The Custodian is a novel of speculative horror, one that proposes how archetypal monsters are not only real but have also adapted to the social dynamics of the present. Oscar Pryce, the story’s eponymous custodian, has worked for the last forty years cleaning up after ‘clients,’ vampire-like beings who have evolved from feeding on humans relentlessly to only once a generation. Reporting to a man known as the Employer, Pryce becomes complicit in the disposal of their victims, keeping the existence of clients hidden from the rest of the world. When he is diagnosed with brain cancer, Pryce’s perception of reality begins to change. Guilt hampers his work. Memories of a past life – and a past love – resurface. He soon suspects his partnership with the Employer was not of his own volition and with his health declining rapidly Pryce is forced to make a difficult decision: either expose the Employer and his kind to the world or join their ranks. The Custodian is an allegory on the relationship between essential workers and their employers, how the integrity of the former is often undermined by indifference in the latter. Pryce breaking away from his employer’s influence is also allegorical, in this case, a symbol of more recent events where essential workers are hailed as unexpected heroes. Similarly, Pryce’s quandary of giving up humanity for immortality is emblematic of the struggle faced by all working-class citizens, to do whatever is necessary in order to survive.
Novel, fiction, speculative
Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)