Two by Two
by KM Elkes
They say Noah died, 350 years on from the Great Flood, as a naked, purple-lipped drunk. But some know better. The ones who have seen ancient eyes beneath brows knotted as old, sick trees. The ones who live close to his damp-stinking shack moored out on the floodplain. The ones who know why he waits.
On each anniversary of the Flood they gather to hear his tale ― the villagers and their children, the old and the odd and the drunks from the pub. He comes to them quietly and fishes from his pockets time-smoothed wooden figures to illustrate the story ― grey seas and the stink of animals, salt-hot spray on his face, the groan of the ark cutting through waters thick with the dead.
He once confessed that as he held the dove, there was a thought of crushing its neck and sailing on. But his son saw the branch in the bird’s beak and proclaimed the good news.
Last flood time, as bad as any of them had known, Noah danced a stiff, frail jig on the roof of his shack, shouting into the rain that this, this was the time to wash away the disappointment of the drying sun and the cruel rainbow. But the waters receded, like all the other floods.
They say, the ones who know, that he cannot leave. Not until he tastes again the moonlit night when he stood at the centre of the world, its past and its future, as the heart beat of each creature fell in time, two-by-two, and the whole ship throbbed with everything that was alive.
KM Elkes has won the Fish Publishing flash prize, been shortlisted four times for the Bridport Prize and won or been placed in a number of other short fiction competitions. His work has been published in more than 20 anthologies and he is a Best Short Fictions nominee for 2018. KM Elkes can be found online at www.kmelkes.co.uk and on Twitter @mysmalltales.
Engraving of Noah by P. Troschel, from Johann Michael Dilherr, Tugendschaz, Und Lasterplaz. Das ist: Christliche Anweisung zu Gottseliger Betrachtung Des Lebens und Wandels der heiligen Erzvätter, dapferer Helden, und fürtreflicher Königen Alten Testaments, Nürnberg, Christoph Gerhard, (1659).