“I told you- I want this to be like Job, but funny.”
“But didn’t Yahweh think that Job was funny?”
“I’m honestly not sure. They write him as this omnibenevolent creature who only wants good for his creations, but then he tests people for no reason. Like, as a bet.”
Muhtal laughed. “No, you’re right. I don’t know how anyone could read that story and not ask why the hell he needed to make that bet with Set. No reason besides a dick measuring contest. Well, guess what, Yahweh? Set won. He always does. Everyone he ever came after is dead in The River. Job was a sucker, just like every one of them that walks into a temple. They’ve mistaken otherness for holiness.”
“Yeah, that joke we tried to play on Hadrian and that country boy did not go the way we thought it would.”
“And Antinous was pretty. Honestly, girl, that one was on you. Bad move.”
“Well, humans aren’t an exact science, Muhtal. They’re on a game board, but they aren’t all stationary pieces. Do you not remember Gilgamesh? Achilles? Hercules? All these Oliver-Twist-style idiots who happen to unfollow The Pattern.”
“Well, Chaliya, if they were static, our game wouldn’t have lasted this many centuries. And then what would we have? Eternity is so overdrawn.”
“Exactly. So, this is what I’m saying: let’s take a break from this banal game. It's too routine. I feel like Eris, and I’m just totally over it. Let’s do something fun.”
“Okay, but if we’re gonna ‘Job’ somebody they kind of have to deserve it-”
“No! If we’re gonna ‘Job’ somebody they should be a moron with an unreasonably strong faith in a sky god they’ve never seen or heard from.”
“Well, what exactly are you tryna do?”
“I’m not exactly sure yet. I don’t want to murder someone’s whole family; like, to be honest, Yahweh’s predilections are creepily dark. He never comes to The Hill and he doesn’t let his people believe in anything else. Don’t know why his book is so popular with the humans. But I do want to fuck with someone who is somewhat religious. Just to see what happens.”
“But you already think people are inherently bad, so why are we wasting our time proving something I’m not disagreeing with you on?”
“What else do you have to do, Muhtal? Seriously.”
Muhtal rolled his eyes. “Fuck you; you’re right. I am SO bored. Let’s do it.”
“Alriiiight, Petty Muhtal is here. Let’s talk.” Chaliya set her face in her hands, leaning over the table, smiling in anticipation.
“Okay, like I’m not tryna kill anyone’s wife and kids and livestock to prove I’m a god either. So let’s not ‘Job’ anyone. But let’s gaslight the living shit out of a human and see what happens. They love that word. ‘Gaslight.’” Muhtal looked off into the distance and waved a hand across the empty air as if the word were a headline.
“Ohmygods, Muhtal!" Chaliya became excited by a realization. "They have this day on their calendar tomorrow they call ‘April Fool’s Day’ where, like, some very small men play very small pranks on everyone? And they’re Irish? Not sure on the details. Honestly, it sounds stupid.”
“I’ve heard of it; it is stupid. But, look at all their holidays and religions. Gods and goblins and ghosts.” Muhtal rolled his eyes.
“Okay so WHAT ARE WE DOING THOUGH?” Chaliya rolled her eyes back at him.
“I have an idea.” Muhtal snapped a finger and a dry erase board appeared in the room, as well as a red marker in his other hand. He walked to the board and started drawing crudely-
“What the hell is that supposed to be?” Chaliya asked, with a derisive look on her face.
“Uuuugggghhhh, you are so annoying, will you give me, like, five seconds?” Muhtal snapped back.
Chaliya sighed loudly and leaned back in her chair, away from the board with all its moving pieces.
“Okay,” began Muhtal, writing and pointing at the board as he continued. “They’ve got this sickness going around the whole of the earth right now. Not nearly as bad as leprosy or that last flu they got…. What did they call it?” He looked away from the board for a moment, to find the name….”Spanish! That was it. The Spanish Sickness, or something like that. It’s every other day with these people; I honestly don’t know how they’ve survived this lo-”
“JESUS CHRIST, MUHTAL- JUST GET ON WITH IT.”
“You are just awful today, aren’t you? Okay, anyway, the sickness. Worldwide. New vaccinations. People are supposed to wear masks and stay away from each other. But for some reason some of them consciously choose not to because they feel like it’s unfair. I don’t understand it, but it’s happening.”
“Shut up.” He held up a finger in her face. “Let’s choose one of the ones who doesn’t wear a mask and mess with them… Like, what if we gave them the sickness? Or better- what if we gave their mother the sickness? OR-” Muhtal was getting excited now- “what if, just for the prank day, we messed with all the anti-maskers and just erased their noses and mouths?’
“Muhtal- they need those to breathe.”
“I thought you said you didn’t want to ‘Job’ anyone. All of those suggestions sound pretty Job-y.”
“Yeah, but doesn’t it sound fun? And at least these people would deserve it. We could make it so they don’t die without their faces. That would be hilarious; can you imagine how confused and scared they’d all be?”
Chaliya did not understand why Muhtal thought these were such good ideas. They sounded boring. And she was already so bored. She wondered what the point would be, meanwhile Muhtal wrote his plan on the dry erase board as if it were some sort of military operation.
“Fine, whatever. Just do it; I really don’t care,” she said with the apathy only an eternal creature could express.
And just then, a golden apple rolled into the room and stopped just at Chaliya’s feet. Muhtal heard it, and turned to look at Chaliya just as Eris entered the room, looking as tall and graceful and drunk as ever.
“Are you two seriously still planning in here? I could feel the stupidity from three veils over. If you’re going to cause chaos, then cause some fucking chaos! Planning is literally the opposite of chaos.” Eris rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, looking down at them both like an annoyed mother.
“But Eris,” pleaded Muhtal, “this is just our first idea. We can come up with another one. And honestly, it’s very unfair of you to call it stupid. You’ve done stupider things.”
“Yes! While drunk! With no planning!”
Chaliya turned her head back and forth, excitedly watching the argument unfold. Eris saw her, quickly turned toward her and spat-
“You’re just as stupid as him; don’t think I can’t see you. I mean, look at the board- you haven’t moved the pieces in so many decades that they’ve all collected dust.”
“Okay, first of all- bitchy.” Chaliya held up one finger, then two. “Secondly, do you have any suggestions? Or did you just come in here to be rude.”
“Oh, you want help?” Eris smirked. She bent down to pick up her apple as Chaliya and Muhtal looked at each other with nervousness and confusion.
And then Eris took her golden apple and rolled it across the board as if it were a bowling ball. Pieces flew everywhere, all over the board, all over the table; some even fell to the floor. Then, she walked to the other side of the table, picked up her apple, turned away from the two lesser deities and walked out of the room without saying a word, leaving both Chaliya and Muhtal with mouths agape, staring at the board.
And that is the story of how The Continental Wars began.