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Deeper into the Drink

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. Naamah looked around the home in which she had raised three children, and spent the entirety of her adult life. It was as empty as the day it was built, the dirt floor bare of rugs, the wooden walls stripped of their tapestries. Everything, from the chests of clothes to the food in the larder, had already been moved onto the ark constructed at the command of her fool husband, Noah. He claimed it was God’s will, and her sons and their wives didn’t question him. She loved them, but Sem, Cam, and Jaffett had always taken after their father. Naamah saw nothing of herself in them, and even less of herself in their spineless wives who never dared to think for themselves, much less speak for themselves. Her daughters-in-law just went along with whatever their husbands wanted.
. Naamah gazed out the window and frowned. She had doubted her husband, but a great flood was looking more and more likely. The rain came down in torrents, as it had for every day the past week, and the river had risen cubits higher than she had ever seen it. The lower part of town was already underwater; they were fortunate that their home was on a hill. The water level had risen half a cubit in the last candle-mark, but no matter how high the water climbed, she would not get on that damn ark. Having that many animals in one place could not be pleasant, and Noah had made clear that her friends would not be allowed on board. Naamah loved her family, in an abstract way, but she didn’t want to spend the foreseeable future cooped up with them in an enclosed space.
. When her husband finally deigned to leave the ark long enough to try to convince her aboard, Naamah put her foot down. They could talk of flood all they liked, but her friends had kept her sane throughout the long years of her marriage, and she would not leave them behind for anything. If he had thought her head-strong or stubborn in the past, he would find her absolutely intractable now. All she had done for him, and he thought he could order her about? No, she wouldn’t stand for it. Either there wasn’t really a flood that would destroy every living thing on earth in a day’s time, or there was and he would damn well save her friends. She had asked so little of him over the years; in return for three strong sons and a well-kept house, it was really the least he could do. If he was the kind of man who would leave others, then he did not deserve her.
Naamah was well-pleased when Noah at last left her alone, but she realized upon hearing a knock at the door that she rejoiced too soon; her coward husband had sent his son to do his bidding. Sem pleaded with her, but she had been ignoring his wheedling cries since he was in swaddling cloths begging for a toy, and soon sent him on his way. Displeased by his audacity, she put on her cloak and dashed through the rain to the ale-house where her good gossips were no doubt drinking away the day. Naamah found them well-drunk, as they were wont to be, but did not begrudge them their liquor. Pulling up a chair to join them, she heard their conversation about the impending flood and grimaced. It seemed there was no escaping the topic. She tried to point out that the river flooded every decade or so, but to no avail. Her good gossips drank in preparation the end of the world, avoiding thought of drowning in a great flood by drowning their sorrows in alcohol. Naamah sighed, and joined them. She needed something stronger than water to wash away the frustrations of the day. No sooner had she had filled her cup than who should come marching into the tavern but her sons. They yet again bade her to come with them, but her answer had not changed. She refused to imagine a life without her friends. Upon her firm refusal, Sem grabbed her while her gossips screamed in fear. Such was their surprise that they made no protest as she was forcibly taken away. Sem dragged her kicking and screaming into the ark, Jaffett pulling the ramp closed behind them with an ominous thud. . . Naamah tried to hit her traitorous husband who had given them the orders, but her sons pulled her away before she could do the damage that this grievous affront warranted. They shut her in the stall that had been meant for the unicorns and slid the bolt home as she trembled with rage.
Naamah ranted and raved and pounded on the door. When her pleas were met with silence, she eventually fell into an uneasy sleep out of pure exhaustion. In the dark hold, she was unaware of how much time had passed before she was finally awakened by sudden movement of the ground beneath her. The ark gave a tremendous shudder as the first wave slammed into it, then ever-so-slowly rose above its supports until it was truly floating. The air filled with the sounds of displeased animals, unaccustomed to the rock of the boat and the company of others not of their species. She could make out the bark of a fox and the roar of a bear over the lapping waves and the falling rain, and began to weep inconsolably as she realized what this meant. If the water levels had grown high enough that the ark was floating, then the town was completely submerged, and her friends along with it. Naamah cried at the injustice of it all. Despite their penchant for drink, her gossips were good women, who were always there for her. They had advised her on everything from the birth of her first child to how best to cook a chicken. She had watched their children when they needed time to themselves, and they had watched hers in return. After all of their children were full-well grown, they had found other ways to occupy their time. They drank, and swapped tales about the trials and tribulations of being a wife, ideas on how best to run a town, and advice on how to grow a garden. Naamah sat in the dark and thought about her friends and all they had done for her, and about how much space was left on the ark. They could have fit. They could have fit.
. When Noah finally unbolted the door and allowed her upstairs onto the deck, she looked out at the sea that spread out for as far as the eye could see in all directions, and cried for the closeness that she knew she would never have again.