Jan begins to understand Werther’s craving for alcohol. Days turn into weeks, and from the glimpse he has seen of Her Grace he fears that she is entering a new state. The Captain did tell him something about Her Grace having being sick in that alley; a new phenomenon but one that he again does not get permission to investigate. ‘So what am I here for? Her Grace simply refuses to let me into her presence. How can I be of any help when no one informs me? What should I do when I cannot even get close enough to do my job? And, what more... What exactly is it that we are all aiming for? Do we want to keep her alive and ruling as long as possible? Or is Martin right and is this whole Bearer thing outdated? Old bogus. Oh... Hail STATE – Or whatever, maybe offending her is a way to get some attention. Maybe Martin is right after all.’
Irene Delwin has just finished preparing this morning’s presentation for Parliament of the Constitutional and Validating Committees’ results. It has been a long time since the Bearer had appeared in Parliament, but finally Her Grace had agreed to come with Irene for this first clear-cut political success of the Reign of STATE. Irene is happy because she hopes Her Grace’s attention is swinging back to more human affairs again, after the Reception’s terrifying experience and that weird incident in the diamond area. In the mirror, she checks her appearance and smiles self-consciously as the Captain walks in.
‘The simple grey suit looks good on her, but it’s a pity she keeps her nice blonde hair so tidy in a bun...’ Before he can speak to her, she says, quick as always: “Yes, yes, I am almost done, Captain. Is Her Grace ready?”
“Well, Irene, I fear she might be a bit late. The Countess just arrived with an emergency, something which they want to discuss in private. Her Grace asks us to go ahead and inform Parliament of the delay and start if necessary. So... Do take your time…”
‘The Countess?’ For a moment, Irene wonders whether she should summon the Captain to wait for Her Grace, but in the bright July sun the idea of the Countess being Matil seems utterly ridiculous. She is more worried that Martin will pull some trick against her in Parliament, where he is making more and more friends even though luckily, his flashy clothes and manner do alienate a lot of people in the long run. ‘Fool, but a persistent one and a hypocritical one as well... I wouldn’t be surprised he is talking with all of our friends behind our backs, and intel tells us that he is trying to win Jason over to his side... Might succeed, Mr. Slick, ah how I hate that guy!’
Though Sarah continues to live with Blake, she is seeing Johan more and more. He is still young, younger than Blake, he has a quick mind with subtle humor and compared to most men in power, he has a lot of patience. He does not push anything, neither in his career nor with her, but she senses he has possibilities... She carefully dresses, this afternoon will be the first time they are going to be seen together, at the Concert Hall. There will be cameras, as always, she welcomes their curiosity. ‘Let them see, let all of them see me with him. Because he is the one...’
The Bearer stands as the door to her sitting room is opened by a very discrete servant. The sun pours in through the large windows, making the golden decorations shine. As the Countess enters, the Bearer waves all servants and Guards out.
Matilde looks stunning, dressed in a pink, very stylish suit. She bows to the Bearer before smiling at her.
Matilde. Matil. Matilde. Matil. Matilde...
S.’ body shell hardens against the threat. This time, STATE is definitely in the advantage. But still, the Countess’ experience makes her visit a dangerous one. Why has strand S. sent the Captain away, why has she brought herself in this precarious situation?
She is being pushed into patterns of behavior by some outside force. By the Countess?
As if they have known each other for years, the Countess is speaking to the Bearer, commenting on the weather finally turning warm, etcetera. She knows she looks comfortable as if she lives in the Palace, as if she is the one who belongs here. Well, she knows more about this Palace than the little woman opposite her, this temporary occupant. She knows the Palace’s inner secrets and it will not be long before she moves back in. Because she belongs here. She knows she does.
She is probing her, again.
“STATE is about to leave. Let’s get to the point.” S. says.
“You have something that belongs to me.” Suddenly, the Countess’ tone is icy. Matil. “I am here to get it back.”
