The STATE limo pulls up in front of the Palace of STATE. Thanks to the emergency generator, the lights of the Palace are on, but they are dim. The outside lights are off, the driveway a dark grey plane.
Servants rush out as soon as they spot the limo. A loud and continuing noise emanates from it, an ongoing and eerie siren.
“OK!” Doctor Werther shouts to Her Excellency and the Captain, who seem to be holding Her Grace.
“BOTH OF YOU! LIFT HER OUT OF THE LIMO. WE HAVE TO GET HER TO THE BED!!! NOW!” While Guards approach to open the limo doors and Blas and the higher servants look on aghast, the Bearer is carried inside the Palace.
The ongoing siren originates from Her Grace, and servants struggle not to run away from the unexpected spectacle. Blas looks at them with a stern frown and they know what the repercussions are, so they look down and go about their duties as if everything were normal.
Knowing that the elevator is no option for the Bearer now, Artur Werther points them directly to the marble stairs winding upwards. Unceremoniously, he jumps out of the wheelchair and is hopping up the stairs on his arms, while a servant carries his wheelchair up for him. Doctor Jan and the Guards follow, holding their ears.
Irene concentrates. Going up the stairs is not easy, but luckily, they are very wide, allowing the Captain and Irene to carry the Bearer sideways. Her weight fluctuates. Sometimes she is very light, then she gets heavier and heavier, until Irene is afraid that the hands will slip out of her grasp. When she resumes thinking in a placating tone to S., the weight decreases, but then increases unexpectedly, and Irene’s muscles start to tremble. She is tired, her muscles ache, and she has to really focus to carry Her Grace. Every move seems to take ages in the ongoing penetrating scream. It feels like they have been tugging the Bearer about for hours, when they finally reach the right floor.
While Guards open the doors to the Bearer’s bedchamber, Irene and the Captain carry Her Grace inside, towards the Bearer’s Bed. They are already sighing for relief, when the Doctor sternly shouts to them: “DO NOT LET GO YET! LET HER DOWN ON THE BED, GENTLY, THEN STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” They stand on either side of the wide slab of stone and kneel on to the cold surface, to carefully let the Bearer down onto it. Obediently, they hold her tight.
After some seconds, the Bearer blinks. She sighs, and her body sinks a fraction into the stone. The siren scream subsides into a low uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, calming everybody down considerably. The Bearer is lying still, outstretched between the hands of the Captain and the Secretary of STATE. She seems to relax. But then, abruptly, Her Grace’s whole body arches in a terrible spasm. Irene almost lets go, hangs onto the fingertips just in time.
Doctor Werther shouts: “HOLD HER! Now it’ll become more choppy, I guess. Coming back is never pleasant… Yow!”
Again, the Bearer’s body arches. But Irene has her in a tight hold now. And S.’ flesh is somehow changing, very slightly changing. Clearly, the change makes Her Grace feel again. The ongoing siren changes into a more animal-like howling, howling, howling, at times subsiding into rasping moaning. Seemingly without much compassion, Doctor Werther notes: “Hmn… Yes….Yes, that is when it starts hurting. The flesh will start tingling now, first the extremities, then towards the center, towards… yes… towards STATE… how will she react, then…? Hmn?”
With concern, Doctor Jan looks on. It is clear that the Bearer of STATE is in constant and growing pain. She twists her head, then lies very still as if afraid to move, moans and tries to stretch her fingers out of the Captain’s and Irene’s grasp.
The Captain cannot bear to look at her, filled with remorse at the pain he has caused Her Grace. ‘Why did I stop searching for her? Could have known she would end up on the bridge… Just left her... For almost an hour! In this cold!’
Irene though, is secretly happy to feel S.’ flesh returning to its normal flexibility, hopeful that Her Grace’s state might be reparable.
“Werther… Doctor Werther… What do you think?” Doctor Jan softly asks. “What is happening..? Will the Bearer”
“I think she was stuck in some repetition, comparable to a computer crashing. You know, when a system gets locked in a circuit and only a harsh restart can shake it out of it... Though in this case, of course, it is more complex and subtle. STATE is a system of so many components, intertwined… Ah, the beauty of it! Such precision, such sensitivity…. Eh, as I was saying…
Well… Oh, yes… In short, I have no instruments to assess the precise state of S., but seeing the energy fall-out etcetera, I do think she has been stuck quite deeply, and for quite some time… And being physically cold and emotionally alone did not make things better!” Looking at STATE, he adds, “So… that is to say… We will just have to wait and see, I guess…”
The Guards position themselves at their usual posts at the entrance, the inner door, etcetera, and some servant very carefully enters to ask if they would like to be served something to eat or drink. Of course, Doctor Werther does not decline the offer and orders a scotch, to the Captain’s clear disagreement. Still holding Her Grace, both the Captain and Her Excellency refuse, but Doctor Jan does take some tea.
