Noah was pleasantly surprised when it was Bennai who spoke up in front of all her kinsmen. She had seemed so nervous and anxious as they had approached the village early the next morning. The shock on the faces of the villagers quickly turned to suspicion and anger, but fear won out and they stayed sullenly silent as Noah and his family made their way to the place of meeting at the fire pit. The chief of the village was a wily leader and had learned much from the demise of his two predecessors. He stood a way off and asked, ‘Why have you come here cursed of our fathers? We have not harmed you, nor threatened you for many years, why come to trouble us again with your madness?’ It was something in the tone of his voice that compelled Bennai to speak. She had already spotted close family members in the gathering crowd, she addressed herself to them, ignoring the chief who was himself a relative of hers.
‘My friends, my family, because of his slavish devotion to Molech, the god who craves child sacrifice, my grandfather chose me to appease the gods that you worship here at this unlit firepit. You saw for yourself what Noah and Naamah’s God did to him. I listened, with heart shredding tears, to the death cries of my kinsmen when they attacked the ARK all those years ago. I prayed to the God of Noah that night that there would be no more sacrifice of blood between my own family and my new family. You can see for yourself what Noah and the rest of us have achieved’, several eyes shifted up the valley where even from such great a distance the huge ARK stood majestic in the morning light. ‘Our God is strong, and powerful. You know this already, but I have been learning lately that he is also generous and loving and that there is still room on this ARK for any who would join us.’ A murmur of discussion broke out among the listeners, some were swayed, others were angry. It was the chief who broke the charm that Bennai had woven so skilfully.
‘Tell me Bennai, why do you try to trick us?’ Bennai’s face froze in shock, she made to answer, but Naamah squeezed her hand in warning, ‘Do not rise to the challenge, my daughter,’ she whispered, ‘he had the tongue of the serpent and will twist whatever you say to his own purpose.’ The chief continued, ‘see, she has no answer because she knows it is true. She lies to us, when all those years ago she became a spy for this fool Noah and his madness. Deny it if you dare! Bennai, your grandfather told me of this himself, he saw you sneaking off to their camp, he followed you, he heard your promise to tell Noah of all our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, so that he and his sons could attack us and take over this oasis’. It was masterfully done, simple insinuations to plant doubt in the minds of the villagers. Bennai tried to speak, but she could see the faces, even of her former loved ones, now set against her. It was Ham who spoke next, his voice ringing with barely supressed rage, ‘How dare you accuse my wife of such treachery, you son of a snake!’ A threatening growl grew among the villagers. The chief could barely supress a smile of triumph. Ham made to speak again but Noah cut him off, ‘Forgive my son, his heart speaks before his mind can catch up’. A look of shocked hurt filled his second son’s face, but Noah didn’t see it as he was facing the crowd. Naamah saw it and worried. Noah continued, ‘We have long wanted to be friends, you allowed us to water our flocks here many years ago. Where now is the hospitality of the Tallermen? You have seen what our God can do, how can you doubt? A flood is coming very, very soon. Please, I beg you. Come and join us?’
The chief sneered, ‘Join you? Join you? We’d rather die in the fresh air than be enslaved in the tomb you have built. Tell me Noah, how do you plan to float this ARK, the roots of the standing trees run deep, you will not be able to cut the trees now! What madness would lead us to trust you, to follow you and this God you so stupidly follow’. He turned to his kinsfolk, his voice ringing across the valley. ‘Bring swords, bring flame, it is time that we rid ourselves of this madman and his rooted ARK. Arise Tallermen, arise and slay these fools, but not here, they will die in the ARK they have built, surrounded by their stupidity.’
The hands that bound Noah and his family were not kind, they were pushed, shoved and struck several times before being led up the valley. It was a scene of rage and pandemonium as the crowd surged towards the ARK, rough hands lifting and carrying them up the ramp into the ARK. Those at the front baulked when then saw the huge numbers of animals who were getting agitated with all the hullabaloo. Those behind began to gather dried grass and branches and to set them at the base of the ARK. A look of terror was shared among Noah’s family, they were helpless, there was nothing they could do. The villagers backed down the ramp leaving Noah’s family bound and vulnerable just inside the ARK. The chief approached, ‘You will all die, and as you die, you will hear the laughter of my people, we will be rid of you and your cursed God.’ When he spoke these words, a huge sound erupted from beneath the ARK, the earth trembled a little, stilling the people who grew uneasy. In slow motion the ropes holding up the door into the ARK snapped the huge wooded hinges, creaking as the momentum of gravity swung the door down with a crash, plunging Noah and his family into darkness and dread.
They could hear the chief’s laughter, muffled through the walls of the ARK, as he ordered his people to pile high against the ARK anything that would burn. Noah and Shem managed to untie each other, and then the others, ushering them up to the top deck so that they could see what was happening. Such was the height of the ARK that those below looked like ants, feverishly scurrying about their tasks. Off in the distance a small cloud was forming. Noah turned to the others, ‘Quickly, back down to the room, hold tightly to anything that is fixed, it’s happening and it’s happening now!’