Exodus 7-10: A Universe of Cinematic Marvels (UCM) (Season 2, Episode 6)

What happens when God decides to bring turn the Nile river into blood? A series of unfortunate events turns one plague into nine, Pharaoh discovers a taste for frogs, and the Huntsman turns into Thor.

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


WARNING

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows? It might actually work.


Moe is shaken roughly awake and finds herself staring into the drunken, bloodshot eyes of God.

“Jesus Christ... What time is it?”

“Don’t worry about that, Moe. Come here. Come on. Pharaoh’s going for a boat ride.”

She stumbles back out the door again before she’s even finished her sentence.

“Wait, what?” says Moe, eyes only half-open.

But Yah isn’t waiting for her.

She groans and gets up.

Erin lifts her head, coming down with a severe case of Prematurely Being Woken Up Homicidal Rage Syndrome (or PBWUHRS, for all you DSM-heads out there). “What the fuck is going on?”

Moe rubs her face, exhausted. “Apparently Pharaoh’s going for a boat ride.”

“So what?

“So... I don’t know. Just get dressed.”

Minutes later, the two very pissed-off sisters find Yahweh standing on the riverbank across from the palace.

Standing might be an overstatement.

She’s sagged against a wooden staff, and Moe gets the feeling that if she kicked it out from under her, Yah would simply collapse and roll silently into the river.

On the other side, Pharaoh is stepping onto the royal barge with his yoga instructor, Ravi. Pharoah’s gotten pretty deep into yoga lately, what with his bad back and everything.

Ravi lights the incense while Pharaoh lays out his mat, then begins playing his sitar cross-legged while giving rhythmic instructions to Ramrod.

The royal rowers don’t appreciate this new-age bullshit and furtively roll their eyes whenever His Highness is in the downward dog position.

“Is that yoga he’s doing?” Moe says, derisively. “Jesus Christ...”

“Hey, man,” Yah says, pushing back. “Stretching’s important. Strength. Mobility. You gotta... can’t blame the guy for taking care of his body.” The hungover god stifles a burp.

The royal barge pulls away and starts coming toward them.

“You wanna tell us what we’re doing here?” Erin says, rubbing her eyes.

“Yeah, Erin...” Yah glares at her. “If you can tone down that sass for a minute, I might be able to get a word in edgewise.”

Erin gives Moe a look like, “Seriously?”

Moe just shrugs – she’s used to the lord’s bullshit by now.

“Okay, here’s the plan...” Yah says, handing Erin the staff.

“You sure you don’t need this?” Erin says, wary of her precarious posture.

“You know what I need?” Yah shoots back. “A bag of saline solution and a fucking IV drip. Get your head out of your ass, Erin. Take the fucking stick.”

“Jesus, alright...” She takes the staff. “Someone’s in a mood.”

Yah just grumbles and points to the barge. “Listen... when he gets closer, I want you to wade out into the river...”

“Hold up,” says Moe. “You want her to do it?”

Both Yah and Erin stare at her.

“You got a problem with that?” Yah says.

Erin puts a hand on her hip. “Yeah, bitch – you got a problem with that?”

“No, it’s just... I thought I was the one who...”

“You really wanna be the only female character in this story with something important to do?”

Moe hesitates, not sure which part of that sentence to unpack first. “You’re a female.”

“Yeah, but some people might not see it that way. And there’s no way in hell I’m letting this shit not pass the Bechdel test.”

“The what?”

“Never mind. Just... trust me – when you hear what it is, you’ll be glad it’s not you.”

Then Erin gives the Israelite god a look. “Say what?”

Yah sighs. “Don’t... Let’s just get this over with. All you gotta do is wade into the river, get Pharaoh’s attention, then dip the staff in the water, and Robert’s your father’s brother.”

“What’s...?”

“Bob’s your uncle,” Yah clarifies.

Erin pauses. That wasn’t what she needed clarifying. She resumes her question:

“What’s gonna happen?” she says, wary.

Yah thinks about answering the question honestly, then reconsiders. “You’ll see.”

Erin examines the staff in her hands, like a kid with a new toy on Christmas after realising it didn’t come with batteries. “I gotta be honest. This kinda feels like charity.”

“Like what?

