Exodus 15-16: A Murder of Quails (or, Good Manna Hard To Find) (Season 2, Episode 10)

What happens when the Israelites complain about hunger and thirst? A giant cloud with a face gets really pissed off, smallish birds "attack" from the sky, and people find a new dietary staple.

Welcome to episode 32 of the The New Old Testament!

Okay, so remember how last week, I said that that episode just kind of fell out of me. This one was a bit more of a struggle - possibly due to other time constraints and general life stuff, but I’m not here to make excuses. The episode is here. I’ve held up my end of the bargain. Now hold up yours. Read. Laugh!

On a more serious note, I’m considering doing commentaries for these episodes. They would be a deeper dive into the biblical text, comparing and contrasting it with The New Old Testament - what I changed, what I didn’t, and why. My belief is that people would be more shocked with what I didn’t change than what I did.

Anyway, I’d love your feedback on that idea. Just wanted to put some feelers out to see if it’s something you’re interested in or not (that is, something I should spend my time on). Rest assured, it wouldn’t replace the weekly episode - I envision it more as interesting, behind-the-scenes bonus material.

A big part of what I’m trying to do here is make people aware of what is actually contained in this book that’s shaped so many of us and so much of the modern world. All that to say I’d really love your input. After you’ve finished the episode, make sure to hit reply and let me know what you think. Thanks!


This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


So the Israelites are wandering through the desert, yeah?

They’re pretty stoked to be free of the Egyptians, but less stoked to have just witnessed the mass drowning of a couple thousand soldiers. I mean, yes, the Egyptians were slavers and, in one case, a formicophile (I’ll let you Wikipedia that one), but most (if not all) of them had just had their first-borns brutally murdered, plus their city and economy are now in ruins , plus their wives are without husbands and any remaining children are without fathers, so...

I don’t know. It’s kind of a grey area.

Anyway, shit’s miserable.

Cloud Face is strangely quiet up ahead and Moe’s starting to wonder if Yah is alright. Maybe she’s just nursing a brutal hangover. Maybe it’s something else. The clouds which make up the pillar have gone all grey and gloomy – like a sad, rainy-day cloud – as if to represent the psychological condition of its controller.

Moe doesn’t often worry about her god, being so frequently irritated with or horrified by her, but something is up.

She might have been able to enjoy the silence, but – as if to fill some evolutionary need for a drunken loudmouth in the group – Erin has taken Yahweh’s place.

With a wineskin in her hand, she doesn’t so much ‘walk’ as she does ‘flop and stumble’. Her top half lolls forward and she staggers with the momentum, then she pulls back to stop herself from falling, staggers in reverse, then catches herself from tripping over and lurches forward again, always trying to regain her balance and never quite succeeding.

On its own, this would be slightly annoying (or somewhat amusing, depending on your proximity to the aforementioned ‘flop-and-stumbler’), but in her inebriated state, Erin has decided that a song is in order.

So, channelling her inner Lin Manuel Miranda, she begins improvising a little ditty that skirts the line between freestyle rap and Sondheimian musical:

I will sing to the Lord, for she has triumphed gloriously,

horse and rider she has thrown into the sea...”

At first, Moe just rolls her eyes, but then begins to notice a few people nearby are really bothered by it. It’s not just annoying, it’s triggering in a way that a white van might be for someone who just came back from Iraq.

A kind of PTSD before PTSD was a thing.

Erin, oblivious to her impact on the Israelites (and quite possibly dealing with her own PTSD in a less-than-optimal way), continues:

The Lord is a warrior;

and Yahweh’s her name.

Pharaoh’s army she cast into the sea;

Down they went, like a stone.”

Now people are getting really uncomfortable, and after exchanging a worried glance with Merry, she begins offering apologetic looks and mouthing, “Sorry,” to those around her.

In the greatness of your majesty,

you overthrew your adversaries.

You sent out your fury,

and consumed them like stubble.”

“Like stubble?” Moe says to Merry, not sure if she’s more offended by her sister’s drunken, disrespectful display or the abysmal quality of the improvised lyrics. Merry, who’s desperately trying to corral his sister/wife and keep her upright, just shrugs, like, “Hey, man – I didn’t write it.”

But as her husband/brother tries to restrain her, Erin swipes viciously at him, flop-and-stumbling away as she resumes her awful song, uninterrupted:

The enemy said, “My hand shall destroy them.”

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.”

People are crying now, holding their loved ones, appalled by Erin’s graphic recollection of the trauma everyone’s just witnessed.

“For Chrissakes, Merry,” Moe hisses. “Shut her up!”

Merry, who has been chasing around the increasingly-floppy-yet-somehow-still-standing Erin, takes off the kid gloves and spear-tackles her to the ground.

“Finally...” says Moe.

But Erin, writhing around crazily while Merry tries to muffle her, doesn’t skip a beat:

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendour, doing wonders?”

“Goddamn it, hold still!”

Finally, Merry tears off a piece of his own tunic and jams it into her mouth, turning the horrible song into a slightly-less horrible moaning.

To be clear, she’s still singing her improvised, weirdly-formal, terribly-insensitive lyrics – only now, they’re muffled by the improvised, weirdly-filthy, terribly-unhygienic cloth gag.

The congregation breathes a collective sigh of relief, and within minutes, she’s been lashed to the back of a donkey and had a Hannibal Lecter-style facemask strapped around her head to keep the gag in.

Still, she continues singing, the muffled moans making sense only to her.

They press on, into the wilderness of Shur, and don’t find any water for three effing days.

When they finally do find water (in the form of an oasis), it’s so effing bitter that no one can drink the shit.

They complain to Moe, and...

Alright, sidebar...

I need to pause here for a second to draw your attention to something, since it’s going to become something of a recurring motif (if you’ll pardon the literary smelling of my own farts).

We’ve already seen the Israelites complain en masse several times, beginning in Egypt when the Universe of Cinematic Marvels (aka the Ten Plagues) began. Alright, I get it – they were slaves and Moe was indirectly making their lives that much harder.

Next, it was the food situation. Again, I see where they’re coming from – they’d just been through some shit and all they had to show for it was some unleavened bread.

Now, it’s the water thing. They’re thirsty. Totally understandable.

All I want to point out is that this is becoming a pattern. Something bad happens, the Israelites lose faith, Yahweh delivers, the Israelites rejoice, then pretty soon, something bad happens and we’re back to square one. The cycle repeats. Forget about it only being a thematic concern for the Book of Exodus, this shit will continue ad infinitum.

That’s right.

Ad infi-motherfucking-itum.

It’s basically the structure (that is, the literary skeleton) of the Old Testament – something that will become so didactic and on-the-nose in Judges, you’ll want to throw your hands up and go, “I get it!”

But we’ll get to that.

Just wanted to prepare you. This shit will not resolve itself.

Ever.

And we’re back in...

Moe’s like, “Surely, it can’t be that bad.”

She makes her way through the chap-lipped (chapped-lipped?) crowd and takes a sip from a waterskin that someone’s filled up, ready to chug it on down and then lambast the guy for being such a pussy.

Sure enough, she projectile vomits on him instead.

Right in the eyes.

As the guy wipes his face without complaint (revelling in the glory of sweet vindication) and Moe spits the remaining bile from her mouth, she goes, “Alright, fair enough. Leave it with me. I’ll see what I can do.”

She goes to see Yahweh’s avatar, who’s lurking kind of sullenly at the edge of camp, faced away from everyone, all broody and such.

“Hey big gal,” Moe says, a little tentatively. “Everything alright?”

The giant pillar of cloud turns (swirls?) around to face her, looking gloomy as hell. “Hmm? Yeah, no, everything’s fine. I mean, I think I’ve lost my two best friends, but other than that, yeah, no, everything’s fine.”

Moe has absolutely no idea how to respond to that.

In the end, she neatly sidesteps the comment and proceeds to ask what she came over to ask.

“Anyway...”

Nice sidestep, Moe.

“...a few of the people were complaining that...”

“What a surprise.”

Moe bites her tongue. “It’s just... the water’s really bitter here, for some reason. We were wondering if...”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s because this is a desert? Huh? Did that ever occur to you, or to any of those fucking morons? Those sheeple.” Cloud Face says the word with such venom, such disgust, that it makes you wonder why Yahweh bothered saving them in the first place.

Real love-hate relationship she’s got going on with the Israelites.

Another thing that isn’t going away any time soon.

Under her breath, Moe’s like, “Jeez, the water’s not the only thing that’s bitter around here...”

“What’s that?” Cloud Face snaps.

Playing it off, Moe says, “Nothing. Look, is there anything you can do about the water? We haven’t found anything to drink for three effing days.”

Cloud Face sighs with irritation. “Fine. Just... look, see that bit of wood over there.”

With a cloudy finger attached to a cloudy hand attached to a cloudy arm attached to the giant pillar of cloud that is Cloud Face – or rather, Cloud Face’s body – Cloud Face points to a dried-up tree branch on the ground.

“Yeah.”

“Take that and throw it in the water.”

Confused, Moe goes to ask why. She actually opens her mouth to form the words, then realises it doesn’t matter – there’s no rhyme or reason to any of this shit. If a staff can turn into a snake and change water into blood, why can’t this dried-up tree branch make bitter water more palatable?

Why anything?

Moe picks up the branch and returns to the crowd.

She tosses the branch into the water and they all just look at her, like, “Da fuck...?”

“Go on,” she says, feeling foolish and instantly going on the defensive. “Take a sip.”

The guy she gave a facial to fills up his waterskin and does as instructed.

The second he realises it doesn’t taste like shit, he begins guzzling from the waterskin, sucking greedily on the nozzle like a malnourished piglet on its mama’s teat.

The second the others realise that the water mustn’t taste like shit if this guy’s going to town on it, someone snatches it away from him and pretty soon, the fists start flying.

A rabble breaks out.

Chaos ensues.

The fight is quickly forgotten as the Israelites surge forward like... well, like sheeple, migrating into the water as one. They dive and wade and splash around, some scooping up the water in their hands, others filling their waterskins and drinking from those.

One guy just daintily laps at the water like a cat, bending over at the waist and kind of flicking the water with his tongue.

Along with everyone else, he might be absolutely dying of thirst, and yet remains a picture of monk-like calm in the carnage taking place all around him.

Good on you, man. Way to have some... dignity, I guess?

After everyone’s had their fill and filled their waterskins (and had their annual 50-Metre Freestyle Fiesta, which they always used to do in the Nile as slaves – Ahishahar won, of course... fucker always wins), the Israelites move on.

They name the place Marah, which means bitterness in Hebrew, and Moe does that under-the-breath thing where she wonders out loud if maybe she should start calling Cloud Face the same thing, seeing as the Israelite god is being real fucking moody lately.

She wants to scream, “Oh, poor wittle baby wost her wittle fwiends? Get over it! We need you to guide us to the fucking Promised Land, alright. Can you do that, Yah? Can you? You reckon you can scrape yourself off whatever new rock bottom you just woke up on and get your shit together long enough that we don’t die of thirst out here in the middle of the fucking desert?!

But she doesn’t say that.

She plays it cool.

She does the healthy thing and represses all that hostility, all that resentment and rage, packing it right the fuck down into a tight little carcinogenic ball, somewhere between the temporal lobe and the cerebellum.

I mean, I’m no phrenologist, but that’s where unresolved issues live, right?

“I mean, if they’d just fucking listen to me...” Cloud Face says, smoking a giant cloud cigarette later on. “Everything would be alright. I’ve delivered them out of every fucking problem they’ve had, every fucking situation they’ve been in...”

“I mean, admittedly, you did put them in a lot of those situations to begin with...” Moe says, with no small amount of caution.

Cloud Face’s giant, cloudy eyes narrow to slits.

Moe shuts her trap.

They’ve passed through Elim now and, roughly a month after their departure from Egypt, find themselves wandering through the wilderness of Sin.

No, not that sin.

Although...maybe there’s a correlation.

Hmm...

I mean, I could look into it.

Okay, hang on...

Alright, so turns out that Sin and sin aren’t related after all. One’s not a derivative of the other – they aren’t even cognates for cryin’ out loud! Here, Sin apparently refers to a moon god that was worshipped all around the Ancient Near East.

Talk about a fun fact.

Now, where were we?

Oh, yeah...

So the Israelites are wandering through the wilderness of... I guess, some Ancient Near Eastern moon god... and (shocker) they start to complain.

“We’re hungry!” a dude named Jehoshaphat says.

“We’re starving!”

“I just had to cook and eat my baby because of how hungry we were!”

You know, the usual shit.

They’re going on about how they were always well-fed in Egypt, and that they’d be better off dying in slavery with full stomachs than freely starving out here.

With the rosiest of rose-coloured glasses, they fondly remember their time in the land of the pyramids, when they had their fill of bread and meat – the actual word they use in reference to meat is ‘fleshpot,’ which... gross.

It sounds like it could be sexual...?

Or cannibalistic?

Or both?

Sex cannibals, anyone?

Apparently, a fleshpot was something you’d sit around and just... scoop flesh out of, I guess.

I don’t really want to think about it, or do any further research into the subject, so I’ll just let that image sit there in your brain box.

Scoop...

… and flesh.

That is all.

Make of it what you will.

Moe just rubs an exasperated hand over her even more exasperated face. “Why would Yahweh bring us out here to starve? That makes zero sense, Jehoshaphat.” Really gets some mileage out of that name. “Besides, you guys didn’t starve last time...”

“We had flatbread last time!” Jehoshaphat says.

“Oooh, flatbread...”

With that, the Israelites devolve into a moaning, salivating mess.

“Oh, please!” Moe shoots back. “You guys were ready to wipe your ass with flatbread when it first came up. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

The crowd stares back at her, blankly.

Dead-eyed.

Almost bovine.

“Tell us what?” someone says, clueless.

“That maybe you should have a little fucking faith? Huh? That Yahweh’s delivered on every occasion so far and there’s no reason to suspect she won’t do so again?”

They continue to stare blankly.

She’s lost them.

Once again, she goes over to see Cloud Face at the edge of camp, and once again, Cloud Face is lurking there, sulking.

Sulking and lurking.

Lurking and sulking.

Slurking?

“Hey, big gal,” she says, in the same cautious tone as before. “Listen...”

“Let me guess,” Cloud Face says with a sigh. “They’re complaining about something?”

Moe’s caught between a rock and a hard place. “Well...”

“Jesus Christ!” Cloud Face swirls around like a literal tornado, turning from a sad, rainy-day cloud into a purply-black thunderhead with little white flashes of lightning from within. It looms menacingly over Moe, voice booming, and the elderly prophet cowers. “What do they want this time? A fucking foot massage?”

“No, just...” Moe stammers. “They just want bread.”

“Bread?” Cloud Face bellows. “Bread?!

The whole sky seems to darken, like Yahweh is somehow infecting the world with her attitude.

“Yes, they’re... they’re starving.”

Cloud Face sees the fear in Moe’s eyes and relents, slowly shrinking back to its gloomy, grey-cloud self. The sky goes back to normal. Cloud Face reaches into itself and produces a pack of cloudy cigarettes. She bites one out with her cloudy mouth, then takes out a storm-cloudy lighter that produces a spark of lightning with which she lights her cigarette.

It’s all very elaborate.

“They want bread?” Yahweh’s avatar says. “I’ll give them bread. I’ll give them more bread than they know what to do with. I’ll rain bread down upon them like... fucking... well, like rain, I guess. I’ll give them so much bread they’ll fucking choke on it, and there won’t even be any milk to wash it down. You know like when you get a clump of bread stuck in your throat and you can’t swallow because your throat is so dry because the bread soaked all the moisture up. Like that. But... y’know, more. Worse. Times six hundred thousand. That’ll show ‘em.”

Cloud Face takes a satisfied drag, blows out a stream of clouds... which then drift up to form actual clouds in the actual sky.

Weird.

Surely, that can’t be how the world works?

Moe watches the clouds float away, mesmerised by them, then clears her throat and redirects her attention to the pillar. “I mean, yes, that would certainly show them. Why don’t we put that in the ‘maybe’ pile? Now... how about we consider just giving them enough to eat so they don’t starve to death or start killing each other?”

Cloud Face deflates a little, but sees the logic. “Fine. If it’ll shut them the fuck up, I’ll let the baby have its bottle.”

Moe exhales, thinking, “Jesus, I didn’t sign up for this shit.” Instead, and as obsequiously as possible, she says, “Thank you,” and heads off to tell her people the good news.

“Hold up,” Cloud Face says.

Moe shudders to a halt. So close... “What?”

“If I’m gonna do this, I wanna try something.”

Moe braces herself.

Cloud Face takes a drag. “Think of it like an experiment. A test of faith. Tonight, I’ll rain down bread. Hell, make it meat. I’ll rain down some form of meat...”

“You don’t actually have to rain...”

“Do you want the shit or not?”

Moe sighs.

Cloud Face continues. “Tonight, I’ll rain down some form of meat. In the morning, I’ll do bread. Good enough? You tell them every day to go out and gather enough for just that day. See if they have enough faith that I’ll deliver the next day. Ignore the countless fucking times I’ve delivered for them over the past few weeks – let’s just take baby steps, shall we? Really walk them through it. Really fucking spell it out for them. Ingrates.” Another drag. Cloud Face considers something. “On Saturday, tell them to get enough for two days. I don’t want them having to get up early on a Sunday.”

Moe furrows her brow, a little confused by the considerate note on which Cloud Face chose to end its tirade.

*

So, that evening (around dusk), the Israelites wait for their divinely-delivered mystery meat. Stomachs growling, mouths watering. They stand there in silence, watching the sky, some holding torches to ward off the coming dark.

Moe, Erin and Merry are standing there alongside them, just as hungry as everyone else.

For a long time, nothing happens.

Then...

Thud!

Something heavy hits an Israelite on the head and bounces off onto the ground.

“Ow!” the guy says, rubbing his head. “Fuck!”

“What is that...?”

“Jesus, it’s moving!”

A nearby woman holds her flaming torch down toward whatever hit the dude on the head and sees...

A... quail?

Everyone, in unison, kind of tilts their head sideways like 600,000 confused dogs.

“Is that a... quail?” someone says.

I mean, it is technically meat, but they were expecting something a little more substantial, perhaps. A little more conventional. They were also expecting the thing to be dead – ideally skinned, dressed and ready for the fire.

This thing is alive.

And it is freaking the fuck out.

It stands there, bug-eyed, its little chest heaving but otherwise frozen stiff with fear. It’s feathers are all ruffled. The thing looks insane.

Then, it bolts...

Running off under the legs of someone and into the crowd, people begin turning around, swinging their torches around to try and see where it went. Their shock is quickly replaced by the ravenous hunger that preceded it.

“Find it!”

“Kill it!”

As the quail hunt begins, Moe’s like, “Surely that can’t be it...”

And sure enough, it isn’t.

Something soft and feathery hits her in the head and bounces off onto the ground.

“Ow!” she says, rubbing her head, but before she realises it’s another quail, the thing is running off through the crowd.

“Shit! There’s another one!”

Elsewhere in the crowd, someone dives on the first quail and breaks its neck. He then instantly starts tearing into the thing raw, getting blood and feathers all over his face.

He only manages to take a bite or two before the people around him realise and jump on him, try to wrest the pitifully-small bird from his grip.

“Give it here!”

“No, it’s mine!”

“Sharing’s caring, you fuck!”

Moe’s eyes drift from this savage encounter to the sky, sensing something.

Like a brewing rainstorm where you feel a few drops and then suddenly there’s deluge and you’re soaked through, so happens here with the quail and the Israelites.

Within seconds, live quails are falling from the sky in the tens of thousands, pelting the congregation with the meal they said they wanted.

People are hit in the head, in the chest, in the back, in the shoulder, in the leg. They go down. They run. They panic. Screaming, shouting, cursing.

The birds fucking screech like no one’s business.

It’s like any battle scene involving archery (minus the bird calls, of course) – without any shields to protect themselves, the Israelites are helpless before the onslaught of fluffy projectiles.

Plus, it’s night-time, so no one can see what the fuck they’re doing.

Scarcely conscious of the lit torches in their hands, they spin around wildly and run in all directions, accidentally burning people, setting them ablaze. Fights break out, insults are hurled. People on fire from head to foot run around shrieking horribly.

If the quail were arrows, it’d be a massacre.

The army turning in on itself.

The Scottish highlanders fighting each other instead of the English.

But since the birds are small and soft and relatively light, they don’t cause a lot of damage. True, they are falling from an incredible height that does jack up the danger factor a little, but the reality is that in a collision between bird and person, the bird will often come off second best.

A lot of them are killed on impact. Others break legs or wings or whatever, leaving them unable to escape the hungry human versions of those giant inflatable bags that stunt people use.

