Noah stirred, snorted, rolled over and continued to snore gently into his palliasse.
A wick of straw poked into Noah’s nose and he opened his eyes, grumbling.
“What? ... who ...?”
“Who’s that? Is it breakfast time? Where are you?”
“Noah - didn’t you get my email???”
“I beg your pardon? What’s an ‘eemale’? It’s pitch dark. I can’t see you.”
“Oh dammit - emails are 20th century - sorry. Should have remembered. Noah, I did send you several warnings. Have you taken any action yet?”
“Dreams. I sent you Dreams.”
“Who ARE you? What dreams?”
“Oh you exasperating man. I knew your Dad Lamech shouldn’t have given you a name that means ‘rest’. You seem to do little else. Noah, your God is speaking to you!”
Noah cowered against the mud-brick wall behind his rustling bed and tried to marshal his thoughts. Dreams. He had been having intermittent nightmares involving a lot of water and people drowning ...
“God ... er ... good gracious ... I am unworthy ... do you mean all those wet dreams?”
“I shall pretend you didn’t say that. I am referring to the Warnings. The Warnings of the Mighty Flood. Mankind - and womankind for that matter - has turned out to be a profound disappointment, and I am now offering an Ultimatum, a Final Warning. Unless the whole world repents of its wickedness in, say, 100 years time, I shall unloose all the waters of Heaven upon the earth and drown every living thing. You are supposed to be telling everyone (oh why is it taking them so long to invent Twitter?) so that the world can be spared. Didn’t you get My Plans?”
“No plans. Just very wet. Until I woke up in a dry house with the usual noisy family.”
“Ah. So you don’t know about the boat.”
“You are to build a boat, which History will remember as the ‘Ark’ despite its size. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.”
“Why are You talking like that?”
“Oh sorry - I’ve time-shifted again. I really must try not to do it. It confuses me as well as you. Basically you need something exceptionally large which will float, endure storms, and carry everything you and your expanding family need to survive for a year and ten days. Forty days of which will be a non-stop monsoon. It will be about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, with three decks - as long as a football field goalpost to goalpost and about as wide. It will be taller than a 3 story building, with a total deck area the size of 36 lawn tennis courts or 20 basketball courts. If you stand the Ark up on end, it will be as tall as the Great Pyramid at Giza.”
“O Lord, I have no idea what you are talking about. What kind of plant is a footborl, a golepost? What are lorn tenis and basket borl?”
“Such a pity you won’t live beyond 950 years. Symbolically of course. Unlike your dear Grandfather Methuselah who made it to 969. So much to look forward to! Andy Murray’s Gold at the 2012 Olympics, and then winning Wimbledon ... and Ryan Giggs! Still going at 40! Or should that be 400? Oh dear. All this depends on you Noah. If you can get this ship built over the next century (or should that be ten years? ... why does everything have to take so long??) and fill it with two of every living thing upon the earth ...”
“Whoa! How big is this thing? How in Heaven’s name - begging your pardon Lord - am I supposed to do that? It takes me all day to persuade one donkey out of its stable! And exactly how many of Your creatures are we looking at here?”
“Oh - only about nine million after the Great Extinctions (humans aren’t the first major let-down, you know. Try civilising a Tyrannosaurus.)”
“Yes, taking into account oceans and dry land - not that it will be dry for much longer - and including the following: 7.77 million species of animals, 298,000 species of plants, 611,000 species of moulds and mushrooms, 36,400 species of single-cell protozoa, and 27,500 species of algae, diatoms, and water moulds. We’ll need at least two of each to repopulate the earth after My purge. And your good selves of course - you and your dear wife, and Ham, Shem and Japheth and their lady wives who will all be part of your extended family by then. You will have to replace all the delinquent nations whose behaviour since I invented them and gave them this wonderful world to grow in, has fallen so grievously short. But you, Noah, are a Good Man. With your genes and a great horoscope We stand a chance of getting humanity back on track. And then to make absolutely sure we all know where we stand, I’ll send My Son for a short and compelling visit that no-one will ever forget.”
Noah stared at the indistinct form of his - unbelievably - still sleeping wife. How could she not hear this richly resonant Voice that a later generation might compare to a melange of the BBC’s Neil Nunes and the voice-over on X Factor? He could barely speak.
“Nine million. How am I supposed to do that. I’ve never been more than a day’s walk from Aram! Lord, can’t You just send a nasty disease or something? One that just wipes out bad people? Leaving the oxen and foxes and sparrows alone? Though You could get rid of the flies ...”
“No I can’t. They’re part of the eco-system. I don’t think you have too much to worry about there; they’ll come in along with the animals. But I did say ‘every living thing’. You’ll need to set up a seed bank. Don’t forget to include your climate-controlled environment and a good-sized refrigeration unit.”
“Dear Lord, you have completely lost me. A modest boat I can do. I can fell trees, cut planks, buy nails ... though what with on my pittance I have no idea ... and as my boys grow we can put this thing together somewhere where the locals won’t complain. And I may manage to get hold of a couple of donkeys, some cattle, sheep, a goat or two ... some hens and a rooster ... but lions?! Wolves??? ELEPHANTS? First I have to find them. Then I have to catch them. Then I have to persuade them that a wobbly boat is a far better place to be than the hills and forests where they usually live. And what are they supposed to eat for a year or so cooped up and probably very cross - each other? US?”
There was a reflective silence. Then,
“Look, Noah, it says here in My Book, “every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.” It says here in black and white that you did it! It is Written!
“Well I’m dreadfully sorry, Lord, but book or no book it just isn’t practical. Do you absolutely have to wipe out everything and start again from scratch? It’s a terrible waste of resources. You could just set an example - put the Fear of Yourself up some of the local bigwigs and low-life with a really bad storm but leave the rest of the world alone? I don’t mind saving my family (and actually the neighbours aren’t that bad) and we can probably rustle up enough provisions to keep us going through a crisis, with a fair bit of belt-tightening - and Your gracious help, Lord. I can go out and about on Your behalf and issue a Final Warning and tell people they need to mend their ways Or Else, but some kind of superhero I am not, and personally - with the greatest respect - I think you ought to rewrite Your Book.”
So, in the end, this is what happened. Except for the last bit. But Noah had far too much on his plate getting off the top of Mount Ararat to worry about that.