The Road

I didn't mean it, the woman whined, pasty complexion florid in the harsh flickering light. I never meant it.

The man beside her, dark in face, gave a mirthless smile. He played with a bit of string from his pocket, fashioning a small round loop of the thread, white fingers twirling nonchalantly.

We all mean it, said he.

Other voices spoke up, a babble of tongues. Outrage at the man and his string, at the woman and her whining, at the slow speed of the carriage down the road. The driver, face in shadow under a wide-brimmed hat, said nothing and gave not a glance back at his bickering cargo.

Another man stepped forward, small weasely face creased into a frown.

It weren't her fault, you bastard! he cried, She didn't mean to kill them, it was an accident!

The dark man cocked a black brow, twirling the loop of thread on his finger.

Let's assume you are right, for the sake of a good argument, he said. He looked tall and regal all of a sudden, white hands spread out as though balancing an immense scale.

Yeh, so what of it then? said the man. The woman moaned, looking out the window, but said nothing. She watched the black-paved road stretch out behind the carriage.

Assuming she didn't mean it, said the dark man, We assume it wasn't her intention to kill them.

Well, she didn't want ta do it, and she didn't mean to, so it weren't her intention now was it? said the weasely man, head thrust forward defensively.

said the dark man. One hand, the one clutching the loop of string, rose in a jerky movement. Perhaps it was some sudden movement of the carriage, though it had been steady upon the road until now.

But whether she meant it or not, she did it, you see? he added. The woman, watching the trees recede further and further behind them, gave another low wail.

We aren't punished for our intentions but our actions, you see, the dark man went on, holding the loop of string now at eye height and peering at it, twirling it in his fingers.

But that ain't fair! exclaimed the weasely man. The rest of the passengers in the carriage murmured their acknowledgment, scowling at the dark man.

Unperturbed, he glanced about with his white hands spread.

I merely judge, he said, and see for myself where you all are going.

If you ask me, muttered a woman, He's bloody well judged us all too much.

chorused the other passengers. The weasely man stepped forward, smirking at him, backed by the vindicated mob.

So, what're YOU in here for? he asked with a sneer.

said the man calmly, pocketing the coil of thread and going over to stand next to the woman at the window, watching the road to Hell recede behind them.