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An unexpected event, or for something to occur with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment

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It is still quite early when something nudges you out of a deep sleep.

Not willing to open your eyes just yet, you instinctively reach an arm over to the left side of the bed, only to meet empty space. Sighing, you crane your neck to the right, and squint up at the figure sitting next to you. Your friend leans over you and gently taps the back of his fingers against your cheek, then brushes the hair back from your temples.

Although the room is dark and still permeated with the peaceful stillness of night, your friend is practically vibrating with suppressed energy. He tugs at you again and you roll over in his direction to show him he has your attention, but don’t make a move to get up.

While most other times your curiosity would be piqued, your capacity to be interested in anything this early in the morning has been severely limited by the desire to sleep, given how much energy you expended the evening before fighting off his playful attempts to divest you of your clothing.

You have almost fallen asleep again while your brain ambles down this train of thought, his stroking of your hair lulling you back to sleep rather than rousing you, and your friend takes this lack of reaction as a cue to begin to pull the blankets away and leave you exposed to the cold night air.

Unpleasantly startled back awake, you grab fistfuls of the fabric and pull back. You frown up at him and he looks steadily back at you.

There is nothing you would like more than to pull the blankets over your head and dismiss the concept of object permanence for the next few hours, but the sweetly hopeful expression he gives you makes you slacken your grip on the covers, and your friend takes this as assent; before you realized what exactly is happening, you are out of bed, your cloak is over your shoulders, and you are pulling on what remains of your shoes before he ushers you out the door.

The outside is inky black; not even a shred of morning light has seen fit to manifest at this hour. You walk with a hand on your friend’s forearm to compensate for your compromised vision, and to encourage him to slow down his brisk pace, which has left your breathless in mere minutes.

He doesn’t seem to mind, but it makes you feel self-conscious and clingy, so when the sky finally lightens enough for you regain some visibility, you let your hand slip from your friends arm to give him some space.

The instant you do this, he stops walking. You look up at him confusion to find his eyes are already locked onto you. The piercing gaze always makes you feel somewhat apprehensive, but like usual you can’t make yourself look away.

While continuing to hold your gaze, he reaches for your arm, and puts your hand back where it was, firmly pressing it on his forearm. You somehow tear your gaze away and look down at your feet, but increase the pressure of your fingers on his warm skin to reassure him your hand will remain where it is.

When he resumes moving the two of you along, it is with you feeling distinctly pleased and sheepish, and him with a noticeable air of satisfaction.

You are still thinking about the feel of his muscles under your hand when you come upon a cluster of run-down buildings, similar to the houses back in the village. Your friend halts your progress for a minute while he glances around and listens, but seems to find no cause for concern.

You look around with interest as you pass through. In some spots, silvery green plants struggle through cracks in the buildings, but there is not much else to look at. This new area, although rather diminutive, is extremely dense with stone structures that are crumbling and untended.

There really seems to be nothing especially remarkable here, until your gaze zeros in on some strangely familiar symbols carved into the sides of the buildings.

Now utterly intrigued, you pull way from your friend’s side to look closer, not hearing the exasperated noise that escapes him. It takes a few seconds of searching your memory and then you recall examining these same markings in the other abandoned area you became hopelessly lost in. A rabid curiously forms under your skin, intensifying even as your companion comes over to slip an arm around your shoulders and pull you along. The last thing your gaze is drawn to as you leave is a blood red flower with four petals, almost forcefully cheery in it’s washed out surroundings.

You had lingered less than a minute, but your friend seems to be in more of a hurry than ever. Your curiosity as to where he is leading you increases at the same rate as his urgency. You follow loyally, even in the wake of your waning energy, and when he takes a sudden left at yet another monstrous rock formation, the last thing you are expecting as you round the corner is dense woodland.

There is no buildup to the forest; it is just suddenly there, with trees sporting silvery green leaves spiraling up into a canopy, and other unfamiliar plants in a startling spectrum of earth tones. It has been well shielded among the cliffs, existing in what seems to be a little pocket of life.

Again, you have no time to marvel at what you are seeing. You are pulled down overgrown paths that seem to lead to nowhere, only for him to push aside a thick mass of branches or foliage to reveal another trail.

This routine continues unendingly, and your curiosity is starting to turn to annoyance as your legs and lungs burn. When he stops suddenly, you gratefully take the opportunity to catch your breath. You think you must look and sound rather haggard, given the way he kneels down next to you peers into your face. You lean into him, enjoying the respite but wondering how much farther he intends to take you.

