Genesis 39-41: The Unnamed Prison in Egypt...Redemption (Season 1, Episode 21) - Part 1 of 2

What happens when Joey is sold into slavery in Egypt? A famine is predicted, a Shawshank is Redeemed, and a Harry Potter convention meets a horrifying end.

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 rewind twenty years, shall we?

Joey’s just been sold to some lovely Ishmaelite traders and taken down into Egypt. At a slave market, he catches the eye of a guy named Potiphar (who we’ll call Potter) and ends up working in his home.

As it turns out, Potter’s kind of a big deal in Egypt. He’s the captain of the pharaoh’s guard. He’s got a beautiful wife, Zuleikha (Zulie, for short – like Julie with a Z) and an even more beautiful daughter, Asenath (Sen, for short – like Jen, with an S).

What no one knows, however, is that Potter is a closeted gay man, and Joey soon realises that it’s his rockin’ bod, rather than any aptitude he has for manual labour, which wins him such a good placement (as far as slave placements go).

Naturally, he uses this to his advantage.

When he knows that Potter’s watching, he’ll ‘accidentally’ drop something, then slowly bend over to pick it up, thereby exposing his sculpted buttocks.

When he’s scrubbing the floors in nothing but a loincloth, he’ll ‘accidentally’ wring out the cleaning rag over his bulging pecs and washboard abs.

(Not sure how someone from a semi-nomadic herding family managed to put on so much muscle, but apparently, as of the last few paragraphs, the dude’s freaking ripped.)

Normally, such clumsiness and time-wasting would have been grounds for dismissal.

Instead, it sees Joey appointed overseer of the entire house.

The other, less-beautiful slaves fume silently. They glare at him when his back’s turned, carrying out passive acts of vengeance like spitting in his cereal, pissing in his morning coffee.

But when they realise that he actually prefers the urine-infused blend, the slaves start plotting something a little more cerebral.

In the meantime, Joey’s rag-wringing and bending-over starts to get noticed by someone other than the captain of the guard.

His daughter, Sen.

She’s become bored with palace life and is looking to slum it for a bit – at least until another, more suitable suitor comes along.

She and Joey start going at it in secret, but unfortunately, this does not go unnoticed by Zulie.

‘Unfortunately’ meaning the slaves ratted them out.

Take that, Joey, you beautiful bastard.

Now, it probably won’t come as any surprise to you that Zulie hasn’t been touched by Potter since Sen was conceived, and she’s pretty sure Sen isn’t his daughter anyway.

Why not just divorce the guy, I hear you ask?

Great question.

Well, as you may have guessed already, Potter is about as rich as anyone in Egypt can be without being the pharaoh.

And speaking of Pharaoh – the two are on a first-name basis, which is a handy thing in the ancient world. (Since I, the author, am not, I will continue to refer to him, reverently, as Pharaoh).

And speaking of the ancient world, it’s the kind of place that doesn’t treat aging single women kindly.

Good enough?

Excellent.

Now that we’ve established that she’s kind of stuck in this loveless (yet economically-fulfilling) marriage, Zulie’s had to supplement Potter’s lack of affection with the affections of other, more willing participants – most of the time, this means slaves (okay, not so willing), but occasionally, it means her husband’s colleagues or her friends’ husbands.

Zulie’s not picky – but when she wants a little sugar, there’s not a man in Egypt who can refuse her.

It’s not so much that she’s gorgeous, more that she’s relentless. Her approach might be described better as a ‘war of attrition’, rather than ‘seduction’.

She also has a nasty habit of competing with her daughter in a desperate attempt to stay young. She’s scared off more than one suitor through her aggressive sexual tactics, and in one instance, even killed a guy.

Don’t ask.

So, in a way that Sen would describe as ‘mom being mom’, Zulie comes to Joey’s room one night as he’s getting ready for bed and leans sultrily against the doorframe.

“Hey, sailor,” she says, in an even sultrier voice.

Joey turns, surprised to see her standing there. “Oh, hi...Mrs. Potter.”

“It’s Zulie,” she says. “But you can call me...Z.”

She winks at Joey, and the realisation of what’s happening quickly dawns on him. “What are you, uh...What are you doing here?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Joey swallows. Sen had warned him something like this might happen.

Zulie begins walking toward him and Joey backs up, panicking.

“Listen...” he says. “It’s not that I don’t find you very attractive, it’s just that I’m...”

“Sleeping with my daughter?”

