The late night early morning December air is cold, so STATE huddles in her cloak just like the other passers-by. No one notices her as she walks through the remaining hours of night with her quick and even pace across the capital to a Borough she knows well enough, the area of one of strand S.' hideaways.
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 8 months, 3 weeks, 6 days, 14 hours and 2
The neighborhood has changed much since strand S. last was here. Houses are painted, there are more benches and dataLine carrying posts, the playgrounds have new things in them. S. had put one some large shades and had pulled up the cape’s woolen hood, hiding the whiteness of her eyes and a big part of her face. She keeps her gloves on to hide the grayish silicon of her skin. Very carefully, she approaches the flat.
> HEADLINES: Hearings of the CCAP will start day after tomorrow with all STATE Ministers testifying. As yet it is unclear who will appear. Reports will follow.
December 10th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
The winter sun starts to come out and the door to the central staircase has been propped open with a brick. Swinging cheap bags with their notebooks, children are running past her on their way to school, not bothering to look at her. The building has been painted a brownish color, camouflaging the fact that it is very run-down by now. As far as STATE can check, no one had found out about this place, but though the rent had been paid continually, this does not ensure the apartment would still be safe. S. looks up to catch a glimpse of the door to her hide-out. It had been hired for this reason: you could see the door without even seeming to be planning to enter. Hmn. The door has been freshly painted. New lacquer gleams bright yellow in the patch of sunlight hitting it. Someone had moved in.
‘Damn.’ The old word echoes in her head, and strand S. observes it with faint surprise. She had not sworn like that for a long time. There are no other hide-outs left undiscovered, so she could return to the farm or the Palace or wander the streets. Instead, she stays where she is.
There. The door opens and a woman comes out. Younger than Irene, she is dressed very conspicuously. Her coat is like a tuxedo jacket, but made from green and pink velvet, like some circus performer’s. It is obviously made for her, probably also by her, fitting perfectly around her breasts and buttocks. Her figure is more curvaceous than plump, her hair is straight and a reddish blonde, cut jaggedly, obviously by herself. She turns to drag something over the doorstep. A battered fold-out carrier with a child slightly too young to be sitting in it. Seven months and two and a half weeks, STATE knows.
The child looks at S. instantly. His eyes lock into hers; and try as she might disappear into the background, the child looks at her with his round, slightly protruding eyes. He does not cry, but keeps on staring at her, even bending sideways to look at her past his mother’s thighs, as she locks and double locks the door behind him.
His mother looks down at him fondly, catches his gaze and turns to look in the same direction. “Who is there, then, Bo?” she asks, her voice the singsong of a mother: “Who is there? Someone we know?” She has to kneel to see what he is seeing and does so.
STATE does not move and the woman stares her in the face. “No, we do not know her, now do we, Bo? But she seems a nice lady, now, doesn’t she? Well come on then, let’s go and take a nice long walk,” The woman carries the carrier down the stairs with some difficulty.
Strand S. would expect her to turn, but STATE knows the woman is too shy to. She leaves the building, pushing the cart over the unpaved walkway to the sideway.
S. turns and walks after her.
- ‘You obsolete…'
Yes. She knows. She is, she will’
She wills the voice to a whisper and adjusts her body shell’s movement exactly to the speed and rhythm of the woman pushing the carrier. She walks, and walks. The woman walks her baby for hours, crisscrossing through the poor neighborhood. People do not notice them, too busy or tired to notice anything. A lot of construction work is going on, the loud machines' noise around, bouncing off the cheap stone alloy buildings. Tubing for new dataNetworks' lines are prepared, streets are widened, the area groomed for future economical growth.
The woman walks aimlessly, turning left, then crossing the street, then turning right…
Bearer of STATE for 1 year, 9 months, 0 weeks, 0 days, 0 hours and 0 min
Time is flowing and running its course, unstoppable, unmoving. Soon, all changes, and then'
No, she does not think it, leaves the knowledge to rest inside her, in a hollow she knows well, a hollow which even strand S. had felt, had been painfully aware of, before she had come to bear STATE, before the white had found a dwelling place in her shell… S. walks and walks, following the woman. It is easy to follow her, the bright colors of her jacket stand out even in the busy crowd in front of a supermarket. STATE knows the woman needs milk, needs food, but she does not enter the supermarket, does not stop to buy anything. No money.
