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.


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