The antelope race beside the Ark.
The waters are glassy, sometimes, when the rain slows down. They are rich in color. The hoofprints of the antelope are like the dents of great raindrops.
The antelope have wide feet and a powerful light foot technique. For seventeen days they keep their balance on the water. Yet slowly, as the days pass, they sink deeper and deeper into the shining waters until at last they drown.
“There’s no room for the hippos,” Ham says. “We’ll have to eat them.”
“No eating the hippos,” says Noah.
Noah considers. “There are those birds,” he says, “that fly into your urethra when you’re peeing and nest inside your crotch. We could eat them.”
Ham considers that.
“Okay,” he says.
The seven-limbed howlers struggle upwards from the cities below. They flail. They howl. They reach the surface and fill their great and terrible lungs with air. Then they sink, again, slowly, pathetically, and hoard their energy for the next long breath.
The eagles circle tiredly in the sky above.
Shem and Ham descend into the Ark.
The deeper they go into the Ark, the more tightly crowded the animals become. It is the nature of the construction of the Ark that any number of animals can be packed within it; near the bottom, Shem believes, the density of packed animals becomes asymptotically infinite. But they do not need to go that far.
“Good sheep,” says Shem, passing a sheep.
“Good cow,” says Ham, passing the cows.
“Good crocodi—BAD crocodile!” says Shem. Shem brandishes his broom at the crocodile. It reluctantly turns away and snaps its mouth closed. It slithers deeper, slithers down, its long green body vanishing under a cluster of chickens, wrens, doves, owls, game hens, and wildebeests, and it is gone.
“Good hippo,” says Ham, grudgingly, as they pass.
The urethra birds are not very far down. They are good at gaming the ecosystem for maximum advantage. But it does not save them now.
“Bawk!” proclaims one urethra bird, startled, as Ham grabs it around the neck.
“Ch-caa!” declares the other, in some distress, as Shem seizes it in turn.
The axe descends.
“It’s natural selection,” says Noah, as he chews on a leg. “Those that do not please me, die. Evolutionary pressure driven by the seething core of the Ark will inevitably create a new generation of animals better suited to the exigencies of my desires.”
Days and nights pass.
In the third and fourth weeks, great clusters of ostriches swim by.
The ostriches are not happy with the rain. United, they are strong. Solitary, they are weak. But the rain and flood tries their solidarity.
One by one, ostriches commit social errors.
One by one, the clusters drive them out.
The stragglers are easy prey for the sharks, the icthyocampi, and the cold.
“I wonder if Mr. Sills is still alive,” Shem says.
“He’s got to have drowned by now,” Noah argues.
“I know some of them were trying to build cities in the deep,” Shem says.
Ham walks out and stares down at the water.
“It’s weird,” says Ham. “To imagine all the people we knew, down there.”
“Freaky,” Japheth agrees.
“Cold and blue and drowning.”
“It’s because God didn’t like them,” says Shem. “I mean, as much as he liked us.”
The sheep goes, “Baa.”
“Animal on deck!” says Noah.
They quickly hurry the sheep back into the hold.
“Can we eat the sheep?” Ham asks.
“No,” says Noah. “Sheep are good animals. That’s why it made it all the way up.”
“No eating the hippos.”
Noah considers. “Isn’t there some kind of animal that lives mostly on the brains of dead people?”
Noah shakes his head. “Besides those.”
“Yeah,” says Noah. “Those. We can eat those.”
Ham and Japheth descend.
The deeper they go into the Ark, the more tightly crowded the animals become. It is the nature of the construction of the Ark that any number of animals can be packed within it; near the bottom, Japheth suspects, the animals are unable to survive in solid form but instead revert to their natural plasmic state.
“It’s hot as God’s spankings down here,” says Ham.
“No blasphemy. We’re on the Ark.”
There is a creaking, clunking noise, as the sea serpents of God beat warningly upon the vessel’s side.
“Right,” says Ham, sweating. He looks sideways. “Good oryx.”
By the eighteenth sub-basement of the Ark, Ham and Japheth are forced to carve their way through the animals to make room for their passage. Thus dies the bulwark buffalo, the crowball, and the cave goat. Thus dies the ghoul, spoken of in legend, and the icy blue beast in whose image the Slurpee was made. Thus dies the elephant and the fungal turtle.
“Here,” says Japheth.
The cranium beaver skulks defensively behind its dam of skulls, but this primitive instinct cannot save it from the knives of Noah’s heirs.
“Good sheep,” says Japheth, on the way back up.
“Baa,” insists the sheep.
It’s so adorable that even Ham has to scruffle the sheep behind its ears.
The rhinoceri have gone feral, long, and lean. In the distance, as the sons of Noah eat, they watch the primal battle between rhinoceros herd and megalodon, under a sky full of storms. The waves of that battle rock the ship, and the sinuous shapes of the rhinoceri lash and shimmer and in the sea.
“They’re winning,” says Naamah, in some surprise.
“There’s just a chance,” says Noah, in satisfaction, “that the megalodons’ll be another casualty of this rain.”
“I’ll tell the others,” says Japheth.
So he goes to the speaking tubes and calls down into the depths of the ship, “Let the rhinoceros be informed that their kind still live, under the sea.”
And up comes the honking, and the bleating, and the wailing, and the howling, and the hissing, and the chirping, and the long pleased snore of the happy shipboard rhinoceri.
“That means we could eat them,” says Ham. “I mean, the ones we have here.”
“No eating the rhinos,” says Noah.
“Fine,” sulks Ham, crunching on a barbecued cranium beaver leg.
The last of the scissor-beaked night terrors drowns that day.
“Look!” cries Ham, one silvery morning.
“Elephants! The elephants didn’t die out after all!”
Noah rubs his chin. “There’s no reason we can’t take another female on board to replace the one you carved through.”
Shem and Ham operate the elephant crane to retrieve a backup elephant from atop Ayers Rock.
“Baa,” the sheep remarks, conversationally, as it watches.
“Animal on deck!” says Noah.
Naamah and Japheth hurry the sheep back into the hold.
Days and nights pass.
“I can see them far below,” says Japheth, later that night. “All the people I ever hated.”
“Are they trying to tame sea horses?”
“They’re dead, Dad. They’re moving in great drifts through the night.”
“Baa,” mourns the sheep.
Noah laughs a little and stops halfway through the sentence.
“Oh, let it be, I guess,” he says.
The sheep looks down into the water, at the hills and dales of Scotland-under-the-Waves.
A fish-tailed sheep skims to the surface of the sea.
For a long moment, the land-sheep and the sea-sheep look into one another’s eyes.
The moment is gone; and the two sheep go, in their respective elements, below.
In such manner as this: running, swimming, struggling, serving, seething, mourning, and loving does the world survive the rain.