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

Chapter 64: Day of Souls

On February 11th, a clear sun shines and its light reflects off an icy layer of snow. The Bearer of STATE steps outside onto the granite platform in front of the Palace with her bare feet. She wears a white, long-sleeved dress, which leaves STATE visible. The metalloid silicon rectangle protruding from her belly seems to catch en condense the light, becoming slightly paler.

Humans.
7.998 humans.
So many humans. And more are approaching through the side streets.
STATE knows what is about to happen, but strand S. is not ready.
No. She has to open up... Open up...
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuh
Higher and higher, the whistling resumes, inaudible for the human ear. uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh

10:50 a.m.
A multitude awaits STATE silently in the cold. All are dressed in white, and many are bare-footed, like the Bearer. The Church of STATE had informed them, just a few weeks ago. Some of them had prayed the incantations every week, every day, preparing for today. Some of them had been torn in doubt every day, before finally deciding to come. Some of them were accompanying a beloved one, angry or sad, or with an unadmitted hope.
Nobody had expected such a large number of people to turn up. Even though there had been a wave of negative publicity after the energy fall-out end December, a growing group of people venerates the Bearer of STATE and the Church of STATE is growing and getting better organised, declaring rites and prayers and advocating the Day of Souls. Effectively, it seems.

In front, facing the people, lies the Carrier of STATE. Like all furniture for STATE, it is hewn from a block of realOak, covered in STATE material. The Carrier is nothing more than a solid oval disk, just big enough for a person to kneel on.
Through the cold air, the Bearer walks towards the Carrier. Her eyes are metallic and very still, like a doll’s. She steps onto the Carrier and kneels before the people.
Silence.

11:00 a.m.
On his stumps, Doctor Werther comes out of the Palace, followed shortly by Doctor Jan. Behind them, the Captain and the Secretary of STATE come out, both carrying a tangle of gold in their arms. They kneel to the left and the right of Her Grace.
“The Jewels of Mercy,” Doctor Werther announces. He does not have to speak loudly as the sound carries in a weird way.
One by one, Doctor Jan and Doctor Werther lift golden necklaces from the tangle and put them around the Bearer’s neck. It takes quite some time. Some necklaces have small lockets, some are very elaborate, some are very simple and thin. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. Everybody knows that they have been given to former Bearers on previous Days of Soul, to thank STATE for the relief of pain. Everyone is silent and watches.
When they are finished, the Bearer is carrying kilos of gold around her neck. The yellow metal contrasts weirdly with her grayish skin.
Bowing, the Captain and the Secretary of STATE draw back and leave Her Grace alone on the Carrier, with Doctor Werther and Doctor Jan kneeling behind her.

A brief silence, and then, like a sigh, the movement of many feet. People approach the kneeling Bearer softly, respectfully. No one speaks.
The first people try to lift the Carrier with the Bearer, but it is way too heavy. It takes at least ten people to lift the Bearer with the Jewels, which is hard as there is little space for them to hold the Carrier. In lifting, the Carrier tilts dangerously.

> As the rains wash away the Filth, so we, the People, will clean ourselves of it. Today. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

Looking from the windows, the Captain fears that Her Grace will simply slide off and be trampled by the feet, but miraculously, the Bearer stays on the Carrier. She is high above the people now, painfully visible, and he has to remind himself how STATE deflects guns and knives...

9.023 humans, and more approaching. 
The Carrier holds her body shell and her mind. Even had she wanted it, it is impossible to get off. The whistling envelops her mind, and merges with the soft uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh

Above the people, the Bearer is carried. As Artur Werther looks at her he feels no triumph, only awe. She is unmoving like a puppet, covered in gold, like a Spanish Madonna carried around during festivals. Proudly, Artur Werther wheels with the crowd.

