This was written at speed as part of an online challenge to write a short story based on a writing prompt. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the prompt – something about going back in time to the Biblical flood. Anyway, it’s very silly and mercifully short.
Norman’s Ark (written 2014)
I’m going to tell you about the time God wiped out all life on Earth.
I knew I was in trouble once the Tyrannosaurus ate half my time machine. Up until that point, I had held onto a vague, desperate optimism that I might be able to fix it, despite being an absolutely terrible engineer. Then that bloody great dinosaur turned up and ate the engine.
The presence of a Tyrannosaurus told me two things: one, I had landed in the late Cretaceous, and two, I was definitely going to die there. This sent me into a spiral of depression, and I sat in the remainder of my time machine for a good six days without moving, idly sipping on my endless nutrient straws.
Beneath the carcass of my useless metal machine was another carcass, squashed quite flat when my transport landed on it. I knew it was there because of the halo of blood that carpeted the mossy ground around me, and also because of the smell. At first, I felt bad for whatever animal I had accidentally killed, but after a few days, I started to envy it. At least its death had been quick.
On the seventh day of my depression, I started to hear voices.
“Norman!” the voice said, deep and gravelly, reverberating through the trees so forcefully that it almost seemed real. “Norman!”
I pressed my thumbs hard against my eyes and sighed. I had finally gone insane.
“Norman!” the voice said again, with just a touch of impatience.
Oh well. Who was I to ignore my own madness?
“Yes,” I said. “This is Norman. Who is this?”
“This is the voice of God!” said the voice.
I laughed out loud at my own lack of imagination.
“God, eh?” I said. “Couldn’t I have thought of something more original?”
“Norman!” said the voice again. “This is not your own mind. This is God!”
“Which God?” I asked.
The voice paused. “The only God!” it said at last.
“I don’t believe in God,” I retorted.
“Look, Norman, we don’t have time for this. You are the least sinful person left on this planet, and as such, I am going to use you to save mankind.”
“Seriously, God?” I said. “The least sinful person. How’d you work that one out?”
“Norman, people here are crazy. I can’t even begin to tell you.”
“Yeah, but I’ve done bad stuff too.”
“Like what, Norman?”
“Like, there was this time I was really hungry so I took some cheese that belonged to my housemate without asking him. I melted it on toast and ate it all and I didn’t even feel guilty.”
“Have you ever raped any children, Norman?”
“No, just God.”
“Fine, God! No, of course not!”
“Norman, is the total number of people you’ve raped less than ten?”
“What? Yes, of course – it’s actually – “
“Doesn’t matter. You already win, Norman. I’m going to use you to save mankind.”
“Right. And how do you propose to do that?”
The voice cleared its throat dramatically. “Norman! I need you to build an ark.”
I laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”
The voice faltered, then continued. “Onto this great boat, I will call two of every animal, and you will tend to them. I will then send a great flood that will destroy all life, but you and the animals will survive to repopulate the Earth.”
“Right,” I said. “How am I going to repopulate the Earth?”
“I’m working on that,” the voice said. “At a push, the chimpanzees.”
“I said I was working on it.”
“Okay,” I said. “You want me to build an ark. How on earth am I going to do that? I can’t even fix my time machine.”
“I’m working on that as well.”
“You need an engineer,” I said. “You don’t need me.”
“You are the only one who will do,” the voice said, and I could hear the resignation in his voice. “Norman, you are the only hope for mankind.”
“You could just cancel the flood,” I said.
“No, it’s too late,” the voice replied. “I already locked in that bit.”
I sighed, the deep sigh of one who is so certifiably insane that he starts to believe.
“Okay God,” I said, “I’ll do my best. I suppose you want to rename me Noah.”
God spluttered audibly. “No, Norman!” he said. “Of course not! I wanted Noah. I needed Noah. Noah was a much less sinful person than you, and he had a family, and he knew how to build boats!”
“Oh,” I said, surprised. “Then why don’t you use Noah?”
“Because you squashed him with your goddamn time machine!”
“Oh shit,” I said. “Sorry.”
And I truly was sorry, and I truly did try my hardest to build that bloody great ark.
I failed, of course, because I’m an absolutely terrible engineer.