Books·The First Page

Trapped by Ethan Zheng

Read the first page of Ethan Zheng's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Ethan Zheng is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Courtesy of Ethan Zheng)

Trapped by Ethan Zheng 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.

Zheng, a student at École Arbour Vista Public School in Guelph, Ont., tackles the threat of nuclear war in his piece.

There was a surprisingly warm breeze today in the Wastelands. We were searching for survivors in the ruins of a place once known as the City of Guelph. The world hasn't always been this way. I've seen the pictures of the place before the nuclear war 150 years ago that changed everything.

"Hey, Ethan?" asked Matteo.

"Yeah?" I replied.

"I think I found something."

"What'd you find?"

"See that light over there?" Matteo said as he handed me the binoculars. 

"What light?"

"The one over there next to Bunker 15."

It took me a moment to find the dim light in between the two broken-down buildings. That's the first sign of survivors we've found since last month when we found a group of Scavengers in Sector 4.

"Let's head home first. We can go check it out tomorrow," I sighed, exhausted from the six hours of searching we'd done today. 

Home was Bunker 3, one of 17 fallout shelters specifically made to withstand a nuclear war. It was considerably cozy, with couches, a TV and comfortable beds. After all, it was designed to last at least 250 years. When we arrived, I quickly went into my room and locked the door behind me. I walked over to the map of the Wastelands on my desk and found the spot in between the two buildings where we found the light. The two buildings were in Sector 1, the most contaminated sector in all of the Wastelands. Why would there be any survivors there? Most likely Scavengers, looking for useful things that others haven't found yet. But after 150 years, was there anything useful left that hadn't been found already? Probably not. So what were these people doing there? Would they even be alive tomorrow? If so, where would they be? A million questions raced through my mind as I tried to get some rest.

The next day, we headed for Sector 1.

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.