Joey doesn’t know what to come back with – he thought they were being sly as hell.

“Don’t worry,” says Zulie, a smile on her face. “I won’t tell Potter if you don’t.”

Joey backs up into the wall and can’t go any further. He slides across into the corner, stammering, sweating. “Well, that’s another thing... I think he’ll be angry enough at me, without...I just...I really don’t think I should – we should – do this. It doesn’t seem...”

“Ssh,” she says, placing a finger on his lips. “Don’t you wanna know what it’s like to be with an older woman?”

“Not particularly.”

Zulie ignores him. “You like what my daughter’s doing in the boudoir? Where do you think she learned those moves? I taught her everything she knows.”

Joey reacts to the notion with distaste, picturing the mother-daughter sex-ed class – one concerned less with practicality or safety, and more with technique. “Really? That’s...kinda messed up.”

“You have no idea,” Zulie says, as if its the sexiest thing ever, and grabs hold of Joey’s crotch with a firm hand.

Instinctively, he yelps and ducks under her arm, running away. But Zulie doesn’t let go of his loincloth and rips it off as he flees. Joey stands there, naked, covering himself with his hands.

“Give me that back,” he says.

She just smiles and twirls it on her finger. “Come and get it.”

“Jesus Christ, lady, what’s wrong with you?”

At that moment, someone else appears in the doorway.

“Is everything alright, I heard a...”

Potter freezes, staring into the room.

At first, he’s just gazing at his servant’s naked body, then he notices his wife in the corner, holding Joey’s loincloth.

“Zulie...?”

She responds by rolling her eyes – more annoyed than afraid – and going, “I thought you were out tonight.”

“I was. I’m back.”

“Well, you didn’t say you’d be back.”

“Well, I am. And how does that excuse you cheating on me?”

“Let’s just say we were both dishonest and go to bed, huh? Doesn’t seem like I was going to get laid tonight anyway.”

Joey sees this conversation going south real quick, and feels the need to do some damage control. To Potter, he goes, “Please, I swear I didn’t...You have to understand...”

Redirecting his attention to Joey, a deep sadness comes into Potter’s eyes.

“What about us?” he says – the ‘us’ meaning he and Joey.

Joey gives him a look like, “What about us?” and Potter hangs his head. Clearly, the feeling wasn’t mutual.

Joey glances at Zulie, who just rolls her eyes again, then flings the loincloth aside and walks out past her husband.

“Don’t wait up,” she says, then leaves to go prey on someone else.

Before Joey has a chance to say anything, Potter calls out, “Guards!”

Three soldiers enter the room and Potter points at Joey, saying, “Arrest that man! He tried to rape my wife.”

Joey’s eyes bulge. “What?! I didn’t try to rape your wife – she tried to rape me!”

But the soldiers ignore his plea, seizing him roughly and dragging him out of the room.

Potter never looks up – he just stands there, alone, listening to Joey’s cries getting fainter and fainter.

In his heart, he knows full well that Joey isn’t lying about what happened here. But he also has to find a way to justify his wife’s actions – even if that means deluding himself to the point of wilful ignorance.

So, instead of dealing with his marital issues, instead of coming to terms with his own sexuality, instead of doing any number of psychologically-healthy things, he walks over to the loincloth, picks it up, holds it to his nose, inhales deeply, and exhales with a shudder.

One of the guards returns a minute later to tell him that Joey has been safely locked away in the dungeon.

He enters the room, mouth open to begin speaking, and then stops.

His mouth opens a little wider...

...because there, faced away from him, is Potter – loincloth to his nose, robe open, masturbating furiously.

The guard backs slowly out of the room, presumably to hold his knees to his chest in the bath, weeping softly, whispering to himself, “Why, Potter? Why?”

*

Some time later, two members of the Pharaoh’s royal court are brought in chains to the prison. One is his royal baker (who we’ll call Baker – hell, we’ve already got a Potter), the other is his royal cupbearer (Cups) – literally, the guy who served him wine. Yes, that was a full-time occupation in the ancient world.

They also happen to be identical twins.

They’re escorted down a torchlit corridor with barred cells on either side. As they move further into the dungeon, all the deranged prisoners emerge from the shadows, pressing their faces up against the bars.

It starts with fairly basic stuff – the prisoners chanting, “Fresh fish! Fresh fish! Fresh fish!” – and escalates pretty quickly to people throwing food scraps in their direction, then flinging fresh ejaculate like in Silence of the Lambs, then splashing large buckets of piss and shit through the bars like they’re fighting a fire. All the while chanting “Fresh fish! Fresh fish! Fresh fish!”

