Exodus 2-3: The Burning Bush (Season 2, Episode 3)

What happens when the Princess Moe is forced to go on the lam? A giant statue of Horus gets hungry, a really cool fight almost happens, and a one-woman cave-rave leads to Mission: Impossible.

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.


Let’s fast-forward forty years.

That’s right.

Forty.

Moe’s grown up to be the princess of Egypt, while her adoptive mum has gone on to be the queen (aka the pharaoh). I use the word ‘mum’ here in the loosest possible sense of the word, because although it’s technically true – like, it was her name on the forged birth certificate – she wasn’t really involved in the day-to-day parenting of the kid.

That fell mainly to Erin, who wasn’t complaining. She got to live in the palace, eat good food, drink good wine.

Shit, she even had servants of her own.

And so what if she had to breastfeed her own sister? Sure, it was a little weird, but given the choice between that and slavery... uh, yeah – mumma’s gonna choose the palace.

She’d spent the first half of her life turning mud and straw into bricks, and the memory of that kept her grounded, made her grateful for what she had now.

Moe, on the other hand, had lived her entire life in the palace, and despite Erin’s best efforts to keep her informed about her Israelite heritage and the suffering of their people, the princess still turned out to be something of a spoiled brat.

Can you blame her, though?

She’s been totally removed from anything even resembling reality. Suffering, hunger, poverty – these are all just distant philosophical concepts to her, much like war, or serial killers, or a well-balanced diet are to most of us in the modern day.

Is it really her fault that she doesn’t give a fuck about slaves?

The answer is yes.

Yes, it is her fault.

She’s an entitled, privileged, carefree member of the royal family, whose very wealth and superiority depends upon the subjugation of an entire race.

Her older sister going on and on about her duty to Israel, about how one day she’ll be in a position of power to help them out, and that when that happens, she actually should help them out, is just straight-up boring, yo.

This is how Moe ends up leaving the palace one day for a glimpse at how the sausage gets made. She’s always been curious. It might be fun to see the poors in action. Y’know, like going to the zoo.

So, without telling anyone, Moe steals a servant’s rags (leaving the servant to be beaten for losing her clothes) and sneaks out of the palace. She makes her way down to where the slaves are working and has a look around.

It isn’t long before she comes across a guard in the process of whipping a ‘lazy’ worker. She stands beside him, admiring the handiwork like she’s looking under the engine of a sweet muscle car.

“Nice whip job, man.”

“Oh, thanks,” he says, modestly, without looking at her. When he turns, he sees what appears to be an Israelite playing hooky (both of which are correct) and grabs her arm.

“Hey! Get back to work.”

But Moe’s ready for him. With a quick sweeping-back of her hood, she reveals herself as royalty and the guard immediately falls to his knees, bowing his head.

“Forgive me, Your Highness. I didn’t know it was you.”

“Consider yourself forgiven,” Moe says. “But only if you let me borrow that whip...”

The guard looks up, waiting for her to continue.

Moe raises a cheeky eyebrow.

At first, we might think she’s being suggestive – like, maybe she wants to slum it with some random soldier. Have a quickie in the guy’s tent or a nearby alley, so she’s got a fun story to tell her sister over dinner that night.

Instead, we cut to Moe practising with the whip on an actual slave.

She tries cracking it, but ends up just kind of flaccidly slapping the guy’s back. It still hurts like hell – enough to draw a sharp intake of breath through the teeth - but nowhere near as bad as when done correctly.

Moe lets out a disappointed sigh. She really wanted to hear a good crack, a good scream.

This isn’t as fun as she hoped it would be.

The guard stands beside her, offering feedback and showing her the correct motion, like a coach teaching a young baseball player how to properly swing the bat.

“See, it’s all in the wrist,” he tells her, taking the whip. “Just a quick flick. Like that.”

He cracks the whip. The slave lets out a yell.

Moe tries again. Another yell. A half-decent crack, too.

“That’s it!” the guard says, encouraging her. If he was giving out gold stars, you’d better believe she’d be getting one.

Moe beams, proud of herself.

What fun.

“Okay, now, this time, I want you to really put some power behind it. Get your shoulder involved.”

Moe tries to position herself, but can’t seem to find a stance that feels comfortable.

In a pretty bold move, the guard comes up and adjusts her posture. When she doesn’t withdraw or scold him, he lingers, keeping his hands on her body. They lock eyes. Sparks fly. Moe blushes and looks away.

“Ready?” the guard says, more or less breathing the words into her ear. “We’ll do it together.”

With his hand around hers, they draw the whip back and bring it forward. A crack, a scream. Moe and the guard lock eyes again. How romantic.

