‘OK then. OK! Enough of this. No sleep for weeks, her voice bugging me, stress all the time. If STATE orders me to go, I will go. If STATE insists on me to appear, I will show. I will not be called a coward, I will not chicken out! I will show her that I am up to this. I will show her. I will show her that I can,’ A fleeting image of Irene, turning half away from him, her profile in bright sunlight as she smiles a small smile for some servant. ‘Irene...’ Escaping into images of her, the Captain turns on his side and sleeps, at last.
STATE will have to wait only one more night. One more night before she will have to return to her fate and leave this heavy and haphazard life behind. One more night of pain and freedom, before she returns to the people to finish what she has started. One more night...
The White Symphonies fill many human dreams, fluttering through their thoughts, lightening their fears, warming their bodies. Closer by, Bo and Anna sleep well, finally with something in their stomachs, STATE knows they both need to rest. It is slightly warmer now they can use the energyChipcards, though that does not matter much for STATE.
Anna does not ask her much, she does not want to become involved with this stranger and she does not have the time nor the energy to. STATE is happy with some peace of mind, of not having the multitude of thought-voices accosting her from close by, though she can access them easily whenever she would want to. Compared to this hideaway, the Palace is brimming with information and energy, infiltrating STATE. From the quiet confinement of this house, STATE can focus on the important shifts, which are starting to take place.
On December the 12th at 7:34 a.m., S. rises.
Finally. The Committee of Crimes Against the People is meeting today.
Richard De Brown looks down on the paper list he always keeps on his body and frowns. The list is long, but almost all names are crossed out or marked with question marks. ‘Would’ve expected this to be easier,’ he thinks as he sips some coffee. ‘But alas, she is not really going for it and people do sense her reticence... And so many strong people lying in wait. Will have to discuss it again with Her Excellency, this is not going to lead anywhere I am afraid,’
The Captain gathers strength to go and stand before the Committee. He is in the Palace, getting dressed. His manservant standing nervously behind him, the Captain hesitates about what to wear today. ‘Should I go in civilian, just a man confessing? Wear one of my new suits, a sign of respect for the Committee? STATE uniform? Hmn... No. I have to go in Presidential uniform. I will appear for the crimes I committed when I was in service to that man, when I believed these crimes to be part of my job.’ “State uniform, the Presidential version,” he orders his servant. The man is too experienced to show any emotion and leaves to find the uniform of the Presidential Guards.
The uniform holds his body tight. Stiff-backed, the Captain turns to see his reflection: the graying hairs very smooth, his face well-shaven as usual and oddly tight. He tries to relax his facial muscles and partially succeeds.
On his way out, he passes by Her Excellency’s chambers.
“Captain!” Irene says, with a measure of alarm at his unusual aspect. With the Presidential Guards’ uniform comes a flash of fear, corrected as her quick mind gets what he is wearing, and why. “Oh!” Happiness and fear alternate violently, and she feels like she would cry, but she does not, only blinks rapidly one, two, three times. For a moment at a loss for words, she reverts to formality: “Yes, I understand. You will be excused for today, for however long it takes. I am well taken care of!”
She tries to smile but he sees the worries in her face. He is only happy to see her emotions. ‘She cares!’
Time to return. STATE wakes Anna. “Anna. I have to go. But there is something I want to do for you. Come with me.”
Anna tries to focus, her eyes dry with sleep. She rubs them but this only makes things worse. “What..?” Sheila sits back onto the couch and does not answer. As usual, she waits for Anna to make them a coffee. Anna obliges without comment, sensing Bo’s sudden quiet nights may have something to do with Sheila’s presence. Bo wakes and has to be cleaned and dressed and fed. Anna eats her breakfast, then looks at Sheila. “Where are we going?” she asks. “What do I do with Bo?”
“Take him with you,” Sheila answers as she gets up.