“Like you’re giving me a job just because I’d be sitting on the sidelines otherwise. It feels like there’s no real reason for me to do this instead of Moe.”

Yah rubs her throbbing temple, exhausted. “It’s not... charity, alright. I promise.”

“Then why me?”

Yah braces herself. “Because you’re a strong, independent woman?”

It comes out as more of a hesitant question than a statement of fact, and Erin just rolls her eyes.

“Why not Moe, then?”

“Yeah, why not me?”

“Is she not a strong, independent woman, too?”

The sisters are both staring expectantly at Yah now, and she feels herself withering under their collective gaze.

“Look, what the fuck do you want from me, huh? Do you want to contribute or not?”

Erin bites her tongue. “Fine, I’ll do it.”

Moe lets out a sigh, disappointed.

Everyone’s happy.

Yah takes out a cigarette and lights it. “Best of luck, ladies. Let’s see if this doesn’t get their attention.”

Before Moe can ask whether she’s talking about the passengers on board the royal barge or the Egyptian gods, Yahweh’s gone.

Erin sighs and walks into the river.

“Hey!” she calls to the floating barge.

Ravi stops playing the sitar and looks over. Pharaoh lifts his head from a very relaxing child’s pose. He groans.

“Not you guys again,” he says, getting up. “Can’t a guy do his morning asa... nasa... asanas?” He looks to Ravi for confirmation, and gets a nod. “...in peace?”

“You think I wanna be here, man? Look, it’s real early in the fucking morning, so I’m just gonna do what I came here to do, then we can all go home, alright?”

Ramrod sighs. “Fine. Knock yourself out.”

Erin dips the staff into the Nile and immediately, it begins to turn red. Starting from the staff, a red cloud spreads out to fill the entire river.

“Jamie Lee Curtis...” Ramrod breathes. “Is that...?”

“Blood!” one of the rowers screams.

The rest of the rowers instantly start panicking, backing away from their oars and huddling towards the centre.

“Stop it!” Pharaoh says, whacking them with his ceremonial flail. “Stop it, you cowards! You’re crowding my yoga studio.”

“But Your Highness...” one of the freaked-out rowers says. “The river has turned to blood.”

“I realise that, Lewis...

“But that must mean that their god is real, and therefore, that we should release the Israelites for their celebration, lest we be visited with more terrible misfortunes like this.”

Pharaoh’s a little taken aback. “That’s a very concise and articulate summary of things, Lewis. I daresay anyone who’s just joining us now will have no trouble following along.” He clears his throat and turns to the Mustachioed Magicians, who are off to the side, practising their card tricks with each other. “Benny. Lenny. Will you show everyone it’s not a big deal?”

The magicians exchange a glance.

“Sure thing, boss,” Benny says.

He takes a cup of water and holds it out for all the soldiers to see. Lenny then dips his pinky finger in and the water turns red.

“See?” Pharaoh says, as Lenny discreetly wraps a strip of cloth around the pinprick he made in the pad of his finger. “Our gods are on top of shit.”

Feeling foolish, the rowers all begin slinking back to their oars.

One of them mutters, “Doesn’t change the fact that we’re rowing in blood.”

“What was that?” Ramrod shoots back.

“Nothing, Your Highness.”

“Damn right, nothing. Now, as for these troublemakers...” He strides to the rail of the barge, which is floating slowly past the aforementioned troublemakers on the bank.

Erin is standing knee deep in blood, and dead fish are floating to the surface all around her. The smell is making her nauseous.

“Goddamn it,” she says, covering her mouth and nose with a sleeve. “The fuck kind of god is this?”

Moe is doing the same with her sleeve, thoroughly disgusted. “I don’t know. She likes... blood, I guess. Fuck...” She takes a few steps back, unable to bear the smell.

Ramrod calls out from the barge. “My magicians have replicated your little trick.”

Thinking quickly, Erin goes, “Oh, yeah? You mean they knowingly turned some of your precious remaining fresh water into blood, compounding the problem instead of solving it? Nice.”

Pharaoh thinks about it, realising she’s right.

Erin continues. “Get them to reverse it and I’ll be impressed. Go on. Turn the river back into water. I’ll wait.”