They’re legitimately getting aroused by the physical act of oppressing a lower-class citizen.

The slave sees this, sighs. “Jesus Christ...”

This is not his day.

The guard is basically spooning Moe at this point, holding her from behind. Say what you will about class and inequality, and the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, and the 1% weaponising the middle class (represented here, quite conveniently, by the guard) against the poor, when really, they should both just team up, kill the royal family, take back their freedom and distribute their obscene wealth among everyone… the dude has balls.

I mean, she is a princess, after all. And he’s just a humble soldier.

Star-crossed lovers. Forbidden romance.

A real Romeo + Juliet in the making.

Note the plus sign and italics in the sentence above. I’m not talking generally about the Shakespearean play – I’m talking specifically about the 1996 Baz Luhrmann adaptation.

Why?

I’ve got my reasons.

Maybe I feel that it’s the perfect dramatisation of what the Bard was trying to convey in the original text. Maybe I just like watching Leo smoke cigarettes and write poetry on the beach.

Anyway...

Before they start tearing each other’s clothes off right there, the guard smiles and steps away.

What a gentleman.

“Again,” he says.

Alright, buddy. Getting a little playful now, are we?

Moe is smiling too – flustered, nervous. Heart pounding in her chest. That guard is pretty frickin’ cute, and holy shit, I think he likes me. Her palms are sweating around the whip handle. Easy, Moe. Easy.

Aw, young love.

She turns back to face the slave, adopts the correct stance, and exhales to steady herself. Sink or swim, Moe. Now’s your chance to impress the random guard by inflicting some unnecessary cruelty on a member of your own subjugated people.

She goes to pull back for another lash, but the end of the whip ties itself around the beak of a nearby statue of Horus. As she pulls forward, the whip stays where it is and her hand slides off the handle.

She stares at her empty hand, confused. Da fuck?

Turning around, she sees the statue falling, pulled forward by her effort.

“Oh, shit!”

Instead of warning the guard, who hasn’t noticed, Moe dives out of the way. The guard turns just in time to see the giant stone falcon head bearing down on him. He shrieks in terror.

Horus crashes into the ground with a resounding boom, sending a tremor through the earth and breaking into large, worthless chunks.

As the dust clears, Moe looks back to see the guard pinned by the falcon head, it’s beak having driven a near torso-sized hole through his torso. There’s blood freaking everywhere, and the guard is looking at her with huge, pleading eyes.

“Help... me...”

Two things stop the princess from doing so:

  1. Moe knows there isn’t shit she can do to help him. The guy is literally missing the middle third of his body.

  2. More importantly, some of the slaves have begun to gather, seeing what the princess just did to one of her own men.

“Oh, shit...” says one.

“You really fucked him up,” says another.

“No,” says Moe. “I didn’t mean...”

“You saved us...”

The guy she was just whipping scoffs. “Yeah, she’s a real... real hero.”

Ignoring him, they go to help her up. She slaps their hands away.

“No! Get away from me, you disgusting proles!”

She scrambles to her feet and runs off. They watch her go, bewildered.

Leaving behind the work site, Moe ducks into an alleyway to catch her breath. Just when she thinks she’s safe, she sees that the alley is inhabited by homeless people sleeping on the ground, some kids crouched around a small fire warming themselves, and an old dude selling birds from a stall.

But these birds ain’t pretty. These birds are all mangy and fucked-up – one with a broken wing, one missing half it’s feathers, one of them pecking at the corpse of another one.

Moe passes through all this like Snow White during her nightmarish trip through the woods. She staggers past them, recoiling with disgust, overwhelmed by all this goddamn, motherfucking poverty.

“No! Leave me alone! Don’t touch me!”

No one’s touching her.

Everyone just watches her, like, “The fuck is going on with this bitch?”

The bird missing half its feathers squawks at her, and that seems to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (Or, y’know, the last aspect of everyday life she can stomach before losing it.)

Moe bolts, screaming, down the rest of the alleyway and doesn’t stop until she reaches the outskirts of the city.

The whole time, she’s thinking about how screwed she is. She killed someone. And not just some expendable slave. She killed an Egyptian. An actual person. A soldier in the pharaoh’s army, with soldier friends who might rise up and rebel against the royal family for taking one of their own.

While her adoptive mum might be able to sweep it under the rug, Moe can’t take that chance.

Resolving to leave the city and never return, she steals a mule from a blind old man delivering food to the poor (as well as some of the supplies intended for the aforementioned poor) and makes her way out into the desert.

Over the next few months, Moe travels from place to place, never feeling comfortable, always looking over her shoulder. She barters and trades what little she has for food and lodging, including her jewellery, her fine clothes... even her dignity.

