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Jay Merill | Michael Ilkiw

They say yellow is the colour of cowardice and I’ve never doubted it. I feel hot waves of yellowness surge through me as I cringe in shadow now. It’s there to shame me; to show me up for what I am. I’m yellow through and through. I want to leave this place and hide myself away. I have enemies you see. The gang that hangs about round here, they’re out to get me. Darkened shapes dart this way and that. It’s them. I’ve got into their bad books and my life is now at risk. What I need is a disguise, for safety’s sake.

There’s this rustling in the late air. Invidious. But wait. Couldn’t it just be the leaves in the wind? I look at the tree in the night street ahead of me. It’s winter. There are no leaves. No, it’s the rush and tremble of my inner fear.

It’s hateful the way this yellowness has taken me over. I have to get it off me. Then I see what I don’t want to see. I can’t remove it. It is not paint. The yellow isn’t on me, it is me. I’ve never felt this terrified before.

Then magically there’s a turnaround. My mind is saying: Accept the yellow, accept yourself.

And suddenly I see that yellow need not be a sign of weakness but can be a show of strength. It’s just a matter of how you look at things. Yet how did I come to realise this? Is it possible a moment of intense fright can change someone; make them stronger? A paradoxical thought. But I feel that’s the answer here. And I walk on down the road almost carefree as I go. Shadowed forms huddle together at the corner. I pass close by but no-one accosts me or comes towards me with a knife.

There’s been a shedding of my old thin skin. I sense a new harmony of outer and inner. Feel past terrors slip away. Funny it should be fear itself that’s saved me. No more need to run and hide.

When home, I go up to the mirror and am at once spellbound. The world feels as though it’s dwindled down to nothing. Everything seems unreal. The image before me is full of the bravura I’d always hoped to find one day. It’s bold and fiery with a fixed unblinking look. Here is the gaze of the strong and the masterful, of those who aren’t afraid. My eyes stare in disbelief at the soft pelt appearance of the lower arms; at the face of velvet yellow fringed with a deeper yellow ruff. The reflection glints back tawnily.

I will this transformation not to be a myth. It could be true, couldn’t it? Not all truths can be explained I tell myself. I touch my skin lightly. It has a furry feel. There’s this roaring sound very loud in my ears now. I think it’s coming from me!

About Jay Merill

Jay has fiction in forthcoming and recent issues of 3 AM Magazine, Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, Literary Orphans, Litro, Night Train, Apeiron Review, The Galway Review, Citron Review, Corium, Cranno�g Magazine, The Legendary, Casket of Fictional Delights, Anomalous Press, Berfrois, Blue Lake Review , Eunoia Review, Crack the Spine, the Newer York and Vine Leaves Press. She is the author of two short story collections – God of the Pigeons (Salt, 2010) and Astral Bodies (Salt, 2007) and has been nominated for the Frank O'Connor Award and Edge Hill Prize. Her story 'As Birds Fly' won the Salt Short Story Prize and is included in the 'Salt Anthology of New Writing, 2013'. Jay has an Award from Arts Council England and is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing.

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