Jason looked up from his game to the sound -- no, no ... to the sense of newcomers outside. He was having trouble now, distinguishing it from his other senses, but that would be something to worry about for another day. Today he had visitors. Possibly guests, in fact. It had been three years since the catastrophe created by Virayna. The city was still a blank spot. Indeed, he wasn’t sure if there was a world anymore. Without Internet or cellular service, his only contact with the outside had been the occasional visitor, and there hadn’t been visitors in a very long time.

He made his way down to the main entrance of the building and opened the door just as a handful of survivors, the people he had expected. He called and waved to them. They were happy to share his shelter, especially as there appeared to be a storm brewing.

There were five of them. First was an older man, Joshua, perhaps late fifties or early sixties, but still quite spry. Then Maria, a young woman, possibly of Latino descent, though he couldn’t be sure, traveling with a young boy named Michael. Last were a pair of young men, Adam and Rajal. He didn’t ask for last names, as he saw little point in them here at the end of the world.

They all crowded into the tiny lobby of the building, more of a foyer which included an elevator, a stairwell, and the now pointless mailboxes (though Jason checked his own every day out of compulsive habit).

“I am very glad to have found you all,” said Jason. “My hope is that we can find friendship here. This place still has plenty of food in storage — it seems the landlord was prepared for this. Pity he fled so quickly.”

Joshua looked up at the weak bulb in the ceiling. “Surprising that you have electricity here,” he noted. “How have you managed that?” Jason sensed mistrust in the man’s voice, and also in his soul.

“Both the electricity and the plumbing are still working. I’m somewhat of a handyman, and there is a generator here. You’d be surprised how easy it’s been to keep it fueled.” It wasn’t precisely a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth, either. He couldn’t tell them the whole truth.

Maria piped up excitedly, “You have running water? We haven’t had showers in weeks!” she glanced down at her boy. “Maybe I can get you clean for once.” It’s funny how simple necessities can move people at times like these. Jason washed in the enthusiasm, which was shared by all of them. The light fixture in the ceiling flickered a little brighter. No one noticed.

Finally, Jason went to the stairs, “Very well. I’ll get your keys. We have plenty of vacancies.”

Having people here again boosted Jason, but he knew it would not be enough. Even now the lights were beginning to dim. For now, his new tenants excited and nervous all at once, but soon those feelings would fade into dull normalcy. They would start to get lethargic as he drained them, and such symptoms might be noticed. To keep this place running, to keep himself running, he would need something stronger. And having to keep those other apartments lit wasn’t helping.

Jason picked up my dagger, examining the edge. When had he last sharpened it? He thought to how he would do it. The fact that they were in separate apartments could be helpful. But they were so close together. Anything too violent and they’d all hear. That could inspire fear — fear that could be drawn from, but then it could also cause people to bolt.

He decided he would start with the old man. Something slow. Poison his tap? Maybe. Did he have something that would work slowly? Avoiding suspicion was important, and a slow, drawn out death would not be a surprise from an older man who can’t get modern medicines anymore.

Or … he could make it all very simple and lock them all in their rooms, or tie them up while they sleep, or maybe even drag them into one room to save power. It didn’t have to be over too quickly that way — their fear would feed him almost as well as their souls. He could draw it all out, picking them off one by one in painful ways, while the others watched. The thought of how that fear would energize him.

He set down the dagger. Not today, he thought. Let them rest easy for a bit. Having a plan in mind helped him to put it all into perspective.