Getting ready to depart takes forever, and S. wonders for the umpteenth time at Anna’s patience. Really! Time is pulling at her. She has to be there in time. Where?
Instead of going to the Committee’s meeting place, the STATE Justice Hall, or even the Palace, STATE directs them elsewhere. To the inner Borough shopping center: quite a walk.
Without a clue what Sheila is up to, Anna follows with Bo in the carrier. They walk and walk for more than and hour and a half. Luckily, Anna enjoys walking and her pace is almost as quick as Sheila’s. Without speaking much, they cross one Borough Bridge after another, moving towards the center steadily.
Present to the solemnity of the ritual, STATE monitors the first testimonies, weighs the judges’ reactions, the public’s. She is content. The Committee members are behaving as they should do, and though the accusations are bitter, some stories atrocious and sometimes the defendants’ arrogance is shocking, STATE feels the difference in the nation. The meetings are a hub of lively and often painful interchange, as many people had tried to disavow or diminish the events unveiled.
> Hey guys, anybldy here?
> Guys? I don’t want to watch
> well i do
> Cannot believe what I’m hearing
> no time harry, wanna follow this life, sorry Rosie girl
> But it is terrible! The things they say! Did this really happen? Why
> because he was a badass crazy and lethal sonofabitch is why, Rosie, didn’t you knwo?
> No! I never... There was no, or, well, yes there was some gossip, of course, but
> we’re watching Rosie, better watch or whatever - we chat some other time
Many people follow the life coverage of the confessions on dataFlow, as many people as possible are present there. Within the white, things are turbulent because of the Committee’s processes and S. has to keep an eye there. STATE is pointing out many new information connections that she is investigating into.
As the promise that avowal would not be followed by persecution proves true, more and more people consent to appear before the Committee. Still, some continue to see the whole Committee as one propaganda machine of STATE, and refuse to believe any of it. And S. knows that though the latest developments do credit to STATE, they weaken the position of the Bearer. First the Secretary had assumed many roles of the Bearer, then Committees have changed the Constitution, capable to redraw the laws, now people are judging people without bloodshed or prisons. People find out they do not need a Bearer to referee them any more. They are starting to rule themselves, even if many are afraid to admit the changes and cling to the old world order.
Only some more affluent housewives have time to shop at this hour on a Friday and there is no sale attracting extra customers, so the shopping streets are relatively quiet. STATE walks and Anna follows her with the carrier with Bo, who is looking around him with a full belly and curious eyes. Their footsteps echo on the hard stone tiles. A faint sunlight is refracted in the crystals in their surface; and strand S. has a flash of recollection of her first encounter with STATE, so long ago. But no time for memories. She goes straight for the largest depaStore, the most expensive one.
> BREAKING NEWS: Captain just arrived at Judicial Palace to testify in CCAP! See reaLive footage on the NationalTV dataNet channel
Pushing hard, Anna follows her, thinking: ‘Why did we have to cross town to go into that place? It’s impossible for anyone to buy anything in there! Comparable things can be bought elsewhere, cheaper,’ She has to maneuver to get the carrier up the marble slope and through the revolving doors. Sheila slows down only slightly, she seems to be in some kind of sudden hurry and is not taking her or Bo into account. But then she does stop, all of a sudden, between glittering racks full of design jewels. ‘What on earth is driving her?’ Anna is glad to be able to look around. Luckily, Bo is very impressed by the bright lights and colorful objects and people and looks around him contently.
STATE has located the right elevators. She turns to Anna and points. Circling around presentation desks with perfumes and posh make-up, they move towards a partition wall and then around it. As always, the elevators are hidden in a corridor, starkly revealing the alloy castStone construction of the building. They do not have to wait, an elevator comes down instantly. Of course STATE does not need to push any buttons, and while Anna is turning Bo around to face them, they are already ascending. The elevator does not stop on any other floor, does not allow other people in.
