The raven lifted off from its homeland between the broad rivers and flapped into the

mist. A warm current lifted it above a bunch of silver oaks and bursting maples. From there, the bird saw mountains and basins; flourishing groves gave way to plentiful fields of grass. The bird saw hawks and sheep, cows and wolves, tigers and rabbits. It was good. The raven came, suddenly, to the ocean and the shore that held it in place. It circled downward and landed on a rubber tree. It croaked twice at the sea. Then it hopped off and took to the air again. The smell of the water wafted up into its nostrils. The waves crashed rhythmically on the rocks and returned to their own. It, too, was good.

-Part I-

Ahdam stepped on some thing that made a tiny cut in his heel. Chavvah leaned over and caught sight of the incongruity. There, next to a leaf, protruding from the side of a flower stem was a small, sharp thing. She pointed it out to Ahdam and together they examined. It did not look like a young leaf, but it pleased Ahdam in an ominous sort of way. And it made him feel like shaking all over. Then he squeezed it, not knowing why. When the barb pierced his skin Ahdam yelped and jumped away into a strange kind of stance. His left foot shot forwards, angled. His right foot planted backwards, sideways. His hands stretched up in front and he, for a second, forgot about his finger. Chavvah sucked in air. A deluge of unfamiliar feelings busied Ahdam’s brain. He rounded the flower as though it were going to do something. He circled the thing three times before slowly coming to his senses. He stood erect again and remembered Chavvah who huffed and stormed off. Ahdam watched her go; then crept over to the flower and bent down to it. “Thorn,” his mouth made the word for the first time and he marveled at it. He said it again, but louder. Using his middle finger now, he stroked the thing from the opposite direction and felt the smoothness of it. It had a sleek, slick design. It would not hold water. It was not attractive. It was out of place. It was not of this world. His concentration broke with a shriek from Chavvah who had returned with a short branch - torn from a tree. She held it high and brought it down on the flower, crushing it into the earth. She did it again. She howled and beat the ground with her little club furiously. Ahdam leapt, without thinking, and tackled her. He pinned her arms to the dirt and stared at her. His breath disturbed the hair on her forehead. Her cheek muscles twitched and tears clouded her eyes. She roared at him and snapped at him. Ahdam was unnerved. He pressed her with his pelvis and a surge of anger flooded him. He jammed his thumbs in between her biceps and their bone. “No,” she cried. “No,” she wrenched her head to the side, away from his face. Her pride excited him. “We are not one,” Ahdam thought, but he burned for her a moment anyway. She choked back a sob. His eyes tarried on her face and

admired the arch of her jaw. A tear line raced down her nose and broke the spell. Ahdam realized that he was hurting her arm. Her pale skin glowed next to his black hand. Ahdam released her slowly and stood up, backing away from her. He was more afraid of himself.


Ahdam woke with a start in the middle of the night. Something was wrong. He sprang into a cold sweat and raced forward into the brush. He crashed through the rough fingered foliage at a frantic pace until he reached the edge. Then he stopped short. The sound of his own breathing disturbed him. His own beating heart traumatized him. Ahdam lifted a branch and ducked through - into the wide open. He saw the field disappear in front of him and the black of the sky beyond. There was no moon. “Daddy?” he breathed. He hunted with his eyes. “Daddy?” his voice shuddered. “Ahdam,” El answered. “Where were you?” Ahdam drew a breath. “Right here. Where were you?” “I was here, too. Um,” his chest heaved and then started to cry. Ahdam stomped his tone: “How can I find to you?” “Look for me,” El answered. Ahdam sniveled and nodded. It was enough to make him stop crying. _________________________

After dinner the next night, Ahdam watched Chavvah hold her belly and screw up her face. She lay down and looked up at the sky. Her breathing seemed intentional. Measured and calculated. This scared Ahdam so much that he would not lay with her. Instead he crouched at the perimeter of the firelight and watched her as if she were going to explode. Then he wandered away for more wood. When he returned, Chavvah was on all fours and wet from the middle down. Her hair hung lank in her face. “Help me get undressed,” she panted at him. Gingerly, he took her leather skirt off. She wanted to walk and so he walked with her. Together they made tight circles around the fire for about an hour, stopping

intermittently to scrunch up their faces and breathe. He could not help but do it with her. She blew her cheeks into big bags each time. Chavvah moaned and gasped for air, hungry for it. After another couple of laps around the fire she slumped over and put her hands on both knees in a kind of squatting position. “She’s coming,” Chavvah gasped. Ahdam froze and stared at her blankly. “You have to catch the baby!” she barked, marveling at his stupidity. “Right,” Ahdam shuffled behind her and looked helplessly around. Then he bent over and looked up at her. The lips of her vagina were spreading and growing in between was a round, hairy head. He jerked up and searched the forest again for someone who knew what to do. Chavvah made large straining and grunting sounds. “Oh,” she breathed. Ahdam flopped onto his back and scooted underneath her. He wanted to pull on the baby somehow but could not. He rubbed the head and then pried his fingers in between, trying to loosen the vagina’s hold. It made no difference. Chavvah screamed. Ahdam had helped his horse give birth. But this was different. He wanted to tell Chavvah to calm down and try to breathe normally, but he was afraid to. Ahdam got the impression that she wanted to be free of her own body. She wanted to run away from the pain. It was heart wrenching to him and he loved her fiercely for it. She squatted lower and pushed harder. With every push she screamed. Ahdam wondered why she didn’t just stop for a minute and rest. Then the head came out. It was a strange and foreign thing. And then the rest of the baby, in a gush. Ahdam held it like a pine cone. He had never seen so much blood at once. The baby was covered and Chavvah dripped more onto him. The cord ran up into her. He waited on the afterbirth and held the infant, who was a male after all. He had dark hair all over his head. His face was wrinkly and made an awful noise that physically hurt Ahdam to hear. Chavvah took in fuller, more productive breaths between sighs. They waited and waited for the afterbirth while Chavvah grew more and more pallid. “I need to sit,” she exhaled. Ahdam rose forward letting her resume her hands and knees position. Her heart was slow; he could tell. She still bled and the placenta had not come. Ahdam grew worried. “Roll onto your back,” he said to her. She pitched; face forward, into the earth.

“Chavvah!” he cried. Careful not to catch the cord with her heel, Ahdam flipped her over with one hand by grabbing her hip bone and using her thigh as leverage. She was asleep. Ahdam felt alone. The baby squalled. He needed to eat. Ahdam’s mind raced. Chavvah’s breathing was labored and slow but steady. It was almost as though she were awake and counting each one. The placenta was still inside her. Many long moments passed. The baby’s wrinkly face reddened with fury. He clenched his tiny fists and all the muscles in his body squeezed the noise from him. “Chavvah?” he rubbed her leg with his hand. She did not move. Ahdam started to cry. Tears filled his big brown eyes as he helplessly watched her sleep. He slapped her, too hard, on the thigh. How long could this go on? “Put the baby to her breast,” said a voice from behind him. Ahdam did not need to look to know that it was El. He stood, stooped and moved them into position. Ahdam rubbed the baby’s cheek with Chavvah’s nipple. The boy quieted and searched for it with his mouth. This made Ahdam smile. At first, the baby did not latch on properly and he bawled. Ahdam resumed his panic. “Do it again,” El’s voice soothed him. Ahdam did as he was told and put the baby back on. This time, he took hold well and sucked hard. Something was coming; Ahdam could tell and felt somehow satisfied. After a minute, Chavvah’s belly contracted and she came around. The placenta came soon after that. Ahdam was careful with both baby and placenta as he carried them to the tiny straw bed they had created. He was not worried about Chavvah anymore now that El was there. He used water and leaves and large moss bunches to clean his son. The boy was beautiful. Ahdam had never seen a human baby before. His nose was tiny and slightly turned up at the end. His lashes were long and curly, like his father’s. His fingers were long and dexterous and it amazed Ahdam how he stroked at his face with them. “Hello,” Ahdam’s voice shook a little. “Hello,” he said again (stronger) and rubbed the child’s foot with his finger. Soon, he noticed El standing over him. El seemed satisfied and joyous and somber all at once. The confusion of feelings he sensed in El spread to him as well. Ahdam turned his attention back to the child who was peeing all over himself. Ahdam wiped him up with another bunch of moss. “Bring him to me,” Chavvah called weakly. Ahdam scooped up the child and El the placenta. Together, they walked the baby to her. Ahdam handed him over

and El gave the placenta to Ahdam. El retrieved the small straw bed and set it next to Chavvah. She appraised the child, checking his fingers and toes. She moved his legs back and forth. She lifted his arms and turned him over to look at his back. He is perfect, Ahdam thought. An excitement ran through him like he had never felt before. He wanted to run and jump and howl like wolf. Instead, he set the afterbirth into the straw and laughed. Once she was satisfied that her baby was whole and healthy, Chavvah inhaled deeply and shakily. Her eyes welled up with tears. A violent gratitude took hold of her. It cracked her pride for a moment. She locked eyes with El and said, “With God’s help I have gotten a man.”


Qayin crossed his arms and looked down at the plants. Corn, squash and peas shot up in eight bundles before him. Ahdam had told him to spread them out. He had not. Why bother? They thrived before him and he glowed with pride. He would show them to his father and be justified by his works. Qayin was the eldest boy and an olive skinned, wavy haired masterpiece. His frame jutted into angular expressions and obtrusive shapes. His skin stretched over it like a tanning hide regardless of his imposing size. Everything he did was to your face. Hebel, slapping him on the back, appeared behind him. Second born, Hebel made up for his awkward, lanky stature with taught, red muscles. He also ran like a deer. His eyes were green diamonds in a hay field. Hebel had a goofy laugh that bobbed his throat apple. He draped his arm over Qayin’s shoulders and took in the sight of the crop. “See, they work together like I told you,” Qayin beamed. Hebel had not been listening and did not remember the conversation. “Yeah, wow,” he returned. Then Hebel smiled as though he recalled and patted Qayin on the shoulder. He strode off. Taking a thin, sharp stone from his pocket, Qayin removed a pair of the squashes and sauntered back to the fire. Casually he tossed one of them at Awan who, last second, noticed it coming and caught it reflexively. This irritated her and she scowled at Qayin. She set the squash behind her doing her very best to seem unimpressed with it. Chavvah’s first girl, she wore an expression of sincerity at all times. Awan was tiny with tiny feet. Her eyes were almond shaped and peaceful. The skin above her eyelid did not crease when she blinked. Her skin looked like milk and shook when she ran. Her hair was straight and black. Awan worked circles around them all in mind and body. She was, in fact, very impressed with the squash. None of them had ever grown anything as fine as this. Qayin had been talking for months about “growing groups” and now they had paid off. He believed that certain plants worked better together than others. If the squash Awan caught was any indication, Qayin was right. It was as big as her head and smooth like skin. Awan padded over to her fire where her clay cooking pot was coming to a boil. Using her sharp stone, she cut the vegetable up into the water and sighed. Qayin passed Chavvah on the way to find Ahdam. He held his squash into the air so she could see and she clapped for it. Qayin smiled and searched the waterfront below for his father. Ahdam was nowhere to be found. Qayin spun around and shouted back to Chavvah.

“Where’s dad?” “At the lake,” she called back. Qayin craned to look again and saw his father coming up out of the water. He had been swimming. Ahdam’s black skin made his smile explode into brilliant and frequent phrases of joy. His hair was light brown, wooly and soft. The bottoms of his feet and hands looked like half gloves and socks of sand. He laughed a lot, but his brow creased when he did so. Qayin rambled down the hill to meet his father who carried a fistful of water plants. Ahdam laid them out on the ground and inspected them. He was bent over, poking them with sticks when Qayin arrived. “Look,” Qayin said. Ahdam looked up but the sun blinded him. He shielded his eyes and Qayin moved the squash closer to his face. “Ooooh,” Ahdam breathed. “Very nice.” He took hold of it and turned it over in his hands. Then he tossed it up and caught it. “Nice form. Good color. Excellent,” Ahdam judged. “Looks like your idea worked,” Ahdam smiled at him. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen.” Ahdam laid it back into Qayin’s hand heavily and nodded. “Thanks,” Qayin said, rolling it preciously in his hands. “Now,” Ahdam said, “Look here.” With his stick, Ahdam indicated the water plants he had retrieved from the lake. “Everything ends up in the water,” he looked meaningfully at Qayin, “water cleanses us and our dirt feeds the plants. Water cleans everything. More dirt, more plants. We have lots of plants.” Ahdam paused. Qayin nodded, not sure where his father was going with this. “Lots of dirt comes from lots of people.” Ahdam stared at Qayin waiting for him to connect the dots. Qayin stared blankly back at Ahdam. “Yeah,” he said. Ahdam shook his head. “It’s about time somebody took a wife and moved on,” Ahdam poked Qayin in the chest with his stick. Qayin blushed.

“No,” he said and rubbed his breastbone. “She’s not ready yet. Her breasts aren’t even full yet!” “Oh, their full,” Ahdam retorted, “and so are you.” He grabbed Qayin by the testicles for emphasis and Qayin pulled away blushing. A long moment passed between them. “Don’t you want to take her?” Ahdam asked, looking him squarely in the eye. Qayin stuttered and scratched his stomach. “Of course,” he said and went pale in the face. “Well then?” Ahdam waited. “I don’t know,” Qayin stalled and pawed the ground with his foot. Ahdam decided to try a different approach. “She works hard. She is strong and would have many babies,” Ahdam searched his son’s face for some kind of clue. None came. He sighed and picked up his plants. Ahdam tossed them frankly in the lake and headed back to camp. Qayin lingered a moment by the water and then he tagged along. The afternoon was coming to a close when Ahdam stopped just short of the camp to wait for Qayin whom he could hear following. His heart ached for the boy, but he could not fathom it. Hair had been on Qayin’s chest for six years now. He was ready. Awan could have a toddler now. At Qayin’s age, Ahdam had wanted Chavvah more than breath. Why was Qayin so different? Qayin caught up to Ahdam and Ahdam waved him to come away from the fire. Confused, Qayin followed. As he marched alongside his father, Qayin stifled a sigh, knowing that more of his father’s cajoling was sure to follow. In silence the pair ascended the hill north of their home on a familiar trail. Passing through the evergreens they climbed higher and higher. Ahdam seemed to ignore Qayin as they climbed. He was, in his mind, going someplace else, Qayin thought. Qayin happily let him go. When Ahdam left behind the place in the trail when they would usually turn left and follow the ridgeline west, Qayin suddenly realized that they were headed to the place where Ahdam sacrificed. Qayin had never been with his father to sacrifice. No one had. Not even Chavvah. His stomach twisted. His heart raced as he fell behind Ahdam, letting him lead the way. Qayin could tell already that they were headed to a mystical place. They topped the edge of the valley and there was just enough light left for Qayin to see the lay of the land beyond. He could see a broad river cutting through a

gorge and, in the distance, a mountain that disappeared into clouds. The sun made them all pink and beautiful. The sight stole Qayin’s breath for a moment. Behind him, he could see his home like never before. It was as if a giant lizard fell and made the valley they called Banah. A stream came in from the east and trickled down into its shoulder print. It pooled into a lake just large enough to catch fish. Alders, beeches, maples, and oaks grew up beside it. Where the lizard’s tail had fallen at the western edge of the valley; Scots pines and Oriental spruces stood tall and stately along deep cuts in the land. Great bears and their caves could be found there; serpents as well. Qayin had been outside the valley before, only not in this direction. Ahdam had always led them eastward. To their left the trail continued for a few feet where, just beyond a huge bunch of juniper, a number of slate slabs were stacked on top of one another. Knowing that his father had assembled them put Qayin in awe. They had to have each weighed as much as three men. He could not see what was on top of the altar. “Wait here,” Ahdam stopped and sighed. He visibly plucked himself up and then started towards the altar. The muscles in his back were tense, Qayin noted. Half way to the altar Ahdam stopped and Qayin watched his shoulders drop. Ahdam hung his head for a moment and then turned on his heel and looked up into the sky. His eyelids shook for a moment as though he were going to cry. Then his countenance hardened. He waved for Qayin to come. Approaching, Qayin tried not to look so obviously beyond his father though he was dying to know what lay on the stone slabs behind him. Ahdam’s expression was unreadable and Qayin wondered what could be going on his mind. On the altar, Qayin saw a slew of horror. Dead birds, hay, flowers, a goat, a pig, and an ox (falling off the stone it was so big). The stink of it assaulted Qayin and he covered his mouth and nose with one hand. He fought back the urge to vomit and wondered how his father could stand there so unaffected. Then he noticed that his father was crying. Big tears rolled stoically off his cheeks and onto the ground. “This sacrifice was unacceptable,” Ahdam said and his voice shook. “Help me clean this up.” Ahdam retrieved a well used, wooden shovel from behind some rocks and paced some distance off. There he began furiously digging. Qayin moseyed over, feeling like an intruder. He stood behind his father as Ahdam sweated away the earth and muttered under his breath things that Qayin was sure weren’t pleasant. He nervously shifted back and forth waiting while Ahdam fought with the dirt and rocks. He flung them unnecessarily far away. While he waited, Qayin noticed that the land in this area of the ridge was littered with curiously shaped mounds. Some larger than others. Some older, with plants growing on them. Some

newer. Qayin shook his head when he realized that all those little hills were the result of evenings like these. Ahdam crawled out of the shallow grave and pounded over to the altar. Angrily, he mounted it and kicked off the carcasses and plant remains onto the ground. The ox took the strength of them both and Qayin wondered how Ahdam got it up there in the first place. As they pulled the beast off the stone, he noticed burn marks on top. This made Qayin wonder if his father ever burned his sacrifices there. He would have so many questions tomorrow. Finally, as they lost the sun entirely, Ahdam threw the final scoop of dirt onto the new mound. He replaced his shovel behind the rock and the two of them trekked back down the mountain in the same silence as when they ascended it. _________________________

El had breakfast with them the next morning. Qayin never knew when El would show up and often did not know when he left. There was a palpable tension between him and Ahdam. At one point, El followed Ahdam down to the lake and when they returned, the tension was broken. This made everyone feel better. Edna chased Lilith down for taking her potato. Chavvah laughed at Lilith when Edna held her up by the ankle and dangled Lilith out in front of her. Lilith swung at her furiously missing and each time growing more embarrassed. Edna was a chunky, stocky, thick haired blonde with gray eyes. Strong as an ox and sturdy; she could keep up with Hebel in a race. Edna was sixteen years old and still made baskets with her mother out of the thick reeds. She bent them all to her will. Edna was a force. Lilith was unknowable even at six years old. She shared her mother’s alabaster skin, but her hair sharply contrasted it. It was all black body against nothing at all. She was a quiet study and sharp as a thistle when backed into a corner, which Edna loved to do. Awan found herself defending Lilith at times when no one was sure why. Lilith did not say a word. Hebel mentioned Qayin’s squash, corn, and bean crop to El and he nodded at the achievement. Qayin blushed. Awan stole his thunder by telling El all about her new recipe of onions, tomatoes, and garlic. Qayin wandered off to his plants. There he plopped down cross legged amongst them, sorely depressed. The grass beneath him was tender and alive. Was God really mad at them? Was God just mad at Ahdam? Were they okay now? What would happen if God were mad?

Qayin lay on his back and looked up at clouds. He made shapes with them in his mind and thought of his father’s sacrifice. The eyes of the animals haunted him. What made a good sacrifice? What did God want from us? He has everything. Qayin thought of El and the way El looked at him. He thought of his father’s eyes on the mountain and the fuming shoveling mess he had become. It hurt Qayin and angered him. What did God want from them? Qayin rolled over on his side and stared at his crop bundles. “The best,” he said aloud. God wanted their best. He cocked his head to the side and scratched it. That must be it. God wants our best things. He wants to know that we are willing to give up our most precious things to him. Then we will be acceptable to him, when we demonstrate to him that he is the most important thing to us. The thought shot Qayin onto his feet. He paced back and forth muttering excitedly to himself. This was the answer. Maybe this is why Ahdam took him onto the mountain. Maybe Ahdam needed help with the answer and Qayin had found it. Absently, Qayin strode over to his tallest plants; the ones he knew were the best. Carefully, he cut them and wrapped them in leaves. Qayin kept to the forest and avoided the camp as he ascending the mountain. This was tedious work, picking through the brush and trees with a load in his arms. It took him twice as long to get there than yesterday and when he arrived he was exhausted. Qayin collapsed onto the ground, careful to keep a hold of his bundle. The leaves he wrapped the vegetables in had wilted slightly from the heat of his body. He laid them out flat and set the bundle on top of them. Qayin stretched out his legs on the dirt and looked out over the valley. What a magnificent view Ahdam had from here. It occurred to Qayin that much of his father’s wisdom must have come from having a vantage point like this one. One day, Qayin would bring his son up the mountain to show him where to sacrifice. Only, he would show him how it’s done. Then it occurred to Qayin that Ahdam did not know. This scared him more than any other thought ever. He rolled over and considered the altar which he could see the tip of through the juniper. Yesterday, this whole place had spooked him, but in broad daylight it was not so bad. The mounds were still a little creepy, but amongst the well lit trees and shrubs they were forgettable. Without much fanfare, Qayin set his best plants on his father’s altar and left. As he trouped back down the mountain, he wondered how long it would take to know whether or not God had accepted his sacrifice or not. How, as well, would he know if it was accepted? He would have to consult his father and this would mean revealing what he had done. This scared Qayin a little, but he knew that, in the end, Ahdam would be glad. This made Qayin smile as he reentered the

camp. He approached the fire where Edna, Lilith, Awan and Chavvah were having a “girls only” moment. Qayin brashly paid it no heed and plopped down right in the middle. The women shifted uncomfortably and stared at the ground. Qayin, then, felt out of place. Chavvah, diplomatically, asked Qayin to excuse them and he, diplomatically, left. He decided to find Hebel and fill him in. Hebel had been fairly scarce of late. Qayin made his way out to the pasture, but Hebel and his animals weren’t there. Then he went down to the water, but they were not there either. Then, Qayin saw fresh tracks leading away from camp, following the stream. He followed the tracks. The stream was beautiful this time of year. Qayin should have known that this was where Hebel had gone. It was one of their favorite places to play as children. They liked to throw rocks in it and watch the ripples disappear into currents. He would catch up with Hebel soon. After all, Hebel would have his sheep and goats with him to slow him down. After about a half an hour of hiking, Qayin came upon Hebel and El leaning against a large rock. The pair casually chatted and watched Hebel’s animals drink in the stream. This sight comforted Qayin and left him feeling a little left out at the same time. Hebel smiled wide as usual. El smiled as well. They scooted over to make a little room on the rock for Qayin who propped against it gladly. A pleasant breeze lifted up over them and cooled Qayin’s forehead, which was sweating. El revived his pipe with a few, long draws. The smell of it was wonderful to Qayin. They stood there silently for about half an hour, listening to the stream and the sheep, smelling the pipe and feeling the breeze. It was wonderful. It occurred to Qayin that moments like this just happen. They cannot be created. Hebel turned and absently asked El, “What’s the difference between a boy and a man?” “We will see,” said El straight. This felt cryptic and strange to Qayin and he shook off the feeling of the mountain again. The images of the animal eyes came back into his mind. Qayin righted himself and sidled down to the stream. For a long time he watched the water flow over the rocks and sticks. “Water cleans everything,” Ahdam had said. They should have washed the altar, Qayin thought, but then dismissed it. When he turned around, El was gone and Hebel was staring at him, bug eyed. Like he knew something. “What?” Hebel asked. “What? What?” Qayin looked away, suddenly offended by the familiarity.

“You seem thoughtful,” Hebel said. The same familiarity now comforted Qayin. “Have you ever thought about sacrificing to God?” Qayin asked Hebel, expecting to be laughed at for some reason. “All the time,” Hebel returned. Qayin looked around. “Really?” “Sure.” “Well, it’s just that I, err, father, well. He took me up to his altar yesterday,” Qayin jumbled. “Really?” Hebel’s eyes widened. “Yeah,” Qayin said and then fell silent. Hebel waited for Qayin. “It was horrible,” Qayin continued after a while. “There were dead animals. Plants. Flies. It was awful. It smelled.” “North of us, on the ridge line?” Hebel asked. “Yeah.” “I think I saw it once. Lots of mounds, yeah?” “Yeah, and that was the worst part. We had to bury it all. Dad said that the sacrifice was unacceptable to God.” Hebel sucked in air. Another long moment. “Hebel, what does God want from us?” Hebel scratched his head for a moment and thought. “I think God wants us,” he replied. “I think he just wants to be with us.” Qayin thought about it a while, but did not feel like his question was answered. He gave up and stared off at the stream again. Then he sighed and threw a rock into it. The peace of the current erupted into violent circles that sped outwards and then disappeared just as quickly.


Ahdam found the body lying in the midst of the sheep. The head was bloodied and the eyes of his son were the eyes of his ox, his doves, his pigeons. They were not moving, not dancing, not shining like Hebel’s eyes. The breath had gone out of him. The breath had left him. Ahdam wailed. The others came running. All except Qayin. And Lilith. Edna lifted Hebel’s arm and it fell. Awan slapped him in the face. Chavvah and Ahdam lifted him up and tried to get him to walk, but he had no walk in him. Hebel dropped to the ground. They tried to convince him to speak. They asked him questions. They poked him with sticks. Awan tickled his feet. Ahdam yowled and beat the ground. Ahdam cried like a child. Ahdam rolled in the dirt and sobbed. Then he looked up at the sky and screamed, “This is supposed to be me!” He thrashed his arms around and the others backed up so they would not get hit. Suddenly, El was among them. “Stop,” he said to Ahdam. Ahdam slumped to the ground. “This was not his fault,” Ahdam sniveled. El said nothing. He approached Ahdam and put an arm around him. Ahdam did not seem to notice except that he was still. Chavvah coolly approached the body that Hebel was and laid her head on his chest. She let her tears roll down onto him. Somehow she thought it would help. It did not. She stroked his skin with the back of her hand and sobbed. This, too, did not help. There was no pain like this. Her insides were ripping apart, reaching for some piece of herself that had gone missing. “Where is Qayin?” Ahdam realized. El caught his gaze and shook his head. Chavvah looked up. “Where is Lilith?” she woke from a dream. Collectively they stood. “Qayin! Lilith!” Ahdam called. His heart raced. He yelled again. “He has taken Lilith and gone,” El said. “Where?” Chavvah asked. “East,” El replied.

Ahdam turned on his heel. “Stop,” El said. Ahdam stopped. “What would you do when you found them?” El asked him. Ahdam balled up his fists and turned on El. He huffed and narrowed his eyes. All his muscles shook for just a moment. Slowly, his fingers released and the blood came back into them. “I can’t lose three children in one day,” he whispered. Chavvah flew into him and wrapped him in her arms. The two of them sat on the ground and wept for a long time. The two girls did likewise with one another. El petted Edna’s head and wept along with them.


His image in the water; bent and twisted. Blood did not wash off like other things. It stuck fast to the fingers. Under nails and around hairs. At one point, Qayin had bit into Hebel’s back and torn off a piece of his flesh in his mouth. What had come over him? He recalled the squish of it and choked a little when he remembered the taste; the feel of it in his throat. El had killed the goat and applied the blood to Qayin’s face. Qayin deserved to have Hebel’s blood on his face. But this was different. This blood was to protect him from his own family. They all hated him. He had never been this bad before. He deserved it. What had come over him? Blood and water. He lifted a finger to his face and applied the mark. Blood and water. Blood covered him. Water cleaned everything. Lilith never watched him put the blood on his face, but the image she fought away from her mind’s eye was much worse than the truth. Qayin cut his back with the knife. Not deeply. Just enough. Then he painted himself with it. At night, he washed it off. No one could see his shame in the dark anyway. No one understood. The darkness covered him. Water cleaned everything. _________________________

The world went by Lilith in a rush. She held on as tightly as she could. Her hands clasped together in front of Qayin’s throat and she could feel his muscles flex as he ran. He held her knees around him. She watched forests and plains dip and shuffle past her. She felt the brush of pine needles on her face. She felt the bushes on her toes. Lilith cried for her Chavvah and for Awan; when she did Qayin shouted. Not at her, just out loud so he could not hear her. Sometimes he shouted at himself. Lilith dozed on his back sometimes and stayed up at night. She liked to think that Qayin was the sleeping man and that the Qayin who looked awake was really not Qayin. She dreamed about her father and the animals he loved. She even dreamed about Edna sometimes.

“I want to go home,” she shouted into his ear one day as they ran through the desert. He stopped and set her on to the ground. “Then go,” he said. Qayin ran away. She watched him go.


Lilith lifted her eyes to the blackness and let loose a throaty howl. It echoed off the walls of the canyon. She did it again and smiled when the sound returned to her, true as it went out. She sat on her heels and looked at the land. All was still and quiet. Food could be hard to find tonight. She sniffed the air and scratched her belly. She sniffed the air. Lilith stood and made her way quietly down the slope to where the land became sand underfoot. Night time in the desert was far more dangerous than day time. Animals came out to hunt and play beneath the moon. Lilith was no different. Tonight she was after rabbit, she had decided after spying the trail of one. She licked her lips at the thought. “I am going to eat tonight. I am going to eat tonight. Azazel will watch me eat. Azazel will watch me eat,” she sang to herself as she followed the tracks of a big jack through the sand. Lilith did not hunt so much as she relied on the rabbit’s curiosity to bring it her way. She sang and flitted from creosote to sagebrush until she spied a tiny, black eye looking back at her under a bristlecone pine. She kneeled down and held out her hand. “Come here. Come here to me. I am going to eat you,” she cooed at the beast and held out her long hand. Slowly, the jack abandoned its shallow dug out and sniffed at her hand. She picked him up and held him to her chest. She stroked his ears and soothed him. Then with one swift “snap” she broke his neck. Lilith shivered all over. Something about that sound, the sound of the neck breaking, made her jaw ache and her knees buzz with feeling. Humming her song now, she flung the jack over her shoulder and headed back to her fire. “We’ve got rabbit!” she announced to Azazel as she entered the cave and tossed the animal onto the table. Azazel looked up from his grass chewing, partially disturbed, bleated at her and continued chewing. Azazel, her goat, was near blind and deaf, caring little for rabbit. He was the mottled color of a gray man’s beard with a lengthy one of his own. Lilith’s cave was somewhat shallow with a large, vaulted opening situated such that the smoke from her fire never drifted inside. It was near a good spring and plenty of cacti. In its deepest recesses lay her cat skin bedroll of which she was most proud. She told her raven friends who came just before dawn once or twice a week the story of how she killed the cat and skinned it by herself, too. “Azazel,” she cocked her head to the side as though having a think, “it’s about time we went to the beach.” Azazel munched away. “I miss the water,” she said finally as she slit the rabbit mouth to tale with one practiced movement. She tossed the skin into a bucket of water thoughtfully. Perhaps she would go. The air is sweet and the sand is different. Qayin, after all, had not come around in fifteen moons.

She carried the meat out to her fire where she poked it with a spit and let it roast over the flames. Lilith bounced nervously on her heels and hummed waiting for her rabbit to cook. The ocean was three days away. She would not be gone long. Two weeks. She would leave Azazel this time. He nearly died during their last trip. Azazel was not fond of anything anymore. The rabbit hissed and sizzled on the spit. Lilith leaned over to catch the smoke in her nostrils. “Ha,” she said and bounced more excitedly on her heels. Lilith, because of the fire, saw him before she heard or smelled him. She screamed and ran inside the cave. She grabbed her spear in one hand and her good knife in the other. Lilith could kill a cat from 10 steps away. She could kill this man. She panted and crouched to spring as he came into view. It was Qayin, of course. Lilith never knew why she didn’t kill him. He dropped his bag right in the middle of the room, saying nothing to her. He sauntered back out to the fire and pulled her rabbit off. Taking more than half of it into his mouth, he barely chewed. Qayin turned around just in time for her spit to catch him in the face. Stoically, he wiped it off with one hand and slung it onto the wall. “Get away!” she screamed. Her face twitched insanely. She barked at him and hissed at him. She danced around him and made wild gestures. He ignored her and went back inside. He sat down heavily on her bedroll and scratched his feet. In the quiet, Lilith could hear the mosquitoes buzzing around his head, searching for a fresh pocket of blood, but, it being night already, most of his make-up had dried. The smell of it was awful. She put her face right in front of his and screamed as loudly as she could, “GO AWAY!” He pushed her down and took off his leather tunic. Underneath, there were more scars than skin. He had an open sore under his left arm that pussed and festered badly. It was then she noticed that he was sweating profusely. His clothes were wet with it. “I need some water, woman,” his eyes flitted and closed. He swooned slightly and fell backwards, asleep. “HA!” she yelped and showed her teeth. He gave no response. She crawled carefully over to him and slapped his leg then retreated in case he sprung on her. He did not. He snored deep in his throat. He was out cold. She crept up to his face. “HA!” she shrieked. He did not budge. Confusion overwhelmed her. She pushed his chest with her finger. Still nothing.

Lilith rocked onto her heels and considered the man on her bedroll. She could kill him now. She could stick him with her spear. Right in the heart. He would turn pale and stop breathing. Instead, she kicked jumped forward at him and kicked him in the ribs, hard. He snorted and snored. She spat on his stomach and went outside to eat her rabbit. Lilith bent down next to the fire and cursed him for having taken most of it already. It was his fault. Everything was his fault. She stood and padded back into the cave. “You are a big, dirty thing! I hate you!” She waved her hands over his head and then faked some kicks and punches. Her arms, finally, dropped to her sides and her shoulders slumped forwards. “Azazel, get rid of him,” she said as she turned around. Lilith stopped just outside again and piled her hands onto her head. She could feel now that she was sweating. “I. Want. To. Kill. This. Man,” she closed her eyes. Her mind became a quiet mess of rage and images. She choked up a moment and then growled at herself. She shook her head and sighed. A cool breeze came off the desert, but she did not notice it. Lilith returned to the cave more casually, certain now of his persistent sleep. Azazel licked Qayin’s face with a prodigious tongue. She shooed him away. Lilith studied him for a long time and tried to remember what he looked like without the blood. She could not and this disturbed her. She rose and retrieved her bucket. She fished for her rabbit skin and wrung it out. Then she cleaned off his face with it. The desert colored skin slowly immerged from beneath the cracking black and cherry mask. This made her feel better. Lilith tossed the rabbit back into the water and appraised his clean face. She liked him much better this way. “You are ugly,” she said. He had a new scar on his cheek. She traced it with her finger. Lilith wondered if he had done it himself. It looked like it. Slowly, his image became more familiar to her. She stood and paced back and forth, shaking and wringing her hands. “We can’t take him to the beach with us, Azazel. He will ruin everything. We can’t leave him here either. He will steal our things. Ooooh. Ooooh. We should kill him. That’s what we should do.”

She stopped and waited for the goat to answer. Azazel, as usual, had nothing to offer. She picked up her spear and set it onto Qayin’s chest. She gathered her grip and swallowed. She closed her eyes. She thought the sound of his heart traveled up through the wooden shaft, but it was, in fact, her own. Lilith counted twenty, heavy breaths. Then she opened her eyes and raised her weapon. She threw the thing out of the cave and fell onto her knees. She pulled her legs around in front of her and crossed them. Lilith had watched Qayin sleep a lot as a child. He went to great extremes to fall asleep. He would run for days and then sleep for a full one. It was as though he never wanted to think or talk about anything. He wanted to be in silence all the time. Lilith wondered why he didn’t just kill himself. Lilith wondered why she did not do it herself. He wants to die, she thought. Musing over him, she felt warmth between her legs. She propped one elbow on her knee and rested her head in its hand. Absently, she reached between her legs with the other. Lilith never felt this way when he was inside her because it hurt too badly, but when she thought about it later, she did. It had made her cry the first time, in fact, before she had any hair. Lilith closed her eyes as memories invaded her and she curled her lip. She remembered a time when she scratched him so badly that he bled in long strips down his back for hours. The thought of hurting him made it better. He had liked it too. And said so. She remembered the force he made in her and the power of his hips. She pressed in a little harder and started to pant. A mosquito buzzed loudly into her ear. She swatted at it. Then, it landed on her face and she crushed it. She wiped the bloody bug onto her thigh. Qayin snored and drooled on himself. “I hate him. I hate him,” she thought and removed her hand. Lilith stood up and gnawed on her fingernail for a second. She considered Azazel who was still chewing loudly in the corner of the cave. She bent over and grabbed Qayin authoritatively underneath his skirt. She rubbed him until he became hard. She stroked him until he moaned a little and tried to roll over. It took the entire weight of her body to keep him from doing so. Then she swung her leg over and slid herself down on top of him. It was much better than she had remembered. _________________________

Qayin slept most of the next day. When he woke, he was delirious and burning with fever. Lilith poured water onto him and he shook with chills. He was mostly

unable to speak and when he did it made no sense. He spoke of a gigantic lizard that blew fire from its mouth. It consumed whole trees and shook the ground when it walked. Lilith watched him drift in and out of consciousness. She had never seen a sick animal before. Let alone a sick person. She was beside herself and wondered if she had made him like this somehow. Qayin had always been sick in some ways, she decided. He was a wild man. He was a dead man. He was never right. Lilith could relate. Sometimes she felt like she was going to explode from all the heat inside her. Some days she never got out of her bedroll. Some days she just screamed at the moon. Lilith imagined Qayin screaming at the sun. His long neck bending back. His head coming apart at the strong jaw. His throat opening up to receive the sound. His whole body tensing in the expression of it. As for her, when things got so bad that she thought she could not stand it any longer, Lilith ate some cactus and went walking. When she ate too much, she threw up, but mostly it just made her relax and see things in a different way. It grew near her cave in small, blue green clusters. She had discovered it years ago when Qayin left her alone the first time. She had been starving and it looked good to eat. Cactus, she decided, was what Qayin needed. Lilith boiled some for him and made a soup. When he came around, she fed it to him. For the first couple of days he just continued to sleep, but when he woke, he seemed more lucid each time. He seemed more rested. After a while, she weaned him off of it so that he would not get sick as she had. His fever broke. The wound under his arm scabbed over nicely and stopped pussing. Two weeks later, he was sitting up and talking to her. This was a blessing and a curse. At first, the mellowing effects of the cactus made him a pleasure and even a humorous companion. He talked to the goat as though it was Lilith. He told Azazel how beautiful a woman she had become. Azazel bleated in return and licked his face. This had Lilith in stitches for days. But when the plant wore off he became his moody, cantankerous old self again. Luckily for Lilith, however, he was still in no shape to fight her off. She beat him with sticks and threw rocks at him. She jumped up and down on him. She yelled and screamed and had sex with him. After three and a half weeks, he was able to get around on his own. It was then that he realized that he had gone almost an entire month without blood on his face. She refused to allow him and this disturbed him greatly. She cut his fingernails short and hid all their sharp rocks in the desert. Finally, he stopped asking for them.

Lilith grew more and more confused by their relationship. A month ago, she wanted to kill him. Now she was caring for him. She could not explain herself. She liked the company; the business. She liked having a reason to get out of her bedroll. She liked being awake during the day, though she still stayed awake most of the night, as well. When the new moon came and went and she did not bleed, she ran away into the desert for three days. When she returned, she beat Qayin so badly that he was unable to speak for days while his jaw healed. When she told him she was pregnant he, predictably, disappeared.


Lilith saw Qayin approaching from the east long before he arrived. She was gathering brush for the fire when she saw him clumsily, and loudly, navigating his way through the rocky gorge. She scampered down the other side of the cliff to her cave and put her things away. Her son, Chanowk, was out looking for wood as well. He would be surprised to find his father in attendance at dinner. Jackal was on the spit already. Perfect. She turned it over to roast its underside a while. She scratched an ant bite on her thigh and waited. Chanowk was the first to arrive. He had grown into lanky, pale, stick man compared to his father. His almost dark brown hair bothered his face all the time. He fussed with it and dug in his nose. His hands were big, like his fathers’ and Lilith used them like she had his fathers’. Because of this, she did not really mind Qayin’s absenteeism as much as she used to. She had been careful, however, to keep her son outside of her. Lilith was afraid that Qayin would kill Chanowk if he ever actually fathered a child with her. Chanowk plopped down next to her with his bundle of sticks and sighed. “Dad’s coming,” he said. “I saw,” she said. Chanowk picked at his teeth with one of the sticks. Lilith grabbed one and did likewise. She smiled at him and he returned the look. They stretched their legs out in front of them and waited. Finally, Qayin huffed up the hill to their cave. Lilith examined his face as he approached and could find no trace of blood. He was fine and strong. She missed his big body. She would have him tonight, she decided. Qayin sat with them and turned the jackal thoughtlessly. No one seemed to have much to say, except for Qayin. He seemed edgy. He avoided Chanowk’s gaze, which had a tendency, like his mother’s, to be penetrating. Lilith broke the silence, “you said you weren’t going to leave.” Chanowk studied the dirt and Lilith tried not to care too much. Qayin stood and emptied the contents of his bag onto the ground in front of them. Chanowk could not help but “oooh.” Mangos, oranges, bananas, kiwi, blackberries, and strawberries rolled out. They were a little worse for the journey, but to Chanowk they were dazzling. Lilith looked at Qayin expectantly. He cleared his throat nervously and sat again. Chanowk inspected the fruit in awe. Lilith was perturbed by the display.

“Playing in the garden again?” she spat. For some reason, Qayin could never seem to make anything grow and Lilith knew that he was sensitive about it. He looked away and tried to control his rage. It took a moment and they sat in pregnant silence. “I have found a place south and east of this place, where these things grow. It is lush and green and able to sustain us and our children. I have been building there. A home. Lots of homes. A safe place where no one will find us. It is not far from here. It is close to the desert. I want you to at least come and look at what I have done. If you don’t want to stay after that…I- I- just want you to come and see it.” Qayin skidded to a stop. He leapt to his feet and walked down the hill. Lilith was astonished. He struck her as cute and childish. She looked at Chanowk who shrugged and took a large bite out of the mango. The juice ran down his face and he smiled. He nodded stupidly at her and choked. He coughed until he almost vomited. His eyes watered with strain. He took another large bite. She stood up and wandered down to Qayin who was talking wildly to himself. He shut up as soon as he heard her coming. It seemed to Lilith as though she had interrupted an important conversation. She understood. He turned to face her and went pale. He backed slowly away. She loved this man. She sized him up with a squinted eye. He was all potential energy. “How many days from here?” she asked. “Ten. Twelve,” he said too loudly. “Depends on the way we go. I thought we might go along the ocean,” he knew how she felt about it. Her eyes flashed at him, but he could not tell if it was good or not. “The beach?” she asked. “Yeah.” Lilith turned around and stomped off. She seemed angry that he had convinced her to go. A second later she returned. “What have you built?” “A lot.” “Hmmm. I am hungry,” she declared and marched back up the hill.

Chanowk had finished all of the fruit and left the jackal to Lilith and Qayin. She kept a suspicious watch on Qayin all night. He wanted to ask her, “what?” but was afraid of the answer.

Ahdam sat cross legged near the stream and watched the water run away. He bent over and scooped moonlight out of it. It dripped down the front of his chest. It fell onto his leather skirt and then onto the ground. It chilled him. It was good to feel something. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. He would not sleep. He had not slept. He stared into the stream for hours. It had been this way for a long time; the same way, every night. Ahdam closed his eyes and let his sad song rise into his throat. It was low and melodic. It had imaginary drums in the background, though he did not know it. Haunting. No words. Only a low rumbling groan that drew out his heart for a moment. Singing was the only way he knew to ease the pain. Everything else faded away for just a moment. When he sang, the animals came near him. He could hear them even over his own voice. They worried about him. A certain doe made it her habit to come and drink with him at the stream during this time of the night. Sometimes she would lick his ears and he could feel that, too. Sometimes. When the singing was over, he could cry again. Ahdam sighed and felt the heaviness of his hands move up into his arms and chest. He slumped back onto a smooth boulder and opened his eyes. Perhaps he had dreamed it, but Ahdam felt El shake him and say, “It’s time.” When Ahdam sat up the moon had traveled more than half way across the sky. Ahdam dusted himself off and started back to camp feeling nervous and expectant. He followed the stream to the lake and then hiked the hill up to camp. When he arrived, a fire was burning and everyone was awake. This meant that the baby was coming. Awan lay on her back, resting for now. She sweated only a little around the hairline. Chavvah knelt over her, holding her hand. She greeted Ahdam as he approached with a wary smile. Ahdam faked one in return. Sheth, her husband, circled them nervously like a cat. Ahdam snickered at himself in his son. Sheth was the oldest male child, fully a head shorter than Ahdam. He had red hair like his mother’s, but he was stocky like Edna with broad limbs and a strong back. Ahdam caught up with him and put an arm over his shoulder. He pulled Sheth’s head to his and locked eyes with him. For a second he said nothing. Ahdam remembered all his births before this and felt for the man. “It is alright. Let her do this,” Ahdam said.

