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 book will probably do the trick.
If you’re okay with that, then read on.
If you want to read on just so you can send me an email telling me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.
Who knows? It might actually work.
It’s been a while – few generations at least. A lot’s changed in the meantime.
And I mean a lot.
Let’s do a little catch up.
The story of Exodus begins, as you might expect, with a drunken surgical procedure...
God’s turned his back on Israel, the patriarchy, all his earthly creations, and decides to do a little self-care. He’s done nothing but think about it for the last few thousand years and enough is e-fucking-nough.
He’s fed up with power-hungry dudes stabbing each other in the back, double crossing each other, slaughtering each other wholesale. He decides it’s time to unplug, check out, get a little R&R.
So what does he do?
He gets an operation.
“Why does he get an operation?” I hear you ask. “And who the hell performs it for him?”
Well, that’s where Sekhmet comes in.
That’s right – Sekhmet. The ancient Egyptian god of medicine.
At least that’s how we know her in the modern world.
God knows her as his next-door neighbour.
I should explain...
Up until now, all we’ve seen of ‘heaven’ is God’s backyard. But like anyone else living in suburbia, dude’s got neighbours on either side of him.
I won’t get too deep into it now – all you need to know is that what we think of as the ancient Egyptian pantheon (the gods, the goddesses) is really just a bunch of people renting a share-house.
So one day, God pokes his head over the fence and sees the green-skinned Osiris (Ozzy), the winged Maat (Mattie) and the crocodile-headed Sobek (Beck) swimming in the pool, while the falcon-headed Horus (aka Russell aka Russ aka Rusty) works the grill.
Mattie’s ibis-headed husband Thoth is probably giving a lecture at the local university, while the jackal-headed Anubis (Noob) is most likely embalming someone in their basement mortuary.
The music’s been pumping since 10am and by this point, the gods all have a good day-drunk going.
All except the lioness-headed Dr. Sekhmet (Seki, for short), who’s pacing herself – sipping on a margarita instead of doing beer bongs like the others. She’s technically on call at the local hospital, but what her fellow medical professionals and patients don’t know won’t hurt them.
Much like alcoholics who claim they’re better at driving when they’ve got a little buzz on, Seki claims to be better at surgery. The scary thing about it is, for the most part, she’s right.
For the most part...
Anyway, Seki’s pretty easy to spot. Much like an actual lion in the sun, she’s laid out by the pool on a recliner chair with one of those fold-out reflective tanning panels, just mainlining UV rays.
That’s what lions do in the sun, right?
“Hey,” God calls to her. “Psst.”
The others don’t notice. They’re too busy playing pool volleyball and singing along to Semi-Charmed Life. Seki squints and puts down the tanning panel.
“Can’t you see I’m trying to get a tan here?”
God furrows his brow, confused. “Can you tan fur?”
God gets two beers from the fridge and hands one to Seki. She’s sitting on a stool at his kitchen bench, and hesitates before taking it. “I’m supposed to be on call.”
“And I’m supposed to be out looking for a job.”
Seki shrugs and takes the beer. They clink them together and have a sip.
“So, what’s going on?” she says.
God puts both hands flat on the bench, stares her right in her feline eyes and, completely serious, says, “I want a sex change.”
For a long moment, Seki just stares at him. She processes this, sips her beer. God searches her face, waiting for an answer.
At long last, she says, “Do you mean gender reassignment surgery?”
God lets out a frustrated sigh. “Yeah, sorry I didn’t read the DSM-5 before I poked my head over the fence.”
“The DSM is for mental disorders.”
“Gender dysphoria isn’t a mental disorder?”
“Please...” Seki says, not buying it. “You probably read a couple Wikipedia pages, now you think you’re some kind of expert.”
God feels himself flush, caught red-handed. “Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t get my medical degree from Lion University.”
“It’s Feline University and you know it. Asshole.”
“I’m not an asshole.”
“Look, are you gonna help me or not?”
Seki almost does a double-take. “You want me to perform the surgery?”
“Why do you think I called you over?”
“To talk you down, maybe? Discuss your options?”
“I’m serious about this. I’ve spent the last few thousand years searching for meaning, and I finally realised what the problem is. I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.”
Seki takes a breath to compose herself. Then, very calmly and clinically, she says, “When did you start to feel this way?”
But God’s still got his guard up. “You don’t think I mean it? You think I’m making this up?”
“I’m just asking you a question. You’ve never said anything like this before. You’ve never shown any sign of being unhappy with your assigned gender.”
God sips his beer, takes a moment to collect his thoughts. “Look, I just...I realised that the reason everything went so horribly with the Experiment was my own toxic masculinity infecting everything. I didn’t mean for it to happen, it just... seeped into them.”
The doctor surveys him, considering something. “You feel like by creating them in your image, you cursed them?”
God shrugs – he doesn’t want to think about it too much. “I guess...”
“You feel responsible for what happened?”
At this, his eyes narrow. “What are you, my shrink?”
“If you need me to be.”
“All I need you to do is turn my P into a V. Are you gonna do that or not?”
“If I turn your P into a V, then will you be happy?”
The big guy gnashes his teeth.
Seki leans forward. “Because you want so badly to distance yourself from an identity you see as toxic, you’re choosing what you perceive as the opposite of that identity.”
God scoffs. “That’s some serious armchair psychiatry, doc.”
“You realise that it’s completely misguided, right? Like, one hundred percent the wrong reason to get gender reassignment surgery?”
But the big guy senses a change in her mood. “You’re considering it?”
Seki shrugs, looking at once totally innocent and totally conniving. The way only a feline can.
“What do you want?” God says, wary.
The doctor just smiles and sips her beer.
A couple hours later, Raph arrives at God’s house with a case of beer, one already open and in his hand.
“Who’s ready to get their Mario Kart on?” he calls, clearly having drunk-driven to get there. “Also, did you move your mailbox to the middle of the driveway? Because I kinda parked on it...”
No one answers.
