With a disappointed jerk, the supplicant takes his hands off STATE and looks down on the Bearer. ‘Huh?’ The Bearer has just toppled backwards, cold and dead. Around, people gasp and fall silent.
“NO!” In the Palace, behind the monitor, Irene sees S. fall down like the corpse she saw in the data files.
“NO!!” The Captain rushes in and reviews the broadcast, fuming. Though he had in a way foreseen something like this happening to Her Grace, he cannot accept it to really happen now he sees it. With a loud voice, he orders the broadcast to be aborted, but Irene counters his order. “Captain! No. We have to show the people what is happening, or they will imagine worse. We have to trust STATE that this is what should be happening. STATE is not transferred yet, but maybe it will be shortly. We cannot oppose the ways of STATE... Hail STATE... Let’s go there, maybe we can do something for S.?”
In the Hall of Souls, Jan is bowing over Her Grace, feeling time move clumsily as he does not know what to do. Her Grace is cold. She does not move, does not breathe nor does she have any heart-rate, as usual. Still, she appears to be really dead now, she is without any form of life. With careful hands, Jan touches STATE, and notwithstanding the circumstances is surprised at the smoothness and iciness of its surface. STATE does not react on him at all.
Jan pushes his hands under her stiff body and holds the small of Her Grace’s back firmly, like he had done last year. The Bearer does not react at all.
He tries to pry open the hard lips, to pour in some STATE water, but they seem welded together. ‘I need help. Now! But Artur Werther is dead. The Captain is with Her Excellency at the Palace,’ though his earPhone informs him they are on their way over. ‘They may be too late,’ The two Guards accompanying them are new and have never experienced any such thing and they stand there staring aghast.
A man approaches through the crowds: “Whatever is the matter? Maybe I can help? I am a doctor,” he says in a friendly tone, but his voice has a harsh edge that Jan does not miss. He looks up from where he is kneeling close to the Bearer. The face is above him, a dignified trimmed Doctor beard hiding a strong jaw-line, intelligent eyes glinting.
“No thank you,” Jan says, but the man is already bending over, opening an old-fashioned leather bag. “NO!” Jan shouts, activating the Guards, who grab hold of the man.
“But I am a doctor! I can help!” the man is saying. Looking at his face, Jan doubts his own suspicion, but then he sees the man from aside. The nose is jutting out in an unmistakable fashion. ‘I have seen this face... Long, long ago, and only in passing... In... a... hospital, yes... So maybe the man was a doctor after all? No. This is... Jason. The man Her Grace had been intent on to save. One of her former friends. The martyr claiming to be the next Bearer’
“Keep him away from Her Grace!” Doctor Jan orders decisively. The Guards bend over to hold the man more strongly, when he suddenly escapes their grip. With a practiced push, he imbalances both and he throws himself onto Her Grace clawing for STATE. Without pause, both his arms pull at STATE.
“No!” Doctor Jan and both Guards dive onto the man, when his body goes limp, his hands and belly stuck on STATE, the knife sunk half into the silicon material, which suddenly has a glow.
“Back! BACK OFF!” Doctor Jan shouts at the Guards and they have barely let go of the man when a white light flashes and pulses through the man’s hands.
Jan looks on dejected, unable to do anything against what is happening now. ‘Is STATE transferring to him? Will he be the new Bearer? Oh, not that! A new Bearer is the last Martin needs’
Among the people some start to chant: “Jason, Bearer. Hail Jason, Bearer of STATE! Jason, Bearer! Hail the new and holy Bearer of STATE! Hail the clean one, the Bearer of the People!” Around them, others cry out in disagreement, but the atmosphere precludes a break-out of violence. The white light is still pulsing through Jason’s hands. Time ticks on, second after second, until minutes have passed. When Jason does not rise triumphant, his followers become insecure, and the chanting dies down.
Everybody tries to see what is happening on the dais. Those who can, see the Bearer unmoving and Jason as well. STATE is still where it was, between the body of Her Grace and that of Jason lying on top.
But Jan sees the light has stopped and calls the Guards. They grab Jason and drag him off Her Grace. On the ground, Jason’s body is moving spasmodically and erratic, clearly in pain. Jan reflects and then understands what must have happened. While attempting to take over STATE, the whole of STATE has poured pulsing into his brains. His neural circuitry must have overloaded with the input. Jan’s mind tries to grasp what it must have meant: the gulf of hissing data, current and historical, images and numbers, letters of recommendation and notes of meetings, the departures of trains and all mobiPhone contact numbers, all tax forms and refunds, all dataCall exchanges, all securiNet names of government employees, of all policemen, of all whores, of all families, of all buildings, the numbers of all lantern posts, of all traffic lights, of all bus-stops, of all payCenters, of all lottery tickets, of all energyCards, of all’
Now Jason lies still, curled up like a big baby, sucking his fist, rocking.
