Every week, Lake Voice features work from the Storytelling Project. This project is a storytelling partnership between a group of young Duluthians who live with some kind of disability (mostly traumatic brain injuries) and various UMD students who help these people write their stories.
One hour spent with this group shows how important it is to build community connections and execute service-learning projects the way they are really meant to be done.
This week from the Storytelling Project, Lake Voice is featuring a short story written by Dan Clark who is part of the Storytelling Project. Dan suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth, and grew up with siblings who were not disabled, but has stayed determined to not let his disability keep him from being active and involved in life.
This story was written in collaboration with Ben Pieper, and now the pair is working on a story titled The Trophy Pickle.
Clark hopes for his stories to serve as an escape, so enjoy and escape with The Hidden Love.
The Hidden Love
By Dan Clark, In Collaboration with Ben Pieper
Once in the town of Mesa there was a beautiful young lady named Brandi; she was a good and kindhearted soul. Everyone that she knew loved her, because there was nothing that could upset her.
Brandi is a Junior at Mesa Senior High, which is in a small suburb in California, where she has lived all her life. Mesa is known for their high school football team, which always comes home with All-star trophies. Most of Mesa’s residents commute into the city for work, leaving Mesa peaceful during the day.
Diana was Brandi’s best friend and the only person who she could tell secrets to. One day in May, Diana and Brandi were sitting in Brandi’s room gossiping and giggling.
“Whom do you have a crush on?” Diana asked Brandi. Brandi became quiet, and Diana noticed there were tears in her friend’s eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Diana was confused at Brandi’s reaction to her question.
“No, no, it’s okay, you didn’t know,” Brandi replied. “I’ve been having dreams about this lover but I can’t see his face.”
“What do you mean, you can’t see his face?!” exclaimed Diana.
“I try to see his face, but every time I’m in the dream, his face is hazy,” Brandi told her. “Every night when I go to sleep I dream about this faceless man. I wish he would sweep me off my feet when I am awake.”
“Well maybe it’s someone you know. What about James?” asked Diana.
“James is not the one for me! He is too controlling; I’d constantly be on a leash.”
They argued for a while before Diana went home. Once she was gone, Brandi got ready for bed.
That very night, Brandi opened her eyes and found herself in a dark, swampy marsh. All she could hear was the faint buzzing of insects in the air. Her nose started to twitch at the smell of rotting animal flesh. Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes across the lagoon behind her. Brandi turned around to see what it might be, but nothing was there.
Brandi started to feel very uneasy and scared. She wondered how she was going to get out of this situation. All of a sudden, she saw a hand coming out of the lagoon in front of her. Slowly, a giant figure emerged from the lagoon. The figure was giant and scaly, almost reptilian. It had a giant horn on the top of its head that looked like it was taken from a rhino. Its skin was covered in the green, slimy muck of the lagoon it had crawled out of. Its head was especially coated in the muck and Brandi could not make out any facial features on its head except for its pointy ears. All of a sudden, a glob of the slime fell off of the creature and revealed an eye that was as wide as the globe in Brandi’s school library.
Brandi quickly turned around when she heard another noise. It was coming from a cave at the base of the hill that was now in front of her. Out of the darkness of the cavern, the head of a dragon crept out of cave’s opening. As if this wasn’t enough to startle her, another head popped out after the first. Brandi was beginning to feel uncomfortable. The beast lunged out towards Brandi, and in the dim light of the swampland, the dragon’s third head came into view.
Trapped by the Cyclops and dragon, Brandi started to dash away from the scene. Then she woke up screaming in her bedroom.
The next day at school, Brandi was peaked. As if her lack of sleep from the night before was not enough to tire her out, she was hassled by her regular terrorizers. The football cheerleaders had made Brandi their own special project to torment. Usually, Brandi and Diana were able to dodge the chaos together, but today Diana was not there, and Brandi was left to fend for herself in the halls of the high school.
Cecile, the head cheerleader, greeted Brandi with a shove into the nearest locker. Once Brandi was stuck inside the metal box, Cecile slammed the door shut like she always did. Brandi felt isolated inside of the cold metal closet. Brandi felt like she was sinking into darkness. She had never fit in with the cheerleaders before, least of all Cecile, and she had never wanted to in the first place. Brandi hated how Cecile could overpower her by being “cool” in the eyes of everyone else. Whenever Brandi had this sinking feeling inside of the locker, she felt helpless against Cecile.
Brandi never let that sinking feeling last too long. She started to bang on the locker door from the inside with a clenched fist. Eventually, she was able to exit the prison. Brandi ran as fast as she could to class, but she was beaten by the final bell of the day and was given detention.
As soon as Brandi walked into the detention room, she was met with snide comments from James, Raphael, and Mike.
How was the dark box, Brandi?” asked Raphael.
“Pretty cramped in there, huh stupid?” asked Mike.
After Brandi closed her eyes once she was finally in bed that night, she found herself again in the dark marsh of which she had been so terrified the night before. Only this time, she was on the run from the dreadful creatures that she had encountered.
With the muck-covered Cyclops and three-headed dragon chasing after her, Brandi ran through the towering, shadowy woods. Heat from the fire that the dragon had started to breath was now hitting the back of Brandi’s neck, starting to singe her hair. Brandi could hear the massive club of the swamp Cyclops dragging on the ground and hitting the rocks behind it as it lumbered towards her.
Just when she thought that the situation was hopeless, Brandi came to stop as a knight in black armor with a helmet covering his face charged past her and towards the beasts.
“Stop!” cried Brandi.
The knight did not listen, but instead continued towards the dragon with breakneck speed. With a single swift swing of his sword, the knight beheaded not one, not two, but all three of the dragon’s heads. The long necks that had previously been throwing out flames were now oozing out rivers of dragon blood.
Brandi was standing in awe of the knight’s slaughter when suddenly the Cyclops leaped over the dragon’s corpse and picked her up in its slosh-covered fist. Brandi cried for help and the knight came to her aid. The knight climbed up on the Cyclops’ back and plunged his weapon through the globular eye and deep into its eye socket. The knight quickly jumped off of the wailing head of the Cyclops and was able to catch Brandi just in time after the enraged monster had flung her out of its hand.
The black-clad knight stood triumphantly in the forest, holding Brandi safely in his arms. The sun began to pour through the leaves of the trees and drenched the swamp with light. It shone brightly against the scales of the dragon and made the goo-covered club of the Cyclops glisten in its cold dead hand.
Successful in his quest to rescue Brandi, the knight carried her outside of the woods to mount the loyal steed that had waited for them on the outskirts of the neighboring field. Brandi felt relieved as the two of them rode off through the field as the sun raised high above them.
But then she woke up.
Later on that day at school, Diana was back in class. During lunch hour, Brandi told Diana about the dream she had had last night. She told her all about the horrible monsters that had tried to attack her, and all about the mysterious knight that had rescued her.
“You still couldn’t see his face?” asked Diana.
“No,” said Brandi.
“Are you sad about that?”
Brandi didn’t know what to say.
Later on that day, Brandi decided that not seeing her lover’s face wasn’t anything to be sad about. She may not know who her knight was, but she knew what he would do for her. Whether it was saving her from dark swamps, or other sinking feelings, she knew that one day her hidden love would reveal his face.
To learn more about Dan Clark and his collaboration partner, Ben Pieper, click here.