Some author's notes:
1. It's pronounced "Fair-ah"
2. un-beta'd, all mistakes are mine
I remember, when I was very little, my sister had asked me what it was like.
"Do you feel different, when you're there?" She had begged me to tell her, she always thought that it was a great privilege when the Chamber wanted you. Just like all of the other Commons, she and my older brother were quite mislead when it came to the Chamber.
It took me a while to answer her, not because I had to think long about my response, but because I had been sworn to secrecy by the Head of the Chamber, I had to figure out what I could to say.
"Yes, it's... different." I had finally said. "It's not better, just different."
"Please, please tell me more." Roza begged. "You never say more than that."
"We're not allowed to." Our little brother, Peter, had said. He was wanted too. It was uncommon for a family to have more than a single wanted child, although the Harrison family had four out of five wanted.
By this point Julien -the oldest and the best of us- would usually steer the topic away from the Chamber and onto something less stressful. Even though he didn't know what the Chamber did to us, he knew that whenever we talked about them in from of Mom she would have another relapse, and no one wanted that.
Dad was wanted when he was a kid, but he wasn't that important so eventually the Chamber stopped calling him in regualarly, and he married Mom. When they called him next, over five years later, he was married to a common and had three children, Mom was pregnant with Peter. The Chamber took him and we hadn't seen him since.
I used to wonder why he was wanted. What he had.
The first time the chamber called me, I was four years old. All I knew about the chamber was that they made Farri go away for a few weeks at a time and when she came back she had nightmares, no one could talk to her except Julien.
She took me to the Chamber base for my first time and explained to the receptionist why she was with me.
"He is so young, he would not know where to go, he barely knows left from right."
The lady at the desk had seemed a little unsure, but she waved us both through. She knew Farri was also wanted, so she saw no trouble with my sister being called twice in three months.
The whole place was quite intimidating, and Farri seemed contrite and sorrowful as she led me to a large white room and left me alone. My nightmares started then, they never stopped.
Years passed, I got used to the nightmares. Farri was sixteen, I was ten. Roza was fourteen and Julien was seventeen. it was four months since I had come home from my last calling, and we were just starting to get into family life again, my nightmares had relinquished their tight hold on my nights and we were going to go to the history museum. Mom was happy because Farri and I were finally home at the same time. then the worst thing happened; they called Roza.
"Please, not my baby girl! Please, you already Want two!" Mom was crying, holding on to Roza's arm so tightly that her knuckles went white as chalk.
"The Chamber wants what it wants." The Caller said. "I can't do anything about that, you know what will happen if you keep her from them."
Mom sobbed harder, most likely thinking about Dad and the tragedy he had become.
"Please." She whispered again. "Not my baby girl."
Farri walked up to Mom and stood on tip-toes to whisper in her ear. Slowly Mom's fingers uncurled from their iron grip around Roza's arm. Slowly Mom's breathing evened out and her eyes lost their craze.
"Alright." She said, and Farri smiled remorsefully.
Farri took Roza's hand and, without a sound, they joined the caller and disappeared around the corner of the building.
Mom sat down heavily and Julien -ever the good child- ran to get her water.
"The first time is always the worst." I said to Mom. "The nightmares are the scariest."
My small try at reassurance didn't seem to help.
"I'm so sorry, Peter." Mom said. "I wish your father was here."
All my life, I never realized that the Chamber was what gave my older sister and younger brother nightmares. I had always thought that it was Dad's disappearance, or just imaginative minds coming up with wild death scenarios. It never occurred to me that part of the reason that they had such trouble sleeping, or that Mom always cried when they left, was because of the terrible things that were done to them since they were small.
Farri was ordered to leave me as soon as we entered the base, and, even though she hadn't been called, they whisked her off to an opposite end of the building right away. I was led through a maze of blank, white hallways so full of twists and turns that I later swore the very point of them was to get people lost.
I was finally stopped in front of a large door with the words "Evolution, Test #3" written in bold print on the front.
"Go in." My guide told me. She stayed in the hallway and I heard a key turn in the lock as the door closed behind me. I did not go but one step inside before I was looking about myself in a state of incredulity. There was technology in this room that I had only ever dreamed of, although I wasn't quite sure what it was. A large table was covered in beakers and jars with steaming or boiling fluids and preserved body parts. Running along the walls and ceiling were all sorts of wires and pipes, connecting two large, glass cylinders with systems outside the room. One cylinder was empty, and there was a label on it, stating that it was hollow. The other was filled with a green, gel-like substance that moved like wax in a lava-lamp. In the center of the fluid was a figure, a grown man curled up with his knees to his chest, like a baby. The label on that container said "Steven: ten years."
