A bird spoke.
“There will be rain today, and for forty days henceforth,” it said. The red sun had not moved for five and a half hours, and two clouds of dust began to swirl in place on either side of the desert path. The bird observed stoically, its obsidian feathers thickening and pulsing.
“My grandfather never saw the ark, only the mast.”
For a moment, we both stood alongside one another, my feet on the ground and his around the thin, leafless branch. For a moment, the unsettling stillness of the red sun was comforting. For a moment, the only noise was the rushing of water on the opposite end of the mountains. Then a raindrop plopped into cracked earth, and the bird flew away without a word, so I drank from my canteen, waiting for the peyote to hit again.
That’s when things really took off. In the desert, rain is as rare as religion. There are no gods here, only vultures and scorpions lying in wait for prey to present itself on a sterling serving plate. As rain fell, I watched wildebeests scurry across the hard sand into a rabbit hole the size of a mack truck, and followed, only to find a herd of bewildered wildebeests staring back at me with eyes the size of saucers.
I turned around and saw a father and son playing baseball together. The elder man hit a home run and broke his bat over his knee like Bo Jackson while his son ran after the ball and disappeared behind a sheet of rain. The red sun had turned purple, the sky a sickly yellow, and the sound of rushing water on the opposite end of the mountains reached a crescendo of crashing waves.
Water broke over the mountains and made a waterfall in the desert. The man with the broken bat aged three thousand years in an instant, and the bat turned to a staff. The man’s white beard was so long that it reached the floor, curled upwards and took the shape of a man itself. They stood there together, the man and his beard, shaking hands and discussing retirement plans while the son came back covered in lesions and blisters, feverish, panting and wheezing.
The bruised sky cracked with lightning, rapidly whipping wind ripped the whiskers off the man’s face and carried them into the sky, where another burst of lightning followed and hit the ground so hard the earth cracked in half. The father stood on one side and the son on the other, I in the middle between the divided parcels of land. Breaking waves rushed down the mountains carrying a boat the size of Cowboys Stadium, filling the gap between each half of land with a newly formed river. At the front of the ship’s hull was an obsidian bird the size of a man with feathers shifting constantly as though they controlled their own movements.
The bird spoke.
“I shall call it the Euphrates!” The bird looked pleased with himself following his proclamation. His crew of crows cawed excitedly, smacking glasses of rum together and singing pirate songs. I pulled myself along the bank as the ship drew near and dried off before it stopped. A rope ladder was thrown off the side for me to climb. As I reached the deck, the crew greeted me with an unblinking stare; at least seventy huge black birds, standing nearly face to face with me, all wearing men’s clothes. The captain spoke.
“My grandfather never saw the ark, only the mast. My father made snow from rain and ice from rushing water,” the bird paused for a while between each sentence. His beady eyes turned white and blue, and he looked deep into mine. “I made a river from the desert. Look on my works.”
Then the sky became blue again, the sun yellow like before, and the river red with what was to come.