Exodus 17: Skullf**ed (In Which Mad Maxine Has Her Thunder Stolen By Josie And The Pussycats) (Season 2, Episode 11)

What happens when the Israelites enter enemy territory? Moe's management is "challenged", Capt. Barbossa leads his skeletal sand pirates into battle against Furiosa, and two rights don't make a left.

Welcome to TNOT 33 - we’re a third of the way to 100 episodes!

Alright, not quite a third, but pretty close.

This is a big one. I keep trying to tighten these episodes up, make them smaller, more bite-sized… but those tangents really start adding up after a while. I really went down a Mad Max rabbit hole on this one, which I apologise for in advance. Maybe I’m just undisciplined and this is to much creative freedom to give to one man. In the words of Jim Carrey as Stanley Ipkiss as The Mask: “Somebody ssssssstop me!”

Seriously… stop me.

Special thanks: to Loki, Hazel, Matt and Andrea for writing in. I really appreciate all the kind words and great feedback. If you’d like a special shout-out in next week’s edition, just hit reply when you’re done with this episode and let me know what you think. We’re still a pretty small community, so I’m reading and answering all emails myself. I look forward to hearing from you.


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.


The Israelites push on from the wilderness of Sin and camp at Rephidim (don’t know why, but that strikes me as a really cool name. I just like the way it looks.)

Rephidim.

Rephidim.

However, there’s no water in Rephidim, so guess what the Israelites do?

They complain.

(I’ll fast-forward through this next bit because we’ve seen it before.)

The Israelites complain to Moe.

Moe’s hungover, so she’s like, “Yeah, no shit – you think I couldn’t use a little hydration to take the edge off?”

Nevertheless, she relays the people’s concerns to Yah.

Yah gets angry. She’s also hungover, so she’s like, “Yeah, no shit – you think I couldn’t use a little H20 to take the edge off?”

Moe’s like, “What?”

Yah’s like, “Never mind.”

The Israelite god vents her frustrations to Moe, wants to kill the ingrates.

Moe pours oil on the troubled waters of Yah’s increasingly-genocidal plans, citing what she assumes was a very real threat on the part of one very thirsty Israelite to stone her to death.

Yah relents and gives Moe some half-baked magic trick to do that will take care of the problem.

In this case, she has to hit a rock with her staff.

Oh-kay...

She goes to ask, “Couldn’t you just give us the water?” but thinks better of it. That’s not memorable enough for the big gal.

So Moe hits the aforementioned rock with the aforementioned staff.

Nothing happens.

She hits it again. Harder this time.

Still nothing.

Enraged, Moe slams the staff into the rock as hard as she can. She hits it so hard that the staff snaps and slices her hand open.

Fuck!”

Naturally, this does the trick.

The rock splits.

Water comes gushing out.

Don’t know why Yah couldn’t have just made an oasis appear instead, but Moe’s beyond asking those kind of questions.

Y’know, logical ones.

While she tends to her bleeding hand, the Israelites proceed to drink their fill and don’t say thank you.

Motherfuckers.

Anyway, here’s where things get interesting...

So these people from this place called Amalek roll up to the Israelites, looking like those dudes on the motorbikes in Mad Max: Fury Road, all heavy cloaks and masks made out of what appear to be human skulls.

Scratch that.

Definitely human skulls.

Their chief (who we’ll refer to as Skull Face) is like, “Who the fuck are you guys? This is our land.”

Alright, non-avatar Jake Sully. Take it easy.

Moe runs a bandaged hand over her sickly face, like, “Jesus Christ, can I go five fucking minutes...?”

Straightening up to deal with these guys, she goes, “Look, just fuck off, man. Seriously. You don’t want this heat. Trust me.”

And Skull Face gets all up in her grill, like, “No, no, no – let’s get something straight. You don’t want this heat.”

Moe sighs. “I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest with you, dude. Just let these ungrateful cunts drink their precious water and we’ll be on our way.”

But Skull Face isn’t having a bar of it.

He looks around at his rag-tag group of skull-faced desert warriors, like, “Can you believe this chick?”

“Oh ho ho, these guys wanna go!”

Moe looks down to see a face in the sand.

Goddamn it...

“I’m trying to avoid conflict here,” Moe says... to what seems to everyone else like the desert floor.

The Amalekites (aka the Skull Faces – or Skulls Face, depending on how you wanna pluralise it) are all like, “Da fuck? Is this bitch crazy or what?”

“No, they wanna go!” Sand Face says, with the manic, sniffy intensity of someone who hasn’t slept all night and doesn’t intend on doing so any time soon.

“They don’t wanna go,” Moe says, trying to be diplomatic. “They just want us off their land.”

“No, they wanna go! You should go them!”

Go them?” The syntax feels weird in her mouth.

