On dataFlow, more and more people voice the opinion that the Bearer should announce elections, and they are attracting more and more followers. The recent freedom intoxicates the people, makes them look for more. Yes, some forces are probably egging them on, but the sentiment is also genuine, and strong. And Irene knows they are right. The bare fact of a ruling Bearer is conditioning this state: a top-down society, people trampling on the rights of the classes below them, a hierarchy culminating in the powerful few looking up to the Bearer to please. As long as this is the case, there are no incentives for creating more equality, for empowering the people, for democracy. Everything Her Grace was aiming for before she became Bearer will remain a sham, as long as she is Bearer of STATE. For so long Irene has resisted the awareness which now seeps into her body, making it cold and hard. ‘There’s only one way in which this country can develop. STATE has to go - no: STATE has to be destroyed. STATE will have to cease to exist. What will happen to S., to all of us? No, no... That’s too terrible. We must find some other way,’
Bearer of STATE for 3 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes and
S. is not afraid for self-destruction. But she knows that STATE will not allow her to. Not now, when the Committees are being formed and change is almost starting. Not now, with Matil eager to succeed her and return everything to a state worse than before. And for the first time in her life, she knows she does not want to. The entirety of STATE suffuses her, using her space to exist. She has to exist this way, only this way, and since she is working with Rislers, STATE seems to unfurl. Every moment, manifold layers of information are there to dive into, and STATE has so many aspects that she has not tired of. She can focus on details of an individual’s life, on groups of persons interacting, on masses of people reacting on streams of subconscious ideas, on the energy flows that result from sometimes barely discernable shifts in nuance, on the practical surges of energy use when in the morning the showers are turned on, on the movements of all forms of transport throughout the country, on all police activities being planned and executed at any given moment, on the judicial cases being decided upon on the investigations being carried out, on all scientific research being proposed, submitted, granted, performed…
Where does all this information come from?
How can one object control it all, and why? What is the aim of STATE? What is its agenda? S. decides to dive into the history of STATE. Where or how had it come into being? And why had she never wondered about this before?
Submerging herself into the white, S. allows herself to sink to where she senses the core of STATE to be. It is not without danger, she knows: she remembers the eyes, their hunger. But she has to know the origins of this entity, also if in time she would want to’
But the thought is blocked, and she does not pursue it.
They await her, as she had anticipated. A conglomerate of superimposed and shifting former Bearers watch her as she draws nearer to the source. She cannot evade them this time. She has to enter them, however briefly, and assess their reign’s conditions, parameters, results. Briefly, she recollects her fear at her first encounter with them, their cold metallic eyes, their attempt to occupy her. But she is stronger now, much stronger. She can handle them.
S. walks up to the last person to have borne STATE before her: the 10th Bearer of STATE. He approaches her hesitantly, lifts his hands. S. returns the gesture. When their hands touch, she moves into his perspective.
It is 32 years ago. The President is Prime Minister of the Bearer’s government, the power already amassed around him. The 10th Bearer of STATE does not care. Encapsulated in an ongoing meditation of STATE, he does not act. The powers of STATE engulf him and he cannot direct them, too afraid to infringe upon them. Outside of STATE there is no personality, he is just a vessel for veneration, carried around from Church of STATE festival, to Church of STATE procession, to opening, to celebration, on the Carrier of STATE. A symbolic puppet.
S. wants to pull back, but he is clinging to her.
She subtly rearranges some powers and he is forced to let go, shocked at her carelessness with STATE.
The 9th Bearer of STATE is much more powerful. Her body is squat and deformed by STATE, the back hunched and twisted. Her reign lasted about 5 uneasy years, and the wounds of her fights with STATE have left the arms and hands slashed. Her strong opinions surge through S., who is thrown from recognition of her strong-willed character to irritation at her shortsightedness. This Bearer’s reign had changed things quite a bit, though the imbalance of power and wealth had increased considerably.
Angry to be close again to STATE without being able to change anything, the woman pushes her from her, and S. leaves.
The 8th Bearer of STATE is lean and grey, and he has served STATE for a very long time. The thin arms and legs are completely silicon transparent, and his face is as well, the eyes without pupils. Where STATE had clung, his belly is white and weak, unfinished. He eagerly reaches for S. and she allows him to take her hands.