Ramrod turns to his terrified magicians, who shrug. They got nothing.

He grits his teeth, trying to come up with a cool, witty response.

In desperation, he goes, “They could... if they wanted to. But we don’t want to. We like it like this.”

“You like drinking blood?” Erin says. “That’s really the way you wanna go with this? What are you, vampires?”

“No. We just... like blood. Don’t we guys?”

The rowers all voice their support like trained monkeys, but really, they’re all looking around at each other, realising that maybe their pharaoh isn’t the one in control here.

“Okay,” Erin says. “We’ll see how you like bathing in it, then. Watering your crops with it. Making bread with it. Blood bread – that’s what you’re going to be having from now on. You realise that, right?”

Pharaoh tries not to show how much he’s panicking. “Good. Great.” He rubs his belly, making a really sarcastic-sounding “Mmm.”

He then glares at his men until they do the same, creating a chorus of “Mmm” as the royal party floats past.

“Oh... well, good then. I’m glad we could help. We’ll be going now. Watch out for that mountain of dead fish.”

With that, she turns and wades back out of the river. Her and Moe depart, leaving a trail of bloody footprints, Joker-style, behind them.

Pharaoh casts his gaze toward the bow and sees a literal mountain of dead fish in the centre of the river.

His eyes bulge.

It’s a preposterous and, frankly, unbelievable amount of fish – I mean, seriously, how did they die and group together to form an island so fast?

In a manner reminiscent of Titanic, someone begins ringing a bell, going, “Dead fish, right ahead! Hard to starboard! Hard to starboard!”

The James Horner score kicks into high gear...

The rowers begin rowing as fast as they can...

...but it’s too late.

The barge very slowly and un-cinematically beaches on what shall henceforth be referred to as Dead Fish Island. The smell of the blood and rotting fish causes a few of the rowers to start throwing up over the side.

Ravi plucks a few chords on his sitar. “Shall we reschedule, O Illustrious One?”

Pharaoh sighs. “Well played, ladies. Well played.”

*

A week passes with the Nile stinking to high heaven, dead fish washing up on shore and the locals being forced to dig wells for fresh water.

And it’s not only the Egyptians who have to deal with this, but the Israelites too.

So when the elders come to Moe, like, “What the fuck? You were supposed to get us freed from slavery, and instead you’ve turned our water into blood and forced us to do even more work digging wells, on top of the extra work finding straw that you’ve already saddled us with...”

...Moe is like, “Easy, ladies, I hear you. But trust me – Yahweh has a plan.”

And when they grumble and wander off, Moe’s like, “Jesus Christ, I hope she has a plan.”

She does not.

The water-into-blood thing was more or less the entirety of her plan.

She expected Pharaoh to be so dazzled and terrified by the display that he’d be forced to issue an Emancipation Proclamation on the spot.

Instead, he sits in his palace and has fresh water brought to him.

Aside from the constant complaining by the masses about the blood river and the dead fish and the lack of drinkable water, life changes very little for ol’ Ramrod.

Funny how wealth and privilege can insulate a person from the ravages of hard times. I’m looking at you, Silicon Valley doomsday preppers.

Sure, he can’t do his boat yoga anymore – but that’s just the price he has to pay for having a slave-based economy.

And no, it doesn’t hurt that he’s got a perfectly good yoga studio set up in the palace.

So, while Pharaoh gets his limber on, and Ravi gives vague instructions about breathing whilst simultaneously fingering the sitar, Yah’s pacing back and forth, trying to come up with Plan B.

And that’s when it happens...

The frog population of the Nile has finally had enough of swimming around in blood and decides it’s time for a change of scenery.

They begin to swarm the city in full, froggy force, hopping into houses and covering the streets. The people run and scream, terrified of these tiny, harmless amphibians.

The only one who doesn’t seem to mind is – you guessed it – Pharaoh.

But I bet you can’t guess why.

Go on, guess.

I’ll wait.

Yes, I’m being serious.

Give up?

I knew you would, you quitter.

You disgust me.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah...

So Pharaoh’s a big fan of the frogs.

A big fan.

The first people to realise this are his aptly-named frog-wranglers, whom he tasks with going out and collecting buckets and buckets of wild frogs.