“No, we wanna go,” says Skull Face, to the hoots and hollers of his skull-faced clansmen. “You wanna go us?”

Go you?”

“See!” Sand Face says, sniffing wildly. “They wanna go!”

“I think they wanna go too,” comes a voice from behind her.

Moe turns to see a woman with a shaved head and black paint over the top half of her face from the eyes up, like Furiosa in Mad Max. Her ice-cold voice matches her demeanour. Nothing phases this chick.

This is Joshua – but we’ll refer to her as Josie, or Jo (or, y’know, Furiosa).

“Who the fuck are you?” Moe says, then realises something. “Wait – you can hear Yahweh’s voice too?”

“Who I am isn’t important,” Jo says, ignoring the second question and stepping forward to stand alongside Moe. She stares down the Amalekites with stone-faced contempt. “What is important is what I can do for you.”

“And what’s that?” says Moe, a little unnerved by the level of badassery being exuded from this stranger.

“Kill every last one of these motherfuckers right here.”

Silence.

A tumbleweed blows between Jo and Skull Face.

Finally, Skull Face steps forward, lifting his skull mask to reveal a bare skull underneath.

Think Barbossa’s crew on the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl and you’re not far off.

Moe recoils in fright. “Ah!”

Jo doesn’t flinch.

Skull Face smiles a bony, toothy smile. It is – in a word – horrifying.

“Oh... you’re on, sister.”

Then he turns and walks off with the other Skulls Face to talk tactics and prep for the upcoming battle. Jo does the same, heading over to the Israelites, who are still drinking at the river pouring out of the rock.

Moe hurries to catch up to her, like, “So, are those guys like... skeletons, or what?”

“Don’t know.”

“Are they, like, undead? Like zombies or something?”

“Don’t care,” Jo says, striding tall. “I’ll kill ‘em twice if that’s the case.”

“And you could hear Yahweh’s voice back there? You could see her face in the sand?”

“Yep.” It doesn’t occur to her that hearing the voice of a god is even somewhat noteworthy.

Feeling a twinge of jealousy, Moe’s like, “Y’know, that’s kind of my thing. No one else could see or hear Yahweh until now.”

“Was that a question?”

Moe swallows. “I guess not.”

“Okay, then. I have to prepare for battle.”

Moe slows and stops, but Jo keeps right on walking.

Damn...

Jo approaches the Israelites and calls out, “Hey! Any of you pussies been in a fight before?”

As she begins the process of building an Israelite militia from scratch, Baron von Steuben style, Moe is once again accosted by Sand Face, who goes, “Pretty badass, right?”

“Who the fuck is she?” Moe says.

“She’s a fucking badass is who she is.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously?” Sand Face sniffs. “She’s the best chance you’ve got at not getting genocided right now. I wouldn’t mess with her if I was you – chick looks like she’d tear your face off and use it as a napkin.”

Moe can’t argue with that. She watches as Jo, now surrounded by a couple hundred “warriors” of her own, demonstrates thrusting with a spear, stabbing with a sword... scalping a fallen enemy, for some reason.

“Jesus...” Moe says, wincing as she observes this last one. “That seems a little excessive.”

Excessive is what you need right now,” Sand Face informs her. “People need to know they can’t just roll up and mess with the Israelites. The sooner you send that message, the better.”

“But we don’t need to fight, though. We can just pass on through. No harm, no foul. We leave the water for these...” She grasps for the right words, and lands on: “...skull-faced sand people. Everybody wins.”

Sand Face seems perplexed by this. “But... somebody has to lose.”

“Somebody doesn’t have to lose. This isn’t a zero-sum game. There is an outcome here where we both mutually benefit. Non-zero sumness. You oughta try it sometime.”

Sidebar: this seems like as good a place as any to plug Robert Wright’s Nonzero newsletter, hosted right here on Substack. That’s not an advertisement. I’m not getting any money from that – he doesn’t even know I’m doing it. But it’s a weekly newsletter that I get a lot out of, and which I feel like has shaped my mission in writing The New Old Testament. His books and podcast are great too. Definitely check them out.

Non-zero sumness?” Sand Face reacts like the phrase tastes bad in its sandy mouth. It then shakes its sandy head, like it has gotten off topic and wants to return to the issue at hand. “Look, you’re gonna have to fight at some point, Moe. And it’s not like you have a general waiting in the wings. Who’s gonna lead the army? You?

Sand Face laughs, like the idea is self-evidently hilarious.

Moe just waits until her god stops laughing, then says, “Hurtful.”

“Oh, come on! What are you, jealous?”

Moe tenses. “No.”

“You are! Oh my god, you’re so fucking jealous right now. That’s adorable.”

Blushing, Moe gets defensive. “Fuck you.”

