Embers by Tracy Wang
2022 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category
Embers by Tracy Wang is one of 13 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category for 2022.
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 1,800 students submitted their stories.
The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley and be announced on May 31.
Wang, 15, a student from Lord Byng Secondary School in Vancouver, writes about animal hunger and food insecurity.
She keeps running.
Trying to keep going. Keep moving.
How she's lasted this long is beyond her.
This is an oubliette, a cinder scar in the concrete labyrinth she used to call home, buried in layers of ash and dust. The bodies remind her of old bones, forgotten after a child's funeral.
There were choruses of birdsong and bruised Earth-tones and sunlight scattering across an untouched pond, once. She remembers. There weren't missiles streaking across the sky, then.
Now, the earth beneath her feet is cracked. Dry. Her next step squelches. It comes away stained a festering crimson.
Today, she ventures into their territory.
The humans created borzoi to kill her kind, once.
But now, the humans have all died or fled. Everything else living here's been destroyed. This is where the leftovers rot, abandoned. Now, it's just her and them.
She knows they're just trying to survive.
And maybe she was like them, once. Ages ago. Now, though, there are no wolves left but her, and all she can see is rip tear eat kill survive —
Long, skeletal faces stare back at her across the rubble, claws unnaturally extending. Reaching. They speak. Too close to her own language. Too alien to understand.
She slinks closer.
It's one of them that draws first blood, snapping at her with bloodlust in its eyes and fury she knows all too well.
She's desperate. Outnumbered. But their flesh isn't yet Earth, and their hearts still beat.
She knows they're just trying to survive. And maybe she was like them,once.
She pounces. Her jaws catch thin air. It's smoggy. Heavy.
Nails, clicking. Rasping breaths. There are two now. The ground's growing slick under her paws.
She spits gold, blood, teeth. It's the only colour she can see for miles.
They're on her, faster than she's moving. Off-script. Wild, maws the colour of raw meat and overripe peaches.
Jaws clamp around her throat, holding fast. Her mouth fills with blood and soot. She can almost smell how scared she is. It reaches up, stuffs itself into her nose.
Then they're gone. She's alone again.
Would it be easier, bleeding out instead of letting the hollowness swallow her inside-out, letting invisible claws tear through her until she's nothing but aching scraps?
All she can do is keep going. Keep moving, searching for the next traveller. The next body.
Her next meal.
And the she-wolf is so, so hungry.
CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2172. 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 author Sarah Raughley.
A writer and lecturer from Southern Ontario, Raughley is the author of the YA Effigies series — which includes Fate of Flames, Siege of Shadows and Legacy of Light — and the fantasy historical novel The Bones of Ruin, for ages 14 and up.
- Marty Chan, Alta., author of Willpower
- Gabrielle Prendergast, B.C., author of The Overwood
- Shane Arbuthnott, Sask., author of Guardians of Porthaven
- Angela Ahn, B.C., author of Peter Lee's Notes from the Field
- Andre Fenton, N.S., author of The Summer Between Us
- Tash McAdam, B.C., author of The Ooze
- Regina Hansen, P.E.I., author of The Coming Storm
- Angela Misri, Ont., author of Valhamster
- Hetxw'ms Gyetxw Brett D. Huson, B.C., author of The Wolf Mother
- MJ Lyons, Ont., author of Murder at the World's Fair
- Nadine Neema, Que., author of Journal of a Travelling Girl
- Alex Lyttle, Alta., author of From Ant to Eagle
The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2022.
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. Special thanks to Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.