Books·The First Page

Through My Robotic Eyes by Lucie Koesen

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

2018 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Lucie Koesen, 14, is a 2018 finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Lucie Koesen)

Through My Robotic Eyes by Lucie Koesen 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 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Koesen, a student at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, Ont., tackles inequality, discrimination and xenophobia in Through My Robotic Eyes.


My electric heart... pounding…

My AI chip... failing…

These images before my eyes... are they real?

"SAKI!"

... cannot understand... surrounding noise…

"Can you hear me!? Are you all right!?"

404 ERROR | 'SIGHT' NOT FOUND.

"Listen to me, Saki!"

... my name?

"Look at me, Saki!"

"..." S4-K1… 'Saki' ... That IS my name…

"... Saki?"

I grabbed the sides of my head and screamed. I felt myself fall, my plastic pain sensors wreaking havoc.

Everything... hurts…

It took my brain a minute to process what had happened. I realized I had fallen into the arms of my human friend. We were in the neon-lit, metallic area behind my concert stage.

"... Saki... what the heck was that?"

"... M-Marcus?" I shivered.

"Yeah, it's me... what happened?.. Another flashback?"

'Another.' I've never told Marcus about my flashbacks. My 'sister,' must've told him.

"Another flashback? Let me guess...you asked Rika about my meltdowns and she told you everything?" I asked, annoyed. Rika, like myself, is a vocaloid, a singing robot. We might not be real sisters, but we've lived together since First Start-Up. She understands weaknesses like flashbacks can be used against us. She should know better.

He opened his mouth, closed it again. He always does that when he knows the answer will make me mad.

"They're not that bad, okay!?" I snapped. "... Don't worry."

That was a lie. My flashbacks are the result of an awful programming error. Every time I experience extreme pain or emotion, the flashback-bug makes me live it a second time shortly after. These flashbacks mess up my optical, audio and pain sensors; making me truly relive all moments of hurt… 'not so bad,' what a lie!

"Whatever. Bye, Marcus."

"Saki."

The voice I so dreaded sounded behind me. My producer, Master Casey. "Stop flirting. Get out there. New Toronto is waiting for you. A vocaloid's purpose is to sing."

"Mas — "

"You need to be punished?" He cupped his hand on my chest, a clear sign of what would follow if I didn't shut up. The same thing that happens to all feminine vocaloids.

I stumbled to the curtain, feeling synthetic tears welling up in my eyes.

"HURRY UP!"

I knew I couldn't let my fans see me cry. Humans don't care about the pain of artificials.

I brushed my tears away and initiated my smiling algorithm. Reluctantly, I pulled the curtain aside.


About The First Page student writing challenge

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 award-winning YA writer Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on Feb. 22, 2019.

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's next writing competition for students is the Shakespeare Selfie student writing challenge, which will open in April 2019.

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