“Look...” A loud sniff, followed by several smaller sniffs. A sandy hand emerges to wipe Sand Face’s sandy nose. “First of all, I’m flattered...”

Moe rolls her eyes.

“Second of all, you don’t need to be jealous. You’re still my number-one gal. I just need someone with skills you don’t have...”

“Sure,” Moe says, shrugging, playing it off like she doesn’t care. “Fine. Do whatever you want. This is your party, man. I’m just hosting it.”

She walks off.

“Moe!” Sand Face calls after her, apparently under the illusion it is fixed in one place and can’t follow. “Moe!”

No use. She’s gone.

Feeling bad, Sand Face seems to reflect on the interaction.

Then, out of nowhere, she sniffs loudly. “Wooooo! Time to fuck up some skeletons!”

*

Moe storms into the tent she shares with Erin and Merry, and is immediately confronted with a reminder of why she needs her own fucking tent in the first place.

“Jesus...!” she says, stepping back and covering her eyes.

“...Christ!” Merry says, equally-shocked.

In an attempt to extract himself from his elderly (but age-appropriate) sister and cover himself up, he knocks himself out on the cross-beam of the rudimentary sex swing they’ve got set up and falls to a heap on the floor.

Erin, meanwhile, is much more collected, if a little annoyed. “You could knock, you know?”

“On what?” Moe says. “It’s a tent.

Erin picks herself up off the sex swing, covering herself in a blanket and ignoring her unconscious husband/brother.

“Well, we definitely need some kind of bell by the doorway, that you ring when you want to come inside. A doorbell, I guess you’d call it. Or...” Erin’s spitballing now. “I don’t know, maybe I could hang a piece of clothing outside if we need a little privacy.”

Moe scoffs. “That’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. I think that could really catch on.”

“There’s no way that’s catching on.”

Erin drops it. “Look, I’m sorry, alright. We didn’t think you were coming back for a while. You really need your own fucking tent...”

“I really need my own fucking tent...” Moe says, at the exact same time, so the words overlap in perfect harmony. Upon realising this, she adds, “Jinx.”

Erin smiles. “What do you want?”

Recovering from the trauma of baring witness to her siblings’ incestuous coupling, Moe remembers why she came. “Oh... right.”

She crosses the room to where she sleeps. It isn’t a bedroom in the way that we’d recognise one today – more like a section of the tent with a sleeping mat and blanket on the floor.

Like when you go camping.

Just... all the time.

People back in the day were hardcore.

Moe goes to a sack containing her meagre belongings and pulls out an even smaller sack, setting it down reverently on the sand.

“The fuck is that?” Erin says, leaning in, curious. She sees that the sack is full of sand like the sand-sack that Indy carries in Raiders of the Lost Ark and arches an eyebrow. “Sand?”

Moe just inserts her non-bandaged hand into the sand and pulls out...

A human skull.

“Jesus!” Erin says, reacting in much the same way that Moe did upon entering. “What are you doing with bones in your bag? Whose bones are they?”

“Joey’s,” Moe says, simply, holding the skull at arm’s length like Hamlet holding Yorick’s fleshless head. “Alas, poor Joey! I knew him, Horatio. A fellow of infinite jest...” She chuckles, then seems puzzled. “Where do I know that from?”

Joey’s?” Erin’s eyes go wide. “As in... our ancestor, Joey? Izzy’s son, Joey? The only Israelite Pharaoh in history, Joey. That Joey?”

“Yes, that Joey. Jesus...” Moe shakes her head. Get over it...

Erin’s wondering why Moe is so effing chill and nonchalant about this. “How did you get your hands on a pharaoh’s skull? Aren’t they mummified and entombed in pyramids or some shit?”

At this, Moe gets a far-off look in her eye like there’s a flashback coming...

Cut to a flashback of Moe breaking into a subterranean tomb by torchlight, smashing open a sarcophagus, hacking off Joey’s mummified head with a tomahawk, stuffing it into a sack, then fleeing down a corridor whilst evading the Egyptians’ dastardly traps, Indiana Jones-style.

End flashback.

Of course, Erin saw none of this – because it was a flashback, and thus confined, by its very nature, to the mind of the person who experienced it.

And yet, it somehow portrayed Moe from the third person when, as the person who experienced it, you’d think it would be from her point of view (ie. the first person) – seeing only what she saw etc.

Weird how we’ve just decided that flashbacks play out as if the person remembering it is watching themselves from a distance like they’re a security camera or something, instead of reliving the experience as they saw it, like normal memories play out.

Finally fed up with waiting for an answer, Erin goes, “Moe?!” and snaps her sister out of her reverie.

*

Out on the battlefield at Rephidim (Rephidim, Rephidim), the two opposing factions face off.