“Lock him in a solitary cell at a mental hospital!” Doctor Jan orders, and one Guard binds the whimpering man, just to make sure. Some of close followers detach themselves from the crowd and follow their leader out, but it is clear that some of the people who were chanting for him just now, stay. Behind his monitor, the Captain frowns. ‘Have they changed their minds now they have seen him fail? Or will they disrupt the Day with violence?’ He orders more of his Security men to enter the Halls and monitor the crowd closely.
With Jason taken care of, Jan dares to turn and look at Her Grace. She seems alright... Though there are scratches on her shoulders and neck and on STATE, the knife had not been strong enough to harm STATE. The material is softly moving and mending, turning to darker gray again. But still, the Bearer does not move.
The people in the huge Hall of Souls are all silent, and look at the scene with anxiety.
They do not dare to move.
Jan remembers Doctor Werther, stroking STATE. Kneeling down again, he bows his head, tries to clear his mind of thoughts. Carefully, he puts his manicured hands on the surface of STATE, and rests them there. STATE does not react, no electrocution, no mind-frying, no white.
It seems inert, but Jan has the weird impression of stroking a stuck dataCom, one of these old-fashioned ones that purred and prattled while starting up slowly, taking enough time to allow him to get another coffee before work could be done on them. ‘But I have to keep my mind from wandering...’ He has no idea what his hands are supposed to do but he has read enough about STATE to know he cannot afford too many doubts. STATE reacts on the mental and psychological state of the people around, and he has to steer it out of some impasse now. An idea occurs to him.
Bowing his head, he softly withdraws his hands. Jan stands and looks at the people. There are so many of them, the small heads bobbing in the grey light of the Hall of Souls.
“People of STATE!” Jan says, and clears his throat nervously. Some people do not feel themselves to be ‘of STATE’ at all, and any resentment will spoil what he hopes for. He is not used to speak in public, but to his surprise, his voice carries far, reaches the corners of the huge halls, the glass columns propagating the sound.
Straightening, Doctor Jan smoothens his velvet jacket before speaking again: “People!
STATE needs your help. Please kneel and talk to STATE. Do it in whatever form you feel like: aloud or in your thoughts, murmur the prayers of STATE, sing to STATE, think of STATE, desire STATE to waken. This is the only way to repair the ritual, the ritual of this Day of Souls.”
A hush as people take in his words, and then, some kneel down. Following their example, more and more people kneel, until in the end, none wish to remain standing.
A soft murmur runs through the Hall and builds.
Jan kneels near STATE and softly puts his hands back on the smooth cold surface. He takes some time to allow his mind to soften towards STATE, then starts to massage the metal softly from inside outwards.
When Her Excellency enters the Hall of Souls, she is enveloped in a growing, humming sound. She halts reverently, tears brimming in her eyes.
From all the people, soft vocals merge, they enhance one another, strengthen each other, embolden each other. The voices twine together to form a tapestry of chants, a sound like the sea breaking on the shore. Also the pillars sing, the roof, the whole structure of bodies and air, glass and flesh, like one huge entity, humming, swishing, trembling, the sound growing louder and louder, until the ribcages shudder with its intensity.
Jan is kneeling near the still figure of the Bearer. Under his hands, STATE softens. Jan continues to stroke, content to have called in the help of the people. ‘My unruly mind could never have concentrated enough otherwise... Hail STATE... Hail S., the Bearer of STATE...’
Suddenly, high above the chant of the people, a piercing cry, like a seagull over the waves.
Almost, Irene looks up, then recognizes the sound as the one slipping into the corridor when Her Grace was working with Caspar the musician. The White Symphonies. Irene has also heard this music in her dreams and often when thinking of S.. She had never consciously connected the penetrating wavering tone with STATE, never until now. Not aware of being glanced at, she opens her arms. “Come back, S.!” she whispers, and those around her, recognizing Her Excellency, copy her. “Come back, STATE! Come back... Come back! Come back, STATE!”
The high cry seems to materialize, to concentrate above the low dais.
Doctor Jan carefully retracts his hands from STATE. Slowly, Irene advances, the whispering call for STATE intensifying. “Come back, S.!” “Come back, STATE! Come back! Come back, STATE! Come back!”
The cry becomes a wail, trembling in their bodies, penetrating all minds painfully and then, visible for almost all, the body of the dead Bearer shudders and heaves. Like a puppet strung upwards, she jerks upwards on her knees, then sinks back to her kneeling position. She never opens her eyes or moves a muscle. Thick grey oily drops streak from Her Grace’s closed eyes.
The yellow gold, the lead-like tears, and the lighter metalloid skin collide weirdly, and people feel they are looking at a doll, instead of a living being. Her face is even paler than before, and then, for the first time on that Day, Her Grace’s eyes open.
