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Grow Your Vision

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The light we choose to see

Chapter I

Friedrich held the miniature furry creature in his arms just as mother would hold her infant child. And that never failed to melt Judys heart. Many of the animals brought back to the shelter were abandoned frail strays who had suffered trauma, one way or the other. They were, initially, in a constant state of hostility while trying to make sense of their new surrounding. Human contact would paralyze them with fear and their reactions were often unpredictable. She would even advise her visitors not to get too close to some of the little beasts ( especially older cats ) and allow them the space to gradually embrace kindness, after having suffered betrayal and discomfort. Her purpose was to bring these poor souls back to the righteous path and make them understand that there is still hope in humanity. Cynically, she saw her job as harmonically connected to the evil in the world. She was conveying darkness into light.  

With Friedrich, there was no need for her to feel uneasy. He greeted all the animals in his own unique, if not slightly odd manner, regardless of their affliction.  He had the gift of comprehending them beyond reason.  His presence lit up the shelter, and Judy was thankful for it.

As she watched him lift the kitten in the air with just one hand, in a gentle wiggle, she allowed herself to contemplate. It is believed that every human is surrounded by a degree of candor, invisible to the normal eye but perceived by those who allow themselves to comprehend. An ambiance of warmth, a fair golden color, that lives in perfect symbiosis with the flesh and guides one through life, even through the darkest of moments.

On the spur of the moment, Friedrich started dancing gracefully, while holding the hairy lilliputian close to his chest. His left arm was wrapped tight around the feeble animal while the fingers on his right hand timidly touched the paw, in a gentle attempt to draw out the claws. He imitated a tango move and leaned towards it, as a dancer would do with his partner. The cat yawned with pleasure, surrendering itself to its possessor. With every move he made, his light followed. It was as if his entire body was encompassed by a blaze.  

The bright picture she saw had nothing to do with the faint sheen in the corner. For a moment, she left aside her pragmatic way of being and allowed herself to dwell in fantasy. If it hadn’t been for Friedrich breaking the silence, she might have lost herself in reverie for hours.

‘A graceful Gretel’

The sound of his voice penetrated the air and awoke her from her trance. Judy’s train of thought collapsed, and she was brutally returned to materiality. She felt like a teenage girl who was caught in the act. A sudden blush overwhelmed her cheeks. She desperately hoped he wouldn’t notice.


Chapter II

When the government pulled away the funds, a year back, Judy almost fell into despair. In all truth, without external support, she wouldn’t have managed to maintain the shelter in proper conditions. The fact that it was solely aimed at saving felines did not help either. The internet was filled with cat videos yet the reality she was facing was contrasting – It was easier to place dogs into foster homes and ultimately have them adopted. She only focused on cats not only for the affection she had for these animals but also due to locational restraints. She only had a limited place dedicated to this and the rent was costly. Yet she made a purpose out of surviving every day, to redeem these animals while offering them a second chance at a better life.

In many ways, she saw Friedrich as her guardian angel. Never in her wildest dreams, had she dared to envision such a generous soul would cross her path. The day they met will always live in her memory. It happened at a fundraising event months back. As daylight was fading, so did her hope. Nobody showed real interest in contributing even though her efforts were admirable.

And then he made his spectacular entrance, right before closing. He pulled down the alley in a classic carousel pink El Dorado Cadillac and parked directly in front of her stall.

 ‘Two worlds colliding’ – she remembers thinking. The car alone was enough to turn heads. She never knew anyone who owned one. In fact, she never recollected seeing one in traffic either. Her dreams wouldn’t dare to go any further than owning a new Volkswagen Van (as opposed to her aged, hoary Ford Escort ). And then there was the color…That overconfident, almost offensive tint. But Friedrich did not seem to mind. On the contrary, he carried his elegance with a certain finesse that did not invite conflict or bullying.