When the doors open, Anna takes in the most luxurious floor she has ever seen. Everything here is clearly of the most expensive quality, from the thick realWool carpets to the colored castGlass partitioning walls, to the enormous bouquets in designer vases. Everything is in shades of orange and warm browns, the light turned down. “Oh Oh… This is some special floor... Let’s go, Sheila, before they notice us,” she whispers urgently. But Sheila does not budge for a moment as if assessing she is in the right place; then she steps onto the carpet.
“Come,” she says and starts moving, more slowly this time, allowing Anna and Bo to follow her. The carpet is so soft that Anna has to walk with the wheels of the carrier, lifting it from side to side to make it advance over the long-haired surface. They have advanced a few steps when a man with the depaStore’s Security uniform passes by and jerks to a halt. Drawing himself to his full height, he says: “What on earth are you two doing here? You are NOT allowed to come here. What are you thinking? You cannot just come in here. Get out! This is a restricted area, ladies!”
Anna freezes and then starts to pull at the carrier, back towards the elevators. But Sheila stands where she is and lifts her sunglasses, stares at the man. “Look again, you fool!” she says. Anna has not heard her voice like this before: so cold, so disdainful. Afraid of his reaction, she looks at the Security guard. Sure enough, he has his securiPhone at the ready and presses some button, reaches for his weapon when he does look more closely at Sheila. His face stops moving. Though he still holds the phone near his ears, it is clear he is not hearing anything, though someone is speaking to him urgently. “Oh…” he says in an almost random way. “I... I am sorry... F.. Forgive... M... Mistake...” He fumbles to put the ‘phone back into his pocket while trying to bow nervously. Anna cannot make head or tails of this, apart from that apparently he thinks Sheila is someone important.
S. does not stop to see the well-known reaction and walks in the direction STATE knows she has to go, when she feels Anna and Bo are not following. She turns half to the Security man.
“You. Take care of the carrier.”
His hands tremble as he takes hold of the carrier and he lifts it with care. ‘Uh, Her Grace... I... I addressed Her Grace, like, like... I will be punished for this, I will, she will burn my hands, or... Hail STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE... Forgive me,’
Bo starts to whimper, the strange uniformed man being so close and smelling strange. Anna tries to stay near him, though she feels the guard’s eyes on her, catching on her clothes, guessing her forms.
After a few steps, Her Grace halts and casts an angry look sideways at the guard. ‘Treat her with respect!’ The Bearer’s voice hisses in his head and he almost bites his tongue. ‘So it is true what they say! Oh... No thinking... Respect... Hail STATE,’ Carefully, he keeps his eyes down, wondering who this strangely dressed woman accompanying Her Grace might be. ‘Some eccentric rich lady?’
> BREAKING NEWS: Captain of STATE to confess his crimes under the President. Life on NationalTV, straight after the break!
Anna is preoccupied. It is high time for Bo to drink something; and sure enough, he is starting to get restless. ‘Where are we going? How long will this take?’ They turn around a dark brown glass partitioning and then Anna sees the Guards. Instinctively, she halts. ‘Guards of STATE! What are we doing here?’ She recoils, but the depaStore Security man carries Bo after Sheila, so she has to continue after them. The next moment, the Guards are around them, blocking Anna and Bo and ushering Sheila forwards. Then, they turn and look sternly at Anna and Bo, and they are taken in as well.
