The inspiration for this story was the thought of what it must be like to be actually contacted by God and what an overwhelming experience that must be. I grew up Catholic and am now an atheist, I don't mean to imply that this is what happened to Noah, it's just a fantasy about what could have happened.
By James Goodwin
Noah awakened his mouth tasting like a barnyard. Then his eyes creaked open and he understood why, he was lying face down in the hut where the animals were kept. Dim light filtered through the cracks in the crude structure illuminating the goats that were ignoring him. He tried lifting his head off the floor and the searing pain of his hangover reminded him why he was sleeping with the goats. Brushing straw and goat droppings off his face he collected himself into first a kneeling position and then grabbing a goat by the head for support, he lurched to his feet. He doubled over again clutching the goat for support and very nearly puking all over it.
After the wave of pain and nausea passed, he shambled towards the door of the hut covering his eyes against the mid morning sun. Looking tentatively from behind shading fingers he didn’t see any family in the yard. This was good; he could maybe clean himself before the inevitable interrogation by his wife. Those always went better when he wasn’t covered in shit. Setting a course for the water trough on the side of the yard, he lurched into motion, his feet still not really obeying him very well. He had to correct his motion a few times before finally reaching his goal and plunging his head into the water.
The cold water, darkness, and muffling of sound was extremely good. Noah would have stayed there for a good long time if he wouldn’t drown. Extracting his head from the water with a gasp, he was about to scrub some especially crusty shit off of his forehead when it happened again.
“NOAH, I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, I HAVE CHOSEN YOU ABOVE ALL MEN TO BE MY AGENT AMONG MANKIND!” boomed a voice that emanated from the center of a ball of blinding light directly in front of Noah. He dropped to his knees, his arms wrapped around his head. An involuntary cry of pain was his only vocalization. Noah collected himself; this wasn’t the first time. Nothing was as bad as the first time. It had taken weeks to return to some form of sanity after that. Usually the wine helped numb his panic attacks, but at the moment this hangover was making it worse.
“Lord, I am your servant, though I am undeserving. Command me!” he shouted, clutching his head again. He’d tried saying other things and asking questions before. That resulted in even brighter and more painful light, and a voice so loud his nose and ears bled. So now he had a standard response that seemed to avoid punishment.
“I AM DISPLEASED WITH MANKIND. THEY WALLOW IN SIN, I AM GOING TO CLEAN THIS WORLD AND START AFRESH. YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE GOOD IN MY EYES AND WILL BE THE FATHERS AND MOTHERS OF A NEW WORLD OF PEOPLE!”
Noah cowered, and the only thought that ran through his head was what the fuck? what the fuck? what the fuck?
The horrible voice continued “YOU WILL BUILD A BOAT, AN ARK, 300 CUBITS BY 50 CUBITS BY 30 CUBITS. I WILL SEND PAIRS OF CREATURES, MALE AND FEMALE, OF EACH OF THE CREATURES OF THE EARTH AND YOU WILL TAKE THEM INTO THE ARK. WHEN THEY ARE ABOARD I WILL SEND A GREAT FLOOD TO CLEAN THIS WORLD AND PREPARE IT FOR NEW LIFE!”
Noah wanted to point out that he was a farmer and goat herder and not a fucking ship builder. He’d only seen the tiny crude one-man skiffs that the fishermen used on the lake nearby. He knew better, and he replied “Lord, your unworthy servant will execute your will!”
There was at that point a loud explosion and the light flared to an unbearable brightness that he could see through his closed eyes and encircling arms. The explosion was strangely cold though and with no concussion. Noah passed out in the middle of the farm yard. Next to him was a smoking glassy imprint in ground that formed a diagram and pictorial instructions for the construction of a large ship.
Far above the earth, in an orbit always hidden just behind the moon was a spaceship built of spheres connected by tubes and girders. In the space ship two tall grey humanoid aliens bent double laughing their asses off.
“Francine...ha..oh...man…Francine you knocked him out again...this never gets old. But, really, if he loses his mind again we’ll miss the deadline.” the alien named Rakesh said. It wasn’t his/her/it’s real name, and neither was Francine the name of the other alien, these were just what they called each other now. They had been on so many of these monitoring missions, orbited so many worlds, spun out thousands of years together, bored to death. So, they chose names that made them laugh. In the Worlds Monitoring Service you really needed to amuse yourself.
