Published in Cup of Joe Flash Fiction Anthology (April 2011).
Smell of Rain
“There is no evil that has no remedy, and the remedy for sin is repentance.”
-Midrash Tahuma, Medieval Hebrew, trans. 1917
Noah crouches at the water’s edge—in the lush little place sculpted by the river’s steady hands—filling the last gritty ceramic jar to follow his laden sons home. A woman he does not know approaches and kneels in the grass beside him, her jar—glazed intricately in purple, even lines spelling the laws of God—catching the wild rush of water.
Noah hefts, stands—thick hemp cutting into his shoulder, the jar’s swing and thump against his rib—and she turns to him, her knees bent against the soil as she speaks, “Noah.”
Pausing, he focuses on her voice, watches the river’s thin waves as he listens.
“You are needed.”
The jar under Noah’s arm shifts—he grips the dusty clay as he begins walking toward the path, veins running like wide scars across his hands.
The woman’s dark features grow soft in silver light—the expansive, blinding light of stars—and in a thousand tiny voices she moans, “Cain.”
He feels something like ice spread just under his skin, and the muscles of his feet and legs become infantile, unsure of footing. Noah drops his jar to the ground—rupturing the sides—as he turns back to her, his vision centered on the vessel held out on her fingertips, the script now aflame.
The angel’s voice again fills the green, shadowed space. “Though you may wander until the End, you will not find Death until your debt is repaid.” He steadies his legs by flexing each muscle in turn and spits on the dirt. She sighs again like splintering glass, “Your task is at hand,” and it echoes, flooding the trees and pushing the leaves into waves.
Noah looks back at the clear water swelling against the grainy shore and asks, “Am I responsible for them all?”
The angel slowly nods, the light of her face shimmering and refracting against each blade of grass, each wave’s crest. Noah squints as he gazes across the desert—toward the thick forests of the West where his sons will gather lumber, the plains of the South where they will collect the fauna—before turning back to the broken walls of clay and rivulets of water slowly muddying a path toward the source.