On one side, you got Skull Face and his Skulls Face (aka his Skull Faces, aka the Amalekites).

On the other side, you got Jo and the Israelite militia.

Now, since Jo also goes by Josie, and since she’s started referring to her warriors as ‘pussies’ or ‘pussycats’ to simultaneously demean and motivate them, why don’t I just go ahead and point out the obvious?

Skull Face v Josie and the Pussycats.

The Pussycats are greater in number, but the Skulls Face have more experience. They’ve been out here defending their land for generations (occasionally venturing into foreign territory for some seasonal raiding and pillaging, but we won’t get into that) and here come these motherfucking Pussycats thinking they’re hot shit.

Well, guess what?

They ain’t.

They’re no different than any of the other foolhardy tribes who thought they could conquer Rephidim (Rephidim, Rephidim). The Skulls Face met them on the field of glory and turned them back with their tails between their legs.

Then, when they were running and afraid and waving the white flag of surrender, the Skulls Face descended on them without mercy, tearing them limb from shrieking limb, flaying the skin from their bones to make some more of that sweet, sweet, calcium-rich face armour.

Then they went after the women and children, looting their towns and their villages, burning their homes and taking their food and their flocks, leaving any survivors to starve...

...and also to spread the word that the Amalekites are not to be fucked with.

This is an abbreviated version of the speech that Skull Face gives his men, leaving them in perhaps the worst possible frame of mind in which to go to war.

At the beginning, he had them all revved up and inspired and ready to go, but the more he reminded them of the horrible things they’ve done, the Skulls Face have become morose and introspective. Hating themselves. Doubting everything.

Way to go, Skull Face!

On the other side, the Israelites are pissing themselves – many of them literally, to the point that they’re standing ankle deep in urine. Teeth chattering, knees knocking together.

The only one that’s cool, calm and collected is – you guessed it – Jo.

Pretty soon, the battle is underway.

Armies charging in, clashing together, swords swinging, spears thrusting, people screaming and shouting and dying in the most horrific ways imaginable – you know, the usual battle scene shit.

In the thick of it, Jo keeps her cool. She’s lopping off heads and limbs like they’re saplings, running people through. At one point, I’m pretty sure she chokes out a guy with his own severed arm.

Damn...

Just as she kicks the guy’s one-armed body off her and goes to get up, someone breaks away from the chaos all around and comes charging at her...

Jo barely has time to respond, lifting her sword to parry the blow and using the time it buys her to spring up onto her feet.

But the skull-faced attacker (aka Agent Skully, aka Skully McGee) doesn’t let up.

He swings again, and again, and again, keeping her on the back foot, not giving her a chance to regroup.

As she staggers backwards, deflecting each blow as it comes, her heel catches the body of a fallen foe and she trips...

Falls...

As she puts her free hand out to hold herself up, she takes her eyes momentarily off Agent Skully, and that’s when it happens...

His blade catches her just above the elbow...

...cutting clean through her right bicep, bone and all.

Jo screams as she continues her fall without the arm there to prop her up. Her shoulder hits the sand. She rolls onto her back.

But before she can even catch a breath, Skully McGee is standing over her, lifting his sword for the killing blow.

He brings it down with both hands.

She rolls...

The blade sinks deep in the sand.

As he draws it back out, Jo pivots, having risen up onto all fours, and lashes out with her right leg, delivering a mule kick of jaw-shattering power into the skull-faced fucker’s skully fucking face.

The Amalekite staggers back, moaning, holding its broken skull mask as it falls to pieces in his hand.

That’s when Jo sees it.

This dude isn’t an undead skeleton like the others.

This dude isn’t a dude at all.

It’s a chick.

And not just any chick.

It’s Moe!

“Moe?!” Jo shouts, incensed. “What the fuck?!”

The battle rages on all around them, no one taking notice.

“Jesus...” Moe says, rubbing her jaw. “That really hurt.”

“Why are you trying to kill me?!”

“Why are you trying to replace me?” Moe shoots back, petulantly.

“I’m not trying to replace you!”

“Yes you are! You’re talking to Yahweh, you’re commanding the army. How long before she realises she doesn’t need me any more and just lets you take over the whole thing?”

Jo groans, furious. Using her sword like a cane, she gets to her feet. “I don’t have time for this shit!”

With that, she swings at Moe. The elderly prophet has zero time to react, and the blade catches her just above the elbow...

...cutting clean through her left bicep, bone and all.

Moe screams, dropping her sword and clutching the bloody stump where an arm used to be. “Fuck!”

“There,” Jo says. “Arm for an arm. Now we’re even.”

The one-armed badass then vanishes back into the intermingled ranks of Pussycats and Skulls Face, off to do some more killing, completely unaware that she just planted the seed for the whole ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ thing that’ll come up later.