I started, and turned around to see a small, bald man with small, round spectacles, a little too quickly as I fell and knocked over a glass beaker with my elbow.
"I'm so sorry!" I yelped, rushing to clean up the small shards before he got angry.
"No need, Roza." The man said. "I have others. Please come here." He gestured to the vertical measurement system on the wall next to him and I hurried to comply with his request. "We just have to record a few things."
I stood for what seemed like hours, being pinched and prodded and pushed down and stretched out and weighed and measured. They tested my vision, my hearing, my intellect, my knowledge of history, my memory, my hearing, my touch, my smell, they even gave me a foul-tasting brew to see how I would react. I was unsuccessful in keeping down what was left of my breakfast. Finally I was taken back to the room in which I had started, where the same bald, bespectacled man waited for me.
"Hello, Roza." He greeted again. "How are you?"
I grumbled something about being tired and watched uninterestedly as he jotted something down on a clipboard that seemed to have suddenly appeared in his hand.
"Everything is set." He said, looking at me with a carnivorous glint in his eyes. "Please undress yourself."
His forehead creased and his mouth turned down in a frown.
"The time for modesty is not now. Please undress yourself." He repeated.
I slowly pulled off my clothing -still skeptical about the whole thing- and watched as he pressed a few buttons. The empty cylinder in the middle of the room was pulled upwards, leaving only the wires and the glass base on the ground.
"Good." The man said as he saw that I had taken off all of my clothes. "Please step into the circle."
"You're not going to turn me into that, are you?" I asked with disgust, pointing toward the man submerged in the green substance.
"It does not matter." The bald man said. "The Chamber demands complete subordination from the subjects. Especially the wanted. Now, step inside the circle."
When I had done as told he pressed a button and the glass slowly encased me. I watched dismally as the green jelly pooled around my toes and slowly filled up the cylinder until I was completely under. The man in the other one was labelled "Steven," that was my father's name.
I came back from the Chamber a month later. Peter had been called again and so it was only Mom and Julien who greeted me with chicken soup and salad when I returned home.
"Roza is still not back?" I asked them. Mom's eyes filled with tears that were not shed. Julien painfully shook his head.
"First calls are often long." I tried to reassure myself, even though I knew that they were doing something with my little sister that they had never done to to Peter or me.
Peter came back after another two weeks. Roza was still gone.
Julien turned eighteen. Roza didn't come home. Relief Day came and went, and Roza missed our country's celebration of freedom from the old government. We waited throughout the summer with hopeful hearts and miserable minds for our youngest sister to come home. She never did.
"Will Roza be sent back to us soon?" Julien asked the Caller the next time he came to collect me. "It's been five months."
"I'm afraid I don't know." The man said nervously. "I'm just a Caller. They don't tell us these things."
Three months later, Peter and I had been called and come home again. We had lost hope of seeing Roza.
"Just like Steven." Mom would often say. "What did she do that made her just like Steven?"
Mom was relapsing again. Farri caught her in the bathroom with a knife in her hand. There were already three cuts in her arm. Roza needed to come home soon. It had been nine months, the chamber didn't usually keep their wanted that long.
Julien had taken to going home right after school to take care of Mom. She could barely get around the house without him. He said it was just like when Dad left, except worse.
All I saw was green. Every day, every hour, every minute. Green, green, green. It felt like years since I'd last been outside, or even seen the sun. I dearly missed the sun. I hadn't eaten in all the time that I had been in the tube, but somehow my hunger was sated at the end of each day.
Sometimes the bald, bespectacled man came into the room to watch me. I saw him through all of the green, staring at me with that carnivorous look and a satisfied smile on his face. Sometimes other's came in with him. Some days dozens of men and women flowed in and out of the room, gawking at the girl in green and her male counterpart in the tube across from her. I still moved sometimes, if only to try and stretch my muscles, but the cylinder was restricting and I only ever got to move my arms up, above my head. The man in the other tube stayed in the same position, curled up day after day, night after night.
I saw Farri one day. The bald man took her into the room and told her to look at the man in the tube. She did, and then she turned around and saw me. She tried to talk to me. Two big men with guns came and took her away. I didn't see her again.
A long time later there was a big crowd in the room. People were pressed along the walls, sipping cocktails and eagerly waiting for something. I didn't know what, though it was clear they were impatient. The bald man stood in front of them, next to the man in the other tube. He was talking to all of the people and it took me a while to see that the man in the tube was awake. He was standing upright and surveying the room. He looked confused.