These frogs are then dumped into a giant, sealed vat with a single, human-sized hole in the top. Pharaoh then inserts himself into this hole in order to feel the slimy, writhing mass against his naked body.

Oh, yeah – he’s naked too.

Forgot about that.

Anyway, what he does next I’ll leave up to your imagination... you sicko.

Up above, Yahweh’s watching this, going, “Oh, fuck...”

Not Pharaoh’s weird amphibian fetish – although, that too – but more the whole frog invasion of mainland Egypt.

She didn’t mean for that to happen.

She just wanted to showcase her mighty – and admittedly gross – powers by turning the river into blood.

Is it an elaborate period metaphor because she isn’t able to have a menstrual cycle herself?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Maybe Yah’s not ready to answer that question right now.

Maybe she’s not ready for that level of introspection yet.

So why don’t you just mind your own goddamn business, alright?

Good.

Not to worry, Yah, the frogs don’t last too long on terra firma.

Their valiant, Dwarves of Erebor-esque attempt to find themselves a new homeland ends with the Smaug-like absence of fresh water.

(Man, that Tolkien metaphor was airtight).

Without another river or stream (hell, they’d even settle for a brook at this point), they begin dropping like, well... not flies – that comes later.

They begin dropping like...

Hmm...

Goddamn it.

That Tolkien metaphor really took it out of me.

Anyway, pretty soon, the city is littered with frog corpses – the houses, courtyards and fields are just full of them.

So what does Ramrod do?

Well, like any good monarch, he orders they be cleaned up and gathered into piles.

But, unlike any good monarch, he orders that those piles be brought to the palace, so as to fill a giant, empty pool with rotting frog corpses. He then hands his garments to a servant, and asks to be left alone while he, in his words, “goes for a dip.”

You might think that’d be the end of it.

In any other tale it would be. The trope of the formicophilic king is a well-trod one, indeed.

But that’s not what happens here.

See, the frogs had been largely responsible for keeping local insect populations in check, and without them, those pesky little fuckers we call lice, gnats and flies are allowed to breed out of control.

It isn’t long before they’re swarming all over the land of Egypt instead of the frogs.

And apart from being just straight-up annoying (biting, buzzing, crawling all over everything), they also manage to spread disease like wildfire. Cattle start dropping dead in the field, while people start breaking out in painful, hideous boils.

Up above, Yah’s just about pulling her wig out. “Shit! Shit, shit, shit. I am for sure getting blamed for this.”

“Yah!”

As if on cue, she turns to see Seki hanging over the fence, glaring at her.

“The fuck?”

Yah tries to act cool. “Listen, I...”

“No, you listen! I was willing to look the other way with the whole blood river thing, which... gross. But now, with the frogs and the bugs and the boils and the livestock corpses piling up... you don’t think it’s all a bit much?”

“You don’t think slavery’s a bit much?”

“Ha! So you do admit it?”

Yah hesitates, trying to decide how she should play this. “I admit I did the blood river thing. But everything after that was just a natural progression of events, I swear.”

“Right. Because your word is actually worth a damn.”

Yahweh’s hurt by this. “I’m telling the truth.”

“I don’t care,” Seki says. “Just cut it out. I’ve been handling you with kid gloves up until now because I’ve got your people in slavery and I feel bad about that...”

“If you feel bad about it, let them go!”

“And watch my economy go down the tubes? I don’t think so.”

Yah studies her. “What happened to this just being a game?”

Seki pauses, considering her answer. In the end, she deflects. “Just stop it, alright? Otherwise, the gloves are coming off.”

“...and the claws are coming out?” Yah says, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Seki stares back at her, blank-faced, unimpressed. She dips back down below the fence-line without a word.

“Oh, come on!” Yah says. “You set me up for that one.”

She hears the back door open behind her and turns to see Raph standing there, bag in hand, forlorn expression on his face.

Instantly, Yah goes cold. “What do you want?”

“I couldn’t find a place to stay.”

“Bummer.” She lights a cigarette to prove how disinterested she is. “Don’t tell me you brought that fucking dog with you.”

Raph shakes his head. “No, the Greeks took Cerbie back. But, uh... they didn’t have any room for me. Some guy named Dionysus is crashing on their spare bed. Real party animal, apparently.”