Sheth nodded their heads and pulled away. Awan let Chavvah help her stand and walk. She waddled around the fire. Sheth watched her in awe. Ahdam sat on a stump. He beckoned Sheth to join him, but he would not. He had to keep moving. Ahdam understood. Noam, the youngest girl, came up from the lake with a bucket of water. She set it down beside the fire and backed away from the scene. She was frightened. Ahdam waved her over. She snuggled into him and cried a bit. Ahdam petted her head and smiled. He was glad to have someone to comfort. Noam was eight years old and faithfully attached to Ahdam. She followed him everywhere when she could. She had bright chestnut curls and round cheeks. She had slow, careful hands and bright brown eyes. She loved to bury her nose in Ahdam’s beard and go to sleep. Ahdam loved to let her. Awan stopped walking and squatted. “What’s happening?” Sheth demanded. “The baby is coming,” Chavvah shot back. “Do something!” he shouted. “Calm down,” Ahdam flattened him. Edna rolled her eyes at him and rubbed her sister’s back. Awan pushed twice and the baby was born. She never once screamed. They carried mother and child to the straw beds and waited for the after birth. In his mind, Ahdam recalled the birth of Qayin and was grateful for Awan that she had a family to help her. “Is she okay?” Noam whispered. “Yes, she is fine. The baby is fine, too. It looks like a boy,” Ahdam whispered back. “Oooooh,” Noam craned her head to see. Sheth laughed and danced. Awan giggled, tiredly. Noam giggled, too. Edna relaxed. Chavvah gave a brief, relieved look to Ahdam who sincerely gave one in return. Ahdam set Noam down and wandered back to the stream. He was amazed that his grief for Qayin and Lilith remained, untouched, by the birth of his grandchild.


A week passed and no one had named the child. Sheth boasted a number of titles over the boy. “Strong” and “Wise” and “Brave.” Awan would have none of it. “He will be the fastest among us. He will be a good man. A kind man. He will be wise and grow potatoes the size of our heads!” Sheth held out his hands to indicate the size of the vegetable. Awan tittered at him. Ahdam was not so impressed. “Maybe,” he said. “But he will be a man. He will lie and cheat and steal and murder.” The family flinched. Sheth reddened with anger. He balled up his fists. He turned his back on Ahdam and crossed his arms. Ahdam sighed and scratched his head. “You’ll see,” Ahdam said. “He will be a man,” Chavvah contested. “And a great one,” Sheth shouted over his shoulder. “Then it is settled,” said Awan, rubbing the baby’s cheek with her finger. She would not be deterred by her father’s angst. “I will name him Enowsh.” _________________________

Edna found Ahdam by the stream. He did not seem to notice when she came and sat next to him. His eyes, glazed, fixed on the water. “Wake up,” she sang. He did not answer. She cleared her throat and waited. “Wake up,” she said again, more forcefully this time.

Still nothing. She moved a hand in front of his eyes. He did not budge. Edna frowned. “Hey!” she shouted in his ear. “What!?” he turned and roared back at her. “You’re being stupid, that’s what!” “Leave. Me. Alone,” he said and poked her in the chest. “No,” she said and returned the favor. He looked at her hard for a moment and could tell in her blue eyes that there was no room for movement. Ahdam snorted and faced the stream again. He had lost weight, Edna noticed. She reached into her hip bag and brought out some bread that she had made for him. She set it carefully in his lap. “You have a whole family of people who love you and are worried about you. What you are doing to them is horrible. At least Qayin isn’t hanging around and eating our food,” she said plainly. “Then I will leave,” he stood and threw the bread in the river. “No,” she shouted and pushed him in the back. Ahdam tripped over a rock and landed in the water. He looked up at her with murder in his eyes. “Come on, Qayin! Kill me!” she taunted. Ahdam charged her, but she ducked out of the way and he went crashing into a bush behind her. She laughed and ran. Ahdam chased her along the stream. Edna was strong, but slow and she knew it. She splashed across the stream at a shallow point and turned her body to face him. Ahdam stopped short of the bank and glared at her. They panted and sized up each other. “None of us have hurt you,” she said evenly. “I know that!” he shouted back. “Then why have you deserted us?” she asked and shifted her substantial weight onto her back leg. Her eyes widened frankly. “I don’t know. I hurt.” “We all hurt.”

“Not like me.” Her face went red. “What about mom?” Ahdam was silent. He dropped a rock in the water that Edna had not noticed him carrying. He turned around and lumbered off. Edna went weak in the knees. She stared at the stone which had sunk to the bottom of the stream. Had he really intended to hit her with it? Before she could think of anything to say, he was gone. _________________________

Edna checked her pot. It was almost done and just in time. The sun was on its way down and tomorrow was the last day of the week. Leek soup was her specialty. She had made bread for two days, as well. No one would work tomorrow. Chavvah swung Enowsh back and forth in her arms trying to quiet him. Sheth busied himself mending a basket. Awan scraped a hide. Noam drew in the dirt with a stick. Edna set out her clay bowls and ladled soup into them. She set them on the stumps around the fire and called everyone to eat. Edna was a feeder. It’s how you knew she was happy with you. She tore up the bread and put a piece in each bowl. Slowly the family came together (minus Ahdam) and began to eat. No one had seen him in two days. It never failed that Enowsh wanted to nurse during dinner. It had been two weeks since Awan had eaten a hot meal. She sat on her stump cradling Enowsh while her bowl steamed at her feet. “This is really good,” said Noam and she smiled at Edna. Edna nodded and shoved a piece of bread in her mouth. Before long, El wandered up from the lake and sat down in Ahdam’s place. Edna offered him a bowl, but he declined. Instead, he sang to them. There are no words that fully describe El’s singing. None of the children had heard it before. His voice was a miracle of every emotion, all at once, distinctly

and wonderfully. Each of them heard it differently. The family closed their eyes and swayed back and forth. To Chavvah, the music was a satisfying lament. Her eyes flooded with tears. In her mind she returned to her homeland. She was a child again with El and Ahdam and the animals; before all of this. Some of it had been blocked from her memory, but she seized what remained with the total force of her will. The emotion was almost too much to bear. To Noam, El’s voice sounded like a fanciful tune to which she bobbed her head. Sheth heard a bold, melodic anthem. Awan heard a light and flittering refrain of voices. Edna felt a low, forceful rhythm in her neck and shoulders. Chavvah tried to match the sound and the family joined in. Their voices matched, to everyone’s surprise, and they all sang in perfect harmony. The choir watched one another in wonder. Their song went on for an hour as the sun set. Just before darkness took over the sky, Ahdam crept out of the forest. He sheepishly took his place behind El, who sensed him there and stood. Their voices swelled as El offered Ahdam’s seat back to him. Tearful, Ahdam took up the song and sat. Together they continued, swaying back and forth. Chavvah took Ahdam’s hand and the corners of her moving mouth arched with joy. In awe, Ahdam closed his eyes. Some things are almost too beautiful for us, Ahdam thought. When the song came to a close El was gone again. None of them quite knew what to say.

Qayin ran every day; ran until he could not see and then continued on in the darkness until sleep arrested him. Then, in dreams he ran some more. Running was being alive and free and away. He had about an hour left on the sun and the terrain was difficult but beautiful. The shore scattered out to sea with huge boulders and hills of smaller ones. He skipped along them like a mountain goat, his brain working to gauge his careful footing. As he hopped towards a rare area of level dirt and grass his foot slipped and he hit the side of a rock. Then, as though it were happening to someone else, Qayin watched his body fall into the tumultuous waters below. Qayin knew how to swim - not as well as his father, but well enough to get to shore under normal circumstances. These, however, were not normal circumstances. His head was light from the fall and swimming in the sea was much different than the still lake water he was used to. The currents pushed him down into the gulf so quickly, it were as though he awoke in darkness from a dream. Dirt ended in rivers…rivers into seas. Everything ended in the sea. Not knowing which way was up; Qayin swam in the direction his body pointed, which was (luckily) correct. He fought the water that pushed against him as though it were a man; as though it were a god. He scratched and clawed at it and his lungs burned. Ahead, he saw the surface and stopped his fighting for only an instant. He would live. He climbed to the surface and swallowed air in huge, hungry gulps. The sky opened up, more than radiant, above him. The waves bullied him in the face. Eagerly he crawled to shore, fighting for every inch against this strange body that sucked everything living from the land. He flung himself onto his back, watching everything go dark for only a moment. Then, it was light again. The waves nipped at his feet. Qayin scrambled away from them in terror.

Ahdam led the donkey into the fire circle and tethered him around a stump. The autumn breeze was pleasant and cool on his face. He petted the spotted animal on the side of her neck and then ran his hand against the grain of her coat. “Thank you for helping me today, donkey,” he said to her. The animal made no reply. Ahdam scratched his head and considered the items that lay on the ground before him. From Chavvah, there was a wool blanket, intricately died and woven. From Edna: a basket of figs, dates, and bread. Noam had left pigeons, robins, and blue jays in a wooden cage. The other, younger daughters had made dolls out of sticks, cotton, and linen. Ahdam smiled at this. He packed the animal with his family’s offerings and tightened down the ropes. Then he loosed his donkey and led her up the mountain. At the end of the first trail Ahdam found Sheth and Enowsh waiting for him. Enowsh carried a basket of apples and Sheth led a calf. They smiled and hugged one another. Enowsh had grown taller than his father, which wasn’t saying much. He was the spitting image of Hebel, red and lean; only, he lacked Hebel’s awkwardness. It warmed Ahdam to look at his grandson. Together, they made their way up the mountain. Enowsh told Ahdam about his calves. Sheth told him about his trees. Ahdam told them about a new family of bears that had moved into the valley. He told them, also, about a strange bird that he had not named. This intrigued Sheth who always wanted to know about new animals. Enowsh asked Ahdam about selective breeding; encouraging certain animals to mate with others. Ahdam scratched his head. “I don’t know. Seems like animals should breed however they want to,” he said. Enowsh nodded and let the matter drop. Sheth stifled a chortle. When they reached the altar they discovered that last week’s sacrifice was gone. Ahdam was delighted. He used a pine branch to sweep away the ashes and the trio chattered away happily as they loaded up the new offerings. Finally, they cut the calf’s throat and let it bleed out before heaving the body onto the altar. Their work finished, they trouped back down the mountain. “Enowsh was saying that we ought to meet at our house for dinner once a week. You know, on the sixth day. Then, we can take our sacrifices from there and rest together on the seventh day,” Sheth announced as the place in the trail that separated them came into view.

Ahdam turned to look at Enowsh who already eyed him expectantly. Ahdam grinned brightly. “That sounds like a great idea,” Ahdam replied. Enowsh came alive, “I thought we would make a big fire and sing for El.” Ahdam and Sheth nodded. Enowsh blushed. Ahdam kissed them good-bye and sighed as Sheth and his son followed the eastern trail to their new home in a place they called Chalam. He would see them on the sixth day. Ahdam smiled again.


Chanowk gathered the children by the bon fire on the beach and told them to sit down. His linen tunic bunched at the shoulders as he raised his hands ceremoniously above his head. “There was a man who lived in a land far away from us who loved to sail on the sea.” Chanowk gently waved his hands up and down indicating the rise and fall of the waters. “One day, a strong wind came up and pushed him out,” Chanowk swept his hands across his chest. “So far that he could no longer see the land anymore. The man, whose name was Put, cried out to the gods, but none of them answered him. So, he stuck his head into the water and cried out to the fish, but none of them answered him either. Then, a raven came and sat on the bow of his ship. It said to him, ‘Sir, if you will follow me I will lead you home. But you have to promise me that you will catch fish and feed them to me all the days of my life so that I never have to go hungry again.’ Put thought about the bird’s request for a minute and finally agreed. So the bird led Put back to shore, but it was not the shore from which he had come. It was an island with monsters that breathed fire from their bellies.” Chanowk shot his hands out at the children and they collectively gasped. Then he fell on his knees and clasped his hands together in a pleading gesture. “‘What have you done?’ Put asked the raven. ‘This is not my home.’ ‘It is land, isn’t it?’ the bird replied. ‘Yes, but I will die here and how can I feed you if I am dead?’ Put reasoned with the bird. The bird thought about his argument for a moment and said, ‘Alright, I will take you home.’ So, off they went again into the sea. They traveled for days and days until Put was very tired and very hungry. ‘Bird!’ he called out. ‘If I do not eat and rest soon, I will die and then I will not be able to feed you.’ The bird came and sat on his boat again. ‘There is an island,’ the bird said, ‘that is closer than your home. I can take you there, but then no further.’

‘But what about my family?’ Put said. ‘I will die of loneliness if I am without my family and then I will not be able to feed you.’ The bird thought about his new argument for a moment and then said, ‘Alright, I will take you to this island and you can rest and eat. Then, I will take you home.’ And Put was happy. Soon, they arrived at the island. Put was so tired that he could not climb the trees to get food. He said to the raven, ‘Bird, I am too weak to climb and get food for myself. You must get it for me.’ ‘Feed you?’ the bird said. ‘You are supposed to be feeding me. I will not.’ ‘But if you do not, I will die and how can I feed you if I am dead?’ Again, the bird thought about his argument for a moment and said, ‘Alright, I will get the food for you.’ But, just as the bird landed on the tree to get food for Put a giant snake hiding in the tree ate him.” Chanowk brought his arms together like a huge mouth, chomping on his imaginary raven. ‘Ha ha!’ the snake laughed at Put. ‘Now you will feed me!’ The snake climbed down the tree and ate Put in one bite.” One of the girls started crying. The boys, collectively, clamored for more. Chanowk waved them off and left them on the beach to tell stories to each other. He wandered into the jungle to find his own dinner. Bananas and mangos. He carried them back to his hut and sat down on his straw mat. As he peeled the fruit thoughtfully, he considered his tiny house. It should be bigger, he reasoned. Princes should have huts that make people take notice. Before he disappeared again, Qayin had named the jungle city after his son and declared him “prince.” Qayin had built the original six huts. There were now over twenty in Chanowk, nestled in among the various trees. Raised, wooden walkways were under construction (Chanowk’s idea) that connected the stick houses together.

Lilith saw Chanowk enter his hut from her own. She ambled in and sat down with him. She grabbed one of his mangos and took a large bite. Chanowk watched her chew slowly. “I am leaving,” she said, finally. Chanowk dropped his breakfast. “What, I mean, why?” “I don’t like it here. There are plenty of women now.” Chanowk got the impression that Lilith did not care much for her own gender. He picked up his fruit and dusted it off thoughtfully. “Back to the cave?” “Yes.” Chanowk chomped and turned his head to the side. “I will miss you,” he put his hand on her thigh. He caught her gaze and moved his hand slowly upwards. Lilith stood, a little angry. “There are plenty of women.” Chanowk shrugged and stared at her breasts. She exhaled and left. “What about dad?” he called out after her. She did not reply.

Yaled set his spear down and leaned against an elm tree on the bank of a dry stream bed. The breath was gone from him. He crossed his arms above his head and gulped for air. The snake was faster than any he’d seen. His companions were days behind him at this point. They had separated at the edge of the desert where it meets the sea. He had continued west, further than he (or anyone as far as he knew) had ever gone. This pleased Yaled, who would have a tale to tell when he returned to Chanowk. He had hoped for a lion or some other great cat. Perhaps even a bear or pig would do. He could never have dreamed that he would be so fortunate to have found a serpent of this size to bring back. Catching snakes was hard business. They were silent and left little to track. He had only hunted a snake once before with his father. They had been unsuccessful. The gods would surely be with him if he could kill one on his own. He would be greatly honored. What a way to prove his manhood! Perhaps even the prince would hear of it. Yaled picked up his spear and continued tracking the beast. It had disappeared into boxwood just at the drop of the stream bed. He knew he would have to be careful or else he would end up like Put. Yaled held his spear high over his head and crept slowly around the corner. Just across the stream bed, Yaled saw a young and beautiful girl picking berries. Yaled almost yelped in surprise and scurried back behind the bend. He hugged the wall with his back, wide eyed. How queer she had looked. The girl was dressed in a crude leather skirt that only covered her from the waste down. Her breasts were completely uncovered. He peered around the corner and watched her. She sang to herself as she picked. _________________________ Yaldah set her basket down and stretched her neck. Her back ached from carrying the berries, but she was glad to be away from home today. Her mother and father were arguing and she wanted nothing to do with it. Father had promised her to Ga’al, but her mother had separately arranged for him to meet with Howl’s father to discuss the matter. She did not care for either of them. The sun was beautiful in the forest that afternoon. It streamed through the trees. The birds sang and the flowers were all in handsome bloom. She had followed the stream bed further than she had ever gone before, but she knew that others had come this way. She frowned to see that her basket was almost full. She would have to slow down or return home soon. Sighing, she picked it up and

turned around just in time to see what looked like a boy’s head dart back behind the stream bed wall. “Hello?” No one returned her call. “Hello? Is someone there?” again, no answer. This frightened Yaldah a little and she was about to turn and run when the head reemerged. It was, indeed, the head of a boy. He was dirty and had eaten a lot of red berries in a messy fashion she thought because he had what looked like its juice all over his face. He stepped out from behind the wall and stared blankly back at her. He was wearing a sack, like her family used to carry potatoes or onions in. It covered his chest, too. He had more, black berry juice on his hands. His hair was long, almost to the middle of his back and wild. He had strange pieces of what looked like bark tied to his feet. He carried a long pole sharpened at the end. It had feathers tied to it. Yaldah marveled at him. “Hello,” she said. “Hello,” he answered. “I am Yaldah,” she said. “I am Yaled,” he said. Neither knew quite what to say. “What is that?” she asked pointing to his spear. The boy frowned and glanced at his spear. “You don’t know what this is?” he asked. She blushed, feeling stupid. “No,” she said, a little defensive. “Oh,” he said quickly, forgetting to answer her question. Yaldah did not like the way he looked at her. She could feel the blood rush into her face. She dropped her berries and ran away. Yaled watched her go.

Lilith, panting, dropped the baby into the basket and covered its face with a cloth. It was horrible. It did not even cry. It’s face. She had heard of children like this. Stricken by the gods. Not from her womb, though. Never. She turned her head and threw up onto her bedroll. Weakly, she stood and waddled outside the cave where Iyrad was waiting. “You!” she screamed. “It’s your fault!” “Another girl?” he asked coolly. He had learned not to scream when she did. “A monster,” she exclaimed and raised her hands to the sky. “What are you talking about?” he said. “Go and see for yourself.” Lilith plopped down by the fire. She was pale and exhausted. She had stopped bleeding, though. She would live. Iyrad strode into the cave and looked around. At first, he saw no baby and heard no crying. She had killed all the girls they had conceived. He was afraid she had killed this one, too. But where was it? A pile of cloths in the basket next to her bed moved and he had his answer. He rushed to it and ripped off the covering. Before he could be happy that the child was still alive, he repelled from it in horror. The child had no face. Or, at least no nose or lips. There were only holes where they should be. “Oh,” he breathed. “Oh!” He pushed the cloths back on the child noticing, at the last moment, that it was a boy. He paced back out to the fire and sat down next to Lilith. She had calmed down and leaned back on her elbows. “I am sorry,” she said. He did not reply. “This is my fault. The gods are angry with me for the way I made you.” Iyrad raised an eyebrow. Then he decided that she was talking out of her exhaustion. “Get some sleep,” he said and stood up. He stretched his back and looked out onto the desert. The sun was coming up in a stunning array of hues. The overall pink of the sky made the sand look like a dusty version of itself. The hills looked like extensions of the clouds. Against the sunrise Iyrad looked like a shadow.

The coffee bean color in his skin disappeared. His hair, blonde and curly, looked like piece of cloud closer to earth. “You are not from Qayin,” she said. Iyrad turned his head down at her, still disinterested. “What?” “You are from Chanowk,” she continued and closed her eyes. “I conceived you with Qayin’s son, Chanowk. You are a prince.” He gaped. She stood and walked back inside the cave. He followed her in and passed her up. He snatched up the basket and stuck a finger in her face. “Then, this,” he shook the basket roughly, “is a prince as well and you will nurse this child!” Her already pale face whitened. A look of recognition flashed across his face. “This means that you have mothered all three princes of Chanowk?” he asked her. Lilith’s expression hardened and darkened at once. She shrugged and grinned. “It’s not going to stop you from making more with me, I know that.” Iyrad had an enormous appetite. “I don’t know,” his eyes widened and he said honestly. “It might, mother.” “Alright, son.”

Iyrad preferred to travel in the darkness because his son invited too many stares. Mehuja’el’s mouth and nose had grown together like a scab. Heavy lines pointed inward to the holes he breathed and ate through. Hair grew in broad patches on his head. He drooled and chewed sloppily. He made snotty, sucking sounds when he inhaled. Mehuja’el, also half witted, never noticed these things. They arrived at the desert cave early in the morning and found Lilith alone, poking at her morning fire. She did not acknowledge them. Nor did they her. Mehuja’el plopped down too close to the fire. “Back up,” Iyrad told him and patted him on the chest. Mehuja’el scooted clumsily backwards. Iyrad sat grandly down next to him. He reached into a hidden place in his robe and produced a couple of dried meat strips. He handed one to his son and they chewed in silence. Mehuja’el promptly made a mess of his clothing. Lilith produced a lizard from her basket, skewered it and propped it over the flames. Lilith noticed their attire - fine robes made out of cotton (she thought). The pair must have been accepted in the city. She had thought that Chanowk would kill them. There was, she noted however, a large scar on Iyrad’s left cheek. Maybe someone had tried. “What news?” she broke the silence. Iyrad shrugged and chomped a hunk of meat. Mehuja’el drew in the dirt with one finger and picked his nose with the other. “The Old One has been found,” he said casually. Lilith cocked her head to the side and stared at him. “What is the old one?” “The Old One is a ‘who,’” he smiled. “Okay,” she sneered, “who is the Old One?” “The father. Qayin’s father,” he said. “The sun is Qayin’s father,” she snapped.

“Nope. There is an older man who lives with a people to the west. They say he is more than six hundred years old.” Lilith gaped at him and wished she had not. “I am born of the moon. Your grandfather was born of the sun. I know of no father or mother,” she said coolly after a long pause. “Okay,” Iyrad chuckled. “Think what you like.” She got up and went into her cave. Her head was spinning. She had thought they were the oldest ones. She came back to the mouth of the cave and called to Iyrad. “What are they like?” “I don’t know,” he said. “We are on our way to see them now,” he offered. Lilith felt a shiver run up her spine and she looked away from the two of them to study the edge of the desert. “How far?” she asked. She did not hear the answer. An image of herself as a baby controlled her suddenly and she shook it off angrily. “You go,” she said and after a moment added, “but leave him.” She shook a finger at Mehuja’el. Now it was Iyrad who was speechless. The woman had never cared about their son before. He eyed her suspiciously. Mehuja’el had fallen asleep sitting up. Drool trickled down the left corner of his mouth. Iyrad looked at him, confused. He produced a cloth and wiped Mehuja’el’s mouth. “Why?” “He can’t go there. They’ll kill him,” she casually observed and plopped down next to the sleeper. Iyrad waited for more from her. “I’ll take care of him. You don’t have to worry,” she faked a smile. Iyrad was not impressed. “He’s my son,” she said. “Uh-huh,” he returned, still waiting. She called his bluff and stood up suddenly. “Fine. Take him,” she said. She scratched her back. “But, I am not going.”

Iyrad was torn. He had not considered this. Mehuja’el might be trouble there. The people might see him as a sign from the gods, especially if he was the first Qayinite to make contact. Iyrad spat into the fire and it hissed loudly. Mehuja’el shook awake and cried out. “It’s okay,” Lilith made a great show, rubbing his shoulders and Mehuja’el fell back asleep. “Hmmm,” Iyrad turned her over in his mind. “When did you plan on leaving?” she asked cheerily. “This morning,” he answered and stood up. “Go,” she waved. “We will be fine. I will take care of him.” He brushed off the back of his robes. Then, before she could blink, he was in front of her with a sharp stone knife at her throat. She gasped. Lilith was a desert viper. Quick enough to catch rabbits mid-sprint. She had never been out moved like that. “I will kill you. If I return and he is in so much as a bad mood I will bleed you slowly from the wrists. Then I will feed your body to the jackals.” She reached up and grabbed his arm and tried to look him hard in the eye. She could feel the pulse in his wrist and it was deadly slow. It shook her. She closed her eyes and swallowed. She could feel the knife resist the movement of her throat and a tiny stream of blood ran down her chest. “I told you. I will take care of him,” she whispered and opened her eyes. He smiled suddenly and lowered the knife. “Yes, I know you will. After all,” he said, the blade disappearing again into his robes, “you are his mother.” Iyrad rubbed Mehuja’el lovingly on the head and walked off into the desert. Mehuja’el began to snore. Lilith picked up a rock and lobbed it into a creosote bush. Then she marched back inside the cave and threw herself onto her bedroll. She buried her head into her arms and sobbed. “I hate him,” she said aloud. Her pride was desperately hurt by his display of speed. Slowly, she got up and wiped her face with her hands. She ambled back outside and down to her cactus bush. She cut off a larger chunk than usual and

swallowed it whole. Then she strode back to the fire where Mehuja’el was waking up, dazed and confused. “Come inside,” she ordered. He did not move. He just stared at her sleepily. “Get up I said,” the she kicked him in the face and he fell backwards and started to whimper. Lilith reached down and grabbed him by the hair. She pulled him into the cave and propped him up against a wall. He sobbed silently and tears filled his whole face. She kicked him in the ribs and he doubled over. “Your daddy did this to you,” she said and paced back and forth in front of him. He sat himself up and looked at her helplessly. “I hate him,” she hissed. Mehuja’el recoiled and shook a little. Lilith leaned over and scratched her head violently with her fingernails. Pieces of lint and dirt filled the air. She threw her hair back and shook it. Her mouth formed a strange, pitiful smile and her eyes softened into a look of sincere concern. She bent down in front of him and reached out to push the hair back from his forehead. He reached up to block her hand and she slapped him, matter of factly, across the face. “No, no,” she said and stroked his forehead. “No, no,” she repeated in a lullaby. She hummed to him for a few moments and his eyes dried up. She hugged his head into her chest and rocked him slowly, continuing to hum quietly to him. Mehuja’el closed his eyes and pressed into her. “That’s right,” she cooed. “No more tears. You and mother are going to make a new prince tonight.” _________________________

That evening, Ahdam smelled Lilith’s fire and followed the scent to her cave. She heard him coming and greeted him outside with the end of her spear. “Stop!” he said. “I am not going to hurt you.” His eyes told her that this was true. Actually, his eyes told her that he could never dream of such a thing. Lilith, her interest piqued by his crude leather skirt, uncharacteristically dropped her weapon. He sat with her at her fire. Tortoise soup boiled slowly in her pot.

“You know,” he said, “there are plenty of good plants, even in the desert, to eat. You do not have to kill to live.” Naively, he smiled at her. She stared back at him and took a huge bite of her dinner. “Mmmmm,” she challenged him. Ahdam lowered his gaze, embarrassed by the display. “I am Ahdam. What is your name?” he tried. “I am the moon,” she said and widened her eyes. “Oh, the moon” Ahdam echoed and knit his brow. “Where are you going, Ahdam?” she jerked her head at him. “I am trying to find my son, Qayin,” he answered. Lilith tilted her head and stared at him. Then she forcibly laughed. Ahdam lowered his head in confusion. Her eyes flashed at him. She reached into her bag and pulled out a cactus bulb and offered it to him. Ahdam took it and examined the thing. “Eat it,” she giggled. “Oh, no,” he said, shaking it lightly. “You have to be careful with these.” He offered it back. Lilith snatched it and shoved the bulb into her bag. Then she stuck her tongue out at him. Ahdam was horrified. “Do you have a daughter…? Ahdam?” she sang. “Many,” Ahdam answered, stunned. “Ah,” she said and sized him up with her eyes. Lilith spat on the fire, stood and marched inside. “Good bye, Ahdam,” she shouted over her shoulder. “Um, goodbye,” Ahdam called back at her. Ahdam rose and continued on his way.


Iyrad returned one afternoon about a month later. He dismounted and shoved his new horse’s tether under a rock. He entered the cave to find Mehuja’el making stick houses on the floor. His son appeared clean, well fed, and very happy to see him. Iyrad stood him up and opened his tunic. There were no bruises, no marks. He looked Mehuja’el in the eye. “Are you okay,” he asked. “I’m fine, thank you,” Lilith playfully called from the other side of the cave. Iyrad shot her a threatening glance. “He is fine!” Lilith held her hands out to the side and smiled widely. Slowly, Iyrad nodded. He produced a leather tunic from underneath his robes. “We are going to put this on,” he said to Mehuja’el. Mehuja’el made no gesture of understanding but did not fight his father as he disrobed him. Only, he looked at Lilith and began to cry. Iyrad glared at Lilith who seemed amused with the scene. She sighed and made a great show of covering her eyes. “Alright, I’ll leave,” she said and sauntered off. Iyrad watched her leave. “She’s gone,” he said to his son. He checked Mehuja’el’s face. There was something desperate in the man’s eyes. Iyrad hated his mother. After he got Mehuja’el changed the pair left the cave without a word. “Good bye boys! You’re welcome!” Lilith sang after them as they galloped away. They did not head for Chanowk, she noticed. _________________________

Iyrad and Mehuja’el rode west and on the third day they were engulfed in forest. The foliage made for slow going. They were forced to lead the horse and walk for hours because the trees grew so closely together. Around midday they broke from it and into a clearing.

There, in the middle of the field, stood a man who stared at them. “He must have heard us coming,” Iyrad thought and was impressed by this because the meadow was rather large. Iyrad made a conscious effort not to break his stride or appear in any way shaken by the figure. But, as they approached, Iyrad discovered that the man was much further away than he seemed at first. His form grew larger and larger in Iyrad’s sight. Impossibly large, in fact. By the time they reached him Iyrad reckoned him to be twice the size of a normal man. Iyrad stopped short, afraid. The man wore white, glowing robes that moved about him though there was no wind. His hair was bright gold and his skin was a slightly darker shade of the same. His eyes were indescribable. “Don’t be afraid,” the man said and held out his hands in a peaceable gesture. Iyrad backed away, his eyes fixated on the man’s dazzling features. Mehuja’el, not so impressed, passed up his father before Iyrad knew what was happening. He threw his arms around the giant man and hugged him, hard. The man smiled warmly and Iyrad yelled. He turned around and ran as fast as he could for the trees. His horse followed and overtook him well before the edge of the clearing. From the safety of the trees, Iyrad peeked out from behind a little pine. Neither the man nor Mehuja’el was anywhere to be found. _________________________

Ahdam left the woman in the desert and headed northeast. He passed through the desert and a jungle until he reached a great mountain range that was too formidable for him to climb. Then he went south through plains and forests to a marshland that ended, finally, at the ocean. He followed the coast further east until it turned northward. About a week into his journey up the coast, Ahdam sprained his ankle stepping on a mossy rock. Tired and disheartened, damaged and lonely, Ahdam gave up hope. He could not find even a hint of his son or his son’s people. He turned westward and followed the coast, which he knew would lead him, eventually, to the river he knew. Perhaps next year he would return to the desert and find out more about the turtle eating woman who called herself “the moon.” Ahdam had thought a

great deal about her in the past several weeks. She had reminded him of Lilith, but, of course, Lilith would be with Qayin. It was close to autumn when Ahdam came across a Qayinite child playing alone in the jungle. The child was dressed in a long cloth that tied around his waste. He must have been about seven years old. Seeing him made Ahdam long for his children in Banah. He approached the child slowly who heard him coming and looked up from building a miniature stick structure. “Hello,” Ahdam said. The boy promptly screamed and ran away. Ahdam followed the sound of the child through the jungle until he heard the voice of his mother. “What? What?” she said. “There was a big man and he growled at me and I ran,” Ahdam heard the child say just as he pushed back an elephant ear leaf to revealed himself. The boy squealed again and buried his head into his mother’s chest. “Hello, I mean no harm,” Ahdam said and held up his hands. The woman backed into her hut and closed the door. Ahdam could hear her, inside, talking to someone. He stepped a couple of paces away from the hut and waited. Soon, a man opened the door. The sight of him shocked Ahdam. His face was painted bright red and he had streaks of black and orange on his arms and legs. He stuck a spear in Ahdam’s face. “Who are you?” the man demanded and shook the spear. “I am Ahdam,” he said calmly. “I come from the west and I am looking for my son Qayin.” The man stared at him queerly and then poked him in the chest with the spear. “You are crazy!” he yelled. “What is ‘crazy’?” Ahdam asked. He had never heard the word before. The question angered the man and he poked Ahdam with the spear again. This time it drew blood. “Stop that,” Ahdam said. The man poked him again. “Turn around,” he commanded. Ahdam turned around.

“Who is your eldest father?” Ahdam called over his shoulder. “Close your mouth. Walk!” the man hit Ahdam with the butt of the spear in the back and shoved him forward. Ahdam followed the trail ahead of him that ended at the beach. From there the man led him west along the ocean. Once they had gone a little ways, the whole valley of Chanowk opened to them. Ahdam gasped. It was a hidden city. He would never have found it by himself. It was surrounded on all sides by high stone cliffs. Tiny huts were built into the trees, on top of each other. There were so many people. Ahdam was brought to tears with joy. All the men had painted faces, he noticed, and all the women wore long cloths that covered their breasts. He stopped to take it all in and was promptly poked in the back by his captor. “Move!” the man shouted. Mostly, the people in Chanowk did not walk on the ground. Instead they had raised wooden platforms that served as trails. These trails sloped up to second and even third story houses that appeared to be attached directly to the trees. Ahdam wondered how the trees bore such loads. It did not seem right to him. Near the trail a man and woman gawked at them from over the top of a large fire and spit where a giant pig roasted. Ahdam wondered how he had not smelled the thing before. The sight and odor of the beast revolted Ahdam and he vomited. “Ohh!” his captor exclaimed as some of the stuff splattered onto his feet. He kicked Ahdam in the ribs as he was doubled over wiping it from is beard. Ahdam fell to his knees and coughed so much that he nearly threw up again. “Move!” the man shouted again. Ahdam lost his patience. He grabbed the tip of his spear and whipped it out of the man’s hands. He smacked him on the head with the blunt side of it. “Stop hurting me,” Ahdam yelled. The man stumbled backwards off the short platform and onto the ground. He gaped up at Ahdam in awe. Ahdam extended the spear to the man who took it and remounted the trail. They had, by this point, drawn a considerable crowd. Ahdam took notice and straightened his skirt. “I am Ahdam,” he held out his hands. “I am not here to hurt anybody. I have come from the west and I am looking for my son, Qayin, who left home four hundred and seventy four years ago. He took my daughter with him, Lilith. Do any of you know where I can find him?” The crowd, silently, stared back at him.

Ahdam heard a loud sound, like nothing he had ever heard before. He craned his head and searched the city for its source. Just ahead of them on the trail, a man stood outside a long, painted hut holding an oversized conch shell to his mouth. Ahdam guessed that this was the hut his captor had been leading him to. The man lowered the shell and the sound stopped. He stepped sideways to clear the doorway. Another man, dressed in long white robes, came slowly into sight. Trailing him, a woman held the back of his garment which was so long that it would have dragged on the ground if not for her. Ahdam wondered why he would wear such an inconvenient thing. The man walked strangely, slowly, with a pause in between his steps as if each one were important. On his head, he wore a circlet of twigs with red berries still attached to them. He was the only man whose face was not covered in paint. This, at least, put Ahdam a little at ease. A couple of men rushed to stand behind Ahdam with their spears readied at his back. Ahdam gave them irritated looks. Then he returned his eyes to the man in white who approached him. “Hello,” said Ahdam as the man came into polite speaking distance. Then he felt a sharp pain in his back. “Ouch,” he said and rubbed himself. Ahdam was tired of being abused by these people. “No one speaks to the prince before the prince speaks to him!” the man informed him. “Oh,” Ahdam frowned and turned again to the man who was now standing before him, sizing him up with an amused look on his face. “We are Chanowk,” the man spread out his arms. The people all around them bowed deeply. Ahdam knit his brow. “Hello, I am Ahdam,” Ahdam said. Chanowk nodded. “You come from the west?” Chanowk asked. “That’s right. I am looking for my son and daughter,” Ahdam said. “I see. What are their names?” “Qayin and Lilith.”

The man’s face darkened for only a second and then he smiled widely. He looked up at the sky and held his arms out to the sides. He closed his eyes and waited as though he was listening, very intently, to something no one else could hear. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and pointed his finger at Ahdam’s face. “I will speak with him,” he said and, more quickly than he came, walked away. The woman carrying his train hurried to keep stride with him. The two men behind Ahdam led him down a different path into a hut. Inside, there was a large redwood tree on its side that had been hollowed out. The men told Ahdam to sit on the floor. Women came in carrying jugs of water. They poured the jugs into the tree. “Bathe,” the man said to Ahdam as they exited the hut. Ahdam sighed. Outside he could hear the sounds of the people talking though he could not discern what they said. A young woman watched Ahdam intently. He dipped his hands in the water, which he noticed smelled like jasmine flowers. He washed his face and hands. Then he stood and went to the door of the hut. “Bathe your whole body,” one of his guards told him and pointed back inside. Ahdam obediently returned to the trough and removed his clothes. He squeezed himself into the tub and washed himself thoroughly. Then he got out and put his clothes back on. Ahdam frowned at her when he noticed the same woman as before watching him. He went to the doorway and gestured expectantly with his hands to the guards. One nodded and indicated with his spear that Ahdam should follow the path around to the back side of the large hut that their leader had emerged from earlier. Ahdam marched ahead of them to the rear entrance where a woman dressed very similarly to the leader (excepting the twigs and berries on her head) greeted him with a very polite smile. “Hello,” she said. Ahdam was glad to see a cordial expression at last. “Hello,” he smiled broadly at her. “You are going to meet with Chanowk and I am going to help you,” she said. “Sit down.” She waved at a strange wooden and leather structure just inside the doorway. Ahdam sat on it and found the thing surprisingly comfortable. He was going to have to make one of these for himself. The woman coughed for his attention. “When you enter the prince’s hut, you will bow like this,” the woman got on her knees and put her face to the floor. “Then you will wait until he recognizes you.”

She got up from her position and looked at him for some sign that he understood. Ahdam laughed out loud. “Okay,” he said and straightened his face when she did not seem amused. “Then you will rise and stand before him. Remember not to speak until he speaks to you. When you are finished talking he will look away from you. At that point you will exit, bowing as you leave. Like this,” the woman backed up and made several hasty, passionate bows as she did. Ahdam felt embarrassed for her. “Do you understand?” she asked. The expression on her face said that she hoped he did. Ahdam nodded. “Good,” she smiled again. “You may go around to the front door and wait for the servant to send you in. Good luck!” Ahdam wondered why he would need luck. He stood and led his guards around to the front of the building. There, the man who had made the noise with the conch shell inspected Ahdam and sniffed at him. “You left him in those clothes,” he scolded the guards. They looked at their feet. “Never mind. You’ve kept him waiting long enough.” The man went inside and Ahdam could hear him speaking. Then he reemerged and nodded to Ahdam who shuffled forwards into the doorway. The inside of the hut looked much larger than the outside. It was mostly dark, lit only by the light that came in through the doorway and a couple of torches held by women on either side of the doorway. The leader sat on a bigger version of the wooden and leather contrivance that Ahdam had been admiring earlier. At his sides, beautifully painted men stood completely motionless, holding spears with feathers attached to them. A hand shoved Ahdam from behind and he fell, face forward on the floor of the hut. He waited there to be instructed to rise. “You are recognized, Ahdam,” the leader said, finally. Ahdam pulled himself to his feet and waited. “I will speak with Ahdam alone,” he said. Immediately, all the other people left. The torches were put on stands and the door was shut. The leader considered Ahdam for a moment.

“Are you the oldest man?” he asked hastily. “Yes,” Ahdam said. Chanowk tapped his chin with a finger. “How many people do you have?” Ahdam was confused. Chanowk could tell and he rephrased the question. “How many children do you have?” “I don’t know,” Ahdam said. “That depends on how many people are here.” Chanowk swallowed and then seemed irritated, “Never mind.” “Do you know where Qayin and Lilith are?” Ahdam asked. Chanowk considered his answer very carefully. “Yes,” he said. Ahdam brightened. “Where can I find them?” he asked eagerly. “They are dead.” Ahdam hung his head and his shoulders slumped forward. “I thought so. I mean, I knew,” Ahdam breathed. Tears wetted his face. Chanowk rose and put his arm around Ahdam. “I know it is hard,” he patted him on the shoulder. “Are you Qayin’s son? Are you my grandson?” Ahdam asked. Chanowk smiled eerily. “No,” he said. “I am the sun.” Ahdam locked eyes with the man. The expression in them unnerved Ahdam and forced him to look away. “I see,” Ahdam said.

“You should go home now, Ahdam,” Chanowk said and patted him one more time on the shoulder. “Yes,” Ahdam said. “It’s time I was going home.” Ahdam left without bowing. He wept the whole way home.

“Lay him there,” Chanowk commanded them. The men carrying the broken body of the boy set him down on the beach, just above the water. Then they scurried back to the safety of the rocks where Chanowk and the other mourners had gathered. The moon was low on the horizon now and the sun was coming up behind it. Chanowk watched them expectantly. He stepped forward onto the rock closest to the surf and raised a jewel encrusted staff above his head. “The moon brings the Sea,” Chanowk called out. “And the Sea will come for all,” the people answered in unison. The boy’s mother fainted, but was caught by the men on either side of her. The boy’s father, who had been one of those who placed the body on the shore, wept and held his face in his hands. Chanowk did not take notice. He watched the sky as though he were, in some way, talking with it. They watched the body of the boy. His mother had dressed him in a simple, white robe and a lion’s tooth around his neck. He wore no sandals. The tooth had been his father’s. He had won it when he came of age. The boy would have hunted for his manhood next year. He had fallen off scaffolding where he had been helping his father build the prince’s new home. Soon the tide came in to retrieve his body. The waves rose to meet him a little closer each time. When the first one licked his feet the boy’s mother, having been revived, wailed and threw her hands into the air. She stomped her feet on the rock. When the waves wetted his robes, the boy’s brother had to be restrained by some of the larger men from retrieving the body. When the waves covered touched his face for the first time, Chanowk cried out, “The Sea has known him!” Then he returned to watching the sky. The party waited until the body finally dislodged from the sand and drifted into the unknown. “He has become the Sea,” Chanowk announced. The people made way for him as he headed to the city. Slowly, the mourners, as well, trickled away.

