If we happen to be walking along a street at night, and a man, visible already from afar — because the street inclines gently uphill in front of us, and there’s a full moon — comes running towards us, then we will not grab hold of him, even if he’s feeble and ragged, even if someone is running after him, yelling, but rather we will let him run on unmolested.
For it is night, and it is not our fault that the street in front of us in the moonlit night is on an incline and, moreover, it is possible that the two men have devised their chase for their own amusement, perhaps they are both in pursuit of a third man, perhaps the first of them is being unjustly pursued, perhaps the second means to kill him and we would become accessory to his murder, perhaps the two of them don’t know the first thing about one another and each one is just running home to bed on his own account, perhaps they are two somnambulists, perhaps the first of them is carrying a weapon.
And finally, may we not be tired, and have we not had a lot of wine to drink? We are relieved not to see the second man.
The full story of ‘The Men Running Past’ by Czechoslovakian (now known as the Czech Republic) Franz Kafka, from the collection Contemplation (1913)