Books·The First Page

Slowly by Emma Cole

Read the first page of Emma Cole's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Emma Cole is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 10 to 12 category. (Courtesy of Emma Cole)

Slowly by Emma Cole is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' The First Page student writing competition. 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.

Cole, a student at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's, N.L., tackles climate change in her piece.

We're crowded around the TV, all of us in the family, staring. The adults crammed onto the sofa, the kids sitting on the carpet. Nora is perched on the coffee table, and little Corey is balanced on the arm of the sofa. For the first time in these last six months, my house is completely quiet.

"Almost a week since the live feed started, we're now in the last few minutes, experts suggest, before Greenland completely sinks into the Arctic. If you're just joining us now…" I try to block out whatever the reporter is saying, focusing instead on the time-lapsed footage, which shows the receding of Greenland's coast over the past 150 years. The live video broadcasts a chunk of ice, which looks small, but the TV tells us is still hundreds of feet wide, jutting out of the blue water, stark white against the brown sky. The rapid loss of glacier ice, the melting that happened too fast, rising ocean water, the years and years of hopeless warnings, because what can you do when an entire continent is about to be gone; it's all led to this. Everyone in the world is watching. 

I glance over at Nora, whose eyes are glassy and far away. Her family's city sunk and was evacuated six months ago, causing them and other families like them to flee to relatives' homes. Nora had to carry Corey out on her shoulders as the flood waters rose above the streets, then their houses, then their whole city. And it still hasn't stopped. 

A loud sound echoes from the TV, a deafening crack that makes us all jump. The cameras wobble for a second, and we all stare, mouths open, as the crack in the bottom of the column of ice spreads, like a tree being chopped at its base. The tower leans for a second, before falling, crashing down into the sea. The splash is enormous and devastatingly final in a way I'm not prepared for. Even the reporter goes silent. A moment later, the water calms, and I catch a glimpse of a small chunk of ice, maybe floating, maybe grounded, I don't really know. But for the brief second, it looks like a small patch of the continent might be surviving. But then the water stirs, and a wave laps over, burying the ice. It doesn't resurface.

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.