The Currents Above
“Japeth, Shem, over there a man drowns in the water along our shore!” A deep old voice resonating with strength commanded two of his sons. “We must try to rescue him. Drag him forth from the water!” The old man stood, garbed in earthen-toned robes as his long gray beard whipped in the swift breeze.
Four light brown, muscular arms clasped upon the convulsing pale body of a dying boy, dragging him in the currents toward shore. The whites of the boy’s eyes flashed in his head as he thrust his lips into the salty ocean, sucking in the liquid.
“What’s he doing?” shouted Japeth, twisting his muscles in an attempt to lift the boy from the ocean.
“He’s delirious!” Shem called before clutching the boy’s hair with his large hand and thrusting the boy’s head up from the water.
Maanta’s gills collapsed in on themselves as he arose to consciousness once more. Air swept through him as he attempted to scream but the poisonous substance kept his noise to a cracked choke. The air seared his insides as he fought whatever force was restraining his movements.
His eyes opened and the sun’s scorching beams blinded him, causing him to see multicolored spots before darkness overtook his vision. Whatever beast had its grasp on him tugged him further into the venomous air.
…save self… The thought barely rushed past his mind as the pain of existing encumbered him.
The lifesaving water currents were so shallow now as he ripped his hair from the thing’s grasp and savored the liquid in his lips. Clawing, his fingers latched in on the underwater beach sands in an attempt to gain control of his movements. But the sands only stirred, collecting along his gills and choking him in another way.
“He’s dying!” a voice bellowed past Maanta’s ears. “Toss him to shore so we may push the water from his lungs!”
His body and thoughts violently shook as the beast lifted him above the ocean, his life source, and imbedded him in a hot burning sheet of sand. He tried to swim upward in the poisonous air substance but could get nowhere. What was that force pushing down on him? The beast had seemed to let loose of him but still he could not swim away.
Water evaporated from his pores. Every one of them sizzled and died in the sun’s heat, collapsing inwards. It was as if a billion heated small pins dug minute grooves in his moist body. The boy’s webbed hands pushed back on his flesh in an attempt to keep the moisture from rushing away.
From nowhere, it seemed, a fist lunged into his chest, pumping against it vigorously while vacuuming the water up from his lips. His neck’s inner gills ripped from the throat’s wall and spat from his lips into the air above before wiggling and dying on his chest. Maanta’s thoughts collapsed in on themselves and unconsciousness overtook him once more.
“He’s calmer now brother,” a voice said in the silence of Maanta’s mind. “And look, his chest rises and falls.”
“Carry him to the guest room in our home,” the old voice spoke in the distance. “There we shall nurse him to health.”
Darkness… the world was pitch now, black as an oil plume. Maanta couldn’t conjure sufficient strength in his muscles to move, or even lift his eyelids. He couldn’t help but feel a vacant staleness in his flesh. All his remaining fish-like scales had shriveled like dried rosebuds on his limbs, now resting there like scabs. His sweltered eyelids sat heavily on their sockets as a sunbeam from somewhere in the vast expanse of existence shown down on their outer skin.
Just as the boy thought he would evaporate away and cease to exist in this bizarre new reality, a firm yet wrinkled hand clasped his own limp one. Then, from above, another strong hand placed a cool, moist cloth upon his forehead and eyes. Cool water from the cloth trickled down along his cracked lips, sliding in a spiral down his throat.
Whoever possessed the two strong yet wrinkly hands hummed a gentle melody while tending Maanta’s fever.
For hours the man patiently changed the cool cloth with others.
At sparse moments he placed slivers of salmon within the boy’s lips, which Maanta eventually swallowed down. The salty morsels slowly revitalized his muscles.
Then the last cool cloth was lifted from Maanta’s forehead and the strong hand released his own. The humming faded a bit, although it still came from close by.
The fish brought some strength to Maanta’s body. But he yearned for more cool moisture from the cloths, and so with every reserve of strength Maanta opened his eyes.
Blinding light flooded in but as his irises adjusted Maanta dropped his sight on the strong but elderly fellow staring at him and rocking in a wooden chair while humming across the clay-walled room.
A genuine smile passed across the old man’s bearded lips. “God blesses you, boy. Whatever dropped you in the ocean to drown, surely God’s grace is the true reason you’ve survived. We figured you for almost dead the first two weeks after we rescued you from the ocean’s grasp. And these past three haven’t been much better. Would you like some more fish I wonder?”
Maanta tipped his head once forward and back against an earth toned pillow.
