I’ve been getting to know some of the other people who come in and out of the mansion. There’s Nina: the woman in charge of the renovation and interior design—she has this sweet Jamaican accent and wears the most colorful and intricate patterns I’ve ever seen. There’s Clyde: a meditation coach who looks way to young to be coaching anything for anyone. And then there’s Dr. Gabor. I have no idea what kind of doctor he is but he carries around what looks like a medical bag. He’s polite but cold and disappears into the mansion every once in awhile.
I’m still working my way through the library’s collection and it feels like I’ve barely made a dent in it. I haven’t found that occult section, yet.
Last week I was going through a row of books on the top shelf and there was that tapping noise again. The shelf crumbled in my hands, I fell backwards on to the floor, and I was showered with books! My body was covered by a tickling sensation, and a horde of beetles skittered away!
I got a few bumps and bruises but otherwise I’m okay. After I came out of my daze, I remembered that old book about insects I told you about in my last post. There was a section about the anobiid beetle—also known as the “Death Watch Beetle.”
These tiny insects, during the spring and early summer, pound their bodies against the walls of their galleries to produce a faint rapping noise audible in a quiet house, especially at night. The superstitious once believed that what was actually a serenade was a portent of death—hence the old name of “death watch” for these insects.
– The Insect Guide by Ralph B. Swain
Freaking spooky! I couldn’t reach Eli because he was on set, or wherever movie producers are when they don’t pick up phone calls from their highly valued and super-cool employees. I brought it up with him the next day.
And guess what his response was?
“Ah, so that’s where they went. Let me show you what’s in my basement.”
Are you kidding me?!? I didn’t even know the house had a basement!
The halls of the basement weren’t decorated yet but it was well lit and not that creepy looking. He took me to a black door with a gold silhouette of a cricket painted on it. I was relieved that it wasn’t a Deathwatch beetle, ha ha.
As soon as he opened the door the bizarre sounds came pouring out. The room was dark except for the lighting inside the glass display cases that surrounded us on all sides. Each glass case contained a different species of insect, and from each insect came a song. There was a single bench in the middle and we sat down together without saying a word.
The symphony would go in and out of harmony and discordance, in and out of chaos and order. The chirping of cicadas and crickets synchronized, then strayed, then synchronized again. The other insects I couldn’t recognize, there was harmonious buzzing, a longing beeping, a gentle rattling, a gurgling trumpeting, a hollow unrelenting crackling, and a rhythmic tapping. The tapping of the Death Watch beetle. It was the strangest symphony, and it was conducted by nature, by instinct.
Eli and I sat next to each other with our eyes closed. Just listening. Have you ever just listened to music with another person? Just listened and breathed—without dancing, without making love, without driving down the highway and screaming the lyrics with your best friend?
Eli finally broke the silence to tell me about his orchestra.
“Our trumpeter is the Braconidae parasitoid wasp, our güiro players are the fire ants, our one-note harmonica player is the Queensland fruit fly, and you of course recognize the common crickets and cicadas, as well as your new friend the Death Watch beetle. He plays the wood block.”
He smiled and gestured to a tank that was filled with water. I couldn’t see any insects in it.
“And then there’s the Micronecta scholtzi—the Lesser Water Boatman. It’s the loudest creature relative to it’s body size. Even though he’s a only couple millimeters long I didn’t have to mic it’s tank. I actually had to add noise reducing glass. He’s my Binzasara player, and he makes his mating song by scraping his penis along his abdomen.”
Holy fuck. It was the most beautiful experience of my life.