There were troubled scenes in Japan this morning after a commuter train left a station early for the second time in six months.
Last November, management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba sincerely apologised when their train left its moorings 20 seconds early, inconveniencing several potential passengers.
This morning's debacle, however, surpassed even that. The train's conductor inexplicably imagined that his train was due to leave Notogawa Station at 07:11 instead of the actual scheduled time of 07:12. After closing the doors to the train one minute early, he realised his error. He froze. Seconds slipped into the past. First, 20 seconds ticked away. Then, ten more. Still he could have averted the looming disaster and waited, but as another five seconds disappeared into history, and he could see no other passengers intending to get on the train, he decided to go ahead and give the signal to leave early - rolling out of the deserted station a full 25 seconds ahead of time.
Out of a darkened corner of the platform, two 'potential passengers' who had thought they were 25 seconds early for their train, screamed in horror as they saw the train pulling away, and realised they were not going to be allowed to board. The consequences of being late for whatever they were going to do formed themselves quickly into the minds of these two, and the future was altered irrevocably.
The first, a woman, stared straight into the conductor's eyeballs through the train window, piercing his retina, and shattering the exploding pane of glass into thousands of shards, fragments and slivers, which, in turn, caused the passengers on the train to take evasive action, diving for cover behind the leather-upholstered seats and each other.
The second, a man, was obviously well-versed in the Arts of the Ninja. Clad totally in black, the warrior produced, from behind his back a katana, a long sword which he began to slice this way and that in a threatening manner. He somehow started a fire by this method, then changed himself into a bird, and then a giant rat. The rat squealed a horrific squeal then disappeared for a moment, before re-appearing as a snake, then a spider, and finally a mollusc, though this may have been an error. He then became a colorful kite and swooped above the heads of other passengers who had begun arriving for the 07:14 to Shinjuku.
Finally, he assumed the shape of a commuter waiting for a train.
The Railway Authority of Japan has apologised for any inconvenience caused, and vowed to deal with those responsible in the 'proper time-honored way according to tradition'. We should light a candle for their souls.