A whole history is there, and he shows her all. From the first days when he as a young boy was recognized as the new Bearer and torn from his parent’s house to be venerated as the new ruler, through the wars with a neighboring country, and the huge developments both economically and socially in the era. It is a very interesting epoch and S. dwells there for quite some time. But then she realizes that the 8th Bearer of STATE is a good storyteller, and that he is using all his talents to make her stay with him. To seduce STATE to stay with him, to return to him. Politely but resolutely, S. pulls away from his stories.
S. faces the 7th Bearer of STATE. She has to force herself not to withdraw. The man is huge and muscular, more like a wrestler than a ruler. He looks like he had won STATE in some fight, and had borne STATE not too long: his body showes almost no signs, still full of prowess. But she is the one in power now, and he eyes her with calculation. She returns the gaze and lifts her hands in the gesture. He shrugs contemptuously. Approaching him swiftly, S. takes his hands and occupies his mind.
It is cold there. Icy. All around him, s/he sees structures of power, balancing or counterbalancing other powers. He tries to push S. out of his head, afraid of her infection, but she insists. He attempts to rearrange the set-up and force her into his age of power, but she knows he is just a ghost. For him, there is only strife and jealousy, treason and hate, and his mistrust and continual suspicions had tightened the Bearer’s Etiquette remarkably, though his huge developments in legislation had helped the nation to develop. But the oppression is stifling and S. disentangles herself from his perspective.
S. finds herself facing the 6th Bearer of STATE. A woman looks at her. The 6th Bearer’s body is shifting shape, parts becoming translucent and then disappearing, then reappearing and disappearing somewhere else, a woman of many appearances. The one moment she is slender and agile like an antelope, the next her sides expand and her flesh flows over the sides of the huge bed she is forced to lie on. Then, she is round and happy, her eyes dancing, and then taut and tall, looking down upon the world. It is incredible and S. looks at her in quiet admiration for some time.
Then, she lifts her hands and enters the shape-shifting body. With the shifts in shape, the emotions shift as well, alternating rapidly. Her mind has just accustomed to one state of mind, when she is already pulled under in the next. Exaltation and boredom, joy and isolation, suspicion and love, for all people, and indefinable transitions between them drag her along. It is never boring, but also very tiresome.
When she forces herself to look outside of the emotional turmoil, she becomes conscious of the impact this Bearer was having on her surroundings. People became uncertain and waver. Decisions were postponed and never implemented. Thoughts were changing course midway a conversation and things would have to be explained again and again for Her Grace. Governing was at one moment controlled rigidly, then left up to the attention of those still allowed near enough to notice.
The affairs of STATE were not handled as they should have been. S. pulls back and pauses to get to herself.
When he sees her blink, Patrick quickly makes sure that Her Grace gets some fresh water. ‘To be a good Guard I must at least... Is she still here? Uh, hail STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE... Too late’
Who is this?
This is not a Bearer, or is he? He seems happy to touch her, and S. makes the gesture. But when she is close, he pulls at her wrists, turning her back to him. He presses her back against his belly, parading STATE like holding a fancy dress before him. ‘What do you think you are doing?’ Sternly, S. faces him and confronts him with the power of STATE. He shrinks away.
Like S. on her incognito bouts, he is wearing a cloak. Flapping open the grey material, S. sees the scar where STATE could have been. An ugly mass of implanted flesh protrudes from the belly.
The people had venerated the 5th Bearer as the wise and sentient successor of the 4th Bearer; this fraud, the fabricated 5th ‘Bearer of STATE’.
Why had STATE allowed to be fooled like this? Had there been no other Bearer available? But he had helped the structuring of an intricate bureaucracy, feeding information into STATE office, stimulating the growth of the state nevertheless, even without bearing STATE. S. turns from him.
S. encounters the 4th Bearer of STATE.
This time, she has to kneel to touch hands. So small, is she… a child? Looking down, S. sees small breasts budding. The body looks very pale and devoid of energy. An intense quiet, so intense that it chafes. All energy and sound is being sucked out of her, into STATE. Her whole being is limp and hollow, an empty wineskin flapping over. There is no control from the 4th Bearer, STATE is completely in charge. And also… STATE is different here. S. knows it to be full of data, but structured. Once she had become accustomed to it, there were many ways in which to steer the information, turn it, retrieve it. But here… STATE is imbalanced, less easy to access. And the small body seemed to have been imbalanced by it, instead of being strengthened. But still it hungers for STATE, craves for it like for a mother. Clawing, the small hands look for STATE, hold S., the small frame pressing against STATE. It is hard to disentangle herself, but gently, S. does so. She lets go and finds herself back in the STATE she knows.