By dignity, I don’t mean sex. Moe sells her body in another way.

When everything she has of value is gone, she’s forced to stoop to working for a living.

That’s right.

Actual work.

And it is while doing this crazy thing called ‘work’ that Moe realises she’s no different than a slave. She is an Israelite, after all – her sister’s words echoing in her mind. Now, she’s forced to demean herself through physical labour.

What’s next? Prostitution? Homelessness? Busking on the street like a young Ed Sheeran?

Alas... how the mighty have fallen.

She does, of course, miss the fact that she’s being paid for her effort, and is free to leave whenever she wants. What Moe equates to slavery is just life for anyone who didn’t grow up in a palace.

Somewhat humbled, she continues on to the land of Midian, intending on finding herself a rich husband because, in her own bitter, muttered-under-her-breath words, she’s “sick of this work shit.”

One day, as she’s watering her mule at a well, it so happens that, at the same time, at the same well, a trio of local shepherds are watering their flock too. They’re also drunk, and looking at Moe in a way she doesn’t like.

A few more swigs from the wineskin and they make their move, advancing on her as a group.

“Hello, lovely,” one of the drunkards says, in an almost-unintelligible Cockney accent.

Terrified, Moe backs up, telling them to “stay back! I’m the princess.”

They laugh.

“Ooh, a princess, are we?”

“That must make me Prince Charming then, innit?”

“Na, you got it all wrong, guv. I’m Prince Charming. You two are just me court jesters.”

“Na, mate. I’m Prince Charming!”

“No, I am!”

What starts as a gentle ribbing and pushing quickly turns into shoving and a few sloppy haymakers. Within seconds, the men have fallen to the ground, wrestling with each other, and not long after, the knives come out. Before Moe can even process what is happening, the shepherds lay dead and bleeding in the dirt, all having killed each other.

“What in the fuck...?” she says, shakily, staring at the bodies.

“You alright?”

Moe turns to see seven women standing there, all carrying weapons and wearing armour and warpaint on their faces. Generally looking badass as fuck. They’re all still catching their breath, like they’d sprinted over from somewhere.

“Uh... yeah, I guess,” Moe says.

Their leader, Zipporah (Zippy, for short), steps forward. “We were gonna come help you, but... I see they kind of took care of that themselves...”

The warrior women are visibly disappointed, looking around like they don’t quite know what to do now. Feeling a little foolish.

“See, the thing is,” Zippy goes on. “We’re, like, pretty deadly warriors. Like, legit ninjas. We were training up on the hill when we saw you in trouble. We were gonna come down and, like, save your life and stuff. It would’ve been pretty badass...”

“Yeah, that would have been cool...” Moe says. “But, like you said, they kind of took care of that themselves...”

“What? You don’t believe us?!” one of the women says, all aggressive. She’s got a bit of a Braveheart thing going on with her face-paint, and a rugged Scottish brogue to match. “We would’ve fucked those guys up.”

“Yeah, man!”

“Fucked ‘em up!”

“Woooooo!”

Moe is a little taken aback by how eager these ladies are to prove themselves.

“Yes, that would have been very impressive,” Moe says, treading lightly. “Unfortunately, you were a little late to the party.”

“But just, like...” Zippy sighs, realising this isn’t as cool as she hoped it would be. “Just, like, imagine if they closed in on you, and you thought, “Oh, man, this is it,” right? And then out of nowhere, one of them gets an arrow through his head, another one gets stabbed from behind so the sword comes out through his chest. The last guy... I don’t know... maybe someone, like, cuts his head off with an axe. How cool would that have been?”

An awkward silence descends on the group.

“Pretty cool,” Moe says, not knowing how else to respond.

Zippy lets out another sigh. “Goddamn it. We’ve been training for, like, years, waiting for an opportunity to prove ourselves. Now some actual shit goes down, and the bad guys just up and kill each other?”

Moe shifts uncomfortably. “I don’t know what to tell you. Yes?”

No one says anything.

“So you guys just kind of live out here, hoping for a fight to break out around the well so you can... what? Enact some vigilante justice?”

“Ain’t no justice but vigilante justice out here!” someone says.

“Yeah, but... does anything ever actually happen that requires vigilante justice?”

A moment.

“No,” comes the sad reply.

Moe takes pity on them. “I guess I’m just wondering why you don’t go to a city or something. Somewhere with some, like, actual crime or whatever.”

“You think we haven’t thought of that?!” the Braveheart chick says. “Jethro won’t let us leave. Says we ain’t ready yet.”

“Who’s Jethro?” Moe says.