Not to mention that with the severed arm, she’s looking more like Furiosa than ever.

Meanwhile, Moe’s standing there, missing an arm, about to pass out from the pain, having proven the exact opposite of what she set out to prove, which is that she’s just as capable a military leader as Jo.

Fuck it.

Moe goes to leave. She’s too old for this shit.

But as she turns, something catches her eye.

Jo’s severed arm.

Looking around to see if anyone’s watching her – note: no one is (they’re too busy trying not to get murdered) – Moe crouches down and grabs the arm.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

A trophy.

So that when Jo comes up to confront her after the battle, she can wave that bitch’s own arm in her face and say, “Whatever, babe. I got your arm.”

It’s as Moe is collecting her gruesome and pathetic war trophy that she notices her own severed arm and decides she better take that too. Maybe someone can sew it back on.

Now, I’m not sure how long it’s been since you tried to pick up two severed arms with only one arm – it’s been at least six months for me – but the shit ain’t easy.

As she goes to pick up the second one, she drops the first, then as she picks up the first, she drops the second.

I mean, first she loses her arm, and now this?

This chick can not catch a break!

Meanwhile, all around her, people are getting murdered. People are becoming murderers. Innocent men and women with families of their own are learning what it means to kill, to see their loved ones die on the battlefield beside them.

By this point, the Israelites are no longer ankle-deep in urine, but blood. They slog through the shit like a football field on a wet day, slipping and falling over, rolling around in it, wrestling, drowning each other.

The sand is thirsty, sure, but there’s only so much those grains can soak up before they’re completely saturated. Then the blood level starts to rise.

If you’ve seen the Battle of Agincourt as depicted in David Michôd’s The King, picture that, but blood instead of mud. Yes, I’m sure there was plenty of blood at Agincourt too, but I want you to really picture just a ridiculous amount of blood here.

I don’t know how so few warriors can produce so much blood, but somehow they can.

And right there in the heart of it is Moe, trying like an absolute dunce to pick up a couple severed arms. Slipping over in the blood, getting up and slipping over again.

What a klutz!

*

Finally, Moe manages to extricate herself from the battle. She trudges up a nearby hill to sit down and have a rest. She’s covered in blood, mostly other peoples’, and she’s got the two severed appendages under her arm like they’re firewood.

She looks like she’s making her way either to or from a human sacrifice – a good argument could be made for either scenario.

Moe reaches the top of the hill and slumps down on a rock, exhausted. Man, it is hard work trying to assassinate your ally.

You gotta cut open your ancestor’s skull to form a mask.

You gotta steal a cloak to mimic the enemy’s dress.

You gotta sneak into a battle.

You gotta kill five to seven people on your way through.

You gotta wait for your ally to be in a vulnerable position so you can surprise-attack her and thereby win the glory you deserve.

Naturally, it didn’t help that her target was the only Israelite who actually knows what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to battle. The only Israelite standing between them and a genocide.

Moe sighs. Maybe she overreacted.

Just a teensy bit.

Pretty soon, she’s joined by Erin and Merry, and after clearing up the whole, “What’s up with the two severed arms?” thing, they settle in to watch the battle play out.

Israel seems to be losing now. Moe wonders if it has anything to do with the fact that she potentially-mortally wounded their general.

Hmm...

“You jealous bitch!”

Moe looks down and sees Rock Face with a none-too-pleased expression on its stony mug.

“What?” says Moe, knowing full well what.

“You know full well what.

“Hey, if anything, she’s the jealous one – not me. You see how she’s trying to replace me, right?”

Erin and Merry barely even react to Moe talking to the rock – it’s become so commonplace now as to be dull. The battle is much more interesting.

“She’s not trying to replace you!” Rock Face says. “Jesus Christ, she’s just doing what I asked her to do. What you can’t do. I mean, fuck, you complain when I ask you to do shit, then when I decide to give you a break and get someone else to drive for a while, you freak out and try to kill them.”

Moe would cross her arms and sulk if she had two arms to cross. Instead, she goes to cross them, realises she can’t, and just sulks instead.

Rock Face seems to soften a little.

Perhaps Yah is getting a little too fond of Moe for her own good.

Perhaps she’s starting to realise the similarities between them – vis a vis jealousy, wanting to maintain control, lashing out at anyone you perceive to be trying to wrest that control from you.

“Listen,” Rock Face says, taking pity on her. It takes out a rocky cigarette and lights it, breathing out a small cloud of dust. “You wanna fix this?”

Moe doesn’t respond.

“They’re getting massacred down there, Moe. Look at them. They’re your people. They need your help.”

Unable to argue that, Moe relents. “How do I fix it?”

Taking a drag and holding the dust in its rocky lungs, Rock Face goes, “Lift both arms over your head.”