Yered dreamed that he was coming over a rise into a luxuriant valley. There were figs and apples and pears and oranges hanging from trees all around him. Only they were not connected. They just floated near the branches. The grass was higher than his head in some places and perfect and short in others. There were no other people in the valley and when he shouted for someone he heard a voice echo back, but it sounded like a woman’s voice. He looked off to the east and there was a woman (not his wife) standing on a tree stump holding a dead raven in her hand. She was beautiful. She was naked, but her long hair covered her. She did not smile or say anything to him. She just looked at him. Then he was in a field that went on forever and she was standing next to him. “How far does it go?” she said and he knew that she meant the land. “It goes to the sea,” he said. Then her fingers were too long for her hands and she touched his face with them. They were dry and cracked. He could feel the texture of them on his jaw. He screamed and the sound woke him. Yered sat up in his straw bed. The sun was up and a robin was crying out. He rubbed the strangeness from his eyes and stood. Baraka, his wife, was up already and down at the creek getting water, he assumed. The fire was going and his daughters were huddled around it chattering happily. Yered had ten children and all of them were female. Baraka appeared out of the woods, carrying a bucket. She was his grandfather Ken’an’s daughter. She was short and stocky with black hair and a flat nose. She had deeply set eyes and a heavy brow. She waddled heavily as she carried her bucket. Yered was medium built and handsome. He had brown soft curly hair that he kept cut just above his shoulders. His skin was olive colored and his eyes were a bewitching hazel. He looked like Qayin, but no one had ever told him so. He rode faster, threw further, ran longer and could carry more than any man. But, he was not wise like his father, Mahalal’el, or shrewd like his uncle Haowa. Yered ambled down to the fire and sat on his stump. Baraka dutifully handed him a piece of bread and he tore into it growling like a bear. This sent a wave of laughter through the girls. Yered smiled. Baraka did not. “Daddy,” one of them asked, “what are you doing today?”

What she meant to say was, “Can I come with you.” “I am going into the forest today. Your mother has been asking me for mushrooms for weeks now.” Baraka nodded at them. The girl seemed disappointed. No one ever got to go with him to look for mushrooms. “It is the fifth day,” her mother reminded her. “We will go to the Big Fire tomorrow.” This brightened her a little. “Will Ahdam be there?” another asked. “Of course,” Yered answered for her. Then he tousled the child’s hair. Yered stood and stretched. He swallowed the last of his breakfast, grabbed a linen sack and headed for the trees. Just as he entered the forest, Yered thought he caught a glimpse of someone (a woman) ducking behind a large elm just to the left of the path. “Hey!” he called but there came no answer. “Hello,” he said again. Yered jogged up the trail and searched the area. Nothing. “Hmph,” he thought. “What a strange dream.” _________________________

Yered did not return home until after dark. When he arrived, the younger girls were already asleep. Baraka and the oldest two sat by the fire waiting for him. They watched him expectantly as he strode up and set his bag of mushrooms down without a word. “Go to bed, girls,” Baraka said, questioning him with her eyes. Yered gave no explanation. Instead, he turned on his heel and went to bed. Angrily, Baraka tossed her cup of water onto the fire which hissed and sputtered to death. She followed him to bed where she curled up as far away from him as the straw would allow.


Haowa, his wife Noas, and their eight children arrived just after breakfast the next day. Yered had not risen from his bed and the mood among Baraka and the girls was noticeably somber. After hearing from Baraka all the details of the former day’s events, Noas strolled over and sat down next to Yered. He was awake, staring off into the forest. She petted his head slowly. “Are you okay?” she whispered. Noas and Yered had always been very close. Yered shrugged and buried his face in the straw. “What is the matter?” she asked. “Nothing,” he muffled into the bed. “Then why are you hiding?” “I am tired. That’s all,” he raised his head enough to tell her clearly. Noas sighed and stroked his head some more. Slowly he sat up and noticed the rest of the family trying to look like they were busy getting ready to leave. All the attention suddenly angered him. “I. Am. Fine,” he said and stood up suddenly. Noas looked up at him unimpressed. “I am,” he pleaded with her. “Okay,” she said and stood with him. “Let’s have some food,” she put her arm around him. He shrugged it off and strutted to the fire where he snatched up a hunk of bread and shoved it into his mouth. Noas and Baraka shared a worried glance. Haowa shook his head. Yered plopped down on his stump. _________________________

Around noon they reached the place the children called the Big Fire. Really, it was Sheth’s home, Chalam. Sheth’s family lived at the edge of a huge field in the middle of which Enowsh had built a bon fire pit. The family unpacked their food and offerings and waited until the others arrived. Everyone traveled to the Big Fire on the sixth day. People filled the area and seating was sometimes hard to come by. Walking had been good for Yered. By the time he reached Chalam he was able to pretend that nothing was wrong. He smiled broadly and slapped his brothers on the back. He wrestled with his father (and won). He bounced nieces and nephews on his knee. He told jokes. Baraka studied him and in the end decided that this was a good thing. Maybe soon he would tell her what had happened. Yered had not, yet, come up with a good story. About two hours before sunset, the men loaded up the tiny carts with the offerings. They said their goodbye’s to the women and headed up the mountain. They met Ahdam and El at the place where the paths from Chalam and Banah converged. There was a warm reception. Yered avoided El’s gaze and kept towards the back of the group. Luckily, no one appeared to notice. Seeing El birthed in him the overwhelming urge to bathe, but he could not conceive of how to slip away and do it. Not without questions. The men unloaded the offerings onto the altars and headed back down the mountain. Ahdam followed them to Chalam and El disappeared. Yered was grateful. When they arrived, the family ate dinner together; it was a glorious feast. There were squash, potatoes, onions, leeks, dates, olives, apples, pomegranates, and (thanks to Yered) a fine lot of mushrooms for everyone. After dinner, Ahdam led the first-born men to the stream where they all sat on rocks. These included Ahdam, Sheth, Enowsh, Ken’an, Mahalal’el, and Yered (by age). This was Ahdam’s favorite time of the evening. He stretched out, rubbed his feet on the grass and sighed. Sheth, however, was grim. “What are we going to do about Qayin’s people?” he spoke first. Ahdam’s face fell. No one wanted to talk about it. “I don’t know,” Ahdam said and looked away. Seeing Ahdam perplexed scared Yered. “They are very different from us. I hear they worship the sun and the moon!” Sheth exclaimed. Then everyone’s face fell.

“I hear that they do not wear the clothes we were given. They do not even follow the week. They eat animals. They don’t bury their dead-“ “Enough!” Ahdam cut Sheth off. “I don’t know,” he repeated. “Soon the land will bring us together. They pile on top of each other in that ‘city.’ If they did not we would already be living among them.” Yered sweated. “Yered’s family is the closest to them. Perhaps he should move north… or west,” Enowsh said. “No,” Ahdam said. “He shouldn’t uproot his women. But his son, if he ever gets around to having one,” Ahdam grinned and Ken’an elbowed Yered in the ribs, “Should move north of Sheth on the other side of the mountain. We will spread that way.” “Why not west?” Mahalal’el asked. “I have my reasons,” Ahdam said darkly. No one would follow that tone. Only he and Sheth knew why. Sheth kept silent. “Why can’t we just live at peace with them?” Yered asked after a moment. “Peace?” Sheth retorted. “They offend God. How can we be friends of God and live at peace with those… those… snakes?” “Calm,” Ahdam put a hand on Sheth’s thigh. Ahdam let a long moment of silence pass between them. “God will make a way for us in spite of them,” Ahdam stood up, signaling the close of their after dinner discussion. Yered felt as though it had just begun. “It will bruise His heel!” he called and raised one hand. His sons stood with him. They raised the same hand. “He will crush its head!” they all answered; Yered half heartedly.

After much searching, Chavvah found Edna balled up behind an aspen tree. Her face told Chavvah that she was upset. She sat down next to Edna and put her arm around her. Chavvah waited patiently for her to speak. “Baraka has given birth to a boy this morning,” Edna said. “Oh,” Chavvah understood. She had suspected for some time that Edna felt spurned by Mahalal’el’s choice for Yered. After all, Edna was the oldest eligible woman in the family. Well past ready to marry. Edna was jealous. Chavvah said nothing. Instead, she pressed into Edna and let her cry a while. Streaks of gray in Edna’s hair caught Chavvah’s eye and made her feel for her daughter. She had often wondered why Edna was passed over again and again. Chavvah had, more than once, spoken with Ahdam about it. He would not force anyone to take her. He felt it would be a shame to her and make for a bad marriage. “You will have a husband,” Chavvah said to her. “Would you really want to put up with Yered anyway?” she whispered. Edna chuckled. “No. He is an ass,” Edna agreed. They laughed together and Chavvah pulled Edna to her feet. They wandered back to camp in time to see Utempa running up to Ahdam who had been heating rocks over the fire. Utempa tapped on Ahdam’s shoulder and he bent down to hear what the boy had to say. Chavvah and Edna could not hear the child. “Are you sure that is what you heard?” Ahdam asked. Utempa nodded his mass of orange curls. “I must go,” Ahdam said. He dropped his rocks next to the fire. “Ahdam!” Chavvah called out. He turned to her. “Sheth is going to give Yered a beating. He has already named the child Chanowk!” Ahdam replied. Chavvah and Edna gawked at each other and then back at Ahdam. Concern made his face look especially old. “What?” they said in unison.

“Why?” Chavvah asked. Ahdam shrugged. “I have to go and see,” he said and jogged away. Edna rolled her eyes. “Never mind,” she said. Chavvah chuckled darkly and watched her husband disappear.

Standing in his shadow, an eighteen month old Chanowk looked up at El and El looked down at him. The grown up’s paid them no attention. Chanowk said something unintelligible and pointed a chubby, white finger at El’s legs. Then he craned his head and waited for a response. El took a step backwards. Chanowk glanced at El’s feet and then his face. He giggled, considered his own feet, and toddled forward a couple of steps. El smiled. He took another step back. Again, Chanowk stepped into El’s shadow and gazed up at him. A third time El stepped away from Chanowk and, again, Chanowk followed. El laughed, scooped up the child, and tossed him gently into the air. The laugh startled Chavvah and stopped her mid sentence. She had not even noticed that El was standing behind her. Tears flooded her eyes and she grabbed the sides of her stump to keep from falling, forward, onto her face. There was dead silence among group. None of the others had ever heard El laugh. They watched in wonder as he snuggled Chanowk into his chest and kissed him on the head. Chanowk gazed at him adoringly. El beamed. After a moment, he handed Chanowk to a gaping Baraka and disappeared. Chanowk watched the forest all day for him to return.

“Where is he?” Yered asked again. “I don’t know,” Baraka answered. He had been watching the tree line like a hawk all morning for Chanowk Sheth. Yered had, begrudgingly, added the “Sheth” part to his name shortly after his birth. Most people, though, just called him Chanowk. “You told him, right?” “Yes, I told him. Please don’t ask me that again,” Baraka said. “Woman, I will call my son a man today!” “Well then, man, go find him!” she looked up from her weaving. “You are a cow,” he sneered and stormed off. Yered pounded down the hill, untethered his mare, mounted her, kicked her angrily in the sides and sprinted off down the forest trail. It was nearly midday and there had been no sign of Chanowk. He must have left at some point early in the morning, before everyone woke. “Some son,” Yered muttered as he galloped down the trail towards his cousin Anah’s home just west of his own. Yered jumped the creek that separated the two territories and found Anah scraping bark off of a birch tree. He slowed his horse to a canter. “Good morning,” Anah called out to Yered cheerfully. “And congratulations. I hear it is your son’s birthday today.” “Have you seen him?” Yered did not stop to ask. “No, I haven’t,” Anah replied. Yered spurred his horse into a run. “Good day!” Anah called to him as he disappeared around some huge boxwoods. Yered passed Anah’s wife and children and regained the trail at the western end of the clearing they camped in. After another hour, he came into Sheth’s land. Luckily, he did not see any of the family. Well into the afternoon, Yered arrived in Banah. He tied his horse to a tree, leaving her wet and panting. He spied Ahdam and Chavvah standing near their fire circle. Ahdam had his arm around Chavvah and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Have you seen Chanowk?” he called out as he approached.

The couple turned to see him. Their faces collectively darkened. “Yes, he has taken Edna to see El,” Ahdam replied. Yered stopped in his tracks and gaped at them. His face paled with rage and he made fists with his hands. He turned around and jerked his head once as though spitting. Then he spun to face Ahdam and Chavvah again. “I would have called him a man today,” Yered said. “I know,” Ahdam replied evenly. A moment of adjustment passed between them. “And I had another woman chosen for him. Why did you let him go without allowing me to bless him?” Yered asked. “I assumed that you had already given him your blessing,” Ahdam raised an eyebrow and the creases in his forehead deepened. Yered’s left eye twitched. “Well, I haven’t. Baraka told him that I would do so this morning. When we woke up he was gone,” Yered threw his hands into the air. “Maybe Chanowk did not feel he needed your blessing,” Chavvah recognized the elephant. “Well,” Yered wheeled around and stomped off. “Good for him!” Ahdam tried to stifle a smile. Chavvah did not.

Chanowk was a short, black headed man with sharp eyes and small ears. As the crowd gathered, he climbed onto a stump so that they could all hear him. This had become a weekly event at the western edge of his territory. Qayinites for miles around would come to hear the “crazy” Shethite. “How does the moon stand up?” one tall man shouted. “It is held up by the hand of God,” Chanowk called back. “Show us your god!” another yelled. “God is all around us. You can’t see him because you are blind! You can’t hear him because you are deaf!” Chanowk shouted. One woman scratched herself behind the ear and cocked her head to the side. There were about a hundred in attendance today. “I can see the moon! I can see the sun!” the tall man shouted. A number of his kinsmen nodded in agreement. “Can you see the wind?” Chanowk replied. “Can you hear the wind? Death is coming for us all. Where will you go? Can you see the souls of men depart from their bodies? Can you hear that?” This quieted them. “If you cannot hear or see the soul depart, how do you know it was even there?” “Because it was moving and now… it’s not!” the tall man chuckled again and shook his head. He punched his neighbor in the arm. “Come down here and wrestle with me!” the tall man shouted. “Then, we will see if you’re right!” Chanowk shook his head. “Do any of you ever wonder how you got to be where you are? How it all started?” Chanowk scolded. Just then, he noticed some strange newcomers at the edge of the crowd. There was an older woman (almost as old as Chavvah!) with thin, black hair and pale skin; a taller, younger, blonde woman with different colored eyes (one blue and one brown); and a black skinned, young man (bigger than a tree) who looked to

be about a hundred and twenty. Chanowk took note of them because they dressed differently than the others and the man did not wear face paint. “We know how,” the tall one said again. “The sun grows everything. The moon kills everything. It’s a cycle.” He seemed very impressed with his answer. Chanowk argued with him for a while longer, watching as he did the expressions on the big man’s face in the back. Chanowk was not sure if the man wanted to hug him or kill him, but one way or another, his words greatly affected the man. As was his custom, at midday, Chanowk hopped down from his stump and invited them all to lunch. The trio in the back surprised him by stepping forward and accepting his invitation. No one had ever come before. Chanowk smiled warily and waved for them to follow. Chanowk lived on the border of the Qayinite lands. This is to say, he lived along the Gabal River. The Gabal, which ran from the mountains all the way to the ocean, had become the unofficial dividing line between the two nations. Everything west of it was Sheth’s. Everything east of it was Chanowk Qayin’s. The big man’s gaze made Chanowk nervous. He stared at him constantly and said nothing. The two women just looked insane. As they walked, saying nothing to one another, Chanowk began to feel like he had made a mistake by inviting them back to his home. He was relieved to see El sitting by the fire. Edna stirred something in a pot and glanced over at them. The sight of visitors visibly shook her and she almost knocked over the tripod holding her pot. Blushing, she regained her composure and scurried about collecting more food. No one ever came home with Chanowk. Chanowk waved for them to sit down on his stumps. Just then, Mathay-Shalach, Chanowk Sheth’s first born, came bounding out of the woods and stopped short. Who were these people? He slowed and sized them up as he approached. Mathay was a big man. Bigger than most, but a half a head shorter than this hulk at his father’s fire. Chanowk barely came up to this man’s chest. The women were strange, as well. They had glassy, vacant stares. Edna regarded them suspiciously as she handed them bowls of soup and bread. The older one nodded politely at her. Mathay plopped down on his seat. No one yet had said a word. He locked eyes with the big man and immediately did not like him. Something around the eyes made him seem like he was thinking something about Mathay. Mathay politely

looked his mother in the eye as she handed him his lunch and broke the silence, by saying “Thank you.” With the silence, went the spell. “I am Chanowk,” Chanowk announced and turned to introduce Edna. “We know who you are,” the big man interrupted. Mathay could not help giving him a glare which he then returned. Chanowk ignored him and continued. “And this is my wife, Edna and my son, Mathay-Shalach (my other children are around here somewhere) and, of course, El.” The old woman stared at El as though she were trying to place him. The younger woman ate quickly, studying her bowl as she did. Edna crossed the space to hand food to the big man. He grumbled thanks at her and, as she turned away from him, let his gaze linger too long on her bottom. Mathay dropped his bowl and shot out of his seat. The big man did the same. They locked eyes and breathed on each others faces. “Sit down,” Chanowk said. Neither of them moved. “Father?” Chanowk turned to El. “You should both sit down. You are going to be brothers soon,” El said. Lilith gawked at El who was watching the men. After a second, both regained their seats. Edna huffed as they handed their bowls, which had spilled, back to her. “I have no more,” she announced and disappeared into the hut. “Chanowk Qayin is coming for you,” Lilith said. “Oh,” Chanowk replied. “You make the people ask questions.” “Good.” “Questions annoy the prince.” “Are you his messenger?” The younger woman almost spat out her soup. The big man laughed out loud. Lilith smiled. Mathay did not like his laugh.

“No,” she said coolly. The answer, curiously, seemed directed at El, who ignored her. Chanowk wondered if the old woman knew El. “What is your name?” Chanowk asked her. “Oh, yes. Forgive my rudeness,” she smiled. “I am the moon. This is Adah and Rachab.” She indicated the woman and then the man. “And you are not Qayinites? You are not Shethites. I thought everyone was one or the other.” “No,” she said. “We are above such distinctions.” Mathay-Shalach chuckled. Rachab gave him a warning glance. Mathay smiled broadly. “Who is your father?” Chanowk asked Lilith. “I am,” she said. El walked away. Chanowk did not understand. He looked at Lilith, who seemed satisfied with El’s reaction. “You have to leave now,” Chanowk said. The trio said nothing. The women set their bowls down on their stumps and marched off. Rachab took one last, confused glance over his shoulder at Chanowk. Mathay saw it and, for a moment, felt sorry for the man. Chanowk ran after El. Mathay heard him mutter as he went. “Stupid people…stupid things…stupid way…say stupid things,” Bitterly, Mathay cleaned up the mess.

“The problem is that he’s never alone.” Adah said to Lilith. “I have watched him for three weeks now and every day he is with that ‘El.’” “I got him alone,” Lilith said and smiled. Adah blushed. “Only for a moment and then he ran off,” Adah retorted. “Well, then, daughter. You may have to do it in front of ‘that El.’” “No,” Adah said. This caught Rachab’s attention. The two women locked eyes. “Fine,” said Lilith. She stood up and smoothed her dress. “Even at my age, I will do it.” Adah turned away. Lilith sauntered out of their desert cave. _________________________

She found them mending buckets with tree sap on the northeastern part of Chanowk’s land. Lilith pinched her cheeks to redden them and stepped out from behind a mulberry bush. “Hello,” she said from a safe distance. Chanowk acknowledged her. “Hi,” he looked at El and then back at Lilith. “What are you doing?” she asked and took a step forward. El walked away. Chanowk dropped his bucket and went after him. Lilith rolled her eyes and kicked the bucket across a bed of dead pine needles. She followed them on a trail to a small clearing where they were sitting down to have lunch. Chanowk pulled some dried fruit out of his purse and chewed on it. She could not hear what they said to each other. “Why are you making me chase you?” she called out as she approached.

“I, I’m not,” Chanowk called back, not turning his head to look at her. “I can see that you are trying to tempt me.” Lilith laughed. “Tempt you?” she said. She stepped into his line of vision. “Tempt you to do what?” “I am not sure, yet, but there is a strange way about you.” Lilith put a hand on her hip. “Perhaps there is just a strange way about me,” she said. Chanowk had not noticed before that she was beautiful. Apparently, she could tell. Lilith looked away from him so that he could continue to admire her. “I have never been this far west,” she said. “It’s pretty.” “This is as far east as I have ever been,” Chanowk said. He checked, behind him, to see that El was still there. “I like it here,” she said and caught his eyes with her own. “I would like to be your friend.” Chanowk blushed. “Where do you live?” he asked reflexively. “In the desert,” she said. “What is it like?” She stepped forward and sat down close to him. “It is dry and very lonely,” she said. Chanowk leapt to his feet, suddenly uncomfortable. He looked at El, who looked back at him. Lilith looked up at him. The world looked at him. “Are you okay?” she said. Chanowk felt sweat on his face. “No,” he said. “I am not. I may be ill.”

Her face fell into concern. “Oh, no,” she cooed and stood up slowly. Wide eyed, Chanowk backed away as she came towards him. Then he stopped, swallowed, and closed his eyes. He could hear his heart beating in his head. He felt her cool hand on his face. It was wonderful. He opened his eyes and turned to look for El, but he was gone. Chanowk took another step back and wheeled around. He could not see El anywhere. Lilith grabbed him by his clothes and pulled him to her. He felt her thighs against his own. She was surprisingly strong. It excited him. “What’s the matter?” she leaned her head in front of his so as to catch his gaze. “I-I-um,” he stammered and she put one hand on his face again, keeping a hold of his garment with the other. Her eyes were a sparkling paradise. “No,” he said. “No, what?” she whispered. “You can’t,” he whispered. “Can’t what? Kiss you?” He paled and froze. She leaned in at him and turned her head to the side. She closed her eyes. “No!” He pushed her with both hands on either of her shoulders a little too hard. She fell backwards and rolled. From behind, he could hear her yelling awful things at him. Chanowk ran all the way home.

Mathay-Shalach awoke to his wife, Azriel, shaking him and whispering. “…larger than I have ever seen!” she said. “What?” he mumbled, too loudly. She put her hand over his mouth and shook her head at the opening of their hut. Mathay lifted himself and she, a tiny medium skinned woman, rolled off him. He lumbered to the door and looked out. On the grass right in front of him laid Rachab, snoring loudly. Mathay wondered how he had not heard the man from inside. He stepped over him and went down to the stream. He reached into the water and brought it back onto his face several times. It woke him a little. Then he hiked back to camp to find Azriel making a fire, irritated. Mathay shook the great man with his foot. “Hey!” he said. “Wake up.” Rachab opened an eye and sat up. He shook his head and slapped his face. Mathay plopped down next to him on the ground. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “I want to know more,” he said. “More?” Mathay asked. “Yeah,” Rachab said. “I want to know more about the stuff your father talks about.” “Oh. You’ll have to ask him. He’s the talker,” Mathay rose and offered Rachab his hand. “I was going to, but I figured I needed to see you first. Tell you I’m sorry,” he took Mathay’s hand and stood. Mathay scratched his head and yawned. “Okay,” he said. “Want to eat?” _________________________

Chanowk Sheth had been missing all week according to Edna who had been more than slightly perturbed over this. He had wandered off with El on the second day of the week (the morning Rachab had arrived) and not come back. Mathay checked in on his father’s family once a day to make sure that all was well and to get help from Edna with Rachab’s questions. The big man was full of them and they annoyed Mathay to no end. Finally, he told Rachab to shut up and wait for the Big Fire. Rachab could ask all the questions he wanted to there from people a lot smarter than him. Shethite women loved to tell their children that Qayinites eat their young. So, on the sixth day, when Mathay-Shalach took Rachab to Chalam even grown men kept their distance. His immense size and light, linen tunic made him stick out among the throng. Mathay-Shalach and Azriel stayed close to him and drew some looks of their own. Mathay scanned the crowds for first-born’s that Rachab could talk to. It seemed that there were more people than usual on the trail. Just as they entered Chalam, he saw Yered, on horseback leading his family. Mathay grimaced. Yered was never his first choice to talk to about anything. He decided to wait for someone else. Just then, Rachab tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at Yered. “Hey, I know that guy,” Rachab said. “Oh, yeah?” Mathay asked. “Yeah, he’s my sister’s father. You know, the one you met,” Rachab said. Mathay and Azriel stopped walking. “What?” Azriel said. “That’s right,” Rachab continued. “My mom meets with him a lot, still, I think. They only have one baby together, though. My dad was prince Mehuja’el, whose father was prince Iyrad, son of Chanowk Qayin. I think that’s what your people call him. My dad and grandfather are dead, though, I think. At least, no one has seen them since I was conceived.” Mathay and Azriel gaped at him. Rachab blushed and suddenly realized that he probably should not have shared that information. “So, you’re a Qayinite prince?” Mathay said. “The youngest,” the big man bowed low and chuckled.

The stakes had gone up, Mathay thought. He’d better find Sheth… or even Ahdam. They hurried to bon fire area and jostled their way to the front. There, already seated, were Ahdam, Sheth, Mahalal’el, Enowsh, and Ken’an. The firstborns all had chairs that Ahdam had made for them. They sat nearest to the fire. Mathay told Azriel and Rachab to wait. Rachab watched as Mathay jogged over to the place where the Shethite princes sat. He was surprised at how little fuss these people made of their princes. He liked it. Mathay bent down and talked into the ear of the oldest one who was seated to the extreme right of the group. He turned and pointed at Rachab, though there was no need. Ahdam was staring at the big man already. Ahdam was the oldest person that Rachab had ever seen. His black skin was wrinkled and his beard was gray. The stories about this man must be true, Rachab reasoned. Ahdam leaned over and whispered something to the man next to him. Then he and the man got up and came towards Rachab with Mathay in tow. Rachab stood up straight and tall. Azriel stepped back a pace. Ahdam smiled as he approached. Sheth sized him up. Mathay seemed oddly amused. “Come this way, please,” Ahdam extended his hand. With great effort the five of them moved through the crowd. The press itself of the people was bad, but every one of them seemed to have something to say to Ahdam. When, finally, they broke from the crowd and into the forest, Rachab felt like he had walked a mile. Ahdam sat down near under a tree and pulled his legs out in a moan. Sheth stood next to him. “So, Mathay tells me that you have questions about us and, more to the point, me.” Ahdam began. “That’s right. First off, are you Qayin’s father?” “I am. Qayin killed his brother when he was a young man and ran away with my youngest daughter at the time, Lilith.” Rachab went pale. He sat down cross legged. “And who is your father?” he asked. “El is my father,” said Ahdam. “Have you met El?” “Yes, I have,” “Are you planning on staying with us?”

Sheth exhaled and squinted. Mathay tried to gauge them both. “Yes,” Rachab bowed his head. “I want to.” Ahdam pulled himself onto his feet and put his hand on Rachab’s shoulder. “Only family can stay with us,” Rachab’s shoulders fell. He stood and nodded, sadly. “So,” Ahdam continued. “You will no longer be called Rachab. I will call you Methusha’el because, I believe, God brought you to us.” The man brightened and checked the faces of the others to see if they had heard what he had. Mathay grinned and Sheth was expressionless. Rachab pulled Ahdam into a crushing hug.

“I would like the counsel allow me to offer my eldest daughter, Yaphah, to Methusha’el. I would also suggest that the counsel allow him, as a first born son of Ahdam, to join its members.” Chanowk Sheth said and sat back down in his chair. “Not while I’m living,” said Sheth. “I agree,” said Yered. “But, he is one of us,” said Ken’an. “He has been adopted!” “He’s a Qayinite,” Sheth sneered. “They’re treacherous.” “He’s Methusha’el. You all know him. He is a good man. He is a good worker. He is an honest man. As well, he knows intimate details about Chanowk Qayin and his people that might one day be useful to us,” Mathay argued. “I don’t care if he can fly. He’s not a first born son of Sheth,” Yered raised his voice. “No, he’s not.” Ahdam squinted at him. “He’s a prince of Qayin who was my first born son. So I think I have a right to say whether or not he sits among you. And I choose to allow him to do so. Besides, I would not make an enemy out of this man, Yered. He knows you. Better than anyone.” Yered paled and quieted. The threat was real. All the elders felt it. There had been rumors, but nothing like this. “Who knew?” Yered wondered. “They all must know. Look at them.” Some of the men shifted nervously in their seats. Sheth glared at him. Mahalal’el looked up at the sky, avoiding the scene. “They all know,” he thought. “So what?” Yered asked aloud. He stood, straightened his back, raised his chin and walked off. Ahdam sighed and, after a moment, pulled himself out of his chair. “Sheth,” he said. “Come here, son.” Sheth stood and walked over in front of his father.

“Stand next to me, Sheth.” Sheth moved to his father’s right. His expression indicated that he was confused by this gesture. Ahdam put his arm around Sheth’s neck both as a loving gesture and an attempt to remain steady. “Children, I am old now. Death is coming for me and I can feel it inside my body. My bones know the feeling of it,” he raised a fist and shook it. “My hands cannot grip like a man’s hands should grip. My skin hangs from me and I am ready to rest. I am returning, as God said, to the dust,” Ahdam widened his stance an inch or two. “I will no longer sit at the head of our family counsel. My mind is not what it used to be. I forget things that a man should not. I do not want to burden you with my age. I will, instead, rely on Sheth to guide you as I have done. Sheth,” Ahdam pulled the man in front of him. “Son, I trust you.” There was a long time where Sheth and Ahdam stared at each other. Then Ahdam stepped aside and offered his chair to Sheth. Sheth sat down and when he lifted his head the whole counsel could see that he was crying. Ahdam patted him on the shoulder and then turned and lifted his arms to address the counsel. “You are all very good,” he said. El appeared and took Ahdam by the hand. Together they slowly made their way away from the circle of chairs. _________________________

Edna heard a commotion outside her hut shortly after going to bed. Chanowk, thankfully, was home and already sleeping. She rose and stepped into the night air. In the moonlight she saw a woman and several children unloading a donkey as quietly as they could. Edna padded out towards the strange crew and about half way there realized that it was her mother-in-law, Baraka, and her children. “What is happening?” Edna called out. Baraka made no reply. She moved forward and drew Edna into a strong embrace. All of this was very strange. Edna gingerly returned it. Baraka pulled away and looked her in the face. Edna noticed that she was tear streaked. The children huddled around the fire pit and the eldest boy went to work restarting what was left of dinner’s wood.

“What is happening?” Edna whispered. Baraka leaned to her ear and whispered, “Yered has left us to go and live with the desert woman.” Then she planted her face on Edna’s shoulder and wept. “I am so ashamed,” she sobbed. Anger flooded Edna. “You have nothing to be ashamed of. No one ever knew that a man could stoop so low,” Edna said a little too loudly. The children, who had pretended thus far to not be listening, collectively flinched at her words. “No,” Baraka whispered very softly and shook her head slightly. “I am ashamed because I am glad to see him go.” Edna could tell that the woman was seriously distraught by this, but could not help herself. She threw her head back and laughed.

It had been strange that the babies were born on the same day. It was doubly strange that they looked almost exactly alike. The boys were large and strong, which was expected, with light hair and bright brown eyes. They were the color of sand on the beach, Methusha’el had said. Mathay took his word for it, having never seen the ocean. The two men behaved like boys themselves. “Your child is not nearly as burly as mine,” Mathay teased him. “My kid will beat yours up without even trying,” Methusha’el came back at him. They sang and wrestled with each other. They saw who could throw the biggest boulders. They swaggered about stupidly. The women rolled their eyes, but, quietly, were overjoyed. Family from miles around came to visit. This was a blessing and a curse. Two princes born on the same day! It had to be a sign from God. The men decided to name both boys “Lamech,” because they were so strong. The women were dubious, but conceded in the end. The visitors, mostly women, made food and did chores. They gave advice and made suggestions. They quarreled with one another. Finally, Mathay felt that if they helped any more he might go crazy. After two days he sent them away. “We will see you all at the next Big Fire!” Mathay called out to the last of them as they left. He helped Yaphah load up on their donkey and slapped Methusha’el on the back. “So long, brother,” he said, looking Methusha’el in the eye. He remembered El’s words to them on their first meeting and smiled. Methusha’el smiled, as well, and Mathay wondered if he was thinking the same thing. He didn’t need to ask.

Yaphah carried Lamech Qayin on her hip down to the stream to wash out some rags. She seated him on a rock behind her. Then, she turned around and dropped the cloths in the water. She didn’t hear a sound except for her own splashing over the rushing of the stream. After cleaning a half a dozen or so, she turned to check on Lamech and he was gone. She stood and searched the stream up and down with her eyes. Nothing. It was shallow and he could not have gotten into it at any point where she could not see him. She turned to the forest. “Lamech!” she called. This felt silly to her because he had only been walking for a couple of months. He could not have toddled far. She left her rags and stepped into the forest. “Lamech!” She chuckled. How strange. “Lamech!” Not a sound. She ran back to the stream and jogged up and down it looking for him. She looked in the mud to see if she could discern some tracks that he may have left. She saw none at all. She sprinted back into the woods and searched. “Lamech! Lamech!” She circled the area thinking he must be behind a tree or under a bush. Something. Children don’t just disappear. Her heart pounded in her chest. She ran back up to her hut where the rest of the family was just now returning. “Help me!” she screamed and dashed to the stream. Soon the lot of them pounded through the forest after her. “I set him down. Behind me. He was right here. Right there. And, and I turned. I was washing clothes. He was just behind me and – I turned around. Lamech!” she yelled. Methusha’el understood. “Lamech!” he yelled, much louder than his wife.

He looked around and tried to think. Then, he frowned. “Stop!” he commanded everyone. The family froze. “Where were you?” Yaphah pointed to a spot where her rags were still lying by the stream. “Point to a footprint that you know is yours,” he told her. Yaphah took a deep breath and looked down. Next to her foot, where she had just shifted her weight was a fresh track of her own. She pointed to it. Methusha’el nodded and studied the earth for a long time. He put his head close to the ground and looked along its surface. He stood, scanned the water and took off in a dead run up the stream. He ducked into the forest after about fifty yards, crashed through some low lying brush and into a clearing. There, his suspicions were confirmed when he saw the horse tracks. “I will kill them,” Methusha’el whispered. He sprinted back to the camp. The family had congregated there. They stared at him expectantly as he darted up the hill. “I am tracking them. They left on horseback. I will go alone,” he grabbed his spear, a water skin, a hunk of bread and his knife. He shoved the contents in a bag and sprinted off. A second later, he bounded back and grabbed some torches. Then, he left again. Yaphah was afraid. She huddled the children into the hut, grabbed her cooking knife, and made a fire. The idea that someone could have been that close to her, grabbed her child, and disappeared without her knowing it chilled Yaphah to the bone. She was impressed with Methusha’el, but now she was alone. “I hope he kills them,” she said under her breath. After a few moments in the silence of the forest, Yaphah imagined waiting out the night with the children and decided she could not bear it. She put out the fire that she had just lit and marched the children down the stream (all in front of her) to Edna’s house. _________________________

Mathay sent the women to stay with Ken’an in the north. He did not think that they were in any danger, but he knew that they would feel safer there. It was

easy to find the tracks and he set out after Methusha’el the same day. Mathay rode through the sunlight and into the night on a black mare he called Michyah. He caught up with Methusha’el at the edge of the desert. The sand had swallowed the tracks, but Methusha’el had an idea of where his son might be. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to have you here, brother,” Methusha’el said. “We are going into the snake’s lair. I don’t know what we will find when we get there.” The men were too much for Michyah to handle at once so they let her carry the packs and walk. The desert was a lonely and strange place to Mathay. If Methusha’el had not known the way and the terrain, they might have died. They walked for a full day before exhaustion took over and they slept for four hours. Then they continued in the darkness. Just before dawn, the brothers arrived at Lilith’s cave. Methusha’el told Mathay to wait behind a large bush as he approached. “If I am gone longer than ten minutes, and do not signal you, come in,” he said. Mathay nodded. Methusha’el crept to the cave and disappeared into the darkness. A minute went by. Then two. Mathay heard a woman’s scream followed by a choking sound. Methusha’el reappeared, holding Lilith by her throat. “Where is he?” Methusha’el barked at her. Mathay heard a rasping sound. Methusha’el released her throat, keeping a careful hold on her tunic with the other hand. Mathay revealed himself and hurried over. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Lilith answered him. “Oh, you don’t?” “No,” “Where is Adah, then?” “In Chanowk! In Chanowk! You have both abandoned me!” Methusha’el sized her for up a moment. “Who else lives in the desert that would have him? Who else would know him? No one!”

Methusha’el grabbed her by the shoulders and sat her onto the ground forcibly. He punched her twice in the head before Mathay rushed him and knocked him to the ground. This caused Methusha’el to lose his grip on the old woman. “No,” Methusha’el shouted. Too late. Lilith was on the run. Mathay sprinted after her but lost her in a canyon about a quarter mile away. Methusha’el caught up with him, sucking wind badly. “No more, brother,” Methusha’el said. “She can disappear in the desert at night. Our best bet is to go to her cave and wait for her return. We will set watches, but be careful. Lilith has killed mother bears and lions. With a spear in her hand she is as deadly as any man. Even old as she is.” He slapped Mathay on the back and they slumped back to Lilith’s cave where Mathay took the first shift. Both men were exhausted. Methusha’el, in spite of his distress, snored loudly. Mathay fought to stay awake as he watched the desert. The wind loudly whistled around the corners of the cave. Mathay paced back and forth at the entrance until he could stand the sound of the snoring no more and paced out just beyond Lilith’s fire pit. He crossed his arms and wondered how long they had until the sun came up. The sky made him believe about an hour, at the most. Mathay watched the darkness hopefully. “If you flinch, I will kill him.” Mathay wheeled around to see Lilith with Methusha’el’s head in her lap. She had a thin, bone knife at his throat and a hank of his hair in her other hand. Methusha’el’s eyes were wide with fear. Mathay held out his hands and approached them slowly. “We are here for information. That’s all,” Mathay said in a calm voice. “I have no information. So go away!” her voice was raspy and cold. “Surely there is something you can tell us about those who live in these parts. Methusha’el’s son, the prince of Qayin, has been kidnapped from our home. The tracks of the kidnappers disappeared into the desert.” He hoped the “prince of Qayin” remark would stir something in her. “Oh,” she droned and then cackled. “So you think I have taken your prince! Well, I haven’t. I am an old woman who just wants to be left alone to die.” She tossed her knife across the cave and it scraped loudly on the stone floor. Methusha’el stood up and rubbed his neck. He eyed her suspiciously.

“Where is Adah?” he asked again. “I told you. In Chanowk.” Lilith plopped down on a chair and lit a pipe. The smoke filled the cave in seconds and made Mathay cough. “Wouldn’t surprise me if she took your son, though. She always wanted to have one with you.” Methusha’el plopped down on the floor and cradled his head in his hands. “How can I get him out of Chanowk?” he said to himself. “By sneaking in,” Lilith pointed her pipe at him. “Not by force. That’s for sure.” “What do you mean?” Mathay asked. “Well, child, the Qayinites have been preparing to fight you for hundreds of years.” The idea sent a shiver down Mathay’s spine. Lilith smiled and took a long draw on her pipe. It illuminated her face in a way that made Mathay so profoundly uncomfortable that he stood and resumed pacing. “That’s right,” she said. “You’ll have to go in disguise. I’d be happy to cut you for your face blood.” She cackled again. Methusha’el was ignoring her, however. Mathay could not imagine how anyone could. “She’s right,” Methusha’el turned to Mathay. “And you can’t go with me.” “Why not?” Mathay returned. Lilith howled with laughter. “Why not? Why not? Because you’d give him away in a minute. You’d choke when you had to eat meat. You’d refuse to bow to “the sun.” You’d cry when you saw them throw their children into the sea. You’d blush when the whores grabbed your testicles! Because you are soft! That’s why!” “Shut up, old woman!” Methusha’el commanded her. “But am I right?” she whispered.

“She’s right. But, there is another thing. I am not likely to leave Chanowk alive. I have to know that you can take care of my family. Do you understand me, brother?” “Yes, I do.” “Do you think you can make it home without me?” “Southwest, right?” “Oh, don’t worry about him,” Lilith cooed. “I’ll make sure he gets home alright.” “Southwest. Yes.” Methusha’el answered. He turned to Lilith, “I will find out if he makes it home. And if he does not, I will tell all of Chanowk where you live.” “You’ll be dead before he,” she jerked a thumb at Mathay, “ever gets home.” “Are you willing to take that chance?” Lilith did not respond. She sat back in her chair. The two men hugged, reoriented their supplies, and parted ways. Thoughtfully, Lilith watched them disappear into the desert and puffed on her pipe. “You haven’t choked him to death, have you?” she said. A stone in the back of her cave fell aside to reveal Adah holding the child. She had stuffed a rag in its mouth to keep it quiet. She pulled it out and the boy broke into an immediate squall. She smacked him on the face. “Shut up!” she said. He did not. She hit him again. “Put it back in his mouth if he won’t be silent!” Lilith yelled. Adah stuffed the rag in the boy’s mouth again and sat down next to Lilith. Lilith handed her the pipe and she pulled on it. “Did you send word already?” Adah asked. “Yes. Hours ago. He won’t make it out of the desert.” Adah took another draw on the pipe. She sighed.

“Again,” Adah called. Lamech Qayin turned the horse and adjusted his grip on the spear. He lowered it and charged the cactus. The top of the plant busted off and rolled to her feet. “Wonderful,” she exclaimed and looked at her mother for a reaction. “Pretty good,” Lilith allowed. Lamech turned the horse again and charged the women with a huge grin on his face. His broad shoulders and deeply brown pectorals flexed as he lowered the spear at Adah. “Lamech!” she cried as he pulled up, just short of her. The horse bucked a little and breathed. Lamech slapped it lovingly on the neck and swung off. Lilith cackled. “Next time, boy, finish the job.” Adah ignored the old bat. She grabbed her man by the front of his skirt and buried her tongue in his mouth. He grabbed the back of her hair and gently pulled her face off of his, smiling. “Mmmm,” she said. _________________________

“Again,” Mathay called. Lamech Sheth hit the end of the wedge with his stone hammer. The log split in two and fell off the stump. Mathay replaced it with another. Lamech hit it and, again, it came apart. “That’s enough,” Mathay said. Lamech quit and they loaded the cart. The pair sprawled out on the grass and breathed. “What do you suppose will start the fighting between us and the Qayinites?” Lamech asked. “I don’t know,” he answered. “It might just be land, at this point. Take you, for instance. Let’s say you wanted to take your wife and leave like everyone else has done. Where would you go? You’d have to move three weeks north by foot to find an unsettled area. Whereas, if the Qayinites weren’t at our door, you could just go east a day and settle there.”

Lamech nodded. “Who are you going to marry me to?” he tried to be matter of fact. Mathay rolled over onto his side and regarded him a while. “Who do you want me to marry you to, boy?” “I don’t know. Betenos?” Lamech looked away to hide his blushing face. “Oh, yeah,” Mathay smiled. “Betenos? Chowmah’s daughter? That won’t be easy.” “Well, you know, whatever,” Lamech stood and stretched nonchalantly. “Yeah, whatever,” Mathay echoed and grinned. “Stop it,” Lamech said too loudly.

Reaching Banah proved to be the hardest thing Qayin had ever done. Not because he could not find it. Not because he could not walk as well as he used to. Not because the people forbade him. Not for lack of food or water or help. Qayin had a hard time because people kept mistaking him for Ahdam. Those who had never seen the first man thought for certain that someone as aged as Qayin must be the oldest ever. This tore him apart. It was a scary time to be a Qayinite in Shethite territory and it had been tough to remove the blood from his face. He had not been without it since he left Lilith for the last time. She had covered him. Ironically now, the blood, which had kept him safe in his youth, had become most dangerous in his old age. He even dressed in Shethite skins for the journey. When he looked at his reflection in the pond Qayin could see how people made the mistake. This, as well, ate at him. Chavvah recognized him instantly, but she was the only one. He threw his arms around her and wept for himself because he felt no connection to her any more. He could only guess why she wept. Ahdam lay, dying, in a bed of straw. Qayin lay next to him and looked up at the sky. Ahdam opened his eyes. “Who is there?” he asked. “Qayin.” “My son, Qayin?” “Yes.” “I am dying.” “I know.” “You came to see me?” “Yes.” “I am glad you came.”