Jan looks around, amazed. ‘I hate masses, but it’s so different to be enclosed by this crowd... The atmosphere is unlike any public event of this magnitude. What is it?’ He centers himself to relax, breathes in deeply and exhales fully. After a few respirations, he starts to sense what is generated by the crowd. ‘Hmn...’ He sees everybody is very, very serious and concentrated. Nobody moves in a wrong way, though people are obviously a bit unaccustomed to the ritual...’ Slowly, he gives in to it. Without speaking, without any reciting, the feeling spreads that they are in fact one. One entity, one body, one whole, with the Bearer as its tiny head. Incredible and uncanny, and everybody present knows only on very rare occasions something like this can be possible.

--- Trust STATE --- Trust the Bearer of STATE --- Trust STATE ---- Hail the Bearer of STATE ---

10.654 humans. As one organism, they move through the deserted inner city.
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
S. wills other information to come to the fore. The specks of Army personnel, the low hum of their voices checking out sightlines and signaling ‘clear’, the ssshhhh of the humans’ feet on the cold asphalt...

11:30 a.m.
‘People, so many people,’ the Captain frowns, watching the event on different monitors. Out of sight, he knows the Army is guarding blockades against possible obstruction. Due to the short preparation time, many of the groups opposed to the Day of Souls or the Bearer do not seem to have managed to organize their protest marches against it, but that may well be an illusion. Feelings against this ritual go deep, very deep, and people will not let this event pass without disruption. Different groups are opposing STATE: former President’s men are against the Bearer and all events related to her and cling to Matil and his men in organizing violence against the new regime; people opposing any absolutist ruler including a Bearer, like the members of S.’ former terrorist groups, have joined with a miscellaneous group of adepts lead by Jason Almerra; and in addition, a loosely organized jumble of newly formed organisations object against the growing worship of Bearer of STATE and the Captain supposes covert preparations for the founding of an anti-STATE political party must have started.
He checks the time. ‘Everything is OK...’ They follow the route agreed upon the day before. They would pass through the city center, curving east, over the Bridge, and into the Stadium. The Stadium, though not so new, is about the only place that can hold any large number of people, and its oval form seemed to please Doctor Werther for some reason.
Very quietly, the enormous crowd continues to walk. It is quite far, and it is very cold, but everybody continues walking without even an unvoiced complaint.

---Bearer of STATE for 11 months, 1 week, 0 days, 1 hour and 49 minutes, 50 minutes, 51 ---
S. rides the people, the people of STATE.
STATE scans their preoccupations. Some humans are very concentrated, hoping to live their last moments and praying all the way to STATE to relieve them. Some are already sad, as they accompany someone who has admitted their death wish. Some are just curious, they are here for the event rather than for partaking in the ritual. As of yet, STATE does not read any immediate danger. They are approaching the street leading to the Bridge.

Wiping a strand of white hair from his face, Artur Werter glances sideways at Her Grace. She is being carried along the street that she must have been walking through, incensed, some weeks before. But Her Grace’s face is still as always. ‘Good. The memory is far away, where it should be... Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE... Trust STATE... Hail STATE... Ah, so many people! Finally here, to witness this great moment! Ah... Follow STATE... Believe in STATE...’ He sighs as his love and pride in STATE expand in him.

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
The place echoes with some emotion, too distant to retrieve. STATE shifts focus. There are 12.621 humans present, with the number still mounting as time goes by. STATE grows from their presence, is fed by it, becoming stronger. uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
Strand S. does no longer fear, is content with keeping the equilibrium in the flow of data, in swirling in the white. She manages to make the soft sound even higher, taking her residue of human thought with it: uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
As planned, the crowd turns right, to the road leading to the Bridge, when suddenly there is a strong pull in STATE. No.
No.
Not that way!

11:47 a.m.
Outside observers watching NationalTV? and dataFlow cannot believe their eyes when they see such an incredible number of people stop without any order as one man. In the Army choppers circling around, voices erupt: “Alert all personnel! Something is strange! Diversion, I repeat, is there a diversion? What is wrong?”

