Chapter 2. STATE
Near the next intersection, two Military guards stare in front of themselves, bored to
near-sleep with guarding a 2 by 3 meters extra-fortified glass cube containing some obsolete
state relic in their warm uniforms. The thing is supposed to ‘govern the state’, whence its name,
emblazoned on the small frieze around: STATE.
Constitutional Law decrees that whoever bears STATE is the Head of State, and in the past the Bearer
of STATE had always been the absolute ruler of the time. But the last Bearer-Elect had refused to bear
it and according to ritual, STATE had consequently been exposed for others to bear. Stories went that
so many people had died trying, either by electrocution, heart failure, deep cuts or suffocation, that
the practice was prohibited after a day. That was 24 years ago, and the President had ruled ever since.
In passing, S. glances at STATE. It looks like a weighty handbag, made of a smooth material with a
dull lead-like sheen.
With its history, STATE is a peculiar and politically dangerous relic to have around; so, after long deliberation,
the President had decided to build a mausoleum for it, on the intersection of two main shopping streets in
the capital’s centre, well out of the way of Parliament Borough, where governing took place. To satisfy
the superstitions of some elderly statesmen, STATE is well protected with securiCams, double glazing,
anti-theft wiring and the trained Military guards, blinking slowly from under their caps as S. approaches them.
I am nobody. I am nothing. I am no one. I am
Notwithstanding her automatic litany, S.’ body tenses: any member of the Military or Police triggers the
memories, causes adrenalin highs. A superfluous reaction, the guards do not even notice her, as always.
S. has almost passed the Mausoleum of STATE, when there is
Later, many explanations have been offered on how this could have happened. Theories include involvement
of international organizations, both terrorist and more human rights-oriented. Some talk about a calling. But
many people, even if they soon became careful to voice it, concluded that in order to usurp power, the
terrorist S. had blown up the mausoleum of STATE.
But in truth, S. is stunned.
Hit almost full blast by the explosion, she finds herself floored, lying between thousands of pieces of glass.
For some time, she is just lying there. The sun glitters in the sharp-edged splinters, and in the tiny shiny
fragments cast into the pavement tiles, both refracting the light in subtle colors, sparkling with shades
The world is full of light, and it is so quiet...
No voices of worry or warning, even the high music she had carried with her has fallen still. No pain, no cuts, no fear,
S. does not register anybody around her, even the presence of the Military guards is temporarily forgotten,
until there is an involuntary cry from one of them, as he slips over the glass. Turning in alarm to assess his
distance, S. sees, right in front of her, within arm’s reach, that strange, hermetic and as far as she knows,
thing, a thing
supposed to have powers, a
meant to govern the state.
Before thinking, S. reaches out and pulls it towards her. To her surprise, it is not heavy at all. There is no
electrocution, and the thing seems warm, even soft. S. presses it close to her and stands, STATE flattening
against her belly.
The Military guards, terrified, immediately start after her, and, skidding over the glass, she runs for her life.
No more steps or shouts behind her.
S.’ trained body is quivering from an unusual strain, and that thing called STATE is getting more heavy.
Putting on her denim jacket, half hiding STATE, S. walks more quietly for a bit. Half under her arm, half
against her belly, the pressure of STATE. Through her T-shirt, she notes gradual changes in temperature,
the pliable surface nestling against her.
The thing is radiating power and a high jubilant tone thrills her consciousness. S. blinks, surprised at how
different everything is. Her animosity against all people is gone. Her fear of being attacked, her secret
helplessness, her uselessness, all have disappeared.
Who am I?
She slows down. Walking on the sidewalk of one of the busy outward-bound roads, she covertly
looks around. Some small old shops with dusty window displays line the street.
Ah. The Bernin Borough, though close to the center, is relatively safe, well connected to other Boroughs.
>catch and kill that thief of state<
In the panorama, S. senses the President’s killing machine jerking into action.