The guards just keep walking, even as they’re covered in it, too.

All part of the job.

Why they get paid the big bucks.

By the time they get to their cell right down the end, Cups and Baker are covered in human fluids and excrement. The guards lock the gate, then walk back out, leaving the new cellies to get acclimated.

“Goddamn it,” Baker says, flicking some feces off his hand. “What is this place?”

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

“Me?” Baker says. “You’re the one who banged the pharaoh’s wife!”

“I did not!”

“Then why’s the baby look like you?”

“Why’s it look like you?!

Baker sighs, frustrated. Clearly, they’ve had problems like this before. You know, stereotypical twin shit. “Look, one of us is lying and...”

“It’s not me.”

“It is you. You know that you’re lying right now. It could only have been one of us and I know I didn’t do it. You did.”

Cups, a little less confidently, says, “Well, I know I didn’t do it.”

Baker shakes his head, hopeless. He flings some excrement at his brother, getting him right in the face.

Later that night, Baker wakes to the sound of screaming.

Heart racing, breathing fast, he looks over at his brother, who’s having a serious bout of night terrors.

The other prisoners are shouting variations of roughly the same sentiment – “Shut the fuck up!”, “Will you shut that guy the fuck up?!”, “If you don’t shut that guy the fuck up, I’m gonna come in there and fuck you into a coma!”

The cell across from them is strangely silent. Baker can’t see anyone in the shadows.

Still dazed, he says, “Wait... You mean him or me?”

Both of you!

It’s a little excessive, but Baker understands. He shakes Cups roughly awake. “Hey! Get up!”

His brother stops shrieking, and sits bolt upright against the wall, eyes wide.

“I had a nightmare...”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“I was... there was this vine, with three branches. As soon as it budded, the blossoms grew, and straight away after that...” He swallows. “...the clusters ripened into grapes.”

Baker frowns, waiting for the scary part.

Cups goes on, “I had Pharaoh’s cup in my hand, and I...” He balls up a fist to simulate crushing something. “I took the grapes and squished them into the cup. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

Baker waits for him to keep going, but apparently, that’s all there is to it. “That’s it?”

“Yeah...”

“That’s not a nightmare. That’s not even a dream, really. That’s just your job.”

Cups thinks about it, realising it doesn’t sound very scary. “No, but...it’s like everything was sped-up, y’know? God, it was horrible.”

Baker just stares at him, perplexed. He shakes his head. “I had a bad dream too...”

Cups scoffs. “Typical.”

“What’s typical?”

“You – stealing my thunder. I’m not allowed to have a nightmare without you miraculously having one too?”

“Jesus Christ...” Baker says, under his breath, rapidly losing patience with his younger (by two minutes) brother. “First of all, yours wasn’t a nightmare...”

“Alright. Tell me yours, then.” Cups folds his arms, waiting to be impressed.

Baker sighs. “I was walking along with these three baskets on my head, and in the top basket was this bread I’d baked for Pharaoh. Then, all of a sudden, these crows swoop down and start pecking at the bread.”

Cups makes a big display of waiting for him to continue, even though he knows that’s the end of the dream. “And then what happened?”

Baker sighs. “That’s it.”

That’s it?” Cups acts surprised, like he was expecting more. “Jesus Christ – my dream was scarier than that.”

“Mine had crows.”

“Mine had a plant growing really fucking fast. Also, why did you have exposed bread in a basket on your head? Seems like that’s just asking for trouble. You know it’s crow season.”

“Christ, I don’t know. It was a dream.”

“Yeah, but...I mean, you’ve got three baskets stacked inside each other. Why not turn one of them upside down and use that to cover up the bread? Just seems like the logical thing to do.”

“Dreams don’t have logic, you asshole!”

“For the love of Christ, will you two please shut the fuck up?”

Baker and Cups turn to look at the darkened cell across from them, where the voice came from. They can’t see anybody in there.

Slowly, a figure shuffles out from the shadows. He’s filthy, hunchbacked, malnourished, with long, scraggly hair and a chest-length beard. He looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in decades.

“If I tell you what your dreams mean, will you go back to sleep?” he says, curling his fingers around the bars and pressing his face against them.

Baker and Cups look at each other, mildly nervous.

