Sitting in their darkened room, not daring to light a fire-torch, Noah and his family could hear the villagers outside laughing and bantering about how they were going to have plenty of cooked meat once the fire took hold. It was truly terrifying as they clung to each other, calling out to God to save and deliver them. The tone of the conversations outside began to change as the chief seemed to be increasingly angry that the flames would not take hold. He kept barking orders but it was clear to those inside that God was indeed looking out for them.
The first lurch of the dry earth caught all of them by surprise, the cries of fear from within the ARK almost drowned out the shouts of alarm from outside. Noah’s eyes were finally beginning to adjust to the lack of light within their room. He could make out the shapes of his wife and children, all closely huddled together, his daughters crying in fear and alarm. The second quake from beneath was even stronger than the first one, one corner of the ARK seemed to shift and rise up and deep roots snapped with the strength of the earth’s movement. There was a remarkable stillness among the animals nearby, as if they, more than the humans, understood what was happening. Frantic screams began to seep through the thick walls of the ARK. ‘Where is this water coming from?’ bellowed the chief, terror evident in his voice. A strange thudding noise began at the wall of the ARK nearest the now sealed entrance. With a shock of dismay, Noah realised it was those outside desperately banging on the wood, begging to be let in. Noah could see Bennai convulsed in sobs, Ham clinging to her, trying to stop her from rushing to try to open the door. ‘Peace, my daughter,’ he called, ‘God has closed the door, only he can open it now.’ It was too dark within for Noah to see the look of disdain on the face of his second son. Too many slights and put downs had widened a chasm between them that would take weeks to rise to the surface. For now, fresh screams rose from without and within as a series of quakes and heaves began to stretch and shift the huge ARK as if it were a pile of twigs. Shem called out to the others, ‘The earthquake is breaking the roots of the standing trees, the ARK is trying to float.’ It was true, what would have defied the ingenuity of Shem and Miriam was being achieved by heaven-sent earthquake and tumultuous springs of water erupting from the ground beneath. Soon a new sound joined the cacophony of earthquake, rushing water and fading screams; heavy drops of rain began to hit the roof of the ARK, a smattering at first, but soon a torrent. It was as if a million drums were beating at one time, even as the last desperate thump of human hand against hardened wood rang throughout the ARK.
The ship began to rise, slowly, creaking, stretching as one by one the standing trees broke free of their roots. At this point the ARK began to list forward as the two front trees stubbornly clung to the trembling earth, until finally, with an almighty ‘crack’ both trees gave up their fight and the ARK surged up, tossing and throwing everyone around the room. No thought had been given as to how the ARK would balance on the water, and so as the ship rose higher and higher, the back end seemed to sink just a little bit lower than the rest of the vessel. Shem groaned in frustration, ‘I should have paid more attention to where we placed the heavier tree trunks,’ he shouted above the noise of rushing water and falling rain. No one dared to answer, they were each struggling to swallow the vomit and bile that was now rising in their throats. Tears and cries of shame and fear came from some of them as the terror turned their bowels into water. But there was nothing for it but to sit in their own filth and muscle through this roller coaster ride of heaving and surging.
Noah listened carefully for signs that the ARK might be letting in water, but the huge vessel seemed to be holding firm. It was many hours later that the surging rolling waves from below began to settle. By then those within were sitting in a listless stupor, the shock and violence of the past few hours finally taking its toll. As the ARK seemed to steady, now just swaying with rippling waves, Noah roused the others so that they could go up to see what was happening outside. The animals, sensing that the worst had passed, began to move too, stretching, calling to their mates, their noises adding to the constant drumming of heavy raindrops bouncing off the wooden shell. They made their way to the hatch on to the upper deck, but it was very difficult to open, when they had finally manged to open it a bit, they realised there were thousands of birds of every size and shape crammed on top of the upper level. Japheth manged to edge the upper part of his body through the trap door. ‘I can see rain falling everywhere,’ he called to those below, but nothing else except birds’ legs!’ Noah suddenly remembered the refuse hatch that they had built into the back end of the ARK on the third level, it was planned that they would remove as much of the animal filth as possible through this narrow opening. Ham crawled into the narrow chute that led to the exit, his brother clinging to his legs lest he slide out of the ARK. When they pulled him back in he reported, ‘We are floating on a huge ocean of water, I can see some mountain tops in the distance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all this rain raised the flood to cover even those.’
In the half light of the third level, Noah and his family looked at each other. A slow dawning truth beginning to reveal itself. They were safe, they had survived, but at such a terrible, awful cost; they were entirely alone.