Vasilisa looked at the old man and grew hungry. She watched, with hard eyes and pale skin, through a broken window in a derelict upstairs apartment. The man lay dead in the grey mud. Unconcerned light filtered in, produced by a morning that seemed to have lost the ability to bring worldly change with each sunrise. Every day just grew a little colder, and their hunger became ever more present, until it almost seemed like the stomachs inside them were ready to tear their way out and find a higher yielding host. Kliment had told them that the first time you swallowed a piece of person was hard, but it tasted better than rats and glue. She looked at the man, and she judged herself for a moment of empathy for whoever the corpse used to be. This city would not accommodate people who cared any longer, they belonged to the world before. Before an army surrounded the city. Before they had eaten the pets and the dirt-bread and the glue. Before, when mother was still there to kiss her eyelids and wake Vasilisa up for school. She turned to look at Alexei, who was sitting in the dust in the middle of the room, drawing on the floor with a piece of charcoal. Alexei would eat, she had sworn it to mother.
He was sketching a black house on the floorboards. Each motion of charcoal kicked up a cloud of particles, which swirled and danced and defined the bloodless beams floundering through the window panes. Alexei was beautiful, and if he died, so did she. He was still a child though, and Vasilisa wanted to keep him ignorant as to where their next meal would come from. At the back of the apartment was the fire escape, which ran straight down to the street. The stairs had been blown apart, but the building stood for now. Kliment had offered to fetch the man with little protest, he knew Vasilisa would not leave her brother. If people saw someone stealing a body, the police would come, and rumour had it that corpse-eaters were locked up with others of their kind and starved until they ate each other in their cells. People-eaters were shot on sight. Vasilisa felt sick as she watched for Kliment to appear on the street, and when she saw him a nauseous dread loomed from within her. It seemed to cocoon her, and she wondered what she would be when she tore her way out; herself or a monster? She thought of Baba Yaga; the child-eater from her mother’s stories.