Raph sets the case down on the kitchen table. He looks around while taking a sip, can’t see God anywhere.
Then, he hears something. A clinking sound, like metal on metal.
Wary, he follows the noise down the hall to the spare bedroom. He presses his ear to the door, hearing more clicking, tapping. A light beeping.
He turns the knob, pushes it open...
His blood runs cold.
The spare bedroom has been turned into a makeshift operating theatre, complete with a variety of medical machines around a central table. Lying on the table is an unconscious God, anaesthesia mask over his face, and with her back turned to Raph, surgical gown on, earbuds in, nodding her head, is Seki.
She reaches for an open bottle of vodka, pokes it under her blood-splattered mask and takes a swig, then keeps working.
“What the fuck is this?” Raph says, when he finds his voice.
Hearing him through her music, Seki turns, seeing him there. She rubs one of her earbuds out with her wrist (her latex-gloved hands being covered in blood), but in a motion that is uncannily reminiscent of a cat cleaning behind its ears.
“Raph!” she says, visibly drunk. “You wanna give me a hand?”
He doesn’t move. “What are you doing?”
“Big guy’s gettin’ a sex change,” she says, then corrects herself, “Big gal.”
Raph just watches, stunned.
Growing impatient, Seki goes, “Come on, buddy, either shit or get off the pot. I gotta keep this environment sterile.”
“Yuh – vodka,” she says, like it’s super-obvious. “Which one of us has the medical degree again?”
“Yeah, from Cat University,” he mumbles.
“What was that?”
“Exactly. Now get over here and hold this flaccid penis while I turn it inside out.”
Fascinated and terrified in equal measure, Raph considers it. How often does one get to take part in a major surgical procedure? And what the fuck else is he gonna do with the rest of his night?
Summoning his courage, Raph drains the rest of his beer and walks over to the operating table...
Some time later, God stands in front of the mirror, examining her new body.
She touches her surgically-feminised face and strokes the long hair of her new wig. She cups her breast implants and runs a hand over her hairless jawline.
Slowly, her lips curl into a smile. Tears well in her eyes.
She turns around to face Seki, who’s cracking a tall beer and sipping it.
“What do you think?”
The lion-headed surgeon nods in approval, admiring her craftsmanship as she swallows the mouthful of beer. “Gorgeous, baby. Gorgeous. Have you decided on a name yet?”
God weighs it up – she’s been giving this a lot of thought. “There’s a phrase in Hebrew: ‘Yahweh’. It means ‘I am who I am’ or ‘I will be who I will be’. Yah, for short.”
Seki’s mouth opens wide with realisation. “Like ‘yas queen’ without the ‘s queen’!”
Yah laughs – she hadn’t thought of it like that.
“It’s perfect,” Seki says. “Yas queen!” She takes another large sip, then gets serious. “You ready to hold up your end of the deal?”
Yah nods. “Just one more thing I have to do first.”
Yahweh approaches the hole in her backyard and crouches down beside it. She smiles at her creation, then slowly, the smile vanishes. Something’s troubling her.
“What’s up?” Raph says, slumped in a deckchair, sunglasses on, drinking his way through a hangover. “How’s everything going down there?”
“I don’t know – I haven’t checked it in a while.”
“I thought you were done with it.”
“I am. I just... There was something I wanted to do. Nothing huge, just...”
Yah hesitates. “Look – they’re my people down there, alright? I want them to reflect me.”
“Isn’t that the whole problem?”
“Yeah, but I’ve changed. I want the Experiment to reflect that.”
Raph frowns. He takes a moment to piece it together. “You wanna give them all a sex change?”
Yah looks a little sheepish, gauging his reaction. “Well...”
At this, Raph sits bolt upright, tearing his shades completely off. “You can’t do that!”
“Because...” Raph struggles to vocalise his arguments. “You did this willingly and, you know, congrats and everything, but... you can’t force it on other people. Think of the emotional distress you’ll cause when men suddenly become women and women suddenly become men. It’ll be anarchy.”
“They won’t even know it happened,” Yah says.
Raph pauses. “They won’t?”
“No, it’ll be like flicking a light switch. Everything will go on as before – no one will even realise anything happened. The men will think they’ve always been women and the women will think they’ve always been men. Only difference will be: women run the show. It won’t be a patriarchy anymore – it’ll be a matriarchy.”
The hungover angel lets out a sigh. “I feel like we’ve had this conversation before... Women have the capacity to be just as bad as men.”
“You don’t know that.”
“You’ve been living on my couch for the last couple thousand years because your wife kicked you out. I don’t exactly trust you to be unbiased when it comes to women.”
“And what? Now that you’re suddenly a woman, you’re an authority?”
“I’ve always been a woman,” Yah says. “This is just the first time you’re seeing me as one.”
Raph shakes his head and dons his shades, leaning back in the chair. “Do whatever you want, Yahweh.”
Lot of sarcastic emphasis on ‘Yahweh’.
“You know, you should really think about getting a sex change,” Yah says, completely oblivious to how ridiculous it sounds.
“That’s not how sex changes work!” Raph fires back. “It doesn’t make you more compassionate or progressive because you suddenly have the biological characteristics of a woman. If there was a procedure to reflect what you really are on the inside, I’d be looking at Venom right now.”
“You mean the Spider Man villain?”
“I mean the Tom Hardy vehicle.”
Yah tears up, hurt by the statement.
“Oh, Jesus Christ... is that your estrogen therapy kicking in?”
Angrily brushing the tears away, Yah turns back to the Experiment...
Down below, in the Land of Goshen (in Egypt), the Israelite people are flourishing. It’s been a few generations since the massacre of the patriarch and his sons, but their widows and children are doing well. They’ve formed a close-knit community where everyone works according to their ability and takes according to their needs.
Hey, that sounds like a pretty good system.
Someone should build an ideology around that.
All in all, everyone’s doing pretty good without God’s interference.
You can probably see where this is going...
One second everyone’s walking around, going about their daily lives, talking to their neighbours, guiding donkeys laden with bags of grain – you know, real biblical shit.