What was alluring about Friedrich was that he always allowed himself a few moments of reflection, regardless of the situation he was faced with. Pondering at the use of words, at the movements of his body, and even at his reactions. That evening was no exception. He remained still, in front of the car, for seconds in a row, standing tall in his impeccable bleu marine tweed suit. His light cobalt eyes were fixated at the sky and his head was slightly tilted backward. This angle allowed the viewer to perceive a remarkable jaw structure; a quadrant not far from perfection, the ideal place to hold the crown jewel – his smile. It was neither dismal nor pompous. It was not courteous or wistful. It was a dominant, comfortable sparkle that found itself in perfect conjunction with the mastery of his gaze.  Judy did not realize this at the time, but this moment was to remain eternally engraved in her heart. It was, as per popular opinion, ‘lust at first sight’.

He took a deep breath of the evening air, straightened his head, and walked directly toward her stand.

Judy felt a sudden inexplicable, unjustified anxiety. As he approached, she felt like hiding. Suddenly, her worn-down T-shirt and her stonewashed jeans seemed like the worst aesthetic choice in the history of fashion. And while she never cared too much for looks, she cursed her morning choice of not rinsing her hair.

‘Impressive’ – his voice was calm and reassuring. A threadlike German accent was insinuated among the tones.

He gently touched the plastic signboard while giving it a slight tilt to the left. Now it stood perfectly straight. The colorful letters Judy had designed were shining bright in the fading afternoon sun. In all fairness, she could have been more creative with the message.

‘We need help’ – Friedrich read.

A pause that seemed to last a decade followed. Yet it was still he who broke the silence.

‘And who might this bulky fellow be?’ – he asked while pointing at the discolored picture of Mister Doodle the Cat, Judy’s longest tenant at the shelter.

‘A soul in the wait for his forever home’ – she eventually responded, in an effort to compose a phrase that would seem worthy of the conversation.

‘The wait has ended. I would like to meet him, and I hope you will grant me the pleasure of doing so. My name is Friedrich’

His hand was suspended in thin air, waiting for a shake. Yet it took her approximately 5 seconds to even notice, as she was already swimming in the immense abyss that was his eyes.   


Chapter III


Friedrich organized a crowdfunding event in the months that followed and a few donations later the shelter was unrecognizable. An unforeseen camaraderie formed between them and as time went on, it felt this were a lifelong engagement.

Judy never thought that he would climb down from his high horse and actually help with the day-to-day requirements. Yet, to her surprise, he gathered food, medicine, office, and cleaning supplies and would even stand in as 'owner' on some of the frequent visits they would receive from the local veterinarian. Friedrich would laugh, saying that this allowed him to play the card of entrepreneurship, something that he always wanted as a child.. His family never allowed it; as she later found out, Friedrich was the heir of German aristocrats who found common work rather distracting from life’s central piece - which was limitless entertainment and rejoicing. Conversations over the provenience of money never seemed adequate. All she knew was that the family owned a British estate on the outskirts of the city, where Friedrich was now residing.

His sense of humor was childish. He called the small female cats ‘Gretels’ and the male ones ‘Hansels’ – apparently inspired by an old German folk tale that spoke of two brothers who got lost in the woods, abandoned by their parents. Friedrich told her the story. The kids found their way back home even if faced with adversity while having crossed paths with a vile sorceress whose only purpose was to lead the two innocent souls toward death. In a way, this was a parable and Judy chose to see it that way. What she and Friedrich were doing was the work of God in many forms.

Back in the day, cats would stay in the shelter longer – either because they were not adopted per se or because they were too sick. This was not the case at present. Some kittens were, indeed, taken home by visitors. Yet most of the placements were in his hands. This was his only requirement – to be allowed to personally take in as many tabbies as possible. Odd at first, routine towards the end. He adopted one cat every 10 days.

Friedrich was obsessed with feeding them big quantities of high-quality food in order to get the animals 'plumped' and healthy as soon as possible. The more Rubenesque they looked, the better. His favorite remained Mister Doodle the Cat which soon started to resemble a Russian tank. That led to the only business conflict he and ever Judy had. The veterinarian also agreed that a medium, healthy weight would be most desirable, yet one could not argue with Friedrich’s desires. At the end of the day, even if regarded as a ‘silent investor’, his voice was being heard.

