After the performance of the White Symphonies and the hearings of the CCAP, STATE is left empty. There is nothing left to do, nothing left to worry about, the riddles and ripples and roars of the white as reassuring and worrisome as the sea is for those born and bred on its shore. Strand S. lives in the white continually, and by doing so has discarded her normal dimensions, forgotten about her body shell.
The Bearer does not move anymore from her seat in the Chamber of STATE, does not drink nor eat nor sleep, does not talk nor communicate with anybody over anything. She seems to have lost all connection to the world outside STATE. Extremely perturbed and wondering how long this will take, Irene and the Captain confer with Doctor Jan, but he does not have any clue on how to change this state. He does show them this stage is well documented: Bearers have almost always ended up like this, one way or the other. “You know, the stage in itself is not lethal, a Bearer could last for years like this, that is, unless some new Bearer is found, which often was the case… Apparently, a new Bearer had not been too difficult to find in the old days, but now… we have no idea, as Her Grace is the first one in years…"
“And she will be the only one for the time being,” Irene says.
The Captain smiles: ‘Irene fights the idea of a new Bearer with a loyalty that is charming,’ but he is versed well enough in the ways of power to know the adherence to STATE is diminishing at an alarming rate. Though it might still take months, the opposition is growing and he fears another President to rise in the mean time. ‘Maybe even Matil himself… Though Irene persists that the Countess was Matil, I cannot imagine her to stoop so low… But anyway: from that perspective, we might prefer to install a new Bearer, continuing at least some aspects of Her Grace’s reign, maybe long enough to hold elections while the new Bearer is still immersed in his or her first adaptation pains… Even if it would be that rascal Jason, though they say he has withdrawn to the mountains again…’
Sensing his understanding, Jan points out to Her Excellency that this is another reason why the Days of Souls are so important. “You see, as one of the ritualized encounters of the people with STATE, it was staged so as to allow future Bearers to approach. Apparently, this relatively frequently was the case, somehow the supplicants on the brink of death were more prone to taking on the load of STATE then the ambitious people in, say, Parliament: peculiar, I might add…”
Irene looks at the Captain and swallows, reading the subtext. And as December is already well advanced, if they are to organize the second Day of Souls, it would be high time to start. But Her Grace has not given any sign yet, and Doctor Werther is no longer with them to promote it. Irene had hoped Jan would be against it, would supply some strong reason why they could not go on with it this year…
The Captain looks at her and follows her thoughts. The past week, he had tried to agree with this point of view, to find solid objections as well, but had not found any. He says: “Irene… We also have to consider that last year has set a precedent, and people are already waiting for the second Day of Souls, anchoring their lives on it. In all probability, canceling it would in itself give rise to a riot, and this is the least we need now, these last months before the first elections…” He does not finish his sentence as he sees she understands. Looking seriously, he nods to her and says: “We’ll have to get started then, won’t we? To start with, we need a new location, a simple but safe structure,”
The light is unusually bright, this winter. From this high on the mountains the capital looks like a clear children’s book illustration of a typical city: the high-rise buildings, the Borough Bridges and the big Bridge, the highways curving towards it, the Palaces, Parliament, the market, Stock Exchange and building sites, all can be discerned from here. Above, some soft clouds promise snow, but the sun shines and Jason cannot but enjoy his walk. He allows his mind to roam, making sure it does not wander where the white still howls. Slowing down to a halt, he allows his companions to approach him, heads of the Criminal Clans and his aides. Together they look out over the city in silence, as his men know better than to talk first. “There,” Jason points and they see that the construction of the Halls is already prepared. “There I will take STATE from that filth and reduce her to a shell. And while I am the Bearer of STATE, we will allow some politician to rule the people in name, while we rule in reality. I am ready to hear your proposals.”
Alistair Mc Kinsey looks around him and sees Jason Almerra has chosen the place well. There are no trees or rocks in sight: no one can overhear them unseen. He is not afraid to be the first to speak but knows it is better to wait. The other companions have their say, and as he expected their suggestions are ridiculous, but Alistair does not even allow his face to frown. He notes contently that Jason glances at him from time to time. A short silence. Far below them they see an ambulance rushing towards the city with tiny blue lights flashing. “Martin will be our president,” he then states calmly. To his right a young man exclaims: “No! He would never allow us to” But Alistair looks at him with cold eyes and interrupts: “First, his polls will drop and drop, because people have seen him as the coward he is. Then, we will make him our offer. And then, we make sure he is the next president. Our president. Easy."
Jason Almerra looks at him with his dark pinholes of eyes, then simply nods. “Yes,” he says, and all know that that is how it will be done, by the will of the Clan. “Yes.”
While Doctor Jan refreshes his memory on the right rituals, the Captain supervises the building of a new construction on the site of the old market halls. As neither money nor regulations are a problem, the building is growing rapidly. Using elements from the market halls as an inspiration, the new space is very wide and not so high, the columns made of enforced castGlass and the roof of smoky grey glass.
The new Hall of Souls is enclosed by thick castStone walls, with only one wide gate giving access. The premises are fire-proof, able to withstand any kind of missile or bomb, and are wired with the newest technology in crowd control.
> What do you mean, no?
> Haha, what do you mean by ‘Yes!’?
> They are going to do it!
> Please Rosie, a bit more detail?