Yes, it’s sad.

It gets even sadder when the Israelites – a resourceful if somewhat whiny bunch – begin adapting to the situation and getting a little more proactive in their hunting efforts.

Like an elderly, biblical-era Braveheart, Moe emerges from the chaos to lead her people. She’s even got quail-blood covering exactly one half of her face, and a huge, two-handed Scottish claymore sword for good measure.

Okay, so it’s not blue face paint. Sue me.

And no, I don’t know how she got hold of an iron weapon in the Bronze Age, let alone one that wouldn’t be developed until the 1400s AD when it’s closer to the 1400s BC.

What she does have are quail feathers all through her hair, a burning rage in her eyes, and a war-cry on her lips:

“Come on, Israel! FREEDOM!”

She charges against... well, against nothing, really. There’s no army there. There’s just a non-stop hailstorm of fluffy, brown quails.

She swings her giant sword recklessly in a congested space that includes many children, cutting the smallish birds in two (some in mid-air, which is pretty cool) and leaving the pre-divided remains to be devoured by said children.

As the Hamish of this story, Erin “fights” alongside Moe with a giant, two-handed battleaxe (again, where did she get that?), and Merry rounds out the cast as either Stephen or Hamish’s dad.

Both of them with quail-blood streaked across their faces in equally-iconic designs.

Red Braveheart instead of Blue Braveheart.

In fact, that’s a good way to distinguish this comedy fiction newsletter from the 1995 historical epic, because I know a lot of you are going to be mixing them up. They are so very similar, after all.

Just think of it as Red Braveheart.

Easy.

Inspired by Moe’s example, the Israelites cheer and follow her into... battle, I guess?

They duck and weave to avoid the falling birds, some even fashioning shields out of basket lids and the like. Now a little more protected from the feathery squall, they begin trapping the birds with nets, jars, their bare hands.

Not to mention the now-lidless baskets they have at their disposal.

Like the first successful hunter, a lot of the Israelites are too hungry to bother cooking a fire, so they just rip into these poor things without even de-feathering them.

Just picture any scene from The Revenant , but on a mass scale, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. They’re biting into wings, crunching beaks, chewing feathers.

It ain’t pretty.

Before long, the quail stops raining and the Israelites spend the next 30-60 minutes finishing up their hunt. The shouts and screeches gradually decrease and are replaced by loud, open-mouthed chewing and the contented noises of people with full bellies.

Still, no one bothers making a fire.

Why?

Why aren’t they making a fire?

They have lit torches right there, just kind of propped up, illuminating the camp, yet no one thinks to use that flame to cook the meat.

It’s like they prefer eating it raw.

Weird.

Anyway, Moe’s sitting there with Erin and Merry, tearing out a quail breast with her teeth and chewing on it like Leo DiCaprio with that bison liver.

“I mean...” Moe says, swallowing a mouthful of sweet, sweet quail. “Talk about a murder of quails, am I right?”

Erin, still working on her mouthful, says, “Actually...it’s called a bevy.”

“What?”

Erin swallows, then repeats herself, more clearly this time. “A group of quails is called a bevy.”

Moe slants her eyes, a little pissed.

“Actually...” Merry interjects, mouth full. They wait for him to swallow – man, these guys can not get enough of this raw quail meat – and he goes, “They can also be referred to as a covey or a drift.”

“Oh, really?” Moe says, employing the sarcastic tone of the increasingly irritated. “Is that so?”

Someone in the next group over goes, “I’ve heard flock used also.”

“Alright, pipe down, guy!” Moe says, finally exploding. “What gave you the idea this was an open forum?”

The guy holds a hand up like, “Sorry,” and gets back to his delicious quail.

“Jesus,” Moe says. “Can’t even make a joke without...”

She grumbles and takes another bite of her quail, giving a contented sigh.

Ahhh, that’s better.

She overhears the eavesdropper whispering to his friend, “Also, pretty sure quail is its own plural. It isn’t quails.

The eavesdropper and his nerdy friend chuckle. Moe is not impressed.

“Eat up, everyone!” she says, addressing the congregation. “You’ll have bread in the morning.”

Then, lowering her voice so only Erin and Merry can hear: “Surely she can’t fuck that up.”

*

And sure enough, she does.

The Israelites emerge from their tents the next morning, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and the dried quail blood from the corners of their mouths (what, you think they got showers out here?) to behold the bountiful breakfast that Yahweh has delivered.

But if they were expecting loaves of bread, they’re sorely disappointed.

If they were expecting anything resembling food at all, they’re sorely disappointed.

Instead, what they see is a layer of this fine, flaky substance covering the ground, a little like hoarfrost.

They’re like, “The fuck is this?”

And Moe relays their concerns to the giant pillar of cloud at the edge of camp, like, “The fuck is this?”

Very simply, Yah goes, “It’s bread.”

“It’s bread?”

“Yeah, that’s what you wanted, right?”

After sleeping and sweating all night, Moe’s quail-blood Braveheart-style face-paint has started to smear and run, so she looks more like the Joker than Mel Gibson in his prime. Heath or Joaquin – take your pick.

She rubs an exasperated hand over her face, smearing it even more.

“That isn’t bread,” Moe says. “I don’t know what the fuck that is. It looks more like dried cum than bread.”

Cloud Face scoffs. “Pfft. Cum dries clear. Which you’d know if the only person you’d ever been with wasn’t a woman. Which... where is Zippy by the way?”

Moe looks around. “Yeah, I don’t know. She’s been weirdly absent since we left Egypt. Before that even.”

“Huh. Weird.” Cloud Face moves on, like the absence of a central character is just a passing oddity. “Anyway, it doesn’t look like dry cum.”

“Fine! Wet cum, then. Wet cum that’s somehow been frozen to retain its original colour after ejaculation. Frozen wet cum. You happy?”

“You mean like a jizz slushie?” Cloud Face says, snickering. Finding the humour in it.

“What?” Moe says, not getting the reference.

“Oh... never mind.”

Cloud Face lights a cigarette with its lightning Zippo, which has since started being affectionately referred to as Sparky.

“Why couldn’t you just give us bread?” Moe says, exhausted. “Normal bread. Just like why couldn’t you give us normal meat? Why not pigs? We love pigs. Bacon, ham, pork. All that shit. Instead, you give us quail? Fucking quail?! What is that?”

Very calmly, Cloud Face exhales a stream of clouds (which Moe, again, watches drift up to form actual clouds in the actual sky) and says, “If I gave you normal bread and normal meat, how would that be in any way memorable?”

Moe groans. “Uggghhhh! Again with this ‘memorable’ shit. Everything has to be ‘memorable’. You’re like that friend who thinks every night has to be the greatest night ever. You know what happens when every night is the greatest night ever? None of them are. Just like when every-fucking-thing is fucking memorable, nothing is!”

Then she storms off.

Cloud Face resumes smoking, but does that half-frowny thing where you realise someone has a valid point and legitimately take it on board. Very open-minded, that Cloud Face.

*

Moe relays what she’s learned to the Israelites, then watches as one of them reluctantly scoops up a handful of the shaved, frozen, wet cum-like substance and scrapes it onto their tongue.

She, along with 600,000 other Israelites, wait with bated breath as the guy tastes it. He swishes it around in his mouth, like a food critic really examining the flavour profile. Finally, he gargles the stuff like it’s mouthwash, then swallows.

They wait...

He lets the aftertaste subside, then slowly, begins to nod, a smile breaking across his face. “It’s like... wafers made with honey. Jesus Christ, that’s good...”

He immediately crouches down to begin shovelling more of the jizz slushie into his gullet. He does so with the frantic desperation of a drug addict going into withdrawals – grunting, groaning, choking and retching as he tries to eat it too quickly. Watching him, it’d be hard not to feel a little sick.

“It’s good!” Moe shouts, turning to face the crowd. “It’s good!”

The people of Israel cheer.

They begin scooping the jizz slushie into jars with their bare hands. Moe reminds everyone to only gather enough for today, and to eat it all today – don’t save any for tomorrow. The good lord Yahweh will provide again.

Now, the Israelites didn’t have our modern measurements. Each person was allowed an omer of this jizzy substance that was ostensibly some kind of bread. Before you ask, an omer is a tenth of an ephah.

Hope that clears things up.

It doesn’t?

Okay, fine. You wanna get all modern about it, you’re looking at about 2.3 litres.

For those of you in Burma, Liberia or the USA, wondering how many gallons or ounces or whatever, you might have to Google it.

2.3 litres of frozen jizz slushie per person per day.

Seems fair enough to me.

However, more than a few people are like, “Screw that. This god of ours is about as unpredictable as a camel in a snowstorm.”

Bit of biblical-era jargon for ya.

And before you ask – no, I’m not talking about Bactrian camels, which are actually quite well-suited to the cold.

I’m talking about dromedaries, motherfucker.

Anyway, these less-than-faithful Israelites gather more than their ‘one omer per day,’ thinking they’ll get one over on ol’ Yahweh. Save some for tomorrow, and when Yahweh doesn’t show, they’ll be the ones laughing while everyone else starves to death.

So, yeah... pretty fair to say these guys are assholes.

Prudent, but... dickish.

Definitely dickish.

However, as it turns out, Yahweh ain’t no fool.

When they wake up the next morning ready for a little pre-breakfast snack (guess they’re, like, Hobbits or something), the jizz slushie has gone rotten and is crawling with maggots.

Yep, you heard me.

Rotten, melted jizz slushie crawling with maggots.

Put that in your brain pipe and... think it?

Naturally, the unfaithful Israelites react with horror, and burst out of their tents, going, “What the fuck?”

But Moe just slings a “What the fuck?” right back at them. She even tacks an, “indeed,” onto the end.

“What the fuck, indeed?

They broke the rules, after all. Them’s the consequences.

I wish I could say that was the end of it. That everyone learned their lesson and the rotten, melted jizz slushie faded into the Israelites’ collective memory as a cautionary tale like the The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Mean Girls.

But, alas...

People continue to lack faith, to ignore the instructions, to gather up more than they needed.

On Saturdays, these fuckers would gather twice as much (like they were told) but then proceed to eat it all – two days worth of food in one – perhaps under the assumption that Yah would, in fact, make a surprise delivery the following day, even when she had clearly specified that she wouldn’t be.

Ultimately, it’s a failure to follow even the most basic instructions.

For the most part, however, people do what they’re told.

Morning by morning, they gather it up – an omer of jizz each. They eat it, have faith that Yah will deliver the next day. On Saturdays, they gather enough for two days and – guess what? - the shit isn’t rotten and melted and maggoty in the morning.

Huh.

It’s like, maybe if you just follow the fucking instructions, everything will work out fine. You have a luxury that no one in the modern world has – that is, you know for a fact that your god exists – you can literally see her every day, leading you as a giant fucking pillar of cloud and/or fire tornado toward the Promised Land.

The unfaithful fuckers, feeling sick from over-eating the previous day (what I’m going to call a ‘jizz hangover’), go out to find that, in fact, Yah has not delivered the daily dose of jizz slushie – exactly like she said she wouldn’t.

They then go around to the faithful with their tails between their legs and hold their hands out, like homeless people asking for change. But the ones who obeyed orders, in between mouthfuls of frozen jizz, tell them to fuck off – “Should’ve had faith, man.”

Sidebar: this is the origin of the Sabbath, a holy day of rest. Just FYI.

Of course – God being God – on more than one occasion, their faith is undermined by Yah drinking too much the night before, waking up late and hungover, going, “Shit!”, running out to the Experiment and dumping a layer of jizz slushie down on the camp, only to realise that the Israelites are already up and wondering where the food is and, now, covered in frozen wet cum from head to foot.

But, hey, at least she delivered.

And at least the shit is delicious.

Not a lot of complaints from the Israelites, even when they are covered head to foot in flaky, frosty jizz.

Could be worse.

Could be rotten and melted and crawling with maggots.

So, as you can see, in a very general sense, the system works. When the sun grows hot, the slushie melts, leaving a jizzy paste over the land, and the Israelites move on, leaving splotches of melted frozen cum like breadcrumbs across the desert.

As you might expect, after their fellow countrymen refuse to share, the jizz-hungover Israelites come to Moe to complain.

Every Sunday, it’s the same story. New faces. Same shit.

She goes to Cloud Face with the complains and, as you might also expect, Cloud Face is not happy.

“Hey – I told them what to do, alright?” Cloud Face takes a drag, inhales sharply. “I spelled it out to the letter. To the fucking letter. What more do they want from me, huh? Those greedy fucking cunts ate two days worth of food in the space of twelve hours and I’m somehow supposed to feel bad about that? How about this? Fuck them. Let ‘em starve. They can’t follow even the most basic instructions, they fucking deserve to die. I mean, Jesus Christ, I’m seeing three-year-olds out there do what I’m asking. Literal three-year-olds. I’m supposed to feel sorry for some fat fuck who doesn’t know if he’s gonna get fed tomorrow cramming his gullet, or some sneaky fucking hoarder waking up to find maggots in his food and being a little grossed out. Seriously? How long are they going to keep this shit up?”

Moe has barely been listening. She’s been scooping handfuls of jizz slushie out of a jar and into her mouth, savouring the wafery, honey-ey goodness. “Goddamn, that’s good...”

“Are you even listening?”

“What’s this called, anyway?”

Cloud Face takes a drag, exhales a stream of clouds. “Manna.”

“What?”

“It’s called manna.”

“Why?”

Cloud Face shrugs. “Do you need a reason?”

“I’d like one, yes.”

A sigh. “It’s just a...” Cloud Face scratches what amounts to its forehead with the thumb of its smoking hand. “It’s a shitty, stupid fucking joke. I got the idea when everyone came out and saw the shit, and they were all like, ‘Ah, man, what the fuck is that?’ So...” Cloud Face exhales, chuckles a little. “Man hu is Hebrew for, ‘What is it?’”

Man hu,” Moe repeats, sounding it out. “Manna.

“I don’t know if you’d quite call it a portmanteau, but...” Cloud Face takes a drag, a cheeky smile on its face, awaiting Moe’s response. “What do you think?”

Moe just looks down at the jar of manna in her hands.

Finally, she looks up at Yahweh’s avatar. “I think you’re right.”

“Yeah?” Cloud Face says, hopeful.

“I think it’s a shitty, stupid fucking joke.”


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this episode, use the ‘share’ button below to let a friend know about it. Word of mouth is still the best way for The New Old Testament to find new readers. See you next time.

Exodus 14: Tariffs (or, Why The Frog Prince Is A Sore F*cking Loser) (Season 2, Episode 9)

What happens when 600,000 refugees approach the border? Pharaoh gets a pep-talk from a lion in his frog bath, the Red Sea ain't all it's cracked up to be, and brunch with the Egyptian gods is filthy.

Welcome to episode 31 of the The New Old Testament!

Man, this episode just kind of tumbled out of me. Sometimes I really struggle with these. I go back and forth, spend a lot time either researching, writing, or editing, but this one came together really quickly for some reason – like, 5500 words in one day quickly. Hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s terrible…

Enjoy the episode, and I’ll talk to you next week.


This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


In the morning, the Egyptian gods are all milling around in a kitchen that is, by any conceivable metric, much too small for them.

They’re cooking breakfast, making coffee, nursing hangovers. Talking, trading jokes. A lot of puns referring to their various animal heads. You know, Egyptian god stuff.

All except Seki.

She’s sitting alone at the end of the table, squeezing her mug so tightly that, by now, her hands should be cut and bleeding and dripping with hot coffee. What I’m saying is, the mug should have exploded.

But it hasn’t.

Her hands are literally trembling as she holds it, like she’s Pippin with the goddamn palantir in Return of the King.

Why hasn’t that mug shattered yet?

What is it made of?

Finally, she can’t take it anymore.

“Are we seriously not going to talk about this?”

Everyone goes silent, turns to look at her. A few awkward glances between the others. Amun-Ra sighs.

Well, to be precise, only one of his two heads lets out a sigh. The goateed human head (Amun, or A-Rod, for short) sighs. The falcon head with the red solar disc floating above it (Ra) is too busy pecking from a plate full of dead mice.

What? That’s what falcons eat.

Don’t worry, the others are used to it by now.

Besides, what do you think they’re eating?

You got Horus pecking from the same plate of dead mice as Ra (both being falcons), the ibis-headed Thoth using his long, curved beak to pick up mud-dripping crabs and crayfish and eating them whole, and the croc-headed Sobek chowing down on a full African buffalo.

Seriously, the shit is just draped across half the table, bleeding all over the place. Meal times in this house are fucking insane.

And the clean up? Forget about it.

Much like Ra and Horus, Sobek and Seki usually share a meal – her being a lion and all – but she’s not hungry this morning. Sobek’s all like, “Sweet, more for me.”

He doesn’t actually say that, of course – his jaws are too full of raw buffalo.

Noob, meanwhile, has scavenged the lower leg of the buffalo and is just kind of gnawing on it, as jackals tend to do.

Seriously, you should see the shopping list for this house.

I don’t just mean the unprocessed carcasses and crustaceans – I mean, the more refined meals being consumed by the non-animal-headed gods, too.

Osiris (Ozzy), Maat (Mattie) and A-Rod eat normal food like normal people. Sure, Mattie has wings, but a human face means human food. That’s just how it works up here.

So she’s tucking into some marmalade toast, rubbing her ibis-headed husband’s back as he gorges himself on shellfish, smiling, like, “Aren’t you just the cutest thing?” Amun is working on a plate of bacon and eggs. Osiris is going through a vegan phase at the moment, so he’s doing a nice quinoa pudding.

My point is, all that shit ain’t cheap.

Luckily they’ve got a doctor, a mortician and a tenured professor all chipping in for groceries.

Anyway, back to Amun and his heavy sigh.

Oh, I didn’t mention it was a heavy sigh before? Well, it is. Shit is heavy as fuck. You could almost go so far as to say the sigh is leaden. I really can’t oversell how heavy this sigh is.

“Listen, Seki, we’ve all been talking and we think it’s time to let this shit go.”

Seki looks around at the rest of the table. Some of them avert their eyes, others just nod sadly. She’s getting a real ‘intervention’ vibe, and it throws her a little.

“What, you just want to let her get away with this?”

“She’s gotten away with it,” Mattie says. “The Israelites are gone. Why don’t we just focus on our people?”

“Yeah,” Horus says, slurping down a mouse tail. “Their city is in ruins after all those goddamn plagues...”

“I thought we were going with marvels,” Noob says, running a tongue over his buffalo-bloody snout.

Horus pinches the bridge of his beak between his index finger and thumb, closing his eyes in exasperation. “The Israelites call them marvels because they’re what got them free. We’re calling them plagues because they suck.”

Noob shrugs – fair enough. He resumes munching on his buffalo leg.

Horus turns back to Seki. “Not to mention their economy’s in the toilet with all their slaves gone. They need our help right now.”

Thoth nods, running a napkin over his long, curved beak. “Horus is right, Seki. We need to focus on rebuilding. The Israelites are more trouble than they’re worth.”

The others all nod or grunt in agreement.

Seki is all alone.

Amun offers her a sympathetic smile as Ra continues to eat mice, which has the effect of jerking his head down and undermining the sincerity he’s going for.

“Even if we could bring them back,” Amun says, between bobs. “Yah would just bring even more ruin and suffering down on our people. We’re better off salvaging what we have, moving forward. But that can wait. For now...” He puts a hand on Seki’s and looks her deep in the eyes. “Let’s go play cards and get drunk.”

The solitary lioness lets out a sigh. This one even heavier than Amun’s. If his was leaden, then hers is...

What’s heavier than lead?

Osmium?

Plutonium?

Gold?

Yep, that fits. Her sigh is golden.

*

Down below, Pharaoh is taking what has come to be called, waaaay too casually, a frog bath. He’s sitting there, submerged in dead and rotting frog corpses, eyes closed, head back, kind of groaning softly.

The unfortunate guards on duty try to avert their eyes as best they can, but they can’t block their ears without making it obvious how uncomfortable they are.

Why does he have to groan?

Anyway, Pharoah’s in the vat, enjoying himself waaaay too much, when he hears the guards suddenly exclaim with fright, drop their spears, and run out. He opens his eyes, straightens up and looks around.

There, standing over him, is the lioness-headed god of healing and war.

And she doesn’t look too happy.

However, this is barely noticed by the frog-marinating Pharaoh.

“Oh, hey Seki,” he says, nonchalantly. “What up?”

What up?” she repeats, disgusted. “I’ll tell you what up.”

She reaches down and with one hand, grabs him by the neck and lifts him bodily out of the vat, naked and dripping with frog slime. She briefly turns away, unable to stomach the sight.