“He’s our dad,” Zippy says. “Well... he adopted us.”

“All of you?”

“Yup.”

“No shit – I’m adopted too. My mum tried to feed me to the crocodiles when I was a baby, but...”

“Hold up!” Zippy says. Her and her sisters all look equally stunned. “You’re an Israelite?”

Moe reads the crowd, takes a moment to consider her answer. Rolling the dice, she says, “Yeah... Why? Are you guys?”

Excited whispers ripple through the group.

Zippy smiles. “You better come with us.”

*

Moe follows the sisters back to their desert camp, and it’s there she meets Jethro and Rue – the elderly, blind couple who run the local chapter of an MMA gym franchise (Jethro and Ro-Ro’s Fo-Sho Dojo).

The couple are sweeping the floor of the dojo (yes, I know a gym and a dojo aren’t the same thing – take it up with Jethro and Rue) when their daughters return, and it isn’t long before Jethro notices they aren’t alone.

He sniffs at the air. “Who’s there?”

“It’s just us, dad,” says Zippy.

Jethro turns to face them, continuing to sniff. “Yes, but who is that you’ve brought with you?”

He walks toward his daughters, but specifically toward Moe, giving off only the rapiest of vibes. The princess tenses up as he draws near, clocking the exits and doing the mental arithmetic to figure which one is closest.

Sniff, sniff, sniff...

Dude’s like a Bloodhound. A creepy, sightless, potentially-handsy Bloodhound.

Dad...” Zippy says, embarrassed, like he’s refused to drop her off around the corner from the movies so her friends don’t see.

Moe’s like, “Uh, how about getting your dad the fuck away from me instead?”

By this point, Jethro is well up in her personal space, smelling her neck and shoulder. Slowly, his lips curl into a sinister smile.

“I know who you are,” he says, close enough that she can feel the warmth of his breath. “I’d know that smell anywhere...”

Moe stifles a shudder.

Still smiling, Jethro crouches down, out of view...

Jesus Christ! she thinks, her blood running cold. Is this guy gonna...?

“Hey, Steve!” the old man says, stroking the mule that Moe’s holding on a leash, hugging it around the neck and kissing its face, speaking in the baby voice people use when talking to dogs. “Where have you been, huh? Where have you been?”

The daughters are all confused, but the princess knows exactly what’s going on. An entirely different kind of terror floods her system.

Oh, shit...

As if having a similar realisation, the old man goes quiet, and he turns his milky eyes up to face Moe. In a low, serious voice (ostensibly still directed at the mule, but obviously meant for the woman holding its leash), he says, “Where have you been?”

Jethro stands, giving Moe an accusatory ‘glare’. He licks his lips (I don’t believe I need to specify that he did so creepily), and says, “This mule was stolen from me in Egypt some time ago while I was delivering food to the poor. If you don’t mind me asking, how in the name of our good lord Yahweh did you come to possess it?”

Thinking on her feet, Moe says, “Well, uh... I would have thought that was obvious. Clearly, Yahweh sent me here to bring it back to you.”

She waits, holding her breath.

Jethro continues his ‘glare’.

Zippy’s eyes go back and forth between them like she’s watching a tennis match.

A bead of sweat runs down the side of Moe’s face as she tries to hold it together, to stop herself from bolting out of there.

Finally, Jethro breaks into a wide grin and he raises his hands to the sky. “Praise be to Yahweh! Truly the house of Jethro is blessed!”

Still sweeping, and without missing a beat or even looking up, Rue clears her throat.

Jethro corrects himself. “Truly the house of Jethro and Rue is blessed. Not only has he delivered my dear, sweet mule back to me, he has also delivered a prophet into our midst. What is your name, prophet of Yahweh?”

The princess swallows. “Uh... Moe.”

Jethro savours the name, like it’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever heard. “Moe... we welcome you to our humble desert dojo. My daughters will tend to you now and see that your every need is met. Draw her a bath, bring her water and wine. Tonight, we shall hold a feast to celebrate!”

He crouches back down to stroke the animal (aka Steve).

“It’s just a mule,” Braveheart says, not seeing what the BFD is.

“It’s a sign!” Jethro says, covering the mule’s ears as if it would be offended to hear such a thing. “The time for our return to Egypt may be fast approaching.”

At this, the sisters begin whispering excitedly once again.

“We shall hear what the prophet has to say tonight,” Jethro says, patting the mule tenderly. (A little too tenderly, Moe thinks.) “I am sure she is weary from her long journey. Take her to rest now. I will see you all later.”

The daughters begin filing out of the room, and Moe follows them, handing the leash off to Jethro with some hesitation.