“Well, I’m not one to deny someone good hearty food.” He passed three more pieces of salmon slowly through Maanta’s pale lips.
Each swallow burned but revitalized at the same time. Maanta opened his lips to speak but couldn’t find the way to shape words through the air clogging his lungs. Instead he choked and spat out a piece of the fish.
“Rest, young one.” The old man stroked his hair. “There will be plenty of time for talking once you are fully healed. I have no doubt you have interesting stories to share with my family and me.”
Maanta succumbed once more to the oily depths of deep sleep. There was reassuring warmth there beside him now though. Something joined him in the dark unconsciousness, swimming for him through the waters, helping to churn the depths of unconsciousness by his side. God, was the only thought which possessed his mind while rafting toward the world of dreams.
Time passed. Maanta’s mind closed. No thoughts existed. Then, in loud booming echoes, they returned.
thump, thump…….thump, thump…….thump, thump…….thump, thump… Sight came to Maanta easier this time as his eyes spread wide in the burning, singeing air. Sharp golden sunshine flushed within his sight as an outside breeze licked at his face. He was in what appeared to be a half shell of ceramic, his legs thrashing, free of his mind’s control, in a thin bath of dirty water about him.
“Brace the boy’s legs to the tub Japeth!!!” A deep mature voice that Maanta vaguely recognized shouted from behind him. “He must be bathed! His stench is foul!”
Water… Maanta’s thoughts raced as he realized the substance was beneath him. Water! He thrust his head beneath the thin level of dirty tub water, attempting to breathe it through his gills. But his gills were gone. He gagged on the once life-blessing substance. What’s… h… appening? His thoughts burped and skipped. What… h… ave they… d… one?
“Grab his skull and lift it above the water Shem!” The light-brown skinned Japeth hollered at the man who had just spoken behind Maanta.
Shem cupped the boy’s thrashing head in two massive hands and thrust it above the dirty bath. “This is useless, brother. I don’t know why but the boy appears to be trying to drown himself. If we’re busy holding his limbs in place and keeping his head above water we’ll never get him washed.”
Maanta’s eyes flicked violently in his skull as darkness once again consumed him. Water… his thoughts trailed off.
“Let us lift him from the bath then, brother, and try again later when he is more subdued,” Japeth spoke with calm and yet a hint of irritation.
The two brothers grabbed Maanta’s limbs and jerked him quickly up out of the outdoor bath before Shem draped the boy over his shoulders. Slowly he carried the boy, until carefully laying him on the bed the family had provided.
The boy’s limp body sank gently within the feather stuffed resting place. All consciousness had left as he had lifted from the shallow tub waters Maanta mistook for salvation.
In the dank darkness of Maanta’s lost mind the soft breath of one word caught his thoughts, God. The pureness of the word skimmed like a breeze on the ocean, constantly soft and just above the waters but unattainable to all those who live within the sea. But the sea and the waters have deserted me, his mind rambled in the nothing. And yet I still live somehow in this bizarre place that I sometimes awaken to. Am I breathing in the air?
“Freedom from the waters is yours if you only accept it and believe in me,” a voice whispered in the hollow darkness, a warming light emulating around its words. “There is forgiveness for your people’s sins.”
“NO! COME TO ME beneath the depths,” another voice, enticing yet sinister, intruded.
Blank nothing came like a kiss to Maanta’s drifting thoughts. It extinguished his mind, preventing him from thinking through what was meant by the two voices that had joined him.
The twitching void of nothing covered him like a thick, dark mud, consuming him in its embrace.
A softly hummed melody caressed Maanta’s hearing and livened his heart. The darkness of his dream-state shifted from deep black noir to a light sandy hue. Once more he felt the presence of a moist rag being held to his forehead by a strong, comforting hand.
His eyes no longer burned when he opened them to the daylight filtering through the windows of the room. His body did not ache, nor did his flesh sting with purging evaporation from the air. In a deep comforting breath he inhaled the air about him and filled his lungs full, lungs he never knew existed until this very breath.
As Maanta exhaled that first full breath his sight set slowly on the face of an elderly man beside him who was holding the moist cloth to his forehead.
The man’s features were old and wrinkled but exuded life as he smiled warmly at the boy. “You look more alive today, boy, than you have ever since we rescued you.” The man’s beard jiggled up and down as he spoke. “Maybe this time we’ll be able to keep you from relapsing into unconsciousness again. Tell me, boy. Do you have a name?”
“………” Maanta’s lips moved but still he could not find the way to form speech out of water.
