Even without monitoring equipment, it is obvious that the Bearer is in trouble: her body is rigid with no sign of breathing and when Irene feels for her pulse it is too faint to measure. ‘There is only one thing we can do...’ Irene holds Her Grace’s right hand, cold against the eerie material of the table, while the Captain takes Her Grace’s left hand a bit awkwardly. “S.?
S., can you hear me?” Irene says softly. “S., please...
We are here. Please come back?
I know it hurts, but we need you.
Here, here is where you belong! This is your home. Do come home!”
No reaction. Irene and the Captain remain in position, holding Her Grace.
Home, S. thinks,
the last thought before changing all her structures into silicon. That is why she has to return to it, to the shell. It is her home.
Before anything can get in the way, S. nestles back in the plaster-enveloped body. It is not too large at all.
It is too tight. There is no room for the blind eyes. There is no room for anything. In her consciousness, there is only room for the pain of her curtailment, the pain of isolation. Again, the tightness squeezes all air out of her.
Wait! That can be altered.
S. looks down on the plaster, from inside out. She pushes.
She wills herself to expand.
It hurts, again, but less than before. She leans against the pain, pushes more, forcing her lungs to inhale.
Then, from within, the plaster very slightly starts to change color. The hard white surface becomes damp. Details of skin start to emerge: dimples, hair pits, wrinkles, bluish veins, creases, apertures, bony protrusions…
The white becomes spotty, then yellowish pink, darkening into bronze. It softens, undulates subtly.
S. can breathe again.
At first, she has to get used to the feeling returning to her four dimensional surface. A whole envelope of sensory information, moving and spatial, contained and free.
First with small gasps, then superficially, the Bearer resumes to breathe. The cold body seems to warm up, to mollify. The Captain and Irene continue to hold the Bearer of STATE, for fear of losing her again.
S. is hanging in the white. She has to get accustomed to her new dimensions.
The white is enormous and light. So light!
With an unexpected fluidity and grace, she moves. Incredible, the things she can do!
There is no gravity, and she jumps in every direction just as easily. She can jump onto a wall, through a ceiling, push herself up with one hand until she is standing upside down.
She can walk in the air.
It is exhilarating! She flips over, lands on her hands, on her head, turns like a fish sideways in the air, cartwheels, lets herself drop and drop and then bounces like a soft ball from the floor to the ceiling.
S. is playing like the child she
The Bearer remains unconscious, but shows signs of life. Then, on this Second Day of the Bearer’s Reign, STATE starts to transmit messages. On all dataComs on all floors of the Palace of Parliament, on all dataNet and dataflow devices and on NationalTV, all activities are interrupted for a message of STATE. Even in some minds, a repeating message is heard. People are holding their ears, thinking they are becoming mad, but then see others doing the same, and calm down a bit. Everybody hears the same, reads the same, everywhere in the Palace of Parliament.
People of STATE. Do not fear. Trust me. Be loyal to STATE. Be patient.
People of STATE. Changes take time. The state has to heal. Trust the Bearer.
People of STATE. Remain loyal to the Bearer. Trust STATE to heal you. All will be well.
People of STATE. Changes take time. Be patient. The Bearer will lead you to a better state.
People of STATE, trust the changes. Be patient and remain loyal. Trust STATE to fulfill your desires.
People of STATE. Let me soothe your troubles. Do not fear me. Depend on me.
People of STATE. Trust the Bearer. Show me your dreams. Let me heal your pain. Placate your rage.
People of STATE. Be patient. Changes take time. The state will heal. Remain loyal to STATE. Trust me.
People of STATE. Show me your emotions. Let me guide you. Follow the Bearer. Do not be afraid.
People of STATE. Do not fear me. Trust me. Let me show you the way.
People of STATE. Be loyal to STATE.
In the white, S. hears herself. She is intoning the incantation.
She is the source of the message spreading through all media. She is the message,
her rhythm, her rhyme.
This is terrible. How does she dare!
How can she even think of transmitting such a totalitarian message? What the hell is happening?
This is not S. communicating, this is...
This is someone else. This is
something else. This is
And S. realizes that she is not hanging freely in the white after all.
She turns swiftly, and something catches. She turns again, and something winds around her belly. When she stretches, the strings pull at her ankles and wrists. When she falls, the strings are dampening the impact and pulling her upright. She is being carried by very strong and flexible and invisible threads.
Threads originating from her mouth; so many of them that her mouth is pushed open by their quantity. As she gags on them, more and more come out of her. Words, words, words,
She is a puppet, and someone is playing her.
Something is playing her.
S. pulls at the strings.
As they stretch out, she can discern the syllables, their grammatical structure, the repetitive form. The words of STATE are solidifying in her mouth, going on and on, the strings lengthening all the time, growing and growing out of her.
They keep her tied to the white.
S. jerks, tries to get rid of them. She fights the word-strings. She tries to pull them off her, off her hands, off her feet, off her trunk, out of her throat.
Everything gets tangled. She ensnares herself, more and more.
The message gets jangled, stretched, delayed, layered, remixed, deformed.
S. does not give up. The strings are almost suffocating her, cutting into her flesh, catching her fingers. She rolls herself into them, and, disregarding the way they clog her throat, she claws at them. At first, nothing seems to hurt the words, but S. fights and fights to tear their structures. She starts humming, a tuneless sound.
The words get torn, lose their coherence, are broken into mono-syllables, vowels and consonants, sounds.
only white noise remains, breaking and rasping and scraping and chafing, sanding away until the fragments disintegrate
getting softer and
S. opens her eyes to the quiet.
Bearer of STATE for 2 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes and 35, 36, 37, 38, 39
Concerned, Irene and the Captain look at her. S. lifts her head, straightens herself, then looks at them. “Do not worry. I have to learn to steer STATE, and this is how. And there is a lot of work to do. Let’s do it!”
16:20 p.m. on the Second Day of the Bearer’s Reign
In the former Presidential Office, the Secretary of STATE reads as much as she can about the Ministers and their main points of interest, and in a timid voice discusses the information with Her Grace, who adds some surprising new facts, even for the Captain.
As they talk, S. accesses the President’s last proposed changes in legislation and in order to review them, STATE withdraws them from the dataCommunicators of his legal advisors. Some are instantly rejected by STATE, some she reflects upon and then agrees to, re-entering them with a Seal of STATE in the various dataComs.
Though both Irene and the Captain notice Her Grace’s attention wavering, they assign it to wear-out, and make nothing of it.
Together, Irene and Her Grace also devise a system to compensate for the Bearer’s expenses. The President had left a trail of huge bills, never paid for anything in principle. The Bearer decides to stamp every bill by pushing a corner into STATE. The Seal of STATE would give the enterprises either a tax reduction or a cash refund, depending on their profit.
The Captain thinks the system overdone, since the Bearer of STATE has rights to everything anybody owned; but Irene softly asserts that even STATE should not use people in such a way. And Her Grace's head inclining in assent with Her Excellency makes his arguments evaporate into irrelevance.
STATE connects to the dataCom network and the news is spread instantly.
After almost an hour of work, the Captain does notice Her Excellency is looking pale, catches her surreptitiously arching her back, and it is then that he realizes her poison wounds cannot have healed already. ‘She is working hard, too hard... She will wear herself out in no time.’
“Return to the Hospital, Irene,” he says. “Your burns need to be checked and redressed. When you are finished, take a rest, and a limo will take you to join us for breakfast tomorrow.”
Guarded by four Guards of STATE, Her Excellency leaves them to do as he suggests.