He lets it hang, but Yah isn’t biting.

“That dog sucked,” she says. “He did nothing but shit and piss all over the place.”

“Aw, he wasn’t so bad. I mean, sure he was incontinent, but...” He smiles, fondly remembering their time together. “We used to go to the park and play fetch. I’d throw the ball for him and he’d get so confused because of his three heads that, most of the time, he’d just end up falling over.” He chuckles. “Poor guy had such terrible depth perception.”

“Uh-huh.” Yah slumps down in a deck chair, continuing to smoke. “Real sweet story.”

Raph swallows. “But, uh... the Scandinavians had a spare room. Apparently, their guy, Thor, is in rehab again. They sounded pretty desperate, actually. Even offered me some of his stuff...”

“Why didn’t you take it?”

“I don’t know. The place was kind of a dump. No central heating. They were just listening to Swedish death metal, reading Stieg Larsson novels and eating pickled herring...”

Yah frowns. “What, all at the same time?”

“Pretty much. Look, I was hoping, maybe... If you could see your way to...” He hesitates. “I’ll do anything, Yah. I just wanna make this right again.”

Yahweh narrows her eyes. “Oh, you wanna make it right, do you? Well, maybe you should’ve considered that before...” She catches sight of the Experiment floating in its backyard puddle and stops mid-yell.

Something occurs to her.

She smiles.

“Anything, you say?”

*

Down below, Pharaoh’s summoned Moe and Erin to his throne room for a parley. He’s covered in boils and bites and bugs, and looks to be in a considerable amount of pain, caught between the urge to itch and the fear of touching his hyper-sensitive pustules.

“Just make it stop,” he says, weary. “I’ll give you whatever you want.”

Moe wants to yell, “You don’t think I would if I could?” but she doesn’t. She can’t. She’s got some semblance of the upper hand at the moment, and she wants to keep it that way.

In truth, she and Erin are covered in just as many boils, bites and bugs as Pharaoh is.

Which reminds me...

Now is probably a good time to mention that, throughout all this, the Israelites are getting hit just as hard as the Egyptians.

Plus, they have slavery to contend with.

So... there’s that.

For now, the elders have prevented Moe from being lynched by an Israelite mob, but she’s getting the feeling they won’t be able to hold them off much longer.

“If I make it stop...” says Moe. “You’ll let us leave and celebrate our festival?”

“You have my word.”

“Oh, good. Because your word is actually worth a damn.”

Ramrod frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means: you stole my throne, A-hole. Why should anyone trust you?”

“You want the throne?” he says, practically leaping to his feet. “Here, you can have it.”

Ramrod hurries over to Moe, taking off his royal headdress and putting it on her. He pushes his ceremonial crook and flail into her hands, then kneels on the ground in front of her, tearing off his jewellery and sobbing, stuffing it into her pockets. “Take it! Take it all! Just make it stop and you can be the pharaoh.”

He then proceeds to strip off all his royal garments...

“Oh, you really don’t need to... aaaand you’re naked.”

Ramrod kneels there in nothing but his bare, boil-ridden ass, wiping the royal make-up from his face, smearing it in with the tears until he looks kind of like the Joker from that interrogation scene in The Dark Knight.

But, y’know... more sad and pathetic than scary.

Moe, for her part, is frozen stiff. She’s standing there, holding the pharaoh’s implements, wearing the pharaoh’s headdress, while the pharaoh himself is sobbing naked at her feet.

Needless to say, she’s a little surprised by the turn of events.

Moe looks to Erin, who shrugs, equally baffled.

“Uh...”

At that moment, there’s a crash of thunder outside.

All three of them turn to look through the doorway and see the sky darkening, hail beginning to fall...

They walk out onto the balcony, where the entire city is laid out before them, mired in a fog of swarming insects. Hailstones the size of horses are falling from the sky, crashing into buildings and laying them waste, toppling statues, crushing people in the street.

Lightning forks down from the heavens, splitting palm trees into splinters, blowing chunks out of the road. People scream and run for cover.

In the midst of all this, a figure floats down from the sky and lands in front of Moe, Erin and Ramrod. He’s wearing a long blonde wig and a red cape. In his hand is a huge blacksmith’s hammer.

