Books

A Weeping Warrior by Nida Almas

Nida Almas, 17, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2020 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Nida Almas, 17, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Nida Almas)

A Weeping Warrior by Nida Almas is one of 10 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category.

Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. More than 2,000 students submitted their stories.

Almas, 17, a student at Vincent Massey Secondary School in Windsor, Ont., writes about gene manipulation.


Face candid. Back straight. Shoulders relaxed.

Three weeks since they took me into that operating theatre.

Stay calm and indifferent.

Three weeks since I woke up in the Resident Sector with all my other memories lost and myself forever changed. Ebb, the neighbouring old nanny born and raised in this city, claims we are naturally born this way. Despite the void in my mind, I'm certain that I've never resembled this.

Pretend you understand.

I pace down the main square, boots clipping asphalt. A woman with a feathered tail peeking beneath her skirts passes, and I casually recoil from her satiny wings. An old man hunches under the levitating shops while horned and scaled individuals cross the walkway, chitin sheets lining his face and forearms like an exoskeleton. A bioluminescent child on a hoverboard glides down to him, eyeing me with irises shimmering like plankton underwater.

I wrap my scarf tighter and continue onward.

I stop at the bridge spanning the river toward the Commercial Sector. It's an often-abandoned route, distal to the main Sectors. Far off, the glass-encased markets dangle like ornaments, connected by hoversteps. I turn away and drop to my knees at the edge of the steel planks.

Pulling down my scarf, I run my fingers over the open slits on my neck. Then I dunk my head into the water. Minutes proceed, but my lungs don't burn; I've no need to break for the surface.

Gills; another successful tweak.

I jerk up and out of the pulsing waves, closing my eyes and feeling the chill stream down my face. Quietly, I let my eyes burn and my tears flood into the mix.

Night vision, metachrosis, echolocation, and now bimodal breathing.

While others have one species' DNA integrated with their own, I have multiple. All collectively encrypting for the indestructible monstrosity I'm turning out to be.

What else have they done to me?

While others have one species' DNA integrated with their own, I have multiple. All collectively encrypting for the indestructible monstrosity I'm turning out to be.

What have I been prepared for?

Suddenly, a hand places itself on my wrist. I look up and my thoughts paralyze.

Across from me, sitting on his haunches and facing the river, is a boy staring back with unrelenting violet eyes. In the winter light, his blond hair almost glows against his oversized coat and woolen scarf. He's hiding himself, just like me.

My mind goes numb as he whispers, "This is going to sound crazy, but I think I know you."


About The First Page student writing challenge

David A. Robertson is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning author and judge of the 2020 First Page student writing challenge. (Amber Green)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2170. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by award-winning author David A. Robertson

Robertson is a Cree writer from Winnipeg who writes books for readers of all ages — including the Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book, When We Were Alone and the Reckoner Rises graphic novel series.

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on April 16, 2021.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 free YA books.

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