> again changing her mind, she is! fickle little flickring
> You do NOT refer to Her Grace
> the bored bearer of nothing you mena? come on? what can she do to me, huh? white lights?
> She is about to give the greatest Gift to us, the People of STATE! You are defiling this sacred moment and were you here I would kill you. As Admin, you are expelled as of now! Let this be an example to all of you!
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE! This Day

STATE opens up to become a channel: ‘Stop. Everybody, stop.’
In the crowd, some humans clasp their ears or heads, getting headaches from the voice of STATE within, others are exalted by this show of the Bearer’s powers.
STATE looks ahead. There, the Bridge, and then, the Stadium. Though built to hold even more humans, something is wrong. STATE scans the structure of the building and then she sees them: tiny red blinking spots. Bombs have been planted in the Stadium, and when they go off, the whole structure will collapse on top of the humans following STATE. There are insufficient exits, and no matter how much STATE can control them, many will die.
No. Somewhere else. STATE scans the area within walking distance for a suitable structure, and instantly highlights the options, the knowledge at the ready. She has to be quick, some humans are already wondering why they have obeyed a voice within.
‘But… Your Grace!’ Artur Werther’s thought-voice. ‘What is happening? Where are we..?’
‘Trust STATE, Artur, like the others. The Stadium is tampered with.’
uuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuh uuuuuuh uuh uh
Space to think.
Two options: a church and the market halls. Though the latter is a thin open structure, STATE selects it after only a brief hesitation.

The Bearer speaks to the minds of the people: ‘People of STATE. Turn around where you are. We go back one block. Trust STATE to guide you.’
As one person, everybody turns on the spot. People who were at the back are suddenly in front, and feel uncertain where to go, but again the voice of STATE is there: ‘Go straight for one block.’ Though again some try to ward off the uncomfortable voice recurring in their heads, everybody obeys. They walk one block and then STATE directs them to turn left. The crowd halts before the closed double doors of the market halls.
‘Let STATE pass!’
Reverently, people step aside as the Bearer of STATE is being carried to the front. The heavy locks and bolts break at the approach of STATE, and people can open the doors. A huge space stretches out before them, the high ceilings seem low in relation to the distances encompassed.
The halls are very dirty, unprepared, and the people look around them amazed. Clearly, there has been a change of plan and many start to wonder why. Walking in their white clothes, many with bare feet like the Bearer, they walk through the rotting fruits and vegetables left lying after the last auction. The halls are only dimly lit, a grayish light falling through the weathered polyester roofs.

S. exhales for the first time.
Yes. This is the place…
uuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuh
Calmly, STATE instructs the humans to carry her to the small dais on which normally the auctioneer stands.
There.

12:05 p.m.
Finally, the Captain knows where she is. ‘The Market halls! Why is she never, never, never ever predictable..?’ He has to reroute the groups, reposition whole teams, and while he is frantically on his various communication systems he keeps an irritated eye on NationalTV?. ‘Look at that! How filthy! Unbecoming’

Irene is next door, all her focus on her communication devices, trying to remind herself to breathe. Susan brings her some tea, and she smiles gratefully. DataNet? is full of people reacting and though she had feared hate posts, surprisingly many people are positive as well. ‘But why are they referring to ‘for the one who is given the chance’? Spelled with or without capitals?’