She can’t help but look back at the old guy stroking his mule, running his hand up and down its flank like a guy polishing his ‘68 Chevy Impala, going, “Oh, Steve... Daddy missed you. Yes, he did. Yes, he did. You miss daddy, Steve? Did you miss your daddy?” He begins kissing the mule on the cheeks, the lips. “That nice lady been taking care of you? You look like you gained a little weight. It’s alright, you don’t need to be ashamed. I like it. It looks good. More cushion for the... ahem... ridin’. But if you’re that self-conscious, I’m sure we can find a way to work off those extra pounds. Oh, yes, we will. Yes, we will.”

Moe swallows the bile rising in her throat, and forces herself to look away. She notices Rue off to the side, sweeping and humming to block out her husband’s zoophilic tendencies.

Jesus Christ, Moe thinks. Where the fuck am I?

*

Let’s fast-forward another forty years.

That’s right.

Another forty.

Moe’s still living with the Midianites. She’s married Zippy and they’ve adopted a son named Gershom (Gerry, for short). She spends her days tending the goats (and keeping Jethro away from them), while Zippy and her sisters continue training in the dojo.

They do so in anticipation of their eventual return to Egypt to free the slaves. Only thing is, they’re kind of waiting on Moe to give the green light.

Ever since she arrived, and pretended to be a prophet to avoid whatever the penalty is for theft out here, Jethro’s held her up as this mystical presence, saying that when Yahweh wants them to return, she’ll let them know through her.

Naturally, since Moe is a good-for-nothing liar, that hasn’t happened yet, and the resentment has now been festering for decades.

It’s not that they think Moe’s lying – even though there’s no evidence that she’s not lying – it’s that they desperately want to go back to Egypt and fuck some shit up. Free some slaves. Get some revenge.

They’ve been training in the desert for fifty-plus years, most of them, and they’re kind of past their prime, fighting-wise. They’re not angry at Moe so much as Yahweh, the female god of the Midianites, for neglecting to put them to use sooner, when they still had the speed and stamina of youth on their side.

Now, most of them are mothers.

Hell, most of them have been through menopause and come out the other side, barren as a desert hillock.

Still, they keep training – day in, day out – in hopes that Yahweh will call on them to attack Egypt.

The fuck else are they supposed to do?

Admit that they’ve wasted their lives preparing for something they never carried out?

Or... should they double down on their delusions and keep blindly following their dad’s instructions?

Option B sounds way more productive and psychologically-healthy to me.

And that’s exactly what they do.

See, before Moe showed up, Jethro was about ready to send his daughters into Egypt to incite rebellion, to carry out assassinations and terrorist attacks in hopes of destabilising the kingdom.

Y’know, the yoozh.

However, Moe’s arrival made him think that Yahweh was paying closer attention than he previously thought. Instead of interpreting random shit like the shape of his bowel movements (pun most definitely intended), maybe he should wait for more explicit instructions.

Of course, Moe knew that this approach would never come to anything, and that frustrations would continue to build until eventually they’d all gang up and stone her to death or something.

So she tried reasoning with the guy.

She went, “Look, man, I don’t know shit about Yahweh’s plan, alright? She just told me to bring that mule back to you and hasn’t dropped me a line since.”

But, sitting in the lotus position with his eyes closed and incense burning all around him, Jethro replied, “Trust in the lord. Yahweh will let us know when she’s ready.”

Another time, after a fight with Zippy about how mean her sisters were being, Moe went back to Jethro, going, “I really don’t think you should wait on me, dude. Yahweh still hasn’t appeared to me yet and I don’t think she’s going to. I think it was, like, a one-time kinda deal.”

Again, Jethro didn’t seem too fazed.

He just stood at the fence of the animal pen, running his hand gingerly over the hide of an ox, shuddering as he did so. All he said was, “The path is long and hard, my daughter. So long. So... hard.”He seemed to drift off for a moment, staring intensely at the ox, then he shook his head, snapping out of it.“But God will show us the way. Won’t she, Alex?” Talking to the ox now. “Won’t she?”

Finally, Moe just had to deal with the fact that she was in this for the long haul. Jethro wouldn’t change his mind, the sisters wouldn’t stop hating on her. She couldn’t admit her lie, and she couldn’t just leave – she had a wife and kid now.

Moe cursed herself. She knew she shouldn’t have let Zippy talk her into adopting that homeless war orphan. Kid’s been nothing but a disappointment. Can’t even help out around the camp because he’s paralysed from the neck down. Nothing but a drain on their meagre finances.

Hey, she’s just being honest with herself. It’s not like she’d ever say anything to poor little Gerry.

Well, not unless she was drunk.

