The Squaw by Bram Stoker. A short story originally featured in the Dracula's Guest compilation. Originally published 1914.
Bram Stoker. The name must be spoken with a proper amount of reverence, for with one iconic book, he created an entire genre of horror fiction. How many branches, indeed, have grown from the root that was Dracula? Far too many to count. However, as we all know, Stoker was perfectly adept at writing short chillers as well. The Squaw is a great little gory tale to enjoy during the Halloween season, and luckily, it is available to read for free at this wonderful site, as well as many others.
During a honeymoon vacation in Nurnberg (Nuremberg), a young newlywed couple (our narrator, who recalls the tale in a first-person POV, and his bride Amelia), join up with an American tourist named Elias P. Hutcheson. At the tail end of their tour of the city, they visit The Burg, a medieval castle with a very interesting tourist attraction: a fully-stocked torture chamber, replete with an Iron Virgin (Iron Maiden). Let me just come out and say that I fully endorse the notion of a honeymoon spent spooning in old castles and visiting torture chambers.
On the way along the tour, the intrepid trio spots a mother cat playing with her kitten in the moat-turned-garden below. At that point, a careless (and incredibly callous) action on the part of Hutcheson taps into a well of maternal rage that is quite fearsome. We won't go swimming into spoiler territory on such a short tale though.
There are a lot of great things going on in The Squaw. Stoker creates tension throughout an otherwise tame scenario (the early touring scenes) by having Hutcheson regale the couple with colorful tales of the rough and tumble American West. When Stoker describes the furnishings of the torture room, it serves as a testament to mankind's propensity to be cruel to our fellow man. Are there many things that we are better at?
As for the characters, it's kind of hard to say. All three seem to be rock solid stereotypes; our narrator is a polite, accommodating Brit; his wife is timid, frail, and useless; and Hutcheson is a brash, arrogant, yee-hawing cowboy. Is this how cowboys actually spoke? Maybe. I am sure that Stoker met more real ones than I have. However, the cast sufficiently fills their roles and help the plot advance.
Another nice thing about The Squaw is the gore factor. This story is pretty gruesome, and fairly bloody. It's gorgeous. The whole shindig ends with a set-up that you absolutely know that no good can come out of, but the way it is executed (heh heh) is brilliant.
The Squaw is a great little Halloween chiller that stands the test of time. Do yourself a favor and read, re-read, or listen to a reading of it this season. Enjoy!
Here's what it is:
Bram Stoker's fierce little shocker about the lengths some will go to when they have nothing left to lose. A stark reminder that physical superiority is no match for pure, unadulterated hatred.
Again, no cover score for this one. I re-read this off of the link provided above. The image posted is the cover for Dracula's Guest, grabbed off of Wikipedia.