Books

Last Soul on Earth by Madison Schettler

Madison Schettler, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2020 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Last Soul on Earth by Madison Schettler is one of 10 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 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.

Schettler, 14, a student at Garden City Collegiate in Winnipeg, writes about climate change.


I awake from a dream and find myself lying on the floor of my tree house.

In the past three years my life has consisted of waking up, searching for food and going to sleep. It's not an ideal lifestyle, but I still manage to get through the days.

My stomach is growling, so I eat a moldy piece of bread. I put on my heat resisting shoes and climb down the ladder toward the scorching ground. I'm on my way to find food. I slide my dad's pocket knife in my belt, and my mom's locket in my pocket.

I start walking to the trading post. The air smells like smoke, because of the forest fires that happen all over the world. In the past, trees were cut or burned down by people to make palm oil, expand land for cattle, and to plant crops. They did it for money and didn't care about our planet.

In the past, trees were cut or burned down by people to make palm oil, expand land for cattle, and to plant crops. They did it for money and didn't care about our planet.

I am passing the massive garbage dump, which smells vile. Only a couple more kilometres to go, I think, before I must head back.

I stop walking and blankly stare at a crumpled house. I walk up to where the doorway would have been and fall to my knees.

***

Suddenly I am gathered around the small wooden table in my kitchen, singing songs with my mom and dad. This is the best night I've had in a long time.

"COSMO! Wake up!" my mom shouts. "There's a fire!"

I wipe the drowsiness from my face and sprint out the door while clutching onto my mom's leg. Tears stream down my face. We stumble and crash to the ground. I get up, but my mom is stuck, a brick is crushing her leg. "Momma!" I yell. "Get out of here!

Don't worry about me baby, I love you!" she responds.

I sprint out the door and see a baby grizzly bear clinging onto a tree, surrounded by fire. He stares me straight in the face before he's eaten by the flames.

***

I stand up off my knees. I have to pass my parents' gravesite everyday, and it is torture. I finally reach my destination, but there are no traces of the other trader anywhere.

My legs wobble and I fall to the burning ground, my face scorching. I've lost all hope.

This is the end.

I slowly drift off out of consciousness.


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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