I mean, for Chrissakes, she used to be a princess.

Now here she is babysitting a bunch of goats like some goddamn poor!

The fuck is that all about?

Moe continues on with her boring-ass country life, fantasising about palaces and banquets.

And slaves.

Oh, slaves were the best.

She’s taken to substance abuse in order to cope (as we all do), and that’s how she finds herself stumbling up the side of a mountain one day, like Sam and Frodo heading into Mount Doom.

There’s a particular cave on this mountain that no one else knows about. Moe’s stashed a bunch of booze and drugs in there so she can come and get wasted while the goats mill around outside, eating grass or whatever it is goats do.

So instead of throwing a ring into the fire like those aforementioned hobbits, Moe amuses herself by blowing smoke rings at the fire and seeing how long she can go without contemplating suicide.

Time passes. Her eyelids grow heavy. At a certain point, she drifts off to sleep – and like any responsible smoker, she does so with the lit joint hanging loosely from her lips.

*

Moe wakes to the sound of screaming.

She’s standing in a room, staring at a woman (Yahweh) who is lying on her back on a massage table.

She’s also naked.

Yahweh. Not Moe.

Well... mostly naked.

Yah’s got a sheet draped over her breasts and stomach, but everything from the waist down is fully on display.

A guy (Raph) is performing a Brazilian wax on her. Grimacing with distaste, he grips the tab of a waxing strip he just pasted down and rips.

Yah pounds the table with her fist, shouting, “Jesus fuck!”

A pale-faced Raph drops the waxy, pubic-hairy strip into the bin at his feet.

Moe watches, wide-eyed. The fuck was in that joint?

“Goddamn it...” Yah says. “That burns. My bush is on fire.”

Raph corrects her. “Well... not your actual bush. The skin where the roots are being pulled out hurts. You can’t feel hair. It’s just dead cells.”

“So it’s a mistake to say that my bush is burning?”

“Technically, yeah.”

“Fine, I won’t say that I’ve got a burning bush. Happy?”

“I’m not sure why you keep fixating on that. And no, I’m not happy. What on earth would make you think that I’m happy right now?”

Steeling himself, Raph goes to apply another strip, but Yah says, “Christ, give me a second, will you?”

Raph sighs impatiently. “Well, fuck, do you want this done or don’t you?”

Yah sits up, holding the sheet over her breasts. “I’m not sure I like your tone, pal. You throwin’ a little ‘tude my way?”

“So what if I’m throwing a little ‘tude your way. I’m doing it, aren’t I? You asked me to do it and I’m doing it. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather just get it over with.”

“It’s not all the same to me. This shit hurts, man.”

“Oh, cry me a fucking river. You think I want to be doing this?”

“Hey, you’re a straight white male – I’m practically doing you a favour here.”

Raph can’t believe what he’s hearing. “A favour?! The fuck are you talking about, a favour? This might be a bit hard for someone as egotistical as you are to hear, but the spectrum of things that turn me on doesn’t extend as far as giving my best friend a bikini wax – even if that best friend suddenly happens to have a vagina!”

Silence.

Then Yahweh flashes a cheeky smile. “You called me your best friend.”

“Shut up!”

“Can’t take it back.”

“I’m going outside for a cigarette.”

“Alright,” Yah says. “Hurry back, bestie.”

Raph storms out past Moe, saying, “Good luck,” in a real sarcastic way.

Moe freezes, having no idea how she’s meant to respond.

Yah shakes her head. “Men... am I right?”

It takes Moe a moment to realise the half-naked, half-waxed woman on the table is talking to her.

“I’m sorry?”

Men,” Yah repeats. “So bottled up. So afraid to express their emotions. Not like us women. We just let it all hang out, don’t we?”

Well, you certainly are, Moe thinks. She doesn’t say that, of course. She just looks around the room, doing her best not to stare at her host’s fully-exposed genitalia, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

“You’re probably wondering what the fuck is going on,” Yah says. Using one of her bare legs, she pushes a chair toward Moe. “Here, take a seat.”

Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to be impolite, Moe sits down. She quickly realises that the chair could not be in a worse position, and finds herself looking everywhere but at the junction of Yah’s splayed legs – which now happens to be directly at eye level.

“It’s alright,” Yah says, with a shrug. “No need to be uncomfortable. Just a couple of gals hanging out.”

Stop saying ‘hanging out’, Moe thinks.

“Nothing you haven’t seen before.”

Moe: Actually... not super sure about that.

Despite how awkward the situation is making Moe, Yah just stares at her like everything’s peachy – still covering her breasts as if that makes all the difference.

Moe: For the love of God, woman – just pull the sheet down and everything will be fine! Why are you making me look at that?!

