The loud noise of the chainsaw disappeared as soon as he turned it off. He removed his protective goggles and wiped the sweat from his forehead. On the left side of his blue work overalls, at chest level, it read: MADERAS S.A, and on the right side: HUGO. When he heard the distant honk of a horn, he held the chainsaw with one hand and left his work station; it was lunchtime. He walked on a floor of dry leaves and bark that crunched under his feet and zigzagged through a sea of tree stumps until he reached a muddy dirt path. Hugo joined several dozen coworkers who shared his tired expression. As he walked with his head down and the midday sun beating down on his neck, he happened to glance at a solitary tree stump by the side of the road.
"One of the first to be felled," he thought.
He judged it to be very old, not just from its weathered appearance but also because of its proximity to the camp. But that wasn't what caught his attention; something had moved furtively among the cracks in the wood, or so he imagined.
The vibration of a large truck passing nearby distracted him. The vehicle was a bright yellow, and on the chassis, it said: MADERAS S.A. The wheels were taller than Hugo himself. By the time he turned his head back to the tree stump, it was too far away to make out anything, so he continued walking.
Once in the rest area, Hugo went to the lockers, opened his locker, and put away his helmet. He took a backpack out of it, and before closing the door, he gazed at a photo from when he was ten years old; he was grinning from ear to ear while hugging a dog that was bigger and hairier than him. The adult Hugo's expression relaxed, and he smiled; the dog was Walter, and only God knew how much he missed him, even though more than forty years had passed since his death. In reality, Hugo was one of those people who lived in the present, missing the past. When he was young, but, above all, happy.
Scratching his thick, gray-bearded chin reminded him of the cruel reality; the past would never return. He zipped up the backpack; inside, there was a change of clothes and a plastic lunchbox containing the sandwiches his wife had made for him. He loved the salami and cheese sandwich, and as his bulging belly indicated, he never got tired of eating it.
And that's what he did, but not with the other workers.
While savoring it, he found himself back by the old tree stump.
He stopped and examined it while still chewing. The wood had taken on an ashen color, and silky spiderwebs sparkled among its countless cracks, giving it a ghostly aura.
Hugo nearly choked when he saw that something was actually moving.
He finished swallowing the last bit of bread, brushing off a few crumbs caught in his beard, and hung the backpack. He opened it and took out the lunchbox. Under the hot sun, the sounds of a chorus of chainsaws, and trucks moving back and forth, he held the lunchbox in one hand and the red lid in the other. He crouched down and, like one of those lions he had seen on Animal Planet, he stealthily approached his prey. Anyone watching him at that moment would have thought he had gone mad; Hugo would say he felt like he did in his youth. The rapid beating of his heart confirmed it.
He stopped with the container just inches from the wood and remained still. A black spot subtly stood out against the grayish wood. The figure moved just one centimeter; eight hairy legs propelled it. Hugo waited a bit longer; he didn't want to miss the opportunity. His armpits were sweaty, and his mouth was half-open in a gesture of total concentration.
The thing moved again.
It left the darkness created by its new observer's shadow and reached the side of the tree stump illuminated by the midday sun. Hugo's eyes widened as he admired the enormous spider, which, when viewed in the light, was actually a brownish color similar to that of construction bricks.
"It's huge," he thought. In his mind, the words sounded like those of an amazed twelve-year-old.
He had seen larger ones, but only on television. One of the crazy zoologists from the Discovery Channel wouldn't have given it much importance, but for Hugo, it was quite a find.
The creature moved toward the sun once more, and it stopped when its front legs made contact with the plastic. It immediately tried to backtrack, but it was too late. Hugo was waiting, blocking its path with the lunchbox lid. The spider tried to climb up the reddish surface, but its legs slipped, and it fell onto its back inside the lunchbox. Hugo closed it immediately, and a big smile spread across his lips. He resolved to examine it closely, but he was interrupted by the annoying horn, which this time signaled the end of lunch hour. Hugo shuddered and muttered a curse. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching him and returned to the lockers to hide his incredible catch.
The first thread of the strange events that would occur in the future had just been spun.
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