“Ah, yes.” S. answers and straightens her back. “As I told your scion, it will not be returned. You have used it to kill or attack friends of STATE. And STATE cannot allow you to continue.”
“Of course, of course!” the Countess says, as if they are discussing the prices of vegetables at the market. “I do realize that some deal will have to be negotiated. But,” and her voice softens ever so subtly: “I think we can work something out, you and I…” With widening pupils, Matilde looks into the Bearer’s hard pinholes.
Matilde... Matilde... Matilde... The thin pale realSilk shirt visible under her suit rises and falls with her round breasts rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
As the President’s lust for Matilde enters her body shell, her blood quickens.
S. command her body shell to be quiet. Though the deep bass of the blood does not go away, S. looks her in the eye like she did at the Reception.
When the Countess finds no admittance, her face changes, a hard crease of disapproval around her mouth. Matil. “Come, come, do not glare at me that way! That is just so…. Obvious!” She laughs lightly and cold. Challenging, Matil looks down on the Bearer, the voice calm and measured: “As you should know by now, STATE has never incorporated the powers that I stand for. It can and never will control us. You are powerless against me; you are ruling another sphere. The point of mutual ignorance is over. So this can mean only two things. Either we fight until one of us is finished. Or, maybe, we can reach some kind of truce. It will be historically unique: one which will change the future of this state. You know…”
And here, Matilde looks at S. with a very peculiarly rousing look, her voice very melodious and soft: “I do think that we can make some real changes, you and I...
Come on, don’t you see? Never before two such women have been at the peaks of power simultaneously, as you and I… And we do have a much in common, don’t we..?”
“I hardly think so!” S. says, fighting an inner unsettledness.
The Countess’ sophisticated laugh tinkles softly, once or twice. Warm and round, her breasts are still rising and falling with every breath she takes. Her throat is white and soft, with pulsing veins... Ah... Matilde... Matilde.. Matilde...
She speaks, and STATE can only listen: “My dear S.! Don’t we both like to be there in the shadows, in absolute power while no one recognizes us? Don’t you like the sudden fear when the people who have offended you realize whom they have crossed? Don’t you enjoy the revolving facades, presenting your self in a different way every time, developing different powers every moment?” She smiles the warmest smile. “Come, come, dear S.! You can be honest to me...”
The Countess turns and walks away from her, casually seating herself in the sun. She is positioning herself as the Bearer’s equal, as her mirror image, and S. loathes the image of herself that comes with it. She fights its self-evidence, its truth. Matilde, thoughtfully, speaks softly: “Do you not see what will be happening in the near future, dear STATE? The elections will be held in a couple of months, maybe half a year; and after having allowed that Rislers play the fool for some time, while Almerra becomes more and more saintly, I will emerge reluctantly as the only sane candidate. I am the next President-Elect, dear S., you did know that, didn’t you?” Matilde’s voice is softening into a whisper and S. has to lean over to hear her, drinking in her scent and her words. Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Softly and sweetly, her blood sings along with Matilde’s. Matilde... Matilde...
S. had never though about the outcome of the elections, at all. She remains silent.
Matilde looks at her from under her eye leashes, her eyes soft pools of darkness: “And what will you do, dear STATE? Did you never think about what will happen once you have made yourself obsolete? Where will you go? What will be left of you? Ah, yes, the Church of STATE will venerate you, always. For as long you may live... Is that all you want, S.? Is that what you have fought for all this time? Two years of power?”
Nothing. There will be nothing left of me... STATE will become a prop, a plaything, nothing...
The short silence is broken again by Matilde’s warm and tinkling laugh. She is reading her mind. “No, no, no, do not fret, dear S.! I will not allow that to happen, when I am the next President-Elect. You will be needed as much as I will be, I promise... You will reign in the shadows where I will reign in the light. It will be like now, only the roles reversed... We will rule together! You can guard the morality of our reign, I never was good at that, but you at least have tried to be... Hahaha...”
Bernard’s burns, the people punished but not killed... Is that morality?