“That’s alright. It will come to you in time.” The man’s wrinkled hand rested on Maanta’s to comfort him.
“…mkft…” Maanta struggled to speak in the air. “…Maanta.”
“Maanta.” The old man’s grin widened. “That’s an interesting name. I’ve never heard anything like it before. Your name reminds me much of what we all are… Man. You’re speaking now, and that’s a good sign. How far down the coast does your family dwell young Maanta?”
“…ckt…ckt…ckt…” The boy couldn’t bring speech to his lips again. His body shook with agitation.
The old man brought a wrinkled finger to his lips. “Shhh… There will be plenty of time for you to talk later. If it hurts to do so now do not hurt your throat. Let’s see. We need to devise some way of keeping you conscious. Do you like stories?”
Maanta managed a smile. The last story he had been told was from his mother long ago. After that he had resorted to creating stories himself.
“I’ll take that smile as a yes.” The old man ran his fingers through his beard as if in deep thought. “This is a true story, of my life.
“Once, a long, long time ago, I was a young child who lived in a small thatch house on the rim of a vast sea. My parents farmed for a living and I assumed them perfect, as most children assume their parents to be during the early part of their lives. I had friends, a deep faith, family and all was well in our happy community. It remained that way for years until, during a deep crimson sunrise; a man fell from the sky and careened into the beach. We thought he was a star. All of the local families who saw the falling man rushed to see what had crashed into our shore.
“I’ll never forget his features, the aura he exuded. Serenity encompassed him. In a massive crater on our shore the blond haired, blue eyed man stood with a brisk smile on his face, clothed in blue and white silk. He stared through the clouds above as if to mock something, or someone.”
The old man slipped a dried, salted pumpkin seed between his lips and flipped it with his tongue methodically. “And I swear to you. The first time I saw him, the man had wings, wide flowing wings that stretched in the air to shroud my eyes from half the ocean before me. They sparkled in the sunrise, whipping and curling in the wind. And then as my people laid their first steps to his crater the man’s wings disappeared, evaporating into the clouds. No one ever spoke of his wings except me. Were they ever there? Where did they go?
“I never entered that crater, unnerved as I was by the unnatural occurrence. But instead I watched as my people flocked to the man like a herd of sheep to a shepherd, or a wolf in a fancy robe. I never heard the exchange of words between him and my people that day but as he spoke the man’s eyes flicked every few moments from a cool blue to a deep heart-purging orange.
“I was 18 when the man hurled upon us from the sky and would age 582 years before my last experience with him would place its footprint on my life. He called himself Lucifer and claimed himself a fallen angel of heaven.
“If he had fallen from heaven then surely he had not tripped. Rather, God must have thrust him out, for in his time with us he taught my community to sleep with each other’s wives and husbands, steal each other’s food, poison each other’s crops, to rape our children and murder our neighbors. One time, I overheard the soft-voiced man convincing a young man to take his own life. Kilol was the boy’s name and his neck would be in a self-hung noose by sun’s set.
“I tried and tried to show my people the evilness of Lucifer’s ways but they would hear no sense. They were blinded by greed and lust, desires that could only be quenched by things he had brought to my people’s souls.
“And then the day came when the final straw fell into place, it seems, in the ‘fallen angel’s’ plan. I awoke in the sweltering heat of a summer’s morning to look out my window on an idol carved in the man’s likeness. Four of the highest ranking families in my village were kissing its form. Lucifer himself stood behind the unholy falsification, his fiery eyes glaring at mine, peering into my soul.
“In that moment I closed my eyes and prayed to God to relieve my people of that man and bring a world to us once more where we would be free of the sins he brought to us.
“Then in the darkness of my mind echoed a deep, calming voice. ‘I have heard your prayer son of Adam. I have determined to make an end to all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and out with pitch.’
“‘For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of flesh, you shall bring two of every living sort in the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.’
“It is impossible to explain how I knew, but it was God’s voice and so I did as he instructed. When the ark was complete, it was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high with three decks spanning from side to side. I had never seen a vessel so massive. And now a question resonated in my thoughts, how would I gather two of every kind of animal from the earth for my boat? There was no need to ponder this though, for as soon as I lowered the ark’s loading ramp its first time, I noticed something moving in the brush of the beach before me.
“One nose, then another popped through the brushy leaves. All the many animals of the earth came, two-by-two, down the beach and into the ark. I’ve never seen such a sight in my life and probably never will again. Two snow-white bunnies led first, their soft fur glistening in the sun and their cute button noses twitching as they hopped happily along. Two jet-black panthers followed closely behind, their muscles flexing majestically with each step. Two grisly bears were third, grunting and moaning as they swatted at the moist sands below them as they walked.