“Jesus...”

“What?” says Pharaoh, sick of people commenting on his new fetish. “It’s restorative.”

“No it isn’t! It’s majorly fucked-up, and you need to stop it, right now!”

Pharaoh winces, only inches away from her mouthful of flesh-shredding fangs. “Is that what you came down here to tell me?”

Seki shakes her head, calming a little. “No.”

She drops him down onto the floor beside his frog vat. “Clean yourself up. You got a job to do.”

*

Meanwhile, out in the desert, six hundred thousand Israelites are following their god to the Promised Land. Last we saw them, Yah had assumed the form of a fire tornado to act as a beacon through the night – and also because, in her coke-fuelled frenzy, she just thought it’d be cool as hell.

And it was, to quote Rose from Titanic referencing the ‘Ship of Dreams’ moniker. It really was.

Now, however, it’s daytime, and Yah decided that a pillar of cloud would be more appropriate than a pillar of fire. Fire was for night time. Clouds are for day time.

Can’t argue with that logic.

So Moe’s walking along beside this swirling cloud pillar connecting heaven and earth, conversing with the thing’s giant face (formerly known as Fire Face, which only she can see and hear).

Cloud Face is a little less upbeat and erratic than it’s fiery, night-time counterpart, due in no small part to the absence of cocaine being funnelled, Scarface-style, into it’s system, and equally to the subsequent come-down.

“Oh, Moe, I fucking feel like shit,” Cloud Face says, for what has to be the seventh or eighth time at least. “I need to stop. Can we stop?”

“Yes!” Moe shouts, on the verge of collapse, probably sounding crazy to everyone else who can’t hear the giant cloud talking to her. “Thank Christ...”

She turns around to face the mass of shuffling, exhausted Israelites, forced to trek through the night because Yah was up-and-at-‘em and ready to go. Who knows how many thousands had already dropped like flies from exhaustion and were simply left behind by their too-tired-to-care relatives?

Enough that if one wanted to find their way back to Egypt, all they’d have to do is follow the breadcrumb trail of their sleeping/dead countrymen.

Just saying.

“Alright, everyone, that’s it!” she calls out. “We can stop.”

A feeble cheer goes up from the gaunt-faced travellers, and many of them don’t even bother setting up a tent. Many of them don’t even roll out a mat or use their bindle for a pillow. They just crash in the sand like vampires once their leader is killed.

That’s how vampires work, right?

Or... like aliens once the mother-ship blows up?

Or... like robots once the...

You get what I’m trying to say. They basically drop where they stand, asleep before they hit the ground.

An giant cloudy arm emerges from the pillar, and Cloud Face runs a cloudy hand over its cloudy... well, face. “Jesus, I’m gonna go... I need to go lie down for a while. You guys are right here while I... just rest my eyes for a bit?”

“Yes,” Moe says, weakly, longing for death. “For fuck’s sake, just go.”

With that, the cloud pillar gets sucked back up to heaven with a slurping sound that makes Moe’s skin crawl. It’s a cloud – why the slurping?!

Then, once Cloud Face is gone, she kind of staggers forward like Robert the Bruce after betraying William Wallace. Weary, drained, feeling like shit. But whereas the Bruce picks up Wallace’s little handkerchief thing and looks off pensively into the distance while the bagpipey score swells, Moe just collapses, face-first, into the sand.

Admittedly, it’s a little less cinematic.

After that, they adopt a more regular travel pattern. Moving by day, sleeping by night.

Fire Face begins to act as more of a sentry, cutting paranoid laps around the camp when Yah can’t sleep or doesn’t want to. This has the paradoxical effect of making the Israelites feel safe and also persecuted at the same time.

A few of them begin whispering things to the effect of, “Hey, fuck, maybe we should just go turn ourselves back in to the Egyptians. I mean, sure, we’d be slaves again, but at least we knew what we were in for every day. Now, it’s like we don’t know what to expect. The Egyptian gods were at least consistent. Yahweh, on the other hand... With the marvels and the primogenocide and the fire tornado and the wandering all night in the desert and now this fucking cloud thing, it seems like someone’s drunk at the reins up there, if you know what I’m saying. To carry the metaphor a little further, I’m thinking maybe we may have hitched our cart to the wrong mule.”

Anyway, that’s kind of the prevailing, largely-unspoken consensus.

Resentment is brewing.

Uncertainty percolating.

It’s only a matter of time before a spark descends to light this powder keg on fire. Or, since gunpowder hasn’t been invented yet, only a matter of time before the proverbial biblical-era knife descends on the proverbial biblical-era foreskin.

Let’s not get anachronistic here.

Anyway, so Yah’s doing coke as she pilots her fire tornado around the camp of a freed slave nation in the virtual reality simulation she’s created, being an unemployed video game designer who’s recently undergone gender reassignment surgery for all the wrong reasons.

That’s about as period-accurate as you can get, right?

And no, that wasn’t a period joke.

In this way, she leads her chosen (and, in effect, hostage) people from Succoth to Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. From there, they journey to Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon (you know the place, by the thing with the guy), and camp opposite it, by the sea.

Sidebar: this is the famous Red Sea. It’s actually less of a sea and more of a reedy marshland on the border of Egypt. What we refer to as the Red Sea was more properly the Reed Sea, and like most marshes, it stunk like shit.

So, you know, things are going alright.

I mean, sure, the Israelites are exhausted, and cranky, and they’re camped on the edge of a foul-smelling marsh.

Not to mention they still aren’t completely sold on their unpredictable god – like if you got back together with an ex, thinking it was a good idea, and then you slowly realise that it was just nostalgia motivating your decision, and that really, they still are the same terrifying monster that somehow got a fresh coat of paint in your unreliable memory – but they’re getting used to her erratic behaviour.

The fire tornado at night?

A little weird? Sure. A little frightening? Yeah, kind of.

Better than slavery – you betcha.

Primogenocide as a digestif to the destruction of Egypt’s economy and infrastructure?

A little excessive? Sure. Unbelievably, nightmarishly cruel? Yeah, kind of.

Justification for over four hundred years of slavery – debatable.

All in all, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

Not too hot, not too cold. It’s just right.

I don’t think it’s going too far to call the relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh Goldilocksian.

What? It’s a word.

So there they are, camped by the sea, when one of the Israelites points to the crest of a nearby hill (about five miles away) and goes, “The fuck is that?”

One by one, all six hundred thousand heads turn to see what that one Israelite is pointing to. And as they do, their collective circulatory systems run cold...

An army...

A big, fuck-off army, complete with a crapton of chariots, a shitload of spearmen, a fuckton of footsoldiers and an assload of archers. Yes, sir – those were the measurements of the time.

And they’re coming straight down the hill towards the Israelites, who immediately start to panic.

As you would.

You’re a bunch of former slaves on foot facing down the largest army within a quadrillion cock-lengths.

Don’t ask.

The Israelites come to Moe, screaming and yelling, like:

“Were there no graves left in Egypt after you killed all those kids?”

“Yeah, is that why you brought us out here to die?”

“Why couldn’t you have just left us in slavery in peace?”

“Better we serve them than die out here.”

Then, a real sarcastic person goes, “Noooooo, she couldn’t do that. Because then she wouldn’t be a hero, would she?”

Moe just gives the person a withering look, like, “Really?”then snaps into action.

“Alright, shut up,” she says, raising her hands, then her voice. “I said shut the fuck up!”

Everyone goes quiet, simmering down from a panic to a rabble to a murmur, then nothing. All that can be heard is the distant hoofbeats, fast approaching.

With the help of Erin and Merry, she climbs up onto a rock so she’s looking out over the whole congregation. Then, in a voice loud enough to reach 600,000 people in an age before the bullhorn, she speaks:

“People of Israel, hear me!” She takes a moment to clear her throat, as if to cough up the archaic mode of speaking she’d automatically slipped into. “Look, these fucking Egyptians think they can come and take us back into slavery. But they’re forgetting... we’ve got Yahweh on our side!”

She shouts it like William Wallace shouting, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!” but whereas the rag-tag army of Scottish hillbillies cheered and Mel Gibson won Best Picture, Moe’s little speech generates a less than spectacular response from the crowd, who kind of look at each other like, “Oh...yeah, I guess.”

Sensing their lack of confidence (and feeling it herself – she’s been right there alongside the other Israelites, doubting Yahweh ever since they left Egypt), she turns away from them, toward the sea, desperately searching the heavens, muttering, “Come on, Yah. Time to shine.”

No response from the heavens.

Moe swallows. “Come on, Yah. We ain’t got all day here. Kind of need your help on this one.”

Still nothing.

The army draws closer. Halfway there now. Closing the gap.

Panic bleeds through the crowd, faster and faster. The fear spreading, infecting everyone.

Moe looks down at Erin and Merry, who exchange a worried glance.

Shit...she’s really not coming.

Finally, Moe snaps, screaming, “Yah, you fucking lazy, coked-out bitch – get your ass down here and fucking do something! We’re all gonna die!”

*

Up above, Yah’s passed out in the deck chair, sunglasses on, nose dusted with cocaine, when Moe’s voice jolts her awake. It’s pretty tinny through the God’s Eye tablet speakers, but it’s enough to get the god of Israel sitting upright, checking the screen.

“Oh, shit!” she says, sniffing a few times. “I gotta... I better...”

She wipes her nose and, feeling the residual powder, quickly rubs it on her teeth to get her thinking straight.

*

Down below, Moe is dealing with the fallout of screaming, “We’re all gonna die!”

The Israelites are losing it, pulling their hair out, running around, screaming, crying, et cetera, et cetera. Erin and Merry are trying to calm them down, at the same time shooting looks of “What the fuck were you thinking?” in Moe’s direction.

Honestly, Moe’s thinking that herself.

Why would she think that Yah would come through for them? Why would she think that the result of the Israelites fleeing Egypt would be anything other than them getting butchered in the wilderness?

Maybe this was what Yah intended all along. Maybe it was just some sick, cosmic joke she played to entertain herself.

Suddenly...

“Psst!”

Moe looks around. “Yah?”

“Down here.”

Moe looks down, and her eyes bulge.

There, in the rock she’s standing on, is a face staring up at her.

“Moe, it’s me! I’m in the rock! I’m Rock Face!”

Moe fights the urge to roll her eyes. “Great! Who cares? What are you going to do about this? Everyone’s freaking out. The Egyptians are...”

“I know, I know, I know,” Rock Face says, speaking quickly. There’s a loud sniff, then a few smaller sniffs. “Sorry, just gotta... There we go... Wooooo! Alright, now I’m back. I’m good. Let’s do this.”

“Let’s do what?!

“Uh...” Rock Face stalls while it thinks of a plan. Then it sees the staff she’s carrying. “Ah-ha! The staff.”

Moe looks at the thing. “What about it?”

“Alright, so what you’re gonna do is... (sniff)... take the staff, and... (sniff)... just kind of lift it up, then... (sniff)... then stretch your hand out over the sea.”

“Wait, my hand or the staff?”

Ignoring her, Rock Face continues, “Then you kind of... (sniff)... move it around. Wave it.”

“And then what?”

The growing screams cause Moe to look around and see the Egyptians bearing down on them. Inside a mile now.

She turns back to Rock Face. “Jesus Christ, they’re almost here!”

“Alright, hang on,” Rock Face says. Then, apparently speaking to someone else, it goes, “Raph? Raph! Hey, buddy, listen, I need you to... Wait, where are you going? Hold on, Moe.”

With that, Rock Face disappears completely and Moe’s just looking at a blank, weather-beaten rock. Her stomach drops.

“Yah? Yah!”

Frustrated, she screams, “Fuck!” and turns to face her people. They’re scattering along the shoreline, running for it, screaming, “We can’t swim! We can’t swim!”

But Moe can already see the flanks of the Egyptian army fanning out, ready to envelop them or else drive them back into the marsh, where, in keeping with the non-swimmers’ cries, they’ll quickly drown.

Well, not quickly.

Drowning is a prolonged and horrible way to die.

Don’t believe those people that say it’s peaceful. They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

Erin and Merry are looking at Moe like this is it – they’re done for. Yah has finally abandoned them for good.

The Egyptians draw closer, closer.

A few hundred feet now.

The hoofbeats grow louder. The soldiers let loose a savage war-cry.

A couple dozen arrows are loosed. They whistle through the air and land with a thwack, taking out some of the nearer, less-fortunate Israelites. One through the eye, another through the neck. Blood. More screams.

Then, out of nowhere...

Whoosh!

A pillar of fire descends from the heavens, slamming into the ground between the Egyptians and the Israelites. It hits close to the Egyptian frontline and runs along the ground, leaving behind a wall of flame which the army cannot pass.

Moe imagines the Egyptians pulling at their reins, screeching to a halt before the fire. The Israelites stop running. They watch, as she does, in sheer wonder and abject terror. A new, better kind of terror.

A face suddenly appears in the fire. This one is different from the first, so we’ll call it Fire Face II, or FF2.

“Alright, there you go,” FF2 says, in a bored, aggressive tone. “Happy?”

“Very happy. Thank you.”

Moe turns back to see Rock Face having reappeared, and now apparently conversing with FF2.

Rock Face addresses Moe. “Alright, the Egyptians are taken care of. Now do the thing.”

What th...? It takes Moe a second to remember what he’s talking about, then glances up at the fetid marsh. Feeling foolish, but knowing she has no choice, Moe lifts the staff and stretches her hand out over the sea, kind of waving it around.

“That’s it,” Rock Face says. “Wave it around. Wave it, baby.”

A few nearby Israelites – previously enraptured by the wall of fire – have spotted Moe looking in the opposite direction and waving her hand around like she’s lost her mind.

Da fuck...?

But then, something starts to happen...

A strong wind begins to blow from the east.

The water begins to recede.

Not all of it, just a long, narrow strip through the middle. With a loud gushing sound, like that of a raging river, the sea begins to pull apart at the middle. Word spreads among the Israelites with the tapping of shoulders and variations on the phase, “Hey, fucko, behind you!”

One by one, they turn away from the wall of fire to the walls of water rising up on each side of the newly-formed ‘road’ through the sea.

“What in the fuck...?” Moe breathes.

The shock causes her to stop waving her arm, but as she does, the wind dies down, and the waters quickly come crashing back together.

The Israelites let out a collective, disappointed groan, and Moe scrambles to recover.

“Shit, shit, shit...”

She resumes waving her hand, even more vigorously than before, raising her staff higher, and the wind starts blowing again, the sea resumes parting, until finally there’s a path all the way through to the other side.

“Alright, you can stop waving your hand now,” Rock Face says. “You look ridiculous.”

With a groan, Moe stops. The water stays where it is. She looks down. Rock Face is gone.

But the voice persists.

“Go on, Moe. Lead them through. Lead them to... (sniff)... freedom.”

Moe swallows, looking up at the tall walls of water that could come crashing down at any moment. She looks behind her to the wall of fire holding back the Egyptians.

Summoning her courage, Moe climbs down off the rock with the help of her equally-amazed brother and sister, and together they head down to the shoreline.

“Come on, everyone! Let’s go.”

With much cheering and applause, they follow the elderly prophet down to the edge of the marsh, ready to embark on the road to freedom. The final hurdle. The ultimate test.

There’s only one problem.

And it’s a problem that all previously-submerged wetlands have when drained and exposed to the air.

The shit stinks.

I mean, it really stinks.

The first line of people to get a whiff instantly recoil, wrinkling their noses.

“Jesus...” Moe says.

“...Christ,” says Erin.

It isn’t long before the smell reaches those further back and exclamations of disgust ring out through the entire nation of Israel.

Moe looks up at the sky, like, “Fucking hell, Yah, you just had to twist the knife a little, didn’t you?” She shakes her head, pushes on.

The Israelites reluctantly follow her, some gagging, some pinching their noses. Some lifting their collars to cover their face from the eyes down. They begin trudging through the wet mud, sinking in up to their knees in some places.

Groans of revulsion come from everywhere. People swearing, cursing, complaining. Squelching through the noxious mud, they unearth even fouler smells from lower down, and this causes more than a few people to begin vomiting.

The sight of people vomiting then causes other people to begin vomiting.

The ones who have their shirts up over their faces are the least fortunate, because they throw up all down the inside of their clothes, so it sticks to their bare skin.

Others lose their balance and slip over in all the pungent mud and puke, so now they’re doubly filthy, and in some cases, are so repulsive to those around them that those people proceed to throw up on them.

The whole situation quickly descends into chaos.

Feeling the bile rising in her own throat, Moe starts thinking they might be better off if they just stayed on the shore and got slaughtered by the Egyptians, or re-enslaved, or if the water just came down and swallowed them up.

Anything but this.

And yet, they push on. What else can they do?

Through the malodorousness of the exposed marsh, they trudge forward, toward the other side. They grunt and complain and say the most hateful, unspeakable things, but they don’t stop.

Such is the resilience of the Israelites.

Moe looks up at the walls of water on either side, held there as if by an invisible barrier, wondering what kind of nightmare she’s living through. A face appears in the sea wall to her left, going, “Pretty cool, right?”

Moe rolls her eyes, ignores it.

But Sea Face isn’t one to be ignored. As Moe turns away to face the other wall, Sea Face appears in that one, too.

“Hey! Don’t you turn your back on me. How dare you? I did this! Look at me! You can’t ignore the Sea Face!” She keeps turning, but it keeps appearing everywhere she looks. “Ooop, over here. Now I’m over here. Wherever you look, I’m there. Ha-ha! Tremble before the mighty Sea Face! You can run but you can’t...”

Suddenly, shouts ring out from behind Moe...

Not shouts of disgust, but shouts of fear. Of panic.

She turns, seeing the wall of fire gone. The fire tornado gone.

The Egyptians charging down into the marsh...

Her eyes go wide.

Sea Face notices this too. “Christ! Raph! Where the fuck...?”

Then the face disappears. Moe turns to ask for help, but it’s already gone. “Fucking Sea Face!”

She turns back to the people.

“Run!” she shouts. “Everybody run! Panic! Everyone for themselves!”

Nice, Moe.

Way to lead.

She knocks over a child in front of her, shoving past them and running as fast as she can through the shin-high shit. All the other Israelites follow suit, and in the ensuing stampede, who knows how many thousands are trampled to death, suffocated in the mud?

Moe doesn’t stop to count.

By the time she reaches the other side and claws her way up onto shore, she turns back to see the foremost Egyptians gaining on the rearmost Israelites.

Fuck...

They’ve ditched their chariots, wheels sunk deep in the mud, and saddled up to let their ponies navigate the odoriferous trench. Others are slogging through on foot, knives out, ready for a good old fashioned bloodbath.

These fucking Israelites are going to pay for this...

“Quick!” Moe shouts. “Everybody run!”

Yeah, they’re already running, Moe.

They know the Egyptians are there.

But still, it doesn’t look like they’re going the make it. The ones bringing up the rear at least. Moe feels her stomach drop. She’s about to watch thousands of people die and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Then...

Out of fucking nowhere...

“Wooooooo!”

This is followed by screams.

Moe’s confused. The Egyptians haven’t caught up to the Israelites yet. What could possibly...?

Then she sees it.

The water at the other end of the trench is beginning to collapse in on itself, swallowing up the Egyptians. And there, in the centre of the newly-formed rear wall of water chasing the soldiers toward the middle, is a face.

But not just any face...

That’s right.

It’s motherfucking Sea Face, y’all!

“You can run, but you can’t hide!” Sea Face shouts as it devours the Egyptians, bringing the water crashing down upon them. The soldiers scream and beg, but it’s no use. The water pounds them into the mud, chews them up, spits them out. It’s a filthy, churning, screaming, roiling mess.

Moe watches it all unfold in horror.

(And, if she’s being honest with herself, relief.)

(And, if she’s being even more honest with herself, a morbid kind of amusement.)

(Shame on you, Moe. You sick fuck.)

By this point, all the Israelites have all gotten safety to the other side and the foremost Egyptians are realising that they’re not going to make it. The mud is too deep, the water too quick, the distance too far.

So they stop.

At the example of their Pharaoh, they simply stop running, and resign themselves to their fate. A few of them start crying. Others look to the heavens and ask the gods, “Why? WHYYYY?!”

Filthy and exhausted and defeated, Ramrod looks up at Moe, who is standing triumphantly on the shore and sneering back at him.

Nice try, asshole.

“Well played,” he says. A little smile appears on his face. “We’ll always have the statue of Anubis.”

He turns back to face the oncoming wall of water.

“It’s alright, men,” he says to the soldiers around him, who are growing increasingly afraid by the incomprehensible wall of water and the screams of their brothers-in-arms. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and greet Anubis with a full heart!”

