Books·The First Page

Willingly Immured by Melissa McAllister

Read the first page of Melissa McAllister's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

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

Willingly Immured by Melissa McAllister 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.

McAllister, a student at Centennial Regional High School in Brossard, Que., tackles climate change in her piece.

It's been two months. 

She's gone, and everyone knows it. The people in our neighbourhood act like we're some sort of charity case, leaving casseroles and muffin baskets at our door, with dollar store cards expressing how they hope we're doing okay. 

Obviously, we're not. How can anyone be okay after something like this happens? How are we expected to eat what they give us without feeling the pity, the guilt and the pain that's been embedded into the Sheppard's pie? Charlie, my brother, eats them anyway. For him, there's no difference between sympathy cookies and regular ones. Looking at what's supposed to be comfort food makes me sick to my stomach though, and I know that Dad feels the same. 

She's been mentioned in several of the prime minister's speeches that are broadcast on the television right before the six o'clock news, along with the two other people that suffered the same fate as her. He speaks again tonight. 

He stands on the lawn of the parliament, the soft wind ruffling his hair under his cap ever so slightly as he addresses the crowd. They're all wearing wide-rimmed sun hats, the smell of the SPF 200 sunscreen almost radiating through the television screen. 

"Good evening, District Canada," he speaks into the microphone, his voice resonating through the grounds. "Today marks the second month following the tragic death of three of our citizens, Paul Hamilton, James Becket and Celeste Peterson." He drones on for several minutes about how each of them had left behind careers, loved ones and long prosperous lives. "These brave souls did not deserve to die, their bodies too far gone to bring back into the safety of the dome. Their memory will forever serve as an example of the dangers of the outside world; the temperature so unpredictable not a single soul could survive. As we take a moment of silence in their honour, remember, 'Only in the dome, we are safe and at home.'"

The crowd repeats the national motto before falling into complete silence, the only noise emanating in the distance is the slight buzzing from the translucent barrier in the sky that protects us from the dangers of outside; the anthracite clouds that are threatening to break through, the intense heat waves and the ice storms that killed my mother… and the two men that fled with her.

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.