Vanda dragged Wilom by the hand, a little faster than probably necessary. Wilom had to jog to keep up, feeling the blood pulsing in his fingertips from her grip.
“I’m sorry,” Wilom said.
Vanda didn’t speak.
“We should go back to the Capital,” Wilom said. “That’s where they’re likely holding the execution.”
Vanda pulled him out of the Pathways onto the side of the road.
“We need to talk,” she said.
Wilom ran a hand though his hair, and rubbed his palm hard against his forehead. “Yeah,” he said. “I get it.”
“You know, the polite thing to do would be to let me say “what the hell, Wilom” before you start acting contrite.”
“Wilom. What the hell.”
“I … I said it before I thought about it.”
“Your first instinct is to throw a friend directly onto train tracks?”
“No,” Wilom said. “I mean, I said it before I thought about it.”
“Ferryman,” Wilom said, waving a hand vaguely near one side of his head. “Like … like Yasin.”
Vanda sat down on the table, gripping the edge tight. “Ferryman,” she said dully.
“Ferryman,” Wilom agreed. “I don’t like it.”
“I liked the Ferryman’s Knowledge better when you were using it to talk people out of a fight.”
“Yeah,” Wilom said. “I don’t particularly like it at any time.”
Vanda was silent for a long time, then said, “You’re right. They’ll be at the Capital. If we hurry, we’ll get there just after they leave her in the cell. I think you should try and explain yourself to her.”
Wilom took a breath, then nodded. “Yes,” he said. “I should.”
When they arrived at the prison, though, there was none of the bustle that Wilom would have expected from a political prisoner arriving. The hairs on the back of his neck were crawling.
“It’s too quiet here,” he said.
“Agreed,” Vanda said. “They should … Oh. Oh, no.”
“We have to get back,” Wilom said.
Vanda grabbed his wrist and pulled him back into the Pathways.
But by the time they got back, the whole thing was already taken care of. A pair of journalists stood in the emptying main square, one of them packing up a camera and checking the film, the other making a few last notes in a notebook. Once the camera was packed up, the pair of journalists left together.
As they did, the hangman untied Peggy and carried her off the hastily-erected gallows, laying her gently on a nearby bench.
“We’re too late,” Vanda said. “They never took her to the Capital.”
“They must have prepared, and brought the journalists with them,” Wilom said.
“They did it that way because of me,” Vanda said. “If her getaway hadn’t been so clean last time, they would have taken her to the Capital.”
“I said they’d take her to the Capital,” Wilom pointed out. “They actually carried out the hanging. She didn’t listen and kept on demonstrating in the square, when you told her it was a bad idea.”
“You can’t possibly blame this on her,” Vanda snapped.
“No more than I’m blaming it on you.”
Vanda looked away. “I hate this. She didn’t deserve this.”
“The ferryman has her,” Wilom said. “And if he doesn’t, the lighthouse keeper does.”
Vanda let out a long breath. “We should go to the others. They deserve to know.”
“There’s not much else we can do.”
Vanda looked at him, then said, “You really did take what the ferryman said to heart, didn’t you?”
“I don’t see what else I could have done.”
Vanda made a noise. Wilom put a hand on her arm. “I don’t need to take a deal with him to know he gave me good advice.”
He noticed that her arm was shaking.
“Vanda?” he asked.
“We were supposed to stop that,” she said, shrugging off his hand. “We’re powerful! We’re immortal! That should never have happened.”
Wilom shook his head. “Things like that will always happen,” he said.
“Did the ferryman tell you that, too?”
“Is he wrong?”
“Isn’t that the point? We’re working against all that! You and me, refusing to resign ourselves to the River while we still have lives up here?”
“That doesn’t mean we can save everyone,” Wilom said. “Not even the ferryman and the lighthouse keeper can do that.”
“Not everyone,” Vanda said, quietly. “But … but I really thought …” she sniffed. “I thought Peggy, at least …”
She was shaking hard now, fists clenched, but she wasn’t crying. Wilom didn’t take his hand away.
“Let’s just go,” Vanda said.
3 thoughts on “Mistakes”