A few of them seem inspired by his words. They smile and nod to each other. A silent pact before death.

It’s then that Pharaoh sees a frog.

A single, green frog, hopping peacefully across the mud.

His eyes go wide...

His nostrils flare...

His pulse quickens...

Those nearest to him see his reaction, see the frog. They try to grab him - “No, Your Highness! Go out with dignity!” - but he shakes them off.

“No!” he shouts. “I need it!”

He dives on the frog, landing with a splat in the mud. Seizing the amphibian in both hands, he tears off his royal armour and begins rubbing it all over his chest and stomach.

“Ohhhh!” he moans. “Yeahhhhh!”

The frog wriggles like crazy, desperately trying to get away, thinking, “Jesus! First the sea parting, now this. Man, is just not my day.”

The men recoil in disgust, averting their eyes.

But Pharaoh doesn’t let their disapproval stop him. No, sir. He goes further, shoving the thing down his kilt, like, “Yeah, you fight! Better that way!” – aping Bogs from The Shawshank Redemption.

He rolls wildly in the mud, groaning with pleasure as the frog hops around his undercarriage. The men nearby are so disgusted, so hopeless, that by the time the water hits them, it’s almost a blessing.

Sea Face closes in, opening his mouth like Imhotep’s face in that sand wall in The Mummy, crashing down upon the last of the Egyptians and literally gobbling them up.

From the shoreline, Moe just watches, along with nearly 600,000 other tired, traumatised Israelites, dripping with mud and water and vomit, as the water returns to its previous level.

The only difference now is the thousands upon thousands of Egyptian soldiers floating face-down on the surface. There’s so many, you could almost walk across them to the other side.

“Fuck me,” Merry says, surveying the damage.

“Fuck you, indeed,” Erin seconds him.

“Fuck all of us,” Moe finishes off. “Fuck all of us.”

No one celebrates.

No one cheers.

Everyone’s wrecked, their nerves are shot. They figure, “Let’s just get the fuck out of here while the gettin’ is good.”

So that’s what they do.

Moe and her siblings stumble through the ranks of wretched Israelites and begin leading them away from the water. Away from the floating bodies. Away from the pyramids just visible across the distant shore.

*

It’s late when Yahweh comes over to find Seki sitting on a pool chair, blanket over her shoulders, staring down at the Experiment at the bottom of the pool. Yah knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but the guilt still stabs at her all the same.

Inside, she can see the other Egyptian gods playing cards, getting drunk. Seems like they’ve been at it for quite a while.

Not Seki though.

She’s out here all alone, nursing a whiskey on the rocks, staring down at the pool. As Yah approaches, she notices the God’s Eye tablet with an unchanging feed of the Reed Sea, the thousands of dead, floating bodies in the water. She winces.

“Hey,” she says, bracing herself.

Seki looks up at her. She doesn’t fly into a rage or throw her drink in Yah’s face, or any of the hundred other things Yah fears she might do. Instead, she just...smiles.

It’s a soft, sad kind of smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Not forced, not fake.

Just... tired.

“Hey,” Seki says.

She waits.

Yah rubs her hands together. She doesn’t even know how to begin.

“Should we... maybe... talk about this, or...?”

“Talk about what?”

Yah swallows. Now she’s really fucked.

Seki slides a pool chair over to Yah with her foot. “Sit down.”

Uncertain, Yah plants herself. “Okay...”

Seki continues staring into the pool, takes a sip. Yah watches her. She takes a breath, preparing to apologise. “Listen, Seki, I’m really...”

“No, you listen...”

Quiet, but forceful. Yah shuts her trap.

“Do you know why I agreed to perform that surgery?”

Yah shrugs, takes a stab in the dark. “Because you thought it was the right thing to do?”

Keeping her eyes on the Experiment, Seki shakes her head. “No. I agreed to do it – not because I thought your motives were solid, or even because you’d thought it all the way through – but because I thought it might give you some perspective. Was that a responsible thing for me, as a licensed physician, to do? Probably not.”

She seems to consider it for a moment, then just continues staring at the water, like her neighbour isn’t even there.

“And did it?”

Seki takes a sip. “Hard to say.”

Yah begins to grow irritated. “Why are we talking about the surgery? Look, I came over here because... I’m sick of pretending like nothing’s going on between us. I want to get it out in the open.”

“Get what out in the open?”

Yah’s jaw tightens. “Stop acting like nothing happened. Something did happen.”

“What happened?”

“I beat you. That’s what happened.”

Silence.

Yah instantly regrets her outburst. Seki just smiles, glad her friend is finally being honest.

“That’s right,” she says, matter-of-factly. “You beat me. You created the game, stands to reason you’d be better at it than me or anyone else. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the only reason we could take over the Israelites to begin with was because you weren’t paying attention at the time. The only reason you didn’t do what you did sooner was because you were concerned about your friendship with me. Now, you’ve made your decision and...we’ll move forward.”

Yah is stunned by this. “You aren’t mad?”

She shrugs. “Sure. I’m a little mad. But that’ll pass, like everything does. Also, I realised that if I keep trying to hold other people to the same standards I hold myself to, or even to a basic level of decency, I’m always going to be disappointed. And what am I going to do? Live alone? Have no friends? Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride, bury that anger. Is that a psychologically-healthy thing to do? Probably not. But what choice do I have?”

Yah doesn’t speak for a long time after this. She’s truly floored by the level of insight Seki has displayed here – the understanding, the self-awareness. The implicit criticism of Yahweh herself.

She’s about to say something, when her feline-headed friend continues.

“The way I see it...” Seki swirles her glass, hearing the ice cubes clink. “...it’s just tariffs.”

Yah furrows her brow. What the fuck is she talking about?

“Tariffs?”

“Yeah. Taxes on exit and entry. Imports, exports. We enslaved your people – this is the bill we get now that they’re leaving. Raph betrayed you by coming to me (noble as his intentions were) – you making him do what he did was the cost of re-entry. You did what you did – and our friendship won’t be the same anymore. There’s no logic or morality to it. It’s just actions and consequences.”

Again, Yah is speechless.

After another sip, Seki goes, “We still on for tomorrow night?”

Surprised, Yah goes, “Uh... yeah, sure. I didn’t know if you still wanted to...”

“See you then.”

She says it with a smile, but her eyes stay locked on the pool.

Yah wants to stay, to talk, but there’s nothing left to say. Seki’s said it all. Besides, it’s pretty clear by her tone that that was Yah’s cue to leave – probably the friendliest one she was going to get too, so she best not push it.

Yah gets up, goes to leave.

“Oh, and Yah...”

She turns. Seki’s still not looking at her.

“Congratulations.”

Yah frowns. “For what?”

Finally, those feline eyes come up to meet hers. Not angry, not warm. Completely and totally unreadable.

“You won.”

This hits Yah hardest of all. Hits her like a truck. That’s what she came over to gloat about, right? Marching in like she was trying to extend an olive branch when really, all she wanted to do was say, “Fuck you. I won.”

Congrats, Yah. You did win.

You feel good right now? Triumphant?

She just nods, and heads for the gate.

Seki stays right where she is, drinking alone by the pool. She looks inside at her house mates, playing cards and laughing. She considers going in to join them. Going inside where it’s warm. Where it’s fun.

Instead, she sets her empty glass down and pulls the blanket a little tighter around her shoulders.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this episode, use the ‘share’ button below to let a friend know about it. Word of mouth is still the best way for The New Old Testament to find new readers. See you next time.

Exodus 12-13: Exodus (or, How The Israelites Graduated From Slavery To Starvation, From Flatbread To Fire Worship) (Season 2, Episode 8)

What happens when the Israelites finally leave Egypt? Poor kids aren't mummified, the Israelites discover the versatility of unleavened bread, and a fire tornado with a face becomes their tour guide.

Welcome to episode 30 of the The New Old Testament!

This has been a big week for me. I’ve finally caught up and am producing new episodes, which has been so much fun! I’ve fixed some spacing issues on the Substack platform, and have also decided to branch out with another pen name, which you can find out more about here: https://thenewoldtestament.substack.com/about

Rest assured, this won’t draw focus from TNOT – I’m committed to getting an episode out every week. This will just allow me to exercise some different creative muscles and stop me from getting restless. It will also let me re-purpose my unfinished fantasy trilogy and enable me to find a wider audience, with hopes that they’ll transition over to TNOT. Fingers crossed.


This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


In the suburbs of a higher realm we’re referring to as ‘heaven’, Seki is staring intently at the pool in her backyard.

Taken out of context, she might be mistaken for being stoned (or possibly insane), until we realise what she’s actually looking at...

Deep down in the pool, there’s a very familiar-looking orb just kind of floating there, suspended in the water.

Yep, you guessed it.

It’s the Experiment.

Stolen from Yah by her brother Billy, cloned, and distributed to all interested parties in the neighbourhood, the Experiment has found a wide variety of aquatic homes – pools, fish tanks, bathtubs, you name it. People have gotten quite creative.

I hear that the Greeks even had some elaborate water feature installed.

Leave it to the Greeks, am I right?

Am I?

(crickets)

Anyway, Seki’s looking down at the Experiment. She glances at the tablet in her hands, a God’s Eye device similar to Yah’s, which she’s holding precariously close to the pool. It’s alright though – shit’s waterproof.

What she sees there is a zoomed-in view of the wreckage that is her people’s capital city.

Ruins, dead cattle, empty crop fields.

A few hundred thousand child funerals, give or take.

Mountains of rotting frog corpses, which the Pharaoh is still having brought to the palace.

Seki winces in disgust. “Ugh. Freak...”

Slowly, her hands curls into fists. Her eyes slant.

Yah.

That motherfucker.

“Hey Seki, watch out!”

But it’s too late.

By the time the jackal-headed Noob (Anubis, in case you don’t remember) calls out to her, he’s already in mid-air, knees tucked to his chest in preparation for a cannonball.

She has zero time to react.

He hits the water, sending a chlorinated tidal wave her way, literally drenching her from head to foot.

He resurfaces, seeing the damage he’s wrought. She’s standing perfectly still, dripping, a distinctly-unimpressed look on her face.

“Sorry,” he says, climbing out of the pool. He shakes himself dry like the dog that he is (or, at least, like his head is). She winces as the droplets hit her.

He chuckles, sheepish (doggish?). “Didn’t see you there.”

She wheels around on him, fixing him with a bone-chilling glare. “Didn’t see me here? Here? Out in the open, on the side of the pool, in broad daylight?”

A long moment passes.

The glare continues.

A skin-melting, eye-watering, face-burning glare.

“Nope,” says Noob with a shrug.

She bristles.

He grabs a towel from the nearby pool chair, oblivious, and begins to dry himself.

“Look, I know cats don’t like water...”

“That’s not...!” She feels her blood pressure rising and takes a breath – one, two... – lets it out again. Then, with forced calm, “That’s not why I’m angry.”

“Are you still pissed off about the whole ‘primogenocide’ thing?”

“Stop calling it that!” Seki says, snatching the towel from him and using it to dry herself.

“What? It makes sense. It’s the perfect portmanteau of primogeniture and genocide. Weirdly perfect. Makes you wonder why no one’s ever used it before.”

“Maybe because there wasn’t a need for it to exist? Because it’s never happened before? Because it’s the most horrifying thing anyone’s ever done? Something beyond imagining, beyond nightmares?”

She stares at him, wide-eyed, expectant.

His dopey dog eyes narrow, the thinking process painfully slow. She can almost see the thoughts behind his eyes – so transparent, so lacking in guile is her jackal-headed roommate.

Finally, he’s like, “No, that’s not it,” then just kind of wanders off, like he’s going to ponder the etymology of ‘primogenocide’ a little further.

“Don’t you care?” Seki spins around to face him.

“About what?” he says, his blank face informing her that he’s completely forgotten what they were just discussing.

She groans. “About the thing. About...” She sighs, gestures to the orb at the bottom of the pool. “About all the dead children and animals.”

Noob looks at the Experiment, then at her...

Then at the Experiment, then at her...

Then at the Experiment one more time, and as Seki is about to lose her shit, he goes, “It’s a game.” Like it’s the most obvious thing anyone’s ever said.

Seki deflates. “I know...”

“Come inside,” he says, with a dopey dog smile meant to cheer her up. “I want to show you something.”

The lioness-headed doctor is suddenly very wary. “What? Down in the basement? Noob, I don’t want to see your taxidermied dogs playing poker. Don’t you think it’s a little weird that you, of all people...”

“No, not that.” He shakes his head, like the idea is patently ridiculous. “I sold those.”

“Then what?”

People playing poker.”

Seki recoils with disgust. “Jesus, Noob. No! God! It’s bad enough you use our basement as your own private funeral home without you...”

“No... I mean we’re all playing poker in the garage and we’d like you to join us.”

“Oh.” Seki withdraws, feeling bad.

“Jesus...”

“I’m sorry, alright.”

Noob hesitates. “But I do have a bunch of homeless guys playing cribbage down there if you want.”

Seki scoffs, her skin crawling. “Ugh! Get outta here, you! Go on, shoo!”

She flicks the towel at him and he scurries inside with his tail between his legs.

Yep, he has a tail.

Alone again, Seki shakes her head. Jesus, these fucking roommates...

Slowly, her attention returns to the orb.

Yah.

That motherfucker.

*

Raph doesn’t emerge from his room until around midday, and when he does, he looks like shit. Almost like murdering a few hundred thousand kids wasn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. Who knew?

What he sees in the kitchen is jarring, but nowhere near unexpected.

Yah has her curlers in and is whistling a cheerful tune as she sets about preparing brunch. Bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, sausages – the whole shebang. A regular heart attack on a plate.

She’s even whipped up a pitcher of Bloody Marys.

(Bloody Maries? Bloodies Mary? I’ll figure it out).

“Hey!” she says, when she sees him, in just the friendliest voice you can imagine. “How ya doin’, buddy?”

“How do you think?” he says, shuffling over and collapsing onto a stool at the bench.

“I think it’s your lucky day, bucko. I made you breakfast. Just wanted to say thanks for the whole...” She shakes her head, slightly embarrassed, like she had a few too many wines and needed a lift home last night. “...primogenocide thing.”

“Stop calling it that!”

“What? It makes sense. It’s the perfect...”

Raph ignores her. Takes out a cigarette and lights it.

Yah is mildly horrified, but tries to take it easy on him. “You can’t smoke in here, Raph...”

“Why not? It’s my house too. Right?”

He takes a long, deep drag without breaking eye contact. Testing her.

She forces a smile so sickly it might have given him diabetes right there if he didn’t already have it. That’s right, y’all – Raph has Type 2 diabetes! Didn’t seem pertinent before but there it is.

She sets a plate down in front of him. He doesn’t move to touch it.

Instead, he takes the pitcher and, forgoing either one of the glasses Yah had set out, begins chugging straight from the jug.

“Wait, Raph, I’ve got...”

She holds up a glass, but Raph doesn’t stop. She just stands there watching, growing ever more repulsed (and, honestly, impressed – dude can drink) as Raph drains the pitcher to its cubes.

Somehow, throughout all of it, he keeps the cigarette wedged in the corner of his mouth, even managing to take puffs between chugs, breathing it out through his nose like a motherfucking dragon.

It’s been said before but I’ll say it again – the archangel Raphael is a fucking weapon.

When he’s done, he sets the jug down and burps.

Then he just kind of stares at his plate like a zombie.

Yah steps forward to put a hand on his shoulder. “You alright, bud...?”

Then he vomits all over everything.

Like, a ridiculous amount.

Like, waaaay more than you’d expect.

To the point where, when he’s finally done, Yah’s gonna have to take a mop to the walls and ceiling. To the point where puke is pouring off the bench at a steady trickle. To the point where all the food that Yah had lovingly prepared is now marinating in bile.

And still – somehow – the cigarette is dangling from his lips, undisturbed by the raging torrent of ejecta that blasted so forcefully from his mouth.

He straightens, hiccups. Then he looks Yah dead in the eyes and takes another drag.

“Thanks for breakfast, roomie.”

*

Down below, things are a little more cheerful.

Well, guess that depends on who you ask – the Israelites or the Egyptians.

...

What’s that?

The same dynamic could also apply to the previous scene with Yah and Raph, thereby nullifying the transition?

Go on...

Mmm. Okay. Huh? That’s very interesting.

You’re saying that, in essence, the situation is the same on both planes of existence. One is just a microcosm of the other. Things aren’t ‘a little more cheerful’ down below – they’re the same, just on a wider scale.

In the same way the Israelites are cheery, so too was Yah – and in the same way the Egyptians are horribly depressed, so too was Raph.

Huh.

You know what? You’re right. I take it back.

Man, you are one shrewd reader.

As always, the Experiment is a perfect mirror of the suburbs of a higher realm we’re referring to as ‘heaven’. Civilisations as proxies for gods, so on and so forth.

Just as its creator intended.

Or did she?

(cue spooky music)

(cut spooky music)

You know what?

Fuck you.

I try to come up with some banal little scene transition to ease you across the page break like a lexical butter to the proverbial bathtub for the metaphorical fat guy (or gal), and this is how you respond?

I was only trying to help!

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!

I fear we may have gotten off track.

Moving on...

Eschewing the brilliant segue that began this section, let’s just cut to Egypt.

How do you like that, you fuckers?

No dressing on that salad, is there?

No lube on that...

Easy, Jay. Easy.

Check your pulse. Do the breaths.

Don’t blame the reader because you’re a fraud and a hack and you hate yourself. It isn’t their fault you can’t seamlessly transition from one scene to another without second-guessing yourself and calling attention to it.

Deep breath in...

One, two, three...

Hold it in...

One, two, three...

Let it out...

One, two, three...

There, don’t you feel better?

(reluctant grumbling) Yes.

Good. Now, get on with the episode.

(more reluctant grumbling) Fine.

Whew.

Where were we?

Oh, yeah...

So the Egyptians are having a bad time, right? All their first-born kids are dead, so naturally, there’s a lot of crying and hugging and mummifying (for those that can afford it, mind you – mummification was quite the racket back in the day).

Be like today, if you wanted a black marble mausoleum instead of just a pine casket – automatically that’s ruling out a significant percentage of the population right there.

Most people – that is to say, the poors – were left with no choice but to carry their kids out into the desert and bury them there. The hot sand would preserve their bodies, or so went the accepted wisdom of the age.

I wonder how many of them actually dug up their relatives to check?

Not sure.

Be a fun experiment, though.

And weirdly, because of the hot, arid, dry shittiness of the desert, the bodies of poor people were often even more well preserved than those of their top hat-and-monocle-wearing counterparts.

What’s that?

You didn’t know they wore top hats and monocles in Ancient Egypt?

Who do you think invented them shits?

See, that’s why you read this thing. Not for the filthy humour or the foul language or the questionable politics, but the facts. The cold, hard facts.

Don’t believe me?

Go look it up. I’ll wait.

“Go look what up?” you say.

History?

Books?

Fuck, I don’t know...

Anyway, since preserving the body was so important in this period – for rebirth in the afterlife and all that – we see the Egyptians heading out in droves to bury their dead children.

Meanwhile, in the Israelite part of town...

A non-stop party has been raging for three days. Realising that they won’t be here for much longer, the Israelites have trashed their homes and many of them are now passed out in the streets in puddles of wine, piss and puke.

Those still standing are staggering along, bleary-eyed, laughing and babbling incoherently, getting in fist fights or fucking in the alleyways in broad daylight. Men, women, gay, straight, bi, trans – they’re just happy to be free, yo.

But Moe’s at the stage where she can’t take much more of this shit. Like, yeah, freedom is great. Slavery bad. But, fuck, the hangover...

No matter how much wine she drinks, this thing is not going away.

It’s at that point – her lowest point, some might argue – that she’s summoned by some teary-eyed guards to the palace for a parley with the big dog.

That’s right.

Ramrod.

In all his froggy glory.

I say that because, as Moe walks in, Ramrod is emerging from a ‘restorative’ dip in his vat filled with rotten frog corpses, covered in slime. While she watches, he walks over to the mummified body of his son on a raised bench and cradles it.

Still naked, mind you.

Naked and covered in slime.

He weeps.

Loudly, dramatically, in the cavernous silence of his throne room, so that his over-the-top wails echo off the colourful, hieroglyphed walls and reverberate straight on back to Moe’s sensitive ears.

She’s caught between wincing in pain at his loud cries (because of the hangover – not the child whose death she is indirectly responsible for, nor the grieving father, nor the grieving guards who are also fathers) and wincing in disgust at the naked, frog-slimy body of the Pharaoh, which – if she’s being honest – isn’t exactly in the best shape to begin with.

Finally, Moe has to say something. “Why are you, uh... naked?”