> I am not sure if I can spill this to you guys…
> well you did already rosie grl, I bet you are talking about the second day of sould
> day of souls
> Day of Souls, you mean, B! A bit of respect! OK I may not be always in favor of all that is happening now but STATE is something special, admit it
> Hail STATE! Are you sure Rosie? After last year I will make sure to be there, I will… wow
> Well nothing has been confirmed yet, Hermit, but I guess they also really cannot forego organizing it,
> Dead right they can’t! we’ve been waiting for a year practically! hail STATE
> waitimg for another massacre? gotta be kiddin me. hell no
Irene keeps herself as occupied as she can with preparing a organizational structure for the elections, full of guilt at organizing the possibility of S.' replacement without Her Grace’s explicit consent. She had attempted to communicate it to S. telepathically, but there had been no response from Her Grace. Only a silence, chilling her more than anything. ‘The Bearer of STATE still shows no interest at all, not for anything. She does not wake to sudden activity, does not stir from her place in the Chamber of STATE. Strange, the Day of Souls was so important for her last year…’
Irene looks at S. and wonders at her own feeling of loss, so strong even though she has never really known her. She mourns her all the same, a fleeting sense of S.' loneliness, her deep absence of contact with anybody. In the beginning, when they had just met and S. had been Bearer for just some days, Irene’s presence had meant something for Her Grace, had generated strong reactions. Irene had been able to save Her Grace’s life, and Irene was still proud of these moments. ‘But now… and to be honest, for quite some time now, the Bearer had not seemed to need me anymore. There have only been brief moments of contact,’ like after the tortures Irene refuses to remember or think about. ‘My last conversation with S. has been ages ago… Is she still there, somewhere within the silent and hard husk of the Bearer?'
Irene smiles wryly as she glances at the silent Bearer. ‘To be around Her Grace is like being next to an active computer, rendering and manipulating information without any monitor, making the outcome valid only within its system…’ So little of S. is left, though Irene still occasionally feels her presence. ‘Or is that just a memory, stirring? Or even a construction, a projection of my own humanity, a human-ness I expect to see in her and therefore find?’
Johan Delaware looks around Mr. De Brown’s home office briefly before he sits down. He is not surprised by the statesman’s impeccable taste, but he is a bit taken aback at one photo especially: a much younger De Brown with a young man who must be the President before he reached that title; and a very shriveled old man with a cape on a realWood throne. ‘One of the few pictures of the former Bearer! Incredible, De Brown met the former Bearer… who does not look well at all, this is probably just before he was relieved. Can it be true that the President was to be the new Bearer?’ He stops thinking to stand and shake hands with Mr. De Brown who just entered.
“Well, Johan, good of you to come. Funny how people can know each other for years and then meet each other, at last. Welcome! Can I get you something?"
Johan accepts a coffee, knowing he must be sharp now. Sarah had informed him about De Brown’s past and it is clear that he is the key to a strong network. As the morning progresses, the shrewd questions of Mr. De Brown do give him pause, but if he is not mistaken, the atmosphere becomes more and more confidential. ‘This might work… Yes,’
An hour later, when Sarah joins both men for a lunch together, she has to use all her control to keep her facial muscles from smiling. ‘Just as I thought… I just knew they might like each other better if only given a bit more time together. Now see what De Brown can do for us,’
For the tenth time, Martin checks the clandestine polls and sees his rating is still sloping downwards, gently but consistently. ‘Blake has to do something!’ he thinks angrily, but Blake does not answer his calls as quickly as he used to. “At a loss already,’ Martin thinks, trying to think of what else he can do. He knows he needs Blake, and this enrages him more than he admits. He thinks back to the time, only a month ago, when he could go to Blake’s house uninvited, drink his best wines and fuck his Rosie. ‘Wasn’t the most pretty one, but a good lay I must say… Still, I can get better, I will get better’ and he sits back daydreaming about what he would do as president. ‘Ah,’ he opens his pocket ‘corder and looks up his favorite images. ‘That Irene with her full lips opened, presenting a nice hole,’ he thinks as he unzips.
“Your Excellency, with all due respect: I cannot believe that you do have time for organizing this filthy Day of Souls, but do not move to organize the Elections!” Irene rises and looks down on Delaware, who stops moving in his chair, clearly aware that his words transgress etiquette. The Guards step closer but Irene indicates them to keep distance. She sits down again and looks him in the eye. “I understand your hurry, Delaware, but you know the New Constitution as well as I do. Until there is a chosen president, the Bearer of STATE decides the moment of elections, Her Grace will announce”
“And when will that be?” Johan Delaware is taken aback at the edge in his own voice; and softens his tone: “Er, Your Excellency, I am aware of the Constitution. But people need to know when elections will take place. These are the first elections ever! We will need to prepare,” but then he is interrupted by the decisive voice of the Secretary of STATE: “Yes, we need to prepare the elections, Minister, but first of all we do have another obligation to the people of STATE: the Day of Souls. You may not like it - and it is not my favorite ritual either as you may remember - but if we refuse the people this you know what ensues! We cannot have riots now, before we had the chance to regulate elections.” He bows his head as he realizes that what she says is true. “Forgive me, Your Excellency,” he says, “ehm, please forgive me my haste…” The Secretary says coolly: “You are right to remind me, Delaware, but at the moment the Day of Souls has priority;” before dismissing him with a subtle change of posture. He can sense the Guards’ indignation as he walks past them, happy that the times of the President and his DG at least are over.
Late that evening, while browsing through some STATE lore, Irene chances on a low-res picture of a former Bearer when he had been just relieved. Though she averts her eyes, they are drawn back to the image, her hand refusing to click away the picture. The former Bearer lies backwards, the head invisible, his body limp, half slumped backwards over some dead supplicants at a Day of Souls long ago. His belly shows, one huge pale scar where STATE had sucked the last energy out of him. ‘No! NO! no, no, no… Please, no…’ Irene tries to stop her mind screaming, rejecting this fate for S.. ‘This is not how she should end! This is too terrible, too grotesque…’ But the decision has already been made, and even the Secretary of STATE cannot oppose it, though she might well be held responsible for it by generations to come. Irene takes the heaviest drowsePill she dares to take and stumbles into a dark dreamless sleep.