“God must have brought the many creatures from all over the world into that procession, for every form of creature was there from koala bears, kangaroos and giraffes to polar bears, otters and monarch butterflies. The last animal to come in the group I thought would snap the ark’s deck in half. Two gargantuan wrinkly gray elephants shook the earth beneath us as they sauntered onto the ark’s ramp, their bellies swaying slightly as the ramp flexed beneath each massive step. When they had all boarded my sons and I loaded pounds upon pounds of meat, vegetables, fruit and grain we had gathered to keep the animals and ourselves fed.
“As we stood some distance away, admiring our work, a voice once again echoed in my thoughts. ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.’
“By night’s end I and my family had moved all of our personal possessions and us to the ark. My wife strung fresh cut flowers from deck to deck all about the boat in an attempt to cut back on the wet animal smell. In the days to come, my fellow people would come to mock us and point out what a foolish thing we had done. I told them about the great flood God was sending us to wipe out the vast sins of our world but they merely took me for a crazy old man.
“Those final seven days as the rains came and refused to stop, the only man who said nothing to me was Lucifer himself. As we waited for the flood to come he stood on the beach below us, staring up into our eyes, with a wide grin on his face, those deep eyes of his flickering with flame in the nights. What a possessed creature Lucifer was. He aged not one day since he had first come to us, but his eyes ignited more and more with crimson with each new soul he took.
“‘God is sending a flood to wash away all of the sins you have brought upon us!’ I called down to him.
“A wolf howled in the distance but from his lips there was no reply.
“On the seventh day the waters rose beneath us, not slowly, but in a surge lifting our ark to the very heights of the sky. It was the most bizarre thing though: just before the world flooded, Lucifer led many of my civilization into the ocean beside us. They disappeared beneath the depths before the flood, and he joined them as God’s maelstrom hit.
The remnants of my people screamed in agony as they drowned. The raging waves around us seemed a mass of red and green, red blood of the earth’s creatures and green of the earth’s vegetation. The sky was black with disappointment and rage. There would be no more blue sky or ocean that day, the color of peace and calm. The carcass of a dead ape drifted below my window in the chaos. I was saddened that this creature had to die because of humanity’s sins.
“The first night was no easier on the heart. For an entire day, as the maelstrom raged, the cries of the earth’s people and animals could be heard wailing and being snuffed out across the globe.
“For thirty-nine more days and nights, the maelstrom roared, and what we heard after was worse; silence. When the rain stopped and waters calmed, all the animals on the ark stopped their moaning, chirping and roaring and we heard nothing in the distance on the open waters. Eerie, hollow blankness lay upon us.
“‘Where is the world?’ my son, Japeth, turned to me and asked.
“‘It is on the ark,’ I replied. But it hurt my soul to know that my people, no matter how sinful they had become, had all perished in the world behind us. The air itself smelled stale, lifeless. God must have felt my heart and smelt what I smelt in that moment for after I breathed the stagnant air a great wind blew about us, smelling of honeysuckle. There will be life to the earth again, God was promising us.
“At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated and in the seventh month on the seventeenth day the waters had receded enough that our ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month. On the first day of the flood’s tenth month, we could see the tops of the Ar’arat Mountains about us. Still, I knew there would be no hope in searching for land.
“After forty more days I called my sons and our wives to my side. ‘Shem, Japeth, Ham,’ I said. ‘The earth is once more revealing itself to us. Look at the beautiful brown mountains bobbing up from beneath the ocean around us and stretching like legs below the ark. Boys, find me a bird that we can release to see if the waters have subsided from the face of the ground.’
“Japeth and Ham had become quite fond of a raven they named Zemer and so we sent Zemer forth to see if the waters had dried up enough anywhere on the earth for us to leave our ark and live on the earth once more. Zemer’s deep black wings carried her quickly from the ark but she disappeared in the winds and never returned to us again. It is my hope she discovered land and had just not known to return.
“The next day I sent forth a dove, a favorite of my own, who would often eat sunflower seeds gently from my hands, and in the evening she returned to me with no sign of finding dry land.
“Seven days later, again, I sent the dove out of the ark and as the sunset played a tranquil pink across the sky she returned to me, and lo, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. This could mean nothing less than that the waters had subsided from the earth beneath us.
“Seven more days I waited and sent out my dove again and she did not return to us anymore. To join her, I let loose her mate.