Moe furrows her brow. “What? Why?”

“Because...” Exhales. “It’s poetic. Poetic as fuck. It symbolises the unity of our people. You and Jo. The political leader and the military leader. Clasping hands.” A cough. “Unity.”

Moe looks at the severed appendages with distaste. “How are we supposed to clasp hands...?”

“Just do it!”

“How am I supposed to...?”

“Jesus, I gotta spell it out for you? Get one of these clowns to stitch Jo’s arm onto yours, then with Jo’s arm and your good arm, hold up your other arm. The severed one.”

Rock Face says this with a straight (if somewhat rocky) face, like it’s all totally obvious. It takes a drag, waits.

“But...” Moe doesn’t even know where to begin. “Why would I stitch Jo’s arm onto mine? Wouldn’t I...?”

“Are you listening to me, Moe?! Did you hear what I said? Unity!

“Yeah, but... wouldn’t I stitch my own arm back onto...?”

“Maybe. If you hadn’t been such a jealous bitch to the point where you actively fought against your own people and hamstrung them by wounding their leader. This is how you show solidarity, sister. This is how you make amends. Stitch her motherfucking arm onto yours.”

“So is this punishment, or symbolism?”

“Both.”

“But it’s the wrong arm! It’s gonna look ridiculous.”

“Don’t care. Solidarity. Unity.”

“Now you’re just saying buzzwords. Why can’t I just stitch my own arm back on?”

“Why can’t you be a team player?!” Another drag. “Look, either you do this or they’re all gonna die.”

Moe lets out a sigh, the screams of her people ringing in her ears.

“Fine.”

She tells Erin and Merry, who have more or less pieced it together from eavesdropping on her side of the conversation, but are still pretty shocked to hear the plan in detail.

Nevertheless, after Merry has made the trip back to camp to get a needle and thread, and a wineskin to dull the pain, they set about stitching Jo’s arm onto Moe’s stump.

Moe grunts and curses and drinks through the entire thing, but when it’s done...

...it looks even worse than she could possibly imagine.

As she’d tried to tell Rock Face, it’s the wrong fucking arm. Attaching someone else’s arm to her stump was always going to look ugly, but attaching someone’s right arm to her left arm looks goddamn ridiculous.

The hand is facing the other way.

So is the elbow.

And since she has no control over the dead limb, it’s stuck in the position that it was severed in – tensed up, bent at a right angle.

The end result is that it juts out gruesomely to the left, away from her body.

In all honesty, it looks like what it is:

Like she’s got two right arms.

“Billy Ray Cyrus...” Moe breathes, looking down at the hack-job in disgust.

“There,” Rock Face says. “That’s not so bad, is it?”

Moe doesn’t even dignify that with a response. She chugs the remainder of her wineskin and gets to her feet.

Maybe it’s the blood loss, maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s a combination of both, but the second she starts moving, the wooziness hits Moe like a freight train and she falls straight back down on her ass.

“Maybe you should rest...” Erin says, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“No!” Moe swipes drunkenly at her. “They’re dying out there. Up! Up, up, up!”

Erin rolls her eyes, Merry shrugs. They loop their hands under her shoulders and haul her upright. Merry’s on the side with Jo’s arm – being so close to it causes him to wince.

Once they’re relatively certain that Moe has her footing, they step away, but stay close, ready to rush back in and catch her if she falls.

Moe teeters, sways. Eyes flickering. Hovering on the edge of consciousness.

Then, as the screams from the battlefield below make their way deep into her ear canal, she seems to come to, regaining her stability. Summoning what little strength she has, Moe lifts both hands into the air.

Hers... and Jo’s.

To the Pussycats down below, it looks like she’s just got a badly broken arm – like, really badly broken.

And to make matters worse...

Nothing happens.

The battle carries on as before, with the Skulls Face methodically carrying out their genocide, Pussycat by Pussycat.

“Oh, shit!” Moe says, remembering something. “The other arm. Grab the other arm. My arm.”

Erin crouches down and hesitantly picks up her sister’s severed limb. “Ugh, it’s cold...”

“Give it here!”

Erin passes the arm into Moe’s still-upraised good hand so she’s holding it around the upper forearm.

Still, nothing happens.

“The fuck...?” Moe says, growing impatient.

Erin thinks. “Didn’t Yah say you were supposed to... clasp hands, somehow?”

Deciding it’s worth a shot, Moe moves her own severed hand over to meet Jo’s. It’s a surprisingly-wide distance, since Jo’s arm is (as described above) bent outwards at a hideous angle, and a surprisingly-difficult task to accomplish, since she can’t control the dead limb.

It’s like trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time.

...if one of your hands belonged to someone else and had been hastily stitched onto your arm.