“And bring some coffee. Good strong coffee!” Doctor Werther orders. “She might react on the smell…”
The servant has just left the room, when all of a sudden the Bearer’s body again jerks, and both Irene and the Captain have to use their whole weight to keep the hands and feet from slipping free. Irene glances at Her Grace. Her body stays arched for quite some time, with muscles taut like hardened steel. An enormous amount of force is generated in the small body. ‘Oh... Poor S.. It is like... Like she tries to break free...’ While Irene has to use all of her weight to keep a grip on the hands, she haltingly speaks under her breath. “S., please… Do… Do not leave… I am… Sorry… To… Have made you… Feel so… Solitary. I did not... Mean to… I did not… Understand…Please, S., forgive me… I just want you… To stay close…Please… I know it hurts, I know it is terrible for you to come back… But please do… Do it for me, or… no… Do it… for the state…”
At the mention of the word, STATE suddenly glows white. The Bearer screams and screams and screams and screams and screams. Doctor Werther carefully approaches her on his knees on the hard stone that only softens for the Bearer’s body. “YOU ARE DOING OK, IRENE!” he shouts above and between the Bearer’s wails.
“KEEP GOING! Remember, just need to THINK the words! Be as precise and personal as you can, that’s a girl! And you, Captain, don’t hide behind your professional failure, just admit it and open up, man! Come ON! Everything depends on your honesty now!”
The Bearer remains arched and screaming. Alarmed, Mr. Blas looks inside but backs off quickly.
Doctor Werther hesitates slightly, muttering something before he again puts his squat hands onto STATE. Under his breath, he is whispering things, not understandable in the noise and seemingly only directed towards STATE. He sustains a continuing monologue to STATE, caressing it all the while. Very, very slowly, the Bearer’s muscles start to relax, until her whole body again touches the stone. STATE is still glowing, but softer now.
Reluctantly, Werther withdraws his hands from STATE. “OK. Hmn…. This is better, I guess… Yes… Yes, this definitely looks much better. Well done both of you. You can let go of her now! Yes… Come on… she needs some rest now… Just softly let go…”
Exhausted, Irene and the Captain do as told.
It is finally silent.
The Bearer lies still, her body is very cold.
“If we could only put her in the Bearer’s Bath...” Irene sighs.
Doctor Werther jerks to look at her. “Good plan! But we cannot move her now...”
The Captain motions one of the Guards and orders him to have servants bring hot oil from the Bath to the Bearer’s Bed. It comes in small saucepans, hot. Irene looks at it, weighs what to do and then orders a pile of the thick Palace towels. Susan rushes away to bring them, while Irene orders everybody but both Doctors out and then undresses Her Grace, lifting the heavy body with their help. The skin is a frosty grey; the tissue around STATE is protruding with a purple sheen. ‘She seems so small...’ The body frame sinks a little deeper into the stone. With the towels, Irene covers her from head to toes. Then, she opens the doors and orders more servants to come and bring small pans of the hot fragrant oil.
“What on earth are you doing, Irene?” Doctor Jan asks, but Werther waves him away: “She is doing fine, Jan, be silent and help!”
One by one, they pour the boiling oil onto the pale grey towels, darkening them to a dirty dark shade. Soon, the body is covered, but they keep pouring more and more oil on Her Grace, until dark pools form on the bed.
When they risk to overflow, Irene stops the servants and sends everybody out. Then, remembering what they do with the drowned, she undresses, grabs a blanket and lies down onto the hard bed. Her body shivers when her arms and belly touch Her Grace, but she tries to relax, to allow the heat of her skin to transfer onto the towels, hoping it will warm S.. The oil has cooled down but the stone, though hard, does retain some warmth. Where her body touches Her Grace, Irene senses a weird tingle; while her mind wanders into dreams of light, which Irene sttributes to waves of fatigue washing over her. She does not fight them and accepts what is coming. It takes unmeasured time, but then, slowly, the oily towels do seem to hold some warmth, and then, more.
From close by, Irene pulls away a slip of one towel from Her Grace’s face. Though the oil is cold there as well, her skin does seem less pale, and what is more, there is movement behind her eyelids.
Bearer of STATE for 9 months, 0 weeks, 0 days, 4 hours, 22 minutes
S. blinks, and something oily streaks down from her eyelids.
Bone tired, Irene lies next to the Bearer, drying Her Grace’s face with a slip of the silk blanket cover, until she falls asleep next to her.
All of a sudden, the energy problems are solved. To the surprise of all engineers, voltages reappear and currents flow. Praising STATE, people start heating their houses and water and food again.
The Captain leaves to calm down various people and inform the Minister of Internal Affairs on how to present today’s events in his press conference later. DataFlow is buzzing, as he expected, and he tries not to think of the tone people would be using against STATE.
> well if STATE is making things better I am wondering why we are without energy in the middle of winter!
> Cannot say my life is getting better meself! really, my son suddenly wants to get an education and where am I gonna get the money?
> But Jane, when your son is educated he will have a chance for a better life than us, a good sign I’d say!
> hmn thinking long long term again Paul, to far for me if yu ask me
> but guys, didn’t you hear about the killin’?
> Killing who?
> dunno but something was going on, Polcie blocking off the road to the Bridge and all that, maybe someone jumped?
> Police I mean
> nothing in the paper ‘bout that, Henry... speculating as usual, are ya?
> Kill STATE is what I say! end that thing for good and for all! NOW!
> Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of ST
> Hate who? Hail who? she’n nuthin’ - a little nutty nothing and she’s showing it every day. time for some real men, time for the President!
Lying completely still, her skin glinting as gray as the Bearer’s Bed’s stone, Her Grace sleeps for ten straight hours. Next to her, Irene sleeps as well, dreaming fragments of the white.