“You will reign as Bearer while I will reign as President-Elect. You will be a beacon for the lost souls while I will be the mind to guide them. I will, but I need the stone.
Do you want me to prove my good intentions?
Do you want me to spill the fundamental secret of this state, the only one STATE could never grasp as it existed outside its sphere?
Do you want to finally know?”
Ah, Matilde... Matilde... Matilde... Matilde... Matilde
“Yes, please... tell me...”
The Countess looks pleased at the Bearer and smiles indulgently. “Well... You know, the stone is for me as STATE is for the Bearer,” she whispers. “Through STATE, you can claim anything as your own, through the stone, my clan is forced to give me whatever I need, in any form necessary. You see, I need the stone, dear S., to make history run its course. I will offer you a future, in return for the stone. Come on, return the stone to its rightful owner...”
Come on... Come on! Those are Artur’s words, Artur murdered by a poisoned drink, murdered by you! You are Matil! You are Matil! All at once, the sugar-coated words do not mean anything anymore. What does STATE care for a future! What does she care for a role under Matil? What does strand S. care what her life will be, then, or now, or any time? Now, just hatred condenses in her body shell, chilling and tightening it.
“I do not think you have that much to offer me anymore, Matilde,” S. says coldly. The name rings oddly in her ears and S. wishes she had not used it.
Matilde, Matilde, Matilde…
Her heart starts thumping again and STATE has to calm herself covertly.
The Countess narrows her eyes and stares at her with a knowing smile. Matil’s smile.
“Aaaaaah….. Ssssssssssssssssss…..” she says, making the ‘S’ slither through the warm air.
The hairs in S.’ neck prickle, and then, the Countess’ lips seemingly off-handedly form it, moving in slow-motion,
their moistness opening to let out the vowels, the consonants sharp.
S. is hit full-blast by a name that she could not even remember when she had tried to. Now she knows why. With the name comes the
as a reality swallowing her.
Instantly, there is no more sun. No more light. The space is shrunk and sucks her in as she doubles over, gagging on something hard. Her throat is stuffed and there is hardly space to inhale some air. Her stomach aches, her body without force lies limp in the smelly dark.
She suppresses the urge to feel around her,
as she knows danger lies there, somewhere, awaiting her eagerly. She can feel it reach for her, test her resolve, taunt her imagination.
She freezes, her tiny big-bellied body with thin limbs, crumpled into a weak ball. A ball of fear.
A ball of hate. A ball of numbing fear. A growing ball of hate. And the hate augments and burgeons. The space shrinks even more and the smell suffocates her.
Hairs are everywhere, hairs in her nose, hairs in her throat, hairs in her mouth, in her stomach, hard long and indigestible, and she fights to get them out.
They have to get out. They have to get OUT!
She has to get out.
But she cannot. There is no room to move, to space or energy to train muscles, and her body is too weak even to breathe.
Maybe if she would just curl up and return to the state of non-being…
She is almost there…
The void is beckoning, if only the pain would not intervene, if only the fear would go and leave her alone, if only the hate would let her be.
What worse is there for her?
But then, in the ball, near its core, she hits on something hard.
Something strange. Something that does not belong here, some thing that was not here before. It is alien and its implications pierce the experience.
That was not there then.
There is not now anymore.
There is not here.
This is not where she is now.
She reaches inside, her hand pushing through the folds of something that is neither inside her nor outside her, past her hard bones. It is painful to grope between the sore flesh and tight bones, but at least it is more safe than searching around her.
Her hand closes around something that is sharp-sided and very, very cold.
S. pulls and extracts it with some difficulty.
The moment she holds it out, she is back in her room in the Palace.
The sun is refracted in the red stone.
“Ah!” Matil says and grabs for it, but the Bearer steps back just in time, even though she clearly can hardly see what she is doing.
S.’ throat is stuffed with hairs and hate. “You,” her voice hisses weakly. There is so much hate in her that she cannot muster her force in any organized way. She has to calm herself or she will be the victim of her own anger.
