S./The Bearer of STATE - a book by Karin Arink

Chapter 103: after

“David! Please! What are you doing!?” Irene exclaims as they almost hit the rail of the highWay. Tires slipping, they pass a huge electBoard with a row of Martin Rislers, two spot lights casting light blotches on the face smiling confidently above a stark suit.
That day, the day after, Rislers had put the Bearer’s Bed where they had asked him to, on the square; and though the days after Her Grace’s death the situation was chaotic, he had refrained from persecuting the Bearer’s allies. He had only removed everybody from their posts, including the experienced Ministers, and installed his advisors for an interim government. Many an upstart had been speaking at length in Parliament, many a heated debate had been held there, and it was largely due to Rislers' control over the media that the image of power slipping did not reach the people immediately. To Irene’s surprise, a few months later, Rislers did hold the elections, as he estimated he was the only candidate liable to win. He did not foresee the number of candidates who presented themselves. Irene had not bothered to follow the outcome, but the nation is a true democracy, at last. Though David tries to disavow Rislers with a steady stare past the posters, Irene shrugs them away. She could not care less about politics nowadays, she wonders if she ever will when the hormones subside. Then again, she never really aspired to power, so she supposes she will find something else to do. ‘Anything... being a secretary would be okay,’ she smiles, knowing that life will not be so easy, in truth.
It is dusk and an icy rain hits onto the windshield. The belt cutting under her huge belly is not too pleasant, and Irene is afraid she already knows why David was braking so hard.
His face is agitated and pale: “There! She is there! I saw her!”
Irene sighs. “David… Please… I know you miss her… I miss her too”

David thumps on the steering wheel. “She was there! Walking between the highWay lanes! She shouldn’t..! It’s dangerous… I… I have to… Eh” With some difficulty, he brings the car to a halt on the side of the highWay. It is dark and with the motor shut off the high wind can be heard, shaking the car.
Irene says: “David, Please... It is time to give up being the Captain… You no longer have to guard her, you know! She is gone… You should forget about ever having been the Captain, that is over, for you, for us… S. herself ordered you to, remember!”
David bows his head in the dark car. “I... I am sorry, Irene… I should not be thinking of her, I know! But really, I feel so strongly that she is still there! She has sunk into the pavement, she has spread through the water underground, through the air above, she is still residually present, everywhere! And I know the data structures have not forgotten about her, I feel it! I just feel her presence everywhere, Irene! I cannot stop thinking about her,” He falls silent as he hears the egocentricity of his words ring out in the dark. “Er, I… I am sorry… Irene… You are right, I know… I should be thinking of you… Of us… Of…” and he carefully puts his hand on Irene’s belly. He breaths out and tries a smile. “I am sorry… But being Captain of the Guard has defined my life for so long; it’s so empty without…" And he does not voice what he has been thinking all day, every day, for the past weeks: 'Who am I without a function? Nothing. Nobody. No one... I have to do something… I have to be someone.' A long silence.
Standing still, the cold is slowly seeping into the car, so finally David restarts the engine and carefully they drive on through the dark. There is no other traffic around, no lantern posts line the highWay in this part of the country. Both David and Irene have been city people all their lives, and they have to adjust to this pitch-black night, the quiet, the absence of buzz.

‘Driving like this, in a dark car, on a road that is not too familiar, is like cutting your way through the dark with your headlights. Bit by bit, the intersecting light cones slice a piece of road for you to drive on to, a piece which loses itself in black if you look too far ahead, but again and again finds itself just in time for you to continue driving. A small slice of knowledge in a fuzzy unknown...’ Irene looks and thinks. ‘S. had been living in an almost continual white her last months, sensing the end to come but never knowing when the moment would be there. And then – no. Not that. Do not think of that. Never again. Never ever again...’ To distract herself, she speaks: “David, to be honest… I feel her too. She is always present around me, a shadow in my mind. It’s… It’s scary, sometimes..! It is as if I am inside her… or… how shall I put it? Her mind is pervading mine… I find myself even living through some of her experiences, like standing alone on a cold bridge… or lying under the dark sand… or falling, falling, falling...”

David nods thoughtfully, adding to her thoughts. “Yes… She is still here. STATE is still here, I mean. She has permeated the air, the ground, all systems, our thoughts. She is no longer a coherent entity, I know, but”

It starts to snow. First a few white flecks land onto the windshield. They are pushed away easily by the wipers. Then, the flakes fall more rapidly, their lace-like patterns blot onto the glass. More and more snowflakes fall.

David slows down, afraid of sliding off the road into some abyss hiding in front or on the side.

In the light of the car the snow becomes denser and denser. Soon the individual flakes are no longer discernible. White strings lash the car shield and dance wildly in strong gusts of wind. It is as if the car is pushing itself through the waving tentacles of a blindingly white sea anemone, which is sucking them in as they slowly continue moving on the white road.
There is no forwards any more, no sideways, no progress. Time slows down.
They are isolated by the snow. White ropes tie them in, appearing and disappearing in the lights of their car, the snow forming already a thick and shifty layer on which the rubber tires slip.

The wind’s howl fills their minds, makes the car tremble and speaking impossible. Again and again, David feels the wheels lose their grip beneath them. ‘Where are we going? What is this storm doing to us? Will we die here, found in a ravine after some days? Why are we here?’ He swallows. ‘This is crazy. This is dangerous, too dangerous. It is irresponsible. Why are we out here?’ But there is no turning back.
David slows down even more.

The white tentacles lash and lash at the car, growing thicker.
Irene feels the fear cramping her belly muscles, pulling her baby tight.
The snow forms a curtain of white, blocking the view.
They do not know any longer if they advance or crawl backwards.
They do not know if things have turned for better or worse.
A continual white forces them in this present time only: the white cables growing towards them and encapsulating the car, the fear freezing their minds, the high pitch sounds and weeping and thumping which Irene suddenly recognizes.

She does not need to say it aloud, as David recognizes them as well. Though he holds the wheel he knows he is no longer steering. He does not have to do anything anymore. He is who he is and that is fine. He is with Irene and that is perfect. She is who she is and does not have to do anything anymore. They are with their unborn child, who is already conscious of the white around them. Their life is safe, the white a danger which knows them well. The white a space for their thoughts and hearts.
Time stops. Both future and past are held in this continuous present.
There is only the white.
The white.
The white.
The
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