On February the 11th in the 2nd year of the Bearer’s Reign, the sky is overcast, a dark grey resembling dormant STATE material. Jan rises early and dresses with care. ‘Today I will be the one to keep an eye on everything, with Werther gone, I do hope Her Grace is up to it and will come when we call on her… But well, let’s stick to my role… Hail STATE! It is the Day of STATE…’
Contrary to the Captain’s worries, it had not been difficult at all to rouse Her Grace and make her dress and go outside. Like a robot, Her Grace had risen when they had entered the Chamber of STATE, had followed them to her private chambers, had allowed herself to be dressed in the same dress as last year; and then had turned to walk out of the Palace barefoot. No sign of consciousness, no hint of recollection or any human emotion. Looking at her, Irene fears what the people will feel, when they see her thus from close by. ‘She is so alien, like an object, and not a humane bringer of peace and democracy at all… It is good the Captain has taken some precautions, even without Matil we do not want to many people to see…’ The Captain had categorically forbidden cameras or binoculars, and had with some difficulty ensured the press would cover the proceedings only from afar. Many Guards both in uniform and without mingle with the crowd, alert on any trespass and any attack.
As the Bearer of STATE steps outside, a hush of anticipation. The Bearer kneels on the Carrier and then, the Secretary of STATE and the Captain come out of the Palace and commence to bedeck her with the Jewels of Mercy.
While Irene disentangles the gold and lowers the necklaces one by one over Her Grace’s neck, she is sadly conscious of performing a goodbye ritual. ‘Never saw it like that last year, but it is clear for all to see… This can be her last hour as Bearer, maybe even the last hours of her life; and we all just look on,’ Irene thinks as she steps back to allow Her Grace to be carried off by the people.
Still, S. is not conscious of the changes of her surroundings, not even of the movements of her body shell. But something is changing in the white. The white is starting to pull at her, pull at her in all directions simultaneously: up and down, sideways left and right, in all corners. Anticipation builds in her, more like a stretching instead of an emotion. She is opened and waits for the anticipation to reveal its course.
The people lift the Carrier and carry the Bearer of STATE away from the Palace. Irene watches the tiny figure of S., bobbing over the heads of the multitude of people. ‘It is out of my hands now, and I have to lay my trust in STATE… Trust STATE… Trust the Bearer of STATE…’ She looks at the crowd turning slowly to follow Her Grace. There are more people here than last year, and the atmosphere is very different. A large group of people is more devoted to the Bearer now than ever before. For them, she is nothing less of a new Messiah, come to full powers with her radiating entrance revealing the truth in the corrupted Parliament. Though some forces in the Church of STATE strive to keep her as human as possible, more ardent believers see S. as the new incarnation of STATE, returned to save them. Listening to the White Symphonies is part of their liturgy, and some enter trance when they do.
This veneration in return has spawned active haters from different fronts. The former freedom fighters, led by Jason, do not miss a chance to bring the Bearer in discredit by active negative media messages, though they as yet refrain from direct terrorist attacks. Martin Rislers, leading his Party for the People against any powers for STATE, is still more popular than polls show, his followers awaiting his next move. Clearly supported by his wife Sarah, Johan Delaware had at the last moment entered his candidacy for the upcoming elections, whereas Irene is happy she did not manage to pull herself together enough to do so. ‘Many people are disappointed, Mr. De Brown is especially, which hurts… really hurts… But I could not… I cannot’ Though there are more opponents against STATE in number this year, they are not into turning this Day of Souls into a massacre, though Irene is less than sure about Jason’s group. Last year’s active core, Matil’s men, seem still to be without a leader.
Irene looks at the throng of people receding from her. ‘So many of them, more than last year… Are they a menace, then?’ Many common people have turned against the Bearer after the publications of her brutal strangulation of the Countess, and some of them are here to measure to what extent evil shows in Her Grace. The White Symphonies have resulted in very mixed reactions, from trance-like veneration to outcry against it as a form of state manipulation. Some people are here hoping to catch some strands of it, at times seeping from STATE. But, as last year, the majority of people is here for the ritual. The Day of Souls has become indispensable for them. Some are hoping for it to end their lives, some view it as an annual cleansing, some have come to relive the experience of last year, or of the white at Parliament or the Bell’Etoile. ‘So many reasons, so many points of view…’
S. is completely unaware of the people.
The white stretches flat in all directions simultaneously, stretching until it is taut like a hide hung to dry, like a canvas impregnated with lead white. Stretched to her limits, she has expanded even more, and she is as thin as a cell’s membrane in the white. She can see the nothingness oozing through the pores in the white, the space within the mass.
The anticipation has found an explanation: she knows something important is due to happen to her. She is to receive the people for the Day of Souls. But the memory of last year has vanished and the words mean nothing, so she does not wait nor await anything.
She is just there, painfully tight.