“Rakesh, he’s such a fucking drunk that he’s likely to fail in any case, so other than making the report to the WMS a little tricky, there is no downside to having some fun.” Francine walked across to a bank of monitors and readouts that showed real time information about Earth. She pointed at the glowing red region under the sea floor of what someday would be called the Pacific. “When this build-up of pressure gets released in an enormous eruption, there is going to be an extinction-level event that is going to wipe out pretty much every bit of life down there bigger than a microbe. It’ll be millions of years before anything close to the humans will emerge again if they do at all, not to mention all of the nicer animals. So we’ve got about this summer to salvage these creatures or they’re all done.”
“Fine, but what’s the deal with the boat? The creatures aren’t going to fit, and even if he could stuff them all in there they’d last about 10 seconds in the Tsunami/Earthquake/Fire Storm/Ash Cloud/Poison Gas Wave that is going to come. Is this just some sick joke? It’s messed up even for you.” Rakesh said.
“The boat is just a cover for the real solution. Take a look at this:” Francine activated a 3D visualization pod and a large machine appeared. “This is a DNA and micro-biome extractor and packager factory. In a matter of days it can take the entire flora and fauna of a planet and reduce it to millions of crystal fibers encapsulating their essence in perfect format for cloning.”
Rakesh made a face that for his people was one of mild revulsion. “So, you’re going to essentially set this guy up to puree every living thing on this planet? Including his family?”
Francine smiled her pointed razor sharp teeth gleaming. “Yup, pretty fucking cool huh? We package them up, wait until the event passes and we can even safely accelerate the cleanup. Then we just drop a cloning factory down there insert the rods and boom… the whole thing is back in business.”
“You’ve cleared this with WMS headquarters right? I mean, this seems like a huge violation of the non-intervention clause of the WMS protocols. Not that I really read it that closely.” Rakesh spun the machine image around looking for WMS brand markings.
“Of course I did. You think even I have the energy credits to fabricate something like this? Here’s the response. “ Francine handed Rakesh the flexible reader. “They love the fucking humans. Say they’re unique across the monitoring network and that we need to preserve them. The rest of the creatures just come along for the ride. And we’re not going to process all of them, just Noah’s family and actually we’re going to just freeze Noah.”
“Freeze him? What have you got against this guy?” Rakesh shook his head in wonderment.
“Nothing. We need someone to help the clones acculturate when we spit them out. This is why we’re going to the trouble of giving him a story. It’s the only way to really control humans. Tell them to do things for rational reasons; no way. Give them a story to believe in, they’ll bend over backwards.” Francine zoomed in on Noah again. “He’s coming around…”
Noah sat up suddenly, profoundly glad the screaming ball of light was gone. He was amazed by the huge diagram now rendered in new glassy stone in his farm yard, and by sight of his wife and sons kneeling in front of it apparently praying.
Naamah, Noah’s wife, looked up from her prayer first, her weathered face still reflecting the beautiful young girl he’d married. Her eyes however reflected the terror of a woman now confronting something beyond her experience. She said, “Noah, you’re alive, I was sure the Lord had killed you for your sinful drunkenness.” Great, I’m part of a damn miracle and I get the lecture anyway Noah thought. “Yes Naamah, my love, the Lord has preserved me because he’s given us a sacred mission, this miraculous image--” he gestured to the diagram “--tells us to create a great boat. I will need all of your help to do this.” He looked at his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth. They raised their heads from prayer and were now regarding him with exactly the same look as when he asked them to lend a hand on his farm.
His sons looked at each other, and then Shem spoke. It was always Shem, the other two always deferred to their youngest brother, which was not really the worst idea since he was the smartest one by far. Noah found it annoying as a father to have to collectively bargain with his sons. Shem said “This is indeed a miracle. Praise the Lord! But, looking at this image and what I think are its instructions, it will take us years to build this even if we work every night after tending our farms. It’s huge, the forest is not close by and there are only four of us to labor on it. And if I understand the sequence of moons across the bottom there we’re supposed to do this before the end of summer. We don’t even have the tools shown in this image! How are we supposed to do this?” The two older brothers mumbled, pointed and generally approved Shem’s statement.