He lets you lean on him for a little while longer, and then brings you in stand in front of one of the many lofty trees backed by a towering precipice. There is nothing you can see would make this tree remarkable to the others, so you look to your friend for an explanation.

He moves closer to the base of the tree, brushing aside the overgrown plants and gestures to you to follow. You watch him step to the side of the enormous tree trunk and than disappear from sight.

You blink a few times and push through the vegetation to follow, getting smacked in the face with a branch for your efforts. You peer behind the tree, and come upon a dark opening well hidden among the plant life. Although you are unable to make out anything in the shadows, you squeeze yourself through anyway, probably with much more ease than your friend.

Once inside, you promptly walk right into your friend, who makes what sounds like a low rumbling laughing as he puts his hands on your shoulders to steady you and beckons you to follow.

Up to the left, you can see a faint light source. Your friend quickly ascends towards it, while you slowly follow him, testing the steepness and hold with a few cautious steps.

The climb becomes progressively steeper and the rich scent of earth permeates your senses. The higher you go, the more your feet struggle to find purchase against the ground. The dirt is packed beneath your fingernails from digging your hands into the sides of the tunnel. Given the effort it takes to pull yourself out of the opening, it is almost anticlimactic when you emerge in more forest that looks exactly the same as the area you just came from.

Your mood, rapid flipping between irritation and inquisitiveness, firmly settles on irritation when your friend looks at you and points up a grassy cliff that disappears up into more trees, not seeming winded in the slightest.

You take in a deep breath and slowly blow it out; you silently tell yourself you’ve already come this far, so the most logical thing to do is to continue and finish. You look at him again, and see that sweetly hopeful expression from earlier is back on his face, so you go to him and take his arm again.

He is very attentive to you while you climb, holding back branches that are in your way, lifting you up small ledges that pepper the slope, and finally picking you up and carrying you when the ground becomes especially difficult to navigate.

Without having to walk, it seems no time until you reach the top of the cliff and are rewarded with the view of an uninteresting grassy plateau as you are set back down on your feet.

There is a bewitching fragrance in the air as he leads you a couple yards to the left to sit next to a leafless shrub. Your muscles thank you as you sink to the ground, more interested in massaging the ache from your calves than the large green buds poised on the end of each naked branch.

Your friend fingers one and looks at you, keenly expectant. Sensing his anticipation, you raise your eyebrows in return and settle back to watch. You count the seconds that pass, and then the minutes, feeling strangely lightheaded and giddy from the perfumed air.

Eventually you end up on your back on the dewy grass, not exactly sleepy but languid and relaxed. The last traces of night are drifting from the sky, and as soon as the last slip of dawn disappear from your vision, you friend grips your ankle to get your attention.

You roll on your side to look, and then quickly push yourself up. The flowers are twisting open, and each bud reveals a pristine white flower, appearing one by one as if it were a choreographed performance.

The lightheaded feeling from before only intensifies as each flower opens. You don’t remember pushing yourself up on your knees to watch, but somehow you are in that position. You also don’t remember your friend sliding so close to you, but somehow he is pressed up against you with one hand gently tugging the hair at the back of your head.

Before the last flower makes its appearance, the first starts to turn a timid pink at the tips of the petals and a brilliant black at the center. The others follow suit, each flaunting a unique proportion of colors and intensity, and the longer the flower remains open, the duskier the pink color becomes.

Your senses are both intensified and muddles as you watch. You turn face into your friend’s shoulder as he adjusts the grip he has on you, thinking the pleasant scent is coming as much from him as it is the flowers.

His jostling makes you turn your head forward again in time to see your friend reach out and delicately pluck a blossom from the center-left of the bush; the minute he snaps it off the branch, all the other flowers curls up on themselves with a little shiver and drop their petal to the ground.

The suddenness with which this happens makes you feel a little melancholy, until your friend turns and sets the remaining bloom in your palm with all the finesse he used to separate it from the others. Holding it as if it made of glass, you examine the cool petals and contrasting colors, pushing one finger into the center of the flower, which your friend makes a choking noise at.

You angle your head up, you give your friend a crinkly-eyed smile, and his whole face absolutely lights up. He pulls you into his lap and wraps his arms tightly around you. You brush you lips against his jaw, still cradling the flower in your hands, and tilt your head back so you can look up at the sky. Your vision fills with the turquoise blue that you are becoming so fond of, and you can only think how the sky here is a more vivid blue than you can ever remember seeing on earth.