Bo’s carrier is put down and he starts to cry. Anna bends over him, to loosen his coat and make him less hot. Then, she rummages in the net to find the bottle of milk. She does not see Sheila unclasping her cloak, a Guard catching and hanging it. Anna takes Bo out of the carrier, sits down and puts him in her lap. While Bo starts drinking avidly, Anna glances through the door opening to the inner chamber. ‘Oh! That face!’ On the realLeather designer couch, the Secretary of STATE is seated, her arms around her knees. The strange sensation to see someone whose face she has seen so often in newspaper photographs and dataFlow reports suddenly in the real and looking so dejected. Anna knows the face so well that she feels she is seeing a friend: a rush of sympathy, but then she realizes the face has become public property through the mass media. She lowers her eyes, looks at Bo who is taking in the surroundings with interest. ‘He will be tired soon. It is high time we go, so he can get some sleep in the carrier,’ “Ehm…” she says. She sees Sheila on her back and the stylized behavior of all people around her. One Guard with one hand pushes the door open a little further for her, careful not to have his back towards her. One Guard enters behind her and stands in position beside the door. Two other Guards return to their positions, guarding the ante-chamber’s entrance. The depaStore Security guard nervously bows himself out, and Anna wishes to follow him, but knows she will have to wait.
When Irene sees S. she jumps up. ‘S.! Oh!’ All at once, she is so happy, her face is radiating. Looking at her, S. speaks to her mind: ‘Irene. Do not worry over the Captain. He will do fine at the Committee! He will be back at the Palace in an hour or two.’ Irene is even more glad with this reassurance and smiles as she says: “Oh, S.! It is so good to have Your Grace back!”
Anna hunches in her chair. ‘Oh… Sheila is the Bearer. The Bearer! In my house! On my couch!’ She feels hopelessly out of depth. ‘What am I doing here? I do not belong here... If I could just go...’ “Eh,” her voice falters. “Eh... Maybe I should go?” She looks at the door but the Guards stand there, blocking it. They do not react on her at all.
The Bearer and the Secretary of STATE stand close, concentrating on each other, reacting on each other. Bo starts wriggling himself out of her grasp. Her one hand tries to hold him while the other one seeks the carrier’s handlebar. ‘I have to go,’ “Eh… Excuse me… Maybe I can go now?” Again, the Guards completely disregard her and block her from leaving. Feeling her helplessness, Bo starts to cry, attracting the attention of the Secretary of STATE.
‘A baby? Here?’ Irene turns and sees Anna, takes in the colorful jacket, the rough haircut, the red-blonde hair and intelligent face, the baby.
“Who are you?” the Secretary of STATE asks Anna. Her voice is very normal and gentle, and Anna feels she would like to know her if the situation was not so hierarchic. While Bo starts wriggling like crazy again, she is forced to let him down. She puts him on the floor, the carpet is soft enough… Happy to be free at last, he rolls onto his stomach and starts to pull at the soft long fibers.
“Oh… Excuse me… I am Anna… and this is my son Bo.”
Then the Bearer turns to face her and Anna sees what the long cloak had been hiding all these days. STATE is there, a cold sheen in the warm lamplight. ‘It looks odd, the surface subtly moving like the skin of a man’s testicles. Oh...’ Anna blushes at the impertinent comparison. She bows awkwardly: “Y… Your Grace… Forgive me,”
“What for? What did you do” One of the Guards asks aggressively, but he is silenced by Her Grace’s lifted fingers. “Nobody will recognize STATE if the moment does not allow them to,” the Bearer says. “Anna, you have been good to me and STATE will reward you.”
At that moment, Bo starts moaning and moving like a small caterpillar and Anna knows what that means. She had forgotten to bring clean diapers for him, thinking they’d be only away for a short while. ‘Oh no... not now...’ “Eh… I do not mean to be rude… But… Please… We really have to go. Bo”
A depaStore servant enters, carrying a tray with coffee, hot milk, sugar, porcelain cups, golden spoons and a platter of cakes and cookies and sandwiches. He bows and walks around them respectfully to put the full tray on the low table. The Bearer turns to him. “You. Bring whatever is needed for the baby.”
The man doubles over: “Yes, Your Grace… Most certainly… Ahem… Actually... We do have a baby room just down the corridor… If that would be sufficient for the little master? And, er, well, maybe Your Grace would request a professional nurse to come and take care of the baby, while Your Excellencies would have a look at some items, maybe..?”
