Through the Tunnel
Martin closed his book and yawned. The train rattled and shook. Tired and headachy, he wanted nothing more than his high-backed armchair by his blazing fireplace.
He laid his head back on the seat and gazed out the window. The landscape zoomed by in a blur.
Or rather, I zoom past it in a blur.
The brakes screeched and the hazy stripes of color became trees and shrubs. His heart sank; they hadn’t yet reached the city limits. The weariness of the ride weighed on him.
The train slowed down as they approached a tunnel; its dark mouth gaped like a lion’s den.
He sniggered. At this pace, anyone could climb onto the train like Fantômas or Jesse James and plunge the passengers, himself included, into their crimes.
He closed his eyes. No one would rob this train. No one would kill anyone on this train. Nothing would happen.
Darkness encroached; Martin heaved a deep, bored sigh. He leaned his head against the windowpane and tried to make out the end of the tunnel. The train halted and came to a full stop.
He kept his eyes on the window. A light approached and Martin realized another train chugged in the opposite direction. Soon he would see its passengers through the windows.
Isn’t this the premise of an Agatha Christie story?
The train passed and a dismayed Martin realized it was a cargo train and bore no passengers. Boxcar after boxcar dawdled by his window.
How long will this take? Why aren’t we moving? Don’t both trains fit in the tunnel?
Ridiculous, he chided himself, it’s obvious they fit.
Martin glanced at his watch, an instinctive motion, though futile, since he could not discern the hour in the dimness.
Maybe time stopped?
The train squealed to life and began its slow rattle through the tunnel.
“At last,” Martin mumbled, glad yet disappointed. No bandits, no murder through the windows of the opposite train.
He reached his destination, and with heavy shoulders and a relieved smile, stepped onto the platform. He glanced at his wristwatch and noted they had arrived ten minutes later than expected.
He sighed and flagged down a porter. In doing so, he noticed the time on the clock-tower; it was ten minutes slow.
“Help you with your luggage, sir?” An old porter asked. He looked as old as the shabby clock-tower.
“Yes, thank you,” Martin said, “and you might inform the stationmaster the clock is ten minutes slow. “
The porter glanced at his own watch and frowned, “I have the same time as the tower, and your train arrived on schedule, sir.”
“Impossible,” Martin huffed, “we stopped for ages at the last tunnel, waiting for that cargo train to pass.”
“I am sorry sir, no cargo trains use these tracks. None have been on the timetables for, oh, three decades.”
“No sir, the last one carried explosives. A terrible accident in the tunnel; the cargo and the oncoming passenger trains blew sky-high. We no longer allow cargo trains on these tracks.”