There was no doubt that there was enough space in his estate to hold the impressive number of cats he was vouching for, and no questions arose regarding his financial power. Yet the real fuel for his philanthropy was Ludmilla. The delicate, seductive, mysterious Ludmilla. Not that Judy allowed herself to be completely delusional and imagine that she might actually have a chance at his heart. She was aware of the differences between them and her anchor in reality was too powerful to allow fascination to fly that high. That realism was accepted. However, she could not get rid of the tiny prick she felt in her heart whenever he spoke of his beloved.

Every detail that she knew about Ludmilla was carefully filtered through Friedrich’s affection sieve and, as so many times happens, the eyes of the one in love wear rose-colored glasses. When faced with the clear reality, Judy wasn't sure if her own glasses were green with jealousy or merely white with submission. There was no way she could compete, and going that route seemed strange. Dedication and kindness ( even if appreciated ), seemed not to have the same glamour as genuine beauty and elegance. And Ludmilla was, indeed, exquisite! She was, perhaps, an aristocrat also. They had met a year ago through common friends, Friedrich confessed. And since then, they had never spent one day apart.

She never visited the shelter. In fact, she never really left the estate. Initially, Judy maliciously imagined that she had an awful appearance or a life-threatening disease that would prevent her from showing her face to the world. That sandcastle of malediction came tumbling down when he mentioned, one day, that her eyes were like fire and her skin made him think of honey. This made Judy envision Botticelli’s masterpiece ‘Birth of Venus’; a hymn to beauty in its purest form.Apparently, she just enjoyed solitude and his company was more than enough to bring her peace.

Even if just a fictional character in Judy’s life, the narrative she portrayed of her was larger than life. Ludmilla was gracious and mannered. A lover of fine dining. Sophisticated. She had traveled the world to be with Friedrich. Adventurous.  Devoted friend. A true companion. An ocean of love and understanding. Silent when needed to be, caring when required. Assertive yet not forceful. Demanding yet not importunate. A classy character, a fit for a nobleman.

She adored cats and her consort was bringing her just that, down at her feet. An army of loveable toys for her to play with, within the comfort of her residence. Ludmilla never had to worry about tomorrow, and her delight was the present moment.

As part of the working class, Judy could only listen with acceptance. She could but dream. Destiny plays a biased game – it places some of us at a precise, less fortunate location, and rarely gives any maneuver space.  


Chapter IV

It was Ludmilla’s birthday that Saturday and Judy had secretly hoped for an invitation to the party ever since she saw Fredrich had started preparing for the big event. It was also a big day for Mr Doodle, who, freshly washed and wearing a bowtie, was showing off his new plump physique and unruly fur. It was his grand adoption moment. Judy felt a bizarre anticipation in the air, as if a grand outcome was about to be revealed; some sort of step forward in their relationship, maybe a breakthrough in them moving beyond just their common interaction at the shelter. Her desire to meet Ludmilla was clear as day, yet it went beyond just that. She yearned to see what life may be like for Friedrich; what kind of cuisine was served at the table, what type of silverware they used, and what sort of classical music they listened to…

‘See you on Monday, time to take this Hansel home !’ – Friedrich saluted, waving gently, as he turned around and left. Mr Doodle’s large head was bouncing comically as it hit his shoulder, out of sync to the rhythm of his walk.

She offered no reply as he walked away. The air felt heavy.

Her brain instantly became a maze of interconnected emotions. The past week had been a mere mountain of made-up desires that had led to negative emotional fallout. What was she to him, in the end? A plain, beige, business partner. Never a genuine confidant. At no time an intimate comrade. Not in the least a possible lover. Just plain Judy-from-the-shelter, unworthy of attending a sumptuous party. Irritation was seeping through her skin like an unwanted rash, without justifiable cause. Her mind felt like a playground. Thoughts raced through it in a pattern akin to a tennis ball being passed between two players.. Her chest tightened, like a clamp shutting at both ends, leaving little room for movement. She slowly felt suffocated and the harder she tried to cling to her adult identity, the further she slipped into the chasm.. The innocent choices, her safeguarded gambling, the political correctness… to hell with them all. She wanted to condense all these concepts in an imaginative ball of fire and toss it out the window.

