ALIVE: Chapter Seven - Days of Preparation

God and Noah were too busy building the ark to continue their conversation about evil, but Noah was not always too busy to keep thinking about it. He wondered why the powerful God would allow His creation to become so corrupted. He thought about it deeply, from many angles he thought about it.

Did God allow demons, Neanderthals, and sons of men to be whoever they chose to be, even when they corrupted and destroyed His Creation and defied His will order to automate the world, so He wouldn't have to be involved in each and every action? Why, oh why did God want free will when freedom would ruin His design? God silently ignored these thoughtful questions; Noah shrugged his shoulders, relinquished his freedom to his Master and started building.

Step One. Fell the trees. Hundreds of trees were chopped down without saws or power tools. The work was hard and dirty, but Noah did not dare complain. They selected the largest and straightest cypress trees. Their tools were few: sharp rocks, and rope they made from hemp, and the wheel they constructed with anything they could get, a rock, a slice of tree. Rather than complain, Noah and his sons simply grew more and more muscular. The young men were proud of their old father for keeping up with them. The four men working in twos, Ham with Shem, and Japheth with Noah, managed to cut down twenty trees a day. The neighbors were furious, but were afraid to challenge such strong and determined men.

Noah hated the wickedness he saw around him, but he was used to it. It offended him, but he was alone in his opinion of his neighbors. Noah could not understand what motivated men to hurt each other without conscience; why did each person try so hard to dominate the other? All his life Noah tried to walk a straight line in a curly world.

Step 2. Haul the trees to the work-site. This is where the river came in handy. All they had to do was to drag the logs to the river. Once there, they assembled the logs into large rafts and floated the rafts down to the site of the building project. The cool water refreshed the men during their work. This relief gave Noah more time to think.

Noah knew God well enough to know about His tolerance, His forgiveness, and His love. He wondered though if God needed to be so generous-of-heart to contrast His goodness with evil, or to be superior to His enemy by continually creating and recreating, rather than always destroying as His enemy did? 'Come to think of it,' Noah said to himself, 'this flood will be the first time I can recall God ever destroying something.' He must deplore violence and wickedness more than He loves His creation. How much more frightening is God's disgust than the evil itself?'

Then Noah wondered if it was possible for good to exist apart from evil. He knew that evil could not exist apart from good, but he wondered what pure good would be like.

Noah asked himself. 'Could an antiseptic world be possible, and how would that world function?'

It seemed foolish to Noah that anyone would risk alienating him or herself from God. Then it occurred to him that for their part, no one else seemed to know that God existed. He wondered why God didn't make Himself obvious to everyone. Why was He so selective? No answer.

Step 3. Now it was assembly time. God spoke. "The length of the ark" said God, "shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. The door of the ark goes in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks, and divide the interior with rooms. Then, lay the roof on top of the ark, and finish it to a cubit above." God's plan was structurally sound. The hardest part was joining the interior rooms and constructing ladders to take them from one floor to the other. The building took months of hard and tedious labor to finish. Eventually the family's building skills could rest.

During the building phase Noah and his sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth were too busy to think.

From time to time the Neanderthals came to watch and asked what they were doing and why. Noah responded that he was preparing for the end of the world, which always received a hearty laugh, a shrug of the shoulders, and departure. No one wanted to help. Eventually Noah's family was shunned by everyone in the village. Noah was glad to be shunned. There was too much to do to stop and talk with dead men.

Step 4. Cover the inside and outside with pitch to seal it. They had to amass enough pitch to seal the entire structure. From time to time it became obvious to Noah that an invisible brigade was helping them. Sometimes a tree came down a little too easily, or the pitch-making occurred too quickly. Making pitch from wood had always been such a slow painstaking process, but it seemed that they were producing more than they put in. Noah and his sons worked from dawn to dark. The mission seemed impossible, except for the invisible help they received.

In his 600 years on earth Noah had seen plenty of men die, but the thought that all of his neighbors would perish, and only he and his family would live made him feel awkward; it also made him fear God all the more. He wondered if, without all of these enemies, he and his children and grandchildren could make a better world, free from wickedness and violence.

'It has been horrible to see how violent and wicked the people have become;' thought Noah, 'perhaps God was right, humans simply live too long. I wonder how the world will change when a lifespan is reduced to a mere 120 years.' It seemed to Noah that children will be giving birth to babies. That seemed strange to Noah. 'If a person's life is consumed by a short cycle of being a child to caring for children, to caring for elders, then dying, it seems that a life-span would consist mostly of the foolishness of immaturity. But, I suppose God knows what He's doing.' In his own life Noah regretted not having his triplet boys until he was 570 years old. Most men became fathers between 60 and 200 years old, but Noah wasn't ready for family responsibilities yet. How these boys changed his life and how grateful he was for their companionship. His boys were only thirty years old, but like any viral hundred year old, they were strong and good.' Noah was proud of his sons for working as hard as they did without complaining or doubting him. They hadn't heard God speak to them as their father had, nevertheless they believed and obeyed their father without a hint of skepticism.

Step 5. Gather the animals and their food.

This step was easier than Noah and his sons were afraid it would be. The animals seemed to be drawn to the ark by a magical magnet. Not just one or two, but flocks of birds, in reds, yellows, and blues, black and grey birds, majestic large birds with white collars, little tweety birds, regal birds and humble birds all came careening into the building, then came the horses, the dogs, large dogs, small dogs, yappy dogs and growling dogs, and giraffe, antelopes, anteaters, wolves, zebras, and chimpanzees. Last of all came the flies, mosquitoes, (thousands of them, to be used for food as well) gnats, fleas, spiders, ticks and rodents. God charged his celestial servants with gathering the wildlife. Angels were more capable and thorough than anyone else could be.