Moe recognises him as Raph – last seen trying to murder her in an alleyway.

She jumps back in terror. “Ah!”

When Raph sees the naked, boil-covered, Joker-faced pharaoh, he does the same thing.

“Ah!”

“Who are you?” Pharaoh says, terrified, thinking this is Moe’s god. “What do you want?”

Employing an accent that sounds alternately Scottish, Irish, English and Scandinavian, Raph goes, “I have come on behalf of Yahweh to drive away the swarms and bring peace to your land.”

Despite his stated allegiance to her god, Moe is naturally wary of him. “Hold up – you’re on our side now?”

Raph sees the pharaoh frown, suspicious. He panics. “Uh... you must be mistaken, my child. I have always been a servant of Yahweh.”

Moe just shakes her head, barely even bothered to pry further. She figures it’s just another classic, shittily thought-through plan from the big gal.

Not wanting to give too much away to Ramrod, she takes Raph aside and whispers, “What the fuck is going on up there? Seriously?”

Out of the pharaoh’s earshot, Raph lets his professional demeanour and accent drop.

“I don’t know, alright?” he whispers back. “I see you got the throne, though. Congrats.”

“Yeah, thanks... Look, is this seriously her plan to get rid of the bugs?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You don’t think it’s a bit of overkill?”

“I think it’s cinematic. These motherfuckers have to remember this so they know not to mess with Israel in the future, and so Israel knows how badass their god is. I mean, sure, could I just nuke the place with Raid? Yes. Does it stick in the brain like lightning and hailstones the size of horses? No.”

Moe can’t argue with that.

Raph goes on. “Plus, everybody knows that bugs hate storms.”

“What? No, they don’t.”

“Yes, they do. It’s a scientific fact.”

“That’s insane.”

You’re insane!”

“Me? You’re the one wearing a wig and a cape and carrying a hammer for no fucking reason.”

“I do so have a reason...”

“Hey, you two!” Erin shouts over the storm.

They snap out of their whispered conversation as the city continues to be pelted by horse-sized hailstones and lightning.

Pharaoh’s eyes light up with recognition, finally figuring out where he recognises that shitty accent from. “Hey, I know you. You’re that Huntsman guy. No, wait... it was something even stupider than that.” He thinks. “Death Mask! Yeah, that’s right. I hired you to kill Moe. Great job, by the way.”

He gives Raph a deeply-sarcastic thumbs-up.

Raph clears his throat, panicking. “I am not this Death Mask of which you speak. Nor am I the Huntsman. Even though they both sound like totally sweet and respectable codenames...”

Moe rolls her eyes.

Raph holds out his arms. “I am Thor, God of Thunder and Storms!”

A perfectly-timed lightning bolt flares brightly behind him, silhouetting his awesome cape at full billow.

Not half-billow, like some asshole. Full motherfucking billow, y’all.

“...and if you don’t show me the proper respect, I’ll bring this palace right down on top of you.”

Pharaoh swallows, rapidly losing confidence in his accusation. “Forgive me, Your... Stormyness?

He says it like a question, and Raph shrugs – he’ll take it.

Holding his hammer overhead, he calls “Thor away!” and flies off into the sky like Superman (or, y’know... Thor).

Just like that, the storm vanishes.

The clouds retreat and the sun comes out, shining its light onto the ravaged city. Buildings and statues lay crumbled. People wander out from their hiding places, wondering what the fuck just happened.

But, hey – at least the bugs are gone.

“Say what you will about the guy’s methods,” Erin says. “He got the job done.”

“Well, yeah...” Ramrod says. “Everyone knows that bugs hate storms.”

“True.” Erin nods, like it’s a universally-accepted fact.

Moe doesn’t even bother.

Ramrod turns to her, seeming to accept defeat rather graciously. “Well, you did as you promised. I suppose you’ve earned the throne fair and sq...”

He pauses, hearing a soft, thrumming sound.

It’s far off in the distance, but getting closer, closer...

Moe and Erin can hear it too. They look around, but can’t see the source.

Slowly, the thrumming builds into a high-pitched whine.

Then...

A swarm of bugs rush past them from behind the palace.

