Though she can sleep on the Bearer’s Bed, S. does not need to, not every night. Using the quiet and darkness to be alone, to assess how the state is changing, she often walks into the night. STATE is different depending on the situation she is in, yields information from another perspective. Staying in the Palace of STATE is not only suffocating, but is also simplifying the data. Especially at this stage, S. cannot afford to. She has to monitor developments in society from the streets. She has to check for traces of Matil. She has to see if she can locate the other names STATE had yielded after her first sleep: she has found de Brown, Wislers and Mc Kinsey, knows Jason Almerra is still active, so this leaves Feyman, Werther, and of course, Matil.
Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 0 weeks, 2 days, 15 hours and
Tonight, again, S. leaves the quiet Palace with a dark cape. She follows the usual path she has threaded through the dark rhododendrons, slipping through the shadows. The nights are getting colder, the air damp.
S. does not immediately grasp what has happened, but all is black around her. Her left ankle hurts, strained. Something soft falls on her face and keeps falling, more and more, dark, damp earth. Its humidity stings her, dissipating her force to stand up. She must have fallen in quite a deep hole, and she senses someone without a face, shoveling more and more earth on top of her. Someone whose mind is occupied by a mantra of hatred towards STATE. A mantra blocking his other thoughts, hiding his identity. Some man of Matil.
S. expects STATE to wake now, to do something to save her, and she waits. Huge lumps of earth fall down; roots poking out, stones pounding on her, weighing down her hands, her arms, pushing her on her back, covering her legs. Soon, she cannot lift her hands to protect herself, and sand enters her nostrils, earth stings in her eyes. S. opens her mouth to get more air, but chokes on sand.
Shifting to another strand of self, she marvels at the changes STATE has wrought on her. Half a year ago, she would have scrambled up, attacked the man and killed him if necessary. But now, jumping to action like that is completely superfluous: STATE directs her and STATE does not mind. The weight of STATE even increases, pinning S. harder in the ground. A thick layer of earth is on top of her already, fills up the space between her trunk and her arms, between her legs, around her head… and S. just lies there. More and more earth finds the crevices between her skin and her clothes, slips in, encases her. There is sand between the eyelids, sand grits between her teeth. One meter and 65 centimeters of earth lies on top of her when the weight of the man thumps on the surface, making the sand compact and hard. On the surface, a soft rain erases all traces of her trap.
‘She is away, again... A whole day already, maybe we have to do something...’ Apart from her ongoing worry about Her Grace’s physical state, nobody at the Palace has seen Her Grace for more than 24 hours. Strange, with this ongoing downpour; Her Grace’s dislike for water on her skin is well known. Instead of soothing her fears, the Captain is pressing for an overall search party, but Irene is trying to prevent blowing up Her Grace’s absence to a dramatic national news event. Though she too yearns for more knowledge and control over what is happening: none of the security men has found any information as to Her Grace’s whereabouts. ‘Also dataNet is quiet... Maybe this is Matil’s work?’
Even with Her Grace present, the task of running all STATE affairs and chairing all Committees is getting really heavy for Irene. Last night, she had reached a decision, and so, this morning, Irene orders the limo to bring her to the Parliament side entrance, the one she used to take before she became Secretary of STATE. The Parliament guard who used to make rude jokes stares at her, then bows embarrassed while one of the Guards of STATE uses his top rank iCard to enter and show them in.
The stairs she used to climb with heavy feet in an attempt to linger as long as possible in this dusty smell; the yellow light coming from small windows high above her. Guards’ booted feet surround her now, careful not to rush her. The long grey corridor is empty; two Guards stay back to keep the flap doors shut to prevent anyone from entering. Irene motions the Guard in front of her to step aside so she can listen at the door, and sure enough the sharp voice of Mrs. Grezner is whipping at one of the girls. Irene steps back to allow the Guard to open the door, which he does with a snap.
Seeing the Guards of STATE, all office personnel rise and bow. Mid-sentence, Linda Grezner falls silent and turns to recognize Miss Delwin; and her skin seems to tighten. ‘Irene! Er, Her Excellency. Promised her to stop yelling at them, I did... Why is she here? Did one of them talk? What’
“I ordered you to stop this, Mrs. Grezner,” Her Excellency says very quietly.
Linda Grezner tries to say something but there are no words. She bends her head.
Irene looks around the room, recognizes Stella Arden, one of the senior secretaries with a stern face and quiet voice. “Miss Arden. You are in charge of this office as of now. You know what to do, so please continue. Mrs. Grezner, with me.”
‘But, no... Not like this! Not so easy... to be dismissed after 23 years of service like this, this,’ Linda Grezner thinks. Her legs refuse to move.
Her Excellency is turning to leave when she sees Grezner is not coming. She has but to motion and two Guards take Mrs. Grezner under her arms and drag her out of the office.
> She who is wearing the Filth will spread its Disease among us, the People, and we all suffer because of her Pollution. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
Strand S. braces herself for what comes next. She has glimpsed it during torture and her body shell remembers it well. The painful breathing, the lungs rasping for the last bit of air, the body panicking because of lack of oxygen, the struggle of suffocation.