Chavvah watched. She remembered when Qayin was a boy and the two of them imagined the clouds together. Qayin would point out pictures and Ahdam would do the same. It took both hands to cover her mouth.

Chavvah disappeared. By last account she wandered off into the woods. It was, in fact, her custom to do so. Being of sound mind, no one thought to stop her. Her body was never found.

Lilith lay in her bedroll at the back of the cave and fought for air. The sound of her rattling lungs echoed off the walls and back to her. Her cactus broth wore away and she knew that she was dying. She was very afraid. Her hands opened and shut, but she could say nothing. Lilith had lost the ability to speak last year after a strange feeling crawled up and down her left side. She lay in suspended animation, looking up, every day, at the tan and white ceiling of her cave. Voices. A woman leaned over her. “Snake,” she said. Another woman leaned over her. “She can’t even hear us,” the other said. “Oh, yes she can. Look at her eyes,” Lilith wondered about her eyes. She felt as though she should know who these women were. “Well, snake. If you can hear us know that you are hated,” the first one, with different colored eyes, whispered to her. The younger one put something over Lilith’s face and everything went dark. At first, she could hear nothing but her own breathing. Then she could not.

Edna woke before the sun. She woke Baraka and the two got to work. There was much to do every day. Edna was a hard working woman, but caring for two households (even with Baraka’s help) was a daunting task. There were clothes to mend, clothes to make, food to gather, food to store, food to cook, baskets and tools to make and repair, animals to care for, children to care for, and men to care for. The women buzzed about helping the children dress, breaking up fights, and making them eat. After they had finished their breakfasts, she set them to work. Edna woke Chanowk. He stumbled out to his chair and ate silently while she and Baraka cleaned up. Cheerfully, he handed his bowl to her and pecked her on the cheek. He ambled down to the stream and cleaned his face. He returned, packed up his donkey, and went searching for El. Every day it was the same thing. She hoped that he found El quickly. The sooner he did, the sooner he would return and set about mending tools or gathering nuts or collecting sap or whatever was needful that day. Frequently, however, Edna had to send one of the older children to Mathay’s house. Mathay, who had his own family (and a widow’s family) to look after, would then come and take care of whatever his mother needed. He never happily did so. She knew what she had gotten into with Chanowk from the beginning and so she never complained. All of his life he had done this. Yered had beaten him nearly to death on several occasions for wandering off. His mother, Baraka, however, disagreed. “What is more important than spending time with El?” she said. Edna could not argue with the logic. She just wanted a man around. She wanted a husband. That’s all. One bright fall day, when the children had gone with Baraka into the forest to gather berries, Edna sat alone outside her hut knitting a blanket. Chanowk and El arrived. El carried a pitcher of water with him. Chanowk bore an indescribable air that made Edna put her knitting down and stand to greet them. “Edna,” El said warmly, handing her the pitcher. “Clean your husband and put him in his best clothes. I am taking him with me today.” She knew, somehow, that he meant forever. Though her body moved to comply with El’s command, she felt as though she were frozen in place. She followed Chanowk into the hut where he undressed. She picked up a towel and dipped it in the pitcher. Chanowk held his arms out to her. She could tell, as she had

always known, that El meant more to Chanowk that she did. The sparkle in his eyes confirmed this fact for her. Yet, before her towel touched his skin, he stopped her hand. He leaned in and kissed, gently, her forehead. Edna took in a deep breath. She fought the urge to stomp her foot and cry. Dutifully, she wiped his body down and helped him to dress. The whole process happened so fast. She wanted to make him slow down and hold onto at least one second with her. Instead, he left the hut as soon as they had finished. She stood inside the doorway a moment, wringing her hands and fighting back a flood of tears. She squeezed her eyes and inhaled. When Edna finally immerged, El caught her off guard with a hug. At first she pushed away from him. Then, slowly, she relaxed into his embrace and sighed. This was happening. It was going to be okay. He grabbed her by the shoulders and mastered her eyes. There was a deep feeling of commitment in his stare. It was going to be okay. Edna turned her head to Chanowk and nodded. He smiled at her. El dropped his hands and turned around. Then, they just walked away. Shortly after, Baraka and the children arrived with baskets full of black and red berries. They were beautiful to Edna. She pulled her boy, Mal’ak, aside and hugged him hard. She told him to go and fetch Mathay for her. “Again?” he complained. “Again,” Edna said. She felt oddly peaceful at this moment. She smiled with Baraka as she told her what had happened. Baraka was overjoyed. She raised her hands to the sky and danced about. Edna studied the space in the trees where they had disappeared. “It is going to be okay,” she said.

-Part II988
Shaqah rinsed the golden cup in a bucket and dried it carefully with a towel. Then, with a different towel, he polished it until it gleamed. He held it out and admired his reflection in the gold. Shaqah imagined himself drinking from it. Quickly, he looked around to see if anyone would notice him doing so, then decided against it. Chanowk would know. Chanowk knew everything. He, dutifully, filled it with water using the ladle and set it on its golden tray. Shaqah straightened his robe, sighed and picked up the service. Using his foot, he pulled the door open and slid outside. He turned and headed up the steps to the prince’s hall. Then, he stopped. No one manned the door. Shaqah checked the sky. It was well past sunrise. In fact, he could see the sun about to chin itself over the ridge. Shaqah climbed the rest of the stairs and stood outside. What should he do? He pressed his ear to the door and heard voices. Voices he did not recognize. He swallowed. Who was in there with the prince? Shaqah felt sweat appear on his head. On one hand, if he interrupted the prince, he might be killed for doing so. On the other, if he neglected to bring the prince his drink, he could be killed for that as well. Shaqah backed against the wall and gulped. He could hear his heart. He hoped for someone to come out. He waited until the sun was visible in the sky. No one came. He put his ear to the door again and the voices had stopped. Now, he thought. Now I will go in. He held the tray with one hand and, as dignified as possible, opened the door with the other. He bowed his head and slipped inside. It was dark and Shaqah could see nothing at first, but he was used to this. He was not accustomed, however, to the strange smell that met his nostrils. It overpowered the incense and torches, but he could not place it. Head bowed, he took two measured steps forward holding the tray as still as he could out in front of him. Then, his foot hit something warm and soft and he tripped. The tray and cup banged loudly on the floor and Shaqah followed them down. He scrambled for the service, noticing, for only a moment, that he had tripped on the body of a dead man. Shaqah immediately assumed that it was the door man until, picking up the cup, he saw another and another. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see that the whole floor was littered with bodies. He gasped and froze.

“Yes,” a voice from the prince’s chair said. Shaqah saw the outline of a young man, much younger than the prince sitting in the prince’s chair. “My cup.” Shaqah immediately bent into a bow while his mind raced. “Stand up, you worm, and bring me a drink.” Shaqah bowed backwards from the room, stepping over the bodies and fighting his gag reflex. He tore down the stairs, where he washed himself and his wares. Then he ladled water into the goblet, kicked open the door and mounted the steps again as quickly as he could. He opened the door and stepped, gingerly, inside. His head bowed, he waited at the door for his eyes to adjust so that he did not trip over the bodies. “What are you waiting for?” the man demanded. Shaqah came forward, carefully avoiding the corpses as he went. He navigated the floor successfully and held out his tray for the man. He felt the tray become lighter and he backed away, bowing and stepping over dead men. He took his place on the wall and raised his head. He was, other than the man in the chair, the only other breathing body in the room. His head felt light and he was afraid, for a moment, that he was going to faint. There must have been fifty dead and the flies, Shaqah noticed, were already on them. The man on the throne looked nothing like Chanowk. He was large and powerful with feathers in his hair. His broad chest was covered with an enormous turtle shell. His face, like the prince, was not painted except for two streaks of black on his cheeks which were, underneath, the color of the beach. “Who am I?” the man asked. Shaqah fell prostrate onto the floor. “You are my lord Chanowk,” he said reflexively. He heard the man stand and approach him. Shaqah swallowed. This man was going to kill him. He was about to die. He saw, in his mind’s eye, his daughter and wife. He hoped they would run. The man grabbed Shaqah by the hair and jerked his head upwards. He stared down at Shaqah, nonplussed. “I am Lamech.”

Then he punched Shaqah and he collapsed to the floor. Lamech returned to his seat. Shaqah dared not to move. Perhaps he could lay there and pretend to be dead. “Whom do you serve, cup man?” No such luck. “I serve whoever sits in that chair,” Shaqah said loudly into the floor. The answer seemed to interest Lamech, because he paused. “You do?” “Yes, Lord Lamech.” “Stand up.” Shaqah stood, but kept his head bowed. “Look at me, worm!” Lamech shouted. Shaqah lifted his head. His lower lip trembled. A large, beautiful woman appeared from behind the great throne Lamech sat on. She glided around the platform and sat on the floor next to Lamech. Then, a second woman, slender and tiny, circled them both and sat on his other side. “Bring me your wife,” Lamech said after a moment. Shaqah bowed on his way out of the room. The man and his family did not live far away. He ran home and found his wife kneading bread. All around him, life was going on. Shaqah felt as though he was in some kind of horrible nightmare. “Come! Now!” he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her. At first, she nearly fell. “What are we doing?” she contended. “You are saving our lives!” he said. She stopped. “What are you saying?” Shaqah turned and stepped back to her. “What is on your feet?” she asked.

“You have to come with me. Don’t make me tell you about it. You have to trust me.” All the color was gone from his face. She nodded and passed him up. He pointed towards the prince’s hut and she gave him a look that said, “Are you joking?” He pointed again and they climbed the stairs. At the top, he opened the door for her. She lowered her head and stepped, ceremoniously into the darkness. He started to shut the door behind her when Lamech called to him. “Come inside, cup man.”

It was just after dark when Iyrad scampered onto shore and dragged his canoe into the trees. He covered it with branches and set out northward along a creek that fed into the stream where Sheth lived. One was a day’s walk from the other. The junction of the two was two days from Chalam. People lived all in between. Iyrad traveled at night, watching the world while it slept. During the day, he covered himself in camouflage and rested between the camps of the Shethites. On the third night, he came to Chalam and found Sheth’s hut among the elms and birches. He crept inside and loosened a bag under his belt. Iyrad dug into it and pulled out a small handful of spores. Luckily, Sheth and his wife turned away from each other when they slept. Iyrad gently blew the spores into her face and soon she started to snore. Then, he tip toed around to Sheth’s side of the bed. “Sheth,” he whispered. The man did not move. Iyrad looked around. He shook him gently by the shoulder. Sheth lay still. “Sheth,” he said again a little louder. Sheth snored loudly. Iyrad frowned and thumped him on the forehead. The red headed man’s eyes flew open. “What? What?” he blustered. Iyrad put a hand over Sheth’s mouth and his face reddened. Then Iyrad lifted a finger to his own mouth. “Shhhhh. I have news,” he whispered. Sheth’s face reddened even more deeply and his eyes squinted, but he nodded and Iyrad released his face. Sheth stood and waved Iyrad to the door of the hut. They stepped into the night air and Iyrad followed him to the stream. Sheth turned around at the stream and crossed his arms. “What news?” there was a twinkle in the old man’s eye. “Chanowk is dead,” Iyrad got to the point. “The youngest prince, my great grandson, has killed him and all of his ‘court.’” Sheth raised an eyebrow. “Really?” “Yes,” Iyrad yawned.

Sheth tapped his fuzzy chin with a finger and thought. “So, what is this new man like?” “Much worse. He murders for sport like children who kill squirrels with rocks. He has no regard for anyone except himself. He has two wives and now has sex with all the women of Chanowk. Also, Lilith has died.” “You told me that last time.” “Did I? What is new here?” “Chanowk is gone.” “Gone?” “Gone. El took him,” Sheth cocked his head to the side. Iyrad looked away. “I know how that feels. How is my son?” “Mehuja’el is fine. Ken’an says he has learned to make leather.” “Good,” Iyrad said. “That’s good. Anything else?” Sheth shrugged. Iyrad nodded and walked off.

Betenos’ baby was born in the middle of the day. After the midwife, Yalad, cleaned him off she nearly dropped him in shock. The boy was white. Not fair like some of the others. But white! His eyes were pink and white and his hair was white. “El! El! El!” she cried. “What’s the matter?” Betenos demanded. “Mother Betenos. He is the color of hungry teeth!” the woman exclaimed. “What do you mean? Bring him to me,” she breathed. Betenos had never heard of such. Neither, obviously, had her midwife. Yalad handed the boy to his mother and stuck her head out the door of the hut. There, two older boys, who had been listening, blushed. “You, go and tell Lamech that he has a son. And you, go and get MathayShalach. Tell him I need him,” she ordered. The children sprinted off. Yalad turned back inside to find Betenos happily nursing her child. She did not seem to mind his coloring at all. The thing gave Yalad the creeps. _________________________

The boy found Lamech in the middle of mending a broken animal corral. He sweated heavily as he heaved one of the logs onto a support. “Lamech, you have a son!” the boy panted and skidded to a halt. Lamech, who had been at work since before the sun, did not even know that his wife was laboring. It was, in fact, almost a month too early. He thought the boy had been sent as a joke. Mathay was well known for such. “Good,” Lamech teased, “Then maybe I’ll get some rest from working the ground that God has cursed.” He smiled at the boy and the boy turned his head to the side. “Who sent you?” Lamech asked.

“The woman with the crooked teeth,” the boy replied. Lamech gaped. He was not joking. That had to be Yalad. “Really?” The boy shook his head. “Oh!” Lamech took off running. _________________________

Mathay was first to arrive on the scene. Betenos and the baby were sleeping. Yalad was sitting outside. She stood when he approached and held out her hands. Mathay slowed and raised an eyebrow at her. “They are asleep, now,”

Noah peered around the tree. No one was in sight. He slipped out, quietly, and dipped his pitcher into the stream. He stood and searched the trees. Still, no one. Noah heaved the water against his chest and started for home. The pitcher was heavy and he had trouble keeping it steady as he walked. He sloshed it, a little, onto himself and down the front of his tunic. “Ha!” a voice blasted into his ear. Noah dropped the water and tripped over the vessel. Rolling onto his side, he looked up into the faces of Mardu, Tomnak, and Sumna - the boys he hoped he would not see today. They called him “Milk.” “Hey Milk,” Mardu sneered. “Where are you going with our water?” Mardu kicked the pitcher and it flew off into the forest. “Freaks don’t get to drink out of our stream!” Tomnak said and kicked Noah in the face. Noah jumped to his feet and slammed Tomnak in the nose with the bottom of his fist. Sumna jumped on Noah’s back and wrestled him down. He hooked his legs around Noah’s and wrapped him up with his arms. Mardu kicked Noah in the stomach and he vomited onto Sumna’s arm. “Ohhh. Ewwww,” Tomnak called. Sumna released him and scrambled to stand. He kicked Noah in the back of the head and sprinted to the stream. “That was gross, Milk,” Mardu chuckled. Mardu retrieved Noah’s pitcher and broke it over his knee. Then he tossed it onto Noah. Then he spat on Noah. Then he laughed. Then they all laughed. Noah looked at the ground and pretended not to hear them. Then they left.

From his vantage point in the tree, Noah could see Mardu coming down the trail, humming to himself. He was alone. Noah turned the big stone over in his hands. They sweated. He held it out over the trail and waited. Mardu stopped to pick up a stick. Noah pulled the rock back. It was heavy. He swallowed and imagined it hitting Mardu on the head. He imagined Mardu falling down. He imagined the blood in Mardu’s hair. This thought had pleased him earlier. Now, with Mardu physically present, it did not sound so wonderful. The boy seemed so normal. Mardu tossed the stick away and continued towards Noah. Noah readied his weapon and waited. Mardu came and went beneath him. Noah dropped it. Mardu heard the thud and spun around. He saw the rock and then lifted his head. The rock was big. It could have killed him. His expression told him that he knew Noah had missed him purposefully. Mardu was frozen. Noah climbed down the tree and walked up to Mardu. Right in his face. “You were going to drop that on me, weren’t you?” Mardu asked. “Yes,” Noah was ashamed but did not want to show him. Mardu sniffed loudly and turned around. Noah jumped on his back. He rode him for a few seconds until Mardu’s foot found a soft patch of dirt. Mardu slipped forward and hit his head on a rock. His body went limp all over. Noah pushed off and backed away. Noah ran. _________________________

“Noah,” Lamech called, gently. His voice echoed off the sides of the cave. “Noah,” he said again and stepped inside. The boy’s tracks had led his father to him. Lamech squinted and tried to bring the dark space into focus. There, midway back, he saw Noah, curled up in a ball.

“Son, come out.” Noah didn’t move. “Get out, now,” Lamech ordered. Noah’s legs unfolded and he pulled himself from the wall. His face was streaked with tears. Lamech backed himself out of the cave and Noah followed. Once in the brightness, Noah noticed that Lamech had come alone. He had expected an angry mob. “Did I kill him?” Noah asked reflexively. “No,” Lamech said. Noah thought for a moment and nodded. Then he started to cry again. “What’s the matter?” Lamech asked. “I meant to. I meant to kill him,” Noah wailed. Lamech paled. “Why?” he breathed. “Because he’s horrible.” Lamech pursed his lips and looked off. “Bad enough to kill?” “Yeah, I mean…” Lamech gave him a look. “How bad is that, exactly?” Noah opened his mouth and then realized that he didn’t have an answer. Lamech started home. Noah followed.

Noah petted his horse on the neck. “I know,” he said. “It hurts. You will see him again, though.” The horse’s mate had been borrowed by Noah’s uncle, Tekayleth. She stomped the ground and lifted her head. She whinnied and Noah petted her again. She turned and went back to her grass. Noah watched her closely for a moment. The mare seemed to be adjusting well. Noah plodded off into the forest and watched some squirrels. He was supposed to be doing something, but he had forgotten what. The squirrels played on the tree limbs. Tag it looked like. Noah would have liked to have been a squirrel. Climbing and running, jumping from tree to tree, curling up into little balls and going to sleep. Likely, they were mates. “Noah,” a voice turned him around. It was El. He had never seen El, but he knew that it was him. Noah ran away. He stopped after a few minutes when he felt sure that El was far behind him. His heart raced. Why had he run away? Noah didn’t know. El was good and kind. El was, El. Why had he run? Noah scratched his face and wondered. “Noah,” again the voice turned him around. This time, Noah felt as though he had been pulled out of his deep thoughts, like a dream. He stared at El and his mind went blank. “Hi,” he managed to say. “Your horse is pregnant again,” El told him. Noah nodded. Then, El smiled and walked away. Noah wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. What was the matter with him? _________________________

“There is something wrong him,” Lamech said to his wife. He stretched out lazily by the fire.

Noah was across the clearing wrestling with a dog. The dog bent backwards and barked at Noah. Noah, on his hands and knees, growled at him playfully. Then he rushed and tackled him. “Don’t say that,” Betenos said. “He is unique. He’s different. That’s okay.” “If you say so,” Lamech said. He rolled over and pulled his body into a long line. Betenos eyed him. “What?” she said. “What, what?” Lamech replied. Betenos sighed. “Nothing.” She looked down at her sewing. Lamech watched her. Then he crawled across the ground to look up into her eyes. She ignored him. Her face was drawn and quiet. He waited for her to react to his gesture. She refused. Irritated, he stood and dusted himself off. “I mean it. Noah’s a weird kid. It’s not just me that says so.” Lamech wandered off. Betenos wiped a tear and sewed furiously. Noah barked. _________________________

Lamech shook Noah awake. “Come on. I need your help today,” he said. Noah stood and rubbed his eyes. The sun was not up yet. They trudged down to the stream and washed their faces. Lamech led Noah back to the hut, entered and reemerged with a long spear sharpened at both ends. This was the bear spear. Noah blinked and stared at Lamech when he handed it to him. “We need a bear,” Lamech said. He caught his gaze and nodded. “We need one today.” Noah thought he nodded back. If he could have paled, he would have. Lamech shuffled off back to bed and left Noah alone in the darkness. He looked around for someone to hand the spear to, he guessed. There was no one. His

heart raced. His breathing sped. He dropped the spear on the ground and backed away from it. “There is nothing wrong with killing a bear. God gave us bears. There is nothing wrong with killing a bear. What is wrong with me?” Noah sat and pulled knees up under his chin. He rocked himself and stared at the spear as though it were covered in bear blood already. He rose and walked around it. “Noah, you can do this. Pick up the spear.” Noah bent down. His hand wrapped around the wood but would not close. The next thing he knew the sun was out. He stared up at Lamech’s scowl. “We need a bear today,” Lamech repeated. He pulled Noah to his feet and put the spear in his hand. Then, he shoved Noah forward into a run. Noah ran and ran. He ran until he reached the place where the land rose into a steep hill. Noah stopped and fell out onto a bed of pine needles, panting. He lay there and listened to the birds. He imagined what they might be saying to one another. “Do you see that funny looking kid?” one said. “What’s he doing with that spear?” said the other. “I don’t know. He doesn’t look like he could pick it up, let alone kill anything with it.” The other chirped a throaty laugh in reply. Noah rolled over onto his side. He had seen his father kill a bear once. He had gotten the creature to charge and impale itself on his spear. Simple. Noah knew where a bear family would be today, but there were no loners in the area right now. He would first have to separate them. The thought made his eyes water. Noah picked up the spear and set out to find the family. He climbed the hill and followed the crest of it south to the place where the caves were. From this vantage point, he could see the family grooming one another. They had just woken up. The male he called Dob was his friend. Dob’s wife Noah called Nadom. They had two new cubs that Noah had not yet named. He had not seen them in a couple of weeks.

Noah hiked half way down the hill and dug a shallow hole. He set the spear in it and ambled down to the bears. Nadom took notice of him first and bellowed. Dob did likewise. Noah approached them as nonchalantly as possible and petted Dob on the head. Noah heart raced and they could tell. Nadom sniffed his chest and questioned him with her eyes. Noah sat and tried to calm himself. Dob sniffed his head. Noah drew a picture in the sand and waited. Eventually, the bears decided that Noah was okay and resumed grooming the cubs. Then the cubs began to whine for food and Nadom led them away. Dob lagged behind. Noah knew that this was his chance. His heart sped again and Dob took notice. Noah stood and watched as Nadom and the cubs disappeared behind some trees. Noah stepped backwards. Dob turned his head sideways and did likewise. Noah took another step and picked up a rock. It occurred to him that he had never seen Dob run before. The look in Dob’s eyes told Noah that he was worried about him. Noah tried to avoid his gaze. His eyes filled with tears and he threw the rock as hard as he could. Dob bellowed and backed away. Noah wiped his eyes, picked up another rock and chucked it at Dob. This time he caught him in the head. Dob roared and came forward two threatening paces. Dob was mad. Noah caught him in the mouth with the next throw and Dob charged. Noah turned and ran. He could hear Dob crashing after him and could tell from the sound that the bear was much faster than he had anticipated. Noah lowered his head and chugged as hard as he could. The spear was still ages away and the bear sounded so close to him. Then it happened. Noah tripped on a root. He fell head over heels into a big, soft bush. It sprung against his force at first, but, then, held him still. He closed his eyes and waited as the sound of the bear rushed upon him. Then there was a rustle, a roar, a gurgle and a thud. Noah opened his eyes. All he could see were the bush’s leaves. He crawled out and saw Dob, dead on the ground, and Lamech, staring at him. Noah burst into tears. _________________________

Lamech put his arm around Noah as they came into camp. “I forgot to mention that bears are fast,” he said and chuckled. Then he slapped Noah on the back and Noah stumbled forward. “Right,” Noah said. Betenos gave Lamech a look that she hoped would kill him.

Lamech Qayin entered and Yered held his head high. Lamech ignored him and bent over to examine the map laid out before them. “What is this place here?” Lamech pointed. Yered leaned in. “That is Ken’an’s home,” Yered answered. Yered could tell what he was thinking; Ken’an’s land was deliciously exposed to the north. “Will he stay there when he is patriarch?” “Hard to say. When Sheth was alive, his home was Chalam where they meet every week. Enowsh lives next to him,” he indicated the land just east of Chalam. “This is the first time that a patriarch has lived far away. Chalam is the center of the family, but Sheth’s other sons might take issue with him moving in. We’ll have to see.” “We?” Lamech smiled. “I will have to see,” Yered corrected. Lamech nodded and turned his attention back to the map. “I need…” He looked around and underneath the table. “Get me twigs. And berries.” Yered left the hut. There happened to be a good bush for these things just outside. Yered picked what he thought Lamech needed and returned. He handed them to Lamech who spread them out on the map. “See,” he looked at Yered. “These here,” he indicated the berries and separated them out from the twigs. “These will be small groups of people.” “You mean men, right?” Yered asked. “I mean people,” Lamech answered. “Pay attention.” He picked up the pile of twigs and began setting them out along the border at the Gabal River. Yered tried to imagine women fighting and could not. “These are large groups…about two hundred or so. If Ken’an doesn’t move, we can send in two berries for Ken’an’s family. The Shethites will flood northward thinking we attack from the north. Then, we can rush in from the east and take Chalam. Cut off from their homes, the Shethites will have a hard time.”

He straightened, pleased with himself. Yered avoided his gaze, pretending to be terribly interested in the plan. “It is ingenious,” Yered said. “Of course,” Lamech tossed a berry onto the table and strode out. Lamech sighed and followed. The sun was about to set. _________________________

Late that night, Yered slid from his bed and, quietly, into clothing. Then he slid out of his hut and padded down the trail to the beach. He carried no torch. Yered followed the beach for a mile until he reached a break in the trees to his left. He trooped up into the clearing and waited. After a while, he heard a sound ahead of him and followed it. The soft glow of a pipe illuminated Iyrad’s face. The man leaned against a tree. Yered came within whispering distance. “What news of the Pig?” Iyrad asked. “He plans to attack,” Yered replied. “I know that. When and where?” “From the north if Ken’an stays there after Enowsh steps down.” Iyrad eyed him curiously. “The north, huh?” “Right,” Yered shifted his weight onto his back foot and crossed his arms. “Will Ken’an stay in the north?” “No, he won’t,” Iyrad seemed far away. “Oh,” Yered said. “There is a new first born,” Iyrad reset himself and offered. “Who did Lamech marry?” “Betenos.”

“Don’t know her.” Yered shrugged. “Kid’s name is Noah. He is all white. Hair, skin. Pink eyes. Weird looking.” Iyrad turned and spat. “Really? He’s the tenth.” “That’s right.” “Hmmm.” Yered was thoughtful. “Have they made any preparations?” “No. Not one.” “Fools.” Yered spat. “Lamech will kill them all,” Iyrad said and watched Yered for some kind of reaction. He saw none. _________________________

Adah and Zillah stood over the pot and swayed. They hummed loudly. The walls of the cave, lit by torches, flickered and bent. Zillah opened one eye. The stuff smelled horrible. A goat femur stuck out of it. She looked at her mother who appeared to be deeply entranced. Zillah shut her eye. Nothing was happening. After a full hour, Adah stopped. She kicked the vessel and sent it flying across room, splattering against a wall. Zillah backed away from her, well accustomed to her mother’s rages. Adah charged about the cave, throwing things in every direction. She grabbed the rope in the center of the room and shimmied up it like a monkey. Zillah busied herself with cleaning. Then something made her gasp. “Mother!” she yelled. “Mother!” Adah stuck her head into the hole. “What?” “Come and look.”

Adah slid down the rope and eyed what her daughter gawked at. Their brew had made the image of a man on the wall. The arms and legs of it were outstretched, spread eagle style. Adah laughed and stomped her feet. “Ha, ha!” she said. “We need a man!” Zillah nodded and pondered the implications.

Mathay traced the edge of a moss covered patch of ground. Underneath it was a wooden frame. Mathay dug his fingers in and lifted an entire rectangle of earth at once. A tiny, hidden room with a floor full of spears opened to him. He propped the ceiling on a long staff. An earthen staircase led downwards to the weapons which were set in holes so that they could be removed, and brandished, if necessary. Mathay shooed a family of spiders that had made their home inside. He pointed at each spear as he counted them. Seventy five in all. He grabbed a few and shook them in their holes. Mathay smiled. They were still sturdy and had not rotted. He climbed out of the trap and replaced the ceiling. Mathay had inspected twenty five of his thirty dead falls along the western side of the Gabal River this month. No group of any size could pass through without finding at least a few of them. Mathay mounted his horse again and moved on. _________________________

It took Mathay until well after dark to finish making his rounds. There had been no sign of Qayinite movement across the river. This made him happy and he was in generally good spirits as he trotted homeward along his familiar path. The wind was gentle and smelled like spring. As he rounded the last bend in the path before home, he could smell the remnants of dinner. Then, he realized just how hungry he was. Suddenly, a figure stepped out of the forest and onto the path in front of him. Mathay’s horse whinnied and rose up. Mathay recognized Iyrad immediately and petted the horse to calm him. He dismounted and tethered the stallion to a short tree. “Glad to see somebody around here is getting ready,” Iyrad said. Mathay shrugged. “Any word?” “No. Soon, though.” Mathay considered him. “How is your son?” “He is ill, Ken’an says.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” Mathay said. “Me too.” Iyrad said. “How is your family?” “Everyone is well,” Mathay said and crossed his arms. Mathay never knew quite what to say to Iyrad. Something about him bothered Mathay, but he was the only link anyone had to information about the Qayinites. “Yered still working with Lamech?” “Yeah. Nobody works with Lamech, though. They work for him.” “I see.” “You will.” Iyrad walked off. Mathay frowned after him. Iyrad could be so dramatic.

At four months, Adah looked as though she were ready to pop. She felt like it as well. She had carried low and waddled for the last three weeks. This child would be different. How could it not be? But, she had not expected this. On the night of the new moon, her water broke and she sent for the midwife. At first, the woman sent word back to Adah that she could not be delivering. It was too early. Adah ordered for the woman to be executed and sent for another. A new midwife came post haste, but, still, was too late. Zillah held an enormous squalling boy in her arms when the woman arrived. Then, to their surprise, another child came out - radically smaller than the first. The midwife had never heard of such. Other than their size, the two boys were identical. The midwife cleaned them and Adah sat up, still panting. One was hard. Two was exhausting. The midwife cut the cords, tied them off and handed the babies to her one at a time. “That was impossible,” she said to Zillah who was three months along herself and already well rounded. She absently rubbed her stomach and remembered the conception. This was unnatural. How could they expect things to go well? They were lucky (she would be lucky) to survive. “I will call this one,” Adah nodded at the large one, “Jabal. The runt I will call Jubal.”

The great cat lumbered along happily beside Noah as they trailed his family on their way to the Big Fire. It had taken much convincing to get Lamech to allow him to bring the beast. Shane stood as high as Noah’s chest with long teeth on either side of his head. He had a beautiful, plentiful, tan coat. Noah was convinced that Shane could behave and he planned to keep an especially watchful eye on his friend. The idea of bringing Shane along appealed to Noah for two reasons. One, he and the cat had become inseparable. He loved his friend very much. Second, having Shane would give him a good excuse to wander about and even leave Chalam to feed Shane. As they approached the Big Fire, Noah could tell that Shane grew nervous at the number of people on the trail. His head swung back and forth along the ground, trying to sort out all of the new smells. Noah stopped and stroked his head. “It’s okay. They are friends.” Noah smiled and Shane panted happily up at him. They walked on. When the trail finally opened into field, Noah led Shane along the outskirts of the crowd near the trees so that he did not feel overwhelmed. Noah waved “goodbye” to his mother as they disappeared into the crowd. “I will catch up with you in a minute,” he shouted. One of Noah’s little sisters stuck her tongue out at him before chasing off after their mother. Noah returned the favor, though she did not see. Even though word of Noah’s birth and his strange coloring were well known among the Shethites, people still stared at him when he went to the Big Fire. Noah never got used to the looks and the whispers. He pretended not to notice a group of his peers who gawked at him as he passed. He fussed with Shane’s coat as a cover. Tomnak, his old “friend,” happened to be among them. He thought he heard one of girls say, “Milk.” El sidled up to him and the two walked in silence for quite a while. Shane crossed behind Noah and nuzzled El briefly on the side of his rib cage. El petted Shane and the cat purred. They circled the entire field before Noah led Shane into the forest to hunt. El did not follow them into the woods. Shane quickly found a rabbit and a squirrel. Noah sat on a log just below a shallow ravine to watch his friend make a meal out of them one at a time. Then, just when Noah was going to call Shane back, an unfortunate pig wandered into the area. Shane had not smelled him coming, because of all the people around.

He had looked up and the pig was just standing there. It, apparently, had not smelled Shane either. Noah, realizing that it would take a while for Shane to dispose of all that pig, stretched out on a fallen tree and gazed up into the canopy. The sun beamed through making beautiful streams of light. Noah imagined himself floating upwards into the sky the way Chanowk had. At least, that’s the way Noah imagined it. He closed his eyes and focused his attention to the feeling of the sunlight on his skin and in his hair. He loved it even though it sometimes made his skin pink when he bathed for too long. Noah glanced over at Shane who had finished eating and was now cleaning himself. Shane was beautiful lying among the ferns. His powerful jaws rippled and flexed as he lapped himself clean. Finally, the cat lumbered over to Noah. He curled up the ground and fell asleep. Noah, unintentionally, followed. _________________________

Noah awoke in the darkness to the sound of voices close by. Shane was gone and the men sounded as though they were getting closer. Instinctively, he rolled off the log as quietly as possible and waited. After a moment, Noah could make out what was being said. “Who has Lamech chosen for him?” said one voice. “No one. That’s the thing,” said the other. “Has he been seeing anyone?” “No. He is just not interested, they say.” “Oh.” Noah realized that they were talking about him and tried to breathe as quietly as he could to hear them better. “He’s a strange kid.” “Strange man, now.” “Right.” The men stopped walking suddenly. Noah held his breath. Had they seen him?

“Well, hello there cat,” one of them said. His tone was friendly enough. Shane gave a low growl that Noah knew meant danger for them. Noah stood and revealed himself. “Shane,” Noah called. Shane considered Noah and then the two men. He decided on Noah and bounded over. The men blushed. It felt strange to have people that Noah did not know talking about his most intimate life. “Noah. Hi. Your family sent us to look for you.” “Thank you.” Noah said and petted Shane on the head. “I heard.” “Um. Right. Well, you’re found. We’ll head back.” The men retreated into the forest much quicker than when they entered. Noah puffed out his cheeks with air and strolled back to the clearing where the Big Fire was in full blaze. Shane seemed much more at ease in the darkness and Noah led him straight through the crowd without incident. When Noah arrived at the family’s place on the grass, he noticed that a new chair had been set up at in first-born’s circle. “Oh, no,” Noah thought. Sheepishly, he led Shane over to his new chair and tried to slip into it without anyone taking notice. It was no use. “Ah,” called Ken’an, “There you are! We were beginning to think your friend there ate you.” The others laughed. Noah wanted to hide his face. Enowsh, Ken’an, Mahalal’el, Mathay-Shalach, and Lamech all stared at him at once. Mathay seemed especially amused, “Better be careful, Ken’an. From what I hear, if Noah asked him to, his friend might eat you.” Noah summoned everything within himself to force a smile. Lamech beamed reassuringly and rubbed Noah on the shoulder. Enowsh pulled his old body out of his chair and began the family song. The first-born’s picked up the tune and soon everyone sang in unison. “On the first day There was light and darkness

On the second day There was sky On the third day There was land and sea On the fourth day There was sun and moon On the fifth day There were creatures On the sixth day There was man And on the seventh day We sing to Him!” A great cheer rose up. Enowsh raised his hands and all fell silent. “It will bruise His heel!” his voice called. Enowsh always put tremendous emphasis on the word “heel.” “He will crush its head!” the people answered. The crowd reclined on the grass and unpacked the food that they had brought. Betenos delivered a bowl to Lamech who was suddenly engrossed in conversation with Mathay. He nodded and took it from her. She handed another to Noah and winked. Noah smiled and attended to it until all his rice and beans were gone. Shane dozed at his feet and Noah wished that he could join his friend. Instead, he tried to avoid attention while, at the same time, following the conversations he had so long wondered about. “- the way he comes across. I don’t think the man is ready to move. He’s got about thirty cattle, fifty sheep, and who knows how many chickens and roosters and geese. There is no way,” Mahalal’el said. “He’s just going to have to let Brotas help him. His pride will have to wither.” Enowsh said and the matter seemed closed. Mathay finished his supper and rose. He motioned for Noah to follow him. Noah reached down and rubbed Shane on the head, “Come on.” He set his bowl in the chair. Shane stretched and followed the pair lazily down to the stream. “How is your mother doing?” Mathay asked as they reached the water. “Fine,” Noah replied flatly. Mathay propped himself up on a rock and considered Shane who was pacing up and down the stream.

“You like animals better than people?” Mathay asked. “Yeah. Animals say what they are thinking,” Noah answered. He had thought of that quip a few weeks ago and had waited for the right time to say it. Mathay chuckled. “That’s true.” “Shane’s an orphan,” Noah said. “Oh, yeah?” “Yeah, I found him when he was a cub. A bear I know killed his mom. I don’t know what they were fighting over, but I think it was a misunderstanding over an antelope I call Chamar.” Mathay laughed again and held his stomach. Noah stared blankly at him. “I like the way you talk,” Noah felt suddenly, very self conscious and turned his head away. “It’s okay. I just wish I knew animals like that.” “Animals don’t hurt people,” Noah said softly. “That’s true. People hurt people, don’t they?” Mathay paused. “Are you afraid of war?” “What is ‘war’?” Noah asked. “Fighting… between us and the Qayinites.” “Oh, that. People have been talking about that for ages and it’s never happened. I think they just want to be left alone like we do.” “Perhaps, but what about their leaders?” Mathay asked. “I don’t know about them,” Noah replied. “You know they eat animals?” Mathay watched him. Predictably, Noah flinched. “Yeah, I’ve heard that.” “What do you think about that?” “Animals eat animals,” Noah shrugged. Mathay had not expected that.

“But you don’t like it, do you?” Noah studied his feet, “No, I don’t.” Just then El, Mahalal’el and Ken’an came into sight. Lamech followed, helping the elderly Enowsh along the trail. They all sat down together except for El who reclined against the rock that Mathay had just abandoned. “Iyrad tells me that there is a group forming in the north, in spite of our misdirection,” Mathay opened. Ken’an shifted in his seat nervously. “How many?” Mahalal’el asked. “Two groups of about twenty men each,” Mathay answered. “Ahh,” Enowsh waved a hand dismissively at him. “It’s a hunting party.” “Maybe,” Mathay said darkly. “But, maybe not,” Ken’an said. “How long have they been there?” “About three days,” Mathay answered. Noah could sense eyes on the back of his head. When he turned El was, in fact, rubbing Shane’s back and gazing at him. Nervously, Noah looked away. He wondered why nobody asked El what to do about the Qayinites. “I have asked Kalal and his family to make the journey up to your home and pose as you this week. He has agreed,” Mathay said to Ken’an. “Do you really think that’s necessary?” Mahalal’el guessed Ken’an’s thoughts. Ken’an nodded. “I do,” Mathay said. Enowsh, propped up on his elbows, snored loudly. Lamech chuckled. This lightened the mood. “It looks like I am on jubilee this week, then,” Ken’an said cheerfully and smiled in spite of his concerned forehead. “That’s right,” Lamech said and slapped the older man on the back. “Speaking of Qayinites, I heard that Lamech Qayin and Adah had two babies at one time. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?”

“What do you mean at one time?” Mahalal’el asked. “I mean in one belly. Two babies and they look exactly alike.” Noah looked up at El. He had never heard of such a thing. El was watching Lamech. “I have heard of this,” Ken’an said. “It is rare, but it happens.” “They have called them Jabal and Jubal. Must have been rough,” Lamech continued. “And I hear that his other wife is expecting as well.” “I can’t understand how anyone could manage to keep two women happy at the same time,” Mathay said. Everyone laughed, knowing that Mathay supported two families. Shane nuzzled Noah on the back of his head and Noah reflexively scratched him behind the ear. He turned his head towards the cat and noticed that El had gone. This made him sad and he wished that he had spoken up sooner. After their laughter died down, Noah asked, “What does El want us to do about the Qayinites?” Ken’an straightened up and said, “El wants us to be obedient to him in all our ways.” Mahalal’el nodded in agreement and grunted. “What does that mean?” Noah asked before he thought and Mathay broke into a wide smile. Ken’an made a fist and slapped it into his hand, “It means, son, that we do not eat meat. We wear the clothes we were given. We keep the week. We have the woman we were given. One woman. It means we don’t bow down and worship each other or the land or the animals or whatever they are worshipping this month. We tell His stories and not the ones we make up. That is what it means.” “Oh,” Noah said, embarrassed. He felt as if he should have known the answer and, at the same time, like it didn’t fit the question. He noticed Mathay watching him with interest. Noah was grateful when the group broke up and went back to the Big Fire.

Noah heard someone coming and jerked his head. It was El. He crossed the field quickly. Noah stood up so fast that he almost fell over. “Today, Mathay is going to ask you to accompany him to Chanowk. Do not worry. Go with him. I will protect you.” Noah’s eyes widened. “Yes,” he heard himself saying before he thought. He had never heard El say so much at one time. El smiled and patted Noah on the back. Then he turned, checked the sun, and strolled away. Noah started for home. Something must be happening. When Noah arrived, he found Ken’an seated with Lamech and Betenos by the fire. Mathay came out of the hut and sat with them. They greeted Noah grimly as he sat down. No one said anything for a long time. Ken’an cleared his throat, “Noah, a group of Qayinites from the desert crossed into the territory of Naqar. They killed him, his family and all his animals. They burned his hut. They burned the bodies. We found them yesterday.” Noah’s head drooped and he felt his eyes fill with tears. Betenos came up behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. “He was my age,” Noah said. Betenos patted him and took her seat again. He wiped his eyes. “We think they meant to kill you,” Lamech said after a while. An image of toe headed, fair skinned, Naqar flashed in Noah’s mind. “What? Why would anyone want to kill me?” “You are the youngest first-born, the symbol of our strength. Killing you would take the heart out of us all. Also, people, perhaps even the Qayinites, say that you are ‘unique,’” Ken’an raised an eyebrow. “He is unique,” Mathay said. Noah felt estranged by this. He shook off the feeling and tried to clear his mind. “Were there no other attacks?” Noah asked.

Lamech smiled, “Good question, Noah. No, there have been no others. Strange isn’t it? It’s like he wants to draw us out. Maybe that’s what he’s trying to do.” “He wants to know if we can forgive him,” Noah said without thinking. They gaped at him. Then, Noah felt silly and blushed. “If he wants a fight, we can give him one!” Ken’an said. Mathay, eyes still on Noah, said, “It is a fight he wants, but we’re not going to give him one yet. If we make him come to us, we have the advantage. If he makes us come to him, he has the advantage. Our dead falls and traps and weapon hordes are of no use to us if we are on his territory.” “Right,” said Lamech. “So,” Ken’an said. “Why don’t you go and deliver him an invitation?” He laughed. Mathay took offense, stood, and stormed off. “What?” Ken’an called after him. “Seriously, what does he want us to do?” He held his hands out, pleading to the rest of the group. All were silent. Noah thought about El’s words today and wondered when Mathay was going to ask him to go. Just then, Mathay came charging back to the fire, wild eyed. “That’s exactly what we’ll do. We will send him an invitation. I’ll go. And Noah,” Mathay looked at Noah. “That’s crazy!” Ken’an exploded over Betenos who started to object. “He’ll just kill you!” Mathay tried to respond when Noah said, “I’ll go.” Lamech fell backwards out of his chair. “No, you won’t!” Betenos raised her voice. “Yes, I will go. It’s okay, mother. El told me today that Mathay was going to ask me to go with him to Chanowk and that I should say ‘yes’ and that he would protect me. So, yes, I will go with you.” Ken’an’s jaw dropped. Mathay laughed and danced. “Ha!” he said. “Yes! We will go!”

