The guests are in the middle of the main course when the Bearer suddenly opens her eyes.
Immediately, Irene recognizes the danger. Her Grace’s pupils have lost all color, her hands are balled into white fists, a little light escaping.
STATE rises abruptly, surprising the servant behind her, who is a bit too late with pulling back the chair. It falls, attracting everybody’s attention. Everybody stares at the livid Bearer of STATE.
A brief flash of white, and S. looks down on a pair of hands.
The same table, the same golden serving plates, the same thick and soft damask tablecloth, different hands. S. looks down on the President’s long and strong hands, holding an expensive white napkin. On the white damask a tiny crescent of red.
Blood. Their blood.
A slight stinging in the left corner of the mouth. The alcohol bites in the tiny wound, making it traceable.
The hands take the glass and turn it with care, until the bright light reveals the spot where the crystal is chipped. ‘What! The glass is broken! Who has dared to endanger me in this way?!’
A triumphant anger whirls inside. Alcohol enhances its vortex, sucks them in.
S/he welcomes the rage. It is fitting.
It is what they deserve.
The white Bearer plunges one hand into STATE. It comes out with a hand grenade.
“Uuuh... “ A collective intake of breath, followed by a sudden and intense
The Bearer’s voice slices through the room: “Guests of STATE!
Do not think for one moment that STATE is unaware of your premature judgments! STATE knows. STATE hears.
How dare you?!
How dare you question the Bearer?
Did STATE not show her to be the true Bearer?
Did STATE not stabilize this country, allow the economy to grow, the rise of wellbeing?
Did you not vow to trust her, to help STATE reform this country after years of dictatorship?
Did she not relieve you of that bastard whose cruelty you now revere in your reminiscences?
Is that what you want from your leader?
Is that what you miss?
Is that what you want from STATE? To show you cruelty?
The servant standing beside the President is frozen and pale.
Around, all guests have become aware of the change in atmosphere.
The President rises and S. in him.
Everybody sits very still. They know his anger will vent itself any moment now, and it will harm anyone attracting attention.
Very coolly, the President lifts the crystal glass and off-handedly smashes its top on the side of the table.
He seems icy calm, but S. is privy to his excitement. His blood is thumping quietly, urgently. Almost, now...
S/he is holding the stem with razor-sharp shards.
S/he slowly, very slowly turns to the servant, who is so afraid that he cannot move.
Some guests think of S., the terrorist, as they eye her, standing there.
They remember the grainy securiCam’s image of her, walking away from the chaos of death after having dropped her bomb, again and again.
They remember the balls of light, killing everybody in the helicopter.
They remember her eyes, staring into the TV camera’s lenses after the missile attacks.
They remember the specks of blood and body tissue, when she first walked into Parliament.
They remember the body of the President, splattering from her embrace.
They remember the Palace of Pleasures, lying in ruins after a short touch of her hands.
They remember the attack on the market, never claimed by anyone.
They remember the Stock Exchange running wild after her visit, the energy supplies inexplicable stopping in the middle of January.
They remember the Day of Souls, the bodies piled up next to her, the charred remains of the market halls.
They remember Bernard’s burns just now.
Their thoughts heighten her rage. S. discards all considerations as obsolete rationalizations.
She will show them what it means to offend the Bearer of STATE. Stupid dirty little humans!
Unblinking, S. pulls the plug out of the heavy grenade.
With a broad stroke from his shoulder, the President lashes out. They savor the strength of the stroke, while s/he steps back from the resulting gush of blood. The crystal slits the servant’s face open. It is an ugly wound, torn, and there is blood everywhere.
The servant cannot help himself and makes evasive gestures, begs for mercy, even though he knows that this will only stimulate the President’s anger.
“So, want more, do you?”
And again, the President slashes into the servant’s face.
Some guests wish to avert their eyes, but they know it is dangerous to do so. They try to think of something else, while keeping their eyes open.
Some guests take the scene in with an avid interest, noting how the facial muscles are torn, making the jaw sag; how the whiteness of teeth and jawbone is revealed, how the eyeball disconnects.
