Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ice, Fire, and Bugs O'Plenty

Exodus: Part 3 - Don't forget the first and second chapters!

The day was overcast; the sky filled with angry grey clouds. Mysterious specks of light appeared, shining through the murky haze. They increased in size, appearing like torches encased in glass, hurtling through the sky. Egyptians milling about in the open-air markets froze in their tracks and beheld the odd, unidentified objects mysteriously travelling through their airspace.

The first boulder sized chunk of ice crashed through Tik-tik’s fresh juice stand, blasting it into splinters and spraying multi-colored beverages everywhere like an explosion of blood. A gout of flames burst forth from the shattered ice, burning the remains of the cart to cinders.

Fortunately, Tik-tik himself had just closed up shop and stepped out on his lunch break. The successive booming impacts and screams of terror sent him running outside the nearby falafel joint where he beheld his ruined business cart and the mounting pandemonium. Shoppers and shopkeepers alike fled on foot and animal back away from the pedestrian mall as every structure in sight was pummeled by giant hailstones and set aflame by the fiery embers within.

The extremely unusual hailstorm, the nature of which defied court meteorologists’ explanation, ravaged the country, damaging numerous public and private buildings. Even the royal palace’s pool house was blasted into smithereens and reduced to ash. Sadly, the Pharoah’s personal pool maintenance staff and lifeguards were among the casualties of that particular incident.

Egypt’s leading scientists were utterly discombobulated by the strange ice plus fire phenomenon. Oq Yun-bib, Professor of Elements at Ramses the Great University was baffled why the ice simply would not melt and extinguish the flames within. He repeatedly insisted in media outlets that conventional scientific wisdom had all but confirmed that the triad of elements, earth, fire and water had a specific, and rather un-nuanced system of dominance. Water, or in this case, ice melting into water, should have easily overcome the fire inside the hailstones.

The overwhelmed fire chief discovered his men were woefully ill-equipped to stop the spreading blazes. Despite their predicament, they continued risking life and limb in an attempt to perform their job as the explosive projectiles continued to rain down in a torrential fashion. As injuries and the death toll began to rise, Pharaoh Ramses II authorized the premature opening of the in-progress royal tombs to serve as underground shelters for thousands of homeless, distraught Egyptians.


A deeply tanned, pot-bellied, middle-aged man with an oversized mustache danced across the screen flapping his arms wildly. “So come by and visit Crazy Kamal’s Used-Camel Emporium!” He shouted. “You can’t find a better deal or better quality camels…” Kamal slapped the flank of a large camel standing next to him, “Anywhere!” The startled animal promptly spat in Kamal’s face.

The commercial ended, and the Egyptian News Network logo appeared.

“We now go to Zamtar the weatherman for this week’s forecast!” Tut-hak-bur announced.

Qeela crossed her arms in front of her on the desk. “What have you got for us today, Zamtar?”

“Thank you Tut and Qeela,” Zamtar nervously unrolled a scroll of papyrus and scanned the hieroglyphs inscribed there.

“Well, Zamtar?” Qeela tapped her fingers impatiently. Zamtar ruffled the scroll fretfully, clearly unsure what was going on. Gulping, he uttered a single word.


“Locusts?” Qeela and Tut wondered aloud in unison.

“Yes,” Zamtar glanced at his papyrus again. “Locusts.”

Zamtar, locusts isn’t weather. Rain is weather. Sandstorms are weather. Hail is-” Tut-hak-bur put a hand on Qeela’s arm. Realizing her insensitive goof, Qeela made an embarrassed, wide-eyed face and quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.

“Let’s take a look at the chart,” Zamtar signaled two off-screen assistants who walked onto the stage with a large scroll. One firmly grabbed the top and bottom edges while the other grasped the open flap and extended it to reveal the image within. The large map showed an outline of the Egyptian Empire, including little details like the various bends of the Nile River, the Royal tombs, the Sphinxes, the in-progress pyramids and treasure storehouses the Hebrew slaves had been building, the nearby Reed Sea and the occasional palm tree thrown in for good measure. A smiley faced sun god filled the upper left corner.

“Since early this morning, we have been experiencing strong eastern winds blowing in from the direction of the Reed Sea,” Zamtar gestured toward a few elongated spirals with tails that began near a large wavy image and stretched toward the residential areas. “You may have also noticed the steady buzzing sound that’s been progressively getting louder over the weekend.”

“I’ve been wondering what that was!” Tut-hak-bur exclaimed. Qeela slapped his shoulder to quiet him.

Zamtar coughed and ruffled his cue-card. “This trend is predicted to continue into the morning, where the winds will pick up speed. The result,” he hefted a stone hieroglyph stamp and inkpad, “is not going to be pretty” Zamtar dipped the stamp and gently pressed it to the map, leaving behind a little imprint that resembled a squiggle with wings over the western bank of the Reed Sea.

“Well, that doesn’t seem too bad, Zamtar!” Qeela interrupted.

“That’s just Monday morning around sunrise,” he continued. “As the day goes on, conditions will continue to deteriorate,” he added three more winged squiggles.

“That’s still not so terrible. We’ve had locust swarms pass through before,” Tut-hak-bur said, turning to Qeela. “Those things can’t fly, right?”

Re-inking his stamp, Zamtar cleared his throat and announced, “Then the rest of the week will look a bit like this.” He furiously jabbed the stamp all over the map, punching through the papyrus twice before running out of ink.

“Oh my,” Qeela recoiled.

Breathing hard, Zamtar turned back to the camera with a nervous smile, “And that’s it for this week in weather!”

Tut-hak-bur and Qeela sat in stunned silence as Zamtar finished his segment. After a moment, Tut-hak-bur shakily adjusted his tie and looked at his co-anchor.

“Remind me to tell the missus I’m going to need a new pair of galoshes."


  1. As it turned out, I have been quite busy this week with obligatory work, so I haven't been able to give this story as much attention as I'd have liked. I basically had barad and arbeh ready to go, so to half-fulfil my announcement that I was going to finish, here are 2/4 the remaining plagues. Winter break starts next week, so I hope to continue (and finish!) the story then.

    I'm also kind of stuck with choshech in terms of approaching it from the narrative (like barad) or newscast (arbeh) style. Any ideas/suggestions?

  2. I like the newscast style because it is more creative/funny but the narrative is good too.

    I never pictured a falafel stand in ancient Egypt, although I never really thought about what they ate- roasted lamb? maybe Shwarma.

  3. Couldn't be lamb, that's the whole thing about Moshe saying that eating lamb is an abomination to the Egyptians, and why it was such a big deal to tue up the lambs in front of them - since the Egyptians worshipped them. Felafel was more innocuous.


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