‘She will be back tomorrow, or the day after… Has to be today,’ the Captain thinks, and without more reflection he takes his secure mobiPhone and dials the number which is stored in his memoryCard from before.
After more than a week of almost perfect rest in her parents' house, Irene Delwin finally has recovered enough to consider returning her to the Palace. The Captain had left for the Palace that night after dinner, to keep an eye on things. He had ordered Grezner to postpone whatever could wait and redirect all important issues to him, as Her Grace had stayed with Irene for the first two days and then had left for more skiing; nobody knew where exactly. He had not worried about STATE this time, focusing on Irene and unconsciously happy to not have her around too closely at this moment. The strange holiday has shaken his peace of mind, trying to keep the memory of Sarah Feyman’s body secret though his body yearns for more. “A mistake, that was, eh, no thinking… Irene,' and his anger at not having noticed the approach of Irene’s burn-out, and his continuing worry about not having found out anything about this Matil, and all the other things… ‘Yes, need to do it, now.'
After half an hour he gets the message the girl has arrived. “Bring her to the gym,” he orders, “and no one can know about this. Do you understand?” He knows he can trust his man, and he makes sure he is alone in the gym, and that he is wearing his work-out clothes. The door opens and Rachel is pushed in, looking afraid. ‘As you should,’ he thinks and turns to his man: “Leave us, but stay near the door,” and the Guard nods his understanding. Disregarding the woman (though of course he does noticed her beautiful breasts, as always), he steps on the walkTrainer and works himself to a nice pace, getting warmer and more relaxed, while the stupid whore tries to understand what she should do, and why she is here. ‘She’s the one who started stressing out Irene, she was, on orders of some filthy President’s man. Or men? She will tell the whole truth now, yes she will, and she will do some more,’ When he is nice and warm he makes her put on some boxing gloves. “But, eh,” she whimpers, but then he hits her in the stomach, just hard enough for a momentary lack of air. She doubles over and he hits her back to standing position, her teeth close with a sharp clack. “So,” he says, “you were thinking you could outsmart us. And you thought you would not be punished, huh? Well, come on, I gave you gloves, so try something, then!” She does try some moves, and he sees she did have some practice, long ago, because her fists move in the right direction. “Aha, a pro, are you?” And while she tries to block him he hits her again a few times, though this time most blows land on her arms. “Come on,” he says, this is sparring, you know! Hit me then, hmn?” To give the girl credit, she does try and she does land one on his face, making things even easier. “So, little slut, you thought you could just try and damage Her Excellency, huh, or even Her Grace? You know that is treason, don’t you? And you know what treason earns you, right? You were a lucky little slut for being free for so long… A stupid oversight, I see now. You will never go back to your nice boss, or your rich clients, or to any place you know, you hear?” And for good measure he hits her a bit harder. Clearly, she had not been training recently; her arms cannot really block his blows anymore and she is panting and sweating. ‘An interesting combination, that…’ “Right then, Rachel, or whatever your real name is,” he says, and takes a brake, toweling his own face as well as hers. The suddenness of this more gentle touch makes her shudder, and all of a sudden tears well in her almond-round eyes. He looks at her from close by: “So. You… Tell me the names of those who ordered you. All of them. Or you know what? Write them here,” and he takes a piece of paper and a pen. She tries to shake no, and he grabs her hair and pulls her closer. A tear escapes from one of her eyes.
“What do you mean by no, huh? You are paid to say yes, aren’t you? You always say yes, now don’t you? Now don’t you?”
She does not move for a few seconds, then nods yes.