Since the Presidential agricultural reforms, the price of produce had risen dramatically, and STATE now sees that this had not altered for the better under her reign. While she keeps walking, she blocks out visuals and allows STATE to research options for stimulating agricultural produce: which people would benefit from which solution and how she could install controlling mechanisms while allowing the credit for those who ventured, for those who worked… Through a thin veil of white, she still sees the scenery of some past she had forgotten about and the human presences of two strangers, whom she had chosen to follow. In this stage, STATE needs a different perspective. STATE needs to be here, to see this. See what? The baby sucks his thumb ferociously, but only gets some water from a bottle.
They walk and walk and walk. The woman seems lively, softly sings songs for her child, sometimes his little body hangs slack with sleep in the carrier’s fabric. But then some bump in the road awakes him to his hunger. He whimpers but he is too tired and weak to cry loudly.
STATE does not think to help them.
It is not clear whether the woman is aware of her or not, she does not give any sign to, which is good because now nobody reacts on STATE. S. continues to follow the woman and child around, crossing over some deserted playground, circling around a construction site, rambling through the small park with littered grass… When the sun starts setting the woman makes for home.
S. keeps tailing her, and when they reach the house, she follows the woman up the stairs.
In front of the yellow door, the woman turns. “I have nothing,” she says. Her voice is soft, the boy is sleeping, but her eyes challenge. “What is it you want from me?"
“You live in my house,” S. says.
“That is not true!” The woman’s green eyes flash while her voice stays down. “This is my house, has been for months now! I pay my rent, every week!"
“We both do. Let’s talk tomorrow. Let me stay tonight.” S. looks at the woman quietly, and STATE knows she is afraid. Briefly, she touches her mind, just a whiff, to calm her.
Anna wipes her hair from her front, sighs. ‘Tired, so tired… And if she wanted to mug me, she’s had enough chances during the day… Ah, well,’ Putting her hands in her side, she speaks sternly: “Well, it will not be a quiet night. And I cannot offer you anything to eat either!"
“That is okay,” the strange woman says. Anna looks at the woman, who looks up, back at her. “Let me introduce myself,” the stranger says, “I am Sheila.” She extends her gloved hand.
“Oh, who cares?” Anna mutters. She is beyond fear now. “I am Anna,” she says, and shakes the strange woman’s hand.
They enter. It is very cold in the apartment, but Bo continues to sleep, to Anna’s surprise. With unbelieving relief, she folds him in a new cotton diaper, carefully clothes him in layers of stuffed textile, and puts him in bed.
Then, so spent she can hardly stand, Anna makes a makeshift bed for Sheila on the coach. With distant surprise, Anna notes that Sheila does not take her shades or clothes off. Weird to wear shades in the winter too, fleetingly Anna supposes Sheila has some kind of eye affliction, but she has no energy to think. Sheila refuses the blankets and takes just a sheet, claiming her cloak is warm enough for her. Anna looks at the expensive realWoolen fabric and nods. “Good night,” she says.
STATE lulls Bo to a deep sleep. Anna is asleep once her body heat has warmed her cold bed sufficiently. So as not to feel the hunger, she sleeps on her belly and tonight, STATE helps her dream of something else.
As usual, STATE does not sleep. She looks at the ceiling strand S. knows from long ago.
The house smells of clothes washed in cold water with too little soap, which then have taken too long to dry. Of the basic cauliflower soups people make in the building, of the garbage not taken care of in the corners near the elevators, of the men’s bioBeer piss.
Like before, she is a stranger here.
What was strand S. doing when she lived in this house? Killing time with thinking through the new plans, trying to assess the chances, or just sitting on the sofa in the slit of sunlight, surreptitiously watching the grass in front of the building for Police or military arriving?
