Salome: A Retelling of the Biblical Story. {fiction}


Long ago, the story of Salome and John the Baptist was recorded in the Bible.

Legend tells that she performed the Dance of the Seven Veils for her stepfather, King Herod, on his birthday. This pleased him, and he gave an oath that she could ask him for whatever she wished. She consulted her mother, who instructed her to ask for the head of the king’s political prisoner, John the Baptist, on a platter — Salome’s mother bore a grudge against him for opposing her marriage.

This is how Salome became a symbol of the dangers of female seduction. However, there is another story, not often told, a reminder that Salome is also the word for peace.


Salome dances in the streets now. She cannot be restricted to the women’s quarters. The guards have broken swords trying to keep her there, they’ve wasted iron and brass. They swear, when they are questioned, that she spat fire of gold and spoke a language they did not recognize but knew was ancient and formidable.

They say she is a snake, a manticore, and they do not change their story when they are ridiculed by the king’s guard. There is a fury to find her, a rush to the bazaar and the well by the river. No one wants to tell the king or his brothers that she’s gone, that she’s always just ahead of them.

They know she’s been there by the look on the faces of the peasants and their children, like they’ve remembered the only dream they’ve ever had. They know she’s been there by the smell of sandalwood and burnt cedar. They know she’s been there because their hearts beat faster when they’re close, and they all hope that the others won’t hear it, it’s that loud.

They all hope that this heart they’ve felt for the first time will never stop beating the way it is now.

Salome dances in the streets now, and later they will say that she demanded the head of the Prophet, the Waymaker. Later they will say that she wore seven veils, that she floated them to the floor one by one, that she smiled at her father. They will forget to tell how she had already passed the city gates, how she was dancing on the shore of the Red Sea living on dates with Lilith and Makeda, how she was never veiled.

They’ll forget because they don’t like to tell the real reason she dances. Or maybe they don’t know that it is the Baptist she dances for, because she and he understood each other, because she looked for him in the desert. When she heard his name whispered by the silk maiden at the fountain, she knew him like her own skin and eyes reflected in the water of the Qishon.

And she flew over the stone walls when Jupiter and Venus rose. She went to him, and he did not turn her away.

Salome dances in the streets now two thousand years later. She dances past the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she dances at the Wailing Wall. Her steps are like broken petals of jasmine, and she moves like soft lace on a widow’s tichel. Bombs have exploded at her feet, and every time she passes the angry dead, they smile and remember when Salome escaped her father’s house.


Jessica Michael is an author, adventure traveler, and dancer who resides in Prescott, AZ when she is not journeying around the planet. Her work has been featured on Expedition Portal, Red Fez, and Allegro.


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