It took all of them a few minutes to realise what had changed. It was the silence, complete and utter silence. Even the animals were still, hardly even breathing as this new wonder crept over all of them. The rain had stopped just as suddenly as it had begun. The constant pounding of heavy raindrops on wood had been such an intrusion in their lives for forty days and forty nights so that their brains had learned to switch off the sound. Naamah had been notching the days on a wooden post beside where she and Noah slept. As she counted them now she was shocked at how long they had already been in the ARK; forty days; the daily routine of waking, feeding, cleaning, walking, feeding, sleeping had caused the days to blur into one long series of activities. All three of her daughters had begun to show signs of the new life that was growing within them. With this and the rain stopping, there was a renewed sense of hope within the ARK. Japheth manged to push open the trapdoor up on to the upper deck a little bit more, so that he could stretch out and see what was happening above. ‘The clouds are still heavy with water’, he announced to Ham who was holding his legs in case he needed to pull him back in. And I can see why the trapdoor is so hard to open; one of the tree trunks for holding up the canopy has shifted and is stuck at the hinge end of the door. I don’t think we’ll be able to move it!’ That night they held a feast, a simple affair, but for the first time in weeks there was music and laughter among them. They knew that itwould still be such a long time before the waters would subside, but for now they were safe, they were dry, and they still had plenty of provisions.
Over the next few days they were able to cut a window into the wall of the ARK above where they slept. They each took turns to climb a ladder and gaze out onto a surreal scene. As the ARK bobbed along on gentle waves they could see water stretching for miles and miles. It was a sobering experience, ‘It’s all gone isn’t it’, cried Bennai, when her turn came to look out the window. Even the sun breaking through the still dark clouds did little to lift their mood that day. Everything that once had been was gone, washed away in a heaving torrential wall of water. They had no idea where they were or where they were going. They were alone, utterly alone, atop an ocean of water that had destroyed the world they had once known. The deafening silence hung over them for several days. They worked through their chores lethargically, plodding along with little awareness of what was happening within the ARK.
It was Ham who realised first what was going on, he was busy cleaning out the stalls, silently fuming at yet another dismissive slight from his father that morning. Bennai had tried to talk to him about the seething rage that was growing within him. ‘Your father loves you, Ham,’ she whispered, ‘your mother says he treats you so because you remind him so much of himself at your age.’ ‘So, it’s my fault is it?’ snarled Ham storming off. Bennai watched him working with angry fervour, trying to exhaust himself with hard labour so that he could sleep in blissful peace at night. She watched him stop suddenly, and look across at her with wonder and awe. ‘Bennai, quickly, go get Japheth, our ARK is filling up.’
The news caused a certain amount of confusion as the others thought that Ham had discovered a leak in the walls of the ARK, when they all came running, they found two little lambs nestled in the straw that Ham had just been removing from the stall. The mood in the ARK changed again with this new revelation. There was life, new life; for both animals and humans, they were safe, there would be a future. Even Noah and Ham seemed to come to a silent mutual agreement not to upset each other. As more of the animals began to give birth the deafening silence was replaced by new-born animals finding their voices, bleating, trumpeting, warbling. Over the next days and weeks it felt like there might never be silence or stillness again. A new problem emerged some weeks later. Such was the amount of waste that all the animals were creating that a heavy stench began to build within the lower levels of the ARK. They still had no way of knowing how deep within the water the ARK was lying. Dragging the muck up through the ARK to the upper waste chutes was both time consuming and exhausting. Shem and Miriam got to work on fixing this problem. Their solution was brilliant for its simplicity. They tied a heavy block of wood onto a long rope and slowly eased it out of the window above where they slept, with Japheth and Ham easing the rope slowly through their fingers, they could feel the weight of the wood straining on the rope. The moment the weight lessened, they called out the Shem who was leaning as far as he dared through the window. He quickly tied a short string around the rope where it exited the window. They reeled in the rope, noting that the bottom of the block of wood was wet, but not the top. Shem and Miriam knew every inch of the ARK, its lengths and widths and its height. They were soon able to calculate that the ARK was actually floating high on the water with only the lower level, where the goods and provisions were stored, beneath the water line. They were then able to carve out large holes at either end of the second level of the ARK to allow the waste to be pushed out there. There was a beautiful soothing breeze on the second level once both exits were opened, thankfully removing the cloying stench of rotting waste.
No sooner had they finished solving that problem, then a new one emerged, Japheth had been down in the lower level taking stock of the food supplies. He reported his findings to Noah and Shem that night. They would be lucky to make what was left last for three more months!