Lamech reclaimed his seat and gaped at Noah. Betenos stomped into the hut and slammed the door. Noah scratched his head. _________________________

Mathay decided to take Noah to Naqar’s home before Chanowk. It was not on the way, but Mathay felt as though they should see the damage first hand. The pair arrived just as the closer relatives had begun the painful process of cleaning up. It was, by far, the most horrible thing Noah had ever seen. The fire and the scavenger birds had left skeletal remains of the people and animals in silent animation. Even in death, it seemed, his kinsmen tried to escape. Noah ate nothing that day, but Mathay forced him to the next so that he did not slow them down. They headed east into the desert the first day and then turned south. On the third they reached the sea and followed the coast for a week. On the eighth day they reached Chanowk. They traveled at night, except in those areas which Mathay felt certain were safe. They ate what they had brought, which was little, and what they found along the way which was the same. Thankfully, fresh water was plentiful as there were many rivers and streams that emptied into the ocean. Mathay carried a crudely drawn map that Noah wondered about, but did not ask. Noah also questioned his grandfather’s plan. What, exactly, were they going to say to these people? Noah did not ask about this either. The morning they arrived in Chanowk came after a hard night’s walking. The men were hungry and tired. Mathay decided it best that they lay low until midday and regain their strength before announcing themselves. They hid amongst some rocks near the ocean and watched the waves. Noah, who had never seen the sea before, found it majestic and beautiful. The pounding of the waves soothed him and he longed to swim in it. Perhaps on the way back, he thought. After an hour or so of watching the surf, they heard voices coming towards them. Mathay pointed to a hollow place between two large rocks. Noah slipped down into the water and then in between them. Mathay followed, wedging himself between Noah and the rock. It was a tight, uncomfortable fit and breakers hit them as high as their stomachs. The party approached and Noah could hear the sound of women wailing. As the voices became impossibly close he broke into a sweat. A group of vividly painted Qayinite men carried an unadorned body to the beach and dropped it just above the surf. Then, the bearers fled as though the waves were teeth. Noah

breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that their rocks provided good visual coverage while reflecting well the sounds above. “The moon brings the Sea,” one male voice said. “And the Sea will come for all,” a host of voices echoed. Then, there was silence. Noah caught Mathay’s eye. “What should we do?” he whispered. Mathay shook his head. More wailing from above. “Obviously,” Noah thought, “this is how they bury their dead.” The practice struck Noah as strange and beautiful. The ocean must be a mystical place for them, he thought. He recalled the way the men had run from the water. “They are afraid of it,” Noah whispered. Mathay shook his head more vigorously. Noah watched the water come in a little more with each wave. It touched the feet of the body. The wails from above swelled and waned. Noah realized that the funeral goers intended to stay until their body was swept away. By that time, the rising tide would be well above their Noah and Mathay’s heads. “We are going to drown if we stay here,” Noah breathed. A feverish twitch birthed itself in Mathay’s eye. He nodded. They could not stay where they were. The wailing renewed in strength as the water passed over the body’s calves. If they waited for it to wash away, they would drown. If they revealed themselves now, they might be killed by angry mourners. The surf came in again and, this time, a drop caught Mathay in the face. Suddenly, Noah had a flash of inspiration. He shimmied out from the rock as Mathay grabbed onto his clothes and whispered threats at him. Ignoring his grandfather, Noah shook from his clothes and walked forward, naked, onto the shore. His body gleamed brightly in the sunshine. Mathay heard a collective gasp from the people and, then, complete mayhem. Noah lifted the body and carried it into the ocean. Someone above shouted something that Mathay could not understand and the voices grew more and more faint. They were running away. Mathay strangled Noah’s clothing as though they were the wearer and splashed down the beach away from the city, where he guessed Noah would go. He waited on the shore and watched the water for about fifteen minutes before a smiling Noah immerged.

“Oh!” he said. “It is beautiful. The current is deadly swift, but it is beautiful. The fish and the plants. Like nothing you have ever seen before-“ “Shut up!” Mathay screamed. Noah did so. Mathay handed him his clothing. “What are we going to do now?” “I don’t know. They are afraid of us, though.” Mathay scratched his head. “They are going to think you’re some kind of a ghost.” Noah erupted with laughter, “Maybe.” Mathay tried, but failed to suppress his own. They plopped down on the beach and held their sides. “They’ll be coming back soon, you know?” Mathay, seriously, observed. “Yes, but they can’t see us here,” Noah shook his head. Their bubble of oppression busted. For the moment, the two forgot that they were in any danger at all. The sound of the waves and the feeling of the breeze put them in a state of ease they had not felt in long time. They lay in the sand and listened to the sea. There could be no more beautiful place in the world, Noah thought. Noah propped himself up on his elbows and took a deep breath. _________________________

“What?” Zillah yelled. “A god. A glowing white god man is on his way. He took the body of La’ag into the sea and now he has returned and he is coming! Please come and tell us what we should do!” “La’ag the goat herder?” Adah asked. “Yes! The same.”

Adah climbed up the rope and Zillah followed. On the surface, they found Amah, their servant, paler than her teeth and shaking all over from fear. Zillah grabbed her by the arm and the trio ran from the cave, near the northern wall, into the heart of the city. There, they found the people in a state of complete panic. All around them women screamed, corralled their children into huts, and shut their doors. Men stood outside, visibly shaken. As Adah and Zillah approached the main hut that they shared with Lamech, more servants accosted them. “Shut up and get into the hall!” Adah screamed at them. They scurried before her like rodents. Adah mounted the steps to the hut, stomping on each one as though it were a personal offense. Zillah followed her mother into their chambers where they dressed. Then, they marched to their chairs in the great hall. Lamech’s throne between them sat empty. Adah scanned the room. “You!” she pointed at the largest of the guards. “Give your clothes to him and go dress like my husband. Then come and sit in his chair. Now!” The men scurried into action. In less than two minutes he was dressed and seated next to Adah, sweating profusely. “Say nothing and I will try and convince my husband not to kill you for sitting in his seat.” The man swallowed and his eyes widened. Outside the hut, a silence fell over the city. “Here he comes, mother,” Zillah said. “Silence,” Adah spat back. She drew herself up and raised her chin. “You, what do you see?” Adah pointed at the man who sloppily wore the larger guard’s clothing. He craned his head to see out the window. “Nothing. No, there, I see him.” They heard a woman scream. “He opened the door of a hut, but then shut it again. There is someone with him. A man. They are Shethites. At least, the man with the god is.” They heard a man yell as though he was injured.

“What was that?” Adah demanded. “A man saw him and fell on the ground. He is begging the god for mercy. The god is pointing at him. Oh, I think he is going to kill him. No, wait,” the guard pulled his head back inside. “The man pointed at the hall. They are coming this way now.” Adah swallowed hard. She took a deep breath. The sound of feet slowly creaked up the steps. The man and the god talked to each other, but Adah couldn’t quite make out the words. The door opened and the god stepped inside. He was white. His skin and his hair. His eyes were pink and piercing. The man who trailed him was bigger, older and more serious looking. He had a bushy shock of dark hair and a beard that stuck out in strange places. The pair stopped in the middle of the room and sized up its inhabitants. “Great god of the Sea, how good of you to bless us with your presence,” Adah said officially. The older man put both hands over his face and left the room. Zillah gave her mother a frightened look. What did this mean? The god’s face made a curious expression, “I know that you have attacked a Shethite village and killed all of its inhabitants. Did these people provoke you in any way?” Adah turned to Zillah and stammered back, “Um, yes, yes, they stole sheep from us and grain. Grain for bread.” The god eyed them suspiciously. Adah squeezed the arm of her chair. Zillah fainted and her head rolled backwards. “Grain?” the god said. “Yes,” Adah squeaked. The other man came back into the room. His face and eyes were red. The god noticed the other man and his own visage twitched, slightly. He closed his eyes and tilted his head upwards. Then, his eyes flew open; he raised his arm and pointed at the guard between the two women. “What do you have to say about all of this?” The man said nothing. Adah thought she smelled urine.

“I see,” the god said. He shook his fist at the guard. “If you kill any more of my people I will kill you in the same way! You have been warned!” The god stormed from the room. The other man, now beet red, followed. _________________________

“So he says,” Mathay choked with laughter. “He says, (in a deep voice) ‘Don’t kill my people.’ I nearly died from holding in my laughter.” Noah blushed and smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s true.” Iyrad wiped the tears from his eyes and tried to compose himself. “That is an incredible story, friends. I have never heard of such. I cannot wait to hear what news comes from it when I visit there again.” Iyrad coughed and then cleared his throat. “So, obviously, you missed Lamech.” “That is what I suppose,” Mathay said. “He was a part of the group that killed Naqar. He has been waiting, in the desert, I believe for a retaliatory attack. None came and so, I imagine, he will soon leave for Chanowk to regroup. Chanowk is not a religious person. He will disabuse them of their fervency for this ‘white god.’” “Oh, well,” Mathay said. Iyrad cocked his head and shrugged. “Who knows what he will do now,” he said. “El kept us safe,” Noah blurted. Mathay nodded and pawed the ground with his foot. Iyrad ignored him completely.

From behind a tall bush Lamech Qayin watched his prey stack wood. A small man with knotted muscles and mahogany skin moved slowly, methodically as though something weighed on his mind. The ability to watch him, in his final moments of life, made the kill that much better. Lamech whistled at him. The man woke from his dream and searched for the source of the sound. His eyes found Lamech and a recognition entered them. He bolted for the trees. Lamech launched his ax and caught the man in the back of the head. His face skidded to a stop in the dirt. Lamech meandered over and kicked the body onto its back. Lamech turned his head to the side so as to right the image of his face. “You look a lot like my nephew. Except, of course, he’s alive,” Lamech chuckled. Lamech whistled again, twice this time, and the forest behind him quickened to life. Red and orange colored warriors overtook Lamech. They ferreted out the man’s family from the woods and brought them, screaming, to the clearing. They tied the Shethites’ arms behind their backs and tossed them on the ground in front of Lamech. There were eight children. Five girls and three boys. One of the boys was almost of age. “What was your father’s name?” Lamech asked the oldest boy. The boy proudly jerked his chin. Lamech, closer to one of the sisters, cut her throat with his ax. She fell in front of the others and bled onto their knees. The woman fell on top of her daughter’s body and wailed. Lamech stomped on the back of her head. It slipped down into the blood where she drowned in a fit of sick choking. “What was your father’s name?” he asked the boy, again, in the exact same tone. “Bakar. My father’s name was Bakar,” the boy sobbed. “Oh,” Lamech said. “Where is Noah?” “South of here. Along the river. Just east of the river.” “How far?” “Less than a day,” he said and closed his eyes. Lamech chopped him in the throat and the boy pitched forward. He, likewise, executed the others. _________________________

Hathay, one of Bakar’s younger boys, sprinted into camp breathless and beside himself. “They’re coming. He killed my family. I was in a tree. I saw him. They are coming now. Lamech Qayin.” “How many?” Noah thought to ask. “Twelve. Or fifteen,” the boy replied. Then he fell on his knees. Noah picked him up and ran to the hut. Betenos was there, and the children. Lamech was gone. Mathay and Azriel were at the stream. They would be first, Noah thought. “Shane!” he yelled. He did not know where Shane could be. “Stay in here,” he told the boy as he set him inside. “What’s wrong?” Betenos asked. “Qayinites. They are here,” Noah answered. “Get into the hut with the children. Take the cooking knife.” She gathered them and went. Noah raced to the stream. He ignored the trail, crashing loudly through the brush. On his way, Shane caught up with him. The cat’s presence made Noah feel much better. Noah burst out of the forest by the stream and skidded to a halt. Ural, Mathay and Azriel’s son, was with them. Ural was almost of age. “Qayinites,” Noah breathed. Azriel made a choking sound. Mathay pointed and the group took off in a run. “Lamech!” Mathay called as they ran. Mathay stopped them at a weapons store room just outside of camp where they retrieved spears. Then, they surrounded the hut and waited. After about five minutes, Lamech and his son Bemen (about Ural’s age) arrived. Mathay threw the extra spear to Lamech and his own to Bemen. He retrieved the knife from Betenos inside the hut at Noah’s suggestion. The children were crying. Shane paced about the fire pit, nervously. He stopped and his ears perked up. Noah gripped his spear. Shane lowered his head and took a short, stutter step

towards the hut. Then another. He shot past it into the forest. They heard a scream, then two. Shane bounded back out of the forest, bloody pawed, and circled the hut anxiously. He could tell there were more. “Good job, friend,” Noah said. Shane growled as ten men stepped out of the forest at once. The lead man wore a turtle shell over his chest and a dead look in his eye. Noah knew him immediately. The crew tightened and held their spears out at the invaders. Lamech Qayin held up his hand and his men stopped. He stepped forwards a few paces. Noah noticed that he carried a bloody ax. Shane crept towards him and rumbled in his chest. Lamech seemed to ignore him. “My white god, at last. I have come to confess to you.” The men chuckled, albeit nervously. Lamech Qayin tossed the ax into his other hand. Mathay lowered his spear. “I remember the day you were born,” Mathay said to him. “I knew your father well. He was a brave and good man. He was my brother. My son was born on the same day. Your father and I decided to name you both Lamech. He was a good man.” “I am touched,” Lamech held his heart. “Where is your son?” “I am Lamech Sheth,” Lamech stepped forward and lowered his spear. Lamech Qayin sized him up. “The same day?” Lamech Qayin asked and locked eyes with Mathay. “The same day,” Mathay repeated and matched his intensity. Noah marveled at their collective strength. “Well, that is amazing,” Lamech held his arms out and turned around to address his men. “This man is my brother. My own flesh and blood.” Lamech pointed at Lamech Sheth with his ax and began to say more, but Shane misread the action and sprung on him. Lamech had not expected it and Shane tore into his body with his claws and would have caught Lamech’s throat in his mouth were it not for the turtle shell. The Qayinite warriors sprung on Shane and speared him. Shane went limp, propped up only by the weapons inside him. Noah yelled with rage and charged the closest Qayinite. He stuck him in the belly button and his eyes emptied of person. Noah gasped and let go. Lamech

Sheth caught his man in the throat. Both fell over in a heap. The warriors nearest Lamech Qayin picked up their fallen leader and rushed into the forest. Blood came out of him in spurts. Mathay caught a thrown spear in the leg. He chased the man anyway and gave him his knife in the chest. Bemen and Ural threatened another until he noticed that he was alone. Mathay rolled onto back and looked at the shaft sticking out of his leg. Lamech jogged over and went to pull it out. “No,” Mathay said. “Get something to stop the blood first.” Lamech entered the hut, “Everything is okay. They are gone. Stay inside, though.” Betenos assumed the worst and broke into a wail. “No. No,” he said. “He’s wounded. In the leg. I need some cloths. It’s okay.” “I’m okay!” Mathay yelled, overhearing. Betenos choked back her crying, nodded, and shook her finger at a basket in the corner. Lamech flipped the lid and retrieved a stack of clean rags. He shut the door behind him. Ural paced and watched his father helplessly. “I’m ready,” Mathay said. He lay back on his back and gritted his teeth. Lamech handed the rags to Noah. “I am going to pull it out and when I do, shove the rags inside, okay?” Lamech searched his son’s face for understanding. “Okay,” Noah said, trying to. “You have to be fast.” Noah held them next to the spear and waited. Lamech jerked the spear and Noah thrust the rags inside. Mathay screamed and wrenched his leg upwards catching Noah in the nose with his knee. Noah heard a crunching sound and felt an explosion of pain in his face. Blood went everywhere and he fell backwards away from Mathay. Lamech jumped onto Mathay and wrestled him down. He held his father still and repositioned the cloths which had come out. “Bemen, I need rope,” Lamech straddled Mathay. Mathay laid his head back and passed out. Lamech eased off and waited. Noah stumbled into the hut. Bemen followed after and reappeared with twine. He held it up for Lamech’s approval. “That’ll do, bring it here. And I will need a lot more rags,” Lamech said.

Bemen retrieved the rags and dropped the lot into Lamech’s waiting hand. Lamech switched the bandages and tied the twine around the new ones. He tied another length just above it to stop the blood flow. Lamech watched the red cease advancing on the cloth. He fell backwards onto the grass and breathed. Noah reemerged with his face covered. “You can come out, now,” his voice muffled through the rags. The women and children crept from of the hut and circled Lamech and Mathay. “Is he alright?” Betenos asked kneeling beside her husband. “He will be,” Lamech said. “He passed out from pain. He got a spear stuck in his leg. I have put a tourniquet on it. See?” Betenos inspected the dressing and then smiled, weakly, at Lamech. “What happened?” she asked. “I think we, well, Shane, just killed Lamech Qayin,” he jerked his head at the body of the cat. Noah pulled the spears out of his friend. _________________________

The next day, though it was only the fifth day, the families traveled to Chalam. Noah trailed them, slumped over on his father’s mare the whole way. Images of Shane assaulted his mind as well as images of the dead men. They were a horror to Noah. He wondered why all of this had to happen. He wondered what purpose any of it served. Why did the Qayinites want to kill them anyway? Noah wondered if his stunt in Chanowk had only made things worse. Mathay, Lamech, Bemen and Ural could not help themselves with cheer. The women, as well, seemed lighthearted. Noah watched them talk excitedly and make grand gestures with their arms. Ural must have told the story of their fight four times that morning. Each time the number of Qayinites grew slightly and the number he personally disposed of tripled. Noah wondered what the count would be by the time they reached Chalam. They were all very fortunate to be alive, Noah thought. He stroked the mare on her neck. Then he dismounted and walked with her. He pictured Lamech Qayin in his mind. Imposing, violent, thick, mad, radiating, Lamech. Such a man was

three in a fight. Shane had been four. Perhaps Lamech had never seen such an animal as Shane. “Well,” Noah thought, “he has seen one now.” Noah smiled for the first time that day. El put an arm around Noah and said nothing. Noah, surprised at first, was grateful for it. Just before the group came into Chalam, El led Noah off the trail. “Yawab,” El called into the forest. A beautiful tan and white cat bounded out of the trees to greet them. She could have been Shane’s twin. The life in her body and the way she moved touched Noah. The animal sidled up to El and nuzzled his hand. El patted the beast on her side and scratched her behind the ear. “Yawab would have been Shane’s mate,” El said. “Oh!” Noah said. “I didn’t know.” Noah turned his head to the side and considered her. She was longer toothed than Shane and a few inches taller. He legs were lanky and tight. She had a strange, white dot on her chin. It made Noah giggle like a boy. El smiled and started back for the trail. Noah followed and so did Yawab. “Where is Shane?” Noah asked. “With me,” El replied. “Oh,” Noah said, knowing there was more to the answer but sensing that it was not the right time to ask. “Where?” Noah asked in spite of himself. El smiled. “With me,” El repeated. Noah blushed and nodded. “Is that where the men are, too?” Noah’s heart raced. He felt as though he was pressing his luck. “For now,” El said. He patted Noah on the shoulder, “Everything will happen just like I told you.” Noah tried to remember what he had been told. “Don’t worry about it,” El said. “I take care of everything.”

Noah nodded again and stroked Yawab on the head. She looked up at him and stuck her tongue out just a little. Noah grinned. El wandered off into the forest. _________________________

The next day was filled with stories. Few of them were happy. Half families poured into Chalam. They would have come the day before, but burying the dead is always takes longer than you expect. Many did not come at all. At some point during the evening, amid the wailing of the men and women, Noah slipped away and went looking for El. The Shethites tried to number the dead, but they had never numbered the living. They brought a large stone pillar, by cart, to the middle of the field, next to the bon fire pit. There they stood it on end and carved the names of those they knew. There was no Big Fire. _________________________

The men stopped the bleeding by removing Lamech Qayin’s leg with his ax and burning the stump with a torch. Later, he would remember it as though someone else screamed for him. Every muscle in him tensed as they cut. Lamech arched his back. The smell of his own flesh made the whole sky spin above him and he passed out. Then, they carried him through the jungle on a litter. He hurt so badly all over. He tried to ask for water, but heard nothing. Then, he shook all over. They sat on him, holding him still. He couldn’t breathe. Lamech awoke in his own bed. It was dark and there was a man in a chair, in the corner, snoring loudly. It was Yered. Lamech tried to speak and his voice came out in a whisper. Not nearly loud enough to wake him. He tried to bend his head down and the movement of his neck sent searing pain through his back. He saw himself lit only by moonlight. He was covered in bandages, bloody bandages. What skin he could see was bloated and purple. Then, he saw that his leg was missing. Lamech closed his eyes. There was nothing he could think.

The next time Lamech woke, Adah stood over him; Zillah in the background. He did not hurt immediately, but when he tried to shift positions he ached deeply. He moaned and relaxed. Adah smiled. “Lamech,” she cooed. “You look awful.” Hatred welled up inside of him. He felt his eyes fill with it and his heart thump with it. The room took on a shade of red and he nearly lost consciousness again. He gathered his pride and said, “At least I have the memory of being otherwise, my dear.” She poked a finger through one of his chest bandages. Fiery pain shot through his torso and up his neck. He summoned every ounce of strength to keep still and failed. His eyes squeezed shut and he arched his back. A guttural sound erupted in his throat and he reached out for her. In his mind, he saw himself pulling her bloody neck muscles apart with his hands. His eyes did not open again until it early the next morning. Across the room from him, in the chair that he remembered Yered in, sat an old man. He, too, was snoring. “Hey!” Lamech called. This time his voice was strong and the old man woke with a start. “I need water,” Lamech said. The man rose and left the room. He returned with a ladle and held it to Lamech’s lips. Lamech drank as though he had never before. His head fell backwards and he sighed. “More. I need more.” The man retrieved another. Lamech took it a little more slowly this time. He flexed to push himself up into something of a sit and found his limbs weak, but sufficient. “How many returned?” he asked. “About half. You mean the warriors who went to fight the Shethites, right?” the man answered as he sat down. “Yes, old ass. That is what I mean.” The man gave him a confounded look and shrugged. Detestation took hold of Lamech. He leaned back against the bed and closed his eyes. He took several long breaths. Violent fantasies arrested his mind and followed him back into sleep.

Everybody knew that Chanowk Sheth spent his life looking for El. Lamech told Noah when he was a child that Adam went looking for El, as well, on several occasions. When he did, he would be gone for days. When he did, he went west. When he returned, he was better. Noah had headed west and found his beloved ocean. This was unexpected. Noah stayed by the sea for weeks, playing with Yawab. Yawab tackled Noah in the surf and nearly drowned him. They ran along the shore and chased sea gulls. Noah swam and swam. On the fifth day he found a tide pool. He and Yawab watched its happenings for hours. Noah wondered if Adam had been where he was; if Adam had played on the beach. Mostly, Noah stared off at the ocean; Yawab at the forest. The rhythm of the sea and the breeze put Noah in a strange state of rest. It rocked him. It hummed to him. At night, Noah counted the stars and listened to the sound of the trees. The beach reminded Noah that the world was still alive. It reminded him that it was very good. Whole, he followed the ocean northwest until it turned to the south. Then, he departed from it. Noah trekked into the forest for two days when he came over a hill and saw a broad river. It was easily the largest he had ever seen. On the other side, Noah could see an amazing variety of trees. From his vantage point on top of the hill saw a narrow place not far away. By sunset, he arrived there. Noah spent the night beside the water and marveled at the sounds of it. He had never paid them much attention before but rivers have their own life; there own speech that is much different than the ocean. The river is not a long roar. In the morning, Noah decided to construct a raft on which he and his weighty companion could ride across. He gathered limbs and stripped them of their extraneous branches. He lashed and wove them together using some rather sturdy reeds. About mid afternoon, Noah dubiously slid his raft onto the water. To his delight, it floated. He waded in until the river came up to his middle. Expecting a certain level of buoyancy from the craft, Noah nearly drowned when it sank underneath half his weight. Wet and angry, he dragged the thing back to shore and broke it against a tree. Noah spent another night on the bank. The next day he followed it north where he found a place that was so narrow they could easily swim it. Noah was delighted. He splashed into the water hooting with joy. Yawab would not follow.

“Come on. You can do it. I have seen you swim,” Noah implored her. Yawab would not set paw in the river. Instead, she watched the opposite shore with great interest. Noah turned around to see what she was looking at and saw nothing but trees. “There’s nothing there. Come.” Noah waved his arms and whistled to her. She would not budge. Noah swam further out. As he passed the half way point, he felt a strange sensation on his face. It took him a moment to identify the feeling because it was so out of place. It was heat. At first, Noah dismissed it as ridiculous, a trick of the mind, but the sensation grew more intense. Noah stopped swimming and treaded water. His face began to burn. Noah shoved his head into the water to cool it off, but it didn’t work. He pulled his head out. His face hurt, badly. He turned around and swam back to shore. Yawab was no longer there. He crawled up onto the land and held his face in his hands. After an hour, the feeling subsided. Yawab licked the back of his head and Noah turned around. “There you are,” he said and scratched her belly. She must not have gone far. Noah pondered the river and the feeling on his face. It was as if the opposite shore were filled with an amazing, invisible inferno. Strange. Noah wondered if he was ill in some way; going crazy. He touched his face with his hands. Everything was normal. He decided that he had to try it again. More slowly this time, Noah waded in and paddled towards the center. At about the same spot, Noah began to feel the heat. Not wanting to be burned, Noah retreated to shore. Again, Yawab had fled the scene. Noah shook out his clothing and considered the other side. Then he called for Yawab. A moment later, Yawab reappeared. “Let’s just stay on this side for now,” Noah said. _________________________

Zillah tried to hold the torch steady and wait cross legged with Adah by the entrance to their cave. The five women they had invited arrived one at a time over the course of about an hour. All of the initiates were newly married,

childless brides. They had waited for their husbands to fall asleep and then slipped away. The invitation was a tremendous honor. “It is imperative that you answer this question truthfully,” Adah began. “Your life may depend on it. Did any of you have relations with your husbands tonight?” Adah had instructed them before hand to abstain. All the women shook their heads. “Good. We will go down together. Tonight will be like nothing you have ever experienced,” her eyes sparkled and she smiled broadly. “I can promise you that. Remember, you are sworn to secrecy. I will have your wombs cut out if you so much as breathe a word about this to anyone. Do you understand? This is your last chance to back out. You may still decline without repercussion.” She waited. Zillah shifted her weight and sniffed. “Excellent. Zillah will stand watch for us. The rest of you may follow me.” Adah grabbed the rope. She grinned at them mischievously and lowered herself into the hole. One by one, the brides followed. Zillah handed her torch to the last woman once she had gotten her grip. The light disappeared below. Zillah squatted and then leaned back on her hands as she listened. The thick darkness of the new moon sky gave her the creeps. When, at last, the torch reached the bottom of the rope and illuminated the room below, Zillah heard the women let out a collective gasp. “Don’t panic,” Adah said calmly. “The man is a necessary part of tonight’s ceremony. As you can see, he will not be with us much longer. Sit on the circles I have made in the earth and hold hands.” Zillah heard Adah light the fire under the pot and then hiss the torch out inside of it. After a moment she heard Adah humming and the others join in. Zillah broke out in a cold sweat. They were coming. Zillah stood. She thought about running, but knew that Adah would kill her if she did. “They won’t come out,” she whispered to herself, clutching her chest. “They won’t leave the hole. They don’t want to be discovered. They won’t leave.” She slowed her breathing and forced herself to sit a little further away from the opening than she was before. She could still, vaguely, hear the humming when it swelled. Zillah closed her eyes and the memory of that night took hold of her. She swallowed as she remembered its “hands” on her breasts.

Suddenly there was a loud sucking sound and a scream. Then all the women yelped at once. Zillah heard a beating sound, like running and she knew that the brides were trying to climb the walls as she had done. Trying to get out. Then, just as suddenly, there was silence. “We welcome you, prince of Chanowk!” Adah called out in an eerie voice. There was a shuffling sound. Then a thud. Then another. Adah giggled. Zillah stood and paced off about ten feet to where she could not hear. Her heart pounded in her throat. She watched the hole as if it were about to explode. Cautiously, she crept back towards the cave. She heard a groan and then another in a different voice. She backed away and bit her fingernail. The sounds increased; screaming and then laughter and then panting. Zillah blushed and looked around. There was, of course, no one else there. The rope moved. Someone was coming up. Zillah ran forward to see who it was. She saw one of the brides mounting the rope with great speed. It was the skinny one with the red hair and bronze skin. Zillah stepped back to let her up. The woman stood and stared at her with eyes that were not her own. “We smelled you,” a thin, dead smile broke her face in half. Zillah could not answer or even scream. “You will come down.” The bride climbed back down the hole and Zillah heard a howl from within. She burst into tears and crossed her arms in front of her as if trying to keep her clothes on. She turned around in a circle and wrung her hands. It was no use. She had to go. She wiped her face and inhaled. Zillah closed her eyes and exhaled. Ignoring the rope, she threw herself inside hoping that her neck would break in the fall. _________________________

Adah came into Zillah’s room the next afternoon and opened the shutters wide. Sunlight streamed in and woke Zillah who had slept the morning away. Zillah hurt all over. “Time to rise,” Adah said matter of factly. She dropped into a chair and sighed contentedly. The expression on Adah’s face let Zillah know that she had not dreamed it all. Gingerly, Zillah sat up. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. Even yawning hurt. “Good thing that one girl broke your fall. You could have died.”

“Yeah, good thing,” Zillah raised an eyebrow. “I don’t want to do that anymore,” she said flatly before predicting her mother’s reaction. “What?” Adah gaped at her. “Too bad. You’re in. You have to.” “Get that other girl to help you, the fat one. She loved it.” Adah tapped her teeth with her middle fingernail. “As you wish,” she smiled and started humming. The sound of it made the hairs on the back of Zillah’s neck stand on end.

Just about the time Noah was about to give up and go home, he found El. On a mountain in the north, Noah turned a corner and there he was, sitting on a boulder, waiting for him. Noah had been planning a speech for months, but all he could think to say was, “I want to follow you.” El smiled and climbed down from the rock. He petted Yawab on the head. The three headed back down the mountain together.

Noah playfully shook the water from his hair onto Yawab and smiled. Yawab scrunched her face and yawned. “You should swim with me,” Noah teased her as he dried off. Absently, Noah took a drink from his water skin and the taste shocked him. Immediately, he spat the liquid and smacked his lips distastefully. He had expected water. Instead he had gotten grape juice and rotten grape juice, at that. Noah wiped his mouth, remembering that he had put juice in that skin the last time he came to the lake. He must have left it then. As he dressed, the flavor of the juice evolved in his mouth from alarmingly tannic to a robust and leathery savor. “Hmmm,” he said aloud. Noah picked up the skin and smelled it. It was strange. He carried it over to his makeshift fire pit and poured the contents into a shallow bowl. The juice had congealed at the top and bits of its skin came out with it. Noah picked them out with his fingers and held the bowl to his nose. He inhaled deeply. “Very nice,” he said. He took a long drink. This time, he expected the taste. It was crisp with a hint of honeysuckle. “Very nice,” he said again. Noah sat on his heels and drank the whole bowl. Then he stood and ambled back over to where Yawab was stretched out in the sun. “What are you up to?” he asked. Yawab licked the insides of her paws and laid her head in the sand. Noah reclined with her and rolled onto his stomach. He felt strangely warm in the face and slightly flushed. He regarded Yawab and wondered what it would be like to be a cat. They lay in the sun for a while and then Noah pulled himself onto his hands and knees. He turned his head to the side and stared at her. “Meow,” Noah said. Yawab yawned and rolled over. “Meow,” he said again and scratched Yawab on her belly. Yawab’s tongue flopped out from behind her large left tooth. She panted lovingly as Noah worked up and down her stomach with his fingernails. Then she stretched and flipped

over onto her stomach. Yawab lumbered towards the fire pit. Noah, still on his hands and knees, crawled after her. “Meow,” he said as he caught up. Yawab looked back at him pitifully. He nuzzled her side with his head and made a kind of purring sound. He rolled onto his back and laughed loudly. “I want to be a cat!” Noah declared. He stood and the world took some adjusting to come into focus. Then, the world went drastically leftward and there was a sharp pain in his head. Noah rubbed it with his free hand. “Ouch. Why didn’t you say ‘watch out for that rock?’ Oh, yeah. Because you’re a cat! Ha! Ha! You’re a cat,” then Noah sang it. “You’re a cat. You’re a cat. You’re a cat.” He sang until his voice began to droop and he let himself be still for a while. _________________________

When Noah woke it was still dark outside. Everything hurt terribly. He stood and it hurt even more. He stumbled to the fire pit and caught a whiff of the bowl. The smell of the juice made him want to vomit. He lit a fire and wrapped himself in his blanket. Then he watched the flames as memories of yesterday filled his mind. “What happened to me?” he asked aloud. Yawab snored.

Yered shuffled from his hut early in the morning and sat down on a stump. His new wife, Jujunos, brought him hot ginger tea and sat next to him. They sipped themselves awake and watched the sun climb the sky. Time moved much more slowly here. The busyness of Chanowk was tiring. Yered held no patience for it any more. Jujunos whistled and fussed with her hair. Yered sighed. A young man stepped out of the forest and came towards them. He was bright blonde headed and small framed. He had light skin and a long legged walk. He shook a leaf off his head. “Hi,” he said cheerily, “I am looking for Yered.” “Who are you?” Yered replied. “I am Tubal. Tubal Sheth. Iyrad sent me.” The name of Iyrad put a gleam in Yered’s eye. He half turned to Jujunos. “Leave us alone.” She obediently stood and entered the hut. “I am Yered.” “What happened to you?” Yered reddened. “I mean, Yered described a man who looked differently. He, um, will want to know how you have been.” “I was whipped.” Yered stood suddenly and opened his robe to reveal his chest. The scarring was hideous and it made Tubal gasp. “Does that answer your question?” “Yes. I am sorry.” “Stupid child.” Yered resumed his seat. Tubal kicked at a pine cone. “Say what you came to say,” Yered demanded and sipped his tea.

“Iyrad sent me to tell you that Mahalal’el has died.” Yered stared at him. “Is that all?” Yered growled. “Yes,” Tubal looked up. “Is Iyrad your father?” “No.” “Who is?” “Gara.” “No, what prince do you come from?” “You,” Tubal grimaced and then straightened. Yered breathed. “Well, Tubal, I too have an assignment for you. On your way back to Iyrad, stop in and tell Lamech Qayin the good news.” Tubal’s eyes widened. _________________________

Lamech took another long drink of cactus juice and stood up. On his crutch, he hobbled outside and sat in a chair. He scratched his shoulder and let out a long sigh. A ball made out of leather bounced in front of him just out of reach. A child ran over to retrieve it. “Hey,” Lamech called out sloppily. “That’s my ball,” he leered. The girl, suspiciously, grabbed it and ran away. “Hey!” he yelled after her. “That was my ball!” He burped, “Stupid kids.”

Lamech hobbled back inside his tiny hut. He really did not want to see anybody today, he thought. He threw himself onto his bed and closed his eyes. The face of the child swirled and twisted in his mind. Her eyes bulged in and out. Her pupils turned into ravens and flew away. Lamech shook his head. The image cleared his mind. “They all hate me. Every last one of them,” he said into the straw. “Lamech Qayin?” a voice behind him inquired. Lamech turned to face the sound. A blonde headed young man stood at the foot of his bed. No, it was the white headed Shethite. It was Noah. Lamech gasped. “Lamech?” the voice asked again. Lamech, wild eyed, pushed himself up and absently grabbed his crutch from beside the bed. Giving the man as wide a berth as he could, Lamech clopped along the walls towards the door. “I am Lamech,” he said as he went. “Iyrad sent me,” he watched the white god say. Then, without moving his lips, he added, “to kill you.” Lamech stopped near the doorway and considered the man. He remembered the roar of the beast and the pain. Lamech’s eyes widened. He held the door frame with one hand to steady himself. Lamech raised his crutch and hit the man on the head. The man fell down onto one knee. Then, as he rose, he caught Lamech in the jaw with an impressive upper cut. Lamech crashed into the wall. He raised his crutch again and hit the white god over and over with it. He lost his balance and fell on top of him. Using his fists he beat him in the chest as hard as he could until he was too winded to continue. The god’s heart stuttered and stopped. Lamech rolled over and panted. He saw the blood that covered his body. It moved as though alive. Lamech screamed and pulled himself to his feet. Below him, covered in the same awful blood, was a blonde headed man with pale skin. Not the white god. Someone else. Using the door frame again, Lamech bent over and retrieved his crutch. Then he hobbled out of the hut as quickly as he could and headed up the trail to the great hall. The torches were still burning outside which meant that the women would be inside.

He ascended the stairs with great effort and made for the door. A pair of guards stopped him, each grabbing one of his shoulders. “I have to see them!” Lamech panted. “No one goes in without being called,” one of them said. “I am their husband! I am Lamech!” “We know who you are.” “I will have you killed,” Lamech whispered bleary eyed. The men did not respond. “Adah! Zillah!” Lamech hollered. The men adjusted their grips so as to lift him. “Listen to me! I have killed a young man! I killed the man that hurt me! Listen to me! Adah!” The men heaved him above their heads and started for the stairs. “If Qayin will be avenged seven times, I will be avenged seventy-seven times,” he warned them. As they reached the stairs, the guards lost their hold. One of the men twisted off balance and nearly followed Lamech as he tumbled down the steps. Lamech landed on his head at the bottom with a sharp, snapping sound. Then he slumped, unnaturally bent, to one side. The men recovered and gaped as Zillah flung the doors to the hall open wide. She marched forward and looked down the stairs. Adah casually followed. “What happened?” she whispered. “He fell,” the shorter of the two guards said hastily. “What do you mean, he fell?” Zillah demanded. Adah put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “He fell. These things happen. What a tragedy. Attend to the body,” she pulled Zillah back inside.

Noah and El rode Kabad into Chalam for the Big Fire and a group of children ran to meet them. It was a grand entrance. Though Kabad was small, for a mammoth, his hair was longer than most. Noah had to shoo the children away who thought they could climb it. “That’s just what I need. Kabad stepping on one of these kids,” Noah said to El. El chuckled. The pair dismounted. “She won’t do it. Not on purpose,” El responded. The mood in Chalam was decidedly lighter than two years ago. Mahalal’el’s death had come as a surprise to them all. The man had only been eight hundred and ninety five. All of his kin had lived well over nine hundred years. “Why did you kill the big lizards?” one child asked El as he dismounted. “Ask your father, Ben,” El told the black headed boy. Ben’s eyes widened when El knew his name. Noah followed El to a cluster of women who ogled a new baby. El smiled at the child and the women beamed at him. They moved along to a group of men standing grimly cross armed. Noah was surprised to see that Mathay was one of them. They made room for Noah and El, nodded, and continued their conversation. The men studied a crudely drawn map in the dirt. “No matter how you look at it, there is a weak spot there,” a man that Noah did not know pointed at a small circle at the top of the figure. “There is a ravine that would be used to enter, isn’t there?” Mathay asked. “There is,” the man said, following Mathay’s thoughts. “But, it is too wide for spears from the sides. All the enemy would have to do is form a column and pass safely into the grove here,” the man indicated an empty space on the plan. Another man scratched his beard and sighed. Mathay caught Noah’s gaze and winked. “Well,” he said after a pause. “I have something that just might help.” The men watched him. Mathay nodded and waited. “So, what is it?” the man with the stick asked and pumped his hands up and down.

“I’ll get it.” The man sighed and looked at El pleadingly. Noah chuckled. Mathay bounded off to a large bag a little ways away. He retrieved a pair of sticks and returned. As he approached he held them out in front of him and grinned. One was a short spear with a hole like a needle. The other was about the same size, with a kind of hook at the end. “What are you going to do with that?” the man with the stick asked. “Are you going to juggle for us?” A few of the men chortled and the man laughed, too loudly, at himself. Mathay fit the hook into the needle hole of the other stick and folded them against his arm. Then he paced off a few feet and used the stick to throw the spear. The spear flew further than any Noah had ever seen. “Ah,” one of them said. Mathay retrieved the spear and walked back to the group with an accomplished air. “So, who could aim it?” the heckler asked. “We would kill each other with that thing.” Mathay frowned. He reset the contraption and backed off of the group again. Then, he threw it harder than the first time. The needle split a sapling down the middle. Most of them cheered and one of the larger ones slapped the man with the stick on the back. He caught himself from falling with a stutter step. He reddened in the face. Mathay pried the weapon from the tree and held his arms out to the side as he rejoined the group. “It looks like you will have to learn how to aim it,” Mathay rejoined. The man stuck his tongue out. “Where’s your cat?” Mathay asked Noah. Noah shook his head and Mathay decided not to pursue it. El wandered off and Noah followed him. They returned to their mammoth that was, by now, thoroughly fed up with the children. “Alright,” Noah called to them. “Let her alone a while. She is not used to people.”

The kids scattered and Noah petted her side. El followed the child called Ben into the forest. Noah led Kabad to the stream and waited while she took several long drinks. “Come on,” he finally said to her. Kabad lurched around and followed Noah towards the clearing. Noah smelled the fire and noticed that it was getting dark. On the way, he met a man whose face was filled with scars and his short, frail, younger wife. Noah recognized neither of them, but noticed that the man regarded him with great interest. Noah’s skin and hair made him used to the attention. He waved at the couple and let them go ahead. Mammoths were slow creatures. The man nodded deeply and led his wife onward. Noah and Kabad slowly made their way back up the trail. As they approached the fire, which was already quite a blaze, he could see the same man with the scars talking heatedly with Mathay. “You?” Yered said and laughed. Mathay stared back at him, nonplussed. “That’s right, me,” he returned. Noah rounded them and stood next to Mathay. El came up behind him. “I am the oldest first-born among you. I am, by right, your patriarch. If I am not, how are you?” Yered asked. “I am not a traitor,” Mathay spat back. “Traitor am I?” Yered said. “What happened was going to happen,” he waved his hand. Mathay could hear no more of it. He threw up his hands and turned to El. “If I do not leave I am going to hurt this man,” he said and stomped off into the forest. This left Noah and El. “Who are you?” Noah asked. Yered smiled, thinly. “That’s right, we have never met. I am your great, great grandfather Yered.” “Oh,” Noah said. “I thought you were dead.” “Dead to us,” Lamech said. Noah started; he had not heard his father approach.

“You must be the other Lamech,” Yered sneered. “So much like your father.” Noah then noticed just how old the man was. He did not act his age and the scars made it difficult to tell. “You will have to excuse me,” Yered coughed. He shuffled around to the other side of the fire and raised his hands. The crowd of people who now filled the clearing quieted for him to speak. Noah thought he heard someone say, “Qayinite.” “I am Yered! I have returned from the east to take my place as rightful patriarch of my family. You have all heard many horrible things about me. They are not true. I have served on your behalf these many years. The attack on your nation would have been far worse if not for me. These scars I bear are because of you and my love for you. I am Yered. Son of Mahalal’el, whose passing we all mourn. I am the father of Chanowk Sheth, whom El took. I am the grandfather of Mathay-Shalach who would have you believe that I am a scoundrel, but I have returned to serve you. It is good to be home,” Yered waved both hands and sat down in Mathay’s chair. The multitude did not respond. They muttered among themselves indecisively. Noah looked to El for guidance. El pointed at Lamech who raised his arms to gain the attention of the people. “This man is a liar. He is a traitor. He is an adulterer. You have all heard the stories and they are true. He is a Qayinite!” Yered returned to the front, but Lamech would not relinquish his position. Instead, he faced Yered as the older man approached, physically challenging him. Yered ignored him. “Let us ask El!” Yered smiled. All eyes moved to El who stood next to Noah behind the first-born’s chairs. El whispered to Noah and Noah walked forward. He positioned himself next to Lamech and looked Yered squarely in the eye. “El says, ‘You are their son.’” Yered paled underneath his scars. Everyone watched, silently, as he gathered his wife and disappeared into the forest.

