Chapter 2: STATE
Near the next intersection, two Military guards stare in front of themselves, bored to near-sleep while guarding 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. It looks like a handbag, made of a semi-transparent material with a dull grey sheen.
Constitutional Law decrees that whoever bears STATE automatically 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.
Every step she takes thumps through her frame: a bass accompanying the high shrill sound which gets louder and louder. S. walks to its rhythm and thinks of nothing.
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 2 by 3 meter glass 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, extra-fortified 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.
The thumping of her steps dissipates the tension, her movement fluid and strong.
S. has almost passed the Mausoleum of STATE, when there is a huge
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 on the tiles, 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 of white.
The world is full of light, and it is so quiet... No voices of worry or warning, 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 next to her, within arm’s reach, that strange, hermetic and as far as she knows, deadly
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 is getting more heavy. Putting on her denim jacket to hide 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 material first hardening and then nestling itself 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 all gone, being alone does not feel as exposed anymore. ‘I am no one. I am who you are.’
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... 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 temperature of her body. To her surprise, S. finds she can let go of STATE, the weight almost disappearing. She could forget about it now, but for a faint piercing 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 sudden 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, not trying to be anything or do anything. It works again, making her disappear in any crowd, however small. Very softly, the high whistle has returned, the sound oddly pure and thrilling.
The uniformed man passes by without so much as a glance.
Part of the power of STATE disperses. 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 watches 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. 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, enjoying the whistling which has become stronger.
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 dreamed of for years and years, the one that could finally really make a change.
But S. has some doubts regarding the effectiveness of STATE, 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. She has to find help. But
where’, 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. As she walks, she realizes it used to be one of the hangouts of the freedom fighters. While her steps resume their thumping rhythm, she thinks:
They will not kill me now. Nobody will kill me now.