Below Zero, Above Thirty-Two by Leonardo Mete
2019 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category
Below Zero, Above Thirty-Two by Leonardo Mete is one of 10 stories shortlisted for the 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. Nearly 2,000 students submitted their stories.
Mete, a student at South Kamloops Secondary School in Kamloops, B.C., imagines a future ravaged by the effects of global warming.
I peered out at my surroundings from the dusty, oval-shaped window of the cabin. It bore a crack across its diameter that branched out erratically, like a river delta. I can only imagine it was one of the relentless storms that damaged my shelter. Ultimately, they were all me and my crew were met with during our endless trudge up north.
"What we didn't bring is what we didn't need," our captain told us. Now that we were separated, I could scoff at his words. But I was far too exhausted. Slouching against the knotted wooden wall, I pulled my damp snowcoat tighter and fumbled in my pouch, fingers numb. The small stone fireplace was the best heat I've felt since the journey began. It was strange how fiercely the cold and the hot battled each other.
Thankfully, my compass was still intact. I zipped up the hail-crusted pouch and fixed my sunken eyes on its needle. Surprisingly enough, the cabin faced our instructed destination. Standing up and stretching, I pushed open the rigid door. Afternoon sunlight blazed my sensitive face and gleamed off of the melting snow dunes. Shielding my eyes, I departed to try and locate my crew mates. Then I heard mechanical movement.
It was strange how fiercely the cold and the hot battled each other.
I spun on my heels, nearly losing my balance, and squinted at the distant figure. The source of the noise was an expedition rover. Its heavy-duty wheels skittered on the icy surface, spitting leftover hailstones to the side. As it advanced towards me, it seemed to abruptly halt and veer from its path in an unorthodox manner.
The rover stopped after it was close enough. The cracked panel covering its front screen raised. I waited to be flashed by a scanning light, but instead it wobbled in place and sputtered, "Northwest—detected—return to Borealis crew C—Northwest—detected—return—" The pile of junk was repeating itself. Fractals of frost around its screen showed an obvious sign of abandonment.
Nevertheless, it resumed its pace, indeed to the northwest. I followed its lead to the top of a hill, where its system shut down and it toppled over. We were unexpectedly close to the frozen shore, where each breaking wave brought no more than three patches of ice towards us. I gasped at the sight — my objective fulfilled. Clinging for life was the last of her kind, wet fur pressed against her bony frame, beady black eyes staring into mine.
CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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 bestselling YA author Kelley Armstrong, most known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on March 11, 2020.
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.