The craftsman assembled themselves warily at the cave. They milled about nervously and waited for Adah. There were about thirty of them; every accomplished carpenter within a day’s walk. They had been told to bring tools. They had been told they would not leave until the project was completed. They did not know, however, what they were building. Adah nimbly ascended the rope and rolled out a piece of parchment for them to see. On it was drawn a head, or something like a head. It had oversized features and large holes for eyes. The figure had sharp, contrived angles, like child would draw. The length between its nose and mouth was grossly exaggerated. Dimensions for the piece were sketched out to the side. The men gawked at one another. It would be huge. The rope groaned behind them and the men turned to see Tubal Qayin pull himself to the surface. Zillah’s son Tubal was a giant, about ten feet tall, two feet shorter than the largest among them (Jabal, Adah’s son). He was black skinned with long, beautiful, curly, white hair. He had magical hazel eyes and a voice that sounded like gravel. In spite of his size, Tubal liked exploring the caves. He had taken charge of expanding it into a great hall and a maze of anterooms. He collected rocks of all sizes and precious gems. Tubal untied a bag that hung around his waste and emptied two enormous rubies onto the ground next to the plans. The men pressed in to see the jewels. They were the largest any of them had ever seen. Tubal smiled and pointed to the plans. “These are Ea’s eyes,” he said. Adah flashed them all a wicked smile. “You have one week,” she said. _________________________

Noah awoke to find El seated next to him. He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus. “Good morning,” he sort of asked.

“It is not,” El replied. Noah stood and dressed himself. He knew he should say no more. El set off northward from where Noah had camped two days from the sea. They traveled all day and into the night. When the sun set they stopped at the base of what looked like a rather large mountain. Noah had never been to this mountain before. “Rest here,” El said. He hadn’t spoken much all day. “I will go on and return to you in the morning.” Noah nodded and unpacked his things. He started a fire and lay in his bedroll watching it dance and shiver. Soon exhaustion from the day’s pace overtook him. When he awoke, the day was already an hour or two old. El waited for him on a boulder just up the hill. Noah packed his things and followed El up the mountain. It was a hard climb most of the way. Noah’s back and thighs ached. A few hours into it, Noah observed a preponderance of carrion birds circling the top of the mountain. He also noticed that El kept staring strangely at the ground as though it were speaking to him. Noah wondered if it was. He remembered Hebel. They made good time up the hill and by lunch half of the journey was over. It was about that time that Noah caught his first whiff of the smell. He could not place it, but it made him want to gag. Sometime in the early afternoon they came upon the first of the bodies. The flies were on it, but the vultures had not come far enough down the mountain. It had been eaten by something, at least mostly. The top half was gone and the legs were ravaged with claw marks. Noah had never seen this kind of mess made out of a man. They continued up the mountain and came upon a crag littered with dismembered body parts. Arms and legs mostly. There was an eyeless head. It was as though they had been ripped from their sockets and thrown. The smell overpowered Noah and he held his arm over his nose. El noted the expression on Noah’s face and nodded. “Let’s go down,” El said, finally. Noah followed him back the way they had come. He could think of nothing to say. His mind raced over the possibilities. A fight amongst them? Animals? Nothing quite fit the images he had seen. Could there still be serpents among them? Noah shivered at this thought and then forsook it as faithless. That could not be.

It was dark when they arrived at the place Noah had camped the night before. “There was a village just a day east of here,” El said. “A village of Shethites. Those were its inhabitants.” “What happened to them?” Noah asked. “I do not want to tell you,” El replied.

-Part III1423
Lamech came upon the group about midmorning, on the way to his cousin’s home near Chalam. The land in these parts was rather sparse with pines and low brush so Lamech saw them about the time he heard them. Something told him that he should not make himself known. He secretly left the path and crept up behind a bush. There were about twenty people; men and women of varying ages all having sex together. They had laid out a large cloth on the ground. From his new vantage point, Lamech could actually smell the wine. He noticed that there were jugs and drinking bowls strewn on the ground around them. He could tell from the clothes that lay among the jugs and bowls that these were Shethites and he believed he recognized one of the men from the Big Fire. Lamech watched them for a while; much longer than he should have. His heart raced and he burned. Being able to watch without them knowing somehow made it better, he thought, than joining in. A woman looked his direction and squinted. Lamech knelt down further behind his cover. He heard nothing and, after a bit, peeked out to see if he had been discovered. He had not. Lamech took this as his cue to leave. He crawled slowly to the trail and continued on his way. Lamech had heard of such among the Qayinites, but never among his people. He wondered how long this had been going on. He wondered how they kept it a secret. He wondered how many other groups there were. The images of the people burned in his mind and made him feel like taking a bath, but he liked them all the same.

Na’amah carried her basket of towels into the servants hut and dumped them into the basin. She poured water from a pitcher on top of them and rubbed them on her rippled stone. She hummed as she did so. Her beautiful, black hands made short work the wash. She carried the wet cloths outside to hang them from a vine. Na’amah was short and tiny framed like her mother, Zillah. She had also inherited her mother’s hazel eyes and flashing smile. Her skin would be the only way you could tell them apart except that Zillah kept her dressed in rags and working like two servant girls. Na’amah hummed contentedly as she hung the wash and then stretched her back. She picked up her basket and turned around to find her mother staring at her. She had not heard her approach. Zillah had one hand on her hip with a piece of parchment in it. She raised an eyebrow at Na’amah and Na’amah, as required, lowered her gaze. “Yes, mistress,” she said. Zillah shook the parchment in her face, “’Meet me.’ It says.” Na’amah knew what it said. She must have left it in her room. A man named Maccah had given it to her the other day. She had refused him, but kept the note. Na’amah searched the ground with her gaze. Zillah circled her. Na’amah hated when she did this. “So, you are beautiful? The child of a god? You don’t look so beautiful to me.” Na’amah knew this rant and a sweat bead formed on her head. Her mother was dangerous when she said these things. Zillah snaked her face around Na’amah’s head and whispered into her ear. “I will have him killed.” Zillah rounded Na’amah and crossed her arms. Na’amah kept her eyes on the ground. “There will be others, right?” Zillah asked. Na’amah knew she would not have Maccah killed. He was her lover, or so Na’amah had heard. “There will be others,” Na’amah echoed. Zillah held her head up and raised a finger. Na’amah felt her insides shake.

“I have a better idea. You stay here.” Zillah strode off and Na’amah watched her go. She considered running, but knew that, eventually, she would be caught. Zillah returned in only a moment carrying a large, wicked knife. Na’amah’s eyes widened. Zillah smiled cruelly when she saw her daughter’s expression. She stopped just short of bumping into Na’amah and switched the knife back and forth in her hands. “So beautiful,” she ran the knife along Na’amah’s cheek. Then, with one fluid motion, she cut into her face. Na’amah stumbled backwards and screamed. “Come here!” Zillah ordered. Na’amah held her cheek and stepped forward. Blood came out slowly from between her fingers. Zillah raised the knife and cut her again on the opposite cheek. Na’amah fell to the ground and sobbed, holding her face. “Not so beautiful anymore,” Zillah spat on her and walked up the trail to her own hut. She forced a wicked laugh as she went. Zillah tossed her dagger onto the bed and plopped down along with it. Then, she noticed an enormous plate of food on her bedside table. She had forgotten that she had ordered it. Zillah sat up on her knees and veritably shoved the ham and bread and pineapples down her throat. She finished it off with a long drink of strong wine from her cup. A burp erupted from her and she rolled over onto her back, careful to avoid the bloody knife. She giggled and closed her eyes. The image of her daughter’s stupid, bleeding face made Zillah smile. She rubbed her stomach and chest and belched again. She kicked herself off the bed, padded outside and around to the back of her hut. There, she stuck her finger into her throat and unloaded all of her food on to the ground in a series of aggressive heaves. She wiped her mouth and ambled back to bed. “Buwz!” she screamed. An older woman with a kindly face came to her doorway. “Find me a man,” she drawled her voice. “Yes, mistress. Anyone in particular?” “No, it doesn’t matter.” Buwz nodded and closed the door. “Wait!” Zillah screamed. Buwz reappeared. “Yes, mistress.”

“Bring me Maccah,” she smiled. Buwz nodded and resealed the door. Zillah rolled over and twisted her hair between her fingers.

Lamech covered his mouth and yawned. Noah stared at the fire and made a clicking noise with his tongue. Lamech leaned forward and tossed a pinch of grass into the flames. The moon was big. “Where’ve you been?” Lamech asked. “Here and there. Other side of Chanowk. The people don’t bother us anymore,” Noah said. “Oh, where is El now?” “North of here, in the desert. He likes to be there when he is upset,” Noah’s eyes glazed over. Lamech could sense that something was wrong, “Has he been upset?” “A lot,” Noah wiped his face and coughed. “What has him so?” “People. Us,” Noah said. Lamech put his hands behind his head and leaned back. “So, what are we doing that makes him upset?” “We, the Shethites, or we, the people?” “We, the Shethites. Everybody knows about the Qayinites.” Lamech squirmed inside. “We ignore him,” Noah said. The answer was not what Lamech had expected, “Ignore him?” “Yeah.” “Once a week we meet because of him. We bring our best to him. We talk to him. Our whole lives revolve around him,” Lamech tried to end the matter with his conviction. Noah refused and shook his head.

“More and more I watch him talk to us and we don’t hear him. Have you seen it? I mean, as directly as I am talking to you and it’s like we’re are deaf or something. Our eyes pass over him as though he didn’t even exist. We happily do all of these things in his name, but our heart’s not in it. It’s just different.” Lamech paused to reflect. “You sound like Sheth,” he chuckled. Noah forced a match. “What if it is you that’s changed? What if you are just now seeing this side of him?” Noah turned his head to the side and wondered. “Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I am scared. He says that he is sorry he made us and that he is going to destroy the world.” Noah gave Lamech a sidelong glance. Immediately, Noah wished he had not said it. All color fled from his father’s face. Lamech swallowed. “I shouldn’t have told you that,” Noah confessed. Lamech stood and paced around the fire with mixed concern. “Maybe he will change his mind,” Lamech tried. Noah started to argue, but then his shoulders slumped. “Yeah, maybe.” He tried to sound confident.

Kacaph waited by the boulder. He had seen the man and his horse coming this way from on top of the hill. The horse was loaded down with bags that looked like the kind the men who worked the mines used to carry gold or silver. Kacaph heard the footsteps and pushed himself further behind the rock. He gripped the knife in his hand and imagined the gold. Pounds and pounds of it. The man came into view and Kacaph jumped out. “Ha!” Kacaph yelled. The horse bucked and the man lost its reigns. It ran off, carrying the gold with it. The man looked at Kacaph with hatred in his eyes. Kacaph held his knife out in front of him, threateningly. The man, dressed in fine robes indicating that he lived in the city, pulled out a long metal sword. Kacaph had never in his life seen a sword before. It looked like it was made of silver. Kacaph turned and ran for his life. The man chased him almost half a mile and then gave up to go after his horse. Kacaph climbed a tree and watched the man do so. He wished that he had taken the man from behind. “I would have his gold and his sword,” Kacaph thought.

Noah and El took the trail easily, watching the birds as they played tag in the trees. El pointed out a robin that dove gracefully into the wrong nest and was quickly chased away by a furious magpie. Noah chuckled. “It’s not good for you to be alone,” El told Noah. “Who’d follow us around?” Noah kidded and then coughed. “Who should I marry, then? And where should I live?” Noah asked. “And why should I marry if the earth is about to be destroyed?” Noah thought, but did not say. The birds chased one another away. El seemed disturbed by Noah’s thoughts, but Noah would not presume to actually think this was so. This confused and quieted him. Just then, El disappeared as a woman came running at break neck speed up the trail. Noah held out his hands. “Whoa!” he said. She tried to turn and stop at once, but tripped on a rock and spilled into some bushes. Noah offered his hand to her and she took it. He pulled her out and she stood. She was beautiful and Noah gulped. She had gorgeous, long hair and soft black skin. There were two symmetrical scars just below her cheek bones. Her eyes were like the ocean. “Hello,” he said. “Hello,” Na’amah said. Then she shook her head. “I am being followed,” she pleaded. Noah raised an eyebrow. “Followed?” “Yes, I have run away from my mistress and she has sent my cousin to look for me. He will be here any moment,” she said, nervously studying the trail behind them. “Well, then let us hide you,” Noah smiled. He looked around and thought a moment. “Follow me,” he trotted back down the trail from where he had come and leapt off to the side onto some leaves that lined it. “Now, you keep running on the trail and I will follow on the leaves,” he said. They jogged off about a hundred feet and then Noah joined her on the trail. “Okay, stop,” he said. “Now stomp about with me.”

The pair stomped their feet up and down in the dirt for a moment. “Now, come with me.” They strode off the trail into the woods until they came to a creek. Noah led her into the water and walked her up the current about two hundred paces. Then he led her diagonally, away from her pursuer, back to the trail. “See,” he said, “now he will think that some wicked Shethite has captured you and dragged you to his home.” Noah seemed awfully pleased with himself and he beamed at her. She flashed him a grateful, slightly confused smile in return. “What is a mistress?” Noah asked once they were back on the trail. Na’amah stared at him as if he were making a joke. “I don’t understand,” she blushed. “You said your mistress was after you, who is that?” “Actually, she is my mother, but she makes me call her ‘mistress.’ Her name is Zillah and she is the princess of Chanowk. Have you heard of her?” Noah smiled. “I believe I have met her,” he said. Na’amah squinted at him, “Are you the one they call the white god?” Noah laughed out loud, “That’s me.” “Why do they call you that?” Na’amah asked. “I mean, really. I have heard the story. That you came out of the ocean and brought a dead boy back to life and burned the city down, but I don’t think that’s how it happened.” “Really,” Noah chuckled, “That’s what they say?” “Yes,” she said. “They also said that you were twenty feet tall. But, you’re not, are you?” Na’amah’s eyes smiled at him and a part of his chest felt warm. He wanted desperately to do something, but he did not know what. Then, he realized that he was staring at her and she giggled. He wrenched his gaze away from her. “No, I am not twenty feet tall.”

“That’s okay,” Na’amah said. They walked the rest of the day westward and camped well before sunset on a grassy slope just to the east of Shethite territory. Na’amah was exhausted. She sat while Noah started the fire. “The man’s name, whose house we will come to tomorrow, is Damam. He is a good man, a young man with a new family. My father told him not to move so close to the Qayinite border but he wanted a specific kind of trees. He is a carpenter and loves to build things. You have to see their house. It’s a treasure. His wife is Shalvah and she makes bread with a thing called yeast in it. They use it to make wine, too. I invented wine, did you know?” Na’amah shook her head and lay down by their fire. The sun set behind him and the colors of the sky, along with his speech made her drowsy at once. “I did. I didn’t mean to. I mean, nobody really means to discover something, I guess, but I had a water skin that I had filled with grape juice and left it by the lake on accident. Do Qayinites have wine?” Na’amah didn’t answer. Instead, she snored. Noah blushed and lay down on the far side of the fire from her. “Great, I have bored her to sleep,” he thought. Noah was not tired. Restlessly, he fought the urge to watch her as she slept. This was strange. His stomach was all tied up and his legs wanted to keep walking even though they gone all day long without rest. At last, he decided to get up. Use what was left of the daylight, Noah found a high place to see if they were being followed. He ascended a brief hill just south of them and scanned the land below for movement. He saw nothing at first, but then, coming out of a grove of trees, Noah saw a man. Well, it was the shape of a man, but it was nearly as tall as the trees and took strides like two men. He was huge. Noah gaped at him. “This must be her cousin,” Noah thought. The giant appeared to be searching, though he did not appear to have found their trail. Noah guessed that he was making circles around the place they met. Between where they were and Damam’s house was a solid day’s walk. If they cut through the hills they might make it there by morning. Noah sighed and jogged back to the camp where Na’amah was still sleeping soundly. Noah put out their fire and gathered their things. He realized that their fire might have been a mistake.

“Na’amah,” he said. She did not budge. He put his hand down and shook her gently. Touching her made his hand feel like it was going to fly away from his body. “Na’amah,” he said again. Her eyes opened and then focused on him. She smiled. “I thought I had dreamed you,” she said. “No, your cousin is still in the area and he will find us if we don’t keep going.” “Alright,” Na’amah pushed herself up onto her feet. As she did, Noah noticed that there were more scars on her neck and upper chest. This intrigued him, but he said nothing. They walked off into the sunset. Noah led her through the Gabal and felt decidedly better once on Shethite land. Na’amah, however, assured him that her cousin was the type of man that did not pay attention to such boundaries. Noah believed her. “Why would he?” Noah commented. “I have never seen a man that size before.” “No?” “No,” Noah said. “There are no giants among the Shethites.” “Oh,” Na’amah said the wheels in her head turning. “I wonder why.” Noah shrugged. Just after dawn they reached Damam’s house. The pair had not realized that they were hungry until they smelled the food that Shalvah was preparing. They trudged up the hill to the hut and were greeted warmly by a round woman and her lanky husband. Together, they made a pair of odd couples. Noah found it strange that neither of them asked why he brought a Qayinite to breakfast. They sat down and devoured their food. Shalvah busied herself cooking more for the children and chattered at them. “I just don’t think that children need to play all day long. Idle children are not happy. You can’t have a child sitting around the fire all day with old people listening to stories. What child would want that? They are talking about making it an every day thing. Like I am going to walk my children two miles every morning to sit with someone else and listen to stories. Hmph. Not I,” she went on.

Damam smiled at Noah and rolled his eyes. Noah smiled back into his food. Na’amah listened intently to the woman. “In Chanowk,” Na’amah said. “The children all go to the fire in the mornings. The Lilin teach them the things they learn from the gods.” “The gods?” Shalvah asked. “Who are the Lilin?” Damam asked. Both gave her a peculiar stare that made Na’amah feel uncomfortable all of a sudden. “The Lilin are the old women. Well, the women in charge. It’s a special group. They meet in the great cave hall to learn from the gods. The gods are, well, I don’t know. They are just powerful ‘beings’ I guess. I have never been to the fire and (Na’amah chuckled) my mother certainly wasn’t about to let me become a Lilin.” Na’amah noticed Shalvah inspecting her scars and she pulled her tunic up around her throat and looked away. Shalvah’s eyes filled with tears. “Can I get you some more food?” she asked Na’amah, already on her feet. “No, thank you,” Na’amah said as Shalvah shoveled it into her bowl. “Oh, you have to eat. You’re thin as a reed.” Na’amah smiled at her, “Thank you.” Damam, who appeared oblivious to what had passed between his wife and their female visitor pressed onward. “What kinds of things do they teach?” he asked. Na’amah chewed her food and swallowed. “Um, roots and potions, incantations, astrology, face paint, metal working, music, animal husbandry, weaponry, um, I think that’s it.” She took another bite of food. “What is astrology?” Damam asked. “They watch the lights in the sky to see what the gods are up to and when.” “How many gods do they have?”

“Two hundred.” Noah chuckled, “That sounds like a lot of gods to keep happy.” Na’amah’s eyes widened, “You have no idea.” “How old are you, dear?” Shalvah tried to redirect the conversation. “Three hundred and fourteen,” Na’amah said. “You are not married?” Noah thought he saw her eyes dart to him for just a second and then back onto Na’amah. “No, I am not. My mistress, err, my mother would not allow me to marry.” “Oh,” Shalvah said, “what a shame.” She sighed and took Noah’s bowl from him with a wry smile. Na’amah noticed this and promptly took another bite to keep from grinning at her. Damam handed his bowl to Shalvah as well. “Where are you headed?” Damam asked. “To Chalam,” Noah said and then turned to Na’amah realizing that they had never discussed it. “Chalam is kind of like our Chanowk.” Na’amah nodded. Shalvah snorted, offended by the comparison. “It’s at least two days away,” Damam said. “That’s right,” Noah said. “Where do you go for the Last Day’s?” Na’amah cocked her head to the side. “Every week we get together, all the families, to eat and offer our sacrifices to El,” Noah explained to her. Damam looked at his feet. Noah could tell that he was uncomfortable with the mention of the name. This puzzled Noah, but only for a moment. “We go north to Chashab. It is only a day’s walk from here,” Damam answered. “El is one of your gods?” Na’amah asked. “We have one God,” Shalvah said proudly. “Oh,” Na’amah said.

“How many places are there for Last Day’s, now?” Noah asked. “I thought you would know,” Damam said. “There are six, I think. The Big Fire at Chalam. Chashab. Yachas. Caphar. Giyl. And….Chedvah. I think that’s it. Chedvah just started up again. They had stopped after the war because so many people moved away from the border.” Noah nodded, “I knew about Chedvah.” “Are you staying with us, today?” Shalvah asked. Noah looked at Na’amah. Her expression told him that she trusted him, whatever he decided. This made him feel big inside. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Na’amah is being chased by her cousin. I met her in the forest just on the other side of the border. She thinks he will not hesitate to cross the Gabal. He is a huge man.” “I am not afraid of a Qayinite,” Damam boasted. “I know you are a strong man,” Noah said, talking like a father to Damam, “but this is the largest man I have ever seen. I saw him from a hill when he did not see me. He had to be ten or twelve feet tall.” “Twelve. Almost twelve and a half,” Na’amah said. “He is the first and largest giant among us, err, them.” Shalvah smiled at the distinction. “I don’t want to stay here if it is going to endanger you, but we are both extremely tired. Especially after such good food,” Noah said. “I have a place that I sometimes camp in a ravine just south of here. It is secluded and safe and I can see the trail that leads to it from the place where I am working today. You could rest there and I could alert you if I see him coming,” Damam said. Noah smiled and looked at Na’amah. She nodded and sighed in thanks. “Good,” Damam stood up. The others rose with him. “It was nice to meet you, Na’amah,” Shalvah said. “Noah is a good man.” The pair followed Damam down the hill and Na’amah called back at Shalvah, “Good bye.”

They walked an hour while Damam told them about his land. Noah listened politely, knowing the area even better than Damam who had only settled it about five years ago. He was surprised when they came upon a strange, natural arch just below a hill and crossed under it. Inside was a tiny ravine with a patch of grass in the middle of some fairly large oaks. It was, in fact, the perfect place for them to hide. “This is great!” Noah exclaimed. “Yes, thank you,” Na’amah said. “Happy to help,” Damam replied. “I will come and get you when I go home this afternoon,” he called over his shoulder and left them there. The pair unpacked and stretched out on their bed rolls. Na’amah fell asleep first and Noah listened to her breathe for quite a while, fighting the strange urge to watch her. He heard a sound like chopping coming from somewhere. He assumed it was Damam. Eventually, the sound lulled him to sleep. _________________________

When Noah awoke, it was nearly dark. Na’amah was still asleep. He stretched. A raven hopped excitedly on a branch just above him. Noah marveled at how beautiful Na’amah was. Wondering where Damam could be, he packed his bedroll and waited as the sun continued to fall in the sky. The raven above him was insistent. It jumped from limb to limb croaking at Noah. Noah wondered if they had come too close to its nest. He searched the trees and saw no sign of one. Eventually, the raven ceased from its fit and watched the hill where Damam had been. As darkness fell, Noah became sincerely worried about his friend. He let Na’amah sleep until he could no longer see anymore. Then, he shook her awake. “Damam never returned for us,” he said to her. She sat up, rubbed her eyes, and frowned. “That’s not good,” she said. Noah nodded. “We have to go and see about him. I will go and you stay here,” he said and stood up.

“I want to go,” she said. “No, I know this land and how to move about without being seen. Let me go.” “Okay,” she slumped back onto her hands. Noah started off for the archway and the raven resumed its croaking. Noah stopped and looked up at where it had been. By now, it was too dark to see but when he stopped, the bird silenced. He took another step forward and the bird cried out again. Noah turned on his heel and paced back to Na’amah. “What is with the bird?” Na’amah asked. “He sees that something is wrong,” Noah said. Na’amah shivered all over. “Jabal has found our friends,” Na’amah said darkly. “I think you are right.” The couple said nothing for a long time. “We must wait until day,” Noah said finally and unpacked his bedroll. Na’amah made a groaning sound and lay back onto hers. Both of them knew that a fire was out of the question, and the darkness seemed interminable without it. The moon, near the horizon, did them no good in the ravine. Neither of them could see their hands in front of their faces. “I am so very sorry that I brought this upon you and your people,” Na’amah said. He heard her softly pant as though crying. Noah wanted to hold her but felt that he should not. “I could not stay. She was going to kill me. I know she was, but maybe it would have been better.” Noah did not know what to say to her. In his mind, he imagined the huge man beating Damam and Shalvah to pulp and tossing their bodies into a river. The thought horrified him. “El,” he said. “Help us.” After a moment, Na’amah stopped crying.

“Thank you,” she said. “What for?” Noah asked. “For holding me.” Noah smiled. “That is El,” he said. _________________________

At some point during the night they fell asleep and when they woke the raven was gone. The pair packed up their things and trouped out of the ravine. When they arrived at Damam’s house they found no one. With great trepidation, Noah opened the door to their hut. Empty. He considered calling out and decided against it. “We had better leave,” Noah whispered. Na’amah nodded. Feeling rested but hungry, the pair ran for most of the morning. About lunchtime, they came upon an apple tree and stopped to eat. “How old are you?” Na’amah asked. “Four hundred and fifty eight,” Noah replied. “So what is your excuse?” Noah knew that she meant, “Why aren’t you married?” “I wander around a lot,” he replied. “Oh,” her face darkened, “like Qayin.” “No,” Noah contended. “Not like Qayin. I could stop. I am not running from anything. I just. I just have never felt like this before,” his eyes widened. “I mean, I have never found - um,” he blushed badly and turned his head away. “I have never found the right person to stop for.” Na’amah smiled and waited for him to look at her again. “Me, too,” she said.

Then she took his hand. “I think we can walk for a while,” she said. Noah nodded. _________________________

A day and a half later, the couple arrived at the house of Lamech. They found the children first, playing hide and seek among the trees. “These are my brothers and sisters,” Noah pointed as they approached. “Noah!” one of the girls yelled out when she spied him. The game ceased immediately and the children rushed them. “Who is she, Noah?” “Is that your wife?” “Do you have children?” “I don’t come home that often, as you can see,” Noah blushed. “This is Na’amah,” he told them. “She is a friend.” “What happened to her?” a little girl asked. “Na’ar,” one of the other children poked her in the ribs. “It’s okay,” Na’amah smiled. “My mother was not a very nice woman and she cut me when she was angry.” “Oh,” the girl awed and reached out her finger to touch one of the scars on Na’amah’s neck. Na’amah leaned in and let her. The girl jerked her finger back and made a “yucky” face. Na’amah giggled. “They don’t hurt,” she said. The girl nodded. “You’re a Qayinite,” one of the older boys observed. “That’s right,” she said. The children quieted down at this, suddenly wary of her.

“It’s okay,” Noah said and received some uneasy glances. “Where is your father?” the older boy asked. “He is dead,” she said. “Aww,” the little girl who had touched her said. “Let’s go up to the fire, children,” Noah said. He led the crew up to the fire where dinner was being prepared. Lamech stood over Betenos like a child as though watching it would make it cook faster. “Sit down,” she said and he chuckled. Then he reached up and patted her on the rear. She yelped and wheeled around on him, brandishing a wooden spoon. She saw the group coming towards them and threw her arms up. “Hello!” she cried and ran to meet Noah. She threw her arms around him and he squeezed her tightly. Lamech walked up behind her. “Hello,” his mother said to Na’amah. Noah was unable to read her tone. “Hello,” Lamech said as well. “Hello,” Na’amah said quietly. “This is Na’amah,” Noah announced. “This is my mother, Betenos, and my father, Lamech.” Na’amah put her hands up in front of her, “Oh, wow. Lamech was my father’s name.” Noah gaped at her. “Really?” he asked. His parent’s faces asked the same. “Yes, well, my mother says, now, that I was born of the gods, but I don’t believe her.” Betenos’ face made a look that Noah had never seen before. “Let’s eat,” Lamech said. “Yes, let’s,” Betenos agreed.

Na’amah gave Noah a pleading glance as they approached the fire. Noah was not sure what his face said back to her, but it made her pale in spite of her skin. Betenos handed out bowls of food to the children and instructed them to go and eat by the stream. They reluctantly complied. Then she served the adults. Noah related the story of how he found Na’amah and the events that had occurred over the past few days. “Have you heard anything about Damam?” Lamech asked Betenos. She shook her head. “We will go in the morning to Chashab,” he said. “That is where they were going for Last Day’s, Damam said,” Noah offered. Lamech nodded. “If we take the horses, we can be there by nightfall. Luckily, tomorrow is the sixth day,” Lamech continued. Noah nodded. Once all the necessities were out of the way, an uncomfortable silence fell onto the group. The children trickled in with their bowls and Betenos sent them back to the stream to wash. The adults finished and Lamech motioned for Noah to follow him away from the fire. His expression hinted that Na’amah should remain behind. She offered to help Betenos clean up. Lamech led Noah down to the stream where they met the last child on his way back. Lamech tousled the boy’s head and he smiled. Then, the child scampered away. The two sat cross legged by the river. “So, you like this woman,” Lamech stated. Noah found it strange that he did not ask. “Like?” Noah said. Lamech tilted his head downwards and his eyes upwards. “Yes, like,” Lamech replied. “I don’t know,” Noah dodged. “You don’t?” “Uh, no.” “Hmmm,” Lamech said and touched his chin. “Then you had better tell her because she likes you.”

“How do you know that?” “The way she looks at you and the way you look at her. It’s obvious,” Lamech put a hand back on the ground and considered Noah for a moment. “Have you never felt like this before?” Lamech seemed genuinely awed. “No,” was all Noah could manage. His face was hot with embarrassment. Lamech grinned and chuckled a little, “That’s okay. It’s okay. It’s strange that someone your age would never have felt this way before about anyone, but I am sure it’s normal. You have been, well, busy.” Noah felt like a freak. “Thanks,” he said. Lamech chuckled again and sighed, “Seriously, though. This won’t work.” “What do you mean?” Noah asked, knowing exactly what he meant. Lamech pursed his lips together and stared at him. “You know. For El’s sake, you nearly killed her father.” “Doesn’t seem to bother her,” Noah said. “Well, it bothers me. And it would bother the rest of the family.” “Why? Because she grew up in a different place? I mean, come on. We all come from Ahdam and him from El.” “She is a Qayinite, Noah. A baby killing, meat eating, godless, savage. You would even have to explain to her the Last Day’s.” “I know.” “You don’t know. Right now you are feeling all of these things, and I understand. I have been there. Trust me. But, Noah, you don’t even know if this woman is a virgin.” That one stung Noah and he quieted. “What am I thinking,” he thought. He looked up at Lamech. Lamech’s face was concerned. Noah closed his eyes and thought back over the last couple of days. “Noah, have you talked to El about this?” Lamech tried.

Noah remembered the last times he saw El. Just before Na’amah ran up. Then, again, in the ravine. El was with them. Noah opened his eyes and stood up. “El led me to this woman. I know it.” Lamech shook his head. Noah slumped his shoulders and trouped back up to the fire. Lamech followed slowly behind him. There, Na’amah sat on a stump, looking miserable, while Betenos fidgeted with some bits of cloth on the opposite end of the circle. Neither said anything to the other. Na’amah jumped up when Noah came into view and jerked her head slightly. Noah followed her away from his mother until they were out of ear shot. “Please,” Na’amah whispered. “Take me with you tomorrow.” Noah nodded.

The couple traveled west until they met the broad river that had stopped him on an earlier journey. He told Na’amah the story of the invisible fire and she scrunched her face in disbelief. “You must have taken ill,” she said. “There is no such thing as fire you can’t see.” Noah could not argue with the logic. “Try it yourself,” he challenged. Na’amah gaped back at him. “No,” she said. Noah raised an eyebrow. “I don’t feel like getting wet,” she explained. He snorted and chuckled. They went north along the river until the terrain became rocky and difficult. There, the water had become shallow enough for them to ford it. Noah waited for the burning as he passed the middle, but it never came. “Strange,” he said. “Uh-huh,” Na’amah grinned. He almost wished it had happened again so he could prove it to her. After another day or two westward, they found a second river about as big as the fist. This time, Na’amah (would could not swim) rode on a mammoth that they had met along the way. There appeared to be an increasing number of mammoths the further north they went. A week later, the couple found the sea.

“I will give you two of my sheep for your bull. Nothing more. Your bull is old,” Mathay said, holding his hands out. “Two sheep? This is a bull. I don’t care if he’s half dead,” Batsa said. “I need this bull today. My cow is almost out of season. You have made this trade with me before,” Mathay said, confused. “Did you think I would be stupid forever?” Batsa asked. Mathay scratched his head. “What else do you want for the bull?” he asked. “What do you have?” Batsa asked. “I have goats and sheep and pigs and birds… just tell me,” Mathay began to get irritated with him. Batsa sat back and stroked his beard. “Make me an offer,” Batsa said. Mathay stood up. “You have become too difficult to work with,” he said and walked away. Batsa ran after him. “No, I will work with you!” he called. Mathay waved him off and shook his head, “I don’t know what’s come over you.” The man gave up. Mathay approached the Big Fire and sat next to Lamech who was engaged in a conversation with two men he did not know. Mathay tapped his foot and tried to ignore them. Eventually, the men went away and left him alone with Lamech. It was almost dark, time for dinner, and this was the first moment he had been able to find alone with his son. “Have you heard anything?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Lamech said. “I heard from a man who lives in the mountains that he traded with him last year. That is all.” “Has anyone seen El?” “Has anyone gone looking?” Lamech spat. “Have you?” Mathay retorted. The two sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment. Mathay crossed his arms and watched the fire. Lamech got up and went to Betenos who was about to drop a bag of bread because she was trying to carry too much at once. Mathay scanned the crowd for Azriel, but she was nowhere to be found. He had been keeping an eye on her all day. She had woken up this morning with a pain in her head that moved into her feet by midday. This afternoon, the pain was in her stomach and she was doubled over. When he left her an hour earlier by the tree line she was fine and chatting happily with friends. Lamech returned to his seat. “I am sorry,” Mathay said to him, not looking his direction. “I am, as well,” Lamech said. “Have you seen Azriel?” “No, I have not.” “Hmmm.” “Look at those lights,” Lamech pointed at the trees just beyond the crowd. Lamech stood. Mathay did so as well. The lights broke out of the trees and came for them. There were hundreds of them. “Run!” Mathay shouted. His suspicions were confirmed when he heard the hooves. Then, he saw them. Qayinite riders. Behind them, there were other torches. Foot warriors, he guessed. The people around him gathered their belongings. “Run!” Lamech shouted at them. “Leave it.” Lamech and Mathay moved near the fire as close as they could stand to avoid the rush. A child fell and people tripped over her. Lamech helped her up and sent her running again. The yelling was deafening and Mathay thought they all

moved maddeningly too slowly. He pushed them forward, with his mind, as they came through. Slowly the crowd thinned and the pair came out from hiding to see a horse bearing down on them. Lamech rolled out of the way just in time to miss the spear. The man kept on past and headed for a straggling woman. Behind the riders, Mathay saw giants. They carried huge shining knives that looked like water at night. “Let’s go!” Lamech pulled his father by the arm. Mathay hobbled after Lamech as fast as he could. Somehow they managed to make it to the trees and then to the stream. People rushed over it, splashing water up into the air. A rider cut through their group and speared a man through the chest. Several men jumped on him and pulled him off the horse. They beat him to death with a rock. Across from them, Lamech spotted Azriel. The old woman stood by a pine tree, screaming and clawing at her face with her fingernails. Blood ran down her neck. “There!” Lamech pointed and they sprinted for her. “Azriel!” Mathay shouted as they got close enough. She yelled louder and beat herself in the face with a fist. Mathay tackled her and held her hands. Her eyes were wide with terror and strangeness. She pushed Mathay off of her with the strength of two men. “Don’t touch me, you bastard!” she yelled. Then she came at him with cat claws. Mathay ducked out of the way and she hit the ground, hard. She did not move. Lamech tossed the old woman over his shoulder and the pair resumed the race. Lamech kept an eye out for Betenos and his children as they went, but saw no one. “This way,” Mathay said and headed towards one of the old weapons store rooms. They fought through a crowd that had bottlenecked at the end of a gulch and climbed a short hill. Lamech lifted the lid and Mathay shuffled down the old staircase. The weapons had long since been removed, but the ceiling remained in good shape. Lamech laid Azriel down on the earth floor. She breathed in rapid, short huffs and her eyelids fluttered. “I am going for Betenos and the children,” Lamech said. Mathay did not try to argue. Lamech shut the lid. In the darkness, all Mathay could hear were the rushes of Azriel’s unnatural breathing and the muffled sounds of madness outside. Something crawled onto his shoulder and he flicked it off. This room was, as far as Mathay could remember, never designed to be a dead fall. For this, he was grateful. The last thing they needed was to have a stallion and rider crash down through the ceiling.

Mathay stroked Azriel’s hair. Her breathing continued in short gasps. At first, he blew on her face with his own to try and get her to slow down. Then he gave up and hummed a tune that they knew from their childhood. Mathay smiled with the memory. “It’s strange how the past can be so strong. As you get old,” he said out loud, almost to her. Azriel let out a wail and her body shook all over. She spat and twisted until Mathay could not hold onto her. Then, she lay still. Mathay put his ear to her chest. She was dead. He grabbed her around the waist and pushed his head into her. “No!” he bawled and squeezed her until he felt one of her ribs give way. Then he let go of her and she slid down his lap onto the floor. Mathay buried his head in his hands and wept. Suddenly, it quieted outside. The sounds of the hooves and the screaming subsided as the battle moved westward. He worried about Lamech. Mathay was considering opening the door and venturing out when he heard a series of quick footsteps and the door shot open. Lamech slid himself inside in a flash and let the door bang shut. “The giants are searching this area for stragglers and hiders. I saw them pull a woman from a tree and fling her body against it,” he whispered. “How is Azriel?” “Dead,” Mathay’s voice shook. Saying it made it real. He sucked in a long breath. “Betenos?” There was silence for a while. “Dead as well. They are all dying,” Lamech finally said. Mathay pulled his son into a hug and wept as quietly as he could. He felt Lamech’s body jerk with sobs as well. They heard footfalls outside and stifled themselves. The thudding stopped right near the room. Then, they heard a voice but could not make out what it said. Lamech tensed and shifted himself into position to spring. The footsteps resumed and faded away. Lamech relaxed his body against the wall.

Lately, an empty, familiar intelligence haunted her dreams and bled into her waking hours. This hush left her staring into space for long moments. Sometimes, this was embarrassing. Now, in her room, she let it pass through her like an old friend. Adah rolled over and her eyes fell on the ceiling. The lines in it; the lines separating her and the gods ended in the corners of the room. Her lover flopped a hand onto her stomach and snored. She tossed it away. The makeup on her face ran with sweat into her profound crevices. Her old heart raced and sputtered. She stood and pulled on her robe. Adah padded onto her private balcony and looked out over the city. The sun was big in the sky and the people looked like ants on the wooden trails and also on the beach. Light reflecting off the ocean winked at her. She let go of all her air and leaned onto the railing. She could feel age in her, gnawing at her bones. Everything that could be done had been done. She had everything. She said everything. She had everyone. She was void. A shallow skiff on the water appeared from behind an outcropping. Even from a distance she could see that it was manned by a single, enormous figure. The giant, in a white robe, made no movement to steer the craft or to propel it. Rather, he willed it towards the shore where it beached. Adah straitened and watched, intently, as he disembarked. The fisherman who constantly milled about near the docks did not see the man, or, if they did, paid him no notice. Adah squinted. He was as tall as Jabal. Maybe taller. His robe floated around him but did not touch the ground. Adah could not see his feet. He appeared to hover along, or walk with an otherworldly grace. As the man came slowly up the trail Adah noticed that the people, while they did not appear to actually see him, parted casually for him - like he was a tree that had been there forever. Adah thought that he was coming for her. She clutched her chest and felt her heart thump excitedly. “This is what it is like to die,” she thought. Her feet would not move. There was something terrifying about him. He passed the trail that led to her hut and disappeared behind it. She breathed a relief. Her lungs ached. Adah hurried into her bedroom and pulled the curtain. She caught sight of him just as he seemingly floated down into the cave.

“No,” Adah breathed. “Uh-uh,” she said forcefully. She tore the curtains from the walls and bolted for the stairs. “Where are you going?” the man in her bed asked. She took the steps two at a time and barely caught herself from tripping on the last one. She marched, as fast as she could to the cave, grabbed the rope, and shimmied downwards into the darkness. _________________________

Zillah and Tubal Qayin watched his men work metal in the shop. Zillah loved the smell of the copper and bronze. She loved to watch the men shape it and bend it to their wills. It fascinated her. They absorbed her. “I expect that we should have it done by the next moon,” Tubal said and flashed his mother a brilliant smile. “Great, then maybe I can convince mother to cut your work load.” Tubal shrugged. “The men - What’s that?” Tubal was interrupted by a great rumbling sound that grew louder and louder. Then, suddenly, the ground beneath them shook. Zillah fell over and a metal cup rolled off a table onto her head. A man in the shop screamed as he fell into his fire. Tubal grabbed onto a post with both hands. Then, as swiftly as it began, the shaking stopped. Zillah stood and turned around to face the city. A huge cloud of smoke rose up from near the back wall, apparently from the cave. Huts all around them had collapsed, as well as the great hall. “Come!” Zillah ordered. She and Tubal ran towards the cave. “Out of my way!” Zillah shouted as people filled the streets, heading in the same direction. “Move!” she yelled, but their backs were to her. “Move!” Tubal roared.

The large group heard him and turned around. They scurried out of the way. Zillah sprinted forward and elbowed a few others out of her way as she reached the mouth of the cave. She looked back at Tubal and he nodded. Then he grabbed the rope and swung himself down in the hole. After a moment, he reappeared. “I need light,” he said. “A torch!” Zillah yelled. The people looked around at each other stupidly. “I. Need. A. Torch!” An eager young woman broke through the crowd with one, already lit. Zillah snatched it from her and put it into Tubal’s waiting hand. He deftly scurried down the rope. Zillah waited and tried to make out some movement in the darkness. “I wonder what happened,” she heard someone behind her whisper. “I don’t know. The gods must be angry,” said another. Zillah rolled her eyes and tapped her foot impatiently. “Have they abandoned us?” “Shut up!” she yelled and the people complied. After another few minutes, Tubal ascended the rope, covered in dust, and handed his torch to a man standing nearby. “It has collapsed. The whole thing,” he said. Zillah’s mouth fell open. She put a hand over her mouth as she felt her gape twist into a wide smile. Adah was going to have someone killed for this. She thought of Tubal and narrowed her eyes. He eyed her expression suspiciously. “Where is Adah?” she asked abruptly. No one answered. The last time Zillah had seen her, she had gone into her hut. The hut, however, had collapsed. For a moment, her spirits rose. “Could she be dead?” Zillah almost said out loud. A group of men shoved their way to the front of the crowd. “Mistress,” one of them said. Zillah turned to him.

“Mistress, we saw Adah follow a giant man into the cave just before it, it happened,” he backed away and lowered his head. “Giant man? Jabal?” Zillah asked. “No, mistress. Not Jabal. A man we’ve never seen before. Dressed in white and taller than anybody.” Zillah considered this a moment and remembered the day the white god came to Chanowk. “Leave. All of you. Go and repair your huts!” Tubal yelled. The crowd quickly dispersed. “They are stupid,” Zillah said to him. She shook her head after the people as they went. “Hmm,” Tubal said. “What do we want to do with the, uh – “ he jerked a thumb at the cave. “Seal it up. We have enough giants as it is.” Tubal frowned mockingly at her. _________________________

After a year on his beloved beach, Noah packed them up and headed south along the shore. Na’amah went along, letting him know that she would not go much further. Even though she had not yet conceived a child, she felt that it was growing time for her to settle down. Her childlessness troubled her, though she did not say so to Noah. Goodness knows it was not for lack of trying. More and more, the land built itself up in the east so that they traveled for weeks with the sea on one side of them and mountains on the other. The land between was fertile and inviting, in places. In others, it was arid. They took it easy, enjoying the time together. Eventually, the eastern mountains leveled out and the shore turned so that they traveled in a westerly direction. They followed the sea to a place that was lush and green. A wide river broke into fingers at the ocean. The land around it was a mixture of thick jungle and dense forest. The hills were gentle and the air was kind. Noah announced that this was the place he wanted to stay. They unpacked their belongings and began to set up a more permanent dwelling.