“So, you write the names, or we have you transported to some other work-out space. That will mean the end of your nice working life, now Rachel, would you want that?” He still holds her hair and drags her even closer. Her nipples touch his chest, stiff through the thin realSilk of her short dress. She licks her lips, reflects for a moment, then shakes her head, finds her voice: “I… I will write for you, Captain, Sir, if only, er, well, I’d need to get my gloves off…” Her arms tremble and he knows she has given in. He keeps hold of her hair while she fumbles to open the gloves. Her hands are red and damp, and she has to concentrate to write. He glances at the list, notices some names he knew already, but also two new names which might give him a lead. “More,” he says. She looks up from her bending position, a calculated posture with a calculated look, he can see both her breasts dangling without a bra in the loose silk, and her half-parted lips. He has a hard-on instantly, but this was part of his plan, now wasn’t it? He is still wearing his gloves, and gives her another punch, a softer, left-hand one. Her upper body swings to her left, her breasts bounce, she staggers for a moment as she had not expected him to hit again, and then she holds her hands in front of her face. “Please, Sir,” she says, her voice like a small child’s, “I do not know anything more, there was the DG and he was my contact, but he’s… well you know he is”
“Dead, yes; the traitor. So what will it be for you, then, huh?” And while she still whimpers he pushes her against the pillar standing in the middle of the gym, pulls down his trainers and enters her right there. She was wearing no knickers, he had seen that much, and he does not allow any more time for thinking or talking. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. He fucks her harder than he did Sarah Feyman, this time not having had anything to drink, and a nice work-out to warm him up. This is how he often took them, before, this is how he liked taking his whores. First a little work-out, to warm the blood. Then a little fear. Then, no more delays, and straight at it. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. She writhes a bit to one side, making her arse a little more tight inside, and his pleasure rises. ‘Oh, she knows how to do this, does she?’ He pushes inside her as hard as he wants, harder and faster and harder and faster. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. She is pushed up so much that her feet lose touch with the ground and her weight presses down on his cock. Even better. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Just as the pleasure becomes uncontainable, the voice enters him. High and loud, a woman’s voice, oh no: Irene’s sweet voice. She screams out in pain, hard and unrelenting, she howls like the dying women used by the President and though his seed spurts in the cunt still squeezing his penis, he does not experience pleasure or relief. Panic floods him, and limp, he withdraws and covers himself instantly. Without looking at her, he sends her away with his man, and takes a long and hot shower.
When he finally dares to call Irene’s parents house, her mother answers in a voice full of relief, and they confirm her return to the Palace for the next day.
Less than an hour later, Her Grace contacts him and he has her picked up from one of the woods near the skiing resort.
Bearer of STATE for 8 months, 3 weeks, 6 days, 10 hours, 15 minutes
So. This is what has to be done. STATE has to do what has to be done: now, as there is still time. She has to use the powers of STATE for the people, for all people, and she cannot hide any longer. She has to leave the snow. She has to leave the Palaces. Artur Werther is right.
She has to be in contact with the people of STATE. S. has to allow them the ritual that STATE had offered them annually, the ritual in which they could come to STATE and be touched by her. The ritual in which STATE would enter the people and the people would enter her. In which STATE might enter one of them and leave her. She has to. The Day of Souls.
The first day of the 10th month of the Bearer’s Reign.
Mr. Schneider looks up and huffs when he sees the steel STATE limo pulling up before his shop. Immediately, he excuses himself with his customer. The shop is full with softly consulting people, having their New Year holidays’ costumes made or altered for the traditional Ne Year’s receptions end of this month. But within seconds, everybody is quiet, looking at the entrance. The door is already opened by one of the Guards. The Bearer of STATE sweeps in, followed close by the Captain and some Guards. Everybody in the shop faces her direction and bows. Schneider bows deep, as always painfully remembering the first time Her Grace entered his shop. The Bearer totally disregards him and briskly continues towards to the Bearer’s Dressing Room. Briefly, the Bearer looks at Maria and beckons her. Maria rises, mumbles an excuse to the lady she had been working with and follows Her Grace.
The glint of fabric, waiting for hands.
Swiftly, the Bearer enters into the plush suite now renamed for STATE. The Captain has had the hangings removed, revealing beautiful old frescoed walls. And he has had the red room thoroughly cleaned, though the Bearer would never again set foot in there.
“Your Grace… Can I bring you some tea?” Maria asks.
‘Yes.’ Maria bows herself out. The Bearer stands in the Dressing Room, her face unmoving.
Irene glances at the Guards welcoming her back to the Palace and notices the Captain is not there. ‘Oh yes, he called to tell me he is accompanying Her Grace…’ She swallows, then composes her face and walks through the wide Palace corridor. In her chambers, she enters her dataCorder for the first time. It is overflowing with messages and she closes her eyes to calm herself. She orders Susan to make her a coffee and then scrolls down slowly to the oldest one, trying to keep her mind in overview mode. ‘Breath in, breath out… There is time, there is plenty of time, the white has time, always… Always.’
> As the heights cleanse the Filth, so we, the People, will clean ourselves of it.
[As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
The still air surrounding the stately stone buildings in this Borough is cold; winter has cut in but today there is almost no wind. Hidden in the warm cocoons of their coats, humans rush over the gray streets. No danger around, no'
Rubbing his hands, Schneider decides he can try to address Her Grace. ‘Relax… She has been a faithful customer ever since’ “Ahem… Well, Your Grace. First of all, thank you for this unexpected visit! What can we help you with?”
