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

Chapter 14: the Bearer's Test

“Your Grace…” the Captain says softly, a glaring Bearer turning to him instantly: “Do not call me that! There is nothing to grace me. All those people died for me, while I was getting washed and dressed and fed!
Why did I do nothing to prevent this? Why did I not stop and think about them first? Why did I allow myself become a puppet for this thing? WHY?
Just kill me, now! KILL ME NOW! That is an order!”
“Your Grace,” the Captains says softly, “you know I cannot…”

S. clasps her hands over her ears and screams, her voice thin. “I am NOT Her Grace! I am S.!
I am the useless terrorist, S.! Remember? I am the Marked one.
I am the killer: S..
I am the one who finally did betray her group. They are all dead because of me and I cannot even care! ‘Cause I am like them, see? I am what they are: nothing. Just kill me, discard me! GET RID OF ME! Bring me a rope, some poison, an open wire… Something, something must be able to kill me… Some thing... anything...”

Her voice is a rasping whisper, and the Captain kneels near her.
“Your Gr… Eh… S., I am sorry. You know I cannot… STATE will never let me. And I will not allow myself to either!
Do you really want the President to win in such a way? To have the Bearer eliminated by her own hand, while the Parliament is waiting for the Test?
What about all those people outside? All those people, secretly anticipating the end of the President’s reign? Can you let all those people suffer more at the hands of that filthy dictator?
You are almost there, S.. And then you give up? This is exactly why your friends have died, S.! This is why the President had them executed.
You cannot let them die for nothing!”

Time slows down as the knowledge sinks in.
S. sits very still, upright on her knees. He is right. She cannot go on. She cannot stop. She is trapped in this life, with this thing. She has to stop, but she is forced to go on. It will not allow her to be stopped, even though she cannot’
“Come,” the Captain says. Numb, she stands and follows him. Through the semi-dark corridors, they walk in silence.
“Hey! Hey, S.!” In a filthy cell, just off the right hand side, a man lifts his head. “S.! Don’t you remember me?”
S. stops mechanically, turns to his direction. A whirr of information sifted, a match: Jason Almerra. She looks and sees the body beaten. He had been strong, when she last saw him, sinewy...

“Your Grace? Do you know this man?” the Captain asks.
“Yes. Jason Almerra.” Without any feeling, the Bearer nods in confirmation. Instantly, the Captain motions to the Prison Guard to open the gate, and says: “You are free, Jason Almerra!” But the prisoner is too weak to stand. Thinking to save at least one of Her Grace’s friends, the Captain orders the Prison Guards: “You! Bring a stretcher and lift this man, as carefully as you can. Bring him to the best room in the best hospital!” The Bearer des not react at all. Three Prison Guards leave with the dirty prisoner, Her Grace and the Captain continue to the limo waiting outside.

---Bearer of STATE for 1 day, 1 hour, 23 minutes and 33, 34, 35---
NO! S. tries to breathe, to disperse the anger at the intruding stupid information. Must not lose control. Must remain calm, must not be angry. I must not lose control again... I am nothing. I am no one. I am nobody... I am’

In the limo, the Bearer sits very straight, all the way to Parliament, unmoving, silent. She refuses to clean herself, the beautiful suit smeared with blood, her face too, her hands still bleeding, but STATE clean and smooth as always.

11:46 a.m.
Ministers and Parliament are assembled in the great Hall of Parliament. All await the Test of the Bearer of STATE. Some are irritated, angry, bored, but most are accustomed to this kind of anticipation-building from the President and use the time to exchange gossip and whisper stories about the Bearer’s deeds.
When the Bearer, flanked by her Guard, finally enters, there is an immediate and total silence. No one had expected to see the new Bearer of STATE walk in looking like this: pale and blood-smeared. She really does look like a terrorist, a fierce one, and even those most in favor of change doubt if having this Bearer as a ruler is a good idea.

