I didn't think it was nice that I had to leave my daughter alone like that. After all, she had been looking forward to the evening so much. She had been looking forward to it all week. The one film I had given her for her eighth birthday we all wanted to watch together; at least that's what my wife had promised. But unfortunately neither of us could; my fiancée had to go to her work and I had to go to a company dinner.
Only, as I had assumed at first, it wasn't a company dinner. Not really, anyway. Instead of the whole company, or in this case only a small part of it, being invited to a meal and talking about your own life, family or private things in general, it was eating and talking about how to create more jobs in our offices, for example, or how to attract more applicants. In other words, a boring meeting - although the job was not boring to those who had it, otherwise I would not have done it after all - where there was no communication about one's own issues. Incidentally, this "boredom" also meant that I did not concentrate on the food, which was served to us in several courses, and could not savour the taste experience as I usually did.
Like everything else, the meal came to an end. Shortly before 11pm, I then took the car back to my home town, about 15 minutes away. The drive itself, however, had to be interrupted after a short while because the petrol tank was almost empty. So I took the car to a petrol station to fill it afterwards. I did this for about a minute. Then I went into the shop afterwards to pay. As I did so, I noticed that my bladder needed emptying - during the meal I had only been to the toilet once and that was about an hour ago when I was in front of the checkout. So after paying, I asked the cashier if this petrol station had an integrated toilet. She answered my question with a yes, then gave me the key and afterwards said that I had to go once behind the building to find a door with a painted tinplate depicting a minimalist woman and a man.
Half a circuit around the building later, I was standing in the toilet. In the smallest space there was a toilet, a urinal and a sink. But everything was still distributed in such a way that there was enough space for each of them to be operated. I decided to use the urinal because I had experienced several times that it saves more time, even if only for a few seconds. The feeling of being free of one's own physical pressure was a combination of a relief and satisfaction.
Despite the fact that I had expelled my bodily fluids, my bladder still ached as if it would tear at any moment. However, it was no longer the unbearable feeling as if I was dying, but more of a liberating feeling.
I then pressed the trigger button, the loud rushing water ran through the hole into the sewer along with my urine, and I made my way to the sink. I turned on the tap, washed my hands, pressed the soap dispenser, the soft white chemical ran onto my left hand, rubbed my hands, then held them again under the almost round miniature waterfall and turned the tap off again. After the procedure, my hands wandered to the paper dispenser to take out the white, rough material that hung out downwards and was most likely cheaply made. And yet the product delivered on its promise: to absorb the water and dry the grasping limbs that were on my forearms.
After I had thrown the paper into the bin below the dispenser, I saw myself in the mirror. A 48-year-old man, whose facial expression showed that he had not had a good day, stood in front of me. His hair was cut short but still pulled back with hair gel. The face revealed several wrinkles - not only because of his age, but also because of his frustration. The clothes he wore were a black suit with thin, vertically wandering, dark blue lines, a red tie - how classic -, also black, smooth-ironed trousers and black, polished shoes - or to put it another way: The stereotypical clothes that work employees have to wear.
However, this was only the surface with which I showed my presence. From the outside, it would make you look strong, dominant, rebellious. In reality, I was none of the three. Strong is a relative term for me, as I still considered myself fit and agile, but a bullet-shaped and, above all, firm layer of fat had formed on my belly, which fortunately was not really visible under my clothes. I was neither dominant at work nor at home - my wife and I shared the work - nor did I want to be. And rebellious I had not been for a long time.
The good old days when you were still young and fit, you still had your long life ahead of you, you didn't yet have a job to earn your daily bread, and you met up with your friends and did every kind of nonsense imaginable. Unfortunately, those days have long since passed. I now meet my friends - former ones as well as new ones - extremely rarely and my work is grabbing hold of my own life to keep me in the working world. I don't want to criticize my job for this, but it is nevertheless so time-consuming and so resource-consuming for my own memory that I no longer have the strength in the evening to attend to my own ideas and sometimes interests. At most, I still have sufficient capacity to be there for my daughter. That's why sometimes I had the desire that I could just drop all this, if only for a day. Even when I looked at myself in the mirror on that particular evening.
But at some point my head started to hurt. At first, I thought it was a pain in concentration from all the listening I had done at the company dinner, and that it would go away quickly. But they did not disappear. On the contrary, they became louder and louder and more agonizing.
My left hand rested on the edge of the washbasin. My right hand, on the other hand, clung to my forehead; a process that we humans always carry out, even if it doesn't actually bring anything - no healing, let alone relief from the pain.
So my breathing became slower and more intense. The suffering in my head more unbearable. So unbearable that any person would have done anything to stop the pain. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, the original horror was just beginning.
The agonizing fire moved from my brain slowly but surely down the rest of my body. First it gnawed at my entire neck. Everything twitched - I could feel it as well as see it; small spots on the skin layer rose up, disappeared again, new ones formed in other places. I wanted to try to say something. But nothing came out of my mouth. Not even a single sound, if you don't count a soft and subtle exhalation.
Then the wave reached my chest. The heartbeat grew faster and faster by the second. So did my breathing. I usually only had a feeling like this when I did high-performance sports and then took a break. Only the last time I had done something like this was more than ten years ago.
Then the pain reached both my arms and the left one, which had supported all my weight before, gave way and my forehead slammed full force against the edge of the sink. Shortly afterwards I fainted.
Everything was black. That was all I saw and heard. But what I did hear was myself. More my own body. I couldn't see myself, but I could feel myself. I was lying on the floor. Furthermore, I could not identify the material I was lying on. So it was unknown to me. The two arms aligned next to the two sides of my body, palms pressed to the floor, lifted my upper body, right leg made a bend forward and then straightened me again.
