The years had passed swiftly in a blur of routine, backbreaking work and the slow but steady growth of the ARK. Noah and his family stood at Methuselah’s grave, the congealed blood of their would-be attackers had long since seeped into the dry crusted earth. As they gazed out across the valley below they could hear the distant hum of village life as the sun began its climb for yet another day. A heavy tiredness fell upon Noah as he remembered too many days of endless toil over decades, each tree trunk painstakingly moved into place, the swinging hammer pounding iron spikes into hard, resisting wood. And now, as his gaze moved from the valley to the fallen forest, his heart surged with hope as he realised the ARK was nearly ready. A deep sadness quickly followed his momentary elation as he realised that he had failed. Yes, the ARK was nearly finished, and he and his family had the blisters and bruises to prove it, but over those years since the moonlight attack by the Tallermen, Noah had given up any effort to try to convince those who lived so close to join him and his family when the floods came. He resolved within himself to try once more, and soon. An unrelenting instinct told him that now that the ARK was nearly finished it would not be long before the rains would start. His eyes shifted from the massive construction still anchored to the remaining standing trees, to the clear blue sky above that seemed to mock him for his folly. Noah never doubted that the flood was coming, its true intensity haunted his nightly dreams, but he had grown weary of the taunts and indifference of those he had tried to convince. He and Naamah had travelled, some months earlier, to visit their families one last time. As well as trying to purchase enough food for the growing host of creatures who were arriving daily, they wanted to try to convince any who would listen that it was time to join them. The treatment by Noah’s family, was, as usual, shameful; while they were happy to take payment for whatever provisions Noah needed, they refused to speak to him with respect and the honour due to his being the first born of Lamech. They promised to send Gomer back with supplies once they were all gathered in, and Noah, with a heavy heart, took his leave. Their search for Naamah’s family proved fruitless: While there were many villages along the way, and Noah would always invite and cajole others to join him and his family, word had travelled far of the folly of the grandson of wise old Methuselah. None would admit to being part of the clan of Cain, although some must have been, so Noah and Naamah set off for the ARK alone and empty handed.
Their journey back was poignant and nostalgic as they travelled the homeland of Naamah’s family. All that was left was stones and memories, few of them pleasant. Silent tears fell down Naamah’s face as they stopped at the now dried up well where she had been attacked all those many years before. A yearning grew on both of them to be gone from this cursed place, and so they headed back, silent and sorrowful until Naamah slipped her now-wrinkled hand into the hardened calloused hand of her husband. ‘Thank you’, she whispered, ‘thank you for coming to rescue me. I was ready to die, to welcome death’s freedom from shame and fear, but you brought life and hope back to me. And now..’ and here her voice began to break, ‘and now we have three strong sons and three beautiful daughters to share the ARK with’. Noah could not trust himself to speak, but he squeezed the hand of his beloved and together they headed home.
Gomer had arrived by the time they got back, his eyes wide with wonder at what they had achieved. ‘Surely this is God’s doing!’ he proclaimed as he fell to his knees in astonishment. ‘How else could such a thing be done!’ They feasted with him that night after the provisions had been stored in the lower levels of the ARK. He had lost none of his joyful exuberance, but lines of age and worry also shadowed his face. Before they could even ask him to stay with them, he spoke up. ‘I cannot go with you, my family need me, and your brother will deal harshly with them if I do not return’. His eyes gazed sadly into the flickering flames, then recovering their old spark when he laughed, ‘your brother and his sons can enslave my body and my loved ones, but they cannot enslave our minds. I have been telling my children and grandchildren all about this God that you serve, and they are filled with heavenly joy. We will not fear the coming floods, for surely they will carry us to this God that we serve’.
As Gomer led his oxen and cart away with one final wave the next morning, Noah looked again down the distant valley. He knew it made no sense, but he had to try one last time. Turning to his weeping family he said, ‘today, we load all the provisions and animals onto the ARK,’ they each looked at him in alarm. ‘No, no!’ he laughed, I do not think that the floods will start tomorrow, but I want everything safely on board. Tomorrow, we go to the village and try to persuade them to join us.’ A flicker of hope filled Bennai’s face for a moment, ‘ I do not know if they will listen,’ Noah continued, ‘but we have to try. And I want everything on board in case in doesn’t go well and there’s another attack.’
As they went about their tasks all three daughters began to feel ill. Putting it down to anxiety about visiting the village next day, they said nothing. But Naamah noticed their queasiness and wondered what else, apart from hard labour, had been happening while she and Noah were away.