In the years B.C. (before child), my partner and I had this wonderful habit of reading to each other during the performance of arduous chores, particularly she would read to me while I was doing the dishes. We recently resurrected this tradition. Now, not only is the kitchen cleaner on a more regular basis, but I also get the pleasure of hearing various horror short stories in collection (the book we chose for this time.)
A couple of days ago, she read me “Sredni Vashtar” by Saki (H. H. Munro.) If you are a fan of horror, you may know the author from her/his more famous “The Open Window” (not to be confused with the movie classic “Rear Window.”)
“Sredni Vashtar” is the name of a weasel that a young, sickly British boy discovers caged in the back corner of a mostly-forgotten garden shed. There is also a hen living there, upon which the boy lavishes attention (because, in the way of British boys in novels and short stories, he doesn’t get much love from his nanny or completely absent parents.) But, it’s the ferret/weasel that he *worships.* Literally. On “holy” days or days to celebrate certain personal victories, the boy brings Sredni Vashtar delicacies which he places lovingly and with much ceremony in front of the weasel.
What’s kind of interesting about this story? It kind of plays with your horror story assumptions. You know something bad is going to happen involving the weasel, but I, at least, was totally routing for the boy to get his way over the awful nanny, especially when she decides he spends too much time in the shed and is determined to sell off the beloved hen and… kill? (it’s implied, but not really stated) Sredni Vashtar.
I don’t want to give away the ending, in case you decide to look it up for yourself, but let’s just say I was deeply satisfied by the ending even though part of me knew it was morally wrong to feel that way.
A very worth while short. And it sort of makes you ask yourself: do people make their own gods? Did this boy invest Shredni Vashtar with magic powers simply because he BELIEVED, or… is everything that happened just coincidence???
Cool premise, don’t you think?