Books·The First Page

Planet X by Schuyler Siewe

Read the first page of Schuyler Siewe's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Schuyler Siewe is a 2017 finalist in The First Page student writing challenge in the grades 7 to 9 category. (Courtesy of Schuyler Siewe)

Planet X by Schuyler Siewe is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' 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. Over 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Siewe, a student at Calgary French & International School in Calgary, Alta., tackles climate change, carbon emissions, space travel and the possibility of earth becoming incapable of supporting life in this piece.

My mother's lips brushed a gentle goodbye over my right cheek. It was something she had done countless times before, but this time it felt like an ending. 

"This is necessary," she whispered into my hair. She had been saying those words for months, ever since two government officials showed up on our front porch, wearing black suits and unreadable expressions. They informed my mother that I had been selected for a government-funded project to send exactly 247 young people into space. They said that our planet was approaching its end, and that I would be asleep for decades without aging, on a trip to a planet that was a near replica of Earth. My mother said nothing. I watched from the shadows of the kitchen without breathing, my blood frozen in my veins. By the time the door closed, I had fallen apart, my heart dripping through the floorboards. 

For six months, I prepared for and dreaded the day I would leave. I watched the masses migrating inland as the sea rose, swallowing their pasts and their futures on the coasts like an insatiable beast. I watched as freshwater was tainted by the ocean's salt and the value of drinkable water rose disproportionately. The starving homeless filled the streets, their eyes the dim colour of agony. Illness claimed many, riding the waves of humanity, propagated by their fear. The sky faded from grey to black, and it began to scrape at my lungs. And then the day came. 

I watched my mother back away from me as two men approached. I watched her mouth form the words "I love you," and caught the glimmer of a tear sitting on her cheek like a single star, suspended in the sky. 

Cold liquid began to pool into the capsule, slowly submerging me. My stomach twisted with panic as it rose around me, causing the two men to remind me to breathe normally, that the tubes they had put down my throat would not let me drown. As the liquid rushed in over my head, I parted my lips to cry out for my mother, but the words died on my lips, extinguished by the thickness of the liquid. It seeped into my pores and into my mind. 

I would never see my mother again. It felt like an ending, but it was the beginning. For 80 years, I slept dreamlessly.

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2167. 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 YA writer Erin Bow, author of The Scorpion Rules. The winner will be announced on CBC Radio's q on Jan. 24, 2018.

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 YA books.

CBC Books' next student writing competition is the Shakespeare Selfie Student Writing Challenge, which will open in April 2018.