The next second, they’re doing the exact same thing... only everyone’s sexes have been reversed.
It’s like a switch has just been flipped somewhere, and everyone goes on living their lives seamlessly. Nobody skips a beat. Nobody notices anything, because as far as they know, nothing happened.
It’s not just that their V’s have been replaced with P’s – or vice versa – it’s that their entire identity has shifted along with their sex. Their memories have been taped over.
Two gay guys making out suddenly turn into women... and continue making out because they’re now a lesbian couple.
A mother holding hands with her five-year-old son becomes a father walking along with his daughter.
In their reality, nothing changes – they’ve always been a matriarchy.
Up above, Yah smiles through her tears.
All is right with the world.
Some time later, Yah’s watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians. She’s got rollers in her wig, feet soaking in one of those foot spas, a Mimosa on the table next to her, and she’s painting her fingernails red and blowing on them.
You know, all the things women do.
At least, all the most stereotypical shit she thinks women do.
Raph exits the bathroom completely naked, scrubbing his hair dry with a hand towel. Yah averts her eyes, disgusted.
“Jesus, could you put some fucking clothes on?”
Raph rolls his eyes. “Suddenly, you don’t like me walking naked in the house.”
“I never liked that!”
Raph thinks about it. Probably true.
Moving on, he says, “Hey, uh... You check the Experiment lately?”
Still averting her eyes, Yah goes, “No, I’m trying to stay unplugged as much as possible. Just for my own wellbeing, y’know? I’m really trying to be mindful and focus on positivity and self-care and really listening to what my body wants.”
Another eye roll.
“I overheard the Egyptians talking. You might wanna check it out.”
Suddenly alert, Yah’s like, “Why? What were they saying?”
“Just go check it out.”
With that, Raph leaves the room.
“Wait! Raph... My foot spa’s still got twelve minutes left to go. Can you just tell me?”
But he’s already gone.
Yah sighs. So much for her ‘me time’.
She gets up and goes outside, rollers still in, feet dripping, fingernails still drying. She crouches down by the hole and peers at the Experiment, zooming in on Goshen.
“What the fuck’s he talking about?” she says, not seeing it. “What’s the big...”
Then she sees it.
Down below, Egyptian soldiers are raiding a village, burning houses, taking people away in chains.
Yah scrolls across the planet – Google Earth-style – following the trail of slaves and soldiers all the way to the nearest city. The Israelites are shackled together, hauling large stone blocks for monuments, or working in the nearby fields. The Egyptian soldiers bark orders and crack their whips.
Yah can’t believe what she’s seeing. “The fuck?”
She walks over to the fence she shares with the Egyptian gods and pokes her head over. “Hey, Amun-Ra – what the fuck?”
Amun-Ra, the chief god of the Egyptian pantheon, is floating in his pool in one of those inflatable donuts, soaking up the rays. He used to be two separate gods (Amun and Ra), but after a Dragon Ball Z-style fusion, they became one – Amun-Ra (A-Rod, for short).
However, unlike in Dragon Ball Z, the result was not a super-awesome, super-powered space warrior, but a hideous blob with two heads.
One of them – Ra – is a literal falcon’s head with a red solar disc floating above it (kind of like a halo turned upright). The other one – Amun – is just a normal guy with one of those cool Egyptian goatees.
Both heads turn to look at Yah.
“What do you want, man?” says Amun.
“Yeah, man, what’s your problem?” says Ra.
“I’ll tell you what my problem is, assholes – you enslaved my motherfucking people.”
Ra wets his beak – literally, dips it into the pool for a drink.
Amun goes, “Hey, I’m sorry, but... you kinda asked for it.”
“How did I ask for it?
Ra lifts his head, swallows. “You put women in charge, dude. Can’t have you setting the wrong example.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Look, it’s not that we hate women, right?” Amun looks at Ra for confirmation.
“Of course we don’t hate women,” Ra says. “We love women.”
“We love women,” Amun repeats. “But there is an established order in the Experiment, and by putting women in charge, you are fucking with the status quo. We can’t have Egyptian women seeing what’s happening with the Israelites and thinking they can run shit. Pretty soon, they’ll wanna vote and drive their own wagons. Can’t have that, bro.”
“Can’t have it,” Ra echoes.
Yah can’t believe what she’s hearing. “So you’re just gonna enslave them, is that it?”
“Well... can you not?”
“Sorry, bro. Can’t help you.”
“Can’t help you, bro.”
Yah grumbles and storms off.
Later on, Yah’s chopping vegetables for a salad when Seki walks in. She’s still in her red scrubs, exhausted after a double shift. She goes straight for the fridge, grabbing a beer and sitting down across from Yah.
“Alright...” she says, wanting to get this over with. “You better have a good fucking reason for inviting me over.”
“I do. I promise...” Yah uses her knife to slide the vegetables off the chopping board into a bowl, then throws in some lettuce leaves, some spinach. She drizzles a little vinaigrette over the whole thing.
Seki frowns at this. “Are you making a salad?”
Yah reacts like it’s no big deal. “Yeah. I’m trying to watch my weight.”
Seki rolls her eyes.
The big gal wipes her hands on a kitchen towel and pours herself a red wine.
Seki rolls her eyes again. Yah notices.
“What, I can’t have a glass of wine?”
“You don’t have to go down the list of things you thing women do and tick off every last one of them. Was Horus joking when he told me he saw you doing yoga and listening to ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’, or did that actually happen?”
Yah hesitates. “So what if I did?”
Seki shakes her head. “Let’s just get this over with, shall we?”
“Maybe I don’t feel like telling you now,” Yah says, turning away slightly. “Not if you’re gonna come in here with that attitude.”
“You invited me over!”
“I invited ‘fun, helpful Seki’. Not ‘work Seki’. Don’t bring that shit in here.”
Seki takes a breath, composing herself. Then, in the calmest of tones, she says, “You’re right. What can I help you with?”