Bearer of STATE for 8 months, 3 weeks, 6 days, 23 hours, 33 minutes
S. directs her eyes to look at him and she frowns: “You can go and help your other customers, if you like, Schneider.”
Not sure to take that as an order, Schneider stands there, reprimanded. To be honest, he is in a hurry, some of the customers will allow only him to work for them. On the other hand, he does not want it known that Her Grace is coming for his junior seamstress Maria. Nervously, he huffs again. The Bearer speaks: “Select some textiles suitable for making a long dress. White. But not bridal! Show what you have here.” Schneider thinks for a second and then starts rummaging through his textile collection.
The Bearer and the Captain sit down. After some minutes, Maria arrives with the tea.
Schneider lays out samples of his finest fabrics. It is hard to find something that is white but not bridal, but there is one white mix of linen and realSilk, which looks course but feels very nice. The Bearer selects it without doubt: “This one, yes. You can go.” Schneider leaves the room.
Maria pours her high customers some tea, and as usual, Her Grace asks her to take some as well before turning to her. “Maria, a long-sleeved dress, leaving STATE visible, as always, the silhouette like this,” and the Bearer makes some rudimentary sketches.
Looking up shyly, Maria says: “Uhm, Your Grace… maybe if I would know the occasion? If I can presume to ask..?”
For an interval, the Bearer seems lost in thought, her arms heavy in her lap. Then, she says in a flat voice: “It is to be worn on the Day of Souls."
The words drop in a sudden silence. Maria and the Captain stare at the Bearer, at first unable to utter any sound. The Captain is the first to dare react: “But… Your Grace… Are… Are you considering..?”
The Bearer nods.
“But… But that was… many, many years ago!"
“STATE has returned."
“But Your Grace! They had very strong reasons for abolishing the ritual! Even the last Bearer… Already he banned it! Forgive me… I must misunderstand. You cannot mean to say you are really considering… That you would be… To reinstall the Day… It is”
‘What specifically is the problem, Captain?’ Her Grace’s thought voice is cold.
Timidly, also Maria speaks: “Your Grace… I am sorry… But… are you really intending to hold a Day of Souls, like they used to be held? I mean… Where… where the Bearer.. “
“Where the Bearer of STATE allows death for those who are in need and seek it? Yes."
The Captain’s face is tight, a muscle moving in his jaw. “But… Your Grace… The ritual was abolished more than fifty years ago! And not for nothing! Before we rush into decisions”
“STATE has decided, Captain. The Day of Souls will be."
Shocked, Marie tries to keep herself from commenting, but cannot stop her mind: ‘That… that is terrible… That is pure presumption! How can the Bearer decide on matters this private, this important!?’
Her Grace’s voice rings out: “STATE decides whose death wish is to be fulfilled, not the Bearer, Maria!"
White, Maria tries not to think, knowing Her Grace will hear her violent disagreement on this matter. But her feelings cannot be silenced so easily.
Forgetting Maria is still in the room, the Captain jumps up and paces the Room. “Your Grace! It is out of the question! It is way too dangerous! You are still under attack, we have not found either the President’s loyalists or these new betrayers of STATE! You know who still is out there! To preside over a ritual this public, and this sensitive! It is.. It is”
‘Pure suicide, you want to say. Maybe, Captain. But it has to be done. It is one of the functions of STATE.’
He pushes his hands on his head, wills the words to not be said. ‘It cannot be. I cannot allow this to be! It is’
- ‘You filthy’
The grey entering the white, seeping through her, spreading, spreading, soaking through'
A brief and tense silence. With a soft voice, Maria speaks out again: “Your Grace, I know it is none of my business, but I have to speak out against it, really! It cannot be the function of STATE to judge these matters! It is a prerogative of God to decide about life and death. He that giveth, taketh away… You cannot presume to be”
“I do not presume to be God, Maria. I am the Bearer of STATE. Certain rituals are part of STATE, and STATE will perform” At that moment, she falls silent. A soft sound near the door. The Guard standing outside allows the Secretary of STATE in.
Irene enters, knowing she must look pale; she still tires easily. Then, she senses the consternation, sees the flustered faces, and motions the Guards to go outside. “What is going on? You look like you are having some kind of fight?”
The Captain straightens and tries to smile at her. “Your Excellency! What a pleasant surprise… We were just discussing Her Gr”
But the Bearer interrupts by lifting her fingers: “First tell us why you are here, Irene."
“Your Grace! Can I speak to you in private?"
The Bearer looks around and sends Maria to wait outside. The door is closed and Irene says: “Your Grace, Captain… he has to be stopped! Martin has been going through my things while I was away! He has made copies of the research I have done and of some of the STATE papers, he rummaged through my administration, my notes… He”
“Calm down… What happened, Irene?"
