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

Chapter 59: the Bridge

“Hey! TravelChip?, lady! Here with it, you hear! No free ride!” The attendant is shouting, but the woman does not react. ‘What is this?’ The bus driver looks in his mirrors, sees the STATE limo following the bus, two Guards on motoBikes swiftly overtaking the bus to drive up front. Afraid to block them, the bus driver keeps far right and moves faster, disregarding a bus stop full of people waiting.
In the bus, people start to stare. The woman is wearing no coat and that with this cold, a strange pale grayish thing with a white sheen protruding from her body. Her eyes are metalloid grey and unmoving. Then, all at once, they understand. The attendant steps back quickly. ‘The Bearer!’ ‘The Bearer of STATE is on our bus!’ ‘Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE! Hail STATE... We all serve STATE,’ ‘Oh my Lord! The Bearer will kill us all!’
The bus driver does not know if he should stop or keep going, and almost collides with one of the motoBikes in front as he has his eyes on the inside mirror.

‘We will all die because of that filthy Bearer! Let her be gone!’ ‘Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer, oh no’ ‘She is dangerous! Her flesh kills, and her look, bright as the hottest fire’ ‘Let me off! I wanna go off,’ ‘She the most holy, it is She who will bring the Light. Soon, as promised. Soon, if we are worthy. The Light of the Day of S’

STATE does not need the idiot driver or those human eyes to look at her. The clamoring of their thoughts is unbearable. Stupid humans! Yes, she is the Bearer of STATE. Yes, they had better back off, filthy bags of flesh! Fragile and limited. Stupid. They had better leave her alone! The white expands and is freezing cold, the scarred silicon skin hardening, the body shell numb. Filthy humans!

The bus shrieks to an unexpected halt, though the driver pushes the gas pedal to the floor. People see that the Bearer is becoming white, a scary white.

S. blinks and the electrocution flares through the bus, reducing it to a burning carcass in minutes, humans falling and screaming, flaying charred limbs, the smell of human hair burning and flesh frying...
S. blinks and the doors are thrown open.

The bus stays where it is for a brief moment, until the driver sees Her Grace has left the bus, roughly clutches his gear and hurries away. Inside, people sigh with relief and many start whispering to each other, while some pray out aloud.

Humans thronging towards a market. Withstanding the cold, many walk briskly past the stalls. Walking calmly and purposefully, S. merges with the crowd.

The limo obviously cannot follow, and the Guards in front of the bus did not see where Her Grace was going. Cursing, the Captain jumps out of the limo and starts after the Bearer with two Guards. They are in one of the poorer Boroughs, and loitering groups of men stare hostile at the Captain’s fine suit. Menacingly, they draw nearer, but the Captain simply draws his ‘Silencer and continues after Her Grace.
There! For an instant he spots her small back. He runs, bumping into people who do not take that lightly. While he continues, disregarding everybody but the Bearer, more and more men start questioning him, pulling at his sleeve, attempting to stop him. They shout insults, and their number grows. Four to five huge blokes each physically block him and the Guards. They hold his arm with the ‘Silencer. The Captain has to stop now and scowls with anger. In the distance, a notified Army ‘Chopper approaches. The Guards shout and when people realize whom they are dealing with, they back off. Enraged, the Captain shrugs off their fear.
He has lost sight of the Bearer. Spinning around, he looks in all directions, but no trace of her. ‘What now?’

S. walks, quick and agile, weaving through the crowd. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Ducking behind a stall with clothing, she spots the shop she remembers from long ago and enters. A blaring pop song, the glint of cheap clothes hanging on racks. Some humans browse through them, their backs towards her. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. The ‘Copter hovers and she stays inside. After some time, STATE generates a distracting signal, and soon, the ‘Copter moves off, and the Guards as well.
The shop has an exit on the other side and S. slips out before anybody has noticed her.
After the busy market, this street is deserted, curving slightly towards the mean winter sun, the pavement uneven but relatively clean.
Finally alone.
Inside the houses, humans gather for an evening meal. The clatter of cutlery, the small ones silenced by their parents, the voices saying thanks for the day. Human safety measures against the cold outside. Safety nets against the harshness of fate, ripping away their health, their money, their children even, maybe. Soothing measures to contain their violence, their hatred towards each other. To force them in patterns of behaviour, predictable and superficially peaceful. How blind and small-minded these humans are. How stupid in their babble and their faith.
Let them stay away from her. Let them stay away from STATE. Let them leave STATE alone.
S. walks and walks and walks. STATE has to get away. Away. Away... Away. Away.
The rhythm of her paces replaces the absence of breathing.

