Vanishing in an instant

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(Collage: Peter Hermes Furian (image); Christian Harnoth (graphics))

A short story

I woke up somewhere I had never been before. An endless corridor, the floor, the walls, even the ceiling all tiled in white, even the grout between the polished squares barely visible in the snow-white glare. Innumerable white panelled doors led off from this unreal tube. I couldn’t begin to see the end of the corridor, it just seemed to stretch off into the distance like in a dream.

A dream, that must be it. I was dreaming. There was no other explanation.

‘This is not a dream,’ rang out a soft, friendly voice that seemed to come from the very tiles themselves. ‘Welcome, we’ve been expecting you. You’ll be sure to find your room.’

Now I was sure I was dreaming.

‘I can assure you, you are not dreaming,’ echoed a voice from nowhere and everywhere all at once.

‘Where am I?’ ‘How did I get here?’ I couldn’t understand why I was replying to the disembodied voice.

‘You are in the archive. Where you belong. Please go to your room. Everything must be kept in order.’

Archive? In order? I didn’t understand what the voice meant. I already had my place in the world. I was everywhere! On Instagram, on TikTok, on Snapchat, everywhere and at all times. My multitudes of followers across the globe worshipped me, needed me. I needed to get back out of this bad dream, back to reality. The world would be so much worse off and so boring without me. They would be missing me already, I was the hottest trend on the planet, and I was sure to stay that way for a long time.

‘No-one misses you. Don’t worry. This is your home now. We will look after you. Please go to your room.’

Carefully, I took the first step and felt as light as a feather. All the excitement and euphoria of the recent days and weeks seemed to have melted into thin air. I looked at the first door on my left. There was a small, transparent name plate with a name scrawled unintelligibly over it. Curiosity got the better of me, and I shook the door until it swung open with a quiet click. Before I could snatch a glance of what was in the room behind the door an invisible hand thrust a spoon in my mouth and shoved some powder onto my tongue. Immediately, all the moisture was sucked up out of my mouth, out of my entire body. My throat rebelled, seized up, I couldn’t fight it, my whole body shook uncontrollably and was gripped by a massive coughing fit, the brown powder sprayed out of my mouth and tears shot into my eyes. Cinnamon, what else? How did that trend get here, and why was it kept locked up in the room?

Gasping for breath, I slammed the door shut and spat the brown powder out in the corridor. I was just pulling myself together when the gentle voice rang out once more: ‘Feel free to visit all the rooms and explore the archive. But don’t delay, your room is ready and waiting.’

Carefully, I approached the next door and opened it just a crack without taking a closer look at the nameplate. Nothing happened. All that was behind the door seemed to be a black room, nothing else. So much for this archive that the voice in my dream kept mentioning. Which archive has empty, unlit rooms? I felt for a light switch, but without success. Once I was sure that there was nothing behind the door I took a step into the darkness, but immediately froze when I was hit by a gush of ice-cold water. I clearly felt some ice cubes raining down on me. The water was so cold that I couldn’t even scream. I was drenched and couldn’t even move a muscle. After what felt like an eternity, the feeling slowly returned to my frozen limbs, I left the room, shut the door behind me and took a deep breath. Some trends were really unpleasant.

What was going on? My curiosity knew no bounds. Dripping wet and shivering with the cold, I opened the next door. A pulsating beat surrounded me, the whole room was full of bright, flashing lights as if I had just stepped into a huge club. Dancers gyrated and waved their hands in the air. Without realising it, I started to dance to the rhythm of the music. The beat was irresistible, it was impossible to stand still. I couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics rained down on me by a foreign voice, but it didn’t matter in the slightest. In fact, it made the song even better. For a long time, the music video to the track had been the most successful video in the world on YouTube, with billions (yes, billions!) of clicks and views. For several weeks this song, this video hit you everywhere you turned – but then it just seemed to vanish. I had to admit, I hadn’t thought about it for a long time.

And suddenly the scales fell from my eyes and I realised where I was: in limbo, with all the other trends that had fallen from grace. My time in the limelight was over.

‘I’m glad you understand,’ the voice chimed. ‘It must be hard for you to come to terms with. That’s quite normal, believe me.’

I tried to put my thoughts into words. ‘Does that mean I’m out of fashion? Do the people not remember any of the good times I gave them? No-one?’

‘People do remember you. But only very rarely and wistfully and with a feeling of nostalgia. Don’t worry about people, though, they have already come up with some new hypes and trends to keep themselves busy. Please now go to your room. Our archive is thousands of years old and we don’t have all day.’

Resigned, I set off down the seemingly endless corridor. Ah well, I thought, that went quicker than I expected. But at least I was famous, even if only for a few days.

About the author

Immanuel Reinschlüssel is a co-founder of the Fürth-based author duo “Die Schaffenskrise”. In addition to publications in anthologies, he has published two volumes of short stories, two volumes of poetry and an audio book.

FAU research magazine friedrich

Auf dem Cover des FAU-Magazins sind Spielzeug-Windräder in gelb, rosa, grün und blau zu sehen

This article first appeared in our research magazine friedrich. You can order the print issue (only available in German) free of charge at

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