The white. Allow space for the white.
Here and now.
Here and now.
Sunlight on wool. Stone tiles cold under the wool. Gold-plated realWood pressing into the wool.
Silk on gold.
STATE. STATE. STATE... STATE in her belly slowly pushes the memory out of her system.
Yes, that is better.
Matil approaches, white and angry. Strong muscles show under the soft flesh and she clearly has the techniques to use them. “Give that back to me, you thief!”
Shaking, the two women face each other, hands clenched.
The Bearer spits out: “Never! And never will STATE collaborate with you! While I pose as the Bearer, you would rule, obstructing all that STATE has fought for. You will be the President’s true successor in no time! No! STATE will never become another faï¿½ade for you! NO WAY!
And never will you become even close to being my equal. Because I am the first Bearer to have caught the stone! And THIS it what I will do with it.”
In the same split-second as the Bearer lifts the stone to her mouth, the Countess jumps for it. Her nails claw at it but miss.
Flinching, S. stuffs the stone in her mouth. It is huge and hard and sharp.
She has to swallow it whole. STATE has to allow her body shell to consume it. But it gets stuck in a tangle of hairs and hate.
She has to clear her throat of all its predilections to make it open up for the stone. She has to get rid of the hair, first. She has to let go of the hate.
There is no hair there, there is no hate. She is a vessel that can open up as far as she needs to, to take in what she has to ingest now. She is not human.
Her throat can take in this thing.
Matil’s iron fists grab the filthy thief of a Bearer by the throat, squeezing hard to prevent the stone from descending. Her hard hands push the soft sides of the Bearer’s gullet against the sharp sides of the stone, pushing it stuck.
Aware that she is manipulated into performing the mirror-image again, S. moves in slow motion to press both hands around the Countess’ throat. The skin is soft and warm, and Matilde’s realSilk blouse ruffles against S.’ wrists as she gradually applies more force. The round breasts are close now, heaving just above the hard protrusion of STATE, pressing against S.’ chest. Her body shell tickled, S.’ nipples harden, her crotch swells. Ah... Matilde... Matilde... Matilde... Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Time is moving with hesitant pushes.
The Countess is taller than the Bearer and stronger, but the Bearer seems more enduring and does not need the air. With all her might, Matil pushes S.’ windpipe in, both hands around the stone making it cut deeper and deeper into Her Grace’s’ flesh.
With all her might, S. concentrates on pushing in the windpipe of Matilde. Never before has she been so physically violent, and she welcomes every second of it. ‘This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil. This is for you Matilde, this is for you Matil...’
She thinks of Artur’s death, of Irene’s torture, of the Captain’s hands, of the roof burning at the Day of Souls, of the market massacre and presses even harder, disregarding the signs of distress.
With strong angular movements, the arms fight to break S.’ clasp.
With violent jerks, the trunk tries to dislocate S.’ grip on the throat.
The head sweeps backwards, the eyes start to move strangely, but S. only hears the litany and only feels clean anger pulsing through her. ‘You asked for this, Matilde. You deserve this, Matil. This is what was coming for you, Matilde. This is what you get, when you go through life killing, Matil. This is the end of a criminal like you, Matilde. This is the end of any human opposing STATE. Finally someone did find out, Matilde. Finally someone can see you for who you really are. Finally someone can judge you for it and punish you for it. And that someone is me, Matilde. I am the one to do you in! I am the one to finally get to you. And I will simply settle it, once and for all. I cannot allow you to walk from this room, to protest your innocence, to disappear like you are wont to, Matilde. You can understand that, can’t you? We are way too far in to let each other go, just like that. We are in way too deep, Matilde. You have killed and harmed too many of my people, Matilde and STATE will take full payment.
Her head is red, the eyes bulge out of their sockets.
The arms spasm and then hang limply at her sides.
The legs have not supported her for some time already.
When S.’ eyes take in the sunlit room again, Matilde is dead. STATE makes sure that the limp body does not spring to life again, then drops it unceremoniously.