Facial nerves are severed and the servant passes out with pain.
Most guests duck to the ground or faint.
After the crash of furniture pushed over, a total
Only some people manage to stay seated. They sit very rigid and cover their face with their right hand. They submit to their punishment by the Bearer. They pray to STATE, reciting verses the Church has taught them, exalted words creating a warped reality.
STATE expands with the fear, the power enhanced by it.
14, 15, 16, 17,
Time moves in heartbeats of their mortality.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
The disheveled heap of servant only increases their thrill.
“Captain! We cannot have him miss out on his own punishment. This servant endangered the state. This idiot cannot walk away and think it is something you just do and walk away from bruised. Idiots are looking on, and they should learn what happens if you endanger the life of the President in any way. Hold him up for all to see, and make him see how he will end.”
Obediently, the Captain and a Guard rise and lift the bleeding servant. They shake him until he starts to moan and then hold him up for them.
“Aha.” The Bearer’s voice is icy in the fearful silence. “So you DO know.
You know that this will kill only you. It will not kill the Bearer of STATE.
This is fitting for a former terrorist, no? Killing the nation’s elite in one stroke!
Yes, it will kill my best friends first, I know.
STATE does not care what you think.
I am no longer the terrorist woman. I am the Bearer of STATE!
And STATE cannot allow your disrespect.
STATE cannot allow you to continue looking back, whimpering for subjection, not taking the responsibility of carrying your own future.
It takes discipline and courage to stay standing and face the changes that have come.
STATE can see who is up to it!”
29, 30, 31, 32, 33,
While she is talking in a mechanic voice, time is throbbing in S.’ hand. This grenade allows for a time span of exactly 1 minute before it will explode.
Her mind opens for the reality of it, not for her, but for them.
Glass and china shards flying around and slashing at random into faces, limbs, trunks, bodies torn to shreds, blood spraying on the damasks and carpets, the panic trampling…
Rage pours into them, makes their body shell into its mold. Their body shell, hard and unmoving.
Their hand tightens around the crystal stem and then, deliberately, s/he stabs the servant in the heart. The crystal splinters on the ribcage.
The hand withdraws and stabs again. Hate materializes into action, unstoppable. Again. And again, the anger lending an incredible force to the thrusts.
Pulling out the remaining crystal, more blood gulps out.
The Bearer holds the grenade for ages, time ticks by for everybody present.
‘We will die... we will all die...’
Some continue to pray the Church of STATE incantations, vaguely hoping they will help. ‘Trust STATE... Help us, STATE...’ ‘Hail STATE...’
50, 51, 52,
She knows what will follow. Knows it only too well. All order destroyed within moments. The head-splitting noise, the screaming, the wailing, the moaning, the tentative calling out of names.... The smell of torn intestines, and blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.
No. Not that... Not that.
After 58 seconds, S. pushes the grenade back into STATE and the energy of the explosion is absorbed easily by STATE.
S. sits down, a slight sick feeling of something not belonging, something not right. She is hollow, like a vessel, meaningless.
- ‘You are nothing. You are worthless. You are worthless... worthless.’
The voice is right. This is all wrong. This is all completely wrong...
A high whine builds in her, so high and white it is not audible for those around her. The whine fills her completely, her scull its house, and she can only wait while it rages.
Irene glances at Her Grace and sees the white seeping from her hands.
The huge hall with almost a hundred people in all, servants included, remains frozen and silent. Unnaturally still.
The servants spasms free of the hands holding him, falls, spewing out blood, choking on the filth coming out of his belly, his mouth. He curls on the floor, dying. His heart pumps out the remaining blood. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump...
Everything is spurted red.
Red… Thump. Red… Thump. Red… Thump. Red… Thump. Red… Thump. Red… Thump. Red
Flash! To survive, STATE flashes white.
The brightness holds and unfolds, spreading from the Bearer, brightening the whole hall.
With visible effort, she opens her eyes. To Irene’s relief, they are their normal metallic grey again and they look around, they really look at the guests for the first time. Irene glances at the Captain and sees he has noticed as well.