Fortunately Noah knew the answer even before they had asked. “First, we won’t be tending our farms. This is the only thing we will be doing during all of our waking hours. Second, the Lord will provide, you must trust in Him completely.” Shem looked like he was going to speak again, but Noah continued. “We will take what stores we have and move into the forest to the north, by the time we get there, I know we will have tools. And as we work, we will find that our stores cannot be exhausted. I know it to be true, I have performed other works for the Lord and he has always provided.” Shem’s mouth closed, and Noah could see that he was examining his father, weighing his former opinion of a drunk and a failure against a new one of a prophet of the lord.
They agreed to begin their trek the next day. They could gather their meagre stores and belongings in a few hours. The sons departed to their own farms, to tell their wives Sed, Nael, and Ada about the mission and their journey. As Noah finished washing and dressing himself in a clean shift provided by his wife, he could hear the arguments echoing across their valley from a distance. He smiled and started packing the farm sledge with baskets of grain and dried fruits and vegetables. He only had one ass to drag it, so very little else could come with them. With that thought he heaved the largest of his wine bladders onto the sledge.
Francine’s pointed teeth ripped the head off a squirming rabbit, sending it skull and all to the rows of grinding shearing teeth lining her throat. The transporter was very helpful for acquiring fresh food from earth, and it was just barely within the letter of the guidelines to eat the animals after cataloging them. Rakesh didn’t like exotic food, so he just popped some ration cubes into his mouth and chewed them with markedly less gusto. Francine gestured with the rabbit carcass and said “The Lord will provide… the son of a bitch is starting to take us for granted! What happened to ‘The Lord helps those that help themselves?’ He’s conveniently forgotten that little lesson.”
Rakesh flushed the masticated ration cubes down his throat with some water and said “His son isn’t wrong. They aren’t blacksmiths, so we’re going to have to ‘miracle’ those tools to their campsite. We’re also going to have to move the diagram, unless you expect them to commute four miles overland to check the design drawings.”
“They could LEARN to be blacksmiths. And MAKE some damn paper to write down the diagram. Do we have to give them every damn thing?” Francine sputtered around the torso of a rabbit she was crunching through.
Rakesh dodged some gobbets of flesh and blood spatter. “I wish you’d eat that stuff in your quarters. It’s not pretty. Anyway, I’ll program the fabricator and I’ll transfer the diagram. You don’t have to do anything; it’ll be better anyway because the family won’t question him again after another ‘miracle.’”
Several weeks into building the Ark, the family had fallen into a rhythm of work. It started before sun up for the women, cooking gruel, eggs, and meat for the men. Then, binding their tortured hands, Ham and Japheth would set off to fell trees and drag them to the building site. Shem and Noah would shape the logs into timbers and use the winches and cranes they had discovered at the site to swing them into place and then to fasten them with pegs. Ada and Nael were both great at making pegs and spent the day churning out piles of them. Naamah and Sed worked to prepare the midday and evening meals from the inexhaustible baskets of food the lord provided. In the evening, when it was too dark to work, they shoveled food into their mouths and then fell onto pallets in their crude shelters and slept. Already the ribs and spine of the boat were in place and the bracing along with about a third of the the hull covering, right on schedule.
People who lived nearby sometimes crept up, not too close, to the site to observe them. Occasionally, one would scream something about demons and throw rocks. Until now they just ran off afterwards. But now, a group of five men walked all the way up to the work site. Ham immediately went out to meet them, his felling axe in his hand. Noah, seeing where things were headed walked quickly out and put his hand on Ham’s large forearm. He said “Hello, neighbors. Can I offer you some drink or food?” The apparent leader of the group an elder named Seth, stepped forward and spoke. “Noah, what are you and your family doing here? Many people have come to me full of fear and talk of demons, but I’ve said Noah is a farmer, a family man, maybe a little bit of a drunk, but never anything to do with demons. What this is about?”
“Well Seth, here it is: God spoke to me. He said that he’s going to destroy everything and everyone in a flood because he’s angry about all of humanity’s sinning. He told me he likes me and my family and that we’re to build a big boat. He’s going to put all kinds of creatures in it to preserve them when the flood comes. So, we’re doing what He said.” Noah let that sink in. Seth looked back and forth at the other men, then said “Why would God preserve your family and not mine ? Or Jacob’s or Aarons ?” He pointed at the other men. Noah looked at his feet and he knew what he had to say, but he also knew that it wouldn’t satisfy them. It hadn’t satisfied him when he asked God. “God told me that it is his will, and if I love him and believe in him then that should be enough.”