Her hands go to her own throat, to check.
The stone is still there, stuck.
The door is open. Aghast, one of the Guards is staring at her, not knowing how to act or what to think.
STATE is aware of how he sees her: a cold-blooded murderer, who without so much as a warning kills one of the country’s most prominent beneficiaries. There is nothing she can say against it, no proof to support any of her claims. Only her knowledge that she is right.
That from now on, the only attacks will come from the anti-STATE people. And she can cope with that. She disregards the Guard.
S. stands in the sun and wills her throat to expand. For a change, she takes a deep breath of air, and her lungs expand, her chest expands, her windpipe opens.
Then, with some difficulty, she swallows.
It is a huge lump, the stone, but she has to swallow it whole. Her body shell is the only safe place for it. Her gastric juices can digest this thing. In her, it will finally dissolve and the powers that belong to it will be dislocated, confused.
In her mind, she becomes a huge horn, opening up to the top, generating a weird bass sound. She opens and opens deeper and deeper, until the bass sound becomes audible.
The Guard stands there, staring at her, aghast at the brutal and unnecessary murder of Her Ladyship the Countess, wondering if he should call someone, the Doctor, the Captain, the Police, anyone… ‘But who would move against Her Grace? Who would dare to judge STATE?’ He cannot make up his mind and just stands there, staring, taking in a deep sound whose origin he cannot locate.
Then, finally, S.’ throat is open enough to allow the stone to sink. It goes down, and down, its sharp sides carving lines into the soft tissue lining her throat, but she cannot be harmed by it anymore. It sinks into the hydrochloric acid which is starting to react on it. A strong and strange sensation, energy emanating from her stomach and pulsating through her, as if she is a battery.
As the Guard tries to weigh his responsibilities, he looks at Her Grace. The Bearer starts to radiate. The metalloid silicon skin glows, then becomes lighter and lighter, until the Bearer is a figure of light. Too shocked to be able to say something, the Guard stands mute as the Bearer walks past him, outside. The limo is waiting for Her Grace; and though the Guards glance at their too bright Bearer, she acts as if everything is normal.
10:44:01 - 10:44:02 – 10:44:03 – 10:44:04
Time is flowing visibly for STATE and she knows that the Guard who had witnessed the strangling is calling the news agency, is selling the information to Sarah Feyman, and she already sees the headlines that will be printed later today.
THE COUNTESS DEAD!
MURDER AT THE PALACE OF STATE
PROMINENT CHARITY CELEBRITY FOUND STRANGLED IN PALACE
BEARER REFUSES COMMENT
STATE previsions the outcry in the media, the shock of the people in the streets at her brutal murder, the anger in the underworld at the killing of their leader; amassing unique support for anybody opposing the Bearer, for anybody planning to bring her down.
With a slight flick in STATE, the Guard is fired.
The white is whirling rapidly. Emerging from the structures, former Bearers appear to congratulate S., to acknowledge her achievement. They fade away when the Maker deigns to appear: “Well, well, S.!” he says with a surprised tone. “Well done, we have achieved it! We have actually destroyed the enemy of STATE. Yes, yes, a huge achievement, though not unforeseen of course... We are the ones to have created and unified STATE. We have a power unrivaled in this nation. We are the only power here. We ARE the power! Of course, we need to make sure the Bearer will remain an everlasting and unchallenged ruler, with no such events as refusal of STATE. We will rule this state forever! The future of STATE is glittering, the power of STATE unified and encompassing the entirety. And all because of us! We are Omnipotent!’
But with a slight shrug, S. diminishes the volume of his voice to a mere whisper, trying pathetically to seem grand in the void. STATE no longer needs to shout supremacy. STATE is supreme. And she does no longer heed the Maker. She is free. A high wild cry softly vibrates in STATE.
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 3 months, 0 weeks, 0 days, 0 hours, 53 minutes and
S. gets into the limo and departs for Parliament.