Carefully, the people carrying the Bearer let her down. Almost as one person, they kneel to remain lower than the Bearer of STATE.
Artur Werther is a bit pissed off that they had to forego the nice oval of the Stadium, but content with the people’s behavior. ‘Things are as they should be... Finally... Finally!’
The Bearer remains kneeling on the Carrier. Using her soft voice, she speaks out for the first time: “People of STATE. Be welcome to this celebration of the Day of Souls.
As you know, today STATE can be asked to fulfill your dire wish. But STATE decides, how you will be rewarded. You all have to vow to trust STATE.”
“We trust in STATE.” Collectively, the multitude speaks the words, softly.
“If STATE decides you have to live on, there is an important reason.
Coming to the Day of Souls means you trust STATE to assess if you are to live or to die. You all have to vow to believe in STATE.”
“We believe in STATE.”
“This means, that you have to vow not to attempt suicide in any form until the first of July. You, personally!”
“I vow not to lift my hand against myself until such time.”
This is hard for some, Artur can sense, but it was a known part of the liturgy.
“Be kind to each other, and respect the Bearer’s First Decree!”
“We thank the Bearer of STATE.”
“Proceed.”
Artur looks at Jan and catches his eye. Last night, they had talked the ritual through in private. While sipping some exquisite cognac, he had talked about the reciprocity hypothesis of the ritual, and they had wondered aloud what would happen to Her Grace. Jan said he thought the ritual’s public character might have frightened S. during earlier stages, but since the Bridge she does not seem to bother. And Artur had acknowledged to Jan his secret preoccupation. For decades, nobody really had experienced the Day of Souls, and no observations of what happened to the Bearer during the ritual were on record. Artur’s reciprocity hypothesis assumed that while giving an experience of the white to the people, the people’s experience might be entering Her Grace’s consciousness. ‘To what end? And what’s more: what happens when it does?’

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuh
S. has seen brief glimpses of what will come next, through other Bearers’ eyes. Something was unsettling about it, but she had shrugged the unease away. So what if some humans want to die?
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuh uuuuuuuuuuuh
Now it is time. Following the ritual, S. closes her eyes.

12:10 p.m.
NationalTV has reestablished life connection and the Captain and Irene look on. The Bearer is still, kneeling on the Carrier lying on the filthy floor, Doctor Werther and Doctor Jan behind her. ‘So many people have entered the halls, and they all behave so quietly and respectfully!’ Irene has never seen anything like this...
The first person walks up to the Bearer.

Strand S.’ eyes do not behold him, but STATE does know his aspect, his demeanor gray and sketchy, the head low, the shoulders hanging. The man bows and kneels in front of the Bearer, offers a thin golden necklace for Her Grace. The humans around juggle to see him, to see what happens exactly. The man slumps for STATE, murmuring. For a brief moment, he does not even seem to have the courage to do what he has come for. But then his hands rise tentatively, searching for STATE.
There.
The moment he touches STATE, he gasps.
S. would as well, only she holds no air inside. The moment his hands touch STATE, she is hurled into his world. Within seconds, STATE has penetrated its narrowed and limited confines, with no possibilities, no hope, no love. It locks S. in there, sucking all strength, all initiative, all drive to even want to have them, out of her. And at that same instant, the man experiences STATE, the undefined unlimited white expanse, and it fills him.
And then, it kills him. The man falls away from STATE.
Slowly, very slowly, his grey oppression leaves S.. Almost imperceptibly, she swallows. The soft whining presses inside her ear drums, inaudible for all but her. uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh

Silence.
People hesitate, look at the man, then figure that he does not seem to have died in pain. His face is relaxed and open.
Doctor Jan and Doctor Werther carry him respectfully away to the side, on the dais.
More people move to the front. They form a line, more or less defined in the enormous crowd.
The Bearer sits still, facing the crowd with her gray face and golden tangle glinting in the dull light.

The next pair of hands. These are more decisive, and they bring a world less confined, but full of frustrated options and misfortune, time and time again. A world grinding with resentment and anger, grating in her, in STATE. After a brief instant, STATE pushes this human away to live through another disappointment.

With a stern face, Doctor Werther returns the gold and motions the woman to move away.