---Bearer of STATE for 1 day, 1 hour, 38 minutes and 41, 42, 43---
The eyes glance at her from afar, and then, when she passes, they are cast down in fear, only to open and look at her back. Eyes everywhere, hard and curious, not missing any detail, absorbing every sign and deciphering them. The eyes press into S. as she walks to the front, but then something else edges into her consciousness. The eyes prick, they think to have located their enemy. But they are wrong. Something else threatens them, something very close by. Some thing
that was here before they were, here before she even arrived. Some thing, waiting, blinking somewhere close...
She has to stop, before she makes another mistake. Concentration pushes the dark blood from her mind, and the analogy with yesterday’s Military Parade pops up. The President again has planted a bomb here, somewhere. He does not care whether the Bearer would actually be killed or not, or how many people would be hurt, or whom, as long as any official event with the Bearer carrying STATE would become associated with death.
S. stands very still and closes her eyes.
First, she has to blank her mind of all the opinions around her.
OK.
Then, she has to overcome her anger at STATE, to be able to allow herself to sink in. This is difficult. She does not trust STATE as she did yesterday, but she has no choice and in silence, she tries to give in. I am nobody. I am noth’
A jerky pull at her intestines, descending into a blinding white, full of howls. Human howls.
Still, S. is glad for the light, and, as she disregards the sound, the howls fade to the background. After some time, light blue shadows form lines in relief, and S. recognizes the pattern: the outline of Parliament Hall, showing the architecture from above, but also a buzzing multitude of people. This is not the past.
This is now...
There. Sure enough, a red dot pulses, somewhere in the front row, to her right.
As quick as S. can, she moves towards it.

Everybody in Parliament Hall follows Her Grace’s weird behavior. With closed eyes, she is walking purposefully along the front row. ‘What is she doing?’ ‘Is she crazy?’ ‘Is this our new ruler?’ ‘How does she’
She walks in a straight line, not tripping on anything or touching anyone. The Captain and Guard follow on her heels. Everybody stares, ready to start whispering.

There! S.’ hand reaches out and takes something from the wastebasket, a plastBomb by the feel of it, covered in a bag.

Through the thin plastic, a tiny red light is visible, blinking. Around, some gasp as they register what Her Grace is holding. They try to back away in their seats, terrified, but before panic can spread, the Bearer takes the whole bag and gently presses it into STATE.

Vaguely, it hurts, but S. keeps applying pressure and gently stuffs the whole bag into STATE, where it disappears as if melted in. Then, she opens her eyes. When she turns to face Parliament, the crowd does start whispering, but they are silenced by Her Grace’s first words:
“People of STATE.
Yes, that was a bomb, planted by the President, like the one yesterday that killed 31 of our military.
And yes, I come before you covered in blood.
It is not mine, unfortunately. It is the blood of innocent people, and if only I could make these deaths undone. But I cannot.
As the Bearer I am your Head of STATE.
Even when I did fight for the fall of the President for many years, I did not dream I would end his reign in this way. And maybe, I will not.
Today, in a few moments, I will submit to the Bearer’s Test. Any and all of you can try to take STATE from me, as I stand for one hour in the Bearer’s Catch.”
The Bearer points to a central thick realOak beam, almost looking like a hanging post, with catches where she will have to hold up her hands, and an faded velvet cushion where she will have to kneel.
“But I have to warn you all, that STATE does possess the powers the old stories talk of. If you are not fit to touch STATE, you can and will be executed by STATE on the spot. Not by me, nor by my Guard, but by STATE, directly. Do bear that in mind, we have seen enough people die unnecessarily.
Please proceed.”
Silence.
The Bearer walks sideways, towards the Bearer’s Catch. Before she even reaches it, one of the President’s friends jumps up. In one movement, he pulls out a gun, aims for her and fires. The Bearer is hit in the stomach by the impact, and briefly doubles over.
But then the bullet gets sucked into STATE and the man’s name emerges. Everybody turns to look at him. His face contorts while he is trying to control his twisting gun.
He is lucky. Two Guards of Parliament pull him out of the benches, disarm and arrest him, before his finger has pulled the trigger.
Silence.
The Bearer takes hold of the catches and kneels before Parliament. Her Guard stands behind her. The Bearer’s Test has begun, 60 minutes to go.
Silence.
Many had thought the Bearer would never really submit to the Test.
People start whispering again, voicing opinions on what had just happened, if that really had been a bomb, and why a terrorist would defuse it, and who had put it there, and how it could have been sucked into STATE and not explode, if the gun really was turning against the one who had aimed for STATE, if the powers of STATE were really true.
Ambitious men are eyeing STATE, picture themselves as the Bearer, but are afraid of what might happen if they try. Renowned President’s men know they have little to loose if the Bearer stays and fidget, fearing the President’s repercussions.

