We sat there quietly on the black sand for perhaps ten minutes. Neither of us saying anything. We'd come two long hours and spent a weeks rations to see this.
"It's so dark," that was the only thing he could think to say, I suppose.
"I told you that you wouldn't like it." I said to him, trying to sound like this was all no big deal.
I knew I'd have to explain it all to him one day, but exactly how do you start a conversation like that?
"I didn't know it would smell this bad. Did it smell bad before too?" He looked so curious. I don't know why I expected him to be angry, he'd never known different.
"No. It used to smell very nice. The wind would blow in over the waves and you could close your eyes and imagine *being* the wind and soaring for mile after mile over the water."
Something in my throat knotted up and I stopped talking before I began to cry.
"Does... does anything live in there now?" he asked.
"No. Nothing lives there." I told him.
We stood in silence awhile, just looking. The breakers rolled in with a sickening sound, like an old man eating without his teeth in.
They slid back slowly- leaving thick, black, oily streaks behind.
After a short time he said to me, "Still, it sounds really nice. I wish I could have seen that."
I felt my heart jump in my chest at that. "Me too, son," was all I could manage.
I seldom took him outside because I didn't know how to explain all the wrong that had come before him.
I tried to avoid a million questions I didn't know how to answer by keeping him safe inside The Dome.
“Daddy?” he asked, “What did flowers smell like?”
It took awhile before I could answer. You just can't explain certain things. What does red look like? How does a tomato taste? How comforting is a father's hug? What does a flower smell like?
“There were lots of kinds of flowers,” I spat out, hoping I'd know how to finish. “They each smelled different in their own way.”
“I've never even smelled *one*,” he told me.
“I know, son. I know.” I clasped a hand on his shoulder and he hugged my waist. I felt his chest heave and his shoulders begin to hitch up and down.
I crouched down on my haunches and looked into his watery eyes.
“Remember when mama used to hold you and sing to you when you were a little guy?” I asked.
His chest heaved again, and he took a second to calm his breath and beat the tears back. “Kinda,” he said. “I remember her... but most times it's just her face.”
“She was very pretty,” I said. This not so much to him but out loud to no one in particular.
“She was,” I heard myself in his voice for the first time ever.
“You remember that much?” I asked him. My heart was breaking in my chest. I never should have brought him here.
“I remember... I remember her singing to me,” he said. He hesitated and I almost persisted but then he continued, “It was so pretty but...,” his throat tightened up and he stopped.
“But you can't remember the words?” I asked. He broke then and threw his arms around my waist as he sobbed.
“I CAN'T!” he heaved and struggled against me as the pain poured out.
"I can't either," I promised him. That was a lie.
“Shh,” I whispered. “Just calm yourself.” I told him. “What else do you remember?”
“She would would hold me and explained how it would be like this forever and told me it would be okay,” he said through his tears and in between sobbing breaths.
“It's not okay though! Nothing is okay!” he was getting angry now. It was about time.
“What else do you remember?” I asked again.
“About her?” he seemed confused.
“About her,” I confirmed.
“She...” he trailed off. I watched his eyes gaze off blankly into the dark expanse before us.
After a few moments he raised his head and looked into my eye- tears still welling up in his own. “Her hair,” he finally managed.
“Her hair?” I could remember his mother's bright red hair gleaming in the sun. It seemed to deny our future simply by refusing to dull in spite of the inevitability of our fate.
It shone in the face of the darkness we'd set before ourselves.
He looked at me as if I were mad to even question him. I couldn't blame him.
“Yes. Her hair. It smelled so good,” he told me. “She would hold me tight and I'd shove my face into her hair and it smelled sweet.
Almost like when the matrons make honey-rolls for breakfast on the holidays.”
“Almost?” I asked.
“Almost. Not quite,” he said.
“You remember that much?” I asked once more.
“I do. I don't quite remember her face and I can't really see it," His face wrinkled just as mine did when I was lost for words. "I know her hair smelled like fresh baked honey-rolls.
” He trailed off and began to cry again. I hugged him closer.
“You know," I began, "flowers were just like that.” I told him.
“They smelled like honey-rolls?” he asked.
“Not all of them, and not exactly,” I said then. “But all of them smelled sweet in a way you could almost describe perfectly but could never get exactly right no matter how hard you try.”
We sat like that for a few more minutes and watched the black, oily waves lap at the shore.
After a time he spoke up. “I can imagine flowers that smelled like her.” he said. "They'd be pretty." His face twisted then and he broke down- sobbing uncontrollably.
I put my arm around him then and held him while he cried.
“You've got it just right.” I told him.