At first, Moe kind of tilts her whole body, so Jo’s hand moves even further away as her own severed hand moves toward it.

Bit of a ‘dog chasing it’s tail’ scenario.

“No, don’t move your entire body,” Merry offers. “Just move your good arm over and keep Jo’s arm where it is.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Moe explodes. “The next time I stitch someone’s severed appendage onto you, I’m sure you’ll be able to control it no problem!”

Merry shuts up. Gives Erin a look behind Moe’s back, like, “Jeez...”

Nevertheless, Moe follows his advice. She keeps Jo’s hand still and moves her own hand over to meet it.

Now, however, she runs into a second problem.

Chalk it up to the blood loss, the alcohol, the inability to control the dead limb, all of the above... but Moe’s depth perception is fucked.

She keeps trying to touch the hands together, but because she can’t feel Jo’s hand... or her own severed hand... they keep passing each other like ships in the night.

On the first go, Moe’s hand is on the inside. Next, she overcorrects and it’s on the outside. For the allegedly-charmed third time, Moe’s hand passes on the inside yet again.

“For fuck’s sake!” Moe says, getting fed up.

Erin and Merry finally jump in – he working one arm, she working the other – and they guide the two dead appendages together

The second those two severed hands touch – the cold, dead fingers stubbing numbly against each other – forming a gruesome arch over Moe’s head, something happens...

The Israelites start to win.

The Pussycats surge forward with renewed strength and ferocity, fighting back the Skulls Face and butchering them where they stand.

It happens so quickly and so convincingly that it can’t be a coincidence.

Erin and Merry laugh, embracing one another in celebration, embracing Moe (careful to avoid the stitches, of course – more out of disgust than concern for their sister).

Moe laughs a little herself, delirious from the pain and exhaustion and blood loss and booze and guilt and, now, relief.

She isn’t sure why Yah makes her do all this crazy shit instead of just giving the Israelites what they need.

Maybe giving her such bizarre and unnecessary tasks is just Yah’s way of testing her faith. Maybe by carrying out those tasks, following those orders – however bizarre and unnecessary – Moe proves that she’s worthy. That the Israelites are worthy.

She just has to suck it up, stop complaining, do what Yah says and everything will be fine.

Even if that means playing nice with ‘Shaved-Head Black-Face Paint Veering Dangerously Close to Racist’ McGee.

(Aka Jo.)

(Aka Furiosa.)

The Israelites continue their surprisingly-effective forward press, none of them having any clue as to their sudden change in fortune, and even fewer deciding to question it.

They kill with pure, unadulterated glee.

Laughing and joking with each other like children at play.

Butchering, hacking, disembowelling...

...and loving every second of it.

It’s beautiful.

This battle shit ain’t so hard after all, they think. What were we so bladder-voidingly worried about?

But pretty soon, Moe’s arms start getting tired.

It’s not just that she’s eighty...

...or that she’s just had her arm cut off and then another one reattached...

...or the booze...

...or the blood loss...

It’s just that holding one’s arms over one’s head for any extended period of time is motherfucking draining, y’all.

So, like anyone would when their shoulders start aching, she lowers her arms (all three of them)...

Instantly, the Israelites start losing.

The Skulls Face push back and start overwhelming them. The Pussycats, who were initially surprised at things panning out in their favour, are now even more surprised as the tide turns against them.

“Da fuck?!” seems to be the general sentiment among the Israelites.

The Amalekites, for their part, begin cheering.

“Woooooo!”

Jo, the only one who seems to have realised what is happening, emerges from the crowd to scream at the prophet: “Lift your hands up, Moe! Lift your fucking hands up!”

Behind Moe, Rock Face scoffs as it exhales a stream of dust from its rocky cigarette. “Pfft. What is she, a DJ?”

But Moe, to her credit, quickly puts two and two together. “Shit!”

She lifts her hands back up and the Israelites start winning again.

Now the Skulls Face are all like, “Da fuck?” and the Pussycats are all like, “Wooooo!”

It’s all very confusing.

Of course, none of this changes the fact that Moe’s shoulders are tired as fuck and she’s eighty goddamn years old and just had surgery and lost a shitload of blood and drank a shitload of booze.

“Guys...” she says, to her siblings, gritting her teeth through the pain. “I can’t...

Realising, Erin and Merry rush in to prop her up once more, each taking one of their sister’s arms and holding it aloft. Yet again, Merry is stuck with the nasty arm, finding himself at eye-level with his just god-awful stitch-job.

He wrinkles his nose. “Ugh...”

In this way, Moe’s arms (all three of them) stay raised above her head, and the Israelites continue winning. They slaughter those skull-faced fuckers to a man, and when all is said and done, they cheer.