Again, a pair of hands.
Again, S. is hurled into a perspective alien to her, filled with loss. Such a loss, that every action is filled with phantom pain, even the simplest like taking a walk. She misses him so much that she is a husk, discarded and useless and she only wants to join him, there... there... there...
The hands fall away.
Again, a pair of hands, and a leaden feeling, all energy sucked out of a body shell barely moving. Even the coursing of the blood is too frivolous an action, and the heart is content to stop finally, completely...
Again, a pair of hands… Fierce single-minded hatred, excluding all the rest. No ideas, no space. The hands fall down and the gold is added to the tangle she is carrying already.
Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.
Soon, everything becomes a blur of varying depressions. There is no time to get back to the white before the next human hands come and touch STATE. She does not register who is dying and who is not, trying to survive the succession of trapped minds and re-find her balance before the next one comes. But as time goes by, she cannot rebalance any more.
Submerged in consecutive mind-merges, she enters only minds filled with anger, or terrible pain, or violent frustration, or loss, or despair, or utter and inconsequential negation of life. There are no more gaps. She tries to find the white, but it is out of reach and she is encased in a seamless leaden slab.
---
S. looks around to find the white, but instead she is in a confined space, the light so gray it presses against her. Her feet are standing on a rough brownish surface. Walking some steps, she notices the surface is like a huge lake of some solidified material. The edges are yellowish grey, darkening to brown towards the center. She walks and walks over the rough surface to where the brown curls up. Its crust is cracked here, and then she sees what lies beneath.
Blood, sticky blood.
It is her blood, flowing from the hole where the Mark had been.
It is the blood she had spent, human body tissues raining down on her.
It is the blood of STATE, spent over all these years.
She looks up, trying to find a direction in which to flee, but the horizon has solidified as well. Huge boulders of gray, like giant heaps of household dust, lie around her as far as she can see, in a light that is just as gray as they are.
They move. They are approaching her, and then she feels them already, touching her.
At first, it is almost comfortable, the soft rounded forms push against her like in a motherly embrace. But then the boulders swell. They tower above her, and grow and grow. Their roundness pushes against her, harder and harder. S. cannot move any more. Her arms are pressed against her trunk.
She is not standing but is held pushed between three, four boulders of dust. She suffocates in their embrace, and then realizes that there is no more light, no more space, no more energy to withstand...
---

13:17 p.m.
After more than an hour, the Bearer slumps forwards.
“Halt!” Artur Werther stops the next supplicant and orders Jan to touch Her Grace from the back. ‘Hmn, though it might be something like this... Come on... Hail STATE... We all trust STATE...’ He kneels in front of STATE and softly starts to chant something. Then, he respectfully strokes STATE. Again, from the center outwards, and he lets his hands fly outwards, like he is dusting off the surface.

---
Strand S. stays upright, only just.
The pushing is still there. But… not pushing everywhere anymore.
Just some pressure there, on what she considers to be… What has to be… her back.
And there… on….
Her belly?
Or..?
---

The Bearer of STATE coughs. From his inner pocket, Doctor Werther extracts a flask with some clear liquid. Jan tries to warn him: no alcohol..! But Werther disregards him and pours a small sip in Her Grace’s mouth.

Ah. That is good. S. drinks the liquid and then some more. The dry dust disappears gradually.

13:25 p.m.
The Bearer sits straighter.
“Artur! What is that you are giving her?” Jan is whispering urgently to Doctor Werther, who whispers back: “Relax Jan… This is STATE-cleaned water, the same that she used for my recovery! Whaddayathink? Come on!”
After a minute, the Bearer looks better. She sits straight again, and Doctor Werther beckons the next person to come.

Gradually, S. is submerged again in a stream of dark gray. The world is bleak, and full of pain, and limited. She tries to accept the views as they are, to let them pass, to skim their surface, but it is hard.
Very hard.
S. swallows and forces her body shell to sit straight.
Again the hands come and bring a world of confinement. And again, a different one. And another world, dark and cold.
What is the use of all of this pain?
What can anyone say to amend this?
What use is there to live and survive?

Another hour the Bearer of STATE is touched by the people. Again, she slumps, and again, Doctor Werther and Doctor Jan hold Her Grace, stroke STATE, and offer her some water.

