There's something familiar in this strange future.
|When the light first hit Noa's eyes, she turned and pulled the covers over her head. No alarm necessary when your window faces east and the sun buzzes you awake. Can't be morning already, she thought..|
Then, sudden as the shine, a realization. It's not morning.
She threw off the covers and sat up, instantly alert. She swore she'd just fallen asleep, yet the purple light of dawn - or dusk - poured into her room. What time was it? Then she remembered. Goddess said it would begin at zero hour...but She'd said it so long ago. Years ago. Decades. And it had taken that long to prepare.
The bright, round, Second Sun rose in the east against an eggplant sky, huge and unexplained. Clouds were already pulling at the light in wisps of warning. The highway, framed in the square of her window, was empty save for two motorcycles roaring top speed to get away. Once their noise had faded, there was nothing to hear and no one to see.
They've left. The others. She had been told they would go, headed for the hills, warned off by the dire evacuation order. How did the government know what was happening? Noa supposed there were prophets, now, even there. But it was useless to warn people away from the flatlands, useless to set up shelter camps in the mountains. Useless to flee. Nevertheless, these actions cleared a path for the Arrival. This was not for her to question.
A trio of sweet voices spoke to her in chorus; her daughters stood just outside her door, in various stages of pregnancy. Noa's own belly was rounded now and just starting to swell with her fourth child - a son this time, her intuition told her. None of them had left the property since testing positive. It would have been too remarkable, too memorable, for them all to be pregnant together. Still, they'd been over-cautious. Only Gem, her second born, was really big enough to call attention to her pregnancy. Pam and JoBeth, like Noa, were not so far along.
Noa knew they were blessed, knew this time would come. But she hadn't realized how humbled she'd feel on the day the others dr-- well, disappeared. Disappeared. She preferred to use this term. She preferred to think of them as, simply, gone - when she allowed herself to think of them at all.
The first drops pulled her focus to the very thing she sought to avoid: considering their fate. There were many other pregnant women who would die this day. Every other woman, in fact, but she and her progeny. Men and children too, of course. All of them. And already the Second Sun was becoming obscured by the cloud cover. A steadier rain began, long silver threads of it stretched against the gathering dark from ground to sky. No wind at all, yet.
Noa regarded her daughters and managed a small smile. "Yes, it's time to go."
Their mates would be afraid, unsure. Like all men, they had some knowledge of prophecy but couldn't comprehend this journey or what it meant; they'd been kept busy far away from the construction of the Lark. Goddess lent her hand to the endeavor, helped shape and speed its assembly, ensured its ultimate success.
Now the four women walked together to comfort their men and bring them aboard. The vessel, of course, was massive. The others had mocked it, driven close enough to their property to gape at its ridiculous proportions, gossiped of "crazy Noa" and her strange family. As much as they had been excluded from society, the women held no grudge. Tonight especially they felt only pity.
After securing her daughters and their husbands in pre-fashioned rooms, Noa scanned the dimly lit property and path to the main highway. Her eyes sought her mate, Ahmad, but also they sought those passengers yet to arrive. She found Ahmad quickly; he'd been packing seeds by their favorite weeping willow. It too must die, she thought, and again she attempted to close her mind to the enormity of this day.
Deceptively, the rain was filled with light; it fell silvered through rays of sunshine still peeking from behind bruised clouds. Noa whispered reassurances to Ahmad and helped him tie his bundle. They were out of time. Together they walked to the gigantic storeroom, which stretched from bow to stern. There Noa left him, walked toward the bridge, and swiftly climbed steep stairs to the Lark's highest vantage point. This took the better part of an hour, but left her only slightly winded. She had been given the strength she needed for this final task - sighting the Arrival.
Now she murmured a plea to Goddess: May they arrive safely. And after that....well...may it be quick. As if in response, a roar filled the distance and a lioness appeared with her mate above the farthest highway rise. Thus began a prophesied procession. Noa stood rooted to the spot, barely breathing. She thought she had prepared herself for this, but she was wrong. Only Goddess could orchestrate such a miracle. Begin again, She had said.
Noa's knees threatened to buckle. Slowly, in moments full of wonder, she gathered herself. Then she took a deep breath and began the long descent to her chambers. Rain grew insistent, intent on its task.
The Second Sun lent the last of its light to the scene and died away.