Water trickles down and burns on her skin. At first, the drops are a minor inconvenience, but above ground the rain hisses down and as more and more water reaches the body shell boundaries, the stinging become distracting. But then, her STATE-infested body oozes out silicon oil and the water cannot reach her anymore. STATE has adjusted to the temperature of the earth, so she does not feel cold. It is comfortable to be lying here, in the dark. Finally alone.
Unhindered, she can tune into the structures around her, follow their meandering ways through the dark cold earth. All the hidden cables form a network on which she can surf on different levels, following their different melodies, seeing their connections, tapping their energy. Electricity wires, humming fiberglass data wires, flickering television cables, gulping water pipes and refuse pipes… All the invisible openings to the Palace, penetrating its forbidding facade, connecting it to the various networks. S.’ mind follows the many paths, notes nodal points, skirts and dips into the high security information.
More and more, her scope of the multitude of things going on in the state grows. In her, in STATE, consciousness is resulting from all the individual mumbling and fretting, calculation and inspiration. The white is starting to sing with subtle tonal colors and textures, depending on what she focuses, and the tissue of information is also reacting on her presence, to softly yield to her pressure.
All around pure sound, high and luring, rasping, thumping, throbbing. She lies and listens. She disappears into the sound, enjoying the subtle structures as strand S.’ memories are paling into irrelevance. She is where she belongs.
“So you came to have me smash that nice nose o’yours, did you? Like this one?” The muscular man points to his own broken nose as the Captain feels his Guards stiffen around him. This time, he is wearing his antiBullet vest, but both location and entourage do not help to feel safe.
Looking to find Her Grace after two days of absence, he had decided to check the list of possible Matil-related sites he had received from the Army when Her Grace had come in to save him. The first one had been a run-down garage, undoubtedly with a lot of semi-criminal dealings, but no Matil and no Bearer, so he had left further investigation over to the Police. Second on the list: this boxers’ training den. The room smells of testosterone, cheap plastiLeather and sweat, and he actually finds himself longing for a good sparring partner, one who is not cowered by his position.
“We have come to search the place,” he says, standing actively on the balls of his feet, prepared for anything. The boxer loosens his muscles and steps closer. Some of the Guards reach for their weapons, when all hear a sudden chop chop chop. The first soldiers pile out of the huge ‘Copter, and the boxers decide they’d better step back. With help of the Army, the Captain searches the place, but again, no trace of Her Grace or of the irritating Matil. They do find a couple of bags full of paper slips, printed with the text:
> She who has usurped the Power of the People will die by the People’s Hands [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
With a short move, the Captain arrests all men and brings them in for questioning. ‘Finally something I can do against all this shit. Filthy traitors! And, Her Grace being away, she cannot object against a little more intensive questioning, now can she?’
In the corridor, the door closed after them, Her Excellency turns and looks at Linda Grezner.
“I know you could not but disobey, Grezner,” she says, but her voice seems not unkind. The Guards release their grip and Linda Grezner tries to stand on her feet again while Her Excellency resumes: “but we all serve STATE. And you are needed. Come with me.”
‘What? What does she mean? Am I fired?’ But she can only follow, two Guards close behind her. In the plush elevator, bringing them to the higher floors of Parliament, Linda Grezner keeps her eyes on the floor, wondering how Her Excellency is going to punish her.
After drinking in her fill of information, a banal question occurs to S..
Where is the agony of dying?
But… Wait. Is she dying? Or is she already dead?
No. She did not cross the border between existence and non-existence. STATE would notice. So, is she unconscious?
No. All is still so clear.
But… Wait. A thought voices itself in the darkness. Why would she die here? What for? Why would she need oxygen? She can get the little she needs from between the silicon molecules.
Though she knows it to be true, she has to investigate this. How can she do that?
The answer is abruptly clear.
STATE has taught her body shell how to do that. Her body shell, lying so still. Unmoving like the dead. Why does it stay so still?
But... Why would she move, if she can access all information from here?
Maybe she was so submerged in the structures that the border did not matter anymore. Maybe she did pass into non-existence after all.
Maybe S. is dead?
Again the thought-voice patiently informs her: No. How can she die if she is no longer human?
Not human!? Now where does that come from!?
Wait… Check and see.
S. searches the textures inside her shell. It is silent, too silent. No air entering through nose of mouth, no breast cage expanding and decompressing, no soft undulating pressure against the sand. No breathing.
But STATE does not need to breathe. The body cells are provided with oxygen, whence the absence of pain. Some faint and steady clicking can be heard, but it does not have the mammalian warmth of a heartbeat. There is some circulation, but is that blood? It feels thicker, oily. The body shell is different, but she is not dead.
And she is conscious. She is thinking.
Or is it someone else’s thought-voice?
She is still here.
Yes. S. is here, encased by earth, free to roam the wires. Their singing and thumping has replaced the rhythm of her breathing, has filled the spaces where air used to enter and leave. She is but an instrument reverberating with the white. She no longer needs a palate to voice words. She no longer needs the various hollows to amplify the sound of vocal cords.
She no longer needs this body shell.
>> She is gone, I’m sure. She’s a goner! Just have to wait for confirmation, and for sure they will try and postpone it till the stench is coming from her deep little grave. <<
>> Stop! No communication, fool. Over. <<
> The Filth may have gone and left us! Rejoice! [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]