Also then, she could not sleep, especially when the room was dark. She had had to evoke some story in her mind, invent some other person, act out some heroic deeds in her imagination to get through the long nights.
Now, she does the same. Allowing her mind to sink in the white, S. assesses the changes, cuts some people’s assets short, allows others to have a stroke of luck.
Only now, STATE does it in real. And STATE withdraws all rent paid by Anna from the landlord’s account, and returns the money to Anna’s account.
> HEADLINES: The State’s crême de la crême have arrived at the Concert Hall for the premiere of the White Symphonies. Army and Police personnel are on stand-by, but as yet the atmosphere is calm. Only a group of Almerra followers shout insults at the happy selected guests, kept in check by a Police cordon. Press is here, one of the biggest society events this winter,
December 10th in the second year of the Bearer’s Reign
A crowd has formed before the Concert Hall, and slowly, the lucky people with tickets are allowed in. Expensive cars line up and the nation’s most well-known and influential people enter the building, smiling for the cameras and whispering to the people they are with.
Humans are fussing with their make-up in the Concert Hall’s toilets, sipping champagne while glancing at each other’s garments, looking around for faces they can connect to, gossiping a little too loudly about humans they deem below them, speaking very pleasantly with humans they like to be seen with, glancing down to check the hem of their dress is still moving as it should do, making their way into discrete loges or along narrow numbered seats, seating themselves as elegantly as possible, adjusting their garments to better effect, raising a hand to salute a fellow human…
In 32 minutes, her White Symphonies will premiere before a prejudiced audience.
The musicians are nervous, the final repetition went badly and Maestro Spaletti had left the Hall with thumping boots, followed by Master Casper Damian who had added some vile insults at their address. They all know that this is a good sign.
Casper now is sitting with his clarinet in both hands, trying to feel the white wind howl in him as he had felt it so often, trying to think everything would be okay this time, at last…
STATE knows it will be OK and does no longer occupy herself with it. Two days to go before the first meeting of the Committee investigating Crimes against the People, and she intimidates some persons to appear. She does not have to be direct: STATE slightly alters some atmosphere, lessens some fears, drops in a word, shifting a mindset… Some people ardently stick to their opposition, but many will review their opinions, and any way, STATE does not care what they do. They have received her admonition and that is all she will do for them.
Though her body shell starts aching, STATE disregards the pain and enjoys being in this hideaway. Finally, no thought voices around, only the disjointed dreams of food from Anna and Bo.
A meaningful silence as the doors to the Seat of Honor are opened by servants and Her Excellency and the Captain enter, stand at the balcony to hear the Concert Hall applaud them, and retreat to be seated.
Grateful for the shadows inside their luxurious balcony, Irene and the Captain are trying to disguise their perplexity. ‘Where is Her Grace?’ They had both been sure she would enter, exactly in time or maybe half an hour late, silent, possibly radiating. ‘But she is not here. Where is S.!?’
The Captain is more than a little irritated at what he feels a punishment of the Bearer. ‘I am doing my part all right! I am doing all the work around here. Who does she - Uh, hail STATE… Hail the Bearer of STATE… We all serve STATE’
More and more people glance at the Seat of Honor and wonder why it remains unoccupied: only Her Excellency and the Captain are there, flanking an empty golden chair. ‘Where is the Bearer of STATE?’ Soon, tongues are wagging, explanations woven, tales are pieced together. ‘Was Her Grace displeased with some changes in the White Symphonies?’ ‘Is her fickle attention drawn to some other occupation, again?’ ‘Maybe there is some emergency?’ ‘Is STATE again up to changing something?’ “Are we all in danger?” “No, we must be safe, with her absent, uh, shhhhhh”
When Master Casper Damian walks on stage all fall silent in a sudden deep hush of anticipation. He is so entirely concentrated that he does not look to the Seat of Honor or bow to the public. Dressed in an extravagant white suit made of a material which seems to attract all light and intensify it, he carries his clarinet with pride in his long fingers, his blonde hair moving around his face as he walks. People find they cannot keep their eyes off him.