After almost four hours of talking to the crowd, the bald man pushed some buttons and the green jelly in the other tube started to drain away, revealing pruny green flesh that was pocked with goose-pimples. The man sagged against the glass of the cylinder and when that was lifted away he collapsed to the ground. The people in the room started clapping. The bald man looked happy. I closed my eyes. I was envious of the other man because he was out and I was not. He got to see the sun and I did not. All I had was green.
Four months ago Dr. Kawlski brought me to a room with two giant green tubes in them. In one, he explained, was a man who had been in stasis for a little over ten years. The green liquid inside the tube contained photosynthetic cell-like structures that thrived off of the artificial light provided and made enough food to feed an army. When the man was lacking in nutrients, the sugars diffused through his skin.
I had turned around out of curiosity, to see the other contents of the room. Roza was in the other tube. I tried to talk to her, I called her name and screamed at her to answer. I pounded my fists on the glass and threw my body against the tube. She just stared at me blankly, as if she didn't recognize who I was. When the security carried me out, she followed us with her eyes and smiled.
I didn't get called very often after that.
Mom started to lock herself in the bathroom. She would come out at dinnertime with bandaged wrists and assume we couldn't see. She tried to clean up after herself, but her vision had never been good and she left driec blood in between the tiles on the floor. Julien stayed home with her as much as he could. Nothing helped. She needed Roza back.
Peter turned eleven two months ago. Mom didn't remember. We didn't celebrate it but Julien got him a history book. Peter liked history books.
I didn't feel anything. our family was dying. No one communicated with eachother. Mom was hurting herself and Farri just sat in her room, staring at Roza's bed against the opposite wall and crying silently. I never thought that losing an annoying older sister would hurt that much. Nothing the Chamber had ever done to me compared to the hole ripped in my chest where Roza used to be.
The man from the tube came back. Even though he was free, he came back to the room and stood in front of my cylinder for a long time. I smiled at him. He waved at me. Then the bald man came in.
He started shouting at the man from the tube. I tried to read his lips, but I didn't get much.
"What...you...here? ...your room... nothing...rest...not for you!"
The man from the tube waved at me as he was pushed out.
He came back again. I knew he wasn't supposed to, especially during the night (I could tell because the lights were dimmed), but he snuck into the room and stood in front of me again and just smiled. He looked so nice. He stared for a long time at the sign hanging on my cylinder, his forehead creased and his mouth turned into a scowl of concentration. Then a light in his head suddenly went off and he looked at me with frightened surprise, then back to the sign.
Roza? He mouthed. I nodded. His frown deepened.
He didn't come back for a long time after that. I started to think that I had imagined him. That I had imagined the sun and my sister and mother and brothers, they were all in my head, made up stories to pass the time while I was stuck in the green.
'But how would you know colors if all you've seen is green?' It was a question I constantly asked myself, just as a reminder that the sun was real, and my family too.
I had begun to lose hope of ever seeing the light of another day when the man from the tube came back a third time. He was different though. He looked much stronger, much more alert. There was a hammer in his hands.
He rushed into the room and waved at me. I was ready to smile at him when I realized that he was waving me back, to the opposite side of the tube. Then he rushed up to my cylinder and started to hammer on the glass. Every hit was like an earthquake on my skull. I huddled on the bottom of the cylinder and covered my ears with my hands. So long had it been since I had heard something other than the flow of my blood and the beating of my heart.
One crack in the glass was all it took. Suddenly the cylinder was broken and the green was all over the floor. I closed my eyes as I fell to the ground, even though I had longed for more color, it had been such a long time since I could see anything other than the muted green in which I had been placed.
A blanket was wrapped around me and strong arms scooped up my shaking body.
"Shh, Roza, don't cry." He said. "Daddy's here. I've got you." He ran and ran and ran. I didn't open my eyes for the fear of getting sick on his chest but his hold on me never wavered.
There was a terrible wailing sound ringing throughout the building and the sound of running footsteps on metal floors echoed through the halls. There was shouting, lots of shouting and I opened my eyes to find a group of armed street-men surrounding us, guarding us from the chaos around. The white Chamber base had fallen and one more door remained between us and the outside.
"Sun." I whispered. My voice was almost nonexistent from disuse and it took a few tries to get it to sound like a word. The man from the tube nodded and walked to the doors.
"Come on, Roza. Let's go outside." He carried me through the streets until we reached the edge of the town, then he kept on walking and didn't stop until he had brought me to the top of a hill and turned me to face the horizon.
He set me down on my feet, holding one of my arms over his shoulder to help me stay upright, we felt the sun together. Although the wind was cold and the sky was dark, although I hadn't seen my family in over a year and a half, although I didn't know what had happened to the Chamber and although we weren't sure whether the sun was rising or setting, two things were clear to us:
It was the end of an era, it was the beginning of something much greater. I turned my face to the sun and smiled.