At the sound of her voice, his head snaps up like a cobra.

“I’m grieving!” he shouts, as if that were a reasonable answer.

Moe backs off.

“What do you want?!” he asks her.

Moe’s confused. “I, uh... they said you wanted to see me.”

“I mean, what more to do you want? What more can you take away from me?”

She holds her ground. “I want what I’ve always wanted. Let my fucking people go, man.”

He just glares at her for a long moment, then hangs his head and sighs.

“Fine,” he says, in a quiet voice. “If it means no more death and ruin, then take your miserable people, and your homicidal god, and get the fuck out of Egypt before I kill every last one of you.”

He resumes cradling his mummified son.

Still naked.

Still covered in frog slime.

Moe looks around at the guards, a little awkward, then takes that as her cue to leave. She turns, walks out. As she approaches the doorway, she hears the Pharaoh say to one of his guards: “We’re gonna need a refill on Vat Three.”

“A refill?” the incredulous guard asks. “What are you doing to them?”

“Where are they going?” asks another, equally-baffled guard.

“I’m grieving!” Pharaoh shouts.

*

Following the Frog Prince’s orders to “get the fuck out of Egypt,” that’s exactly what the Israelites do.

They pack their shit quickly, as Moe instructs them, and quickly find themselves in the human version of a traffic jam as the exodus (hey, that’s the name of this season!) begins.

The streets are clogged with bodies (living ones) carrying bindles over their shoulders like hobos in the early 1900s, not to mention flocks of goats and sheep that are bleating and shitting everywhere.

It is a quite-literal shit show.

You’d think everyone would be super stoked, singing songs, laughing, cheering – but this is day three of what would come to be known as the ‘Return to Sender Bender’ (since the Israelites would eventually return to Canaan, from whence they had originally come, and also to the god that had sent them down there and promptly abandoned them) or the ‘Now We Are Free Spree,’ and the Israelites aren’t feeling too hot.

They’re tired, they’re grumpy, they’re hungover.

They’re surrounded by other tired, grumpy, hungover people, which only brings the mood down even further.

They’re stepping through piles of shit left behind by their goddamn animals, not to mention the dried, crusted blood of a few hundred thousand kids that was, in a manner of speaking, the check cashed for their freedom.

Apart from the Israelites and their flocks, however, the streets are pretty much empty.

Most Egyptians are still out in the desert burying their kids, but the ones who remain (or have returned from said burying), the Israelites walk past kind of sheepishly, like, “Hey, sorry about the whole primogenocide thing. Crazy, right? No hard feelings.”

A few even force a smile and wave awkwardly. It’s weird.

It’s like they’re doing the walk of shame after having made a fool of themselves the previous night – which a lot of them undoubtedly did – and that’s the reason why the Egyptians are watching them in such gaunt-faced, hollow-eyed misery.

Other Israelites are less humbled.

They use the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable, sans-firstborn Egyptians, looting their houses, stealing jewellery, food. Something salty and/or greasy to nurse this hangover. Anything they can get their hands on, really.

Seriously, guys?

Plundering bereaved parents?

Jesus...

The Egyptians don’t even try to stop them, so worn down are they by the toll of the previous few days. The raiders, for their part, fail to notice this, and act like they’re being really brave and awesome, rubbing it in the Egyptians faces, like, “Yeah! Fuck yeah! We’re sticking it to the man. Woooooo!”

Nice.

I mean, they have been held in captivity for over four hundred years, subjugated, demeaned, worked to the bone, and to death, in most cases.

But, Christ, the optics...

Taken out of context, it’s just...

Anyway, moving on...

Finally, the Israelites leave the city behind and head out into the desert, six hundred thousand in total.

That’s right.

600,000.

And that’s not even including the children.

That’s the population of Baltimore, guys.

That’s the amount of people involved in the Chernobyl clean-up operation.

(By the way, how good was Chernobyl? The miniseries, I mean. Not the 1986 nuclear disaster. I have a dark sense of humour, guys – I’m not a sociopath.)

What I’m saying is, it’s a lot of fucking people.

Plus all the flocks and herds and shit.

They leave Ramrod’s city and head out into the wilderness, eventually making camp at Succoth. When they get there, they quickly come to a realisation that spreads through the camp like wildfire.

Where’s the motherfucking bread at?

Since they left in such a rush, the Israelites didn’t have time to leaven their bread (with yeast or whatever).

And buddy, you gotta leaven your bread.

Bread without leaven isn’t even bread at all.

Or is it?

Here, we see one of the truly groundbreaking inventions of all time. Before sliced bread was to the go-to cliché for a turning point in human ingenuity, unleavened bread was the shit that everyone was referencing.

“It’s the best thing since unleavened bread!”

That’s what they said.

What, you don’t believe me?

Look, I’m not gonna argue with you, alright? This is my serial, and what I say goes.

Sliced bread was the best thing since unleavened bread.

End of story.

Jesus...

Anyway, it isn’t long before the people come to Moe, like, “Yo, Moe, where’s the bread at?”

Sidebar: lot of “yo” in this episode. Haven’t used a lot of “yo” so far.

Moe just shrugs and pads herself down, like, “Sorry, guys. I’m all out. You’ll have to make do without it for the time being.”

And the people just look at each other like, “Whaaaaaa...?”

See what I mean?

The concept of forgoing the aforementioned leaven in the making of the bread was so foreign and alien to the Israelites, she might as well have suggested they stop eating pork.

And everyone knows how much the Israelites love their pork.

Sidebar: at this point in “history,” pork hadn’t yet been forbidden to the people of Israel. Probably should have led into the joke with that. But now that you get it, you’re laughing hysterically, right? Right?!

Naturally, the Israelites aren’t super-stoked about the idea of unleavened bread, and they begin slamming Moe for it:

“You said this place is called Succoth? More like Suck-eth. ‘Cause this place suck-eth. Up top!”

“You can’t leave out the leaven! You don’t find some leaven, I’m leaven right now! Seriously, I’m outta here. Up top!”

“We don’t find some goddamn leaven toot-suite, Pharaoh will be the yeast of our problems. Up top!”

Lot of pun humour.

Lot of high fives.

See what she’s dealing with here?

In time, the Israelites calm down and stop making so many hilarious jokes at Moe’s expense. They realise they don’t have much of a choice, and so they all watch as one person (let’s call her Flatbread) attempts to make bread without leaven.

Because... like... how do you even?

And before you ask – no, her nickname is not a reference to her unusually-flat chest. Although, damn, shit is nearly concave. Picture Joaquin Phoenix in Joker and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. All ribs and spine. Maybe they should call her Bones instead. Am I right?

Am I?

(crickets)

Oh, you know what...

I’m a misogynist? Fuck you, you’re a misogynist.

I’m not getting defensive. You are.

No, you are.

(Asshole...)

What? Nothing. I didn’t say anything.

Where we we?

Oh, yeah...

So, Flatbread’s kneading the...

Fine – I’ll change her name.

How about Breadsy, huh? Breadsy. You like that? Happy now? Have we made the character with no lines innocuous enough?

Christ...

So, Breadsy is kneading the dough, right? Baking it over a fire. What emerges isn’t a big fluffy loaf of beautiful, mouth-watering bread (with the three crusty stripes across the top for some reason).

No.

What emerges is a flat, boring, disc-shaped disc of boring flatness.

A collective groan ripples back through the crowd. Murmurs. Disgust.

We’re supposed to eat that shit?

Someone screams, another guy faints. One dude nearby recoils in horror, pointing at the thing like it’s a snake, going, “Hey, man, what the fuck is that?!”

Even Breadsy kind of turns her nose up at it, but she looks at Moe, and the prophet nods, cautiously, sweating bullets.

She’s watching this play out like Thomas O. Paine (head of NASA during the Apollo 11 mission) watching Neil Armstrong stepping down onto the moon – fucking everything is riding on this turning out well.

If the people can’t deal with unleavened bread, they might just go ahead and proceed with their aborted lynching.

Breadsy raises the flatbread to her lips...

And no, before you ask, she isn’t eating herself.

Although...

No – you know what? It isn’t worth it.

I was going to make a very subtle, very tasteful joke about auto-cunnilingus – Breadsy was a contortionist back in the Pharaoh’s court, after all – but you’re just going to jump down my throat again about the depiction of women in whatever the fuck this is – biblical fan-fiction? - so why bother?

Moe rubs her chin like Indy examining the golden idol.

599,999 people watch with baited breath.

Breadsy takes a bite...

Chews...

And, like the first person to figure out that fruit and meat go well together on Hawaiian pizza, she begins smiling from ear to ear (which is quite a grotesque saying if you take it literally).

“It’s good!” Moe shouts, as her heart starts beating again. “It’s good!”

The people of Israel cheer.

They then set about making some of this ‘unleavened bread’ for themselves, and before long, everyone’s sitting around fires, realising just how fucking versatile flatbread is.

They’re tearing that bad boy into strips and dipping it into lentil stew.

They’re spreading a little tomato paste and sprinkling a little cheese on that motherfucker to make mini motherfuckin’ pizzas, y’all!

They’re crumbling up felafel with a little hommus drizzled on top, and rolling that S.O.B. into a wrap.

That’s right.

Bet you didn’t think you were gonna get an origin story for the wrap here, did you?

Think again.

Man, I’m getting defensive today.

*

Later on, Yah comes down to check on everyone, make sure they haven’t all started killing each other or devolved into a 600,000-person orgy or anything like that.

But, no, everything seems to be going well. She’s pleasantly surprised.

“See?” she tells Moe, as they drink wine in Moe’s tent later that night, while people continue to marvel at the wonder of flatbread just outside. “Rituals. I’m telling you.”

Moe furrows her brow. “Rituals?”

“Yeah, shit like that. The unleavened bread. You can’t plan that. Leaving behind the yeast or whatever. But it’s catching on out there – listen to them. They love it. And now it becomes part of the ceremony. Part of the tradition. Now, every year, that’s what we do.”

“Leave behind the yeast?”

“Make unleavened bread,” Yah says, really spelling it out. “That becomes one of our rituals.”

“Along with what?”

Yah scoffs. “How about circumcision? How about the Ten Marvels?”

“I thought we settled on Plagues.”

“Nope. Marvels. It’s cleaner.” She sips. “Why do you think I did all that? Visited that Universe of Cinematic Marvels upon Egypt.”

“You didn’t. It was just an insane, if scientifically-explicable, domino-effect of...

“Bup-bup-bup,” Yah raises a finger, cutting her off, then looks around as if to make sure no one heard them.

Moe isn’t sure what she’s afraid of – they are the only ones in the tent.

Leaning in, Yah lowers her voice to a whisper, “No one outside these walls needs to know that, do they?”

Moe leans in too, mirroring the whisper. “Why not?”

“Because it’s better for us if they think I did all that shit intentionally.”

Moe straightens. “But it’s a lie.”

Yah rolls her eyes, polishes off the cup of wine and holds it out to Moe for a refill, shaking it like a baby with a rattle, not meeting her eye. Moe sighs and refills the cup about halfway.

Unsatisfied with the weight, Yah looks over. She frowns disapprovingly.

“What are you, on rations?”

With a huff, Moe continues pouring, filling the cup almost to the brim – like, to the point where Yah has to actively balance the thing as she lifts it to her mouth.

“Now we’re talking...” She eyes the dangerously-full cup like a greedy Conquistador who just found El Dorado. She takes a drink, savours it. “Oh... mother’s milk.” She continues. “It doesn’t matter if it isn’t true, all that matters is what they believe. The stories they tell. How they remember it. That’s how we do it. That’s how we keep the faith alive. After all these people have died of old age. After their grandchildren and their grandchildren are worm food – that’s how we keep this thing going. That's how we carry the torch, pass it down through the generations without letting it go out. We renew it, annually. Rituals, baby – I’m telling you. This is gonna be a thing.” Another drink. “I didn’t do all that because it was necessary. I did it because it was memorable. Right?” She nods, encouraging Moe to nod along with her. “Besides, I did the last one intentionally, and that’s the one that really counted. The ones before that just made Pharaoh angry.”

“Yeah, that last one really put the nail in the coffin.”

“Boy, howdy.”

The both just sit there in silence for a few moments as the reality of the situation washes over them.

Moe’s like, “I mean, you killed... thousands of kids. Tens of thousands.”

“Hundreds.”

Another pause.

“Yep, that’ll do it.”

They both drink.

An awkward silence settles between them.

Squirming a little, Moe changes the subject. “So, uh... where to now?”

“What’s that?”

Moe is not encouraged by Yahweh’s genuine unpreparedness for the question. She also realises she shouldn’t be surprised. This bitch has been winging it from day one.

“I said...” She tries to sand the edge off her voice. “Where are we going now?”

Yah stares blankly at her. “Where do you wanna go?”

“Goddamn it, Yah!”

“What?”

“You bring us out here to the desert...”

“To freedom,” Yah clarifies.

“Yeah, I’m sure a spoon full of freedom is really gonna help the starvation go down smoother.”

“You guys have lived in the desert before.”

“Yeah, not 600,000 of us in one place. We need some infrastructure here, man!”

“Alright, alright. I’m thinking. Hang on.”

She thinks.

Moe waits. “What about Canaan?”

That jogs Yah’s memory. “Oh, shit, right! The Promised Land.”

“The land flowing with milk and honey.”

Just as she gets going, Yah is abruptly stopped in her tracks. “The what?

Face falling, Moe goes, “Milk and honey. That was your...”

Yah turns her nose up. “Mixed together?”

“No! Jesus... That was your marketing slogan. You said you were work-shopping it.”

“Did I?” She scratches her chin. “Sounds like it still needs some work.”

Puzzling over this, Yah takes another sip.

Moe just watches her. Fucking trainwreck...

Getting her shit together, Yah’s straightens up, setting the cup down on the table, “Alright, look – the quickest way is through the land of the Philistines, but if you guys get attacked, you’re just gonna tuck tail and run all the way back to Egypt. Have you seen those guys out there? Their nerves are hanging by a thread.”

“Yeah, four hundred years of slavery will do that to you.”

Yah takes the hit, rolls with it. “What I’m saying is... you need to go the long way around.”

“And how are we supposed to do that, huh? We don’t know the long way. Shit, we don’t even know the short way. The people who made the trip down are long gone. Their bones are dust, baby. They thought they were coming here to outlast a famine – they didn’t think they’d be here permanently. You think they made maps to guide them back? Why would they need maps, huh?”

Her energy is putting Yah off-balance. “Well, I don’t...”

“We head out into the desert, we’re gonna get lost. Alright? We’ll become so mad with hunger and thirst that we’ll start tearing each other to pieces to feast on the raw flesh, lapping at the blood like dogs. Is that what you want, Yah? For us to lap at the blood like dogs, and howl at the moon, with the blood smeared across our faces, dripping down from our chins in long viscous strands, while the entrails of our children, and the elderly, and the infirm, lay strewn about like streamers after a party – because, let’s not beat around the bush, you know they’d be the first to die. They’re the weakest. And then the adults would turn on each other, man against woman, man against man, until only one remains, surrounded by the carnage of five hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine human meals. Is that what you want?!”

Moe has worked herself up into quite a state at this point, breathing heavy – almost panting – as she waits for the big gal’s response.

Yah just stares at her, mystified.

A moment passes.

Wow.

“Yeah,” Moe says, a little embarrassed, scratching her head. “Sorry about that.”

“That was... vivid.

“I said I was sorry, didn’t I?”

Yah drains the rest of her cup. “I think I have an idea.”

With that, she ducks out of the tent, vanishing into the night.

Moe just sits there, confused. “You wanna tell me what that is, or...?”

Within moments, there’s a commotion outside.

A burst of light.

Heat.

Exclamations of fear, shock and awe.

Voices, talking excitedly.

Moe goes out to join the party, see what all the fuss is about. “What the f...?”

That’s when she sees it.

A giant pillar of flame stretching from the earth right outside her tent all the way up to the heavens – so high, she can’t even see the top. Shit looks like a goddamn fire tornado, lighting up the night. No wonder people are freaking out.

“Jesus Christ!” Moe says.

Suddenly there’s a face in the fire. A giant, terrifying face, but almost certainly Yah’s. Big, hollow eyes and a gaping mouth (which shall henceforth be referred to as Fire Face).

“Hey Moe! It’s me! Look! I’m a motherfucking fire tornado, baby! Yeah!”

This is your plan?”

“What are you talking about?” Fire Face says, sniffing, erratic, like it’s just done a line of coke. “It’s a great plan! It’s fucking... It’s great! It’s perfect!”

Moe is momentarily paralysed with fear by this thing, but quickly notices that no one else is reacting to the face or the voice, only in continued amazement at the fire tornado itself.

“Don’t worry, they can’t see or hear me,” Fire Face says, sniffing. “Pretty cool, right? Pretty cool?”

Overwhelmed, Moe’s like, “Uh, yeah... I guess.”

“Cool. Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. Alright, I’m bored. Let’s blow this popsicle stand. You ready to go? I’m ready to go. Ready to go. Ready to go.” Fire Face is speaking rapidly now, veering dangerously close to incoherent word salad.

Without warning, it suddenly starts darts off, speeding toward the edge of camp. It doesn’t seem to mind that there are a bunch of tents in its path, or that people have to literally jump out of the way to avoid being burned alive.

When it gets beyond the camp and realises no one is following, Fire Face turns, impatient, like, “Jesus! Are you guys coming or not?”

Moe, along with everyone else, is just staring at it down the burned-out path that Fire Face carved through the camp. The giant, swirling vortex of flames is waiting for them, like a dog with a stick in its mouth, wanting to go play.

Pretty soon, the Israelites are packing up their tents and following the pillar of fire on foot through the night. The ones whose tents burned up are gingerly asking if they can bunk with those around them, and get a lot of teeth sucking in response, like, “Ah, I wish I could man, but we’re all full up here,” when it is abundantly clear that they have room.

Shit gets real awkward.

The pillar is simultaneously part-beacon, part-travel guide, lighting up the night and leading them toward their destination.

It’s like Burning Man on the move.

Like any good travel guide, Fire Face is sure to point out places of interest along the way, while Moe, like most travellers, feigns interest, when she really couldn’t give less of a shit, and just wants to get back to the hotel.

She’s out in front of the Israelites, exhausted – a conversational prisoner to the increasingly-jacked Fire Face, who will not shut the fuck up:

“Oh, man, you just wait till you see the Promised Land, man. It’s gonna blow your fucking... (loud sniff, followed by several smaller sniffs)... your fucking mind. Like little pieces of your mind are just gonna be shooting out in all directions, like, like...(another loud sniff)... Woooooo! Fire tornado in the desert! Lightin’ up the night! Fuck yeah!”

… and Moe’s just kind of nodding, going, “Uh-huh. Yep. Sounds good.”

Erin and Merry come up to walk alongside her, equally weary.

“Are you talking to this thing?” Erin says.

“It’s Yah. For some reason, she decided being a fire tornado was the best way to guide us to the Promised Land.”

“Huh.”

“And why do we have to travel at night?” Merry says, rubbing his sunken eyes. “Everyone’s exhausted.”

“I guess... because she’s up.” Moe shrugs – that’s the best answer she has for them.

*

Up above, in Seki’s backyard, she’s watching this all play out on her God’s Eye screen – tablet in one hand, glass of whiskey in the other. On the rocks – she’s not an animal.

Well, not completely.

I’m referring, of course, to her head, which, once again, at the risk of repeating myself, is that of a lioness.

It’s dark, and she’s huddled in a blanket on the edge of a pool chair while everyone else is inside, playing beer pong, having a great time.

Not Seki.

She’s staying vigilant. Staying alert. Much like her leonine heritage would suggest a knack for, she’s lying in wait.

Waiting for the opportune moment.

Waiting to pounce...

That moment is fast arriving.

And boy, does she have something up her sleeve for ol’ Yahweh.

That motherfucker.

Speaking of (or rather, thinking of) the devil, she can hear Yah now – talking fast, talking loud. Probably railing lines. That’s how she gets when she does coke.

Seki ought to know.

She feels her blood boil, takes a sip.

She knows she shouldn’t care. She knows it’s just a game.

But it’s not about the game.

It was never about the game.

It’s about Yah, and what it’s turned her into. What it’s made her do. How it’s made her act. How it’s enabled her, corrupted her, allowed her to indulge the darkest parts of her nature.

If anything, it’s revealed who she really is. Her true colours.

And Seki isn’t about to stand back and let Yah treat her however she wants. Yah has to know that there are consequences to her actions. She has to know that Seki isn’t just going to take this lying down.

She’s going to push back. She’s going to fight.

Yes, indeed, she’s got something up her sleeve for her former best friend.

Something she’ll never see coming...