Baker goes, “Why should we listen to you?”

“Because....” the prisoner says, in a conspiratorial voice, looking side to side to make sure no one else is listening. “I got the gift. They call me the Dream Whisperer.”

Another glance between the twins.

“Do they?” Cups says, squinting suspiciously. “Do they really?”

“Sure do. I’ve had...”

“Does anyone call this guy the Dream Whisperer?” Cups calls out.

Another round of “Shut the fuck up” ensues, until eventually someone goes, “Yeah, he wishes! Fuckin’ Dream Whisperer my ass.”

Cups looks back at the so-called Dream Whisperer, unimpressed.

DW clears his throat, embarrassed. “Yeah, well...what would they know? They’ve never told me their dreams.”

“Maybe because you’re a crazy old man in a loincloth. That ever occur to you?”

“I’m not a crazy old man,” DW says. “I was the captain of the guard’s overseer.”

Baker frowns. “Hold up. Are you...Joey?

Joey nods, sadly. “I know. It’s been a long time. There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”

Baker and Cups look at him, speechless, like, “What the fuck...? How does that even apply to what we were talking about?”

“It’s been three weeks!” Baker says.

The brothers are shocked by the impossibly-rapid deterioration in Joey’s appearance. Joey, himself, is shocked by the relatively small amount of time that has elapsed.

Eager to move past it, he says, “Look, do you wanna hear my interpretation or not?”

Baker and Cups exchange a glance, and shrug.

“Uh...sure,” says Cups. Very quickly, he calls, “Shotgun!”

Baker just shakes his head – he doesn’t care. Cups smiles victoriously, like he actually won something.

“Alright,” Joey says. “The three branches in your dream signify three days. In three days, Pharaoh will release you, and you’ll go back to serving as his cupbearer.”

Cups’ eyes go wide. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Joey says, with a shrug. “Would have thought the imagery was fairly obvious. Not exactly subtle, is it?”

Cups ignores him, turning to Baker. “It’s Pharaoh’s birthday in three days! He’s gonna pardon me on his birthday!”

“Hold on, you think this guy’s actually a Dream Whisperer?”

“I am a Dream Whisperer,” Joey says.

“No, you’re not!” someone yells.

“I think he’s telling the truth,” Cups says. “Why would he lie?”

“Exactly,” Joey says. “Why would I lie? What have I got to gain?”

“He’s bored. He’s just fucking with you.”

Cups turns to Joey, rolling his eyes. “Don’t listen to him. He’s just jealous. What’s his dream mean? It’s bad, right?”

Joey looks to Baker, a little hesitant. “You want me to tell you or not?”

Baker glances between Joey and his brother. He doesn’t want to play this little game and encourage the crazy, alleged Dream Whisperer. He also doesn’t want to validate Cups’ good news.

But he’s also curious as hell to find out what his dream means.

On the off chance Joey isn’t crazy, he says, “Fine. Go ahead.”

Joey takes a deep breath to prepare himself. Baker gives an exasperated sigh, but Cups nudges him to pay attention.

“The three baskets on your head also mean three days. In three days, you’re gonna be released along with this guy. Only instead of giving you your old job back, Pharaoh’s gonna hang you, and the crows will pick the flesh off your bones.”

The twins are silent.

Cups turns to Baker, suddenly full of sympathy.

Baker forces a smile to mask his dread, giving a dismissive wave. “Pfft. This fucking guy...”

He turns and moves away from the bars.

“Suit yourself,” Joey says, and retreats back to the shadows. “But I know dreams.”

Only when Baker’s facing the wall does he allow the fear to creep onto his face.

*

Three days later, a group of guards come to unlock the brothers’ cell. Just as Joey predicted, they make a beeline for the older brother.

Baker immediately starts panicking.

“No, wait!” he shouts. They grab him anyway. “It wasn’t me. It was my brother. Tell them. Tell them!”

Cups is frozen by indecision. He can either:

A. Confess and save his brother.

B. Do nothing and save himself.

In the end, he chooses option B. It seems like a safer bet.

“No!” Baker yells, as he realises his brother isn’t going to do anything. The guards drag him out into the corridor and re-lock the door. One of them calls out, “Dead man walkin’ on the Green Mile!”

“Traitor!” Baker screams at Cups. “Liar!”

Cups just watches him go, horrified. The inmates splash buckets of piss and shit all over the death row prisoner. He turns to see Joey standing at the bars of his cell, watching. “You bastard! You knew! You knew!”