“He was quoting my data against me, just now, in the Committee meeting! Either he has done it himself, or paid someone to, but” Suddenly, she halts, hand balling, her blue eyes angry. “But he is here! What is he doing here?” Irene abruptly shuts her mouth and looks accusingly at the Bearer.
‘Stupid. All this is stupid. Waiting. Waiting. I will teach them how to rule this state, I will. What are we waiting for this time? A visit to the hairdresser’s?’
The Captain has to turn and look where Irene is facing to see what she means. There. One of Martin’s extraordinary shawls is hanging on the coat rack in the corner. He speaks, his voice warm: “He is not here, Irene. Not now, anyway. Please, calm yourself…"
“I want him stopped! I want him out of the Palace, and”
“Please, Irene… Take care… Please sit down for a bit and let me explain… We share your distrust of him, we agree you were right all this time… We are all aware that Mr. Rislers has ambitions we had not counted on, but you know STATE cannot move against him as long as he is member of the Committee! We will have to watch him and see. Please… do sit down.” While Irene takes off her coat and is seated, the Captain allows Maria back in to serve them.
Maria enters and covertly looks at their faces. The Captain says, sternly: “Maria. Was Rislers in here?” Maria reddens slightly. “Eeeh… well, eh… Yes, Captain, Your Excellency, Your Grace… I hope you do not mind… He asserted that it was all right by STATE that he would use the Bearer’s Room… So”
“The nerve! Where does he get the bloody NERVE! This is NOT”
‘Quiet, Irene. Captain. We will deal with this later.’ The Bearer turns to Her Excellency and says: “Irene, have some tea with us.” They sit and Maria pours Her Excellency some tea, then is seated as well.
Tea steams in the thin porcelain cups, a warm glow through the thin hard white.
Her Grace turns to Maria: “Maria. About the dress”
“Your Grace! Please, do not persist in this plan! Forgive me… It’s… I fear… I am sorry, but,” though she knows she cannot, Maria resists the Bearer’s wish.
Irene looks on, lost. “What are you going on about?"
The Captain straightens and turns stiffly towards the Bearer: “Your Grace. I have sworn to obey all your commands, to try and fulfill even your smallest wish. But this is going really too far. It is my responsibility to ensure Your Grace’s safety, and in this case, I cannot. I object very, very strongly against it, Your Grace!"
“What is this all about!?” the Secretary of STATE asks again.
Calmly, the Bearer turns towards her. “On February the eleventh, there will be a Day of Souls, Irene.”
“Wh… What?! Why?” Irene gasps for breath as she sees her worse fear become real. Resuming her outward composure, she tries to force herself to calm down… But she cannot stop trembling. She says: “Please, Your Grace, whoever gave you this idea?! This is most unwise."
The Captain juts in, angry: “All this must be a stupid idea of Werther! He must have been the one to have talked you into it, Your Grace!"
Irene uses her mind voice to add: ‘Please, S.! Think about it! Nobody in this country wants this pagan ritual to return! It’s below every level of decency, it is not contemporary, it is not what anybody wants! It is dangerous, and it’s… it is’
The grey is here, thick with the Captain’s sense of responsibility, Irene’s fear and Maria’s religious indignation. Stupid humans! It is not up to them to do it. It is not up to them to decide.
The Bearer sits very still, her body straight and hard like an Egyptian statue. Her cold voice interrupts Irene’s thought voice aloud: “It is too like religion, pagan religion. Yes. The Day of Souls has existed for centuries and it is one of the central roles of STATE, to give this opportunity to the people who need it. STATE has to do it.”
Unconsciously wringing her pale hands to keep them from shaking, Irene says: “But Your Grace… Maybe the person killed by STATE is desperate, but what about the loved ones who stay behind? What about all the people who have cared for the deceased? What about the social networks that will be torn with loss!? It is… Really, it is not the responsibility of the Bearer, it cannot be. The ritual has not been abolished for nothing!"
The Captain adds: “Yes, Your Grace, listen to Irene! We do not go against you lightly! Please”
The grey is close now, so close. It rumbles and grates and strand S. finds herself shouting: “NOBODY HAS A CHOICE IN THIS MATTER! STATE has to do the Day of Souls. STATE knows how it is. It is NOT a play to look forwards to! But STATE will do the Day of Souls.”
Her Grace’s anger is clear but for the first time the Captain cannot stop at that: “And how do you know if it is STATE forcing you? Is there no other drive? Or, what if STATE forces you to do this for the wrong reasons? What is driving STATE, then? What does STATE want? Does it want you to become an object of HATE? Does it want your death? Does STATE want Matil to win? Does it care at all what happens to us? Your Grace,”
The Bearer turns away, hands clenched.
