Never in living memory has the world experienced a pandemic such as the catastrophic COVID-19 virus in 2020. It is with this unprecedented ‘lockdown’ sit­ua­tion in mind that UK-based publishers, AudioArcadia.com, were prompted to hold their first short story writing competition on this particular subject, in addition to a more general theme of writing.

Out of all the competition submissions received by the end of June, 20 winners, who live in various parts of the world – Australia, Malta, Spain, the UK and the US – were selected by AudioArcadia’s two judges. The winning entries, together with other short stories, are now published in this new paperback which was released on September 15 and is now available on Amazon websites.

This fascinating anthology is divided into three sections: the first part contains 10 stories written under the theme of ‘lockdown’; the second, another 10 stories written under the theme of ‘general’; and the latter part has eight more short stories.

What makes this book so different from other short story publications is the fact that every story is prefaced with a short biography about the writer. This is extremely helpful to the reader who is immediate­ly given an insight into where the author lives and what, in particular, he/she is dealing with during lockdown in the various countries in which they live.

It is impossible to say which of the 28 stories in this book is the most interesting for the simple reason that they are all intriguing, in one way or another.

To miss out on reading this stimulating and, at times, amusing, eclectic mix of short stories would be to miss out on a vital part of life and social history

Here are some tasters to whet your appetite: Wibke Seifert’s winning story, Empty Spaces, is about a woman’s vacation on an island in the North Sea being interrupted by lockdown. She needs to get home urgently, to another very different island, far away in southern Europe.

Her impression of her return journey through a world that is closing down is mingled with doubts about what is expected of her when she finally gets home. The combination of both leads to her making a drastic decision.

Betreff: Poppies in Sylt, watercolour on paper, by Wibke SeifertBetreff: Poppies in Sylt, watercolour on paper, by Wibke Seifert

Wibke, who is of German origin, has been living in Malta since 1995, with her husband. Their family business, Seifert Systems Ltd in Ħal Far, employs nearly 300 people locally. Being a lover of the outdoors, Wibke is a keen artist, as illustrated by her paintings Beach Flower, Lovebirds and Poppies.

A brief outline of some of the other winning stories in Lockdown Number One includes Protocol 17, where an elderly woman takes every precaution at the start of a deadly pandemic and locks herself in her apartment with her computerised assistant.

A Matter of Care is about a care home in the early days of lockdown where residents and their carers are isolated from the outside world.

The protagonist in 180 Degrees sacrifices safety and familiarity for the possibilities and adventure of a track with an unknown destination.

Jelly Tots illustrates the challenge to a parent of the repetitive behaviours of a child with autism and the effects on the parent’s life.

Dünenröschen (Beach Flower), oil on canvas, by Wibke SeifertDünenröschen (Beach Flower), oil on canvas, by Wibke Seifert

Visit to a Library takes the scenario beyond 2300, postulating some survival of the next Full Ice Age; the few remaining humans are more systematically isolated than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The humour in this story is part of the delineation of a culture which is hard to imagine.

And lastly, but not least, the street in Up Memory Lane is under threat of demolition to make way for a motorway. But what happens to the characters who live there?

To miss out on reading this stimulating and, at times, amusing, eclectic mix of short stories would be to miss out on a vital part of life and social history.

Lockdown Number One ‒ A Collection of Twenty Winning Short Stories by AudioArcadia.com was published on September 17  and is available on Amazon, also in paperback and as an e-book. For more details, contact rickprod@aol.com or +44 (0) 7432 369298.

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