Seth looked at Noah for a moment, then he and the other men walked a little ways away. They had a heated discussion, pointing and gesturing, and then finally Seth came back. “God bless you Noah, and your family, I hope that you can carry out God’s commands. We will leave you in peace.” He took Noah’s hand and kissed him on both cheeks and then he turned and left with the other men. Noah looked at Ham in amazement and said “Well, that went better than I imagined!” He walked back to his work. Ham looked after the men and he said in a low mumble “I’m not buying it.” He strode back towards the forest.
Noah had good nights and bad nights. The good ones were when he collapsed into an exhausted dreamless slumber and didn’t wake until his wife prodded him the next morning. The bad ones were when lying next to the others he was tormented by thoughts of failure, destruction, followed by eternal torment by God. God had actually spelled this fate out to him. His entire body would be wracked by uncontrollable tremors, his teeth would clench, and finally he would creep away from his family and go to where he had hidden the wine bladder. It was up a ravine that opened above the building site, there was a depression under some trees padded by fallen leaves, where he could recline out of the wind in relative comfort and drink from the wine bladder until the tremors left him and he passed out.
This was a bad night, perhaps brought on by the confrontation with the neighbors, or maybe just the grinding labor. In any case, he found his way up the ravine and he lay in the leaves drinking from the inexhaustible wine bladder. The fact that it also was replenished every day made him think that God knew what he was doing to Noah. Noah looked down at the building site, and then up at the sky through the boughs of the trees above him at the carpet of light above and the shining moon. He raised his hand and made a gesture to the sky that in his culture meant Fuck yourself! A few draws on the wine bladder later he lost consciousness and slept.
He awoke the next morning to the smell of smoke. It wasn’t the good smoke of his wife’s dried wood cooking fire. It was the resinous black smoke produced by the tangled undergrowth nearby. He sat up and looked around for a wildfire, then down to the building site. A sheet of flame and black smoke was visible beyond the partly completed Ark. His first thought was that his defiant gesture to God had doomed him and his family along with the rest. He jumped to his feet and tried to run down the ravine. His coordination was for shit and he ended up sliding and tumbling more than running. By the time he ran, gasping and bleeding, to the edge of the site, he could see dozens of people standing watching a fire that had been built along the side of the boat. Flames licked the sides of the Ark streaking them black. Fortunately Gopher wood wasn’t great for firewood and it only sizzled and steamed.
As he got closer he saw Ham, his largest son, lying behind the crowd. His axe was beside him, his head bleeding profusely, seeping onto the earth. Beyond him, a group of women prodded his wife and daughter-in-laws with pointed sticks when they tried to run to help Ham. His other sons were lying beaten and bound beyond them, unmoving. Noah screamed in rage and ran unthinking at the crowd. They turned and encircled him and beat him to the ground with sticks, fists, and feet.
Noah lay there bleeding, crying, watching his doom unfold in the fire. Then, three things happened in rapid succession. Every one of the people standing suddenly seemed to have a red collar extending from their necks. The collars looked like some of the flowers that briefly showed up in the spring from the spiny undergrowth. Then their heads tumbled to the ground, followed by their twitching bodies. Then a huge gust of wind roared out of the ravine and blew the fire away and apart. As Noah rose shaking to his feet, he realized that Ham had disappeared.
“A daisy cutter! A fucking daisy cutter! Are you out of your mind? We could have just knocked them out or something!” Rakesh yelled. He never yelled. He was shaking both clenched hands at Francine. Francine was standing over Ham who was face down and naked on a transparent table floating in the center of the room. She was carefully washing, sorting, cleaning and then using carefully crafted enzymes to glue Ham’s brain bits approximately back where they belonged. There were pieces missing. Oh well. She glared at Rakesh and said “Calm down you big baby, they were all going to get killed in a few weeks anyway. I couldn’t wipe their brains and then have them come up with this stupid idea again. You know how predictable they are!”
“Oh sure, that’s all very reasonable. But how about the probe up that guy’s ass? Is that reasonable? We’ve had the ability to monitor all of their life processes remotely for centuries, and yet you still use the probe?” Rakesh pointed a shaking finger at the pile of cables protruding from Ham’s backside. “We get better monitoring of their biome from the probe. The remote sensing is too high level to get an accurate read on all of the gut fauna that actually controls their lives.” Francine turned back to her work cementing skull pieces back together. She welded the flesh neatly back in place above them. “There…” Francine said “not good as new. But he was never a mental giant, but he should be okay to cut trees and follow an ass around.”
