Noah called his family together on hearing this news. They looked carefully at all the notches that Naamah had carved into the wall above their living space. With a shock they realised that it had been nearly five months since the flood had begun. Naamah looked lovingly at the faces peering at the wall of the ARK, trying to figure out what to do about their dwindling supplies. Like her, their faces were haggard, worn and stained with months, even years, of endless labour and constant pressure. She grieved for the toll this dreadful experience was taking on her sons and their wives, even as she gave thanks that they were miraculously still alive. It was Shem who broke the brooding silence. ‘God has delivered us safe so far, if the food is running low, then hopefully so too is the water.’ ‘ Nevertheless’, urged Japheth, ‘I think we need to ration the food by half, just to make sure there is enough.’ A long and difficult discussion developed. It was the first time in years that there had been such division among them. Shem, Noah, Naamah and Miriam wanted to trust God and keep going as they were, but the others insisted that the prudent thing to do would be to ration carefully. It was a row that showed no sign of abating over the next couple of days. Harsh words were left unspoken as Noah and Ham spoke the bitter words that were once again building up between them. A compromise of sorts was reached, that they would begin to feed the animals half the rations until such time as the ARK came to rest on land. Then they would review their situation. As ever, it felt as if God must be smiling at their futile folly, when the very next day, as they were settling in for their evening meal, a strange scraping sound erupted from beneath them. The ARK began to shudder and shake as the sound grew. Screams and cries of fear were silenced by a long rumbling thunder-like sound, and then, the ARK stuttered to a halt. The final jolt threw everyone around their living space. As they stared, wide-eyed, at each other, they dared not move, each unconsciously holding their breath lest the floor of the ARK should crack and water rush in. But all was still. And slowly they exhaled, and wondered. By now, Ham was used to edging his way through the waste chute, with his brothers clinging to his legs. He gave a shout, and spoke quickly, but they could not make senses of his words until they had dragged him back in. ‘We are on the top of some mountain, wedged between two peaks. There’s maybe twenty feet of land beneath us, but I can see no other mountain top on this side, only miles and miles of water.
This news both delighted and terrified them. The flood was abating, but how long would it be before it was safe to leave the ARK. After checking the bottom level, there as both good news and bad. There were no new leaks; having found its final resting place, the ARK had served them well. It had held out the water for exactly five months, an incredible achievement. The not so good news was that they still had no idea how long before they would be able to leave its protection and begin their lives again. For now, Noah led them in a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for their safe delivery. Tears of cautious joy flowed down their faces, as the enormity of what they had been through began to hit them.
Putting off further discussions until the morning they went to their beds, but few slept. A strong wind began to blow that night, and while they blessed the wind as it would swiften the drying of the vast ocean of water, it rattled and shook the ARK so that even the animals grew restless and fearful. The next days meeting was less fractious than Naamah had feared, Noah and Shem realised that it could take many months for the water to subside, and that food stock for both humans and animals must be used sparingly. The growing constant hunger did little to help ease tension within the ARK. Everyone became brittle, preoccupied and fretful. Noah insisted that they only check the water levels outside once a week. It was a wise decision as daily checking would increase their frustration. By Naamah’s daily record, they endured another ten weeks of drying winds and dwindling resources. Ham had come to dread the weekly water level check. It wasn’t just the smell and the grime as he wriggled through the waste chute, it was the burden of expectation. He knew how much everyone craved a report that would give them hope, but while the water continued to dry up, and more and more of their mountain appeared below him, it was a bleak and barren scene. Finally on that tenth checking, he cried out so loudly that all inside could hear him clearly. ‘Mountains! More mountains!, I can see their peaks. The end is nigh!’