“The Autolycus Syndrome,” flash fiction by Jay Merill

Jay Merill

The Autolycus Syndrome

Giles lived for dressing up in quirky costumes and pointing people in the wrong direction. Trickery was his forte. He was all wolf at heart but smiled at everyone with the sweetness of a curly sheep. Baaa.

The snag was all his feats were imaginary and more than anything he wanted real. He wanted real for himself as much as he wanted unreal for everybody else. In this way he’d be the winner, the supreme one. He would stand out from the crowd at the same time as being well hidden from the crowd. Be the one in full control. An alluring thought. So he avidly studied history books and plays by Shakespeare to give him some ideas.

Like, what would provide him with the best opportunity? Becoming a conjurer? Mmm. He toyed with that possibility but had to face the fact he didn’t have the requisite dexterity. His hands felt themselves tied. His thumbs waggled awkwardly when he needed them to cover up the coin he was concealing in his palm. This was unhelpful as it led the audience to see the truth of things. He couldn’t be having that, could he. It was antithetical.

He thought of becoming an actor but the only trouble was he didn’t have it in him to play any parts other than his own. Also, if you were an actor people knew what the deal was. They understood it was only a performance. This was so not what Giles was looking for—given that his life ambition was to be the only one in the know. Plus, there was the money factor. Unless you were hugely successful, you could forget untold wealth straight away. He wanted to make real money. Yes, he wanted to be rich.


So what then? What? Surely there was something. He thought and thought…

Due to the knowledge of history he’d now acquired he finally hit on the only part that was well and truly up his street and could fulfil every requirement he had. A career in politics seemed to provide the answer to all of his deepest needs. Yes. And from what he’d seen of the world that had still got to be by far the best way forward: He decided to become a politician.

Jay Merill is published by or has work forthcoming in A-Minor, CHEAP POP, Entropy, Gravel, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Lunch Ticket, matchbook, Pithead Chapel, Trafika Europe, and upstreet Literary Journal. She is a 2017 Write Well Award nominee, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the winner of the Salt Short Story Prize. Further work has appeared recently in Literary OrphansSmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, Wigleaf, and other greats. Jay lives in London, UK, and is Writer-in-Residence at Women in Publishing. She is the author of two short story collections published by Salt—God of the Pigeons and Astral Bodies—which were nominated for the Frank O’Connor Award and Edge Hill Prize.

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