“I know,” Joey says, like it’s obvious. “I told you that.”

Baker struggles against the guards in a frenzy, but they hold him tight. Helpless and enraged, he lets loose a wordless scream as he’s dragged out and the door is closed behind him.

Cups can’t believe it. He glances over at Joey, who’s suddenly looking just as shocked as Cups is.

“Holy shit...” Joey says. “It actually works...”

Cups frowns. “What do you mean – ‘it actually works?’ You didn’t know that?”

“Not a hundred percent.”

“You sounded a hundred percent!”

“I was like seventy-five, eighty percent, tops. I had these dreams before I was sold into slavery. My whole family was bowing down to me. At least I thought that’s what it meant...”

“They didn’t bow down to you?”

“Well...no. I mean...not yet, at least.”

“What happened?”

A little sheepish, Joey goes, “They sold me into slavery.”

Cups takes a few steps back. “Jesus Christ... So, you were just fucking with us the whole time?”

“Clearly, it works,” Joey says, taking offence.

“Yeah, but you didn’t know that.”

“Well, I do now.

“Yeah, but you didn’t then.

Joey sighs. “Look, what’s more important? The fact that I just predicted your brother’s execution to the day, or that I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about my Dream Whispering abilities at the time?”

“Stop calling yourself the Dream Whisperer!” Cups shouts, sliding down the wall into a sitting position. Slowly, the consequences of his actions sink in. “Christ... I just let my brother take the fall for me.”

“So you were the one who banged the pharaoh’s wife?”

“Of course I was! The baby looks exactly like me.”

Joey frowns, confused.

“I could’ve saved him...” Cups says.

“Well, I mean you could probably still confess.”

“No, it’s too late!” Cups begins pacing. “God, how am I gonna live with myself? How am I gonna go on knowing I sent an innocent man – my own brother, no less – to die in my place?”

“My brothers betrayed me,” Joey says, with a shrug. “I know I’d rather be them than me right now. You made the right choice, kid. Morally – probably not. But pragmatically – you betcha.”

Cups thinks on that for a minute.

The main door opens again and the guards come walking back down the corridor. By the time they reach Cups, they’re covered in fresh splatterings of piss, shit and semen.

“Man, these guys produce a lot of waste,” Joey says. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, the recovery time on some of these fellas is phenomenal. Truly impressive.”

Cups is a little preoccupied with the guard unlocking his cell.

“Good news,” the guard says. “Pharaoh wants you back. Says the guy he got to replace you is trash.”

“At serving him wine?” Joey asks, in disbelief. “How fucking hard can that be?”

Without warning, the other guard whacks Joey’s hands on the bars with his spear-shaft. “Keep it down in there!”

“Ah!” Joey says, stepping back, sucking a sharp breath in through his teeth. “Bitch!”

Cups is guided out into the corridor. He’s about to follow the guards through the gauntlet of human excreta when Joey says, “Hey!”

The twin (former twin?) stops, turns around.

“Don’t forget about me,” Joey says, shaking his sore hand. “Tell Pharaoh what I can do and get me outta here. I’ll fucking lose it otherwise.”

Cups nods, solemnly. “I won’t forget you.”

It’s an almost-sweet moment of understanding and connection between the two.

Then his face and chest are splattered with human feces.

End of moment.

Cups is led away.

Speaking to himself and smiling, Joey says, “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

At that moment, Joey is splattered with a bucket of shit.

“Stop narrating your own life!” the bucket-holding prisoner shouts.

*

Sure enough, Cups forgets all about him.

Or he makes the conscious choice not to tell Pharaoh.

Either way, it’s the same result.

Joey continues to rot in prison, while the treacherous twin is out there serving wine, bearing cups. Generally being adjacent to the life of the party.

It’s enough to make Joey’s blood boil.

It’s enough to reinvigorate him, give him a purpose.

He stops allowing himself to waste away, both physically and psychologically. He makes peace with the fact that he’ll be in this (very literal) shit-hole for a while.

He starts a gruelling workout regimen comprised of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups – anything ending in ‘ups’, you better believe ol’ Joey boy is doing them.

He doesn’t talk to anyone.

He doesn’t even speak, except to say ‘Cups’ at the completion of every rep like a mantra.

You heard me right – not every set, every rep.

Day by day, Joey is turning his body into a motherfucking weapon, y’all.

*

(to be continued in Part 2…)


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