Stag beetles are everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in my life. I mean, in my entire life I probably haven’t seen 1/8 the amount of stag beetles I’ve seen in the past two weeks. I’ve seen a few live ones but most of them are dead. I see their black husks in the park where I eat lunch on the weekdays, I see them Retiro on the weekends when I’m going to read and relax and I see them everywhere between, in every park, in every green median, in every rain sodden tree planter the carapaces of beetles, like desert scarabs carved from obsidian glistening with the poisonous fog of fertilizer and Fiat exhaust. These beetles are the life beneath Buenos Aires and they have ascended to die.
My coworkers tell me that the beetles come up before the stormy season, that they are indicative of approaching rain. Since they have appeared it has been raining interminably. During the day the weather has been warm, sometimes a little humid, but usually clear. When the sun sets over the western portion of the city, down in the great beds of the major avenues coloring the sidewalk tiles gold and the iron balconies cadmium, the sky grows dyspeptic; it can be heard rumbling in the failing light, as if the sun itself weren’t just setting but actually crashing down into something, gradually but powerfully, its great mass scudding into the Andes.
The storms have been diluvian, they trail on the edges of the murky light and the sound of far off mountains crashing apart against the surface of the sun. The lightning wisps up from the river, from the great domed ceilings of the train stations and from the lifted white marble hands of the park statues. The static crash of it breaking into the roiling sky follows quickly after the riveting light itself. The lightning bolt is the split between two frames in a continuous picture, the thunder is the sound of the projector crashing to the floor. The rains bring the darkness and blur the edges of the scene being restored. All across the city the stag beetles are scrambling through the loam and detritus to rip through the roots of the planted grasses. There is a sound like sod being pulled up from the ground. The streets flood and turbid water chokes the storms drains and blows back into itself; a great churning as the water seeks out its level. Apartment building doors are open and the hallways rush with water. The leaves are pulled prematurely from the trees, newspapers and cardboard boxes are macerated and the basement at the theater where I work floods.
It was actually already flooded by this time. A day earlier the pump assigned the task of riding the basement of fetid water broke down and there was a rush from the pipes as they sluiced this brackish mess out across the tile floor. I was down in the basement when this began to happen and, unaware that there was a rotten flood rising at my feet, thought that some putrescence had surged through the pipes below, like a slaughterhouse and a chemical factory had dumped some equally noxious stuff down into the pipes at the same time and the result was bubbling under my feet. I heard a trickle, and I realized that while the character of the smell may not have been as bad as previously imagined, it was certainly much more impending. As I looked up from my book, I found that the black and white floor tiles in the places around the drains on the floor were magnified and the light on them was refracted. The drains had begun to flood. Being prudent, I picked up my book and made my way out of the room, closing the door behind me. In the next room, I found again respite for reading and finishing my lunch, which I admit, I no longer had much appetite for. Hardly a few minutes passed before I began to notice the sensation which is not quite a taste nor a smell but nonetheless originates from the sinuses somehow. It is something like the sound of a smell, like the first jarring note in a symphony of stink. The sensation grew into a fragrance, then an odor. It began to thicken the air and swelter in my nose. It was like crack smoke, raw and insubstantial, but heavier than air. The smoke streaked and eddied, it rose and ran and lie flat under my palate and behind my tongue and began to coagulate. It was like a DNA stand, made of only a few simple elements but twisted together in an endless chain of combinations. I heard the trickling again and began to think that it smelled so bad that the smell had developed a sound, but it was only the plasmic water tentacling out from under the door I had so recently closed on it. I put down my lunch and went upstairs to tell someone.
That was two weeks ago. I went into work today to find that the water remains to where it eventually groaned, broke and flatulated to the bottom of the stairs where it seethes about eight inches deep. What was once a ghastly odor has become a rotten ulcer of decomposition, a rancid gastrointestinal scream. I have watched the water at the bottom of those stairs swell and stagnate until it impregnated itself with its own horror and gave birth to a sobbing miasma. The color has deepened from teak, to burgundy to banshee black. The water is a darkness so complete it could extinguish stars. I dare not think around that water for I know it would steal my dreams and drown them, as it does the rats that are unfortunate enough to be found in it, only briefly. I think about its oily, pestilent darkness when I see the rains coming on again. It is the darkness of those dead and dying stag beetles, the seeds of the rain, planted in flooded basements to rise grimly to the surface only to die.