The light lifts everybody’s spirits.
People dare to breathe again, scramble to get back onto their chairs as dignified as they can. Sarah Feyman is elegantly helped to her chair by her right-hand neighbor, Minister Delaware. ‘Unmarried, and not too experienced in these circles... Perfect!’ Before getting up she allows him to look inside her dress and see her perfectly manufactured breasts. ‘Ah, he gets the message alright!’ She can smell it on him, with her almost animal sense of attraction. ‘Good...’
The Bearer stands. “Guests of STATE.
STATE does not require to be feared like the President was feared. The Bearer commands your respect for the simple fact that she is bearing STATE.
STATE will be respected for being STATE.
If that is too simple for you, the Bearer can and will command your respect in other ways. But it is preferable to use our energy differently.
A lot has to be done in this country. We are changing the structure of our state. Let us work on those changes, allowing minds to get accustomed to them.
The Bearer cannot be measured like a normal leader can be.
The Bearer cannot behave like a normal human would.
So. Do you want to see?”And swisssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssh! STATE enters all minds in the same instant, her consciousness passing through a shredder, dividing in as many slithers as there are people present.
Everybody simultaneously hears the Bearer’s voice in his or her head, reacting on, commenting upon the last thought tumbling around there. Everybody becomes aware of the thumping of their hearts, the rhythm of their breathing, the pulsing of their intestines. Everybody hears a high whining above the din of their bodies, modulating eerily.
Everybody is clasping their ears, closing their eyes between fright and surprise.
Every person hears something different, servants included.
S. is barely conscious of what she is doing and knows she had better not try to be. Her STATE mind fans out and encompasses the whole hall.
In some minds she has to watch out... Blake Feyman is here and his wife, Delaware next to her as planned, Mc Kinsey is not happy with all this show of power, and Irene’
No. Resuming her composure, she prepares for the next move. She has to be concentrated, now. Very precise.
And very, very brief.
In just one instant, S. reunites all slithers of her mind, of STATE mind, while still connected to the people.
It generates a kind of knowledge that nobody present ever experienced. All personal preoccupations and ambitions fall away for just a split second. Instead, a brief vision of a blinding and howling white fills the space in everybody’s minds. It is an all-encompassing experience of sound and light and maifold data, exhilarating for some, terrifying for most. There are no standards anymore, no borders, no desires, no reasons, just the blinding white. The white is everywhere and everybody exists in it, because of it, through it.
Briefly, very briefly.
Then, STATE lets go, allowing every mind to return to its own conditions and confines, and again their structures encase them and shape their outlook into non-comparable individual ways.
Everything becomes normal again, and people blink and look at their bodies, their hands, smile shyly to their neighbors. The hand grenade is put in such a different context, that its threat makes sense to almost everybody.
‘The Bearer was right to show us, the Bearer had all rights to punish us, we are lucky with a Bearer who looked after her subjects in this precise way… Hail STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE... Trust STATE... trust the Bearer of STATE... Hail STATE! Hail the Bearer of STATE! Hail STATE!’
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 1 month, 0 weeks, 0 days, 11 hours, 12 minutes and 57, 58,
While the knowledge is generated with calm and definite precision, STATE becomes one unity again, all the shreds merging to a fragmented and shifty whole.
The servants resume to move, the organization of the reception of STATE is slowly taking on its normal course. The more audacious people are talking softly to each other, some others shakily take a sip of their crystal glasses and have them refilled by eager servants. Maurice bustles around to make every guest feel welcome.
Blake Feyman glances at the name-plate of the empty space beside him: M. Rislers. ‘Damn! Would’ve liked to meet the guy, finally... Hasn’t shown then, has he? Wonder if that was wise...’ He turns to his left. A charming girl with blushes sits quietly, observing the goings on around her. She does not seem flustered by the past experience at all. ‘Who is she?’ She is not one of the mighty he knows, and she is kind of lost between them, but on the other hand she smiles a knowing smile while listening to their talks. ‘Who is she?’ He glances at her name-plate: Susan Elmsey. ‘Who IS she?” After looking around him for some time, he clears his throat and introduces himself to her.