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
The whining modulates evenly and then her breathing resumes, a silent version of the moving air.
More and more hands touch STATE, are filled by the white and killed or rejected.
And bit by bit, their smell seeps into her. Their limitations, being locked inside organic body shells, ridden by sickness, disease, pain, loss, disconsolation, an approaching death… Their fears, their illogical reasoning, their pride, their cynicism, their loathing for the world, their clinging to the tiniest hope, to the slightest semblance of love, of connection. They are incredibly stupid, aggressive and destructive, unbelievably simple and egocentric, they are so irrelevant but all-empowering to STATE.
Then, S. understands, in the middle of the bleakness and ugliness, that this is also what the Bearer needs.
The Bearer of STATE cannot survive alone on a mountain, covered in snow.
The Bearer of STATE cannot save herself by hiding somewhere in the mud between the cables, or in the ground or in the white, or wherever. The Bearer of STATE can only be what she is when the people of STATE make her into the Bearer. When they look up at her, when they believe in her, when they trust her. She has to be outside, with the people.
The people of STATE…

> she is doing it
> no OCC today Branny!
> wish I was there
> can still go, B, think I will go there myself! have to witness this
> Hail STATE, I’m going! We are the Blessed

It is a very, very long day, before the Bearer has had time to allow all supplicants to come to STATE.
Many people die, their relatives and friends crying in a sad relief for the release of the ones they loved.
Many people live, sitting with their heads bowed on the dais behind the Bearer, trying to keep the precious glimmer of light inside them alive.
Everybody who can afford to has offered some small golden Jewel of Mercy for the Bearer of STATE. The heap of gold around the Bearer’s neck sparkles dully in the growing dark.

---Bearer of STATE for 11 months, 1 week, 0 days, 9 hours and 4 minutes---
Still more people are waiting to touch STATE. But STATE senses that something is suddenly ever so slightly different.
These humans have just come in.
OK, so they are late.
These humans have not come to end their lives, or even to touch STATE.
So, they are curious.
No. They are not curious. They are eager for something.
They try to keep their minds calm and no thoughts register in STATE, but they carry excitement, a different kind of excitement than the people carried this morning.
They are hasty. They are disrespectful, step on toes, bump against backs, elbow into sides.
They are alien.
They carry danger, and exult in it.
Matil.
They all carry the trace of Matil: the conditioned mind techniques obfuscating his orders. Bernd M. Matilowitch. B. Matil.
S. does not hesitate. ‘People of STATE. Come to me!’
With one swoop all people of STATE step up the dais, careful for each other, and they kneel close to the Bearer.

Those left out look around astonished. ‘How did they all move so quickly?’ ‘Where to?’ ‘How did they know?’
Within a minute, the danger manifests itself. Flaring up at all exits, fire. Smoke fills the halls rapidly, the polyCarbon roof burning like hell in no time at all.

The humans outside the dais yell and scream, but STATE knows their terror to be fake, based on knowledge and a clear decision. They shout to the people on the dais, tell them to get a move if they want to survive, the hall will crash on them surely. Some humans on the dais start to rustle, to move, to panic, but then they all hear the voice of the Bearer in their minds: ‘Stay still! Trust STATE.’
Nobody leaves the dais, though some are very close to. Hands grab and arms hold each other as the people of STATE start to see the trap. ‘Hail STATE! Trust in STATE! We the people of STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE...’

The instigators see that the scheme of creating panic will not work, and all of a sudden, most run off, through some secret exit agreed upon. Some stay and eye the Bearer with all their violence, but dare not move against her.

19:33 p.m.
The roof is burning and along the edges parts are already falling down, torn polyCarbon on fire. Toxic fumes make the air heavy. Luckily the concrete floor does not burn, so most pieces burn up and turn to ashes. But over the roof, the fire approaches rapidly.
BENG!
BENG!
BENG! BENG!
The people of STATE yell for fear as their ears are deafened by a series of explosions above their heads. They duck away and protect their heads, their loved ones… There is so much smoke and dust that for some time nobody can see a thing. People cough and try not to breathe the foul fumes in too deep.