Satisfied, Yah re-engages with her guest. “Have you seen what your roommates are doing? Did you know about it?”
“About what? I’ve been working all week. I haven’t had time to play that stupid game.”
“It’s not a game.”
“Whatever you want to call it...”
“The Experiment. That’s what it’s called.”
“Fine, the Experiment. Whatever. No, I haven’t...” she searches for the right word. “...Experimented lately. What happened?”
“Your asshole roommates enslaved my people is what happened.”
Seki sighs. “I’m sorry, Yah, but... isn’t that just kind of part of it? The life cycle of nations – wars, conquests, people enslaving other people, et cetera, et cetera.”
“Not my nation,” Yah says. “Not my people. We’re supposed to be the ones doing the conquering.”
“Well, I’m sorry you got beat at your own game, but...” She drains the rest of her beer. “We had a deal. Remember?”
Yah says nothing.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve been awake for almost twenty straight hours. I need to get some goddamn sleep.”
She gets up to leave.
“What, that’s it? Bad luck, thanks for playing?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to tell them to release my people. It’s not cool.”
“You’re being a sore loser.”
“My matriarchy is suffering under patriarchal domination. Doesn’t that bother you.”
“No, Yah, it doesn’t bother me. They’re not real people. It’s a game.”
“It’s not a game! It’s an experiment. It’s the Experiment. It’s a totally immersive virtual experience, and none of you would have access to it if my goddamn brother didn’t steal it from me, make copies and plug you all into it like it’s fucking Fortnite or a goddamn Google doc or something. I didn’t make it for anyone else.”
“I know why you made it,” Seki says. “And I know what you were going through at the time. But maybe it’s a good thing that other people can use it. Maybe it’s good that you don’t have total control over it anymore.”
Yah fumes. “I take it that’s a ‘no’ on you helping me.”
Seki gives her a weak smile. “Go get a massage. Get a mani-pedi. Do all the stereotypical girly shit you wanna do and forget about the Experiment for a while.”
But Yah’s not backing down. “If you don’t do something about this, I’m gonna have to take matters into my own hands.”
Now, even the weak smile disappears. Seki’s leonine face darkens. “You know I can’t let you do that. I’m the protector of the pharaohs. I’m a hunter, a healer, and a motherfucking warrior goddess all rolled into one. If you come at Egypt, I’m gonna tear your ass up.”
Yahweh shrinks, suddenly afraid of her next door neighbour.
“I thought it was just a game,” she says, unable to restrain her inner smartass.
“It is just a game.” Seki sighs, unable to deny her love for it. “But it’s addictive as shit. How have you not been able to land another job yet?”
Yah shrugs, feigning modesty. “What can I say? The video game companies just aren’t hiring.”
“Listen,” Seki says. “There’s been an equitable re-distribution of power here. Now all of us can play, all of us can participate. Pandora’s Box has been opened...”
“You talking about the Greeks across the street?”
“I’m trying to be metaphorical.”
“Just... be cool, alright. You’re at a low point right now, but you’ll rebuild. As you get stronger, your people will get stronger. Isn’t that the whole reason we’re doing this? So we can see ourselves reflected in the game – the good and the bad?”
Yah nods, accepting the inevitable. “I guess you’re right...”
Seki smiles. “I like what you’re doing here, with the matriarchy and everything. I genuinely hope it catches on. And don’t forget – you still have to hold up your end of the deal.”
“I didn’t forget.”
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow, alright?”
Yah smiles back. “Alright.”
But as soon as Seki turns her back to leave, the smile vanishes from Yah’s face.
Cue the sinister music.
Once he hears the door close behind her, Yah says, “Oh, I’ll see you tomorrow, alright. But you won’t see me. Not until it’s too late...”
At that moment, Raph walks out of the bathroom fully nude again, like it ain’t no thang.
Yah looks away, shouting, “Goddamn it, Raph! Put some fucking clothes on!”
“Where do you think I’m going? God!”
Apparently, the concept of taking clothes into the bathroom to begin with never occurred to him.
So the Israelites are in slavery, yeah?
Joey’s long gone and a new pharaoh’s come to power.
This pharaoh didn’t know the Israelites and he didn’t owe the Israelites.
All he saw was a minority threatening to be not so minor in the not so distant future.
He saw a matriarchy instead of a patriarchy, and he knew that the women in his own society saw it too. He knew it wouldn’t be long until they started making demands for gender equality, and there was no effing way that was happening.
So, after consulting with his creator – the almighty sun god, Amun-Ra – Pharaoh devised a most elegant solution.
He had the soldiers, he had the manacles.
Christ, he even had slaves of his own.
But by turning the Israelites into slaves, he made them less than human. He made them and their culture and their ways detestable to his own people.
The way Pharaoh saw it, when Egyptian women looked at the Israelites now, they wouldn’t see a more progressive and equitable society – they’d just see a nation of filthy, wretched slaves.
And who wants to live like a filthy, wretched slave?
No one. That’s who.
So Pharaoh’s feeling pretty pleased with himself. He puts his feet up on the palace balcony and looks out over his city, the pyramids. Over all the slaves building monuments in his honor.
No, not his honor.
The gods’ honor.
He’s just a humble servant of the gods – he wouldn’t dare claim any of that honor for himself. The giant, throbbing erection that he has while looking at the monuments isn’t pride – it’s piety.
The same piety that makes him want to strip down and twist his nipples until they’re all swollen and tender. Maybe he’ll even work in a little light self-flagellation. And a dog collar. Have one of the servants drag him around on a leash while the others spit on him and treat him like the trash that he is.
Such is his reverence for the gods.
But despite being kept down, despite being whipped and beaten and forced to work all day in the scorching desert heat, the Israelites keep growing in number.
Eventually, it gets so bad that he calls in two of the midwives who deal with the Israelite women – Shiphrah and Puah (aka Ships and Pooh Bear). He lays it out for them, like, “I keep giving them more work, harder work, but they keep pumping out babies. Motherfuckers are like rabbits.”