That night as I lay in the darkness saying my prayers with my wife already fast asleep on my chest, God’s voice echoed once more in my mind. ‘Go from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh-birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth-that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’
“And, as the next morning came, I stood looking from our ark’s deck, down the steep face of Ar’arat’s mountainside which stretched off into the mist beneath us. ‘How far down the slope is level ground?’ I gasped to my wife beside me. ‘Surely the elephants and giraffes can’t maneuver the slope beneath us, nor can the seals or platypuses.’
“Japeth called me to his side from behind us then and told me of a plan he had been concocting since our first day wedged upon Ar’arat’s peaks. As evening came, we would put it into effect.
“The wind blew crisply at our backs as my three sons and I stood stiffly on our ark’s back deck, nervous about what we would soon attempt. Japeth turned to me with a grin. ‘Praise the Lord for he has kept us safe thus far.’
“I grasped his hand firmly in my own. ‘And praise him as he protects all of us on our journey to level ground. Do not fear my sons, for in what we do, God is by our side.’ The animals were secured below deck. Our wives were calming the creatures’ nerves and all of us were saying silent prayers to God to bind us in safety.
“As Japeth and Ham tied two thick ropes in triple knots to the deck’s inlaid posts, Ham sliced his palm on a splintered beam, causing crimson blood to drip from his hand. Ham and Japeth grasped the ropes and leapt off the deck’s edge into the swirling fog below, their ropes left tightly creaking against the deck. Ham’s hand had bloodstained the rope where he had touched it, churning my stomach with its sight. A man should never lose a son before his own death and Ham’s blood brought the very real possibility to my thoughts of losing my sons and our wives. ‘Keep a tight grasp on Ham’s rope,’ I spoke to Shem. ‘I’ll hold tight to Japeth’s. We don’t know when they’ll need us to pull them aboard.’
“Japeth would later tell me that as they leapt into the fog his heart was crushed in his chest as he saw Ham beside him smash into the ark’s bottom hull. But Ham held on, both brothers’ hands clasping tightly to separate ropes as they swung freely above the vast drop of Ar’arat’s mountainside beneath them. Swinging back and forth, they built enough momentum to reach the bottom of the hull once more and lodge their stone pickaxes into its dense underbelly. ‘There!’ Japeth freed a hand, pointing before him to where the rugged slope clutched our ark against its terrain. ‘We must free the ark of Ar’arat’s grasp!’ Japeth and Ham tied the ropes to their waists and drew two more pickaxes to help them on their way to where the stone met the boat.
“When they reached their spot the boys kept one axe each lodged in the boat’s hull while using their second to hack and pry at the places where the Ar’arat held us in its clutch. Stones broke free, careening in echoes down the mountainside.
“I heard a scream of frustration while up on deck as Japeth lodged his second ax with a swift stroke between the rocks and the ark. Moments later, Ham would dislodge the ark from Ar’arat and the ark teetered forward, slowly at first. ‘Pull us up father!’ I heard him bellow from below.
“The muscles in my forearms seared in pain as I yanked one arm-length after another of Japeth’s rope upon the deck. Beside me Shem’s face reddened as he did the same for Ham. ‘Pull! Pull!’ I screamed as the Ark’s bow sank forward in a swift tilt, kicking its backside up in an attempt to buck us. I went sliding into the post where Japeth had tied his rope. As our ark crashed into the mountain and slid down its rocky side, Japeth fell in over the backside and against the post and me.
“I whipped a glance at Shem who was curled across from us against the post Ham had sliced his hand on. A blood speckled rope end flew in the wind the ark produced as the ark bucked down the mountainside. ‘Ham!’ I hollered helplessly.
“With my nails I clung to grooves in the ark’s floorboards, pulling myself up the ark’s back deck to get a look back at the terrain rumbling behind us in hopes of catching a glimpse of Ham safely there and away from the careening boat. Nothing. Nothing remained in the boat’s wake but a blur of stones, mud and dried-up seaweed.
“I wept tears into the swirling winds and beside my hand a pickaxe crashed into the wooden railing. Another thrashed into the rail beside my other hand and in exhaustion Ham’s eyes rose over the side and met mine. As I clasped his two hands he fainted in my grasp and with all my might I thrust him aboard. We both careened down the deck into Japeth before being pulled in the ark itself by our wives.
“Without our wives, after all we had done to free the ark and return to safety, we probably would have all been swept overboard again in a matter of moments and been crushed by the debris the ark churned in its wake.
