The night before, she had a dream that a giant egg cracked open and the yolk spilled out, flooding the land and many cities. She saw people drown in rivers of gold, reaching for the sky as they cried out to God. Naamah was frightened when she awoke; she wrapped herself up in a blanket to find comfort in sunrise. Dreams are important, but Naamah could not bring herself to tell her mother or father, for she also saw them die in the dream.
“Naamah, the Ziz requests your presence. It’s time to go,” her mother said, hands resting on Naamah’s shoulders from behind.
“Mama, has Jubal returned from the Ziz?” Naamah asked. Her half-brother had ventured out to receive his gifting some weeks before.
“He returned last night, but he is overcome. Your father says that he has been consumed with crafting strange objects from string and bone. He has not revealed the nature of his gifting to your father or his mother.”
They held hands as they descended from the city wall and approached the small caravan of traders that would lead Naamah part of the way to the Ziz.
“My gift was given by the Leviathan, so I cannot tell you the nature of the Ziz, but she is known to be kind to those who come to her with an open heart,” her mother said.
Naamah’s other brother, Tubal Cain, helped her into a cart. Naamah noticed her father, Lamech, in the distance with his other wife, Adah. He looked away from Adah for a moment and locked eyes with Naamah, offering a smile and a nod before disappearing into their home. She tried not to be jealous of Adah, who possessed most of her father’s attention now that she was pregnant.
Naamah watched Tubal Cain and her mother embrace, then he climbed into the cart with her, taking the reigns.
It took three days to reach the trade town by the sea. Tubal Cain was an artisan; he created beautiful figures from copper and iron. People came from far and wide to purchase his animal renderings and statues of the Great Creatures. Their family lived well because of him.
The caravan came to a stop on the northwest side of town where they would pitch their trade tents. Naamah hopped down from the cart and gazed out over the sea, at the mountain on the other side of the harbor.
“Are you taking me to the Ziz, brother?” Naamah asked.
“No, you will go alone,” he said.
“But how will I know where she is?”
“You’re looking at her. She is the mountain, Naamah,” Tubal Cain said with a hushed voice of reverence.
Naamah looked back at the mountain.
“The Ziz knows you are here. She will come to you, but you must meet her halfway.”
Tubal Cain led her to a small boat with a single oar and held her hand as she stepped inside. She took the oar in her hands and watched the ripples form on the surface of the water, dread setting in.
“Mother’s blessing from the Leviathan extends to you. You will be safe.”
Tubal Cain gave the boat a shove and Naamah dipped the oar into the water and made her way toward the mountain.
The Ziz, the great bird of heaven, stood in the middle of the sea. What looked like a mountain was her body, and she extended ever upward past the clouds. She could not see the great bird’s head. For a moment, she felt dizzy and grasped the sides of the boat to keep from falling forward.
Then, the Ziz lowered her head from the canopy of clouds. It seemed to take hours for her to dip down toward the sea, the tip of her beak touching the surface of the water and rocking the boat with waves. Her eyes were the size of wagon wheels and the feathers of her orange crest blocked the sun. There was a voice that resonated in Naamah’s chest. The tears fell from her eyes and she smiled, her heart full.
“What is this sound, this beauty welling up inside my soul?” Naamah asked the Ziz.
“I give you the gift of song,” Naamah heard the Ziz say. “You will sing of creation and of heaven. You will sing of dreams and of what will come to pass. You have already seen, have you not?”
Naamah recalled her dream, the golden flood drowning cities.
“You must sing to one who is coming, to one whom you will love. He is not yet born, but you will hear his cry soon.”
Naamah thought of Adah’s swelling belly, and the jealousy dissipated. A feeling of love and responsibility took its place.
“When will I give him the song, holy one?” Naamah asked.
“When he is gifted, but he will not come to me nor will he receive his gift from the Leviathan or the Behemot. His gift will come from on high, but you must sing it over him.”
The sky began to shift from blue to orange to a deep, dark pink before violet spread a blanket of night and stars.
“I will lift you up to the throne of the Creator, and I will teach you to sing.”
The Ziz took Naamah into her beak with care and lifted her head from the sea up toward the sky. Naamah felt her soul tremble within her, felt songs begin to well up in her throat. She could feel her half brother’s song growing like a vine from her heart as images of the great flood played behind her eyes. Naamah closed her eyes, feeling heaven envelope her with a sacred chill, and the first note of that song left her lips. The first note would be his name.
Written by: Natasha Akery
Photo by: Anthony Delanoix