This is actually closer to what I pictured when I first came up with the story.
“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. Strange thing, when they performed the autopsy, they discovered fresh lake water in Julia lungs, yet she hadn’t been near a lake for weeks. Anyway, Ana-Lucia grew up to be a very pampered and very lovely little girl. She also continued to crave raw seafood and hot peppers, eating them by the handful. The cooks had tried to cook her food and mix he diet with what everyone else ate, but her system didn’t digest it well. She needed fresh seafood, the fresher the better. And because of this, she ate most of her meals alone. Another little quirk were the accidents. When someone did something that she didn’t like strange things would 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. “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 unexplainable freakish 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. If she heard them or if they did anything that she deemed unfair, they would pay. 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. Even when the others began to flee in the middle of the night. Even after 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.”
“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 After that more and more of his staff threatened to leave if Andres didn’t send the girl away. Unable to bear with sending his daughter away, Andres commissioned the Miranda house be built on the shores of the lake, Ana-Lucia loved so much. Magda begged to be sent with her to the house with a small staff to look after her, Andres agreed and assured them both that he would be there often to visit. Which he did. But it was pretty much a velvet prison. There was only one road that lead in or out, the grounds wee so isolated that there was no chance of strangers or random guests showing up. In Andres mind,it was a perfect solution. And for a while it was.
When she was sixteen, she met and fell in love with a man named Miguel de la Fuenta Garza. She met him at a Christmas ball, only he was engaged to another young lady at the time, the daughter of a friend of her father’s named Maria Diaz Cordova. She as a pretty young lady and by all account, Miguel was completely smitten with her. Maria was well educated, beautiful and gracious and she knew Ana-Lucia as a friend. Ana-Lucia went out of her way to split them apart, wanting the dashing young Spaniard as her own, but he rebuffed her time and time again. Then Maria mysteriously died, in her bed her face blue, her lungs filled with water. Ana-Lucia used this to make her move, comforting Miguel offering a shoulder , among other things, to cry on. Yet, he continued to push her away,he’d heard the stories and wanted nothing to do with her. So she turned to Magda and magic, just as her mother had done before her. Magda tried to warn her off, telling her that spells for love always had dire consequences, that once the spell was cast, once they consummated their union only death could break that bond. Magda told her, just as she had told her mother before her, a price must always be paid. Ana-Lucia didn’t care,she wanted Miguel and she was going to have him.”
“Persistent girl.” Walter mumbled, smiling as his car crossed the Mississippi Louisiana state line. The sun was finally lowering in the later afternoon, lighting Lake Ponchartrain as he made his way toward the city. “I’m almost there, Kells. Does this tale have an end?” He said.
“ Shut up and listen. Ana-Lucia’s little love spell worked. Within days Miguel was showering her with gifts and pleading his undying love. He went to Andres and asked for her hand and Andres readily agreed, knowing how much she loved him. The wedding was beautiful, held at the Miranda house on the lake, Ana-Lucia’s favorite place in the world. For the first few months, it was blissful, they were so happy and she became pregnant right away. This was a problem. Because Ana-Lucia’s spell worked a little too well, Miguel was jealous of the unborn baby. He fumed when ever she talked about the baby destroying the nursery she had taken time organizing. When she told him to stop being ridiculous , that the baby was his as well, he would become enraged. Then finally he snapped, yelling that the child was taking his place before it was even born. She told him he was being ridiculous and they had huge fight that ended when he pushed her down the stairs forcing a miscarriage. She was devastated and to make matters worse, the doctor informed Ana-Lucia that the accident had left her unable to have anymore children. Magda was the only one she would talk to, confiding in her friend and pushing Miguel away. This was another bone of contention, he wanted to send Magda away, but Ana-Lucia wouldn’t hear of it. So Miguel tolerated her for a while, but he watched Ana-Lucia like a hawk. He would fire or fight any man who so much as looked at his wife. His obsession drove him to murder the teen aged son of the man who ran her father’s stables when the boy came to deliver a message from her father. By all accounts, she spoke to the boy who she thought of as a little brother , briefly then said her good byes , giving him a hug. An innocent hug and Miguel broke the boys neck right before her eyes on the front lawn. Then he dragged Ana-Lucia into the house by her hair and brutally raped her. The servants said her screams were horrific and frightening. Magda and a few of the men in the house tried to help her, busting down the bedroom door. By the time the got Miguel off of her, the said he looked deranged, his eyes wild and that he was practically foaming at the mouth. Ana-Lucia had broken ribs and her face was beaten to a pulp. She was so weak and ashamed, she would not leave the house again for weeks. She begged Magda to reverse the spell, but Magda said that only death would end it.”
