Here There Be Tygers by Stephen King, 1968
The magic trick:
Only implying the violence
How could we do a month of scary stories without a Stephen King Week? The answer is: we couldn’t. So here it is.
The year you see up there in the header is not a misprint. King was in college when this one published. To some extent, his youth shows. It isn’t particularly mature or developed. But, damn, it’s pretty good for a 20-year-old. The imaginative spirit that would come to characterize his famous work is already there. Hey, there’s a terrifying tiger in a school bathroom? Why not? The key to the story is his restraint in telling the scariest, goriest part. Charles doesn’t ever actually see the tiger attacking anyone. He only anticipates and then interprets the aftermath. Even at 20, King already knew that the implied is far more terrifying than the told. And that’s quite a trick on King’s part.
Kenny disappeared around the comer. “Kitty-kitty? Kitty- kitty? Kit—”
Charles darted out the door again and pressed himself against the wall, waiting, his hands over his mouth and his eyes squinched shut, waiting, waiting for the scream.
There was no scream.
He had no idea how long he stood there, frozen, his bladder bursting. He looked at the door to the boys’ basement. It told him nothing. It was just a door.
He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. But at last he went in. The washbowls and the mirrors were neat, and the faint
smell of chlorine was unchanged. But there seemed to be a smell under it. A faint, unpleasant smell, like freshly sheared copper.
With groaning (but silent) trepidation, he went to the corner of the L and peeped around.
The tiger was sprawled on the floor, licking its large paws with a long pink tongue. It looked incuriously at Charles. There was a torn piece of shirt caught in one set of claws.