“What do you want us to do about it?” Pooh Bear says.
“I want you to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Tend to the birthing women. Stroke their hair. Hold their hand...”
“Deal with the complications of pregnancy armed with nothing but the most rudimentary medical implements and the most basic of gynaecological training?”
“Yeah, all that,” Pharaoh says, dismissively. “But the second you see a penis on that slimy little slave, I want you to take that kid and cut his fucking throat.”
He stares at the midwives like he’s just said the most badass thing ever.
The midwives, in turn, simply glance at each other.
“You want to kill the boys?” Ships says.
“Yeah. You got a problem with that?”
Pooh Bear’s like, “Well, no, but... Wouldn’t it make more sense to kill the girls? I mean, if the name of the game is population control, taking out the girls just seems more efficient. They’re the ones who actually make the babies.”
“I know how pregnancy works, Pooh Bear!” Pharaoh shouts.
But now he’s thinking about it.
Of course she’s right.
Kill the girls and in a few generations, the Israelites will be faced with what we’re terming in the modern day an ‘aging population’. And while that’s good news for any Ancient Egyptian aged care workers, it sure as hell ain’t good news for the rest of them.
“That’s not bad,” Pharaoh says, pacing, stroking his long, phallic goatee. “Not bad at all. Pretty soon, the men will be too old to rebel, the women too old to reproduce. The Israelites will wither like a prune in the hot Egyptian sun and I’ll be remembered for all time as a hero.”
The midwives glance at one another again, brows furrowed.
“How’s that?” Ships says.
“I’ll be the guy who did what needed to be done. It might not be pretty. It might have terrible consequences long-term. But in a time when our people faced cultural devastation at the hands of an inferior tribe, I’ll be remembered as the guy who pushed back and saved the people of Egypt from a fate worse than death – racial impurity.”
The midwives try not to roll their eyes. They want to say something to the effect of, “Man, you’re really just living in your own little echo chamber up here, huh?”
But they don’t.
The ladies still gotta make a living, right? They still gotta make their way in this crazy, messed-up town, and if that means committing gendered genocide on children, then that’s what they’re going to do.
Only now, the Pharaoh seems to be having second thoughts. “I don’t know, the optics are kinda shitty on this one. Killing girls? I mean...”
Ships is like, “Up to you, man.”
“Yeah, if you don’t have the guts to do what needs to be done, I guess the Israelites will just rise up and take you guys over. What a shame.”
As insecure as Pharaoh is, he can’t resist giving in to peer pressure from these lowly midwives.
He rests his hands on the table and hangs his head, letting out an exaggerated sigh. He then looks out the window over his city again, doing the whole pouty, brooding thing like it’s really eating him up inside.
“Alright,” he says, at long last. “Do it.”
The midwives nod and leave the palace, fist-bumping on the way out.
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about these ladies. It’s not that they’re super-loyal to the Pharaoh or traitors to their gender. Pretty much the exact opposite.
See, in the months that follow, every baby girl born to an Israelite woman disappears.
Pharaoh’s pleased – he tells himself he picked the right people for the job and goes about abusing his power in other ways.
But Ships and Pooh Bear aren’t killing these girls.
They’re hiding them.
They knew when they got called into Pharaoh’s throne room that he was looking for a solution to the so-called ‘population problem’. As midwives, they were none too surprised when the issue of mass infanticide came up.
In fact, they were expecting it.
And by manipulating him into targeting the girls, Pooh Bear and Ships could ensure their safety. They could hide them away from Pharaoh, from a life of slavery, and send them out into the desert. There, they could train to be warriors and eventually come back to free the rest of them.
So they put the word out. They told every Israelite midwife to pretend they had killed the newborn girls.
In reality, the babies were smuggled out of town in the back of a wagon driven by an ostensible farmer as he ostensibly made his way home from market. He was a blind old man who nobody suspected, and nobody gave any guff to.
I can already hear you asking, “Well, how could he find his way home if he was blind, huh?”
Well, asshole, the donkey wasn’t blind – and he had a pretty goddamn keen sense of direction.
And if you’re even considering bringing up the inherent danger of a blind person getting in the driver’s seat, keep in mind that drunk-driving laws weren’t introduced until, like, fifty years ago.
When the old farmer went by, the soldiers just smiled and said “Howdy” – because apparently, Ancient Egypt has a lot more in common with the Wild West than we give it credit for.
But little did these Egyptians know, the farmer had a whole litter of sleeping babies under a filthy horse blanket in the back. If you’re worried that the kids could have woken up screaming at any moment, rest easy – they were all well-drugged.
Even littler did the Egyptians know, the farmer wasn’t a farmer at all.
He was blind, and he was an old man, but a farmer he was not.
In truth, he was an MMA master named Jethro, and out in a little desert dojo with his equally-blind wife, Reuel (Rue – like Sue, with an R), he taught these girls to be warriors. He raised them himself. He taught them to be tough, to be mean. He taught them about the bondage that their mothers, fathers and brothers were still being held in, and it made them hate the Egyptians.
Meanwhile, back in the city, shit’s getting hot for the midwives.
Pharaoh had uncovered their little scheme after one of the midwives got drunk and bragged about it in a tavern. A guy she was arm wrestling with accused her of being “Israelite on the outside, Egyptian on the inside,” and she said, “Oh, yeah? Well, listen to this...”
Subsequently, the midwives were all rounded up and put to death. They were replaced with Egyptian midwives, and Egyptian soldiers to supervise the births.
Now, the wee baby Israelite lasses really are being killed. The second the umbilical cord is cut, they’re tossed into the Nile for the crocs to chow down on.
Shit’s dark, guys.
And if you’re thinking Jethro and Rue are gonna ride in and save the day with their kickass, all-female Suicide Squad, think again. The girls are too young and too few in number. Most of them are still toddlers.
Great idea alert.
Toddler Squad, anyone?
