At the very heart of the forest stands a vast stone building. It has 3 towers, a belfry, several dozen turrets, more crenellations than you could count and, because a builder held the plans upside down, at the very top of the building is a crypt.
The building is on the bank of the wide, slow river that dawdles through the forest and which is home to fish and the fearsome crocogator. Few people have ever seen a crocogator but all agree that their seeming non-existence just makes them all the more fearsome.
Carved into the stone arch above the entrance to the building are the words “The House of Monkeys and the House of Bears”. They are inlaid with gold leaf, or if not gold leaf, then at least something that sparkles nicely in the sun.
There are two tall, imposing doors at the entrance. The one on the right has the figure of a monkey carved on it, whilst the one on the left has a bear. The face of the monkey seems to be smiling whilst the face of the bear looks almost quizzical.
Once through the doors you find yourself in a large lobby, light streams through narrow windows high in the walls illuminating a polished stone floor and walls hung with tapestries.
The tapestries depict famous events in the history of the forest such as the discovery of the first banana tree, the invention of the scratching stick and the signing of the treaty between the monkeys and the bears.
A few potted plants and some uncomfortable looking wooden benches make up the remainder of the contents of the lobby.
On the right-hand side of the lobby is an archway painted in bright vibrant colours and decorated with images of plants and animals. On the left-hand side is another archway, identical in size and shape, but painted a subtle shade of blue and decorated with abstract figures that seem to invoke memories of dreams, music and, oddly enough, cakes.
There is also a small door directly between the two archways. Made of plain but richly polished wood, it bears a small sign “No entry unless on official business – Red Mamba”. And there is a door handle shaped like a snake, made from red gold.
The House of Monkeys
If you walk through the right-hand door you will find yourself in a large chamber, filled with light from a large glass canopy that covers the space.
Along each side of the chamber are rows of strange objects that look like someone tried to draw a chair, a tree, a hammock and ladder all at the same time. In the middle of the chamber is a long table with a line of coconuts along the length of it and a large wooden box at one end.
The wooden box is richly polished, with an ornate carving of bananas on the lid. At the moment the lid is ajar revealing a plain wooden interior which smells faintly of ginger and bananas.
At the far end of the table is an imposing seat. It stands at least 4 metres tall and over a metre wide with a bright yellow, very comfortable looking, cushion covering the broad seat. The seat has a light green linen canopy which filters the light from the glass roof, so if you sit in the seat it is like being bathed in the forest itself.
The House of Bears
If you walk through the left-hand door you find yourself in a high ceilinged room whose walls are a faint blue grey in colour. For some reason everyone who sees the walls for the first time seems to catch a faint smell of the sea.
Hung about the walls are a number of long thin banners which descend from the high ceiling almost to the floor. These banners are rich, deep greens, browns and blues with subtle patterns.
At the far end a very dark blue, nearly black banner hangs down, decorated with the stars of the night sky and with a full moon right in the centre.
A long table, similar to that in the other chamber, runs down the centre of the room. There appear to be teeth marks in one corner of the table which someone has tried to cover up.
The table is empty save for a large bowl of flowers and a forgotten pencil.
Along both sides of the table are long, low benches scattered with comfortable cushions.
At the far end, beneath the banner of the moon, is a smaller bench, slightly higher than the others and with a pillow at one end.
(Work in progress)