But instead of voicing her opinion, Moe forces a polite smile. As diplomatically as she can, she asks, “Who are you?”

The naked woman laughs. “Oh... right. Well, as you might’ve guessed, I’m Yahweh. But you can call me Yah for short. Like yas queen without the...”

You’re Yahweh?!” Moe blurts out.

Another smile. “Guilty.”

“Damn right, guilty!”

Moe’s gone from polite to aggressive in two seconds and Yah reacts like she’s been slapped in the face.

“They’ve been waiting for you to show up for four freaking decades, and here you are getting a goddamn bikini wax?”

Recovering from the shock, Yah goes, “Uh... it’s called self-care, honey. Maybe you should try it sometime. Deal with that rats’ nest you got going on up there.”

Moe instinctively touches her hair, but as soon as she realises she’s doing it, she puts her hands back down, refusing to be baited. “Look, I never believed you were real, but Jethro and his daughters did, and they’ve been living their lives on hold because you’ve been too busy... self-caring. Don’t you feel bad about that?”

“Of course I do,” Yah says. “Why the fuck do you think I brought you up here?”

“Oh, you mean you didn’t just wanna give me a first-hand gynaecology lesson? Will you cover that thing up?”

“Fine!” Yah pulls the sheet over herself. “Happy?”

“Yes, extremely.”

“Look, I had to wait until now because the Egyptian gods are keeping a close eye on me.”

Moe has no idea what to make of that sentence, but before she can ask, Yah goes on...

“They don’t want me interfering with the enslavement of my people – which, on the one hand, I kind of get. Their economy pretty much depends on slave labour at this point. On the other hand, it’s total bullshit. They’re my people, and they’re suffering. What am I supposed to do, just sit here and watch it happen?”

Moe folds her arms. “Why not? You’ve done a pretty good job of it so far.”

“Hey, I didn’t bring you up here to get lectured, alright? I brought you up here to get lectured.” Realising her mistake, Yah adds, “For you to get lectured, I mean. I’m going to lecture you.

Moe just stares at her, deadpan.

“I had to wait until now because the pharaoh was still in power. Now that she’s dead...”

“Wait, my mum’s dead?” Moe has a moment where she feels like she should feel bad, then realises she doesn’t. “Actually, don’t worry. We weren’t that close.” She pauses, realising a piece of information just flew by her without examination. “Also... you said the Israelites are your people?”

“Yeah?”

“I thought Israel’s god was a dude.”

“I was.”

Moe arches an eyebrow, intrigued but mostly baffled.

“Look, all you need to understand is that I’ve changed. My people have changed too, they just don’t know it yet. I can’t show myself to them while they’re in Egypt, so I need you to bring them out here, where we’ll be safe.”

“And how the hell am I supposed to do that?”

“You’re next in line for the throne.”

“So?”

So...” Yah pinches the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes in frustration – like she’s annoyed she has to explain all this stuff. “Christ, this is a lot of exposition. Let’s just blow through it. Look, after you killed that soldier, the army almost rebelled and overthrew your mum. She wanted to bring you back and make an example of you. They would have found you too, except I kept fucking with the patrols, sending sandstorms their way whenever they got too close. You’re welcome.”

Moe rolls her eyes.

“But now that she’s dead,” Yah says, “you can stroll back on in there and claim the throne for yourself.”

“And what about the army? Won’t they just rebel again when I show up?”

“Maybe. But that’s a risk we have to take.”

“A risk I have to take, you mean?”

“Well... yeah.”

Moe’s not impressed.

Yah lets out a heavy sigh. “Look, I’d do it myself, but the Egyptians are watching me like a hawk. I need you to go in there, claim your rightful throne, and then issue a royal decree freeing the slaves. They’re not gonna be happy, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s fair game. The pharaoh did adopt you when she was a princess. That’s a fact. Seki can bitch, moan and complain all she wants. It fucking happened.”

“Who’s Seki?” Moe says, completely lost.

“You let me worry about Seki. Now... once you’ve freed the Israelites, I want you to lead them up out of Egypt into Canaan. The Promised Land. A land flowing with milk and honey...”

“What? Mixed together?”

Defensive, Yah’s like, “It’s a marketing slogan, alright? I’m still work-shopping it.” She continues, “You’ll renounce your title as pharaoh, and then you’ll all live happily ever after in Canaan. Doesn’t that sound awesome?”

“Why wouldn’t I just stay and rule as pharaoh?”