The Bearer looks at Anna, who is too overcome by the question. “Yes,” she answers in her place. Then she turns face Anna. “Come. Sit down. Let’s have some coffee.”
Bo starts to cry, but the Bearer looks in his direction and he stops. He rolls over again to play with the carpet. The Bearer and Her Excellency sit down on the couch next to each other and so does Anna, on a modern bioLeather chair. One of the Guards steps forwards, to pour them coffee. Her Grace is offered first and STATE scans the contents. A light flashes blue and she passes the cup to Irene, then another to Anna. Anna looks sideways at the face she knows from such different surroundings and tries to relax. ‘OK, now I understand my guest’s strange behavior. But why do I have to stay here? Whatever could the Bearer want from me?’ - ‘Patience.’
Ashamed, Anna glances at the Bearer but concludes she has not spoken aloud. She is getting hungry and eyes the cakes lying there, beautifully arranged. - ‘Feel free to take, Anna.’
Anna bends forwards to do so, grateful for the voiceless communication. Having to talk in front of all the Guards’ eyes would stop her completely, but as she can think things and be heard, it is easier to feel the same towards Sh... eh, Her Grace as before. She lifts Bo to her lap and feeds him a biscuit and the rest of the milk, disregarding the stench and hoping nobody else smells it. The Guards are looking down on her, on their shabbiness, on her having a baby here with Her Grace… Then, she notes how intently the Secretary of STATE is watching Bo. Her eyes shine in the lamplight, and Anna is sure she is experiencing the pang of desiring a baby, the unequivocal certainty and agony of wishing to become a mother.
Three people from the depaStore arrive, carrying the most expensive baby things Anna has even seen. Respectfully, she is shown the baby room and changes Bo’s diapers, happy for the basic actions. An elderly nurse arrives, who apologizes time and again for the inconvenience of Her Ladyship having had to change the diapers herself, then adds: “Are there any specialties for Master... eh... what should I call the little master?”
Anna feels awkward but tries to adjust as smoothly as she can. “His name is Bo,” she says.
“And, eh, Mylady, is there anything he is maybe allergic to, which is not becoming too well for Master Bo?” The nurse asks again, her hands devoutly together.
“No, none at all,” Anna says, and insists on putting him herself in the soft sleeping bag and in the new bed. Just before the nurse turns the light low Anna sees he is already half asleep.
Startled at the nurses’ bow when she departs, she is shown into the ante-chamber again.
The room is full of Guards, who stop her. Again, their presence is a menace, even though she knows they belong to Sh... Her Grace. Anna hesitates, afraid to knock, but the silhouette of a Guard opening the frosted brownish glass door already appears. A glimpse of Her Excellency, watching the TV screen intently, biting her lip. Her face is pale in the blue light, her hair hidden by two headphones.
The Bearer gestures for the door to be closed, obviously to allow for some privacy for the Secretary of STATE. She glances around the full room, and waves two Guards who have positioned themselves directly behind Anna away. “Back off! She has kept STATE safe for three days!” she says, and obediently, the men step back.
“You. Go and check if the baby is well taken care of. You and you, position outside.” The Guards promptly obey her orders, creating some space in the ante-chamber.
The Guard approaching the baby room frowns when he sees the nurse returning with a cup of coffee. When she sees him, she guiltily halts, spilling half the coffee on the saucer.
“You are ordered to stay inside,” the Guard says.
The nurse reddens. “But, Sir, I just had to... Er... It won’t happen again... The little master is fine, I am sure...”
“The baby is your only responsibility, nurse! If you need anything, it can be sent for! Really!”
Encased by dark castGlass partitions, Irene forces herself to take in what his mouth is saying. The Captain’s body, the body she had observed so often in secret, is tense in a way she had never seen, he is wearing it as armor. His lips hesitate but continue to form the words to tell his story. Once he has started, he cannot stop talking, pouring out his recollections.