Millions upon millions of them, forming a giant black cloud that descends into the city and spreads down the narrow streets like poison through a bloodstream.

“Goddamn it!” Pharaoh says, snatching back his headdress and ceremonial implements. “You didn’t get rid of the bugs at all. You just scared them off for a bit.”

Moe and Erin look at each other, wondering how this could have happened.

*

“What the fuck?!” Yah says, watching the God’s Eye monitor closely. “You said you got rid of them.”

“I did,” replies Raph, as he removes his cape and wig, and sets down his hammer. “They were gone. I swear. Even ask Moe.”

So Yah goes down and confronts Moe, who has since been kicked out of the palace and is standing on the edge of a crop field.

“What the...?” she begins, then sees what Moe’s looking at.

A huge black cloud of insects have descended on the field, and are presently stripping the wheat stalks bare.

But these aren’t just any ordinary insects.

Flies, gnats and lice are minor league compared to these guys.

“Locusts,” Yah says, grimly. She notices something off to the side. “What...?”

A bunch of soldiers have started wading into the field, trying to fight back the swarm. They’re swinging swords and axes, thrusting spears, shooting arrows.

...at locusts.

Naturally, it has no effect.

But, boy, do they keep on fighting. You gotta hand it to them.

Even in the face of an unstoppable enemy, Egypt’s finest are steadfast in their determination, resolute in their mission to protect the homeland.

“Come on, lads! To arms!”

“Let’s get those bugs!”

“They’re afraid! They’re afraid!

“FREEDOM!”

What a story for the grandkids.

Maybe their plan is to slash down enough of the grain that the locusts will fuck off somewhere else, but in reality, the outcome seems to be that they’re just kind of assisting in the food destruction process.

Almost like a parent cutting up a child’s steak to make it more manageable for them.

Yah shakes her head, ignoring the soldiers. “How the fuck...? I see how blood leads to frogs leads to bugs. But why locusts?”

Moe shrugs. “Maybe it’s a coincidence.”

Yah runs a hand over her face. “There’s no way in hell Seki’s gonna believe that. She’s gonna think I did this like she thinks I did all the other shit.”

“You did do all the other shit.”

“Nuh-uh. I only did the blood.”

“Well, the blood caused the other shit, and you did the blood. Take some fucking responsibility for your actions.”

Yahweh groans. “She’s not gonna believe me.”

“So what?”

Yah takes a moment to think about that. “She’s my friend. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. Literally.”

“Then get rid of them. Do another storm.”

“It won’t make any difference. She already thinks I’m a lousy friend. And you know what? She’s right...”

Moe lets out a frustrated sigh. “I love how you’re so concerned about some petty argument with your neighbour when, literally, an entire country is about to starve to death.”

Yah snaps back to reality and clears her throat, shamefaced. “Yeah, no, you’re right.”

She disappears.

Two seconds later, the wind increases, and Moe looks behind her to see a giant wall of sand closing in...

“Jesus Christ!” she yells. “You couldn’t give me five minutes to get to safety?”

Moe dives into an irrigation ditch and covers her face just as the sandstorm hits, blowing through the fields and taking the locusts with it.

When everything subsides, Moe bursts up out of the sand like a zombie rising from the dead and takes a huge breath in. She looks around, seeing that everything is dark.

Even though the main brunt of the storm has passed, she’s now mired in the middle of it. All the sand in the air is blocking out the sun, effectively turning day into night.

“Goddamn it,” she says. “Can you do anything right?”

Nearby, the soldiers are getting up and cheering, thinking they’re somehow responsible for fighting off the locust swarm.

She shakes her head. “Idiots!”

*

In Yah’s kitchen, she and Raph are cracking a celebratory beer together. Yah’s standing behind the counter, Raph’s on a stool across from her. They clink their bottles together.

“We did it,” Yah says. “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”

You got it done,” Raph says, with a humble smile. “I just helped.”

Yah smiles back at him.

They drink.

At that moment, the front door bursts open and Seki comes marching in.

“Seriously?” she says, fuming. “The frogs and the bugs and the boils and the dead cattle aren’t enough? You gotta destroy half the city, send in a swarm of locusts – not to mention a sandstorm – and now everyone’s living in total fucking darkness? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Look, Seki, I knew you were going to react like this, but I promise – it wasn’t me. All I did was the blood thing.”

