My dad woke me up early one Saturday morning. I was still half asleep when he began to drive. It smelled like rain that morning. People always tell me that rain doesn’t have a smell, but I say it does.
It was dark out when we left the house and still dark by the time I was fully awake.
Looking back, it seemed like a very odd thing we did, considering all that happened back home, and how I’ve come to understand it.
“Where are we going?”
“Someplace… very interesting,” my Dad said.
He had a dreamy quality to his voice as though he was speaking to the night.
We didn’t talk for a while, he just drove.
It rained the night before, and everything was glazed and glistening with the lights from our car, while the clouds hung like curtains over the sky.
We were heading east, on a very straight patch of highway transecting two hills, and the sun came up right in front of us, hurting my eyes.
Dad kept driving, staring into the sun, saying nothing. His eyes wide open as though it was not bright at all.
We left the highway and he pulled into a diner. A real diner, semi-portable, made out of aluminum. He ordered a big breakfast: sunny side up eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns, toast. He put two eggs on top of his pancakes and two strips of bacon on top of that and poured maple syrup over the whole stack.
I dipped my toast into the eggs and put jam on pancakes instead of syrup.
“This is a good dinner,” he said. “They give you a jar of syrup instead of little packets.”
As he ate, he tried to explain to me what was going on.
He told me about what happened to my sister in a way I could understand but ultimately failed. He told me why mom had left. I understood that this was (maybe) temporary, were my sister’s situation was permanent.
We continued driving.
The day was starting to cool down in the late afternoon by the time we pulled into our destination: Architectonic Natural Sculpture Gallery.
From the parking lot, it was a considerably long walk to the primary sights. The walk (thanks to the long monotonous car ride) seemed even longer, as though we were walking with borrowed legs.
The sights didn’t seem that impressive from afar, just boulders in the distance, staying in the distance for a long time. But up close, they were magical.
They were not rocks at all, but bone.
The sculptures formed strange amorphous shapes that really couldn’t be described by words. Only a painter could have reproduced the image, and that image would be hard to understand.
Of course, they weren’t actually bone, they were some rare natural phenomenon that only occurred in that park, and maybe one other war-torn region of the world.
There was a little placard next to the first sculpture that gave it a name, and a long explanation of how the sculpture was formed, over millions of years, etc. The process wasn’t really interesting, and it seemed like the park ranger or geologists or whoever wrote up the placard didn’t actually know how it was created, but made up a bunch of complicated words pretending at explanation.
The last sculpture in the park was monolithic, 70 feet high, in two separate parts. The smaller piece looked like a tooth, partly resting against and on a more traditional rock with another part supported by a man-made wooden crutch. It had a long point, like a lance, sticking out and into the much larger second piece of the sculpture. The two pieces never actually touched, the larger piece had formed around the protuberance.
There was a hole in the sculpture that I wanted to climb through, but of course, that would not be allowed, and even if it was the sculptures were smooth as glass.
By the time we had reached the last sculpture in the park, the sun was setting. More rainclouds were making their way toward us. The wall-like edge of the clouds was painted gold with the setting sun, bubbling and soft, like a perfectly roasted marshmallow.
I didn’t understand the importance of why we came, not then, but I do now.
We didn’t drive home that night, in fact, we didn’t go home for a long time.
Our adventure was only beginning.
Zach is a graduate of Chestnut Hill College and has been writing for more than a dozen years, struggling all the while with Dyslexia. His work has previously appeared in: Crack the Spine, the Short Humor Site, Foxglove, the Corvus Review, and most importantly the Ginger Collect among others. You can find out more about him at his Blog: theobscuritysymposium.wordpress.com.