“Why didn’t something mysterious happen to him?” Walter asked.
“She loved him. She wouldn’t or couldn’t hurt him. Magda acted as a bufferer and sending messages to Andreas and his remaining sons to tell them of Ana-Lucia’s abuse. The only time Miguel was not harassing or obsession over his wife was when she swan in the lake. He couldn’t swim so he stayed far away from the water. He didn’t even venture to the shore. Ana-Lucia would disappear for hours in the water to escape his insanity. Eventually, even that became too much for Miguel and he forbid her to do even that. He even accused her of having a lover whom she would meet out in the lake, some fisherman or sailor. He accused her of affairs with house staff, male and female and sent them all away. But Magda, an old frail woman by that time, refused to leave. She said she would die before she left Ana-Lucia with such a monster.And that’s how they stay for years, the three of them locked in some kind of weird standoff where Ana-Lucia is stuck in the middle.”
“So, a few months pass and a storm comes rolling in from the Gulf, a huge hurricane is heading right for them. Andres sent word that they should leave, since the house was unprotected from the storm and that Ana-Lucia was too fragile to be so isolated. Miguel said he won’t leave and neither will Ana-Lucia, she is his wife she would stay where he is. And since he stayed, Magda stayed. 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 chilling. They find the house locked from the inside with all of the windows boarded up, but smoke coming from the chimney. They bang on the doors, but when no one answered, they break the door down and find everything completely still. They scour the house and find Magda first. She was in a bedroom on the first floor, sitting peaceful in a chair, a book in her lap her eyes closed. It looked as if she’d just closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep and never work up. Miguel, they found in the master bedroom, his body whithered and dried out as if it had been mummified or dead for years instead of days. He had a look of terror frozen on his face, his hands were up as if he were warding something off. There was no blood, nothing was disturbed or out of place and Ana-Lucia was nowhere to be found. Only a piece of material from her night gown was found on a rose bush in the back yard. She was never seen again. ”
“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. Dr. 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 Bianca. David Jr, who was described as a big farm breed handsome youngster was found on the front lawn with a mysteriously broken neck. He had, for days, claimed to have seen a man charging through the hallways looking angry. He even said the man had pushed him one night yelling about his wife. No one believed him, not until his younger brother was found dead at the base of the stairs after an apparent fall a few weeks later. A month or so after that, David Sr was found dead in his office, his body completely mummified, his face twisted in terror.”
“ 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 or a handsome, angry young man charging the halls. The current owners say they’ve seen the man, Miguel stomping through the master bedroom, and have seen the woman swimming away. But they try not to stay after dark anymore, not since either youngest son broke his leg after falling off of the second floor balcony. Luckily he landed in a bush that cushioned his fall or he could have died. They only use it in the summer and they 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 Ana-Lucia 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. They say that when Magda cast the spell for Julia that a Naiad had been born to the woman instead of a human child, a magical nymph that beguiled and bewitched. Some say she was a demon, others just called her a poor pretty girl surrounded by tragedy that it was really Magda who caused the accidents that plagued the girl. No matter what those three souls are trapped in that house, forever.
“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 names if 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.
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 on the third floor of the house. 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 dock 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 to look at the dark haired beauty with the shinning amber eyes, her lips parted in a beautiful smile. He was just about to speak her name when he felt the powerful shove that drove him through the French doors that led to the balcony. He could see the anger filled face of a man close to his own, yelling something before he fell over the railing of the third floor balcony. He landed with a thud on the cement walkway below, those yelled words echoing in his mind as the world went dark.
“Stay away from my wife, she’s mine.” He’d said as he shoved Walter to his death. “She will always be mine.”