I don’t want to derail the episode, so I’ll just give you the elevator pitch:
Rugrats meets Karate Kid... meets True Detective
If you’re wondering what the True Detective element is, or why the R-rating is necessary, you’ll just have to wait for it to hit theatres in summer 2020.
Mark it down in your diary or whatever calendar app you use.
Yes, the whole summer. I want you to block out an entire summer for this thing.
Trust me – it’ll be worth it.
I really don’t think I can hype this thing enough.
Now all I need is a director, a script, funding, a cast and crew...
Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter, guys. This one’s gonna be big. I can feel it.
But back to Jethro and Rue...
As much as it pains them to sit on the sidelines and do nothing while this baby-killing storm rages on, they don’t really have a choice in the matter. They just keep telling themselves that when their girls are old enough, they’ll get their revenge.
Boy, will they ever.
Meanwhile (again), two people from the house of Levi (ie. descendants of Izzy’s son, Levi) get together and decide it’s a good time to have a baby. Not to be hetero-normative here, guys, but this pair consists of one man (Jochebed, or Joe) and one woman (Amram, or Amy).
Now, this might sound strange, but there’s currently a segment of the Israelite population that still loves the Egyptians. Even though the Egyptians are the reason for their daily suffering, some Israelites are just blindly loyal.
In the modern day, we might call this ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
Back in the here and now of this book, they call it the ‘Nile Delta Disorder’.
Good, Egypt-hating Israelites call it that. Egypt-loving Israelites don’t call it anything, because they don’t see anything wrong with total Egyptian domination.
That’s why, even though there are soldiers present supervising the birth, none of them have to throw the little girl in the river. And no, the midwife doesn’t do it either.
Amy takes care of that herself.
After an agonising 18-hour delivery on the ‘birthstool’ – two bricks that a woman sits or stands on while giving birth – she sees that the baby is, in fact, a girl. Reacting the way a gambler might when dealt a shitty hand, Amy lets out a frustrated sigh.
Without missing a beat, she cuts the umbilical cord herself, walks down to the river, and tosses the kid through some bushes and into the water.
She wipes the sweat from her brow on a blood-drenched forearm (inadvertently replacing the sweat with blood) and composes herself. She then turns, as if nothing even happened (but with blood all over her face), and heads back up to the stunned soldiers, saying, “Tea, anyone?”
While it might seem callous to us, remember that ancient people gave less of a fuck about their kids than they did about a goat shitting in the house. Remember when Abe sacrificed his own son? Or when Lot offered his daughters up to be raped?
If you’re just joining us now and haven’t read book one, this would be a good time to catch up.
Yes, that is a link for Season 1.
No, I don’t have any shame.
Until kids came of age and could earn their keep, they were nothing but a drain on their parents’ time, money and will to live.
Much like it is today.
Only today, we’ve got laws against killing one’s own children.
In the time we’re dealing with, there’s a royal decree against not killing them.
Now, as Amy and Joe quickly move on with their lives, content to serve the Egyptians in any way they can, their twelve-year-old son, Miriam (Merry) has watched this whole thing from the goat pen in horror.
When everyone else is back inside, he bolts down to the riverbank, intending to be a hero and dive in after his baby sister to save her from the crocodiles.
Instead, as he bursts through the bushes, he comes face to face with one of these giant, prehistoric monsters, its open jaws about as tall as he is.
Letting out a less-than-masculine scream – “Ah! Scary! Very scary!” – Merry slams on the brakes, slipping over in the mud and almost sliding down into the croc’s waiting mouth. He grabs hold of a palm tree just in time and pulls himself back.
The croc snaps its jaws shut with a loud pop and hisses in dismay.
Recovering from the figurative shitting of his pants, Merry continues along the riverbank, following his little sister as she floats along the surface on her back.
He frowns. Why isn’t she going under?
Then he sees it.
Another giant, prehistoric monster cruising along directly beneath her, holding her up. At present, the croc doesn’t seem to realise it has a passenger, but who knows how long that’ll last?
Searching for options, Merry sees a palm tree overhanging the river up ahead.
Thinking fast, he races for it through the reeds, climbing out over the water. Interlocking his legs around a branch he hopes is strong enough, he swings down with his arms extended, hoping to catch the little girl as she glides past.
However, as the baby and her reptilian mount draw closer, Merry hears a loud crack and he drops. Splash. He goes under. His head hits a rock and the world spins. Round and round it goes.
Eventually, his hands find a purchase in the mud and he claws himself up onto the riverbank. Dazed and disoriented, he staggers through the reeds, scarcely remembering what he’s doing there.
Then he stops.
Up ahead, something catches his eye.
A woman, naked and bathing in the river.
But this is no ordinary woman.
She’s surrounded by terrified-looking soldiers who are standing in the water up to their waist in a semi-circle around her, facing outward. They’ve got their spears up like they’re going fishing, but Merry knows they’re really keeping a lookout for any crocodiles that might pose a threat.
On the bank are a few servants, waiting with towels and fresh clothes.
Despite a likely concussion, Merry quickly puts two and two together.
Soldiers aren’t going to risk their lives for just anyone, especially not for something as foolish and indulgent as a bath in a croc-infested river. Not to mention those are some mighty fluffy towels the servants are holding, and some mighty fine linens to boot.
She’s the Pharaoh’s daughter, Merry thinks to himself. What’s her name? Bithiah? Bitty, for short?
This realisation is quickly replaced by another thought...
Girl’s lookin’ good.
Another few seconds and he’s doing what any twelve-year-old boy would do in that situation.
He’s jacking it.
Blame it on the head trauma, blame it on unchecked pubescent horniness, blame it on Princess Bitty pouring water over her naked body or the setting sun for causing her to shimmer like a diamond – whatever you blame it on, Merry’s too distracted by the nude woman to notice that his act of vigorous self-pleasure is causing the reeds all around him to shake.
It isn’t long before one of the servants points it out, and everyone turns to look in Merry’s direction.
“Oh, shit!” he says.
