The tall trees of the jungle go on as far as I can see. The sounds of exotic birds, the screeches of the monkeys fill the air. Alerting all the other animals of the presence of a young boy. Looking up I can see thin rays of light penetrating the thick canopy. Shadows dancing to and fro, from branch to branch, from tree to tree. I can hear the sound of a river in the distance. The sound of its flow soothing. I walk towards it, stepping slowly through the forest, taking it all in.
Reaching the river I sit down by the banks. Rain suddenly starts to fall, the sounds of water against the leaves getting closer and closer and the downpour washes over the forest. A giant leaf above my head serves as my umbrella. The animals hiding in among the trees. The giant droplets fall on the river, splashing. Some hit a shape in half submerged in the water. A crocodile. Moving towards the bank on the other side where a deer has braved the rain to get a drink of water. A monkey calls out, the deer flees back into the jungle, the crocodile thwarted.
He slinks back into the river, drifting closer to the place where I sit. The monkeys above getting louder and louder. The birds are screeching now too. The crocodile stops, floating in the middle. I can feel his eyes on me. Waiting for me to make a mistake and walk towards the water. Ready to pounce, me replacing the deer that he just missed out on. I stay seated, frightened but unable to move. A movement on the other side catches his attention and he turns away from me lazily, almost disinterested.
Then the rain stops, as suddenly as it had started, releasing me from my sudden paralysis. The rays of light creeping back in. I turn back to continue my journey deeper and deeper into the unknown. The monkeys above following me from above, curious and vigilant. I find a clearing and stop to rest again. There is a silence, the monkeys stop their chatter, staying deathly still in their branches. I catch a glimpse of orange passing close by. The unmistakable shape of a giant cat appears in the clearing. Her beautiful stripes and round eyes, paws big enough to kill me with one swipe. She lies down, taking no notice of me.
My mouth is dry and my hands are shaking. Trying not to move in fear of waking her anger. This what I’ve come here to see. I’ve entered her home and she has appeared. She yawns, baring her teeth, then looks towards me. There is no anger in her eyes, no sense of fear. Her look is calming, my hands stop shaking, a sense of relief passes over me. She gets up again and walks back off the way she came. She knows I mean her no harm, she allows me to be free to wander her forest.
The monkeys start up their chatter again. No longer worried about the tiger, taking interest in me again. Probably wondering why she left me alone. I stand up and walk back towards the river. Standing by the bank, looking for the crocodile. He is nowhere to be seen. I want to tell him that he can’t hurt me, he can’t catch me. I have the protection of the lady of the forest. She has given me her approval to roam freely. I sit down again, in the same place as before and listen to the river flowing, the monkeys are quiet. The peace and quiet, the hypnotic sound of the river sending me into a deep sleep.
As I awake I am back in my classroom. All the other children with their heads still down, down but listening. Listening to our teacher. The teacher we all love so much as he tells his story of jungles and animals and places so far away. Places we can only dream of ever visiting. The stories taking us away from the crowded classroom to our own personal jungles, our imaginations sparked. Each Friday afternoon he tells us a story, the one time of the week where we can find our own personal solitude.