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This is the Day the World Ends
“Jacob, what are you doing here?” I ask as my older brother strides into the small room, where my friend, Elizabeth and I are sewing, patching up dresses and shirts. Instead of answering, Jacob tosses a wadded-up shirt toward me and says bitterly, “I think Ben did it just to get me out of his domain.” I put my sewing on the floor next to me and pick up the shirt, which is ripped all the way down the sleeve... and soaked in sweat. I throw it back to Jacob in disgust.
“Wash it first. It smells like -”
“I don’t wash things,” Jacob interrupts, “especially not Ben’s things. You wash it.” He flings it back at me and heads toward the door.
“You know,” I say sadly to Elizabeth, “if he would just wash it, he wouldn’t have to go straight back to work.” Jacob stops halfway out the door, hesitating. He glances at the shirt, then me.
“Nice try,” he says. I grin at him. Rolling his eyes, Jacob begins to walk out again, but pauses and says, “A man stopped by earlier and claimed that there’s gonna be a flood that’ll destroy everything. Maybe it’ll destroy Ben’s ego too. Wouldn’t that be nice... a humble Ben...” His voice trails off longingly.
“Keep dreaming,” Elizabeth mutters. Jacob shrugs and trudges out, taking as much time as possible.
“He’ll probably travel at a snail’s pace all the way back to the workshop,” I say scornfully. Elizabeth giggles.
Noah, the man who stubbornly predicts impending doom while building an enormous boat to, apparently, house himself, his family, and two of every kind of animal on earth, has rapidly become the joke of the town. Everywhere I go, someone is talking about Noah and his insanity. The woman in the fruit stall is whispering confidentially to her customer as I pass by, and I catch the words “boat” and “crazy” almost immediately.
“Miri! Miri!” I hear Elizabeth’s voice calling me and turn around, searching for her in the bustling, crowded market. Several people jostle me as they push past. I can’t see Elizabeth, at least not until she slams into me, nearly knocking us both to the ground.
“Sorry!” she exclaims breathlessly, holding my arm to keep us from falling. “Guess what!” I open my mouth to say “What?” but she interrupts before I can begin. “I just overheard one of that guy, Noah, one of his sons, talking to his wife, and guess what? The whole boat’s finished!” She laughs disdainfully. “Apparently the ‘flood’ is coming in seven days!”
“And in eight days he’ll be so embarrassed he’ll never show his face again,” says Jacob from behind me. We both pivot towards him. “Unless he’s right, of course,” he adds thoughtfully.
“Oh, please,” I say, “That’s impossible. He’s crazy. He probably just wants to scare everybody.”
“Maybe, but why would he do that if he knows he’s just gonna be embarrassed? I think he actually believes it.”
“Which means he is crazy,” Elizabeth concludes.
As if Noah and his huge boat in the middle of the desert aren’t crazy enough, things start to happen that make us all wonder if he’s some kind of magician. Every kind of animal imaginable has wandered through town. Birds of every shape, size, and color flock the skies, creating a swift swarm of feathers. Two zebras stroll by, followed by curious children, stares, and whispers. A few minutes later, a pair of ostriches amble past, pecking playfully at a few children, who giggle and chase them happily. I hear a group of women chattering worriedly, a couple of men muttering to each other darkly. I tell myself that it’s all a big hoax, and try to imagine how Noah’s pulling it off.
But, I wonder, what if he’s right?
It’s late afternoon. Jacob, Elizabeth, and I are sitting in the shade of a huge oak tree.
“Today’s the day,” Jacob sings out mockingly.
“And on the seventeenth day of the second month of the fourteenth year of our lives, the world shall end,” Elisabeth says dramatically.
“Hey!” Jacob cries, continuing importantly, “It’s the sixteenth year of my life.”
“Yes,” I agree, “which means you should be working.” Jacob grins.
“They won’t miss me. Besides, if it’s my last day to live, I’d rather enjoy it.” He leans back against the tree in exaggerated contentment, a big, goofy smile on his face. Elizabeth and I laugh. Our laughter is suddenly cut short by a rumbling underground. We all look at each other, disbelief etched on our faces.
“Big Moley-Mole is hungwy,” Jacob says in a babying voice, shrugging off the very idea of some kind of disaster. Then the unthinkable happens. Water droplets fall on our faces, lightly at first, becoming gradually more insistent until we are soaked in pouring water. Water that comes from the sky? We are paralyzed by shock, but when the ground nearby explodes in an enormous burst of water, deadly water, fear kicks in and we are running as fast as we can. I can’t move fast enough, even with fear pushing me away from the floodwaters. Water shoots up from the ground right in front of us, blocking our path. I hear screams as I’m lifted off my feet by cold wetness. Maybe I’m the one screaming. Just before my head is forced under the tumbling water, I see Elizabeth clinging hopelessly to a high branch in a tree, the fear I feel visible on her face, and I can hear Jacob’s voice calling my name, echoing my desperation.
The hopeless screaming outside the ark cuts through Noah like a knife. Even though he and his family are safely cupped in God’s hands, every face on the ark is wet from tears. This is a day of death. This is the day the world ends.