56 minutes to go. Still, no movement. S. closes her eyes. She is not afraid, resigns herself to the ritual, even if she would prefer not to be here, thus exposed. If only someone would just take STATE and leave! What do I want with it? What do I care?
She tries to remember the dead faces when they were alive, talking, arguing, laughing, thinking, drinking, concentrating, she tries to remember how she used to feel distance towards everybody and everything, instead of her current connectedness: this ongoing whispering, this noise... It is hard, almost impossible, but the effort is the only way to distract her from the memory of the sudden lash of power drawn from Prison lights...

53 minutes left.
With a jerk, an extremely expensively dressed young man rises. Two private bodyguards follow him down the stairs while people try hard not to look in his direction. “You fraud! I will take from you what you took from my father!” he says. The President’s only son walks up to where the Bearer is kneeling and looks down on her, contemptuously. Nervously, the Captain eyes his bodyguards. ‘What will the fool order them to do this time?’

S. has her eyes closed, but through the white she can see the scene from an angle, like watching securiCams’ takes.

“That Mark should have been activated long ago, you piece of shit! What did you think you were doing, taking all my money? But I will get it back soon, see, because I am the Bearer of STATE, not you, little thief! I will crush you, for even touching STATE! You will die, painfully, I assure you...” He smiles, a thin smile. “But now at least you first have seen all your friends die!” he says clearly and spits her in the face.
The Captain wants to rush forwards but is kept back; the Bearer does not react at all.
After a slight hesitation, the President’s son kneels so as to have a good grip, takes STATE carefully with both hands. He murmurs something, softly...

For a moment, S. thinks this is it. STATE is sliding towards him, an enormous sense of leaving, of freedom. The white thins, and her skin is pulled away, still clinging to STATE. It is over... I am nothing again... I am no’

‘It does not come to me as it should... But it should. It is mine, made for my genes just like it was made for my father’s. I am the heir to it, and I claim it now! I want it now. Let go. LET GO!’
There is no next moment for him as he is electrocuted and dies jerking on the ground.

People cry out, some in surprise, others whisper: “Told you!” while the scared bodyguards carry the first corpse away. The Bearer does not even open her eyes to look.
Silence and more hesitation.

51 minutes left, 50, 49, 48...
Rationalizing their fears away, some people do follow. Time passes, and nobody bothers about it as they watch the daring approach the Bearer, to be touched by STATE. Some walk up to the Catch with a confident step, some hesitate but see no other option, some walk as if they are compelled to do so even against their better judgment.
Not all die. Some are blinded, some are burned, some are cut.
After each scream, the silence returns.
32 minutes left, 31, 30, 29...
Less and less people are interested to try and become Bearer of STATE.

S.’ mind does not register that this is happening, here, now. She concentrates on staying upright while being exposed this way. The wood chafes into the cuts on her hands. With 24 minutes left, the blood is starting to show. The catches become slippery, but she holds them tight. She focuses on the pain of her hands to keep from thinking about the origin of those cuts.