“It’s true,” Raph says, backing her up. “She was trying to stop the... what have we settled on? Plagues? Marvels?”

Yah rubs her chin. “I mean, they’re more like natural disasters, though, right?”

“Yeah, but what are people gonna call it?” Raph takes a sip. “The Natural Disasters of Egypt? Shit happens all the fucking time. We need something specific. A catchy shorthand.”

Yah considers it. “Well... it’s hard, y’know? They don’t all fit neatly into one category. I mean, you got natural disasters, epidemics, infestations...”

“I guess ‘marvels’ works best then. More general. ‘Plague’ doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, as it really only refers to a specific bacterial disease. I mean, there was the thing with the boils, so...”

“Hey!” Seki shouts, incredulous.

The two snap out of it.

Panicking, Raph stumbles over his words in his haste to get them out. “Any-anyway, she t-tried to stop them – the marvels – but... just kind of ended up causing more. It wasn’t her fault. She knew you’d think...”

“Oh, shut up, Raph! You spineless little weasel.”

Seki glares at him and Raph cowers, hanging his head.

“Hey!” Yah says. “You can’t talk to him like that. I mean... are his loyalties somewhat questionable? Sure...”

Raph shrugs – he has been flip-flopping lately.

“Was his method of driving out the insects a little over the top? I’d say so.”

Raph nods – he can’t argue with that either.

“But he’s a good friend.” She smiles at him. “I know what he did, he did out of concern for me.”

“Oh, good, you guys are BFFs again,” Seki says, sarcastically. “That’s so great. I’m really happy for you. And all it took was the devastation of my country and people, not to mention the humiliation of me and my roommates as gods in their eyes.”

“Seki...”

“No! What about me, huh? I’m supposed to be your friend too.”

She’s got tears in her eyes now and Yah can’t help but feel guilty.

“Seki... it’s just a game...”

“It’s not about the game! It’s about what it turns us into. What it’s turned you into. What it’s turning me into. And because of what, huh? Because of Ash? That’s why you had to go and build this toxic fucking thing? Because you needed something to pour all your hate and anger into?”

Yah has gone quiet. She considers her words, treads lightly. “You don’t have to play...”

Seki scoffs. “Says you.”

Yah’s got nothing to come back with. She stays silent.

“You know what?” Seki wipes her eyes, furious with herself for letting him get the best of her. “I stood by you all through that breakup. I was your shoulder to cry on. I helped you drown your sorrows night after fucking night. I watched the same five Friends episodes ten thousand times because you kept passing out and wanting to rewind.” She breathes. “I told you you were right. “Fuck Ash, she’s a bitch.” “You’re too good for her.” “She didn’t know what she had while she had it.” But you know what?” Seki pauses, sniffs, and for some reason, Yah is reminded of the eye of a hurricane. “...She was right. She did the right thing, and I don’t know why she didn’t do it sooner. You’re a fucking train wreck, Godric! You’re an alcoholic, drug-addicted, narcissistic, hypocritical, unemployed fucking video game designer...” She says the job title with so much disgust that it makes Yah wince. “And the way you went off the deep end after she cut ties with you just proves how right she was.”

Seki glares at Yah with those wet, feline eyes. Lets her sit in it for a while.

Yah swallows over the lump in her throat. She blinks away tears.

Eventually, Seki turns around and leaves.

The two remaining gods continue to sit in silence for a long while after that. Yah stares at the far wall, turning the conversation over in her head. Raph just fidgets, feeling awkward and sympathetic, but not knowing what to do or say.

After what feels like an eternity, Yah takes out a glass, unscrews a bottle of tequila, and starts pouring...

“So, uh...” Raph begins, then notices Yah continuing to pour.

He watches, with increasing bewilderment, as Yah fills the glass almost all the way to the brim.

“Godric, huh? That’s what God’s short for?”

No response from the big gal.

Raph clears his throat and continues. “I guess that’s it then, huh? We’re done with this? We can move on?”

Yah lifts the glass to her lips and takes a dead-eyed sip.

“Oh, buddy,” she says, like Raph is some sweet, naïve angel. “We ain’t even started yet.”


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