Chapter 29: the Bearer's state
On the 12th day of the Bearer’s Reign, Doctor Jan enters the Captain’s quarters for a private chat. The Captain has just poured them a drink when the door opens. Doctor Jan starts, but the Captain welcomes the Secretary of STATE, and turning towards the Doctor he adds: “I will have no secrets for Her Excellency, Jan. So tell us what you have found.”
All three know it had not been possible to do any tests on Her Grace. The Bearer had refused them as the Captain had predicted she would, and it was definitely against Etiquette to submit Her Grace to anything she was even slightly opposed to.
Nevertheless, Jan had a keen eye, and had diligently imbibed as much information as he could find on the subject. Taking a small sip, he starts talking.
“Well, the process is developing much like the data describes. You know what I told you that night in Hospital? Ah, Your Excellency, forgive me”
“Call me Irene, Jan,” Miss Delwin cut in, “And please explain. What process?”
In short, Doctor Jan describes the symbiosis STATE forces with the Bearers, elaborating on the various forms he had found in his medical literature.
“To be honest, there is not really an identical process with each of the Bearers. The rough stages can be discerned, yes, but the way a Bearer’s body reacts is never the same, and the length of time and the form the stages take varies greatly.”
Jan pauses to ruffle his curls absent-mindedly. The Captain suppresses a frown. Since his move to the Eastern Palace of STATE, the Doctor dresses nicely, almost lavishly. As opposed to the Secretary of STATE, whose stylish but simple suits have set a new example, Jan does not look like a Doctor at all, much against some people’s norms. He is also pale from sleeping in day-time and watching over Her Grace at night, his skin has a yellow sheen. But now, he is in his element, clearly happy to tell about his finds at last.
“So there is not really a standard predicting Her Grace’s future. But if we look at the symptoms…”
From somewhere in his pockets he retrieves a hand-written list. When he sees Irene looking at his archaic and clumsy handwriting, he apologetically says:
“Well, you see, the Captain forbade me to use any dataCorder or even dataNet information for this research… This was not easy, I can tell you, but knowing how porous the networks are, accessible both for our enemies and for STATE, I cannot but agree...”
Irene nods, and he resumes: “So where was I? Ah yes, the symptoms:
The Bearer’s skin is altering. She cannot stand the touch of base metals, crystal or water on her skin at all and only allows a wash with oils.
Her hair and nails have stopped growing.
The Bearer eats and drinks the barest minimum but she has not lost weight. That is to say, her weight, influenced by the ever-varying weight of STATE, is not measurable anymore. Her stature has not changed.
Her Grace does not perspire nor lose liquids or solids in any other form, which is remarkable as she does take in nutrients.
Her menstruation cycle has stopped completely, making her infertile, as expected.
The Bearer’s flesh can be icy to the touch without her giving any sign of noticing any cold.
And of course, Her Grace has not slept at all.”
“What?! But that is terrible!” Irene interjects. “So THAT is why Her Gr...”
Looking at her from under his curly eyelashes, Doctor Jan speaks to her:
“Come, come... Calm yourself!
All this is completely normal for a Bearer of STATE!”
Indignant, Irene’s round eyes harden. “NORMAL?! And you just leave it at that?
What kind of Doctor are you?!”
Tired, just so tired. She cannot relax when Rachel is in her rooms, as she often is, hovering near her, dutifully bringing her new papers to read.
‘I want Susan back,’ Irene thinks, again in vain, and scratches the itchy healing burns on her shoulders.
“Irene... We did try everything, you know,” the Captain says. “But STATE will not allow any chemicals near Her Grace. Still, Jan, you will have to admit Her Grace is not functioning as she was at the beginning...”
And Jan has to concede that Her Grace is not doing well.
“Yes, Her Grace is clearly often in acute discomfort: pain in her back, flu-like cramp in all her muscles, headaches, belly aches… and then the anxieties she clearly experiences during the visions of STATE. Then there is her absolute fear of the dark, woe onto the servant who shuts off the light at night!
Still, she is obviously not squeamish, and attempts to hide the pain. But we do need to find more information. I cannot say for how long she will survive this.”
---Bearer of STATE for 1 week, 5 days, 12 hours, 35 minutes and 15, 16---
In her rooms, S. lies awake on a realWood bed.
The last wave of pain has abated somewhat, and she is conscious of the Captain, Irene and Jan meeting. Though she does not care to overhear their words, she knows their concerns.
Whatever bed they had tried, hard or soft, whatever material, however exotic or straightforward, nothing had permitted her to relax and sleep. When lying on her back, STATE would sink into her abdomen, disturb her intestines and impede breathing. When lying on her side, STATE would pull at the skin of her flanks, with pressure building in her shoulders and neck, and lying on top of STATE was even more uncomfortable, apart from the fact that S. had always felt like suffocating in that position.
Of course, she knows what is happening.
STATE is part of her skin now, and she is giving up the limitations of her human body and her human mind, dwelling more and more in the whiteness of STATE, discovering structures under others, connections she has overseen before, histories she had never imagined...
It is good to wander there,
while her body is left somewhere, surrounded by the best of cares by the Jan or the Captain and the servants. But being constantly tired does make her edgy.
She knows servants fear her unexpected lashes, at servants, her Guard, or whoever is too near at the wrong moment. An she knows Irene has difficulty to serve a ruler who enforces the First Decree but is at times as volatile as her predecessor – though in a less bloody way.
But for S. this state of being is becoming more and more normal. The active and self-sufficient person she used to be has faded away, like a flimsy film character. STATE encases her former self and she is too matte to do much against it. S. hangs in limbo, continually weak.
To escape, she drowns herself in the pale structures of STATE, and again, and again, and again, and again. In the white, the varying rhythms take her in, take her with them, take over.
Day after day had passed, and she has not achieved much politically. But there is such a lot she has to learn there, in the white, and she knows that though a lame excuse, it is also the truth.
An addictive truth...