A small intake of breath from some people on the first row, when they see the trickle of blood, coursing down Her Grace’s arms. But the Bearer does not seem to care.
20 minutes left.
An elderly statesman, who draws near respectfully, can safely touch STATE. But when he tries to lift it off Her Grace’s belly, he cannot: it is too heavy. He tugs and tugs, slightly reddening. Withdrawing, he salutes Her Grace with the back of his hand over his eyes.

8 minutes left and most people have stopped moving.
With a bang, the doors are thrown open. Guarded by his private Elite army, the President enters. Instantly, fear freezes the Parliament. Most people opt for prostrating themselves before the President.

S. opens her eyes when she sees who has arrived. She had not expected him to come in, but maybe losing his only son had made him change his plans. If only he would kill just me to get back in unchallenged power… But S. knows that is too much to ask for. Behind her, the Captain and Guards take out their arms, but as yet, there is not much she can do.
Casually, the President walks up to the Bearer’s Catch. He is a tall man, graying, with a clever smile and icy eyes. Very well dressed, his realSilk suit enhances his natural ease. In her kneeling position, S.’ head is almost at his crotch level. All of a sudden, she has a flash of having to suck his prick, sickening at the thought.
Somehow, he knows. Tauntingly, he approaches her a little closer, making her almost smell him there. Semen in the dark red room. S. fights to overcome her nausea.
Then, even more sick of this form of subjection, she imagines rending it off with her teeth. To her satisfaction, the President pulls back.

“Well, well… you little girl…” his soft voice whispers in the silence. “So this is what you wanted, eh? This is what you have killed for all those years...
But you do not look so well, now do you? I see you are bleeding, or whose blood is it this time?
Hmn? Let me guess...”
The sound of his ‘ssssss’ slithers through the Hall.
The faces of her group. The bloodied faces, the limp bodies, the blood sticking on her hands. The blood pumping through the rough slits in the woman’s abdomen...
“Yes, yes. You like blood, I know.
You like killing, now, don’t you?
Well… Don’t you?”
His men have quickly overpowered the Captain’s and they make sure no Army personnel can enter Parliament and that no one can leave. After their rustle dies down, the President chuckles in the massive silence. “Come, come, might as well admit it, killer girl..!
Everybody here knows of your nice exploits. And I expect them not to forget for whom they have been kneeling just now!” Again, he chuckles mirthlessly as people cringe.
“But to take STATE and be so presumptuous as to assume power! Now, now! I would hardly think you would be up to me, now would you? STATE will only eat away at you, girl, didn’t you know? You’ll be a ghost in no time... You already look the part! Even without me helping you, you would be finished before the year is over, little thief.”
Silence envelops his words, as he frowns, thinking.
“Well, your past deeds at least I can admire. So before I will get round to you, I will do you a favor. While you are safely stuck there on that post, who will I kill for you first?”
The President turns and faces the Parliament. All of them are ducking to the ground. He takes his time to decide, wallowing in the smell of fear.
“Or maybe… ah yes! Of course!” he continues with played delight. “I know! Your faithful Guard!” His troops had already disarmed them. The President looks at S. and continues: “Wait, maybe you can learn and see! Look! This is how a real ruler plays the game, little girl!” He beckons his soldiers to bring the Captain and Guards down in front of them. “Now, as you cannot even touch a gun, maybe I should have the honor?
Well?
What do you say..?”

S. still is holding the catches as she watches the Captain and her Guards forced down on their knees before her. As the President arranges his soldiers around them and searches for his gun, she lets go of the Bearer’s Catch and dives her hand into STATE. Surprised that she can, she sinks her hand into a slightly warm but undefined material and hits onto the bomb. She takes hold of it and pulls it out, then flings herself against the President, pressing STATE against him.
Whoosh... a soft and warm feeling, an enormous mollifying white, and they are sharing STATE, belly to belly, more intimately than any sex could have been. He is in her, while she is inside of him. STATE is his as much as hers, STATE occupies them both in equal degree, and while he knows her loathing of it, she knows his fear of being tainted by it. They both know that he is still holding his STATE-material gun, and that she is holding the plastBomb he had planted earlier. But while he, taking advantage of his knowledge of the powers of STATE, explores her thoughts swiftly, she enjoys an overwhelming silence. While he finds that the little killer really had had no intention of becoming Bearer, that all this is a true case of STATE volition, S. hears nothing, knows nothing, and does not try to because she is too close to him as it is.
Then, in one moment, his gun arches and goes for her head while she lifts the bomb and presses it against his throat. His soldiers have no time to react, as in the split second the gun contacts her head STATE activates the bomb, splattering his body all over soldiers and over the people, still prostrated on the ground.