Her gaze darted across the room, searching for a focal point. The luster in the corner emitted a phosphorescent, neurotic light, and her pupils dilated. She could see her shadow engraved on the wall, which a formless mountain, large in stature and frozen, moving neither forward nor backward.

‘One must not impose’, she heard herself saying out loud. Yet she did not know if this was her own voice, or her mother’s, who always taught her to be polite and never interfere in other people’s business.

‘And yet I will’

And this time, it was her own willingness, expressed with strength, a self-command, coming from deep within. The words floated in thin air, until they became concrete, solidifying. Judy rose to her feet to commit them to action..


Chapter V

‘10 minutes to destination’ – the GPS announced. Her heart accelerated pace. What was she doing, anyway? Showing up uninvited to somebody’s house after copying their address from an adoption receipt? She could already foresee how police would question her for trespassing. But the tornado in her head was causing her thoughts to collide altering her normal behavior. She hated to admit it, yet this was by far the most exhilarating thing she had done in a long time. she rolled the window down, becoming increasingly flustered as the evening air tangled her hair in the spaghetti straps of her new dress.

“Romantically functional dressing style” – the shop assistant’s words, not hers. Judy would have never considered the ensemble, especially combined with 3’ heels in candy apple red. Nor would she have ever imagined the small fortune she would pay for it. But this was a night to be bold; she had spent her entirety of her afternoon, seeking out the perfect outfit. The shoes were tight. It was impossible to ignore the discomfort; yet it was incomparable, however, to the uneasiness of her stomach.

Friedrich’s house was located outside of the city. The high rises and concrete buildings slowly gave way to countryside and forest as she made the long drive towards her last stop. She felt no tiredness, however. It was like her entire body was coming back to life, after a long winter’s sleep. Who was going to welcome her at the door tonight? Will it be Ludmilla herself, looking radiant in a Christian Dior gown, holding a glass of the most exquisite champagne one can drink? Or that thought was silly to begin with, and she will be welcomed by an old school mannered English butler, who will ask for her name, for then welcome her politely to wait in the lobby, until the master is announced of her arrival?  How many guests will there be? Will she make a statement in her pricey yet non-designer attire, barely standing straight, pained by her magnificent yet uncomfortable shoes?

Will her hair be kind to her tonight, or will it revert to its natural wild shape and form inaesthetic curls around her temples? The stream of thoughts reminded her of Bridget Jones, prompting her to quickly clear her mind. There will be no pre-set scene to disrupt her most gorgeous entrance yet..

If asked to waltz, decline politely. Unless the music is modern and allows one a chance to dance in a group. Case in which, move your body slowly and carefully, in order not to attract needless attention. Smile charmingly, play with your eyes, and copy behaviors. Do not innovate.  

Remember the language of cutlery while sitting at the luxurious table. Words need to be well-tailored. Do not abuse conversation. In case of not knowing what to say, speak of the weather. Aristocrats love speaking of the weather. Theee Raaain In Spaaaain...

‘You have now reached your destination’ – the dull, emotionless voice made her jealous.

‘I wish I had that kind of composure’, she thought.

The front gate of the estate was wide open. Beyond it, the road was somber. A contrast to the red carpet she was imagining. There was no light to welcome visitors and, somehow, the large iron arms in front of her looked eerie. An unexpected occurrence. The idea of literally driving freely down the front alley was never part of her scenario and she felt her knees weak. Her hands grabbed tight on the steering wheel while moving a back and forth, creating a warm friction in between her skin and the leather. As she drove further and entered the estate, she knew this was a one-way street. There was no room to make a single turn as trees were fencing the road left and right.

At the very end of the pathway, the house contour started to make its projection. There was a certain stillness in the air that seemed to have embraced the building also, and even if she did try to make some sense of how the architecture was, the moonless night made it very difficult to comprehend the style. Much smaller in size than expected, the house appeared to be the countryside cousin of the rich mansion fitted to hold a sumptuous banquet.  