STATE is content, because she succeeded in pulling it off.
The high whistling has not left her. She does not fight it, because it wakes something inside the amalgamate that is her. This is a newly mixed state of being, and from deep within her, strand S. is stirring. This is all wrong. This is so totally wrong. This is against everything she had been fighting for, long long ago. STATE is ruling more than ever before, occupying the minds and hearts of the humans, telling them what to do and feel, just as her predecessor had. She is just him in another coating. STATE should not be this... STATE should not be so identifiable, so ritualized, so contained...
The whistling presses against her scull but she allows it to do so. It is something new, something budding, and though she is afraid of its power, she knows not to confine it. Before she can allow the white whistling to shape, there is something she has to do. First, there is the Countess.
Breathing it in the shortest whiff, she thinks the name: Matilde.
Wait... Just wait... do nothing, think of nothing...
STATE remains, very, very still, because she senses some parts of the puzzle will descend into a pattern, soon, very soon.
Bernard very carefully approaches to offer Her Grace something, but seeing Her Grace close her eyes and withdrawing, the Secretary of STATE warns him off softly: “No. Not now!”
He backs off hastily.
The white opens, softens, swirls... Shifts slightly.
Matilde. Matilde Bertrand. B. Matil. S. Maatiwel. Bero Matiliwiz. Bernd M..
M turning into W. Mateu Wis. Boris Wislow. The Countess is the feared second-in-command of the President, the one still ordering the attacks against STATE, against the friends of STATE, against the people of STATE…
Matilde is B. Matil.
A desire for pure and instant action against her wells in strand S.. Her enemy, sitting at her table, smiling and at ease! The attacker of Irene, the killer of Artur. But STATE knows she cannot afford to lash out and kill or imprison one of the most influential people at the Reception of STATE, without any visible proof. It would destroy everything she has won the last hour. There will be time, later. Later. But first… in the white, S. draws back a little, until the current financial structure of the Countess is visible, the web of threads of money supplying her and facilitating her way of life. With one sharp movement, S. tears the whole conglomerate of power out by re-channeling the money. Soon, the Countess will have to deal with rent due, deliveries gone awry, with hit-men failing to get paid…
Suddenly, the Bearer opens her eyes and smiles at the Countess, who is sitting next to the Captain: “So… You were saying?”
Surprised, the Countess returns her attention to the Bearer of STATE. ‘Her Grace is so different, suddenly… relaxed and charming… No’
Bernard approaches carefully. The tray is slippery with the blood of his open blisters, and his hands tremble ever so slightly with the effort to hold the metal still, withstanding the pain. The Bearer looks at him for the first time since her lash: “Bernard. Fruit and vegetables, bread and cheese, a glass of milk…” And she adds: “Have someone take care of your hands. You have suffered enough for your impudence.”
Grateful, Bernard bows and retreats to the kitchens.
Both Irene and the Captain are relieved. Her Grace seems normal again.
> As the Few feast with the Filth, so they will be infected by it.
[As is the Word of Jason A. the One]
After dessert the guests mill around, awaiting the coffee and liquors. Blake Feyman cannot believe his eyes when Her Excellency herself approaches his table. While people bow and step aside to allow her through, he observes her openly. ‘She’s okay... Not stupid at all, like some tabloids claim... Only could dress a bit more daringly, does have the curves for it, really!’ He straightens himself and resolves to bow slightly to kiss her hand. ‘Maybe she is interested in – Huh?’
Her Excellency does not approach him at all. She has walked to this Susan Elmsey and smiles warmly at her. “I hope you enjoyed the evening, Susan?” And Susan smiles back at her: “Oh yes, Your Excellency, I did!” Both smile for a moment and it is clear Susan Elmsey is a close friend of Her Excellency’s. ‘Who IS she?’ The rest of the evening, she is treated with respect by everybody, and courted gentlemanly by Blake. But whatever he tries, she smilingly turns the conversation to his exploits, to his successes as brand-maker; he never finds out what her profession or her relation to Her Excellency is.