Everything is sparkling new, stiff and clean, and reality is so clear, she can experience even the blood
coursing through her veins. People start to see her, smile at her in a friendly way.
No... I cannot afford to be remembered now!
A block away from her, the glint of a securiCam’s lens, slowly revolving. Then, the silhouette of a man,
emerging from one of the shops.
A uniformed man.
With one hand she slips STATE under her T-shirt.
The metalloid surface is icy and she almost gasps, then it subtly changes shape and adapts to the shape
and temperature of her body. To her surprise, S. finds she can let go of STATE, the weight almost
disappearing. She could almost forget about it now, but for a faint pricking pain in her navel, which she
disregards for more pressing matters.
The uniformed man is approaching, and she is too far from the first side-street to disappear there; the
nearest shop she can trust is on the other side of the street.
The man is talking in his securiPhone.
A shallow indent in the wall, and casually, S. leans against the bricks. Her face is in the shadow, but
she cannot make her whole body disappear. The pain in her navel intensifies. Her fear makes the
power shrink and pull back into STATE: pressure builds, and becomes hard to hold. Desperately, S. tries
to remember any old lore about STATE. Never having believed much in its powers, she had disregarded
its existence completely, so there is not much for her to go on. The pressure becomes painful and
S. can only breathe superficially, then realizes this again can only attract attention.
No… no... no... no...
I am no one. I am nothing. I am nobody. I am
Slowly, the old recitation reactivates, allowing her to disembody: emptying her of all preoccupations,
she is not trying to be anything or do anything. It is her special technique, and it works again, making her
disappear in any crowd, however small. Very softly, the high whistle has returned, the sound oddly pure
Part of the power of STATE disperses as well. The wall she is leaning against seems to take her in, connecting
her to all walls, to all buildings, to all of the city.
Energy leaks out of its confines, through her body, and evaporates like a contagious gas over the people of
the capital; the city, the state slowly enveloped by a billowing and brightening sense of white.
Subtly or directly, people sense a change, then shrug this sudden hope away. But some passers-by
see the broken Mausoleum of STATE, whispers are spread, and before long, a small crowd
is gathered, silently looking at its shattered remains, not daring to say or do anything. The Police
watch them closely. They are edgy, but take no action as the onlookers pose no real disruptive threat.
>what’s happening? catch that thief of state NOW!<
Meanwhile, the large-scale operation to catch the thief of STATE gathers momentum. Everywhere,
tapping devices activate, men are summoned from leave and equipped for intercepting the terrorist.
But the procedures do not work. Radars’ and securiCam’s output are blurry, data snows over screens,
the Borough Bridges’ taps malfunction. The best programmers work blindly and in panic
to resolve the problems, while the President’s anger lashes at those near him.
S. walks on the narrow sidewalk.
The sun-lit patches on the pavement are uncannily bright, fusing with the sky into one blinding white. The
high whistling sound has increased, enhancing the fierceness of the early spring light, rendering it solid and
omnipresent, only framed by the buildings’ dark red shadows. Some housewives take their time to get
some small items, the shapes of their bodies outlined against a reflecting sidewalk. Lost in the light, they
cast their fiery shadows.
Even if the story of this thing is bogus, the Constitution still stipulates that the Bearer of STATE is the Head
of State. In fact, S. is now the lawful leader of this country. This is the opportunity her group had been wildly
speculating about for years and years, the one that could finally really make a change. But S. has some
doubts regarding the effectiveness of STATE, warm and meek against her belly. STATE has been in the
mausoleum for a very long time, and she does not know what powers STATE actually has, and if they
are still active.
I cannot do this alone...
The freedom fighters would want to be at her side, now. Partners in the fight for democracy, they could
help her to form a kind of interim government, until the new social and political situation is stabilized
enough to proclaim elections.
But I do not know
'how to contact them,’ she was going to think, when she inexplicably knows where she should go: to a
small restaurant, just a few streets further in this Borough.
They will not kill me now. Nobody will kill me now.