> put it on!
> put your dataflow ON, now!!! I’m off OCC, speak to y’all later!
> it is incredible
> is she at it again. huh? religion, if you ask me, religion!
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE!
> shut up and see, Heavy! it’s incredible! I’m off

Only S., the Bearer of STATE, smiles quietly.
She has isolated the piece of roof above them by blasting away the roof around. The few pillars left are just strong enough to support the remaining umbrella of polyCarbon. Around them, the fire consumes the last of the roof, and cinders fall to the ground. In the distance, the fire brigade and ambulances can be heard, the Army and Police approaching, and S. also knows the Captain and Irene to be rushing to her as well. ‘It is OK, Captain! STATE is fine. Stay away to let the ambulances get here first!’
Good.
The press is here. Bright TV lights highlight the scene, reporters with microphones talk like crazy to give their impressions and eye the people, deciding whom to tackle for an interview, photographers sneak around to find the best angle for themselves. Some of these nationally known names are still stored in STATE, and a high interference makes their commentaries useless.
While Artur Werther is shouting his opinion about rats eating out of traitors’ hands, the Bearer sits silent as they start to photograph and film her, surrounded by the people of STATE, with part of the market halls’ roof hanging above them.
Ash like fine snow starts drizzling down, falling on the black ashes and deformed metal pillars, then starting to build on the roof above STATE, glittering in the many lights.

Behind TVs elsewhere in the city, those trying to limit the veneration of STATE bite their teeth in frustration. Jason locks himself in his room and refuses to speak, a headache grinding in his head. As the headache spreads and spreads, he starts to tear at everything around him, then at himself. He tears his clothes, he tears out hair, and tries to’

In his serene living room, Blake Feyman stares at the set with a clenched jaw, downing the contents of his carved glass in one gulp. ‘And where is she when I want her here? Huh? Why does she take today off, today, of all days? Maybe should question her more, the little soft one, because won’t do to have a Church cunt around in my house, now will it? End STATE! Wha’ And then a wide smile dawns on his face. ‘Maybe, maybe this is just what we needed...’

While the emergency services are entering the site, STATE conveys a last message: ‘People of STATE. Your trust has been rewarded. Continue to trust STATE, and remain true to your vows. Hail the people of STATE...’

20:15 p.m.
Helped by the Police and Ambulance personnel, all people get off the dais. Some refuse to leave STATE, cry and beg to be allowed near her always, for ever. Gently, Doctor Werther and Doctor Jan talk to them, persuade them that the Bearer needs rest, that they cannot be allowed to exhaust the goodness of STATE… Most people simply search for the bodies of their loved ones and stay to accompany them for a last wake, or try to console someone left living, or walk home bewildered after today’s events. They refuse to speak to the press, unable to voice what has happened to them. But when they see some of the instigators reappear, who start talking about the Bearer trapping them in a building on fire, some stay to counter them in heated accusations, jumbling all statements.

Just out of view, the Captain and Her Excellency wait in the limo of STATE, itching to get in and save Her Grace, but obedient to her order. When the people have gone and the press have finally thinned, they make to approach the Bearer, solitarily kneeling on the Carrier, when they again hear her: ‘Stay away! Artur, Jan, go to the limo first.’

Artur casts a look at the Bearer, sitting very tranquilly on the Carrier, still laden with gold. Then she rises and walks towards them over the remnants of the roof. The market halls are destroyed and will have to be rebuilt from scratch.
In the limo, Her Grace sinks in the white bioLeather, staining it with black and grey smears this time. She waves the Captain and Irene’s admonitions and concern away with a tired and unusual smile.

On this Day of Souls, STATE has gained something, and she observes it with a mild surprise. As an alien implant in her, something that she has never known, only heard of, and glimpsed at in Irene’s family stories.
Love.
Unconditional, overflowing, all-encompassing and completely irrational love.
S. loves the people of STATE.

That night, Jan takes his old-fashioned graphite and enters into his notebook:
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