‘Perhaps it’s for the best’, thought Judy, as her nerves seemed to have calmed down a bit at the sight of a humbler establishment.

She slowly and carefully climbed the set of stairs leading to the main entrance, holding a white calla bouquet of flowers to her chest, trying her best not to get her heels stuck in the rocky pavement. The only thing missing was Mendelssohn's Wedding March to accompany the ludicrous scene. She really hoped Ludmilla loved flowers, the cost of this bouquet created a small crater in her weekly budget.   

She gently caressed the frame of the door looking for a doorbell, only to be disappointed to find out it had none. Not even a doorknob for that matter. She touched the surface once more, this time adding more pressure to the gesture while moving her left hand slightly to the right side. The door obeyed and opened by itself as if an invisible, delicate string was pulled from the other side. There was no sound to accompany the movement.

‘Hello… Friedrich? It’s me, Judy… I.. was just driving by and thought of saying hi…’

No echo. Inertia. It was then that she realized Friedrich never mentioned the party was actually held at the house. For all she knew, they could be out at a restaurant somewhere, dancing the night away. Suddenly the whole thing appeared comical, like a tale fit for a stand-up show. Here she was, searching for a party to which she had not been invited, standing in front of a house that was not her own, carrying a ridiculously pretentious bouquet of flowers for a person she did not even know. Too many unknowns and too much darkness. It was time to go back home. This self-crafted elaborated delusion must come to an end. She made a sudden pirouette and turned around. As she was about to climb back down the stairs, a familiar noise caught her attention.

The luring sound made her freeze. There was something intimate, recognizable about it and it took her less than 3 seconds to identify it … Mr Doodle was inside. His pitiful, lengthy "meeeoowwwww" rang out through the walls and into the terrace. Without asking herself any more questions, she simply followed the cries and pushed the door once more before entering the hallway.


Chapter VI

The decor of the parlor was surreal. Without question, the focal point was the enormous fireplace, which was blazing, even though the time of year did not warrant its use. Wood was popping and crackling at the very bottom as tongues of fire were rising high, creating hypnotic eye-catching dance movements. Their unity projected a spectacle of light and shadows on the beautiful mural in front. Though still, the room felt alive.

The sight of the mural painting made one's eyes water. The Garden of Eden spectacle had been harmoniously incorporated into the architecture of the space and let there on display for the spectator to admire. Although it did show signs of aging, the surface fractures gave the whole thing even more allure and grandeur. The setting was iconic: the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with its low-hanging fruits, stood in the center. On both sides, Adam and Eve were framing the scenery with their naked bodies, tilting towards each other as if sharing an ultimate, intimate secret. One gesture away from the eternal state of innocence, Eve was handing her beloved the Forbidden Fruit. It was as if the picture was in movement and the viewer felt the unsettling desire to stop Adam from biting the apple, thus having a chance to save the entire humanity from the knowledge of sin and eternal torment.

Judy made a step closer but was interrupted by a sound coming from the opposite direction, so she naturally turned around.

Two red velvet armchairs faced each other in the space between the mural and the fireplace, beckoning visitors to take a seat and take in the scene. On the armrest of one of them, laid carelessly, in an aristocratic pose, none other than Mr Doodle. He had his long, fluffy tail hanging free to one side. As his body grew softer from the fire's warmth, he opened his mouth to yawn, exposing all of his white, pointed teeth. He was, without a doubt, enjoying his evening. His tiny claws were playing softly with the fabric, the way cats do when they're comfortable. The sound of the fire was complemented by a soft purr.

 Judy grinned, her heart full of love.

‘There you are, you big ball of furr.. you are..’ – But before she could finish her sentence, a mercurial mass of flesh emerged from the dark in an agile slithering motion.. Gripping the surface with speed, it ascended the armchair with accuracy and seized Mr Doodle in a vertigo of muscle. The silky dorsal scales flowed one on top of the other, perfectly synchronized, like an army in motion, with the sole purpose of applying the lethal bondage.

