There were no human words to describe what they saw inside... huddled together, almost stepping over one another Bailey and Fox passed the light before them, itís weak beam cast over thousands of years of history, theirs the first human eyes to bear witness to this sacred Ark. The freezing temperatures and ice had preserved everything perfectly, right down to the single wisps of straw that lay strewn across what was apparently the first of many stalls of all shapes and sizes. They could see their breath each time they exhaled, and how was it that the temperature seemed to drop even more with each bold, new step they took?
"Over there," Sydney pointed to a ladder going up, a hatch lay open at the top, and she started to climb, "come on, thatís where the people stayed..."
Nigel followed, his body had all but forgotten that forty-foot drop earlier. It was as if he didnít experience it at all and he nimbly hopped up the well worn rungs with relative ease.
The strong fragrance of lavender and rosemary permeated the air on the second floor. Impossible, Syd thought, after all these centuries...they had to have done their cooking here. Every time she turned her head a different herb came to mind. There was a basin, probably for water to wash things in, and what looked like storage space, or a larder. Further down the line there were several more water basins, all crafted in copper lining the hull of the ship itself. In the very centre of the floor was a large oven, or kiln by the look of it. Four long paddles were laid neatly to the left in a pile beside it. The oven itself resembled those that Egyptians used to fire clay bricks or bake bread. Judging from what she saw inside, it was used to incinerate garbage as well.
"Sydney, what are we going do?"
"What are you talking about?" She turned to her companion.
"This...itís awe inspiring, but we certainly cannot take it with us! Judging from the tremors weíve been feeling, Iím really not comfortable staying here any longer than we have to." He paused, a mournful sigh escaping him. "But, but I canít just turn and walk out of here, you know?" He looked over to her and they exchanged despairing glances, resigned to the fact that this discovery may not ever make it into the light of day.
"Well, then weíll have to just find something significant to take back with us Nigel. Some tangible proof that yes, Noahís Ark does exist, and we found it."
He nodded in agreement, and again swung the flashlight around, trying to find a way up onto the third and final level... the place where Noah and his family really lived for those forty days and forty nights. Only having the one flashlight, they couldnít split up to search, so they started at the middle and worked their way to the right, sooner or later they would stumble across another opening.
There were some tables in amazing condition despite their age, and baskets and some pottery as well. Sydney didnít bother with any of that... she was looking for something more significant, possibly something personal. As predicted, there was another vault of steps leading even higher. Nigel was first up with the light, one foot above the other he climbed, finally pulling himself up with his arms, he swung one leg up over the ledge, then dragged his body up past last two missing rungs from the top. Setting the flashlight to the side, he kneeled at the edge of the hatch and reached down, hauling Sydney up into an archaic wonderland.
"Okay Noah..." Sydney whispered, her breath short and body quivering with anticipation. "Show us your secrets..."
Again they huddled together, a most unusual thing, and both couldnít help feel how insignificant they were among such greatness as this. It was overwhelming, threatening to take their breath from their bodies at any moment. Nigel reached for Sydney, his hand instinctively slipping into hers and tightened his grip. This was it.
There were sleeping quarters to their left, separated by partitions made from reeds and saplings, of that Sydney was sure. And there was a small area that resembled a modern day-care. The furniture was sparse, but there was a tiny rocking chair left behind, one of its feet had been cracked. Sydney then passed the light over a wall shelf, cubbyhole in design. She wandered over and ran her fingers along the finely crafted boards, feeling so humbled before everything her eyes took in.
Nigel strayed over to the play area, stumbling in and around various items of interest, then something remarkable caught his trained eye. Crouching down he extended his arm and easily took the precious object into his careful hand. It wasnít so much a holy thing, as it was something that spoke volumes about life on the Ark with Noah. Finally, something tangible to take to the surface!
"Nigel, did you feel that?" She turned on her heel, panicked.
Nigel became still in an instant, listening to the sickening sounds of the mountain starting to sigh once again. "I think weíve worn out our welcome Syd. Letís get out of here!" He stuffed his prize down the front of his pants under his belt, having no pockets to carry it, and grabbed Sydney by the arm in his haste.
They flew down the steps this time, hardly stopping to catch the rungs. The shaking started to become more violent with each step they took, Nigel tripping up into Sydney twice as they approached the first ladder. The third time, they lost their light.
"Hurry!" She panted, sweat beading and tricking from her temple. Never in Sydneyís life had she been this afraid.
Clinging to the back of Nigelís jacket so they wouldnít lose each other in the dark, she pushed him ahead, but he was absolutely blind! Things started falling over, crashing all around them, and still he could not find the exit!
"Syd...Syd stop shoving me, youíre making it harder!" He yelled at her. "I canít s..."
Sydney lost him, one second he was there, the next he was just gone! The sound that followed was enough to sent her over the deep end as he abruptly fell through the first hatch, taking out a few rungs along the way.
"Nigel? Are you alright?"
"Uh, yeah, aside from a really sore back-side, Iíll live! Just get down here, hurry! We haven't much time!"
They both burst out into the open at the same time, their eyes wide and their lungs gasping for more oxygen. The air was near non-existent, just enough to keep them both from losing consciousness.
"Aaron!" Sydney screamed upwards. "Weíre coming up!" She and Nigel quickly hooked themselves on, and waited for their friend to respond. "Aaron! NOW!"
The ice floor began to swiftly collapse beneath their feet at an alarming rate, with both of them now shouting for that damned cowboy to start pulling, and there was nothing.
"Where on earth is he?" Nigel looked up, but no one was there.
"I don't know!"
"I think this is it Syd...I really think this is it this time!"
"Donít give the devil the satisfaction of knowing you care!" She shouted at him, trying to be heard over the ice and rock falling all around them. Latching onto him around his waist, she burieded her face against his chest. He followed her lead, holding onto her, kissing the top of her head and closed his eyes, waiting for the worst.
"I love you..." She whispered. She knew he didnít hear her over the debris cascading down like rain throughout the chasm.
Just as the ice gave way beneath them, they both screamed, feeling that horrible sensation of free falling into the dark as their stomachs climbed into their throats...
Go to Part Twenty Seven.