I looked around. Again, nothing but blackness. I could see nothing, nor hear anything. Even then, nothing as I slammed my feet to the ground. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a light appeared behind me. I pointed myself in its direction and saw a yellow glowing sphere hovering over the ground. At first, I didn't want to walk towards the sphere, but that thought quickly faded as I reflected on the fact that there was nothing else to do here, let alone see. With a steadily growing uncertainty, I took slow steps in the direction of the floating sphere. "What is this?", I asked myself, my gait still fixed on the sphere, "Why do I feel the temperature of this light? Is all this a dream? If so, this one feels so real that this can't be a dream". Then I stopped. "If this were a dream, then I should be able to wake up myself". I clenched my right hand into a fist and punched myself in the face as hard and fast as I could. Instead of waking up, however, I remained in this world. And not only that: I additionally did not feel the expected pain. To check again, I hit myself in the same spot. Again no pain. I hit it again. And a fourth, fifth, sixth time. On maybe the tenth or ninth blow, I stopped the process. "Why don't I wake up?", I thought angrily, desperately, fearfully.
When the uncertain feelings had quietened down again, I literally put my former thoughts into motion and set off in the direction of the sphere.
There I stood. Only one step away from the ball. It was only then that I began to inspect the ball more closely. It hovered roughly one metre above the invisible ground, its highest point was at the level of my neck and rays shot out from the surface sporadically, but they always flew back into the object. This sight reminded me of the solar winds on our vital star.
I then did something that anyone else would have done given the situation. My right arm rose and its hand rested on the surface. It felt comfortable and warm. And I felt comfortable.
Suddenly one of those rays hit the outside of my hand. Startled, I wanted to pull away from it, but I couldn't. The hand was now stuck to the sphere and I could not pull it off. At the point where the ray touched me, a luminous something spread out in a circle in all directions of my body. I became more and more frightened the further the flow of light flowed through my body. I could almost think of myself as a torch substitute. At the same time, the stream of light warmed me up.
When finally every single spot on my body was shining, I became brighter and brighter by the second. However, not with a white, but yellow robe of light. And despite the fact that at some point I could no longer see anything, I did not go blind.
All of a sudden, I was thrown away from the sphere with a strong force. It was certainly five to six metres. And I fainted again.
At some point I came to again. My field of vision focused on a white wall with several grooves. At that moment I realized that I was still in the toilet at the petrol station. I straightened up. Directly in front of me was still the mirror. Only the person inside was different. Almost as if she had been replaced. But that was not the case. The person I was looking at in the mirror was myself.
Startled, I took a step back. As I hit the wall, the thought occurred to me that I didn't want to see myself in the reflection. Thus, I closed my eyes. "That's not true now, is it?", was the first thought I could grasp.
At some point, however, I realized that it was bullshit not to want to look at myself, despite the situation, which I couldn't explain and was actually impossible. So I opened my eyes and looked at my counterpart in the mirror. Then I stepped closer so that I could take a better look at myself.
My face had rejuvenated by several years. I could tell by the fact that the skin had become much firmer. The hair colour was no longer brown with isolated patches of grey to partly white areas, but brown-blond - in every part. And the hair itself was no longer short and slicked back, but went to the top of my neck and was also dishevelled. And even the clothes were no longer the same. Instead of the black suit with a red tie, I wore a light bluish shirt with a silver tie with blue squares on it at regular intervals. The body was not quite the same either. Although I did not see the nakedness of it, but due to the fact that the clothes could be pushed inwards a little, one could guess how I was built up.
Looking away from my own reflection, I noticed that the toilet had somehow changed. The toilet had several stickers on it, there were several scratches on the urinal - probably carved by knives - and the mirror was slightly smashed, the central part of which was in the upper left corner.
I pulled open the door and suddenly found myself in the fresh air. I turned around the building and was about to hand in the key when I noticed that, firstly, my car was no longer there and, secondly, I had got the feeling that I was at some retro exhibition. The design of the cars looked somehow angular and very clunky. And none of them was particularly big. Only one VW car, which I assumed was one of the T2 series, stood out from the others.
While I still hadn't really realized the situation in my head, my body went into the petrol station building of its own accord. Inside, the shelves were positioned differently, the labels as well as the logos of the junk food bags and soft drinks looked somehow strange and some newspapers still had black and white pictures.
My real goal was to go to the newspapers first to find out what the date actually was. The Bild newspaper said "Elvis: 2 girls killed outside his villa" from 19.08.1977. So I had travelled more than 30 years into the past. At the time, I didn't know how that was even possible.
Afterwards, I queued up in front of the ticket office. When it was finally my turn, I handed the cashier the key to the toilet. She then said, "Have a good evening" with an annoyed expression on her face.
I then left the building for the second time. My gaze wandered stressed around the entire square. What I wanted was clear to me - home to my daughter - but I didn't know how to do it. Especially as I was overwhelmed with the whole situation. "I have to and will walk all the way home!" was therefore my first, though not really well-thought-out, thought.
"Are you all right, my darling?" said a voice addressed directly to me, though I was facing it with my jerk, and it brought me out of my thoughts. That tone, that pronunciation; it reminded me of someone I hadn't heard in years. I turned around and recognized the person who had addressed me: It was my mother.
Time and I stood still for what felt like an eternity. And then there were tears in my eyes. The mother I had not seen for years and had pushed out of my mind stood before me alive. I ran towards her with my eyes red and my face tear-stained. I hugged her.