“Hey Seki, watch out!”

But it’s too late.

By the time Noob calls out to her, he’s already in mid-air, knees tucked to his chest in preparation for a cannonball.

Once again, she has zero time to react.

Once again, he hits the water at the perfect angle to drench her from head to foot.

As he resurfaces, an apology on the tip of his lolling, canine tongue, she screams, “For Chrissakes, Noob – it’s 11:30 at night!”


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Exodus 11-12: Primogenocide (Or, How The Grinch Created Passover) (Season 2, Episode 7)

What happens when God tells the Israelites to paint their doorposts with blood? Moe becomes the target of mob violence, Raph embarks on a poetic mission, and someone is injured in a hardcore mosh-pit.

Welcome to the first official new episode of TNOT in over a year! That’s right - we’re all caught up. All the old episodes (28 in total, 29 including this one) have been edited and reposted, and with the help of some pretty sweet AI, turned into a podcast (you’ll find a link to the podcast feed below).

That’s over 150,000 words so far, and around 16 hours of audio.

And we’re just getting started…

Going forward, I’d like to use this intro section to speak with you more directly, share progress updates, interesting news, anything I think you should know. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to keep it short and sweet.

I’ll also participating in some joint promotions with other authors to try and reach new readers, so you from time to time you might see a link at the bottom of the email where you’ll be able to pick up some free or deeply-discounted books in the comedy genre. I want to assure you that this is 100% optional - don’t feel pressured at all to participate if you don’t want to. It’s just so I can find new readers, and won’t impinge on your reading enjoyment at all. If you have any problems with this, just reach out to me by replying to this email and I should be able to set your mind at ease.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Enjoy the episode, and I’ll see you next week!


This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


“Wait – what?

Yah rubs her temple with the butt of her palm, a lit cigarette between her index and middle fingers. “Christ, how many times do I have to explain it? All I want is for every Israelite family to take a lamb... slaughter it... eat it...”

“The second part, I mean.”

Yah shoots daggers at her. “...and paint the doorposts and lintels of their houses with the lamb’s blood. Is that so fucking difficult?”

Moe’s just staring at her, like the insanity of Yah’s request is self-evident. “No, it’s not difficult. It’s weird. It’s gross. What is it with you and blood lately?”

Yah lifts a Bloody Mary to her lips and takes a long, multi-swallow sip. It’s actually more of a chug, if you wanna get all technical. She then wipes her mouth, and as if she genuinely hadn’t heard Moe’s comment (despite unblinking eye contact throughout), goes, “I’m sorry, what?”

Moe shakes her head, like a kindergarten teacher trying to concoct the right phrasing for a stubborn child. “I think... it would really help me out here if you could tell me what the plan was. That way, when I go to the elders and tell them this shit, they won’t roll their eyes and be all, “Here we go again.” You reckon you can do that for me, big gal?”

“I just need to know which houses the Israelites are living in, and which houses the Egyptians are living in. Good enough?”

“Well, obviously, but...” Moe runs a hand over her face. “Why do you need to know that?”

Yah smokes her cigarette. “Now, that... you don’t wanna know. Trust me. Just do the blood thing and you guys will be out of here before you know it.”

Moe sighs, realising she isn’t going to get anywhere with this line of questioning. She tries a different approach. “You need to forget about Seki, alright. This whole thing with you and her is clouding your judgement and making you do all kinds of crazy stuff.”

“This isn’t about me and Seki.”

Moe gives her a look.

She relents. “It isn’t entirely about me and Seki.” Then, she thinks, “Fuck it,” and doubles down. “In fact, it’s mostly not about me and Seki. This isn’t some petty squabble between neighbours, it’s me delivering you guys the fuck out of slavery. It’s about creating something that will unite the Israelites forever – a shared, collective experience that they’ll remember in rituals for generations to come. Think of it like national PTSD. Actually, no, that sounds horrible. Think of it like... a Universe of Cinematic Marvels.” Yah thinks, reconsiders. “A Cinematic Marvel Universe...” She shakes her head, giving up. “Whatever it ends up being, it’ll bind them all together. They’ll be so grateful and traumatised and awe-struck at how I beat the Egyptian gods on their own turf that they’ll have no choice but to worship me.”

“Jesus...” Moe says, blown away by the ego on this gal. “Or... they’ll remember how you abandoned us to go get a sex change, allowed us to fall into slavery, came back with some half-assed, period metaphor of a plan to turn the river into blood, accidentally triggered a series of natural disasters, epidemics and infestations, to the point where the city is in ruins, the Egyptian people are weakened and their economy is in shambles... all of which would be great, if it hadn’t happened to us too!” Moe takes a breath to calm herself. “In the end, we were subjected to a series of visually-stunning marvels from a selfish, reckless, arrogant creator, which ultimately did more harm than good, and which we hope to never see again. That’s all anyone’s going to remember. That’s the collective experience that’s going to shape us going forward.”

Yah tries to laugh it off, acting nonchalant. “Jeez, who are you, Martin Scorcese?” When this is met with no response from Moe, he adds, “Y’know, because of the thing he said about the theme parks, and... never mind.” As the panics sets in, she takes a long, nervous drag, kind of nodding a little, stalling. “I, uh... I disagree. I think... my thing. What I said.”

Moe folds her arms. “I guess we’ll see.”

“I guess we will.” Yah drops her cigarette and stomps it out. “Just tell the slaves to paint their doors with blood, m’kay?”

Then she’s gone.

Back up to heaven.

Or, y’know, the suburbs of a higher realm that we’re referring to as ‘heaven’.

*

Later, in the suburbs of a higher realm we’re referring to as ‘heaven’...

“No!”

Raph pushes his seat away from the bench and gets to his feet, horrified. “No way, man. Ain’t gonna happen.”

Yah, standing in the kitchen with a red wine, just watches him. Finally, she shrugs.

“Suit yourself, man. I’m sure your wife is just about ready to let you come home, right? It’s only been, what, a few thousand years?”

Raph purses his lips, exhales through his nostrils.

“You know she isn’t.”

Yah frowns, feigning confusion. “Huh. Then, how... oh, I see – you’ve lined up another room somewhere else?”

Raph feels himself being cornered. He shakes his head ever so slightly, and in little more than a whisper, goes, “No.”

“Sorry, what was that?”

He sighs. A big, heavy sigh of resignation.

“No, I don’t have anywhere else to go,” he says, at a normal volume.

“Huh, that’s interesting,” Yah says, smug as all hell. She sips her red wine. “Very interesting.”

Raph grinds his teeth. He knows where this is going. Feels himself rapidly losing control of the situation, if he ever had any control to begin with.

Yah holds the wine glass up to the light, rubs off a little lipstick she’d marked it with. Raph fights the urge to eye-roll.

Setting her glass down on the table, Yah’s like, “Because last I checked, I only had room for team players.”

“Look, I wanna be a team player,” Raph says, taking a few steps forward. “Really, I do. But...”

“But what?”

“But this is some evil fucking shit you’re talking about here.”

We’re talking about here,” Yah corrects him.

“No, you’re talking about here. You’re, like...” He racks his brain for a suitable analogy. Landing on one, his eyes light up. “You’re like the Grinch.”

“The what?”

Raph folds his arms, sticking to it. “You heard me.”

“How am I the Grinch?”

“You just want to ruin everyone’s fun by doing something awful. Something you’ll eventually realise was a mistake, only you won’t be able to undo it like the Grinch could by giving the Whos all their Christmas presents back.”

Yah wrinkles the corner of one eye, like she’s trying on the metaphor but it doesn’t quite fit. “Seems like a bit of a stretch to me.”

“No it isn’t. It’s apt!”

“Apt?” Yah almost laughs in his face. “Jeez, set your thesaurus down, buddy. Leave some words for the rest of us.”

Raph huffs. “Whatever. I want no part in this.”

“Then I guess you want no part in this house.” A shrug. “Y’know, there’s a nice playground down the street. Maybe you could roll out a sleeping bag in the little tunnel thing?”

“That’s not fair. You’re taking advantage of me.”

Yah scoffs. “Taking advantage? Please...” She swirls her wine, sniffs it. “What’s the big deal here, huh? It’s a game.”

Raph can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You just yelled at Seki the other night, saying it’s not a game!”

Yah scoffs (again). “Please... That was like four hundred years ago.”

He grumbles, frustrated by his inability to get through to her.

She takes a step around the table toward him, softening. “Listen, of course it’s just a game. I was angry that night. I overreacted.”

Sensing an exposed nerve, Raph goes, “What were you, on your period?”

Yah’s jaw drops, so offended is she by the jab.

“You...

Raph instantly regrets his mistake. “I’m sorry.”

...asshole!

“I said I’m sorry, alright? I didn’t mean it.”

Hurt, Yah withdraws into the kitchen, seeming at the same time to withdraw into herself. “You know I can’t...”

“I know...” Raph forces himself not to roll his eyes, still coming to terms with the absurdity of his situation. “I know. That was uncalled for.”

“No shit.”

She’s still not looking at him. He weighs it up.

The pros and cons.

His morals, his conscience, everything that makes him him, against...well, sleeping in the park.

Looking at the ceiling, Raph closes his eyes. Like a man heading to the gallows making his peace with... well, God.

“If I did this...” he begins.

Yah looks up, suddenly not so hurt. Suddenly intrigued.

“I want some assurances.”

“What kind of assurances?”

I want to be sure that you’ll do what is right.

Of course I will, man. If you do it tonight.

Upon realising that their sentences rhymed, they both pause and stare at each other, like, “Da fuck...?”

Yah shakes her head as if to snap herself out of it, moves on...

You’ll have a room, you’ll have board...

Then we have an accord.

Another rhyme. Another pause.

What the fuck is going on?

Yah waits a little longer before speaking this time, looking around, paranoid – like her strings are being pulled by an invisible puppeteer.

Finally...

Why are you doing that?

Why good dame, doing what?

Raph looks horrified, like his tongue is acting independently from his mind.

Doing that! Using words like you’re covered in rot...

Like a leper-ous man, from ages gone by...

Unable to stop himself, Raph jumps in...

Like an old timey-trav’ller, refusing to die...

Both of them clap their hands over their mouths, evidently unable to restrain themselves from rhyming. Like they’ve been afflicted by the most absurd curse of all time.

They stand there in silence, terrified – neither one moving to speak again, lest the terrible rhyming recommence.

*

Down below, the Israelites are slathering their doorposts in blood. Their Egyptian neighbours are walking past, holding their noses, laughing and making jokes at the Israelites’ expense.

The Israelites aren’t exactly thrilled about it themselves.

Outside Erin and Merry’s house (where Moe has been staying throughout this whole ordeal), the prophet is crouching down, dipping a bunch of hyssop (a shrub in the mint family, for all you non-botanists out there) in a bucket of lamb’s blood and smearing that shit all over the outside of the door. Just going to town.

Hard work for an eighty year old.

(Remember how Moe is eighty? Yeah, I know. I forget myself sometimes.)

Anyway, every time she looks around, she sees other people doing the same thing, alternately glaring at her, shouting curses in her direction, and gagging from the awful stench of the blood.

One person full-on throws up into their blood bucket and figures, “Fuck it” – just keeps right on painting.

She tries to shrug it off, keep painting, but eventually Snakebite comes over, hands splattered with gore from her own pre-Passover paint-party and lays it out, like, “This better work, Moe.”

Moe nods, trying to sound confident. “It will.”

“Good. Because if it doesn’t... let’s just say people are starting to lose their patience.”

Moe stops, looks at her. Then, slowly, she turns, seeing all the formerly-busy painters just standing there, bloody shrubs in their hands, glaring at her.

Silence.

It’s like something out of an old Western. A tumbleweed would have blown across the street, but as you might have guessed, those had all been gathered up and picked apart for use as paintbrushes.

Sidebar: apparently paintbrushes didn’t exist in the Bronze Age. Who knew?

Moe gulps, audibly.

“We don’t see any forward momentum on the whole ‘liberation’ thing by dawn, we’re gonna find a nice, tall tree and have us a good ol’ fashioned lynching.”

Another gulp. This one even more audible than the last.

Like dropping a bucket down a well.

It’s weirdly loud.

An Egyptian family wandering by – husband, wife, boy on dad’s shoulders, all three blissfully unaware of the standoff taking place – actively turn their heads, looking for the sound of the gulp. Unable to locate it’s source, the mother and father shrug – weird – and the happy family continues on its way.

Snakebite narrows her eyes even further, as if to punctuate her sentence, then turns and heads back to her blood-splattered house. The others return to their painting, too.

Moe does the same, heart pounding a mile a minute.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Yah – you better have something good in the oven.”

*

Little did she know,

Yah had cooked something up,

Something scrumptious indeed,

Yes, indeed, you sick fuck.

*

T’was the night before Passover,

As it soon would be known,

And while some went to sleep,

Others started to bone.

*

And when all of the boning and groaning did cease,

That’s when Yah put on her fav-o-rite fleece,

And went room to room, in the Egyptian gods’ house,

Making sure no one stirred, not even a mouse.

*

When she was happy that none would disturb

Her plan of attack – to be fair, t’was absurd,

She sent her pal Raph, down into the game,

In his hand was a knife, on his lips was a name.

*

Pharaoh,” he said. “I’m coming your way.

My landlord informed me, tonight you will pay.

I’ve got nothing against you, person-a-lly

We might have been friends, if it went differ-ent-ly.

*

But orders are orders, so I’ll shut the fuck up,

And kill every first-born – every child, every pup.

Yes, even the dogs... y’know, isn’t it weird?

I feel worse about them than the kids-- fuck, this beard!”

*

See, Raph had agreed to this on one condition,

He wouldn’t go down without a proper rendition,

By that I don’t mean a thriller starring Jake Gyllen-haal,

I mean a Santa Claus costume – boots, hat and all.

*

A rendition of Santa – yes, indeed, that was he,

See how I skirted poor rhyming with glee?

Why a Santa Claus costume?” I hear some of you ask.

It was Yah’s Halloween costume, complete with a flask!

*

He unscrews the cap, and takes quite a drink.

It’ll burn out his guilt, it’ll help him to think.

Poor drunken Raph. Y’know, if he were sober,

He may not have pinched the Halloween dress from October.

*

Poor drunken Raph on his midnight death spree,

Killing kids by the cartload, to set Israelites free.

In the morning, they’d wake to find half Egypt dead,

And Raph would slink off to his pitiful bed.

He’d be hanging his head,

And the morning he’d dread...

They’re all dead!” he would cry. “Dead! Dead! Dead! DEAD!”

*

But, no! Not tonight, he thought, draining his flask,

Tonight he would do what his best friend did ask.

He would cut all their throats, while time stood frozen still,

For there were none to perceive it, and so on did he kill.

*

It took him days, it took weeks, in ordin’ry time,

But up above, to ol’ Yahweh, what was truly sublime,

Was the fact that by episode seven of Friends,

The first-born of Egypt had all met their ends.

*

And she hadn’t even started the season at one,

She’d started at six, and before she’d begun

To watch seven, the blood-splattered roommate emerged

From the game where the best of his conscience he’d purged.

*

He’d left it behind in the emptier homes,

In the streets where his bloody-soled sandals had roamed,

In the rooms where the babies had stopped drawing breath,

In the stables where the wobbly-legged foals had found death.

*

Yah was just pouring another tall glass,

When Raph came inside, bloodied, elbow to ass,

He said, “It’s over. It’s done. Now I’m going to bed.

All of the first-born in Egypt are dead.

*

From Pharaoh to slave, to the prisoner in jail,

To the fishing boat captain who’d be soon setting sail,

All of their eldest are food for the crows,

Even the wittlest puppy’s blood flows.”

*

And Yah’s like, “Nice job, bro. It had to be done.

In time you might even look back and think, “Fun!”

Tis a game after all, and the level, you beat,

Just let a little time for the heat to retreat.

*

The heat of cold killing, of performing a task,

That requires the com-panionship of a flask.

Look there, your room! Signed, sealed and delivered

Calm yourself, Iago, your arrows are quivered.

*

Now go have a shower, and get yourself clean,

But if you touch the expensive shampoo, I’ll get mean.

Then get thee to bed, and rest easy, my friend.

Never again will you be means to an end.”

*

And so off him to bed, the massacrist went,

To be fair, he was totally, utterly spent,

It’s hard work, this killing, if you are so inclined

To sympathise with such a murderous mind.

*

He stripped off his costume, his itchy white beard,

Though sleep came not easy, for the nightmares he feared.

He lay there ‘til dawn, having tossed, having turned,

If Hell did exist, then he’d surely be burned.

*

T’was ironic, he thought, as he lay wide awake

All the things that he’d done, and all for the sake

*

Of a roof and a bed,

To rest his sweet head,

A place to be fed,

A way to gain cred,

With the ladies, a bed to which they would be led,

But now when he closes his eyes he sees red,

The blood of the innocent people now dead,

The families who ever-y night would break bread,

The couples who’d wed, the children they’d said,

Would grow up to have kids of their own, but instead,

A result of the vengeance of God, they had bled,

Wounds beyond hope of a needle and thread,

So deep went the blade, some he thought he’d behead,

While asleep, they were killed, if awake, they’d have pled

If awake, they’d have begged, they’d have fought, they’d have fled,

Over walls, over floors, their blood had been spread,

Out in the streets, that same blood had been tread,

To the point where you’d get pretty far with a sled,

On those bloody canals, a man could have sped,

A fucked-up im-age, in your head I’ve embed,

O, how our poor drunken Raph was misled,

What for without sleep, guy? What for with your dread?

He hadn’t a choice, to his conscience he said.

Passing Israelite homes to leave Egyp-ti-ans dead,

*

Steering clear of the bloodied doorposts, and moreover,

That’s why today, we celebrate the Passover.

*

In the morning, Erin wakes to find Yah sitting by the window, dagger in hand. She’s trying desperately to stay awake, but her head is doing that dipping thing when you nod off, then the act of your head dropping wakes you up, and you jolt upright, then slowly nod off again.

Erin just watches this for a few cycles because, let’s face it, it’s funny watching someone try to stay awake. Then, finally...

“For Chrissakes, Moe – get some sleep. You look like shit.”

She goes to pour herself a cup of breakfast wine.

Moe turns, bloodshot eyes sunken into her face. “I’m not tired.”

“Oh, yeah?” She sips. “Then where are those eyes going, huh?”

Moe can’t figure out if she’s confused because of her sleep-deprived state, or because the question is nonsensical. “Eyes?”

“Yeah, your eyes. Are they going on a trip?”

Moe just shakes her head. “What?”

“I’m just curious. It seems like they’re going on a very long trip.”

Growing self-conscious, Moe begins trying to look at her own eyes. Naturally, she doesn’t succeed, because without the use of a mirror (which, might I remind you, hasn’t been invented yet), such a task is both crazy and impossible.

The result is her pupils and irises kind of circling the edge of her eyes like a dog chasing its tail, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise, then clockwise again, until finally she gets a headache and gives up.

“Why?” she says, exasperated, hoping Erin will put her out of her misery. “Why do you think my eyes are going on a trip.”

“A long trip,” Erin corrects her. “A very long trip.”

Moe sighs. “Fine. Whatever. Why do you think my eyes are going on a very long trip?”

Erin pauses, a smile curling the corner of her mouth like she can’t hold it back.

Like she’s about to deliver the best goddamn punchline you ever heard in your life.

“Because the bags they’re carrying are fucking enormous.”

Boom...

Mic drop...

Check, please...

Erin lets it hang.

She waits, expectantly.

Looking at Moe, eyes wide, nodding, like she just dropped the fucking bomb and she knows it.

A full minute passes in absolute silence.

Finally, Moe lets out a long, deep sigh, from the bottom of her very soul. “That was a very long walk...for a very short drink of water.”

Erin’s face falls. She really thought she nailed that one.

Aw, Erin... Chin up, honey.

A noise outside gets the sisters’ attention.

Footsteps.

Voices.

Moe snaps back to the window, poking her head out and looking left, then right, down the street. Seeing something, she panics.

“Oh, shit!”

She steps back from the window, lifting the dagger into a stab-ready position. (Stab-happy position?)

“I knew it,” she says. “I fucking knew she’d betray me.”

“What?”

Erin goes to the window, peering out to see a mob of angry Israelites approaching, holding literal torches and pitchforks.

“Where’d they get the pitchforks?” Erin muses.

“They’re gonna lynch me!” Moe starts pacing, sweating. “Just like that old gypsy woman said!”

“You mean the elder?”

“Yes! She said if the ‘blood-on-the-doorposts’ thing didn’t work, they were gonna have them a good ol’ fashioned lynching!”