Irene approaches her, a little. ‘S., Your Grace… Please… Listen. We know it is hard to be Bearer. Maybe you should not take so much onto yourself… Maybe if you would just reflect a little about the plan… It is, as you say, something too big to ask from one person, even from you. It is too heavy a responsibility to carry, too big a burden to decide… You are only human’
S. rises so abruptly that the table juts up. The teapot turns and tumbles off, shatters on the marble floor. Boiling tea pours steaming between the white shards.
The whole of STATE flashes white, but this time, not only STATE. The whole of the Bearer is a silhouette of pure light, so bright that the Captain, Irene and Maria have to squint to look in her direction. Only the Bearer’s pupils are still black, uncanny pinholes in the white, too sharp to look into. Her voice is within and without their heads: “STATE is NOT HUMAN! I am the Bearer of STATE. And NOBODY will stop it! Nobody can."
Her Grace turn and walks out of the Room, pushing the Guard at the door aside and going straight like a line out of the shop before people realize who is passing.
“Code red! Code red! All Guards outside! Fetch the limo!” the Captain yells in his headset while he rushes after Her Grace. On his heels, Her Excellency follows, closing her coat in passing.
S.' body shell walks at top speed through the icy January air. She wears no coat. STATE adjusts her temperature and it does not matter any more.
Nothing matters anymore.
She runs. From the Captain, from Irene.
Her muscles have to get used to the sudden energetic movement. She is forced to bring her tempo down a bit to her usual quick walking pace. She has not walked that fast since'
- ‘You arrogant good-for-nothing!'
She has to go. She has to escape. With her quick steps she speeds along the wide pavement, past the classy shops in this part of town. Before long, the STATE limo with two motorized Guards is behind her. She walks quicker, and easily overtakes other people and bikes, but the limo smoothly accelerates and tails her.
S. blocks their concerned thoughts, fills her mind-space with other words. Just walking here. Just walking. Like everybody. Walking wherever. Wherever. I am no one. I am nobody… I am nothing’ She can walk even faster as her presence dissolves.
The traffic gets busier and even with the motoBikes' flashlights, the limo needs some time to cross the busy junction. The Captain is yelling his frustration, until a hand from Irene makes him look at her sideways and he notices how pale she is, still. ‘She is too tired to take this, now, she cannot have this stress, I must act as if we will get it under control…’
An old low bridge over a side-arm of the river. The metal shines in the pale light. STATE automatically registers how many people passed over it, how many vessels under it, what cargoes were shipped. Everything. STATE knows everything, and has to know everything.
S. slips between the cars, horns honking, crosses the bridge. Even the Guards' motoBikes cannot manage to get through, and she has some advantage now.
The pavements are narrower in this Borough, there are fewer shops and less people about. The smell of stews cooking over low heat. Children fighting in cramped living quarters. Mothers yelling their anger. Humans shuffling home from their work. Humans. Humans. Humans.
She cannot be close to them.
She cannot want to have them touch her.
She cannot have anything to do with them. Yet she must. STATE must be in contact with them. Yet cannot stand their touch.
The limo again, closing in rapidly, but keeping a small distance. The motorized Guards approach Her Grace but the Captain calls them back. “Do not touch her!"
Irene’s mind voice is begging her to come inside, to talk, please… She only makes the desire to run stronger. STATE cannot be confined to their human prejudices! Away from them, she has to get far, far away. But the limo is still there, the soft hum of its motor, the basses of the motoBikes'. The Captain cannot force her in. But the limo can continue after her forever, follow her around like this.
‘Leave STATE alone!’ the Bearer orders, the Captain’s head is splitting with Her Grace’s voice. But this time, he disregards her order. The limo continues after her. The Bearer suddenly disappears into an alley, scaring away a cat looking for some warmer place between the rubbish. The limo halts, but the Guards on motoBikes can follow.
Climbing a dirty fence, S. drops in a backyard strewn with old frying-oil cans, crosses the back yard and the other fence. She threads through a littered alley and finds herself back on the pavement. The limo, waiting for her. She walks on, the limo following her. ‘Go away!’ she thinks again, but STATE knows the Captain is too concerned to be able to do so.
A small group of humans, waiting at a bus stop. The city bus comes and halts, and S. enters with the crowd. Standing on the small dais, she disregards the man who is calling for her travelChip. What does STATE care for their petty human rules? The bus starts moving and STATE makes sure her feet are stuck onto the silicon sealing, pulled towards the metal bus floor underneath.