Journal of a Plague Year: 1540 BCE

So, we were sitting around having some couscous with our Hebrew friends when the shop steward from the United Pyramid Workers came running through the neighborhood screaming about the Nile turning red.

We left our hovel and ran to the riverbank along with maybe ten thousand others.  Fish were floating belly up and the stench of rot was percolating through the air.  It was really disgusting.

Amir from our neighborhood slave council located our part-time diviner asleep under a date palm. Times are tough even for wisemen in the new gig economy.  He reassured us that there was nothing to worry about.  He had a dream that was confirmed by examining a pigeon’s liver: Pharaoh had the situation under control. The Nile would be back to normal in a couple of months at most.

We went to bed confident that Rameses the infallible would live up to his word, although the Hebrews weren’t so sure. Their wiseman believed that Pharaoh’s anti-Semitism would make them the fall guys for his incompetence. Our diviner assured them that Pharaoh had nothing against the Hebrews. Everyone knows Israelites are lazy and just want time off  to sit around and play Mah Jong. It isn’t anti-Semitism if it’s true, is it? He asked. Anyway, it couldn’t have been the Hebrews because they don’t have the pull with the gods to make much of anything happen.

When it rained Frogs the next day. We thought some kind of cosmic joker needed a sacrifice. A messenger appeared at the worksite from Karnak where Rameses proclaimed that he took no responsibility for this frogstorm He blamed the Hebrews for their lack of faith in Isis.  Furthermore, it was the Hebrews who had poisoned the Nile fish and polluted the river by using it as a Mikvah.  Those ingrates had lured the frog storm by magic incantations, which the new court magicians Amenbarr JaRe were now working very bigly to reverse. We talked for an hour about how the Israelites are totally weak but have enormous power.

The Hebrews pretended to be offended at being blamed.  The crappy water and rotting fish, not to mention traif amphibians, hit them as hard as anyone. No one was immune.

Amir hammered at the Hebrews and denounced them as sneaky  foreigners who  had intentionally brought on  the plagues and were just pretending to be victims to disguise their culpability.

 Another official-looking papyrus reminded us that Pharaoh was prepared for the blood and the frogs but wanted to maintain calm by keeping us in the dark, which we shouldn’t mistake for another plague..  

Yasmina made our family wear Ankh necklaces to demonstrate our support for Rameses. The guardians from Make Egypt Great Again would realize that we were the good slaves, deserving of better treatment than the Hebrews who were lazy and sloppy by nature.

Lice, locusts, cattle disease, the plagues kept on coming. Pharaoh told us that plagues were all over the world. The Hittites suffered even more plagues than we, and in Babylon the hanging gardens were shut down and the economy was frozen. We were protected, Rameses told us, because we would soon have the best magicians. Firing the magicians and diviners from the previous administration had been a wise, cost-saving measure that had nothing to do with the sudden appearance of these plagues. 

All was foreseen.  Everything possible had been done. Protective amulets had been sold to the Persians but the profit from those sales would help Egyptian manufacturers to resupply the upper and lower kingdoms in a matter of months. Also, anyone who received a “Hamsa” counterfeit amulet consisting of a raised middle finger should refrain from using them to ward off plague.

The gods are mad at us because the former king had strayed from the true path. King Toot’s programs, like monotheism, had been treasonous, unpatriotic attacks on the gods and soul of Egypt. Inspired by foreigners, these onerous regulations must be reversed. Anything with King Tut’s name on it must be erased from history.

We joined the torchlight parade chanting our new song: “Our blood.  Our Land. The Hebrews will not replace us.” As we march, our leaders point out that the Hebrews are conspicously repainting their doorposts with, of all things, blood. Lamb’s blood. They cannot intimidate us.  

No one is quite sure of the facts, but we believe in our pharaoh. He showed such strength in denying exit visas to the Hebrews. Pharaoh put Ivankha and Rameses, jr. in charge of plague . By summer, the plagues would all evaporate in the desert heat. Nobody wants to wait, least of all Rameses. whose poll numbers are tanking.

The screams woke us up in the middle of the night. Our baby son was cold and still. Families all over Egypt were howling in grief and terror.  It must be those damn Hebrews. Who else?.  Official posters and stele went up at every crossroads and public building. The stern likeness of Rameses with arms crossed over his chest, chin raised like a deity, stood behind these words: “This is a foreign plague that the Hebrews brought us. It is all their fault. I am not Responsible. Only I can save you.”

We believe in our pharaoh 100%. He showed such strength in denying exit visas to the Hebrews. Our convidenced gre even more when Pharaoh put Ivankha and Rameses, jr. in charge of plague .

Pharaoh’s genius plan for a final solution? Let the Hebrews think they can escape. Tell them to pack up and get out right away.  There was no way out. Pharaoh’s army would  slaughter them on the banks of the sea.

The whole population of Egypt marched to the bluffs above the sea, leaving their dead and dying children, the old men and women too weak from the draconian food and social service cuts implemented to build those remarkable pyramids for the Pharaoh’s glory and power, monuments that the Nubian’s would pay for. We stood cheering. The Hebrew’s must have thought it was for them. But we knew we would  have the last laugh.

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