As the Pussycats go around looting the corpses for weapons, armour and – let’s face it – those sweet, skully battle masks, Jo trudges up the hill to see Moe, who’s now sitting down on the rock, taking a well-earned break. Having a well-earned drink.

Really, Moe? More alcohol?

There’s a flicker of confusion on Jo’s face as she sees her own arm stitched to Moe’s, but she blows past it – figures there’s an explanation. Yahweh’s master plan and all that. It doesn’t involve her, she doesn’t care.

“Turns out they’re all skeletons,” Jo says.

“Then... why do they wear the skull masks?” Merry asks, genuinely curious.

Jo shrugs. “I figure they’re secretly ashamed of who they are, but they like the intimidation factor. So they wear the masks to be scary, while at the same time, pretending to be human underneath.”

“Wow,” Erin says, almost tearing up. “Those crazy, marauding sand people were so much more complex than we originally gave them credit for.”

Jo grunts, neither in agreement nor disagreement, and readjusts the leather strap around her neck. I should probably mention that, dangling from this strap, is the head of ol’ Skull Face himself, looped through the sword hole she carved between his temples.

That’s right.

It’s your classic, post-battle head necklace.

Headlace™.

(That’s right – I trademarked that shit.)

Jo nods in Moe’s direction. “I have to ask...”

Apparently she does need an answer after all.

Moe looks down at the freakish right arm sewed onto her left arm. It juts out and away from her at an angle, the dead hand hanging limp.

She lets out a sigh. “Yah thought it would be poetic.”

Jo, neither horrified nor amused, just goes, “Huh.” Like it’s an oddity worth taking note of, but not worth remembering.

“You want this one?” Moe says, proferring her own severed limb.

Jo examines the thing, like she’s actually considering it. After a moment, she goes, “I’m good.”

Moe sets the arm down, then looks up at her one-armed general. Swallowing her pride, she says, “I’m sorry for cutting your arm off and trying to kill you.”

Satisfied with the apology, Jo nods curtly.

Moe waits.

“Aren’t you going to say it back?”

“Say what back?”

“Sorry.”

“Why would I apologise?” Jo asks, robotic in her matter-of-factness. “You injured me, I simply repaid the injury in kind. I will not apologise for balancing the scales.”

Moe exhales angrily. “Fine. Forget I mentioned it. I’m just trying to...” She takes a breath, calms herself. “I’m trying to say I was wrong. I misjudged you.”

Again, Jo nods curtly. Perhaps even more curtly than last time.

It’s maybe the most unsatisfying apology ever.

Then...

Jo stabs her sword into the ground, and extends her sole remaining hand to help Moe up.

Moe clocks the hand, realises it’s probably the most she’s going to get out of this one-armed, cold-blooded, shaved-headed monster. She drops her own severed arm (why is she still holding it?) and extends her own good hand to accept the gesture...

But right at that moment, Jo’s arm springs to life.

Not the one attached to Jo.

The one attached to Moe!

It shoots out, twisting horribly, straightening, yanking Moe along with it...

Jo’s own right hand clasps her left hand...

But instead of being horrified by it, she simply looks down at the handshake, like, “Huh” – with the same barely-interested tone as before.

Meanwhile, Moe’s eyes are practically bulging out of her head, as are those of Erin and Merry, as they bare witness to the Demon Arm™ at work.

“What the fuuuuuuuuck?” Moe whispers, truly horrified.

*

And that’s how Moe and Jo became the very best of friends.

More accurately, that’s how Moe learned to delegate control while realising that it doesn’t mean she’s any less influential than she previously was.

To hammer home this perhaps ill-fitting analogy even further, that’s how Mel Gibson graciously handed off the reins to the Mad Max franchise to Tom Hardy, even though the movie ended up being more about Furiosa.

(Which was a great move, IMO. Not just virtue-signalling here, guys – that movie is baller as fuck. Plus it got nominated for, like, ten Oscars. Why the fuck are they dragging their feet with the sequel? Apparently, the studio is trying to fuck George Miller out of what they owe him. Fuckin’ assholes. Just pay the man so we can get some more post-apocalyptic mayhem. WITNESS MEEEEEEEEE!)

I digress...

So, to summarise today’s lesson:

In the same way that Braveheart and the original Mad Max were played by the same actor, that’s...

…Moe is...

...they’re both...

...Moe is both of those characters...?

And, like... how Fury Road was more about Furiosa than Mad Max...

...Jo’s, I guess...

...more of Furiosa than Tom Hardy...

…?

...

Make sense?

Good.

I’m glad we cleared that up.

So...

…it’s Braveheart...

...and Mad Max...

...and...

I guess the arm is cursed, too?

So...

That episode of Rick and Morty where they go to a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with Mad Max-style scavangers, and Morty’s arm becomes sentient and starts doing horrible things?

Wait...


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