Agatha pulled on her hat and pushed up her glasses. The sky was fuchsia and orange. Ra’s wrath had passed, as they said. That’s what everyone called the hot daytime hours when they land sizzled and baked. Mom said was it was a reference to some ancient religion, but she never knew more than that.
Boxie followed her, ears up but nose to the ground. She gave the slate gray dog a pat on the head.
Though the sun hadn't fully set, she could feel the temperature dropping over the open sand. Dust devils danced around the edges of the factory. A scene from Hell, the adults called it. A place where only the wicked and condemned lived. What made the her or Boxie wicked, she couldn’t say, but it was said often enough that she couldn’t deny it. They were living in Hell, so they must have done something.
Rodchester Packing Plant, the faded emerald sign read.
She looked down the cracked ebony road where an ash colored building with indigo windows still stood. “I think this is it.”
Even if the food was gone, the packing plant would offer shelter.
And maybe a sign of Mom. She circled this place on the map. If she was still out here, this is where she would come.
Walking towards the building, she kept on the look out for creatures. They came out at sunset too. She pulled her pistol out of her turquoise bag, watching Boxie for any reaction. He’s tell her if a creature was close by.
She pushed open the door. Boxie slipped in first. When she came in, she closed the door as quietly as she could. The less attention, the better.
It took a minute for her eyes to adjust, but when they did, all she could see was broken machines. There wasn’t any sign of food. Just silver and rust colored machines, slowly breaking down now that no one kept them clean. Condemned to Hell right along with the humans, except she knew what the machines did to deserve it.
Agatha and Boxie jumped. The dog slunk back to her side. The fur on his back stood on end. She flipped her gun’s safety off.
There was a creature inside. It must have come looking for food too. She came looking for food, but was it worth the risk? She’d been out of food for two days now. Water was running low too. She needed this, and there was no guarantee there would be food in the city.
She inched towards the opening to the next room. One peek, then decide. If it was small, she would take it on. Otherwise, she’d run.
A metal can rolled out.
It was coming. Agatha aimed her gun.
A man in a sapphire shirt appeared in the opening.
Her whole body tensed. There was a person here. A real live person.
He didn’t see her until he picked up the can and turned to go back. He put his hands up.
Agatha lowered her gun. “Who are you?”
The man smiled, showing off his cream teeth that were too straight to be natural. “Most call me Nabu. You?”
He lowered his hands and ambled back towards the other room. “Lovely name. Given or taken?”
Keeping a few steps behind him, she followed. Boxie kept glued to her side. “I don’t understand.”
“Did you take the name or did someone give it to you? I took mine. God of wisdom it is. Perfect name for an archiver.”
She tilted her head to one side, then looked at Boxie. He wasn’t growling. That was a good sign. “I came here for food.”
“Ah, straight to the point. A good trait in a girl.” He gestured for her to follow, even though she already was.
In the next room, the floor was covered in peach colored bins, all open and empty. Amber bags with fern green letters on them were littered all over the place.
“Nabu is the keeper of wisdom, not food I’m afraid. Shame I have little offer. Not often I meet a friend.” The man plopped down on a pile of bags and held the can out to her. “Tell me, Agatha, what brings you here? Just food?”
Boxie nosed through the empty bags.
“Just food,” she lied.
Nabu smiled. “You should be called Metztli, the night goddess of the Aztecs. She feared the sun and had a rabbit thrown at her face. You remind me of that.”
She glared at him. “My name is Agatha.”
“Perhaps, but wouldn’t you rather be Metztli?”
He tilted his head to one side, then the other and set the can down. “Every archiver needs a good name. Metztli is a good archiver name.”
“I’m not an archiver.”
Nabu pointed to her bag. “All archivers wear blue. You must be one.”
She looked at her bag, then scowled at him. “My mother gave it to me.”
Sitting up, the smile dropped off Nabu’s face. “Well now, that is another story, is it not? Where is your mother now?”
Agatha put both hands back on her gun. “Why?”
“Because if she is gone, you must take her place, and you clearly need training if you don’t even know you’re an archiver.”
He flopped back in his makeshift bed of bags. “Rules. That’s all I know. Return to the archives if you want to know more.”
Boxie laid down on the bags and started licking his paws.
Agatha bit her lip, then sighed and went to sit across from Nabu. “And would they know where my mother is?”
Nabu shrugged. “Archivers know everything.” He picked up the can again and held it out to her. “Even where to find food. If she went home, they’ll know where she is. Hungry, Metztli?”
She took the can and pulled out her can opener. “My name is still Agatha.”