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Historical Fiction Romance

The holes where his eyes had once been were now dry. He knew this, not by cause of his daring to touch inside them with his fingers, but merely for he felt them drip no longer.

He who had once feared nothing.

He sat in his prison cell, blind, crushed by the weight of his own flesh. He had to strain to lift his muscled arms that had before brought him the world. His knees were weak below thighs that had chased down lions. Once he was as a king, now he could scarce lift his head—not for having been brought low, though he had, but by reason of simply having not the strength.

But he felt none of these, for his thoughts were only of her.

When they came to wake him in the early hours, he heard her jewelry clinking in the sounds of their keys. She wore gold bracelets, he remembered. When they marched him, stumbling, down the halls, he heard her sandals beside him, tapping against the stone floor. Each corner they turned brought new hope that he would see her, coming to him. But then he would remember: he could see no longer. But then he would forget, as they turned the next corner.

They would strap him into the stone mill and mock him. Pray tell us how it feels to grind the grain that feeds your enemies, they would spit. It feels of nothing, he would never say in response. Anger, his once-constant companion, was but a bothersome stranger now.

And so with heavy feet he would walk in circles. Too many circles to number. The millstone grinding to his right, ever to his right. So weak, so tired. He put out of his mind the day when he could have rent the mill asunder and struck down the prison guards with but his hands.

Sweat fell from his back and wet the ground beneath his feet. It beaded on his brow and streamed into eyes that were not there, stinging still. It soaked his long hair and gathered at its tips, fine points tickling him without humor.

His hair.

It met his shoulders now. He was shaved clean when he came to this prison. He did not know how long he had languished here. He did not know how fast his hair grew, for he had never cut it. She had cut it for him, just once.

Stop, the guards would say at what may have been sunset. They would march him to a room that came at the end of many more fruitlessly turned corners, and there he would eat formless, tasteless meals.

She loved dates, he remembered. Dates and honey.

Nights were his greatest torment. Though the darkness was constant, nights brought with them the silence. In it, he could feel her lying next to him. So real was the warmth of her body that he would reach out a hand to touch her skin, to find that he grasped at cold air. Thus he held instead to her whispers. My strong man, she would murmur as sleep took them, what is the secret of your strength? Will ever you tell me? And he would smile and kiss her forehead, filling his senses with the perfume of her hair. Yes my love, one day, he would murmur back. It was their ritual, he had thought. Just a lovers’ game.

And so his eternal night continued. Her bracelets clinking to wake him, her sandals walking beside him, her whispers at night, her, always just out of reach. Her.

He was finishing his meal when the others came for him. For a moment, he felt a familiar flare of anger. He had been picturing her across the table, telling about her time at the market that day, and they had interrupted. But the anger did not linger. What could he do with it now?

You are summoned, they said, and he heard glee in their voices. He could hear better now what was beneath a man’s words. That would have pleased her.

He felt heavy shackles bind each of his wrists. They clung to an even heavier chain, and he cursed it with each step of their march, for he could not hear her sounds over its clamor.

They traveled a great distance and climbed many stairs. It was the longest he had yet walked without her sandals beside him, but still he held her alive in his thoughts. She finished telling him about her day at the market, and he smiled.

He heard the music first, then the crowd in high spirits, growing louder and louder.

When he entered the temple, the people roared as one. He heard thousands and thousands of voices, shouting, jeering. See that our god Dagon has delivered unto us our enemy! The Philistine rulers cried in triumph, he who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain!

He was led before them, and he felt hatred rise around him. Sounds of spitting followed by wetness on his face, dripping onto his chest. There came a fist upon his head, and he fell to the ground, the laughter growing.

Presently they dragged him aside as their merrymaking continued, and their many eyes left him. They rested him against a great stone pillar for he could not stand on his own strength, and so he became aware of where he was. He held out an arm before him and stumbled forward blindly, landing quickly upon the twin pillar. All knew that these two pillars held up the whole of this Temple of Dagon.

As he laid his hands upon the cold stone, he knew what he must do. He searched his mind for the words of prayer that once came easily, but before they reached his lips, he heard the sound of bracelets clinking. He turned his face to meet it, filled with the fear of hope.

“Leave us,” he heard her voice, her sweet honeyed voice. When no movement followed, she spoke again, “You know who I am, you see that your prisoner is bound. Leave us.”

He heard shuffling, and several footsteps leading away.

She came close, her sandals stopping just before him. He could smell her perfume. He fell drunk with pleasure and was struck dumb. He waited for her to speak.

But she said nothing.

His joy began to falter. He felt her eyes upon him, her eyes that granted him life in prison.

“Why?” He did not mean to ask. He did not want to know.

Still, she said nothing.

Then he felt her hands, her small delicate hands, upon his shackled ones. She lifted them so his palms were upwards and open.

“Even as a child, I heard stories of you,” she said softly, “He who floods our lands with the blood of our people … with but his hands.”

He could feel her eyes upon them now. “Do you know that you slew my father with these hands? And my four brothers. Yet you knew not their faces. And then you lay these hands on me.” She let them fall, and he felt that he might die.

He willed his tongue to beg forgiveness, to utter any word that would keep her near to him, but all that came forth was, “Did ever you love me?”

For a third time, she said nothing.

But then he felt her hand once more, now upon his cheek, warm and gentle. He leaned into it from his soul, and wondered if a man without eyes could still weep. She stroked his face that was covered in spit, and then she stroked his hair, and then he remembered.

“I will bring down this temple upon the heads of all my enemies gathered here. You must leave,” he said, tearing himself in two.

He felt her hand stop in its motions. Then she said, quietly, “No.”

“Do you doubt me?” He demanded, unable to stay his quick anger.

“…No,” she said, more quietly still.

And he understood, and they fell silent.

Her breath whispered over his skin. Her heart beat gently in his ears. Would that this moment were eternity.

He lifted his arms and placed one hand on each pillar.

“Sovereign Lord,” he prayed, “Remember me once more.”

He pushed with all his might, and felt a fire grow in his chest. He felt thunder roll through his arms, he felt the whole earth give way beneath his fingertips.

As the first great stones cracked above them and the first screams rang out from the crowd of thousands, he pleaded, “Hold me, Delilah.”

She did.

March 18, 2022 20:44

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2 comments

21:41 Mar 21, 2022

THIS IS AMAZING!!! This story was beautifully written and brilliant. I loved it from the beginning but as soon as I realized I was beyond excited! This is so clever and I absolutely love it!

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23:38 Mar 23, 2022

Thank you Alexandra! Really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment, and I’m very glad you liked it!

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