creepy but not life changing.” Walter said. “Sorry.”

“That’s not the end. Andres was so devastated he died within hours of the discovery. His remaining sons could never bring themselves to step foot in the house again. So it was boarded up and left to the elements.

About thirty years later, the Prescott family bought the house and completely renovated it. David Prescott , his wife Sally and their two teen aged sons David Jr and Peter lived in the house for all of a year before they were all dead. Sally went first, the same as Antonio and Bianca. David Jr, who was described as a big farm breed Norwegian looking youngster- actually drowned in the lake. He had told people that he’d seen a beautiful dark haired woman swimming in the lake at night, with eyes as pale as the summer moon. No one believed him but they discovered his body floating two feet from shore, The younger fell from a third floor balcony and David Senior , died in his desk chair in his office. For the next hundred of so years, the house changed hands and over twenty seven people have died inside the house, fifteen with water in their lungs in their beds. The others have had freak accidents. But there have been over thirty drownings or disappearances in the waters surrounding the place. Every person who has ever lived in the house reported seeing a haunting beautiful young woman with long dark hair and bright amber eyes swimming in the lake at night. The current owners included . They only use it in the summer and they rarely stay overnight, only when they absolutely have to do it. Over the years, with erosion and everything , there is no road so the only way to the house is by boat. Fishermen have claimed to see her as well, on late nights, standing in the window looking out over the lake. Some have claimed that they’ve seen her swimming in the murky water, her skin tinted blue from years of living in the underwater, and that she’s always naked, young and beautiful. There have been all sorts of stories like that, fishermen catching fish with human bites taken out of them, naked girl in the water luring men to their deaths but no one, no one stays in that house for more than an overnight visit. “

“Okay, I’ll admit. That is a pretty cool story. And I’m here.” He said pulling his car into the parking lot of the dock listed in his directions. He climbed from the car, leaving the car door open so he could hear Kelly on the speaker. He could see the house in the distance, a lone house , three stories overlooking the lake one all sides. It was nice enough and no more than a couple miles from land. He had to admit, Kelly’s story had intrigued him but he didn’t dare believe it to be true. HE was a horror writer after all, he created monsters on a daily basis. It took more than a ghost story to spook him. “I can see the house from here, looks nice and normal.”

“Of Course it does. The owner’s daughter should be along soon to take you over there. Her name is Teri and she will be your contact for anything you need. She lives in Chalmette, her parents have moved to Baton Rouge so she takes care of everything. Anyway, take care of yourself, and call me tomorrow.” He was dragging his suitcase from the car as they said their good byes. He disconnected the phone, slipping it into the bag with his laptop, just as the whir of a boat motor approached at his back.

He turned to see a young woman standing at the helm, her dark hair shining in the late afternoon light, her skin tanned and her eyes shielded by dark sunglasses. She pulled the boat to a stop and quickly ties it to the dock before she bound over to him.

“You the writer?” She asked in her distinct St Bernard parish twang. She smiled, a brilliant sunny smile and he nodded. She wore cut offs that had seen better days, a faded red tank top and low top red converse sneakers, she looked adorable.

“You the daughter?” He asked, reaching for her out stretched hand.

“Depends on who’s daughter you’re referring to. My name’s Teri,”

“You are the daughter. I’m Walter.”

“That makes you the writer. Come on, big city. Let’s get you settled before your sister calls back to chew me out. I understand you have a deadline.” He laughed, letting her take his smaller bag while he managed the suitcase and computer case.

“My sister talks too much.”

“Maybe, but everything she has to say is interesting.” Teri teased. “Come on, it’s a thirty minute boat ride.How are you in the water?”

“I can manage not to drown.” He joked and she laughed.

“Okay, good enough. Let’s go. The sun is starting to set and it gets pretty dark on the water. Freaks some people out if they can’t see where they’re going.”

 

The house was not what he expected, which was saying a lot. He expected some gothic memorial to a long dead woman instead,he stepped into modern luxury. It was fully stocked with movies, satellite television, wifi and even a hot tub. He looked around and whistled following Teri as she led him through the place. She showed him the industrial kitchen that opened onto a covered patio. He inhaled the fresh air and watched the sky melt from vibrant orange to deep purple.

From the second floor he could see for miles around, just water and the marsh grass that poked through, pelicans dipping into the water , the fading sunlight casting a deep golden glow on their wings. He had to admit, haunted or not, he loved this place.

“This is your bedroom. “ She opened the door to a beautifully decorated bedroom. It was luxurious to the point of decadence and he couldn’t help but smile. In the corner was a writing desk that faced one of the huge bay windows. There was a fireplace that faced the bed and a television that hung high on a wall and could be viewed from the bed, the desk or the small sitting area off of the master bath. He stepped into the bathroom and gaped at the large tub that was sunken into the floor and faced another bay of windows.

“What do you think?” Teri leaned against the open bedroom door, her arms folded across her chest. Her lips were quirked up in a knowing smile and he couldn’t help but return her grin.

“It’s perfect.” As he spoke,his phone sang to life in his bag. He excused himself and went to answer, his eyes on Teri as she removed the band from her thick dark hair.

“Hello,” He said, still smiling as he turned to face the view he would be waking up to for the next few weeks. Breathtaking was the only word he could think that fit this moment.

“Walls, were are you?” Kelly asked.

“What do you mean where am I? I’m at the house.”

“What? How could you be at the house?” She asked, more annoyed than she had been.

“Teri. The owner’s daughter. She picked me up like you said she would. “ He turned to look at her over his shoulder, watching as she ran long fingers through midnight dark hair. Sighing, he turned to the fireplace and looked at the cluster of photos that lined the mantel.

“Teri is at the doc waiting for you, Walls.”

“No she’s not she’s right here-” He froze, his eyes falling on a picture that made his blood run cold.

“Kelly, do you know what Teri looks like?” He asked in a hushed voice, his heart thumping in his chest.

“What?” She asked in annoyance.

“Just answer me, Kells. What does Teri look like?” He could hear her take a breath, blowing it out as she counted to ten mentally. “It’s important, Kelly.What does she look like.”

“Um, she’s fair, red-head freckles about five three- Walter, who is with you? Walls! Wally! Walter, who’s with you? ” With shaky hands he picked up a framed picture from the mantel, his fingers going numb as he stared at the faces smiling back at him. There was an older couple, a man with snow white hair, his wife with graying red and in the center a youngish woman with pale skin, freckles and bright red hair. Teri.

Walter turned slowly, a chill setting into his bones as he looked into a pair of brilliant amber eyes.

 

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