The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Yet another spring passed, and the de la Madrid estate still had a “For Sale” sign posted on the outer gates at the bottom of the hill. Even though there was also a “No Trespassing” sign alongside it, that didn’t stop the occasional teen on a dare, or curious local from town, looking for an access point. All you had to do was walk through the copse of orange trees, their fruit rotting on the ground, to locate the back garden entrance. The lock there had been jimmied so often that it barely held together.
Even though the house itself had been condemned, it had been designated as a site of historic interest. It wasn’t so much the property itself as it was the mystery surrounding it. Although truth be told, it was a magnificent specimen of Spanish colonial architecture, albeit in a state of ongoing decline, as if it, too, was grief stricken at the loss of its family. There hadn’t been a de la Madrid living there for nearly fifty years, or so the locals believed.
One might suppose that any abandoned estate would come to be the stuff of local lore, even if its multi-generational inhabitants hadn’t all died the same night from what the coroner referred to as “unknown causes.” It was determined that there hadn’t been any gas leaks of any kind. Nor were there any other signs of foul play discovered.
The word about town was that whomever chose to purchase the estate would do so under the condition that it would be restored. It wasn’t clear, however, which realty office was actually handling the property, for whom, or what its fair market value would be. Then there were what would prove to be the exorbitant restoration costs. You’d think that at least a few of the local realtors would be be more forthcoming. That said, perhaps they didn’t want to identify themselves given the potential for a very substantial commission. It was probably one of those word-of-mouth situations among the wealthy.
On occasion, however, you would see a car drive up to the locked gate, and a person who may or may not have been a realtor, would step out of the car, unlock the gate, and drive up the small stretch of cobbled road that led to the main house. Sometimes, they’d be in there for a few hours; other times, it seemed like days before they would emerge again to drive back down the road to town.
Mysterious? Perhaps. Then again, the town and its residents were quite well known in certain quarters for being more than a bit odd. What was odder still was the lack of local gossip or the slightest bit of interest once the de la Madrid estate finally sold toward summer’s end.
The O’Rourke’s were a 30-something couple from the Bay Area that had apparently made a modest fortune within the tech industry. Before taking their early retirement, they had fantasized about the proverbial “getting away from it all” in a rural area of California. The de la Madrid estate was the perfect retirement project for them. While renovating, they lived in an unsightly mobile home parked just beyond the orange grove. The stench alone likely kept them awake at night. But it wasn’t just the oranges in various stages of decay, but what was buried beneath them. Or perhaps it was what wasn’t buried there yet, but would be soon. For you see, the earth itself is aware of what has transpired as well as what is to come.
And yes, once the renovations were underway, it was quite some time before the O’Rourke’s came to realize that the estate was already inhabited, more or less. For deep beneath the mansion’s foundation, and deeper still, was a series of caves that led to a cavern. Hot mineral springs and a subterranean river maintained its wonderfully fetid environment, where blind albino fish swam and eels slithered among the other creatures living there. Creatures from another time, another place, each one slightly more monstrous than the next. Or perhaps we were from another dimension, the cavern our portal to your world.
You’re probably wondering if the de la Madrid’s met their untimely demise by our tentacled hands, and if the O’Rourke’s would follow in their wake. So much depends, you see, on our ancient whims coming to the fore . . . and if they can sate our vast hungers by other means. Nevertheless, we are patient, and the estate has been empty of human inhabitants for far too long. Meanwhile, we feast on their hopes and fears, their petty squabbles, observe their vain attempts to fill the estate with children’s laughter. Perhaps as summer ends, we may venture forth to welcome them into our brood.
Fiction © Copyright Terrie Leigh Relf
Image courtesy of Nina D’Arcangela
More from author Terrie Leigh Relf:
For thousands of Earth years, the Transgalactic Consortium has had a quiet interest in this planet and its inhabitants, the Haurans. While the Sisterhood of the Blood Moon works together with the Consortium and Haurans to maintain balance in the universe, the Blood Moon is fast approaching. The power of this moon reveals untold secrets . . . including a sacred covenant with the Mora Spiders. There is an ancient pact that needs to be honored—but at what cost and for whose purpose? The world may come to an end. But will there be a chance for a new beginning?