On the third day after they arrived, El joined them. “Hello,” Noah said as El sat down next to Na’amah. El put an arm around Na’amah and squeezed her. This made Noah smile and Na’amah, too, albeit warily. “Welcome to the family,” El said to Na’amah. Na’amah smiled as wide as Noah had ever seen up and put her face in her hands. El petted her shoulder. “This place is beautiful,” Noah spread out his arms and spun himself in a circle. “I have a better place for you,” El said. “A special place.” Noah’s shoulders slumped. He was tired of walking. Then he looked at Na’amah and she nodded. Noah smiled weakly and kicked a rock into the river. “Okay,” Noah said. “Then follow me,” El said. The couple packed up again and traveled back the way they had come. He led them along the sea until it made a sharp left turn. A few days later the mountains rose up in the east and the land became arid in patches. El led them another few days up the coast and then turned inland. They followed him up a slope to a grove of rare, gigantic trees seated on a plateau at the base of a larger mountain. A good stream flowed around the plateau to the north. It was the only stream of its size for miles and creatures of all shapes and sizes came there to drink. Noah, of course, was thrilled with this. After a brief tour of the area, El led them to the center of the plateau and a long, flat, and narrow clearing. Noah built a fire and El sat cross legged near it. The afternoon waned and so Noah gathered some red berries. They ate them along with some tea for dinner. El’s mood had turned from cheerful to brooding and this made Noah nervous. Na’amah did not seem to notice it at all. She watched the robins and chickadees play in the trees. “What kind of trees are these?” she asked. “Gopher wood,” Noah said. She nodded. “They are the biggest I have ever seen,” she marveled. El remained conspicuously silent. Noah stoked the fire. Na’amah lay down and closed her eyes. After a long moment, she snored softly. Noah was glad, for her, that she was asleep. El continued to stare into the fire. A great buck came

out of the forest to greet them. Noah stood and stroked his back. He had a great rack of horns and strong hind legs. El ignored the beast. Noah petted the deer’s head. El stood up and locked eyes with Noah. The deer bounded away. “I am going to destroy the earth,” El said. The force of his words made Noah fall backwards onto the ground. “It is filled with violence,” he continued. He held out his hand and Noah took it. He pulled Noah to his feet. Noah followed him away from the fire. “Make yourself a boat out of these trees. Make rooms in it and cover it with pitch inside and out.” El stepped to a large, flat boulder and etched a long rectangle into it with his finger. Later, Noah wondered why this did not surprise him. El pointed to the end of the clearing and moved his arm slowly back towards the other end. “Make it four hundred and fifty feet long,” he indicated the other side. “Seventy five feet wide.” El stretched his arms out, “and forty five feet high. Build a roof for it and put in a window about a foot and a half from the top. Then,” El walked over to a place in about the center of the clearing, “put a door on the side of it. You will have three decks,” El motioned three tiers with his hands, “upper, middle and lower ones.” El walked back to the stone and wrote everything that he had just told Noah onto it. He turned, expectantly, to face Noah who gaped at him stupidly. “I am going to flood the earth,” he explained. “Everything is going to die. Humans, animals, plants; everything.” Noah searched El’s face for something. Finally, what he looked for was not there. Noah fell on his knees and wept. El put an arm around him. “But I am going to make an agreement with you. You and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives will come on board the ship with you. Also, I want you to take along two of every type of creature. Male and female, to preserve their lives. Take two of every bird, furry creature, serpent. Two of everything.” Noah looked up at him and wiped his face. El did not seem angry anymore. The look on his face was indescribable. Noah realized that he could never guess what this was like for El. El nodded, patted him on the shoulder, and then stepped away. “You’re going to need a lot of food, too,” El said over his shoulder as he walked away.

Noah stood and brushed himself off. Na’amah was still asleep. This seemed odd to him because he felt as though he would never sleep again. He padded over to her, weak kneed, and bent down beside her. She was still astonishing to look at, he marveled. Her chest rose and fell with each precious breath. Finally, he shook and she opened her eyes with a comfortable smile. The expression on his face made her sit up and look around. She knitted her brow to say “what’s wrong.” Noah sat down and stared at her. She waited. Noah sighed and closed his eyes. “Do you know how to build a boat?” he asked her. “No,” she replied, confused. They were nowhere near the sea now. He opened his eyes again. “Neither do I.” _________________________

As predicted, Noah did not sleep. Na’amah kept watch with him for most of the night. She held his head in her lap and stroked his white hair until just before dawn. Then she fell asleep and Noah carried her to her bedroll. She smiled sleepily at him and said, “If El has told you to build it, he will help you build it, won’t he?” Noah nodded and faked a smile. She closed her eyes. Noah stood and paced off four hundred and fifty feet by seventy five feet. He put rocks at the corners and marveled at the size of the space. Yet, it was meaningless to him, somehow. It was just a clearing where an impossible thing would happen. He shook his head. Noah sat back on his heels by the fire and rocked himself. He tried to imagine a flood so large that it covered the whole earth. In his mind he saw the mountains and trees sink into the seas as they rose. He imagined the people, the Shethites, screaming and paddling about until they finally drowned. He saw the animals. Bears and cats and birds and snakes and rabbits flailing for their lives. Noah put a hand to his face. It was burning and sweaty. “El,” he moaned and lay down. His mind numbed, watching the flames of their campfire randomly bend and twist. Behind him, the sun came up. Na’amah

snored loudly and the birds awoke. They chattered in the trees happily. Noah, in his trance, did not hear them. He began to shake all over as though he were cold. He did not notice this either. _________________________

About midday, Na’amah sat up from sleep and relit the fire that had gone out. Noah slept next to it, fitfully. At times, his eyes flew open and he talked incoherently. Then they closed and he quieted down. Na’amah had never seen such behavior and it worried her greatly. She gathered wood and more berries for them. She did not want to wake him and, at the same time, wanted desperately to be able to talk with him. Na’amah saw the stones that he had set out as markers the night before and awed at the size of the imaginary boat. She considered, as well, the size of the trees. It would take a month with a rock hatchet to take down even one of them. She remembered the woodsmen in Chanowk and the metal tools they had. They built grand wooden structures for holding grain and boats the size of the great hall. “El, if only we had tools,” she said out loud. At that moment, a raven flew into camp and perched on a limb just above her head. It reminded her, strangely, of the raven she had seen that day in the ravine with Noah. The memory of El holding her flooded her mind and she smiled. The raven croaked loudly. “Don’t do that,” Na’amah said. It sounded off again. “You will wake my husband and he needs the rest!” she scolded the bird. Again, the bird ignored her and called out. Na’amah frowned and considered chucking a rock at the thing. At the far edge of the plateau, two men topped the hill and came towards her leading a huge horse. The breath caught in her chest. Na’amah stood and backed away a couple of steps. Then, she recognized the man on the left and exhaled. It was her father-in-law. A burly older man shuffled along slowly beside him.

She ran towards them and stopped short, realizing she had nothing to say. It was just so good not to be alone. Her mouth opened and silence came out. Lamech smiled at her and stepped forward. He pulled her into a crushing hug that surprised her. She cautiously returned it. Lamech grabbed her by the shoulders and held her out so he could look at her. “I am sorry,” he said. Na’amah fell on his shoulder and sobbed. Lamech petted her head and then led her onwards to the fire. “This is my father, Noah’s grandfather, Mathay-Shalach,” Lamech said. Mathay nodded grimly. “Father, this is Noah’s wife, Na’amah. Yes?” Lamech asked. Na’amah smiled and nodded. “Took the boy long enough, didn’t it?” Mathay said. Na’amah giggled. “We should not wake him,” she said as they came upon Noah. “He was awake all night. After you settle I will tell you what has happened to us.” They left Mathay at the fire. Na’amah led Lamech and the horse to the stream for a drink. They brought back fresh water for Mathay, as well. When they returned, they found the old man inspecting the plans etched into the boulder. He traced the figures, curiously, with his finger. “What is this?” he said as he heard them approach. “That is what has happened to us. El drew that. He is going to destroy the earth with a flood and he wants us to build a boat. As you can see, it’s an enormous boat to hold us, I mean, our family and two of every animal. He is going to cover the whole world!” Mathay drained of all color. Lamech whistled and looked up at the sky. The raven flew away. He picked up a rock and threw it at the bird, missing badly. “I need to sit down,” Mathay said. Na’amah helped him over to a rock. Lamech piled his hands on top of his head and paced about. He kicked a stone at a tree. Na’amah became afraid of him for a moment. Then he sat in the dirt and rested his head on his fists. His expression as he stared off into space reminded Na’amah of her husband.

“Just as well,” Mathay said. “There are Qayinites in Banah. Sacrificing their children on our altar. Fornicating in Ahdam’s bed. Worshipping God knows what. Making more bastard children of the serpent. Killing each other.” He stuck out his bottom lip and bobbed his head slightly. “I can see why.” Lamech gave his father a disgusted look and said nothing. Mathay ignored him. “The Qayinites attacked?” Na’amah blurted. Lamech nodded. “I guess that explains why we are here,” Mathay continued. “We have been following that raven bird for about three weeks now. We followed it south and it led us here. We had come upon a camp of Qayinites who had been working in the forest near a settlement north of here. There had been some kind of disagreement among them, apparently, and they had killed each other. It was there we started following the bird.” “El must have wanted you here,” Na’amah replied, her mind reeling with the news that the Shethites had been defeated. Lamech stood up and walked to the bags they had unloaded from the horse. He brought them over and dropped them heavily, one at a time, at Na’amah’s feet. “I hope that you believe,” Lamech said as he dropped the last of them. Then he resumed his moody seat. Na’amah opened the bags. Inside of them were tools. Real metal tools like the ones she had been thinking of earlier. They were in good condition and there was a sharpening stone with them. Na’amah laughed out loud and threw her hands in the air. Noah looked up bleary eyed from his sleep. “We took those from the men,” Mathay said and his voice shook. “Thank you!” she said. “Thank you.”

Jubal bumped along in a chair supported by long poles and carried by eight men. He yawned and the make up on his face crinkled up. He felt it do so and sighed with annoyance. “Stop!” he ordered. The men put down the litter and backed away from him, bowing as they went. “Makeup,” he said. A small man in a woman’s dress scurried forward. He wore different colored pottery jars attached by strings around his neck and rows of hair beads swung near his head. The man climbed onto the litter with a girlish urgency and inspected the prince’s face. “It’s gotten all… crumbly,” Jubal pouted. “Oh, no,” the man cooed and produced a brush from his belt. He dabbed a little sweat from the prince’s brow and smoothed out the lines of blue and red. Then he pulled back his brush and kissed at the prince. The prince kissed back at him. The man hopped off the litter and rejoined the trailing procession. “Music!” Jubal yelled. About a dozen topless men in orange skirts scuffled to the front of the group. They readied harps and flutes. One of the men tapped his foot four times and they all began to play. “Up!” Jubal commanded. The carriers appeared and lifted his litter. “Forward!” he said. The procession continued. Behind the musicians there were personal attendants of every kind followed by wise men, huntsmen, carpenters, stone masons, metal workers, general laborers, brightly painted, half naked boys and, finally, women. There were about a hundred Qayinites in all, including scouts reporting back to the prince at various times. Jubal’s aunt, Zillah, had installed governors over each region of her land. As punishment for his lazy and wasteful ways, she had appointed her least favorite nephew to the governorship of the northwest. Neither Jabal, his brother, nor

Tubal, her son, would have ever been assigned such a menial position. Jubal’s protests, however, fell on deaf ears. The party had come from Chanowk two months ago, through the forest, into Chalam and Banah where they continued west to the big river. From there they followed it north until the land became hilly. Today, Jubal declared, would be the furthest he would go. The assembly topped a hill and a beautiful valley spread out below them. It was abundant and flourishing with tall trees and a winding creek through the middle. “Ooooh,” Jubal squealed and clapped his hands. “Go. Go,” he slapped the side of the chair. The carriers picked up their pace down the hill, jostling Jubal badly, but he did not complain. He led them into the middle of the first clearing they came to. “Okay, stop,” he said. The men put him down. He stood up and stretched himself. “Traveling is awful on the back,” he said to one of his carriers, thoughtlessly. The man bowed his head and backed away. Jubal took in his surroundings and breathed deeply. This would do, he thought. “Alright, people,” he clapped at them. “Let’s make camp!”

Lamech tightened his grip on the top of the beam and reached into his belt for the plumb line. He held the end of the string against the wood and let the ball drop. It unwound as it fell and then got tangled half way down. Lamech shook it with irritation. The ball uncaught and tumbled the rest of the way. On the ground, Noah snatched it from the air and held it against the side of the beam. He pulled it taught and then gently let go. The ball glided softly away. Noah exhaled sharply. “A little to the left,” he yelled up at his father. “Okay,” Lamech let the string go and climbed down the beam. Noah hitched up the horses and fastened the rope to the support. Lamech dragged over their sled of dirt and retrieved the shovel. “Ready,” Lamech said. Noah grabbed the rope reigns and urged the horses forward. They pulled the cordage taught and the beam shifted slightly to the left. Lamech put his shoulder into the beam and Noah rushed back for the shovel. He filled the hole that the shifting beam had created with dirt and stomped it down. “That’s good,” Noah said and Lamech let go. Noah patted the horses down and released them from the support. Lamech grabbed the plumb line and climbed the pole again. He dropped and Noah caught the ball. This time it swung forward along the beam. Noah frowned. “We’ve shifted forward again,” he called. Lamech climbed down and gave thing a hateful look. “It’s not deep enough,” he said to Noah. “We hit bedrock, though. It has to be deep enough,” Noah scratched his head. Lamech untied his tool belt and let it drop onto the ground. “Let’s eat. I am too hungry to think right now,” Lamech declared. Noah shrugged and dropped the plumb line next to his belt. They walked over to the fire where Na’amah and Mathay sat chatting. Lamech and Noah plopped down next to them. Na’amah had a lunch of potatoes and beans ready. The two gobbled their food without a word. Na’amah picked at hers thoughtfully. “I don’t think those supports are going to be tall enough,” Mathay said.

“That’s the problem,” Lamech said. “We can’t support them any taller because we can’t dig any deeper.” “How tall are they?” Mathay asked. “About forty feet.” “Once we build to that height, though, we can use the existing structure to support us. Plus, the trench in the middle will go down another twenty five,” Noah observed. Lamech nodded. Mathay did, too. Na’amah held a hand to her mouth and stood up. She made it about ten feet away before she lost her lunch all over the ground. Noah grabbed a towel and offered it to her to wipe her mouth. She took it and said, “Thank you.” “Are you well?” he asked. Mathay smiled, “That, Noah, is the sound of music to an old man’s ears.” Lamech laughed. Na’amah chuckled and tossed the rag at Mathay. Noah gave her a confused look. “I am pregnant,” she clarified, patting her belly. “Oh,” Noah gaped. “Oh, really?” She nodded and smiled at him. Noah laughed and picked her up. Then he swung her around in the air. “Oh, Noah, stop,” she held her hand to her mouth again and he set her quickly down. She turned and heaved. “Sorry,” he said. She finished and then giggled. “It’s okay.” _________________________

Noah and Na’amah went to bed early that night leaving Mathay and Lamech alone by the fire. Mathay sat in his usual chair fidgeting with a piece of string. Lamech stretched out on his back and looked up at the smudgy stars. A cool breeze came off the mountain and the trees complained of it.

“When do you think he’ll do it?” Lamech asked. “I don’t know,” Mathay replied, trying to guess Lamech’s thoughts. “I wonder if I am going to drown or if will happen after we’re gone. That’s all,” Lamech hastily explained. Mathay, skeptically, did not answer. He wrapped the string around his crinkly finger. “Am I that bad?” Lamech continued and his voice broke. “I don’t think so,” Mathay said. “And why the children? And the animals? It’s just… cruel.” Mathay shifted in his seat. “I don’t think that El is cruel,” Mathay said. “I didn’t either,” Lamech sighed. Lamech’s eyes filled up on the sides and his lip quivered a bit. Mathay-Shalach stood up and looked down at Lamech. “When you have talked to El about it, then I will talk to you about it.” He shuffled off to bed. _________________________

The next morning, Lamech was gone. Na’amah woke first and discovered his bedroll and several other items missing. She decided to wait for Mathay to wake and ask him what happened the night before. Noah rose first and greeted her with an excited kiss. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and rubbed her belly. Na’amah smiled and stroked his hands. “Noah, your father is gone,” she said. He turned his head to see that she was right.

“Why?” “I don’t know. He’s taken his things. I think your grandfather and he may have had a fight.” Noah shook his head. “That’s not like them.” Noah walked over to Mathay’s bedroll where the old man snored loudly. Noah shook him with his foot, “Hey! Hey!” Mathay snorted and opened his eyes. He squinted at the sun. “What?” he grumbled. “Lamech’s gone,” Noah said. Mathay smiled, “Good. That is good.” He put his head back down and closed his eyes. Noah shot a look at Na’amah who shrugged her shoulders. “What happened? Is he coming back? Where did he go?” “He’ll be back in about a month, I predict,” Mathay said without opening his eyes. “And maybe then he won’t be such a pain in the rear.” Na’amah giggled. Noah threw his hands up and left the old man alone. _________________________

As predicted, Lamech returned three weeks later. He strolled into camp, tossed his bag down, and got to work on the boat. Mathay, sitting with Na’amah, grinned from ear to ear. “Where have you been?” Noah asked. “I went looking for El,” he said. “Oh,” Noah said. “Let’s get to work.”

Jabal swung from his mammoth and ducked into Jubal’s parlor without waiting to be announced. It was dark and filled with incense smoke inside. Jabal coughed and let his eyes adjust. “Dear brother,” Jubal said as he stood and bowed deeply. Jabal grunted in reply and sat cross legged in the middle of the floor. Scarlet fabric filled the room, draped from the walls and ceilings. Jabal noticed that his brother was wearing the same stuff in a tiny dress that hugged his body and flared at the knees. He wore a big knot of it on top of his head. Jubal noticed Jabal staring. “Today is just a red day, don’t you think?” Jubal asked. “One day I will figure out what is wrong with you. It’s a pity the gods deserted us before I could ask them,” Jabal said. Jubal sneered at him. “What do you want, Jabal?” “I want to know what is going on up here. We have not heard from you in over six months. You are required to report by the full moon.” “Oh, yes, report. I have been busy,” Jubal picked up a large peacock feather from his lap and fanned his face with it. “I must have forgotten,” he whispered. Jabal stood up as far as the ceiling would allow. He hulked forward and snatched Jubal by the neck. Then he swung him around and dragged him outside. Jubal frantically scraped at the dirt with his feet. The light assaulted their eyes. Jubal’s guards and assistants knew better than to intervene. Jabal lifted Jubal to eye level. “From now on we will meet outside. That place stinks.” Jubal gurgled in reply. “This is not Chanowk and I just might kill you. Auntie would never believe the word of your man whores against mine.” Jubal’s eyes widened. Jabal dropped him in the dirt. Jubal gasped for air dramatically and held his chest. The diminutive attendant rushed out from the parlor to tend to his master. Jabal growled at him. The man fell over and scurried away. Jubal fanned his face with his hand and hyperventilated. His face reddened. “Stop it,” Jabal said.

Jubal shook his head and pumped his hand, fanning himself faster. Jabal kicked dirt into his face. Jubal sputtered and spat. Then he stood up, breathing normally, and came at Jabal. “I’ll kill you,” Jubal said in a deep, masculine voice. He hit Jabal in the stomach and then in the chest. Jabal wrapped him up in a bear hug and waited while Jubal fought and kicked. “Calm down,” he said wearily. “No! I am going to kill you,” Jubal said. Finally, Jabal threw him to the ground. “Get up!” Jabal roared. Jubal stood up, rubbing his behind. Jabal put his finger in Jubal’s face. “I need you to do your job. I need you to tell me what is going on. I need you explore the north. Send your people further up. There may still be Shethites living in those hills. There may be gold there. We need to know. Do your job!” Jabal poked Jubal in the chest for emphasis. Jubal nodded. Jabal sighed. “Do you think we can have tea, now, like civilized people?” Jubal adjusted his scarlet head piece which had gone askew. Jabal had already mounted his mammoth when Jubal finished his invitation. He rode off without another word. Jubal huffed and returned to his parlor. Attendants swarmed him, helping him recover. Makeup, fanning, a new robe and tea. Finally, Jubal settled back into his chair. “Matsa,” Jubal called. An older man stepped forward from against the wall, “Yes, lord.” “Matsa, have we ‘explored…’ anything?” “No, lord.” “Well, it’s time we did. Send out some explorers.” “Excellent, lord. What do we want to ‘explore?’” “North. And west across the river.” “Yes, lord.”

Yepheth had been the first of his brothers to come out; next was Shem and the next Chamam. Triplet identical boys. Na’amah and Noah could not have been prouder. They reminded Mathay of skinned rabbits. They had pale skin and big teeth. They had a goofy smiles and awkward laughs that sounded like water coming out of a jug. They were fast, like a rabbits, and scrawny. Shem’s wit, as well, was as fast as any man. Lamech liked to take him out any time they had to leave camp. The two got along famously. It was midmorning on a trip to look for flint rocks that Lamech and Shem stumbled upon a Qayinite riding the ridge. The pair slipped in quietly behind him. Luckily, the rider was in no hurry. Lamech and Shem followed him southward. Just after noon the man stopped overlooking the plateau where the family lived. From their vantage point they could see the smoke from the camp fire. “Oh,” the man said quietly. He turned his horse around and came at them. Lamech and Shem took cover in some bushes. The rider spurred his mount into a run. At the last moment before he passed, Lamech jumped out and shoved the man off his horse. He hit the ground and did not move again. Shem retrieved the horse and walked it back to where Lamech inspected the fallen man. “Is he dead?” Shem asked, visibly shaken. “Yes, he is,” Lamech said. Together, they rifled through the man’s belongings and found nothing of any interest. Lamech took a flat, large rock and dug a shallow grave. They shoved him inside and covered him over. “Was he a scout?” Shem asked. “That’s what it looks like. He packed to travel,” Lamech said. “Let’s get home and tell the others. We will have to set a watch from now on. The last thing we need is to have the Qayinites find out we’re here.” Lamech led Shem and the horse down the mountain to the plateau and hitched the horse to a tree. “Where did you get her?” Noah asked. Lamech took a cup of water from Na’amah who also cradled Em, her baby daughter. Em was a big baby, bigger than any of them, except for Na’amah, had ever seen. The size of the child bothered Mathay and Lamech, Na’amah could tell, but they said nothing about it.

“We killed a Qayinite who was riding the ridgeline. He appeared to be a scout.” Na’amah gave a worried look to Noah. “We should set a watch from now on,” Shem said. Lamech hid a grin. Just then, Chamam walked up. “New horse?” he asked. Shem repeated the story to his brother. “Oh,” Chamam exclaimed. “Get back to that cutting,” Noah said. Chamam took a cup of water and complied. “Okay,” Noah said. “We will set the boys on a rotation.” “I think it’s safe to say that we don’t have to watch at night,” Lamech guessed Na’amah’s thoughts. “I agree,” Na’amah frowned. “Alright. No nights,” Noah said.

Noah pounded a peg into a hole in the upper deck of the ship. Then he wiped his hand along the side to remove the sawdust. He climbed down and handed his hammer to Yepheth who had steadied the ladder for him. “It looks good,” Noah said. Yepheth nodded. “What do we have left for today?” The pair walked over to the plans marked out on the ground. Noah took a stick and crossed out the second to last item. He looked up to check the sun. “We are making good progress. You can take a break, now, if you like,” Yepheth nodded and ambled off. Noah watched him go and then turned back to the boat. He saw El inspecting the vessel. The entire main hull was completed. The interior structure was almost complete, as well. What remained was to fill in the missing pieces and cover the whole thing in pitch. “What do you think?” Noah called out to him. El nodded and waved for Noah to join him. El walked away from the boat and Noah caught up with him. “It will come when your grandfather dies,” El said abruptly. “Oh,” Noah exclaimed, caught off guard. “What about Lamech?” “Don’t worry about Lamech. I have already spoken with him.” “Okay,” Noah said. El nodded and patted him on the shoulder. Then he disappeared.

They brought the man and his wife before Zillah. The two people prostrated themselves before her in the hall and waited to be recognized. “Stand and face us,” Zillah said. The pair stood. “What was your charge against your wife, man?” “Adultery. She was caught with my nephew,” he answered. “And you are a jealous man?” she asked. “Yes, I am,” he said. “Do you deny it?” Zillah asked the woman. “I do not,” the woman answered with a coy smile. “Why not?” Zillah asked her. “Because my husband is a poor lover and his nephew is a giant,” she replied. Zillah sized up the man. “I can tell by the look of him that you are correct,” Zillah said. The man turned red in the face. “Bring us this giant,” Zillah said to the guards. They ushered in a man that had to duck his head to clear the door. “Come to the center of the room,” Zillah instructed him. The man was about eight and a half or nine feet tall. He had wavy black hair, strong thighs and broad shoulders. “I can see by your attire that you are a builder, yes?” Zillah asked. “Yes, mistress,” the man replied in his deep voice. “Woman, come forward,” Zillah called.

The defendant sauntered up next to her lover. “Is this the man?” Zillah asked. “Yes, mistress.” “Well, he does look delicious doesn’t he?” Zillah admired. “Take her, young man. Now. We will see if you are as skilled as she says you are.” “Mistress!” the plaintiff exclaimed. “Silence!” Zillah commanded. She flicked her hand at the couple, “proceed.”

Chamam fed the squirrel pieces of bread and she turned flips for him. Above him Yepheth and Shem fit the window frame into place and banged loudly on it. The animals had become accustomed to the noise the humans made and came to visit anyway. This morning, Chamam had seen two deer, a badger, a hedgehog, and a family of skunks. Like his father, Chamam felt easier around animals than people. “Chamam!” Shem yelled down for him. Chamam gave the last piece of his bread to the large female and hurried to help. The door was made, like the hull, of several layers of long wood strips glued together with sap - about fourteen inches thick. It took the strength of two mammoths, two horses, two donkeys and all the men to lift it, even with pulleys. The doorway was wide enough for three elephants to fit side by side going in and almost as tall as the first deck was high, about fifty five feet. The whole boat sat in a wide trench, though, bringing the hinge of the door to about ground level. Chamam pounded up the ramp and entered the dimness of the first deck. The ramp to the second deck was towards the bow. Chamam stopped for a moment in the darkness to let his eyes regulate. He was lucky that he did, because Lamech had left his saw, face up, right in the center of Chamam’s path. Chamam walked the saw over to the wall and set it down facing sideways. Then he took the ramp in a run. The second deck was even darker than the first, and Chamam slowly shuffled his feet along, feeling the stalls and crossbeams for guidance. Finally, he reached the second ramp and headed upwards. From the top of the ramp he could see light coming through the window ahead and just make out a couple of figures hanging out of it. The glow made it possible for Chamam to jog over and climb the ladder they had set up. “What do you need?” Chamam asked. “Hold this,” Yepheth handed him an awl. Chamam grabbed the awl from Yepheth who was intent on something else. “Okay, now, you see the frame? Pull on it when I say ‘go’,” Shem said. Chamam grabbed it at the bottom. “Go,” Shem said. Chamam jerked on the window frame and it came at him faster than he expected. It locked cleanly into place, but Chamam had to keep a hold of it to steady himself as his foot slipped off the ladder.

“Whoa,” he said. Yepheth grabbed his arm. “I’m alright,” Chamam said as he recovered. “You two finished?” Shem shot him a look through the window that asked, “Are you stupid?” “No, we still have to seal it and sap it,” Shem said putting his hammer back into his belt. Chamam handed the awl back to Shem. “Excuse me,” Chamam said and clambered back down the ladder. He stood for a long moment in saw dust filled stream of light coming in through the window. He wondered what it was going to be like. Next year, Noah said, he would take them to the ocean so that they could see how the waves would rock them. Chamam imagined the feeling of it. Chamam made his way outside and ambled over to the fire where his mother held her pregnant stomach and screwed up her face. Chamam remembered this scene from when his sister, Em, was born. He rubbed her back and she smiled at him. “Where is your father?” she asked. “He is with Lamech at the sap pit,” he replied. “Get him. No rush, but get him.” Chamam sprinted off. “No rush,” she said under her breath and shook her head. She waddled inside their hut and lay down on the bed. Mathay peeked his head into the doorway. “Are you doing alright in here?” he asked. “I am fine. Chamam has gone to get Noah.” Mathay nodded and shuffled off. In a moment, Noah arrived and knelt down beside her. He pushed some hair away from her face. “What can I do?” “Set up the bed and the water,” she said.

Noah left and returned with the items much faster than she expected. He knelt again and grabbed her hand. Chamam stood in the doorway. “Does he have nothing else to do?” Na’amah said with irritation. “I think it would be good for him to see,” Noah said. Na’amah exhaled and grabbed her stomach. A minute later, her water broke and almost immediately she began pushing. Noah helped her to stand up and squat as the child came out. She lay down again and, to Noah’s surprise; he saw the foot of another child. “Chamam, come here!” Noah handed the first child to Chamam. Chamam stepped over and took a knee. “There is another,” Noah told his wife. She nodded and pursed her lips into a whistle. She shooed sweat from her forehead. He reached inside, found the other foot and pulled it out as well. “I think we are good,” Noah said. “Push.” The child came out in a rush and cried instantly. Noah sighed. “Twin girls,” Chamam said. “Amazing,” he whispered. Then he shouted over his shoulder, “twin girls!” Na’amah heard a cheer from outside and then Lamech say, “Men, you have wives.” She could not hear what Shem said in reply but it made Mathay chuckle. Noah smiled and kissed his wife on the forehead. The afterbirths came shortly. Chamam cleaned off the babies and handed them to Noah who handed them, one at a time, to Na’amah. Chamam, flushed, left the hut to stand with his brothers.

Em and the twins, Chabar and Ta’am, woke their mother before dawn. “We should get started,” Em said. Na’amah nodded and slipped from bed leaving Noah asleep. She padded out to the fire and wiped her eyes. Em dragged over the bag of vegetables they had saved for the occasion. The bread, they had baked yesterday. When the sun came up, it reflected off the boat in a rich amber color. The sight of the imposing ship had now dominated her sight for years. Her awe over its size had worn off, but covered in pitch, the thing was breathtaking again. It looked like gold. One by one the men woke and shuffled over to see what the women were up to. She shooed them away, each in turn. Em, a foot taller than all of them, had to forcibly remove Yepheth who insisted on having just a taste of the soup. “Men are only boys with hair,” Na’amah told the women, who giggled. Noah had saved some wine for the occasion. Even Mathay had a cup. Em abstained. Noah poured liberally and by the time the food was ready, the men chattered away sloppily. This made Na’amah smile. It was the first time he had allowed the boys a drink. The family sat out away from the boat so that they could see it in its entirety. It was a gorgeous creation. It looked like a giant golden chest, Na’amah thought; like something would have seen in the great hall in her childhood. After one hundred and six years of building, they were finally done. It had been an overwhelming endeavor for everyone. They boys, Na’amah thought, have never known a life outside the project. “Well, what’s next?” Yepheth asked. Noah raised his cup. “Family, next we have to assemble the largest collection of animals ever.” “Sounds good to me!” Chamam exclaimed. Noah rubbed Chamam’s head and stumbled backwards. “No more for you,” Na’amah said. Mathay chuckled, “You have done as El told you and I am very proud of you all.”

Mathay lifted his cup to them. “It will bruise His heel,” his old voice wavered. “He will crush its head!” they answered. Lamech nodded and said again, “Crush its head.” _________________________

Late that afternoon, Noah found Mathay alone staring up at the boat. “I’m scared,” Noah confessed. “Oh?” Mathay asked. “What was Ahdam like?” “Good man. Honest. Naïve. Loved the earth.” “How am I any better? I mean, if all this came about because of him, I mean, I’m just scared.” “First of all,” Mathay turned to him. “All of this,” Mathay raised his arms and rotated them in tight circles, “did not come about just because of Ahdam. Secondly, Noah, you will have seen the end of the world. You will know, perhaps better than Ahdam, the price of evil.” The words “end of the world,” rang in Noah’s ears. It sounded like someone shouting from a long way off. “You don’t think Ahdam knew the price?” Noah asked. Mathay squinted at Noah. “No one can know,” Mathay said heavily. Noah tried to wrap his mind around it. He could not. He nodded and turned his attention back to the ship. “It just feels like it’s a lot of pressure,” Noah shook his head to try and clear it.

“It is,” Mathay turned to Noah. “It’s more pressure than you can imagine. It’s more pressure than you can possibly handle, but El believes in you. You have his vote of confidence. He’s not going to leave you.” Noah nodded and sighed. He got the impression that Mathay had been preparing those words for a while. Noah hugged his grandfather.

Jubal rode into Chanowk on his litter to no organized reception. Furious, he instructed his carriers to take him to his old house. When they arrived, Jubal stepped from his chair and noticed a few Qayinites women staring oddly at him from beside the trail. “What?” he asked them. “Do I have a cockroach on my forehead?” The women turned away. Jubal’s tiny assistant scurried forward and opened the door to the house. Inside, a family looked up from their lunch, confused. Jubal swept into the room. “Who are you?” he demanded. The man and woman looked at each other and stared back at him blankly. “Are you mute? What are you doing in my home?” Jubal asked and flattened a hand against his chest. “We were assigned this house by the mistress, Zillah,” the man stammered. “Really?” Jubal’s eyes narrowed. He turned on his heel and stormed back to his chair. “To the great hall!” he ordered. The men picked him up and started for the center of the city. “Faster,” he yelled. The men hurried, bouncing Jubal in his seat. They set him down in front of the great hall. Jubal launched from his seat and took the stairs two at a time. A pair of guards physically stopped him at the end. “Unhand me, you idiots,” Jubal said. The men uneasily released him. Jubal stepped forwards and kicked open the doors to the hall. He smoothed his dress, promenaded inside, and put a hand on his hip. Zillah raised an eyebrow at him and then at the guards. “You were not announced,” she said. She pointed at the guards and made a swishing motion with her finger. Four of them picked Jubal up and escorted him outside. He fought and screeched at them. The two outside guards rushed to shut the doors and

received a death threat look from Zillah as they did. The six men held Jubal until he calmed himself. Then one of the men entered the hall. “Mistress, Jubal, governor of the northwest region and son to your sister, has arrived,” he said. “Wonderful! I have missed him terribly. Please show him in,” she said in a squeaky, put on voice. The guard bowed out of the room and held the door open for Jubal to enter. Jubal, arms crossed over his chest, which he had obviously stuffed with cloths to look like women’s breasts entered the room. He stopped in the center leaned back on an out turned foot. “Jubal,” Zillah said. “We heard that you were coming, but we do not know why.” “Does one need a reason to visit their auntie?” he pursed his face into a hateful smile. “One does when one has work to do that one is not doing,” she mimicked his grin. “Well, it just so happens that I have been working and I have news,” he said breathily. “Oh, what news?” “Shethites.” She turned her head sideways to say, “Go on.” “We have found a family of Shethites in the southwest, on the other side of the Burning River and past the mountains.” “How many?” “Ten, we think. The moment we discovered them, I, of course, set out to tell you personally.” He bowed low and one of his cloths fell out. He swiped it off the ground and shoved it back down his dress. Then he adjusted himself and coughed. Zillah covered a silent chuckle. “Well, what else do you know about them?”

“They are strange,” he leaned forward. “They have built a boat. A big boat. Not that I’m much of a sailor, mind you, but it is much larger than anything we have in Chanowk.” He flapped his left hand forward. “But, it is landlocked. On top of a plateau. It’s gorgeous. Also, they’ve collected animals of all kinds and keep them in smelly pens. Oh, and they grow food for many more people than appear to actually be living there.” “Hmmm,” Zillah considered this. “They must be trading with someone. No one grows food and keeps animals for nothing.” “Precisely my thoughts,” Jubal leaned back and pursed his lips. Zillah tapped her chin with her fingernail. “Take Jabal with you,” she said. Jubal rolled his eyes. “He is with his herds now, I don’t know where. Ask around. Take him and watch these people, but don’t tip them off. There must be more. We need to find out where these other Shethites are and how many. Send me word when you know.”

Noah awoke before the sun to find the fire lit and a giant man sitting next to it. He had long dark blonde hair with feathers in it, deep brown skin and a necklace of huge teeth around his neck. Somehow, he knew it was Jabal. The breath caught in his chest. “Hello, Noah,” Jabal said and pointed at a chair with a stick. Noah’s knees went weak underneath him. He wobbled over to the chair and sat down. “You are Jabal?” Noah asked, trying to even the odds a bit. Jabal nodded and smiled. “You’ve finally caught us,” Noah said and tried to smirk. “That’s right.” Jabal pointed at the boat and looked back at Noah for an answer. “God is going to flood the earth and kill everything on it. We are getting ready.” Jabal’s eyes widened and his mouth puckered. Then he erupted with laughter. “I think you mean it,” Jabal half asked. “I do,” Noah said with a straight face. Jabal waited for the punch line. None came. Finally, he stood up and swung his arm out, “so, all of this. The boat, the animals, the food?” “For the flood, right.” Jabal sat back down and rested his face in his hands. “Wow,” he chuckled. “That’s quite an undertaking.” “It has been hard work.” “How long?” Noah thought about it a second, “one hundred and fourteen years.” Jabal’s eyes widened.

“And, these people, my cousin, she believes this?” “Yes.” “That might be even more amazing,” Jabal stopped as if having a thought and then shook his head. “When is this supposed to happen?” “When my grandfather dies,” Noah said. “The old man?” “Yes.” “Well that can’t be much longer. How old is he?” “Nine hundred and sixty three.” Jabal whistled. “I’ve never heard of anyone living that long.” Noah shrugged. Na’amah came out of their hut and walked up behind Noah. Jabal ignored her and rubbed his face with his hands. “We have you surrounded,” he announced. “We are not going anywhere,” Noah replied coolly. Jabal studied his face. “I have seen the gods do many things but I have yet to meet the god who could flood the whole earth.” “Ours can.” Jabal reddened, slightly, “We will see, won’t we?” He stood up and walked off. Noah woke the rest of the family and they gathered around the fire. Noah filled them in on his conversation. They held hands and prayed. When the sun came up, they could see that they were, indeed, surrounded on all sides by hundreds of Qayinite warriors. “It is just as I thought it might be,” Lamech said. “There are so many because they think we must be trading with other Shethites.” Mathay nodded, “Yes, I think you are right.”

“How long do you think they will wait?” Noah asked Na’amah. “I think they will wait until he dies,” she answered. Everyone looked at Mathay at once. Mathay frowned. “I don’t make that decision,” he said. Embarrassed, they turned away. “I, too, think they will wait,” Lamech said. “You have challenged their gods.” _________________________

The messenger folded up the parchment and returned it to his belt. Then he bowed himself from the great hall. Zillah chuckled. She turned to her maidservant, “is this a joke?” “No, mistress. I think it is real.” “Call the scribe,” she said. A guard exited the hall and returned momentarily with an older man in tow. A different guard carried in a lectern. The scribe bowed low and spread a parchment out on it. “Jabal,” Zillah began, “As you have requested, I will come to see for myself all that you have described to me. Please send word the moment the old man takes ill.” The scribe looked up at her and Zillah nodded. Then he folded the parchment and bowed off. “I must see this,” Zillah shook her head.

“Try and shake it loose!” Noah called up to Shem who was battling with a rotten limb about fifty feet above him. Shem climbed higher and kicked it with his foot. “It won’t budge,” he yelled down. “Saw it a little more from the top,” Noah responded. Then he stepped back to see Yepheth and Chamam, in another tree, trying to cut a live limb. Noah squinted at the sun. They had less than an hour left on the light. “How is it coming?” Noah asked them. “Slow,” Chamam said. Noah nodded, folded his arms, and sighed. From behind him, at the edge of the plateau, Noah heard Na’amah scream. Noah took off in her direction and arrived at the edge just in time to see her break loose from the grip of a filthy Qayinite man. The warrior started after her, but then saw Noah and disappeared down the hill. Noah stopped to assess her damages. She bled from her nose and had the beginning of a bruise on her arm. “The girls,” she said. Noah sprinted to the edge. He saw the men, four of them, pushing the young women onward. Noah started for them, tripped on a rock and tumbled, his fall caught by a mulberry bush a quarter of the way down. He pulled himself up and kept on. The crew darted into a large hut at the base of the hill. Noah pulled up short and considered going for help. He heard Em scream from within and could not bear to leave them. He marched down into the darkness of the hut. Hands grabbed him and tossed him to the ground. Feet and elbows and fists beat him furiously. Then he was tied up. A man had Em in the corner, gagged with a dirty rag. Chabar fought a much larger man, screaming and kicking. Ta’am struggled against a man that held her mouth shut with his hand. Noah watched the men bind his daughters and line them against one wall of the hut. Outside, he heard shouting in the distance. He recognized Lamech’s voice first, and then Shem’s. He could hear Na’amah wailing as well. Soon, they faded. The men left them in the hut with a skinny guard. Noah exchanged glances with his girls and tried to tell them with his eyes that they were okay. Ta’am struggled and made a gagging sound. The skinny guard took the rag out and she screamed insults at him that Noah did not know his daughter knew. He put the gag back and slapped her on the face. Then he sat back in his chair and waited.

After night fell, the rest of the men reappeared and carried them from the hut, further into the Qayinite encampment. The smell of the meat they ate and the general filth of the camp made Noah nauseous. They dropped the Shethites beside a bon fire where nearly a hundred men had come to watch. Noah lay on his side facing into the crowd. He wondered where Jabal was. If they took the gag out he would demand to speak with their leader. Noah could feel the heat of the blaze on the back of his head. He heard his daughters cough as they were untied and then he heard Em yell at a man. There was a slapping sound and Noah heard someone hit the dirt. He assumed it was Em. “Turn him around so he can watch!” one of them said. A Qayinite standing near him kicked Noah in the shins several times until he finally spun to face the fire. The girls backed themselves up to the fire as six men stalked them. “Come here,” a large man with a braided beard said to Ta’am. Ta’am spat on him and he jumped on her. He pinned her down and kissed her on the mouth. Then he looked up at the crowd and yelled, “Wooooo!” The crowd echoed him. Chabar kicked a man in the groin and clawed one of his eyes out. He screamed and ran around, clutching his eye, until he tripped and knocked himself out on a rock. Em looked at Noah and he could see the terror in her eyes. She looked up at the sky and said something. Then she jumped into the fire. Her clothes caught in an instant and she leapt out, ablaze. She squalled and promptly ran into another man whom she bear hugged. The two of them fell and rolled on the ground screaming. The other men dodged them and cheered. After a minute of this the pair ceased their writhing and quietly incinerated. A giant man broke from the crowd and grabbed Chabar by the hair. With his other hand he ripped off her clothes. Sobs wracked her body as he let the men have a good look at her. Then he threw her on the ground and stripped himself while she tried to crawl away. Noah closed his eyes and listened, helplessly. When the screaming and crying ended, a man grabbed Noah by the beard and pulled his head upwards. The man put his face in front of Noah. His breath smelled like raw onion. “How did you like that, white god?” he cackled and punched Noah’s head into the ground.