Soon the horrible pyre of burning bodies died down. Ham reappeared out of the woods, incoherent, to be stroked by his wife like a dog and led from place to place. Work resumed on the Ark and it rapidly took shape. The highest deck was surmounted by a house where they all moved with their supplies. The Ark had a large door with a ramp and a huge window which Noah personally hoped was well above the water line. Summer was almost at an end, and they had completed God’s work.
But, now that it was done, nobody wanted to enter the darkness inside the Ark. They were all gripped by a fear of that space. Even when the sun should have illuminated the interior it was in pitch blackness. The animals started arriving shortly after they completed the Ark, all manner of them, a great many they had never seen in their small part of the world. The animals would simply run or slither or hop up the ramp. Sometimes they were dropped by huge birds of prey or they just flew through the window on their own. After each group entered, there was a whining noise which Noah and his family couldn’t identify. Then a white cloud shot out of the window. The cloud smelled like the steam from the millet bread that Naama baked. After a couple of weeks, the day and night arrival of the animals tapered off and then ended. The strangest thing was the complete silence from inside the Ark. Noah and his family slept in their house atop the boat, waiting for the flood.
Noah woke to the sensation of being held in someone’s arms. At first he thought his wife was embracing him, then he realized that he was being held in strong arms like a baby, his upper body elevated. He opened his eyes. He was being held by a beautiful young man, with dark skin and dark hair and a crescent shaped blue stone like a moon affixed to his forehead. He tried to move and found that he could not, or cry out, he could only stare. “I’m Rakesh and I’ve come from God.” the young man said gently with a melodious voice “Your family has gone into the Ark, and it’s time for you to go too.” Noah wanted to scream or struggle but only a tear left his eye. “It’s going to be better.” Rakesh crooned and wiped the tear away, stroking Noah’s head. “When you awaken your life will be better. God appreciates all you’ve done, and you and your family will be together again.” Noah was overcome with the urge to sleep and sank deep into slumber.
Aboard the spaceship, Rakesh deactivated the projection of the young man. He pushed the floating platform with a large block of frozen metamaterial, Noah inside it, in suspended animation, forward to the center of the control room where it settled onto a pedestal. Francine smirked. “Well, now who’s violating the guidelines, taking their form, cuddling them. Hah!” Rakesh looked at her coldly. “I’ve decoded and read your reports to the WMS. If I wanted to, I could add some corrections that’d leave you frozen in a block too. You’re done with Noah here. When we put them back, he’s out of the ‘Agent of the Lord’ business for good. Got it ?” Francine snarled, but turned to the console. “Fine! Whatever!”
The aliens watched the enormous eruption, the earthquake, the fire storm, the ash cloud that blocked out the sun, leading to the rushing wall of poisonous searing hot gas that raced across the planet. It was quite a show, once things settled down a bit, 100,000 years or so later, they transported machines to various places on the globe that cleaned the atmosphere, collected the dust, and sucked up the smoke. After 5,000 years, the planet looked pretty habitable. The plants seemed to be the most resilient creatures, coming back on their own covering the globe in new green growth, now that there was sun and rain. It happened several million years too fast. It would perplex the geologists in the future.
Noah woke in his bed on the Ark. He had no sense of time passing, but everything seemed strange to him: the air, the sky, the sounds around him. He walked out of the house and saw that the Ark was open. Periodically waves of creatures would leave via the giant door or the window. He looked around for his family, but he was alone.
After several days of watching creatures exit the Ark, and eating gruel (the only thing he’d learned to cook) and sleeping he saw the first human come from the Ark. It was a woman, completely naked. He recognised her as a younger Naama! He sprang down the ladder and ran to her, embracing her, kissing her, saying her name. The woman laughed, and patted his beard, and stared at him uncomprehending. Struck dumb, he clutched her to him. Then he took her face gently in his hands and said “You are Naama. You are my wife” She laughed she said “I am Naama, I am your wife.”
Every evening he would sit with Naama and tell her stories of who she was or had been. He’d known her all her previous life after all. She came to love him and after a while she accepted that his stories were about her.
Other people came out of the Ark before it crumbled to dust. They were brought to Noah. He named them and told them who they would be. He and Naama and his new sons built a big stone house and planted a vineyard around it. He traded the wine he made for everything they needed. Noah claimed he was more than 600 years old. Since nobody could remember where he came from, they believed him. He never heard from God again.