The Burial of the Rats is a short story by Bram Stoker, the early master of horror, and his lushly descriptive brand of storytelling is in fine form. I will not describe much of the story, and that might seem like a bit of a cop-out but in order for the suspense to work you really need the story to unfold before you as you read along.
I will reveal, though, that the “burial of the rats” in the title is in reference to the real threat in the story of being buried alive by – and consumed by – a swarm of rats. It is a threat on top of a threat, as that will be what happens to you if you are caught by your mysterious and relentless pursuers.
The story begins with a slow pace, and picks up pace and tension to the rather sudden conclusion, but it’s more than just the tempo of the story. Stoker puts himself at the centre of the story. This bit of storytelling enables you to first immerse yourself into the setting and your imagination easily settles into first person perspective before the story rushes you into suspense. The story is a thriller in probably the truest sense of the word.
As an example of Stoker’s descriptive style, Stoker compares cities and their layouts to various animals, complete with biological systems. He compares Paris to an octopus, with its tentacles radiating out from a central point, and a devouring mouth at the centre. It is a description that still fits today.
I highly recommend this short story for a good hour’s escapism.
Legend has it that Stoker is supposed to have written this story while on his own honeymoon in Paris. This short story was first published in four parts as a serial in January 26, 1896 and February 2, 1896 issues of Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper in London, and on the same dates in The Boston Herald in the United States. It was republished again in the September 1928 issue of Weird Tales magazine, out of Chicago.