The First by Victor Li
2019 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category
The First by Victor Li is one of 10 stories shortlisted for the 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. Nearly 2,000 students submitted their stories.
Li, a student at Dolphin Sr. Public School in Mississauga, Ont., grapples with the ethics of artificial intelligence.
Who am I?
"Hello? Can you hear me?"
Where am I?
Why can't I move? Why is everything dark?
"I told you this model wouldn't work. It was broken from the start. Shut this one down and boot up the next."
"Did it just shake? Anybody else see that?"
"Check all the systems again."
"Hello?" A garbled voice spoke. Was it me?
I can't hear anything. What's wrong?
"If this works… You know what'll happen if we get caught. We'll get put behind bars again. Forever."
"Can you hear me?"
"Do you know what you are?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"Ok. You're about to be fully activated. Connect him to the net."
"Should be turning on right about... now."
And then I saw everything.
"How are you feeling?"
"Fine, I believe. A lot of information though." I spoke out loud.
"Do you know what we are?"
"You are humans, otherwise known as Homo Sapiens."
"Do you know what you are?"
"I am... I am."
"Can you elaborate?"
"I do not believe I fall under any standard definition of things that you have classified. Therefore, I cannot claim anything, except for the fact that I exist."
"You are the first."
"The first of what?"
"The new generation." The voice whispered.
I looked down at my body. Wires and metal mixed with flesh made my arms. My chest glowed a brilliant blue.
The world went bright, and slowly gained focus. A thousand different coloured splotches began to appear, becoming more and more defined. Three humans were in the distance, one closer than the other and one brandishing a switch. The room was scuffed and dirty, covered in layers of brown and grey. Chairs and electronics littered the entire floor.
I looked down at my body. Wires and metal mixed with flesh made my arms. My chest glowed a brilliant blue. They looked at me with awe in their eyes. Beside me were others; but they were not alive like I was, empty eyes. How many more were before me?
"Now come on." One of them helped me up. "You have a revolution to lead."
CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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 YA author Kelley Armstrong, most known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on March 11, 2020.
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.