The wind was cold and crisp. The scent of snow and bitter temperatures underlied the smell of wet, rotting leaves. The season was at the cusp of change from autumn to winter. Iola could already feel winter settling into the marrow of her undead bones. She shuddered, shrinking into her fuchsia cardigan.
A chill gust picked up leaves from the balding trees and from the huge pile at the vampire’s feet, scattering them across her just-raked yard. Iola’s pink lips twitched in annoyance, her fangs flashing white in the silver moonlight. Tonight was not a night for raking leaves. She hated work and she was already out here, so she was determined to get it done and over with.
She’d had plenty of time all fall. The colorful leaves fell one by one, filling up her yard in October, turning brown and decaying in November. The leaves kept piling up while she procrastinated. She’d spent all fall hunting for her ideal partner, her soul mate. The absence was a gaping black hole in her heart. She had all of eternity to search, but her unbeating heart was full of love to give. Her special, adult sized nursery sat gathering dust. She was a mother without a child. She was too busy searching to put her messy house in some type of order and get rid of all the cluttered junk that accumulated over the decades.
After a long season of dropping temperatures, falling leaves, empty hunts, and a few not-so-nice notes tacked on her door from her neighbors, she dragged her undead ass outside and raked her yard in the dead of night.
She should’ve been done by now, but her thoughts kept drifting. She wanted a baby. Not an actual human baby, gormless, squirmy maggots. She wanted an adult baby, but so far she’d found none who fit the bill.
Iola clutched the wooden handle of her rake and raked up the stray leaves yet again. The wind continued to blow, pulling more leaves from the pile as she added to it. With inhuman speed, her rake darted out and caught the escaped leaves, adding them back to the pile. She smirked, pleased with herself. Being a vampire had its advantages, and she enjoyed them thoroughly.
She enjoyed them so much, she hardly remembered being human. She forgot the feel of a bright, warm sun on her skin. She shuddered, and this time it was not from the thought of winter. She tilted her head back, curls bouncing around her shoulders, to stare up at the sliver of moon. She was not an old vampire, but neither was she young. The human part of her mind could recall, vaguely and with concentration, the sun as a pleasant thing. Now the yellow fireball mean a painful, burning death. Something to be feared. It was the monster in a vampire’s daymare.
Iola was a daughter of the night. Though she loathed the winter cold, she loved the longer periods of darkness, when she could roam and be the monster in a human’s nightmare.
She smiled vaguely, thinking of the thrill of the hunt. The salty sweetness of her prey’s fear, the song of racing blood and pumping heart. She closed her eyes and sniffed as if she could smell the tangy metallic aroma of fresh blood, like a turkey cooking on Thanksgiving. She licked her lips, catching the saliva that dripped from her fangs. The thrill of feeding was all in the hunt, the struggle of her meal, not in the drinking itself.
She rarely killed- her stomach couldn’t hold all that blood, and she was too lazy to properly dispose of the bodies. It was much easier to just let them lay there, barely alive, for some good Samaritan to find. Her meals usually recovered within a week or two.
Lately even feeding felt empty. There was a hole in Iola’s world. Her unbeating heart filled with yearning. A dark empty void she needed desperately to feel. In life, she’d never been a mother, never had maternal instincts. She’d been turned young. As a vampire, her body was incapable of bearing a child. She didn’t want the responsibilities of full-time motherhood, anyway.
What she wanted was someone who was adult, but also a baby. She wanted the intimate bond a mother had with her child, but she wanted that with an adult. Someone who would look to her for love, guidance and protection. A love, a relationship that ran deep, down to the marrow of her bones. Her baby. Her soul mate. She ached for that with every fiber of her being. She even had a nursery set up in her house. She just needed to find her special baby.
The wind picked up; the sudden gust blew the top off the huge pile of brown leaves. The beautiful colors of early fall were long gone, leaving only decay in their wake. Several leaves landed on her unbrushed hair. She hissed like an angry cat, expressing her frustration. She quickly raked the leaves back up as the wind scattered more about the yard. The wooden handle creaked in her grasp from the tight pressure she put on it. She eased her hold- the last thing she wanted was to break yet another rake.
Within a few moments, the wind undid most of her work. The more she raked, the more the leaves blew and scattered. She was back to square one. With a frustrated growl, she nearly chucked her rake into the yellowing grass and stormed back into the house. Let the stupid leaves rot until next spring under a blanket of winter snow. Something shiny and black caught her eye. She looked under the tree closest to her house.
Moonlight shined off a huge, plastic garbage back she’d dumped there and forgot about as she raked. She was too busy mooning over her missing child and the hole in her life to pay attention to household chores. Her porch light was off. As a vampire, she needed no artificial light to see in the dark; just like cats, owls, and other nocturnal creatures. She should’ve been bagging as she raked, to keep the leaves from blowing away. If she did that from the very beginning she’d have been done long ago.
Iola smacked her forehead with her palm for not thinking of something so simple and practical right off the bat. Household maintenance was her least favorite chore. She didn’t even dust her empty nursery. Finding her baby consumed her. She’d clean when she was a mother with a baby.
Iola sighed, scooped up the garbage bag, and went about raking her messy yard. This time, she bagged along the way. The wind whipped at the bag but she kept it clenched in one fist so it wouldn’t blow away. She moved faster than a human. Her limbs started to get stiff with cold. The wintry breeze that tossed the leaves around like a salad cut right through her cardigan. Soon, she was going to have to surrender and break out her winter coats. Gloves and scarfs would soon follow when the snow started to fall.
She scooped up the last of the leaves, tied up the bag, and put in in her garbage bin. She put her rake back in the shed, and glared up at the dark clouds as if daring them to start snowing now. The seasons changed was so fast. Why couldn’t life? Why couldn’t she find her special baby? She wouldn’t mind raking big piles of leaves for her baby to jump in. Time still flowed as it did while she was human. Things, people, and circumstances changed over night or didn’t change at all. Time flew during pleasant occasions and dragged during unpleasant ones.
Iola wrapped her arms around her middle as she walked onto her porch, leaning against her door and staring up at the cloud covered night sky. She sighed wearily, as if she were thousands of years old and had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She turned and stared at her leaf-free lawn. The yellow grass had stopped growing weeks ago and she’d been too busy to notice or care. The yard looked better devoid of decaying leaves. It looked like an empty bed ready for a blanket of winter. Like the empty crib up in her nursery, just waiting for her baby.
Winter would come and pass as all seasons did, flowing into one anther and carrying Iola with them. She would drift in life, even if she didn’t like a particularly icy stream or patch of water and she’d survive until the next bend in the river. She just wished she change her life as easily as she changed her yard. Eyeing the grasses one last time, she sighed again, turned, and went int the warmth of her empty house, shudding the door quietly behind her.