“Darkness swirled in a blur beneath my eyelids as consciousness returned to me. Nausea sank in my belly as I opened my eyes to see the ark’s inner deck sloping greatly downward below me. The sweet scent of flora wafted through my nostrils as my wife’s arm held me close to her. ‘She has the most beautiful, soft strong arms,’ I remember thinking. I had never known her to wear this particular floral scent before. What was that scent?
“And then, while staring toward the corner of our slanted deck past a huddled group of pigs, chickens and goats struggling to stand, a sight caught my eyes that set my heart racing. Beautiful blue, yellow and amber flowers pressed up through a hole in the ark’s side that was rubbed bare in our rush down the mountainside.
“I turned to my wife and my family behind her as I sat up on the sloped deck. ‘Thanks to the glory of God we have all survived the flood,’ I said. I could feel God also there beside me. ‘May we continue to serve him as good people throughout our days.’
“No sun has shown as warm and bright in my days as the sun which greeted us as we left our ark. The high-up deck door now rested directly beside the lush green and floral earth; all we need do to leave was walk from the ark’s door to the earth. All flowers of the world grew in the field there and blossomed before us, daffodils, lilacs, sunflowers, dandelions, tulips, honeysuckle and many others blessed our senses.
“While leading the animals two by two from the ark I looked up as the birds flew free from the ark’s windows in a fountain of color above. I thought I saw two doves meet them in the distance, but in the radiant sunlight as I focused on them, my eyes blurred to see only pure white light.
“That first night as the sun set in the distance we built an alter to the Lord, praising him for his blessings by burning scented planks of wood we had brought with us from home in the fire-pit.
“A low warm voice spoke to all of us then between the sunset and spark of firelight. ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
“‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every living beast of the ark with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
“‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations. I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
“‘When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.’
“That is the last time I have truly heard God’s spoken word in my ears. And yet, so many times I hear him calling me through the tree’s breeze or across the ocean’s waves.”
The old man sat, silently staring as if lost in a dream, at the wall behind Maanta. His long gray beard rested knotted up in the old man’s fingertips. He wrestled to untangle it.
What a bizarre tale, Maanta thought while staring deep into the man’s eyes. But then so much of this world of air is bizarre to me. His thoughts carried him then to how the tale began, the flood, the drowned people and the person who descended upon the village from up above. There was something familiar about it, all which rested on his tongue’s tip. No! It can’t be! He thought. “kkssst… What ssss… is kft… your pft…name?” Maanta held back the urge to cough up blood which churned in the back of his throat while he spoke. The air burned and coiled upon the sores where his gills once were.
The elderly man’s wrinkled eyes withdrew from their dream state and refocused on the reality about him. He smiled at Maanta, a warm smile that a parent would give you. “There I go, telling a story before properly introducing myself. My name is Noah.”
How can that be? Maanta’s mind raced. His story is so close to the tale mother used to tell me, and his name so similar to the man’s name she spoke of. But we have been generations in the waters since that happening. He would have to find a way to speak. Maanta fought back the urge to choke on his own throat. “kkssstfffk…”
Noah saw him struggling. “Calm yourself, boy. There will be plenty of time for talking later once you have healed more.”
“kkcftkt… Noah? kft… That can’t be.” Maanta could feel his throat adapting to the air. “kkssst… My mother once told me stories kft… much like the one you just told me. A man in them was called Noa and he khhhst… spoke with Gelu before the great drowning of my people. But it has been leagues since we have adapted beneath the depths. How could you be that man and still have life? How old are you, Noah?”
The old man raised his eyebrows in an inquisitive look at the boy, himself both baffled and curious. “I am 926 years of age, young Maanta, and I swear to you all I have spoken to you is the truth. God has blessed me with long life. I assume your people don’t live quite as long where you are from. And you say you were born of the people who drowned beneath the waters on the day God flooded the earth? This confuses me and yet also explains much. When my sons first found you in the ocean you were thrusting your face into the water as if gasping for breath.
“I also thought it odd that I did not recognize you because all men and women on earth are descendants of me and I believed I knew them all. But when God spoke to me he said that every living thing on earth would perish. How could that be true and you be alive?”
Long moments of silence passed as Noah and Maanta thought.
Maanta pulled strength into his throat once more. “khh… Is it possible that God meant earth, as in soil? For you yourselves lived because you were on the ark and away from the flood and storm. And the fish also lived and they were animals of the earth, but did not come on the ark. What if the people who were on the land when the flood came died, but those fishing on their boats and swimming in the waters adapted to become sea creatures when the waters swallowed them up?”