The entrance of Maestro Spalden attracts less attention, but he knows he will have to overcome this peeve and he gets down to focusing the orchestra. ‘Performing the White Symphonies will require all of my abilities. But I know I can! Just breathe… let it come…'
The past hours, the clarity of its structure had suddenly dawned upon him. In a flash, he could grasp the meaning of the disjointed sounds, the yearning of the silences, the final dispersion of all… Notwithstanding the limited time, he feels his Orchestra can really convey what the White Symphonies are.
The dataCapture devices are activated, the many microPhones open. The White Symphonies start.
After a first unrest, some people in the audience even clasping their ears at some of the music’s extremes, many guests tentatively start to feel the impact of the music. Though some block its effect successfully, even humming other tunes mentally to stop the sound of STATE controlling them, the majority sits still and entranced, while the White Symphonies unfold over them. Those who had been present at the Reception of STATE in the Bell’Etoile or at the Parliament right after the Countess’ murder, when the Bearer had shown up all of blinding light, recognize something of the enveloping white in the music, though the music enforces its rhythm more strongly, occupies their mind with even stronger sensations.
Some parts recall old folk dances, some parts the whistle of mountain air. Some parts howl with an intense pain, then soften into a stretch of yearning, then the yearning becomes self-conscious and shy, then is torn off to reveal basalt bones, water grating over the edges. Some parts are lucid and allow the mind to see far, far into a white future, some parts grip the stomach with an undefined fear. In some parts, the clarinet stutters short vowels, then opens to pour out loud golden streams, crashing into rough blocks of noise, interspersed with calm intervals. The clarinet is clearly the carrier of the piece, at times jubilant, then moving many in the audience to tears, then withdrawing into superior technique, then swinging on the many rhythms of the White Symphonies.
Martin tries to think of something else, anything else, a splitting headache the result. He knows this sensation, he was here before, he recognizes the white that laughed at him, the voices howling at him, his hand touching the white softness for comfort. But he cannot touch anything now, the white is transformed into audio and it goes on and on and on and on. Though it is wide and white and cold, it is also tight, invasive to the point of physical rape. He doubles over in his chair, holds his ears and then starts to howl with the white. His mouth is open and his lungs vibrate; and he wonders why no one gets angry at his bawling. When the White Symphonies subside for a bit, calming into more melodious parts, he raises himself and looks aside to Blake, but Blake sits entranced. Even this quiet part somehow holds him lured into the white, and then the white howls again, fresh jagged edges of the Symphonies blare out at him; and brusquely standing up, he elbows his way out. Out. Out. He cannot think about any consequences, he is so sick from the pain behind his eyes, the tearing between his ears, the fear of being locked in there again. Out…
For Casper, the performance is an ongoing present, on and on, entrancing him, revealing him in an unfolding and developing constellations of sound. He has never played like this before, and he knows it.
Irene sits in her chair and tears keep falling. ‘It is S., it is the whole of her, the whole of STATE… Her solitude, her anger, her complexity, her absence, her history, both of the person S. that was, and of the whole of STATE… It is our past and it holds our future, though I am not sure how to decipher these tones…’ The Symphony tears at her, the tones move her ideas of what STATE is, what STATE should be, what S. should or should not do, and all thought becomes a fragment of a larger whole, so wide and all-encompassing that Irene knows she cannot oversee its scope.
When the White Symphonies subside, leaving a rubble of fragmented notes, there is a long silence. People are either too moved, enveloped in a great sense of loss, or too aggravated to applaud.
But then Her Excellency, dressed in a pale gray realSilk dress of rich material but of simple cut, stands and starts to applaud. Her cheeks show traces of tears streaking down.
A rumble of clapping hands waxes and wanes, waxes and wanes, waxes and wanes.
It is only when he performs his final bow that Casper looks at the Seat of Honor and finds its central seat empty. ‘The bitch! The thieving bitch! No respect, no respect at all! Didn’t even take the trouble to come and listen to me! That terrorist bitch!’