> stragne one’s becomes stranger by the day they say
> what’s up? have some news of er? well?
> gossip on the waves of guards ‘fraid to lose her. what is she running from eh? maybe a nice supper ;-)
> doesn’t eat now does she
> I don’t know, the more I hear the stranger she seems to me...
> Come on people, she does a lot of good she does, better than everyone before her!
> better? wouldn’t know, I lost me job I did, nobody’s buying fineries anymore sicne she and that prim secretary are at the top, poo
> oh come on stop thinking of yourself for a change Paul, or who are you anyway
> like I’d tell ay of you me real identity, I wouldn’t
> Hail STATE! Hail she who will bring us the Light! For it is near

---Bearer of STATE for 8 months, 4 weeks, 0 days, 1 hour, 2 minutes ---
S. walks and walks, slower now. STATE is heavy. The road leading out of town slightly rises, already as high as the first storey of the houses lining it, and still the road slants upwards. The Bridge. The high Bridge stretching over the central river.
The sky is a uniform, very light grey. The low light of the sun is diffused by the clouds, the grey is clear, almost too bright to look into. S. walks upwards, towards the sky. Spiny lantern posts are outlined against the light sky, the lamp heads tiny black blots.
The air is cold, her boundaries are icy, the biting white inside. The Bridge rises above the city and elegantly curves higher. Even the largest ships can pass under it.
---Bearer of STATE for 8 months, 4 weeks, 0 days, 1 hour, 18 minutes ---
S., walking on the right side, sees the water. Below her are the dwellings where STATE had found Artur Wertheim.

In the Palace, Irene looks down on the slumped figure of Doctor Werther. ‘Not much use, now, is he...’ His body is flaccid and clumsy; he opens his eyes to slits. ‘Yes, he was the one to inform the Bearer of the Day of Souls. He follows his own reasons, well, as far as he is sober enough nowadays to have any...’ Irene sighs. The remonstrations of the Bearer had not been able to prevent him from starting to drink again, and being so close to Her Grace, the servants did not dare refuse him anything. Living in a haze, he is not of much help. Irene wishes STATE had never found him. ‘Look at him! His dream is to have the Bearer of STATE resume the absolute position of idol. He wants everybody to venerate STATE the way he adores it. He is not into political reform, not as long as the President’s men do not come back into power. He does not care what happens to S., what happens to anybody, including himself... He just wants to be close to STATE. Weakling. Stinking fool. What should we do? How can I get him to help?’ She turns to go down to hear what Doctor Jan has to tell them.

“Stop STATE! Stop that obsolete relic! We can do without STATE, because we are the people! We, the people should rule the people, we shall not be ruled by some old object. By some totalitarian thing! Stop STATE! Stop the Bearer!” Martin looks up from his manifest and massages his eyes. ‘Not quite,’

As the grey sky darkens, the grey enters STATE. There is no reason why this entity should be separate from the sky, from the dark. STATE should not be this, an object. STATE should not be thus, a ruler. STATE should disappear. She should disappear.
If S. really had become an extension of STATE, she could maybe end this by destroying STATE. But what could be even damaging to STATE? Nothing comes even close to harming STATE.
S. looks down. Far, far below her, the moiré surface of the river gleams grey in the winter light. Cold and distant and very solid.
STATE cannot endure the contact with water.
Her body shell stands on the narrow ledge of the Bridge’s balustrade. In slow-motion, she tilts backwards, moving her weight further and further away from the center, until the feet lose their grip. While entering her curved trajectory, STATE scans the river, so she does not accidentally hit on a boat or another vessel just passing underneath. She is falling, falling, falling, until she
hits the hard plane of water. Smashing through the surface, she enters the icy dark.
She is heavy, with STATE on. She sinks like a brick. She goes down until she is lying on the riverbed. The silt is dirty, saturated with heavy metals, motor oil and other waste. There, she will rest.
She does not need oxygen, she can lie there for as long as she wants. Her mind can connect to the traffic lines over the water, to the pipes lying half-hidden in the dirty mud.
It will be like being buried in the Palace garden, like sleeping in the snow.
It will be quiet,
so quiet, only the
white’
But: no: there is no white; there is only grey around her, a cold grey. And her body shell is not still, the limbs flutter as she is pulled down, faster and faster. Falling, falling, falling, falling. The air hisses like when she was falling that first day. The cold cuts through her, her voice howls a scream, pitched against the high ongoing whistle of the wind. And then the smash of the water, the sting of it against her skin, against STATE. A short-circuit, STATE electrocuting her, all systems merging their energies in one huge final
discharge.
And then, the darkness. The all-encompassing dark.
Would it all be over?
Finally nothing, not even the white..?
No.
She would be driven onwards by STATE, to stand up in the filthy water, and walk over the riverbed until the sand rises and pushes her above water, forcing her out. Yes, she can almost see herself: a tiny figure walking out of the dirty river water, up the banks where the homeless live.
It would not be long before she would be found.
It would not be long before STATE would show itself again.
It would not be long before the people of STATE would venerate her again.
No!
And again, S. stands on the ledge. Is she in reality this time? In what reality?
The air is all around her, cold, as cold as she is. Deep, very deep below her, the water whirls. Such pretty patterns! The grey surface is subtly changing, becoming slightly tinted. The light is getting softer, the city a pearly grey silhouette against a pinkish sky. The water whirls and whirls and whirls.
The volume of air dividing them, the distance of the cold and hard water.
S. looks down and dives.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling...
What a beautiful arc her body shell makes! Very gracefully, it cleaves the cold air and goes downwards like a pointed arrow, going so fast, that she is entering another time zone.
Then, the impact of the surface of the water.
BANG!
A flash of smithereens of her body shell flying in all directions, before losing herself wholly, completely, totally...
Finally.
Finally…
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