Now Erin’s starting to panic. “Well, hang on. I mean, we don’t know that it didn’t work.” She tries to be proactive, reassuring. “What was the point of the blood on the doorposts again? Like, what was it meant to accomplish?”

“I don’t know!” Moe screams. “She’s so fucking vague and mysterious about everything! Now I’m gonna pay the price for her shitty fucking decisions.”

She scurries to the back door, thinking maybe she can make a run for it, but the Israelites are coming in from all directions.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck...”

Erin, meanwhile, just stays where she is. A wave of odd calm seems to have washed over her. Suddenly, she isn’t afraid of the vengeful mob.

“Isn’t that what we always do?”

“What?” Moe says, barely paying attention as she runs into Erin and Merry’s bedroom, stepping over the bed and onto Merry’s nuts while he sleeps.

“Christ!” he yells, instantly awake. He curls onto his side in the foetal position, holding his groin. “Why?

Moe checks the window. No good.

She re-emerges into the living area, where, with a kind of resigned clarity, Erin says, “Pay the price for her shitty fucking decisions.”

Moe heads into her room, checks the window. More angry Israelites. “Fuck!”

Realising it’s no use, Moe returns to her sister.

“That’s all we do, Moe,” Erin says. “She does what she does and we deal with the fallout. Look at you. Look at us. One of our ancestors was the Pharaoh, for fuck’s sake. Then one day, she just abandons us and we get enslaved. Because, what, she got bored? We should be running shit around here. The Egyptians should be our fucking slaves. Instead, my newborn baby gets torn out of my hands and thrown into the river before I even get a chance to hold her...”

She cuts herself off, tears flooding her eyes.

By this point, the Israelites have surrounded the house, and Snakebite is standing directly in front of the door like a sheriff with her posse.

“I’ll give you to the count of ten, Moe!”

Moe closes her eyes.

She drops the dagger to the floor.

There’s no escape.

She knows it. Erin knows it.

Really, there’s only one thing she can do.

Moe walks over to Erin and wraps her big sister up in a hug. Erin returns the embrace fiercely, sobbing into Moe’s shoulder. Moe just holds her.

Ten!

The hug grows tighter.

Nine!

Merry stumbles out of the bedroom, one hand on his crotch, the other rubbing sleep from his eye.

“Mornin’.”

The sisters pull apart, shooting him a glare.

Eight!

Initially confused, Merry notices the whole torches-and-pitchforks thing going on outside. He goes pale.

“Oh...”

Seven!

Erin wipes her eyes. “Let’s just get this over with. If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. Might as well go out with our heads held high.”

Six!

“They don’t want you,” Moe says. “They only want me.”

“Oh, well... might as well go out with your head held high, then.” She smiles to let her sister know she’s only half-joking.

Moe laughs, despite herself. Despite everything.

Five!

Moe shakes her hands, like a swimmer preparing to dive. “It can’t be that bad, right? Being hung.”

“Hanged,” Merry corrects her. “Technically.”

They glare at him again, but he doesn’t notice. He’s too busy staring at the mob with abject terror, all the life drained out of him.

Four!

“I mean, hopefully, your neck breaks...” Merry continues rambling, apparently without conscious thought. The fear has short-circuited his internal filter. “That’s the ideal situation. Quick, clean. Over and done with. But that’s if they drop you...”

Three!

“What generally happens with these lynchings is they string you up and raise you. In that case, you’re looking at strangulation. Anywhere from one to four minutes. Your face will become engorged and turn blue. You’ll piss and shit yourself...”

Two!

Moe and Erin just stare at him, slack-jawed. Jesus Christ, dude...

But Merry has gone quiet, almost catatonic. He’s no use to anyone at this point.

One!

Erin turns to the terrified Moe, hands on her shoulders. “Fuck him,” she says. “We’ll do it together. Alright?”

Moe nods, unable to speak.

Together, they head for the door.

They open it, step outside...

Moe closes her eyes and braces herself, ready for the rope to be thrown around her neck.

But...

...nothing happens.

Seconds pass.

Moe opens an eye, then the other.

The Israelites aren’t even looking at her anymore. They’re looking off down the street.

Moe turns to Erin, who is looking in the same direction.

That’s when she sees it.

An Egyptian couple kneeling in the street, crying over what appears to be their dead son.

It takes a moment for her to realise it’s the same family she saw the previous day, walking past without a care in the world. The boy riding high on his dad’s shoulders, smiling and laughing.

Now, that boy is dead. His parents in mourning.

At first, it’s only them, but then other cries ring out from the unbloodied doorways. Shouts of horror, shock and grief. Yelling, wailing. Mothers and fathers carrying their dead children out into the street, asking each other why, asking the gods why. Farmers carrying their dead foals. Dog owners carrying their dead puppies.

“Jesus Christ...” breathes Erin. “She didn’t...

But she did.

And as the realisation sinks in, a smile lights up Moe’s face like a kid on Christmas.

“Woooooo!” Moe cheers, pumping her fists in the air. “Fucking fuck yeah! I knew it.” Turning to the sky, she goes, “I never doubted you, Yah. Didn’t doubt you for a second, babe.”

By this point, the Israelites (including Erin) have turned to stare at her, their expressions unreadable.

Moe, ignoring them, turns to face the Egyptians down the street, who have gone quiet and are looking in her direction, blinking away tears. She begins flipping them the bird with both hands, laughing like a maniac. “Ha-ha! Take that, you fucking slave-having cunts! That’s what you get for subjugating an entire race, motherfucker! Wooooo!”

Only this time, the Israelites (including Erin) join her in cheering.

The Egyptians are completely, utterly shocked.

Like, truly appalled.

Imagine it...

Your kid just died, and these goddamn slaves have the gall to erupt into woops and hoots and hollers – yep, even hollers.

They cry and laugh and hug one another. People start shaking wineskins like they’re bottles of champagne, but since the shit isn’t carbonated, they just kind of splash it on those closest to them.

Someone starts playing music, and a block party quickly breaks out. People are dancing, chugging wine. Merry stumbles out from the house, realising he’s no longer in danger, and quickly joins the party.

“Ha-ha, alright!

He strips off his shirt and throws himself into a nearby mosh-pit – yes, they have mosh-pits – where he immediately starts getting battered left to right like a windshield wiper on full speed.

Ancient Israelite mosh-pits were brutal, I’m telling you.

Absolute meatgrinders.

Still, like any dude at his first heavy metal show, he tries to play it off like he isn’t scared, like he’s having a great time and he does this shit on the regular.

His nose isn’t that broken. His shoulder’s only a little dislocated.

“Yeah, Yahweh! Wooooo! Fuck...

Pretty soon, Moe finds herself sitting on a chair, being lifted up by the crowd in a manner not dissimilar to a modern Jewish wedding. If only they had Hava Nagila back then.

Oh well, guess you can’t have everything.

It isn’t long before Erin, Merry and Snakebite are raised up on chairs alongside Moe, everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. Merry is barely conscious. Blood all over his face, black eye, clothes ripped. Still, he gives a thumbs up with his good arm and a smile with several teeth missing to show how fucking metal he is.

Then he passes out, and just kind of slumps in the chair while people jostle him up and down.

Is he dead?

Guys, seriously, is someone gonna check on Merry?

No one does.

Moe and Snakebite put their arms around each other, passing a wineskin between them and effectively burying the hatchet.

Cut to the grieving Egyptians and their dead children. They just stare in open-mouthed shock at the utter inhumanity of their slave neighbours. (Sleighbours?)

The parents stare, I mean.

The children can’t stare.

The children are dead.

Just wanted to make that clear.

It’s a bittersweet moment.

On the one hand, we have a people held in bondage for over four hundred years at this point finally being free.

On the other, we have a bunch of parents grieving the primogenocide of their offspring.

Sidebar: primogeniture is the status of being a first-born child. So, in the same way that season 1, episode 18 was called Gendercide (because the genocide was only committed on the men of Shechem), here, we have primogenocide (because only the first-born were killed). What fun!

As the Israelites continue cheering, the Egyptians resume crying.

If this were a movie, we’d transition to an aerial shot here, and pull out from the block party, retreating higher into the sky to encompass a wider view of the city.

As more and more Egyptian parents discover their dead children, and as more and more Israelites discover the Egyptian parents discovering their dead children, the cheers and cries go up simultaneously, until the entire city is either devastated or overjoyed.

Just goes to show...

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

That’s the moral of the story, right?

Right?

*

And so it was in old Egypt, as the parents did cry,

Asking why to their gods, did their children need die?

Some had heard Raph exclaim, as he flew out of sight,

Merry Pesach to all, and to all a good night!


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this episode, use the ‘share’ button below to let a friend know about it. Word of mouth is still the best way for The New Old Testament to find new readers. See you next time.

Exodus 7-10: A Universe of Cinematic Marvels (UCM) (Season 2, Episode 6)

What happens when God decides to bring turn the Nile river into blood? A series of unfortunate events turns one plague into nine, Pharaoh discovers a taste for frogs, and the Huntsman turns into Thor.

This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


Moe is shaken roughly awake and finds herself staring into the drunken, bloodshot eyes of God.

“Jesus Christ... What time is it?”

“Don’t worry about that, Moe. Come here. Come on. Pharaoh’s going for a boat ride.”

She stumbles back out the door again before she’s even finished her sentence.

“Wait, what?” says Moe, eyes only half-open.

But Yah isn’t waiting for her.

She groans and gets up.

Erin lifts her head, coming down with a severe case of Prematurely Being Woken Up Homicidal Rage Syndrome (or PBWUHRS, for all you DSM-heads out there). “What the fuck is going on?”

Moe rubs her face, exhausted. “Apparently Pharaoh’s going for a boat ride.”

“So what?

“So... I don’t know. Just get dressed.”

Minutes later, the two very pissed-off sisters find Yahweh standing on the riverbank across from the palace.

Standing might be an overstatement.

She’s sagged against a wooden staff, and Moe gets the feeling that if she kicked it out from under her, Yah would simply collapse and roll silently into the river.

On the other side, Pharaoh is stepping onto the royal barge with his yoga instructor, Ravi. Pharoah’s gotten pretty deep into yoga lately, what with his bad back and everything.

Ravi lights the incense while Pharaoh lays out his mat, then begins playing his sitar cross-legged while giving rhythmic instructions to Ramrod.

The royal rowers don’t appreciate this new-age bullshit and furtively roll their eyes whenever His Highness is in the downward dog position.

“Is that yoga he’s doing?” Moe says, derisively. “Jesus Christ...”

“Hey, man,” Yah says, pushing back. “Stretching’s important. Strength. Mobility. You gotta... can’t blame the guy for taking care of his body.” The hungover god stifles a burp.

The royal barge pulls away and starts coming toward them.

“You wanna tell us what we’re doing here?” Erin says, rubbing her eyes.

“Yeah, Erin...” Yah glares at her. “If you can tone down that sass for a minute, I might be able to get a word in edgewise.”

Erin gives Moe a look like, “Seriously?”

Moe just shrugs – she’s used to the lord’s bullshit by now.

“Okay, here’s the plan...” Yah says, handing Erin the staff.

“You sure you don’t need this?” Erin says, wary of her precarious posture.

“You know what I need?” Yah shoots back. “A bag of saline solution and a fucking IV drip. Get your head out of your ass, Erin. Take the fucking stick.”

“Jesus, alright...” She takes the staff. “Someone’s in a mood.”

Yah just grumbles and points to the barge. “Listen... when he gets closer, I want you to wade out into the river...”

“Hold up,” says Moe. “You want her to do it?”

Both Yah and Erin stare at her.

“You got a problem with that?” Yah says.

Erin puts a hand on her hip. “Yeah, bitch – you got a problem with that?”

“No, it’s just... I thought I was the one who...”

“You really wanna be the only female character in this story with something important to do?”

Moe hesitates, not sure which part of that sentence to unpack first. “You’re a female.”

“Yeah, but some people might not see it that way. And there’s no way in hell I’m letting this shit not pass the Bechdel test.”

“The what?”

“Never mind. Just... trust me – when you hear what it is, you’ll be glad it’s not you.”

Then Erin gives the Israelite god a look. “Say what?”

Yah sighs. “Don’t... Let’s just get this over with. All you gotta do is wade into the river, get Pharaoh’s attention, then dip the staff in the water, and Robert’s your father’s brother.”

“What’s...?”

“Bob’s your uncle,” Yah clarifies.

Erin pauses. That wasn’t what she needed clarifying. She resumes her question:

“What’s gonna happen?” she says, wary.

Yah thinks about answering the question honestly, then reconsiders. “You’ll see.”

Erin examines the staff in her hands, like a kid with a new toy on Christmas after realising it didn’t come with batteries. “I gotta be honest. This kinda feels like charity.”

“Like what?

“Like you’re giving me a job just because I’d be sitting on the sidelines otherwise. It feels like there’s no real reason for me to do this instead of Moe.”

Yah rubs her throbbing temple, exhausted. “It’s not... charity, alright. I promise.”

“Then why me?”

Yah braces herself. “Because you’re a strong, independent woman?”

It comes out as more of a hesitant question than a statement of fact, and Erin just rolls her eyes.

“Why not Moe, then?”

“Yeah, why not me?”

“Is she not a strong, independent woman, too?”

The sisters are both staring expectantly at Yah now, and she feels herself withering under their collective gaze.

“Look, what the fuck do you want from me, huh? Do you want to contribute or not?”

Erin bites her tongue. “Fine, I’ll do it.”

Moe lets out a sigh, disappointed.

Everyone’s happy.

Yah takes out a cigarette and lights it. “Best of luck, ladies. Let’s see if this doesn’t get their attention.”

Before Moe can ask whether she’s talking about the passengers on board the royal barge or the Egyptian gods, Yahweh’s gone.

Erin sighs and walks into the river.

“Hey!” she calls to the floating barge.

Ravi stops playing the sitar and looks over. Pharaoh lifts his head from a very relaxing child’s pose. He groans.

“Not you guys again,” he says, getting up. “Can’t a guy do his morning asa... nasa... asanas?” He looks to Ravi for confirmation, and gets a nod. “...in peace?”

“You think I wanna be here, man? Look, it’s real early in the fucking morning, so I’m just gonna do what I came here to do, then we can all go home, alright?”

Ramrod sighs. “Fine. Knock yourself out.”

Erin dips the staff into the Nile and immediately, it begins to turn red. Starting from the staff, a red cloud spreads out to fill the entire river.

“Jamie Lee Curtis...” Ramrod breathes. “Is that...?”

“Blood!” one of the rowers screams.

The rest of the rowers instantly start panicking, backing away from their oars and huddling towards the centre.

“Stop it!” Pharaoh says, whacking them with his ceremonial flail. “Stop it, you cowards! You’re crowding my yoga studio.”

“But Your Highness...” one of the freaked-out rowers says. “The river has turned to blood.”

“I realise that, Lewis...

“But that must mean that their god is real, and therefore, that we should release the Israelites for their celebration, lest we be visited with more terrible misfortunes like this.”

Pharaoh’s a little taken aback. “That’s a very concise and articulate summary of things, Lewis. I daresay anyone who’s just joining us now will have no trouble following along.” He clears his throat and turns to the Mustachioed Magicians, who are off to the side, practising their card tricks with each other. “Benny. Lenny. Will you show everyone it’s not a big deal?”

The magicians exchange a glance.

“Sure thing, boss,” Benny says.

He takes a cup of water and holds it out for all the soldiers to see. Lenny then dips his pinky finger in and the water turns red.

“See?” Pharaoh says, as Lenny discreetly wraps a strip of cloth around the pinprick he made in the pad of his finger. “Our gods are on top of shit.”

Feeling foolish, the rowers all begin slinking back to their oars.

One of them mutters, “Doesn’t change the fact that we’re rowing in blood.”

“What was that?” Ramrod shoots back.

“Nothing, Your Highness.”

“Damn right, nothing. Now, as for these troublemakers...” He strides to the rail of the barge, which is floating slowly past the aforementioned troublemakers on the bank.

Erin is standing knee deep in blood, and dead fish are floating to the surface all around her. The smell is making her nauseous.

“Goddamn it,” she says, covering her mouth and nose with a sleeve. “The fuck kind of god is this?”

Moe is doing the same with her sleeve, thoroughly disgusted. “I don’t know. She likes... blood, I guess. Fuck...” She takes a few steps back, unable to bear the smell.

Ramrod calls out from the barge. “My magicians have replicated your little trick.”

Thinking quickly, Erin goes, “Oh, yeah? You mean they knowingly turned some of your precious remaining fresh water into blood, compounding the problem instead of solving it? Nice.”

Pharaoh thinks about it, realising she’s right.

Erin continues. “Get them to reverse it and I’ll be impressed. Go on. Turn the river back into water. I’ll wait.”

Ramrod turns to his terrified magicians, who shrug. They got nothing.

He grits his teeth, trying to come up with a cool, witty response.

In desperation, he goes, “They could... if they wanted to. But we don’t want to. We like it like this.”

“You like drinking blood?” Erin says. “That’s really the way you wanna go with this? What are you, vampires?”

“No. We just... like blood. Don’t we guys?”

The rowers all voice their support like trained monkeys, but really, they’re all looking around at each other, realising that maybe their pharaoh isn’t the one in control here.

“Okay,” Erin says. “We’ll see how you like bathing in it, then. Watering your crops with it. Making bread with it. Blood bread – that’s what you’re going to be having from now on. You realise that, right?”

Pharaoh tries not to show how much he’s panicking. “Good. Great.” He rubs his belly, making a really sarcastic-sounding “Mmm.”

He then glares at his men until they do the same, creating a chorus of “Mmm” as the royal party floats past.

“Oh... well, good then. I’m glad we could help. We’ll be going now. Watch out for that mountain of dead fish.”

With that, she turns and wades back out of the river. Her and Moe depart, leaving a trail of bloody footprints, Joker-style, behind them.

Pharaoh casts his gaze toward the bow and sees a literal mountain of dead fish in the centre of the river.

His eyes bulge.

It’s a preposterous and, frankly, unbelievable amount of fish – I mean, seriously, how did they die and group together to form an island so fast?

In a manner reminiscent of Titanic, someone begins ringing a bell, going, “Dead fish, right ahead! Hard to starboard! Hard to starboard!”

The James Horner score kicks into high gear...

The rowers begin rowing as fast as they can...

...but it’s too late.

The barge very slowly and un-cinematically beaches on what shall henceforth be referred to as Dead Fish Island. The smell of the blood and rotting fish causes a few of the rowers to start throwing up over the side.

Ravi plucks a few chords on his sitar. “Shall we reschedule, O Illustrious One?”

Pharaoh sighs. “Well played, ladies. Well played.”

*

A week passes with the Nile stinking to high heaven, dead fish washing up on shore and the locals being forced to dig wells for fresh water.

And it’s not only the Egyptians who have to deal with this, but the Israelites too.

So when the elders come to Moe, like, “What the fuck? You were supposed to get us freed from slavery, and instead you’ve turned our water into blood and forced us to do even more work digging wells, on top of the extra work finding straw that you’ve already saddled us with...”

...Moe is like, “Easy, ladies, I hear you. But trust me – Yahweh has a plan.”

And when they grumble and wander off, Moe’s like, “Jesus Christ, I hope she has a plan.”

She does not.

The water-into-blood thing was more or less the entirety of her plan.

She expected Pharaoh to be so dazzled and terrified by the display that he’d be forced to issue an Emancipation Proclamation on the spot.

Instead, he sits in his palace and has fresh water brought to him.

Aside from the constant complaining by the masses about the blood river and the dead fish and the lack of drinkable water, life changes very little for ol’ Ramrod.

Funny how wealth and privilege can insulate a person from the ravages of hard times. I’m looking at you, Silicon Valley doomsday preppers.

Sure, he can’t do his boat yoga anymore – but that’s just the price he has to pay for having a slave-based economy.

And no, it doesn’t hurt that he’s got a perfectly good yoga studio set up in the palace.

So, while Pharaoh gets his limber on, and Ravi gives vague instructions about breathing whilst simultaneously fingering the sitar, Yah’s pacing back and forth, trying to come up with Plan B.

And that’s when it happens...

The frog population of the Nile has finally had enough of swimming around in blood and decides it’s time for a change of scenery.

They begin to swarm the city in full, froggy force, hopping into houses and covering the streets. The people run and scream, terrified of these tiny, harmless amphibians.

The only one who doesn’t seem to mind is – you guessed it – Pharaoh.

But I bet you can’t guess why.

Go on, guess.

I’ll wait.

Yes, I’m being serious.

Give up?

I knew you would, you quitter.

You disgust me.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah...

So Pharaoh’s a big fan of the frogs.

A big fan.