It is worse than she had anticipated. Never, never had she admitted the thought that things like these were really happening under the President’s reign. Yes, everybody had known he was a despot, but he was so high above the law that nobody dared question his deeds. Nobody had offered even a glimpsed his real nature, which now became visible. His thirst for blood, his sadism, his sexual perversion of allowing only the dead or dying to touch him, his profound and utter mistrust for all other humans resulting in many an innocent’s death...
Terrible and gross.
For Irene, it is extra hard, to watch as the most safe and trustworthy man she knows stands there and confesses his part in these acts of crime. He had participated in them, had performed the role of facilitator, accessory, instrument of torture...
She looks away, and then looks again, forces herself to look at his face, at his body. He suffers, and she had willed him to. She had pressed him to appear, and now she will bear the weight of knowing what he is confessing to, but secretly she wants to turn the sound down and just look at the body she knows so well. With some difficulty she suppresses the silly urge to stroke the tension out of him, to whisper to him that it is alright, it is alright, alright.
In the ante-chamber, the Bearer steps over to a side-table and takes a depaStore card from a small glass holder. She slides it through STATE and a curved ‘S’ is burnt in the thick paper, then she turns and hands it to Anna, who accepts it with both hands though he has no idea what use it could have. “Anna. This is your reward. Go and select whatever you want. Anything! Just show this card and the Seal of STATE will cover the expenses. If you would want more in the future, take the elevator to the highest floor and show this card to one of the servants.” And without sound, her voice adds: ‘But whatever you do, make sure your address can never be traced! No deliveries, no coupons, no customerCards! Maybe one day, STATE might need to call on you for a safe place, for myself or for my friends,’ When Anna has nodded her understanding, the Bearer calls for the STATE limo, and escorted by two Guards, leaves for the former Eastern Palace to sleep on the Bearer’s Bed.
Anna goes down one floor. The most exquisite clothes are there, reserved for the very rich. Wherever she goes, depaStore people bow to her, as if she is a grand lady. Anna soon acts the role, waving them away to have some space to look and think. She has a particular taste and it takes some time for her to select a pair of embroidered winter boots, a warm cardigan and a realWool dress. The depaStore personnel reverently wrap them for her and carry them after her.
From the baby department, they get her a realWool sleeping cover, some clothes and a more practical baby carrier; and then pack everything neatly under it. Anna almost cannot believe that a simple card will ensure that she can just take all these goods. But she produces the card and that is all, the depaStore personnel accept it with bows and all. ‘Wow!’ She sends the enigmatic Bearer many silent thanks. Back on the top floor Bo awakes and they both eat something before Anna takes her leave, glancing at the closed castGlass partitioning with two unmoving Guards in front. She does not dare to go in and say goodbye to Her Excellency, only bows in the direction and leaves.
In the mean time, Mrs. Curlings, the Secretary’s personal shopper, has returned to the top floor with some items for Her Excellency, and waits patiently until Her Excellency appears from behind the closed partitioning. With her characteristic decisiveness, the Secretary of STATE points to the few she will try on, selects one stark navy suit: simple but with perfect details, and leaves the depaStore for the Palace in the limo of STATE.
When she returns, she sees a taxi in front of the main entrance of the Palace, the Captain just coming out. Irene enters together with the Captain, who is dead tired after his confessions. A servant goes to fetch him some whiskey, which he takes and downs automatically, still standing. He looks at Irene with empty eyes. Superfluously, he says: “I did it.”
He drops in one of the soft chairs near the fireplace in the small Reception room, sick from the release of tension and from the cognition of all the gruesome deeds he had participated in, which are now revived in his mind. He needs another drink, a strong one, to soften the edges. But the warmth in Irene’s eyes makes him feel slightly better, though he wants to be alone now more than ever. He turns from her to go upstairs for more privacy.
“I am so proud,” Irene says to his back as he leaves. “I am so proud.” And when she blinks she somehow sees the baby’s face.