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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