In Anna’s house, somewhere in a sticky building in a poor area of town, the Captain and Irene sit on the hollow bed and watch the television. They have to watch, even if their whole being objects against what they are seeing. On all National TV channels, the same broadcast: the life assassination of the Bearer of STATE.
They have turned the sound down. It is insupportable to have the angry roar of the people, egged on by Martin’s populist words, invading their minds. It is unbearable to see the people of this nation, whom they had thought at least would have some understanding of the changes for the better that the Bearer had brought, to be this vindictive and aggressive towards STATE. Incredible to see how the clichés of Martin and his crowd mongers can reach this effect, and how he totally disowns every connection to Her Grace, how he totally lacks any gratitude or respect.
The Captain is sitting with his fists clenched, the knuckles yellowish, the jawbone set.
Irene sits half averted, half against him. She has not stopped crying and her face is red and swollen.
It is hard to see what is happening exactly, though the square is very well lit. Martin is visible in many a close-up, his mouth moving, his fist jutting outwards into the air. But it is hard to oversee the huge seething crowd in the relatively small space, its movement centered around something which is almost never visible, the crowd whirling like a group of predators, shredding their prey.
The Captain and Irene know that prey to be S.. They see the oily blood staining the people’s hands, feet, trunks, faces. Even with the sound off, they sense the ecstasy of the people, their unstoppable thirst for more. The camera zooms in on the core of the turmoil, and for some time faceless bobbing heads fill the frame. But then Irene gasps, as a grayish arm is flung upwards. People grab it eagerly, and pound onto it, diminishing it to pulp, with just some shards of bone remaining.
Irene screams and hides behind the Captain’s shoulder. “No! NO! Nonononono…"
He has to release his anger to stroke the nape of her neck, her shoulders.
Irene sobs and sobs, wetting his neck with her tears.
She has just turned again to glimpse at the screen, her hands half lifted in evasion, when they see the head of S.. Disconnected, it rolls over a small sudden clearing of the square. It stops, the eyes turned towards the camera, blind and metallic.
Irene shrieks, the Captain closes his eyes. As he gropes for the remote control to shut the TV off, people dive for the head and crush it. It flattens and crumbles almost too easily; instead of brains, a white, almost creamy substance mingles with the bone splinters. ‘These are no human brains…’ He leaves the set on and forces himself to watch, as Irene cries and cries with her head averted. ‘No part of the Bearer will be left by the time they have spent their anger and frustration. But what will happen to STATE?'
There, a glimpse. STATE is lying on a bloody mass unrecognizable as human form. The camera zooms in while more people jump onto it and trample it, and STATE somehow seems to get deflated. As the camera tries to follow it as it is being dragged around by elated and clearly screaming people, its surface is slowly getting dented and torn. For a long time, it withstands the peoples’ anger, keeps its form. But then, drops of a weird liquid form on its surface. People are suddenly afraid, some withdraw and they are yelling something, but the sound is still turned off. Then, as the camera gets a good view of STATE, oozing liquid, some of it seeping between the pavement tiles of the square, there is a sudden
All at once, everything is extinguished: no more TV, no more telephone or dataFlow connections, no more transfers of any kind, no more light, no more heating, nothing. Only everywhere, on all radios on TVs on all locations of dataNet, one unstoppable broadcast, half hidden in white noise: Variations of the White Symphonies.
Over and over and over and over and over, the clarinet’s cry echoing in the void, circling around the notes, murmuring and dying into a silence, already pregnant with the next note crying out again and again in a pitch slightly altered, a timing shifted, and then heavy and thrumming, until it exhausts its rhythm and falls back again into silence, a shrieking silence
piercing people’s piece of mind
if they still had some.
Still facing the dead television monitor, the Captain and Irene sit, close together. Behind the thin curtains, the sky becomes a strange, unbearable white.
They do not go and blind their eyes by it, they do not move. They cannot speak. They dare not blink. When they do so, by habit, the image of what was left of S. forces itself in their minds. It is terrible. The white shard of bone sticking from what was left of the arm. The last look of the blind metallic eyes. The head, reduced to pulp.
They stare in front of themselves, then blink compulsively, and stare again. They sit there mutely, as the room gradually gets colder. The white fades and then a violent rain starts thumping down, banging on the window panes as if they need to be broken.
Irene starts to shiver. When her teeth are clattering, the Captain softly disentangles himself from her tight embrace. He takes off his shoes and hers, then opens the bed covers and tucks them both in, fully dressed. They huddle against each other. The Captain holds her head, caresses her shoulders. It is good that he is not here alone. He is happy he is here with her. Now, the atrocities of S.' end are counterbalanced by the simple presence of Irene, and the normality of them together, finally, in a smelly room, in an incredibly cheap bed, sloping inwards and forcing their bodies against each other. But Irene is crying and crying and crying, her body spasms by gasps of grief.
Irene inhales haltingly, tries to calm herself enough to speak.
With all her might, she stops long enough to whisper: “And… And I… I do not even know your name…”
Surprised, the Captain holds her slightly tighter. He had expected her grief to be related to S., not to something this trivial, this personal. He had not used his name in a long, a very long time. It felt awkward, voicing it, but the intimacy also was very consoling. Finally. “My name is David, Irene… David Radwood.” And in a very brief, almost ungraspable flash, he hears his mother call for him: “David, David, come in, now! Dinner is ready!"
“Oh… David…” Irene says, and starts sobbing afresh. “I… I am so… sorry… I am so… sorry.” David holds her gently and strong. He dares not speak. He dares not hope.
Irene sits a bit straighter, seems to get a hold on herself. She draws some breath and calms slightly, takes a corner of the bed sheets and wipes at her face clumsily. He knows her so well, he knows the lashes will be sticking onto each other because of her tears.
“Oh… David… I feel so… guilty…"
“Irene, please… You know S. would not want you to”
“But… I am so… happy… How can I sit here feeling happy when she has been murdered so brutally, so inhumanely, and we sat there, watching…"
And as happiness explodes in David, the contrast with the violence they had just witnessed and a dawning realization of his loss of status makes his heart tear. His happiness is chafing, freedom colliding with loss. ‘Who can I be without Bearer, without S.? Who can I be, now I am no longer Captain? What good can I do now, with the state ruled by that nitwit Martin?’
It is hard to accept that for some time to come, he will be without powers, and without opportunities to do anything professionally. He had been an excellent guard all his life, but he has had no other job experience.
He has many connections, of course, but at the moment no one will be willing to burn their fingers on him. Without context, without frame in which to function, he is empty. And then he realizes that this is the emptiness of freedom. The meaninglessness of being without an occupation, without a role. But then again this displaced happiness surges through him again: he is not alone. ‘I am with her. With Irene, at long last. For this reason S. forced us to leave, together. She has known all along, of course.’ He strokes Irene’s hair, very gently. “Irene… Don’t feel guilty… I think she sent us away on purpose… She knew, Irene… She knew she was going to die… and she wanted us to be together when it happened. She has set us free.”
And in the dark, Irene hugs him. She strokes his neck, touches the shape of his scull that her eyes have traced in secret so many times, the hard hairs under the skin of his jaw, the muscular body, she smells the traces of his emotions in his sweat. He is so real now, so much there, and she tries to disregard the blinks with images of S. getting torn to pieces by the anger of those people. It is so good to let go of being Secretary of STATE. It is good to be Irene Delwin again, finally. To be just Irene, in the arms of David.
They lie together and David has never slept in a room so cheap and rundown and filthy as this one, feeling so empty and lost and fulfilled as this.