The 3rd Bearer of STATE is almost translucent, and he does not want to be here and relive it at all. His whole being objects against the proceedings and it takes some time to maneuver him in the right position to be able to make the gesture.
S. almost loses control. Her frame aches from head to toe in excruciating pain. Every nerve fiber is enflamed, all body tissues hot and swollen in their feverish battle against STATE. The body is a web of pain, burning in an undefined space. There is no energy left to look outside the body, to think outside the infection. There is only continual suffering, and no control or even the relief of the white. Everything is a jumble, everything takes place in the continuum of pain. There is no past and certainly no future.
Escaping barely, S. wonders what good such a Bearer could have done.
For a while, S. just stays where she is and watches the white. Is there no other Bearer?
But… when she looks more closely, she realizes that STATE is different here.
The information is more fragmented and less coherent. Strange… She tries to pull back, but many aspects of STATE push themselves into her consciousness, one after the other, in the quick succession. It is hard to focus, to steer the information, to interact with it.
She must already have entered the 2nd Bearer’s perspective, but it is hard to find a trace of the person’s identity. Then, as she looks for the boundaries, she finds them. And she finds that contrary to what she thought, there is a lot of control exerted here. So much control that there exists almost nothing outside of it.
STATE had grown from it, developed under it. Out of curiosity, S. searches for hints of the 2nd Bearer’s appearance, and after some supplication she is allowed to glimpse her. A very stern, grey woman with a wrinkled silicon skin looks at her briefly before pushing her out of her system.
S. hesitates slightly before entering the 1st Bearer’s perspective, but this man seems to have awaited her and approaches her eagerly.
“Finally you have found me!” he says, and his words make the space’s previous silence ring in her ears. “Yes, yes! Do come closer and meet the first Bearer of STATE! Well, what do you think?” he adds cheerfully, waving around him in an encompassing gesture. “Quite an achievement, I might say!”
S. looks at him, surprised.
“Yes, yes, don’t be shy! I see you are the current Bearer?”
“Well, I am happy you did take the trouble of looking for the origins! Not all of them do, you know… Some could not really take it as well as you and I can, I guess! So, aren’t you proud to be eye to eye with the Maker?”
“You… You made STATE?” S. has to ask, though she hates following his cues so politely.
“Yes, yes… Well, to be honest, my father did, well, the structure of it, really… Didn’t make the powers, of course, but he did make the structure able to encompass them, he did, elaborating on some research of my grandfather, of course.” He smiles smugly, awaiting her praise. Somewhere close, the father is present as a ghost, content to be in the palest of shadows while his son is bragging.
“So… How come they allowed him to make it, then?” she asks.
“Ah! Well, well, no praise from the lady, alas, but straight to the right question it is. Yes, let’s see… Well, let me show you.”
S. is hurled into a fierce successions of images. They hit her retina, and she squints involuntarily at the violence. Image after image of brutal killing, groups of people throwing themselves against each other, chasing each other with the crudest of arms, knifes, stones, anything, recognizing the others to be enemies even if their faces look the same to S.. Limbs are cut off, faces mutilated, bodies raped to death.
Buildings are shot to ruins, holes torn through kitchens with the food still waiting to be cooked, through roofs while there still are children sleeping, through plastic shelters where fugitives had hoped to be safe. Bridges and railways and cables and roads bombed, whole cities destroyed to rubble over which the few survivors scramble and fight for food.
Everywhere, people are fleeing, even if they do not know where, fathers carrying their dead children, limp bodies are lying rotting at the road side, rotting on the fields that carry no crops season after season as there is no one left to work them. And there they come, the images of starvation, of people killing over a bag of flour, of more deaths, more violence.
S. has to force herself to keep her eyes open. She knows the images, of course, from many a news item, but it is clear that all these events happened to her country all at once, year after year, and that there was no state control to curb the violence, no central government, no STATE.
“Why?” she asks softly.
“Yes, yes, you’re a smart one, aren’t you?”
Time is rewound a bit more, and S. sees the structure of a feudal state, divided by rigid social hierarchies into very separated clans. No person could just do a job he or she liked, everybody was born into a clan responsible for a certain profession. All power structures in the nation were divided over the clans: the Enforcers, for instance, were in charge of the police, the Leges were in charge of legislation, the Keepers of archiving, the Growers of agriculture, the Finders of mining, etc. There was great natural wealth, rich ores and efficient industries, and a thriving economy. But soon, too soon, the criminal Shifters clan was getting more and more rich and powerful. Using the miscommunications between the clans to their advantage, sowing mistrust amongst them, the Shifters were in effect ruling all militia in the country, slowly building up tensions leading to the Great Civil War a few years later. The process was watched with growing alarm by the very advanced Science clan...