Noah grinned. “It must be so, because I can’t deny that you are alive and sit here before me. God never ceases to surprise me with his wondrous deeds. In his hour of fiercest anger he blessed the people of earth with another chance. And I see he was not wrong in doing so. You truly have a kind, warm spirit. Tell me of your world, Maanta. What has happened to the families of the village I once knew?”
As warm sheens of luminous sunlight shown through the room’s windows, Maanta told Noah all of what he knew about his people’s beginnings beneath the waves. He spoke about how his people learned to cultivate the ocean floor, producing their own seasonings with minerals found in sea plants and drying out saltwater in small caverns beneath the ocean where air pockets collected. Maanta’s descriptions of Amaranth’s mysterious experiments brought Noah a raised eyebrow.
“He sounds like a sorcerer,” Noah interrupted. “Many people would think him an evil man where I am from.”
Maanta reassured his new friend that Amaranth was as good a friend as any could ask for and that he had one of the purest hearts he knew of. When the boy spoke of Sift’s people, Noah told him that he himself had once had a best friend with dark skin such as this.
“I am warmed to hear their people still survive,” Noah said with a grin.
This led to talk about how Sift’s people had been enslaved by the dark-souled race of the tail finned ones. When Maanta spoke of how Evanshade had led the tail finned ones to Cardonea Tower to massacre the Zhar and Maanta’s fellow Meridians, the boy gushed desperate tears of sadness. This new world above the waves was fantastic, but he missed his realm beneath the waves; a way of life and people that would be forever lost to him. Even if he could adapt to breathe underwater again, his world had been forever changed by the massacre.
Noah simply pulled the boy close in his strong arms and let Maanta’s tears flow down his shoulder. As Maanta sat up once more and collected himself, Noah called into the halls of the quaint beach house. “Japeth? Shem? Are you here? Come, the boy has awoken!”
A tall, lanky and yet muscular man skidded through the doorway moments later. “Father, Shem is out helping tend Ham’s fields and cattle but I am here.” The man thrust his hands to his sides. “Well, I see you’ve finally awoken. Took you long enough! They call me Japeth.”
Japeth has a firm handshake, Maanta noted as they greeted. “Pleased to meet you. My name’s Maanta. Thanks for pulling me ashore.”
“Let me tell you, you didn’t make it any easy task with all that squirming. I could have sworn you wanted to drown.” Japeth turned abruptly toward Noah. “Do you need something of me father?”
Noah’s strong wrinkled hands cupped one of his son’s. “Young Maanta must be starved. In the months he’s been in our care we’ve been able to keep little more then water and slivers of fish in his stomach. Let’s fix him a feast of steak, potatoes and corn to revitalize his body.”
Japeth’s mouth salivated a little at the thought. “I’ll get right on it father. I’ll pull the food from our salt shelter and have it cooked before you know it,” Japeth smirked toward Maanta. “You don’t know the feast you’re in for boy! Father makes the best seasonings.”
Noah turned back to his son. “The proof is in the cooking not in the speaking.”
“A wise man speaks wise words father.”
As Japeth left the room Maanta’s stomach let loose a growl. I hadn’t realized how hunger was overtaking me until he mentioned food, Maanta thought. I wonder what steakpotatoes are. And corn? It sounds like some bizarre horned fish. “Were they dangerous to capture?”
“Pft!” Noah almost laughed but caught himself. How was the boy to know what these things were? “No. Steak is a meat that comes from cows, docile animals that we raise in our fields.”
That still didn’t answer his question about the corn animals but Maanta decided he’d have to discover the answer for himself.
“Japeth is very skilled at cooking. And he’s had plenty of practice cooking for our wives and his children, although my wife passed many years ago. Generations upon generations have been born since the flood waters abated. And Japeth has cooked and taught our descendants to cook for many years. ” Noah refocused his attention on Maanta. “I’ve no doubt he’ll fix us up a delicious dish.”
“I can’t wait to try land food.” Maanta rubbed his stomach and grinned. “I’m starved!”
Noah’s facial features took on a sterner look. “We might as well discuss what your people are going through as we wait. It seems to me that your people have one of two ways they’ll react to the massacre. And the path they appear to be going down bothers me because it could lead them to the same dark place that brought humanity into God’s disfavor in the first place.