The people. The people of STATE. S. allows the image to enter her.
All these people have come for STATE.
All these people have come to STATE, for this Day of Souls. To be near STATE, to be redeemed by STATE, to assess STATE.
They have just called on STATE to come, and she has come.
And she is the one to bear it, for them. She is the one elected to steer STATE.
And she has.
She has delivered them from the President, she has saved them from Matil, she has swallowed the red stone forever. She has balanced the powers, and now, almost now, she will return the powers to them. All these people have come for her.
She is worth their attention.
She is worth their admiration.
She is worth their love.
From the center of the thin oil-stained white, something dark red and reddish brown and light grey and bluish white blossoms. It grows and grows, unfurling, the rounded shapes articulating into functions, details emerging. A heart: pumping liquid through a growing network of arteries and veins, empty lungs, the bluish coil of bare intestines, the purple liver, the flat stomach, the fine lines of nerves, the curved ribs, the pile of back bones, the bowl of the skull, the protruding long bones, connected by mobile cartilage to smaller and finer ones, the ribbed red muscles, and all enveloped by a thin layer of silicon skin.
The Bearer’s arms hang still, but she moves her fingers, slightly. With a small pull she positions them on her lap, framing STATE.
The last drop of oil wavers on her cheekbone. Her eyes are completely white but in them, tiny pupils seem to open. She blinks and the tiny movement of her eyelashes adds something soft to Her Grace, wiping all ideas of a murderer aside as presumptuous and false. “Your Grace...” the people whisper. “Hail STATE... Hail the Bearer of STATE...”
Her Excellency advances and kneels before the Bearer. She bows her head. “Your Grace...”
A hush, when the Bearer lifts her metalloid hands and rest them on Her Excellency’s blonde hair for a moment, in a mute blessing. Then, the Secretary rises and kneels behind the Bearer.
The Captain makes to guard her, but then realizes he would tower over both Her Grace and Her Excellency, so he draws to stand behind them both, so as not to disrupt the ritual. The Hall is very quiet and serene, and he has never felt so safe in a public space as now. The tension in his shoulders seems to flow down and out of his body.
A collective sigh. The Bearer closes her eyes.
Doctor Jan whispers: “Let the ritual resume!” Hesitantly, the supplicants resume to approach STATE.
S. awaits their hands, feels them touch.
Both inside and outside STATE.
Both in the white and in human deprivation.
Both free of constraints and burdened with grief and pain and loss and worthlessness.
Both binder and freer.
Both human and inhuman.
Both dead and alive, a bag of flesh, penetrated.
Skin hardened to an average of 3 millimeters all over. Enveloping.
230 joints. Narrow boned fingers flexing.
Mass of human cells, connected to form tissues, combined to form systems and circuits.
6 heartbeats every minute, pumping 3.8 liters of metalloid blood,
feeding one object of immeasurable weight.
10.04 million nerve cells firing in an enhanced pattern.
22.543 lines containing 261.944 words.
1.453.288 characters (with spaces).
1.197.172 characters (no spaces).
Black marks on white, entwining, lining the page, blossoming into images.
The white. Crashing through endless smooth white walls. Red and white. Encased in plaster.
White structures enveloping, grating her into a hologram.
STATE is born again.
STATE has regained power and eliminated the unfit ruler.
STATE has destroyed the symbols of his rule.
STATE has won the love and trust of the people.
STATE has lost herself in icy repetition, over and over, and, passing through pain, has reinvented herself through friendship.
STATE has twice fulfilled the cleansing ritual, the Days of Souls; so, twice, STATE has been subjected to the infiltration by the people, and has evolved in consequence.
STATE has swallowed the stone, and thus fragmented the opposite forces, dissolving the dialectic power structure shaping this country’s politics for centuries.
STATE has made an immaterial shape to capture her essence, and from now on, people will be able to reproduce her essence, every time the White Symphonies are performed, or reproduced, in whatever form.
STATE has changed, but will have to change even more to fulfill her final potential. This state will have to let go of STATE, to become one with it, at last. STATE will release its contents, to encompass the whole nation.
The people of STATE will have to be taught to regard themselves as separate from STATE, as worthy carriers of volition. The people of STATE will learn how to break their subjugation to STATE.
Someone will show them the real nature of STATE.
Someone will show them how to destroy STATE.
Someone will show them how to see STATE in her true form, finally.
When the daylight has turned to gray, dissolving the volume of the columns, the people bow and solemnly withdraw from Her Grace, the Bearer of STATE. Irene sighs her relief. ‘No one has taken over the burden of STATE... No one could,’ Tired from an empathic living through the ritual, Irene takes Her Grace’s elbow, but the Bearer stands lightly and opens her white eyes to look into Irene’s. ‘I am back, Irene,’ the high voice whispers in her mind. ‘I am back.’