“Because you need to get the fuck out of Dodge while the getting is good. The gods are gonna be pissed. The army’s gonna be pissed. Everyone’s gonna be pissed. The fucking economy’s gonna tank overnight. I don’t wanna freak you out or anything, but there’s going to be a very finite window of time in which you can make this happen, and then that window will close forever... and you’ll most likely be killed or forced into slavery.”

“Jesus...” Moe says, sweating now. “This is impossible. You’re asking me to go on a suicide mission here.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there to protect you.”

“Oh, gee, thanks, what a relief.”

“Trust me.”

“Trust you? Why the fuck should I trust you? You let us rot in the desert for the last forty years waiting for my mum to die.”

“Hey, man – if you didn’t steal a blind guy’s mule and then lie about it, you wouldn’t even be in this mess.”

Moe goes to argue, then realises Yahweh’s right.

Conceding the point, she goes, “You could’ve at least told me what the plan was so everyone wouldn’t hate me so much.”

At this, Yahweh gets off the table, wrapping the sheet around her like a towel. “Hey, I’m sorry, but putting you at ease isn’t part of my job description. I’m trying to free some motherfucking slaves here – you’re talking about having your feelings hurt. Grow up.”

“I’m just saying – it would have taken, like, two minutes, and saved us four decades of constant doubt and anger.”

“I had shit to do.”

“Like what? Getting your toenails painted?”

Yah hesitates. “No.”

She quickly slips her feet into some crocs so her freshly-painted toenails are hidden from view.

Moe throws her hands up. “You know what? Fuck this. Fuck you. I’m done with this shit. Put me back in the cave and find someone else to run your little rescue mission.”

She heads for the door, thinking maybe that’s the way home.

Panicking, Yah grabs her arm and swings her around. She holds Moe roughly by both arms and stares at her with wild, bulging, crazy eyes. “Hey! There is no one else. You’re the only person who can do this. My entire forty-year plan hinges on you. If you don’t do it, we’re all screwed. All of this will have been for nothing! Please... I’m begging you, Moe. I’m desperate.”

Moe withdraws into herself, utterly repulsed and terrified by Yah’s sudden breakdown.

*

Out in the backyard, Moe and Yah are sitting in deck chairs, sharing a joint, looking down at the floating orb in the posthole. Yah’s just finished telling Moe the story of the Experiment, how it was stolen and copied, and how she’s now being muscled out of her own game.

“My matriarchy is being oppressed by the patriarchy. We can’t just stand by and let it continue. If this thing works, it might spread across the world and mean gender equality for women everywhere. But if we let it get strangled in the crib by these motherfucking Mexicans... I mean, Egyptians – Christ, I keep doing that... it’ll never get the chance. Now’s the time to strike. The kingdom’s in chaos looking for a new pharaoh, and you can take advantage of that to free an entire nation from bondage.”

But Moe still looks troubled.

“They’re your people,” Yah says. “I know your mum tried to kill you and stuff, but you’re still an Israelite. Your brother and sister are still in Egypt, and they need your help.”

“Christ, I hadn’t even thought about that...” Moe says, feeling guilty. “Are they okay?”

Yah shrugs. “As much as any other slave. Erin was kicked out of the palace shortly after you bailed and sent out to work with your bro-seph, but other than that...”

“Jesus...”

“I mean, you are directly responsible for her daily suffering, but at least she got to live in the palace for a while.”

Moe stares down at the floating orb, feeling like she’s been punched in the stomach. “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? What if they just kill me as soon as I get there?”

“Like I said – you gotta trust me. I can’t help you in any obvious ways, where the Egyptian gods know it’s me pulling the strings, but I’ve got a few ideas. They didn’t suspect those sandstorms I used to keep you safe all these years, so maybe something like that.” Yah takes a puff, contemplating. “Floods, lightning storms...”

She trails off, spacing out. Moe takes the joint from her, smokes.

“Ooh, what about, like, a swarm of insects? Or a plague?” Yah chuckles to herself. “Yeah, man, a plague would be the shit. Boils and stuff. Gross.”

Moe lets out a sigh, rapidly losing confidence in this rescue mission.

She thinks about her brother, who saved her life. She thinks about her sister, who raised her, who tried to wedge a little empathy into her pampered, princess brain. She remembers Erin going on and on about her duty to Israel, about how one day she’d be in a position of power to help them out, and that when that happened, she actually should help them out.

She didn’t listen at the time.

Now, her ears are open.

Wide open, baby.

“Alright,” Moe says, summoning her courage. “I’ll do it.”

At the exact moment that she heroically accepts the call to action, Yahweh takes too deep of a drag and doubles over in a coughing fit.

“What?” she says, as she hacks up half a lung.

Moe deflates. “Forget it.”

She snatches the joint back and smokes it – her moment well and truly ruined.


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