The kid barely even has time to tuck his boner up under the belt of his tunic before a soldier reaches in and hauls him down into the river. He drags him over to the princess, who by now has covered herself up and is glaring at the boy.
“What is the meaning of this?” she says, furious.
Merry begins to stammer. “I... I... well, uh...well...”
It’s at that moment that a baby floats into their midst.
A tiny, newborn girl...
Merry suddenly remembers what he was doing in the river.
He also remembers how his sister was staying afloat...
Springing into action faster than his rapidly-softening penis, he grabs the infant with his free hand. This is inadvertently also his masturbating hand, but what’s he supposed to do? He’s a leftie.
Sensing movement, the crocodile rears up out of the water, swinging it’s head around in Merry’s direction...
The boy ducks, hugging his little sister in tight, plunging them both under the water.
This is fortunate for him, but unfortunate for the soldier holding his arm...
The crocodile’s open jaws close around the poor guy and drag him, screaming, under the water.
As he feels the soldier’s grip release and the croc pass over him, Merry leaps up out of the water, yelling, “Run!”
But it’s too late.
The other crocs have been attracted by the splashing and the smell of blood – they descend on the soldiers and servants without mercy, tearing them limb from limb.
Merry runs toward Princess Bitty, holding the baby under his arm like a football. He takes her wrist and hauls her along with him, up the bank and into the reeds, dodging lunging crocodiles and body parts being flung around like streamers at a party.
Only once they’re a safe distance from the river do the horny pre-teen, the croc-riding baby and the half-naked princess stop to rest. Sitting there in the dirt, they listen to the helpless screams of her entourage.
“Hope you enjoyed that bath,” Merry says. In his head, he adds, “I sure did.”
The princess glares at him. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yeah. You’re the princess.”
“And you can’t talk to me that way. Besides, what were you doing down there? Are you a spy? An assassin?”
“I’m twelve,” Merry says. He looks at the baby in his arms, who is – impossibly – snoozing away like she didn’t just survive a crocodile feeding frenzy. “Goddamn, you’re a heavy sleeper.” He turns back to Princess Bitty. “I went down there to rescue her. My mom threw her in the river because she’s a girl.”
At this, the princess softens. She looks down at the baby, then back up at Merry – both of them soaking wet, still shaken up from the horrors of the previous two minutes.
“If I take her back, she’s going to die,” Merry says. “I don’t know what to do...”
Princess Bitty thinks about it for a moment. She can’t help but pity the kid, and his sister. She also can’t ignore the fact that he saved her from those crocodiles.
“Let me take her,” she says. “If I adopt her, and raise her as my daughter, no one will ever know.”
Merry can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You’d do that?”
The princess smiles.
“It’s the least I can do,” she says. “Besides, if I can save one life while my dad is carrying out this brutal genocide against your people, then I’ll have done my job.”
“You know, you could save a lot more. You could talk to him, reason with him...”
“No,” the princess says. “One’s enough.”
She extends her hands, and Merry realises that’s the end of the conversation. He passes her the sleeping child. Princess Bitty holds her, smiles at her.
“What’s her name?”
“They didn’t give her one.”
The princess thinks. “How about... Moses?”
Merry frowns. “Isn’t that a boy’s name?”
“Yeah, but... so what? You guys are a female-dominated society – I would’ve thought you’d be a little less concerned about gendered names.”
The comment goes way over the twelve-year-old’s head and he just stares blankly at her. Then he thinks of something. “Hey, you’ll need a wet nurse, right? For the baby?”
“Uh, yeah... I guess.”
“Alright, stay there. I’ll be back.”
With that, he gets up and runs back in the direction of his house.
Arriving home, Merry notices that the soldiers and the midwife have left. His mom and dad are in bed, resting, so he creeps past their door to his sister’s room and goes inside.
Aaron (Erin) is lying in bed, on her side, faced away from him. The room is dark, but there’s a single candle burning on the bedside table. He can tell she’s been crying. She hasn’t done much else lately.
He hesitates. “Uh... Erin?”
“Get out,” she says, voice flooded with emotion.
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t come in here if it wasn’t important. I just... I need to ask you something and then I’ll leave. I promise.”
Taking that as a good sign, he goes over and sits down on the edge of the bed.
“She had a girl, didn’t she?”
“She throw her in the river?”
“Yeah.” Merry swallows. “But she’s still alive, Erin. I saved her.”
At this, Erin turns around, shocked. “You saved her? But... the second you bring her back...”
“I’m not bringing her back. I left her with the princess.”
Now Erin’s really confused. “The princess?”
Merry shakes his head. “It’s not important. There was a whole thing with the princess bathing in the river, and I hit my head, and the baby was riding a crocodile, and then I saved her...”
Reeling from all these insane details, Erin says, “The baby?”
“No, the princess. Well, both, I guess.” Something occurs to him. “Hey, am I a hero?”
Erin smiles, her eyes still watery. “It sure sounds like it.”
Merry smiles too. “Listen... I know you don’t want to stay here. Not after what mom did...”
Erin touches her deflated belly. She has flashes of her mother cutting the umbilical cord, ripping the newborn baby from her hands, marching outside, carrying the girl by her ankle. Erin never even got a chance to hold her...
Tears well in her eyes again. She blinks them away.
“I’m saying you don’t have to,” Merry says. “The princess needs a wet nurse. I told her I was coming back to get one.”
Erin realises. “Me?”
“I know it’s a little weird, and I know it’s not your daughter...”
Erin surprises him by wrapping her arms around his neck, squeezing him tightly. “Thank you,” she says.
It takes him a moment to process the hug before he reciprocates. He isn’t used to his sister being nice to him.
“It’s the least I could do,” he says. “I didn’t do anything to stop her last time. I couldn’t let it happen again... Not again...”
Erin squeezes him tighter. A tear runs down his cheek as the guilt resurfaces.
Finally, they draw apart.
“Plus, you get to live in a palace,” Merry says with a laugh, trying to lighten the mood. “So that’s pretty sweet.”