Mr Doodle, convulsed and dismembered, was slowly fading away in the wooziness, precisely like a body in a swift waterhole. Bones cracked and tissue bent. And with each movement, the grip grew stronger.  

Judy let out a scream, terrified. Her maternal instinct made her take three rapid steps toward the scene, but the pitched black vertical split pupils looked her straight in the face, causing her to freeze and not go a single step farther. There was no blink. Just a hypnotic stare accompanied by an almost imperceptible tilt of the oval head. Time stood still.

A soft hiss broke the deadly silence, and the snake's split tongue seemed to be tasting the air with quick, sinuous movements. Its rubber skin appeared to have reflected the fire, transforming its original yellow-cream hue into a dazzling golden-like sparkling silk fabric.

A poker was hanging on the wall near the fireplace. A long iron rod with a bent end. Judy did her quick math and determined that a single blow to the head would be sufficient to kill the reptile. With her blood boiling, she grabbed the instrument and prepared to fight the beast. Just as she was about to hit, she felt a cold touch on her shoulder, drawing her slightly back.

'I would not do that if I were you,' Friedrich said. His voice was cold. Colder than a winter’s day. Even if it was August, the fire was blazing, and her eyes were red and scorching, her blood turned to ice.

‘Meet Ludmilla, a sealer of perfection’ – he continued.

His hand had now moved down from the shoulder to capture her left wrist. A solid grip kept her anchored.


‘Pythons are agile, majestic creatures. She is having her dinner now… one must not disturb, you think not?’

Friedreich’s eyes were no longer blue, but grey in color, and as Judy looked closer, it felt as if his pupil had constricted to a single vertical line that swam in a sea of corneal icterus. His skin, once glowing, had taken a duller, yellowish undertone. The corners of his top lip slightly moved upwards, and his once charming smile gradually altered into a repugnant grimace.

‘Look, Judy, look… admire her. Isn’t she a beauty?’

Ludmilla had loosened the grip and Mr Doodle’s lifeless body laid on the floor. His limbs were twisted in a grotesque, undulating position and his eyes had popped out of their sockets, now hanging out like 2 balls of flesh connected to the muscle by a single blood-soaked fiber.  

Ludmilla's jaw opened wide. Her ligaments extended like a fan, while her tendons stretched broad to support the movement. Short, stinging teeth saluted the victim as her saliva began to trickle to the ground. She began inhaling the flesh like a prized possession, and her skin glided over Mr Doodle's body like a latex garment on one's skin. The bite advanced steadily and precisely, as the cat gradually disappeared into her innards.

As she ate, her long, sleek form undulated, welcoming the kill, pushing it deeper and deeper into her stomach to prepare for digestion.

At last, Mr Doodle’s long wooly tail vanished into the crevasse.

‘She will rest now, and we must be respectful’ – said Friedrich as he unlocked his grip.

Judy’s eyes were in pain and tears had knotted in her chin.

She felt the fire poker in her right hand. This time the metal seemed vibrant.

Friedrich looked at her.

‘Don’t be a baby! In the end, we both win. You keep your business; I mind my own. What happens with the merchandise when I bring it home, it’s solely my concern’

His once golden glow had turned cold, now a shadow swallowing the light like a black hole.

Judy felt a sharp needle ache in her temples. She rose the fire poke in the air, and, without hesitation, moved her body to the left side where Friedrich stood. She gave him a blow to the head with a force she never imagined could muster.

He stumbled in amazement for just one second before collapsing to the ground, right in front of the fireplace.

His eyes remained open, staring at the ground. In just a few seconds, they were flooded by a river of blood that continued to run on the floor, staining the white cashmere carpet.   

Minutes of stillness followed.

Ludmilla slid towards him, maneuvering her (now) heavy body with care. She tasted the blood with her tongue, looked straight into his eyes, and gently coasted on top, wrapping him in spirals.

The fire had lost its strength, and the light grew dimmer. Adam was biting the apple and the fall of man had begun.







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