Unfortunately it was not hard enough to render him unconscious. Noah watched them throw the bodies of his daughters onto the fire. Then they dispersed and left Noah tied up. He watched the blaze die out. Later, though how much later Noah did not know, a giant man picked Noah up and carried him easily to a huge tent. He set Noah down in a chair and untied him. Next to Noah, bruised in the face, was his father, Lamech. Noah watched Jabal take a seat in front of them. He watched Jabal’s mouth move, but he could not hear anything he said. Noah could tell, at one point, that Jabal asked him a question. Noah did not know what it was, but he nodded and everything went black. _________________________

The sun was shining. Na’amah leaned over him and smiled. The fading bruise on her cheek was the first indicator to him that he had not dreamed it all. Tears stung his eyes and he sat up. “Na’amah. Na’amah,” he tried to stand, but he shook all over. He fell backwards onto the bed and wailed more loudly than he ever thought he could. Na’amah pushed herself on top of him to keep him still and wailed as well. Noah grabbed onto her waist and held her to himself. They sobbed and wailed. Then she rolled off and looked at the ceiling of their hut. “I want to kill them,” Noah said. “I saw them, Na’amah. They made me watch.” Na’amah rolled over and looked down at him. A fresh flood of tears fell onto Noah’s beard. “Oh, I am sorry,” she said. “Oh, Noah I am so sorry.” She stroked his head and kissed his cheek. Noah coughed and it filled his chest with pain. “Am I hurt?” he asked. “Yes, you are. Pretty badly.” “Is everyone else okay?” “The boys and I and Mathay are fine, but your father,” she stopped and looked away. “Your father made some kind of a deal with Jabal.”

“A deal? What kind of a deal?” “He traded his life for new wives.” “He what?” Na’amah nodded. “Qayinite wives?” Na’amah cocked her head to the side, but then nodded again. “Who are they?” “Girls, barely old enough. I have chosen them,” Na’amah said. “You have? How long have I been asleep?” “Three days mostly asleep. You woke up a few times, fighting.” She smiled at him and welled up a little. “How do we know that this won’t happen again? What do we do?” “It’s a part of the deal, Jabal said. He guarantees our safety.” Noah sputtered, “A lot of good that is.” Na’amah shook her head, “The head of the man who started this is on a pole in the center of their camp.” She gulped, “I have seen it.” Noah’s eyes widened. “When I went to choose the women,” she explained. Noah’s head swam and he felt as though he were going to faint. “I need water,” he said, meaning a drink. “You will get it,” she replied as if otherwise.

Noah heard the man coming and turned to see the Qayinite still about twenty yards away. “He’s fine!” Noah yelled. “Nothing new.” The man turned away dejected. “Bastards,” he whispered under his breath. Na’amah chuckled at him and rinsed her hands in a bucket. She stood and sauntered over to Noah. Noah knew that smile. She wrapped her arms around his head and whispered into his ear, “Do you think if we had another baby that the flood wouldn’t come?” Noah chuckled and kissed her hard. Na’amah giggled as he tilted her head upwards and pecked her on the neck. “Eww,” Shem said as he jogged up and grabbed a spoon. He sped off in the same direction. “What is he up to?” Noah looked after him. Zalbeth, one of Na’amah’s chosen Qayinites, tapped her on the shoulder. Zalbeth had large green eyes, blonde hair and beautiful olive skin. She proudly held up the leather tunic she had been working on all week. It was pitiful looking. The seams were all wrong and the cut itself was uneven. “Good work,” Na’amah said, convincingly and took the garment from her. “You are really starting to get the hang of this.” She kissed Noah on the cheek and escorted Zalbeth to her work table. “There are just a few things I want to show you before you are done,” Na’amah told her as they went. Noah noticed Yepheth and Chamam standing near the edge of the plateau. “Get away from there!” he called out. Yepheth held up a finger and then, after a second turned, his head, “They’re fighting again.”

Noah hurried over to see. It looked like six Qayinites against a group of ten. They threw each other around and bashed on each other with their fists. Two men out of the group that had been six finally ran off and the fight was over. “Alright now, come away,” Noah pulled at Chamam’s arm. The men followed him back into the trees. “Why don’t they just kill themselves and get it over with?” Yepheth asked. Chamam shrugged. Nahalath, the girl whom Chamam had already picked out as his own, approached them. She had dark skin and blue eyes with tight black spirals of hair. She was tall and lanky and glided when she walked. She had a small voice, “Noah, I think your grandfather is not well. He is really hot today.” Noah knit his brow and followed her to Mathay’s tent. Noah realized that it was well after breakfast and Mathay had not gotten up yet. That was a bad sign. Noah entered Mathay’s hut and put the top of his hand against the sleeping man’s forehead. He, indeed, had a fever. Noah told Nahalath to fetch Na’amah. “Hey,” Noah shook Mathay. Mathay crinkled open his eyes a little. “Are you okay?” Noah asked. “No, I’m not okay. I have been following Chanowk for two years now and all we’ve done is talk about the stars and the moons and the sun.” Noah raised an eyebrow. “I don’t care what day it is anymore,” Mathay whispered and his eyes closed. It seemed to Noah that it had taken tremendous effort for the man to open them in the first place. This worried Noah. Noah pulled the blanket off his body, but, by the time Na’amah arrived, the old man was shivering. She covered him up. “He has fever,” Noah said. Na’amah touched his face. “Oh,” she said. “I will make tea. See if you can wake him and get him to sit up.” “I tried and he was incoherent. He’s not with us.”

“Okay,” Na’amah said darkly. Noah followed her to the fire and sat while she brought a pot to boil. He wanted to be close to her. Shem, Chamam, Yepheth, Nahalath, Zalbeth, and Aresisia arrived and sat around the fire. Aresisia had pale skin and straight black hair. Her eyelids were heavy and she was short like Zalbeth. “Is it bad?” she asked. “Just a fever,” Na’amah said. “He should be fine. We just have to keep him drinking.” Aresisia nodded. “We will know tomorrow. Fevers that stay for more than a day are bad. Right now, it’s just a fever.” _________________________

The next morning, Noah went in to check on Mathay first thing. The fever had broken and Mathay was covered in sweat. Noah set the breakfast fire and listened to the birds. El walked up and sat beside him. “You’re going to be fine and so is your family,” El said. “I take care of everything.” “I know,” Noah said. “It’s not the way I thought it would be.” “It will be better,” El said. “You are better than when you started.” Noah’s soul grabbed his words and held it like a man on a crazy horse. The force of his response surprised him. He closed his eyes. Noah inhaled slowly. He exhaled likewise and nodded his head. “I know. Thank you.” _________________________

Just after breakfast, the Qayinite man arrived again.

“He’s still okay,” Noah waved and smiled to spite. The man turned on his heel.

Noah opened his eyes and saw the raven sitting on his chest. It was black and beautiful, sleek and proud. It did not make a noise, but watched him carefully. The bird hopped once and flitted across the room to sit on El’s shoulder. Noah rolled over in his bed to face them. “It’s time for you to take your family onto the boat. I have chosen you out of all the people on the earth,” El said. Noah sat up and pulled his feet onto the floor so that he sat across from El. El stood and casually walked out of the hut. Noah tagged along. They walked to the animal corrals and cages. The sun had just crested over the mountain and Chamam was already awake, feeding the animals. He gave El and Noah a long look and then continued his chores. “Take seven of the clean animals,” El said. “Male and female and then two of the unclean. Take seven of each of the birds, too. This way the species will stay alive.” Noah nodded. This would not be a problem as his herds and flocks had grown prodigiously over the course of the last few years. Noah’s heart pounded. He knew what to do. The family had talked it over a hundred times. Still, he was afraid. “A week from today I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. Every living thing on the face of the earth will die.” Noah had not seen that look on El’s face in a while and it disturbed him. He coughed and looked out over the animals. They seemed fit and well. Their vibrancy made it hard for Noah to imagine it. Chamam watched El and Noah over his shoulder warily. He wondered if Chamam thought they were talking about him. Noah turned around and followed El back to the hut. El put his finger up to his shoulder and let the raven climb onto it. Then he transferred the bird to Noah’s shoulder. The bird investigated Noah’s hair and it tickled him. El strolled off. Suddenly, Noah remembered Mathay. He bolted from his hut. The raven croaked as it caught itself in the air and flew away. Noah rounded the doorway of his grandfather’s hut, grabbing it by the frame and stopped, breathless, in front of the old man’s bed. He had died in his sleep. Noah knelt down and considered Mathay’s face. The deep creases had relaxed and his face no longer struggled with color.

“Good bye,” Noah whispered. His eyes filled with tears. He kissed the body on the forehead. Noah missed him already. He also felt afraid. Mathay was the adult. It struck Noah that, at six hundred years of age, he should not feel like a child, but Mathay had always been three steps ahead of him. Noah chuckled and cried. Then, he stood and went to find a shovel. _________________________

A man appeared at the doorway of Jabal’s tent. “They are going into the boat,” he said. Jabal set down his breakfast and pushed past the man. He ascended the hill quickly and found one of the sons first. “What is happening?” he demanded. The son, whose name was Shem, stammered at him, “It is time to go onto the boat. My father says,” Shem said. Jabal continued, slower now, into the trees. He found Noah standing beside the heavy door counting loads of supplies as they were carried onto it by the other sons and the women. “Did he die?” Jabal asked. Noah, still counting, nodded, “In his sleep.” Jabal watched the people ascend and descend the ramp for a while. Shem led a donkey up the ramp, pulling a cart of carrots, lettuce, potatoes and onions. He eyed Jabal warily. “How long until you are all aboard?” Jabal asked. Noah stole a glance at the sun and looked down at a piece of parchment in his hand. “By sunset, I hope. El has told us to enter now and he will bring the flood in a week.”

“I would certainly like to meet this El,” Jabal replied with a casual smile. “You will,” Noah said, very seriously. He locked eyes with the giant. “Right,” Jabal felt suddenly nervous. “I will see you at sundown.” Jabal forced a strange chuckle and clambered back down the hill to his hut. He picked up his breakfast. “Gogi!” he yelled. A hideous giant stuck his head in the doorway. “Take Hamar and go get Zillah. Tell her the old man is dead. They are saying it will come in one week.” “Can Zillah get here in a week?” he asked himself as Gogi went. Then, irritated with his thinking, Jabal shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, “it’s not like we can’t wait on her if she’s late.” _________________________

Zalbeth stood at the edge of the plateau and looked down at the Qayinite encampment. The sun was now directly overhead and she could see for miles. Riders were being dispatched. They lit out as fast as they could to gather interested watchers. No doubt they would come in droves. Soon, Zalbeth reasoned, her family would be surrounded by most of the world. Zillah would be notified. All of Chanowk would come, if they could make it in time. Everyone she knew would come to watch her and her new family. She wanted to swallow but her throat was dry. Na’amah came up behind the young woman and put an arm around her shoulder. She noticed that Zalbeth had the beginnings of tears in her eyes. “If the flood does not come, they will kill us,” Zalbeth said, not looking at her. “It will come,” Na’amah said. Zalbeth nodded sadly. “I have an uncle who lives near the desert, east of Chanowk. He is a good man. He took us in when we were children. We lived with him until the warriors burned

his house and kidnapped my sisters and me. He raised camels. We have good memories of his home. I do not want him to die.” “El takes care of good men,” Na’amah said. Zalbeth felt frustrated and bowed her head. Na’amah sensed this and turned the woman to look her in the face. “All of us will die,” she said. “Your uncle will die one way or another. We are here to show the world, before they die, that El is who he says he is.” “What difference does that make?” Zalbeth said as though she had been thinking about it. “It makes a difference. When you get to know El, you will see. It makes all the difference in the world.” “I have not known you very long, but I trust you. You are kind and you work hard for your family. You are the reason that I have not run away already. If the flood does not come, and they kill us, I will have been glad to meet you and spend this time with you.” Zalbeth smiled. Na’amah hugged her hard and led her back to the boat, “Come, we still have a lot to do today.” _________________________

As midday waned into afternoon, Yepheth saw that everything that needed to be loaded was loaded onto the boat except for the animals themselves. The food and supplies had taken longer than anything to get on board. This was mostly so because they had to be taken all the way to the third deck. Yepheth wondered why they had to do all of this in one day if the flood was still a week away. He decided not to press the issue, though; his father was already a harried mess. Noah called the family together by the boat and they held hands. Noah looked up at the sky. “God, thank you for giving us this way of escape. We can’t pretend to know your thoughts. We can’t pretend to know your plans. We know, by your character, that you are a loving and gracious God. We know that you love those who do not love you and that you care for those who do not acknowledge you,” Noah sighed. “Help us to be as kind to each other on this boat as you have been to us. We trust you.”

Noah pumped the hands he held, “We trust you.” He let go and looked around at the faces of his family. “It is going to be okay,” he said. Na’amah squeezed his hand. Noah pulled out a parchment roll from his belt and read over the list of supplies one more time. Each member said, “Yes” when he read the items they had carried on board. Then, he dropped the parchment on the ground and dusted his hands off onto it. “Let us settle the animals. They are worried,” he said. The family followed Noah to the corrals and cages. Noah leaned over and stroked the nose of a giraffe that leaned down for him. He opened the gate and hugged the beast hard; “Go on in,” he pointed to the boat. The animal slowly complied. Noah moved on to the leopard cage. He opened the door and the pair sauntered out. Noah knelt down and they nuzzled him on the sides of his face. Noah smiled and tears welled up in his eyes. “It is time,” he said to them. They looked around briefly and walked into the boat. Chamam, at the top of the ramp, led the animals into their new pens and cages. The rest of the family watched as the two men loaded their animal friends. Na’amah crossed her arms marveled at the sight. It struck her as a sad moment, and she thought the animals seemed eerily quiet. It was as if the creatures understood what was about to happen. Noah counted his rabbits and removed the two oldest ones, leaving seven in the cage. He set them onto the ground and they looked up at him questioningly. Noah faked a smile. “Go and play,” he said. They nosed each other behind the ears and the female looked up at the cage that she had come from. “Go on,” Noah said. “You’re babies will be fine.” The pair seemed to understand and hopped away. Noah watched them go and then heaved the cage onto his shoulder. “Shem,” he said. Shem jogged over and took the cage. Noah waved a finger at the rest of the cages.

“The rest of you do likewise. I will finish with the larger ones,” he said. The family, who had been milling about and watching, seemed happy to have something to do. Yepheth pulled his cart over to the stack of cages and helped the women load them on. Noah opened one of the larger cages and stepped into it. A pair of bears and their new cub acknowledged him. Noah casually sat down, cross legged, in front of them. The cub licked him on the face and the father bear sniffed his shoulder. Noah leaned down and checked the cub. To his relief, it was a male. Noah led the group out of the cage and over to the ramp. “Chamam,” he said, “take father for a walk.” As Chamam came down towards them, Noah remembered his friend Dob and tears filled his eyes again. “Wait,” Noah said and held up his hand. Chamam stopped short. Noah wiped his face and took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said and waved. “Go ahead.” Chamam petted the male on the head and stroked him on the back. He took a step away from the boat and called to him. The bear asked Noah with his eyes what he should do. “Go ahead,” Noah’s voice shook. The bear stood on his hind legs, towering over Noah, and heavily set a paw onto his shoulder. Noah looked up at his face. The creature trusted him. The bear raised his head to the sky and roared. It was full of wild, emotional force. Noah could only guess what his friend was feeling. The male sat down on all fours and jogged off after Chamam who had moved a few more paces into the trees. Noah led the mother bear and her cub onto the boat and into their new cage. He gave the female one final scratch behind her ear and shut the door. El’s raven flew into the ship and returned to his shoulder. Noah took a deep breath and headed back into the sunlight. _________________________

Just before the sun set, a man Jabal had never seen before walked past his tent with a purpose. Jabal leaned from his enormous chair and peered around the flap. The man was in no way striking to look at. He was not tall or strong or dressed in rich clothing. But, as he walked, all the warriors parted for him. Jabal left his tent and followed the man, awed, as he cleared the last of the huts and ascended the hill. Jabal’s men trailed behind him. The man led them onto the plateau where Jabal saw that all the animals were on board. He assumed that the Shethites must be, as well, because he saw none of them milling around. The strange man marched up to the door of the boat and considered it for a moment. Inside, in the darkness, Jabal could just make out the outlines of some of the animals. All of them seemed strangely quiet. Just before the sun disappeared, the man lifted his hand to the boat and said, “Close.” The enormous door creaked upwards and sealed itself shut. The man lowered his hand and vanished. The Qayinites gasped and backed away. Some of them ran down the hill. Jabal’s jaw dropped and his face reddened. Eight men, carrying a litter with Jubal on it, huffed over the crest of the hill and set down next to Jabal. Jubal, wearing a purple robe and garish makeup, stepped off and looked up at the boat. “My, it looks so much bigger from here,” Jubal fanned himself with a peacock feather. He turned to one of his assistants. “Bring the camp. It looks like the loons are all on board now,” he ordered. “How long, dear brother, are you going to give them?” Jubal asked, not looking at him. Jabal walked off, down the hill, back to his tent. “I have tried everything I know with you,” Jubal called after him. Jabal did not hear him. _________________________

When the shouting started, Noah sent his family below to settle the animals. He and the raven sat alone, in the half light provided by the air vents, and listened to the crowd below. “We’re going to spear you!” “We’re going to bleed you and your woman!”

“No we’re not. We’re going to take your women like we did before. Remember, Noah? Remember?” Noah did remember and tears came into his eyes. “What makes people act that way?” he asked the bird. The raven absently broke up some seed in its beak. “I want them to die,” he confessed. “I am very sorry, but I want them all to die.” The raven climbed up onto Noah’s shoulder and pecked at his ear. “Ouch,” he said and reflexively grabbed it. He scrunched his face and sucked air. The raven winged down to the floor and croaked. Noah stretched out his hand and saw that he was bleeding a little. “What was that for?” Noah asked. “Hey Noah! I’ve already had one of your little whores!” The crowd cheered. “I had one, too!” “Well, I do,” Noah said to the raven and spread some more seed for it. The bird strutted about and croaked again. _________________________

No one slept the first night. The shouts of the Qayinites lasted well into the early morning. The animals below continued in their strange silence. The humans, as well, said very little to one another. _________________________

Jubal awoke and slipped off of his bed. He shuffled outside and relieved himself on one of the large trees. Most of the camp remained asleep around him. The brutes had partied late into the night, much to Jubal’s annoyance. He returned to his tent where he woke his attendant. The tiny man leapt into action and within moments Jubal was dressed and made up for the day. “You look beautiful, prince,” the man cooed.

“I know,” Jubal sighed. Jubal sat regally in his chair and clapped for his staff. Within moments a group of ten, brightly adorned, men filled the tent. “What do you have for me today?” Jubal asked. The men looked at one another. Then one stepped forward and bowed deeply. “Nothing, prince. We wait for Jabal to order the attack,” the man said, bowed and stepped back into place. “Why does he always get to be in charge?” Jubal pouted. He stood, hitched up his dress and exited the tent. The staff followed. “I want to see what this thing is made of anyway,” Jubal swaggered towards the boat. Jubal ran his hands along the side of it. The wood was covered with a thick, amber sap. “Bring me a… a… a thing,” Jubal said, making a chopping motion with his hands. “A what, prince?” one asked. “You know. A cutter thing… an axe!” he found the word and pointed at the man. The man hurried off, returning empty handed and red faced. “We didn’t bring one, prince.” Jubal let his arms drop dramatically to his sides. “Then get one from someone else, you idiot.” The man scurried away. Jubal tapped his foot impatiently and shot scathing looks at his staff. A moment later, they heard a high pitched scream and a huge man, carrying an ax, appeared from behind a tree dragging Jubal’s staff member by the tunic. “Put him down, barbarian!” Jubal said, stomping over to them. “You want my ax?” the Qayinite growled. Jubal shook a finger in the big man’s face, “Listen to me-“

The man slapped Jubal and he went down in a heap. He covered his reddened face with his hand and then scuttled to his feet. The man wiped Jubal’s makeup off his knuckles, onto his tunic. “I will have my brother flay you,” Jubal sneered and narrowed his eyes. “I will have my brother flay you,” the man echoed mockingly and flipped his imaginary hair. “Sequin,” Jubal said. “Go and get Jabal.” “Yes, Sequin,” the warrior sang. “Hurry.” Sequin, the tiny attendant, sprinted away as fast as his little legs could carry him. Jubal and the warrior stared hatefully at each other. “What is the name of the man whom we are about to kill?” Jubal let the “L” in kill linger dramatically. “My name is Mordek,” the man said and shouldered his ax. Jabal led Sequin through the rather sizable crowd that had gathered around the pair. “What’s going on?” Jabal asked, thoroughly annoyed. “Well,” Jubal began breathily and his eyes widened, “I sent my man to get an ax and this, this barbarian of yours refused to give it to us. Then, when I ordered him to give it over, he slapped me.” Jabal grabbed Jubal roughly by the head and turned it to see the red mark between his spoiled make up. “That right Mordek?” “This little thing,” Mordek nodded at the attendant. “Came up to me, kicked me awake, and demanded my ax. I grabbed him up and asked him what for. He said, ‘For the prince.’ I said, ‘What prince?’ Then he said, ‘None of your business.’ So, I dragged him over here where this guy,” Mordek pointed his ax at Jubal, “Calls me some name and tells me to put piglet down. Then he started shaking his finger in my face and I smacked him.” Jubal gave his head a sassy turn and rolled his eyes. Jabal crossed his arms and considered the two of them. “Give me your ax, Mordek,” Jabal said.

Mordek paled and complied. Jubal crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at Mordek who was now visibly shaking. Jabal raised the ax high above his head; Mordek closed his eyes, and Jabal brought it down, as fast as he could, onto Jubal’s head. The blade knocked his skull to the side, scraping the scalp off as it went. It split his body, starting at the neck, down the middle where it stopped at the pelvis bone. Jubal fell backwards and blood filled the ground. Jabal handed the dripping weapon back to Mordek and walked off. “Take care of the rest of these girls,” Jabal muttered as he went. Jubal’s attendants broke into a futile run. _________________________

Zillah rolled over in bed to greet the messenger who had been announced. The enormous, sweaty warrior bowed low. She waved her hand at him. “The old man is dead and the Shethites are saying that it will happen in a week,” he lowered his head and waited for a response. “Tell Jabal to do nothing until I arrive. I will leave today.” The man bent and left. Zillah yawned and stretched. She stared at the ceiling and tried to imagine the boat. “It must be huge,” she thought and chuckled. Zillah swung off the bed and paced into her dressing room where her attendant curtsied. “We leave for Jabal and the crazies today,” she said. “Horses or chariots, mistress?” the girl asked her. “Chariots,” Zillah said thoughtfully and pulled on her robe. “They can wait.” _________________________

Jabal awoke on the sixth day and the sky was dark even though it was midmorning already. He scrambled from his tent without putting on a robe. The clouds were a different color and consistency. They were dark and thick and hid the sun completely. Everything took on a hue that Jabal had never seen before. It was as though the sun were setting. Jabal scurried back into his bed and

covered his head with his blankets. He was too terrified even to think. He listened to his breathing and tried to calm himself. “My prince, I have returned with a message from your aunt,” said a voice behind him. Jabal did not move. “She says not to do anything until she arrives. She left two days ago,” the man waited for a response. Finally, Jabal waved him off. _________________________

Noah and the family awoke on the sixth day to silence. No jeering. No yelling. Nothing. The room was darker than usual and Noah pilled up several bags of wheat so he could look out a ventilation hole. It was as if the boat had been covered in a veil. “The clouds have turned dark,” he said. “Dark?” Shem asked. “That’s right. They are hiding the sun almost completely,” Noah replied. Noah stared at them for a long time and then hopped down so the others could see. When they had each had a turn, the family sat together around their fire and were quiet for a long time. “Is that ‘rain?’” Yepheth asked. “No,” Noah said. “I don’t think so. Not yet.” _________________________

About midday, panic set in among the Qayinites. They gathered around Jabal’s tent, calling for him. No one dared to go inside, however. After an hour of shouting, Jabal appeared, half dressed, before them. The expression on his face brought no heart to them. “What is happening?” one man called to him. “This god is going to flood the earth!” another said.

“What are we going to do?” said another. All the men began speaking at once and arguments broke out among them. Jabal held his hands up and they quieted down. “We all know that we are powerless against the gods. We must entreat our gods to keep us safe,” he said. Some of them nodded immediately in agreement. The others considered this a while, murmuring to themselves. “Zillah is on the way. She knew the gods when the gods still spoke to us. She may be able to talk to them for us.” More nodding and murmuring. “If we kill them now, their god will be even angrier,” one man yelled out. Jabal nodded. “Until then, let’s do what we can to gain their favor. Let us build an altar in front of the boat,” Jabal said. The older men, who remembered the days when the Qayinites offered sacrifices, grew pale. The younger men shouted their ascent. “We must be confident,” he said half-heartedly. The older men looked nervously at one another. “We must be confident in our gods!” he raised a fist and shouted. The blood returned to his face and the young men threw their fists up in the air with him. Then, the older ones reluctantly joined in. They rushed the plateau. _________________________

“What are they doing?” Shem asked. Yepheth scampered up the bags and pressed his head against the wall. “I can’t see,” he said. “Wait, no, they are carrying huge rocks. Flat ones. I can’t see what they are doing with them. Help me move the bags over there,” Yepheth pointed at the opposite wall and jumped off. His brothers grabbed the sacks and headed for the other side of the deck. “Stop!” Noah said. The men froze.

“They are building an altar. You should not watch this,” Na’amah guessed his thoughts. “Right,” Noah said. The men warily abandoned the bags and sat down heavily by the fire. Na’amah looked Nahalath as if she shared a memory with her. Nahalath shook her head. “We were all born after the gods abandoned us, or, um, them,” she said. Na’amah turned her head to the side. She had not heard of this. Na’amah was prevented from inquiring any further by the scream of the first human sacrifice. _________________________

Zillah tapped her fingers nervously against the window frame of the chariot. The sky had grown darker and darker by the hour and a nervous knot enlarged in her stomach. Finally, she stuck her head out the window and yelled at the driver to stop. Zillah tore open the door and hopped onto the dirt. “Leave the chariots,” she said. “We will ride.” _________________________

The men killed one another all night, by lottery decision. Exhausted from signing and fear, they swayed back and forth. Jabal stacked the bodies, one by one on the altar. He burned them ten at a time and the awful smell rose into the air. They had chosen a hundred men. When what should have been morning came, the last round of sacrifices burned low on the altar. “Zillah should have been here yesterday,” he whispered to Mordek. Mordek nodded grimly. “Perhaps she has taken chariots,” Mordek replied. Jabal sighed, “Perhaps.”

He walked over to the table where the names of the men had been recorded and told the warrior seated there that another hundred names had to be drawn. The man gaped and then nodded. Jabal turned around to see what looked like horses racing down the mountain. “Thank the gods,” he breathed and ran towards them. Zillah swung off her horse and grabbed Jabal around the middle, hugging him tightly. “We have been sacrificing all night,” he said. “Good,” she said. “We will keep it up all day if we have to.” _________________________

“Two hundred gods! Two hundred gods! Teach us to live! Teach us to die! Two hundred gods! Two hundred gods! The Lilin know your names!” Inside the boat, the family listened to the songs of the men and the screaming. They covered their noses with rags. The smell of the sacrifices was awful; the most putrid thing Noah had ever smelled. It had caused Nahalath and Aresisia to become violently ill. The two women had taken to their beds. It was now, very dark outside. Unexpectedly, a woman’s voice silenced the men. “Noah,” it called up to him. He began to rise and Na’amah put her hand on his arm. The sound of that voice unnerved her. “It is my mother,” she said. Her face held an affect that he had never seen before. Noah relaxed and waited. “Noah, I know that you can hear me. I want you to call this off. I want you to pray to your god and tell him to release the clouds. If you do not, we are going to burn this ship!” Noah looked at Na’amah. “Do not say anything to this woman, Noah. It is the seventh day. El will protect us,” she said boldly and set her jaw. Noah nodded reluctantly.

“Noah! Answer me. If I don’t hear from you in one hour that you are praying, we will start this fire. We have already set wood against the base of your ship-“ “She’s lying, we would have heard chopping!” Na’amah whispered. “Not if they used what was already in the pile. We did not bring it all,” Yepheth interjected. “One hour, Noah!” Nahalath and Aresisia left their beds and came to sit with the rest of the family. After a moment, they heard the sound of chopping. Noah grabbed Na’amah and Sheth’s hands. The rest of the family joined in as well. “El, protect us,” Na’amah breathed. _________________________

Zillah tossed the torch on top of the wood that they had piled against the boat. “Won’t that anger their god even more?” Jabal asked. “Maybe,” Zillah shrugged. They watched the logs catch and the flames grow quickly, licking the side of the ship. Zillah chortled. “Noah! Noah I am burning your ship now!” she yelled. No answer. She stepped back and craned her head up at the boat. “It won’t be long now,” Zillah smiled. Jabal twisted his head, looking for the sound. Zillah turned hers, as well, to see what he was looking at and, then, heard it. From the west came a vague, distant, low, rumbling. Through the trees Zillah could see the clouds across the valley splinter into bright fingers of light. She chortled, “Our gods are fighting with their god.” Jabal was not so sure. The clouds moved in their direction. Jabal swallowed hard. Then a drop of water fell onto his cheek. He looked up and another hit him

on the forehead. He could not see where the water was coming from. He jerked his head towards his aunt who stared, awe struck up at the sky. “Mother, what is happening?” he asked and his voice shook. “Our gods are losing, Jabal,” she whispered. Large drops fell all around them. The fire hissed and cursed itself out. Jabal noticed that its flames had not even discolored the boat. “Our gods have lost,” Jabal corrected. All around them the warriors screamed in terror and rushed for cover in the trees. Some of them tried to climb the boat with their bare hands. Some of them propped a ladder against the ship, but it proved too short. One man clambered up a trees and killed himself trying to leap on top of the ship. The rain grew even heavier. Zillah grabbed Jabal’s hand and smiled at him. Jabal was exanimate. Zillah walked him over to the edge of the plateau and watched the storm clouds rush in on them. It was amazingly beautiful. The dark clouds, flashing with light, rolled in while water from the sea crept up the valley. “We are about to die,” Zillah said. Jabal nodded, “I don’t know what to say.” “I don’t either,” she said. The couple heard a rushing sound from behind them. They turned just in time to see the flash flood waters wash them off the plateau. _________________________

Shem saw the water coming down the mountain. He watched it sweep the people away like ants. “They are dying,” he said soberly. The other members of the family had all climbed up onto separate bags of corn and wheat to watch the rain. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. Zalbeth and Nahalath cried as quietly as they could. Aresisia made no sound whatsoever and gazed out at the horror below them. From his vantage point, Noah could see the valley below as it filled with water.

“Everybody down. We have to strap ourselves in now.” The family replaced the sacks and tied them down. Na’amah threw water onto the fire. They secured sundry items in pockets and bags. Then they lined themselves against the wall and pulled leather harnesses over their shoulders. Across from Noah, Aresisia closed her eyes and mouthed words to herself that he could not decipher. Shem’s eyes darted nervously from face to face. Na’amah reached for Noah’s hand and he for hers. Their fingertips touched, but they could stretch no further. After several minutes, the boat shifted once, dramatically forward and the ship groaned. Nahalath screamed. The animals below cried out at once. The sound of their chorus sent a chill up Noah’s spine. He closed his eyes. “I know you will. I know you will,” he reminded himself of El’s protection in his mind. Again, the boat creaked forwards and then backwards. “We are caught on something,” Shem said. “No, we’re fine,” Yepheth said. He grabbed the straps with his hands and braced himself. The boat rocked further backwards. It rolled to the left and then, gently, back to the right. They bobbed upwards and then down. The craft knocked against the earth and the wood complained. The ship corrected itself and Noah could tell that they were afloat. He sucked in air loudly. “We are free,” Na’amah said. “Yes,” Zalbeth said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “We are free.” The boat gently bobbed and rolled. Noah got a sense that the sheer size and weight of the ship kept it from responding more radically. He tried to fathom the strength of the storm. He could not. For hours they dropped and weaved. Aresisia vomited on herself. She cried and Zalbeth, next to her, wept for her as well. The motion of the ship was such that she could not safely get up to clean herself. She closed her eyes and moaned. The raven, which had been perched on top of the cargo, flew down to the middle of the floor and croaked. Noah was impressed with the animal’s sea legs. He wondered if the others below were doing so well.

After what seemed like an eternity, the rocking of the boat lessened and Noah crept out of his harness. He retrieved some rags and took them to Aresisia. She shook her head and shrugged herself out of the shoulder straps. “I am going to change clothes,” she said. Her face was as pale as Noah’s. She took two steps and fainted. Na’amah and Zalbeth carried her around to the other side of the cargo to help her change. A peel of thunder roared through them. “Do you think it’s safe to light a fire?” Chamam asked. “Not yet,” Noah said. “We may, yet, hit the mountain.” Shem stacked up the bags again to have a look. Noah could tell from below that it was still very dark outside. Shem searched for a long time. Then he leapt down and moved the bags to the other side of the room. “I think the mountain has been covered. I can’t see land anywhere,” he said. The thought of it sent a shiver down Noah’s spine. “Alright,” he said, “let’s light a fire. Then Chamam, I want you to take a torch and check on the animals.” Chamam nodded. Yepheth had a hard time starting the fire due to the motion of the ship, but eventually he got it going. The sight and smell of it cheered them all and the color returned to their faces. Nahalath put her hands to it and sighed. Shem clapped Yepheth on the back and smiled. Zalbeth, Aresisia and Na’amah returned and sat around the fire. They exchanged relieved looks. After a moment, Chamam got up, lit a torch, and disappeared down the ramp. Yepheth did likewise. “Feeling better?” Noah asked Aresisia. She nodded, “I think it was fear.” Na’amah nodded and rubbed Aresisia’s arms. She smiled weakly. “How about it, though? We made it,” Aresisia said. “Yeah,” Zalbeth agreed. “I just hope the animals are okay,” Nahalath said. “Yeah,” Zalbeth repeated.

Noah leaned back on his palms and looked up at the sky through the holes. He could see nothing but blackness. Rain was the strangest sound that Noah had ever heard. Yepheth and Chamam climbed the ramp after another few minutes. “All seems well. A couple of the cages fell, but the animals in them are okay. We restacked them and strapped them down,” Chamam reported. “Good,” Shem said. Noah looked around at his family. The sound of the boat rocking and creaking was slightly hypnotic. “I wonder how long we’re going to be on this boat,” he thought. “I don’t know,” Na’amah replied. Noah did not think he had said that out loud. She smiled at him, “We will stay on until we are told to get off.” Noah nodded. _________________________

Noah dreamed that the ship was flying above the clouds. He could see hills and valleys below float by him. He saw Banah and Chalam. He saw the beach. The boat landed in a deep valley. He walked out of it and into a forest. The raven came and sat on the branch above him. It tweeted like a robin. Noah woke to the sound of thunder. The sky outside was still dark and he had no idea how long he had slept. He found the feeling of the storm imposed darkness profoundly disturbing. He rubbed his eyes. The rest of his family was still asleep. A presence behind him turned Noah around. Sitting on Na’amah’s leather harness against the wall was a man dressed in a bright white robe that he had never seen before. The hairs on the back of Noah’s neck stood on end. The man’s face was beautiful and his voice, when he spoke, had the texture of water flowing over rocks. He could, in no way, judge the man’s expression. “You know,” the man said, “if you kill them all now, they won’t have to drown.”

Noah shook his head as if waking again, “What?” “Drown. This ship can’t stay afloat forever. They are going to die,” the man hissed the word “die.” Noah stood up, “I don’t know who you are, but you need to leave now.” The man looked amused at him, “Really?” Something inside of him told Noah that this was wrong. “Leave. Now,” Noah said. Suddenly the man’s face twisted into the face of Mardu, the boy he wanted to kill as a child. Noah tried to blink it away. “Do you really think that you are righteous enough for God to save? He has forgotten about you and your pitiful family,” the man said in Mardu’s voice. The face gave a juvenile snicker. Rage shook Noah’s eyes, “Get out now.” The man giggled at Noah. Noah balled up his fists and glared at the man. He exhaled deeply and closed his eyes. He intuited that he should not touch this thing. “El,” he said. “You have told me that you are saving us. You will not forget about us. I know you will. I know you will. I know you will. I know you will.” A feeling of peace poured over Noah and he opened his eyes. The man was gone and his family slept peacefully all around him. Chamam snored loudly. Noah crawled back into his bedroll with Na’amah and pressed himself into her. She smiled and draped an arm across him. Noah recalled Mardu and the feeling of the boy’s still body beneath him. He shook off the thought and rubbed his face with his hands. Sleep was out of the question now. He wanted desperately to go below and be with the animals, but felt safer among the humans. Noah sat up in his bed and listened to the sounds of the ship and the sounds of his family. Both sounded, somehow, alive. _________________________

“I think I want to have sheep and goats,” Chamam said. “I want to have a ranch where I sheer them and trade their milk.”

“I want to plant corn and wheat,” Shem said. “Maybe even mine for silver. I dunno.” “When I get off the boat,” Noah said. “I want to plant a vineyard. I brought plants, you know.” Nahalath nodded, “I saw those. Do you think they will keep well in that tiny pot?” “I hope so. I may have to move them into something larger,” Noah replied. “When I get off of this boat I want to have a baby and name him Cush,” Nahalath said and batted her eyes at Chamam. He blushed and chuckled. “Yepheth, what about you?” Na’amah asked. “I don’t know. I want to see what the land looks like and what is needful,” he said. “If we are on the boat much longer, we may have to eat meat for a while.” Noah frowned, “No. Absolutely not.” Yepheth could tell that was the end of the conversation. _________________________

El appeared just after dinner. He hugged each in turn and they all sat down together. For a long while, no one said anything. There was too much to say. Then, just when it appeared that El was going to speak, he began to sing. There were no words, that they could understand, to the song, but everyone seemed to know the melody. Before long, the family joined in and swayed back and forth to the music. The animals, below them, fell silent. The raven, which had been below, flew up the ramp and came to rest on El’s shoulder. A feeling that Noah had never felt before washed over him. He closed his eyes and let the music and El’s presence flood him. He felt almost as though El was singing through him and his body was being lifted off the earth. He remembered his dream of the ship floating above the clouds. In his mind, he soared. He saw the land, green and wonderful beneath him. He saw the beaches. He dove into the water and saw the fish and the water plants. He saw fields of endless golden wheat. He saw the broad river and the jungles.

Noah opened his eyes as the song faded away. He saw the rest of his family open their eyes, as well. El was gone. Noah sighed and stretched himself out on the floor. He felt as though he were being hugged all over. Tthe rain stopped and a hush fell over the boat. Zalbeth gave a nervous chuckle. Chamam whistled. The silence was heavy. Shem clambered up the sacks. The clouds parted and the sun shone through. It was as if a line of light cut the scene in two. Beyond, the sky looked differently than before. It was a deeper blue and the sun was clearer. Solemnly, the family took turns beholding the wonder. As the clouds in the distance rolled away, where the mist had covered it before, a thin line separated the earth and sky. More than anything, this line held Noah’s gaze. Observing silence, the family congregated and held hands. “Wow,” Nahalath reanimated them and giggled, nervously. They laughed and danced and hugged one another with joy. The sun kissed the upper deck through the ventilation holes. Chamam and Nahalath took off in victory laps up and down the ramps, spurring the animals into frenzy. The bellowing of the animals became so loud that Noah had to tell them to stop. He grabbed Na’amah’s hand and prayed, “Thank you. Thank you.” _________________________

Chamam came bounding up the ramp on the fifty fourth day. “Father, we have a baby mammoth and he’s stuck,” he said. Noah grabbed a torch and hurried down into the darkness. They wove through the maze of squawking crates and stalls until they reached the opposite end of the lowest deck. Inside a huge corral, the mother mammoth laid on her side groaning miserably. The baby, as described, was half out of her. Chamam grabbed the exposed leg and tugged. The mother complained and the baby did not budge. Noah grabbed the other leg and together they pulled. The female cried loudly and kicked her foot, missing Chamam’s face by inches. He adjusted his position and planted his feet. They heaved again and the mammoth was born. Noah hit his head on a stall cross beam and was dazed for a moment. Chamam inspected the young bull that appeared to be fine. The father

mammoth, which had been waiting opposite the mother until now, lumbered forward and sniffed the baby loudly. The mother mammoth panted. Chamam left the baby to attend to the mother. He petted her face as she huffed in quick, shallow breaths. Chamam gave his father a worried look. “She doesn’t sound good.” “Let us give her some time. I think she is just exhausted,” Noah said. They left the mammoth family and wandered around the lower deck checking on the animals as they went. There had been a recent explosion of rabbits. Apparently, Noah thought, rocking is good for rabbit libido, but then again, he thought, what isn’t? He smiled at them as he passed. Noah came to his bear family and remembered the male, whom he had left on the plateau. It seemed like a hundred years ago. He reached in and stroked the cub, which had now grown to a considerable size. It occurred to Noah that this new world would be different, much different, than the one he had left behind. Noah and Chamam made their way through the deck slowly and then checked back in with the mammoths. The mother was still lying on her side, but, to their relief, was taking much slower, fuller breaths. They closed the corral and Noah slapped his son on the shoulder. “You were right to get me,” he said. “She would have died.” _________________________

Noah woke to an enormous crunching sound as he slid across the floor in his bedroll. He pulled his arms up just in time to save his head from hitting the wall. The scraping sound continued for a moment as the boat shivered violently to a dead stop. Noah sat up. His head swam and he realized that they were not rocking anymore. They had landed. The others all wore the same confused looks. Shem jumped up and then slipped on his blankets and fell forwards onto his hands. The room, Noah now realized, tilted slightly downward. “We are against a hill,” he said aloud. Na’amah nodded at him. Shem climbed the bags and looked outside. “You’re right,” he said.

“That’s actually good,” Yepheth said, stunned. “I hadn’t thought about what would happen when the waters receded. We are lucky that we didn’t land on level ground. We would have tipped over.” Noah imagined it and shivered. “Yeah. That would have been really bad,” Noah shook his head and wondered how none of them had thought of that. In his mind, Noah had imagined that they would pull up to a beach and swim ashore. He should have known better. “Let’s go and check for damage,” Yepheth said. The six younger ones set off with torches down the ramp. Minutes later they returned in good spirits. “All good.” Noah shook his head. “I am amazed at the abuse this thing can take,” he said. “Don’t be too amazed,” Na’amah winked at him. Nahalath chuckled. _________________________

Chamam opened the window and let the sun shine in. It felt good on his skin after being indoors for so long. More than two hundred days had passed since they had come on board. Chamam breathed deeply and smiled. There was not a cloud in the sky. Chamam thought he saw something in the water and squinted. Could it be? He gaped and widened his eyes. He squinted again to make sure. “Hey, I see land out there!” he yelled. Sheth and Na’amah hurried over. Chamam pointed to a tiny spot of darkness in the water about a quarter of a mile away. Na’amah held her hand to her forehead to block the sun. “You’re right. The water is going down.” “I see it,” Shem said.


Noah sat alone in front of the open window. He considered the water and rubbed his aching neck. Below, he heard the sounds of the animals. It was feeding time and everyone had gone below to help. Everyone except for Noah. Even as one person among only eight in the whole world it was hard to find time to be alone. A slight, western breeze caught in his beard and somehow he was reminded of his father. Then, his grandfather. Images of their faces and the sounds of their voices trickled through his mind. A place in his heart ached for them. He did not know where they were. He only knew that they were safe. The same, he thought, was true of himself. El’s raven hopped over to stand beside him in the sunlight. Noah glanced down at the bird and noticed it considering the sky. The rays gleamed beautifully off its black feathers. Strangely, he got the impression that it was asking for permission to fly. “You want to go?” he asked. The bird croaked in reply. It ruffled its feathers and stared at him. Noah looked out over the ocean and the sky and the new, dark line that separated the two. Then, he locked eyes with the raven and felt his penetrating gaze unexpectedly returned. “Go, then.” The raven flapped its wings and took off. Noah watched it catch, what he imagined to be, a warm current of air. It lifted the creature higher and higher until it became a tiny black spot somewhere between heaven and the sea. He watched his friend circle for a long time and then disappear somewhere near that line in the distance. It was very good.

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