The man laughs smugly. “Of which, I can say, I am the most accomplished descendant. When we saw how everybody was getting set on the path of civil war, we disappeared into our clan’s secret hiding places in the mountains and worked there for two generations. When my grandfather and his friends thought up the idea of STATE, of course, it was highly controversial. The Science Council ordered the research to be aborted, but in secret, one very affluent member secretly facilitated the project anyway. My grandfather and my father devoted their life to it. In the mountain, my father eventually discovered the STATE material, and that brought the research quickly in a conclusive phase. Then, afraid that our benefactor would usurp all power himself, one of his assistants leaked information to the Council, who had our financer secured immediately and the project was stopped.
The Council was of course very much opposed to having all powers of the state controlled by one person. Omens warned against the project, feeding fierce superstitions. And of course all clan’s Councils abhorred the idea of having to confer with the other clans about transferring powers onto one Bearer. The project was sealed away in a secret, highly protected vault.
But as the Great Civil War went on and on, people got desperate. It got more and more clear that some sort of central control was indispensable, if they wanted to end the Civil War. In secret, representatives of the most powerful clans started to meet. To load STATE, the information of all clans was needed, as the different clans still controlled the information cores of the various power structures. But as time went by, more and more clans agreed to feed their information into STATE: the Growers, the Feeders, the Finders, the Builders, the Traders, the Doctors, the Educators, the Leges, the Enforcers, the Keepers, the Science clan...
Of course, the most difficult part was to find someone fit and accepted by all to be the ruler of them all. Finally, my father explained that not anybody would be physically up to the task, and certainly not a grown person. STATE required a body and a mind of someone still able to develop and learn. He proposed that all clans would put forward one child of 8 years old, to try and bear STATE. The one to be able to touch STATE and survive would be the first Bearer.
After long deliberation, all clans of power conceded to this proposal. They liked the idea of training a young person as their ruler, once he or she became Bearer.
I, of course, was selected for the Science clan, and it will not surprise you that I was the only one up to the task.”
“Used some of your DNA in the structure, did he?” S. asks, trying not to think of the children who had died unnecessarily. The man looks appraisingly at her. “Hmn.. You are probably a Science clan descendant yourself, I can see the intelligence”
Image upon image of electrocuted children, burnt and screaming in uncomprehending terror. Suddenly sick, S. turns from him and leaves the white of STATE for the realities of the Palace.
Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! As Captain’s manservant, Albert stands nearby with a silver tray with water, and he flinches at every stroke the Captain deals the bag in his Palace work-out room. They are alone, and Alfred tries to keep his face more still. ‘He obviously is angry...’
Bearer of STATE for 3 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 5 hours, 59 minutes and
Before S. can even think of what kind of Bearer she could be in this succession, she has to face it. She is not the Bearer in the full sense yet. Someone is still usurping too many powers. B. Matil, or S. Maatiwel, or Bero Matiliwiz, or Bernd M., or Mateu Wis, or Boris Wislow, or whatever other name he might be using. Matil is still out there, controlling the red data, scheming to end the reign of STATE. She cannot let this happen, because as long as this Matil is active, there will be no chance for this state if she would fail. She has to find Matil. STATE has to stop Matil. She has to end Matil, before anything else. Maybe she can provoke him?
Thump! Thump! Thump! ‘Will get that man. Must get him soon. Why no trace of him? Who’s hiding him from me? Will get the bastard, must get him, soon.’ Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump. Thump. Finally, his muscles are starting to burn, and he continues beating the sack with all that he has. ‘Has to get Matil. What’re my men doing? Nothing comes out! Must get Matil! Must get him soon. Will get him soon.’ When his arms start trembling from within, he stops, accepts some water from Alfred, then hits the showers knowing that however much he beats and even whoever he would hurt, Matil is still eluding him, all of his securiMen, the Police, and even STATE.
Bearer of STATE for 3 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 21 hours, 4 minutes, 5
All night, STATE has been going over the Palaces histories, to decide which one. But the choice soon is clear: S. cannot drive past the Palace of Pleasures without being invaded by some gruesome scene of the President’s past, reactivated in STATE time and again. The Palace of Pleasures.