Naamah kept her suspicions to herself but couldn’t help smiling every time she thought about being a grandmother. She and Noah spent the morning surveying the ARK which stood majestic on the top of the hill where once the darkened forest had stood. Japheth and Deborah were preparing the animals to enter the ARK before nightfall, making last minute decisions as to which animals should go where. Shem and Ham were at the very top of the ARK where the roof on the top deck gave them shelter from the searing sun, and a platform from which to cut off the upper branches of the still standing trees. Their wives, Bennai and Miriam, were slowly bringing the last of the supplies Gomer had delivered up the steep ramp into the opening Noah had left in the side of the vast vessel. Strong ropes held the huge door flap that Shem and Miriam had devised tied back to the standing trees and raised above the entrance. Noah could not really take in the significance of what they had achieved over these past decades. While the ARK was not pretty to look at, it felt secure. The still standing trees were joined by a layer of smaller trunks also standing upright, sealing the two layers of horizontal trunks inside. Dark black pitch, mixed from the mud that lay beside their life sustaining water spring had been smeared on each of the three layers of the ARK’s walls sealing off any possible leaks. The floor of the ARK was also three trees thick as each new tree had been firmly held in place by the endless strands of ropes that had been tied meticulously around each fallen tree trunk to keep it in place. The bottom level of the ARK was the storage space for all their provisions. Grassy food for the animals who didn’t eat meat, dried out and rolled into large piles, trees and plants that certain animals had shown a particular fondness for after their arrival. Japheth and Deborah had estimated over three thousand types of animals had joined them in recent years. It was hard to be sure as they never seemed to stay still long enough to be counted. They were constantly grazing or hunting in the nearby hills. Shem had built huge vats for water which Bennai and Miriam were topping up from the nearby spring. Both were still feeling queasy but the sensed an urgency in getting all the supplies inside the ARK in case the next day’s efforts to convince others to join them did not go well. Bennai was anxious about the next day; apart from hearing the death cries of her kinfolk all those years earlier, it had been many years since she had spoken to anyone from her village, not since the night Naamah had rescued her.
Noah watched the work of his sons and daughters, he was so proud of their focus and ingenuity. Each potential problem had been worked through to its resolution. While there had been many, many arguments over the years, there was a cohesion in their commitment to complete the ARK. As the last of the supplies were stored into the bottom level, he prepared to drop the trapdoor Shem had designed to seal the lower levels into place. An extra protection should the floor of the ARK , which had been hardest to seal, be flooded by the rising water. The other two levels within the ARK were now filled with animals of all shapes and sizes. Despite how dangerous some of them were, they all seemed docile and compliant as they were herded into the stalls allocated for them. He and Naamah laughed heartily when they noticed that the tall-necked creatures who stood on such spindly legs were stretching elegantly into their allotted space, their long strong necks towering above the other beasts, their heads invisible because they were actually protruding into the upper level, where their dried grass and leaves were laid out for them to eat. The upper level was effectively a fourth level, the roof of a canopy across the huge deck of the ship. It would be there that all the birds would gather to rest and to eat the vast stocks of seeds that had been stored up for them. There was a smaller hatch in the floor of the upper level with a ladder beneath so that Japheth and Deborah could climb up to the birds and make sure they were all fed. All of this detail made Noah’s head spin. It had been a journey of nearly 120 years and yet finally, after so many struggles and setbacks they were nearly finished.
Noah and Naamah had dismantled the tents, carefully setting aside the three iron spikes that had held their tent in place from the beginning. These would be needed to hold the large door at the side of the ARK in place, the one area that would be most susceptible to letting in water, but they had calculated and hoped that the door would be well above the waterline when the floods rose.
Noah felt a deep weariness steal over him as he and his family settled into their living quarters for their first night on the ARK. All those years of toil, all those nights of questioning his own sanity. He realised, with a shock, that he had probably worked his last full day. From now on it would be up to the younger generation to run life within the ARK. For the first time in his life he felt old, stretched out and weary beyond words. Naamah sensing his mood, sat beside him, holding his still strong calloused hands and watching their remarkable children make their final sleeping arrangements. They had agreed that they would all sleep in the same room, cramped and restricted though it be. The unspoken reasoning was that they might well die in the boat, and for all their spats and disagreements over the years, there was a bond amongst them that was strong and would surely endure them sharing such a confined space for however long the flood would last.
Noah led them in a time of prayer, Naamah told them again the story of God’s provision when he placed their ancestors into the Garden of Eden, Bennai, Miriam and Deborah sang a song of praise that they had been learning. Just before they went to sleep, Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth took a final walk around the huge vessel. ‘After we visit the village tomorrow’, said Shem, ever practical, ‘we will have to work out how we are going to cut the bases of the standing trees, otherwise we will have built a huge wooden tomb that sits at the bottom of the rising waters.’ It was a discussion they had debated many times. For all their ingenuity in constructing such a structure, they had never been able to work out how to detach the ARK from the long, deep running roots of the still standing trees. Little did they realise that God had already worked it out.