Short story: Samson’s Sister, by Robyn Woodbridge

Nashyan, daughter of Manoah, fell to her knees as the funeral drew to a close, her eyes bloodshot and her throat raw with grief. All must come to dust, but she’d never really believed it would happen to her brother.

Sunday, 25th March 2012, 3:21 pm

More tears flowed as she remembered Samson, realising how she’d never see his beaming smile, hear his deep laugh, feel his strong hand on her shoulder, ever again.

He’d been their people’s champion, the bane of their enemies. Many, including Nashyan, had believed he really was invincible. She’d always been fascinated by the tales Samson told of his adventures, always cursed how she couldn’t fight beside him because she was a woman. Samson had always been so kind about that too, reassuring her of her strength (nothing like his own, of course, Samson had been blessed) and saying what a terror they could be to the enemies of Israel together.

Everyone had always said how alike they were. Perhaps that was why Nashyan had never had any interest in finding a husband, because she had given all her love to her brother.

Then SHE had come into their lives. Nashyan had warned Samson about Delilah, any peace between the Israelites and the Philistines was always delicate at best and Delilah’s reputation for being untrustworthy was infamous even among her own people. But Samson had fallen in love with her, and had been captured. Delilah had disappeared and no sign had been found of Samson for years. Only days ago they had finally found him – dead in the ruins of the great Philistine temple. There was no telling what had really happened, there was no-one left alive to ask, but everyone suspected that Samson had torn the pillars down and collapsed the temple on top of his captors’ heads in a final act of defiance.

Nashyan believed this; it would have been just like her brother to do something like that.

Rebecca, her best friend, put her hand on Nashyan’s shoulder.

“I understand your pain, Nashyan,” she said sympathetically. “Samson was a hero.”

“More than that,” sobbed Nashyan. “He was the best, the greatest of the children of Israel. There will never be another like him, ever.”

“He died bravely, and he took those Philistine dogs with him.”

But that wasn’t enough for Nashyan. As the other mourners walked away, she raised her tear-stained face to the sky.

“I will avenge you, brother,” she declared. “I swear by the Lord God and in your name, the Philistine witch Delilah will die!”

No-one took Nashyan’s oath seriously, but she ignored them. Three days after the funeral, she left to hunt down Delilah. That little traitor had to be somewhere. Rebecca tried to tell Nashyan to stay, how she would be called a lunatic and never be welcomed back again if she left, but she no longer cared.

After weeks searching through the neighbouring cities, Nashyan found what she was looking for.

In the grime of a tavern, she saw Delilah, still getting what she wanted from captivated men. Nashyan swept through the tavern, ignoring the confused stares from the other customer.

“Delilah,” she said coldly.

“Have we met?” the other asked innocently.

Nashyan pulled down her veil, revealing her face.

“Nashyan!” exclaimed Delilah.

Nashyan pulled a knife from her robe. Delilah ran.

The pursuit lasted all night. Delilah was thinner and could run faster, but Nashyan was resolute. She’d chase Delilah forever if she had to.

The chase took them outside the city as the sun rose. Delilah tripped over a rock, and went down, allowing Nashyan to finally catch up with her.

“How could you?” Nashyan demanded. “How could you betray my brother?”

“They were my people! What else could I have done?”

“You could have been faithful to him! But no, you took the money.”

Nashyan raised her knife as her eyes filled with angry tears. “Because that’s all you ever cared about, wasn’t it? You didn’t love him, not like he loved you. With your death, Samson will finally rest in peace.”

She went to plunge the knife straight into Delilah’s heart. Delilah screamed...

But the deathblow never came. Nashyan struggled to bring the knife down, but her arm wouldn’t move.

Then she became aware of something. A voice from nowhere. It sounded like her dead father’s, or that of Samson. But it couldn’t be either of them.

Quietly, relentlessly, a message came into her mind. Her thirst for vengeance was futile, the voice told her, Delilah had suffered enough. The Philistine who would have been her sister-in-law was now a sorry disgrace, not welcome anywhere, not even among her own family. And Samson’s time was past, he was at peace. To spill any more blood in his name was pointless.

Nashyan noticed that Delilah was staring up, but not at her. She seemed to be looking at the heavens. Delilah had been raised worshipping pagan idols, surely she couldn’t hear the voice too?

The voice faded from Nashyan’s mind, its last word: “Mercy.”

Delilah burst into tears. “I did love him,” she sobbed. “But I lacked the courage to fight for that love. I’m not like you.”

“No,” agreed Nashyan. “And I’m not like my brother.”

She realised she could move her arm again. She threw the knife away and offered Delilah her hand.

Delilah took it and Nashyan helped her to her feet.

“So, what now?” asked Delilah. “You found me...”

“I was the only one looking. No-one else will come for you.”

“Neither of us have a home anymore. Where can we go?”

Nashyan looked out across the desert, thinking of the many cities that lay beyond it.

“Somewhere new,” she replied.

“Will your... Will God guide us?” asked Delilah.

Nashyan smiled,“I know he will, sister.”

Still holding hands, they started walking off into the light of the new morning. Alone, they had both been weak. Perhaps together, they could find strength.