“With the help of Sift’s people they seem to be planning retaliation against the tail finned ones. Your fellow Meridians are angry and bitter and crave revenge for what has been done to them. The problem with hate is that it breeds more hate and a path of destruction and slaughter will form an endless loop across the seas if this happens. One people will retaliate against the other until neither group will remember why they started fighting in the first place. Hate is sin no mater what a person’s reasons for hate are, and no good can come from sin.”
Maanta’s mind grew dense and darkness pulsed in around his sight. The pressure of breathing air and speaking through un-gilled breath caused him to feel woozy once more. Don’t do it Maanta, he mentally encouraged himself. If you pass into dream state now, who knows how long it will be until you regain consciousness again. The darkness dispersed as his sight gained clarity once more.
“Are you alright?” Noah asked after seeing the boy’s irises bob like bulbs of air in his eye sockets.
“I’ll be alright. It felt as if unconsciousness was coming for me again for a moment. You speak of two journeys my fellow Meridians might choose between. This makes much sense. When we were fleeing from Meridia, my people kept speaking of how they would return to Meridia to free our captured people and kill the tail finned people who slaughtered us. Freeing our captured people is something we must do. Killing all the tail finned people we find there is something that I started thinking about though.
“If we do that, we will be no better than them. Surely the people we would kill have spouses and children of their own. Even if the ones we killed were evil to the soul, surely their families that would suffer cannot all be bad. As the Meridians about me discussed more and more what they would do once they had learned to be warriors from Sift’s people, I began to ask myself what Gelu would want us to do. I can’t imagine the creator of all things would take pleasure in any one of his people taking the life of any other of his people.”
“And so you see which path your people must take if they are to retain the inherent goodness which was given them since God drowned the Earth, but granted them another chance.” Noah sighed deeply. “God says that if someone hits you or does you harm you are to turn the other cheek and not seek revenge. For what we do to our fellow man we do to him. If you hit another man or woman, even in retaliation, it is as if you have just punched God himself. Not a wise move I’d say.”
Maanta shifted on the bed to peer behind him now, toward the ocean shimmering with sunlight behind him. “And now that my lungs breathe only air, there is no way for me to return to persuade them against the path they will inevitably follow. What will come of my people? With all the chances Gelu has given us, will he possibly be able to forgive us again?”
The steamy seasoned scent of freshly grilled meat, potatoes and corn embraced the room where Noah and Maanta sat. Even in the seriousness of the moment, both men salivated and could almost taste the aroma in the air.
Trying to get out his thoughts before the food arrived to immerse his senses, Noah spoke. “God has said that he will never again destroy every living creature, because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. God will never again destroy the world. The thing to fear then instead is that man will destroy himself. If the Meridians are hateful enough, then they will in effect destroy who they once were. The goodness they once were will become only a memory.”
Maanta opened his mouth to speak but stopped as Japeth waltzed into the room carrying three clay plates serving as the shelves for three delectable meals. “The steaks are medium father, enough to stop them from mooing but not enough to knock out the flavor,” Japeth proudly smiled. “And between the steaks and corn I think I dabbled in every seasoning we have.”
As Japeth handed Maanta his plate the boy took a deep breath of aroma. His eyes slowly took in the dish. Steak and potatoes were apparently two separate things. The steak’s medium brown color was full and juicy, speckled with seasonings. It had a deep savory flavor as he cut a piece and passed it through his lips. His stomach was warm with the taste. Maanta copied the way Noah and Japeth cut through their potatoes and a warm steam rose from its inside through the air. Its pure rich taste was soft in his mouth.
Somehow, Maanta got to the corn creature before the others. It was long, golden yellow and appeared to have a shell consisting of small pieces. Japeth had also speckled the golden creature with seasoning. The utensils didn’t work. The shell refused to cut past the small pieces and the pieces themselves burst as if they were some sort of defense mechanism for the deceased creature. Does it crack like a crab? Maanta pondered. He lifted it in his hands to crack the shell. It was slippery in their grasp.
“Now you’ve got it, Maanta!” Japeth joked as he lifted his corn. “Darn good meal if I say so myself! Who was the cook again?”
“Thanks, Japeth,” Maanta spoke. “I definitely won’t mind discovering the foods of the land above water.” Maanta pushed his two hands apart as they held the corncob in an attempt to crack it in half. Instantly the cob slipped from their grasp, somersaulting in the air before swirling in the corner on the floor, making a popping sound as it landed.
All three men broke out in laughter.
Japeth handed Maanta his corncob with a smirk. “Try again. Don’t let this one slip away.”
Then a dolphin’s call resonated in the breeze from the waters along the shore.