Noah's wife and daughters-in-law had been tasked with food gathering. For months and months they stored up seeds, and worms, leafy plants, and vegetables of every kind they could find in the land. Rooms and rooms were dedicated to food storage. Openings in the walls provided adequate ventilation to prevent rot.

The womenfolk spent every waking moment preparing food for the day and for the coming months, for their family, and for their non-human co-refugees.

On the seventeenth day of the second month, before they were quite done, Noah felt a drop of rain fall from the sky. It was only one droplet and it only fell on Noah's head. The drop felt like a bell heralding a very important message. It said, "I have arrived, the first of an enormous army come to extinguish the enemies of God. Fear not, welcome me. I have fallen on you beloved Noah, as Holy Water from our Lord. What blesses you will annihilate your enemy. Rejoice, that you have been chosen to live through the devastation to come. Never before has faith been required of you. Be prepared."

This visit was followed by a ray of sunshine, and then a summer breeze. After the breeze came two more drops of rain, and then three. Japheth rushed over, "Father!" He exclaimed, "I feel water dropping from the heavens!"

"Japheth, go get your brothers and their wives." replied Noah fervently, "I will find your mother. Go quickly as we know not how this baptism will transpire. Hurry back!"

Then Noah went looking for his wife. She was bathing in the river. She looked beautiful that morning, her long wavy flaxen hair sticking to her back and shoulders. He stopped to let her enjoy the moment. She hadn't felt the raindrops. Soon Noah's wife emerged from the river clean and refreshed. He approached her gently and wrapped her in his arms. They stayed in each other's embrace for a while listening to their hearts beat in a syncopated rhythm, then Noah whispered in her ear. "My dear, the time has come to enter the ark. We mustn't look back. We will not speak to anyone in our path, let's just slowly walk into our new home together."

A tear fell on her cheeks when she begged, "Why now Noah? It isn't raining yet. May I please see my mother and father, my sisters...please?"

"No," replied Noah. "You must not. Come and trust the Lord" she reluctantly but obediently walked hand in hand with Noah. When they arrived, Ham was there waiting for them and Shem and his wife arrived within moments. Fortunately, there were no Neanderthals loitering around the entrance of their ark. The women went straight in. The men looked around for Japheth.

When Japheth and his wife finally arrived, Noah rushed them into the ark, and shut the door tightly behind them to make sure it was secure and locked from within. The family entered the ark without fanfare or ceremony; the most important event in the history of mankind passed as quietly and swiftly as a chick being hatched from its shell, as subtly as a loon disappearing into the depths of its pond to fish for food.

Safely behind locked doors, the family prayed in awe and humility, and with profound thankfulness to God, their creator and Savior. God answered each man and woman with a warm glow in his or her heart.

After the prayer, while they were still assembled, Noah's attention turned to Japheth.

The explanation for his tardiness was that Japheth's wife had gone to see her family one last time, but she obediently did not let them know what was about to happen. She explained her somber condition as illness before giving each person a hug good bye.

Then, all four women left the assembly to gather in another room to cry. All four men looked out of windows and peered into the distance and up to the sky which by then had cleared. A white dove, flew up to them and perched on the ledge of the window. one more bird can't hurt thought Noah when he let the dove in.

The next day being as dry and clear as the evening before caused the women to beg to get out, but God had told Noah and his family not to leave the building. For seven long days the family squirmed inside the ark as prisoners of God. Noah wonder if this was what the little drop of water meant when it told him that his faith would be tested as never before. Outside the sun shined brightly. The air was still and calm. From time to time one of the eight people inside peeked out the opening to see passersby making fun of them. Ham's wife didn't know whether to feel ashamed or sad for them. Noah told the young folk to be patient because God wanted to make sure that the family was safely installed in the ark before the skies opened up.

To pass the time, the menfolk developed feeding schedules, and discussed other logistics. They also invented games to play among themselves. No one came to the door as the neighbors had long since given up the family as a bunch of lunatics. Even the women's mothers and sisters stayed away for fear of being associated with the lunatics. Noah prayed, talking to God asking when something would happen. He felt so foolish and ready. God responded with silence.

On the eighth day, early in the morning, a few drops of rain fell upon the earth. It rained until the sun was high overhead and then it stopped. The rain stopped for the rest of the afternoon. The people were relieved when the rain stopped. They had never seen rain before and talked to each other about the unusual thing that happened. Water falling from the skies. Men, women, and children, even the ladies' family in the village began to wonder if the falling water had anything to do with the equally strange ark that Noah had built for his family and animals.

The rain resumed at sunset and did not cease until the end of time for that generation, except for Noah and his family. After three days of torrential downpour, the people started to panic. Large crowds fled to the ark and tried to break the doors down so they could enter, but it was impossible. The protected family inside felt the walls shake at the banging of people all around them, but no one could enter.

As the weeks went by Noah's family could hear an increasingly loud clamor of voices in shock over the rains. Day after day women's cries, and men's shouts ebbed and flowed. Until one morning when they awoke, all was silent. There were no more cries for help, no more angry banging on the walls, no roaring lions or weeping children. All was silent except the sound of rain on the seas that had formed. The family rushed to the opening and all they could see around them was an ocean of water, not even a mountaintop, just water. It looked to Noah's wife as if an hundred rivers had joined to cover the earth.

So it was that 2,006 years after Creation of heaven and earth with its plethora of animal and human life, in the tenth generation of humanity, God had regrets and determined to start over with eight humans, Noah, Ham, Shem, Japheth and their wives. From this family, a new shorter-lived human race would flourish on His beautiful planet. And so the first era ended abruptly. Soon, being Alive would take on new meaning, new purpose, and new challenges.