Books·The First Page

The Churchill Hotel by Nicholas Onorato

Read the first page of Nicholas Onorato's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

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

The Churchill Hotel by Nicholas Onorato is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' 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. Over 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Onorato, a student at Monsignor Fraser College in Toronto, Ont., tackles climate change in his piece.

Warning: This story contains strong language.

Another day without any new guests. No calls for reservations. Not even someone who was lost asking for directions. This place was a ghost town, and my old man knew it. My shift at the front desk was over so I went to go find him. He was the bartender and owner of this shit hole so he was either at the bar or passed out drunk in his office like usual.

To my surprise he was only a bit tipsy, sitting at the bar watching TV. "Any guests, Terry?" He mumbled already reaching for his drink.

"What do you think?"

"None," he responded his reply muffled by his glass. I gave him a nod as I started to pour my own drink. This was our routine for 10 months of the year. The summer, our peak season, is the only time this place is alive. Two months of people regularly entering and leaving the hotel, wanting to see some of the last wild polar bears in the world, but as soon as September rolled around, the hustle disappeared quicker than our drinks.

This money burning party has been going on for generations. My great grandfather, Geoff Cayde, built this place back in 2078. He was equal parts optimist and pessimist. He thought the world was too stupid to try and stop climate change, and that the frigid wasteland of Churchill would turn into his tropical paradise. Well unfortunately, the world didn't "have their heads so far up their own ass, that they wouldn't notice their house burning down around them," as he would say. A wonderful success story for the planet, but screwing me and my family over. So now, 89 years later, I'm stuck here. Getting so drunk, that I pass out, not recognizing the faces of the few people I know.

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.