Like a limb is torn from her, screeching, screeching. The white howls with loss, and the loss becomes hers, even though she would never admit to it. He was the one to have borne it, he was the only one who could, he was the one who should have. She finally had made him touch it and so she could have made him Bearer, so she would have been free and STATE would take him over from here. She would be free of it, of everything, because she would be dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.

People scream.
For a minute, everybody is on the floor, some of them bedecked with flecks of blood and body tissues. Then, when they feel they can, they move carefully. Those who were near check if they are wounded or whether those next to them are. But nobody is.
The Captain pushes the President's men from him and quickly gets to Her Grace, but she is already opening her eyes.

The Presidents’ Elite soldiers, disoriented and caught, pull their guns to fight, while the young Captain of the President’s personal Guard shouts hysterically: “The President is not dead! This was just a replica! Wait and fear the President’s revenge!” He turns on his heels and runs out of the Parliament, with some other members of the Presidential Guard. Everybody starts talking and shouting simultaneously, failing direction.

The Bearer rises to her feet and speaks in a very clear tone:
“STOP. Everybody! Listen.
I am the new Head of STATE, and I will have the same obedience as the President had.”
Activating a known procedure, this quiets everybody down. The Elite soldiers back away, some of them bowing half-heartedly, others clearly afraid of the repercussions. They see the Bearer is standing very still, an odd glow around her body. They stop moving and listen to her.

This is not me speaking. This is STATE.
S. knows she cannot stop it anymore. Never ever again... Never, ever again. While the high melody pierces her mind and howls higher and higher with her loss, her voice speaks on:

“Everybody! STATE will have NO more killing in the Palace of Parliament!
The President’s friends have to offer their respect to the new rule. Then, we will refrain from hurting them. The Presidential soldiers are from now on soldiers of STATE on the same conditions.
We will see to the punishment of crimes committed under the President’s regime later. But at present, we must not start a civil war. We will NOT start a civil war!
We all serve STATE.
Yes, it has been a long, a very long time since we have had a Bearer. But now, here stands your Bearer of STATE, and all of you have vowed to protect STATE.
As you have witnessed, STATE possesses powers that the President could never have. Any trespass against STATE will be punished, without leniency for who you are or what your connections might be.
Because even though I am Head of STATE, I am, just like any of you, a servant of STATE. And STATE will do my best to serve you and guide us into a new era of political freedom and stability. We all serve STATE.
We will need your help to do so, and in order to realize a new nation, STATE requests your loyalty and trust to the Bearer of STATE.”

A brief silence.
Then, slowly, people begin to bow to the Bearer of STATE. First, the elderly statesmen, bowing with the open palm on their foreheads to Her Grace. Others follow their example. The soldiers bow, former President’s friends bow, the members of Parliament bow, all Ministers bow, down to the representatives of the professions. ---we all serve STATE---we all serve the Bearer of STATE---we all serve STATE---we all serve the Bearer of STATE---we all serve STATE---
After bearing STATE for 1 day and 3 hours and killing the President by his own bomb, the freedom fighter S. is officially accepted as the ruler of this country, as the new Bearer of STATE. And ever since, this March day has been celebrated as the First Day of the new Bearer’s Reign.

> did it! killed the bastad! yes! victory!
> She did it, I tell you! Hail STATE!
> Hail the Bearer of STATE
> wo’t be so easy, guys, trust me... she’s a dangerous one
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