Erin’s face falls. “But what about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. As long as I know you and little Moses are alive and happy, that’s more than I ever could have hoped for.”
Erin furrows her brow. “Moses?”
Together, they sneak out of the house and make their way back to where the princess is waiting with their sister. Baby Moses (Moe, for short) is screaming her little head off, and Princess Bitty is trying desperately to rock her back to sleep.
To say the royal daughter looks distressed is an understatement – she’s probably never worked this hard in her life.
When she sees Merry and Erin returning, she breathes an exaggerated sigh of relief. “I tell you what – five more minutes and she would’ve gone back in the river. I really think I’m starting to see my dad’s point on all this...”
“Here, let me take her,” Erin says, scooping the child from a very-willing princess. She cradles Moe, stroking her cheek. Slowly, the baby calms.
While the princess looks about as relieved as someone recently released from a torture chamber, Merry can’t take his eyes off his sisters. One missing a daughter, the other missing a mother. Each made whole by the other.
“Well, it certainly seems like you found the right person for the job,” Princess Bitty says. “Come, wet nurse, let us get back to the palace at once.”
With that, she turns and walks off, clearly expecting Erin to scurry after her. And scurry she does, but not before giving Merry one last hug. Not before Merry strokes the baby’s cheek one last time. Not before they swear that they’ll see each other again.
Then Merry’s standing there in the middle of a riverside road, watching his sisters vanish into the dust.
Amy is woken by the early morning sun filtering down through the palm leaves. Rolling over, she feels as if she’s lying on unsteady ground. At first, she thinks it’s a dream, or some ancient version of a waterbed. It quickly becomes clear that she is, in fact, not lying on the ground at all.
She’s floating on the river.
To be more specific, she’s lying on her mattress, which is buoyed up by a few rotten planks, which are – in turn – floating on the river.
Panicking, she looks around at the water lapping against their boat-bed, searching for any sign of a crocodile. Joe is still sound asleep beside her, and she roughly shakes him awake.
Like many of us, Joe has a condition that, for lack of a better word, I’m going to term, ‘Prematurely Being Woken Up Homicidal Rage Syndrome’.
In case it isn’t clear from the title, the sole symptom of this condition is, when woken before you’re ready to wake up, you fly into such a mindless, seething fury that you threaten the very existence of anyone around you, including small children and pets.
Joe springs up into a sitting position, eyes bloodshot, vein already pulsating in his forehead.
“Goddamn it! I’m trying to sleep here, you fu...”
Then he stops.
The words die in his throat.
He sees that he’s surrounded by water and his PBWUHRS is quickly replaced with PSFOBEBAC.
Pants-Shitting Fear Of Being Eaten By A Crocodile.
They look around for the cause of their predicament, and see a lone figure standing on the riverbank. He isn’t moving. He’s just watching them.
It takes a moment for Amy’s eyes to adjust, to realise who it is.
“Merry...” she breathes. “Merry! Help us! Help...”
When her son doesn’t move or respond, her dread only deepens.
“Merry!” Joe says, a little slower to realise that his son is killing them. “Grab the boat and come get us.”
The boy glances over at their family’s skiff, moored to a nearby tree, but he makes no move toward it.
Joe’s face turns pale, and as the breakfast-hungry crocs begin to mass around the floating bed, he turns even paler. The married couple scramble to get as close to the centre of the bed as they can, eyes glued to the circling monsters.
Finally, Merry speaks. “I just want you to know that my little sister is alive. I pulled her out of the river last night.”
Amy is caught off guard by this, caught somewhere between abject terror and indignant shock. “You what?”
“I also got the princess to adopt her and hire Erin as a wet nurse, so they’ll be living up in the palace from now on. Just thought you should know. Say hi to Erin’s daughter for me.”
With that, he turns and walks away.
“Merry!” Amy calls. “Merry, you son of a bitch!”
Merry laughs. “Your words.”
Up above, Yah’s watching all this play out on her zoomed-in Google Maps thing. She’s sitting in the backyard with Raph, and they’re each drinking a stiff gin and tonic – easy on the tonic.
“What do you think?” Yah says.
“About who? About him? For a twelve-year-old, he’s a little nuts, but compared to some of your other guys...”
“No, not him. Her. Moses.”
“I don’t know. She’s a baby.”
“Yeah, but she’s got potential, right? You see how she rode that crocodile?”
Raph doesn’t see what so impressive. “Yeah, I saw it.”
“Is that future matriarch potential or what?”
“...in addition to being the goddamn Princess of Egypt? Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty good place to start the revolution, wouldn’t you? Burn it down from the inside.”
“I guess. But...” Raph shakes the ice in his glass, looking uncertain. “Aren’t you supposed to be taking a break from all this? Wasn’t that the deal you made with hot Dr. Lion-Face lady?”
“Seki?” Yah gives a dismissive wave. “Hey, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Also, technically, I’m not doing anything.”
“You’re telling me you didn’t guide that croc for Moe to land on?”
Yah shrugs innocently. “Crazier things have happened.”
“Crazier things have happened because you made them happen.”
Yah ignores him, sips her cocktail.
Raph shakes his head. “Also, you reckon the next door neighbours are gonna do anything about that?”
He scrolls back from the tracking shot of Merry and points to Amy and Joe on their floating bed. They’re standing up now, fending off the snapping jaws with sticks.
“Help us, Amun-Ra!” Amy is yelling at the sky. “Sobek! Osiris! We renounce our Israelite god and embrace you!”
“A little on the nose, guys,” Yah says, seeming bored. She turns back to Raph. “I don’t know. What the fuck would they want with a couple Israelites? And if they are gonna do anything, they better hurry...”
At that moment, a croc lunges up and grabs Amy in its jaws. This causes the bed to capsize and Joe to fall off into the water, where he is promptly seized by two separate crocs and torn apart.
“Jesus...” says Raph.
Yah drains the rest of her drink, loudly sucking out the last drops of sweet, sweet alcohol through a straw. “Guess that answers that.”