The first people to realise this are his aptly-named frog-wranglers, whom he tasks with going out and collecting buckets and buckets of wild frogs.

These frogs are then dumped into a giant, sealed vat with a single, human-sized hole in the top. Pharaoh then inserts himself into this hole in order to feel the slimy, writhing mass against his naked body.

Oh, yeah – he’s naked too.

Forgot about that.

Anyway, what he does next I’ll leave up to your imagination... you sicko.

Up above, Yahweh’s watching this, going, “Oh, fuck...”

Not Pharaoh’s weird amphibian fetish – although, that too – but more the whole frog invasion of mainland Egypt.

She didn’t mean for that to happen.

She just wanted to showcase her mighty – and admittedly gross – powers by turning the river into blood.

Is it an elaborate period metaphor because she isn’t able to have a menstrual cycle herself?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Maybe Yah’s not ready to answer that question right now.

Maybe she’s not ready for that level of introspection yet.

So why don’t you just mind your own goddamn business, alright?

Good.

Not to worry, Yah, the frogs don’t last too long on terra firma.

Their valiant, Dwarves of Erebor-esque attempt to find themselves a new homeland ends with the Smaug-like absence of fresh water.

(Man, that Tolkien metaphor was airtight).

Without another river or stream (hell, they’d even settle for a brook at this point), they begin dropping like, well... not flies – that comes later.

They begin dropping like...

Hmm...

Goddamn it.

That Tolkien metaphor really took it out of me.

Anyway, pretty soon, the city is littered with frog corpses – the houses, courtyards and fields are just full of them.

So what does Ramrod do?

Well, like any good monarch, he orders they be cleaned up and gathered into piles.

But, unlike any good monarch, he orders that those piles be brought to the palace, so as to fill a giant, empty pool with rotting frog corpses. He then hands his garments to a servant, and asks to be left alone while he, in his words, “goes for a dip.”

You might think that’d be the end of it.

In any other tale it would be. The trope of the formicophilic king is a well-trod one, indeed.

But that’s not what happens here.

See, the frogs had been largely responsible for keeping local insect populations in check, and without them, those pesky little fuckers we call lice, gnats and flies are allowed to breed out of control.

It isn’t long before they’re swarming all over the land of Egypt instead of the frogs.

And apart from being just straight-up annoying (biting, buzzing, crawling all over everything), they also manage to spread disease like wildfire. Cattle start dropping dead in the field, while people start breaking out in painful, hideous boils.

Up above, Yah’s just about pulling her wig out. “Shit! Shit, shit, shit. I am for sure getting blamed for this.”

“Yah!”

As if on cue, she turns to see Seki hanging over the fence, glaring at her.

“The fuck?”

Yah tries to act cool. “Listen, I...”

“No, you listen! I was willing to look the other way with the whole blood river thing, which... gross. But now, with the frogs and the bugs and the boils and the livestock corpses piling up... you don’t think it’s all a bit much?”

“You don’t think slavery’s a bit much?”

“Ha! So you do admit it?”

Yah hesitates, trying to decide how she should play this. “I admit I did the blood river thing. But everything after that was just a natural progression of events, I swear.”

“Right. Because your word is actually worth a damn.”

Yahweh’s hurt by this. “I’m telling the truth.”

“I don’t care,” Seki says. “Just cut it out. I’ve been handling you with kid gloves up until now because I’ve got your people in slavery and I feel bad about that...”

“If you feel bad about it, let them go!”

“And watch my economy go down the tubes? I don’t think so.”

Yah studies her. “What happened to this just being a game?”

Seki pauses, considering her answer. In the end, she deflects. “Just stop it, alright? Otherwise, the gloves are coming off.”

“...and the claws are coming out?” Yah says, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Seki stares back at her, blank-faced, unimpressed. She dips back down below the fence-line without a word.

“Oh, come on!” Yah says. “You set me up for that one.”

She hears the back door open behind her and turns to see Raph standing there, bag in hand, forlorn expression on his face.

Instantly, Yah goes cold. “What do you want?”

“I couldn’t find a place to stay.”

“Bummer.” She lights a cigarette to prove how disinterested she is. “Don’t tell me you brought that fucking dog with you.”

Raph shakes his head. “No, the Greeks took Cerbie back. But, uh... they didn’t have any room for me. Some guy named Dionysus is crashing on their spare bed. Real party animal, apparently.”

He lets it hang, but Yah isn’t biting.

“That dog sucked,” she says. “He did nothing but shit and piss all over the place.”

“Aw, he wasn’t so bad. I mean, sure he was incontinent, but...” He smiles, fondly remembering their time together. “We used to go to the park and play fetch. I’d throw the ball for him and he’d get so confused because of his three heads that, most of the time, he’d just end up falling over.” He chuckles. “Poor guy had such terrible depth perception.”

“Uh-huh.” Yah slumps down in a deck chair, continuing to smoke. “Real sweet story.”

Raph swallows. “But, uh... the Scandinavians had a spare room. Apparently, their guy, Thor, is in rehab again. They sounded pretty desperate, actually. Even offered me some of his stuff...”

“Why didn’t you take it?”

“I don’t know. The place was kind of a dump. No central heating. They were just listening to Swedish death metal, reading Stieg Larsson novels and eating pickled herring...”

Yah frowns. “What, all at the same time?”

“Pretty much. Look, I was hoping, maybe... If you could see your way to...” He hesitates. “I’ll do anything, Yah. I just wanna make this right again.”

Yahweh narrows her eyes. “Oh, you wanna make it right, do you? Well, maybe you should’ve considered that before...” She catches sight of the Experiment floating in its backyard puddle and stops mid-yell.

Something occurs to her.

She smiles.

“Anything, you say?”

*

Down below, Pharaoh’s summoned Moe and Erin to his throne room for a parley. He’s covered in boils and bites and bugs, and looks to be in a considerable amount of pain, caught between the urge to itch and the fear of touching his hyper-sensitive pustules.

“Just make it stop,” he says, weary. “I’ll give you whatever you want.”

Moe wants to yell, “You don’t think I would if I could?” but she doesn’t. She can’t. She’s got some semblance of the upper hand at the moment, and she wants to keep it that way.

In truth, she and Erin are covered in just as many boils, bites and bugs as Pharaoh is.

Which reminds me...

Now is probably a good time to mention that, throughout all this, the Israelites are getting hit just as hard as the Egyptians.

Plus, they have slavery to contend with.

So... there’s that.

For now, the elders have prevented Moe from being lynched by an Israelite mob, but she’s getting the feeling they won’t be able to hold them off much longer.

“If I make it stop...” says Moe. “You’ll let us leave and celebrate our festival?”

“You have my word.”

“Oh, good. Because your word is actually worth a damn.”

Ramrod frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means: you stole my throne, A-hole. Why should anyone trust you?”

“You want the throne?” he says, practically leaping to his feet. “Here, you can have it.”

Ramrod hurries over to Moe, taking off his royal headdress and putting it on her. He pushes his ceremonial crook and flail into her hands, then kneels on the ground in front of her, tearing off his jewellery and sobbing, stuffing it into her pockets. “Take it! Take it all! Just make it stop and you can be the pharaoh.”

He then proceeds to strip off all his royal garments...

“Oh, you really don’t need to... aaaand you’re naked.”

Ramrod kneels there in nothing but his bare, boil-ridden ass, wiping the royal make-up from his face, smearing it in with the tears until he looks kind of like the Joker from that interrogation scene in The Dark Knight.

But, y’know... more sad and pathetic than scary.

Moe, for her part, is frozen stiff. She’s standing there, holding the pharaoh’s implements, wearing the pharaoh’s headdress, while the pharaoh himself is sobbing naked at her feet.

Needless to say, she’s a little surprised by the turn of events.

Moe looks to Erin, who shrugs, equally baffled.

“Uh...”

At that moment, there’s a crash of thunder outside.

All three of them turn to look through the doorway and see the sky darkening, hail beginning to fall...

They walk out onto the balcony, where the entire city is laid out before them, mired in a fog of swarming insects. Hailstones the size of horses are falling from the sky, crashing into buildings and laying them waste, toppling statues, crushing people in the street.

Lightning forks down from the heavens, splitting palm trees into splinters, blowing chunks out of the road. People scream and run for cover.

In the midst of all this, a figure floats down from the sky and lands in front of Moe, Erin and Ramrod. He’s wearing a long blonde wig and a red cape. In his hand is a huge blacksmith’s hammer.

Moe recognises him as Raph – last seen trying to murder her in an alleyway.

She jumps back in terror. “Ah!”

When Raph sees the naked, boil-covered, Joker-faced pharaoh, he does the same thing.

“Ah!”

“Who are you?” Pharaoh says, terrified, thinking this is Moe’s god. “What do you want?”

Employing an accent that sounds alternately Scottish, Irish, English and Scandinavian, Raph goes, “I have come on behalf of Yahweh to drive away the swarms and bring peace to your land.”

Despite his stated allegiance to her god, Moe is naturally wary of him. “Hold up – you’re on our side now?”

Raph sees the pharaoh frown, suspicious. He panics. “Uh... you must be mistaken, my child. I have always been a servant of Yahweh.”

Moe just shakes her head, barely even bothered to pry further. She figures it’s just another classic, shittily thought-through plan from the big gal.

Not wanting to give too much away to Ramrod, she takes Raph aside and whispers, “What the fuck is going on up there? Seriously?”

Out of the pharaoh’s earshot, Raph lets his professional demeanour and accent drop.

“I don’t know, alright?” he whispers back. “I see you got the throne, though. Congrats.”

“Yeah, thanks... Look, is this seriously her plan to get rid of the bugs?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You don’t think it’s a bit of overkill?”

“I think it’s cinematic. These motherfuckers have to remember this so they know not to mess with Israel in the future, and so Israel knows how badass their god is. I mean, sure, could I just nuke the place with Raid? Yes. Does it stick in the brain like lightning and hailstones the size of horses? No.”

Moe can’t argue with that.

Raph goes on. “Plus, everybody knows that bugs hate storms.”

“What? No, they don’t.”

“Yes, they do. It’s a scientific fact.”

“That’s insane.”

You’re insane!”

“Me? You’re the one wearing a wig and a cape and carrying a hammer for no fucking reason.”

“I do so have a reason...”

“Hey, you two!” Erin shouts over the storm.

They snap out of their whispered conversation as the city continues to be pelted by horse-sized hailstones and lightning.

Pharaoh’s eyes light up with recognition, finally figuring out where he recognises that shitty accent from. “Hey, I know you. You’re that Huntsman guy. No, wait... it was something even stupider than that.” He thinks. “Death Mask! Yeah, that’s right. I hired you to kill Moe. Great job, by the way.”

He gives Raph a deeply-sarcastic thumbs-up.

Raph clears his throat, panicking. “I am not this Death Mask of which you speak. Nor am I the Huntsman. Even though they both sound like totally sweet and respectable codenames...”

Moe rolls her eyes.

Raph holds out his arms. “I am Thor, God of Thunder and Storms!”

A perfectly-timed lightning bolt flares brightly behind him, silhouetting his awesome cape at full billow.

Not half-billow, like some asshole. Full motherfucking billow, y’all.

“...and if you don’t show me the proper respect, I’ll bring this palace right down on top of you.”

Pharaoh swallows, rapidly losing confidence in his accusation. “Forgive me, Your... Stormyness?

He says it like a question, and Raph shrugs – he’ll take it.

Holding his hammer overhead, he calls “Thor away!” and flies off into the sky like Superman (or, y’know... Thor).

Just like that, the storm vanishes.

The clouds retreat and the sun comes out, shining its light onto the ravaged city. Buildings and statues lay crumbled. People wander out from their hiding places, wondering what the fuck just happened.

But, hey – at least the bugs are gone.

“Say what you will about the guy’s methods,” Erin says. “He got the job done.”

“Well, yeah...” Ramrod says. “Everyone knows that bugs hate storms.”

“True.” Erin nods, like it’s a universally-accepted fact.

Moe doesn’t even bother.

Ramrod turns to her, seeming to accept defeat rather graciously. “Well, you did as you promised. I suppose you’ve earned the throne fair and sq...”

He pauses, hearing a soft, thrumming sound.

It’s far off in the distance, but getting closer, closer...

Moe and Erin can hear it too. They look around, but can’t see the source.

Slowly, the thrumming builds into a high-pitched whine.

Then...

A swarm of bugs rush past them from behind the palace.

Millions upon millions of them, forming a giant black cloud that descends into the city and spreads down the narrow streets like poison through a bloodstream.

“Goddamn it!” Pharaoh says, snatching back his headdress and ceremonial implements. “You didn’t get rid of the bugs at all. You just scared them off for a bit.”

Moe and Erin look at each other, wondering how this could have happened.

*

“What the fuck?!” Yah says, watching the God’s Eye monitor closely. “You said you got rid of them.”

“I did,” replies Raph, as he removes his cape and wig, and sets down his hammer. “They were gone. I swear. Even ask Moe.”

So Yah goes down and confronts Moe, who has since been kicked out of the palace and is standing on the edge of a crop field.

“What the...?” she begins, then sees what Moe’s looking at.

A huge black cloud of insects have descended on the field, and are presently stripping the wheat stalks bare.

But these aren’t just any ordinary insects.

Flies, gnats and lice are minor league compared to these guys.

“Locusts,” Yah says, grimly. She notices something off to the side. “What...?”

A bunch of soldiers have started wading into the field, trying to fight back the swarm. They’re swinging swords and axes, thrusting spears, shooting arrows.

...at locusts.

Naturally, it has no effect.

But, boy, do they keep on fighting. You gotta hand it to them.

Even in the face of an unstoppable enemy, Egypt’s finest are steadfast in their determination, resolute in their mission to protect the homeland.

“Come on, lads! To arms!”

“Let’s get those bugs!”

“They’re afraid! They’re afraid!

“FREEDOM!”

What a story for the grandkids.

Maybe their plan is to slash down enough of the grain that the locusts will fuck off somewhere else, but in reality, the outcome seems to be that they’re just kind of assisting in the food destruction process.

Almost like a parent cutting up a child’s steak to make it more manageable for them.

Yah shakes her head, ignoring the soldiers. “How the fuck...? I see how blood leads to frogs leads to bugs. But why locusts?”

Moe shrugs. “Maybe it’s a coincidence.”

Yah runs a hand over her face. “There’s no way in hell Seki’s gonna believe that. She’s gonna think I did this like she thinks I did all the other shit.”

“You did do all the other shit.”

“Nuh-uh. I only did the blood.”

“Well, the blood caused the other shit, and you did the blood. Take some fucking responsibility for your actions.”

Yahweh groans. “She’s not gonna believe me.”

“So what?”

Yah takes a moment to think about that. “She’s my friend. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. Literally.”

“Then get rid of them. Do another storm.”

“It won’t make any difference. She already thinks I’m a lousy friend. And you know what? She’s right...”

Moe lets out a frustrated sigh. “I love how you’re so concerned about some petty argument with your neighbour when, literally, an entire country is about to starve to death.”

Yah snaps back to reality and clears her throat, shamefaced. “Yeah, no, you’re right.”

She disappears.

Two seconds later, the wind increases, and Moe looks behind her to see a giant wall of sand closing in...

“Jesus Christ!” she yells. “You couldn’t give me five minutes to get to safety?”

Moe dives into an irrigation ditch and covers her face just as the sandstorm hits, blowing through the fields and taking the locusts with it.

When everything subsides, Moe bursts up out of the sand like a zombie rising from the dead and takes a huge breath in. She looks around, seeing that everything is dark.

Even though the main brunt of the storm has passed, she’s now mired in the middle of it. All the sand in the air is blocking out the sun, effectively turning day into night.

“Goddamn it,” she says. “Can you do anything right?”

Nearby, the soldiers are getting up and cheering, thinking they’re somehow responsible for fighting off the locust swarm.

She shakes her head. “Idiots!”

*

In Yah’s kitchen, she and Raph are cracking a celebratory beer together. Yah’s standing behind the counter, Raph’s on a stool across from her. They clink their bottles together.

“We did it,” Yah says. “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”

You got it done,” Raph says, with a humble smile. “I just helped.”

Yah smiles back at him.

They drink.

At that moment, the front door bursts open and Seki comes marching in.

“Seriously?” she says, fuming. “The frogs and the bugs and the boils and the dead cattle aren’t enough? You gotta destroy half the city, send in a swarm of locusts – not to mention a sandstorm – and now everyone’s living in total fucking darkness? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Look, Seki, I knew you were going to react like this, but I promise – it wasn’t me. All I did was the blood thing.”

“It’s true,” Raph says, backing her up. “She was trying to stop the... what have we settled on? Plagues? Marvels?”

Yah rubs her chin. “I mean, they’re more like natural disasters, though, right?”

“Yeah, but what are people gonna call it?” Raph takes a sip. “The Natural Disasters of Egypt? Shit happens all the fucking time. We need something specific. A catchy shorthand.”

Yah considers it. “Well... it’s hard, y’know? They don’t all fit neatly into one category. I mean, you got natural disasters, epidemics, infestations...”

“I guess ‘marvels’ works best then. More general. ‘Plague’ doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, as it really only refers to a specific bacterial disease. I mean, there was the thing with the boils, so...”

“Hey!” Seki shouts, incredulous.

The two snap out of it.

Panicking, Raph stumbles over his words in his haste to get them out. “Any-anyway, she t-tried to stop them – the marvels – but... just kind of ended up causing more. It wasn’t her fault. She knew you’d think...”

“Oh, shut up, Raph! You spineless little weasel.”

Seki glares at him and Raph cowers, hanging his head.

“Hey!” Yah says. “You can’t talk to him like that. I mean... are his loyalties somewhat questionable? Sure...”

Raph shrugs – he has been flip-flopping lately.

“Was his method of driving out the insects a little over the top? I’d say so.”

Raph nods – he can’t argue with that either.

“But he’s a good friend.” She smiles at him. “I know what he did, he did out of concern for me.”

“Oh, good, you guys are BFFs again,” Seki says, sarcastically. “That’s so great. I’m really happy for you. And all it took was the devastation of my country and people, not to mention the humiliation of me and my roommates as gods in their eyes.”

“Seki...”

“No! What about me, huh? I’m supposed to be your friend too.”

She’s got tears in her eyes now and Yah can’t help but feel guilty.

“Seki... it’s just a game...”

“It’s not about the game! It’s about what it turns us into. What it’s turned you into. What it’s turning me into. And because of what, huh? Because of Ash? That’s why you had to go and build this toxic fucking thing? Because you needed something to pour all your hate and anger into?”

Yah has gone quiet. She considers her words, treads lightly. “You don’t have to play...”

Seki scoffs. “Says you.”

Yah’s got nothing to come back with. She stays silent.

“You know what?” Seki wipes her eyes, furious with herself for letting him get the best of her. “I stood by you all through that breakup. I was your shoulder to cry on. I helped you drown your sorrows night after fucking night. I watched the same five Friends episodes ten thousand times because you kept passing out and wanting to rewind.” She breathes. “I told you you were right. “Fuck Ash, she’s a bitch.” “You’re too good for her.” “She didn’t know what she had while she had it.” But you know what?” Seki pauses, sniffs, and for some reason, Yah is reminded of the eye of a hurricane. “...She was right. She did the right thing, and I don’t know why she didn’t do it sooner. You’re a fucking train wreck, Godric! You’re an alcoholic, drug-addicted, narcissistic, hypocritical, unemployed fucking video game designer...” She says the job title with so much disgust that it makes Yah wince. “And the way you went off the deep end after she cut ties with you just proves how right she was.”

Seki glares at Yah with those wet, feline eyes. Lets her sit in it for a while.

Yah swallows over the lump in her throat. She blinks away tears.

Eventually, Seki turns around and leaves.

The two remaining gods continue to sit in silence for a long while after that. Yah stares at the far wall, turning the conversation over in her head. Raph just fidgets, feeling awkward and sympathetic, but not knowing what to do or say.

After what feels like an eternity, Yah takes out a glass, unscrews a bottle of tequila, and starts pouring...

“So, uh...” Raph begins, then notices Yah continuing to pour.

He watches, with increasing bewilderment, as Yah fills the glass almost all the way to the brim.

“Godric, huh? That’s what God’s short for?”

No response from the big gal.

Raph clears his throat and continues. “I guess that’s it then, huh? We’re done with this? We can move on?”

Yah lifts the glass to her lips and takes a dead-eyed sip.

“Oh, buddy,” she says, like Raph is some sweet, naïve angel. “We ain’t even started yet.”


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this episode, use the ‘share’ button below to let a friend know about it. Word of mouth is still the best way for The New Old Testament to find new readers. See you next time.

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