Without any problems, the procession enters the beautiful new Hall of Souls and the ritual begins. In the bustle of supplicants, a line slowly forms. Excitement builds, but people do not push.
When the first supplicant approaches the dais, she cannot but conclude that Her Grace has completely lost all humanity. ‘So what they say is true!’ This, in her opinion, only makes the visit more worthwhile. ‘Maybe I can be the one to become the next B’ But she cannot even finish the thought. She is dead the moment she touches STATE.
A weird pricking feeling, a tiny distraction in her side, before the void again fully occupies S..
The man next in line does not care about the Bearer’s looks or condition. He is simply grateful for the short blink of white before he dies in peace.
The next person takes his place, bows before softly seeking STATE…
With Jan monitoring the flow and the Bearer, the ritual unfolds much like it did last year. People are concentrated and pray to STATE, and again the hush of so many people present gives Jan a chill. He has the STATE-cleansed water ready for when the Bearer falters. But Her Grace does not give any sign of registering what happens.
The expanse of white is so profound, that S. can easily miss whatever drops leak out.
It is only after some time that she becomes even aware of the presence of humans around her. So many of them! 14.853.
What are they here for?
What do they want?
Out of idle curiosity, she briefly allows the consciousness of the clamoring of their thoughts, pattering like raindrops on the thin fabric of her being.
Again they are here.
Again they want something from her…
She is about to submerge herself again when some thought-voice calls out to her.
Pffff. What human is calling her this time? Probably Irene or the Captain. Why can they not leave her alone? Why can they not accept the fact that she belongs here, now. That she steers STATE from here…
But..? This is not Irene, nor the Captain. It is someone she has known, yes… It is the voice that called her so often. But who? The question makes her pay more attention to the thoughts around her.
‘S.! Hey! S.! Seven day bamboozle!'
something in her. It breaks through an undefined barrier and brings something to life that she had not thought to be capable of. Something she thought to have discarded, finally, to live without. A life rough and uncertain, pain and deprivation and suspicion and fear defining the boundaries of her existence…
Not there again…
S. fuses with the white. She wills herself to become as flat and transparent as she can, stretching even more, as far as possible without tearing.
Phew… Just in time, she thinks,
but the fact that she is relieved about this triviality bothers her vaguely.
It is then
that she becomes aware
of the leaking.
Pushing itself through the fabric of her being, an oily substance.
It seems only an incident, at first: an ever so slight discoloration. But when she turns her attention to her other side, she sees a drop of dirty liquid, hanging bulbously on the whiteness of her surface.
What is this?
The thought presses more drops through her surface. Grayish fat oozes through her boundaries, and changes the flatness of her skein.
- ‘I know you are there! You’
Again that thought-voice. STATE casts about, trying to connect to the information regarding this voice… Of course the voice of the person might be different from the sound of his thoughts. A man… Yes, a man…
Flash! A face, sallow on the white hospital cushion.
Strand S. suddenly remembers his existence, especially her last memory of him, leaving the hospital angry and disappointed.
- ‘You killer! You should never have touched STATE!'
Jason, the betrayer. STATE clearly sees how he had planned to infiltrate the freedom fighters’ group, how he had maneuvered himself in the position to know all he needed to, how he targeted her as the one to survive, the one to pay for his betrayal when repercussions would come. And with the memories comes another self. Her body grey, bothersome luggage holding her captive. Her presence something she would rather forget about, leaving no trace with others. Her mind always on the brink of fight or flight, suspicious towards all human beings, not trusting anyone and least of all herself. Her rage against life, sublimated into anger the state of the nation, hate for the person causing it. The P…
And her whole being, stretched into a thin layer of just coherent molecules, gives a scream of alarm. The grey oil is entering her from every side. The white is stained, and there is no more quiet.
- ‘You! You should never have lifted STATE! You were not meant to. Your hands are dripping with blood, S., and you never understood the slightest compassion. You are not even a person, S.! You are nobody. You are no one. You are nothing. You are a parasite living off our energy! How can YOU lead this country? How can you be the one to bear STATE?
How dare you? How DARE YOU!
You misfit, you hypocrite, you good-for-nothing filth, vermin, you terrorist, you, destroyer of all things human, despicable object, the ruin of state!'
His aspersions fill her, the sharp strings of words slashing, tearing the fabric of her being, words she had known before, words activating the old ones, reverberating in her mind in a dirty melee of hate. Words calling her a monster to be destroyed swiftly, to be electrocuted to be starved, to be trampled, to be bled to death, to be annihilated…
- ‘Leave STATE for ever, S., return to your non-existence. Then we are safe from you! Leave STATE and die, S., leave STATE and die! Leave STATE and die.’ Her emptiness is split through and through by Jason’s words, the words that have filtered into her the past years, activating older structures, the ones STATE had never heard of.
He is telling her to leave STATE and die.
He is telling her to die.