Don is outside the tent. He can't sleep. It's chilly and the stars have that vivid, etched quality they have out in the woods. He sucks on his beer, but as he tilts the bottle down, there's something inside the bottle, silhouetted against the fire. There's something alive in there, wading in the last swallow of beer. It's a bug. He almost ate it.
He has a quick, nauseating flashback to a broad, flat cockroach an inch long, drowned in a beer bottle lying on its side behind a drum kit. You could hear them plop from the walls at night in that apartment. There was an ancient steam radiator and you could see daylight behind it through the wall. Trash in the streets, beer in the morning, cases of empties. No job. A dead cockroach in a beer bottle and rotting plaster. He got out of there but he couldn't drink beer out of a bottle for years.
It must have touched his lips. It must have. He's drunk enough to want it not just gone but out of the bottle, because of what that means. There was something like that in a book, but that's nothing: His Bug in the Bottle is real. He snaps the mouth of the bottle away from him and the bug comes out in a light spray of beer.
The Bug has spindly legs and elaborate antennae with fuzzy parallel branches, like feathers. Somehow he knows it's called an Antler Bug. He tries to smash it with the base of the beer bottle but he misses. He tries again and misses again.
Singlemindedly, drunk, he chases it with the beer bottle. When it's two feet high he stops swinging and backs away. He's not sure if he wants to kill it or not, or even if he can. It's easy to think about smashing a bug when it's just a little bug, but this thing now has legs long enough to reach around the beer bottle and grab his arm. Kick it into the campfire? It could grab his leg. It stands facing him, gently waving its antennae.
Finally he thinks to find a stick. It's too late: The Bug is too fast now. It seems to enjoy this, dancing around, jumping over the fire, leaving him openings and darting away.
The Bug is in control of the situation. That fact sinks in. Don is exhausted and starting to sober up. He throws more wood on the fire, finds a better stick, and backs away to sit on a log. The Bug seems to shrug. It paces around the clearing, checking things out, still growing. It nibbles on little things that it finds on the ground. Sometimes it stops, facing Don across the campfire, but as it grows it always gets restless again and goes back to pacing.
When the sky starts getting light, Don has not slept and the Bug is ten feet tall. He's sober now, but exhausted and sneezing. Everything has a surreal quality, half sleep deprivation and half fever dream. Even with the fear, it's hard to keep his eyes open.
He awakens convulsively, on the ground. It's full day now: He must have fallen asleep. His cheek hurts from the rough bark on the log, but what really gets to him is that the Bug is standing in front of him, holding his car keys with one clawed foreleg. The Bug is enormous now. It throws the keys into the woods. It speaks in a rustling voice.
"Where do you think you're going?"