DARK The invasion of the grasshoppers

In Buenos Aires, where is seems to an outsider that the walls speak, and dogs live another layer created themselves on the streets, pausing for breath in the shade of the Ombu.

It all started with one leaf, packed so densely it was impossible to see the green beneath the legs and wings. Mandibles crunching through leaf-flesh and stalk. There were many colours of carapace; red, neon yellow, black, beige, camouflage, and green of course, sizes from only a few millimetres to the size of my thumb. I heard that grasshoppers and locusts are actually the same insect, that the transformation is triggered by an environmental change, a surprise! something unexpected, a collective madness. The whole group of grasshoppers begins to change en mass, first the colour, from beige camouflage to an angry red-orange. The colour runs down the head, passes over the eyes and into the body, down the veins of the wings all the way to the tip of the back legs until the whole creature begins to glow. The glowing masses lift off as a collective cloud, landing on an unsuspecting branch and commencing to feast. As the skeletons of the leaves become visible marching onwards along branches, until the whole tree is as bare as in winter.

Except here there is no winter. Just the grasshoppers. The sounds become deafening, sounds of munching, the crisp scraping of wings celebrating the heat and the conquest of tree after tree. There was no panic, just resignation. After all, the city was in a summer stupor, comatose and sunstroked. Many people had already left to go to the coast, fleeing the concrete even before the green was devoured. The skeleton trees just exacerbated the intensity, forming shimmering stencilled black sentinels along the Avenidas. I don’t know who it was who first started eating the grasshoppers. I heard originally that it was meant as a threat to keep them out of the houses. I began to see kids running through the streets with nets filled with struggling insects. Some of the nets broke, and hordes would burst out from the tear in a buzzing cloud of legs. This only went on for a short while, it seems now. Looking back it can only have been a week at the most. Until I realised the grasshoppers were getting bigger. Instead of countless bodies on a leaf, it became one or two. Then it was only a couple per branch. Then just one grasshopper per tree.

I remember the first time I saw a grasshopper blocking the road. It’s abdomen was resting on the tarmac, while it’s legs found rest on cars and one antenna had found it’s way through an open window. After some time, people started using the legs as alternative staircases up to their apartments, setting up structures under the wings. It was cooler there, after all. Once they reached a certain size, the grasshoppers declined to move. I think a lot of people have forgotten now, how things used to be before. One day, I left the house to find that the door led not out into the street but opened to a green tunnel. The walls were intricate segmented panels, shiny and cool to the touch. The tunnel opened out into a huge space, misty and tinged with a translucent green light. It was as if the city never existed, or never went away. It was all there, inside, the same, but different. Now we can grow our food on the leaf mould of which there is a constant supply. There are trees growing here too. I suppose the grasshoppers must still be eating everything, but nobody speaks about that anymore.